Massive underspend on Welsh Government flagship initiative
The Welsh Government has conceded that “pauses”, “delays” and staff retention issues led to a massive underspend on one of its flagship initiatives.
Of the nearly £50million originally budgeted for Reach the Heights – little over £29m was ever spent.
An evaluation document revealed that the difficulties around project expenditure were compounded by targeting issues, whereby only a fifth of Reach the Heights participants were identified as NEET – this compared to an original goal of 50%.
The report found a “substantial underspend in Reach the Heights” which represented “a failure to take advantage of funds allocated to improve the situation of young people in the Convergence area”. It found aims and objectives had only “partially been achieved”, with “some key aims not fulfilled”.
New findings by the Welsh Conservatives reveal that of the underspend on the initiative, over £3.3m of that sum comprised of ESF funding and had to be reinvested by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) following the decommitment. ESF underspend was £10.7million less than had originally been approved for the scheme.
Shadow Finance Minister, Nick Ramsay AM, said:
“This is yet another example where the Welsh Labour has succeeded in bungling millions of pounds of public money at the expense of Wales’s youth – the effects of which could be felt for a generation.
“That so much money failed reach those most in need is nothing short of shameful.
“Wales needs a strong and competent government who can be trusted to make vital decisions about where are how public money should be spent.
“Time and time again, Welsh Labour has shown that it is simply not up to the job of effectively targeting public funds; and clearly the time to secure real change for Wales has arrived”.