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Reports damning for City Deal management

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THE PUBLICATION of two reports on Friday, March 15, has shone a light into corners of the Swansea Bay City Deal.

The first report released, prepared on behalf of the UK and Welsh governments, written by Actica

Consulting, suggests a combination of concerns over funding and of the “much-publicised concerns on the wellness village (Delta Lakes, Llanelli, the single largest project) could cause a loss of confidence within the region”

In the meantime and, The Herald understands, over the anguished objections of the Regional Office/Carmarthenshire County Council, the second report – an internal review – was circulated to county councillors in Pembrokeshire this morning.

The second report makes for grim reading.

The report lays bare the amount of distrust between the City Deal partners, particularly between Neath Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire councils on the one side, and Carmarthenshire County Council on the other.

Each report highlights deficiencies in the management of the Deal, which Carmarthenshire County Council and its controversial CEO Mark James are meant to lead.

Familiar to those who have kept a close watch on the activities of Carmarthenshire County Council are complaints of a lack of transparency and openness in the way the City Deal has been managed to date.

Particular criticism is made of two key aspects of the project: that under Mr James’ leadership the Deal has failed to consider the City Deal as a truly regional opportunity and focussed on building individual, local projects of limited regional value; the second major criticism is the failure of leadership given to the project and an abject lack of clear financial processes and accountability.

In spite of an attempt to spin the ‘success’ of two elements of the deal, Swansea Waterfront and Yr Egin, it is worth noting that Yr Egin was only tacked on to the City Deal when already underway because UWTSD revealed it couldn’t afford to complete the project on its own as it had promised.

Cllr Rob James, the Leader of the Labour Group on Carmarthenshire County Council told The Herald late on Friday afternoon: “I am pleased that this review has highlighted many of the concerns that we have raised on governance.

“Frankly, the report validated our actions to date.

“Trust has broken down between partners and public confidence in one of the projects, in particular, has taken a big hit.

“There are clear lessons that need to be learnt and this report highlights several of them. I now hope that the administration in Carmarthenshire consider the review in full and ensure that radical changes on governance are delivered immediately.”

Cllr Rob Stewart, Chairman of the Swansea Bay City Deal Joint Committee, said: “This review was carried out alongside the UK and Welsh Government’s independent review of the City Deal programme and sought to assure that it will deliver full economic benefits for the region.

“The findings and recommendations of the internal review will be formally considered by the SBCD Joint Committee at the next meeting.

“Looking to ensure governance is as robust as possible reflects that we’re still in the very early stages of a 15-year programme, but we’re ready to support any recommendations that would benefit the region’s economic prosperity in future by speeding up the City Deal’s delivery.”

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Blogger hits back at James and Dole

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THE OUTBURSTS by Council Leader Emlyn Dole and soon-to-depart CEO Mark James against efforts made by bloggers and media to hold the County Council to account (see last week’s Herald) have received a stinging response from local blogger Jacqui Thompson.
To describe Mr James and Mrs Thompson as ‘having form’ understates the level of dislike and mistrust between the pair.
Mr James was sued for libel by Mrs Thompson, an action in which he made an offer to settle before Mr James’ employers stumped up an unlawful indemnity in respect of his legal fees. Mr James won that action but the cost to the Council’s reputation was immeasurably more than the sum the Court awarded him in damages. Particularly as the case was accompanied by the scandal of the Executive Board permitting its most senior employee to enter into a tax avoidance scheme in relation to his public sector pension.
Mr James’ subsequent repudiation of his agreement to repay the Council in respect of the unlawful indemnity, saying through his barrister that he could throw the £35,000 in the gutter if he so wished arguably demonstrated Mr James’ status as ‘untouchable’. Even efforts by some councillors to persuade the CEO to compromise his position and reach an accommodation about the unlawful indemnity was howled down by the Council’s Head of Legal, a witness in Mr James’ libel case.
And all that came after a former independent external member of the Council’s Audit Committee slated the quality of the Council’s internal legal advice and processes.
Mr James attempted to have Mrs Thompson prosecuted for harassment, only for the case to collapse embarrassingly when it went before the Magistrates’ Court in Llanelli.
Mrs Thompson has consistently alleged that Mr James has exploited his position as Council CEO to use public facilities to pursue what is – at law – a private matter between individuals.
In her letter to Mr James, which Jacqui Thompson copied to Council Leader Emlyn Dole, she vigorously hammers away at both men.
Due to its content, The Herald has edited the letter, but what we are able to publish is below.
A FOND FAREWELL
Dear Mr James,
Your remarks about bloggers at Wednesday’s AGM require this brief response, which will also be published on my blog.
As there are not many bloggers, or “keyboard warriors” about, and, as you have actually met me, albeit in a courtroom, the consensus of opinion is that you were including me in your comment. As was Emlyn Dole.
I am not anonymous, far from it as you are well aware, and neither do I hide away in dark corners, and I’m quite capable of speaking my name. There is nothing I have said on my blog which I wouldn’t say directly to you, or anyone else, in an instant. If you wish to try and argue over anything I’ve said, then do get in touch.
It was me who called you out and went through a public trial; you hid behind the taxpayer to make your attack, also calling on them to fund your first class travel and upmarket hotels.
You didn’t even have the bottle to attend Carmarthen County Court and face me while you attempted to take my home, you hid.
The taxpayer had already funded your legal costs once, and your unlawful tax avoidance scam. I wouldn’t put anything past you. I represented myself and was quite capable of saying a lot more than my name.
It is you who have hidden, Mr James, behind your puppet councillors, your legal department, your money, and your junior staff.
Urging councillors, or anyone, to ignore the press and public opinion is appalling but has been a trademark of your regime, and councillors who have toed the line have been rewarded. Those who have not have been bullied and treated with contempt.
You have withdrawn support for local newspapers for publishing negative stories and enabled, unlawfully, for the council to sue. And more.
You do not ignore the press or blogs as you claim, you just get someone else to read it all for you, at public expense. If it was all so unimportant then why did you refer to it all in your farewell speech?
I do not have time on my hands, we work hard to ensure we can live and that you get your monthly ‘gutter’ money so that you do not take our home. The time I do have I spend unearthing the facts and the truth which you are so reluctant to impart. And as I said, I will continue to hold you to account for your actions at this council, retired or not. You have not heard the last from this particular ‘anonymous’ blogger.
You will certainly be remembered Mr James, not as a man of vision, nor even one with a ridiculous Honour, but as the man who trashed the reputation of Carmarthenshire County Council, and Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs ‘Shit of the Year’.

