THE FALL OF GORDON ANGLESEA

October 23, 2016

anglesea_head_d

TWENTY FIVE years after he was first named as a sexual predator Gordon Anglesea has been brought to book.

On Friday a jury of five women and six men branded the retired police superintendent a child abuser.

They did what North Wales Police, the judiciary — and £20 million of public money had failed to do.

They unanimously convicted him of four counts of indecent assault against two boys in the 1980s.

Anglesea is remanded on bail until November 4.

[He was later gaoled for 12 years — see Gordon Anglesea: Justice.]

Judge Geraint Walters told him “there can only be one sentence and that will be a prison sentence”.

The six-week trial was a raw, bad-tempered affair.

The jury were unhappy because they were in court for less than a third of the time.

rebecca_logo_04

MINUTES AFTER Friday’s verdict Rebecca revealed the existence of a new allegation against Anglesea — in 1996 he was accused of indecently assaulting a woman. Even though he lied to the police when first questioned about the incident, he was not prosecuted. Police are also investigating an alleged cover-up. One of the offences Anglesea was convicted of was first reported back in 2002 but senior officers turned a blind eye. Read more here.
The Rebecca investigation of Gordon Anglesea started 19 years ago and has cost more than £15,000 so far. The legal bill for fireproofing the resulting articles — especially The Trials Of Gordon Anglesea — came to £6,000.
The next major piece — A Force For Evil — reveals how Anglesea was protected by the North Wales Police and escaped censure in both the 1996-1997 North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal and the more recent Macur Review. 
Rebecca is independent, takes no advertising, allows no sponsorship. She relies on readers who support fearless investigative journalism … 

Barristers for the prosecution and defence sniped at one another throughout.

At one point the judge warned the trial was in danger of becoming a “pantomime”.

What follows is a long, detailed account of one of the most important court cases in recent Welsh criminal history.

It is unsparing and some readers may find it harrowing …

♦♦♦ 

WHEN 79-year old Gordon Anglesea walked into Court No 1 at the Law Centre in Mold on September 5, the press benches were packed.

Reporters from Channel 4, ITV and BBC watched as the retired policeman was searched by a security guard and took his seat in the dock.

The dock is surrounded by thick plate-glass.

Also present were journalists from the Press Association, representing the national press, Private Eye, the local Daily Post — and Rebecca.

The trial emerged out of the new investigation into historic child abuse in North Wales ordered by David Cameron in 2012.

The Prime Minister’s decision followed the claim by former care home resident Stephen Messham that he’d been abused by the senior Tory politician Lord McAlpine.

The allegation was made on the BBC Newsnight programme but later shown to be based on mistaken identity.

By then the new police investigation — Operation Pallial — was already underway.

Stephen Messham was one of three men who accused Gordon Anglesea of abusing them as children.

THERESA MAY

THERESA MAY
THE PRIME MINISTER was Home Secretary when she announced a police inquiry into historic child abuse in North Wales in November 2012. When Labour MP Paul Flynn asked her to examine material from Rebecca, she told him police “will, indeed, be looking at that historical evidence. That is part of the job they will be doing.” 
Photo: PA

When Private Eye, HTV, the Observer and the Independent on Sunday reported some of these allegations in 1991 and 1992, Anglesea issued writs.

The trial in 1994 is one of the most celebrated cases in British libel history.

The jury found for Anglesea by 10-2.

In the settlement that followed, he received £375,000 in damages.

Now — 22 years later — Gordon Anglesea was back in court.

This time not as a plaintiff in a civil case but in the criminal dock as the defendant.

The original indictment accused the retired superintendent of 10 counts of abusing four boys.

The prosecution decided not to proceed with six incidents involving two alleged victims.

This meant Anglesea faced four charges.

He was accused of two counts of indecent assault and one of buggery against a boy of 14 between September 1981 and September 1982.

He also faced a single charge of indecent assault against a second boy of 14 or 15  in 1986 or 1987.

Several days of legal argument and a short adjournment meant that Eleanor Laws, QC did not start to present the prosecution case against Anglesea until Wednesday, September 14.

She told the jury she would present the evidence of the two complainants.

In addition, she would call a series of witnesses who would give evidence in support of their testimony.

♦♦♦

Complainant One is a troubled man of 48.

He cannot be named for legal reasons.

The jury watched him give his evidence in chief in a series of recorded DVDs.

He then took the stand, waiving his right to do so behind screens.

He told the court he was an alcoholic who also took drugs and had a history of serious mental illness.

He had a long criminal record — mainly burglaries — but told the court he’d not been in trouble for many years.

He did not come forward until he told a counsellor about the abuse in 2015.

The jury heard that in 1982 he was ordered to spend 18 hours at the Wrexham Attendance Centre .

He was 14 at the time

The centre was part of a nationwide Home Office initiative in the late 1970s, designed as an alternative to youth custody.

The boys’ detention took place on alternate Saturday afternoons at St Joseph’s School in Wrexham.

img_1320

WREXHAM ATTENDANCE CENTRE
FOR NEARLY eight years the centre was based at St Joseph’s School in Wrexham. Magistrates ordered boys to spent several hours detention every other Saturday in a military-style setting.

It was scheduled to coincide with the home games of the Wrexham football team.

The centre ran from 1978 to 1986.

For most of that time it was run by Gordon Anglesea, then a North Wales Police inspector, assisted by several other police officers.

Complainant One said the routine was gym and a race in a field followed by showers and a woodwork lesson.

He was a good runner and easily won the races in the initial series of sessions.

He said Anglesea then ordered him to start later to give the other boys a chance.

As a result he came last and showered alone.

On three of these occasions Anglesea sexually abused him.

The first time he was naked after his shower when Anglesea brushed his arm against his genitals.

Anglesea was “saying some nice things”.

Looking back, he believes the police inspector was testing him to see if he would protest.

He didn’t.

The second time, Anglesea told him to kneel over a bench while still naked — and then penetrated his anus with his finger.

Anglesea was charged with indecent assault for these two alleged offences.

On the third occasion the complainant said he was forced over the bench again — and Anglesea penetrated him either with his finger or his penis

Anglesea was charged with buggery or the alternate count of indecent assault.

The complainant blamed the abuse by Gordon Anglesea for most of his problems:

“He’s wrecked my life. He has, he’s wrecked my life. I’m an … alcoholic.”

“I’ve been in prison all me life and everything just because I hate police and everybody because of him.”

Several times he dramatically pointed to Gordon Anglesea — and insisted he was the man who abused him.

Tania Griffiths QC, defending Anglesea, put it to him he’d made a mistake about Anglesea’s distinctive strawberry birthmark.

He’d described it as being on the wrong side of his face.

The complainant replied that it was a long time ago but he was certain Anglesea abused him.

Griffiths also put it to him that the benches in the changing room were too small for him to be abused on one.

He said that’s where the abuse took place.

Griffiths also put it to him that he’d heard about Anglesea from other people and on social media.

He denied it.

She asked:

“You’re a liar, aren’t you?”

He replied:

“Believe what you want to believe.”

Complainant One said he wanted Anglesea to get his “upandcommance.”

“He’s wrecked people’s lives and he needs to pay for it”.

♦♦♦

THE PROSECUTION called several witnesses in support of Complainant One’s story.

Paul Godfrey was one of the most important.

Not only did he give evidence about the attendance centre, he would also claim to have seen Anglesea in a hotel room with a homosexual market trader and an underage boy.

Godfrey was 15 when he was ordered to spend 24 hours at the attendance centre in 1980.

He’d been convicted of burglary and theft.

He said that when the boys were showering after gym Anglesea would stand at the entrance “ogling” them.

Godfrey said Anglesea did not touch him.

anglesea

“UPANDCOMMANCE”
ONE OF the complainants against Gordon Anglesea said his life has been ruined by the abuse — he wanted the man who assaulted him to get his “upandcommance”. 
Photo: Trinity Mirror

Anglesea’s barrister put it to him that allegations about the showers, “became part of the local folk-lore, didn’t it?

Godfrey was emphatic: he’d seen Anglesea watching the boys showering.

Two other witnesses can’t be named for legal reasons.

Witness “Alpha” gave his evidence behind screens.

He spent 24 hours at the attendance centre in 1986 when he was 16.

He’d been convicted of theft and assault.

He said Anglesea was always present when the boys were showering — looking at their bodies.

Defence QC Tania Griifiths said he’d made this up:

“It’s absolute nonsense, isn’t it?”

“Alpha” said it was the truth.

Griffiths put it to him he wanted revenge on the former policeman for family reasons.

He denied this.

Another man — who also can’t be named for legal reasons — gave evidence.

Witness “Bravo” spent 18 hours at the attendance centre in 1983 after a conviction for assault.

He said Anglesea was always present in the showers.

But he went further.

He said that on one occasion Anglesea ordered some boys to do sit-ups and squat thrusts while naked after the showers.

“Bravo” said on one of these occasions he was ordered to lie on his back and open and close his legs while Anglesea watched.

“Bravo” was asked:

“Have you come to court to tell lies?”

“No,” he replied.

The next witness to give evidence came forward during the trial.

Jason Ellis had seen reports about the attendance centre in the local paper, the Wrexham Leader.

He told the court he served 24 hours at the attendance centre in 1982 for offences including burglary.

He said he remembered reading reports of the libel action in 1994 of allegations that Anglesea watched boys in the showers.

At the time Ellis told his wife:

“that’s exactly what happened when I was there.”

Tania Griffiths suggested Jason Ellis was simply repeating allegations which had been made on the internet.

He said he remembered only what he’d seen.

Christina Ellis gave evidence confirming her husband’s testimony — it stuck in her memory because it was the first time he’d ever mentioned the attendance centre.

One of the police officers who assisted Anglesea in running the attendance centre was Graham Butlin.

Butlin was too ill to give evidence but his son Michael, a serving North Wales Police officer, made a statement.

Michael Butlin said he’d been to the centre with his father.

The prosecution called him to give evidence about this.

When he arrived at court, however, PC Butlin said he wanted to change his statement — and removed the section which supported the prosecution.

He was not called.

The jury never heard what he had to say about the centre …

♦♦♦

THE ALLEGATION of sexual abuse made by the second complainant was different to those made by Complainant One.

Complainant One said his abuse took place when he was alone with Anglesea.

Complainant Two claimed Anglesea abused him when others were present.

He said he became the plaything of a paedophile ring and was handed around like “a handbag”.

Aged 44, he’s currently serving a four-year sentence and was brought to court from gaol.

He gave his evidence behind screens — only the judge, jury and the barristers could see him.

He was often volatile and at one point said he wanted to stop giving evidence:

“I feel I’m going to explode”.

The judge persuaded him to carry on.

Many of his problems, he believed, came from the abuse he’d suffered.

It was only through counselling that he had begun to understand the significance of what had happened to him.

In 1986 he was sent to the private Bryn Alyn children’s home where he was indecently assaulted by the owner, John Allen.

In 1994 Allen was sentenced to six years for abusing six boys in his care.

The complainant was not one of them — and he did not report his alleged abuse to the police who were investigating Allen.

He told the court he was bullied by the other boys.

When he went to John Allen to ask him to stop it, Allen abused him:

“ … he was saying I’m a special person … they have, special people have relationships, men and boys, and they keep it a secret.”

003_ALLEN

PIED PIPER
JOHN ALLEN was paid £30 million by local authorities to look after problem children between 1974 and 1991. He built an empire of private children’s homes in North Wales but was selecting vulnerable boys for abuse. He’s currently serving a life sentence — in all he was convicted of abusing 25 children in his care.

“… I accepted it. I’ve done things that’s haunted me all my life, all my life, and I can’t let go of it, eats me away in here [points to his chest].”

It wasn’t until 2001 that North Wales Police came to see him as part of a second investigation into John Allen.

Detectives told him another former resident claimed the complainant had seen John Allen abusing him.

Complainant Two said this wasn’t true.

But he told detectives Allen had indecently assaulted him.

He also said that Allen allowed other men to sexually abuse him — but did not identify them.

In 2002 officers from North Wales Police interviewed him again.

This time he handed them a piece of paper with details of three of his alleged abusers.

The jury were shown a copy of this document.

There were three names on it: “Peter”,  “Norris” and “Gordon”.

“Peter” is Peter Howarth, the former deputy head of the local authority-run Bryn Estyn home.

He died of a heart attack in 1997 while serving a ten year sentence for the sexual abuse of boys at Bryn Estyn.

“Norris” is Stephen Norris, a former housemaster at Bryn Estyn.

He served two prison sentences after admitting abusing boys in his care.

In 1990 he was given three and a half years, in 1993 it was seven.

“Gordon”, according to a note on the piece of paper the complainant handed to police, is described as:

“5’9”, mid build, mousey brown well kept, prim and proper dressed, birthmark on face, had blue a piercing stare, said I was dirty and he could have me in jail if I told lies, big glasses.”

Complainant Two said he hoped detectives would “latch on” to the significance of his description and “put two and two together”.

He said they didn’t.

nwpolicehq_001

“GORDON”
NORTH WALES POLICE are investigating the 2002 failure to follow up the allegation that Gordon Anglesea was an abuser. A spokeswoman said: “we can confirm that … Professional Standards Department have received a complaint as a result of Operation Pallial that is being investigated.”

The complainant explained how the alleged abuse by Gordon Anglesea happened.

He said John Allen used to take him to various houses where he would be expected to carry out cleaning duties.

Often there would be other men there who, after he’d finished his tasks, would abuse him.

He said that on one occasion he was taken to what he described as a “sandstone house” in Mold — with a long driveway and no gate.

“One fella there, I can’t remember his name, he was a nasty horrible piece of work, he had like a birth mark on his face and he had glasses, he’s something to do with the police.”

“He grabbed me by the hair, I didn’t like him, and he wanted me to, er, perform oral sex on him and I didn’t want to. “

“And he grabbed hold of me, you know, he choked me with his penis, basically, he was really rough, it was horrible.”

“And he was threatening me, he was saying, I’d never see my parents again, he would send me away, he had the power to send me away, far, far away, and I’d never see my family again.”

He said this was the only time Anglesea abused him — on other occasions he was standing in the shadows, watching the abuse.

It wasn’t until Operation Pallial was launched that the complainant fully named Anglesea as one of his abusers.

The complainant told the court that he hadn’t named him earlier because he was afraid.

During his evidence he made a new allegation, not involving Anglesea.

This concerned a session where a dog belonging to John Allen bit his penis.

He’d been ashamed to mentioned it earlier because it concerned bestiality.

Tania Griffiths QC, for Anglesea, told the complainant:

“You’re making it all up.”

He said it was true.

He denied inventing the account of Anglesea abusing him because he was hoping it would improve his chances of parole.

She put it to him that the “sandstone house” couldn’t be found — because it didn’t exist.

It did, he said.

She also accused him of coming up with the story for compensation.

“I don’t want compensation,” he insisted, “I want justice”.

She also asked him why he hadn’t recognised Anglesea when he abused him: after all, he’d seen him a few weeks earlier at Wrexham Police Station.

The complainant said he simply didn’t realise they were the same man.

104-wrexham-police

WREXHAM POLICE STATION
THROUGHOUT THE late 1970s and much of the 1980s Gordon Anglesea was based at this tower block in Wrexham, since demolished. He was a well-known policeman in the town and many boys knew him from the Wrexham Attendance Centre. His nickname was “Wacman”.

Tania Griffiths also challenged him about the dog he claimed had bitten him.

He insisted it was true — and would allow a doctor to medically examine him.

(Later in the trial, this examination took place.

A doctor told the court that the scarring referred to was, in fact, a natural feature of the underside of his penis.

He agreed that any injury could have healed without leaving any permanent scar)

The complainant admitted to a long criminal record.

“I’m a bad man,” he said.

He became a burglar to make money.

“But before that, you know, in my early years I used to go and burgle houses, not take nothing, just smash the houses up, just so that person could hate me as much as I hated myself.”

♦♦♦

THE PROSECUTION were painting a picture of Gordon Anglesea as a police officer who took a close interest in young boys.

He ran the attendance centre for many years and his patch included the Bryn Estyn and Bryn Alyn children’s homes.

He began the unusual practice of cautioning boys at both homes when it was normally done at the police station.

There was also evidence that he knew homosexuals and known or suspected paedophiles.

One of these was a market trader called Arthur who often rented a room at the Crest Hotel — now the Wynnstay Arms.

Arthur’s full name was not given in the trial.

From other sources, Rebecca has identified him as Arthur Connell.

A known homosexual, he has a conviction for indecency.

Paul Godfrey — who had given evidence about the Wrexham Attendance Centre — said he was a regular visitor to Connell’s room at the Crest Hotel in the late 1970s.

In his early teens he skived off school to work on Connell’s stall at Wrexham’s Monday market.

Another boy who helped was Mark Humphreys, known as Sammy.

Sammy was also a frequent visitor to the hotel room.

(The jury were not told that Mark Humphreys was one of the first to allege abuse at the hands of Gordon Anglesea.

He gave evidence at the libel trial in 1994 but the jury didn’t believe him.

He was found dead in his Wrexham bedsit in 1995.)

Paul Godfrey said that while they were in the hotel room, Connell would take a shower and parade around naked before getting into bed.

