AN ASTRONOMICAL amount on money has been spent by the Welsh Government on barristers according to Aberconwy AM.

More than £1.4 million has been spend in the last three financial years: in 2016/17 the expenditure was £480,684, in 2017/18 it was £534,809 and in 2018/19 it came to £428,800.

Janet Finch-Saunders AM said: “While I appreciate legal counsel will inevitably have to be sought by the Welsh Government from time to time, the Counsel General, the Welsh Government’s chief legal adviser, has acknowledged the legal services department is responsible for the delivery of all legal services to the Welsh Government, and the team does have a vast amount of expertise.

“When considering the tax payer funded team’s capability, I am surprised around £1.5million has been spent on outside barristers during the last three financial years.

“Frustratingly, despite the Counsel General giving me assurances that judgment on when to instruct counsel is very carefully taken, it is extremely difficult to be sure that this astronomical expenditure represents value for money. This is because details of instructions are protected by legal professional privilege.”

She added: “Certainly, I am not opposed to the Welsh Government seeking advice from barristers on complex legal matters, but the fact millions of tax payers’ pounds are being spent on a service we are restricted from knowing much about, really does rub salt into a serious wound. This is one that has recently come to the fore as part of cases which have seen communities and elected members take matters to the planning inspectorate, and found that there was no Welsh Government support to help with the cost of legal representation.

“Going forward, I will continue to scrutinise the Counsel General so to ensure that there is no further increase in the average annual expenditure of £481,000 on barristers”.