Politics

The cost of connecting with Carwyn

Vanity, all is vanity: Tories criticise Carwyn Connects
Vanity, all is vanity: Tories
criticise Carwyn Connects

A FREEDOM of Information Act (FOI) request made by Plaid Cymru has revealed that only 712 people across Wales attended 9 ‘Carwyn Connects’ events at a cost of over £13,000.
When the tour was announced in July 2015, the Welsh Conservatives claimed: “It’s a scandal that the public is being asked to fund Labour’s re-election campaign.
“It doesn’t take a cynical disposition to question Carwyn Jones’ decision to wait until the last year of this term to ‘connect’ with voters.”
The tour visited Carmarthen in November, an event attended by only 32 people, including our reporter Alan Evans. Following the event the First Minister conceded that it was not a great turn out, but said that he had enjoyed the variety of questions and that it was all about going around Wales and listening to Welsh people.
The detailed response to the FOI showed the numbers attending the individual meeting were as follows
Merthyr Tydfil – 80 Rhyl – 190 Bangor – 60 Newport – 50 Aberystwyth – 90 Swansea – 60 Mold – 105 Holyhead – 45 Carmarthen – 32
Individual costs were broken down as Venue hire – £2072 Refreshments – £961.80 AV and staging – £7583.10 Simultaneous Translation – £2450
One further event is planned for Neath in this month.
The Welsh Government has not incorporated staffing costs into its response to the FOI, claiming that the works form “part of the day to day work for staff within the Communications Division of the Welsh Government and there is no dedicated staff allocated to work on these events”.
However, the publication of the response to Plaid Cymru’s FOI has resulted in the exercise being branded a ‘vanity exercise’ by Welsh Tories: “We wholeheartedly support efforts to burst the Cardiff Bay bubble and ensure the voices of all are heard – no matter where they are in Wales – but communities will rightly question this overblown Labour vanity project.
“Public engagement and consultation should have been at the top of the agenda for years.
“Instead, Labour’s First Minister launched this expensive tour just months away from an Assembly election.”
The Welsh Government responded to criticism of the events: “All good governments listen to the people they serve. These events give people the chance to meet the First Minister, face to face, to talk through the matters which affect their daily lives – that should be welcomed, not derided.”

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Dayne Stone

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