He would invite the boys to have showers as well — and then give them money to have their photos taken.

Godfrey was suspicious of him.

He wanted the money but would only be photographed covered by a towel.

But Sammy, he told the court, would often get into bed with Arthur.

He said there was talk — “rife, really rife” — that Sammy was involved sexually with Arthur.

One day there was a knock on the door.

It was Gordon Anglesea.

Godfrey said Anglesea wasn’t happy he was there — he told Connell to get rid of him.

Godfrey later reported the incident to a detective called Gwyn Harris.

He says Harris — now dead — didn’t believe him.

♦♦♦

THE EVENTS of  1982 became one of the key battlegrounds of the trial.

The prosecution case was that Gordon Anglesea got to hear of Godfrey’s talk with Gwyn Harris — and tried to coerce him into silence.

The defence argued there was no evidence to back this up.

Godfrey told the court that his relations with the police were troubled even before the incident at the Crest Hotel.

He said that on one occasion he was beaten up by a police officer called Paul Glantz.

Godfrey was then charged with being drunk and disorderly.

SAVILE

CLIMATE CHANGE
THE SHADOW of Jimmy Savile — who used celebrity to mask widespread abuse of children — hung over the Anglesea trial. Anglesea’s barrister warned the jury not to be swayed by emotion …
Photo: PA

When he was in court for this offence, Godfrey produced a ripped and bloody shirt and claimed Glantz had assaulted him.

The case was dismissed — and the police officer charged with false imprisonment.

Glantz was tried at Chester Crown Court but acquitted.

Godfrey said that things got worse when he told Gwyn Harris about Anglesea’s visit to Arthur Connell’s hotel room.

He was in the Crest sometime later when, out of the blue, Gordon Anglesea suddenly appeared.

Anglesea said:

“You’ve been to the police station, you’ve made allegations against me.”

Anglesea warned him he was asking for a “hard time”.

In November 1982 Godfrey was accused of stealing Wrigleys chewing gum from a newsagents in Wrexham.

He was kept in the cells overnight.

He was angry that he was held for the alleged theft of what he said was just £2.90 worth of gum — and believed Anglesea was behind the decision.

He claimed Anglesea came to his cell and said:

“I told you. You better keep your mouth shut about what’s going on.”

The prosecution drew attention to an entry in Anglesea’s 1982 pocketbook which made it clear he knew Paul Godfrey.

This entry — made the month before the incident with the chewing gum — concerned a file on Paul Godfrey which had gone missing.

Anglesea wrote in his pocketbook that he spoke to Paul Glantz about this and “told him I was looking for the file”.

He added that the file was wanted “urgently” because there was a “complaint against police.”

The prosecution did not say it, but the implication was that there might have been a record in the file about Godfrey reporting Anglesea’s alleged visit to the Crest Hotel.

The defence said there was a perfectly innocent explanation for Anglesea wanting the file —  Godfrey had made a complaint against Paul Glantz.

Tania Griffiths, defending Gordon Anglesea, added that the file had apparently turned up a few days later.

Griffiths put it to Godfrey there was a perfectly good reason to remand him over the chewing gum incident — there were other outstanding offences.

Godfrey was adamant he’d been victimised.

Griffiths also took him to the statement he’d made to police investigating child abuse in the 1990s.

She said he’d stated:

“I’ve no complaints to make about this period of my life.”

Godfrey said he didn’t trust the North Wales Police.

The prosecution also introduced a statement taken from the deputy manager of the Crest Hotel in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Christopher Appleton said young boys between the ages of 10 and 16 would go up to Arthur’s room.

He assumed they were helping on the market stall.

One of these, a boy of 12 or 13, became a “bit of a pest” by turning up on Sundays asking for Arthur.

It was implied — but not stated — that this was Mark “Sammy” Humphreys …

♦♦♦

THE PROSECUTION also brought evidence alleging Gordon Anglesea had links with the ringleader of a paedophile ring in Wrexham.

This was Gary Cooke, a man who used aliases to conceal the fact he had a long string of child abuse convictions.

In 1979 police discovered photographs hidden in a hollowed out book at his home.

One of these was an indecent photo of Mark Humphreys.

In 1980 Cooke was gaoled for five years for a series of offences, one of which related to this photograph.

images

RINGLEADER
GARY COOKE is one of the most active child abusers in North Wales. He was the organiser of a paedophile ring which systemically abused boys at his home. In October 2015 Cooke and four associates — including former Metropolitan Police officer Edward Huxley and BBC radio presenter Roy Norry — were gaoled for a total of 43 years on 32 counts of sexual abuse. 
Photo: Trinity Mirror

Witness “Alpha”— who also gave evidence about Anglesea watching boys in the showers at the attendance centre — claimed Anglesea knew Cooke.

“Alpha” had been sexually abused by both Cooke and John Allen, the head of Bryn Alyn.

He said he was at Gary Cooke’s home one day when Gordon Anglesea turned up:

“he knocked on the door … he [Cooke] says it’s just a friend, or whatever.”

“And I’m sat there … and, let him in … he’s just walked through, they’ve talked in the kitchen.”

“And then they’ve come through and … said their goodbyes and then he’s gone.”

The defence attacked Witness “Alpha”.

Tania Griffiths put it to him that his claim to have seen Anglesea at a house owned by Cooke was wrong.

At that time Cooke hadn’t bought it.

“Alpha” said he wasn’t lying — he’d just got the wrong address.

Tania Griffiths also homed in on an incident in which he claimed he’d been abused in the same property by a member of Cooke’s paedophile gang, the BBC radio presenter Ray Norry.

“Alpha” claimed he was being assaulted on a glass table by Norry when it broke and the BBC presenter was injured.

The defence said this incident had, indeed, happened — in March 1984 — but not at the address “Alpha” claimed.

Roy Norry received hospital treatment for a deep wound to his lower back.

The accident was witnessed by a friend.

Anglesea’s defence QC put it to “Alpha” that he couldn’t have been present.

He was lying.

“Alpha” replied that he was telling the truth.

♦♦♦

GORDON ANGLESEA, the prosecution said, also knew another convicted paedophile.

This was Peter Howarth, the deputy headmaster at the local authority-run Bryn Estyn children’s home near Wrexham.

Howarth was gaoled for ten years in 1994.

A jury found him guilty of seven counts of indecent assault and one of buggery.

He died before he could complete his sentence.

Bryn Estyn was in the Bromfield section of the Wrexham police area — and Gordon Anglesea was the inspector in charge.

Anglesea said his first visit to the home did not take place until 1980 and he did not know Howarth.

The prosecution drew the jury’s attention to a letter sent by Bryn Estyn headmaster Matt Arnold to Anglesea in March 1980.

It was about Bryn Estyn boys arriving late at the attendance centre.

Arnold wrote:

“I have only just returned to work from a period of sick leave, so I’m not aware on a personal basis of all the discussions that have gone on between you and Mr Howarth.”

The prosecution also called retired police inspector Ian Kelman to give evidence.

PETER HOWARTH : 1992

PETER HOWARTH
THE DEPUTY HEAD of Bryn Estyn, Howarth died in prison after he was gaoled for ten years in 1994 on seven counts of indecent assault and one of buggery. Gordon Anglesea has always denied that he knew Howarth … 
Photo: Press Association

He told the jury he saw Gordon Anglesea at Bryn Estyn on two occasions between 1975 and 1980.

On one of these occasions he saw Anglesea with Howarth.

Kelman had given a statement to this effect to the defence in the 1994 libel action but ill-health prevented him from taking the stand.

Tania Griffiths, for Anglesea, asked him if he’d given a copy of his 1994 statement to Rebecca.

“No,” he replied.

(In fact Rebecca editor Paddy French obtained a copy of the statement from the files held by HTV on the 1994 libel action when he was a current affairs producer for the company.)

The current Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales, Arfon Jones, also gave evidence.

He’d been a police constable in the 1980s and his duties included acting as Anglesea’s driver.

“The only place I recall taking him was to Bryn Estyn children’s home.”

“If he wanted to go to Bryn Estyn he would ask me and I would take him.”

He said it probably happened half a dozen times between 1982 and 1985.

He thought Anglesea was giving cautions.

He said he dropped Anglesea off and did not come back to collect him.

arfon-jones

JONES THE DRIVER
ARFON JONES, the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales, told the court he often drove Gordon Anglesea to the Bryn Estyn children’s home. He dropped him off and was never asked to go back and collect him …
Photo: Police & Crime Commissioner’s Office

Anglesea later pointed out that Bryn Estyn was 20 minutes walk from his home — and that he gave cautions at the end of his shift.

Another former policeman who gave evidence was retired police sergeant John Graham Kelly.

He worked in the Bromfield section and acted as his driver from time to time.

He was also Gordon Anglesea’s second in command at the Wrexham Attendance Centre

He was, he told the court, a friend of Gordon Anglesea’s.

He was supposed to be a prosecution witness but when he took the stand, he appeared to give evidence supporting the defence.

He told the jury Anglesea rarely gave cautions at children’s homes.

Eleanor Laws, for the prosecution, then pointed out that this comment contradicted his police statement which said:

“I’m aware that Gordon Anglesea on a very regular basis visited Bryn Estyn and Bryn Alyn and conducted cautions at their premises …”

He added it “ … almost became the norm.”

Eleanor Laws asked — which version was correct?

Kelly now accepted that his written statement was correct — not the version he’d just given in open court …

Paul Godfrey also spent time in Bryn Estyn.

He was there twice in 1981.

He said that on the second occasion he was taken to the home by Gordon Anglesea.

He said that, just inside the front door, was what he called a “holding cell”.

He says that Anglesea ordered him to strip naked while staff brought a new set of clothes for him.

Tania Griffiths, for Anglesea, asked Godfrey if he was making the whole episode up.

“The point is you’re trying to paint a bad picture here.”

Godfrey came back:

“It is a bad picture.”

♦♦♦

THE PROSECUTION also called Alan Norbury, the senior investigating officer from Operation Pallial, to give evidence.

He was asked about the police interview in 2002 during which Complainant One produced the note which named a man called “Gordon” as one of his abusers.

There had been an email exchange between senior officers about this note which made it clear they believed “Gordon” was likely to be Anglesea.

Norbury was asked if these police officers should have investigated further.

Norbury replied that they should.

When Norbury was cross-examined by Tania Griffiths she asked him about the events that surrounded Gordon Anglesea’s arrest on 12 December 2013.

Anglesea was arrested and police executed a search warrant.

Ms Griffiths asked if police found anything when they searched his home.

They did not, Norbury replied.

When police seized Anglesea’s computer, the retired policeman  said:

“You’ll find nothing on that.”

There was nothing incriminating on the hard drive.

When Anglesea was arrested, police did not name him.

The press release stated only that a 76-year-old male from Old Colwyn had been arrested.

Ms Griffiths then placed an article from the Daily Mirror of 22 January 2014 on the TV monitors in the courtroom.

Marked “Exclusive”, this revealed the pensioner arrested in December was Gordon Anglesea.

Ms Griffiths asked Norbury how the paper had found out.

pa-17828985

FALSE ACCUSATION
DEFENCE BARRISTER Tania Griffiths accused the National Crime Agency [NCA] of deliberately leaking Anglesea’s name as “bait” to attract more complainants. She screened an article from the Daily Mirror as evidence of this tactic. In fact, there was no leak from the NCA — Anglesea’s name had been revealed six days earlier by Rebecca. Confirmation had come from the Rotary Club. Gordon Anglesea, who sat silent in the dock while his barrister made the allegation, knew it wasn’t true. We had warned him in a recorded delivery letter that he was going to be named. Rebecca has asked the disciplinary watchdog of the Bar Council to decide if the jury was deliberately misled on this point… 
Photo: Press Association

He didn’t know.

She asked if it was someone from his team who was responsible.

He said it wasn’t.

“You were hanging him on a line,” Griffiths put it to him, as “bait” to attract other complainants.

Norbury said that wasn’t true.

Griffiths asked him if he’d carried out an inquiry to find out how the information had leaked.

He said he hadn’t.

♦♦♦

GORDON ANGLESEA took the stand at 2.45 on Thursday afternoon, 6 October 2016.

He was dressed in a dark blue wide pin-striped suit with a tie.

He took the oath in a loud, confident voice.

He said a newspaper article in 1991 named him in such a way that it carried the “implicit suggestion” he was involved in child abuse.

Even after he won £375,000 in a high-profile libel case, he said his “nightmare” continued.

His QC Tania Griffiths asked him:

“You have heard these allegations made against you — have you ever behaved inappropriately to any boys?”

Anglesea replied:

“None whatsoever, to any child.”

He said the Wrexham Attendance Centre was run on military lines and that boys were not allowed to talk throughout the sessions.

The court did not sit the following day which meant that the prosecution could not cross-examine until Monday, October 10.

♦♦♦

IT WAS TO  be one of the most dramatic days of the entire trial.

Prosecutor Eleanor Laws QC asked Anglesea about the witnesses who said they’d seen him watching boys in the showers at the attendance centre.

“You’re the victim of malicious lies?”

“That is correct,” said Anglesea.

Laws pointed out that when he gave evidence on oath the previous Thursday he’d told the jury he visited the shower area at the attendance centre “once or twice”.

But when he gave evidence to the 1994 libel trial his evidence was different.

She read from the transcript

Anglesea was asked:

“Did you stand in the showers watching the boys regularly, Mr Anglesea?”

He replied:

“I went to the showers on every occasion the attendance centre was open.”

He was asked:

“…  it was not because, in fact, Mr Anglesea, you liked looking at young boys in the nude?

He replied.

“Absolutely totally untrue.”

Between 1978 and 1986 there had been something like 150-160 sessions of the attendance centre.

Anglesea had been given the transcript of the libel action to read over the weekend.

He now told the court:

“I read it and I realised there was an interpretation on there which to me was incorrect.”

Eleanor Laws said he was trying to “wriggle out of the fact you said two vastly different things.”

She accused him of lying under oath, either during the libel action or to the present jury.

Anglesea replied:

“I have made nothing up at all.”

He was also asked why he started giving cautions at the privately owned Bryn Alyn homes as well as at Bryn Estyn.

At Bryn Estyn he started because the principal was short-staffed.

But at Bryn Alyn he did it because it was “more convenient for the police”.

So who did he arrange these cautions with?

“Somebody,” answered Anglesea, “a member of staff.”

Anglesea was questioned again by Tania Griffiths.

He claimed all the allegations against him were “in my belief … part of a conspiracy.”

That conspiracy emerged in the wake of the Savile scandal “purely to obtain compensation”.

It was, he said, “abhorrent”.

♦♦♦

THE DEFENCE called several witnesses in support of Anglesea.

Retired teacher George Sumner had been a woodwork instructor at the Wrexham Attendance Centre.

Tania Griffiths asked him if he’d ever seen anything that made him uncomfortable.

“Nothing whatsover.”

Former Bryn Alyn resident Mark Taylor told the court he attended the centre in 1984 and again in 1986.

He was impressed by Gordon Anglesea: he and the rest of the staff were “fantastic people”.

He enjoyed the attendance centre so much that he continued going after his sentence was complete.

He kept in touch with Anglesea afterwards.

Retired traffic sergeant David Edwards told the court he first met Gordon Anglesea in 1966.

Anglesea was in Flintshire CID at the time.

Edwards said:

“He was one the best detective constables I ever knew.”

“I admired him.”

He was cross-examined by Eleanor Laws about statements he made about Gordon Anglesea’s visits to Bryn Estyn.

Edwards had said:

“I would like to add that Gordon would regularly attend Bryn Estyn for meetings on boys’ progress.”

He also told the court there was one occasion when Anglesea asked him to take the session because he had a masonic function to attend.

Anglesea turned up later in what Edwards described as “masonic gear”.

Edwards said there was a rule that they didn’t wear uniforms at the centre.

fullsizerender

JUDGE GERAINT WALTERS
Rebecca wrote to the judge before the trial asking him to make a statement about freemasonry. Our letter pointed out that Anglesea is a former mason and that the judge in the 1994 libel action, Maurice Drake, made it clear he was a member of the same organisation. Judge Walters did not reply to the letter — and did not make any comment about freemasonry. We do not know if he is, or ever has been, a mason. The United Grand Lodge in London— the governing body of freemasonry — told us Gordon Anglesea resigned his membership in 2007.

Edwards told Anglesea he felt it was “ill-advised” to come to the centre dressed in that way.

Another retired police officer, Thomas Harrison, also gave evidence.

His job was to take PE and he said there were always two members of staff on duty.

He confirmed that there were races in the field outside.

Tania Griffiths asked him:

“Was any boy ever held back?”

“No,” said Harrison.

“Was Gordon Anglesea ever there?”

“No.”

Asked about the boys taking showers, he said something extraordinary:

“I can’t remember anybody having showers”.

No other witness had made this claim — not even Gordon Anglesea.

Cross-examined by Eleanor Laws, he was asked how he could possibly forget about the showers.

He said he just couldn’t remember them.

She pointed out that the boys had to change for PE — and that the showers were part of the changing rooms.

Harrison said he thought the boys changed in the gym …

♦♦♦

IN HER closing speech, Eleanor Laws told the jury that the complainants had been “raw, credible and real”.

