Wales politics

Circuit of Wales: Officials miss committee hearing

Circuit of Wales artist impression Image copyright Circuit of Wales
Image caption It is claimed the track could create 6,000 jobs in one of the most deprived areas of Wales

Two senior civil servants have pulled out of giving evidence to AMs on funding for a proposed motor racing track near Ebbw Vale in Blaenau Gwent.

The public accounts committee (PAC) was told Mick McGuire and Chris Munday were no longer able to give evidence about the proposed Circuit of Wales.

Another official will go instead. One PAC member called it "outrageous".

They were to face questions about a critical report into more than £9m of taxpayer funding for the circuit.

Both officials are playing a leading role in the Welsh Government's handling of the project.

Mr McGuire, the government's sector and business director, and Mr Munday, deputy director for business solutions, were due to appear alongside James Price, the deputy permanent secretary for the economy, on Monday afternoon.

Instead, Mr Price will be accompanied by Tracey Mayes, head of governance and compliance in his department.

The following morning, cabinet ministers are expected to discuss a crucial decision about the scheme.

Image copyright Circuit of Wales
Image caption The Circuit of Wales needs guarantees from the Welsh Government in order to get the green light

Developers are seeking a £210m government guarantee which will enable building work to start at the site near Ebbw Vale.

After repeated delays, the proposal has undergone rigorous scrutiny as part of a due diligence process ordered by ministers.

In a letter to the committee, Mr Price said: "With that in mind, I am sure you will appreciate the priority focus for Mr McGuire and Mr Munday must be ensuring the completion of the rigorous due diligence process and associated work so that cabinet has the right information to consider the project comprehensively, and takes its decision in a thoroughly informed way."

The Circuit of Wales tweeted on Wednesday that the due diligence had been completed and a decision was expected before the end of the month.

Plaid Cymru committee member Neil McEvoy said: "There are serious issues of process and legitimacy here, where politicians and officials feel able to dismiss the Welsh Assembly public accounts committee.

"It really is outrageous.

"With £9m already spent, the public has the right to expect these officials to show up and answer questions."

Although it would be privately funded, the project has received Welsh Government grants and loans worth £9.3m.

In April the Auditor General for Wales said there were "significant shortcomings" in the way ministers managed the risk to the taxpayer.

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