Would you blow £10 million of public money on the basis of a wee chat?

£50 notes side viewI think sometimes we might make too much of our claims that we’ve been cleaning up Labour’s economic mess for the last four years. It’s true they didn’t fix the roof when the sun shone, but there was this global recession thingy that, frankly, I didn’t mind them spending a fortune to bail us out of.

But they don’t help their reputation for financial incompetence. We know that they left the City of Edinburgh Council brassic with not much in the reserves . Now, it transpires, Rhodri Morgan, when he was Welsh First Minister, blew £10 million of public money building access roads in the Roath Basin area of Cardiff Bay on the basis of a wee chat with someone at the BBC which left him with the impression that the corporation was going to build its shiny new HQ there, next door to the place where shows like Doctor Who and Sherlock are made. It turns out that the BBC has decided to base themselves in the City Centre after all. And how did we find out about the ? Not because months of investigative journalism unearthed such a scandal?No, no. Rhodri Morgan casually dropped it into a column for Wales online.

How is this for the understatement of the year?

So looking back now, I wonder whether I should have tried to nail everything down in writing.

You don’t say, Rhodri? You don’t buy a washing machine without getting a guarantee, let alone £10 million worth of roads.

Welsh Liberal Democrat AM Eluned Parrott thinks that the Auditor General should investigate. She says:

Rhodri Morgan’s claims are absolutely astonishing. If what Rhodri Morgan says is true, then the Welsh Labour Government has spent £10 million on the basis of a verbal agreement that was not even adhered to.

Tax-payers need to be told what due diligence procedures, if any, took place before the decision to spend this money was taken.  No public money should be spent on just a verbal agreement, let alone a whopping £10 million.

The Welsh Labour Government has gained a worrying reputation for playing fast and loose with taxpayers’ money.  The former First Minister’s comments over the weekend do nothing to dispel that portrayal.

I believe the Auditor General needs to be looking at this case as a matter of urgency which is why I have written to him today.  The Welsh Labour Government needs to explain step by step how the decision to spend this large amount of money was taken.  After all, a responsible government doesn’t just spend millions of pounds on the basis of a chat.

Rhodri Morgan is right that he should have ‘nailed everything down in writing’. Quite frankly, it is nothing short of bizarre that this wasn’t done in the first place and once again highlights the casual attitude the Welsh Labour Government has often seemed to take when spending public money.

This isn’t the first time the Welsh Government has been a bit reckless with public money. Their purchase of Cardiff airport without having much idea about what they were going to do with it was another blunder.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Paul Pettinger 16th Jun '14 - 6:50pm

    No body mention Nick Clegg’s free school meals policy.

  • David Evans 16th Jun '14 - 7:29pm

    But Caron, “How do you know the chat took place in the little boys’ room?”

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 16th Jun '14 - 8:09pm

    David. Ugh. Just ugh:-).

  • Caron, I cannot believe you had the chutzpah to cite Jenny Dawe – her administration was mostly responsibly for the massive cost overrun of the trams and she was driven out of local politics in disgrace after being rejected by the electorate.

    Is she really the best example you can come up with?

  • Tony Dawson 17th Jun '14 - 8:15am


    I think you have got the wrong end of the stick. The Inquiry needs to be about how Welsh decisions are made chewing over Somali stimulants! 😉

    Rhodri Morgan always looks like he is “on the road to nowhere”. So he built his own! 🙁

  • The Quad.
    Remember that group of four white men with cuff links on their shirts and smiles for the cameras?
    George O, Dave C, Nick C and Danny A.

    Caron, do you think that major decisions on billions of pounds of public expenditure are thoroughly discussed and debated by this group of four men with little experience of the real world before they were lucky enough to become full time politicians?
    Most of the decisions probably get passed on the nod, let alone after a chat.
    They do not meet long enough on a regular enough basis for there to be much more than “wee chats”.
    It is one of the major failures of Clegg’s inability to make coalition work properly.

    Our party does not have a sparkling record on this over the last four years, especially after Danny Alexander voluntarily revealed a few months ago that some of his public expenditure decisions were not about the public good but about spreading a few treats around his own constituency to help with his re-election.

  • peter tyzack 17th Jun '14 - 9:29am

    the spending of money on roads in Cardiff is almost certainly nowt to do with the Quad.! .. and the school meals policy is a very good investment, wait and see.!
    Now, not that I should defend Rhodri Morgan(who?), but at least an investment in infrastructure will aid the generation of other business investment in the area, so it won’t really be ‘wasted’.

  • @David Evans – That’s where all the important decisions are taken, it’s what people mean when they say women are shut out of the centres of power.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 17th Jun '14 - 3:52pm

    David Laws wants you to answer one simple question: how do we build opportunity for all?
    The basic answer is to elect a government, using a truthful manifesto and honest coalition agreement, that everyone can depend on – all bias being openly given to the majority who elect you whilst governing for everyone. Isn’t that meaning supporting the the majority of our citizens? Where did the agreement say we have to support the rich first?

  • peter tyzack 17th Jun ’14 – 9:29am
    It is a good thing that you have worked out that —
    “the spending of money on roads in Cardiff is almost certainly nowt to do with the Quad.! ”
    Now all you have to do is work out the meaning of the headline to Caron’s article and the relevance of mentioning the Quad should become immediately clear to you.
    If making major spending decisions on the basis of a “wee chat” is a bad idea, worthy of criticism , when it happens in Cardiff then the same must be true if it happens in Downing Street.

  • Passing through 18th Jun '14 - 5:50pm

    “After all, a responsible government doesn’t just spend millions of pounds on the basis of a chat”

    Perhaps somebody should mention this to Cable in the aftermath of the Royal Mail privatisation shambles. If £10 million is a “whopping” sum I wonder what adjective we use to describe a billion pounds?

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