Shorts & Updates 05.02.2019; St Tatans, Weep for Wales 11a, the false economy of the third sector

I’ve burdened you with a few heavyweight issues of late and now I’m going to make up for it with this relatively short piece in which I look at tourist tat, give a brief update on the Williams gang and new boy Myles Cunliffe in Weep for Wales 11a, before rounding off with an appeal for a better system than funding organisations that have no intention of ever dealing with the problem they’re paid to deal with.

ST TATAN’S

As you know, every December I haul the old Jones carcass down to Cilmeri where the craic is good in the company of old comrades from the 1960s (though fewer every year), and this in no way detracts from the solemnity of the occasion, or the fiery speeches at the monument.

Among the regulars are some of our Breton cousins, one of them, Gwion, first came to Wales many, many years ago as a student teacher; a nice lad who unfortunately fell in with a bad crowd . . . that included myself. Ah! happy days.

After Cilmeri this year our Breton guests went to a number of castles and historic sites to soak up some history and culture before heading to St Fagan’s. Where they intended spending money on Welsh goods.

Among their purchases was a scarf, a red, Welsh scarf. This was left in the bag until they returned home . . . when the full horror of what had happened was revealed.

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You’ll see that not only does this scarf carry the ‘Ich Dien’ logo of Charles Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, but it was made in China! Yet the receipt insists it is a ‘Welsh’ scarf.

After receiving the information and the photographs I got to wondering who could be responsible, who was guilty of perpetrating this deception in our name, so I did some checking.

The receipt mentions ‘NMGW Enterprises Ltd’, but nothing comes up for that name on the Companies House website. Next stop was the website for National Museum Wales where, on the ‘Corporate Partnerships’ page (scroll down), I found this reference to NMGW Enterprises.

A bit more ferreting gave me the name I was looking for – Mentrau Amgueddfeydd ac Orieliau Cenedlaethol Cymru / National Museums & Galleries of Wales Enterprises Ltd. Here’s the Companies House entry.

A number of things concern me, and should concern anyone who cares about Wales.

First off, looking at the directors of NMGW Enterprises, there is a worrying lack of Welsh involvement. (Even the auditors are in Walsall!) Which might explain why tourist tat made in China is being passed off as Welsh and damaging our country’s reputation.

Seeing as NMGW Enterprises is owned by National Museum Wales I suggest that that body either reins in these cowboys or else removes from its website actionable lies about ‘Welsh-made products’. Preferably the former.

And because the ‘Welsh Government’ has ultimate responsibility for our museums and galleries – and may even have appointed the directors of NMGW Enterprises – I also expect to see some action from that quarter.

Wales is supposedly going for up-market tourism and yet, at one of our flagship visitor attractions, people are offered rubbish you’d expect to see sold by a spiv down from London to capitalise on a rugby or football international.

WEEP FOR WALES 11a

I don’t have enough material, yet, for Weep for Wales 12 but there is fresh information that needs to be made public. Let’s recap . . .

Weep for Wales 11 appeared on 3 December and I updated it a few times, including just before Christmas after receiving a threatening letter from a solicitor, demanding that I remove everything I’d ever written about Paul and Rowena Williams. (Here’s my response.) I’ve heard nothing more from the solicitor. I’ll return to this intervention later.

The real news is that there’s a new kid on the block and his name is Myles Andrew Cunliffe. He now appears to run both Plas Glynllifon Ltd and Rural Retreats & Development Ltd through Mylo Capital Ltd, a company with a single one pound share and nothing yet submitted to Companies House.

Though the 10,000 shares issued for each of Plas Glynllifon and RR&D are split equally between Mylo Capital and Rowena Williams.

Myles Cunliffe inhabits that demi-monde of the personal finance sector that seeks out those with poor credit ratings, those who are susceptible to pitches that translated say – ‘Want to get into crippling debt buying a car you can’t really afford?’

For this sector encourages people to do exactly that, which often results in repossession. In the case of cars, these can then be ‘sold’ to somebody else who will fall behind with repayments, and the sequence repeats itself.

Another company with which Cunliffe is involved is Etaireia Investments PLC, a company that was until March 2011 known as Aquarius Media PLC, with a Seychelles connection.

