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Friday, December 15, 2006

Spending public money

The Western Mail goes into public scrutiny mode today with revelations that the cost of Government special advisors in Wales has risen from £110,067 in 1999 to £363,708 this year. By the end of the current Assembly term the total cost is expected to be £2,088,478. There are seven in all. They also highlight a lavish reception for 200 business people in Tower Bridge at a cost of £23,000.

To an extent this is the price of government but I think it is right that we question expenditure such as this and ask what we are getting from it. It is strange for example that during the Partnership Government we got by on four or five special advisors and now Rhodri Morgan needs seven. Is it the case that each Minister must have their own advisor?

Equally, although receptions have a value if the outcome is that the particpants are questioning why they were there then it cannot be money well-spent. These sort of revelations show the value of effective scrutiny.
Care to tell us if the you (the Lib Dems) brought in Special advisers when you were in coalition between 2000-2003?
If you re-read the article you will see that I said there were 4 or 5 special advisors in Wales in that period, Two of them were Welsh Liberal Democrats.My point was to question the justification for that number rising still further.
And if you did your research, you would see that not all 7 are full time. Two of them are also university professors, who spend a day a week at their universities – which frees up two days – which are “used up” by another adviser who is a specialist on Europe and ASPB mergers. So in effect, you have 3 spads making up 2 FTE positions.

You would also find that not every minister has a special adviser (7 spads – 9 ministers) and most of them “double up”.
Amnd how does that justify the additional expense exactly?
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