The Welsh Government has come under fire following the release of a letter from a former Labour Assembly Member to the then First Minister Rhodri Morgan over the Llangollen based Powys Fadog project. The letter, dated July 2009, which the Welsh Government have refused to release for two years has recently become public following a drawn out Information Tribunal and Judges decision.
Former AM for Clwyd South Karen Sinclair accuses the Powys Fadog group of holding extreme views and states to the First Minister she does not feel it is appropriate that the Welsh Government fund it. Several months later as the project was due for final approval, it was mysteriously pulled. The AMs accusations centre around a 2009 campaign against the West Cheshire Plan, a cross border plan to build thousands of commuter houses across north east Wales, which one of the Powys Fadog board members was campaigning against.
In the letter, the former AM writes to the then First Minister " I write this letter in utter frustration as every avenue I have explored to date has failed to stop, or at least fully explain, the propriety of this scheme by Powys Fadog in my constituency - indeed in my home town.
A further paragraph goes on: "Quite honestly I am at the end of my patience regarding this venture and the lack of transparency from the start. I suggest that the auditor should be asked to look at what has gone on here. Rhodri, when we met last week, I showed you some press cuttings about a group calling themselves The People's Council for Wales who were marching against regional development work being undertaken by Local Authorities in the Mersey Dee area which includes Wrexham and Denbighshire along with Cheshire. (I enclose a cutting from The Wrexham Leader dated May this year which I forwarded to Jeff Andrews at the time). Make no mistake the people involved with Powys Fadog and the people involved with The People's Council for Wales are one and the same group of people and whilst people are totally free to hold extreme political views I do not think it appropriate for the tax payer to purchase premises for such a group."
Powys Fadog chairman Pol Wong has described the newly released information as 'shocking'. He said " We have been trying to find out why our project was stopped in it's final stages for several years now, the release of this information, which the Welsh government have tried to keep under wraps for two years finally gives an answer. I was the only member of Powys Fadog to be involved in the campaign against the West Cheshire Plan, which followed the democratic process by submitting a 24,000 strong petition to the Welsh Government against plans which would damage welsh identity in the north east. To stop our project on the basis of this sort of political prejudice is discrimination pure and simple."
The new information follows a series of letters already released under Freedom of Information from the former Assembly Member to a variety of Ministers, in which she attempts to discredit the project and also requests that a Health Centre be put on the River Lodge site instead. Betsicadwaldr Health board have also come under fire following yet more information being released revealing discussions between them and Welsh Government officials in early 2010, revolving around the request for a new Health Centre on the River Lodge site in place of the Powys Fadog project.
Following a report by the Wales Audit Office in June of this year, the Welsh Governments Public Accounts Committee are due to discuss the saga at a public meeting at Llangollen Pavillion on Monday 8th October at 1.00pm. They will hear evidence from Mr Wong and also from former civil servant Amanda Brewer, who states in her evidence she was victimised by top officials in order to stop the project.