Jan 132015
 

Some of you may recall that I recently put out a message on social media asking if anyone had any information on the National White Water Centre on Afon Tryweryn, at Frongoch, near Bala. (Two names there resonant of England’s imperialist past, Tryweryn and Frongoch.)

My reason for asking is that the Centre’s website gives neither Charity Commission number nor Company number; there is no indication of how the centre is run, for not a single individual’s name Cofiwch_Drywerynappears on the website for management, staff, trustees, or anyone else. I searched both the Companies House website and the Charity Commission website but could find nothing for the National White Water Centre. Then I noticed that the e-mail address is info@ukrafting.co.uk so I searched for ‘UK Rafting’, but I drew another blank. (Interestingly, the Centre’s website address is ukrafting.co.uk.) The only conclusion I could draw was that there is a third entity, other than UK Rafting and the National White Water Centre involved, which is nowhere named on the website.

So on Monday morning, bright and early, before driving the missus to work (car not whip), I e-mailed the Centre asking four questions:

1/ You are called the ‘National White Water Centre’. Is that the ‘Wales / Welsh National White Water Centre’, the ‘UK National White Water Centre’ or the ‘England / English National White Water Centre’?

2/ No management is listed, nor is there any mention of trustees, so how is your Centre run?

3/ Are you registered with the Charity Commission, if so, what is your number? Are you registered with Companies House, if so, what is your number?

4/ How are you funded?

Within a few hours I received a telephone call from a suspicious Scotsman named Mark Williamson who apparently works at the Centre but was phoning me from somewhere in “south Wales”. In answer to my e-mailed questions he was able to tell me that the Centre is not a charity but a commercial enterprise, run by “C W Sales and Services”. When I asked what C W stood for, he told me Canoe Wales. So the Centre, on Afon Tryweryn, would appear to be a commercial arm of Canoe Wales. Yet on the Canoe Wales website I could find no mention of the Bala Centre until I used the search facility, and this page came up. On funding. Mr Williamson was rather vague, and when it came to which nation the ‘National’ element in the name refers to, even vaguer. Saying that when the Centre opened (in 1986) it was the only one of its kind in the UK, so presumably it is the UK National White Water Centre.

*

So, by Monday afternoon, I had something to get my teeth into, C W Sales and Services. The Companies House website told me that this PLC was Incorporated 06.11.2012 and its Company Number is 08282630. On the Companies House website I also found, Canoe Wales (Incorporated 09.03.1990, Co. No. 02478971) and Canoe Wales (Commercial) Ltd (Incorporated 02.11.2012, Co. No. 08278776). All three have their registered office at ‘Canolfan Tryweryn, Frongoch, Bala, Gwynedd LL23 7NU’.

Next stop was DueDil for financial and other information that I might have to pay for on the Companies House website. First, CW Sales and Services Ltd., to which Mr Williamson had directed me. Without getting bogged down in figures, the company is not healthy with, at 30.03.2014, net current liabilities of £164,131. The current directors are David William Wakeling and Andrew Jeremy Booth, and the company is wholly owned by Canoe Wales.

Moving on to Canoe Wales itself,CW Turnover the accounts are overdue at Companies House but the most recent figures, at 31.03.2013, show net worth at £199,786, down from a high of £542,036 at 31.03.2008. (The net worth may in part be attributable to property or land as Canoe Wales has two outstanding mortgages.) The current directors are David William Wakeling, Glyn Royston Stickler, Alan John Baker, Emma Aldridge, Andrew Jeremy Booth and Paul Donovan. (More info available here.)

The most recent filed accounts confirm what Mr Williamson told me, “As at 1st April 2013, commercial trading activities and the operation of the white water centre at Canolfan Tryweryn were transferred to CW Sales and Services Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary”. The accounts also showed that two of the directors had made loans to Canoe Wales, David Wakeling £45,000 and Emma Aldridge £10,000. “Government grants” amounted to £222,736. Despite the white water canoeing and the educational angles promoted on the website and elsewhere the accounts show that the largest source of income is “rafting”, which I suspect is little more than stag parties, supermarket middle management on beery ‘bonding’ courses, and Islamist terrorists having fun, which makes the White Water Centre at Frongoch little more than another insulting ‘Playground Wales’ tourist business. The SW of course refers to Sport Wales, public money, yours and mine. (Click on panel above to Canoe Wales adverse reportenlarge.) The DueDil pages for Canoe Wales also suggest there is an adverse credit report available. I don’t feel the need to pay the £11.99 requested to tell me that Canoe Wales is heading up Shit Creek.

