Friday, 18 November 2016

Kinnock lobbies for Circuit of Wales and makes a mess of it.

I must admit to being a sceptic over the Circuit of Wales scheme viability and this has not helped.

It now emerges  that Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock repeatedly pressed the leader of one of Wales’ smallest councils to get his authority to provide a loan of £50m to the troubled Circuit of Wales project, we can reveal.
The Wastng Mule  reports that
The ex-Islwyn MP and European Commissioner, who now sits in the House of Lords, sent a letter to Hedley McCarthy, then leader of Blaenau Gwent council, two years ago.
It was one of a string of letters Lord Kinnock sent on behalf of the company behind the planned motorcycle race track on moorland above Ebbw Vale.
It is claimed that the letter, which was sent on House of Lords notepaper, was drafted for Lord Kinnock by Michael Carrick, the businessman behind the £425m scheme.
It said:
 “One area that is of concern to the developers is the rate of progress and visible action on progressing and securing the required Blaenau Gwent debt funding of £50m.”
 Lord Kinnock went on to state that private sector investors had made it clear they would not inject £200m into the project without the £50m from the council.
He said: “I am emphasising to you that [Blaenau Gwent council] is running out of time."
It appears that Mr McCarthhy  was less than impressed

Mr McCarthyr wrote: 
"I was taken aback somewhat by the tone of your letter. This council is well aware of its responsibilities to the citizens of Blaenau Gwent."I was confused to receive your letter on House of Lords headed notepaper, even though it is expressly stated that you are writing in your capacity as chairman of the advisory board of Heads of the Valleys Development Corporation Ltd.
"I trust this is an oversight, and that you intended to use [HOTVDC] notepaper."

 He went on to say that Mr Kinnock had not understood the full picture.
He explained that any loan would have to be underwritten by the Welsh Government, that the company kept changing the amount it wanted and that "slow progress has been made by the company in discharging the planning conditions".
Which is a bit of embarrassing criticism of such an experienced politician  as Lord Kinnock.
Mr Mcarthy went on to state that "despite frequent requests from the council for confirmation and details of private sector funding, that information has not been forthcoming."
And he concluded by saying that a £50m loan involved going through the correct political processes, saying: 
"Blaenau Gwent is the second smallest council in Wales and has not considered a loan of this scale in the past".
Lord Kinnock also wrote to First Minister Carwyn Jones suggesting a “brief meeting, coffee or dinner” to discuss proposals to anchor the Circuit of Wales as the pre-eminent home of British motorsport.
A spokesman for the First Minister told us:
 “We can confirm that the First Minister received two letters from Neil Kinnock in relation to the Circuit of Wales, but only one received a response which was sent in November of last year.
"There have been no meetings. We’re happy to provide the November letter for information.
“Our position in relation to this project has always been clear – it has exciting potential, but requires significant private finance and suitable guarantees for any public backing.”
Lord Kinnock also wrote letters to:
  • Then Labour leader Ed Miliband,
  • then Shadow Minister for Infrastructure Lord Andrew Adonis,
  • and Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University, in which he endorsed other large-scale projects proposed by Mr Carrick’s firm Aventa Capital Partners
Lord Kinnock said: 
“I can confirm that I did write to the people listed after having made relevant amendments to the drafts which you have seen.
"For instance,in my letter to my friend and fellow Welshman Vice Chancellor Borysiewicz, I removed the obviously inaccurate reference to ‘my constituency’.
“I also (since this was my first contact with him on this issue) removed the draft phrase ‘I have been engaged as an advisor to the company and said – accurately - that ‘My interest,as Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Heads of the Valleys Development Company, is non-pecuniary and entirely related to generating new employment and fresh confidence in the Heads of the Valleys’.
“That has always been, and remains true. I have never been paid, or sought or anticipated payment – past, present or future – ‘for advising Michael Carrick/Circuit of Wales’ or any related activity.”
Lord Kinnock said there had been an error on his entry in the register of peers’ interests which wrongly suggested he was paid as an adviser to the Circuit of Wales.
He stated:
 “Due to an error some four or five years ago, my entry relating to my Heads of the Valleys Development Company role in the House of Lords Register of Members’ Interests was under Category 2 (Remunerated employment) when it should have been under Category 10(a) which refers to ‘unremunerated employment’.
"I usually have no reason to consult the register, but the inaccurate entry came to my notice when a colleague recently drew my attention to another inaccuracy in the register entry ... Both entries have been properly corrected.”
Mr Carrick said:
 “I asked Lord Kinnock to bring to the attention of senior political leaders the very significant challenges in creating economic growth in the regions and what we are trying to do to create and stimulate private investment initiatives that can be rolled out on a national scale.
"I provided him with draft text which he could then use as he wished to frame a discussion.
“We are passionate about trying to secure investment outside of London into areas where we need jobs and in sectors where the UK is very capable of being a leader.
“It was not lobbying over our scheme nor did it request any activity other than to raise the wider challenges and to engage on the thinking over how Government could stimulate this activity.
“The showcase and exemplar is the Circuit of Wales where the enabling role of government through development partnering and credit enhancement would show how this could be applied elsewhere in the country.
“In relation to the Vice Chancellor I wanted to discuss the opportunity for Cambridge to bid on the Alan Turing institute and to participate as a partner on the development of a digital campus at Downham Market.
"Lord Kinnock offered to introduce me to the Vice Chancellor.
 Kinnock ny have been paid  as an adviser to the Circuit of Wales. Which is just as well if he is prepared to sign letters drafted for him which does not seem to understand he nature of local government and whih contained inaccuracies.

If this is the level of competence of those involved in the circuit of Wales hen for once I am in agreement with Monmouth Conservative MP David Davies said:

“I have no doubt of Neil Kinnock’s sincerity in wanting to see investment into the Valleys."However, he should enquire further into the way in which this project has been managed.
"He is in a position to find out why Michael Carrick transferred nearly £1m from the publicly funded Heads of the Valleys Development Company [the company behind the Circuit of Wales] into another company he owned and why HOTVDC bought a loss-making motorcycle company in Buckinghamshire which has gone into administration.
“When someone comes along offering to create thousands of jobs and to transform a depressed area then it is always tempting to believe in them.
"When they ask for and receive £9m of public money then public figures need to be wary and ready to ask tough questions.”
I accept that there always a financial risk in any such venture for for a public investment, and if we do not take them then virtually nothing will be done.

And 9 million may not be great deal of money for what is promised though if Kinnock was asking Blaneau Gwent for £50m we can surely expect HOTVDC to come with  pleas to the Welsh government for a great deal more.

But the way those promoting the Circuit of Wales need to prove that their ability matches their ambition.  

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