More recently Etaireia Investments has been in talks with the Oyston family estate. The name Owen Oyston will be familiar to football fans and to readers of Private Eye. This recent article from the Guardian will give you a flavour of the man we’re dealing with.

On the same day he joined Etaireia Investments Cunliffe also became a director of Etaireia Holdings Ltd, a Scotland-registered company now lined up to be struck off due to both Accounts and Confirmation Statement being overdue with Companies House.

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Someone who joined Etaireia Investments soon after Cunliffe was Dennis Rogers, who got this write-up in the Financial Express. Rogers is based on the Isle of Man. That puff was written by Cunliffe or someone close to him, and the version in the Times also said of Cunliffe that he has “the individual FCA permissions of CF1, CF1(AR), CF10 and CF11”. People who know of such things are dubious of some of these Financial Conduct Authority accreditations.

But what of Paul and Rowena Williams, what are they up to? Very little, is the answer. For with Cunliffe taking over their mansion what do they have left? Perhaps only the Seiont Manor Hotel, run by faithful family retainer Rikki Reynolds, and rotting Fronoleu.

Seeing as Myles Cunliffe has taken over it was no surprise to learn that the registered address for Seiont Manor Hotel Ltd moved on 3 February from Plas Glynllifon. What was less easy to understand was why it moved back to Leintwardine and the palatial offices of convicted fraudster and accountant John Duggan.

Why couldn’t Seiont Manor Hotel Ltd have used the Seiont Manor Hotel as its address? One answer is that they don’t want bailiffs turning and carting away their goods. Though a further answer suggested itself when I realised that since 4 January there has been a new company called Seiont Manor Ltd, with an address in Manchester and Myles Cunliffe as sole director.

So who now owns the Seiont Manor Hotel? I’m not sure yet, but whoever it is, this switch probably accounts for the staff not getting paid. The excuse given by the Williams gang was that “a key funder / new investor had backed out”.

Given that the solicitor who sent me that letter before Christmas was also based in Manchester it could be that Myles Cunliffe was behind it. For while he knew that he was getting into bed with crooks, he may not have appreciated how bad the Williams gang’s reputation is.

Cunliffe must now realise that partly thanks to Weep for Wales 1 – 11 his chances of getting funding for Plas Glynllifon are slim (especially with Rowena Williams still on board) and from any governmental source zero. So what can he be planning to do with the old pile?

As yet, I don’t know. But I’m sure I’ll be able to tell you in Weep for Wales 12. Watch this space!

THE FALSE ECONOMY OF THE THIRD SECTOR

One defence of the third sector is that it ‘takes up the slack’ when central, devolved, or local government no longer provides a certain service, and to some extent that’s true.

But there may come a point when it would make more sense to take that responsibility back ‘in-house’, where a service might not only be provided for less in terms of financial outlay but also in a way that made it more transparent in its dealings, and open to public scrutiny.

This thought has occurred to me a number of times recently. And it came back to me yesterday when I read this pitch in the Western Mail for more funding from the CEO of a homelessness business.

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Let’s start with the introduction, where it says, “Lindsay Cordery-Bruce, chief executive of Wales’ leading homelessness charity The Wallich, makes an impassioned call to recognise that our current systems of support to tackle the issue of rough sleeping in Wales clearly aren’t working”. And there are good reasons for why they aren’t working, as I shall explain.

After being introduced as CEO of “Wales’ leading homelessness charity” Ms Cordery-Bruce then, and rather confusingly, began her article with: “Across the UK, including in Wales . . . “. Why would the CEO of Wales’ biggest such charity, operating solely in Wales, and writing about homelessness in Wales, have to put her thoughts into a UK framework for a Welsh readership?

It makes no sense unless you appreciate that the Wallich, like most third sector bodies in Wales, operates in an Englandandwales framework, throwing Welsh money at what are often transferred English problems. (Housing associations are particularly guilty in this regard.)

But of course the Wallich is not alone, for as the ‘Welsh Government was only too pleased to tell me, there are no fewer than 48 homelessness charities / businesses operating in Wales.

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I’m not for one minute suggesting that they’re all as big as the Wallich, but the Wallich is not without serious rivals. With all of them soaking up vast amounts of public funding. To illustrate my point let me walk you through the latest available accounts for the Wallich. (Keep this pdf file open in a separate window.)

