Yesterday’s post ‘I Want Serious Money Now’ told the story of the way in which the former Secretary of State for Wales Nicholas Edwardes aka Lord Crickhowell and his mates siphoned off millions of pounds from public funds to fuel their business interests during the development of Cardiff Bay, at a time when Wales was on it’s knees. I speculated that the reason why no opposition politicians either in Wales or London blew the whistle on Edwardes’s scam was that they too had been involved in concealing the paedophile ring in north Wales which Edwardes had concealed for years whilst he was Secretary of State for Wales. That paedophile gang was supplying boys to the Westminster Paedophile Ring, so there was a lot at stake for some very powerful people and the hordes feeding off them.
Since finishing yesterday’s post, I have researched a few of Edwardes’ friends and colleagues involved in the development of Corruption Bay and I think it’s worth publishing what I’ve discovered – so here’s a Corruption Bay Special.
The man who so ably assisted Nicholas Edwardes was his friend Sir Geoffrey Inkin, who was Chairman of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation (CBDC), 1987-2000. I mentioned yesterday how Geoffrey was also Chairman of the Land Agency for Wales, 1987-88. LAW was an organisation that acquired land for development. As with Edwardes’ role in the development of Corruption Bay, there seems to be many conflicts of interest in evidence. But look what else I’ve discovered – not only was Inkin, like Edwardes, a Board member of the Welsh National Opera (there was a massive attempt to press for the building of an Opera House in Cardiff Bay), but Geoffrey was also a member of Gwent County Council, 1977-83 and a member of Gwent Police Authority. Regular readers will remember my posts and the comments from my reader Richard concerning the corruption that was rife in the South Wales Police in the 70s, 80s and 90s and the miscarriages of justice that resulted. In my post ‘A Future Leader Of The Labour Party?’ I described the collapse in south Wales of the biggest police corruption trial held on mainland Britain after the helpful intervention of the DPP Keir Starmer and Sir Nigel Sweeney, the judge. Geoffrey Inkin was a lay member of the Judicial Appointments Commission for England and Wales.
Inkin died in 2013 and after his death BBC News Online reported on his success in leading the development of Corruption Bay, stating that ‘homes, offices and leisure facilities sprung up along the waterfront’ – as if by magic. ‘I Want Serious Money Now’ explained how there was nothing magical about any of it, the development was very carefully planned and engineered from the outset. Furthermore, Geoffrey certainly seems to have pulled out all the stops, using his extensive network to drum up business – including his connections to Cardiff Chamber of Commerce and Cardiff Business Club. Geoffrey was the former Chair of Cardiff Business Club. Articles about Geoffrey nearly always refer to his ‘physical presence’ and how this ‘helped’ him achieve what he wanted – he was a ‘giant of a man’. What did he do, threaten to thump people if they didn’t agree to locate their businesses in Corruption Bay??
Inkin’s obituaries mention the ‘considerable opposition’ that there was to the Corruption Bay development – environmentalists were horrified because of the destruction of the distinctive habitat that the mudflats provided and a lot of people, including Rhodri Morgan, were very cynical regarding the economic benefits. (Rhodri turned out to right on that one – Cardiff Bay itself is great, but it’s done bugger all for the rest of Wales, even the valleys a few miles down the road.) Yet the adulation of Geoffrey and his alleged achievements continue to be touted. One ‘leading local businessman’ commented that Corruption Bay had helped ‘lift Cardiff up by it’s coat tails’ and Andrew R.T. Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said that Inkin was ‘rightfully credited with what remains one of the greatest acclaimed redevelopments in Europe’ (it was certainly the most demanding of the taxpayer). South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael claimed that Inkin had ‘made a considerable contribution to ensuring the success of the Cardiff Bay barrage and rebuilding the economy of the southern area of Cardiff’. Ah – the ‘southern area of Cardiff’. So the benefits of the £500 million plus that Inkin and his mates extracted from public funds are pretty localised then.
Geoffrey had another pal who must have been very useful when it came to realising his business ambitions – Lord David Rowe-Beddoe, described as a ‘close friend’. Rowe-Beddoe was Chair of the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) at the time of the development of Corruption Bay! The WDA of course – despite being robustly promoted by Thatcher – became a byword for corruption, incompetence and all-round dodgy dealing and was wound up in 2006 after many embarrassments. Rowe-Beddoe hailed Inkin as a ‘visionary’ and stated that ‘what we have today is really a part of what he was able to achieve’. What we have today – a glittering development enjoyed by tourists and day trippers and a few people fortunate enough to afford flats in the Bay, whilst much of Wales still lives in’t cardboard box in middle of t’ road. But not Nicholas Edwardes and his mates obviously.
