PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
I’m still working on the Wales & West piece, but things keep cropping up. And this week has been rather testing in a number of ways. So please regard this offering as a divertimento (as we say in Swansea).
Yesterday afternoon I had to take my wife and grand-daughter to the optician in Dolgellau. As they wanted to look around and do a bit of shopping I said to myself, ‘Jones, do you really want to hang around around Dolgellau for a couple of hours on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, or should you take yourself off somewhere?’
And so off I went in a north easterly direction.
Which of course brought me to Bala. But I didn’t tarry in the town, instead I took myself up to Frongoch, and the memorial to the Irish patriots interned nearby after the Easter Rising of 1916.
I wasn’t the only one there. In fact, I’ve noticed, that for such a quiet spot it seems to attract visitors from near and far. After a rousing rendition of The Foggy Dew I moved on up to Tryweryn.
There, once a farmer and his aggressive dog had passed, I had the place to myself. I just stood there for a while, thinking of Capel Celyn beneath the water, and how that hamlet’s fate has played such a pivotal role in Welsh politics and Welsh history. It’s certainly what ‘swung’ me.
I got back in the car and started driving back down to Bala, but then, on impulse, I pulled into the National White Water Centre, on Afon Tryweryn, not far below the reservoir.
It’s called the National White Water Centre but it’s not the Welsh National White Water Centre, where you’d expect school parties of Welsh children to be trained in kayaking and associated sports. In fact, it’s just a commercial venture that for some reason was receiving ‘Welsh Government’ funding through Sport Wales. In 2014/2015 this generosity reached £378,000.
So I suppose today’s visit was kind of checking on how things are going. And the answer would appear to be, not well. Not well at all.
I walked into a large empty foyer area, with an unmanned desk on my left, and on my right something advertised as ‘Manon’s cafe’. If she exists, Manon wasn’t there, for I was served my coffee by some young guy with a rather curious coiffure.
As it was such a nice day I took my coffee outside, to get a view of the advertised white water. And then I saw it!
Nothing less than an image of Bore Grylls; action hero, piss-drinker, insect muncher, and erstwhile business associate of Gavin Woodhouse at the Afan Valley Adventure Resort.
A rarity indeed, this. For as we know the great man shies away from publicity.
Not far away was another sign, this one advertising Adventure Weekends by Adventure North Wales. (The operative word here is clearly ‘Adventure’.) So who or what is Adventure North Wales?
Well, the head office is in West Molesey. But not the West Molesey you’re thinking of, between Efenechtyd and Clocaenog; no, this one is in Surrey. Which probably explains why the website is entirely in English. (As is the website for the National White Water Centre.)
(I really must check if Adventure North Wales gets any funding from our wonderful ‘Welsh Government’.)
Coffee still in hand, I moseyed on a bit further and was confronted by signs for a brand of ice cream with which I was unfamiliar. Not that I eat much of the stuff myself, you understand, but being a grandfather . . .
‘Marshfield Farm?’ I thought, ‘Where the hell is that?’ To save you looking, it’s in Wiltshire.
I went back inside the main building. The cafe was now locked, the foyer was still empty, and the desk still unmanned. I had the place to myself. So I looked around at the signs and advertisements and then it struck me – here we are, just a couple of miles from Bala, yet everything is in English.
In fact, this place might as well be in England. And I suppose it would be, if England had more rivers where the flow could be controlled by a dam. And a political class that models itself on Uriah Heep. (The Dickens character, not the rock band.)
What this means is that not only did we lose Capel Celyn when the reservoir was built, but we also gained the National White Water Centre for England. Insult added to injury.
The National White Water Centre is an alien presence in Wales. Which I suppose sums up tourism in general. In Wales, but not of Wales.
And yet, this imposition and others like it are collectively lauded as ‘Welsh Tourism’; with politicians and other forms of low life telling us that they generate billions of pounds and create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Bollocks!
There’s nothing Welsh about it – not even the fucking ice cream is Welsh!
How does tourism like this benefit Wales? What does allowing strangers to treat our country in this way say about us as a nation?
In the space of just over an hour I experienced conflicting emotions. First, I was paying homage to the men of ’16; then I was remembering my own political awakening in the 1960s; before, finally, being confronted with the ugly reality of ‘Playground Wales’.
As I drove back to Dolgellau I thought about the comparative positions of Ireland and Wales today.
The former is prosperous, confident, and about to be reunited. But if the ‘Welsh’ tourism industry is any guide, then Wales is drifting towards oblivion.
Late in the afternoon of Tuesday May 31st I received an e-mail from Tracey Singlehurst-Ward of Hugh James Legal in Cardiff. Ms Singlehurst-Ward was of the opinion that I’d been a naughty boy for saying things about her clients, Pembrokeshire Housing and its ‘subsidiary’ Mill Bay Homes. I of course responded.
Ms Singlehurst-Ward’s letter threatened me with a deadline of 4pm on June 3rd, just three days away. If I had not drastically re-written the offending posts by that time then all manner of unpleasant things would befall me. Being a reasonable man, I offered the compromise of taking down the offending pieces by June 10th, by when I would have published a ‘clarification’ post. Having heard nothing from Ms Singlehurst-Ward by the afternoon of June 2nd I thought I’d better get in touch again, to see if my offer had been accepted.
