Money Lost, Jobs Denied, Dignity Insulted

There has been a lot of debate lately about procurement policies in Wales. (One discussion was here.) At its simplest, this means ensuring that the Welsh Management, local government and other agencies give contracts to Welsh firms. Doing this obviously maximises the benefits to Wales in terms of jobs, but it also ensures that more money stays in the country, enabling Welsh firms to grow, and circulating in the local economy. So simple, and so obvious, that we shouldn’t really need to discuss it. But we do, because too many contracts – big and small – are still Glandyfi castlegoing to companies from outside Wales. Stuck in traffic at road works yesterday I saw, laid out before me, a good example of this problem.

Anyone who travels the A487, Bangor to Fishguard trunk road, will know about the major road works being undertaken at Glandyfi, between Aberystwyth and Machynlleth. This stretch of road was totally unfit for twenty-first century traffic, having blind bends and a carriageway too narrow for vehicles to pass. (Geologists among you may find this of interest.) The problem at Glandyfi was due to the road being squeezed between the Dyfi estuary and the railway line on the one side, and the walls of Glandyfi castle on the other. Glandyfi castle which, its website tells us, “lies just 12 miles from Aberystwyth on the Welsh coast”. At 12 miles from Aber’ where else it would it be – the Côte de bloody Azur! The website also informs us that guests can go “walking in the Welsh hills”. Fancy that – Welsh hills in Wales! Glandyfi Castle seems to be the worst type of colonio-tourism: ‘Come and enjoy the scenery . . . sorry about the natives’. Makes me wonder how much loot this place has milked from the Welsh public purse over the years. But I digress. Let us return to the road below the castle.

The main contract for this £10m project was granted to English firm Carillion Construction Ltd, which has its HQ in Wolverhapton, some 12 miles from Birmingham, an English city, in the English Midlands, which is in England. A company that does not enjoy an unsullied reputation in civil engineering. Since the work started I must have driven along this stretch of road some 20 or 30 times, and I have always been struck by the fact that most of the sub-contractors seem to be English firms, based in places like Manchester, Coventry; or else I see vehicles showing telephone numbers I know are not Welsh. Though the real giveaway at Glandyfi is the transit camp of portakabins to house the workers. Which is not to say that local firms haven’t seen a few crumbs. For example, when I drove through yesterday I saw a Brodyr Evans of Dolgellau roadsweeper being used . . . which won’t make a big dent in £10m.

So why was the contract given to Carillion? Other big projects in this area have gone to Jones Bros of Ruthin, Alun Griffiths of Abergavenny Carillionand Watkin Jones of Bangor. And there are other Welsh companies. Did none of them tender for the Glandyfi project? Let’s give the Welsh Management the benefit of the doubt and assume that Carillion’s was the only, or the only acceptable, tender. Even if that were the case, then the Welsh Management could still have insisted that Carillion use Welsh sub-contractors. So why didn’t they? How can our AMs lecture our councils and others about local procurement when they don’t practice what they preach?

Some sources say the work was scheduled for completion in July 2012, others say “late 2012”. Whatever the date, it’s well behind schedule. Are we to believe that Welsh companies couldn’t have done a better job? Whether they could or not, the fact remains that millions of pounds have left Wales; a few hundred jobs have been denied to Welsh people; plus, tens of thousands of Welsh people have driven through Glandyfi encouraged to think, ‘How could we manage without the English?’ And all due to the incompetence of those buffoons down Cardiff docks.

6 thoughts on “Money Lost, Jobs Denied, Dignity Insulted

  1. Puts on green eye shade visor # Looks to camera

    So how would you describe the location of Glandyfi Castle on a website?

    “Balfour Beatty Jones Bros Civil Engineering UK joint
    venture recognised for environmental excellence on
    £35m Porthmadog bypass” 6 November 2012

    “The joint venture partnership of Balfour Beatty and Jones Bros Civil Engineering UK has been acclaimed in an important environmental quality assessment by a top industry body for its work on the A487 Porthmadog, Minffordd and Tremadog bypass project.”
    Link: http://www.jones-bros.com/porthmadog-bypass-recognised-for-excellence.html

    “Local jobs boost as Jones Bros Civil Engineering wins
    multi-million pound hydropower contract” 4 December 2012

    “RWE npower renewables has awarded north Wales-based Jones Bros Civil Engineering UK a £6.6m contract to carry out a major pipeline replacement scheme at it’s Dolgarrog Power Station
    The contract for works in the Conwy Valley, will provide a welcome north Wales jobs boost, as the Ruthin-based company seeks local labour, as well as contractors to carry out specialist work.”
    Link: http://www.jones-bros.com/jones-bros-civil-engineering-wins-multi-million-pound-hydropower-contract.html

  2. Tonto Titanium

    Point taken re above reply… But, back to your main point, Jac. Here’s a top example –

    Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd gave the multi-million pound contract for renovating the Gwynedd housing stock (taken over from Gwynedd Council – while retaining all the unfit and self-serving existing management – in the biggest con seen in Gwynedd public services, i.e. “if tenants vote for the handover, billions of punds will be released for renovatuion,” but as rents rised by 50% within three years from 2004, and a 100% by 2012, who is paying?), awarded the work to Lovells of Liverpool. And what a shower of wankers and cowboys this company is! Shoddy work, damage to private property, refusal to pay for said damage, intrusion, rooves left open for days, dumping of rubbish from sites in other towns in gardens, thefts from houses (not a pandering to stereotyping of Liverpudlians, as all cases I know of refer to workers from other parts of the north-west of England), unfinished work, snagging lists not done, safety work not carried out despite numerous inspections and reports, abusive personnel etc etc… The list is endless. But, though they do have some Welsh-based sub-contractors, the worst part is that the bulk of all this “multi-million pound investment” that Gwynedd tenants are paying for goes to an English-based company.

    1. Jac

      There’s something ‘not right’ about Cartfefi Cymunedol Gwynedd. I remember not long after they took over I started seeing their vehicles – bought in England and delivered with ‘GB’ on the plates! I have had occasion to phone them a few times, and spoken with English staff every time. Now there’s the issue of English contractors, and Lovells weren’t the only ones. Wasn’t there also the Apollo Group of Essex, or did they sub-contract to Lovells? And then there was the firm from Nottingham(?) given the contract for grass-cutting? CCG begins to look like a trojan horse.

  3. David

    This Daniel Contractors which is a Warrington based company has just gone into administration. The BBC claims they employ around 470 in Wales; Golwg says 250. I wonder how that works? Their vehicles are to be seen all over Wales. Golwg claims they carry out work for Dwr Cymru.

    1. Jac

      Daniel have depots in the north and the south. From my experience of dealing with them they employ locals. Which is an improvement on Lovells (mentioned in an earlier comment). The ideal situation would be Welsh companies employing Welsh workers and Welsh sub-contractors. If not, then outside companies employing Welsh workers and Welsh sub-contractors. The example I used in my post is the worst of all possible worlds – English main contractor employing English workers and English sub-contractors.

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