Wednesday 8 December 2021

Old friends - Mark James' new venture...

Update 16th September 2022
In an interesting development, Century Wharf Estates Management Ltd (Director Mark James) has employed the services of one of James' other companies Ffynnon Consultancy Ltd to the tune of £45k. As I've said, Century Wharf residents should keep a very close eye on Mr James and where their money is going...


Back in July 2020 I wrote a post about an interesting connection between former Council CEO Mark James, his 'management' of Century Wharf, Cardiff and his old friend from Llangennech, Nigel Lovering. More specifically the fact that invoices from Lovering's telecoms company, ETS Ltd happened to appear in Century Wharf's accounts.

The post is worth a read for the extensive background between the two men. Alarm bells first rang over ten years ago when James quietly arranged for the council to buy land at the old MOD site in Llangennech and immediately sold it to Lovering and business partner David Pickering, avoiding the impending auction where the land had been valued at a much higher price. 

Councillors were told that the council were at no risk over the deal as the (then unnamed) individuals were "known to officers". You bet they were.

If that wasn't dodgy enough, a £281k council grant was arranged by James to further develop the site.

Moving forward a few years and the path became paved with City Deal gold. James, and Wendy Walters had several cosy meetings in the Llangennech HQ immediately prior to welcoming another of Lovering's companies, Hydro Industries, to Marc Clement and the 'opportunities' of the Swansea Bay City Deal.

By then or course we now know that James and Clement were knee deep in their fraudulent deals with Dickmann and co and the Wellness Village scandal.

Both Lovering, and James, are directors of several companies, they've chopped and changed over the years, rather like Marc Clement. My post 'Tangled webs' from November 2020 attempts to explain the movements of the disgraced key players from the City Deal scandal.
It can be a very small world....

James, in something of a complete take-over of Century Wharf is not only Chair of the Right To Manage company (RTM) but also a director of CW Estates Ltd set up to manage the site. Mr James has never been concerned about conflicts of interest, nor declaring them when employed by the council.

One of Lovering's companies, Lancehawk Ltd (which sounds like it makes missiles or something but is listed on companies house as yet another telecom firm) has sprouted another company, Lancehawk EOT Trustee Ltd and the two directors are none other than Mark James and his old friend Mr Lovering.

Now Caebrwyn's understanding of such business arrangements are sketchy to say the least but google tells me that an EOT is an Employee Ownership Trust and is non-trading. This is an arrangement whereby shares from a company, in this case Lancehawk Ltd, can be sold to the EOT, and then held by them, and payments for Capital Gains Tax can be, legally, avoided.
Obviously great care needs to be taken when forming such companies.

The key word being 'trust'.

As the EOT then wields considerable control over the parent company it is essential that the trustees are, well, trustworthy. I have no opinion on the trustworthiness of Mr Lovering and no reason to doubt his integrity. 

I do, however, have reason to doubt Mr James' trustworthiness and honesty in anything, let alone as an actual trustee.

The first thing that springs to mind was the second of the two Wales Audit Office public interest reports from 2014 (the first being the illegal pocketing of legal fees by Mr James) which found that cash payments trousered by James in lieu of employer pension contributions were unlawful and deliberately designed to avoid paying tax.

So James has form in tax avoidance.

As this blog has detailed over the years, James also has form for dishonesty, lying to his employers, theft of public cash, tampering with official documents, failing to declare conflicting interests, helping out his friends with public cash and destroying anyone who opposed his various cosy deals.
His crowning glory was being made the Rotten Boroughs Shit of the Year 2016 by Private Eye.
It all began to fall apart when he tried the same nonsense with the bigger fish in the City Deal.

As I have said in previous posts, before his hurried 'retirement' in 2019 he had rigged the council tender for the Wellness Village, accepting the promise of bribes worth several million quid. His home was raided and he was later arrested. Despite the police filing sufficient evidence, the CPS discontinued the case as one of the key figures was deemed too unwell to testify.

So, business associates, and Century Wharf folk be warned, Mark James is a crook, and cannot be trusted with a piggy bank.


Anonymous said...

Of interest

Anonymous said...

Wondered if you had seen the Rotten Boroughs column in this week's Private Eye? The issue concerns a local blogger, Jules Saunders, who exposed wrong doing by the former Director of Public Health, Lisa McNally of Sandwell Council, who attempted to silence him by court action. McNally lost the case "on all counts" but it was judged that Saunders didn't need to have instructed top media barrister Richard Munden to get the case struck out, so had to pay his own costs of £22K.
Saunders has had to sell equity in his house to pay his legal bill (although he won) but McNally's legal bill of £100,000 + WAS FUNDED BY THE COUNCIL!!!!Sound familiar?
For more details see which includes a "donate" link to help with Saunder's costs

Dr. Siân Caiach said...

