Canoe Wales 3: Paddling One’s Own Canoe. Not

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 credit reportCanoe 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.

consolidated accounts

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?

Sport Wales funding

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’.

19 thoughts on “Canoe Wales 3: Paddling One’s Own Canoe. Not

  1. Brychan

    The claim by Williamson that National White Water Centre has nothing to do with Canoe Wales and a company called C W Sales and Services Ltd runs the centre is a strange claim. The public liability insurance appears to be held by company 02478971 (Canoe Wales), and it is this company that validates staff with the Safeguarding and Protecting Children certification and relevant CRB disclosures. Given the claim is by Williamson, as a director, I suggest the trading standards department of the council immediately attend the Frongoch site, and ensure the relevant insurances and public protection certification is in place. If not, the council should immediately order the cessation of activities.

    1. I don’t think Mark Williamson is a director, he’s not shown on this Current Appointments Report of Feb 12, 2015 When he phoned me he was at pains to clarify that Frongoch has nothing to do with Canoe Wales, which I suspect conducts its activities at Plas Menai and other venues even though Canolfan Frongoch remains its address. He made himself sound like a troubleshooter brought in to sort things out.

      As it says in the Canoe Wales Accounts for y/e March 31, 2013: “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. All associated assets and liabilities connected with the trade were also transferred at that date”. Though Mark Williamson told me that Canoe Wales still has staff on site, at Canolfan Frongoch.

      Something else I should have mentioned (and may do so in an update) is that there was a previous offshoot of Canoe Wales called Rescue 3 (UK) Ltd. This was written off, in the Canoe Wales Accounts, for £50,000 in 2013. This may or may not account for the £55,000 ‘loaned to’ Canoe Wales by two of the directors.

  2. Ap Dyfnallt

    Why don’t you write to Ken Skates (no I’d never heard of him either!!).
    Send him a copy and get him to comment.

  3. dafis

    Oddly enough, or maybe to be expected given the patterns discussed on this site this brief report on Golwg describes a new underground “thrill seeker” activity :

    Atyniad antur danddaearol yn dod i Benmachno – Newyddion – Golwg360

    The correspondence it has attracted thus far is kind of apologetic & accomodating in its tone, with a touch of blaming us Welsh for not coming up with the original ideas. What our fellow Welsh can’t see is that these guys come in with a proposed venture and if it succeeds they pocket the gains ( and WAG PR machine hails success of policy ) , if it fails the losses are taken up by unsecured creditors and WAG who brushes written off grants etc under the rug and the Sais goes off to dream up another scheme/scam to draw down another load of grants either here or elsewhere in UK.

    I would be very pleased if one of these leisure ventures set up and thrived, employed a load of natives, mixed bag of all ages and abilities, on decent money and hours – NMR for 20 hours a week on seasonal basis not good enough. Also the venture should wash its face, pay its way with local suppliers of goods and services rather than leave those people up shit creek at short notice. And that’s the rub – most of these ventures are fanciful ego trips that fail, yet suck in loads of public funds when scrutiny at the outset would have dictated that no support is appropriate. Very rarely do these things attract commercial backing so why shove public money down the drain ?

    The policy of backing losers just because they chime with the “values” of the Party is just daft. There again it fits in with the clearance strategy of those powers that sit above our pliable political parties and they are the real threat to Wales.

  4. The Earthshaker

    Excellent work as usual, but is anyone surprised buy this type of revelation anymore?

    A 53% increase for this crap when local authorities can’t grit roads because they’ve had to cut driver numbers, no wonder people outside Wales think we’re a soft touch and here’ another one, the Beeb are reporting a Swansea homeless charity has gone administration and two people have been arrested as part of a fraud investigation by South Wales Police’s economic crime unit.

    And to think Labour made such big claims that AWEMA was a one off, sadly these are the tip of the iceberg, how many millions have been wasted on mickey mouse organisations and projects that we’ll never know about?

    1. The BBC piece says that the Cyrenians projects have been taken over by Caer Las and Grwp Gwalia.

      Caer Las was involved with the Probation Service (of Englandandwales) in housing ex-cons in residential streets in Llanelli without warning people living nearby or informing the council. They were able to do this due to the lax laws in Wales on houses of multiple occupation.

      Grwp Gwalia of course housed the gang of sexual perverts from London down in Kidwelly

      Watch this space!

  5. Well I suppose the first thing to ask is who exactly signs off these grants on behalf of the state, what they expect to see in return and how are the results monitored and by whom. Normally you have to jump through all kinds of hoops to get a penny out of the government and they usually want to tell you how to run your show to boot. So none of this makes any sense, financial, political … Is it all Old Boys Network? Where does all that grant money go in any case, the a/c’s are supposed to show that. Who are they in debt to, with negative assets they must have some very unhappy creditors, wonder what they think about all this? Keep at it Jack, this could be a good one …

    1. There is a culture among the civil servants that run Wales of supporting anything that is likely to attract into Wales English people; preferably middle class English people. For these are the ones with money, which equals purchasing power. The other side of this coin is that there must be a complementary reduction in the support given to those it is hoped will succumb to that purchasing power.

      This creates a situation that can be dressed up as ‘Wales leads the way in outdoor pursuits!’, ‘Growth in rural population!’. When, in reality, what is happening is that the indigenous population is being cleared from its land to make way for a more ‘reliable’ population. This is what underlies tourism; it is not intended to benefit us Welsh, its purpose is to anglicise Wales.

      As for the accounts, they say little, being abbreviated, and much shorter and less informative than in previous years. Even so, I have now provided links to them.