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Platelet donor calls on others to join him

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A FATHER from Ammanford who travels 100 miles a month to donate lifesaving platelets is calling on others to join him in the fight against blood cancer by becoming platelet donors this World Blood Cancer Day (May 28).
Adam Poole, 37, had his life turned upside down in 2013 when his three year old daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia. Hannah, now eight years old, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, a form of blood cancer that affects the production of white blood cells. Around 650 people are diagnosed with the condition across the UK each year.
Hannah underwent intensive chemotherapy from 2013 to 2016, before ringing the bell at the hospital to signal the end of her chemotherapy treatment after she had beaten cancer. Unfortunately, her cancer returned in July 2018 and she is currently battling it for the second time in her life. Alongside receiving chemotherapy to help fight her leukaemia, Hannah routinely needs transfusions of red blood cells and platelets to support her through her chemotherapy treatment. The transfusions enable Hannah to live an active lifestyle which includes playing with her brother and sisters.
Adam said: “Hannah routinely receives chemotherapy to treat her leukaemia but the chemo drains all her energy and can leave her feeling weak and tired. Hannah has a blood test every week to determine if she is fit enough to continue with chemotherapy. Her regular transfusions make a huge difference and shortly after receiving platelets and blood, Hannah is usually back to bouncing around the wards – it’s amazing to see!
“As a parent, it’s such a relief to know there are platelet donations available for Hannah when her platelet levels have gone too low. When her levels are too low the chemotherapy has to stop as it’s too dangerous to continue. Platelets are vital. It’s a blood product that not everyone knows about but it’s so valuable to those who receive it.”
After seeing the impact of platelets on his daughter, the father of four decided to become a platelet donor. Adam and his brother, Liam, now regularly make the 100-mile round trip from Adam’s family home in Ammanford to the Welsh Blood Service’s donation clinic in Talbot Green.
Adam continued: “After Hannah’s first treatment I made the decision to become a platelet donor. I didn’t know much about platelets beforehand but our family has now seen the incredible difference receiving platelets has made to our little girl.
“Platelets can only be stored for seven days after donation which means the Welsh Blood Service always needs donors to attend and give their donations. I know Hannah isn’t directly receiving my platelets as we have different blood groups but it’s so comforting to know that someone else’s loved one is receiving a boost thanks to something I’ve done.
“Every bag of platelets has a date of donation attached to it and I remember one occasion when Hannah was receiving a transfusion from a donation on the same day I gave platelets. There’s a chance that I spent 90 minutes sat next to the kind stranger that helped my daughter that day, which is amazing.”
Hannah is currently receiving care and treatment under a shared agreement between two hospitals, the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, and Glangwili General Hospital in Carmarthen.
Adam continued: “The whole experience has changed my mindset. When we’re at the hospital we understand just how lucky we are that Hannah is still with us. Some of Hannah’s friends over the years haven’t been so fortunate.
“If you’re fit and able, please take the time to consider giving platelets. I never thought our family would be on the receiving end of a donation, nobody does, but those donations have helped keep our Hannah alive.”
Rachel Morgan, apheresis nurse at the Welsh Blood Service, said: “Platelets are such an amazing gift yet many people aren’t as familiar with apheresis donation as they are with donating blood.
“The physical act of donating platelets through apheresis takes around 90 minutes and can only be made at our Talbot Green clinic, which is five minutes from the M4. We always need new apheresis donors to safeguard the supply of platelets for the patients of Wales so we would echo Adam’s call for donors to enquire about joining our panel of apheresis donors.
“Sadly, those suffering with blood cancer often require bone marrow donations so I’d also encourage donors aged 17-30 to join the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry, the Welsh register of volunteer bone marrow donors.”
Help fight blood cancer this World Blood Cancer Day by booking an appointment for a platelet assessment: visit wbs.wales/platelets or call 0800 252 266.

