· The Chair extended best wishes and a speedy recovery to Councillors John Prosser and John James following recent surgery;
· The Chair extended condolences to the family of Paul James, an officer in the Council’s Pension Section, who had passed away recently;
· The Chair congratulated the following:
- Cai Thomas Phillips [Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire], Marged Lois Campbell [Carmarthen East & Dinefwr] and Megan Carys Davies [Llanelli] who had been elected to the Welsh Youth Parliament;
- Mark Drakeford, formerly from Carmarthen, on his election as leader of the Labour Party in Wales;
- Carmarthenshire Young Farmers Club for achieving 3rd runner-up position in the first OVO Energy Tour of Britain National Land Art Competition held earlier this year;
- Mid & West Wales Fire and Rescue Service on being awarded the Investors in People Platinum Accreditation.
· The Chair referred to a group of firefighters from Welshpool, Powys, and across mid and west Wales who had launched a bid to reach the top of the Single Charts with their single “Do they know it’s Christmas?” The single was currently at place 7. The Chair wished the group every success in their venture to raise money for the Firefighters Charity and the Band Aid Charitable Trust with the release;
· Congratulations were extended to Tennessee Randall for becoming the World Association of Kickboxing Organisations (WAKO) European Champion in the 56kg class for women. She was the first female full-contact fighter to represent the Great Britain team in the European Kickboxing Championships and had also collected the accolade of Best Ring Fighter of the Tournament;
· The Chair stated that he had attended a number of events since the last meeting including concerts, carnivals, Christmas occasions and opening events. He added that it had been a great pleasure to visit the Council’s residential homes, where he had received a very warm welcome and was able to testify to the very high standard of care provided and the dedication and commitment of all staff. He also referred to the support he had received from individuals and organisations in raising money for Alzheimer’s Cymru and the Wales Ambulance. He announced that he would also be participating in the Walrus Dip on Boxing Day and kindly invited Members to sponsor him;
· On behalf of Councillor Mair Stephens, the Chair reminded Members to support the annual Toybox appeal, possibly financially but there was a particular need for toy gifts targeted at boys;
· Councillor Emlyn Dole, at the Chair’s invitation, reported that his ‘Leader’s golf day’ on the 6th October 2018 had raised £2826.50 for Prince Philip Hospital’s Breast Cancer Care Unit in Llanelli. He thanked his team members, Pembrey’s Ashburnham Golf Club and Nigel Owens for supporting the event;
· The Chair commented that, having heard the Chief Executive’s update on recent developments regarding the Llanelli Life Science and Wellness Village at the Executive Board meeting held on the 3rd December 2018, he had requested the Chief Executive to provide Council with an update also Whereupon the Chief Executive responded as follows:
“Thank you Chairman. As you mentioned you attended the Executive Board meeting and I gave a verbal position statement or update to Members of the Executive Board. There were other Members, I think Councillor Cundy was there as well when I gave this update. Immediately after the meeting you came in and asked whether I would provide a similar update to Council, so I will do that now at your request.
Carmarthenshire County Council, Swansea University, Hywel Dda Local Health Board, ABMU Local Health Board and University of Wales Trinity St. David have been working together over the last three years to develop a Life Science and Wellness Village at Llanelli. The concept was originally brought to the Council by Swansea University through the ARCH consortium, which is a partnership chaired by the Chair of the ABMU Local Health Board, which looks at different ways to deliver health and social care in the future. A public sector board was then established with all of the above organisations to progress the project. The project also subsequently became one of the 11 City Deal projects.
Swansea University brought a private sector company to the partnership as a possible development partner. However, following inclusion in the City Deal programme, the County Council decided, following legal advice, to conduct a full EU compliant procurement exercise, which took some 15 months to complete.
The result of that procurement exercise was that a consortium with Swansea University and Sterling Health Securities Ltd. became collaboration partners under a Collaboration Agreement. This Agreement does not create any legal obligation on the County Council other than to work towards a Development Agreement setting out how the Village might be delivered. That Development Agreement has not been completed. There is therefore no commitment or liability on the County Council at this time. No funding has been committed, no payments have been made, other than preparatory site investigation works and specialist external legal advice to the County Council.
