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Court date set for company that donated to new Welsh First Minister

28 Mar 2024 6 minute read
Vaughan Gething – Crown Copyright

A company that donated thousands of pounds to the new First Minister of Wales’ election campaign is set to go to court after being charged with environmental offences.

Atlantic Recycling, which is part of a company that donated to Vaughan Gething during his bid to be the new leader of the Welsh Labour government, is facing two charges of failing to comply with the requirements of environmental permit conditions.

A four-day trial of the facts, known as a Newton hearing, was set for December 16 at Cardiff Crown Court on Thursday.

Atlantic Recycling’s holding company, Dauson Environmental Group, donated £200,000 to Mr Gething’s successful campaign to replace Mark Drakeford as leader.

Declarations on the Electoral Commission website show the First Minister’s campaign raised at least £254,600.

In comparison, his rival Jeremy Miles raised at least £58,800.

“Bankrolled”

Martin Shipton from Nation.Cymru broke the news that Vaughan Gething’s Welsh Labour leadership campaign was being bankrolled by a company run by the director of Dauson Environmental Group back in February.

An entry on the Electoral Commission’s register of political donations shows that Dauson Environmental Group Ltd, based in Mr Gething’s Cardiff South and Penarth constituency, donated £100k to his campaign on December 18 2023 and a further £100k on January 11 2024.

Both donations were registered with the Commission on February 7 2024.In 2013 the group’s director, David John Neal, was convicted at Cardiff Magistrates Court of illegally dumping waste in a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on the Gwent Levels and given a three-month suspended sentence.

Serious pollution

He was fined £10,000 and his two firms had fines and costs of £202,000 after pleading guilty to the breaches at Ty-To Maen Farm. The court heard the “substantial and serious pollution” leaked toxic liquid into the water.

Neighbours in the area, which falls within an SSSI because of its flora and fauna, complained of strong odours, and a year-long investigation was carried out by Natural Resources Wales, its predecessor the Environment Agency and South Wales Police.

The court heard that toxic liquids had leached into a reen, a distinctive water course on the Gwent Levels.

Neal pleaded guilty personally to breaches of environmental rules and also pleaded guilty on behalf of his two companies to depositing waste likely to cause pollution to the environment or harm to human health.

The companies were fined £50,000 each and £51,000 each in costs.

In the case of one of the companies – Neal Soil Suppliers – where dairy and food effluent had been spread over a field, there had been “substantial and serious pollution”.

In mitigation the company’s barrister said: “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.”

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) operations director south Graham Hillier said at the time: “The outcome of this case shows that companies and individuals who seek to exploit the regulatory framework which protects the environment and public health will not be tolerated by NRW.

“We will work with those who share our aims of making best use of Wales’s resources but those who seek to maximise profit at the costs to their customers and the environment will have poor prospects of remaining a viable business.”

‘Stink bomb’

The Dauson Environmental Group is involved, via one of its subsidiaries, in another controversy today. A landfill site that has been described as “a stink bomb on steroids” has been told to clean up their act by a regulator.

Resources Management UK Ltd (RML) has been told to “contain and collect” all “fugitive emissions” at its Withyhedge Landfill in Pembrokeshire. People living nearby say the odour of rotting rubbish is noticeable in villages as far as five miles away.

NRW said the company’s forecast to fix the problem by early March 2024 was not realistic and has now set a deadline of April 5.

Operators Resources Management UK Ltd (RML) previously apologised for the smell and said it was trying to “rectify the issue with immediate effect”.

NRW said the proposal made by the company to contain and collect landfill gas was not “compliant with its permit” and was likely to “contain many unknowns with potential problems for the future.”

In recent weeks locals have told of an all-pervading “rank stench” from Withyhedge not unlike “the stink bombs we had as kids, but on steroids”.

However, RML said the odours were a result of a delay in “capping” a waste containment cell and were “not harmful to people or the environment”.

Apologetic

It added that it was “deeply apologetic for the impact on the local community” and had put processes in place to stop the issue “occurring in the future”.

An investigation into liquid discharge from the site escaping into a nearby river is also under way.

The industry source who tipped off Nation.Cymru said: “If you take a look at Dauson on Companies House you’ll see that they have three charges against their company from the Development Bank of Wales What this means is that Dauson is in receipt of taxpayer investment through the Development Bank of Wales and the Minister with responsibility for the Development Bank for Wales is the Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething.

“How appropriate is it for the Economy Minister with responsibility for the Development Bank of Wales to be receiving huge donations from a company in receipt of large money from the Development Bank of Wales?”

“Disbelief”

Senior Welsh Labour figures have reacted with disbelief to the official view that donations from a convicted polluter totalling £200k made to Vaughan Gething do not represent a breach of the Ministerial Code.

The contest to succeed Mark Drakeford as Welsh Labour leader and First Minister was rocked by Nation.Cymru’s revelation that David Neal, the boss of Dauson Environmental Group which made the donations, got two suspended jail sentences for dumping toxic sludge on the Gwent Levels, a sensitive wetland landscape near Newport that Mr Drakeford rescued by rejecting plans for an M4 relief road that would have gone through it.

Many have argued that by accepting such a large sum from a convicted polluter, Mr Gething has breached the Ministerial Code and brought the Welsh Government into disrepute.

The Ministerial Code states: “”Ministers should not accept any gift or hospitality which might, or might reasonably appear to, compromise their judgement or place them under an improper obligation.”


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A.Redman
A.Redman
12 days ago

That financial donation itself SHOULD have been enough for.
V. Gething to recuse himself from standing for election. Secondly the full unredacted facts about legitimacy of the Union block vote and it’s rules as to who can be eligible to receive that backing.

Why vote
Why vote
12 days ago

Vaughan Gething will always be remembered for this one event in his life, no matter what he tries to do in his career, receiving lots of money from a man who thinks he can manipulate all around him with cash is now his tainted legacy, he should stand down as first minister before he ruins the welsh political reputation.

robin campbell
robin campbell
12 days ago

it all stinks

Lord Custard
Lord Custard
12 days ago

It doesn’t look good at all. There needs to be a full independent investigation.

Lynne Drake
Lynne Drake
11 days ago

How about the £200,000 going back to the owners of the land which was polluted? This whole thing sounds very very bad. Labour party in Wales should hand the money back. Rules may not have been broken but morally it is untenable.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
11 days ago
Reply to  Lynne Drake

Yes seems odd that AMs can accept donations from criminal gains. Would any rules be broken if the money was from drug gangs or people traffickers? Seems not

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
11 days ago

The donation and lobbying by Gething to lower environment standards for the company makes a mockery of any claims that Labour in Wales are supporters of the green agenda. Hypocrites

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