Finally, Canoe Wales (Commercial) Ltd. The only directors are Wakeling and Booth and the company is 100% owned by Canoe Wales. I was unable to get financial figures as, according to DueDil, the company did not trade during year ending 31.03.2013 and the most recent accounts, for y/e 31.03.2014, are still being processed.

When looking through the information on Canoe Wales I noticed that there was another company mentioned as being part of the group. This was Rescue 3 (UK) Ltd, Registered at a Manchester address with the Company Number 04613689 and Incorporated 10.12.2002. The directors at the time the liquidators were appointed in August 2013 were Paul Eamon O’Sullivan, Philip Blain, David William Wakeling and Ashley James Charlwood. Familiar names such as Baker, Aldridge and Stickler abandoned the sinking canoe 31.03.2013. The lack of white water facilities in Manchester meant that Rescue 3 (UK) Ltd took advantage of the Frongoch Centre and other facilities in Wales. The company’s website is closed but the company almost certainly had some connection with Rescue 3 Europe. The folded company had a share issue of 50,000 £1 shares and was wholly owned by Canoe Wales, which obviously took the hit when Rescue 3 (UK) Ltd folded. Explained in the CW accounts thus (click to enlarge):

Rescue 3

Let’s recap. Canoe Wales started life in 1990 as the Welsh Canoeing Association, explained here in the Document of Incorporation. Its purpose to represent canoeists in Wales. Though I couldn’t help noticing that this first document lists among its objects: “To act as the Association governing the sport and recreation of canoeing in Wales on behalf of the British Canoe Union. How often have we read something like that? Then, at a meeting held on October 5th 1996, at the Welsh Institute of Sport in Cardiff, it was decided that henceforth the Management Council would be known as the Board of Directors with Council Members becoming Directors and all the other attendant changes. (Click here for details.) The Chairman at this meeting, also the Chairman of the Association, was a Mark Charlton. Blain was elected Vice-Chairman and Wakeling Treasurer. I suspect that the name was changed to Canoe Wales in November 2008. One question someone may be able to answer is, if the Welsh Canoeing Association wasn’t formed until 1990 who opened the White Water Centre at Frongoch in 1986?

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What we have with Canoe Wales is a model I have encountered many times before. To begin with, there is the parent body, all fluffy and lovable, doing wonderful things with kiddies, the disabled and the disadvantaged, run by frightfully nice people with silly names and rings in assorted orifices. This set-up relies for its very existence on hefty dollops of public funding, for Wales is a wealthy country with money to spare. Problems start when those running these Third Sector outfits see themselves as entrepreneurs (a word for which there is no equivalent in Welsh, by the way), and they set up ‘trading arms’ and branch out in other ways. A good example would be the one and only Naz Malik, who was not only operating in Wales but also, as this Charity Commission page tellAWEMA Charity Commissions us (click to enlarge), in Kenya and Pakistan! Why was he allowed to operate outside of Wales with Welsh public funding? Was I the only one to notice this? But as I say, it doesn’t really matter because Wales is so wealthy.

The status of these offshoots can vary. Some will be wholly owned by the parent company, others will be free-standing private companies, with any profits going to the directors who, in a parallel dimension, are also the officials of the publicly-funded body. These private offshoots will invariably use facilities and equipment owned by the parent body and paid for out of the public purse. I was introduced to this angle a couple of years ago when told about a women’s ethnic minority charity in Cardiff, I believe the name began with the letter B. The problem was that the husband of the woman running the show had a private company doing very similar work, and they saw no problem in him using the equipment and facilities of the charity that had been bought with grants from the ‘Welsh’ Government and other sources. But they were both well connected in the Labour Party and so nothing was done about it. In fact, the husband was ‘promoted’ to run another charity in the Valleys.

The next problem encountered is entirely predictable. It invariably transpires that our Third Sector grant-grabbers are not the next Richard Branson (unless they’re replicating Beardie’s success in space tourism). This results in spin-offs hitting the rocks, with considerable sums of money having to be written off, as in the case of Resue 3 (UK) Ltd. So who covers these losses? Are they paid for out of grants to the parent body? Perhaps the bigger question is, who keeps track on behalf of the funders of where the money goes, and how it’s used, especially when the body to which the grant is given has spawned a number of offshoots that do not themselves qualify for grants? The question is partly rhetorical, because I am one hundred per cent certain that there have been many examples of funding being misused in this way. But as with Malik’s ‘Today Swansea, tomorrow the world’ approach, no one seems to care. It would be too embarrassing for those giving out the grants to have all these cases exposed.