She said that if they were lying then they had given “Oscar-winning performances.”

She urged the jury not to “leave your common sense at the door of the jury room.”

Defence barrister Tania Griffiths said the complainants “told whopping great lies.”

It was a “conspiracy” and done with “concerted and malicious intent”.

She said the prosecution had homed in on “the one mistake” — the discrepancy between Anglesea’s evidence about how often he was in the changing rooms at the attendance centre.

This was a mistake, she said — he didn’t go to the showers area every time.

Tania Griffiths warned the jury against making a decision on the basis  of “no smoke without fire”.

She was obviously concerned that the post-Savile climate might influence the jury.

She said that no-one in the country would now say Savile was innocent.

But the jury should judge Anglesea not on the basis of emotion but on the evidence.

She told them about the Cliff Richard case where the singer claimed he was wrongly accused.

She also raised the television drama National Treasure where the character played by Robbie Coltrane was acquitted only for the viewer to see him actually raping his victim.

♦♦♦

THE jury started their deliberations at 9.55 on Thursday morning.

They had actually been in court for less than a third of the six week trial.

Many days were spent by the barristers arguing points of law.

The atmosphere in the court often became heated during these exchanges.

On one occasion prosecution QC Eleanor Laws accused Tania Griffiths, for Anglesea, of being “overdramatic” — branding her style “unattractive” and “offensive”.

Griffiths attacked Laws for trying to control her.

When Laws said she was trying to get “robust management of the case,” Griffiths snapped back:

“What she’s doing is robust management of me.”

On another occasion Griffiths complained Laws was constantly bringing up her greater experience in criminal law.

“It’s very wearing,” said Griffiths, “It’s very rude indeed.”

Again and again she complained the prosecution had disclosed material late.

Dogged and relentless, she tried repeatedly to widen the scope of the trial to include the events of the early 1990s.

She said Gordon Anglesea was a man who was falsely targeted by journalists and that witnesses had to be persuaded to make allegations against him.

The judge insisted the present trial could only deal with the evidence relating to the actual allegations on the indictment.

At one point he lost patience.

He said Tania Griffiths’ style was all wrong and he was “finding it tiresome in the extreme”.

“This is not a stage show”.

♦♦♦ 

THE JURY returned at 1.40 on Friday afternoon.

The atmosphere in Court No 1 was electric.

A court official asked Gordon Anglesea to stand.

She then asked the forewoman of the jury if their verdicts were unanimous.

She said they were.

The official then read out the first count on the indictment.

This was the indecent assault on Complainant One in the showers at the attendance centre.

She asked the forewoman to answer guilty or not guilty.

In a clear, emphatic voice she said:

“Guilty”.

Within seconds Rebecca tweeted the verdict.

There was a  similar verdict on the second count, the indecent assault in the showers.

On the third count, the alleged buggery, the result was “not guilty”.

But the jury found Anglesea guilty of the alternate charge of indecent assault.

On the final count, the indecent assault on Complainant Two, the jury delivered another guilty verdict.

Anglesea was remanded on bail until November 4.

Judge Geraint Walters told the now disgraced former policeman:

“You know yourself already that there can only be one sentence and that will be a prison sentence.”

Anglesea had planned to make a statement outside the court if he’d been cleared.

Now the court and the police agreed to sneak him out of the back door of the Mold court complex.

The media were not impressed …

♦♦♦ 

AN EXTRAORDINARY case was over.

No-one can know what went on in the jury room but one clue emerged.

Soon after they started discussing the case, the jury sent the judge a note.

MESSHAM

NEMESIS
STEPHEN MESSHAM, seen here at the launch of the Waterhouse Tribunal report in 2000, is one of the key figures in the North Wales child abuse saga. He was also the trigger for the police investigation that led to the fall of Gordon Anglesea. In 2012 on the BBC Newsnight programme he named Lord McAlpine as one of his abusers. By the time he’d realised it was a case of mistaken identity, Operation Pallial was already under way …
Photo: PA

They wanted to hear again the letter Bryn Estyn head Matt Arnold wrote to Anglesea after he returned from a long illness.

Arnold said he was not “aware on a personal basis of all the discussions  that have gone on between you and Mr Howarth.”

Howarth was the deputy head, later to be convicted of abusing boys at Bryn Estyn.

Anglesea claimed he didn’t know him.

Asking for the letter to be read out again suggests one of the jury’s key considerations was Anglesea’s credibility as a witness.

For a quarter of a century he’d tried to avoid being tarred with Howarth’s paedophile brush.

Anglesea also resisted attempts to place him in the changing rooms at the attendance centre.

But he was badly damaged by the fact that he gave two different versions — one at the libel trial and a completely different one at Mold Crown Court.

Even some of the police officers the prosecution called gave questionable testimony.

The evidence of Thomas Harrison, the PE teacher who couldn’t remember boys taking showers, was plainly hard to believe.

The jury may have wondered if he remembered perfectly well — but that he might have seen something he didn’t want to reveal.

Retired sergeant Graham Kelly made a statement saying Anglesea cautioned often at both Bryn Estyn and Bryn Alyn.

But when he was in the witness-box, he tried to say the opposite — only to be forced by prosecution barrister Eleanor Laws to admit his statement was correct.

Kelly — a man who enjoys a reputation as a decent, honest officer — cut a sorry figure in the dock.

He was uncomfortable and gave the impression he knew a great deal more about Anglesea than he was prepared to say.

And what of serving officer Michael Butlin?

He accompanied his father when he was employed to help Anglesea run the attendance centre.

He gave a statement to Operation Pallial but amended it on the day he was due to give evidence.

The change meant his testimony was worthless to the prosecution.

♦♦♦ 

IN THE END, the verdict probably comes down to the changed climate in which historic child abuse cases take place.

In the old days, people who complained of child abuse were damaged souls who had to battle against the poor impression they inevitably presented in the witness-box.

Their alleged abusers normally held positions of power and authority and invariably made a good impression on juries.

This was doubly so in the case of police officers.

Today everything is different.

Juries understand allowances have to be made for the effects of the damage suffered by claimants.

And they subject suspected abusers to greater scrutiny.

In Gordon Anglesea’s case they decided his evidence did not stand up to serious scrutiny.

His fatal weakness was a simple one — he never behaved like an innocent man …

♦♦♦

Published: 23 October 2016
© Rebecca

♦♦♦ 

DONATIONS

If you would like to support the work of Rebecca, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

COMING
A FORCE FOR EVIL
HOW DID Gordon Anglesea get away with it for so long?
The answer is he used the cloak of public office to conceal his crimes and counted on protection from North Wales Police. This article lays bare the conspiracy hatched at the highest levels of the force in the early 1990s to cover up its failure to investigate child abuse — and to protect Anglesea at all costs. In the process, the force helped Anglesea win a famous libel case and made a mockery of the £14 million North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal …

 

CORRECTIONS

Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  
If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.


THE FALL OF JOHN ARTHUR JONES

September 16, 2016

rebecca_logo_04TODAY ONE of Anglesey’s most controversial figures was finally brought to book.

John Arthur Jones — disgraced council official and failed politician — was given an 18 months sentence for endangering RAF training jets.

Judge Geraint Walters told him he was a man driven by “arrogance”.

A jury had earlier found him guilty of 13 counts of shining bright lights into the cockpits of Hawk jets taking part in night manoeuvres at the Mona airfield.

The jets fly over Jones’ Parc Cefni business park next to his home in the village of Bodffordd near Llangefni.

The prison sentence is the climax of a saga that started more than thirty years ago.

For three decades John Arthur Jones ruthlessly exploited the council in his attempt to create a multi-million pound property empire.

♦♦♦

IN 2012 John Arthur Jones started a campaign against the RAF.

He objected to jets from RAF Valley using the Mona Airfield near his business park for night exercises.

Valley is home to the RAF’s 208 Squadron which uses Hawk jets to train fighter pilots.

Mona has been used by the RAF for more than a century.

Jones’ Parc Cefni business park, which also includes his home, is under the flight path of the Hawks.

Jones initially asked the RAF to change the route to avoid the complex which includes a children’s nursery.

JAJ_01
“JESUS” ARTHUR JONES
IN 1998 John Arthur Jones gave an interview to HTV’s current affairs programme Wales This Week. He’d just been sacked as Anglesey County Council’s Housing Director because the authority had lost confidence in him. Jones compared himself to Jesus: “A man stood in front of Pilate two thousand years ago and Pilate said I can see nothing wrong in this man. But at that time the Pharisees said crucify him. Now then, the descendants of those Pharisees are living today on Anglesey – they’re saying crucify him.”

He felt that the flights intensified after he made this request — and complained to the newspapers.

In September 2012 the Daily Mail published  an article in which Jones threatened to step up his campaign.

He asked:

“Are our children being subjected, as some say in the village, to punishment by a gang of Hooray Henrys for daring to ask if they will fly over open fields instead of a children’s nursery?”

In another letter, he warned:

“Since you have refused to send independent observers to Parc Cefni I will be arranging for a weather balloon to be raised daily at the corner of our property. It will be taken down each evening at midnight.”

This prompted the RAF to ask North Wales Police to visit Jones — a move he branded “heavy-handed and sinister”.

He dropped the weather balloon idea — but in 2013 began to shine a bright light into the cockpits of the jets as they approached Parc Cefni.

Several landings at Mona had to be abandoned because of the danger to pilots.

Undercover police mounted a surveillance operation and, on one occasion, saw Jones tracking the planes with a powerful torch.

In October 2014 he was charged in connection with 13 incidents of endangering aircraft between November 2013 and September 2014.

Jones denied all the charges and called members of his family to give evidence.

His daughter Catrin Lloyd Davies, a solicitor, and her husband, army captain Gareth Lloyd Davies gave Jones an alibi for one of the incidents.

They said the family had had a meal together and Jones didn’t leave the house.

Jones denied his campaign was actually driven by his failure to sell any of the planned holiday chalets on the site because potential buyers were put off by the jets.

Jones’ barrister Lisa Judge compared her client to the TV character Victor Meldrew.

In June this year a jury of 11 found him guilty of all 13 counts.

♦♦♦

THIS AFTERNOON Jones’ barrister Lisa Judge asked for an adjournment, telling the court Jones had attended a medical examination this morning.

Another was booked tomorrow — with a biopsy scheduled for later this month.

She said he was “a man potentially facing death” with a possibility “he could die in prison”.

Judge Walters said that he’d been told nothing about these tests until this week.

He noted that it was John Arthur Jones who had commissioned the examinations — and that he was paying for them privately.

He’d heard nothing from a consultant telling him exactly what the problem was.

In the absence of a proper diagnosis, he said, the claim that John Arthur Jones might be dying was simply “courtroom advocacy”.

He dismissed the application.

He told Jones he was a man  of “arrogance”.

He did not believe his claim that his campaign against the RAF was motivated solely by concern for the children attending the nursery at Parc Cefni:

“That was only one of the many lies you told during the trial.”

His actions were “highly reckless”.

He sentenced him to 18 months in gaol for each of the 13 counts, the sentences to run concurrently.

Tonight he is on his way to Altcourse Prison in Liverpool …

♦♦♦

JOHN ARTHUR JONES’ interest in the Bodffordd area began in the 1980s.

He bought a piece of agricultural land on a hill overlooking the village.

It enjoyed a magnificent view of the island, the nearby Cefni Reservoir and Snowdonia.

In 1987 Jones applied for planning permission to build a bungalow at the top of the hill.

He wrote to the director of planning to say that “for 10 years I have been looking for a suitable site on which to develop a fish farm”.

This particular site was perfect for the operation, he said, but there  was just one snag — security.

Jones wrote:

” … the best possible deterrent is to live on the site and be in a position to see the ponds by day and which can be lit up at night.”

Planners were opposed.

DSC_0995
COUNCIL HOUSE
THIS IS Nant Garedig, the house John Arthur Jones built in the 1990s. It’s one of scores of houses constructed by Anglesey councillors on land that the council’s own plans say shouldn’t be built on. The current owners have no connection to John Arthur Jones.
Photo: Rebecca

The application was in “conflict with the approved Anglesey Structure Plan Policies”.

But approval was given by other officers using delegated powers.

By 1990, by which time Jones had been appointed Housing Director, the permission to build the bungalow had sprouted dormer windows.

The fish farm never materialised.

At present day values, the planning permission was worth between £125,000 and £150,000.

He did not start building the house —  known as Nant Garedig — until the mid 1990s.

The construction was to be as controversial as the planning permission …

♦♦♦

WHEN JOHN Arthur Jones finally built Nant Garedig he did it on the cheap.

The foundations included hardcore which came from the former Shell oil terminal at Rhosgoch.

The council took control of the terminal in 1990, the year John Arthur Jones became Director of Housing.

The site was managed by the Housing Department.

At that time there were some 15,000 tonnes of hardcore left on the site.

In the years that followed much of it disappeared.

John Arthur Jones placed an ad in the local paper calling for tenders for what he called the remaining “random rubble”.

One of the successful tenders — for 200 tonnes at 50 pence a tonne — came from John Arthur Jones himself.

It went into the foundations of Nant Garedig.

The Housing Department did not send its Director a bill until two and a half years later.

Jones said he had asked for an invoice on three separate occasions.

When the District Auditor investigated this issue, he noted that this invoice was finally raised “during the period when the Director was being investigated by the police”.

The council also accepted a bid for the “random rubble” from a builder called O J D Griffiths.

In October 1996 John Arthur Jones drafted a letter warning the contractor that he had “carried a large quantity of stone” from the site “in direct contravention of the prohibition” not to enter the site without permission.

The implication was that he’d taken the stone without paying for it.

“Before I refer the matter to the Police for further investigation,” Jones continued, “I invite you to respond to these allegations.”

O J D Griffiths never got the chance to reply because the letter was never sent.

An official in the Housing Department, Paul Roberts, noted:

“John Arthur Jones … said letter not to go – speak to the contractor instead.”

The District Auditor investigated.

“I am particularly concerned,” he wrote in his report, “to discover that during this period Mr O J D Griffiths was undertaking work on the home of Paul Roberts … and later in the year sold and delivered hardcore from the [Rhosgoch] site to the Director of Housing and Property [John Arthur Jones] which was in the process of being constructed.”

“The apparent lenient approach taken by these officers towards this contractor represents, in my view, extremely poor judgement, particularly in the light of their personal contractual relationship with the contractor.”

At the same time the District Auditor was investigating, police began looking at some of the men working on the building of Jones’ new house.

Several were receiving housing benefit.

JAJ_02
“I DON’T BELIEVE IT!”
JOHN ARTHUR JONES — the man his barrister likened to Victor Meldrew — is no stranger to the police. In the late 1990s, after he’d been arrested by the North Wales Police investigating his use of builders on housing benefit, he went on holiday with a detective inspector from the same force. In the same period he also offered the former head of Anglesey police a contract — tracking down housing benefit fraudsters …

At the time his own housing department was mounting an operation to prevent housing benefit fraud.

John Arthur Jones was arrested in 1997 by detectives from the North Wales Police.

Eventually, he was charged with misuse of public office, intimidating witnesses and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The case later collapsed after prosecution witnesses admitted discussing the case during the trial.

♦♦♦

BUT MAKING a small fortune on his new home wasn’t enough for John Arthur Jones — he wanted to be a property tycoon.

In the early 2000s Welsh Water decided to sell its Bodffordd depot next to the Cefni Reservoir.

John Arthur Jones thought it was an ideal site for a private housing development.

He bought the five acre site for £241,000 in September 2003.

The previous month he’d sold Nant Garedig for £365,000 — and moved into the small bungalow that came with the Welsh Water depot.

He wanted permission to build 22 Canadian-style wooden chalets.

The council was happy to give him permission but insisted on conditions, the most important of which was that the park be managed as a single business.

This meant that Jones could not sell individual plots.

He has always maintained that this condition was unlawful and, many years later, a government planning inspector agreed and ordered the council to remove the condition.

Jones has always insisted that those people who criticised his plans  “… have a personal agenda based on malice and jealousy”.

Jones built two of the Canadian-style chalets but was never able to sell either of them on the open market.

The fact that the RAF conducted low-flying exercises was one of the reasons which put off potential buyers.

The remaining 20 chalets have never been built.

♦♦♦

IN 2004 John Arthur Jones was elected to the council.

A year later he had his own political party — the Radical Independents.

There were just four members — Jones was the leader and he was joined by Hefin Wyn Roberts, John Rowlands and David Lewis Roberts.

The group was small but held the balance of power on the island.

The glue that held the Radical Independents together was greed.

John Rowlands and David Lewis Roberts wanted the valuable planning permissions —  worth between £100,000 and £150,000 — which John Arthur Jones and Hefin Wyn Roberts already enjoyed.

John Rowlands got his almost immediately, despite objections from planners.

He’d given a field to his daughter and she was given permission to build a new house because she wanted to return to the island.

After she received the permission, she sold the site for £150,000.

David Lewis Roberts went one step further.

He secretly bought a plot of land near Benllech — and then tried to smash the council’s green belt policy preventing new building in the area.

When another councillor accused Roberts of corruption, Roberts complained to the Ombudsman who referred the matter to the council’s Standards Committee.