Wales has had to put up with these vampires for decades and the "begging bowl economy" is well established. It is holding back real and sustained economic growth as it is clearly easier to "play the system" than actually build something of real economic value. Productivity has no place where bigger gains come from "Friends of Friends", especially where important bodies like County Councils are apparently unable to self regulate and prevent maladministration.
Carmarthenshire County Council seems to be run by senior local government officers who dictate policy to the senior councillors, many of whom seem hand picked for their ability to agree without question with Local government Civil Servants.

For instance, Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price suggested to Plaid Cymru Council leader Emlyn Dole that his Council compensate Mrs Patricia Breckman and her family via an Ex gratia payment after she was unable to enjoy her home or set up her planned business due to the unlawful actions of a neighbour which the County Council declined to deal with by enforcing planning law. Patrica and her partner are in a desperate financial state and Adam Price AM believed an appropriate ex gratia payment could settle the matter and save the couple from repossession of their home and subsequent eviction. They cannot afford their mortgage repayments and the property has become worthless.

Initially Emlyn Dole seems to have been told by his council officers that if he paid an Ex Gratia payment the County Council's entire insurance policy, held by Zurich, would be invalidated, Mrs Breckman contacted Zurich who denied that this was ever the case.

In fact it is more probable that Emlyn Dole was acting on the advice of a senior council officer, Chris Moore, who advises him in this letter copies below,released under FOI, that it would simply cost the Council too much to compensate the Breckmans for the council's incompetence, which had caused their insolvency and severe financial distress.

Apparently even taking legal advice from a source outside the Council really could invalidate all of the council's insurance, so even if Emlyn Dole tried to check the "in house "legal advice to do nothing, disaster would happen as a legal check would somehow also invalidate Zurich's insurance.

This does not ring true.

The sad conclusion is that it is not Plaid Cymru who control Carmarthenshire County Council but instead a group of Senior Local Government Civil Servants. They may officially be servants of the elected members but in this case they have become the masters. Even pleas from Adam Price, his party leader, are ignored by Emlyn Dole who appears to be nothing more than a puppet in this sad saga.

Dr. Siân Caiach

Anonymous said...

The only working part of Adam Price is his mouth.
He blabs about everything and criticises anyone just for his own ego.
He has no practical capabilities whatsoever.
He will eventually destroy Wales.

caebrwyn said...

Due to format issues the letter (dated 2019) referred to by Sian Caiach did not appear in her comment above.
So here it is:

Dear Leader

I have been made aware that there is a proposal coming from Members to seek a second legal opinion in respect of the Breckman insurance claim.
The insurance claim has been reviewed a number of times by the insurance company and the company is 100% content with its position.
I need to make you aware, that we have been informed that should the council seek its own legal opinion this will compromise the position of the insurance company and the insurance cover will be withdrawn and we will lose the benefit of our cover.
This would expose the Authority to a substantial and unnecessary financial risk (as I understand Mrs Breckman's claim is significant) which I would have to strongly advise the authority does not do.
Whilst the insurance provision is in place, the authority is protected from these type of claims and does not need to provide any additional provisions for this type of financial risk/potential liability. Needless to say, any action that the authority choses to take which invalidates our insurance cover is a financial imprudent action, which would not be in the interests of the authority.
If Mrs Breckman disagrees with the stance of the insurance company, I believe she is fully aware that her recourse is via the courts and she should take the appropriate legal action, which our insurance company would deal with accordingly on our behalf.
As the Statutory Financial Chief Officer of the authority, should Members pursue this action, I would have to formally report to county council that this action has been taken and has put the authority at significant financial and unnecessary risk, as it would void the insurance provision and we would be liable to meet any potential successful claim. This would not be in the interests of the county council as it would be totally imprudent and I would strongly advise the approach is avoided.
Please let me know if you wish to discuss further.
Chris Moore
S151 Officer.

It was clearly designed to confuse Emlyn Dole, which doesn't take much....

caebrwyn said...

Anon 10:45 13 Dec;

Yes I saw the piece and read about the case. Seems to me that the judge in this instance was somewhat more enlightened than the one I had.
Although the financial outcome for Mr Saunders was not great, given that he'd actually won the case, the burden on the taxpayer for Ms McNally's foolhardy action was appalling - their external auditors should be taking a very close look.
This was a harassment case, even Sandwell Council knew they couldn't sue for defamation on her behalf, unlike the idiots at Carmarthenshire Council.

caebrwyn said...