Finding that my offer had been rejected I had to accept that I was in a somewhat tricky position, and so I decided upon a tactical withdrawal by taking down the offending pieces rather than redacting the offending passages and making them unintelligible.
For there were things I’d written that could be misinterpreted, some of what I’d written might have been wrong (usually due to misinformation, often from official sources). And then Ms Singleton-Ward had produced a litany of earth-shattering inaccuracies such as someone described as a ‘former councillor’ by Pembrokeshire Housing not having been a councillor in Pembrokeshire, as I had reasonably assumed, and stated.
There followed a third round of correspondence between us and, hopefully, that’s the end of it, otherwise we’ll have enough material for an epistolary novel. But wait! – Ms Singlehurst-Ward and her clients haven’t read this post yet!
It seemed fairly obvious from the initial salvo that someone had gone to Ms Singlehurst-Ward with a dossier of posts from my blog. This was, basically, what she sent me; screen shots from my blog topped and tailed with her listing my heinous crimes. It probably didn’t take her long to put together.
But seeing as this assault on me is being funded out of the Welsh public purse, and seeing as Ms Singlehurst-Ward charges £260 an hour, maybe we should be thankful she hasn’t been asked to do too much work.
WHERE I’M COMING FROM
In this blog, which has been running since January 2013 (and in the blog that preceded it on the Google platform), I have consistently criticised the Labour Party and the cronyism and nepotism associated with it; a system of patronage that has seen billions of pounds of public money wasted, a system that does so much to condemn Wales to relative poverty.
One of the great weaknesses of this system is that there is no effective oversight or monitoring of the bodies receiving large amounts of public funding. Much is left to self-evaluation and self-regulation, an approach that served the public interest so well with MPs, newspapers, banks, etc. On the other hand, one of the system’s strengths, certainly from the perspective of the Labour Party, is that it helps spread Labour’s influence.
Because if a Labour regime in Cardiff ultimately controls the purse strings of a body in an area where the Labour Party is weak, then a passive ‘loyalty’ of the not-biting-the-hand-that-feeds-you variety can be assured. Which is rewarded with the ‘light touch’ regulation referred to in the previous paragraph.
Another reason this system flourishes is due to the lack of an effective political opposition. Plaid Cymru occasionally threatens to hold Labour to account but invariably falls into line because too many in that party still view Labour as comrades in arms against the real enemy of the Tories, or the here-today-gone-tomorrow ‘threat’ of UKIP.
But beyond that, Plaid Cymru is fundamentally weak. Even in the dictatorship that is Carmarthenshire Plaid Cymru, the larger party in the ruling coalition, refuses to oust, or even curb, Mark James, which tells us that the chances of Plaid Cymru seriously threatening Labour’s entrenched hegemony in Wales are close to zero.
Another factor that allows Labour to chug on unworried by criticism is that Wales has no media to talk of, virtually nothing that is not owned or controlled from outside of Wales. What masquerades as our ‘national newspaper’ exists to promote Cardiff, to donate page after page to the Welsh Rugby Union and, despite having a readership plummeting towards man and dog proportions, is kept financially afloat by official announcements, legal notices and advertisements paid for by – the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government.
And yet, despite having no real opposition, and with no media to hold it to account, Labour is still losing its grip on Wales. Perhaps it’s an example of the old adage ‘You can’t fool all of the people all of the time’; but whatever the reason, Labour gained just a third of the vote in last month’s Assembly elections.
Wales in 2016 lives under a corrupt political system that generates little wealth and is over-reliant on hand-outs; but these hand-outs, rather than being used for the purposes the money was given – education and training, building of infrastructure, encouragement of twenty-first-century businesses – are instead used to build up a network beholden to those doling out the money.
Which results in Wales today having more in common with the developing world than with Western Europe. In a couple of weeks we’ll be voting on whether to stay in the EU, maybe we should be voting on whether or not to join the African Union.
The issues arise when we consider Pembrokeshire Housing’s subsidiary, Mill Bay Homes, and to appreciate my concerns we need to go back a bit. In 1998 Pembrokeshire Housing formed a subsidiary called Pembrokeshire Housing Two Thousand Ltd, the sort of name popular at the time as we prepared for the Millennium.
Though it does perhaps raise the question of how a company that had never traded came into possession of any assets.
The nature of Mill Bay Homes
So what is Mill Bay Homes, why was it set up and what does it do? Apparently it was set up to do exactly what PH2000 Ltd never got round to doing: “undertake trading activity outside the charitable objectives of parent association”. In that case, why change the name?
The home page of the Mill Bay Homes website spells out quite clearly what it thinks it does, it seems to be all about that overworked word, ‘lifestyle’:
Elsewhere the website tells us, under the ‘Purchasers’ tab, that Mill Bay Homes seeks ‘First Time Buyers’, ‘Moving Up Buyers’, ‘Retirement Buyers’ and ‘Investment Buyers’. So that’s downsizers and upsizers catered for.
The first, and only, returns that I can find for Mill Bay Homes are those for 2012 / 2013, made to the Financial Conduct Authority. It will be seen that Mill Bay Homes has assets of over £300,000, of which £294,390 is “Work in progress”, presumably the development of 11 properties at Letterston, helped with a “Loan from parent company” of £245,000. This seems to be the only sizeable debt – but enough to build eleven new houses?