Was Geoffrey Inkin a Billy Butlin, a man who started off with a handcart and achieved greatness in business entirely as a result of his own efforts? Not really. He was the son of a banker and before he milked the British taxpayer he pursued a career in the British Army. After Sandhurst he joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. As with his achievements in business, we are reassured that in the Army too Inkin achieved great things. As their commanding officer in 1973 he led the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers in a tour of Londonderry, as the height of the Troubles, barely a month after Bloody Sunday. There are indications that something gruesome might have happened during that tour of duty. Vague mentions of ‘difficulties’ were made and in Dec 1973 Inkin was awarded an OBE ‘in recognition of distinguished services in Northern Ireland between 1 May 1973 and 31 July 1973’. In 1974 ‘to some surprise and disappointment’ Inkin ‘chose to leave with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel to pursue farming and commercial interests’. It is stated that he became a dairy farmer in Monmouth, although I doubt that he actually milked the cows himself. Nowhere is there an explanation of why this man who had been a soldier for many years and was tipped as a future general suddenly bowed out after being decorated a number of times and mentioned in dispatches early in his career.
In 1979 Inkin stood as the Conservative candidate in Ebbw Vale, against Michael Foot.
In April 1983 he was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Gwent and in 1987 Hugh Sheriff of Gwent. He was knighted in 1993.
Although Wales has really seen very little for the hundreds of millions of public funds that were poured into the hungry mouths of Inkin, Edwardes et al, I’m glad to say that Farmer Inkin and his dairy cows obviously did OK for themselves. In July 2005 Wales Online ran a feature entitled ‘Is This The Most Expensive House In Wales?’ excitedly reporting on a Grade II listed property in Monmouthshire, Court St Lawrence, that was for sale at a price of £2.25 million, believed to be the most expensive house ever sold in Wales. So who lived in a house like that? It was Geoffrey Inkin and his wife Susan of course. Not that Geoffrey was mentioned in the article – although Susan and Geoffrey’s sons Charles and Edmund featured, along with a free plug for their restaurant ‘The Felin Fach Griffin’. Perhaps someone considered it best not to mention that horny handed son of the soil Geoffrey, lest someone else reminded everyone of how much public money was given to Inkin’s business. Despite having done so much for Wales and it’s people, Geoffrey and Susan obviously didn’t expect anyone from Wales to buy Court St Lawrence, because they advertised it with Lane Fox, an estate agent in London. Among the house’s many features there was a ‘walk-in drinks cupboard’ and a ‘flower room’, ie. room with a sink, especially for the preparation of flowers. So whilst Geoffrey got pissed, Lady Susan could busy herself with the flower arranging.
Not that Lady Susan spends all her time flower arranging. She sits on St Brides Community Council, was Chair of the Governors at Haberdashers’ Girls School and is a Board Member of the English Speaking Union of the Commonwealth (which does things like teach young people how to prepare for delivering speeches in the House of Lords – yes, really, have a look at their website). The president of the ESU is Princess Ann and the Patron is HM the Queen. The Chairman is a man who has previously featured on the blog, who knows all about the criminal activities of the mental health services in north Wales and the paedophile ring, Lord Paul Boateng (see post ‘Tower Hamlets, Paul Boateng and Tessa Jowell’).
Like Geoffrey, Susan had a stab at standing for Parliament. She was the Conservative candidate for the Vale of Glamorgan in 2001. The ‘election prediction project website’ predicted a Labour win but gleefully mentioned that Labour had lost control of the Vale of Glamorgan Council after the furore about the Council Leader’s misuse of the Council Credit Card. I know that he shouldn’t have misused the Council Credit Card but I very much doubt that he managed to extract £500 fucking million out of it a la Geoffrey Inkin and Corruption Bay.
Geoffrey’s obituaries all mentioned his strong support for the armed forces and how he took over as Chair of the Army Benevolent Fund from one Tasker Watkins.
Tasker Watkins – described by some toadies as ‘The Greatest Living Welshman’ – is a name from the past. Tasker died in 2007. He was a Welsh lawyer and reached the heights of Lord Justice of Appeal and Deputy Lord Chief Justice.
Tasker Watkins came to prominence in 1966 when he acted as Counsel to the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Aberfan Disaster. He also presided over some of the trials of Welsh activists who took direct action.
