Wednesday 14 March 2012

The Beacon - cut 'n' paste PR

Readers of Caebrwyn's blog will have spotted a picture of beloved council leader Meryl Gravell standing dangerously close to a liposuction machine on a recent visit to The Beacon, or as it was known until recently, Technium, in Llanelli.

Technium was built by the Welsh Government in 2001 as a centre to attract new and early stage science and technology companies. Sadly, the idea failed to take off, and late last year Carmarthenshire County Council did a deal to take over the lease.

Obviously because this was an arrangement between two arms of government using taxpayers' money, the terms of the deal had to be kept secret, and a public interest exemption was slapped on it by the county's Executive Board.

Just 7 months after taking over, Carmarthenshire County Council announced in an ecstatic press release that the centre was being re-launched as "The Beacon" and that it was now full to capacity. Labour's Edwina Hart, known affectionately as Redwina Hartski on Twitter, came down in the ministerial limo for the event.

A few days later, the Carmarthen Journal carried its own take on the story here. You may need a microscope to spot the differences between the two versions, but the paper's correspondent was proud enough of his work to tweet about it.

Both versions quote Meryl as saying, "We have managed to fill The Beacon to capacity." That would suggest that the centre is completely full, so prepare to be surprised when you look at The Beacon's website, here.

(Tip to journalist: the Council's press release contains a link).

Half of the ground floor is taken up by The Beacon's own administration. The other half is occupied by the high-tech liposuction firm.

Queue music from "Are You Being Served".

On the first floor, 5 of the 7 units are occupied by a couple of consultancy companies, a couple of IT companies and Coleg Sir Gâr, that well-known high-tech start-up. Two of the units are described as available.

On the Top Floor another software company occupies 4 of the 6 units. Two units are advertised as available.

Out of the centre's 19 units, 3 are admin for the centre itself, and one other is Coleg Sir Gâr. Four more units are empty. So that leaves 11 units occupied by actual businesses, or just under 60%.

Of course, we don't know what inducements have been given to the companies to move in, but it is good to see these kinds of businesses in Llanelli.

But a vacancy rate of just over 20% does not make "full to capacity". While the council press office is all too prone to what could be called spin (if we are being charitable), the Carmarthen Journal should hang its head in shame for sloppy journalism like this.


Anonymous said...

Very funny! I really did get the "Are you being served" theme tune into my head before reading on - thanks. Oh Carmarthen Journal - what's happened to you? Where are your testicles?

Anonymous said...

Someone should challenge Sir Gar hiding behind exempt information to keep the public from knowing about the deal between Sir Gar & WG. There was no competitive tendering here so why the commercial confidentiality.

Can I suggest a complaint to Sir Gar, then Corporate Complaint to Sir Gar then off we go to the Ombudsman. Seems to me that Sir Gar are long overdue for some maladministration judgements against them.

Cneifiwr said...

Thanks Anon. I'd be willing to bet that Sir Gar would say it was the Welsh Govt. that wanted it to be exempted. But you could try kicking it off with an FOI request to Sir Gar. Be prepared for a very long war of attrition, though!