Swansea Bay City Deal facing 'selfish, petty' opposition

Llanelli wellness centre artist's impression Image copyright Hywel Dda/Arch
Image caption A £225m "wellness village" is the flagship city deal project in Carmarthenshire

A council boss has claimed one of the partners of the £1.3bn Swansea Bay city deal did not want it to succeed for "selfish" and "petty" reasons.

Carmarthenshire chief executive Mark James did not name the organisation but claimed people were "going out of their way" to "make sure it didn't happen".

Mr James also accused the Welsh and UK governments of holding back funding.

He claimed the suspension of Swansea University staff linked to one project had sent people "running to the hills".

The so-called "city deal" - a strategy for regional regeneration - was struck in 2017, with 11 projects agreed in principle to create 9,000 jobs across Neath Port Talbot, Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.

However, none of the £241m contribution from the UK and Welsh Governments has been released yet, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Carmarthenshire's flagship project - a proposed £225m "wellness village" in Llanelli - has been particularly controversial following the suspension of five Swansea University staff with links to it.

Neighbouring Neath Port Talbot Council has threatened to pull out of the city deal, citing the cost of bureaucracy and issues of confidence in governance.

Image caption Mark James has been the longest-serving council chief executive in Wales with 17 years' service

Mr James, who steps down in June, told Carmarthenshire council leaders they could deliver their own city deal projects alone if necessary, but added: "I am convinced we can get it back on track."

He said it had taken "an inordinate amount of time" to set up a joint working agreement between the 10 public sector partners, one of which had become "slightly unwilling".

"We had a partner who would have been quite happy for it not to go ahead for their own selfish, petty reasons," Mr James said.

He also claimed the councils were being "held in subjugation" by the two governments, through their failure to release funding for the projects.

Council leader Emlyn Dole said he felt a "sense of unfairness" that other city deals had received some money up front.

The UK government said officials should "aim to reach a swift conclusion to ensure that funding can flow as needed" for two projects it considered close to final approval - the Swansea Waterfront "digital district" and Carmarthen's Yr Egin creative cluster,

The Welsh Government declined to comment.

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