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Senedd sketch: No finger pointing but questions continue over £4.5m Green Man purchase

08 Feb 2023 4 minute read
Andrew RT Davies. Photo Welsh Conservatives

Siân Williams

Welsh Government will “look to learn lessons” from their purchase of a £4.5 million farm to hold the Green Man Festival in Powys.

Those were the words of Lesley Griffiths, Trefnydd and Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales who took First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) on behalf of Mark Drakeford yesterday (7 February).

At the end of January, a letter from the Auditor General about the purchase of Gilestone Farm in Tal-y-bont on Usk was discussed at the Senedd Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee.

Leader of the Opposition and Welsh Conservative Andrew RT Davies had read the letter, he told the Senedd yesterday.

Mr RT Davies – whose second job is that of a farmer –  has also taken note of recent objections to his finger pointing during FMQs.

He has now adopted a poise similar to that of an auctioneer at a sale of spring lambs.

No minutes

Mr Davies told Senedd members that the Auditor General’s report, “Made for interesting reading.

“The description made by the risk assessment board of Welsh Government was that the process used to buy Charleston farm was ‘novel’.”

After a failed attempt at humour, Mr Davies continued: “The report identifies six meetings over the period key decision were made with officials and the Green Man festival … not one single note or minute were taken of those meetings.

He asked Lesley Griffiths: “Can you think of a (similar) situation where an interested party would be so heavily engaged with discussions where they could potentially be the beneficiary of such considerable public funds and not a single note or minutes of six meetings were taken?”

Ms Griffiths, who said she’s avid note taker herself said there were many positives in the Auditor General’s letter.

“Which I’m sure you won’t welcome” she said to Mr Davies, before continuing.

“Sometimes we need to be a bit more innovative. Government by its very nature is risk averse and that’s right when you’re dealing with public money. I didn’t see anything in that letter that said we didn’t (follow due process).”

£4.5 million

Mr Davies was not going to be blown off course, and said: “Here we have an intervention by the Welsh Government of £4.5 million and you cannot pin point a single note or minute between the potential benefactory and the government officials … the same government officials commissioned the valuers and the legal firm to undertake the work without the Minister’s advice.”

The Minister being Vaughan Gething in this instance.

Mrs Griffiths said there had been discussions with the Green Man Festival for some time leading up to the purchase of Gilestone Farm.

She said: “The high-level business case provided was enough to progress with the purchase … We will look to learn lessons, there are always lessons to be learned.”

730 redundancies

Ynys Môn MS Rhun ap Iorwerth reminded the Senedd of the imminent job losses at the 2Sisters poultry processing factory in Llangefni.

He said: “It is now almost a fortnight after the announcement of the consultation … it is crucial that the priority is to see whether there is anything that can be done to make the company change its mind.

“We must also, simultaneously be prepared for the worst. We are talking about the huge impact on the community – 3% of the workforce on Anglesey.

“The response must be swift and significant from Welsh and UK Government because so much of … this is the result of Brexit and energy cost and the cost of living. Ministers in London and Cardiff need to make statements of significant financial support.”

Ms Griffiths to a large extent just repeated what she’d said in last week’s FMQs on this matter and proceeded to go around in circles:

“You are quite right we do need to prepare for the worst … it would have been helpful had we had some prior knowledge…we worked quite closely with that plant particularly over the covid pandemic when they had a (Covid) outbreak … disappointed ….”

“A taskforce has now been set up … This is another example isn’t it where Brexit, inflation and the energy crisis are having a detrimental effect on all of our communities, creating a perfect storm …”

Mr ap Iorwerth looked frustrated with her response and by now was gesturing with his hand in her direction.

In the meantime, Mrs Griffiths concluded: “These are real people who have been affected by this so, once again we urge the UK Government to act quickly to support Welsh businesses …”

Good luck with that one Minister!

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Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
1 year ago

Would anyone like to know what Leslie Griffiths thinks of her constituents that are being mistreated by Bulb (an energy supplier that is forcing some of her constituents into debt and cutting off their gas supplies because customers can’t top-up thanks to a fault with Bulbs’s systems)? Well, I’m going to type it anyway: She thinks they are worth one email….six hours after her constituents ask her for help. I am having a whip round so we can buy Leslie and her team a dictionary and thesaurus set, that way instead of accidentally misleading her constituents with sentences like: “Thank… Read more »

1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

Commiserations Cathy. Having a joy rider like Griffiths as your M.S must be most irritating. She is worse than useless, she is a box full of negative influences. There again we have a number of equally defective representatives here in South Wales. I am now convinced more than ever that most of the 60 in the Senedd and their senior officials are just careerists out for a far better salary than they ever got prior to being elected, in addition to a juicy mix of pension benefits, expenses and travel on junkets. Nice work if you can get it.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago
Reply to  hdavies15

There are questions about Llanbedr Bypass that need answers too Mr Waters…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

A question I hope Zelensky asks Sunak…

How much have your in-laws made out of helping Putin ?

Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Well…to be absolutely fair. My comment was made in a fit of BPD temper tantrum-ing because I am cold and felt unheard, but it was a mix of me forgetting Mrs Griffths was taking questions yesterday, not being in full receipt of what was happening in regards to how the case is being handled, the complexities of the bureaucracy of government departments, Bulb being disrespectful and slow-moving and host of other things… But I feel your frustration and whilst I am in sympathy with some of what you have said, when it comes to the Senedd (and acknowledging there is… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago

What does the Senedd think about awarding MPs medals and will they consider similar for themselves? Acronyms to play with…VC, DSO, MC, DFC, MM. DFM or just GMs all round…after you with that bucket…retch…

Last edited 1 year ago by Mab Meirion
1 year ago

Mr RT Davies – whose second job is that of a farmer”. Anyone know what his fist job is ?

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