YOUR AM WRITES: Lindsay Whittle, South Wales East AM
I WAS pleased to read in the Argus that laptops for schools left unused and in storage for almost two years will now be used by younger pupils in Torfaen and Monmouthshire.
But this whole episode has been a huge embarrassment for the public sector and many, many questions remain unanswered.
As those who have followed this saga will know, Torfaen council was left with the 2,500 laptops when Newport council pulled out of the three-county purchase.
Newport council denied it had ever formally committed to the project, although it was heavily involved in discussions.
Just how these Hewlett Packard Notebooks could have been left in storage, along with £800,000 worth of IT kit, for such a long time beggars belief.
Both Torfaen and Newport councils still have plenty of questions to answer because such a huge amount of public money was involved at a time when funds are very tight.
I’ve read varying versions of why this farce happened but the Welsh Government needs to get to the bottom of it.
I’ve raised the laptops issue in the Senedd but was disappointed that the finance minister failed to shed any further light.
My office submitted Freedom of Information requests to the Welsh Government, Torfaen and Newport councils and some information has been provided, but I don’t think I have the full story – we are some way away from that.
The public, who are the paymasters, deserve to know the truth, however uncomfortable it may be for some politicians or council officers.
That means the Welsh Government should hold an inquiry and publish the full report – even if it causes embarrassment.
Public money should be spent well, and when it is not there should be explanations.
The Argus has done the public of Gwent a great service by uncovering this debacle and I hope it will continue digging.
THE city centre is having a very rough time, and it was really sad to see Marks & Spencer last week quitting to move to Spytty Retail Park.
It was the latest of many retail blows, but given M&S’ status in the high street it was very damaging.
I hope this iconic brand will return to the central area once the Friars Walk development is built and that haemorrhageing of shops and shoppers will stop.
Friars Walk cannot happen quickly enough.