I have provided many examples in previous blog posts of corruption among lawyers – there has been a major problem with corruption on the Chester and Wales Circuit stretching back decades. Tasker Watkins was Leader of that Circuit in 1970-71 and Presiding Judge of the Chester and Wales Circuit from 1975 until he was promoted to the Court of Appeal in 1980. He was Chairman of the Mental Health Review Tribunal, Wales Region 1960-71. Between 1977-80 he was Chairman of the Judicial Studies Board and between 1987-98 President of the University of Wales College of Medicine aka Cardiff Medical School. He retired from the bench in 1993 and between 1993-2004 was President of the Welsh Rugby Union. Tasker Watkins was President of the British Legion 1947-68 and a member of the TA Association of Glamorgan and Wales.
Tasker was Deputy Lieutenant of Glamorgan in 1956, Honorary Deputy Lieutenant of Wales in 1979 and of Glamorgan in 1996. He was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1992.
Just before he was appointed to the High Court in 1971, Tasker Watkins headed the Inquiry for the DHSS into the running of Farleigh Hospital, Somerset, a psychiatric hospital in Bristol. This Inquiry followed the imprisonment of two nurses – I have not been able to find details of the abuses at Farleigh, but to have elicited a Public Inquiry back then, things will have been very bad. I have found references to it being discussed by Keith Joseph in Hansard – of course the discussion was framed in terms of the problems that nurses encounter handling ‘violent, disturbed’ patients. I can imagine the accusations made by the staff as they covered their tracks. Watkins’s Inquiry produced recommendations for the handling of ‘violent patients’ by nurses.
In 1990 Tasker was a member of the divisional court which rejected the claim by Pat Pottle and Michael Randall – who had assisted the escape of the spy George Blake – that the delay in prosecuting them was an abuse of legal process. The legal process as applied to Pottle and Randall was somewhat farcical anyway, as was the conduct of the police with regard to them and their families – in July 1991 after yet another farce that was their trial, Pottle and Randall were cleared.
Whilst addressing the National Assembly for Wales in 2007, Lord Chief Justice Phillips commented ‘Thank God for Tasker’, when remembering how the Beeching Commission suggested that the Chester and Wales Circuit should be split into two and annexed to Bristol and Manchester. This happened whilst Tasker was Leader of that Circuit and he seems to have taken the credit for stopping the implementation of the Commission’s suggestion.
The documented history of Tasker Watkins is that of a Welsh hero, with allegations that he was so fantastic that at one point he was offered a safe seat in Parliament in order to enable him to become Prime Minister, but he turned down this opportunity. What I notice from Tasker Watkins’s biography however is that the Leader of a Circuit known to be riddled with corruption prevented it from being broken up. He was Chairman of the Mental Health Review Tribunal in Wales throughout the 60s, spanning the Lobotomy Years of Gwynne and Dafydd at the North Wales Hospital Denbigh – considering how many people were banged up there unlawfully in the late 70s and 80s, one can only speculate as to how many were incarcerated illegally when Tasker reigned over the Review Tribunal. Of course, Denbigh was known to be rife with violence and the sexual and financial abuse of patients as well. It was mentioned in the discussions of the terrible abuse of patients at Ely Hospital in the late 60s that conditions at the North Wales Hospital Denbigh were worse. Whilst Tasker Chaired that Tribunal, Gwynne and Dafydd abused whoever they wanted in whatever way they chose. I presume that Tasker never raised any objections. Perhaps this was why Tasker was chosen to lead the Farleigh Inquiry – God only knows the horrors that were prevailing there, but was Tasker appointed because he could be relied upon to frame the problem as one of nurses not knowing what to do with ‘violent, disturbed patients’ and thus overstepping the mark?
Whilst I was briefly looking for information relating to the Farleigh Inquiry, I found a list of Public Inquiries that were held in the UK during the 60s, 70s and 80s into the abuse of patients in psychiatric hospitals. I had heard of some of them, such as those concerning Ely Hospital or Brookwood Hospital, but there were a number that I had not known about. Then it hit me. The practices and conditions at the North Wales Hospital Denbigh were known to have been worse than even the conditions and practices of institutions subject to those Inquiries. In the early 1980s legal history was made when Mary Wynch became the first person to obtain leave from the Court of Appeal to sue a psychiatrist for unlawfully detaining them – Mary of course sued Dafydd and Clwyd Health Authority after being unlawfully imprisoned in the North Wales Hospital. Yet there was at no time any Public Inquiry or even a suggestion of one into the North Wales Hospital. Probably because it was known to be the institution dealing with anyone who dared complain about the paedophile gang that was supplying the Westminster Paedophile Ring.