In the now removed posts I made the mistake of suggesting that Mill Bay Homes was not a Registered Social Landlord because I couldn’t find it on the ‘Welsh’ Government’s website where RSLs are listed. That was because the website did not include subsidiaries. I am happy to clear that up and direct you to the relevant page.
This registration, and the very number, L124, were inherited from Pembrokeshire Housing 2000 Ltd, which some might argue legitimises Mill Bay Homes as a RSL, being nothing more than PH2000 Ltd after a name change. Whereas others might say, ‘Ah, but Pembrokeshire Housing Two Thousand Ltd never traded, consequently there was neither need nor opportunity to challenge its right to be a RSL’. Others, that is, not necessarily me.
Because I’m sure that some people reading this article are wondering whether Mill Bay Homes – which to all intents and purposes is a private house builder – should be a Registered Social Landlord. A question motivated by nothing more than curiosity and a wish to see everything ship-shape.
So let me suggest that the ‘Welsh’ Government clears this matter up. All it needs to say is:
‘We are perfectly happy for Mill Bay Homes to remain a Registered Social Landlord while selling four-bedroom, detached properties, and building other dwellings that target buy-to-let investors and retirees from England’.
What could be easier than that, just to set the record straight?
Financial Conduct Authority
A similar problem presents itself with Mill Bay Homes status via-à-vis the Financial Conduct Authority, where – I am given understand – Mill Bay Homes is registered as an Industrial & Provident Society. And yet, things are not clear-cut.
I can’t help wondering if this conundrum might have something to do with the Co-operative and Community Benefits Societies Act 2014. This new legislation seems to suggests that Industrial and Provident Societies are now a thing of the past – replaced by ‘registered societies’ – though the label may be retained by an I&PS in existence when the Act came into force.
Where I’m really confused – and here perhaps Ms Singlehurst-Ward or one of her colleagues can help – is by the information contained in the panel below. Under the new legislation is Mill Bay Homes is ‘”bona fide” co-operative’ or a ‘for the benefit of the community’ organisation?
I’m genuinely confused, so I shall write to the FCA asking for clarification of Mill Bay Homes’ status. I’m sure officials at Mill Bay Homes have already written to the FCA, demanding an explanation as to why two years’ returns fail to show on the FCA website.
My confusion is not helped by Ms Singlehurst-Ward being unable to provide any evidence of the FCA receiving those submissions beyond an unspecific automated response. And while the Mill Bay Homes return for y/e 31.03.2014 is in the name of Mill Bay Homes alone, for y/e 31.03.2015 the return was made for MBH by Pembrokeshire Housing.
Is the difference in procedure between end of March 2014 and end of March 2015 somehow linked with the new legislation that came into force on August 1st 2014?
Help to Buy – Wales
In the posts now committed to the Outer Darkness I wrote of the Help to Buy – Wales scheme, and Mill Bay’s involvement. Specifically, I drew attention to the fact that one of the beneficiaries of HtB on the Pentlepoir development, Adam Karl Uka, is a close personal friend of Nick Garrod, Land and Construction Manager for Mill Bay Homes.
Ms Singlehurst-Ward had this to say: “For the avoidance of doubt the connection between our client’s employee (Garrod) and Mr Uka could not have had any impact upon the latter’s application to the Help to Buy scheme because our client does not administer that funding”.
So there you have it. Being buddies with the builder is unconnected with being allowed to buy the most desirable property on the development, a property offering access to Help to Buy, and one that, furthermore, was extensively modified to Uka’s personal specifications.
UPDATE 21:26 (see image, click to enlarge)
There were quite a number of other Help to Buy properties at the Pentlepoir development. Many more than at all Mill Bay Homes’ other developments combined.
This talk of Pentlepoir brings us to an issue covered in one of my now lost posts that clearly annoyed Ms Singlehurst-Ward’s clients. I’m referring to my claim that Mill Bay Homes were, in the specific example I used, ‘Neighbours from Hell’. So let me explain why I used that emotive term.
‘Neighbours from Hell’
The property bought by Adam Karl Uka underwent considerable modifications, and these changes caused a lot of anguish and no little suffering to the family most directly affected.
Before going into details of their plight let me clear up the issue of planning permission, for Ms Singlehurst-Ward seems to believe there was no deviation from the original planning permission. This document makes it clear there was deviation. The ‘Plot 10’ referred to in the document became 35 Coppins Park, Adam Karl Uka’s residence.
What Ms Singlehurst-Ward actually said in relation to planning permission was, “All properties (at Pentlepoir) were constructed in accordance with the planning permission granted”. Maybe, but in the case of 35 Coppins Park, it was not in accordance with the original planning permission.
As you can work out from the ‘Variation’ document, the new property became both higher, raised by at least a metre, thereby overlooking neighbouring properties, and it also moved closer to the property most directly affected. This resulted in work being carried out by Mill Bay’s contractors right up to the boundary of a neighbouring property, resulting in damage.
Both proximity to the boundary and some of the damage caused are clearly visible in the photographs below. (Click to enlarge.) Other problems were subsidence and damage to a boundary fence.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the contractors showed they had a sense of humour (or something) with this almost unbelievable incident in which a digger bucket was deliberately swung towards two neighbours. Just watch this video. The neighbours could have been seriously injured or even killed by this idiotic stunt. Here’s a still showing how close the bucket came to the head of the woman.
