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Vaughan Gething’s campaign bankrolled by company run by director given a suspended jail sentence

21 Feb 2024 6 minute read
Vaughan Gething. Picture by the Welsh Government.

Martin Shipton

Vaughan Gething’s Welsh Labour leadership campaign is being bankrolled by a company run by a director who was given a suspended prison sentence for dumping waste at a conservation site.

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.

The only other donation registered by Mr Gething so far is a £3,000 non-cash donation by Tramshed Tech in Cardiff, where he held an event.

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?”

A Welsh Labour insider said: “There are questions that need answering here and the usual silence is not good enough. Members deserve answers before they cast their vote, £200,000 is an eye watering sum of money. Unless Vaughan can confirm what the donor expects in return, that they recognise and work in social partnership with unions and that the company has not committed any unlawful acts, his campaign should return the money.

“This is about who we are as a Labour Party. The Welsh public are watching and they have to know we are on their side.”

Campaign

We asked Mr Gething’s campaign whether their candidate was aware of Mr Neal’s conviction and why the company had donated so much money to Mr Gething’s leadership bid.

A spokesperson for the campaign said: “Dauson Environmental Group Limited has made a donation to Vaughan Gething’s leadership campaign. All donations are declared to both the Senedd and the Electoral Commission in line with the rules and Vaughan’s commitment to transparency.

“It’s a matter of public record that Welsh Government Ministers do not take decisions on individual investments or loans provided by the Development Bank of Wales.”

A source close to Mr Gething’s campaign added:”Dauson Environmental Group Limited is one of a number of donors to Vaughan’s campaign. Dauson is a business based in the Cardiff South and Penarth constituency and they support Vaughan’s ambitions for the Welsh economy.

“Vaughan Gething’s leadership manifesto pledges to strengthen enforcement action to protect the environment and pledges stricter penalties for those who break environmental rules: ‘Our Welsh Labour Government would strengthen enforcement action to protect our environment, starting with the creation of a fully-functioning environmental governance body, filling the gap left post-Brexit.’

“As Minister or First Minister, Vaughan could not and would not be involved in any decision affecting a company based in his constituency or which had given him donations.”

We asked Mr Neal why he had donated so much money to Mr Gething’s campaign. He has not responded.


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Gary H
Gary H
1 month ago

This stinks as bad as the effluent. VG has two honourable choices: give the money back or withdraw from the contest. But either way, what does this say about the man’s judgement.

Martyn Young
Martyn Young
1 month ago

Politics is a dirty business they say. It doesn’t come much grubbier than this.

Adrian
Adrian
1 month ago

The saddest part of this article is that none of it surprises me. Liebour are rotten to the core. I like what I’ve seen of VG as a person but like all of the Labour ministers I wouldn’t trust any of them with any responsibility. Everything that they do is damaging to Wales

David
David
1 month ago

If VG does this before trying to become leader of Labour & becoming FM. What will he up to do as a First Minister of Cymru?

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago

As the journalist duo that became internationally famous as ‘Woodstein’ were told by their illustrious source – “follow the money” 😉

Last edited 1 month ago by Leigh Richards
Why vote
Why vote
1 month ago

Bank loans, donations, Politics. Bit grubby really, one group of people wanting to control another. How many people earn that sort of money in a year, and that is just one of his donations?.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 month ago

The whole affair is a stink bomb.

MattJ
MattJ
1 month ago

This is really bad judgement by someone that wants to be FM. I’m shocked he can’t see how dreadful this look – or maybe he does and doesn’t care.

Jen
Jen
1 month ago

Someone on the team dropped the ball!
Is the Ian Morgan who donated to Jeremy Miles the chief exec of WJEC? And of a college?

Paul
Paul
22 days ago

Just read a Guardian newspaper article about Vaughan Gethin and there is no mention of this affair. Just shows the hypocrisy of the media! If this was a conservative AM then you would not hear the end of this story!

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