      1. Thank you for your reply, even though it seems to be mostly POV.

        I agree that ‘tourism’ generally does little for the native population of peripheral regions of the UK. It’s mostly run by incomers (often former tourists) who have a romantic view of ‘Wild Wales’, ‘Mystic Cornwall’ etc which for a profit they will gladly share with their fellow townies. Of native culture, real history, and current concerns etc. they know little and care even less. The natives are invisible, simply there to provide cheap labour and a quaint backdrop.

        However, it’s still difficult to see how this is reflected in government policy in a time of austerity, especially in Wales with its own government. What’s in it for ‘them’, be ‘they’ elected members or departmental officials. My original question therefore remains, who signed off the grant applications, and what did they expect in terms of outcome. What agreed policies were they advancing? After all such types are always “only following orders”.

        Where there is a danger, and I’ve seen examples of this, is where funds are distributed via a chain of intermediate agencies. Then there is a lack of oversight as the people in the middle find themselves pressured to see that their annual quota of cash goes out the door downstream (even if that means in effect up a certain odious watercourse), since that is seen as their job. If they fail to pay out their allocated annual sum their funding, jobs etc. will likely be cut.

        It remains to be ascertained whether this is a deliberate if covert racist policy as you appear to believe, of whether it is simply a consequence of over-centralisation and ignorance. Not that that makes things any better. Indeed overt racism might in fact be easier to combat that the results of distant, ignorant but ultimately misguided decision making.

        1. We are clearly agreed on the problems tourism poses to ‘peripheral’ areas, so let us promise each other never to raise the subject again.

          Your difficulty in understanding what’s going on here is due to your touching belief in the existence of a Welsh Government – there is no such thing! Wales is run by civil servants taking their orders from London, with this system disguised by a shower of third-rate politicians pretending to be in charge. One priority is – as you suggest – to get rid of the money allocated, with a further imperative that this money must be used, by a number of means, to increase integration with England.

          This system is regularly exposed. Back in January last year it was reported that Alun Davies, minister with responsibility for the countryside, had decided to transfer 15% of EU CAP funding from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2. What does that mean? It means that money will be taken from Welsh farmers and given to environmentalists, good-lifers, hippies and other undesirables. But it wasn’t his decision, it was the decision of the civil servants we saw flanking him when he made the announcement. Or, rather, the department in London to which those civil servants answer.

          More recently we’ve had Edwina Hart back the most expensive and damaging route for the M4 upgrade at Newport . . . then she went into hiding, and refused to discuss or defend the decision. The reason for that – as she gave away by constantly talking of her ‘advisors’ – was that she was incapable of defending what was not her decision. She could not possibly discuss the details of a decision she had no hand in making.

          Once you understand a) that the English establishment’s long term plan for Wales is assimilation into England, and b) that the ‘Welsh Government’ is nothing but a front for direct rule from London, then everything will become clear. Keep reading Jac o’ the North!


          1. Fair enough, as far as it goes. There is a section of western Britain known as ‘Wales’ whose inhabitants are allowed (by the grace of Westminster) to elect, by PR no less, an assembly, which has certain limited but nevertheless real powers of government over that territory. It even styles itself these days as the “Government of Wales”. It’s far from perfect, but also potentially at least, far from useless. So the big question is why the voters haven’t elected AMs who will at the very least take what they’ve been given and do the best they can. Or better still, as in Scotland, use the powers they have to gain the confidence of the electorate and extract further powers from the centre. If the people of Western Britain can’t be bothered to do this then I’d be forced to wonder if Wales actually exists as a political/cultural entity anymore? That would at least explain you assertion that there is no Welsh Government.

            I appreciate that compared to Scotland the geographical and constitutional separation from England is much less clear. But you do have Scotland’s example clearly before you. Surely Welsh voters saw, just as clearly as those in Scotland, how Labour (including ‘Welsh’ Labour) strolled hand in hand with the Tories throughout the referendum campaign? That opened the eyes of enough dyed-in-the-wool Labour voters so that Labour is pretty well finished now North of the Border. All over bar the shouting (and there’ll be plenty of that of course). So what is wrong with the Welsh. They have the same traditions of political radicalism, both inside and outside Labour, strong traditions of self-help and self-identity. Why then are they apparently sleepwalking into oblivion? Has Carwyn got them all hypnotised? Are there no decent politicians or potential politicians in the whole nation? I find that rather hard to believe, and indeed it would be insulting to do so.

            So, does Wales exist, and if so why don’t you stand up for yourselves using the tools you’ve been given?

            1. You keep asking the same question, and you have more than once answered your own question in some pretty insulting ways, which is why I’ve had to caution you. Essentially, you are asking why so many Welsh people still vote Labour. The obvious response would be – ask them. Because you won’t find many Labour voters on this blog. I have no real idea what goes on in the dark recesses of a Welsh Labour voter’s mind.

              That said, my take on this has been stated on this blog many. many times. The real problem is that Labour is the ‘safe’, unthinking option for a large section of the Welsh electorate, to which they cling because they see no attractive alternative. THIS is the difference between Scotland and Wales – the Scots have the inspiring and truly national SNP, while we are stuck with Plaid Cymru.

              To find the answer to your question – if that’s really what you’re after – I would suggest writing to Plaid Cymru, or frequenting Plaid-supporting blogs. Because that’s where the problem lies, and that’s where the solution will be found.

              Either Plaid Cymru starts behaving like a nationalist pary in a colonial situation or it makes room for a party that wlll. As things stand, Plaid is more than just part of the problem, it IS THE PROBLEM.

              1. Of course, up until quite recently, the Scots were also voting Labour in great numbers. I hope the same thing will happen in Wales as has happened in Scotland. There is no great love for the Labour party here……just the ‘safe’ option as you say Jac. Something has to give at some point.

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