The committee decided that David Lewis Roberts was, indeed, corrupt.

It ruled that his conduct “had been within the generally understood meaning of ‘corrupt’ …”

and

“gave a clear impression that he had misused his position for personal advantage, and that it amounted to the criminal offence of misconduct in public office.”

The police were not interested in prosecuting Roberts.

But the electorate took a dim view of the chaos John Arthur Jones and his Radical Independents had unleashed.

In the election of 2008, John Arthur Jones lost his seat.

The turmoil he’d triggered continued for years afterwards, forcing the Welsh government to take over the running of the council in 2011.

The intervention lasted several years.

♦♦♦ 
Published: 16 September 2016
© Rebecca
♦♦♦

Note
This article is based on a series of pieces already published. They are:

MAY THE FARCE BE WITH YOU

♦♦♦ 

DONATIONS

If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS

Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  
If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.


CITIZEN SMITH

September 7, 2016

Note: this article was originally published on the Press Gang website. 

Owen_Smith_head_citizen

ONE OF the most common criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn is that he’s unelectable.

Critics point to the poll ratings, with Labour currently trailing the Tories.

But little attention has been paid to challenger Owen Smith’s electoral record.

In the past decade he and his wife have stood in four elections — all in traditional Labour strongholds.

They’ve lost two of them.

Even when Owen Smith wins, he does so with a reduced majority.

Some voters are not impressed with his style: he was nicknamed “Oily” in one election and arrogant in another.

Is there something toxic about “brand Smith”?

♦♦♦

THREE YEARS ago Owen Smith was the driving force behind a political manifesto.

He co-edited a series of essays called One Nation: power, hope, community.

The Guardian said:

” … a group of the party’s rising stars call for it to end the lockout of local communities from power and to bury top-down statist solutions that have failed in the past.”

It was a time when Labour was searching for a way to appeal to the middle ground of British politics.

Labour Leader Ed Miliband summed it up in the preface:

“… a One Nation Labour Party is a party of the national interest, not one part of the country or any sectional interest.”

In the opening chapter Owen Smith was candid about the problems he faced in his own constituency, Pontypridd in south Wales.

“Membership and majorities are counted carefully now, when once they were weighed. Belief in our mission is dwindling.”

He was also clear about the solution:

“I believe the answer comes in two parts: we need both bottom-up participation and leadership from the top; to simultaneously cultivate our roots and command the heights.”

But he admits his attempt to regenerate Labour grass-roots in Pontypridd isn’t working:

“ … in the three years since I was elected the means to galvanise that engagement has proved elusive and frustrating.”

“This is undoubtedly partly a result of the many previous false dawns that have promised progress but failed to deliver: it’s hard to feel progressive when there seems so little sign of progress for you and yours.”

But he was still confident things could be turned around.

“Slowly but surely, Labour is re-engaging with dialogue in our communities, and developing new common objectives and solutions that will prove the real foundations for our rebuilding.”

Part of the strategy was a move to bring greater democracy to the party:

“Iain McNicol [Labour’s General Secretary] has been leading reforms in the party aimed at building a more open and inclusive movement.”

Labour leadership challenge
BACK TO THE FUTURE?  
THREE YEARS ago Owen Smith was praising Labour for “… leading reforms in the party aimed at building a more open and inclusive movement.” But it was not until Jeremy Corbyn stood for leader that membership began to rocket — from under 300,000 to more than 500,000. Ironically, the party’s National Executive Committee have now barred some 130,000 recently joined members — most of them believed to be Corbyn supporters — from voting in the leadership election.
Photo: Ben Birchall / PA

In Pontypridd Smith thought he’d found a way to galvanise the community:

“Pontypridd Citizens, which will bring together churches and parties, unions and residents, in order to determine local needs and empower local leaders, is launching this year, taking its cue and its form from similar schemes that are energising communities across Britain.”

“It will mark a new beginning in the politics of Pontypridd, and Labour will be at its heart.”

The organisation should be three years old by now.

But Press Gang could find no evidence of Pontypridd Citizens — and when we asked people in the constituency, no-one had never heard of it.

We asked Owen Smith for an explanation.

He didn’t reply.

♦♦♦

WHEN OWEN SMITH was chosen to be the Labour candidate for the 2006 Blaenau Gwent election, he had no experience of grass-roots politics. 

The seat had a troubled past but the party was expecting it to revert to being a Labour stronghold.

Owen Smith probably thought he had a safe seat for the rest of his political career.

In 2005 popular local politician Peter Law stood as an independent.

A former Labour member of the Welsh Assembly, he’d been barred from standing as a candidate for the general election because the party had imposed an all-woman short-list.

Labour nominated trade union leader Maggie Jones.

Many Labour voters deserted the official candidate and chose the independent.

But Law — already diagnosed with brain cancer — died the following year.

His agent, Dai Davies, decided to stand in the by-election that followed.

Labour strategists felt Law’s death had taken the sting out of the rebellion — and that the faithful would return to the fold.

In the early days of the campaign a poll gave Owen a massive 12 per cent lead.

Labour mounted a huge campaign to retake the seat — spending £56,000 to Davies’ £7,000.

But Smith’s organisation was cack-handed.

Telephone canvassers angered voters when they began calling within days of Law’s death.

Activists were bussed in from all over Britain but they knew nothing about Blaenau Gwent.

Smith himself acquired the nickname “Oily”.

Dai Davies was a well-known political figure who outgunned Smith on many fronts.

One of them was Nye Bevan, the political midwife of the NHS, whose old Tredegar constituency was now part of Blaenau Gwent

Smith claimed Nye Bevan as his hero.

But Dai Davies could trump that.

He was a trustee of the Bevan Foundation, a left-wing think tank formed in his memory.

Smith did not become a trustee of the Foundation until after the by-election.

The result was Dai Davies won a narrow victory — by just 2,488 just votes.

It was a bruising experience for Smith and he decided not to seek the nomination again.

Labour regained the seat in 2010.

♦♦♦

THE LIKELIHOOD is that plans were already afoot to shoehorn Owen Smith into the Pontypridd constituency.

Just before Christmas 2009 the sitting MP, Kim Howells, announced he was standing down as the MP.

Soon after, there were press reports that Owen Smith was ringing members of the constituency Labour Party to make his pitch to replace Howells.

Howells is, of course, an old friend of Owen Smith’s father, Dai Smith but Owen Smith denies that the Howells played any part in his selection.

Smith gained the nomination.

IMG_1090
NEPOTISM HOUSE?
OWEN SMITH’S home in his Pontypridd constituency has an intriguing past. Shortly after he was elected in 2010, the MP paid £285,000 for the north wing of the listed building in Llantrisant. It was previously owned by the sister of former BBC boss Menna Richards who bought the property shortly after she formed an independent production company. She won millions of pounds worth of contracts from the Corporation. It was under Menna Richards that Owen Smith made his breakthrough into television — as producer of the politics series Dragon’s Eye in 2000.
Photo: Press Gang

In Pontypridd Labour was united — but there were other problems.

The Lib Dems, led by Nick Clegg, were riding high in the polls — and they had a well-known local candidate in Mike Powell.

When Labour councillor Glynne Holmes had his picture taken with Powell as part of a campaign to save the Post Office in Llantrisant, he found himself the subject of a disciplinary hearing.

He was cleared but it was a sign of how anxious Labour officials were.

In the end, Smith won by just 2,791 votes.

The Western Mail noted:

“There were relieved faces as Labour held on to the Pontypridd seat.”

Smith polled 14,200 votes — a drop of more than 6,000 on Howells’ figure in 2005.

In the 2015 election, when Lib Dem support collapsed, Smith was able to clawback less than 1,400 of the lost votes.

In the ten years from 2005 to 2015, Labour has lost a quarter of its support in Pontypridd.

♦♦♦

EARLY THIS year Owen Smith’s wife, primary school teacher Liz, decided to stand for election to the Llantrisant town council.

There was a vacancy in the Llantrisant ward where she and Owen Smith had lived for five years.

The Labour Party ticket plus the fact that her husband was the MP were expected to secure her election.

But there was another candidate who was far more active in the town.

Louisa Mills, an independent, had started a local charity and was campaigning for a community garden.

She beat Liz Smith by 320 votes to 273.

Owen Smith may not have been as asset in the poll.

Some residents find him arrogant.

One said:

“He’s risen quickly … due to his PR skills and actually believes his own hype.”

“In my view he cares more about power than he does about using that power to help people.

All of this means Owen Smith and his wife have now contested four elections between them.

They’ve lost two.

In the two elections Owen Smith has won, he has presided over a decline in the Labour vote.

What will happen when the right-wing press goes to work on him?

♦♦♦
Published: 7 September 2016
© Press Gang
♦♦♦

Notes
1
The statistics for Owen Smith’s Pontypridd constituency make disturbing reading for Labour. These are are the number of votes cast for Owen Smith’s predecessor Kim Howells and the share of the poll:
1989   20,500   53%
1992   29,700   61%
1997   29,290   64%
2001   23,000   60%
2005   20,900   53%
From a peak of 64% of the vote in 1997 — the landslide year when Tony Blair became Prime Minister — it was down to 53% by 2005.
Owen Smith hasn’t arrested the decline. The result for the two elections he’s fought are:
2010   14,200   39%
2015   15,600   41%
In the face of a Lib Dem resurgence in 2010 he was lucky to hold on to the seat. And even with the collapse of the Lib Dems in 2015 he was able to retrieve only a small proportion of the Labour vote he’d lost in 2010.
2
This the fourth instalment of this investigation. The other articles are:
Owen Smith: Forged By Patronage and Nepotism?
Owen Smith: A Man For All Seasons
BBC Forced To Correct Owen Smith Profile.
Click on a title to read it.
3
Press Gang editor Paddy French declares personal interests in this story:
— in the 1980s he was the editor of Rebecca magazine which was in competition for a substantial Welsh Arts Council grant. One of the competitors was Arcade magazine and Dai Smith, Owen Smith’s father, was one of its supporters. The council’s literature committee chose Rebecca but the full council overturned the decision — and gave the grant to Arcade
— French is one of the thousands of traditional Labour voters who have joined the party following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Leader. He will be voting for Corbyn in the Leadership election.
4
The Rebecca investigation into nepotism and patronage at BBC Wales is explored in the articles:
The Son Of The Man From Uncle
In The Name Of The Father?
5
The cover block pic is by Gareth Fuller / PA.

♦♦♦

DONATIONS
Investigative stories like this one are expensive and time-consuming to produce. You can help by making a contribution to the coffers. Just click on the logo …

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS
Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY
If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.


THE GREAT WELSH WATER CONSPIRACY

July 2, 2015

rebecca_logo_04

TOMORROW the annual general meeting of Welsh Water will endorse a five year plan that is likely to see over a million customers overcharged.

Bills could be more than £50 million higher than necessary in each of the next five years.

The reason is the company may decide to spend more on capital expenditure than it has agreed with the regulator Ofwat.

Rebecca has discovered that Ofwat has already imposed an £85 million penalty on the company for over-spending on capital investment in the previous five years.

The decision went completely unnoticed in Wales.

When it was founded, Welsh Water promised it would be run “solely” for the benefit of customers.

It’s not true.

The real beneficiaries of Welsh Water are the highly-paid directors and the holders of the company’s colossal debts.

These debts — in the form of Eurobonds — are among the safest and most profitable investments in the world.

Additional capital spending makes them even more attractive to investors.

Interest on the bonds is paid via a complex mechanism which includes a subsidiary company in the tax haven of the Cayman Islands.

Welsh Water has been unable to provide convincing evidence this procedure isn’t being used for tax avoidance.

Rebecca will be writing to First Minister Carwyn Jones asking him to impose a “windfall tax” on the company.

Since it took over the business, Welsh Water has taken more than £8 billion from customers — and given them a paltry cash dividend of less than 2 per cent …

♦♦♦

LAST YEAR’S Rebecca article The Great Welsh Water Robbery sent shock waves through the board of Glas Cymru.

For the first time in its 14 year history the company — which owns Welsh Water — faced a sustained critique of its stewardship of the business.

The main thrust of the investigation was that  customers have been cheated of a quarter of a billion pounds in reduced bills.

CARWYN JONES THE FIRST Minister was the only party leader to reply to our email. He said: “I’m sure Welsh Water will have taken note of the issues you raise in your article on Rebecca Television. Photo: Welh Government

CARWYN JONES
THE FIRST Minister was the only party leader to reply to our email. He said: “I’m sure Welsh Water will have taken note of the issues you raise in your article on Rebecca ...”
Photo: Welsh Government

At the same time, the board of directors were rewarding themselves handsomely — taking double the amounts given to their counterparts in the publicly-owned Scottish Water.

Mainstream Welsh media ignored the article, most notably BBC Wales.

Current Director Rhodri Talfan Davies has strong family ties with Welsh Water’s senior independent board member Menna Richards.

She joined the board of the not-for-profit utility just as her friend and mentor Geraint Talfan Davies was leaving.

Geraint is, of course, the father of Rhodri.

Political parties at the Welsh Assembly were also unmoved.

Plaid Cymru, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats didn’t answer our email.

Only First Minister Carwyn Jones took the trouble to respond:

“I am sure that Welsh Water will have taken note of the issues you raise in your article on Rebecca … ,” he said.

He added:

“Welsh Water has recently reiterated to Welsh Government their commitment to using any financial gains in the next investment period 2015-2020, which are estimated to be around £200 million, to benefit customers, either through dividends or accelerated investment.”

It turns out the company had already decided to abandon the customer dividend for this year — and may continue the policy throughout the five year period. 

♦♦♦

THE BOARD of Glas Cymru hit back at Rebecca

At last year’s annual general meeting (AGM) in Swansea in July, chairman Bob Ayling spent five minutes addressing the article’s criticisms.

The article was also discussed at an earlier board meeting.

Ayling told the meeting that the board rejected our analysis.

METEORIC MENNA THE SENIOR £68,700 a year part-time non-executive director of Glas Cymru is former BBC Director Menna Richards. She followed another former BBC Director Geraint Talfan Davies — her mentor and friend — onto the board of the water company. While at the BBC she helped the son of Geraint — Rhodri — up the Corporation ladder so quickly that he was able to step into her shoes. Photo: PA

METEORIC MENNA
THE SENIOR non-executive director of Glas Cymru is a former BBC Director Menna Richards. The £68,700 a year part-timer followed another former BBC Director Geraint Talfan Davies — her mentor and friend — onto the board of the water company. While at the BBC she helped the son of Geraint — Rhodri — up the Corporation ladder so quickly he was able to step into her shoes …
Photo: PA

He defended the company’s decision to spend more on capital expenditure rather than return profits to consumers in the form of “customer dividends”.

The recession had begun, he said, and the board was happy with its decision not to resume “customer dividends” — it gave the company more room for manoeuvre.

This was generally accepted by members.

But there were rumblings of discontent about the pay of board members.

This is running at more than double the rate enjoyed by their opposite numbers at publicly-owned Scottish Water.

A member who was present — he’s asked us not to reveal his name — told us that on the issue of executive pay, Ayling:

“ … was on more shaky ground and didn’t sound convincing.”

When Rebecca asked the company to confirm this account of what happened at the AGM, it said:

“The event was not recorded, and as the meeting was private it would therefore be inappropriate to share any notes of the meeting.”

We replied by saying Glas Cymru was revealing less information than a company with shareholders.

In the early 1990s Rebecca bought a handful of shares in what was then a privately-owned Welsh Water as part of the research for the Channel 4 Dispatches programme “Privateers on Parade’.

Any shareholder can attend AGMs.

The Dispatches programme included the fact that the chairman of Welsh Water at that time — John Elfed Jones — had become a millionaire as a result of privatisation.

The programme played a small part in Labour’s massive £5.2 billion windfall tax on the privatised utilities in 1997.

Welsh Water simply repeated:

“… these are private meetings” :

JONES THE SALARY CHRIS JONES is one of the masterminds of Glas Cymru — and he’s been well paid for his trouble. In 2013-2014 he was paid a total. Photo: Glas Cymru

JONES THE SALARY
CHRIS JONES is one of the masterminds of Glas Cymru — and he’s been well paid for his trouble. He’s picked up nearly £4 million in salary and bonuses since the company was formed in 2001.
Photo: Glas Cymru

But whatever concerns some members felt, there were no moves to cut executive pay or force the board to resume paying dividends to customers …

♦♦♦

AT THE time of the AGM last year, Welsh Water and the industry regulator Ofwat were negotiating bills for the next five years.

For the period 2015-2020 Welsh Water submitted a business plan.

It asked Ofwat to allow it to charge bills which would, by 2020, be 4 per cent below inflation.

As part of that exercise, Ofwat looked at the company’s performance over the previous five years.

If found that that company had spent an additional £234 million on capital expenditure — improving its infrastructure.

This sum is close to the £250 million Rebecca claims should have gone to consumers in the form of  “customer dividends”.

Ofwat was not impressed — and decided to reduce the amount the company could take from customers over the next five years.

As a result, it reduced the amount Welsh Water could charge customers over the five year period by £85 million.

The company denies this deduction amounts to a penalty.