Something else about Tasker. He was a lawyer through and through. With the exception of his Chairing of the Mental Health Review Tribunal, which is always done by legal professionals, Tasker had no background or professional responsibilities with Top Doctors. Yet between 1987-1998 he was President of the Medical School at Cardiff. There were problems in that institution and they were building up during those years – and finally hit the media in a series of scandals. Tasker was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1992. There was one very high profile man in north Wales who in the late 80s covered up the barrel of shit that was Dafydd Alun Jones, Dr Tony Francis (Dr X) and their criminal activities (see post ‘Enter Professor Robert Bluglass CBE’). That was Professor Robert Owen, the Medical Ombudsman from the Welsh Office. He was Professor of Surgery at Cardiff Medical School – and a leading light in the Royal College of Surgeons. As for Tasker’s involvement with the Army and it’s veterans – why did he never speak out about a man who was known to be assisting people to fraudulently claim Army pensions, who was claiming funding for treating veterans with PTSD when they were very often simply people with drug and alcohol problems who had got into trouble with the law and who gave evidence to a Parliamentary Committee regarding veterans mental health despite being utterly disgraced by then, a Dr Dafydd Alun Jones?
Tasker was born in another era, but he remained active well into this millennium. By then Dafydd and the scam that was his ‘treatment’ of veterans had become public and there had been a police investigation and a Public Inquiry into a paedophile ring in north Wales that had existed for decades. The Greatest Living Welshman remained silent throughout.
Now for further background on Lord David Rowe-Beddoe, the ‘close friend’ of Geoffrey Inkin and Chair of the WDA. Rowe-Beddoe was given a peerage in 2006 and sits as a crossbencher. He was Chairman of Cardiff Airport until Nov 2016.
Rowe-Beddoe was CEO of Thomas De La Rue 1971-76, the President (Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Africa) of Revlon 1976-81 and President, Morgan Stanley-GFTA Ltd 1983-91. Wiki states that Rowe-Beddoe was ‘known as a Monaco-based businessman’ and Tory Party fundraiser when an ‘opportunity arose for him to be appointed to a Welsh quango’ (how many people find that such opportunities just pop up, particularly if they’re living in Monaco at the time?) and ‘that opportunity led to others’ (yes, I guessed that it would). In July 1993 Rowe-Beddoe was appointed Chair of the WDA for a nine year term. In 2001 he became Chairman of the Wales Millennium Centre where he remains today – the Millennium Centre was part of the Corruption Bay development led by his mate Geoffrey. In 2004 Rowe-Beddoe was appointed President of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, having previously been a Governor and then Chairman of the Board there. In 2005 he was awarded the Beacon Prize for Wales for his contribution to the economic and social development of Wales and in 2007 Rowe-Beddoe became Pro-Chancellor of the University of Glamorgan. The University of Glamorgan has awarded an honorary doctorate of Laws to Lord Morris of Aberavon (see post ‘Oh To Be In Receipt of Academic Honours’). Lord Morris of Aberavon was Secretary of State for Wales in 1975 when the WDA was established under him and knew about the wrongdoing in the North Wales Hospital Denbigh and probably knew much about the paedophile ring that was being concealed by the North Wales Hospital as well.
Between 2002- 2012, David Rowe-Beddoe was Chairman of the Representative Body of the Church In Wales, the charitable trust that holds the Church’s assets. The Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan, whilst praising Rowe-Beddoe’s efforts, stated that Rowe-Beddoe ‘realised that running a Church is not the same as running a business’. No, the Church doesn’t have quite as much money from public funds given to it as the WDA and their associates did. I do seem to remember as well that there was a bit of grief in the Church not so long ago when it was discovered that some of their dosh had been invested in some very unethical ways.
David is also the Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the St David’s Awards. He is at present the Deputy Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, which is responsible for the Government’s Office of National Statistics. In 2008 the former Permanent Secretary at the Welsh Office Sir Nicholas Scholar was appointed Chair of the UK Statistics Authority.
David is the Deputy Lieutenant of Gwent. As a lot of people involved with the development of Corruption Bay seem to have been.
