Wales Audit Office

Feb 252015
 

After my previous post, Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, I have been giving more thought to the subject, and doing a little digging; which has led to a disturbing possibility presenting itself. By which I mean that someone, perhaps even someone local to Swansea Bay, is trying to sabotage this project for their own selfish reasons.

Treading carefully, I have decided to present this post as a combination of incontestable facts, presented as FACT: and limited to the paragraph in bold type following, interspersed with paragraphs containing deductions, assumptions or informed guesswork, before concluding with a reasonable hypothesis extrapolated from what has gone before.

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FACT: The past week or so has seen a number of stories in the media unfavourable to the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project. The first appeared in The Telegraph on February 15th, written by Energy Editor, Emily Gosden, and repeated in the Western Mail and WalesOnline on February 17th, about Cornish villagers up in arms over plans to quarry granite for shipping to Swansea Bay. Ms Gosden was at it again on February 21st, attacking on another front with this report arguing that the electricity generated by the tidal lagoon would be hideously expensive. This piece used as its source a submission produced by Citizens Advice.

So we see negative attention suddenly being paid to the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon. The really damaging attack of course came from Citizens Advice.

FACT: Those familiar with recent goings-on in Wales will recall that there was a plan to throw a massive barrage across the Severn Sea from Penarth to Weston-super-Mare. The company behind this project is, or was (it may be in liquidation), Hafren Power. A number of its leading figures left, the former chief executive to form Severn Tidal Energy.

Hain Spanglefish

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FACT: The leading political backer of the Severn Barrage project was, and remains, Peter Hain, Labour MP for Neath. In fact, Hain resigned from the shadow cabinet in May 2012 to concentrate on promoting the project. In June 2013 the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee killed off the barrage proposal with a very critical report. Mr Hain attributed the rejection of his project to the influence of Bristol Port, one of whose owners, David Ord, was a substantial donor to the Conservative Party.

The Spanglefish website devoted to Peter Hain (from which the panel above is extracted) suggests that Hain hopes to resurrect the barrage project when there is a Labour government in Westminster. There is of course a general election in May. The website also suggests that ‘Welsh’ Labour is backing the barrage project.

FACT: In a WalesOnline article from September 2013, linked to above, and again here, “Mr Hain said that while he was convinced the project has no future at present, he hoped it could be resurrected under a future Labour Government.” While this article, from just last month, reported, “He (Hain) remains hopeful that the stalled Severn Barrage project, potentially creating tens of thousands of jobs, could be resurrected”.

Haywod Linkedin

LINKEDIN PROFILE (Click to enlarge)

FACT: The CEO of Citizens Advice is Gillian Guy, who is also chair of the Audit Committee of the National Audit Office.

FACT: Dr Elizabeth Haywood, aka Mrs Peter Hain, and another backer of the barrage project, was on the Remuneration Committee of the Wales Audit Office from July 2011 to March 2014. Since January of this year she has had a personal interest in electricity matters by becoming a non-executive director of Scottish Power Energy Networks Holdings Ltd.

Severn barrage

THE ONCE AND FUTURE SEVERN BARRAGE?

Given that the Wales Audit Office is probably no more independent of the National Audit Office in London than the ‘Welsh’ Government is of Westminster it is entirely reasonable to assume that Dr Haywood of Hafren Power and Gillian Guy of Citizens Advice are known to each other. And would be known to each other even if I’m being unduly cynical about the relationship between the two bodies. (For cynicism is not in my nature!)

FACT: Peter Hain and Elizabeth Haywood are both committed to the Severn barrage project. Additionally, Peter Hain has publicly voiced his opposition to the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon.

If the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon goes ahead, and is successful, others will be built. This will almost certainly be the final nail in the coffin of any Severn barrage, or any other major tidal barrage anywhere under the jurisdiction of the Westminster government. It seems to be a case of either / or but not both.

