Auditor General highlights that the Labour Government adopted avoidable risk and haste in its decision to spend millions of taxpayer cash on Gilestone Farm
The Labour Government was taken to task in FMQs today after the Auditor General’s report said its purchase of Gilestone Farm was done with “avoidable haste” and “risk”.
Leader of the Opposition Andrew RT Davies MS questioned the Minister for Rural Affairs (covering for the First Minister who is on bereavement leave) over the £4.25m fiasco, citing six meetings between civil servants and Green Man Festival which went unminuted.
Davies also highlighted how other businesses would have been expected to produce countless amounts of information as part of its application but seems that little due diligence was conducted in purchasing the farm.
Commenting afterwards, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies MS said:
“Every update on this story shows it does not pass the smell test – the whole thing stinks. It was only a few weeks ago that it looked like the Labour Government had paid over £4m for a duck pond.
“Now, the Auditor General highlights that the Labour Government adopted avoidable risk and haste in its decision to spend millions of taxpayer cash on Gilestone Farm to support one specific venture in a manner for which other businesses would have had to produce extensive evidence.
“This murky affair shows that Labour cannot be trusted with public money – not only is it frittered away on vanity projects like Senedd expansion and Cardiff Airport, but recklessly thrown away without due diligence on schemes steeped in suspicion like Gilestone Farm.
“It is ridiculous that Labour ministers paid the exact amount that Green Man said it would cost, indicating it failed to negotiate sufficiently. I hope this point and the many other problematic issues highlighted by the report will continue to be scrutinised by the Public Account Committee.”
The report also showed that government officials drove the purchase for several weeks before it came to ministerial attention. Davies said this raises questions over negligence and a lack of oversight, as well as the origin of the proposal to buy the farm.
The Labour Government maintain that Green Man approached them to buy the farm for its use, but the company’s boss insist the it was the other way around
The Welsh Government’s purchase of Gilestone Farm On 31 March 2022, the Welsh Government bought the freehold of Gilestone Farm near Talybont-on-Usk, Powys (within the Brecon Beacons National Park), in a private sale, for £4.25 million. Simultaneously, to support its ongoing management of the site, the Welsh Government entered into a short-term lease arrangement with the vendor, at a peppercorn rent, to maintain the property and harvest existing crops. This lease agreement expired on 31 October 2022. At that point, the Welsh Government had not finalised its long-term intentions for the site. Subsequently, the Welsh Government has agreed a new short-term lease with the vendor to continue existing operations on what we understand are now commercial terms, including a profit-share. This new lease is due to expire on 31 October 2023.