Finance committee adviser questions Welsh Government’s purchase of Cardiff Airport

The airport was bought by the Welsh Government for £52m last year with First Minister Carwyn Jones defending the move against Tory attacks

A senior financial expert drafted in to advise AMs on scrutiny of the Welsh Government’s budgetary process has questioned the implications of the purchase of Cardiff Airport.

The airport was bought by the Welsh Government for £52m last year. First Minister Carwyn Jones defended the move against Tory attacks, saying the airport was vital to Wales’ economy but was not thriving under its previous owners.

Now Don Peebles, who from this month will advise the Assembly’s finance committee on how to scrutinise the 2015-16 Budget effectively, has said that buying the airport “would entail ongoing revenue costs for which no budgetary provision had been specified”.

Mr Peebles heads the Chartered Institute for Public Finance & Accountancy (Cipfa) in Scotland. He also leads for the organisation on devolved government.

In an interview with Cipfa’s journal Public Finance, he said that among key issues likely to arise are what he sees as the “unsatisfactory performance in aligning policy initiatives with budget provision so as to cost them properly; financial planning problems caused by the paucity of forward figures from Westminster on the Welsh block grant; and a lack of progress towards a more preventive approach to spending”.

Mr Peebles said: “What [this appointment] does is allow Cipfa to bring the financial expertise of the institute to bear to influence public finance at the sharp end – not just by facilitating scrutiny of £15bn of Welsh public money, but also by allowing us to help guide the finance committee through a complex and important process.”

Asked about his likely approach, he pointed to four key principles that Cipfa has been pressing on the Scottish Parliament: affordability, meaning that ministers should only make promises they know they can afford; prioritisation, to make sure that the governmental programme matches budget allocations; value for money, to extract maximum public benefit from spending; and process, to ensure effective information flow and financial management.

Mr Peebles said many Welsh budgetary shortcomings were proving no easier to remedy in the other British jurisdictions. He thought the Welsh regime was ahead of the game in some respects.

A Welsh Government spokesman would only say: “The Draft Budget 2015-16 will be published on Tuesday”.

Sourced from walesonline

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