There is much boasting about the WDA and it’s successes. For example, that along with South Glamorgan Council it helped establish Admiral Insurance plc. I’m not sure why, but Third sector organisations in Cardiff trip over themselves to toady to Admiral in the hope that Admiral will give them some dosh. Perhaps Admiral is simply continuing the generosity, having been given so much dosh themselves by the WDA. The WDA also contributed to the building of the Millennium Stadium – of which the former Chair of the WDA Rowe-Beddoe is now Chair. The WDA ‘formed partnerships with 22 local authorities in the mid-90s’ which allegedly lead to urban regeneration via Town Improvement Grants – although none of it made much difference. But that was always the allegation levelled at the WDA – that it gave money to businesses from overseas which arrived in Wales and employed people for a short while in low skilled poorly paid jobs and once the business concerned had hovered up all the dosh from the WDA, it was up and off back home to Japan or wherever.
People resident in Wales in the early 1990s however will never forget the WDA. Even I knew about the shenanigans at the WDA and I was neither in Cardiff or in business. It all started with film footage of Margaret Thatcher dragging a youngish man along by the arm, yelling at the cameras ‘isn’t he wonderful? Isn’t he just splendid?’, robustly maintaining that this man was the future for Wales and that he was where it was at. The man concerned was Dr Gwyn Jones, the then Chairman of the WDA. Peter Walker, Secretary of State for Wales, had met Gwyn, a ‘businessman’, at a Conservative Party fundraising lunch and had rather rashly given him the job of WDA Chair. Things subsequently became difficult and Gwyn resigned in 1992 just ahead of the Commons Public Accounts Committee Report.
The Report revealed that between 1989-92, the WDA had made illegal redundancy payments totalling £1.4 million; that a £228,000 non-disclosure payment had been made to a former executive who had been sacked in 1991; that free private motoring for Board members had been provided between 1984-92; that a £16,895 WDA rural development payment to Gwyn himself had been made – Gwyn had used it for something else without informing the WDA but was never asked to repay it, even after a WDA inspector found out about it; that WDA Director’s had been flying on Concorde; that public money – £308,000 – had been used to investigate the possibility of a buyout which would have privatised the agency; and that ‘many irregularities’ were discovered when the Auditor General examined the WDA’s accounts.
It was also revealed that Gwyn had employed someone who was sacked for poor performance but was allowed to take £53k worth of office equipment with him. Gwyn had appointed another man as a Marketing Director but no-one at the WDA checked his CV and it transpired that the CV was fraudulent and that he was a discharged bankrupt – he was later investigated by the police and was imprisoned after being convicted of theft and deception.
After these ‘governance issues’, Rowe-Beddoe was appointed as Chair in 1993. He ordered an Inquiry, led by Sir John Caines in late 1993, which resulted in the appointment of new executives. These included a new Legal Director and a new Agency Secretary in 1994, who worked with the National Audit Office and Welsh Office under Sir Michael Scholar in 1994-96 (for info on the numerous pies in which Michael Scholar has fingers, see post ‘So Who Was It Exactly Who Appointed The Corrupt Old Bastard?’). The WDA reported to Secretaries of State for Wales John Redwood, David Hunt and William Hague. Hunt and Hague were of course responsible for concealing the wrongdoing in the mental health services in north Wales and Hague organised the mother of all cover-ups concerning the North Wales Child Abuse Scandal, ie. the Waterhouse Inquiry.
On 1 April 2006 the WDA was abolished. At the same time two other ne’er do wells, the Wales Tourist Board and ELWa, were merged into the Welsh Gov’t. Dr Peter Higson, the current Chair of the Betsi Board, was part of the disaster that was ELWa. The Minister for the Economy and Transport whilst all this was going on was Ieuan Wyn Jones, another lawyer who knew all about the abuses and criminal activity at the North Wales Hospital but preferred to remain silent and stand for election for Denbigh instead.
In spite of the high profile embarrassment that was the WDA and the supply of scandal that emanated from it, the ‘business community’ in Cardiff never forgot the largesse of the WDA – who can blame them, even the NHS isn’t a trough of that depth – and they constantly bellyached for it’s return. In Feb 2011 the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee stated that the abolition of the WDA ‘reduced Wales’s visibility’ in the ‘global marketplace’. They maintained that the WDA ‘remains one of the most recognisable Welsh brands’ – yes, companies based in the Far East never forgot the mugs in the UK who gave them millions of pounds to set up shop in warehouses in Wales and pay the locals appallingly. Conservatives in the Senedd stated that they ‘regretted’ the passing of the WDA – in response, Edwina Hart, the Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science, accused them of ‘wanting to revisit the past’. No Edwina, it was the open chequebook that they wanted to revisit. If they really revisited the past, they’d find that the effective running of a business does not necessitate making friends with the Secretary of State, going into business with him and his mates who are Chairing state-sponsored organisations and subsequently siphoning off millions of pounds of public funds.
