Wales politics

AMs criticise 'extravagant' £1.9m assembly refurbishment

The refurbished ground floor of Ty Hywel Image copyright Welsh Assembly
Image caption The Ty Hywel refurbishment includes new committee rooms and witness waiting areas

The £1.9m spent on a refurbishment of the ground floor of the assembly's Ty Hywel building is hard to justify, Labour AM Vikki Howells has said.

Ms Howells, who represents Cynon Valley, said the expense made her feel "uncomfortable".

She made the comments during a session of the public accounts committee in the Senedd on Monday.

Assembly chief executive Manon Antoniazzi said the rooms created in the refurbishment are "well used".

Concerns have already been raised about the refurbishment of the ground floor of the Ty Hywel building, next to the Senedd in Cardiff Bay.

The upgrade saw the number of fully equipped committee rooms increased from four to five.

AMs were told that the total cost of the project amounted to £1.93m - up from the £1.84m envisaged in December 2016.

Ms Howells said: "As an assembly member, when I go out into my constituency and see first hand the effects of austerity... when I come then to the assembly and sit in one of these new committee rooms, I personally feel uncomfortable with the amount of money that was spent there.

"It's very hard for all of us to justify that to our constituents."

Image caption Vikki Howells was one of two Labour AMs to criticise the refurbishment at an assembly committee hearing

Rhianon Passmore, Labour AM for Islwyn, said: "From the outside looking in, it seems an incredibly extravagant amount of money that was used to do these refurbishments."

Ms Antoniazzi told the committee: "At the end of the day the core responsibility of the commission is to provide the facilities for the assembly to carry out its work.

"Due to the additional committees created by the assembly, they needed these additional facilities, and therefore the budget that was available that year was used for that purpose."

"The rooms are now pretty well used." But Ms Antoniazzi, who became chief executive last April, she said she heard the point Ms Howells made.

She added that the £1.9m covered the cost of refurbishing the whole ground floor, including security facilities as well as the committee facilities.

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