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Carmarthenshire council leader faces no confidence motion over Wellness Village controversy

Carmarthenshire council leader faces no confidence motion over Wellness Village controversy

A motion of no confidence in the Plaid Cymru leader of Carmarthenshire County Council Emlyn Dole is being moved by the opposition Labour group after the leaking to WalesOnline of a report which claims no public money has been misspent on the controversial Llanelli Wellness Village scheme.

Four employees of Swansea University, including the Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard B Davies and the dean of the Management School Professor Marc Clement, have been suspended since November over allegations relating to the project.

Prof Clement has been accused of failing to make a full declaration of interest to the university, although he is understood to deny any wrongdoing.

An independent QC is currently investigating the allegations against him and the three others.

The £200m Wellness Village project – a collaboration between the university and other public and private sector bodies – was seeking £40m in funding from the Swansea region city deal. It would have seen a life sciences lab, leisure centre, health centre, hotel and assisted living area built at a coastal site in Llanelli.

Carmarthenshire Council was involved in a collaboration with Swansea University and Sterling Health Securities Holdings Ltd to take the scheme forward.

But when the university suspensions were announced, the council decided to terminate the collaboration agreement. There is a possibility, however, that the council could resume its involvement in the scheme at a later date.

A consultants’ report concluded that no council money had been misspent.

Well-known blogger Jacqui Thompson pointed out that Carmarthenshire County Council was due to spend around £2m on preparatory work for the project, as revealed in two disclosures made to her following questions she submitted in line with the Freedom of Information Act.

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Councillor Emlyn Dole (right) and councillor Rob James

At the weekend Councillor Rob James, who leads the opposition Labour group on the county council, tweeted angrily, accusing Plaid Cymru, which controls the council with the support of the Independent group, of leaking the report to WalesOnline.

He told us: “The leaking of this report is a disgrace. Under the terms of an agreement we made with Plaid Cymru, confidential reports are shown to me on condition that I do not disclose them to the rest of the group.

“We haven’t been happy with the arrangement, but went along with it because it was the best we could achieve and because it gave us the opportunity to have input into the substance of the reports. So far as I am concerned, Plaid Cymru has broken the terms of the agreement and it is no longer in place. In hindsight, I regret that we went along with it.”

An emergency meeting of the Labour group decided to move a vote of no confidence in council leader Emlyn Dole. It remains unclear when this will be debated.

Cllr Dole responded: “As a responsible administration, we are 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 £1.3bn City Deal – an unprecedented investment to create 10,000 new jobs over the next 15 years.

“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 AM, Lee Waters, as the newly-appointed Welsh Government minister with responsibility for the City Deal, is fully supportive of the development.”

A council spokeswoman said only £481,000 of its £2m fund for the Wellness Village had been spent so far.

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