“Customer bills are lower as a result of this adjustment,” it admitted but added:

“it is a ‘reconciling adjustment’ and not a ‘penalty’.

“This is one of many adjustments to reflect that outcomes were different to plans.”

“All companies have reconciling adjustments and this happens at every Ofwat review.”

An Ofwat spokesman told us:

“It might not be a penalty in the strict legal sense of the word, but it certainly penalises the company …”

“The mechanism was there to act as an incentive to make accurate investment forecasts and for companies to invest efficiently as set against our assumptions.”

In the end, the result of Ofwat’s decision — whether “penalty” or “adjustment” — is that customers will get a “customer dividend” of £85 million over five years.

Instead of the minus 4 per cent it had been asking for in the price review, Welsh Water were ordered or reduce it by another one per cent.

By 2020 bills will be five per cent lower.

At an average of £416 a year, they will still be among the highest of the ten companies serving England and Wales — only South West Water and Wessex Water are higher.

And it will still be a long way off the average bill of £376.

If Welsh Water did what Rebecca is calling for —giving a decent “customer dividend” — bills would be much closer to the average …

♦♦♦

THIS IS not the first time Ofwat has stepped in to try and protect Welsh Water customers.

In 2013 Ofwat realised its 2010-2015 price review had been too generous to the water industry in England and Wales.

In March of that year Ofwat chairman Jonson Cox — a former chief executive of Anglian Water — gave a lecture.

“Customers, particularly vulnerable customers, are having a tough time,” he said.

He noted that, across the industry, bills had risen by 7 per cent in real terms since 2005.

But, he added:

” … over the same period there have been reductions in some household incomes of as much 5 per cent.”

He noted that the water industry had enjoyed higher profits because of lower interest rates and higher inflation.

“Given that the licence relates to a long-term monopoly public service, I would have hoped that companies would have shared gains that derive from external factors with their customers …”

In October 2013 he wrote to all water companies.

“As you know,” he wrote:

“having compared the harsh pressure on customers and the generous returns to water company shareholders from macro-economic factors over recent years, I … have been banging the drum about customers and water bills for most of the last year.”

JONSON COX THE CHAIRMAN of Ofwat called on the ten big water and sewerage conpanies in England and Wales to consider giving up all or some of their planned price rise in 2014-2015. Welsh Water was one of five companies which refused … Photo: Ofwat

JONSON COX
THE CHAIRMAN of Ofwat called on the ten big water and sewerage conpanies in England and Wales to consider giving up all or some of their planned price rise in 2014-2015. Welsh Water was one of five companies which declined to do so …
Photo: Ofwat

He asked them to consider forgoing all or part of the price increase for the year 2014-2015.

Five of the ten companies did so — ten million households got lower bills as a result.

Welsh Water customers were not among them.

We asked the company for an explanation.

A spokesman said:

“To say that Welsh Water did not do this is incorrect.”

“Between 2010-2015, we were already delivering below inflation bill increases for customers thanks to our business model.”

But it was that very business model that Jonson Cox was complaining about.

He wanted them to give customers an additional reduction in 2014-2015.

We went back to Welsh Water, pointing out their reply was “circular and nonsensical.”

The company did not answer the point.

Welsh Water is also being economical with the truth in its statement about “delivering below inflation bill increases for customers thanks to our business model.”

Ofwat insisted its tough regulation was the main driver in forcing down prices at Welsh Water.

A spokesman said:

“Back in 2009, the company’s final business plan proposed that bills remain in line with inflation …

“Ofwat’s challenge saw bills reduced by 7 per cent in real terms.”

♦♦♦

WELSH WATER makes great play of the work it does to help poor and vulnerable customers.

One “member” told us the company bombards him with large amounts of material about the help it gives poor and vulnerable customers.

In its 2014 accounts the company said:

“Around 60,000 are currently receiving help to pay their bills through our social tariff …”

When we asked for financial details, the company told us:

“ … 63,000 (Winter 2014) customers benefit from a range of our social tariffs, compared to only 70,000 (April 2014) for all of the English water and sewerage companies combined.”

The reply included no figures.

We did some research and found some statistics.

We went back to Welsh Water — and this time they provided figures.

It turns out that the actual number of customers receiving financial benefit is just under 47,000.

Of these 12,000 were people in receipt of benefits: they all got the same amount — a flat £25.

The remainder — over 34,000 customers — received an average payment of £188.

REWARDS GALORE NIGEL ANNETT is another of the key architects of Glas Cymru. The company's so-called

REWARDS GALORE
NIGEL ANNETT is another of the key architects of Glas Cymru. The company’s so-called “not-for-profit” model didn’t stop him getting a salary worthy of a major Footsie 250 business — in 2013 it was £538,000. His opposite number at Scottish Water — owned by the government — was happy with less than half that amount. When Annett stepped down as chief executive he was also awarded an CBE …
Photo: PA

The total cost was just under £6.8 million.

There is no doubt that Welsh Water out-performs its rivals on this score.

But, since they all provide assistance at some level, we think the extra amount Welsh Water give is around the £5 million mark.

This is undoubtedly a benefit of the Glas Cymru structure.

But the programme doesn’t seem to be having any impact on bad debts.

In 2014 the bad debt provision — from those customers  “… who choose not to pay or who are not able to pay …” — was £28 million.

That’s £1 million up on 2013.

Only a third of this money will ever be collected.

So the company still seems to have a long way to go before it meets the social needs of its poorest customers.

That’s why the “customer dividend” is so important.

At £50 million, it’s more than ten times bigger than the company’s “social dividend”.

 

♦♦♦

YESTERDAY WE wrote to Welsh Water telling them the thrust of this article and inviting a response.

We said our investigation suggests “the company operates for the benefit of bond-holders rather than customers.”

We said that if the company goes ahead and spends more in the next five years on additional capital expenditure than has been agreed with the regulator Ofwat:

“ … you will be overcharging customers by at least £250m.”

The company’s “response” was a long statement.

It does not answer the points we made and it is not included here — it’s attached, in full, as a note at the end of the article.

The result of spending more on capital expenditure is that the company’s “gearing” — the ratio of debt to the company’s overall value — falls. 

This improves the credit rating of the £2 billion worth of bonds the company has issued. 

In the early 2000s the bonus paid to directors like current chief executive Chris Jones was partly based on these credit ratings.

♦♦♦

SEVERAL TIMES this year we’ve asked Welsh Water for a list of the companies and institutions which invested  £2 billion in the company’s bonds.

Each time, the company has declined to give it.

UGLAND HOUSE THE CAYMAN Islands headquarters of solicitors Maples and Calder was home to nearly 19,000 companies in 2008 — one of them is the financing subsidiary of Welsh Water. The Carribean island is a tax haven — there's no income tax and no Corporation Tax. Photo: Maples and Calder

UGLAND HOUSE
THE CAYMAN Islands headquarters of solicitors Maples and Calder was home to nearly 19,000 companies in 2008 — one of them the financing subsidiary of Welsh Water. The Carribean island is a tax haven — there’s no income tax and no Corporation Tax.
Photo: Maples and Calder

The bonds are issued using a complex mechanism involving a subsidiary company in the tax haven of the Cayman Islands.

Because they are also listed on the Luxembourg stock exchange, they are known as Eurobonds.

The principal advantage is that Welsh Water does not have to impose a “with-holding tax” of 20 per cent on the interest.

This “with-holding tax” is a UK measure designed to prevent tax avoidance by foreign companies lending money to British businesses.

This is why we wanted to know if any of Welsh Water’s £2 billion worth of bonds were held by foreign companies.

If so, they can legally avoid paying UK tax.

Welsh Water told us, variously, that their bonds are held “primarily”, “predominantly” and “principally” by UK institutions.

These pay tax in the normal way.

But the company would not supply the full list.

Welsh Water deny that their bond operation permits tax avoidance:

“ … we have not undertaken any ‘tax avoidance’ activity.”

The company added:

“Note that the Cayman financing company was set up in advance of the purchase of Welsh Water by Glas Cymru.”

“ … Glas bought both Welsh Water and the financing company at the same time in 2001.”

“Our understanding of the commercial rationale of the Cayman financing company was that it was more cost efficient to set up the financing company in the Cayman Islands in 2001, as opposed to the higher costs of setting up a financing company in the UK.”

The first part of this statement is nonsense.

The Cayman financing company was set up a team which included the current chief executive Chris Jones.

The company’s Cayman Islands subsidiary is based at the offices of the law firm Maples and Calder.

It’s called Ugland House.

The building has been singled out by President Obama as the base of many US companies which use it to avoid tax.

PRESIDENT OBAMA CONDEMNED US companies who used the Cayman Islands as a way of avoiding American taxation. Photo: White House

PRESIDENT OBAMA
CONDEMNED AMERICAN companies who used the Cayman Islands tax haven as a way of avoiding US  tax.
Photo: White House

In 2008 Obama — then a Senator — said:

“You’ve got a building in the Cayman Islands that supposedly houses 12,000 corporations”.

“That’s either the biggest building or the biggest tax scam on record.”

Yesterday we emailed Welsh Water to say

“the company has not been able to satisfy Rebecca that its bond operation — using Cayman Islands and Luxembourg — is not used by some foreign entities to avoid UK taxation. “

The company did not answer the point.

Our investigation into this issue continues …

♦♦♦

IT’S CLEAR Welsh Water has abandoned the principle of a “customer dividend” — at least for this year.

There is no indication it will resume the dividend during the next four years.

GORDON

GORDON “WINDFALL TAX” BROWN
IN 1997 Gordon Brown was welcomed to the Treasury by Permanent Secretary Terry Burns. Brown went on to impose a massive “windfall tax” on bloated privatised utilities like Welsh Water. ironically, three years later the ennobled Burns became the first chairman of Glas Cymru, the company which bought Welsh Water in 2001. Now Rebecca Television is calling for a second “windfall tax” on the company …
Photo: PA

Tomorrow’s AGM in Llandrindod Wells has the chance to persuade the board to change its mind.

If it doesn’t Rebecca believes the Welsh Government should consider a windfall tax on the company.

In 1990s the newly-privatised Welsh Water was an obscenely profitable business. 

In 1991, for example, it made a profit of £128 million on a turnover of £287 million.

For every pound it was taking from customers, it was pocketing 45 pence in profit.

Normal business struggle to make ten per cent … 

In 1997 the incoming Labour government hit the company’s owners — Hyder which also owned South Wales Electricity — with a massive £282 million “windfall tax”.

Today’s Glas Cymru is nothing like as excessive as the old privatised Welsh Water.

But consumers are still not getting the financial benefit of the so-called “not-for-profit” model.

We believe the Welsh Government should impose a windfall tax of at least £250 million on the business.

Rebecca will be writing to First Minister Carwyn Jones to ask him to consider a proposal to levy a “windfall tax” of £250 million on the company.

♦♦♦

Note

This is the full statement Welsh Water provided yesterday:

“As a company owned on behalf of our customers, our track record shows that 
customers are central to every decision we take and that is they who benefit from our 
unique business model in the industry.  We are committed to providing safe and 
reliable services at the most affordable price. 

“Between 2010-2015 our model has enabled us to return £136 million to customers by 
accelerating investment in our services, reducing bills and helping even more 
customers who genuinely struggle to pay their bills.  We have also already pledged to 
help more than 100,000 of our most disadvantaged customers by 2020.  The average 
household bill will also fall by £21 compared to current prices which means our 
customers will have benefitted from a decade of below-inflation increases by 2020.  

“Customer will continue to benefit from our model and we will continue to reinvest 
and return value to customers – either through a customer dividend or increased 
investment to improve services for customers over the next five years”. 

♦♦♦

DONATIONS
If you would like to support the work of Rebeccayou can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article


THE GREAT WELSH WATER ROBBERY

July 1, 2014

rebecca_logo_04

WELSH WATER customers have been cheated of more than a quarter of a billion pounds.

That’s the conclusion of a Rebecca investigation into Glas Cymru, the company which owns Welsh Water.

Glas Cymru was set up in 2001 as a not-for-profit business claiming to exist solely for the benefit of its customers.

Since then consumers have paid nearly £8,500 million in bills.

Glas Cymru has given them a cash “dividend” of just £150 million over the same period — less than 2 per cent of the total.

Rebecca believes they should have received at least a further £250 million — equivalent to roughly £300 for every customer.

The analysis also demonstrates that the real winners in the Glas Cymru saga have been the members of the board.

They’ve taken millions out of the business when their counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland have been satisfied with modest payments.

♦♦♦

ON FRIDAY the 66 people who control Glas Cymru will meet for the fourteenth annual general meeting of the company.  

The company has no shareholders and appoints “members” to take their place.

Nine of these members are the directors of the board.

The other 57 — who receive no payment — are drawn from all over Wales as well as parts of England served by Welsh Water.

They include university professors, retired water employees and trade unionists, accountants, farmers, solicitors — a broad cross-section of the community.

Seventeen are women.

The company they control was conceived in the dying days of the break-up of the Welsh conglomerate Hyder which owned Welsh Water and South Wales Electricity.

Hyder had been created when Welsh Water bought South Wales Electricity in 1996.

WATER MILLIONAIRE  One of the key architects of Glas Cymru, Chris Jones is the current chief executive. In the 14 years of the company's existence he has prospered — awarded nearly £4 million in salary, pensions, annual and long-term bonuses.   Photo: Glas Cymru

LIQUID ENGINEER
ONE OF THE key architects of Glas Cymru, Chris Jones is the current chief executive. In 2001 the company farmed out almost all of its activities to other English utilites — leaving just 130 staff. Until most of these activities were brought back in-house in recent years, Glas Cymru was more a finance company than a genuine water business. Jones is well-rewarded — picking up more than £3.5 million in salary, annual and long-term bonuses in the past 14 years. 
Photo: Glas Cymru

Hyder expanded disastrously and was soon burdened with debt.

In the 1990s Labour accused the privatised water and electricity companies of profiteering.

When it came to power in 1997, the new government quickly imposed a £282 million “windfall tax” on Hyder.

Hyder’s share price collapsed.

It was eventually taken over by the US energy giant Western Power Distribution who were mainly interested in the electricity business.

Two young Hyder executives — Nigel Annett and Chris Jones — came up with the idea of creating a not-for-profit company and using money raised on the international bond market to buy Welsh Water.

Annett was a former merchant banker and Jones had been a civil servant at the Treasury when the water industry was privatised.

Western Power Distribution indicated that it was willing to sell Welsh Water — if Annett and Jones could raise the money.

Annett and Jones began to assemble a board of directors.

They recruited Lord Burns — former Treasury Permanent Secretary — to chair the new company.

Another appointment was Alison Carnwath, also a merchant banker.

Recently retired Controller of BBC Wales, Geraint Talfan Davies, also joined the team.

LORD BURNS  TERRY BURNS welcoming the new chancellor Gordon Brown to the Treasury after Labour's 1997 victory. The Permanent Secretary left the post the following year and was made a Life Peer. Lord Burns was to play an important role at Glas Cymru — and was handsomely rewarded for his contribution. Photo: PA

LORD BURNS
TERRY BURNS welcoming the new chancellor Gordon Brown to the Treasury after Labour’s 1997 victory. The Permanent Secretary left the post the following year and was made a Life Peer. Lord Burns was to play an important role at Glas Cymru — and was handsomely rewarded for his contribution.
Photo: PA

In May 2001 Glas Cymru raised £1,910 million on the bond market and took control of the company.

That same month the existing managing director of Welsh Water, Dr Mike Brooker, joined the board.

♦♦♦

IN 2001 the directors of Glas Cymru faced a fundamental choice about how they were going to be rewarded.

They had two models to choose from.

They could follow the nine other companies in the water sector in England — companies like the giant Thames Water which supplied water and sewerage services to London.

These were companies controlled by shareholders who expected a return on their investment.

The directors were rewarded with substantial salaries and pensions, bonus schemes and lucrative share option schemes.

This was the “Capitalist Nine” option.

Or the Glas Cymru directors could choose the publicly controlled model in Scotland and Northern Ireland where water had not been privatised.

There were three water authorities in Scotland and a single body for Northern Ireland.

These were spartan undertakings where the board were paid decent amounts but had to forego the valuable perks of their counterparts in the rest of the UK.

This was the “Public Sector Four” route.

Glas Cymru’s not-for-profit structure and its early statements suggested it should have been more sympathetic to the “Public Sector Four” club.

In 2001 a company press release was clear — Welsh Water:

” … a monopoly providing an essential public service, is a very low risk business.”

But the board members decided to follow the “Capitalist Nine” when it came to their pay and conditions.

This meant that the pay of the full-time directors would be decided by the non-executives while the latter’s fees would be decided by the entire board.

Soon after the company was formed, Annett and Jones were each awarded a £100,000 bonus.

By 2003 it was clear what the remuneration policy meant in practice.

In that year Scottish Water, a merger of the country’s three water authorities, was created under public control.

The new Scottish Water was far larger than Glas Cymru — its turnover in 2003 was £895 million, compared to the £462 million of Welsh Water.

The chief executive of Scottish Water was paid £175,000 in 2003.

Glas Cymru’s managing director, Dr Mike Brooker, was paid £311,000.

