Monday, 6 February 2012
Wales Audit Office investigate top civil servant over Llangollen project
Attempts by the Permanent Secretary of Wales to hush up growing concerns over the handling of the 'Powys Fadog' community project in Llangollen have spectacularly backfired. The country’s top civil servant Dame Gillian Morgan is now under investigation herself for her role in stopping the project.
The project was just days away from beginning when Gillian Morgan intervened and over ruled all previous decisions by senior officials to get the venture off the ground, she also took away funding already awarded to the community group. The audit office is now investigating why the Permanent Secretary intervened and why she controversially chose to block the project.
With public concerns mounting after two separate calls for a Public Inquiry from Assembly Members were turned down, Gillian Morgan attempted to ‘quieten down the noise’ over River Lodge/Powys Fadog. She approached the Wales Audit Office in November to ask them to investigate the purchase of the River Lodge hotel in Llangollen,which she had blocked in January 2010. Following discussions with AMs Mark Isherwood and Llyr Huws Gruffydd, who had both raised concerns over the Permanent Secretaries involvement, the Audit Office have now expanded the investigation to look at the role she’s played in the saga.
Leader of Powys Fadog, Pol Wong said: “This investigation is long overdue, I can’t see how it’s reasonable for the Permanent Secretary to override the decisions of scores of officials made over a number of years without any reasonable explanation. In fact we were not even informed that it had been halted. Surely if there was a legitimate problem, she would have explained what it was several years ago, instead of refusing to answer questions. The Government have repeatedly refused to speak about their decision and have twice refused to hold a Public Inquiry. I have given evidence to the Auditor which up to now has not been even looked at”
“Considering the current economic climate and the fact that we will provide 30 jobs, child care facilities and bring in thousands of tourists to Llangollen from all over the world, it is baffling as to why the Permanent Secretary and Welsh Government are blocking this project. We would also now be paying £31,000 a year rent,instead the building is empty, deteriorating and is an eyesore on the gateway into Llangollen. The building has been broken into many times and much damage has been done, although it is not insured.”
“The Powys Fadog project is a fantastic opportunity for the people of north Wales,an institution that actually generates its own income and then uses that income to provide training for employment, business start up advice and support, as well as promoting Llangollen and Welsh culture internationally. This is a not for profit project run by local people for the local communities benefit. After all that we’ve been through, we are still 100% determined to make this project happen.”
North Wales Assembly Member Llyr Huws Gruffydd added: “I welcome the Audit Office investigation given the many unanswered questions and outstanding concerns about the handling of this community project. The project has the potential to contribute a great deal both economically and in terms of community benefits for north east Wales.It also has the potential to build cultural links internationally which is a Government priority. I will look forward to reading the Auditors report which I understand is due to be completed in May and will be publicly available”.