‘Welsh’ Labour and Social Enterprises – All Fall Down!

In February I posted ‘Welsh’ Labour And A Milking System Unknown To Farmers, which recently received a very interesting comment from ‘Brychan’, a regular contributor to this blog. He drew our attention to Monwel, a social enterprise in Glyn Ebwy making road signs and similar products. He also provided this link to a story that appeared last week in the South Wales Argus (Newport). It seems that no one in our ‘national’ media has yet taken up the story, which explains why most of you reading this will not have heard of Monwel.

Monwel grew out of Blaenau Gwent Council’s sign-making department. In the dystopian economic landscape of ‘Welsh’ Labour social enterprises and Third Sector rackets are viewed as commercial enterprises. However you choose to view it, Monwel, the registered company, was Incorporated on November 9th 2012, Company Number 08284345. The four directors at the time of Incorporation were David Michael Davies, Mrs Leslie Scott Barr, Mr Andrew Richards and Mrs Colleen Andrews. Mrs Barr doubles as managing director, which means, presumably, that she is involved in the day-to-day running of Monwel which, according to Company Check, has a net worth of £-53,983.

Monwell Directors

Beyond the fact that he lives in Brynmawr, I know little of David Michael Davies. Leslie Scott Barr was, ‘Brychan’ told me, “a bridal shop owner from Motherwell in Scotland”! Andrew Richards is the man who does the introduction on the video we see on the Monwel website, and appears to have been the Chairman. Mrs Colleen Andrews is presumably the same person who was a director of Tredegar-based Rainbow Community Enterprises, another Heads of the Valleys outfit, where husband Wayne is still a director.

The mission statement for Rainbow Community Enterprises is typical of the vacuous, politically correct bullshit such organisations use: “Our aim is to benefit the surrounding areas through sustainable development of community projects that foster social inclusion and community participation regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability or social status, and to work in partnership with other community, voluntary and statutory organisations to further these objects”. Now that you’ve read it, do you have any better understanding of what Rainbow Community Enterprises actually does . . . apart from keeping a few Labour loyalists in what they hope will be mistaken for gainful employment? More on Rainbow later.

As the graphic tells us, within a few months of Monwel Ltd setting up Councillor Haydn Leslie Trollope joined the Board (20.05.2013). Richards and Andrews ceased to be directors on May 31st this year, while two new directors joined in February last year, these being Councillor Jennifer Morgan JP and Mr John Anthony Bennett of Worcester, an ‘expert’ in social enterprises. It’s reasonable to assume that Bennett was piped on board when the crew of the good ship Monwel began to discern Shit Creek on the horizon. Someone else who was briefly aboard (10.02.2014 – 26.09.2014) was Paul Byard, the Wales representative for the Engineering Employers Federation. It’s reasonable to assume that he too was recruited in a trouble-shooting role, and may have jumped ship as he too saw Shit Creek draw ever nearer.

The current board of Monwel is comprised of Councillors Trollope and Morgan, David Michael Davies, the ‘expert’ Bennett, and our cousin from Yr Hen Ogledd, Mrs Barr. Davies and Barr are the only directors who’ve been with Monwel from the start which, let’s remind ourselves, was less than three years ago. Although I’m sure she enjoys the bracing upland air of north Gwent Mrs Barr also experiences the atmosphere of Port Talbot, where she has, since February 2014, been a director with Dewis Housing, which specialises in helping young people in the 16 to 25 age bracket.

More interestingly, perhaps, when she isn’t running social enterprises Mrs Barr advertises her talents as a ‘spiritualist medium’. Now you know me, boys and girls, I’m not one to be judgemental, and what Mrs Barr gets up to in her spare time is her own business. I reproduce here for you Mrs Barr’s Facebook page. Though that background, surely it’s not Ebbw Vale . . . even on a bad day?

Leslie Scott Bass Spiritualist

As recently as March this year our ghost-botherer picked up three awards on behalf of her company at some do in a posh nosh joint in the Vale. To quote from the article linked to here, “Ebbw Vale-based Monwel has picked up three awards in recognition of its success in turning a loss-making public sector service into a profit-making social enterprise in the space of just over a year.” It gets better: “The road traffic sign manufacturer won the Large Social Enterprise category and shared best overall Social Enterprise 2010-2015, while managing director Leslie Barr also won the Women in Enterprise category.”

The bash in the Vale was organised by the “EU-funded South East Wales Community Economic Development programme, run by a six valleys local authorities’ consortium of Merthyr Tydfil, Bridgend, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Torfaen”. Has anyone ever heard of this outfit? What the hell does it do . . . apart from organising bun fights awards ceremonies? In fairness, the SEWCED website does claim to have created 100 jobs . . . a figure that presumably includes the 30+ being made redundant at Monwel. Not a lot for the £6.4m SEWCED claims to have invested, but then, awards ceremonies don’t come cheap . . .