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The Severn Barrage project never went away, it has been lying dormant (much like the company behind it, Hafren Power). A cynic – something I’ve already made clear (if only parenthetically), I am not – might interpret the above information thus:

There are two very good reasons for supporters of the Severn Barrage to attack the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project at this time. First, they are hoping for a Labour victory on May 7th, so in anticipation of that, now is a good time to ‘resurrect’ their project, as has always been the intention. Further, the rival tidal lagoon project is currently at the critical stage of waiting for the Planning Inspectorate to recommend acceptance or refusal to the UK government, after which there is a further three-month period during which the UK government must say yea or nay. So why not kill two birds with one stone by trying to influence the decisions of the Planning Inspectorate and the outgoing UK government, while also reminding a Labour government-in-waiting of the economic bounty that could be lavished by a Severn barrage? And doesn’t it tie in well with all the recent talk of a Cardiff – Bristol city region (with poor old Newport as the spread in the sandwich).

Hain barrage

HAIN QUOTED IN ARTICLE (BY MARTIN SHIPTON) IN WALESONLINE JANUARY 21, 2015

The barrage is said to have, or possibly had, powerful supporters, among them, Tony Blair, Rhodri Morgan and the Notional Assembly. And of course, the Western Mail / WalesOnline, which will support anything that has Labour backing. Making this the ideal time for ‘Welsh’ Labour to clear up the confusion over whether a motion supporting the barrage was passed in the 2014 conference, as is suggested by the Peter Hain tweet below from March 29, 2014. (For some reason I’m blocked from Hain’s Twitter account!) The current briefing against the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon also provides ‘Welsh’ Labour with an opportunity to make clear its position on the project. The same opportunity naturally extends to the Labour MPs and AMs around Swansea Bay . . . though of course we already know where Peter Hain stands.

Hain Labour tweet

PETER HAIN TWEET FROM MARCH 29, 2014. (SUPPLIED BY ‘STAN’)

FACT: Peter Hain and Elizabeth Haywood obviously have considerable experience and contacts in business and politics; in addition, they have a company, Haywood Hain LLP, that specialises in ‘Media and Political Communications’.

I fear there may be more to the recent attacks on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project than concern for the tranquility of a Cornish village, or a commendable regard for electricity consumers being ripped off. Big money is at stake, and – speaking for our hypothetical cynic – it could be that certain persons of influence are trying to kill off a very worthwhile and beneficial project for the Swansea Bay region.

Any further information to admin@jacothenorth.net

UPDATE 26.02.2015: As predicted above, Peter Hain has used the report produced by his wife’s former colleague to rubbish the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon and promote the Lazarus Severn barrage in this piece. I know none of us think much of Llais y Sais, but does it have to be so predictably obsequious and revolting!

Feb 182015
 
Cash cow 1

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The ‘milking’ referred to is done by the Third Sector, that demi-monde wherein dwell ‘Welsh’ Labour’s kept women (and a few men), serving no purpose beyond diverting public money from better use and performing all manner of despicable acts for those who own them. Perhaps it was ever thus, but since the arrival of devolution, and the recognition by our continental cousins of our relative poverty, what had once been a cottage industry of home-grown Labour nepotism and corruption has expanded into a pseudo-economy.

A few years back I started looking into the Third Sector and its relationship with ‘Welsh’ Labour, and in that time certain features have become obvious. Chief among them, that we now have a whole sector of Welsh life dependent upon Labour Party patronage in the form of funding and preferment, which those belonging to this sector repay by promoting the Labour message and by attacking Labour’s political opponents. This client class has become the Japanese knotweed of Welsh life – invasive, destructive, of no use to anyone (other than Labour), and damaging to the wider environment. We should be rooting it out, but it won’t be done because ‘Welsh’ Labour, losing support among the native electorate, is becoming ever more dependent on this monster it has introduced.

One obvious manifestation of Labour losing support is its inability to recruit decent Welsh candidates. It was this problem that led to the recent fiasco in Swansea when the ‘local’ Labour Party was eventually taken over by people who were strangers to the city. Resulting in the embarrassment of Il Duce Phillips and the student councillors, with their sybaritic lifestyles and complete ignorance of the city they were supposed to be running. A self-inflicted wound caused by Labour offering free party membership to students in Swansea University. Yes, that’s how bad it has become for Labour. Something else illustrated by this episode is Labour’s worrying links with certain trade unions, the National Union of Students being one, but another worthy of mention is Unison.

