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Gething’s controversial donor faces tax probe

22 Jun 2024 7 minute read
First Minister Vaughan Gething at a recycling centre

Martin Shipton

A major TV investigation has revealed that the controversial businessman whose company donated £200k to Vaughan Gething is under suspicion for potential tax evasion.

It has been alleged that another of David Neal’s firms has been wrongly characterising the kind of waste it has been dumping at a Pembrokeshire landfill site.

If that proves to be the case, it would mean that Mr Gething was in effect able to win the Welsh Labour leadership election thanks to money that should have been paid to the Welsh Government in landfill disposals tax.

Mischaracterising

The Channel 4 Dispatches programme, broadcast at 8pm on Friday June 21, explains how there is a considerable difference between the tax payable for dumping inert waste in landfill sites – around £3 per tonne – from other kinds of waste, where the tax is more than £100 per tonne.

“Mischaracterising” waste can therefore save businesses considerable amounts of money.

Since NationCymru revealed the £200k donations from Mr Neal’s Dauson Environmental Group in February, Mr Gething has been criticised for making a huge error of judgement in accepting such a large amount of cash from a man who had two suspended prison sentences imposed on him for dumping toxic sludge in the Gwent Levels protected landscape.

The programme’s new revelations will intensify the pressure on Mr Gething, who lost a motion of no confidence in the Senedd earlier this month, but has refused to resign.

The collection of landfill tax was devolved to Wales in 2018.

Range of powers

A spokesperson for the Welsh Revenue Authority, which collects tax on behalf of the Welsh Government, said: “The Welsh Revenue Authority has a range of powers to ensure that landfill site operators pay the right amount of tax. How and when these are used would depend on the circumstances of the issue. We work with a network of partners such as Natural Resources Wales and law enforcement agencies to share information.”

In Rubbish Tip Britain Dispatches investigates:

* Allegations that a major Welsh waste company was dumping recycling at a Pembrokeshire landfill, unsorted

* Levels of Hydrogen Sulphide in area surrounding Pembrokeshire landfill which have broached safe levels stipulated by World Health Organisation

* An Environment Agency report revealing potential miscategorisation of waste to evade tax at landfills across England and Wales

Council recycling was taken to a landfill in Pembrokeshire instead of being sorted, says a whistleblower.

A former driver, who worked for Atlantic Waste Recycling in Cardiff, told Dispatches he was required to collect recycling from Port Talbot and Neath Council, but instead of taking it to the Atlantic Waste Recycling centre to be sorted out, often it wasn’t even unloaded.

He said: “Some should have gone to a local incinerator or at least be taken to a different yard. It would all just end up in landfill.

“I don’t think the public would be very happy if they knew that they’re going through all the process of separating and sorting their own recycling and their own waste, and then they find out that it’s just been dumped in the ground.”

The driver Dispatches spoke to says waste being taken to landfill included materials known to generate hydrogen sulphide: “There would be plasterboard, at least three or four loads a week that would have plasterboard inside it.”

Withyhedge

Dauson Environmental, which owns Atlantic Recycling, denies inappropriate waste has been taken to Withyhedge.

The Withyhedge site run since 2022 by Dauson Environmental, part of the same group as Atlantic Waste Recycling, has been plaguing local residents with foul odours since last July. “It was really quiet and a nice village to live in. Until last year.

“About July I first smelt something. It does make you kind of gag sometimes. Your eyes can hurt as well from it,” says Colin Barnett, resident of Spittal, founder Stop the Stink campaign.

“An eggy, chemically, sulphurous smell. Makes you retch. It will come into the car. It will come into your home. I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve reported it to the regulator. We all feel annoyed. Let down and frustrated that that kind of crime isn’t easier to report and get some kind of resolution.” Says resident of Spittal, Sue Lewis, founder Stop the Stink campaign.

Leachate

A potential reason for the recent odour issues is the leachate – the polluted liquid that drains or leaches from a landfill. It can be toxic and dealing with it is expensive. It’s supposed to be stored in tanks on site and then taken to a special treatment plant. Dispatches heard from another former worker, who was employed at Withyhedge when it was taken over by the Dauson Group, that Withyhedge is struggling to keep on top of the leachate.

“The tanks couldn’t keep up and basically, they’d make me tip it straight back on top of the cell, or they dig a massive hole, around 40 to 60 foot deep, and then have me fill it full of leachate and just, try and keep the leachate, from filling up the tanks.” says another former worker.

Respraying leachate can increase the production of hydrogen sulphide. If leachate escapes, it can contaminate groundwater, rivers, and soil with toxic pollutants.

