News

Wales Office spent over £30,000 on ‘redecoration’ for London headquarters

12 Dec 2020 3 minutes Read
Gwydyr House, the London headquarters of the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales.

The Wales Office spent over £30,000 redecorating their London office this summer despite its ministers being firm supporters of public spending cuts, Nation.Cymru can reveal.

The five-figure sum spent on the grade II listed Gwydyr House on Whitehall included an undisclosed amount for “fabric maintenance”.

The publicly-funded facelift for the Westminster office of Wales Secretary Simon Hart came before he voted against free school meals during school holidays and defended the UK Government’s decision not to extend furlough in time for the start of the second lockdown in Wales.

The transparency return

The controversial spending is revealed in UK Government transparency data which shows the Wales Office paid £68,889.59 for “facilities management and redecoration at the London Office” on August 20.

A response to a freedom of information request seen by Nation.Cymru further reveals that £33,796.11 of that sum was spent on “improvement works.”

Result of the FOI request

According to the Wales Office, that included: “General building maintenance, including redecoration, fabric maintenance and upgrades to the fire alarm system.”

They declined to provide an itemised list of spending.

 

‘Necessary’

The outlay came at the height of the school holidays during which children in England were provided free meals after a last-minute u-turn by the UK Government.

When MPs returned to Westminster, Labour forced a vote on continuing to provide free meals to children in England during school holidays, as already happens in Wales.

Both Hart and fellow Wales Office minister David TC Davies voted against the policy, resulting in a public outcry that saw Hart banned from a pub in Pembrokeshire.

Following the vote, TC Davies wrote: “Labour put forward seemingly reasonable motions which they know cannot be passed, then whip up hatred against Conservative MPs afterwards.”

But public money spent on redecorating their Westminster office would be enough to pay for 14,693 free school meals which cost £2.30 per child.

Both TC Davies and Hart have publicly spoken out in favour of cuts to public spending.

In March, Hart told the BBC that public spending cuts were a “necessary way of recovering a broken economy.”

Meanwhile, TC Davies told the Commons in 2018: “Opposition parties want to talk about what they call austerity. I call it trying to balance the books.”

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