Swansea Council chief denies claims in Gypsy site shortlist row
LLANSAMLET was not added to a shortlist of potential sites for travellers by any council officers, the authority's chief executive has said.
The announcement by Jack Straw comes after five serving and former councillors signed a statement to say the area had been added to a shortlist they had drawn up, shortly before they were due to visit each site to consider their suitability.
Swansea Council strongly rejected any suggestion a council officer had added Llansamlet to the list drawn up by the Task and Finish group, set up in March 2010 to evaluate suitable sites for Gypsies and travellers and make recommendations to the authority.
Mr Straw said: "It is inaccurate to suggest that council officers added any sites to the shortlist. Members of the Task and Finish group were fully aware of the potential sites during every stage of the selection process.
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"The group began with a list of 1,006 potential sites and whittled these down by using the agreed criteria for assessing sites. In March 2012 the group shortlisted five sites and the following month they visited those five sites only."
The Task and Finish group is made up of elected members, and earlier this year set out to visit five sites which they had shortlisted. But last week, five members of the group put their names to a statement which read: "The list of sites was only issued to members shortly before the day of the visit, and some of us only noticed that the list had been changed shortly before the site visits actually commenced, and a site in Llansamlet had been added.
"We expressed our disapproval to the officers... Llansamlet WAS NOT a site shortlisted by the elected members; we were told Llansamlet was included because of a decision made by officers."
The statement is signed by councillors Penny Matthews and Tony Colburn, and former councillors Roger Smith, John Hague and June Evans.
It was not clear from the councillors exactly how many sites were on the list they were given to visit. But the same month as the site visit the Evening Post reported five sites had been visited — Heol y Mynydd in Gorseinon, the former greyhound stadium in Cockett ward, Milford Way in Penderry, Parc Melin Mynach in Gorseinon and land at the eastern gateway to Swansea Vale in Llansamlet.
Councillors Colburn and Matthews, who still serve on the council, declined to comment further. But former councillor John Hague said: "We made a decision what the sites would be, and Llansamlet was not on the list. I am adamant about that." And former councillor June Evans added: "Llansamlet was not on the shortlist. I do not know who put it on there, but somebody did."
Former Clydach councillor Roger Smith said he believed Llansamlet was on a shortlist, and that he had added his name to last week's statement on the understanding it referred to Llansamlet being on the list of sites they were due to visit that day. He said: "Llansamlet had been discussed, but it was not scheduled to be visited that day."