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Now when I were nobutalad – a long time ago I know – trade unions were taken seriously by working class men such as those among whom I grew up. They elected their union representatives, they knew them, and if there was any issue that needed to be discussed then they could have it out with them, at union meetings or even down the pub or club. It was the trade unions, more than anything else, including the Labour Party, that defended their interests. All that is gone. After countless mergers and a dramatic fall in union membership we are left with a few big unions run by professional union officials, mirroring the professional politicians, all equally divorced from real life.Dawn Bowden

As mentioned, one such union is Unison, and one of its full-time officials is Dawn Bowden of Bristol Cardiff, who is tipped to become Labour’s candidate for Caerffili or Islwyn (depending on whether there’s a gender fix) in next year’s elections to the Notional Assembly. Quite how long she’s lived in Wales is uncertain, but she’s loyal to the Labour Party and belongs to that union which is almost ‘Welsh’ Labour by Eaglestoneanother name, so that’s her elevation assured.

Her Twitter account says that she is married to @Carrageryr, so who might that be? Well, it’s another Labour Party star named Martin Eaglestone, perennial Labour loser in Arfon. (Eaglestone, Carrageryr, geddit?) Though in past elections he was living with his wife and five children in Y Felinheli. (I blame all these conferences they go to, and the drinking.) Eaglestone’s Linkedin profile describes him as, “Welsh Policy Officer at Labour Party – Welsh Labour”, whatever that means. He supports West Bromwich Albion while Bowden supports Brizzle City, so neither knows much about football.

I single out Unison because this seems to be the union of choice for many Labour politicians in Wales, even those, like Swansea’s student councillors, who’ve never done a day’s work in their lives. In many ways Unison operates (certainly in Wales) as an adjunct to the Labour Party rather than as a trade union in the traditional sense. Maybe Labour’s political opponents should have a new slogan – ‘Vote Labour, get Unison!’. Though the problem is also found in England, with other unions.

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Returning to the Third Sector, in my delvings a number of things have become apparent, but one that I feel needs to be highlighted is the practice of publicly-funded bodies setting up wholly-owned subsidiaries, for reasons that are not entirely clear, or may even be of dubious probity.

In recent posts I have looked at Canoe Wales, and the extraordinary level of funding that body receives from Sport Wales, £378,000+ in the current financial year alone (see panel below). Yet Canoe Wales has two subsidiaries, C W Sales and Services Ltd and Canoe Wales (Commercial) Ltd. The first of these subsidiaries runs the adult playground at Frongoch, near Bala, while the other is dormant. The representative of Canoe Wales that I spoke with assured me that Canoe Wales’s finances would soon start to improve, and I’m sure he’s right, for seeing as the running of the Frongoch Centre has passed to the subsidiary and Canoe Wales is so well funded it would be strange if Canoe Wales’s books didn’t begin to look healthier. The Canoe Wales representative also told me that his organisation had passed all the auditor’s checks. Which, again, I don’t doubt; but I guarantee that the Wales Audit Office does not look into subsidiaries, for the very simple reason that these do not – directly – receive any public funding.

consolidated accounts

Allowing publicly-funded bodies to form subsidiaries creates the temptation for an organisation to transfer ‘bad news’ to a subsidiary, safe in the knowledge that the WAO will not investigate the subsidiary. I’m not for one minute suggesting that this is what has recently happened with Canoe Wales, but C W Sales and Services Ltd is not in a healthy financial state. If C W Sales and Services Ltd did not exist then its indebtedness of £76,798 would be shown against Canoe Wales, and would be picked up by auditors.

That said, it could be that funders are aware of such arrangements. Staying with Canoe Wales, its accounts for year ending March 31 2013 state that “As at 1st April 2013, commercial trading activities and the operation of the White Water Centre at Canolfan Tryweryn were transferred to C W Sales and Services Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary.” Yet despite this burden being lifted Canoe Wales’ funding from Sport Sport Wales fundingWales leapt from £266,000 in 2012/13 to £378,000 in 2013/14 and 2014/15 (click to enlarge). How do we explain this unless Sport Wales is aware of, and approves the use of, a subsidiary that may be beyond the remit of the Wales Audit Office and will – as the clip above reveals – not be mentioned in future Canoe Wales accounts?

