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Calls for Welsh Government HQ to double up as business hub for entrepreneurs

13 Nov 2021 3 minutes Read
The Welsh Government building, Llandudno Junction. Picture by Jonathan Wilkins (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The Senedd Member for Aberconwy has called on Welsh Government to turn part of its northern headquarters into a business hub while many civil servants continue to work from home.

Janet Finch-Saunders MS urged the First Minister to undertake a review of whether part of the space at Llandudno Junction HQ could become a flexible working hub for entrepreneurs.

While the Welsh Government’s work at home directive remains in place with an intention to retain it longer-term, a significant part of the building, which housed hundreds of workers before the pandemic, remains empty.

Indicating that Mark Drakeford appeared to support such a review, Mrs Finch-Saunders said: “Whilst Policy 30 of the Net-Zero Wales Carbon Budget 2 reiterates the Welsh Government’s long-term ambition to enable around 30% of Welsh workers to work remotely beyond Covid-19, I was most alarmed that little provision has been publicly proposed for the North Wales region.

“In a recent Freedom of Information reply, the Welsh Government detailed that, although just over 390 people are presently contracted to work at the Welsh Government office in Llandudno Junction, the average daily attendance level for September was recorded as 18 people.

“With a wish to see taxpayers’ money used wisely, and in recognising that around £23 million was spent on the Llandudno Junction building initially, I have constructively urged the First Minister to carry out a review to see if this building could be partially converted into a flexible working hub for small businesses and entrepreneurs in North Wales. I was delighted that this was warmly received.”

Disbelief

Mrs Finch-Saunders has previously spoken of her “disbelief” at the low occupation, given that the Llandudno Junction office opened in 2010 at a cost of around £23 million.

“I am astounded that only eighteen people worked at the Llandudno Junction office on a daily basis throughout September,” she said earlier this month.

“Whilst the pandemic has undoubtedly changed the modern way of work, to have such a building lying dormant for a prolonged period raises urgent questions about the money being spent to maintain the property.

“That the attendance number has only just doubled those attending the multi-million pound building at the very height of the pandemic underlines that the Welsh Government’s vanity project in North Wales serves no beneficial purpose at present.

“Built only over a decade ago, this modern Welsh Government building would have ample social distancing space to support the return to work for more than eighteen workers, especially as we have seen the partial return of other large-scale offices including on the Senedd estate.

“Mark Drakeford’s administration must urgently explain to the people of north Wales how this office has been allowed to become a tax money black hole and confirm to the Senedd whether a return-to-work plan for the site will be implemented.”

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