Following the procurement exercise and the signing of the Collaboration Agreement, which was signed and sealed by Swansea University and ourselves and Sterling Health, the Council took further legal advice, that was reported to the Executive Board, on the most appropriate structure to safely deliver the Village and protect public funds. That advice was shared with Swansea University and Sterling Health Securities. It recommended that the County Council should not join or take equity in any existing company as the Council might become inadvertently exposed to their liabilities. The advice was that the County Council should set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) in the form of a brand new company limited by shares. The County Council decided this was the safest legal way forward and informed the partners accordingly.
The purpose of the Collaboration Agreement was to reach agreement on how the specific elements might be delivered. But, as I have said, no such agreement has yet been finalised.
Whilst work has been underway to form the new SPV company, this has not yet been set up. No shares have been issues, no Directors appointed, no company registered. At its meeting on 3rd December, the Executive Board considered the five case business model plan, which is in accordance with the treasury model – this is one we have to follow as part of the City Deal – and agreed in principle that it was robust and ready for submission to both governments. Both the Joint Committee and the Economic Strategy Board that sit under the City Deal had also approved the five case business model. The Executive Board were however cognisant of recent events and press reports. They therefore considered it necessary to seek further assurance from Officers, including an external expert legal view, that all due process has been properly followed and public funds fully protected. That external legal review is completed and will be reported back to the Executive Board.
The Executive Board heard that the Collaboration Agreement with Swansea University and Sterling Health Securities Holding was intended simply to try to prepare a Development Agreement to take the scheme forward. The Board were informed that the Development Agreement had not been completed. There was therefore no legally binding commitment or liability on the Council as yet. The Executive Board asked Officers whether an alternative method to deliver this essential project for Llanelli and the County could be found. Officers considered that this was entirely feasible.
The project – just to remind Members, which I did at the Executive Board – contains three core public elements: an Institute of Life Science for Swansea University; new health facilities for Hywel Dda Health Board, and a new leisure centre for the County Council together with teaching and other facilities that include University of Wales Trinity St David. Officers considered that these could be delivered by the County Council without any development partners. The funding is in place through City Deal and the County Council to do this. Officers were also confident given their discussion with institutional investors – the likes of HSBC, Lloyds, Prudential and others who we have been in discussions with – and the independent financial business case that we, the Council, have commissioned, that the other key elements, such as care home, nursing home, hotel, business space, assisted living accommodation, could be delivered by the County Council with that private funding secured by the Council itself, if needed.
The Executive Board instructed Officers to report back urgently on an alternative delivery model to ensure that this extremely important and much needed investment in Llanelli can be completed.
The County Council has now terminated the Collaboration Agreement with the consortium, which is Swansea University and Sterling Health Security Holdings Ltd because we have taken the view that, given recent events and in order to protect this Council and the integrity of the Llanelli Science and Wellness Village, to protect that project, it is the most prudent and legally sound way forward. We have done that after taking that external legal advice. Officers will now continue working and are continuing to work with other officers from Hywel Dda Local Health Board, University of Wales Trinity St David and Swansea University to bring forward an alternative delivery model that in essence will see the Council itself facilitating the private investment needed direct. My colleague has been in touch with many of those City institution firms and is liaising with the external expert we have got providing that institutional business plan rather than through a Joint Venture company.
I also an instruction a couple of weeks ago, when we heard that something was happening in Swansea University, that we engage immediately with Wales Audit Office so that they are fully aware of where we are at the moment and have an opportunity to come in and just take a review of the project from their perspective. My colleague has done that. In fact, Chris [Moore –Director of Corporate Services] did that last week. But just to make the point, and Wales Audit Office were keen to do this, they – and I am reading from an email – they wanted to make the point that they welcomed our invitation to review the project but they wanted to emphasise that they are not undertaking the review because they have any concerns about the project. They are simply undertaking the review as a direct response to our request.
That last bit was a bit of an update which I did not give the Executive Board because at that time we were just meeting with Wales Audit Office.”