In March 2013 Professor Brian Morgan, Director of Cardiff University’s School of Management’s Creative Leadership and Enterprise Centre, stated that the closure of the WDA would ‘go down in history as the worst policy decision made in Wales in living memory’. ‘Research’ by Cardiff Business Partnership called for a unified Welsh agency to ‘attract inward investment’. Shadow Business Secretary Nick Ramsay quoted Cardiff Business School and accused the Welsh Gov’t of frequently blaming all ills on Westminster. Well Nick, if you look at the roots of the massive con that was Corruption Bay which swallowed millions of quid whilst leaving the rest of Wales on the bread line, you will find that it’s origins were firmly in the Westminster Gov’t. As were the roots of the Great Paedophile Cover-Up. Dafydd and Lucille would never have got away with it all if Westminster hadn’t have been concealing the dung heap whilst at the same time pointing at Wales and saying ‘well what else can we expect from them?’
All that can be said of Gwyn Jones was that unlike that other hero of Thatcher’s, Jimmy Savile, at least he wasn’t a child molester. Perhaps if he had have been, she’d have personally lobbied for him to be given a knighthood and invited him to Chequers for Christmas as well.
So what became of Gwyn, after he brought the WDA into complete disrepute and made a laughing stock of Wales’s ‘business community’? Gwyn is working in the University of Leicester’s School of Management of course, teaching on their MBA course! He is also a visiting Professor at Essex and Aberystwyth. He describes himself as a ‘businessman and experienced Chairman, Director and non-executive Director’. Gwyn’s areas of expertise are ‘Innovation, Entrepreneurial Management, leadership and change’. He states that he has been a BBC Governor and ‘helped bring commercial rigour’ into the boardroom. So that’s why the fur is flying in the wake of revelations that Claudia is only on £500k, whilst poor poverty-stricken Tess is on even less – £300k – but Chris Evans trousers £2 million. Gwyn has also been a member of the S4C authority – the not very successful S4C whom it is alleged distributes commissions on the basis of extreme cronyism.
The saddest thing about Gwyn’s glorious career isn’t it’s utter pointlessness – it is that Gwyn can actually do a Real Thing. According to Gwyn’s biography, he has a degree in computing (unless of course he’s made that up as well). So why the hell is he farting around being a leader in Innovation and Change a la a particularly dreadful NHS manager on the Betsi Board whom we know and love?
I have a theory that in the way that Fergus Lowe spawned a whole generation of psychologists in Bangor University to believe that the route to success as an academic was to bully, to lie, to cheat and to plagiarise (see post ‘He’s Not The Messiah, He’s a Very Naughty Boy’), the WDA and it’s mates had a similarly corrosive effect on the notion of what constitutes ‘business’ in Wales. They propagated the idea that ‘business’ means pompousing like there’s no tomorrow and boasting in a grandiose manner about one’s very limited achievements and status whilst being in receipt of huge quantities of dosh from the Gov’t because your business isn’t actually viable and would soon go tits up without regular bail outs.
Whilst I worked at Bangor University I spent a very entertaining few years watching the activities of a man called Colyn Gardner. Like Gwyn Jones at the WDA, once witnessed Colyn’s ‘business practices’ could never be forgotten. In the early 1990s, Colyn had been an ‘executive’ at the WDA. I presume that he was one of those who was kicked out.
Colyn was the Chief Exec of the Management Centre which was in some way linked to Bangor Business School but I never worked out how. The Management Centre was housed in a lovely old building which had been renovated – I think with EU funding – just for them, so they had a pretty big head start. Attached to the Management Centre was an accommodation block of very nice rooms looking out over the Menai Strait. It was by far the best place to stay in Bangor, but when it first opened the rooms were so highly priced – even by the standard of highly priced rooms – that no-one could afford to stay there, so the rooms remained unbooked. The Management Centre also housed a café, which was where Colyn could be observed. Colyn spent most of his time dressed up in an expensive suit, sporting what one of the PhD students called a ‘posh hairstyle’, sitting in the café drinking coffee with his mate, the Head of the Business School, an utter tosspot, Ted Gardiner. They were routinely referred to as ‘Ted and Colyn’ and even signed themselves as such on a letter, causing someone to observe that they sounded like a couple celebrating their civil partnership. Colyn drove a ridiculous car which could be best described as a batmobile, a black thing with a personalised numberplate ending in ‘666’ no less. Upon taking up his post as CEO, not only did Colyn insist on a reserved parking space – which no-one else in the University did at all, not even the VC – but the specific parking space that he demanded was a disabled space. So Colyn ordered a slave to get out in the car park with a blow torch and burn off the paint demarking it as a disabled space.