Drone footage

Dispatches includes drone footage of a leak, captured by campaigner Colin Barnett, from the site which Professor Phil Longhurst reviews: “Whether it’s a day of leak or a fortnight or a year, ultimately they’re failing to comply with their permit.

“Uncontrolled release of leachate. Depending on the nature of the leachate. It can have direct impact on rivers. It can harm animals, fish, biota, and also it can harm humans. If we’re using that river as a tributary for drinking water, for surface water, or if it feeds into anywhere where there’s.drinking water treatment, that’s a potential risk. This is an urgent priority to deal with.”

Public Health Wales published a report this week which revealed results from hydrogen sulphide testing. Levels close to the site had exceeded the safe levels set out by the World Health Organisation.

Dauson Environmental has apologised to local residents regarding the odours and said it has spent several million pounds to resolve the issues at Withyhedge. In May Mr Neal announced the site would be shut to new waste for six weeks.

Dauson Environmental says the problems with leachate were caused by very bad weather and additional pumps were installed to resolve the issues.

Natural Resources Wales has told Dispatches that it is gathering information to determine if further enforcement action needs to be taken. And that they have taken action to drive improvements needed, including odour testing in the community. It added that it has a long history of bringing poorly performing sites back into compliance and pursuing successful prosecutions.

The Withyhedge Landfill is now run by a company within the Dauson Environmental conglomerate, controlled by David Neal. Mr Neal controversially recently donated £200k to Welsh first minister Vaughan Gething’s leadership campaign.

Pollution

National Resources Wales has carried out some testing along the Cleddau. It’s revealed to Dispatches it believes the landfill is a potential contributor to pollution in the river.

Vaughan Gething has defended the donations and denied lobbying. He says that he followed all the rules. He has said: “I have never, ever made a decision in more than a decade as a minister for personal or financial gain. Never.”

Professor Longhurst told Dispatches “If a site is miscategorising waste as inert rather than standard waste category, they are saving £100 a tonne on everything that comes into the site. A typical Arctic lorry will carry between 30 and 40 tonnes. This is thousands of pounds per day that a site can avoid paying So in a year that means millions.”

Dauson Environmental says it denies that inappropriate waste has been taken to Withyhedge or that lorry loads have been systemically, fraudulently altered.


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Linda Jones
Linda Jones
22 days ago

The more I read the worse it gets. Neal is getting away with trashing our environment and peoples lives with Gething and co turning a blind eye. There must be so many brown envelopes skating across desks.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
22 days ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

These people sit on their backsides while pay cheques skate across desks…

Ap Kenneth
22 days ago

This could turn out to be interesting – this seems to be the record keeping requirements – https://www.gov.wales/determining-amount-landfill-disposals-tax-payable#6320
Will be even more interesting if there is video evidence of the weighbridge showing the loads in each truck.
The mixing of plasterboard with wet biodegradable waste has been known for years to produce hydrogen sulphide and if they have done this then they have not been studying their own trade literature. A site in Stoke was doing the exact same thing causing a stink that dispatches covered a few years ago.
Go WRA.

Stephanie Williams
Stephanie Williams
22 days ago

Does any journalist worth their salt want to ask Starmer why he is still backing this corrupt Welsh Labour Leader from his own party, a Welsh party supposedly already in government, instead of telling all and sundry that the current leader of the Westminster Conservatives who hasn’t been accused of betting on the election date, or taking dodgy donations but is told daily he isn’t worthy of being a leader. Starmer, why don’t you do what you preach and put your own house in order? None of Labour here in Wales or Westminster are squeaky clean, remember the house sale… Read more »

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
22 days ago

You were heading for an uptick from me until your mention of house sale of deputy. The police investigated (twice) along with separate HMRC investigation—both concluding that Angela Rayner has done nothing wrong.

Stephanie Williams
Stephanie Williams
22 days ago
Reply to  Richard Davies

Yet she still admits she would have backed Corbyn. Case of whoever is the leader for her I think, similar to Gething.

Adrian
Adrian
22 days ago

Starmer is quite possibly the most dishonest politician of our time. You will not get a straight answer out of him on any contentious issue, and he’ll happily change any position mid-sentence without batting an eyelid. They wanted Johnson out if he so much as coughed, yet Gething’s dodgy dealings make Johnson look positively saintly: labour though, has nothing to say.

Old Curmudgeon
Old Curmudgeon
22 days ago

Why does Tony Soprano come to mind when I hear all the stories associated with Vaughan Gething? If Starmer is still backing him then he too is guilty by association. Our leaders are a disgrace.