The article also informs us that Mrs Barr “ran her own bridal and evening wear and children’s clothing business” which, the Argus article goes on to tell us, gave her the “experience to help Monwel become a social enterprise away from local authority control”! Of course it did, measuring women up for wedding dresses and hiring out tuxedos and kilts is the perfect training for the intimately related activity of bashing out road signs.

More to the point, these awards were being showered on Mrs Barr and Monwel when the company was already in deep schtuck. And if Monwel was regarded as an exemplar among social enterprises, what the hell does that tell us about the rest of them? Dishing out prizes to Monwel is like awarding Best Bird in Show to John Cleese’s Norwegian Blue!

Clearly, Monwel is another for us to add to the already long list of failed social enterprises and Third Sector funding sink-holes. And it may not end there. Earlier in this post I referred to Rainbow Community Enterprises in Tredegar. This is run by Wayne Andrews, husband of recently-resigned Monwel director Colleen Andrews, who at one time was herself a director at Rainbow. According to Company Check, Rainbow’s net worth has declined from £-4,630 in 2012 to £-11,635 in 2013 to £-15,931 in 2014. This is another ‘company’ hurtling to oblivion. It came close last September, when a notification of strike-off appeared in the London Gazette, only to be discontinued a month later. The two directors (in addition to Andrews) are Ian Marc Anthony Morgan and Raymond Davies.

Rainbow Community Enterprises

Morgan appears to be a young employee with no other directorships, but Raymond Davies has been involved in a number of companies in the area, among them Graig Rhosyn Cleaning Services Ltd of Bedwas, now known as grcleaning, Company Number 06828778. His time as a director, which ended in December last year, overlapped for a few months with Colleen Andrews, who remains a director. And guess what? – yes, grcleaning is also funded by SEWCED! Despite the change of name, and the glowing report in the Argus, grcleaning is another company where liabilities exceed combined assets and cash.

Curiously, Rainbow Community Enterprises shares an address with C A Metal Recycling Ltd, which appears to be a commercial outfit with just one director – Wayne Andrews. Although the Registered Address for C A Metal Recycling Ltd is a private house in New Tredegar the company operates out of Unit 15A of the Capital Valley Eco Park in Rhymni. Rainbow’s address is Unit 15. The private address in New Tredegar, and the added ‘A’, are attempts to disguise that the two companies share premises. Further established by the fact that the telephone number given on the (one-page) Rainbow website, above, is the same number as that given for C A Metal Recycling in the extract from Google, below.

Should a social enterprise in receipt of public funding share premises with a private company, and should the owner of that private company also be a director of the social enterprise? I have never come across an arrangement like this before.

In fact, I cannot believe that those disbursing the EU funding would not have raised objections to this undesirable proximity, unless of course the funding was distributed by the local representatives of the South East Wales Community Economic Development programme, in other words, the local Labour Party machine. Googling Rainbow Community Enterprises brings up what you see in the panel below.

C A Google

Almost as an aside, one who left the board of Rainbow at the end of last year was John Michael Bungay. Despite his unusual name it’s difficult to get information on Bungay other than that he lives up on the border, in or near a village called Coedway. He was also, for eight months in 2007, director at Torino Enterprises, Company No 03754420 which, despite the name (Torino being Turin in Italian), is based in Capel Bangor, just outside Aberystwyth, and is run by Edward Phillip Owen Evans and Howard Wyn Evans. Torino is in the business of warehousing and storage units. The first notification of strike-off action for Torino appeared in the London Gazette on June 11th.

But then, according to Yell (see below) and other sources, there seems to be another Torino Enterprises in Rhymni! Not only that, but it is based in Unit 15 of the Capital Valley Eco Park, and described as a ‘property management company’. Bloody hell! it must be getting crowded in Unit 15, what with Rainbow, C A Metal Recycling and now Torino all jostling for space. Not only that but Bungay was simultaneously working for Rainbow and Torino! Who pays the rent? Or is the unit rent free, seeing as Rainbow is a social enterprise? Or maybe Rainbow owns Unit 15?

Torino Yell

It’s difficult to understand what’s going on here. Googling ‘Torino Enterprises’ brings up only the Gwent operation. Yet Companies House and Company Check both tell us that the company is registered to the address in Capel Bangor. (There was another Torino Enterprises in Wexford, Ireland, though this seems to be dissolved, with no information available.)

There is clearly a connection, if only via John Michael Bungay, between Torino Enterprises of Aberystwyth and whatever is going on under the same name in Rhymni. Despite leaving the Capel Bangor operation in 2007 was he still representing Torino Enterprises years later in Gwent? And is there a connection between the impending demise of Monwel, the striking off of Torino Enterprises, and the near-certain collapse of Rainbow in the very near future? If there’s no connection then it’s one hell of a coincidence.

