It now seems I was was right. Although, aside from the Daily Mail article, the details are still not clear.Following the Executive Board meeting on Monday (3rd December) where the Wellness village business case was up for approval, in private session, the council published a press release late yesterday afternoon.
They have approved it ‘in principle’ but, given the ‘events’ in Swansea, put in on hold. In fact they’ve had a couple of days to spin the blame entirely on those ‘events in Swansea’. This might have been the catalyst, and the allegations are clearly serious, but not the whole story.
Buried within the council spin, there are a few key points.
The project has been put on hold, indefinitely it seems, whilst ‘reassurances’ are sought that due legal process has been followed and public funds properly protected.
This suggests, of course, that both of these elements have already been gravely compromised.
Council officers have also been asked to look for ‘alternative’ sources of funding, if this refers to both public and private funding it suggests that the City Deal money is now unlikely, as is anything from Swansea Uni, and that the appointment of Sterling as the ‘private’ sector partners could well be reversed.
Presumably the ‘alternative’ would be to rummage down the back of a sofa.
According to the press release, an independent assessment will be undertaken to iron out all these nasty little creases. I would suggest that the whole project is dead in the water, or in this case, the swamp. Llanelli will now be lucky if it even gets the new leisure centre.
Recent posts on this blog have detailed the tangled web of companies, directors, boards, ex-councillors, chief officer, missing tenders and potential conflicts of interest but at the heart of all this are the three main drivers, Mark James, Marc Clement and Meryl Gravell.
They go back a long way. Meryl was heavily involved with Clement with the failed Technium projects and more recently with the ARCH project. ARCH, ‘A Regional Collaboration for Health, was a partner organisation for the Wellness Village, heavily influenced by the American based Global Wellness Institute, but were refused Welsh Government funding early in 2017. Meryl then appeared as a director of Sterling only to suddenly resign from one of the companies in November.
As we know, Marc Clement was a director of Kent Neurosciences, which then became Sterling. He resigned from another company, Vardiola Ltd on the weekend of his suspension.
Then we have Mark James. Meryl Gravell was, always has been, and still is, directly under his instruction, rather like poor Emlyn. The relationship between Clement and Mark James, (the latter now the lead chief executive and the accountable officer for the whole city deal), is also close, both have been the key players from the start in this whole, decidedly un-transparent saga.
The strange tender process and appointment of Sterling was also down to Mark James, and Clement.
Millions have already been spent on this project without a brick being laid, let alone a Wellness brick.
As I said, this is a tangled web, all of which has been covered in past posts going back a few years, and no doubt more will emerge in due course but failures in governance, legal process and protecting the public purse have all the hallmarks of Mark James and the toxic culture of County Hall. And this is the lead authority for the City Deal…
The BBC reports that the Labour leader of the opposition, Cllr Rob James has called for the Wales Audit Office to step in and investigate, “Considering the strong working relationship between officers at Carmarthenshire council and those in Swansea University, I will be writing to the Wales Audit Office to ask for their participation in investigating the paper trail for the last few years”
The suspensions at Swansea are only the start. Mark James, when not making his regular appearances in Private Eye, has a track record of failed vanity projects; a rap sheet of dipping his hand into the public purse, not protecting it, and he has misled and lied to his employers and the courts.
He, and Meryl, are in it up to their necks, but Meryl can be quietly put out to grass. And Emlyn? He has been negligent and weak to say the least.
I am sure more revelations will emerge, including the ‘events in Swansea’, but I look forward to the immediate suspension of Mr James and an urgent independent investigation into his role in the Wellness scam. If anything is to be saved from this sorry mess, his removal is crucial.
Please search this blog for further background and comment.