John Ellis
John Ellis
22 days ago

Back in 2018 I never remotely thought that when Mark Drakeford ultimately decided to call it a day on his spell at first minister I’d be lamenting his departure from the Welsh political scene.

As things have now turned out, I was entirely wrong in assuming that.

Nia James
Nia James
22 days ago

Is this the final straw for Vaughan Gething? It should be but he has chutzpah and a rhino hide. You sense that all this bodes poorly for the incoming Labour administration in London. Labour has to clean up its act…urgently!

Old Curmudgeon
Old Curmudgeon
22 days ago

Why is this not Being investigated by the police and the Taxman?

Stephanie Williams
Stephanie Williams
22 days ago
Reply to  Old Curmudgeon

Gething and Starmer both from a legal background, university for them not your average tool maker background and the police somehow seem to be devoid of any action when these two and any of their ilk are involved, remember most police commissioners are Labour.

Llyn
Llyn
22 days ago

With what offence would you charge Starmer or Gething?

Old Curmudgeon
Old Curmudgeon
22 days ago
Reply to  Llyn

The investigation should be into Mr Neals business practices.

Stephanie Williams
Stephanie Williams
21 days ago
Reply to  Llyn

I didn’t say charge either of these two, but certainly an independent investigation of Vaughan Gething and the processes of the financial aspects whilst he has had access to the Bank of Wales regarding loans, the Covid enquiry and deletion of messages and now the donation scandal, sacking a minister without proper procedures and even how he got to vote for himself in the vote of no confidence would be a start. All the while Starmer backs him

Old Curmudgeon
Old Curmudgeon
22 days ago

Fair point. Thank Goodness that Starmer has stated that “the country deserves a prime minister they can trust”.

David
David
22 days ago
Reply to  Old Curmudgeon

Who’s that?

Llyn
Llyn
22 days ago

There’s much anger on this website regarding Vaughan Gething taking a donation (perfectly legally) from a convicted criminal, while as this week’s poll suggest a large minority of Nation.Cymru readers plan on voting Plaid Cymru. A policy of Plaid Cymru, championed by Rhun ap Iorwerth, is to change the law to provide serving prisoners (convicted criminals – some violent) with the vote. My question for those Plaid voters is, why it is so wrong for a person who has paid his/her debt to society to give a donation to a politician, but so right that prisoners currently serving a sentence… Read more »

Old Curmudgeon
Old Curmudgeon
22 days ago
Reply to  Llyn

Lots of people have codes of conduct where they are expected to act in a way that does not open them or their company to any suggestion of ‘dodgy dealing’ this does not mean that anyone has broken the law. Many of us have these conditions in our professions. Mr Gething is a solicitor he is aware that things can be misinterpreted more than that he was a solicitor for a trades union and may well have represented members who have been dismissed from their positions without going through proper procedures. The way he has been conducting his recent campaign… Read more »

Adrian
Adrian
22 days ago
Reply to  Llyn

It’ll be about the optics: a smarter politician would have seen the fallout coming and steered clear of the donation. In fairness though, Starmer’s a frequent flyer in that regard, and Rayner’s just got away by the skin of her teeth, so maybe it’s a Labour thing.
With Gething though there is also the question of his incompetence in ministerial posts, his bare-faced lies to the Covid inquiry, and his arrogance in ignoring a no-confidence vote. Additionally, for me and possibly others, the fact that he apparently believes that a man can become a woman means he’s an idiot.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
22 days ago

Nuclear and Waste…it had to end in tears…

Howie
Howie
21 days ago

If it has gone on for so long as Dispatches and whistleblowers are alluding to it does throw up serious questions for NRW it should get Neath Port Talbot to review the waste transfer notes and if recycling as stated was dumped then the WG needs to answer for their trumpeting of waste successes, many are genuine but some it seems are not. I would ask the question if the Baroness and Julie James have discussed this site with NRW it makes the ordinary person question whether they discussed any of it with the FM informally or on the record… Read more »

Welsh Patriot
Welsh Patriot
21 days ago

Now Channel Four dispatches are looking in the Vaughan Gethings Donor!

Isn’t funny that it takes a media organisation outside of Wales to look in to what’s happening with someone who is supposed to be running Wales.

Hang your head in shame BBC Wales!

Ron Biggly
Ron Biggly
21 days ago

If NRW don’t know that things are being done properly then there’s a problem with the regulation. There must be regular inspections and other monitoring such as trackers placed in waste loads to see where it ends up. If they can’t afford to do this they must charge more for licences.

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