There is no question that for one family at least, Mill Bay Homes definitely proved to be the ‘Neighbour from Hell’. Read these neighbours’ chilling account of what they had to put up with here.
It may be significant that for Phase 2 at Pentlepoir, which included Mr Uka’s house, and where neighbours experienced such problems, the contractors did not register with the Considerate Constructors Scheme, as they had for Phase 1. I wonder why?
The relationship between a ‘parent’ organisation such as Pembrokeshire Housing and a subsidiary like Mill Bay Homes is one I’ve encountered many times before in my delving into the Third Sector and other publicly-funded outfits.
These subsidiaries are often known as ‘trading arms’. After many years investigating the use of public funding by all manner of imaginative organisations I still get a little frisson when I encounter the term.
It’s quite a complicated picture of an organisation receiving public funding but with money and tangible assets passing between it and subsidiaries, with subsidiaries folding and debts being written off. But the worry here, and this applies to other groups I’ve looked at, is that the funder – in this case, Sport Wales – seems only interested in the parent body because it is the one receiving the moolah. Nobody seems concerned about subsidiaries that may be indirect recipients of public funding.
I am not for one minute suggesting that this is the sort of thing that happens between Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes, I merely use it as a warning of the kind of problems that can arise when a publicly-funded body sets up subsidiaries or ‘trading arms’.
That said, there is one area where Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes could certainly learn from Canoe Wales. After publishing the first post I had a telephone call from a representative of the paddlers. A charming Caledonian gent named Mark Williamson. He even invited me over to their White Water Centre on Afon Tryweryn.
I was tempted, but then I thought, ‘What if it’s a dastardly plot to drown old Jac!’ Because I’ve heard that there are one or two people out there who’d like to do that! (Difficult to believe, I know, but there you are.)
The point is that Mr Williamson didn’t run to a £260 an hour solicitor, he fronted up like a man and said, ‘Let me put you straight on a few things’. Just think of all the misunderstandings that could be avoided, all the problems that could be resolved, and all the public money that could be saved, if more people adopted that approach.
A PLAGUE OF LAWYERS
For a sensitive soul such as I it was quite disconcerting to be on the receiving end of a sudden and unexpected assault from Hugh James, but I soon learnt that I wasn’t the only one getting attention.
At around the same time I received my initial letter from Hugh James my server Systemau Cyfrifiadurol Cambria also received a threatening letter from Ms Singlehurst-Ward. It read ” . . . website hosted by you . . . defamatory . . . Jac utter bastard”. Almost certainly done in the hope that it would lead to the plug being pulled on my blog. Gwilym, of SCCambria, gave a robust response.
But it didn’t end there!
For on Friday June 3rd I learnt that the family in Pentlepoir that had suffered so much, they who had the digger bucket swung at them, had also received a letter from Ms Singlehurst-Ward of Hugh James. Her clients obviously knew who had been giving me information. (Which says a lot, if you think about it.)
I loved the bit in the letter that read, “Whilst out clients have no desire to stifle free speech or indeed honest debate . . . “. Sorry, Tracey, love, but that’s exactly what your now embarrassed clients are trying to do.
The aggrieved couple referred the threatening Hugh James letter to both their solicitor and Dyfed Powys Police.
Then, to cap an extraordinary week, Gwilym received a second letter, from another solicitor, this time a Wayne Beynon of Capital Law in Cardiff. This letter had nothing to do with Pembrokeshire Housing or Mill Bay Homes.
The strange thing about this was that the complaint came down to a single comment made to this post by a third party. So why not write to me? I would have removed it, as I did when Gwilym told me about it. (Here’s my reply.)
While writing this I’ve heard from Gwilym, telling me that he’s had a reply from Beynon. It says, “I have also been contacted by your client, Mr Jones, who has removed the unlawful statements from his website.” And there was me thinking that decisions on what was unlawful involved the police, judges, courts, juries. Perhaps we should do away with the rest of the apparatus and hand the legal system over to lawyers.
What are we to make of the events of last week? If it had just been a letter to me then I would have assumed that I had pissed off Pembrokeshire Housing and / or Mill Bay Homes. But the letters to my server, and the people in Pentlepoir? And then the letter on behalf of Leighton Andrews?
If I wanted to be generous, then I suppose I’d dismiss it all as coincidence. But on reflection I think it could be an attempt to a) deter anyone from associating themselves with this blog and, b) get this blog closed down.
Which I find rather encouraging; for it suggests I might be doing something right!
I do not know any of the leading players in Pembrokeshire Housing or Mill Bay Homes, so there can be no question of me being motivated by personal animus. I have had no dealings of any description with PH or MBH. I have never even lived in Pembrokeshire. And I stand to make no personal gain from my writings on PH and MBH.
My motivation in my enquiries into PH and MBH – and countless other organisations I have investigated – has always been protection of the public interest and defence of the public purse; these ambitions being inseparable from the desire to see transparency in the operations of devolved government, local government and the Third Sector.
I find myself writing this on the anniversary of the attack on the toll gate at Yr Efail Wen. A banner often carried by ‘Rebecca’s followers read ‘Cyfiawnder nid Cyfraith’ (Justice not Law). As appropriate now as it was back then, because not a lot seems to have changed in almost two hundred years.
