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Plaid Cymru call for First Minister to back investigation into ‘potential misuse of public funds’

09 Mar 2021 4 minute read
First Minister Mark Drakeford AM. Mark Hawkins / Alamy Stock Photo. Adam Price. Picture by Plaid Cymru / Kevin John Photography.

Plaid Cymru has called on the First Minister to back an investigation into allegations of “misusing public funds”.

The party’s leader Adam Price has written to the Auditor General to demand a probe following the emergence of leaked comments made by the Labour Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Rob Jones about the funding of projects in the area.

Price called on Mark Drakeford to back the call for an investigation at a session of First Minister’s Questions at the Senedd.

Last week, Cllr Jones, was forced to step back after a recording emerged of him making derogatory comments about Plaid Cymru Senedd Member, Bethan Sayed, where he called her a “cow”.

He can also be heard suggesting to officers that he would look more favourably on spending on projects backed by fellow Labour councillors.

He said however that: “The final recording has clearly been edited to produce a damning commentary on me.

“The contents of the recording do not reflect the values I hold as an individual or those of the Labour Party, nor do they meet the standards of accountability required of a public representative.”

Cymru Leader Adam Price says he wants to ensure “robust checks and balances” to safeguard against the potential misuse of public funds for political purposes in Welsh public authorities.

The Plaid Cymru Leader said that seeking “narrow party advantage” through the misuse of public spending would be a “flagrant and totally unacceptable abuse of power”.

‘Own conclusions’

When challenged about the comments in the Senedd, the Fist Minister said: “It is important that investigations are carried out, and it’s important that those investigations are allowed to come to their own conclusions, rather than politicians on the floor of the Senedd anticipating those conclusions and asking others to agree with the conclusions at which they have apparently already arrived.

“There’s no place for misogyny in any part of Welsh life or in any political party. I remember that Mr Price himself launched an inquiry into misogyny in Plaid Cymru in June or July of 2019.

“Trying to deduce a generalised smear from one incident to what happens right across Wales, does not seem to me to be a sensible or a proportionate way of responding to that.

“I was concerned to read what Councillor Jones had said and I’m sure he has done the right thing in stepping aside form the leadership of Neath Port Talbot council while those remarks are properly investigated by the monitoring officer and by the Ombudsman here in Wales.

“It’s why he has been suspended from his membership of the Labour Party while those inquiries can be completed. I think it would be sensible for anyone to await the outcome of those inquiries before drawing conclusions about what should happen next.”

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price MS said: “The recording of Councillor Rob Jones reveals a sinister way of going about politics where he astonishingly alludes to favouring projects supported by Labour Councillors for public funding.

“The interests of our people and communities at large should determine the allocation of public funds, not narrow partisan interests and a desire to settle political scores.

“Seeking narrow party advantage through the misuse of public spending decisions would represent a flagrant and totally unacceptable abuse of power.

“I have written to the Auditor General requesting that he not only investigates the remarks made by Councillor Jones in the recording, but also ensures robust checks and balances are in place to safeguard against the potential misuse of public funds for political purposes in Welsh public authorities.

“The revelations which have come to light as part of the Neath Port Talbot Council saga have worrying echoes of the Tory Government’s Budget and the way in which it blatantly rewards Tory-won seats at Wales’s expense – pointing to Wales having its own problem of pork-barrel politics on Labour’s watch.

“It was disappointing that the First Minister could not find it in himself to support an investigation by the Auditor General and was also unable to condemn the outright misogynistic comments made by his colleague.”

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