Something else I noticed while wading through the Canoe Wales paperwork is that they’ve changed their auditors four times, or rather, the auditors have resigned. It happened in 1999, 2002, 2013 and 2014. It may be nothing, but losing two auditors in the past couple of years may suggest something more than carelessness. Were I a funder I would certainly be asking questions.

In conclusion, I suspect that Canoe Wales is breaking up on the rocks of mismanagement and over-ambition, kept afloat only with public funding (and loans from the directors!). This funding from Sport Wales is presumably given because it’s believed Canoe Wales fulfils some educational or other worthy role. But as the accounts make clear, the bulk of the punters come for the fun and games of rafting (as the website URL suggests) – so why are large amounts of Welsh public funding being used to keep open a water ride for drunken jollying that probably employs no Welsh people and lies so close to Capel Celyn? Insult piled upon insult. Canoe Wales is an expensive failure that should not receive another penny from the Welsh public purse. Pull the plug!

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FOOTNOTE: One reason I enjoy doing posts like this is that once you start digging there’s just no telling what you’ll unearth. This case being a perfect example. For when I started digging into the background of David Wakeling, to find out what his day job was, and how he could afford to loan Canoe Wales £45,000, I discovered that he owns Toucan Systems of Abertillery, Company No 02068869, which manufactures high-spec electroPippa Bartolottinic components. Another director is Mark Williamson, the Scotsman I spoke with on the telephone. Mr Williamson is also a director of Beaufort Tenants Management Ltd of Monmouth, Company No 02847525. So was Williamson recruited into Toucan because Wakeling knew him through Canoe Wales, or vice versa?

Perhaps even more interesting was another name on Toucan’s list of previous directors (April 2001 – May 2003) – a Ms Pippa Bartolotti, self-styled leader of the equally self-styled ‘Wales Green Party’. What a small world! Some Greens suggest that Ms Bartolotti is not what she seems, that she is persona grata with the Israeli authorities and that she has been involved with companies connected with the military. Toucan is such a company. The woeful ‘protests’ she organised for the NATO summit in Newport last September did nothing to lift the cloud of suspicion hanging over that head of wild, abundant hair.

All of which raises the possibility that Canoe Wales is indeed a dead duck financially, but is being kept open for reasons that cannot be stated.

  21 Responses to “White Water Up Shit Creek”

  1.  

    2 issues here to start with :

    1.In your numbers above , roughly 50% of the said turnover is Sport Wales “aid”in some shape or form, without which this activity would be well and truly sunk. What the numbers do not disclose is how much additional aid is obtained possibly in the form of free issue maintenance of the river, its access points etc possibly from Dwr Cymru ( oh this is Severn Trent or United Utilities isn’t it ? ) or worse still from the local authority ( Gwynedd ! ) who might in turn get yet another dollop from Sport Wales to help things along. Is the cost base adequately disclosed ? or are there other channels that have soaked away funds over the last 15-20 years ?

    2.Apart from poor governance by those named above there is evidently a history of poor supervision by Sport Wales now chaired by that pillar of inclusive behaviours, Ms/Prof Macalister of Plaid. Now heaven forbid, you are not likely to see that lot come over all draconian in enforcing a bit of financial self discipline on any of the activities it has chosen to foster unless it becomes politically correct to do so

    Finally I happen to like canoeing, kayaking etc and generally would encourage people engaging in these types of outdoor activities. However those people who organise them need to get a grip and stop abusing public funding as a way for making up for their deficiencies in commercial viability.

    •  

      Are you surprised by the amount generated by ‘rafting’ and what exactly would this cover? Why do you think Sport Wales give so much for ‘coaching’ yet the Centre itself generates so little from that source? Are you thinking of anything in particular with your reference to “other channels that have soaked away funds over the last 15-20 years”?

      •  

        Jac I stand corrected.
        My eyesight can’t have been functioning properly earlier as I thought the 554k figure represented total inflows of funds whereas it is the biggest single line on the account. Well bully for them they seem to have hit around the 1 million mark on total revenues yet still manage to screw up – evn bloody worse than I first thought.