Let’s start on page 8, where we see that the Wallich has £2,778,887 squirrelled away in investments. In addition, page 21 tells us that there is another £3,574,617 in readies. Whence cometh these shekels?

Well, page 29 informs us that in 2018 £7,981,735 came from the ‘Welsh Government’ and local authorities. Another £3,993,798 came from rents. This is clearly no hand-to-mouth charity, this is a serious commercial undertaking, and the commodity bringing in this money is homeless people.

That the Wallich is a big company and a major employer is made clear on page 31, where we learn that £8,019,182 went on staff costs (for 381 employees), of which Ms Cordery-Bruce herself pulled down £100,000+. (Though in the previous year the CEO who preceded Ms C-B seems to have been paid less than £80,000.)

To sum up, we have in Wales a homelessness industry made up of dozens of organisations, all reliant to a greater or lesser degree on public funding, and all with a vested interest in not solving the problem of homelessness because to do so would put them out of a job.

Which also means that if Wales cannot provide enough homeless then they will be brought in from England . . . as will the drug addicts, and the ex-cons, and the paedophiles and the problem families for housing associations and others.

Why does the ‘Welsh Government’ not put a stop to this obvious rip-off? Because there is electoral advantage to be gained from keeping Wales poor, which runs:  ‘Look at all the homeless . . . see how poor Wales is? . . . it’s all the fault of them Tories . . . vote Labour!’

We have reached the stage where it would be far cheaper for the ‘Welsh Government’ to take direct responsibility in certain sectors currently exploited by an out-of-control third sector and bring down costs by actually solving the problem rather than by keeping it going for personal gain.

Because if Finland, a country not much bigger than Wales in terms of population, can solve it’s homelessness problems why can’t Wales?

Part of the answer must lie in the related facts that Finland has a government working in the country’s best interests and Finland doesn’t take in Russia’s problems.

P.S. There was a double-page spread on homelessness in today’s Western Mail, in which Ms Cordery-Bruce was extensively quoted. Here’s the WalesOnline version.

♦ end ♦

 

 

Weep for Wales 8

You knew it was coming, didn’t you! And believe me, I’m not just going through the motions here, there really have been developments. Important developments that we shall discuss in just a minute.

Now I’ll say what I always say at this point – For anyone joining the saga I strongly suggest that you get up to speed with: Weep for WalesWeep for Wales 2Weep for Wales 3Weep for Wales 4Weep for Wales 5Weep for Wales 6, Weep for Wales 7.

GARDEN PARTY

Let’s start on a happy note before moving on to discuss the murky world of Paul and Rowena Williams and their interesting ways of doing business.

For on Sunday July 29 there was a garden party at the Radnorshire Arms Hotel in Presteigne. Everybody was invited and a wonderful time was had by all. Here are some photographs from the event.

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The jolly get-together was called the Pants on Fire Party, an obvious reference to the countless lies told by Paul and Rowena Williams, plus those in their inner circle. In the poster a shifty-looking Keith Partridge says, ‘Psst!! wanna buy a hotel chain? No, how about a hot Bentley?’

To be honest, I wouldn’t buy a lavatory chain from that man.

As I say, a good time was had by all, though Paul and Rowena Williams didn’t turn up . . . which probably explains why everybody had a good time!

DIGGING DEEP

Having some time to myself last week I delved into the history of the oldest of Paul and Rowena Williams’ companies; the one that started life as Mortimers Cross Inn Ltd, then became Rural Retreats & Leisure Ltd, before the name was changed again to Polvellan Manor Ltd in March 2016.

The first question that cropped up was, ‘When the company was formed in July 2002 we have a husband and wife running a country pub, so do they really need a private limited company? But even if they do, does that company need 10,000 £1 shares – why not just two shares?

Going through the accounts submitted for Mortimers Cross Inn Ltd we find a heart-rending tale of losses, year on year, suggesting that the Mortimers Cross Inn was spectacularly unsuccessful . . . or else someone was being ‘imaginative’ with the accounts ‘unaudited financial statement’. Heavily indebted every year the sole asset would appear to be the inn itself, valued in the accounts for y/e 31.07.2003 at £479,938 after depreciation.

Turning to the ‘Abbreviated accounts’ for y/e 31.07.2005 we see that the asset is now gone, which accords with perceived wisdom that says the inn was sold around this time to pubco Punch Taverns.

