Calls for investigation after shocking revelations over Circuit of Wales payments
Freedom of Information requests have revealed that Welsh Government ministers ignored advice from senior civil servants to refuse payments from the Heads of the Valleys Development Company to Aventa Capital Partners Ltd for services related to the Circuit of Wales project.
The payments of almost £1 million were from one company (Heads of the Valleys Development Company) in which Michael Carrick has a “significant interest”, to another (Aventa Capital Partners Ltd) “wholly under his control”, and were for “management of the project” – according to a Freedom of Information Request by Welsh Conservatives.
According to emails released under the Act, a senior Welsh Government official (James Price) wrote to Welsh Government colleagues highlighting serious concerns over the proposed payments. In particular, the fact that the Welsh Government’s loan guarantee was being used to “facilitate a very substantial payment from one company in which Michael Carrick has a significant interest (HOVDC) to another wholly under his control”.
The official also expressed concerns over a “lack of evidence of what the money is actually to be spent on by Aventa”, and concluded with a proposal that the department should continue to refuse the payment: “If the minister is content we will continue to hold this line”.
The revelations emerged in First Minister’s Questions this afternoon, as the Welsh Conservative leader slammed the payments.
Andrew RT Davies also revealed invoices from Aventa which indicated significant payments to the Labour Party in sponsorship and hospitality fees. He called for assurances that the Labour Party had not received donations from the payments made between Heads of the Valleys and Aventa.
Speaking outside the chamber, Mr Davies said:
“These payments must be investigated, and the public will expect robust evidence that the Welsh Government followed proper tendering processes before clearing them.
“The First Minister needs to explain why Labour ministers ignored the advice of senior officials and cleared Michael Carrick to pay his own company such significant sums.
“We also need to know when his government first became aware that Aventa were financial supporters of the Labour Party; and what guarantees he can give that taxpayers’ money was not used to fund those donations?
“After all, these concerning payments are Aventa’s only ostensible income.
“The Circuit of Wales has huge potential for the South Wales Valleys, and for Wales as a whole, but sadly there are now serious doubts over whether the Welsh Government has picked the right company to carry this vital project forward.”
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