Some time ago, October 2015, to be exact, I published Bits & Pieces 13.10.2015: Assembly 2016, Reputations, Vattenfall, Cardigan Castle and, almost en passant, I mentioned Empower-Support for the Voluntary Sector, of Cwm Cynon, which I likened to a case of big fleas having little fleas because Empower seems to feed on third sector and other publicly-funded bodies.
Empower SVS is owned and run by Beverly Elizabeth Garside and I wrote of her, “One mystery though is why, on her Linkedin profile, Bev tells us that she has been director of Empower since January 2001, yet Companies House tells us that Empower was not Incorporated as a company until February 18th 2004.”
I can now explain this confusion, and more, by telling you where Beverly Garside was and what she was doing in the years prior to 2004, but first I want to take a peek at Empower.
Go to the Empower website and the ‘About Us’ page. On the right you’ll see the staff.
Bev Garside on top and below her we find Owen Davies of whom I know nothing because we are told “Full profile coming soon”. And it’s the same for Pamela Davies below him. For James Davies there is a profile, and it tells us after working in the planning departments of Swansea and RCT councils he spent eight years with Planning Aid Wales before joining Empower in April 2015.
Next up is the dashing figure of polo player Ashley McMahon, ex-military and still barking commands at that fine body of men the Glamorgan Yeomanry. Ashley is the Marketing and PR Manager.
Next on the totem pole we find young Alex Railton, a Marketing Assistant, for whom Empower couldn’t even be bothered to put up “Full profile coming soon”.
These six I assume are based at or work out of Empower’s office at the Feel Good Factory, Abercynon Road, Ynysboeth.
The others, described as Associates are almost certainly not employees. Liz Tyson is based in Manchester, and her passion would appear to be animal welfare. Ashan Malik is in Bradford. Bryan Collis is in Swansea where his full-time job is with All Wales People First, yet another third sector outfit stuffed with people taking advantage of the public funding bonanza.
The final Associate is Dawn Davies (née Minifey), whose day job is Director of Communities Connected Consultancy Ltd of Bridgend, where we also encounter Bryan Collis again. Though it looks as if Bryan and the others listed are associates. Communities Connected seems to do the same type of work as Empower . . . and no doubt 37 other companies.
Why do I say that? Well, because when Communities Connected was Incorporated with Companies House 14 September 2016 there were two founding directors, Dawn Davies and Paul Stepczak. ‘Who he?’ you cry. Here’s a clue.
In a previous existence young Paul was “lead cluster officer for Communities First in Glyncoch”. How know I this? From my regular reading of the Church in Wales website, which I recommend unto you all. Stepczak left Communities Connected 12 October 2017, so Dawn Davies is now alone at the helm.
Staying on Empower’s ‘About Us’ page we see, bottom left, a grouping of logos under ‘Our clients’, and an eclectic mix it is, though hardly impressive. For a start, we see Communities First again, that disastrous programme that had its plug pulled last year.
But not before it had consumed £300m of public funding and provided lots of meaningless jobs like ‘lead cluster officer’ in Glyncoch. And of course much of the Communities First funding found its way to consultants and advisors. And while I’m not for one minute suggesting that all those who worked for Communities First were Labour Party supporters, nor that the consultants and advisors were on good terms with the bruvvers, let’s say that Labour Party connections definitely helped when it came to getting your milking pail under this particular cash cow.
Another client that caught my eye was Ambassador Training Wales. As far as I can make out, this Swansea-based outfit trains guides for the tourism industry. I’m not sure what advice Empower provided but Ambassador Training Wales is teetering on the brink and about to be struck off by Companies House.
Then there’s Cynnal Cymru/Sustain Wales, though whether it’s a client is debatable because it seems to be in the same line of work as Empower. Either way, Bev Garside gets a mention under the heading, ‘A story of networking, cars and sustainability‘.
Scroll down to read the fragrant Bev herself say: “The nature of a busy consultancy means I am always on the road; I regularly drive the breadth of England and Wales and accumulate tens of thousands per miles per year. Whilst I use trains wherever I can, our work often takes us to places that cannot be easily or efficiently reached by public transport. My new Lexus Hybrid is not only more fuel efficient, which is great for my business, it also produces a third less emissions than my old car.”
The article is dated (à la mode américain) 01.26.2017. So at this time last year Bev Garside, who runs Empower SVS Ltd, was driving around in a brand new Lexus hybrid. Business must have been good because even leasing such a car wouldn’t be cheap
Before examining the business side of Empower I just want to take a wee detour offered by another of Empower’s ‘clients’, useful because it’s all part of a bigger picture. This time it’s Tyddyn Môn.
