Monday, 17 January 2011

The Aerospace Business Park a 'dog's breakfast

The Aerospace Business Park a 'dog's breakfast  ...14 Jan 2011 ... Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones told Mr Davies that the government remained committed to the business park, which was a phased development over the next ...
‘£43 million spent, but not one job created’... We keep saying this and so duid the auditor some years ago..but they never learn.. 
THE Welsh Assembly Government has spent £43 million developing the Aerospace Business Park at St Athan so far, but not a single job has been created there, an AM claims.

Calling the situation a “dog’s breakfast,” South Wales Central AM Andrew Davies this week questioned what the taxpayer has to show for his money.

In a series of questions to Ieuan Wyn Jones AM, Minister for transport and the economy, Mr Davies, who is a Conservative regional member, asked how much WAG had spent on land acquisition, professional fees and general development costs for the Aerospace Business Park, as distinct from money spent in preparation for the Defence Technical College scheme which is on hold.

“I was told that two sums had been spent – £19.2m and £24.7m, bringing the total to just under £44m,” he reported.

“It took the minister a month to actually answer the question and as I specifically asked a question about the Aerospace Park, with no mention of the Defence Technical College, I am assuming that the overall figure relates just to the park.

“But there seems to be a lot of uncertainty at the Assembly about this. Nobody seems to have a handle on it.

“It was a simple enough question – how much money have you spent? I was not asking how many shovels they had bought or how many envelopes had been used. This was their answer.”

He also asked how many jobs will have been created by 2015 and when the first business would move into the park.

The reply from Ieuan Wyn Jones, who is also the deputy first minister, said that they were highlighting the benefits of St Athan to potential investors, based on the facilities available and the strong skills base. A number of investment leads had been generated.

Pressed by Mr Davies about how many leads, he further replied on Monday that since 2008, there have been 10 expressions of interest of which eight are still live.

Mr Davies said it would appear that there was nothing to show as yet for the expenditure of £43m.

“This is a huge sum of public money spent on a project which has not delivered one single job to the economy either of the Vale or south Wales.

He continued: “It was six years ago that the Aerospace Business Park was first proposed by WAG, in response to the announcement by DARA that it was closing down its operation at St Athan with the loss of 3,000 jobs.

“The Aerospace Business Park was supposed to replace some of those jobs and give the highly-skilled workers at DARA alternative employment. But the last of the DARA jobs are going this month and there are no new jobs for people to move across to.

“My fear is that the skills base we had here in Llantwit and St Athan will disperse and it will not be possible to lure in aerospace companies by saying that there is a skilled workforce locally. Those people will have gone to jobs elsewhere in the country.”

Mr Davies stated that he had grave reservations about the way in which the ABP had been promoted by WAG, as there are no prospects of new jobs at the moment.

He said: “I want to know how committed they are to this project. The later decision to site the Defence Technical College at St Athan has clouded the issue. The truth is that ABP was a stand-alone project which was announced two years before the college.

“But we have nothing to show in this area after six years and the spending of more than £40m.”

It seemed “incredible” that not one civilian aerospace firm had been enticed to the site, despite the presence of suitable facilities, a highly skilled workforce, and the spending of a lot of public money.

Mr Davies pointed out that the area had lost the “critical mass” of skilled workers, and now potential investors must wonder if they will be able to recruit the engineers and others they need.

He added that what had happened was a betrayal of the aspirations and hopes that local people had in 2004.

“It’s a dog’s breakfast We have spent this money and there’s nothing to show for it.”

He has asked WAG if there’s a fall-back position for St Athan if the ABP comes to nothing, but Ieuan Wyn Jones gave no details of other economic regeneration plans for the area and said they would continue to promote the benefits of St Athan to potential investors.

“There is obviously no Plan B,” added Mr Davies. “The ABP was the Welsh Assembly Government’s response to the loss of the DARA jobs, but nothing else has been done if that fails.

“It would appear that we have lost the DARA jobs and there is nothing available to replace them – and nothing in the pipeline. There is no fall-back position either. It’s the worst of all worlds.”

Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones told Mr Davies that the government remained committed to the business park, which was a phased development over the next 20 years, subject to market demand.

He said that the scale and shape of the ABP may need to be reviewed once the Ministry of Defence plans for St Athan are revealed in the spring.

The GEM asked the Welsh Assembly Government for a comment on the position but at the time of going to press, nothing had been received.


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