Cardiff Aviation will get round the table for talks with the Welsh Government today to discuss the fact that they have never paid rent at their St Athan site, leaving a large debt owed to the Welsh taxpayer.
Cardiff Aviation took over the Twin Peaks facility at St Athan in 2012 with the help of £1.6m in funding from Finance Wales as well as private funding from Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson, however, it recently emerged that no rent has ever been paid for the site with Cardiff Bay was seeking legal advice over the situation.
When Cardiff Aviation began it promised up to 1000 jobs would be created in the Vale of Glamorgan but the reality has seen less than 30% of that figure being achieved. Cardiff Aviation has not been able to attract the amount of engineering work they had hoped and some airlines, including Easyjet pulled out of lucrative contracts as they were unhappy with the operation, according to Cardiff Aviation they cited the runway availability as a factor.
Mr Dickinson has previously claimed that a big barrier to getting contracts is the availability of the runway at St Athan. Currently, operations are restricted to daylight and visual landing criteria. The current ILS system is not authorised to be used and Mr Dickinson claims the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Welsh Government have been dragging their heels in making progress on the issue.
Sources have cited that the ILS issue is “on the verge of being resolved”
The current situation facing the Welsh Government is one of choice. Do they allow Cardiff Aviation to carry on not paying rent, allow them to pay a reduced amount effectively writing off a large amount as a loss as one source within the Welsh Government has suggested or push for payment causing financial pressures at Cardiff Aviation potentially putting jobs at risk? Mr Dickinson and his team have reportedly engaged a mediation service for the meeting.
Whilst Cardiff Aviation has not come close to being the success Mr Dickinson, and the Welsh Government hoped it would be, it has created jobs at its sites at St Athan and the training facility at Cardiff Airport and failure now would have an impact on the Vale of Glamorgan community.
The Welsh Government does have a duty to the Welsh taxpayer to get value from investments made through Finance Wales and questions are being asked from all sides on whether a value is being obtained.
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies recently asked Welsh Economy Secretary Ken Skates about the help that Cardiff Aviation has received. He revealed that in 2015/2016 Cardiff Aviation received the “maximum annual grant available” under the terms of the Enterprise Business Rates Scheme..
Cardiff Aviation has been asked previously about the outstanding rent but has so-far declined to comment.