Gething receives campaign cash from illegal-dumping company
WELSH Labour leadership contender Vaughan Gething has received a donation to his campaign from a company convicted of dumping waste illegally in an area of special scientific interest.
The Cardiff South and Penarth AM has also received donations to the value of £11,200 from a company that was handed control of Cardiff’s iconic Coal Exchange in controversial circumstances.
In 2013 Neal Soil Suppliers Ltd, which has donated an undisclosed sum to Mr Gething’s leadership campaign, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £51,000 in costs after pleading guilty to the illegal dumping of waste on the Gwent Levels.
A sister company – Atlantic Recycling – was also convicted, fined the same amount and ordered to pay the same amount in costs.
The companies’ director, David John Neal, of Rumney, Cardiff, in the Cardiff South and Penarth constituency, was fined £10,000 personally and given a three-month suspended prison sentence.
The prosecution followed a year-long investigation by Natural Resources Wales, its predecessor, the Environment Agency, and South Wales Police.
District Judge Martin Brown said that in the case of Neal Soil Suppliers, where dairy and food effluent was spread over a field, there had been “substantial and serious pollution”.
In mitigation, the company’s barrister told the court: “This is not an offence that led to a profit. The company were trying to upgrade their waste transfer station and they were using the field as a temporary solution.”
Declarations made to the Electoral Commission by Mr Gething’s campaign team show Signature Living, the company that has converted Cardiff ’s Coal Exchange into a hotel, has made a cash donation to Mr Gething’s leadership campaign of £10,000. In addition, it has made a non-cash donation of £1,200 to Mr Gething in respect of staff costs.
In 2016 Cardiff South and Penarth MP Stephen Doughty raised concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding the circumstances under which control of the Coal Exchange was handed to Signature Living by Cardiff council. He said: “There has been no tender or public process in this instance,” and alleged that another developer had effectively been scared away by the council.
Signature Living rejected Mr Doughty’s criticisms, and said it was the only developer with a realistic plan to save the Coal Exchange.
The company’s founder, Lawrence Kenwright, praised Mr Gething in a tweet, stating: “Vaughan Gething is why we came to Cardiff to bring The Exchange Hotel back to life – a building which had been laying derelict for years. It was @vaughangething who cleared the path for us, even though it was not part of his remit – he did it due to it being the right thing to do.”
On Sunday Mr Kenwright tweeted: “I joined the Labour Party because of Corbyn’s new politics. He’s the only political leader that has really ever inspired me.”
Mr Gething, however, is not a supporter of Mr Corbyn.
A spokesman for Signature Living said: “Vaughan Gething was one of only a few politicians who believed in our vision to transform the Coal Exchange and we’re therefore very happy to support his campaign.”
Donations of more than £1,500 to candidates standing for internal party elections have to be declared to the Electoral Commission. Mr Gething’s donations from Signature Living are the only ones declared by any of the three Welsh Labour leadership candidates to the commission.
A National Assembly spokeswoman said AMs were expected to declare donations to their Assembly election campaigns that exceed £500, but were able to declare additional information in the interests of transparency if they saw fit to do so.
Mr Gething has identified as donors to his campaign in his entry to the Register of AMs’ Interests Signature Living, HSG Facilities Management – a firm run by former Cardiff councillor Ashley Govier – Dr Has Shah, Aditya Singal, Neal Soil Suppliers and Jacqui Walmsley.
On his entry in the Assembly’s Register of Members’ Interests, Mark Drakeford has declared donations to his leadership campaign from AMs Jane Hutt, Mike Hedges, Mick Antoniw, Julie Morgan, Julie James, John Griffiths, Jenny Rathbone and Rebecca Evans; from former AMs Sue Essex, Edwina Hart and Rosemary Butler; from his agent David Davies; from Andrew Morgan, the leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf council; from former Cardiff councillor Cherrie Short; from Cynon Valley and Cardiff West Constituency Labour Parties; from named supporters Anne Cox, HV Shah, Mrs P Singhal, Mrs R Singhal and Arvind Singhal; and 10 anonymous donations via his campaign website.
Eluned Morgan, the third candidate, has declared no donations.
We asked Mr Gething’s campaign team whether he was comfortable accepting a donation from a company that had been convicted and fined for polluting the environment, and why he had been given a £10,000 donation for his leadership campaign together with a further non-cash donation worth £1,200 by Signature Living.
A spokesman for Mr Gething’s campaign said: “Vaughan has made his vision of change and hope for our country clear. That’s why we have the support of so many, from grassroots members to businesses who employ numerous people in Vaughan’s constituency.
“We’re delighted to have the support of prominent Jeremy Corbyn supporters who campaign with Vaughan to ensure we kick out the Tories from Number 10.”
A spokeswoman for Mark Drakeford’s campaign team said: “All our donations have come from supporters or party members. None of our donations are from companies.”
Baroness Morgan said: “We have complied with the requirements of the Electoral Commission and the Welsh Assembly, and as we have not received any payments in excess of £500 for my leadership campaign we are not required to publicly disclose these donations.”