Wales is still a land with too much law and too little justice. And as ever, it’s those with deep pockets who can afford lawyers – but too often nowadays their pockets bulge with our money!
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.
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.
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 another 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.
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.
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 Wales 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.
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 open 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.
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’.
I had hoped to have a few days off after posting my previous piece but would you believe it – Wales Eye is having a pop at me again, this time helped by the Wasting Mule. It began – though I had no way of knowing it at the time – with a Twitter message from Martin Shipton on Monday about the link at the top of my sidebar, to which I replied. See the exchange for yourself below.
I thought no more of it until yesterday morning when I was alerted to the fact that there was a piece about me on the WalesOnline website, though the article was soon ‘pulled’. Fortunately it’s available here in pdf format. Despite what I’d told Fat Boy, he begins his piece thus: “The Wales Eye news website discloses that the Jac O’the North (sic) blog has been reported to South Wales Police after launching a petition”. Why write that when he knew I had not launched any petition? A few tweets were exchanged yesterday, you can see them on the left where they appear in chronological order. (Click to enlarge.) A revealing phrase, “predominant language”.
Anyway, the origin of this ‘story’ was obviously Phil Parry over at Wales Eye. Regular readers will know that I’ve had a run-in with Wales Eye over infamous bigot Jacques Protic and him (allegedly) reporting me to North Wales Police. All the relevant information and links are available in my recent post Seeking a Latter-day Waldorf T. Flywheel. I assume Parry has been kicking cats and plotting his revenge since that piece appeared on January 19th. So what exactly was Parry saying? Seeing as the Wales Eye blog hides behind a pay wall, and to save you wasting your money, the article is available here in pdf format.
The opening paragraph, which contains the essence of the ‘story’, says: “A website which urges a policy of Welsh homes only for Welsh people has been reported to the police for inciting racial hatred, Wales Eye can reveal”. It goes on to say that “an investigation was undertaken by a police constable and inspector” of South Wales Police. The rest of the piece is rehashed nonsense about Protic and old comments taken out of context. Let us focus on this first paragraph.
Obviously, seeing as it’s not my petition, my website is not “urging” anything, I merely offer visitors to my blog the chance to sign a petition I support, and which I have signed. The petition does not argue for “Welsh homes only for Welsh people”, it merely says that Welsh people should have social housing that has been paid for with Welsh public funding . . . is there an objection to that? Now, moving on to “racial hatred”. The only nation mentioned in the petition is the Welsh, so whoever is making this mischief is reading something into the petition that isn’t there.
Elsewhere in the Wales Eye piece there is a graphic of some houses in Kidwelly explained by, “In another post, endorsed by the blog with a re-tweet, families from London who took houses from a Welsh housing association were called ‘perverts'”. WalesOnline says it this way: “In another Twitter posting, re-tweeted by the blog, families from London who took houses from a Welsh housing association were called “perverts”. An aerial picture singles out a number of homes and the tweet says: “Just in one small Welsh town all these houses were allocated to perverts from London by a Welsh housing association.”
Note that this, like the petition, is something else that did not originate with me. Parry is getting pretty desperate now, so here’s the truth. The case referred to is one of a paedophile gang living in Kidwelly that was imprisoned in 2011. Here’s a report on the case from the Daily Mail. Here’s a blog post I wrote around the same time. At the risk of frightening Parry and Shipton with facts, here they are: These people had moved – or been moved – from London; they were housed in Kidwelly by a Welsh housing association (Grwp Gwalia); they were all found guilty of paedophilia and other sexual perversions in a court of law. So what is the issue here? The caption to the picture in the tweet is 100% correct. Parry seems to take offence because the tweet calls them “perverts” – so what would he call them, the perfect neighbours? Or maybe he doesn’t like the fact that it was re-tweeted 21 times.
The reason Parry uses this case – which he obviously hasn’t researched – is because it concerns Welsh social housing being given to English people who are labelled “perverts”; which he hopes to use as an example of ‘racial hatred’ in order to confer something resembling credibility on his hysterical reaction to a perfectly reasonable petition. Trouble is, for Parry, that these people weren’t called “perverts” because they were English, they were called “perverts” because they were . . . you paying attention, Parry! Shipton! – PERVERTS.
Here’s an update on the case from last September. Note the English flag outside Colin Bately’s house – for he was a patriot! Complete with two rottweilers. Just think, Welsh housing associations are taking in people like this, knowing what they’re like, because this gang had convictions before they moved to Wales.
Anyway, I don’t fancy wasting much more time on Parry and Shipton, I’ll just conclude with the final lines from Shipton’s contribution to this joint-venture into fantasy. He says: ‘”Mr Jones said: “Not my petition. I’m just promoting it for Plaid Glyndwr.” It is understood that South Wales Police will not forward the complaint about Mr Jones to the Crown Prosecution Service.’ This was obviously added after the piece had been written, otherwise he wouldn’t have started by saying I’d “launched” the petition. But it also raises other questions.
For example, seeing as Parry and his fat friend were in cahoots over this attemped smear, and the pretext was the ‘racist’ petition, why was I / my blog reported to the police when they both knew it was not my petition? Because even before my tweet to Fatso on Monday the most cursory check would have shown who actually launched the petition. Are these people really journalists!