WATER NOT WINE First Minister Alex Salmond is having none of the English "fat cat" syndrome on his patch. The much larger Scottish Water pays less than half the amount Glas Cymru feels it needs to pay its chairman and non-executive directors Photo: PA

WATER NOT WINE
FIRST MINISTER Alex Salmond is having none of the English and Welsh “fat cat” syndrome on his patch. The much larger Scottish Water pays less than half the amount Glas Cymru feels it needs to pay its chairman and non-executive directors
Photo: PA

The chairman of Scottish Water was paid £70,000 compared to the £140,000 taken by Lord Burns, Glas Cymru’s chairman.

Ordinary non-executives in Scotland were paid £18,000 — their counterparts in Wales, like Geraint Talfan Davies, were awarded £35,000.

Fast forward to 2013 and the gap had widened.

Scottish Water’s chief executive’s £252,000 package was less than half of the £538,000 taken home by his then Glas Cymru counterpart Nigel Annett.

Glas Cymru’s new chairman, former British Airways boss Bob Ayling, was paid £204,000 — more than double what Scottish Water felt its chairman deserved.

Non-executive directors of Glas Cymru were paid £56,000 while their Scottish colleagues had to make do with an average of £22,500.

Glas Cymru stoutly defends its remuneration policy:

“Despite Welsh Water being equivalent in scale to that of one of the largest FTSE 250 companies, the Chief Executive’s remuneration (July 2013) was less than half of the average FTSE 250 CEO [chief executive officer].

“We provide drinking water of the highest quality and reliable sanitation to 3 million people; manage over 550 service reservoirs; 27,000km of water mains; over 30,000km of sewers and over 800 wastewater treatment works.”

“The scale and complexity of providing such an essential service warrants directors of the highest calibre and appropriate remuneration packages.”

Geraint Talfan Davies is the only director of Glas Cymru to publish a version of the company’s history.

Yet this account — in his book At Arms Length — is curiously muted about the achievements of Glas Cymru.

GERAINT TALFAN DAVIES  A MEMBER of the powerful Talfan Davies clan, the former BBC Wales Controller became one of the highest paid non-executives in Welsh corporate history when he joined the board of Glas Cymru, the company that owns Welsh Water. He was later joined by Menna Richards, the friend who succeeded him at BBC Wales. It was his son, Rhodri, who took over BBC Wales after Menna Richards departed — a saga explored in the Rebecca Television article The Son Of The Man From Uncle.                                                                 Photo: Seren Books

CAPTAIN OF INDUSTRY, OBE
GERAINT TALFAN DAVIES made nearly £500,000 as a non-executive director of Glas Cymru. The former BBC Wales Controller became one of the highest paid non-executives in Welsh corporate history when he joined the board of Glas Cymru in 2000. He was later joined by Menna Richards, the friend who succeeded him at BBC Wales — she’s currently paid £56,000 a year for her part-time role at Glas Cymru. Photo: Seren Books.    

Just three paragraphs are devoted to the company in a book of more than 350 pages.

There’s no mention of the “customer dividend” which, by the time he finished writing the book, had reached nearly £50 million.

Was he aware that the board faced the possibility that some journalist might come along and make the damaging comparison with Scottish Water?

And that, while the directors were lining their pockets, customers were losing out?

We put these questions to him.

He didn’t reply.

♦♦♦

IT WAS two years before Welsh Water customers began to benefit from the new structure.

In 2003-04 the company began to pay a dividend to its customers.

In this first year the average customer got a rebate of £9 — worth £12 million in all.

The company continued to pay a dividend — it later became known as the “customer dividend”— until 2010.

In that year the “customer dividend” amounted to £28 million — an average payment of £22 for every household.

The total given back to customers was £150 million.

But in 2010, as the world-wide recession kicked in, the company decided that it would suspend the dividend “until prudent to do so”.

The new chairman, former British Airways boss Bob Ayling, said average bills would fall by 7 per cent between 2010 and 2015.

He added:

” … the board has decided that our customers’ interests are best served by accelerating future planned investment to improve the reliability and quality of the essential public service our customers rely on …”

REWARDS Nigel Annett collecting his CBE at Windsor Castle earlier this year. He made over £4 million in his years as a director of Glas Cymru. photo: PA

WATER GONG
NIGEL ANNETT collecting his CBE at Windsor Castle earlier this year. One of the key figures in Glas Cymru, the former merchant banker was part of a team obsessed with the company’s credit rating. Between 2001 and 2010 part of the team’s bonus came from improvements in this rating. Better credit ratings came largely from increased company reserves — money Rebecca believes should have gone to customers. Annett was paid more than £4 million in his years as a director of Glas Cymru.  Photo: PA

Glas Cymru said that, by 2015, £136 million would be spent on this additional capital programme.

Rebecca believes this money should have gone to the company’s hard-pressed customers in the form of a cash dividend.

And our analysis suggests it should have formed part of a total rebate of at least £250 million.

In the period Glas Cymru was giving back £150 million to its customers, South West Water — a company roughly the same size — was paying more than £700 million in dividends to its shareholders …

♦♦♦

THE OWNER of Scottish Water — the Scottish Government — has given up its right to a dividend from the company.

As a result, the regulator can impose lower charges.

In 2014 Scottish Water’s average bill was £339 compared to Welsh Water’s £445 — one of the highest in the UK.

To be fair, it is notoriously difficult to compare one water company’s charges with another.

Completely different circumstances — such as geography, population densities — apply.

However, the trend of pricing is significant.

In 2005 Scottish Water harmonised all of its charging into one integrated system.

In that year the average household bill was, in todays prices, £379.

This year that bill is £339 — £40 a year lower.

In 2005, Glas Cymru’s bill was £396 in today’s money.

This year it’s £445 — £49 a year higher.

Against that increase, Welsh Water can say that it gave consumers back £150 million in the form of “customer dividends” over its 14 year history.

But the value of the £40 reduction in the Scottish Water bill is probably worth £100 million in this year alone.

In March last year Jonson Cox, chairman of the water regulator Ofwat which covers England and Wales, gave a lecture.

“Customers, particularly vulnerable customers, are having a tough time,” he said.

JONSON COX Chairman of the water regulator OFWAT,

JONSON COX
CHAIRMAN OF the water regulator Ofwat, Jonson Cox has pointed out that water companies made higher profits than expected in the period 2010-2015. He called on water companies to share some of their good fortune with customers.   Photo: Ofwat

He noted that, across the industry, bills had risen by 7 per cent in real terms since 2005.

He added ” … over the same period there have been reductions in some household incomes of as much 5 per cent.”

He noted that the sector had enjoyed higher profits because of lower interest rates and higher inflation.

“Given that the licence relates to a long-term monopoly public service, I would have hoped that companies would have shared gains that derive from external factors with their customers (‘gainshare’) …”

He added that Glas Cymru’s structure

“… does provide a form of gainshare with customers …”

But, despite making windfall profits in the period 2010-15, Welsh Water gave none of it back to its customers in the form of cash.

And its figure of £150 million in “customer dividends” has to be treated with some reserve.

Many of the other private equity water companies also gave rebates.

For example, in 2006 South West Water made huge profits and gave each customer a rebate of £20 at a cost of nearly £15 million.

♦♦♦

SO WHAT should the “customer dividend” have been? 

The regulator Ofwat pays close attention to water companies “gearing”.

This is the ratio of debt to what Ofwat calls the Regulatory Capital Value.

By the end of next year, the company expects to have a Regulatory Capital Value of £4,800 million.

The company has debts of £2,900 million.

Glas Cymru’s gearing is 60 per cent.

When Ofwat was preparing its pricing structure for the industry in the period 2015-2020, it believed gearing “should be in the range of 60 to 70 per cent.”

So Glas Cymru is currently right at the bottom of the range.

The lower the percentage, the less is available to pay a “customer dividend”.

The higher the percentage, the more money is available to give back to consumers.

So a straightforward approach would be to say that Welsh Water should go for 65 per cent — bang in the middle of Ofwat’s range.

So what does that five percent mean in terms of a potential “customer dividend”?

The arithmetic is complex but in crude terms it means Glas Cymru could have given back an additional £250 million over the past 14 years.

♦♦♦

ALL IS not lost.

Although the Rebecca investigation shows that customers have been denied £250 million of badly needed cash refunds, the money hasn’t been stolen.

Of course, millions of pounds have been pocketed by the board — but that’s only a fraction of the total sum.

Some of the money — £136 million — was spent on additional capital projects.

That is, on improvements to the infrastructure over and above what the regulator Ofwat required.

Rebecca asked Glas Cymru if that money could have used instead to pay “customer dividends”.

“Correct”, was the response of a spokesman.

The rest of the £250 million lies in the company’s £1,900 million reserves.

♦♦♦

THE AGM next Friday has the power to remedy the situation.

The 57 ordinary members can instruct the board to restore the “customer dividend” with immediate effect.

And they could order the board to find the most cost-effective way to repay the rest of the £250 million cash bonus it owes customers for the period up to 2015.

Rebecca has written to First Minister Carwyn Jones about this investigation.

The Welsh Government has no powers to intervene in the affairs of the company.

CARWYN JONES Rebecca Television has  waof the atasked him to investigate Glas Cymru's stewardship

CARWYN JONES
Rebecca has asked Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones to investigate Glas Cymru’s handling of the “customer dividend” issue. Labour is campaigning about the “cost of living” crisis for ordinary working people — and a refund from Glas Cymru would be welcomed by many hard-pressed families in Wales.  Photo: PA

But it does have a moral right to speak out on behalf of more than a million Welsh customers if it feels they’re being unfairly treated.

We also asked him to examine the constitution of the company.

In particular, the fact that ordinary members meet formally only twice a year, have no structure of their own, have no secretariat and no research officer.

We also sent a copy of the letter to the leaders of Plaid Cymru, Welsh Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

None had replied before this article went on-line.

♦♦♦

GLAS CYMRU was angry we had sent the letter before they had a chance to answer the last set of questions we put to them.

“It is very disappointing that you have issued this letter to the First Minister before receiving our final response,” a spokesman said.

“Your hypothesis that customers have been short-changed is wrong.”

The company says it would “be remiss of you” not to acknowledge that

— throughout the decade 2010-2020 bills will have risen by less than the rate of inflation

— in the same period, £3 billion will be invested in improvements to service

— the company’s good credit rating allows it to borrow cheaply, keeping bills lower than they otherwise would be: “a win, win for our customers”

— £250 million has been returned to customers either through dividends, accelerated investment, social tariffs and lower bills

— this is money “that in any other company would have gone to shareholders”

— customer satisfaction and “perception of value for money ranks us either top or second compared to other companies …”

— Glas Cymru adds £1,000 million to the Welsh economy

— although the 57 ordinary members meet formally only twice a year, other meetings with high-profile experts also take place

— the company also has a Customer Challenge Group which scrutinises the company’s plans.

In another statement, the added that its social tariffs helped 64,000 households in Wales compared to 72,000 for the whole of England.

Glas Cymru said it is

“proud of its unique non-shareholder business model which has delivered significant benefits to our customers in the form of lower bills and increased investment.”

Many of these points had been made in earlier responses to our questions.

Some we disagree with.

Others are irrelevant.

The fundamental point is that every penny Glas Cymru is talking about comes from consumers.

And the plain fact is that the actual direct cash benefit most customers have seen from Glas Cymru’s stewardship of Welsh Water is pitifully small.

The money given back to customers is £150 million — just 2 per cent of the £8,500 million they’ve paid out in bills.

♦♦♦

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article


IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER?

June 18, 2014

rebecca_logo_04

WHEN RHODRI Talfan Davies takes his leave as Director of BBC Wales in the years ahead, will he once again follow in his father’s footsteps?

It’s become the practice of departing Directors to take up one of the best paid part-time jobs in Wales — a directorship in Glas Cymru.

Glas Cymru owns Welsh Water and claims to be a “not-for-profit” business with customers as its “sole” concern.

But a forthcoming Rebecca Television investigation will claim consumers have been cheated of £100 million.

It’s the board of directors who really benefit.

When Geraint Talfan Davies left BBC Wales in 1999, he helped set up Glas Cymru — and soaked up more than £450,000 in fees in his decade with the company.

He was still there when his friend Menna Richards, who succeeded him as BBC Wales Director, was appointed to the Glas Cymru board in November 2010.

She currently gets £57,000 a year for her part-time role.

Talfan Davies and Richards are part of the tight-knit group which controls Welsh broadcasting.

Rebecca Television continues its investigation of this media clique — and asks if the axing of a controversial series in the late 1990s was part of a strategy to secure the succession at BBC Wales …

♦♦♦

WHEN GERAINT Talfan Davies left the BBC at the end of 1999 he was only 56 years old.

“I have always been clear that I wanted to retire from the BBC while I still have the energy and the appetite to pursue new avenues,” he said at the time.

Within months he’d been recruited to become the Welsh face of a dramatic take-over of the Welsh water industry.

At the time, Welsh Water had swallowed South Wales Electricity and become Hyder plc.

GERAINT TALFAN DAVIES  A MEMBER of the powerful Talfan Davies clan, the former BBC Wales Controller became one of the highest paid non-executives in Welsh corporate history when he joined the board of Glas Cymru, the company that owns Welsh Water. He was later joined by Menna Richards, the friend who succeeded him at BBC Wales. It was his son, Rhodri, who took over BBC Wales after Menna Richards departed — a saga explored in the Rebecca Television article The Son Of The Man From Uncle.                                                                 Photo: Seren Books

THE MAN FROM UNCLE
A MEMBER of the powerful Talfan Davies clan, the former head of BBC Wales became one of the highest paid non-executives in Welsh corporate history when he joined the board of Glas Cymru, the company that owns Welsh Water. He was later joined by Menna Richards, the friend who succeeded him at BBC Wales. It was his son, Rhodri, who took over BBC Wales after Menna Richards departed — a saga explored in the Rebecca Television article The Son Of The Man From Uncle.     Photo: Seren Books

But the two privatised utilities made huge profits and in 1997 the new Labour government hit Hyder with a massive combined £282 million “windfall tax” on its excess electricity and water profits.

The water regulator Ofwat, stung by accusations that it had been too lenient on the sector, also waded in with what looked like draconian new price caps.

This “double whammy” left Hyder sinking under a wave of debt.

Its share price sank and predators closed in.

It came down to a battle between the Japanese investment bank Nomura and the US power conglomerate Western Power Distribution.

The Americans won.

But they only wanted the electricity business — and quickly agreed to sell Welsh Water to a new company called Glas Cymru.

Glas Cymru, a company limited by guarantee, agreed to take over Welsh Water’s massive debt burden.

It did so by borrowing the money from the bond market.

The idea was the brainchild of two senior executives who worked for Welsh Water — former merchant banker Nigel Annett and ex-Treasury official Chris Jones.

They brought in former Treasury Permanent Secretary Terry Burns to chair the outfit.

And Geraint Talfan Davies was recruited to become the Welsh face of the enterprise.

Glas Cymru has always presented itself as a people’s company — with no shareholders, it claims, “our only purpose is to deliver the best outcomes for our customers.”

It points to £150 million worth of “customer dividends” — £139 for every customer — paid out since 2001.

(However, a forthcoming Rebecca Television investigation will reveal that consumers should have done far better.

An article entitled The Great Welsh Water Robbery argues that consumers have been cheated of £100 million in the last four years alone.

The final tally could run into hundreds of millions of pounds.

See the note at the end of this article.)

While Welsh Water’s more than one million domestic customers have been short-changed, the directors have done exceedingly well.

By the time he resigned as a part-time non-executive director in March 2011, Geraint Talfan Davies was earning £54,000 a year.

In the ten years he was on the board, his total haul from the company was £452,500.

Unlike Geraint Talfan Davies, Menna Richards was appointed a non-executive director at Glas Cymru while she was still Director of BBC Wales.

She took up the Glas Cymru role in November 2010 — two weeks after she announced her intention to leave BBC Wales.

She didn’t leave the Corporation until February 2011.

Her appointment is understood to have caused concern at the BBC.

MISS PRINCIPALITY  Menna Richards has taken the two-step routine (BBC Wales to Glas Cymru) pioneered by her friend and mentor Geraint Talfan Davies and given it another twist. She's turned it into a conga by also becoming a non-executive director of the Principality Building Society — following in the footsteps of current Glas Cymru chief executive Chris Jones. The post adds another £45,000 a year to her annual bank balance and increases her clout as one the "great and the good" of Welsh public life.  Photo: PA

MISS PRINCIPALITY
MENNA RICHARDS has taken the two-step — BBC Wales to Glas Cymru — routine pioneered by her friend and mentor Geraint Talfan Davies and given it another twist. She’s turned it into a conga by also becoming a non-executive director of the Principality Building Society — following in the footsteps of Glas Cymru chief executive Chris Jones. The post adds another £45,000 a year to her annual bank balance and increases her clout as one the “great and the good” of Welsh public life.
Photo: PA

In its accounts, Glas Cymru states that Menna Richards did not receive any fees until 1 March 2011.

This was after she had finally left BBC Wales.

She’s already one of the most trusted non-executive directors on the Glas Cymru board — for six months in 2013 she was the acting senior non-executive director at an annual rate of £67,500.

