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Questions on value of council-owned shares in Bluestone to be heard

Bluestone's Blue Lagoon (Pic: Google Street View)

FURTHER questions on council-owned shares in Pembrokeshire’s Bluestone Holiday Park will be heard at a full council meeting later this week.

The value of Pembrokeshire council-owned shares in the Bluestone holiday park near Narberth – exchanged for £1.9m in loans – has previously been disputed, with claims they are worth just £70,000, and counter-claims placing them at £1.3m.

Back at the May 11 meeting of the county council, in a response to a question by Councillor Alan Dennison, Cabinet Member for corporate Finance Cllr Ale Cormack said the value of the shares amounted to under £70,000, and had paid out £19,000 in dividends over the last five years, with the highest dividend in a single year amounting to £5,250, in 2019-20.

Cllr Alec Cormack, Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance (Pic: Pembrokeshire county Council webcast)

The shares were taken up by the council’s previous administration more than a decade ago.

Cllr Dennison had asked: “Given the council’s previous investment in Bluestone of a £1.9 million secured loan, now converted into shares, can the Cabinet member advise what return on investment per annum has been received over the last five years in share dividends or any other form of income?”

Cllr Alan Dennison (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council)

Since then, the value placed on the shares has been disputed.

At a special leadership challenge meeting to Council Leader David Simpson just a week later, leadership hopeful Councillor Huw Murphy said all councillors had received an email from the owners of Bluestone, valuing the shares at £1.3m.

Details of the email appearing to contradict the earlier figures have not been made public.

At the October 12 county council meeting, Cllr Dennison will ask two pre-submitted questions relating to the Bluestone shares.

The first asks: “In his email response to Mr William McNamara [Bluestone CEO], on May 17, the Deputy Leader [Cllr Paul Miller] stated:

‘It’s unfortunate that recent questions to council have generated a degree of negative publicity for you but it is incumbent upon us to respond openly and honestly, in the public domain, to questions raised by elected councillors’.

“The only question submitted referred to the share dividends received over the last five years.

“Can the Deputy Leader advise which part of this question he believes warranted such negative publicity against Bluestone?”

Cllr Dennison will also ask a second, related, question.

“Did the Leader of the Council [Cllr David Simpson] approve the response of the Cabinet Member for Finance [Cllr Alec Cormack] to the question submitted by myself regarding the return to date over the last five years of the Bluestone shares held by this council, at the full council meeting held on May 11 and, if so, will he comment on the response from the CEO [of Bluestone] which appears to contradict the Cabinet member’s response?”

Both questions will be heard at the October 12 meeting.