RIFW: First Minister forced to apologise over “inexcusable” sale of public land at a loss
The First Minister has today been forced to apologise after a report by the Public Accounts Committee savaged the Welsh Government’s management of an arms’ length body set up to manage regeneration projects in Wales.
Writing in the report’s foreword, Chairman Darren Millar AM described the inquiry into the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales (RIFW) as “one of the most significant and deeply concerning inquiries undertaken by the committee.”
The Fund was established to sell valuable packages of Welsh Government land, with the money used to support regeneration schemes. Sadly, evidence has since emerged that shows that the sale of RIFW’s assets was undertaken at a loss of tens of millions of pounds.
Concerns were initially raised by the Welsh Conservative MP, Byron Davies, and today’s apology came during First Minister’s Questions, where Mr Davies challenged the Carwyn Jones on his failure to take discernible action in light of the debacle.
Speaking outside the chamber the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, said:
“Whilst the First Minister’s apology is welcome, his toothless response to date leaves me with very little confidence that lessons are going to be learnt, or indeed that meaningful action will be taken.
“The Welsh Labour Government appears to be in complete denial as to the significance of this debacle, with tens of millions of pounds having been unforgivably squandered – yet no sign of anyone being held to account.
“This was an innovative scheme which could and indeed should have worked, but instead Labour ministers contrived to make a complete hash of it, robbing communities of tens of millions of pounds for vital regeneration projects.
“We’ve heard of public assets being sold in both a ‘cavalier’ and ‘disturbing’ way, and of assets being sold at bargain basement prices.
“15 sites sold for £21million; with the taxpayer missing out on staggering sums of money. A site in Rhoose purchased from RIFW for less than £3million - sold on for almost £10.5million South Wales Land Developments Ltd. Taxpayers losing out.
“An Abergele site purchased from RIFW for £0.1 million, without overage, and sold for £1.9million. Taxpayers losing out.
“And, most perhaps astonishing of all, land in Lisvane flogged for £1.8million – worth £39million. Taxpayers – again – losing out.
“Someone has to be held accountable for this stunning failure to spend and protect taxpayers’ money and sadly, the First Minister does not appear to be taking it seriously enough.”