By March 2014 she had received total fees of £177,750.

♦♦♦

WE ASKED Glas Cymru to explain the high levels of fees it awards non-executive directors.

Compared to a company like Cardiff-based Admiral Insurance, a successful business operating in one of the most competitive markets in British capitalism, Glas Cymru’s fees appear excessive.

With a turnover of £2.2 billion, Admiral has to fight for every customer‚ unlike Welsh Water whose £717 million income in 2013 came almost entirely from captive customers paying fixed prices.

Back in 2001, a Glas Cymru press release was clear — Welsh Water “… a monopoly providing an essential public service, is a very low risk business.”

Admiral made a pre-tax profit of nearly £350 million in 2012 — but still managed to pay two of its non-executive directors less than Menna Richards.

It took three rounds of questions before Glas Cymru finally came up with a justification for the pay of non-executive directors:

“Regardless of our ‘not-for-profit’ model, we must attract the highest calibre of directors to ensure that the company continues to perform to the highest levels,” a spokesman said.

“Our business provides essential public services and so is heavily regulated by numerous independent bodies, which means we need a high quality board which can provide a credible commitment to good governance for our regulators and bond investors.”

It said that non-executive fees are “reviewed annually” with independent advice from outside consultants.

And it added that the “members” of Glas Cymru — the 59 people appointed to act as the owners of the company — “vote annually on directors’ remuneration.”

The need to attract the “highest calibre” people to run the board doesn’t seem to apply to the “members” who actually control the company.

They’re paid nothing.

♦♦♦

THERE’S ANOTHER UK business which is directly comparable to Glas Cymru — Scottish Water, owned by the Scottish Government.

Water was never privatised in Scotland.

Scottish Water, the result of the merger of three local authorities in 2002, is much bigger than Welsh Water.

Its revenue of £1.1 billion outstrips Glas Cymru’s £717 million.

So you might expect its non-executive directors to be paid more.

Not a bit of it.

Scottish Water’s non-executive salaries are decided by First Minister Alex Salmond and his cabinet.

The average basic fee for a non-executive director in 2013 was £22,000.

That’s less than half of the £57,000 Menna Richards currently receives at Glas Cymru.

And Scottish Water doesn’t seem to have any trouble finding “high calibre” people to take these jobs.

After Menna Richards took up the Glas Cymru post, the Western Mail newspaper published a letter from a Glynneath reader called Jack Kearns:

“She follows Geraint Talfan Davies who preceded her as controller of BBC Wales,” he wrote, “so could it be whoever replaces Menna Richards will be assured of a long and high-salary future with BBC Wales and then Welsh Water?”

RHODRI TALFAN DAVIES There is speculation that the current BBC Wales Director Rhodri Talfan Davies will follow in the footsteps of both his father and Menna Richards and join the board of Glas Cymru in the years to come. We asked him if this was on the cards — he did not reply. Photo: BBC Wales

THE SON OF THE MAM FROM UNCLE
THERE’S ALREADY speculation that the current BBC Wales Director, Rhodri Talfan Davies, will follow in the footsteps of both his father and Menna Richards and join the board of Glas Cymru in the years to come. We asked him if this was on the cards — he did not reply.
Photo: BBC Wales

Kearns’ letter was published before it was announced that Rhodri Talfan Davies would replace Menna Richards as BBC Wales Director.

We asked Rhodri Talfan Davies if he had any plans to follow his father onto the Glas Cymru board.

This was one of a raft of questions we put to the BBC Wales press office on June 2.

No answers were forthcoming.

We emailed Geraint Talfan Davies for a response.

We also asked Menna Richards to comment.

Neither replied by the time this article was posted.

♦♦♦

THE TALFAN Davies clan aren’t the only family to have prospered at the BBC.

Relatives of Menna Richards have also done well.

In the period she was Director of BBC Wales, her sister Ceri Wyn Richards won more than a million pounds worth of commissions from the broadcaster.

Ceri Wyn Richards is a former BBC Wales staffer who once held the post of Editor, Radio Cymru.

In the early 2000s she and her husband, producer Mark Jones, set up an independent company called Torpedo Limited.

For eight years the company waxed prosperous on the back of commissions from BBC Wales.

As a small company, Torpedo did not have to declare the salaries of its two directors in its annual accounts.

But its balance sheet was healthy — and the company, which was paid in advance by BBC Wales, always reported “cash in hand and at the bank” of between £100,000 and £260,000 throughout the decade.

For the first four years of her time as Director, the BBC did not declare Menna Richards’ interest in Torpedo or the amount of work the Corporation was awarding her sister’s company.

In 2005-06, however, the BBC’s annual report and accounts began listing the amount of work the company was being awarded.

The figures were surprisingly high:

— in 2005-06, Torpedo received £324,000 worth of work

— in 2006-07, the figure rose to £360,000

— in 2007-08, contracts dipped to £321,000

— in 2008-09, the amount declined to £147,000.

The reason the figure fell in that year was that there was a crisis at Torpedo at the end of 2008.

The marriage between Ceri Wyn Richards and Mark Jones hit the rocks — and the partnership that created Torpedo foundered.

In the four-year period 2005-9, the company earned £1,153,000 — making it one of the most successful Welsh broadcasting independents.

We asked BBC Wales for the figures for the period 2001 to 2004.

There was no response.

In December 2008 a new company, Parrog Limited, was registered at an address in Whitchurch, Cardiff.

This was the home of Menna Richards and her husband Patrick Hannan.

A widely respected BBC journalist, Hannan signed the documents which set up the company.

For the first six months of 2009, he was the sole director and holder of the company’s only share.

In June 2009, Ceri Wyn Richards also became a director of the company.

The following month, Patrick Hannan resigned.

(Diagnosed with cancer, he was to die in October 2009 at the age of 68).

In the summer of 2009, an anonymous letter was sent to national newspapers in London drawing attention to the links between Menna Richards and her sister’s companies.

BBC_flag

ON THE surface, the Parrog affair caused hardly any ripples at the BBC. Behind the scenes, however, there were reports of considerable unease in London about the Director’s close ties with the company. Some observers believe the issue may have played a part in Menna Richards’ ultimate decision to leave the Corporation in 2010…

It also pointed out that Menna Richards’ husband was a director  of Parrog and that the company’s registered office was their home.

In August 2009 Jenny Rathbone, a Labour Parliamentary candidate for one of the Cardiff constituencies, learnt of the allegations.

Rathbone, a former producer of the BBC 2 Money Programme and a Labour councillor in the London borough of Islington, wrote to BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons.

Four days later, he wrote back to say the matter was an “operational” issue — he’d passed her letter on to deputy Director-General Mark Byford.

The next day Rathbone received a reply from the BBC’s Chief Operating Officer, Caroline Thomson.

She wrote:

“I can reassure you that Menna Richards has declared all business relationships between the BBC and members of her family in line with … stringent conflict of interest policies.”

“I am satisfied that she has had no involvement in the management of either Torpedo Ltd or Parrog Ltd, and has no role in the commissioning of any independent production companies.

Thomson added that the “BBC will be responding to your letter more fully in due course.”

Rathbone — currently a Labour member of the National Assembly in Cardiff — doesn’t remember receiving a second letter.

The BBC’s accounts for the year 2009-2010 carried no declaration from Menna Richards — who served throughout the year — about the value of any commissions obtained by Parrog.

In November 2010 Menna Richards announced that she was stepping down as Director and eventually left in February 2011.

Again, the BBC accounts for 2010-2011 did not include a declaration of her connection with Parrog.

Parrog’s own accounts indicate that, in the four years between 2009 and 2013, the amount of work does not seem to have reached the levels Torpedo achieved.

The company’s cash balances ranged from £67,000 to £100,000.

We asked BBC Wales for details of commissions the company received from the Corporation.

Once again, the press office failed to provide a response.

♦♦♦

THE PROFESSIONAL relationship between Menna Richards and Geraint Talfan Davies began at HTV Wales in the 1980s.

After eight years at BBC Wales, Menna Richards moved to HTV Wales in 1983 to become a journalist and presenter on the Welsh language current affairs programme Y Byd Ar Bedwar.

At the time Geraint Talfan Davies was HTV Wales’ Assistant Controller of Programmes.

His uncle Sir Alun Talfan Davies was coming to the end of his term as chairman of HTV’s Welsh board.

Menna Richards’ managerial career did not begin until Geraint Talfan Davies had left HTV.

In 1987 Talfan Davies moved to Newcastle to take up the post of Director of Programmes at Tyne Tees TV.

By 1990, he was back in Cardiff 1990 as Director — at the time the title was Controller —  of BBC Wales.

A year later Menna Richards began to climb the managerial ladder at HTV Wales.

First she was appointed Controller of Factual and General programmes, then in 1993 she became Director of Programmes.

By the mid 1990s she was emerging as a powerful figure in Welsh broadcasting — and a potential successor to Geraint Talfan Davies as head of BBC Wales.

In 1996 there was a revealing internal argument at HTV Wales which suggests she may have begun positioning herself as a candidate for the top job at BBC Wales.

Bruce Kennedy, a former editor of the channel’s Wales This Week current affairs series, was in charge of commissioning programmes from the independent sector.

He decided to make a series about the scandal-torn Welsh Development Agency (WDA) to coincide with its 21st anniversary in 1997.

From 1988 to 1993, the Agency’s chairman had been the charismatic but controversial self-made businessman, Dr Gwyn Jones.

In the late 1980s Jones outflanked the traditional Welsh establishment by persuading Welsh Secretary Peter Walker to appoint him to head the Agency.

Within months, he increased the number of days he was working from two and a half to four days a week.

He became a favourite of Margaret Thatcher — when she made one of her few visits to Wales in 1989, she extolled Jones’ virtues:

“I just want to say what a marvellous chap they’ve got at the Welsh Development Agency.”

DR GWYN JONES WHEN THE self-proclaimed millionaire was appointed chairman of the Welsh Development Agency in 1989, he was in need of some hard cash. He persuaded the Agency to buy his Jaguar for £26,000 and later lied to Parliament about the reasons why it was a good deal for the quango. In the 2000s his career declined — he is now Director of Essex University Business School. Photo: Essex University

DR GWYN JONES
WHEN THE self-proclaimed millionaire was appointed chairman of the Welsh Development Agency in 1988, he was in need of some hard cash. He persuaded the Agency to buy his Jaguar for £26,000 and later lied to Parliament about the reasons why it was a good deal for the quango. In the 2000s his career declined — he’s now Director of Essex University’s Business School.
Photo: Essex University

By 1992, he had been appointed the BBC’s National Governor for Wales.

He also used the patronage of senior Tories as a springboard to more powerful posts.

One of his contacts was the merchant banker and freemason Sir Michael Richardson, a personal friend of Margaret Thatcher.

Vice-chairman of the powerful N M Rothschild merchant bank, Richardson secured Jones a series of profitable directorships.

In 1992 Jones also became a director of Tesco — and stayed until 1998.

But as he was beginning his rise through the ranks of corporate Britain, turmoil erupted at the WDA.

Jones’ abrasive style provoked conflict with senior staff — one was paid off with a controversial payoff.

He also made jaw-dropping appointments — one of them a conman who Jones hired as the agency’s marketing director without checking his CV.

The crook was later gaoled.

There were also scandals about unauthorised perks and Jones was accused of obtaining an Agency grant for one scheme and then using it for another.

In December 1992 the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) called in Jones and other officials.

Days before the hearing, Jones announced he would leave the Agency in 1993.

The PAC report was damning of the Agency and its political masters at the Welsh Office — it was:

“.. unacceptable that the Welsh Office took no action against anyone in the top echelons of the Agency who presided over a catalogue of serious and inexcusable breaches of expected standards …”

It was this back story which persuaded Bruce Kennedy that a series about the history of the Agency would be a worthwhile project.

He asked Paddy French, then an independent TV producer and currently the editor of Rebecca Television, to carry out the research.

At the time, French did not realise the series would itself become a pawn in a political intrigue …

♦♦♦

THE RESEARCH for the series began at the end of 1995.

French spent several weeks going through the history of the WDA.

Concerned that the series would be stale and academic, he felt it needed a dramatic revelation to bring it alive.

He decided that the most promising line of attack lay in the curious affair of Dr Jones’ Jaguar.

The WDA had authorised a dealer to buy the Jaguar off Jones in March 1989 for £26,000 — the market rate.

The Agency then signed a new lease with the dealer for the Jaguar to become the chairman’s car.

All costs were paid by the Agency.

Jones insisted the deal was a good one for the WDA.

When the Public Affairs Committee grilled him about it, in 1996, he made a remarkable claim.

He insisted that it was cheaper for the Agency to buy the car than to continue paying him mileage.

He told the Committee:

” … when it became clear how many days and how much travel I was doing — and that was working out something like 60,000 miles a year, which I have maintained for the period of my chairmanship — in a discussion it was put to me that it would be financially beneficial to the Agency if I went on to a different car scheme.”

Committee member Alan Williams, MP for Swansea West, was not persuaded:

“Really, it was an act of generosity on your part to the WDA rather than the other way around. Is that it?”

ALAN WILLIAMS THE MP didn't believe  Dr Gwyn Jones was telling the truth when the WDA chairman appeared before the Publis Accounts Committee in 1992. Photo: PA

ALAN WILLIAMS
THE LABOUR MP for Swansea West didn’t believe Dr Gwyn Jones was telling the truth when the WDA chairman appeared before the Public Accounts Committee in 1992.  Photo: PA

Jones replied:

“The arithmetic was such that it would be a lesser cost to the Agency than paying me for 60,000 miles per year at 34.4 pence a mile.”

French was also sceptical.

“Actually, Jones’ arithmetic completely undermined his own argument,” he said.

“He was claiming he travelled 60,000 miles a year on Agency business.”

“Given the quality of the road system in Wales, the average speed can’t have been more than 50 miles an hour.”

“Divide 60,000 by 50 miles an hour and you get 1,200 hours behind the wheel.”

“Assume a 7 hour day and Jones would have been on the road  for 171 days a year — at a time when he was only paid for two and a half days a week.”

“It was a commonly held view in Wales at the time,” noted French, “that this level of mileage was physically impossible.”

“I felt that Jones’ claim was a serious hostage to fortune.”

“If the Jaguar could be located, its records were likely to show that he had lied to Parliament — a very serious offence.”

♦♦♦

IT TOOK several months to track down the Jaguar.

It had been bought by a relative of BBC presenter Vincent Kane.

The service log showed that in June 1989 — three months after Jones sold it — the Jaguar had only 14,267 miles on the clock.

“The evidence was overwhelming — Jones had lied to Parliament,” said French.

“This was the dramatic revelation the HTV series needed to bring it bang up to date.”

In July 1996 filming started — until a dramatic call from Cardiff intervened.

“The film crew, Bruce Kennedy and I were having lunch in a pub in London when Menna Richards rang,” French remembers.

“Menna asked Bruce Kennedy what was going on and he told her that shooting had started on the series.”

“She told him that filming was to stop — he was to return to Cardiff immediately.”

Shortly afterwards, the new chairman of the WDA, David Rowe-Beddoe, asked to meet the team responsible for the series.

It took place in Rowe-Beddoe’s office at the WDA’s HQ in Cardiff and was attended by Kennedy, French and HTV’s head of news and current affairs, Elis Owen.

DAVID ROWE-BEDDOE ANOTHER BUSINESSMAN who supported the Tories, David Rowe-Bedoe — seen here at the official opening of the Wales Millennium Centre in 19xx — was opposed to HTV Wales broadcasting a series about the Welsh Development Agency

DAVID ROWE-BEDDOE
ANOTHER BUSINESSMAN who supported the Tories, David Rowe-Beddoe — seen here at the official opening of the Wales Millennium Centre — took over from Dr Gwyn Jones as WDA chairman. He was opposed to HTV Wales broadcasting a series about the troubled history of the Agency.                                                                                                         Photo: PA

Rowe-Beddoe tried to persuade them the series should not be made.

The three journalists insisted the programmes were in the public interest.

The next day Bruce Kennedy met with Menna Richards.

Richards said she wasn’t persuaded the series was editorially sound.

There was, she said, nothing new in it, it was boring and she even had her doubts about the Jaguar story.

In a memo written a week later, Kennedy said he was “surprised” and “unprepared” at her tone.

He added:

“I am concerned at the growing suggestion that in some way we (notably me) are trying to keep you ignorant of the true nature of the WDA programme.”

“There seems to be a suggestion that the research is not up to the standard required to substantiate some of the points we are making.”

“All I can say is that the research I’ve seen Paddy French conduct is second to none.”

“I think the research Elis and I have conducted must stand for you to judge.”

Five days after this memo was sent, Menna Richards axed the series.

No attempt was made to use the new material about the Jaguar in any other programme.

Bruce Kennedy has never believed that censorship was the reason for Menna Richards’ decision.

For him, it was simply a difference of editorial opinions.

He left HTV Wales shortly afterwards.

French, though, was not convinced that it was just a matter of editorial judgement.

“There are two reasons why I felt outside factors may have played a part,” he said.

“The first is that I believe that Menna Richards was building up a formidable CV as a candidate to take over as Controller of BBC Wales from Geraint Talfan Davies.”

