A mere three weeks after The Blogger reported something that according to the Cancer only “emerged last week”, our local newspaper finally spills the beans on the SWRDA‘s extraordinary expenses and junketing spending. They say about the regional quango, at the heart of the arena fiasco:
Last week, it emerged that it spent more than £60,000 of taxpayers’ money at a property trade show on the French Riviera.
A delegation from the agency racked up the bill in Cannes at an event described by one guest as a lavish “four-day party”.
Details of the cost of the trip to the Mipim show, based in the Palais des Festivals, were obtained under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act.
The details show that in March 2007 – days before Hollywood stars descended on Cannes for its famous film festival – SWRDA was among eight of the nine development agencies in the country to travel to the event.
The figures disclosed under the FoI Act show the quango also spent £61,000 on its annual staff conference at the Center Parcs Longleat Forest holiday village in Wiltshire, plus £28,279 on another staff meeting last year at the Riviera Centre in Torquay.
Its total bill for corporate events in 2006-7 amounted to £278,560.
Well done boys!
Elsewhere today the paper handed space over to Merchant Venturer John Savage, the Chairman of Bristol’s corporate power-brokers Business West and also a member of the SWRDA board that took the decision to pull the arena project.
The self-interested multi-millionaire schmuck used the paper to come over all public spirited on us:
But, in the end, we are in no doubt that an £86 million bill to be footed by you, the readers of this paper, among others, is unacceptable.
Isn’t it touching how Savage and his SWRDA business friends have our best interests and those of the wider public at heart like this? They’ve only gone and stopped the arena for our benefit.
Have they hell! As it will no doubt “emerge” in a couple of weeks, Savage couldn’t give a toss about us or saving public money, he’s actually much more interested in securing the SWRDA mega-bucks swilling around the region and meant for our arena for himself and his Merchant Venturer cronies.
What Savage failed to mention in his selfless paean for the public today was the interesting little bit of business he and his fellow Merchant Venturer, SWRDA board member and Business West colleague, the Enron profiteer Colin Skellett are quietly embarked on at present.
It seems that Business West will be merging with a similar supplier of “business services” for Wiltshire and Swindon, GWE, to form a rather convenient regional organisation perfectly positioned to hoover up funds from regional development organisations like the SWRDA!
The new Chief Exec of this – as yet unamed – organisation will be SWRDA board member Savage and the Chairman will be SWRDA board member Skellett. So it’ll be interesting to see how much of the £40m meant for our arena ends up going to them won’t it?
And don’t worry about any potential conflicts of interest here because obviously these two don’t. If this merger happens, it appears that Savage and Skellett will also be gaining control of a company called Northern Arc Ltd, currently controlled by GWE. Here’s what they do:
a joint venture company established in April 2007 for the purposes of securing the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) contract for the delivery of Business Link services in the West of England, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.
Yes. They’re a company set up specifically to receive SWRDA funds and it’ll soon be run by two of the board members who are directly responsible for “independently” disbursing those funds. Cosy or wot?
At present it’s believed Northern Arc are turning over about £8m, largely from SWRDA. But it’ll be interesting to see over the next few years how much more SWRDA cash – our arena money – goes their way and to the new Savage/Skellett Business West/GWE set-up.