“South Wales Police will not forward the complaint about Mr Jones to the Crown Prosecution Service” – well, I am relieved; I feared I was bound for the Colonies! But will the police charge whoever made the complaint against me with wasting police time? Come to that, who did report me, for Wales Eye neglects to tell us. Now, I wonder . . .
The truth is – as any perceptive reader will have guessed – these attacks on me have nothing to do with Protic or petitions, it’s an exercise in black propaganda, or to put it an another way, mud slinging. Done so that anyone Googling ‘Royston Jones’ or ‘Jac o’ the North’ in future will turn up crap like this by Parry and Tub O’Lard. And see that I have been reported to the police. Done to discredit me and, by extension, anything I write. So who’s behind it?
Well, my guess is that it can explained by what I write about. My usual targets are the Labour Party and the Third Sector, which is simply an extension of the Labour Party. It may be no coincidence that this latest attack from Wales Eye comes just days after the latest – possibly final – edition of Cambria magazine became available, which contains my article on housing associations, in which I ask why we have so many of them, and why these quasi-private companies receive so much public funding, and why so much of the money they’re given ends up over the border.
Another subject I’ve touched on recently is Canoe Wales and the National White Water Centre on Afon Tryweryn. Today I received the response from Sport Wales to an FoI I’d submitted about funding to Canoe Wales. Read it here. In a poor country where so much needs to be done, how can anyone justify wasting almost two million pounds in just five years on canoeing, an activity that has little or no Welsh involvement? (And there’s almost certainly public funding from other sources.) That’s how Wales is run today, but you aren’t supposed to know. Ask yourself, are you going to get the truth from the BBC, or ITV, or the Western Mail?
I know how corrupt this country is, and I’m beginning to understand just how much money is squandered year after year on a system of sham devolution designed to encourage colonisation and managed decline rather than make Wales a better country for those who belong here. That’s why I have enemies. Enemies so desperate to discredit me they’ll even use clowns like Parry and Shipton. What will they try next?
UPDATE: In the personal attack on me in his latest post Phil Parry refers back to the Jacques Protic case. I have covered most of the angles in this recent post. Parry seems to think he’s on a winner with this, and keeps bringing it up, almost showing off. What I’m saying can perhaps be explained by this extract.
The “inquiry” referred to is a North Wales Police investigation into me or my blog for nasty things it’s claimed I said about Jacques Protic. Reading the extract in the panel, a number of questions arise.
By what route did Phil Parry obtain internal police documents; did they come directly from the police, did they come from Protic, or from some third party?
As the officers involved in the “inquiry” were first named on Wales Eye on September 10th last, and North Wales Police was made aware of this in my letter received (and acknowledged) on September 17th, we must assume that NWP has no objection to the contents of confidential police documents being aired on a blog.
That being so, what is the relationship between Parry and the North Wales Police? Is he working for them, or are the police merely a conduit for some other agency?
Even if Parry has no relationship with North Wales Police, then we still need to know why NWP has allowed confidential documents, naming and embarrassing its officers, to be in the public domain for over four months.
I wonder what the police response would have been I’d got hold of internal police documents and splashed them on my blog?
I believe it’s time for a little honesty from those involved in this ongoing smear campaign against me.
By one of those delightful coincidences that brighten up our lives I was working yesterday on an update to the previous post, ‘White Water Up Shit Creek’, when I received a phone call from someone I’d mentioned in that piece. Mark Williamson and I then had a lengthy and interesting discussion. He even invited me over to the White Water Centre at Frongoch to see some of the wonderful things going on there . . . and promised not to drown me!
After giving the discussion a little thought I realised that an update would be no way to handle this development, and so I decided on a new post. Also, I decided there and then – impetuous devil that I am! – to give Mark Williamson a chance to respond to the points I had intended raising in the update. I had no idea how this was going to work out – or even if it would work out – but the promise had been made so I was prepared to give it a try. (In the end Mr Williamson decided not to take up my offer, but phoned on Friday morning to suggest a couple of changes.)
Such an offer would have been unique in the history of Jac o’ the North, and may never be repeated. So I don’t want Third Sector shysters, Labourites, white flight colons, BritNats, etc., etc., thinking that this courtesy will be extended to them, because it won’t – you are ever in my cross-hairs.
Before proceeding there are a few things that need to be said, points that emerged from the discussion on Thursday that might help with the understanding of what follows.
1/ Mr Williamson was keen to stress again that the National White Water Centre at Frongoch is run by Canoe Wales Sales and Services Ltd not Canoe Wales . . . though Canoe Wales does have staff on site.
2/ Mr Williamson readily admitted that things had been handled badly in the past, but that this was why he’d been recruited – to clear up the mess. He assured me that an improvement in the finances would be observable in the most recent accounts, submitted towards the end of 2014 and not yet publicly available. While the accounts for year ending March 31st, 2015 would be even better.
3/ When I raised the question of why the Centre’s website is ukrafting.co.uk Mr Williamson admitted that that’s mainly what happens there, it’s used for the purposes I mentioned in the post. Though this was qualified by telling me that Canoe Wales runs lots of courses – using the Sport Wales funding – at other venues around the country. He also assured me that none of this funding finds its way to Frongoch or Canoe Wales Sales and Servicing Ltd because the Centre is separate and entirely self-financing.