Upon his arrival at Bangor Colyn let it be known that he was used to much better things and we were all very lucky to have him. An article appeared in the local paper constructing him as some sort of jet-setting businessman, the like of which Bangor had never seen before. Which was odd because it soon became obvious that not only was Colyn deeply unpleasant and someone who routinely broke all employment legislation – he ended up being successfully sued for disability discrimination – but Colyn had no idea how to manage anything. Because no-one was booking into the rooms and he hadn’t actually launched any management courses, all Colyn had to do was get the café up and running, but that was clearly beyond him. He bullied and hectored the café assistants but wouldn’t actually show them how to do anything or use the equipment, so they were both anxious and at sea. In the end everyone gave up, stopped going over there because it would take at least 25 mins to be served with even just a coffee and went elsewhere. Then Ted started sending e mails around to everyone virtually ordering them to use the café.
After some months, the accommodation actually received some bookings. One of the members of staff there was in my Welsh class and they had previously worked in a busy hotel in Llandudno. This person thought it was hilarious that Colyn was panicking at the idea that five guests would all need breakfast at once and he wasn’t sure how to manage it.
Ted and Colyn then opened the Bangor Business Club, which Colyn had so obviously modelled on the fuckwittery at Cardiff from his WDA days. They placed notices around the Management Centre, but they weren’t welcoming notices. They were rude, pompous notices stressing that the Business Club was by Invitation Only and NO-ONE else would be allowed in. Having no desire to join a Business Club run by Ted and Colyn, I didn’t take much notice of this. However I did a few months later when people were rolling around laughing because no-one had joined the Business Club, so Ted and Colyn had sent out an e mail to half of the University asking them if they’d like to join the Business Club – only demanding payment. Unsurprisingly no-one joined. Further e mails followed, advertising the delights of the Business Club Bar which was open to senior staff from the Business School ONLY. Ted and Colyn really knew how to piss people off and alienate them. The Business Club died a death. The café struggled on and it was painful to witness. Rumours started flying that the Management Centre was losing a great deal of money.
Ted and Colyn tried launching various other initiatives, but they always made the same mistake. Although they were located in a small town like Bangor and in a University, everything they organised was grandiose and pompous with the message that ‘plebs are not welcome’. And as huge swathes of the University staff liked to identify with plebs not a pair of madmen deluding themselves that they were Rupert Murdoch when they couldn’t even run a small café, no-one joined in anything that Ted and Colyn did.
Colyn then launched an MBA. I knew one genuine businessman who completed it. But enrolment numbers were low – by now Colyn had insulted and offended so many people that word had got around the wider community that Colyn was not a man one wanted to have dealings with. So Colyn hit on a wheeze regarding the MBA. He got his wife – who has a different surname to Colyn – to enrol and not let on that she was married to him. Liz – Mrs Gardner – then circulated, telling everyone how good the course was. But Liz had another role as well once people were lured in. Liz was a spy – she reported back to Colyn on any students who raised concerns about the standard of the course. Which of course a number of them did. They were then subjected to a Vicious Attack by Colyn.
Colyn and Ted were constantly dreaming of having merchant bankers knocking at their door and at one point they produced a glossy brochure which was designed to tempt merchant bankers up from London into the Management Centre. The brochure extolled the virtues of the Management Centre and of course of Bangor and also mentioned that nearby there were mountains that one could climb or go mountain biking on. There was a little map inside the brochure of the London underground with arrows pointing off from Euston station, to indicate that one could catch a train to Bangor. People were crying tears of laughter when they saw this brochure, everyone knows that merchant bankers don’t do effort, but Ted n Colyn presumed that they were going to get on the train at Euston and make their way up to the Management Centre. One of the researchers working at Bangor at that time had a dad who ran a company in London who did a lot of toadying to people working in the City – he was hiring helicopters to take them to France for jollies, but such ideas escaped Ted n Colyn. The daftest idea that Colyn had however was not to refer to the Manager Centre by it’s name, but to call it – for some unfathomable reason – ’53 degrees north’. So the brochure had ’53 degrees north’ all over it but the Management Centre hadn’t actually changed it’s name. So if a merchant banker had come up to Bangor in the second class carriage of the Euston-Holyhead train, they’d have got lost after getting off at Bangor, because no-one would ever know where ’53 degrees north’ was. We then discovered that there was an outdoor adventure shop in Ireland called ’53 degrees north’, so a merchant banker would have got even more confused if they’d tried to google Colyn or use an app or whatever.
