Wales politics

Mark Drakeford 'prepared to spend £1bn on M4 relief road alternatives'

M4 traffic

The Welsh Government is prepared to spend £1bn on solving congestion on the M4 around Newport, Mark Drakeford has said.

The first minister scrapped plans for an M4 relief road last month.

He said the man chairing a commission looking at alternatives, Lord Burns, has been given an assurance he did not need to worry about money.

The Labour AM made the comments at a Welsh Assembly committee meeting held in Wrexham on Friday morning.

At the same meeting Mr Drakeford said ministers have not given up on efforts to persuade Ford to stay in Bridgend.

Lord Burns - chairman of media regulator Ofcom and a former permanent secretary to the UK Treasury - has been tasked by the Welsh Government with looking at ideas for tackling congestion.

They include the alternatives that were presented to the public inquiry for the road, and which were rejected by the planning inspector.

Image copyright Welsh Government
Image caption Lord Burns has been ask to find alternatives ways to tackle M4 congestion

Mark Drakeford said he assured Lord Burns "that one of the things he didn't need to worry about was the money side of it".

"We were prepared to spend a billion pounds in solving the problem around Newport," Mr Drakeford said.

"He has the first call on all of that billion.

"I don't want the money to be an inhibitor to his ability to come forward with new solutions."

He said: "That would still be by far the single biggest sum of money we've ever spent anywhere in Wales in solving a transport problem of that sort."

Mr Drakeford said the former Treasury permanent secretary "didn't take that as an instruction to spend a billion pounds… but that he understood that if there were good ideas that would make a difference the money would not get in the way of them."

The commission is expected to make its first report this year. Mr Drakeford said he agreed Lord Burns can then advise him on how long he needs "to work on the next set of ideas".

Welsh Tory economy spokesman Russell George said the first minister "needs to now support infrastructure projects across Wales".

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