Despite telling myself (and you) I needn’t bother, curiosity got the better of me and I did after all buy the DueDil credit report on Canoe Wales. A few points extracted from that report were to have been the substance of the update. (Incidentally, I was able to download and open the report, in pdf format, but was unable to save it. Does anyone know what a (135) error message means on Adobe Acrobat?)
As we have learnt since the banking crisis of 2008, credit ratings are important for countries, but credit ratings started off as a means of gauging companies’ credit worthiness. Canoe Wales’ credit rating was paddling along serenely at 97 or 98 (out of 100) until it hit choppy water in July 2013 that took its rating down to 87. By January 2014 it was down to 70 and bobbed up and down until nearly going under altogether in September 2014 when the rating sunk to 12. Canoe Wales managed to right itself and stay afloat, with the last recorded rating of 53 in October 2014.
A curiosity I would welcome an explanation for is that in the DueDil credit report for Canoe Wales ‘Wages & Salaries’ are £294,260 for year ending 31.03.2013 but show nothing for previous years.
What is the explanation for Day Smith & Hunter resigning as the Canoe Wales auditors on May 9, 2013 and Salisbury & Co resigning as auditors on March 31st, 2014? Who are the auditors now?
Salisbury & Co were so unimpressed with the state of Canoe Wales’ finances that, according to the DueDil credit report, they were unsure whether Canoe Wales was a going concern. (See panel.) Did anyone at Sport Wales pick up on this? Is this in any way connected with the same auditors’ resignation?
Although Mark Williamson declined my offer of 250 words he did have a few things to say in a third phone call this morning. Unfortunately, this call caught me at an awkward moment and I wasn’t able to remember all the points on which I wanted clarification.
For example, I should have raised the point that he (Mark Williamson) has been recruited to get the finances of Canoe Wales into better shape. Which should not be difficult given the large amounts of public funding being received from Sport Wales (and possibly other sources). Another advantage – from now on – is that Rescue 3 (UK) Ltd has folded and been written off. Further income is anticipated from the profits of the Frongoch Centre, now being run by Canoe Wales Sales and Services Ltd; this from the rafting and other activities available there. These include 4 x 4 off-road driving, clay pigeon shooting, quad biking and ‘tree top adventure’ (see panel). In fact, when you take all that into account, it would be difficult for Canoe Wales not to show a profit.
Though this still leaves unresolved the status of the mysterious Canoe Wales (Commercial) Ltd. There are no accounts yet available for this company, so it might still prove a burden for Canoe Wales. Additionally, what if Canolfan Tryweryn does not make a profit, how will it survive seeing as it’s run by a separate company from Canoe Wales and unable to access Canoe Wales’ public funding? I ask this because the most recent figures available for Canoe Wales Sales and Services Ltd show current liabilities of £164,131.
Despite what the helpful Mark Williamson told me I still have difficulty regarding these three entities as separate. A difficulty due to the fact that Canoe Wales Sales and Services Ltd has just two directors, David William Wakeling and Andrew Jeremy Booth, who are also the only directors of Canoe Wales (Commercial) Ltd. Both these companies are wholly owned by Canoe Wales of which Wakeling and Booth appear to be the controlling directors. So with the best will in the world, I remain unconvinced that public funding given to Canoe Wales will not find its way to one or both of the subsidiaries. And seeing as both subsidiaries are wholly owned by Canoe Wales then the parent company is responsible for any losses these might incur, as with Rescue 3 (UK) Ltd. (Refer to previous post.)
Over and above these financial and structural concerns there are other, less material considerations that would probably not occur to those running these ventures, and even if they did, would be unlikely to resonate.
Everything at the White Water Centre has been made possible by the drowning of Capel Celyn and the expulsion of its people; our people. Now stag parties and other groups from England – Liverpool included – go there to have a good time, to drink and laugh, to career about the countryside on quad bikes and in 4 x 4s, to whoop and holler almost within earshot of the drowned village. Another example of tourism in Wales but not of Wales.
The whole concept of Canolfan Tryweryn is insensitive, almost vindictive and triumphalist. Perhaps not a lot different to dancing on the grave of a vanquished foe.
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 appears 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 email@example.com 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, 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 enlarge.) 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):
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?
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 tells 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!
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 electronic 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.
Back at the beginning of August I wrote a piece called Fleece Jacket Fascists, in which I tried to expose those British or Englandandwales organisations that want Wales to be run in the interests of middle class English settlers and visitors. Those working for these organisations can invariably be identified by their ‘uniform’ of the fleece jacket, hence the title. I am returning to the subject for two reasons.
First, one of the issues I dealt with in the earlier post, something that had resulted in a concerted attack by regiments of ‘fascists’, is back in the news. I’m referring now to the planned motor racing circuit in Ebbw Vale, a subject I dealt with in June, in this post. The developers are now promising that work will start on the project before Christmas. So who are these developers?
In recent media coverage they have been named as the Heads of the Valleys Development Company Ltd (HVDC), yet it’s difficult to get any further information. For example, I can find no website, nothing really except for snapshots on business information websites. Such as this. The HVDC has its registered office in Cambridgeshire, and appears to have no local directors. Though DueDil suggests that the HVDC is only a subsidiary of the (non-trading) Rassau Track and Leisure Company Ltd., registered at the same Cambridgeshire address. The RTL has a single director, Michael Anthony Carrick, who is also a director and the investment manager for the HVDC.
