THE Leader of Carmarthenshire’s Labour group is seeking to table a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council.
Cllr Rob James has written a letter to the leader setting out his reasons for tabling the motion.
The reasons are many and include the claim that a review of the Wellness Centre had been kept under wraps from the eyes of the elected councillors and that the review was leaked to the ‘Cardiff centric’ newspaper the Western Mail.
Speaking to Llanelli Online Cllr James said that the leaking of the report showed complete disdain for the elected representatives and the people of Carmarthenshire. He said he could not rule out the possibility of the report having been leaked by a prominent member of Plaid Cymru.
The letter to Cllr Dole reads as follows;
Dear Cllr Dole, I am writing to you concerning the Swansea Bay City Deal and the proposed Llanelli Life Sciences and Well-Being Village.
As you are aware, since becoming Leader of the Opposition in May 2018, I have sought to highlight my concerns about your administration’s handling of the £1.3 billion city deal and our worry that the on-going maladministration posed a significant risk to the future prosperity of the region.
It should be noted that since making my concerns public in November, we have witnessed the suspension of four key members of staff from Swansea University – including its Vice Chancellor, Carmarthenshire Council unilaterally cancelling its agreement with Sterling Health and the launching of four reviews into the city deal.
Local businesses and residents have since raised concerns that they fear your actions have damaged the reputation of this region, and the city deal rests on a knife edge.
As a responsible Opposition, we have sought to hold your administration to account in the attempt to improve decision-making, rather than oppose at every avenue.
Carmarthenshire Council is unique in this region, in that it actively prevents backbench and opposition Councillors receiving information relating to the operation of Council.
In Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire Councils, colleagues inform me that they are provided with copies of what we refer to as ‘exempt item reports’.
This access to information allows Councillors from all parties to scrutinise the decision-making of the relevant authority.
Despite raising concerns with the Monitoring Officer and with yourself, sixty-four Councillors are still in a position where we are being blocked from scrutinising your decision-making.
Since May, under your Leadership, the Executive Board has used powers under the ’72 Act to exclude the public and backbench members from two-thirds of all of your meetings to discuss exempt items, including a report on the provision of the proposed Llanelli WellBeing Village, the ‘Yr Egin’ Business Case and that of the Well-Being Village.
This action appears to illustrate a fundamental disdain for scrutiny, a strategy that prevents the all elected representatives being informed, and a premeditated effort to prevent the opposition holding you and the administration you lead to account.
In an attempt to fulfil our scrutiny role and ensure that the proposed investment was sound, I took the unprecedented decision to voluntarily commit myself, as Leader of the Opposition, to making no public comment on the city deal in exchange for you guaranteeing access to all documents connected with the Life Sciences and Well-Being Village.
This is the first time this has ever happened in Carmarthenshire Council; this clearly demonstrates our desire to see the city deal succeed.
Last week, we took the difficult decision to withdraw from this agreement after an analysis of the information raised further questions surrounding the independence of the internal review and the promises made to us on the full publication of the internal review to the public was not forthcoming.
We believe it is regrettable that this internal review has now been ‘leaked’ to the Western Mail before the other sixty-two Councillors of our Authority was able to read its content.
It also appears from recent press reports, that the Chief Executive has also been involved with a £600m joint venture to create a private hospital and medical school in Kuwait.
In a statement to the media, the Chief Executive is quoted as saying his involvement is in connection with the Swansea Bay City Deal and has been authorised by Council.
It alleged this scheme forms part of the investigation into the senior academics suspended at Swansea University.
To my knowledge, his involvement has not been sanctioned by Full Council, nor have I been able to identify the meeting in which the Executive Board authorised the Chief Executive to undertake this role on behalf of the Authority.
As a result, I have sought guidance from the Monitoring Officer to identify who authorised this action and the legal basis for the decision-making.
Due to the aforementioned restrictions on opposition members accessing information in connection to the operation of this authority, the Joint Working Agreement stating that it is the responsibility of local authorities to scrutinise their own local projects relating to the Swansea Bay City Deal, and on-going questions into the conduct of officers, I am writing to inform you that we have lost all confidence in your ability to deliver on the promises of the city deal.
We can not sit idly by as you put this once in a generation opportunity, a £1.3 billion investment in the region with enormous potential to deliver jobs and prosperity to the thousands of local residents, at risk.
Therefore, in the coming days we will seek to table a vote of no confidence in you as Leader of Carmarthenshire Council. The people of Carmarthenshire deserve much better than this.
Regards, Rob James
Leader of the council Emlyn Dole responded:
“As a responsible administration, Carmarthenshire County Council is ensuring that all aspects of the proposed Wellness Village development are sound and legal.
“This is why we referred ourselves to the Welsh Audit Office for assurance. It is one of four reviews being held to ensure that everything is in order with the £1.3billion city Deal – an unprecedented investment to create 10,000 new jobs over the next 15 years.
“On behalf of the Joint Committee of the four local authorities, Pembrokeshire is holding a review of the City Deal in its entirety, and the UK and Welsh Governments are also holding their own reviews. We expect the result of all four reviews within the next few weeks.
“I totally reject Cllr Rob James’ comment about the propriety of asking Acuity Legal to conduct an internal review. He attempts to muddy the waters by reference to unconnected issues involving this company.
“Despite his protestations to the contrary, Cllr James seems intent on shaking public confidence in the Wellness Village development though his unfounded comments and accusations.
“This is hardly the conduct expected of the leader of a “responsible opposition.” Cllr James has accused Plaid Cymru of leaking a confidential document to the press.
“Why should we do that and where is his proof? His allegation of maladministration is a very serious one, which he’ll be asked to substantiate with firm evidence.
“It is perplexing that Rob James, as a Llanelli councillor, should take such a negative and obstructive attitude towards a development which would bring huge benefits to the town and west Wales as a whole.
“It is also ironic that the local Assembly Member, Lee Waters, as the newly-appointed Welsh Government minister with responsibility for the City Deal, is fully supportive of the development.
“One can only conclude that Cllr James is taking this maverick stance in the misguided belief that it will advance his political career.
“The people of Llanelli may feel that with a friend like this, who needs enemies?”
Cllr. Emlyn Dole
Carmarthenshire County Council
A spokesperson for Adam Price, the leader of Plaid Cymru said: “It’s particularly worrying that the Labour party in Carmarthenshire is content to make potentially defamatory remarks to a journalist without a shred of evidence to back them up.
“We state categorically that Mr Price was neither aware of the report commissioned by the Council nor did he have sight of it. To suggest otherwise would be a lie.
“Just days after the Plaid Cymru-led Council publishes its budget proposals to put more money into education, social care, road improvements and providing a wage boost to the lowest paid, it is unsurprising that Labour would recklessly attempt to deflect attention away from these positive measures.
“It is a genuine shame, however, that the integrity in which Carmarthenshire politics has been conducted for many years continues to be undermined by one or two individuals in Labour trying desperately to make a name for themselves.”