We live in a strange country where the First Minister is reluctant to take up the challenge of new borrowing powers and a degree of control of how some of the taxes we pay is spent. Perhaps for ‘Not Yet’ read ‘Never’. At the same time the Con Dem coalition Westminster government is pushing for all it’s worth the questionable economic and financial benefits of the proposed M4 Relief Road around Newport whilst simultaneously attempting to set by remote control the future economic priorities of the Welsh government for the next 20 years.
I have always believed that when it comes to spending public money, it is essential that it is worked exceptionally hard, with every single pound’s impact being maximized. The proposed M4 Relief Road is poor value for public money. There are easier and cheaper more deliverable alternatives to the proposed M4 Relief road in the shape of upgrading the A48, SDR and the Queensway across the Llanwern site and more investment in our railways (including the proposed metro light rail system amongst other things).
Behind all the spin and the waffle there are two key issues at stake which are directly related to the proposed M4 Relief Road. Firstly, we have a London based Westminster government attempting to remotely set the economic priorities for the Welsh Government and secondly, Westminster is attempting to predetermine a particularly questionably beneficial infrastructure project that could end up being paid for by the people of Wales for the next 20 years.
Potentially well over a billion pounds may be required to pay for the proposed M4 project, it has been estimated that the real cost may be closer to some £1.2 billion pounds. This project runs the risk of imposing some serious and unnecessary strains on Welsh finances and there are better projects with greater value for money and more measurable returns upon which any borrowed capital could and should be spent.