A CONTROVERSIAL secret pledge of £2m by Labour’s Health Minister for the Children’s Hospital of Wales will not be enough to kick-start the next phase of building work.
And Dr Gibbons, pictured, was last night accused of electioneering after he decided to announce details of the pledge just two days before the National Assembly election.
The hospital is still waiting for a business case to be agreed by local health boards, Health Commission Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government.
It is understood concerns about the £5m of ongoing revenue costs, which include the £2m pledged by Dr Gibbons, are holding the plans up. Until all this money is secured no building work will start on the remainder of the hospital.
In a letter to the Western Mail yesterday Dr Gibbons said he had allocated the money in March, before campaigning started.
But Plaid Cymru said Dr Gibbon’s decision to reveal the secret pledge yesterday was “blatant electioneering”.
The party’s Shadow Health Minister Helen Mary Jones, said, “We criticise the timing of the announcement and while we are glad that money has become available, this seems a case of blatant electioneering.
“If the money was there a few months ago, we should have been told about it.”
Conservative leader Nick Bourne said, “I am extremely concerned Brian Gibbons has chosen to make this announcement just 48 hours before polling day. There will be many people in Wales who will see it as a cynical election ploy.”
Dr Gibbons said, in his letter to the Western Mail, “As one of my last acts as Minister I agreed... that the Assembly Government should provide additional revenue funding of approximately £2m.
“At the end of March I decided not to make this decision public precisely because I was convinced that to do so, just on the cusp of an election campaign, would lead to the sorts of charges of claiming political advantage in which... this project ought not to become embroiled.”
His letter followed a story in the Western Mail about the launch of a petition designed to stop the next Welsh Assembly Government “procrastinating”.
The money allocated by Dr Gibbons in March will be put towards capital charges associated with the build.
Capital charges are paid by NHS trusts to the Welsh Assembly Government on all aspects of capital investment – such as hospital buildings.
A Labour spokeswoman said, “Brian Gibbons’s letter makes it clear that he felt it necessary to rebut criticism in various newspaper articles that the government was somehow ‘dragging its feet’ over the issue of phase two of the children’s hospital.
“His letter makes clear that he had not intended to make any statement about the extra funding during the election campaign – but felt that he needed to set the record straight. Welsh Labour is fully committed to seeing phase two of the children’s hospital up and running, and no one will be happier than us to see the project moving forward.”
Lyn Jones, chairman of the Noah’s Ark Appeal trustees, said, “The Noah’s Ark Appeal is delighted with the news that funds have been committed to cover the capital charges due in the completion of the Children’s Hospital for Wales.
“We acknowledge the commitment to the project by the Minister.
“The additional funds reduce the annual running costs from £5m to £3m. We still await a decision from the Assembly’s commissioners for the balance of the revenue funding.
“Without this, no further bricks can be laid.”
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