Last month I wrote a couple of pieces about Canoe Wales and the National White Water Centre on Afon Tryweryn at Frongoch, near Bala. First here and then with the follow-up here. Unfortunately, while writing these pieces Companies House had not made the most recent accounts available to the general public. Though I was assured by the affable and helpful Mark Williamson – who phoned me after the publication of the first piece – that the latest accounts for Canoe Wales would show an improvement. For he had been brought in for that very purpose. And someone was certainly needed, because Canoe Wales was shedding auditors at an alarming rate and the most recent to depart had expressed concerns as to whether CW was a viable concern.
Talking of the National White Water Centre, Mr Williamson stressed that this venue now has nothing to do with Canoe Wales; a company called C W Sales and Services Ltd runs the Centre, which seems to be little more than an outdoor playground for adults, offering rafting, quad bike off-roading, clay pigeon shooting, bungee jumping and similar activities. While Canoe Wales goes back to 1990, C W Sales and Services was Incorporated as recently as November 7, 2012 . . . and is wholly owned by Canoe Wales.
So, now that I’ve got the latest (abbreviated) accounts, what do they show? For Canoe Wales, the parent company, the picture does indeed look a little brighter . . . but only a little. Net assets, which stood at -£22,950 on March 31, 2013, had improved to -£20,313 on March 31, 2014. Perhaps the figure would have been worse had it not been for two of the directors lending Canoe Wales £55,000. Though this may be explained by not taking out money owed rather than by putting money in. (Diolch, Dewi.) The March 31, 2014 accounts for C W Sales and Services Ltd show net assets of -£76,798 (there is of course no previous figure), which means that Canoe Wales’s net assets should be read as -£97,111, though Canoe Wales chose not to do this.
As that extract from the accounts puts it, “the parent of a group”, for there is yet another ‘child’, Canoe Wales (Commercial) Ltd. This company was also formed in November 2012, and the accounts for year ending March 31, 2014 shown it as a dormant company with a share issue of £1. It, too, is wholly owned by Canoe Wales. I suppose the question has to be, why form another company in addition to Canoe Wales and C W Sales and Services Ltd; what role is envisioned for Canoe Wales (Commercial) Ltd? Canoe Wales and its two subsidiaries have their addresses as ‘Canolfan Tryweryn Frongoch’. Canoe Wales (Commercial) Ltd and C W Sales and Services Ltd each have just two directors, David William Wakeling and Andrew Jeremy Booth, both of whom are also directors of Canoe Wales.
While the reason for setting up Canoe Wales (Commercial) Ltd may be unknown, it could be that C W Sales and Services Ltd was set up to run the White Water Centre because it would be difficult to justify using Welsh public funding to subsidise an IT department from Birmingham having an alcohol-fuelled weekend of farting about in the Welsh countryside.
Which brings me to the issue of public funding, for at the time of writing the original pieces I had yet to receive a reply from Sport Wales to my Freedom of Information request. I now have those figures, see below. You will note that between 2009/10 and 2014 /15 the Sport Wales grant to Canoe Wales rose from £247,500 to £378,000. Or to put it another way, during the worst financial crisis in living memory, when Wales is experiencing cutbacks across the board, someone saw fit to increase funding to a bunch of paddlers by some 53%! How did no Welsh politician pick up on this?
So what is the justification for this extravagance? Because we can be sure that this funding creates very few (if any) jobs for Welsh people. And why is Sport Wales putting so much money into canoeing while cutting back funding on grass-roots sport with much more Welsh participation? Especially when we know that canoeing attracts some very unsavoury colonialist types who go out of their way to seek confrontation with Welsh anglers by demanding unrestricted access to all Welsh rivers and lakes?
And here’s a question for the ‘Welsh’ Government. How can you justify bumping up, year on year, funding for an activity offering little tangible benefit to the people you claim to represent – and nothing they couldn’t do without until economic conditions improve – while cutting back on funding for food banks? What order of priorities does this exhibit? Or is it ‘window-dressing’, an attempt to hide the truth of contemporary Wales? Then there’s the funding cut to young Welsh farmers, yet another attack on our farming community . . . to clear the land for the fleece jacket invaders such as those attaching to Canoe Wales?
So many questions about canoeing in Wales. Time, surely, for our politicians to insist on answers to a few pertinent questions: 1. Which outfit is responsible for which debts, and will publicly-funded Canoe Wales pick up the tab if the Frongoch Centre – run by its subsidiary, C W Sales and Services Ltd – sinks? 2. What is the point or purpose of Canoe Wales (Commercial) Ltd? 3. Given that so much public money is involved is anyone concerned that ‘parent’ and subsidiaries are run by the same two men? 4. For an organisation in receipt of public funding on this scale to be in debt to the tune of almost £100,000 is very worrying, so who is monitoring the situation on our behalf? 5. Finally, and fundamentally, how can anyone justify giving £378,000 a year to Canoe Wales?
UPDATE 14.02.2015: Something else I should have mentioned is the sinking of a previous subsidiary, Rescue 3 (UK) Ltd, written off in the 2013 accounts for £50,000, which may or may not account for the ‘loans’. Though ‘written off investments’ in the 2013 accounts totalled £69,742, the remainder described as ‘intercompany balance’.