@Dr Sian Caiach
Whilst Mark James' disciples remain in post, notably head of legal Linda Rees Jones and the director of cash Chris Moore, advice to councillors is deliberately misleading and skewed to fulfil whatever agenda is currently being peddled.

Linda Rees Jones was there simply to rubber stamp Mark James' countless indiscretions. She should have been struck off and sacked years ago.
From claiming his presence in a meeting where he was illegally and personally bankrolled was fine, to his plundering council cash and resources to serve his, and his friends, own ends, she defended him without fail, even lying to the courts and the police in the process.
How much she, Wendy Walters and Chris Moore knew of James and his rigged tender, his acceptance of bribes, his Kuwait venture, and everything else, remains to be seen.

Patricia B said...

See Dr Caiachs comment.

Below is the response from Zurich when I asked them if they had written such words to the council following Chris Moores deceitful email to Cllr Dole. They were as shocked as I was. I find it to be egregious conduct as should all Plaid Cymru councillors and CEO Wendy Walters. That officers should write their own narrative on a most shocking case of wilful neglect over many years is in my view 'criminal', and worse they remain unaccountable for their despicable actions. As Adam Price wrote "this is the worst case of non-feasance, the neglect of a public body to carry out its basic duties I have come across in all my years in public life".

I will add that both Adam Price and Cefin Campbell are fully aware of these untruths but have chosen to remain silent.

Subject: Zurich

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me about your case.

As discussed, I have spent a considerable period of time reviewing your file in full today.

I can also categorically state that there is no evidence within the file of papers that we have told anyone within the Council that we will not allow them to grant an ex gratia payment. There is no evidence that we have told anyone within the Council that they are not allowed to discuss you or your case with anyone.

I am extremely sympathetic with the position you are in and deeply regret that I am unable to offer any further assistance in respect of this matter.

Yours Faithfully

Anonymous said...

If ever there was a case of "There are none so blind as those that don't want to see", this is it. How could senior officers of CCC mislead the Executive board and the other Councillors, wilfully knowing that they were being less than truthful? Time is long overdue that these same senior "Officers" are brought to account with a public inquiry into their actions. They are public servants funded by the general public but act more akin to an autocratic dictatorship.

Anonymous said...

There is a redeamable act the councillors can still do and that is sanction and retire the current officers still in the Council that aided and betted Mark Jamers - we all know who they are

caebrwyn said...

@Anon 11:21

I agree, and yes we know exactly who they are. The fact is that they've all had plenty of time, and opportunity to do just that, yet no one has had the bottle to even try. A fact worth remembering at the local elections in May.

caebrwyn said...

Totally off topic but thought this FOI request and response was worth sharing. It was not my request but is published on the WDTK site.

The requestor asked how many speed ramps have been installed in the County, the exact locations, along with the relevant speed limits, and how many they would be installing in 2021/22

Remarkably the responses were as follows:
1.We don’t keep a register of installations.
2.They are not mapped.
3.There are ten planned installations for 21-22

So my guess is that these ten speed ramps will mysteriously arise in the dead of night, we will know nothing...nor will the council..

Understandably the requestor has sent a follow up request wondering how they're maintained, and the costs of installations given that the council appear to have no idea where they are...

Anonymous said...

Stories about Mark James and his inner circle still there in the management structure is like a bad penny rolling back into everything the Council does

Until there is a clean break no one will trust the current management when such high level officers are there with a direct link to him and their shady past

caebrwyn said...

Anon 17:43
Absolutely right, spot on.

caebrwyn said...

It seems that there are no takers for the £130+k Director of Environment post, or there's some internal squabbling going on.

The previous postholder Ruth Mullen recently left the authority following the publication of the Audit Wales report exposing the dire state of the planning division. Coincidental I'm sure ...

Anyway, having learned from her old boss Mark James that promoting a loyal pal is a much comfier option than employing an 'outsider', CEO Wendy Waters decided to fill the post internally for an interim 12 months.

A meeting convened in November with two shortlisted candidates was cancelled at the last minute and another, scheduled for December was also shelved....There's a problem somewhere...

Anonymous said...

The problem is Wendy Walters

Anonymous said...

if the previous director and previous head of planning both found themselves in a position to leave whether voluntarily or not - why would anyone else take on the responsibility

there is obviously a lack of trust in the management of this council and that gets around

the problem of promoting within its depletes the skills pool and no new blood is ever introduced which a organisation needs to thrive and develop - bit like the CEO position