A ROW between the Welsh Government and Conservatives has broken out after it emerged that more than £50m was spent maintaining government buildings, buying furniture, and on IT over the past 5 years.
The leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, described this spending as ‘monstrous’, but the Government responded saying it was ridiculous and naive to think that buildings and furniture would not need improving or replaced.
The Finance Minister, Jane Hutt, provided the figures via the Welsh Assembly’s formal written questions process to Mr Davies and showed that £26m was spent on capital management costs across the Welsh Government estate between 2010 and 2015 – this includes refurbishment projects and demolition.
In total, £9.1m was spent on furniture and £16m was spent on IT infrastructure, such as telephones and network computers.
The Welsh Government headquarters in Cardiff, Cathays Park, was the most costly to run with £16.2m being spent on capital buildings costs, and furniture expenditure totalling £6.4m. Spending on furniture at the headquarters fluctuated over the years, from £652,000 in 2010/11 to £2.1m in 2014/15, while nothing was spent on furniture in 2013/14.
Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies was outraged by the spending and highlighted that the Welsh taxpayers will be worried by these figures, suggesting that they should be “reined in once and for all”. He went on to talk about the economic climate and highlighted the need for a review.
“Upkeep costs are inevitable – but there is a clear issue of sustainability within this maintenance that must be dealt with urgently. Taxpayers deserve to see a solution – and a valid explanation of the desks and chairs for which they continue to foot an enormous bill.”
The Welsh Government highlighted the importance to maintain a presence across Wales and the need to have “buildings that are fit for purpose”. They also responded saying that repairs, refurbishing buildings or replacing furniture are not unusual, particularly if they are to comply with health and safety legislation.
The Welsh Government response also points out that the Cathays Park office is over 35 years old and has required upgrades over the years. As well as assuring the public that they invest in improvements that are long-lasting, and value for money for the tax-payer, as well as managing to reduce the size of the Welsh Government estate.
The statement continues:
“Our investment is also having a very positive effect in terms of our climate change obligations helping us to significantly reduce our carbon emissions. We are achieving substantial savings from our estate. As a result of implementing our Location Strategy (2010-15), we have significantly reduced the number of offices we operate from, delivering savings of over £19m over the period and additional annual savings of approximately £7m from April 2015. The Welsh Government administrative estate has been reduced in size from a total of 75 properties in 2010 to just 33 properties in April 2015.”