My letter to the Chancellor

Annwyl Canghellor,

ODA £200m Grant to Westfield Shopping Mall for Infrastructure projects

In the Evening Standard on Friday the 16th of September, 2011, it was disclosed that Westfield received an incredible subsidy of £200m from the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) to build transport infrastructure around its new mall in Stratford.

You will be aware of concerns of the huge public subsidy to one of the wealthiest shopping mall companies in the world at a time when other regeneration schemes in deprived areas are crying out for investment. Indeed I am informed that this shopping mall is now the largest in the whole of Europe and Westfield according to the Financial Times is the biggest shopping mall company in the world. My understanding is that the scheme has not been subjected to scrutiny by the National Audit Office.

You will also be aware that my party has consistently voiced concerns in relation to the £9.3bn Olympic budget. In our view this budget should be viewed as England only expenditure and therefore subjected to Barnett consequentials. There is a strong feeling in my country that our communities are being short changed to fund investment in the richest city in Europe.

Whilst the decision to earmark the Olympics as UK spend is dubious at best, the disclosure that huge sums of money (designated as UK spend via the ODA) has been allocated to improve transport infrastructure to and from a shopping mall in Stratford can not be justified. I would expect that any public investment in this scheme should have come from the Department for Transport and therefore subjected to normal Barnett rules. The fact that the money had been spent by the ODA does not in my view justify it as UK expenditure.

In response to a Parliamentary question from myself the Chief Secretary confirmed that the Devolved Countries Unit within the Treasury had responsibility for calculating Barnett resources and was only staffed by between five to seven staff members. I have concerns that the Unit is under staffed and unable to ensure that the devolved countries get their share of expenditure which is clearly England only.

Leaving aside the debate about the unfairness of the Barnett formula, disclosures such as this clearly prove that spending decisions made by the UK Government and its agencies are short changing the people of Wales. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when effectively the poorest communities in the EU 25 are effectively subsidising the richest city in Europe and the richest shopping mall company in the world.

I would be grateful for your comments

Yn gywir iawn,

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