“The only glaring gap in her CV was that senior BBC executives are expected to have had wider experience than just broadcasting.”

“Up to that point, Menna Richards’ career was entirely in broadcasting.”

“She needed a stint as a director of another, unrelated public body.”

“And to land such an appointment, she needed the support of the business establishment, including people like David Rowe-Beddoe.”

“A programme critical of the WDA was likely to antagonise that community.”

(The gap in her CV was later plugged when she was appointed a director of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, serving until the quango was wound up in 2000.)

“The second reason was that Gwyn Jones was still the BBC’s National Governor for Wales.”

“It would have been obvious to Menna Richards that the Corporation would prefer to avoid the embarrassment of a programme that exposed its National Governor for Wales as a man who had lied to Parliament.”

We asked Menna Richards to comment.

She didn’t reply.

But that was far from the end of the story.

Within months of the decision to axe the WDA series, Menna Richards abruptly reversed her decision — and cleared the decks for an HTV broadside against Dr Jones.

♦♦♦

IN THE autumn of 1996 it was widely assumed Dr Gwyn Jones would not seek another term as National Governor for Wales. 

His reputation had been damaged by the Public Accounts Committee and it was assumed he would move on to pastures new when his term ended in December.

However, Jones began to indicate that he thought differently.

The position of National Governor for Wales gave him a seat on the BBC’s UK Board of Governors and was an immensely influential platform.

Word began to circulate in Cardiff that he was canvassing for a second term.

“This really put the cat among the pigeons,” recalls French.

“A second term for Jones would have been a serious blow to Menna Richards’ chances of becoming BBC Wales Controller.”

“HTV had made several highly critical programmes about his chairmanship of the WDA and there was a danger he would not support Menna Richards.”

Inside BBC Wales Jones was not popular among many senior executives and journalists.

In one Broadcasting Council for Wales meeting he had openly attacked the Corporation’s own Week In Week Out series over a programme critical of a WDA land deal.

Many felt this was an attempt to intimidate programme-makers.

Behind the scenes, a secret campaign began to de-rail his campaign.

Part of this campaign was the resurrection of the Jaguar story.

“Out of the blue, HTV Wales suddenly decided that it was time to prepare a profile of the man now seeking a second term at BBC Wales,” said Paddy French.

“It was decided the channel’s current affairs strand, Wales This Week, would rush out a programme — the core of which was the allegation that Jones lied to Parliament over the Jaguar affair.”

“An issue which Menna Richards decided wasn’t newsworthy back in July, was now a matter of vital public interest,” added French.

MENNA RICHARDS WITHIN MONTHS of deciding that a series about the WDA should be axed, Menna Richards authorised an emergency Wales This Week programme about the controversial career of Dr Gwyn Jones' time at the Agency. At its heart, his lies to Parliament about the Jaguar ...  Photo: PA

MENNA RICHARDS, OBE
WITHIN MONTHS of deciding that a series about the WDA should be axed, Menna Richards authorised an emergency Wales This Week programme about the controversial career of Dr Gwyn Jones’ time at the Agency. At its heart, his lies to Parliament about the controversial sale of his Jaguar …
Photo: PA

Menna Richards kept a close eye on the programme — she asked to see a rough version several days before screening.

Jones heard about the programme and wrote to HTV Group chairman, Louis Sherwood, in early December.

Jones pointed out that the last time Wales This Week examined his stewardship of the Agency, he’d had to instruct the libel lawyer Peter Carter Ruck.

The programme went ahead.

The schedule was so tight that the commentary wasn’t laid down until minutes before transmission.

“It was a fraught session,” recalls French, who’d been brought in to help with the production.

“Elis Owen, head of news and current affairs, was in charge — and HTV had a libel barrister on hand to make sure the script was safe.”

The programme was broadcast two weeks before Christmas 1996.

“By then the Welsh establishment had made sure the corridors of power in London were informed about what was coming,” said Paddy French.

“Dr Gwyn Jones — who could also see which way the wind was blowing — decided not to seek a second term as Governor.”

♦♦♦

THE REST is history.

Geraint Talfan Davies left BBC Wales at the end of 1999.

With a Labour government in power, and the Tory grip on the Welsh establishment broken, Menna Richards slipped effortlessly into his shoes…

♦♦♦

NOTE

1 The Rebecca Television investigation into Glas Cymru, the company that owns Welsh Water, was published as  The Great Welsh Water Robbery. It argues customers have seen few benefits while some of the executives who actually control the business have become millionaires …

♦♦♦

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.


THE HOUSE OF PICKERING

April 23, 2014


rebecca_logo_04

DAVID PICKERING is one of the most powerful men in Welsh rugby.

As chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union, the former international plays a key role in the running of an enterprise with an annual turnover of £61 million pounds.

But the performance of many of the other businesses he’s been involved with has been disastrous.

A raft of companies have gone bust — costing the public purse more than £4 million in unpaid taxes.

He also has personal county court judgments against him for unpaid debts.

One creditor has even taken a charge against his Cardiff home.

But Pickering has a new game plan.

He’s embarked on a career as a developer in West Wales with a reported half-share in a major industrial estate.

But a Rebecca Television investigation reveals that all is not what it seems…

♦♦♦

ONE OF David Pickering’s oldest companies is about to go under.

Stradey Safety Limited — which supplied workwear and protective equipment to industry for nearly 30 years — appears to have stopped trading.

Pickering owns all the shares in the company and he and his wife Justine are the only directors.

Stradey has failed to file accounts with Companies House and dissolution proceedings have begun.

The last set of accounts — for 2011 — showed the business made a profit that year.

But this simply shaved a small amount off the company’s long-term losses.

The balance sheet showed the firm was worthless — its accumulated debts amounted to £142,000.

DAVID PICKERING The WRU chairman instructed solicitors to take action against Rebecca television.as chairman of the WRU

DAVID PICKERING
One of the men responsible for running the WRU, Pickering has been the subject of many county court judgments ordering him to settle unpaid debts. Photo: PA

The business has often had difficulty paying its way.

A survey carried out by ITV Wales in 2006 showed seven unpaid county court judgments against the company — then known as Pickering Safety Products — totaling nearly £15,000.

When Rebecca Television did a similar survey last month, we found two further judgments.

In May last year, Stradey Safety was ordered by Northampton County Court to pay a debt of £4,800.

The sum was paid two months later.

But by then the same court had told the firm to pay an even larger bill — nearly £28,000.

This wasn’t satisfied until January of this year.

The end of Stradey Safety is the latest chapter in the collapse of a business empire in which David Pickering and his wider family were shareholders.

♦♦♦ 

THE CORE of the business was a string of engineering companies mainly serving the Welsh steel industry. 

These began to fail in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The first to go was a family-owned smelting company called Weldwell Ltd.

This had been a substantial business — in 1994 it had a £1 million turnover.

But profits were small and the company was worth just £14,000.

In the years that followed the position worsened.

In February 1997 HM Customs & Excise obtained a High Court order to wind up the company because of unpaid VAT bills.

David Pickering was a director at the time and held a small personal shareholding.

The amount owed to the HM Customs & Excise was never declared.

After this there was a period of stability in the remaining companies.

And Pickering’s rugby career was flourishing.

In 1998 had been appointed manager of the Wales team under Graham Henry.

He stepped down in 2002 but, in 2003, succeeded Glanmor Griffiths as WRU chairman — a post he holds to this day.

But then in June 2004 disaster struck — two more of the family’s companies went bust.

David Pickering had resigned as a director the previous year and was not involved in their management.

R & R Developments Ltd, a general engineering firm, failed with debts of £2.1 million.

The public purse took a £690,000 hit in unpaid taxes — VAT and employee PAYE and national insurance.

Another company, R & R Industrial Ltd, which supplied labour and engineering services, went down owing £700,000 in unpaid taxes.

Thirteen months later, in July 2005, another five companies collapsed.

Again, Pickering had resigned as a director in the two years before the crash.

And he wasn’t involved in day-to-day management.

PF (Wales) Ltd, a company which supplied labour to the steel industry, crashed with debts of £1.2 million.

Most of this — £800,000 — was taken up with unpaid PAYE and national insurance payments for the 100 employees.

PORT TALBOT The decline of steelmaking in Wales was  a major factor in the collapse of the Pickering family businesses. Picture: PA

PORT TALBOT
The decline of steelmaking in south Wales was a major factor in the collapse of the Pickering family engineering businesses.
Picture: PA

There was a further £200,000 owed in VAT.

R & R Wales Ltd sank with a deficiency of £1.8 million.

The Inland Revenue lost £1.1 million in PAYE and national insurance contributions.

Another £400,000 was owed in VAT.

A further three companies — R & R Roll Developments Ltd , Pontardawe Foundry & Engineering Ltd and BHL Rolls Manufacturing Ltd — also collapsed with combined debts of £1.8 million.

Once again, the public purse was a major loser — £365,000 was owed in PAYE, national insurance and VAT.

By the time the dust settled, the cost to the taxpayer of the crashes of 2004 and 2005 was £4.2 million.

Little of these events ever appeared in the Welsh media.

It wasn’t until the following year that journalists began to examine the business record of these companies …

♦♦♦

IT started with a tip-off in April 2006

ITV Wales News chief reporter Andy Collinson was told David Pickering had county court judgments against him for unpaid bills.

It was a sensitive time for the WRU chairman — a motion of no confidence had been tabled against the committee which controlled the union.

Collinson went to see Paddy French, then a reporter with the Wales This Week current affairs programme and now editor of Rebecca Television.

The story has already been told in the article A Licence To Censor.

This is the relevant extract:

French told him that if the debts were personal, judgments would be kept by the Registry of County Court Judgments in London.

For a small fee, it was possible to search for decisions against any person in England and Wales.

French also suggested that, while he was doing these searches, he should include the companies in which Pickering had an interest.

At the same time, Wales This Week would carry out a financial analysis of Pickering’s companies.

Most of these were engineering companies involved in the Welsh steel industry.

By early May, the results of both searches were in.

Pickering had two judgments against him personally. 

PICKERING TICKET

At Northampton County Court he had been ordered to pay a debt of £1,992 in September 2004. 

In March 2006 Southampton County Court ordered him to repay credit card debts of £17,699 — to Lloyds Bank.

French’s analysis of the clutch of engineering businesses in which Pickering was involved found they were also in trouble.

A proposed Wales This Week programme on Pickering’s business affairs was scrapped on the orders of ITV Wales managing director Elis Owen.

♦♦♦ 

DAVID PICKERING survived the motion of no confidence in 2006.

But the two remaining engineering businesses he was involved in were lame ducks.

He was no longer a director and was not involved in management.

Both soon went out of business.

In October 2006 R & R Group Ltd was dissolved.

The last set of accounts, in July 2003, showed accumulated losses of more than £400,000.

It was worthless.

The same was true of R & R Refractories Ltd, a company which supplied fire bricks for blast furnaces.

The last accounts, in December 2002, revealed accumulated losses of £122,000.

It was dissolved in April 2007.

There was no cost to the public purse in the demise of these companies.

Within two years, however, David Pickering had reinvented himself with a dramatic, if mysterious, new venture …

♦♦♦

IN MAY 2009 the Western Mail revealed that David Pickering had launched a new career — as a property developer.

Earlier that year Carmarthenshire County Council had bought the redundant former Ministry of Defence site at Llangennech, near Llanelli for £750,000.

The council immediately sold the 37 acre estate to an unnamed buyer for £845,000.

It wasn’t until the Western Mail article that the identity of the purchaser was revealed.

The paper reported that David Pickering “has come forward to reveal that he and partner Robert Lovering” are behind a business called R & A Properties.

(Lovering owns a telecoms company called European Telecom Solutions, based at Briton Ferry.)

Anyone reading the Western Mail article could be forgiven for believing that R & A Properties owned the site.

R & A Properties is not registered with Companies House.

Pickering told Western Mail chief reporter Martin Shipton:

“I know some people will find it strange that R & A is not a limited company but we’ve been advised to do it this way by our professional advisers.”

STRADEY PARK  The former Royal Navy depot at Llangennech, Llanelli — a newspaper article in 2009 gave the impression that Pickering was one of the owners of the site. But Rebecca Television has discovered his name does not appear on the Land Registry deeds. Photo: Rebecca Television

STRADEY PARK
The former Royal Navy depot at Llangennech, Llanelli now renamed the Stradey Park Business Centre. A newspaper article in 2009 gave the impression that Pickering was one of the owners of the site. But Rebecca Television has discovered his name does not appear on the Land Registry deeds.
Photo: Rebecca Television

But R & A Properties are not the owners of the site.

Land Registry records show that it is Robert Lovering who owns the entire 37 acres.

David Pickering’s stake is zero.

Carmarthenshire County Council told Rebecca Television that the site was sold to Lovering in two parcels — one for £281,452, the other for £562,905.

Originally, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was planning to put the site up for sale once a valid planning issues were sorted.

Rebecca Television understands that another developer had contacted agents acting for the MoD and was talking about an offer of more than £2 million for the site.

Our investigation into this deal continues.

♦♦♦

IT’S NOT just in his family’s engineering firms that David Pickering has had financial problems.

He’s got others closer to home.

Stradey Safety Ltd isn’t the only company he owned and controlled that’s been in trouble.

He and his wife, television presenter Justine, were directors of Positive Publicity Ltd, which was dissolved in August 2006.

The last accounts for the company, in May 2003, show that it was worthless — with accumulated losses of more than £40,000.

The previous year the company was taken to Swansea County Court and ordered to pay a £1,700 bill.

Pickering also has a long history of county court judgments against him personally.

As we have already reported, he had two in the period 2004-2006.

At Northampton County Court he had been ordered to pay a debt of £1,992 in September 2004. 

In March 2006 Southampton County Court ordered him to repay credit card debts of £17,699 — to Lloyds Bank.

The Lloyds debt was paid a few months later.

In May 2011 another judgment was registered — for a debt of just £664 — at Staines county court.

This was repaid four months later.

By then he had another judgment against him — a debt of £703 — at Milton Keynes county court.

This debt has also been satisfied.

But a substantial debt remains unpaid.

In July 2009 Lloyds TSB obtained judgment against him for an unpaid bill of £10,232.

The bank has taken him to court — and secured the debt against his Cardiff home.

♦♦♦

PICKERING LIVES in a neo-Georgian house in the exclusive Queen Anne Square development on the edge of Cathays Park in central Cardiff. 

He bought the property in February 2003 for £325,000 — selling his former home in the Gower, Llanmadoc House in Llanmadoc, for £270,000 later the same year.

The Queen Anne Square property is leasehold only.

QUEEN ANNE SQUARE The exclusive Queen Anne Square development in the centre of Cardiff where David Pickering, his wife Justine and their four girls live.  In June 2007 the Western Mail reported that the property — "the ultimate in rugby memorabilia" — was up for sale. The paper reported that "the house has six bedrooms and two bathrooms — room for all the children, the family's Australian au pair and visitors". The asking price was £875,000 but the detached house was never sold.  Picture: Rebecca Television

QUEEN ANNE SQUARE
The exclusive Queen Anne Square development in the centre of Cardiff where David Pickering, his wife Justine and their four daughters live. In June 2007 the Western Mail reported that the property — “the ultimate in rugby memorabilia” — was up for sale. The paper reported that “the house has six bedrooms and two bathrooms — room for all the children, the family’s Australian au pair and visitors”. The asking price was £875,000 but the detached property was never sold.
Photo: Rebecca Television

Pickering has a 76 year lease in 1960 granted by Western Ground Rents.

This means that in just 23 years Western Ground Rents will have the right to take possession of the house — for nothing.

Experts have told Rebecca Television that it will cost a small fortune to purchase the freehold.

Pickering has a mortgage on the property with the Swansea Building Society.

The amount isn’t specified

And now there’s another burden attached to the building — the £10,232 debt to Lloyds TSB.

After obtaining its judgment against Pickering in July 2009, Lloyds TSB went to Norwich county court and obtained an “interim charging order” on the property.

♦♦♦

DAVID PICKERING is facing a challenge as chairman from former WRU chief executive David Moffett.

Moffett has criticised Pickering and chief executive Roger Lewis over their management of the WRU.

DAVID MOFFETT The former WRU chief executive believes he has the backing of enough clubs to call an EGM. He plans to oust David Pickering as chairman.   Photo: PA

DAVID MOFFETT
The former WRU chief executive believes he has the backing of enough clubs to call an EGM. He plans to oust David Pickering as chairman.
Photo: PA

We emailed to David Pickering’s legal advisers last week.

His lawyer — WRU secretary Gareth Williams — asked for a draft of this article.

We told him this was not Rebecca Television policy.

Williams said:

“Mr Pickering is a high net worth individual whose lifestyle is entirely appropriate to the income he receives.”

He added: “… there is no public interest in the publication of details of my client’s private financial affairs”.

♦♦♦

COMING UP

IT’S ONE of the greatest gravy trains in Welsh history. Glas Cymru — the not-for-profit company which owns Welsh Water — claims its sole concern is the welfare of its customers. But it also takes good care of its directors — paying them mouth-watering sums of money …

♦♦♦

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

 


%d bloggers like this: