A Conservative Assembly Member from North Wales has expressed his concern and bafflement at workers being drafted in from Scotland to work on new offices for the Welsh Assembly in Llandudno.

The story has been raised in a local paper, the Weekly News, which had previously quoted a Lib Dem cabinet member of Conwy council as praising a contractor for employing local people and materials.

But according to the paper’s latest report:

"The Weekly News has discovered that the steel framework is being erected by
Scottish company Solway Steel, and an Alpha Crane has been brought all
the way from Ayrshire to help put the components in place. A local contractor, who asked not to be named, is furious. “They have
brought a telescopic crane all the way from Scotland, and the steel
erectors are from Scotland,” he said."

This has prompted the following reaction from Darren Millar (pictured), who represents Clwyd West in the Assembly and is the Tories’ Shadow Minister for Environment and Planning:

"This revelation is extremely embarrassing for the
Assembly Government coming just days after ministers were in North
Wales saying they would do everything they can to support local
businesses and workers. While the Assembly Government is entitled to
award contracts to firms from outside Wales, or for those firms to
bring its own specialist workers with them, it is understandable that
many people in the area will be angry that more is not being done to
help them.


"Hundreds of jobs have been lost in North Wales since the start of
the economic downturn and the construction and steel industries have
been particularly hard hit. There are local firms that are more than
capable of undertaking this work and they will be baffled that workers
from Scotland are being drafted in at a time when every contract is
crucial to their survival. People in the area want to see action from
the Assembly Government to help them retain their jobs – not just words
of sympathy when they lose them."

I have to say, I am not convinced by the protectionist argument and
cannot get worked up about the issue here. Do we know now much the
local contractor would have charged? Given that it is public money
being spent, I would hope that the contract has been awarded to
whomever will give the taxpayer best value for money. Shouldn’t
Conservatives want taxpayer value for money to be a more important
consideration than the origin of materials or the workforce?

Jonathan Isaby

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