I mentioned that the mysterious Mr Bungay lived up near the border, well, very fittingly his address is given as Tŷ Cudd (the secret or hidden house).

No matter where we look in this Gwent tale we find the dirty fingers of ‘Welsh’ Labour everywhere. Dishing out EU funding to ‘social enterprises’ that have Labour councillors and supporters as directors and management. These social enterprises then give each other ‘work’ in the vain hope that this sleight of hand, this shuffling money around, will be mistaken for genuine economic activity.

In truth, it is just another example of how Labour controls Wales through its dependency culture. EU funding that is supposed to be invested in real business, and infrastructure, and training, is being cynically employed to create a whole sector of Welsh life beholden to, and therefore loyal to, the Labour Party. An incestuous, unproductive and, inevitably, corrupt sector of our national life.

34 thoughts on “‘Welsh’ Labour and Social Enterprises – All Fall Down!

  1. me

    An interesting post – reinforcing the croney culture that exists in Labour Wales. I think the individuals concerned need more scrutiny.

    I also find it difficult to believe that a council can lose 250k on its sign-making business…

    1. I agree, Monwel had a captive market of other councils and it received a contract this year from Carillion for signs for the A465 dulling contract.

    2. OK, so what am I missing? Road signs don’t generate an income, they just sit there. The local authorities have a duty to erect and maintain signs and pay for them out of their various budgets. If they can get them under budget then there’s a saving and that money can be used elsewhere, but I don’t see where profit and loss come into the equation.

  2. So can anyone do this maths problem? With £6,400,000 how long can you employ 100 people at the minimum wage? I may be wrong, but often I wonder if it wouldn’t be cheaper to simply share these grants out amongst the people they’re supposed to help, that would cut out the parasites and who knows when relieved of the pressure to earn a living (or play silly-buggers with the dole office) for a while, a handful of that 100 might actually start a useful business, or at the very least contribute something to their community.

    BTW the blurb you quote for the company’s objects probably comes from a set of ‘model rules’. Various organisations dish these out for a fee and you simply fill in the name of your locality. They’re usually worded on a catch-all basis and so will tell you nothing very much about the actual intentions of the specific company.

    1. Brychan

      To give another example, Penygraig in the Rhondda.

      Residents will note the local shop has a FREE new frontage and signs. Also, loads of lamp posts throughout the village, the community centre gates, and the school has new signs advertising ‘Free BT Community Wifi’. This regeneration was ‘opened’ during a photo-shoot with Leighton Andrews the local Labour AM. There are a number of aspects to this. BT offer free wifi to everyone, anywhere, who is within reception distance of an OpenReach transmitter. The catch is you have to be an existing BT broadband residential customer (minimum 18month contract). The signage is just free advertising for BT and a ‘regeneration spin for a politician’. All the signage was provided by Monwel.

      https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CFCiwhJWYAAUlnD.jpg

      Some readers will be aware that Ann Beynon is the ‘Welsh’ director of BT, who made a donation to this ‘Give and Gain regeneration’. Ms Beynon just happens to be married to Leighton Andrews. The village of Penygraig is to home of Leanne Wood, the leader of Plaid Cymru who is challenging Leighton for the Rhondda seat at the Welsh elections. Two of the directors of Monwel are Labour councillors, and the shop that got the free frontage from Monwel often has ‘vote Labour’ signs in the window during elections. Coincidence?

      1. Daley Gleephart

        Seeing as no other media source has reported what is in the South Wales Argus, confirmation that they have indeed closed for business and have made the staff redundant.

        1. I see. But the report was in the Argus a week ago and there has been no retraction or correction. So I can only assume that it’s true. Furthermore, the latest figures I can see with Company Check give Monwel a net worth of £-53,983, which is not good. I can see now that I did not link to these figures in my post, maybe I’ll update it.

        2. Brychan

          The directorship of Monwel have applied for voluntary liquidation and sacked most of the staff. The receivers have decided to ‘review existing contracts’, as it is evident that they think the order book is of worth. It is likely that the receivers will ‘securitise’ the order book and associated debtors by using this value to obtain a bridging loan from a bank, repayable when the order book is sold to a third party, and finally wind up the assets. When BG council hived off the firm as a ‘social enterprise’ they undertook a five year guarantee that the council would fund any outstanding pension liability of the workforce with a provision of £200,000, should the company fail. This will now be paid by the council taxpayers of Blaenau Gwent if the receivers fail to secure a bond from remaining assets to cover this liability. Hope this explains, Mr Telegraph.