        Rafting ? – well I had some knowledge that Tryweryn was highly regarded by the canoe/kayak set but where rafting comes in I do not have a clue. That type of water does not lend itself to rafting unless it’s just used for “shooting rapids ” or some similar activity ? Or a false flag activity only undertaken under cover of darkness by blokes in camoflage !!

        On the coaching revenues it strikes me that they could be “giving away” coaching at a minimal rate because the Sports Wales funding covers it – typical “something for nothing” mindset !

        My question re …. “Is the cost base adequately disclosed ? or are there other channels that have soaked away funds over the last 15-20 years ?” occured to me quite simply because normally that’s where the real stinky stuff comes to the surface or where “clever guys” do their best to hide it ! You obviously have access to these accounts and there are probably several lines of costs which add up to give a costs total in excess of revenues which yields up the trading loss.

        Now this is perfectly admissible insofar as businesses may from time to time make losses but any grant aiding body, in this case Sports Wales, has an obligation to ensure on going viability, that the thing will at least stay afloat with the grant aid in the short term and break even or make a surplus as it matures.

        So my question quite simply is what do those cost/expense lines contain ? Is there good reason to believe that services to the Canoe Club have been grossly overpriced ? Is there transfer pricing going on which serves to take revenue from 1 body to another at unfair rates ? Good audit practice should expose and question this kind of stuff but it seems that the auditors are on a revolving door basis at Canoe Wales !

        Plot thickens !

        •  

          A lot to think about here, but as you say, this water does not lend itself to rafting, certainly not for amateurs out for a laugh, so how do we explain the big income figure? Is it taking place elsewhere? Llyn Celyn?

          Canoe Wales is now on its third auditor in less than two years, which should be of concern to anybody involved with CW, especially anyone putting money in, or otherwise subsidising the Centre.

          •  

            Tons of rafting being sold downstream at Llangollen. Clicked something like “rafting in Wales” on Google and it self corrected to Llangollen ! 2 of them have quite an online presence.
            UK Rafting’s website refers to activity on Tryweryn itself. They say : Contact us on 01678 521083 Email: info@ukrafting.co.uk…………………………..
            the name Canolfan Dwr Gwyn Cenedlaethol is the only Welsh used on their website

            The service menu suggests that rafting is a major slice of the action and displays information regarding appropriate conditions for various activities. Seems like a thriving place – so why does it make a loss ? Maybe the local MP &AM’s should stick their noses into this situation given that SW appear to be blissfully unaware.

  2.  

    Hi Jac,

    Keep up the good detective work. By the way, what is the English word for entrepreneur…?

  3.  

    I have been rafting at this centre many years ago. When the river is high (i.e. when the sluice gates are opened on Llyn Celyn) a track of about 500m is available for rafting. About 6 people go down at a time with an instructor. It is not particularly exciting or dangerous, but if you’ve never done anything like that before it can be fun. I don’t suppose it has any sporting value as such (as a training centre for ‘competitors’), more as you say for team building exercises and stag dos and the like. I think the centre is much more important for kayaking from a (competitive) sporting perspective.

    It would be interesting to know just how much of Wales is ‘owned’ by English organisations/companies whose principal objective is to provide ‘leisure facilities’ for only English people. There are countless hostals/bunk houses/activity centres owned by English public schools, English local authorities and English charities in Gwynedd, many empty for 10 months of the year. Since they get their funding privately or from UK govt sources, none of them are bound by Welsh language laws for example, or have any obligation to provide services to locals. Plas y Brenin is a really interesting case… funded by the English Sports Council I believe, not a word of Welsh in its publications or on its property. It’s simply ‘England in Wales’.

    Personally, I have no problem with Wales providing sports and leisure opportunities to English organisations, but it should be at the right price and subject to the same laws as everyone else in Wales. I wonder whether the new Welsh Council Tax increment for empty and second homes will be fairly applied to the dozens of empty bunk houses across Snowdonia, owned by rich private schools in England and Birmingham City Council Social Services Department?

  4.  

    Does Green Dragon have a response to this? It seems impossible to post any comments/questions.

  5.  

    Is anyone in govt in Cardiff keeping an eye on this? The public deserve to know their cash is being spent wisely.

