Wales politics

Circuit of Wales: Plaid claims Carwyn Jones misled assembly

Circuit of Wales

The first minister "misled" the assembly over funding for the Circuit of Wales, Plaid Cymru has claimed.

Carwyn Jones said the company behind the Ebbw Vale motor racing project had accepted it would restrict ministers' other spending plans.

The Heads of the Valleys Development Company (HoVDC) told BBC Wales that the statement was "incorrect".

The Welsh Government said the company "did not necessarily agree" with the decision but "accepted the rationale".

Plaid Cymru AM Adam Price has written to the first minister and presiding officer saying this is a "very serious mater" and calling for the remarks to be corrected on the floor of the chamber.

In June, the Welsh Government refused a request to guarantee £210m - almost half of the project's £433m cost - on grounds of risk to the taxpayer.

During First Minister's Questions on Tuesday, Carwyn Jones said HoVDC had accepted that if the Welsh Government was to underwrite the project the sum would appear on the government's balance sheet.

Mr Jones has previously said it meant his government would lose £373m of capital funding.

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Media captionCarwyn Jones: "It was explained to the company what the issues were, and they accepted it"

Replying to a question from Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, he said: "There was a meeting between the company and officials after the decision.

"It was explained to the company what the issues were, and they accepted it.

"They clearly haven't spoken to her because the company accepted the issue with regard to the issue of being on balance sheet and the risks that that posed to us - they did not argue with it.

"Could I suggest she talks, perhaps, to the company to take their view on this?"

HoVDC said it first became aware of government concerns about capital funding implications in a meeting three days after the cabinet decision.

Chief executive Martin Whitaker told BBC Wales: "We made it clear that we did not agree with this assessment.

"Clearly that statement is incorrect. The meeting the First Minister refers to happened after the cabinet made the decision which lends a lot of credence to the fact that the future of this project should at the very least have been discussed beforehand, or the cabinet meeting adjourned to enable discussions with the developers."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "At the meeting with Circuit of Wales, our officials explained to the company that in line with ONS [Office for National Statistics] and HMT [Her Majesty's Treasury] guidance, their proposed project structure was likely to be classified in way that would mean it sitting on our balance sheet.

"While the company did not necessarily agree with this decision, they accepted the rationale on which it was made."

HoVDC said it had not been contacted by the Welsh Government as part of the process of releasing its "due diligence" report on the project.

Mr Jones told the Senedd the process of talking to organisations involved had begun.

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