Despite these companies being little more than shells the enviro-fascists seem to have understood that public opinion was against them and have backed down. Even though one obstacle has been removed I doubt if this £280m project will come anywhere near realising that figure from private sources. Which means it will need a massive injection of public funding, possibly from the third round of EU Structural Funds (beginning next year). Despite that, I can see no grounds to object to such funding . . . as long as the project delivers the promised benefits for local people. That would be a far better way to spend EU funding than wasting it on the Poverty Promotion Sector that creates jobs for Labour cronies but never for those they are supposedly helping.
The second reason for returning to the subject of the Fleece Jacket Fascists is that visitors to the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Visit Wales website were recently asked to complete a questionnaire on outdoor activity tourism. Excluded from the survey were road cycling, rambling, shooting, horse riding and angling. How do we explain the exclusion of the most popular outdoor activities? The answer almost certainly lies in the picture used on the Visit Wales website to advertise the survey. (Click to enlarge.) That’s right, it’s really just about canoeists, with this fact disguised by throwing in a few other outdoor activities.
We can safely assume that this survey first saw life with lobbying from Canoe Wales, which manages the National White Water Centre on Afon Tryweryn, near Bala. Don’t be fooled by ‘Wales’ in the title, or the location near Bala, these are English bodies; it is the English national centre. The clues are all over the website. Such as describing Bala as being in the “heart of Snowdonia”! There is no Welsh on the website. Note also the e-mail address for the Bala site, firstname.lastname@example.org. So we are not just talking about aggressive and confrontational canoeists, we are also threatened with gangs of drunken middle managers hurling beer cans from rafts. Fundamentally, this is about the outdoor activity sector in Wales, which employs few if any Welsh, wanting to make yet more money out of our country by being allowed access to all Welsh waterways, where they will disturb Welsh anglers and do untold environmental damage.
That the Labour Party should support this move is no surprise, for Labour hates real country people. And as I pointed out in the original post, canoeists have always had friends in the Labour Party. Let me quote from that original post: “One (friend in high places) was Jane Davidson, Minister for Environment and Sustainability from 2007 to 2011. Among the policies Davidson wanted to introduce was that of opening all Welsh rivers, lakes and waterways to her canoeist friends. It is of course entirely coincidental that Jane Davidson is English, and went to a private school; as is the fact that upon leaving politics she became Director of the Wales Institute of Sustainability and a spokesperson for the Ramblers Association.”
More surprising is that Plaid Cymru is also said to support opening up Welsh waterways to arrogant and irresponsible English canoeists. The specific names mentioned to me as supporters of ‘open access’ were Leanne Wood, the party leader, and Rhodri Glyn Thomas, AM for Carmarthen East & Dinefrw. I e-mailed both. I had no reply from Leanne Wood, but Rhodri Glyn responded with, “I’m opposed to granting access without accepting responsibilities”. Which, I suppose, could mean anything, or nothing. Though I do hope he means that it’s the canoeists who have to accept responsibilities.
Unlike the situation in Scotland and England 80 per cent or more of angling rights on Welsh rivers are locally owned, by clubs, some of which are over 100 years old. Many of these clubs were formed by miners, quarrymen, steelworkers and others for whom angling provided fresh air and relaxation, and also put food on the table. Now the descendents of those men, the members of those clubs that have maintained our rivers, regularly restocking them with fish that provided not just pleasure for anglers but also prey for kingfisher, otter, and countless other species, are to be brushed aside by Welsh ‘socialists’ pandering to people who think ‘Wales’ is nothing more than their playground.
This is Wales in 2013. Fourteen years into ‘devolution’. It is the patriotic duty of every good Welshman and Welshwoman to oppose ‘open access’.
UPDATE 25.10.13: I have now received a response from Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru. I am glad to say that it is rather more helpful than the earlier response from Rhodri Glyn Thomas, mentioned in the post above. Also, rather more encouraging. Interestingly, Leanne Wood seems to confirm what I had been told – that the so-called ‘consultation process’ seemed designed to exclude those the ‘Welsh’ Government didn’t want to hear from, i.e. anglers and others likely to object to granting open access to visiting gangs of Hooray Henrys with paddles.
I shall maintain a watching brief.
Thank you for your correspondence regarding access to waterways in proposed changes in legislation in Wales, and please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you. Our Environment spokesperson Llyr Huws Gruffydd has already raised his concerns with the Minister on some of these issues.
It’s clear that not enough has been done to ensure that all the voices are heard as part of the pre-legislation process. For example, we have been contacted by numerous groups who were angry at not having been invited to attend consultation events held to discuss the proposed Recreation and Access Bill.
You may recall that the same Minister was responsible for the Marine Conservation Zone debacle when proposals for new highly protected areas were published with little prior engagement of key stakeholders. As a result there was a huge uproar and he was forced to scrap the proposals and start again. I very much hope this is not replicating that shambles.
It is my understanding that a Green Paper will be published by the Government sometime around late 2013/early 2014 outlining their intentions. Whilst this will offer a more formal means of responding to particular proposals I would suggest that you write to the Minister expressing your views now. It’s always better to try and influence the proposals sooner rather than later.
As you can imagine, we will be scrutinising this particular legislation very closely.
Arweinydd Plaid Cymru ac Aelod Cynulliad Canol De Cymru
Leader of Plaid Cymru and South Wales Central Assembly Member