NEW serious concerns over the abolition of the Welsh Development Agency were raised last night after staff unrest was expressed in an irreverent Christmas song.
Words of Newport band Goldie Lookin' Chain's rap song Guns Don't Kill People, Rappers Do were changed to "Funds don't kill people, mergers do" in the song sung at a WDA Christmas party.
Under the Labour Cabinet's plans, which have been publicly criticised by Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, the WDA will be "merged" with the Assembly Government in April.
The first two lines of the satirical song go "Funds don't kill people, mergers do, Ask any politician and they'll say it ain't true". It is understood to have been greeted with spontaneous applause at the party in Cardiff.
Welsh Tory economic development spokesman Alun Cairns, who had the lyrics of the song leaked to him, said, "This demonstrates the ill-feeling that exists within the WDA over the merger and the genuine concerns these people have for the future of the economy and Welsh business and their fears about losing the WDA's entrepreneurial culture. For months Gareth Hall, the WDA's chief executive, and Andrew Davies, the Economic Development Minister, have been talking about how happy the staff are with the merger plans. The fact that they are singing a song like this proves otherwise.
"One of the lines in the song says, 'temps are coming in and none of them are leaving'. This refers to the large number of temporary workers at the WDA because of a ban on recruiting permanent staff until the merger goes through.
"Employing temps in this way is obviously costing a lot of public money.
"The merger will undoubtedly damage the Welsh economy and this song sums up staff feelings very well."
Mr Hain has disagreed publicly with the Assembly Cabinet over the merger plans. He has also criticised the decision to scrap the WDA name, saying it has a very high recognition factor internationally.
A spokesman for the WDA said, "There was no official WDA Christmas party last week. I guess the song you're quoting was meant as a light-hearted joke at one of the informal gatherings that take place at this time of year."
The Assembly Government refused to comment.
Two months ago WDA staff members sent an anonymous letter to the Western Mail outlining a range of concerns about the "merger", focusing especially on the creation of a new "Knowledge Bank for Business"(KB4B), intended to act as a resource for those companies most likely to grow in Wales.
The letter said,
"While the First Minister has always maintained that the merger is not meant to be a cost-cutting exercise, he does concede, however, that it is intended to give better value for money through savings achieved.
"Why is it, then, that KB4B is in the process of recruiting eight commercial managers on salaries of between £46,000 and £60,000, mainly from the private sector, when the relevant expertise already exists internally?
"Over 50 companies have now been 'recruited'.
"The attraction for these companies to KB4B is that it has been implied to them that they will have access to fast-track funding for projects and high expense consultancy.
"If, indeed, these companies are to receive preferential treatment to access support, this is surely to the detriment of the thousands of other Welsh companies which are not included in KB4B.
The Assembly Government has repeatedly rejected criticism that bringing the WDA in-house will damage the agency's entrepreneurial culture.