The contentious left wing First Minister of Wales may now open himself to legal action following his controversial decision to scrap plans for an M4 relief road even though the planning inspector said the case was “compelling” after presiding over enormous scandals in the Welsh NHS when he was health minister, The Eye can reveal.
Mark Drakeford could face a judicial review as fury grows over the headline-grabbing announcement, when the inspector Bill Wadrup, gave the route south of Newport his overwhelming backing. Mr Wadrup said that creating the highway from Junction 23 to Junction 29 would be a good use of public funds, that environmental objections were overstated, and it was in the public interest.
The vast bulk of Mr Wadrup’s report to the Welsh Government (WG) detailed the objections raised by charities, campaign groups, environmental bodies and individuals who criticised the scheme. Yet he concluded that the criticisms “do not, either jointly or separately, outweigh the proof of public benefits that the scheme would bring”.
Mr Wadrup was also clear that most of the Gwent levels would not be affected by the proposed route. In the report he wrote: “The inescapable reality is that only about 2% of the Levels by area would be affected and approximately 2% of the reen [drainage ditch] network by length”. Addressing those who said the scheme ‘would destroy the areas of Special Scientific Interest’, he said: “Those assertions are wrong”.
In the hours after the announcement by Mr Drakeford our journalists reported the big concerns of one of the most important property developers in Wales, who said the success of a planned hotel in Cardiff could be hit.
Paul McCarthy Chief Executive of Rightacres which is responsible for the huge Cardiff Central Square project, and the even bigger re-development of the nearby old Brains brewery site, told us exclusively that tourism in Wales might be struck, and his new multi-million pound hotel in the city may be affected.
He said: “Luckily Rightacres commercial development sites were strategically chosen to be adjacent to public transport hubs but what worries me is the impact the decision not to build the relief road will have on tourism. In partnership with the Welsh Rugby Union, we are building a £50m hotel and as with all hospitality businesses its success will rely very much on weekend business. Staycations in the UK are on the up but I am concerned that this decision will severely impact the opportunity to grow Wales’ share of the UK’s tourism business.”
Yet Mr Drakeford, who was the only candidate for the top job to vote for the hard-left Jeremy Corbyn as UK Labour leader, is no stranger to bad headlines.
He was at the helm as Welsh health minister when major scandals erupted. One at a North Wales hospital centred on the treatment of mentally ill patients, and made headlines in the UK media.
Tawel Fan at Ysbyty Clwyd was closed in December 2013 after shocking revelations were made by The Daiy Mail, which reported that patients were ‘treated like animals’ as they were filmed crawling across floors. A report into the scandal in 2015 said there was “institutional abuse”. Mr Drakeford, who went on to become the Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government, apologised and said there would be an “urgent meeting”.
But it would appear that serious questions about the treatment of patients in the Welsh NHS have persistently dogged Mr Drakeford’s time as health minister in Wales, although this has not hindered him being touted as the person who was to become Welsh first minister.
The Eye were given exclusive details by whistleblowers who had worked at Brecon War Memorial Hospital of how an elderly stroke victim was allegedly slapped in bed by a carer, and visiting families were forced to bring in food to keep their starving relatives alive. We have also been told that falsification of notes at the hospital was “routine practice”.
One whistleblower said: “The night culture at Brecon hospital is amateur at best, dangerous at worst. (Staff were) drunk on duty, nurses (were) put to bed as they were drunk, then woken up before days-staff turned up. A convicted sex-offender was working as a care assistant.” A police investigation followed which lasted several months.
The disturbing news of the events at the Brecon hospital came hard on the heels of earlier controversies, also on Mr Drakeford’s watch as Welsh health minister.
At Ysbyty Cwm Cynon in Mountain Ash, 10 hospital workers were suspended following the death of an elderly woman who was found with “unexplained and serious injuries” on a ward. Meanwhile nurses at a hospital in Bridgend were investigated by police for allegedly drugging elderly and difficult patients to enjoy a quiet night shift.