Though the figures for 2005 suggest other fixed assets somewhere, as ‘additions’, amounting to £118,611, giving a book value of £634,407, which reduced to just £8,250 after the sale.

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The Abbreviated Accounts for y/e 31.07.2006 give the company tangible assets of just £6,187 and it’s heavily in debt. So where’s the money gone from the sale of the assets in y/e 31.07.2005?

I think that question is answered by the fact that Paul and Rowena Williams were now acquiring the properties we are more familiar with, such as the Radnorshire Arms Hotel and the Knighton Hotel. Even so, they had just over half a million pounds to start with and there are no charges (mortgages or loans) listed against their only company. So where did the rest of the money come from?

Debra Yvonne Oswald, Paul Williams’ sister, became a director of Retreats & Leisure Ltd on 14.03.2007, so did she inject some money? For just a short time after this, in November 2007, Oswald, with her husband and her and Paul Williams’ parents, formed a company in Goa. Where the family still have a hotel, and where Williams père lives.

Whatever the answer, acquisitions there certainly were, for the company address was changed to the Radnorshire Arms Hotel on July 24, 2009, and the ‘Financial Statements’ for 2010 were lodged from the Knighton Hotel. Yet we don’t see these properties appearing in documentation until the ‘Abbreviated (Unaudited) Accounts’ for y/e 31.07.2010 when tangible assets are £863,016, up from £203,00 the following year.

Though the company remains a loser. On a turnover of £322,788 up to July 31, 2010 Rural Retreats & Leisure Ltd lost £152,421. One factor being a large loan from Scottish & Newcastle Breweries Ltd, with £155,667 falling due in 2010, though this was down from £209,625 the previous year.

This loan, plus the money received from the sale of the Mortimers Cross Inn, would still not be enough to pay for the ten properties bought in this period, even if most were bought from receivers or at auction, so I ask again, where did the rest of the money come from?

The last ‘Abbreviated (Unaudited) Accounts’ for Retreats & Leisure Ltd before the new companies were set up was for y/e 31.07.2014. They tell us that the ‘total tangible assets’ – the combined worth of the Williams property empire – amounted to just £1,802,623.

Yet in August 2015 the Radnorshire Arms Hotel was bought by the new Williams company Leisure & Development Ltd for £3,487,049. The same company bought the Bird in Hand for £1,279,204. Salutation Inn for £1,049,076. Castle Inn for £1,269,720. The Knighton Hotel for £2,881,599. The Courtyard for £1,920,780. 

Those figures come to a total of £11,887,428. And there are other properties they bought from themselves for which I don’t have the prices. Of course, the problem with buying from yourself is that it’s not real money, you aren’t making anything. That comes from the mortgages and loans you can raise against properties given absurd valuations.

(Though given who’re dealing with we should remember that paying over the odds is a good way of getting rid of money you might have difficulty accounting for.)

Something else I did to while away the time was draw up a list of the companies Paul and Rowena Williams have been involved with. Here’s the table I compiled, and it’s here in pdf format with the company number linking with its Companies House website page.

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THE BEGINNING OF THE END?

Last week was a busy week. It started on Monday when I popped over to Presteigne and Knighton for a mooch around. (I enjoy a good mooch.) The Knighton Hotel and the Radnorshire Arms look what they are – abandoned, neglected and deteriorating.

Next, I received a flurry of e-mails from Companies House telling me of activity with Williams companies. All dated 10 July but recorded at Companies House July 30.

First, was notification that a new charge had been attached to Rural Retreats & Development Ltd. This charge seems to be Together Commercial Finance Ltd securing its claim on 15 properties (see page 15).

The second charge concerned Leisure & Development Ltd. This appears to be Together Commercial Finance Ltd laying claim to a further seven properties. (See page 14)

Third and fourth were two charges against Plas Glynllifon Ltd. Both are against “all the property or undertaking of the company”.

All of which suggests that Together Commercial Finance Ltd may have come to the end of its tether with Paul and Rowena Williams; concluded it’s not going to see its money repaid, and so is tying down property in lieu of the money it’s owed.

The National Westminster Bank seems to have come to the same conclusion, for it pulled the plug on Leisure & Development Ltd last Thursday, obviously concerned about the money it had loaned in 2015. Locks were changed and CCTV cameras installed on a number of properties, including the Radnorshire Arms where locals had so recently enjoyed the the garden party.

