Monday, 20 June 2011

Powys Fadog - stretched to breaking point?

Following my recent post about the Welsh Government failing to comply with freedom of information legislation in relation to many requests about Powys Fadog, I thought I’d share the details of quite an astonishing phone call I’ve just witnessed.

To cut a very long story short (5 years worth in fact) and to give a bit of background, Powys Fadog submitted a funding package to WAG back in February 2010 for their health/well being and Welsh cultural centre based in Llangollen. This package had been negotiated by WAG officers and had progressed to the point of draft heads of terms being agreed, a schedule of works being completed and contractors being appointed to carry out the refurbishment of the River Lodge hotel in Llangollen. The project required the final paper work to be signed off in order for everything to get started, dotting the ‘I’s’ and crossing the ‘T’s’ so the group were told at the time. It was at this point that everything was stopped, there were no explanations from WAG as to why and after a few weeks of enquiries, officers stopped responding to phone calls and e mails.

Essentially the situation has pretty much remained unchanged since February 2010, still no official explanation has been given as regards why everything was stopped but it has come to light that the Permanent Secretary herself stepped in to stop the project. A raft of FOI requests (the ones that eventually came back in part) have also revealed a series of letters from former Clwyd South AM Karen Sinclair to Rhodri Morgan, Ieuan Wyn Jones, Edwina Hart and Jane Hutt. In these letters she makes unfounded claims and allegations about Powys Fadog, she calls for the project to be stopped, for investigations and audits and interestingly also for a health centre to be put on the site instead.

Powys Fadog had a lease on the premises which expired on 17th June 2011. They have been desperately trying to get explanations and information regarding a decision on their project over the last 16 months. Promises were made from very senior WAG officials, firstly committing to a decision post the election and more recently a promise in writing that a decision would be made before the lease expired.

That lease expired on Friday and low and behold, still no decision, still no explanations, in fact nothing at all from the Government. You would surely expect that when the group contacted the officer in charge today to enquire about progress, they would have been met with a whole host of apologies. Erm no….. that didn’t happen, they were instead informed that no information could be given, everything was now with the Minister, a decision would be made in due course and there would be no explanation for the delays and the deadlines that had not been met. The officer also went on to state he would not provide information regarding how long the issue had been with the Minister. The group calmly stated they found this situation to be quite unbelievable and asked if WAG treated everyone like this, the response from the senior WAG officer on the other end of the phone? He hung up!

There’s not much that shocks me any more about the way the Government have treated this group, who are remember local volunteers trying to set up a not for profit social enterprise. I’ve watched the ins and outs of this over the last 5 years in complete amazement and also disbelief. Everyone has tried to get to the bottom of what’s gone on here, councillors, Ministers, Assembly Members, solicitors, you name it.

Surely now someone, somewhere will step in and hold the Government to account over this disgrace.


Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Maladminstration complaint or a judicial review or asking the Information Commissioner to enforce his/her findings against the Welsh Government, anyone of these could be next steps.

Plaid Queensway said...

Probably all of the above!

Anonymous said...

One has to ask what was in it for Sinclair

Anonymous said...

Good point Anon.
Every political decision that strikes me as odd prompts the question "Cui Bono?" = Who benefits?
Sinclair's passion for this subject outweighed just about everything else she did in her 12 years in the Assembly, so did she do it for the good of Llangollen or some other motive? I think we should ask her.

Plaid Queensway said...

A Llangollen resident who requested a meeting with Karen Sinclair to ask exactly that was simply told 'They've got no right to that building'.

The audits and investigations requested by KS all went ahead, after several months the Assembly did state in writing that these were nothing to do with the project itself but have consistently failed to explain therefore why the project was stopped and why it is still in limbo.