One nurse exposed what was happening at the town’s Princess of Wales hospital before the death of 82 year old Lillian Willams. She had one of her legs amputated but died in 2013 after a catalogue of neglect at the hospital, which is part of the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University (ABMU) health board. In total two deaths occured at the hospital, after a review recommended changes in practices which should have ensured “patient safety”.
Despite this, it is not the only time Mr Drakeford has made headlines for the wrong reasons, and all these unfortunate facts have been ignored by the mainstream media in Wales.
A major supporter of his became embroiled in the anti-Semitism row which has engulfed the Labour party. Darren Williams was a significant backer of Mr Drakeford’s on Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) who jointly-founded Welsh Labour Grassroots, which served as Wales’ branch of the Corbyn-backing Momentum group.
A contentious tweet that was ‘liked’ by Mr Williams read: “There are conspiracies by Jews – one of them being the #GnasherJew site – there are conspiracies in all walks of life – I believe #GnasherJew is causing a lot of grief for decent Jews in Britain who don’t like fanaticism – so counter-productive”. But Mr Williams emphasised his support for Mr Drakeford, saying: “Thanks in large part to Mark’s clear-sightedness… Wales has been spared the financially-ruinous PFI (Private Finance Initiative and) our NHS has been protected”.
As Welsh Health Minister, he added, Mr Drakeford had ‘skilfully’ defended the ‘achievements’ from “the malicious propaganda of (former Prime Minister David) Cameron and (former Health Secretary Jeremy) Hunt”.
Mr Drakeford’s campaign to become First Minister of Wales also came under fire, although not from the mainstream media in Wales, after it was alleged he had taken policies from other parties.
Senior Labour figures strongly criticised him to us during the race to take over as their leader in Wales for embracing a policy which had been launched in Scotland long before. The ‘baby box’ started to be rolled out there on August 15 after an initial trial and is sent directly to home addresses after registration with a midwife. It includes essential items for a child’s first weeks and months to support mothers and fathers.
Yet Mr Drakeford said: “For me the whole idea of a baby bundle or a baby box as it was originally (our italics) put to me came at a surgery when some constituents from Cardiff West came together with some representatives of (the union) UNITE..”.
‘His’ policy was criticised by politicians in his own party. One Labour figure said to us: “This is clearly an opportunist move when the policy was first introduced somewhere else”. Another said: “I simply can’t understand it, this is a transparent, crass thing to do”. Despite this, the mainstream media in Wales said Mr Drakeford ‘launched’ the idea at the Little Inspirations Day Nursery in Rhydyfelin, Pontypridd.
Mr Drakeford’s support for Mr Corbyn is odd given that his UK leader appears to be increasingly isolated. It also looks likely Labour will spend another Summer fighting claims it is anti-Semitic.
On May 28 the Equality and Human Rights Commission announced that it is launching a formal investigation into whether the party has unlawfuly discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish.
It last took this measure against the British National Party.
Mr Drakeford’s extraordinary political career has become the subject of our satirical columnist Edwin Phillips.
During his successful campaign to take over, a gushing piece in the South Wales Echo was headlined: “Leadership hopeful sets out his vision for Wales”.
In the second paragraph of a ‘report’ on Mr Drakeford it stated: “In a 21 page manifesto document, the bookies’ favourite to succeed Carwyn Jones has laid out what he will do if Welsh Labour members vote him in as leader”.
In the internet version of the paper, WalesOnline, the ‘report’ was equally effusive.
It began: “It’s safe to say Mark Drakeford is a busy man” and continued: “Mark Drakeford may be the favourite to be the next First Minister but in his own words, it wasn’t something he had a ‘burning desire’ to do, but rather something he feels he is the ‘best equipped’ person for”.
Perhaps motorists now facing more congestion around the Brynglas Tunnels will also feel Newport is not being ‘best equipped’.
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