Colyn and the Management Centre continued in this vein and people started openly expressing concern as to how much money must be going down the drain. The anecdotes concerning Colyn’s bullying and intimidation of staff in 53 degrees north became increasingly worrying and there were allegations that he was using the services of HR – widely believed to be a corrupt old cow called Lyn Meadows who was the Director of HR and who now sits on the Betsi Board – to access sensitive information about staff and basically blackmail them. There was a member of staff who when they were much younger had developed a drug problem and somehow Colyn had found out about it. This person was living in fear as Colyn held it over them constantly.
At one point – no-one knew HOW – Ted and Colyn actually managed to get a competent person to join their ‘team’. She was the sort of person they dreamed of – a lady called Sandra, who had years ago worked at Deutchebank no less. Ted sent an e mail around boasting of their new acquisition and constantly began name-dropping ‘Sandra from Deutchebank’. I couldn’t understand why anyone on the planet would want to work with Colyn, so I wondered if Sandra from Deutchebank was stringing them along with a false CV or had been kicked out of Deutchebank. But one of my friends started working with her in a different capacity and they said no, she’s really nice, she knows what she’s doing and she’s supposedly come to teach on the courses that Colyn is supposed to be running. Sandra lasted three weeks before she told Colyn to take a running jump and walked out of the job. I was told that she was singularly unimpressed when she witnessed Colyn constantly shouting and swearing at staff and that the last straw was when he did it to her. Another capable manager who walked out of a job with Colyn described him as a ‘smiling alligator’. She was right, Colyn was a total predator.
Eventually the Management Centre was losing so much money and acquiring such a bad reputation that the University authorities moved in. I was told that there was a stand-up row between Colyn and the VC and that Colyn lost. He disappeared shortly after.
Earlier today I googled Colyn, wondering if the spiv had set up another business somewhere. God I had a shock. Colyn, the man who could not run a café, who enrolled his own wife as a student in his MBA course to lie and spy on other students, has done rather more than launch another business. Colyn is now featuring on a website describing himself as Professor Colyn Gardner, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Sunway University and Dean of Sunway Business School, Kuala Lumpar. He describes himself as having had a ‘distinguished academic career’, as having a ‘PhD in Corporate Finance’ from Bangor University (he didn’t have one of those when he was sacked) and that his ‘entire career has been spent either as a practicing banker or a specialist banking industry consultant and a professor of banking’. No mention of failing to run a small café in Bangor then.
Who are Sunway University? How on earth were they conned by a man who very clearly knows nothing about corporate finance? And why would a man with a distinguished academic career bother to include on his web profile a photo of himself when he was at Aberdare Grammar School and details of his rather average A level grades from forty years ago? Furthermore, if Sunway University spend five minutes checking Colyn’s record on the Company Directors’ register, they will find that he has been a director of a whole series of businesses that have all been dissolved within a few years of starting up.
Among his many achievements, Colyn mentions that he has been an advisor to the World Bank. One of Colyn’s former colleagues in the Bangor Business School had also worked for the World Bank. That was John Thornton, the Professor of Global Finance. (What one of those was doing in Bangor I do not know.) John Thornton used to give his home address as being in Washington DC – I guess that he drove into Bangor from there every morning – and when he appeared on the panel at an IWA debate he explained that the most sensible thing for the Westminster Gov’t to do would be to turn Wales into a tax haven, a bit like the Isle of Man. Because according to Thornton, Wales will never be economically viable and it’s best hope is to simply provide nice places to live for people who are either so wealthy that they don’t need to work or who commute over the border into England. It was at this debate that I read Thornton’s own account of his career history. Whilst he was at the World Bank, he stated that his title was ‘Director of the Western Hemisphere’. He was director of the Western Hemisphere for a few years, which obviously explains why the Western Hemisphere is not in a very good state. When he became Head of Bangor Business School, the Director of the Western Hemisphere passed PhD theses that he knew had been plagiarised and told colleagues to write glowing references for people who had graduated and moved abroad even if the lecturers concerned couldn’t remember who the students were. According to the Director of the Western Hemisphere, students enrolling for courses at Bangor Business School were paying tuition fees in return for a good reference as well as for a good degree.
So that’s business for you – the WDA and World Bank way.