Wales politics

Sir Roger Jones: £100m wasted in Welsh investment bid

A former Welsh Development Agency (WDA) chair claims more than £100m a year has been spent attracting inward investment that has produced "next to nothing".

Sir Roger Jones attacked the Welsh Government's record as he spoke to MPs trying to attract businesses to Wales.

He was head of the WDA when it was taken over by the Welsh Government in 2006 as part of the so-called "bonfire of the quangos".

The Welsh Government said it did not "recognise these comments".

Sir Roger told MPs that the civil service is incapable of attracting businesses because "you need to be fleet of foot, and you do not get fleet of foot in the civil service".

He said civil servants did not have the necessary skills to attract inward investment and that "being micro-managed by people who don't know much is a dangerous practice".

He continued his assault on the Welsh Government's record by insisting that "the private sector is only interested with outcomes, whereas the public sector is only interested in process".

His remarks about the Welsh Government spending "in excess of £100m per annum" on attracting inward investment to Wales "that has produced next to nothing" were made in his private written evidence to the Welsh Affairs Committee.

BBC Wales has obtained a copy of his evidence.

In it Sir Roger claims that the WDA was taken under the arm of the government for "political expediency", adding that "A rivalry amongst political leaders as to who could best deliver the 'bonfire of the quangos' precipitated this summary action."

'Very little delivery'

He suggests that the only way to attract inward investment to Wales is "with a smaller, more focused and independent body. This should be controlled by a private sector board with strong trade union representation".

There was further criticism of the Welsh Government's handling of attracting inward investment by one of the UKs leading experts on the subject.

Glenn Massey was asked by the Welsh Government to conduct a review of its inward investment arm, International Business Wales (IBW), in 2009.

On Tuesday, he told MPs that IBW had achieved "very little in the past 18 months" as a result of being "too inward looking" with the extra problem of "staff disillusioned, low morale... it makes being motivated quite hard".

He criticised the fact Wales spends more than any other region of the UK - apart from Scotland - on attracting inward investment as being "a lot of people, a lot of money but very little delivery".

According to Mr Massey, Wales should be attracting 10% of the UK's total inward investment. Figures for 2009 show the actual number was 6.2%

A Welsh Government Spokesperson said: "We don't recognise these comments.

"The reasons for merging the WDA with the Welsh Government are well documented - and are based around transparency, delivery and accountability."

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