The biggest PFI in Welsh history will be the St. Athan Military Academy, which is to be developed in my constituency by the Metrix Consortium. With PFI becoming a widely-discredited method of financing public projects, concerns are growing around the St. Athan development. If last week's Private Eye is to be believed then the entire project is under threat due to a number of reasons.
PFI is likely to become more and more expensive as the credit crunch begins to bite. Private Eye reports that the Defence Training Review's executive board have said that there are "major affordability issues" for the project. The construction of the Academy will also coincide with a number of major building projects such as the London Olympics. At the Welsh level, the development will be taking place at the same time as housing across Wales is upgraded to the Welsh Quality Housing Standard. This will place huge pressure on the construction industry, and the prospect of migrant labour being brought in (likely to be non-unionised and badly paid) is significant. It has also been reported that 72% of military trainers do not want to move to South Wales. Added together, the privatisation of military training by the UK government appears to present huge risks to frontline military personnel.
The military academy is clearly a non-devolved issue. However, in the Senedd yesterday I asked the Leader of the House, Carywn Jones AM, to allow us a thorough debate on the issue. The reason I am pursuing this is because if the St. Athan project falls apart, we need assurances that the fallout will not affect Wales' budget or the work of the Assembly. We also need confirmation that the development of the academy will not divert construction resources away from the Welsh Quality Housing Standard, because upgrading housing is the real priority for Wales and is something Plaid Minister Jocelyn Davies is purposefully working for.