The First Minister has apologised following a critical report into how Welsh taxpayers lost millions of pounds from sales of public land, including three sites in the Point FM area.
Carwyn Jones told AMs on Tuesday that the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales was flawed in its delivery and “fell well below the standards we would expect”. The report found that a Guernsey-based company which brought fifteen sites for £12 million went onto sell some of the land and make £19 million in profit.
In one case, land on St George’s Road in Abergele was brought from the RWIC for £100,000, but South Wales Land Developments sold off the site for £1.9 million. The company also went onto buy and sell on sites at Towyn Way East and Pen y Bryn in St Asaph.
The public accounts committee said the handling of the fund, meant to be used to reinvesting in regeneration projects, was poorly managed and poorly overseen by the Welsh Government. They found the plots of land involved had also been sold on as a single portfolio by SWLD instead of separately, thus failing to take into account any future use of the sites.
The chairman, Clwyd West AM Darren Millar, said the inquiry had been ”deeply troubling”: ”The fact that one of the largest sales of publicly-owned land in Wales should have generated tens of millions of pounds more for the taxpayer than it did, is inexcusable…while the committee found the concept of RIFW to be innovative, we concluded that it was poorly executed due to fundamental flaws in Welsh Government oversight and governance arrangements, and that the fund was poorly served from those appointed and trusted to provide the board with professional advice and expertise.”
The committee also found the Fund had been given poor advice and information from advisers Lambert Smith Hampton and Amber Infrastructure and called on the Welsh Government to consider whether to take any cause of action against them.
A spokesperson for Lambert Smith Hampton said the report did not fully reflect their opinion that they achieved ”a good result for our client” but an Amber spokesman said they were looking into whether legal action against the advisers was possible.
Meanwhile, Communites Minister Lesley Griffiths said the report meant the Government was ”now in a position to take steps to release this significant funding to benefit community regeneration projects across Wales.”