Monday, 6 June 2016

Kirsty accused of 'breaking her word' over use of ministerial car

Wales on line has news that  Welsh Conservatives have accused Liberal Democrat Education Secretary Kirsty Williams of breaking her word by being prepared to use a costly ministerial car within her new Cabinet role.
It reads
In February the Brecon and Radnorshire AM told her party’s conference in Cardiff that the Welsh Lib Dems were “not here for ministerial cars”.
However, in response to an Assembly Question from the Welsh Conservatives, First Minister Carwyn Jones has confirmed that Ms Williams will “have access to the Government Car Service”.

 The Tories have previously revealed how ministerial, chauffeur-driven cars cost the taxpayer approximately £1.8m between April 2011 and October 2015.
They have estimated that taxpayers could save around £150,000 in car costs if the Education Secretary rejected use of ministerial vehicles over the Assembly term – enough to buy, they say, every pupil in a local authority school an exercise book.
 I don't know for sure  but I suppose that if Ms Williams did not use her Ministerial car then much of the expense would still be there as it would not be sold or a driver made redundant.

 La Pasionaia may well be ruing her words when speaking to the Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference in February, Ms Williams said: 

“But we’re Welsh Liberal Democrats, we don’t take the easy route do we?
“For me, growing up in Llanelli, becoming a Welsh Liberal Democrat wasn’t the easy choice.
“For the easy route, you’d join Labour. But that was unthinkable. We’re not here for ministerial cars. Not here for fame. Not here to give our mates jobs. Not here to rule because it’s what we think is owed to us.”
She could of course set an example  to he cabinet colleagues by cutting down on the use of Ministerial cars but would it make a major difference?

A spokesman for Kirsty Williams said:
 “The Conservatives should be careful on this issue.
“Earlier this year we learned that their leader has been responsible for over 50% of all car hire expenses in the last Assembly term.
“We have also never heard Conservatives in the Assembly criticise their colleagues in Westminster for the use of ministerial cars.
“Kirsty took the job of Cabinet Secretary for Education to improve the life chances of pupils in Wales and will only make use of the ministerial car service when absolutely necessary, for security or logistical purposes.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: 
Ministers are expected to travel across the length and breadth of Wales and often undertake several engagements in a single day.
“Consideration is always given to the most economical and efficient way of conducting as many engagements as possible, to maximise value for money.”
 
The spokesman pointed out that during journeys ministers continue to work, and have access to a range of confidential information, which they could not do on public transport or by other means of travel. a theme pointed out by former First Minister  Rhodri Morgan when the Tories first brought this up.
I suspect  the Tories would be highly critical of a Minister who turned up at a major event in a battered old mini tired and dishevelled after along drive .
I wouldn't, but I can see the argument that it would  not show Wales in a good light.
The cost of hiring a suitable  rather than using a  Ministerial fleet could possibly turn out more expensive in the long run.
We should ask how effective the use of Ministerial cars are and how we can make savings without  making it difficult for Ministers to do their job.
There is considerable waste by the Welsh Government to pamper the egos of Cabinet Ministers and their subordinates 
However false economy as a gesture is not good government.


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