          1. When I was writing this piece there was one possibility I really didn’t have time or space to deal with. Which is, that Monwel has a good order book and has invested in new machinery. Now it has a temporary cash flow problem but in the longer term is a viable company. Being a social enterprise, with a workforce having varying degrees of disability, may make it difficult for Monwel to get investment or loans. However, if Monwel could metamorphose into a private company, perhaps through a ‘management buy-out’, then it could secure the funding it needs and survive.

            1. Brychan

              I suspect the most lucrative order would be the Carillion, a legacy of the A465 job.
              They would no doubt be very interested in inheriting the physical assets. This is likely to be leaving the disabled workforce in on the dole queue in Ebbw Vale (Carillion recently donated £75 to the local food bank). They would most likely move the operation to Doncaster, with a good few bread and butter contracts with all the councils in the South Wales valleys thrown in. This would be the ultimate legacy left by the third sector and Welsh Government involvement in this ‘social enterprise’. Perhaps Cllr Trollope would be called on to explain this final solution at the next council meeting.

            2. If that was to happen then ‘Welsh’ Labour would have some explaining to do . . . silly me! with no Welsh media who’d be asking Labour the awkward questions?

  3. Ian Perryman

    According to their website SEWCED funding ended in April 2015. Is this why the soft brown smelly stuff is hitting the air circulation device?

    1. Brychan

      In 2014, Ms Barr got a substantial grant from the Welsh government via Communities 2.0 for a new server and network. In the promotion video she explains how this has helped reduction of 30% on energy consumption.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IObARBL8k1c
      Further success in 2015 has resulted in a 100% reduction in energy consumption.

  4. Ian Perryman

    It’s on the bottom of their ‘About Us’ page

    It says – ‘SEWCED will run until April 2015 and, due to extensive demand, the project is likely to close earlier than this. We advise contacting your local team as soon as possible with any potential project ideas.’

    http://sewced.co.uk/about-us

    1. I can see it now. So this means that even though the money ran out in April, or earlier, at the end of March they still held the awards bash at some classy joint in the Vale. That’s getting your priorities straight.

  5. Another old Blairite emerged yesterday 11-8-15 at Swansea Council’s Planning Committee’s Public Gallery. It was the latest member of the over seventies club of EX Labour MPs beong paid for lobbying support for Renewable Energy. Seems he nobbled the Vice Chair of Planning into taking a sick day’s leave yesterday. I can’t remember his name as he left Westminster about 1996 into a forest of obcurity. However, there’s lots of money in Wind and Sunlight these days.

    1. I believe you’re thinking of Gareth Wardell. He pressurised the vice-chair of planning into throwing a sickie rather than turn up and represent the wishes of her constituents who do not want a solar farm in the Cockett Valley ‘green wedge’. The ‘renewables’ gangsters Wardell represents of course want the solar farm. We’ll see more of this desperation as the deadline approaches when the juicy subsidies will be removed.

            1. dafis

              you never know, some wise guy might start marketing that “minor defect” as “free gas with your water ” and if you could ignite it you get free hot water straight from the tap ! Potential is limitless, and I’m surprised that the clever folk down in Cardiff Bay haven’t given a big grant to somebody to market the scam. Go for it mate

  6. Cheers for the research, Jac.

    I’ve been on the lookout for more WG funding disasters over the past few days, and almost missed this, had I not picked up your article.

    I find it ironic that there’s more often than not there’s such a fanfare as to how well things are going, just minutes from running aground. It’s a if spouting more and more PRollocks would mean that the true state of financial affairs is somewhat different.

    Incidentally, I run a Welsh social enterprise (Indycube CIC) which runs coworking spaces across Wales. We’ve never sought, received or wanted any form of grants, for the simple reason I wasn’t prepared to be controlled by the state, yet I wanted to run an enterprise that did social good. We employ people, pay taxes, and have grown every year since we started.

    The fact the WG can’t control us, often means the biggest competitive forces we come up against, are the likes of those who get funded; the likes of those you and others refer to. I used to care, but I stopped when I realised the only way to beat them is to still be around when the funded fail – it seems they always do.

    Social enterprises can do good, but they need to have a real need to resolve, and they need to be enterprising, not just there to spend our money on politicians’ whims and fancies.

    1. I must confess, in my mind I always think of social enterprises as being funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government and invariably run by Labour cronies, so it’s good to have someone remind us that this needn’t always be the case, that there are other models. Best of luck.

    1. As I said in an e-mail to someone yesterday, “With many projects the time comes when it’s clear the project is failing. At which point, the sensible thing to do then is admit that a mistake was made and salvage whatever can be salvaged. But too often – for political or other reasons – there is a reluctance to admit to failure, and then we see good money being poured after bad. It’s like a gambler on a losing streak who keeps on gambling in the hope that his next hand will turn his fortunes around.”

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