The bill for scrapping the M4 Relief Road has soared to £157Million.
The updated cost now includes 29 houses bought under compulsory purchase orders – including two valued at about £1Million just months before the scheme was axed – because they were on the line of the aborted project.
A Freedom of Information request by the Welsh Conservatives on the now defunct M4 Relief Road scheme has found that a total of 29 houses were purchased for £15,277,202 through compulsory purchase orders in preparation for the new road. Since then 7 have been sold, 7 are now tenanted and 15 lie vacant.
The total annual rental income for the properties currently tenanted is £106,504 a year, whilst 7 properties have since been sold for a total of £2,140,735.
Two properties were bought for £575,000 and £400,000 in April 2019, just two months before First Minister Mark Drakeford took the unilateral decision to abandon the M4 Relief Road scheme. The findings increase the total spent on the aborted M4 Relief Road to £157 million.
Commenting on the find, the Shadow Minister for Economy, Business and Infrastructure, Russell George MS, said,“The financial waste built up by the Welsh Labour-run Government from the M4 Relief Road saga has been one of its most notorious scandals and raises serious questions about how so much money can be wasted with nothing to show for it.
“For the last 20 years successive Welsh Labour-led Governments have dragged their feet before abruptly abandoning the scheme last year, instead of delivering for the people of Newport and South Wales.
“Even worse, it would take the Welsh Labour-led Government almost 145 years to make up the amount they’ve wasted through renting the properties.
“Equally disturbing is the apparent shambolic decision-making process within the heart of the Welsh Government, where two properties – worth just under £1 million – were purchased just two months before the First Minister unilaterally abandoned the M4 Relief Road scheme.
“People will rightly be frustrated by being short-changed of £157 million especially when the money could have strengthened our public services by increasing pay for our vital healthcare workers.
“The Welsh Labour-run Government has, once again, expected the taxpayer to pick up the tab for the vast sums of money spent on a project it later sank. An eye-watering £157 million of taxpayers’ money has been frittered away, and worse still there is nothing to show for it.”
After the scheme was pulled, Welsh Government set up a task force to look at alternative means of relieving M4 congestion around Newport and last week it’s initial conclusion was that a better public transport network is needed but if that does not deter commuters then a tolling system should be introduced to spread the peaks.