Posted: Wed 18th Oct 2023

Disputed Value of Council-Owned Shares in Bluestone Holiday Park Leads to Call for Public Apology and Offer to Buy Them Back

news.wales / newyddion.cymru
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Oct 18th, 2023

The still-disputed value of council-owned shares in Pembrokeshire’s Bluestone Holiday Park has led to a rejected call for a public apology for “negative publicity,” and an open offer for Bluestone to buy them back.
The value of Pembrokeshire council-owned shares in the Bluestone holiday park near Narberth – exchanged for £1.9m in loans more than a decade ago – has seen claims they are worth just £70,000, and counter-claims placing them as high as £1.3m.
Back at the May 11 meeting of the county council, in a response to a question by Councillor Alan Dennison on dividend returns, Cabinet Member for corporate Finance Cllr Alec Cormack said the value of the shares were estimated at under £70,000, and had paid out £19,000 in dividends over the last five years.
Since then, the value placed on the shares has been disputed.
An email from Bluestone’s Chief Executive Officer William McNamara was received by all councillors, on the eve of a May 18 leadership challenge meeting to Council Leader David Simpson, valuing the shares at £1.3m.
Details of the email – citied at the May 18 meeting – have not been made public.
At the October council meeting, Cllr Dennison asked further questions relating to the Bluestone shares.
His first said: “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 Miller said: “It feels to me that Cllr Dennison is attempting to rewrite history here.
“In context of what is a return; I’m certain that Cllr Dennison understands a return requires a consideration of dividends and share values.
“It was pretty inevitable that disclosure of the current value of the shareholdings would lead to some negative publicity, as indeed was the case.”
Cllr Dennison replied: “Following the meeting and the subsequent negative publicity generated for Bluestone, Mr McNamara felt it necessary to write to every county councillor and inform them of the facts as they are, facts which appear to conflict with the lengthy response given by the Cabinet Member for Finance.
“The shares are worth anything between £900,000 to £1.3m, far in excess of what was stated by the Cabinet member.”
He asked Cllr Miller to note a long list of the economic benefits of Bluestone to the county, adding: “And will he take the opportunity to formally issue a public apology to the Bluestone chief executive for this negative publicity?”.
Cllr Miller responded: “Firstly, do I think that the Bluestone experience is a good thing? Yes, I do; a really important part of the Pembrokeshire tourism offer.
“None of that, of course, was asked in what Cllr Dennison raised.”
He said Cllr Dennison, had, since elected “essentially been agitating in private” for information on the council’s financial involvement and relationship with Bluestone.
“He gets one email from Mr McNamara saying the shares are worth a million quid and he parrots it like no-one’s business,” Cllr Miller told members.
“There is a debate to be had about the value of those shares, but, as I said to Mr McNamara [by email] if there’s a desire by Bluestone to reacquire the shares at the value they quote then I’m very happy to have a discussion with the management team at their convenience.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​



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