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Zef Eisenberg breaks records at Pendine

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ZEF EISENBERG raced into the history books at Pendine Sands last Saturday (May 18) achieving six records on his very first pair of runs in his specially built 1200hp Porsche 911 Turbo.
Eisenberg earned: the fastest sand speed record ever achieved by a wheel-powered vehicle at 210.332mph; fastest flying quarter (one way) wheel powered record at 206.492mph; fastest flying mile (one way) wheel powered record at 196.970mph; fastest flying mile (two way) 187.962mph (same measurement as Sir Malcolm Campbell); became the only person in history to have achieved over 200mph on bike and car at Pendine and the only person in history to have achieved a flying mile record in bike and car in Britain.

Zef Eisenberg is the founder of sports nutrition brand MAXImuscle, and holds more than 44 British, World and Guinness speed records. In September 2016, he survived ‘Britain’s fastest-ever motorcycle crash’ at 230mph, on a 560bhp Rolls-Royce jet turbine-powered motorcycle.

He broke 11 bones, was hospitalised for three months, spent a further three months in a wheelchair and had to learn to walk again. He defied doctors by racing exactly one year after the accident, and later became the first person ever to exceed 200mph at Pendine Sands in May 2018. Eisenberg competes for the Guernsey-based MADMAX Race Team, which prides itself on developing and racing the world’s most extreme machines using the best engineers in the industry.

Eisenberg, better known for his motorbike speed record exploits, set a two-way average of 187.962mph in his MADMAX 1200hp road legal Porsche 911 Turbo specially built and prepared by ES Motors and his MADMAX Race Team. The record supersedes actor Idris Elba’s flying mile speed record (180.361mph) set at Pendine in 2015 and emulates his hero – Sir Malcolm Campbell, who first set the record at Pendine Sands in 1927 (174.8mph) in the iconic Blue Bird – a record that stood for nearly 90 years. The racer successfully secured four new records in total, smashing his own top speed of 201.5mph at Pendine in May 2018 and 182.49mph flying mile record set in April 2019 in his supercharged Hayabusa motorbike, making him the only person in history to hold the flying mile and fastest speed records in both bike and car at Pendine.

A jubilant Eisenberg said: “A huge thank you to ES Motors and my own MADMAX Race Team for working tirelessly on the extensive Porsche preparation, engine build and tune, to ensure we had the engineering and power to achieve this very challenging record. An additional thanks to the event organisers; Straightliners and Speed Record Club for finding and setting a two-mile course with difficult sand conditions.

“The Porsche was originally a standard 2014, 550hp 911 Turbo. The MADMAX Race Team built a bespoke 4.1-litre race engine with new internals, gearbox, clutch and drive shafts, along with an upgraded E85 fuel system and sophisticated charge cooling set-up to stop engine detonation.
“A lot of work was done to ensure that the monstrous power would come in as progressively as possible in order to limit wheelspin on the loose sand surface. To cope with such an extreme output, the PDK transmission had to be upgraded, and the suspension lifted to allow adequate ground clearance for the sand.
“Apart from a full FIA roll cage, competition seats and safety harness, the Porsche’s interior is completely standard, as weight is actually your friend on the sand. It’s about stability – putting enough weight on the tyres to increase traction.
“The Porsche behaves very differently on sand than tarmac. The sand creates a lot of resistance and tyre slip. In the end we could only use 850hp (1000hp at the engine) to avoid too much wheel spin, compared to just 550hp (engine) from a factory car.”

Eisenberg was elated to have secured these records at Pendine Sands, adding: “Pendine has such an illustrious history, racers have been flocking here since the 1900s trying to set speed records. The world land speed record heroes of yesteryear like Malcolm Campbell and J.G. Parry-Thomas in the air have all raced here. It really is the holy grail of land speed.”

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