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And yet, there are still questions.

Just a few months ago, when Paul and Rowena Williams were spinning the line about Keith Partridge taking over their hotels and other businesses, they told staff it was being done through his buy-out – for £10m – of Rural Retreats & Leisure UK Ltd. Read the letters here.

We now know that the ‘buy-out’ was a fairy tale, and we also know that RRL UK Ltd owns nothing. Which I suppose explains why NatWest is unlikely to pursue the charge it has against this company.

So it appears that both lenders have all options covered and we’re approaching endgame. But I’m convinced that a crook and a liar as ruthless and cunning as Paul Williams still has something up his sleeve.

For as locals in Presteigne and Knighton know, just a day before the case was heard in that Birmingham court Paul Williams visited his properties with some men in a white van, and loaded up all sorts of stuff, even fire extinguishers! They appeared to be genuine – the guys in the van, I mean! – and even gave out a business card, which said they were working for Worcester Pubkit.

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Even more bizarrely, at around 3am, just hours before Aztec Asset Assured turned up to change the locks, the alarm at the Radnorshire Arms went off, sounding very briefly before someone pressed the right buttons. Who could that have been, boys and girls, creeping around in the middle of the night?

The Williams Gang is now reduced to its holdings in Gwynedd and Cornwall, which I find rather disturbing for a couple of reasons. One, being pushed back into the western extremities of Britain carries uncomfortable historical resonance, and two, I live in Gwynedd, and so I’m wondering if these crooks are getting any of my money.

Gwynedd is represented by the Seiont Manor Hotel Ltd, while Cernyw comes in the form of Polvellan Manor Ltd. The sole director of the former is Rikki John Reynolds, while his counterpart in Cornwall is Keith Harvey Partridge.

The only reason these companies are still standing is that there are no charges against them. Or should I say, no charges directly against them. But Seiont Manor is owned by Rural Retreats & Development Ltd and as we’ve seen, Together seems to have that base covered.

Which leaves just Polvellan Manor Ltd, which as you read earlier started life as Mortimers Cross Inn Ltd in 2002. According to the company’s latest ‘Unaudited Financial Statement’ – produced by our old friend John Duggan – the turnover for y/e 31.07.2017 was zero.

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That’s zero, as in zilch, nothing, sod all.

But we must introduce the caveat that Mr Duggan does have trouble with figures, to such an extent that he was sent away for a few years to brush up on his accountancy skills. So for all we know, the Polvellan Manor could be raking it . . . high rollers jetting in to the private airfield, top-class cabaret, 50 quid for a shot of Old MacDonald’s single malt . . .

What a twosome – Partridge and Duggan. What could possibly go wrong?

Yes, last week was a good news week, and I’m looking forward to more good news in the not-too-distant future. The fat lady’s not ready to sing just yet, but I feel she’s in her dressing room applying make-up. For the curtain has gone up on the opening scene of the final act.

For you insomniacs out there, here’s some reading matter in the form of the latest version of the information sheet on the gang. Anyone able to suggest amendments or additions is welcome to contact me.

UPDATE 07.08.2018: After making further enquiries I now know that the process which resulted in Leisure & Development Ltd being placed In Administration was initiated by the directors. Which is where it gets interesting, for the two directors are Sukhbinder Singh Heer and Keith Harvey Partdridge (sic). Paul Steven Williams was a director until 21 July 2018.

Also on 21 July, one day after the meeting at the Radnorshire Arms Hotel between Paul and Rowena Williams and Powys County Council and the ‘Welsh’ Government, all 10,000 shares in the company were transferred from Plas Glynllifon Ltd to Keith Harvey Partridge. Though you have to ask why the shares were held by Plas Glynllifon Ltd when Part(d)ridge is supposed to have taken over the company on 1 February.

Whoever the directors are, the charges against this company remain. And I’m assured that once the move was made to, essentially, wind up the company, the creditors – National Westminster Bank Ltd and Together Commercial Finance Ltd – were informed.

As I say, the fat lady is still in her dressing room.

♦ end ♦

P.S. For all of you who’ve sent me information and anecdotes about the gang, particularly Paul Williams, please understand that I can’t use everything. Though I am considering a piece devoted solely to these horror stories.