THE leader of Carmarthenshire’s Labour Group, Cllr Rob James has clashed with the leader of the County Council, Cllr Emlyn Dole at the weekly council meeting today, Wednesday (Dec 12).
Cllr James accused Cllr Dole of ‘misleading’ and ‘lying’ to the council and the business community.
Cllr James began by asking Cllr Dole: “In 2016 this authority stated in a press release that the collaboration agreement that has come from the procurement process is between Carmarthenshire council, Swansea University and Sterling Life Security Holdings with a consortium or partners including Siemens, Fujitsu, Pfizer, David Morley Architects Faithful Gould and Medpak. Can the leader of the council state whether there are any other partners in the consortium other than those mentioned above?”
Cllr Dole replied: “Thank you for the question. The procurement process to identify a development partner for the Llanelli Wellness and Life Science Village didn’t commence until 2017 therefore no press release was issued in 2016 detailing a resultant collaboration agreement.”
Speaking to Llanelli Online later in the day Cllr James admitted that the press release was actually relating to 2017.
Earlier this week the Council’s Executive Board approved the business plans for the Village in principle, subject to an external independent legal review commissioned to provide members of the public and stakeholders with reassurance that all due legal process has been properly followed.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said: “The Collaboration Agreement was simply an agreement to work together to develop the various aspects of the Delta Lakes project and draw up a Development Agreement for its delivery. That Development Agreement has not been agreed and the County Council has concluded that the project can be better delivered in another way.
“No public funding has been committed to the partners, no companies have been established, no shares allocated and no Directors appointed. There is no liability on the County Council whatsoever at this point.”
At today’s council meeting Cllr James asked the leader of the council: “At a business launch event for the City Deal last week you denied to a local business that French Construction giant Vinci had not been agreed as the contractor for this project. The local business community has been extremely patient with you but they now are fearing that this is starting to look like a ‘stitch up’ so within the collaboration agreement that was signed was there a construction contractor identified in that document and was it not Vinci PLC?”
Getting to his feet to respond to the suggestion that he had misled or lied to the council Cllr Dole asked Cllr James to withdraw his comment and said that he would refuse to answer the question until he did so. The Chairman of the council Mansel Charles asked Cllr James if he would withdraw the comment but Cllr James refused to do so.
Cllr Dole then answered the question by saying; “I find it difficult to understand what part of no my colleague does not understand.”
Cllr James claims that VINCI Construction were mentioned on the website of Sterling Health Security Holdings and in a document for Sell to Wales, which he claims stated that they would be using a construction company, which might be VINCI.
A search on the Sell to Wales website revealed that VINCI were mentioned. It reads as follows:
It is anticipated that:
The Council reserves the absolute right to develop itself The Wellness Hub (building numbered 3 on the Masterplan) and the Community Health Hub (building numbered 1 on the Masterplan) using construction contractors which may be Vinci plc or such other construction contractor as may be appointed with the prior written approval of the Council to carry out works in respect of a Project.
VINCI’s logo is also prominent on the website of Sterling Health. They also state that Sterling Health has brought together a consortium of world-leading partners from across the fields of medical research, technology, education, design and construction.
Cllr James told Llanelli Online that he believed that the French construction company was the predetermined contractor or at least it seemed like that to the business community if they look at the documentation in the public domain. He said: “Other construction companies were not happy. I am not in a position to name them.”
Speaking about his attempts to find out if VINCI had been mentioned Cllr James said: “My direct question was whether within the collaboration agreement they identified VINCI. They did identify someone and it was VINCI. It is in the document signed by the council and the University.”
Cllr Dole then listed the investments in Llanelli made by the Plaid Cymru led administration, including new schools and new shops. He argued that Cllr James and the previous Labour administration had not supported any of the investments but had opposed them and had ‘sniped’ from the sidelines.
Cllr Dole received rapturous applause for his impassioned responses.
Llanelli Online asked Cllr James if he felt intimidated by the applause and if there was a protocol or code of conduct he was aware of, which restricted councillors from clapping for responses to questions.
Cllr James said: “I don’t think there is a protocol that allows clapping. If you want to subscribe to what someone is saying they can say hear hear. It is a form of intimidation. There is no transparency. When you do question them they try to belittle you. The public deserves better. The Chair should have intervened. It was inappropriate for him to apologise on my behalf.”
Asked if he was worried over potential legal action from the council or councillor he said: “There is an element of privilege. The libel clause is suspended. They are not able to go after me. As for not supporting investment, I don’t think so. We have never not supported it. His accusation that we are hijacking even when we do engage is a conflict. We support investment in Llanelli. We support the the Delta Lakes investment in principle. We don’t support anything which is ill conceived and when there are question marks over the spending of large sums of public money.