Two really significant Assembly stories in today's Western Mail. Both have been written by David Williamson. His first report informs us that the Welsh Government is moving out of its space in Gwydyr House, home to the Wales Office (and opposite Downing St.) to a new location half a mile away along Victoria St. He reports that the annual cost of this move will be £270,000. Find this a bit hard to believe - that the Welsh Government intend to spend so much on a London office when every budget head is under pressure. It seems that Andrew R T Davies and his team of Conservative AMs are none too impressed, so we'll hear more about this over the next few days. I sense this could be a 'hot' topic.
Its worth quoting what the Welsh Gov't has released to David in response. "its to promote international trade and investment opportunities; continue to develop relationships and visibility with the UK Government, embassies and other important organisations and public bodies; and provide a hot desk base for ministers and officials on official business." - all at a price of £270,000 per annum. They must be very prestigious offices. Looking forward to an invitation.
The second significant article by David Williamson today tells us about the submission of the Welsh Liberal Democrats to the Silk Commission. This matters because the Lib Dems are in Coalition at Westminster, and are reported to be Carwyn Jones' preferred coalition partners in Wales. Anyway, the Lib Dems want to see the Assembly taking responsibility for 50% of income tax raised in Wales, with ability to vary the total rate by at least 3p. They also want the Assembly to have complete control over taxes that affect the Assembly's responsibility, the power to vary business rates, and new borrowing powers to spend on infrastructure projects - all this being a steps on the road to a federal UK. This is seriuosly radical stuff. Paul Silk is going to have his work cut out to come up with the first part of his report, advising how fiscal responsibility be vested in the Assembly by the end of the year.