Its website tells us that “Tyddyn Môn was founded by the parents of adults with learning difficulties who wanted a more constructive and rewarding occupation for their sons and daughters.” And the website doesn’t tell us a great deal more than that.
The more I looked into Tyddyn Môn the more obvious it became that despite being located on an island where almost all the native-born speak Welsh the organisation itself is rather, well, unWelsh. Take as an example the highlight of the social calendar, the annual ‘Folk on the Farm Festival’. Here’s the line-up for 2018 – does anyone recognise any Welsh bands there?
It’s basically a hippyfest, an English hippyfest. So who’s running Tyddyn Môn?
If we go to the Charity Commission website and type in 1072035 we see that the leading light among the trustees appears to be a Mrs Eileen Mildred Clarke, who is also a trustee of a number of other organisations, one of them being Gwasanaeth Adfocatiaeth a Chynghori Gogledd Cymru / North Wales Advice and Advocacy Association.
The Association is also a registered charity, No 1060826, and as the name suggests – and the screen capture below confirms – it covers our six northern local authorities, plus Staffordshire. Staffordshire!
Why the hell is an English county that doesn’t even border Wales included there? When I see something like that it sets the old Jac antennae all a-quiver. Does anyone have an answer?
Whatever the reason, for year ending 31.03.2017 the Association received £277,939 in grants, mainly from Welsh local authorities (but nothing from Staffordshire) with £294,329 going on wages and running costs. So a rosy future beckons.
Back to Tyddyn Môn, where the Accounts for 2017 tell us the same, depressing story. Total income for year ending 31.03.2017 was £1,594,056, with £1,115,209 coming from Ynys Môn council.
Of that income £1,052,108 went on staff costs. Though, confusingly, page 18 tells us that two trustees were also paid a total of £53,101. Explained thus: “The trustees Mr J.G.P. Webster and Ms T.A. Davies are paid remuneration in relation to the work that they undertake for the Charitable Company as a support worker and housing manager. They are not paid for their posts as trustees”.
Well in that case why not include their salaries with those for the other staff? Though if they are employees why are they allowed to also be trustees?
Maybe I should explain here that the whole point of trustees is to provide oversight of a charity but with the day-to-day running left to the paid staff or volunteers. The two should be entirely separate, and with no payments made to trustees without special dispensation.
In 2016, just prior to the departures of Mrs Olwen Dennis Williams and Mr Huw Elfed Williams, three new trustee-directors were appointed on 9 April. One of them, Michael Ian Hawkes, almost immediately rose to the rank of Chair.
I suspect that Mr Hawkes may have not long moved to the area and so the other trustee-directors of Tyddyn Môn may be unaware of his glittering business career. The pinnacle of which seems to be his ongoing involvement with MHinvent, a company that has flirted with compulsory strike-off more than once and whose latest balance sheet shows liabilities of £2,296,133.
Hawkes has the largest single shareholding by far in MHinvent; hardly surprising seeing as the company seems to be named after him.
Tyddyn Môn may indeed be local to the island, but I suspect that through Mencap and other cross-border agencies connections have been formed which result in an unspecified number of Tyddyn Môn’s residents coming from outside of Wales to take advantage of the council’s generosity.
So if the council is minded to take a greater interest in Tyddyn Môn it might also benefit the island by refusing entry visas to the rag-bag collection of pony-tails lined up to wail at the Folk on the Farm Festival.
That’s the end of the digression; now it’s back to Beverly Garside and Empower SVS.
EMPOWER-SUPPORT FOR THE VOLUNTARY SECTOR LTD
The first problem I encountered when making enquiries into Empower on the Companies House website was the latest set of Accounts, or rather, what passes for the Accounts, for it’s no more than an abbreviated and unaudited balance sheet.
Surely these Accounts – showing a deficit of £3,573 – aren’t for a company with five or six employees on the books, with consultants to boot, and where the owner of the company “drives the breadth of England and Wales” every year in a hybrid Lexus?
What’s going on? Where’s the money stashed?
I’m not sure, but a clue might be provided by something I stumbled on, for there’s another entry on the Companies House website for Empower Support for the Voluntary Sector a slight variation on the name of the original company. Yet it is the same company because it quotes the same number, 05048133.
What’s different is that this entry tells us that Empower is a Designated Member for CJF Recruitment LLP set up 21 May 2016. So what can Companies House tell us about CJF Recruitment LLP?
CJF has three Designated Members: Matthew John Bates of Ystrad Mynach, Jane Thomas of Llanbradach and of course Empower Support for the Voluntary Sector.
