Welsh officials are defending a program that spends taxpayer money on free tattoo-design classes, saying they are “carefully structured to help people develop confidence.”
“The ‘design your own tattoo’ session should not be taken at face value, as it is carefully structured to help people develop confidence and important skills,” a spokesman for the Bridgend council, which is hosting the class, said in an interview with the Guardian.
The confidence-building tattoo class is definitely ridiculous — but no more so than many of the country’s other job-creation efforts.
In fact, the class is just one part of a £75 million ($126 million) government program called ”Communities First,” intended to “narrow the economic, education/skills and health gaps between our most deprived and more affluent areas,” and Bridgend is certainly not the only Welsh city to spend that money questionably.
Ebbw Fawr has used Communities First funding to offer a “Guitar Making Workshop” that is intended to create “aspirations and self-esteem.” Conwy is using it for an “arts and craft funding and development clinic.” Denbighshire is spending it on something it calls “Step-Up Bus,” which has perhaps the most vague non-description ever: an “information service that works to inform, involve, engage and empower the local community.” What?
Even worse, Communities First is just one small piece of the country’s large problem.
Andy Silvester, a spokesperson for TaxPayers’ Alliance, an independent British grassroots campaign for lower taxes, tells National Review Online that it is common for Wales to “come up with schemes with bizarre names and [leave] the fundamentals of the economy lagging.”
“Wales has ‘invested’ huge amounts of cash into various flagship schemes . . . but remains dramatically behind the rest of the UK,” he says in an e-mail. “It’s exhibit A that throwing money at things doesn’t work.”
Last July, the BBC reported that £1.2m ($2 million) in taxpayer funds were spent on a Welsh folk-music center that was supposed to create 19 jobs but wound up having two employees — who worked only part-time.
That same month, the 2008 European-funded program “Genesis Cymru Wales 2” had to close early because it was such a disaster. It was intended to help 20,000 Welsh people get jobs by 2014. By the end of the program, only 789 of its participants were working 16 or more hours per week — and each one of those jobs had cost £44,735 ($75,107.38) — £31,735 ($53,268.78) more per job than the government had estimated in 2008.
Communities First has funding through March 2015.
— Katherine Timpf is a reporter at National Review Online.