    •  

      The problem with funders is three-fold. First, they have to get rid of all the money they’ve been allocated otherwise they won’t get so much in future. Second, this inevitably results in money going to people who are going to screw up, either through incompetence or dishonesty, maybe even a combination of the two. Third, the funders then have a vested interest in drawing a veil over these problems because each one reflects badly on them. Consequently many, many cases of public money being wasted or stolen go unreported. This is the system we are stuck with because we don’t have effective oversight and monitoring, which would quickly pay for itself . . . but would be bad news for both politicians and civil servants. The fact that so many cases go unreported is because we lack a genuine and independent media in Wales, other than bloggers like myself. What a bloody system!

  6.  

    Canoe Wales who for years have demanded free, unrestricted access to all inland water in Wales for anyone and everyone, charge kayakers £14 a day to paddle the stretch of the Afon Tryweryn under their control (I believe Welsh Water gifted this bit of river to them but I may be wrong) they also charge customers £3 to park.
    They suspended the fee for a few years while the Assembly were debating access to inland water in Wales to avoid accusations of hypocrisy, but then reinstated it last year.

    Apparently they have received funding of at least £1.4m from Sport Wales for an activity that has less than 3,000 participants. By comparison, up until 2011 grass-roots football in Wales had received just £7,700 from SW.
    For a period SW were paying the wages of Ashley Charlwood who was employed by CW as access development officer, even though his organisation had a policy of refusing to discuss any new access agreements and were telling members and non members alike to ignore existing agreements, that had worked amicably for years between angling clubs and bona-fide local canoe groups.

    Charlwood and CW claimed that canoeists and other outdoor groups like gorge walkers and wild swimmers had de-facto access to all Welsh rivers and streams and were entitled to boat, swim or walk wherever and whenever they wanted without the need for anyone’s permission.

    Canoe Wales also has a hand in running Cardiff International White Water a £13m facility built for paddle sports from public funds.

    http://www.accesscymru.org/index.html

    •  

      The name Charlwood rang a bell, I thought I’d encountered it during my research, so I went back. Here’s Mr Charlwood’s business record:

      Charlwood was born in 1974 and in January 2004, in Aberystwyth, he started Charlwood Consulting. The only other director was his wife. Obviously few people came to consult him because the company was finally struck off in April 2005.

      Next, we find Charlwood at Canoe Wales (Commercial) Ltd. He was a director from Nov 2, 2012 to Nov 6, 2013.

      A few days after joinuing Canoe Wales (Commercial) Ltd he joined CW Sales and Services Ltd and remained a director until November 6th, 2013.

      He was also a director at Rescue 3 (UK) Ltd from March 31, 2013 until it was liquidated on July 30th, 2013. Seeing as Charlwood’s wife is Irish I’m wondering if this explains the company secretary of Rescue 3 (UK) Ltd being Paul Eamon O’Sullivan. Brother?

      Charlwood’s glittering career has continued with Mentrau Bach, based in Dolgellau, from January 27th, 2014 until the present. This seems to be another attempt at consultancy. http://www.mentrau-bach.com/

      Another venture is Hwb Dolgellau C.I.C, where he has been a director since August 15, 2014. I cannot find a website or any info about Hwb Dolgellau. There are two other directors, Sandra Judith Williams and Matthew Donald Ward. The latter would appear to have recently relocated from Hampshire to Corris.

  7.  

    Did you see that TV show about Anglo Nazis last night ? These are the extreme response to the invasion of England ( & rest of Britain ) by all sorts of ethnic groups though the main threat ( to them ) is the Muslim religious/ cultural/ political cluster. What a shower ! yet these are the people so admired by many of the Anglos that decamp to live in Wales – hate peddlers who can’t abide what’s happening in “their country” yet can’t see what they in turn are doing to ours !!

  8.  

    According to various websites including BBC News :

    A woman has been arrested as trustees confirmed that homeless charity Cyrenians Cymru has collapsed.

    It follows the arrest of the head of finance at the Swansea charity in December on suspicion of fraud worth up to £800,000.

    800K ! Please tell us what audit procedures were in use. Presumably the Assembly’s handouts department must have held some sort of oversight responsibility and no doubt some worthy firm of accountants were trousering annual fees for undertaking some sort of (cursory) audit. Doesn’t anyone within spitting distance of public funds actually take any responsibility these days. No doubt we’ll have a few grey suited mincers coming out with the old “lessons are being learned” quips over next few days & weeks.

  9.  

    Entrpreneur = Mentrwr. (Academy dictionary)

Ok, you’ve read what I think, now what do you have to say?