I’m not quite sure how to explain this, being unfamiliar with LLPs and their operation. I know that they are partnerships and appeal to solicitors, accountants and the like, but it’s difficult to see the advantage of a LLP over a normal company in the case of CJF.
And what do the initials stand for, certainly not the names of the partners?
But we still don’t have the answer to where the money is to run the Empower company, which seems to survive on fresh air.
As an introduction to where I’m taking you next I might as well tell you that Beverly Garside is also a director of the Captive Animals’ Protection Trust, which has its correspondence address at her home.
UPDATE 15.02.2018: As I said earlier, Empower is based in the Feel Good Factory in Ynysboeth. What I didn’t realise then was that this building – formerly All Saints Church – is shared with other users. Principally Bryncynon Community Revival Strategy Ltd.
The Accounts also tell us, towards the top of page 4, “Trustees are elected from Bryncynon and its surrounding areas”. Which is as it should be. However, of the five current charity trustees / company directors one lives in Brackla, one lives in Llandaff, one in Whitchurch, one in Mitchel Troy, with just one from the local area.
But no doubt they have strong Labour Party connections to make up for their ignorance of Cwm Cynon.
THE MISSING YEARS
As I noted in the 2015 mention of Garside and Empower, “Bev tells us that she has been director of Empower since January 2001, yet Companies House tells us that Empower was not Incorporated as a company until February 18th 2004”. So how do we account for the missing years?
This link will take you to a story from The Courier (Kent/Sussex) some time in 2002. Read it carefully. Bev Garside was clearly mixed up with hunt saboteurs and animal rights activists. Her co-accused in the case I’ve linked to, Gavin Medd-Hall, was jailed for eight years in January 2009 for a different but related offence.
I don’t know the outcome of the trial in Maidstone Crown Court in 2002 because there’s no longer anything available online. But we now know where Beverly Garside was and what she was up to before the founding of Empower-Support for the Voluntary Sector in February 2004.
And her involvement with animal rights activism explains her need to claim that Empower started in 2001.
I had to think long and hard before writing this piece, in fact, it caused me more soul-searching than anything else I’ve written on this blog for a number of reasons.
To begin with, I’m an animal lover myself, I would have closed down that animal concentration camp in Borth even before the two lynx were killed. And then there’s the thought that writing this piece might give pleasure to Garside’s old foes, the twats in pink, which is not something that would please me.
That said, there are bigger issues illustrated by this case, important Welsh issues.
THE WILD WEST
In the case of Empower, we have a company that may not receive public funding itself, but lives off the recipients of public funding. And yet, at the end of the day, what do all the advisors, the empowerers, the enablers, the developers of communities, the consultants like Empower, contribute to the wealth of Wales?
Very little, especially when weighed against the amount of public funding consumed and the percentage of it that might as well be poured straight down the drain. (Just think Communities First.) The only thing this money does is create unsustainable jobs and a small amount of spending power. But this system that keeps Wales poor gives politicians the power of patronage.
So blatant is this system, and so well known, that it attracts shysters from outside of Wales looking for easy money that is not available elsewhere. It seems that every village and valley now has some old harridan behaving like a 19th century memsahib or else it’s a glottaly-afflicted young harpy so sharp she’s in danger of cutting herself.
If it’s not those running the third sector then it’s those they inflict on us; that’s because there aren’t enough Welsh to keep the funding flowing and so whole battalions of the decrepit, the deranged, the delinquent and the dependent are marched over the border.
And it’s not just our cities and larger towns that see these problems, for there isn’t a country town in Wales today unaffected by the trafficking of criminals, misfits and white trash by third sector agencies and housing associations.
It would be easy to describe these as misguided do-gooders, but they do no good at all, not for Wales anyway. They use Welsh public funding to make Wales more dangerous for us and our children. What special kind of national lunacy is this?
Then there are those who obviously see Wales as a bolt-hole or a wilderness into which they can disappear and not be recognised. This is how Mark Bridger, the murderer of five-year-old April Jones of Machynlleth came here, packed off by his family when he became too much trouble.
And who can forget the whole gang of satanic paedophiles relocated from London to Kidwelly. Yes, Kidwelly! Who the hell thought that was a good idea? Have our politicians ever asked for answers?
I’m not comparing Beverly Garside to Mark Bridger or the Kidwelly child rapists but it looks very much as if she also ran away to Wales. Maybe it’s time she practised a little honesty. Accounts for her company would be a good place to start.
The whole system is broken. We are told we need the third sector because Wales is poor . . . but the third sector thrives on poverty and makes us poorer . . . worsening poverty is then used to justify a bigger third sector . . . which makes us even poorer . . .
There is only one way out of this downward spiral – independence.
♦ end ♦