As I say, it’s a phenomenon I have observed regularly in my investigation of how public funding is dished out in Wales. Here’s another example, with a further twist. This example is Carmarthenshire Heritage Regeneration Trust / Ymddiriedolaeth Adfywio Treftadaeth Sir Gaerfyrddin, according to its website, but Ymddiriedolaeth Atgyfnerthu Treftadaeth Sir Gaerfyrddin on the websites of both the Charity Commission and Companies House. Confusing. Maybe deliberately so. Is this a laudable use of yr hen iaith or an attempt to hinder investigation into a body universally known as the Carmarthenshire Heritage Regeneration Trust?

Either way, the Trust has a subsidiary, deep in the red, called CHRT Ventures Ltd. Now for the ‘twist’ I referred to earlier. The chief executive of the Trust is Claire Deacon, and the Trust’s 2012 accounts say this:  “During the year, Ymddiriedolaeth Atgyfnerthu Treftadaeath Sir Gar (CHRT) employed the services of Ms Claire Deacon, CEO, a historic building consultant. The total expenses paid by CHRT for consultancy was £59,159 (2012: £41,873). At the year end, CHRT owed Ms Claire Deacon £9,436 (2012: £3,386). This balance is included in trade creditors”. How the hell can an employee suddenly declare herself a consultant to the body she works for and then demand more than she would have been paid in salary? The full story of Ymddiriedolaeth Atgyfnerthu Treftadaeth Sir Gaerfyrddin, and more, can be found here

Here’s another example, this one from the fleece jacket sector. The issue of public funding and subsidiaries, with the added problem of Welsh public funding seeping across the border, even extends into academe, as this post explains. And how could anyone forget Naz Malik and Awema? Let us remember that the Malik family was staunch Labour, with father and son hoping to be Labour candidates. To help their cause Naz Malik would regularly sing for his supper by proclaiming against ‘racist (Welsh) nationalists’. And what the hell is happening at the YMCA? Then there’s housing associations. We are told by the ‘Welsh’ Government that 22 local authorities is far too many, too expensive, and so there must be ‘streamlining’ – so why is that same ‘Welsh’ Government funding dozens and dozens of housing associations that compete with each and duplicate each other’s work? The answer is that housing associations are stuffed with Labour supporters (and future candidates). Read about it here.

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There are countless other examples of Third Sector bodies, publicly-funded agencies, etc., ‘diversifying’, or setting up subsidiaries and ‘trading arms’ into which ’embarrassments’ can be diverted, beyond the scope of auditors mandated only to check the recipient body itself. Though what happens if one of these subsidiaries actually makes a profit, will the profit be declared to the funding body?

This loophole is known to those disbursing the funding and is almost certainly familiar to those entrusted with ensuring that the funding can be properly accounted for. Which raises the question, why is this loophole not closed? The suspicion must be that it’s left Eaglestone Linkedinopen in order to help hide some of the public funding being wasted by the Third Sector. Because to expose this waste would damage both the Third Sector and the Labour Party, and they need each other, their fortunes and their futures are intertwined.

We have on our hands a sick man called the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party or, if we go by Eaglestone’s Linkedin profile, “Labour Party – Welsh Labour”. (Perhaps the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party is as much a fiction as the ‘Wales Green Party’.) This party is no longer able to find decent candidates from within the nation so it has to rely on recruiting officials imported by its trade union partners and those who have swarmed here to make careers for themselves out of celebrating and exaggerating Wales’ deprivation in order to get their sweaty paws on the money that has been given to alleviate that deprivation.

The Labour Party, with all its hangers-on and cronies, is suffocating Wales. Unpatriotic, anti-initiative, increasingly dependent for its survival on people who don’t know Wales and don’t care about Wales, it can only maintain its position because there is no other party electors find more attractive. Which is why I repeat that Plaid Cymru has fifteen months (the General Election of May 2015 and the Assembly elections of May 2016) to prove that it can mount a serious challenge to Labour; if it fails, yet again, then we must have a new nationalist party, a party that puts Wales and Welsh people first, rather than one that constantly exposes its weaknesses and lack of ambition by looking to do deals with anti-Welsh parties. Fifteen months.