Sport Wales board cost unacceptable - chairman Paul Thomas

Paul Thomas
Paul Thomas worked on projects for UK Sport and Sport England

The chairman of Sport Wales, Paul Thomas, has accused his own organisation of spending an "unacceptable" amount on its board.

The activities of the board were temporarily suspended on Wednesday.

Thomas, who oversaw a critical review of the Welsh government-sponsored body, says the nine part-time board members should receive no payment except for "normal expenses".

He claims the board cost £140,000 in the 2015-16 financial year.

"That is unacceptable in times of austerity and ever-increasing expectations on savings and delivery," Thomas wrote in a private memo seen by BBC Wales Sport.

"I understand the thought process of the previous chair [Laura McAllister] when implementing this cost envelope as she felt the board would be better served if the members were paid.

"However, we are now in very different and more challenging times.

"I would suggest a staged evolution to bring the Sport Wales board back in line with the rest of the public sector in Wales, meaning members should receive no payment for attendance except normal expenses."

He claims the cost of the Sport Wales board was officially £126,507 for 2015-16, rising to more than £140,000 following extra costs and hours.

According to documents produced by Thomas for the last financial year, his predecessor McAllister, who he replaced in March, received £35,183 for her duties, while vice-chair Adele Baumgardt was awarded £16,172.

Thomas says he and the deputy chair, who complete the 11-person board, should still receive the "current levels" because they attend two days a week in the organisation, although he wrote this will be constantly reviewed.

But he wants to end a culture of paid board members who he says received £6,768 for their duties in 2015-16, including 17 days of meetings.

Thomas also aims to reduce the number of board members to a maximum of seven and said there needs to be "an acceptance what was fit for purpose in the past will not get the job done in the future".

The critical review of Sport Wales also stated there needed "to be clear separation of powers between the board of Sport Wales and the executive", adding: "The role of the board has been allowed to drift into overtly operational issues and into direct interference in executive decision making."

As well as chairman Thomas and vice-chair Baumgardt, the Sport Wales board members for the 2016-17 financial year are Professor John Baylis, Amanda Bennett, Peter King, Julia Longville, Andrew Lycett, Richard Parks, Simon Pirotte, Johanna Sheppard and Samar Wafa.

The proposed changes, subject to Welsh Assembly Ministerial and Cabinet Secretary approval, are due to come into force by 1 April, 2017 - the date the board members' terms end.

What is Sport Wales?

Laura McAllister
Laura McAllister chaired Sport Wales for six years before she was succeeded by Dr Paul Thomas

Sport Wales is the national organisation responsible for developing and promoting sport and active lifestyles.

Working alongside partners such as governing bodies for sport and local authorities, it says its aim is to achieve shared aspirations of getting every child "hooked on sport" for life and Wales being a nation of champions.

Sport Wales is the main adviser on sporting matters to the Welsh Government and is responsible for distributing National Lottery funds to elite and grassroots sport in Wales.

Welsh Government funding for sport is channelled through Sport Wales, which has a number of grants schemes to increase levels of physical activity and sport.

For 2016-17, the Welsh Government has provided Grant in Aid funding of £22.4m to Sport Wales.

Sport Wales has 160 staff members based across four locations in Wales - a head office in Cardiff and regional offices in Carmarthen, Deeside and Caernarfon.

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