In or Out?
The Department for Education publish each year an annual report. On page 223 & 224 of the 2019-2020 report you will find a list of related party transactions for the board members in place at the end of March 2020. This includes Michelle Donelan MP for Chippenham, who was appointed Minister of State for Universities in February 2020. Michelle Donelan has one entry stating that her spouse & his family are owners of Allington IP Limited and its subsidiary V12 footwear.
Allington IP & V12 footwear are Chippenham based, family companies, owned by brothers Ben & Andrew Turner, both members of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church. The directors listed on companies house for Allington IP are Ben Turner & his wife Sarah Turner, along with Andrew Turner & his wife Georgina Turner. The directors for V12 footwear are Ben Turner, Sarah Turner, Ben & Sarah's son Henry Turner, along with Andrew & Georgina Turner & their sons George & Charlie Turner. There is one director Tom Turner (son of Ben & Sarah) who resigned on 27th September 2019.
Our research has found that Michelle Donelan's spouse is Tom Turner the former director of V12 Footwear Ltd, and that the couple are engaged. An article from the Wiltshire Times shows Michelle Donelan completing a charity walk in September this year, alongside her partner Tom and one of her parliamentary staff. We have found evidence that the couple have known each other from at least 2016, with Michelle Donelan liking posts on Tom's linkedin profile that were promoting the family V12 business. Michelle has only ever liked twelve posts on linkedin and three of these posts were from Tom Turner. According to Michelle in an interview with Open Doors UK & Ireland, the couple were living together in May 2020, which is unusual in that Brethren members would consider this to be a sin. We have also found a Rapid Relief Team (RRT) promotional video where Michelle Donelan praises the great work of the RRT, supporting a walk for life charity event in May 2019.
We have also found that Tom's father Ben Turner is involved in a number of other companies, his linkedin profile shows he is the Managing Director of Toffeln Ltd, as well as the Co-Founder of V12 Footwear. Toffeln were one of the many companies ran by Plymouth Brethren members who have benefitted from the pandemic, in regard to contracts to supply the Government. Toffeln secured two contracts with the DHSC for a total of nearly £4 million to supply PPE, these contracts were awarded on the 4th April & 16th April 2020. The former being one of the very first DHSC awarded contracts for PPE at the start of the pandemic.
Toffeln were also awarded contracts with Alder Hey childrens and Guys & St Thomas hospital worth another £1.1 million. This article shows how V12 footwear & Toffeln created the self protection brand for PPE.
Tom's father Ben was also appointed in March 2020 as a director of OnemediUK a dormant company, which we believe was set up with a view to provide Medical Insurance for Plymouth Brethren members. Other directors of OnemediUK includes:
The Plymouth Brethren Church according to former members do not allow for non brethren to join their church, not is it permitted for their members to have relationships with non brethren. Where this happens you would expect a member to leave the church, based on this the timeline it would suggest that Tom Turner left the Plymouth Brethren church in September 2019, when he resigned his directorship from V12 Footwear Ltd. There have been many allegations over the years that once someone leaves the church, that they are allowed no contact with families members still within the brethren. This however may not be the case with Tom Turner as his own linkedin profile shows, that he worked for the family V12 business in various roles from 2004, with a final role of Director of Business Development from Jan 2017 to June 2020. This would suggest that Tom Turner was still working within the family V12 Footwear business at the time contracts were awarded to Toffeln. This would also appear to be backed up by Michelle Donelan in her declaration of related party transactions in the Department for Education annual report.
Currently Tom Turner now works as Commerical Director for a company called Stronghold Global Ltd. Their website claims to have supplied over 20 million pieces of PPE to NHS Hospital Trusts, including North Bristol, Sheffield Teaching & University College London. Though we are unable to see any contracts with Stronghold Global on the UK contract finder website, nor on the spend over £25,000 on the trusts websites. They also state they have supplied Wiltshire Police as well with PPE, along with Tesco & Mitie.
Stronghold Global is also a family business ran by members of the Turner family, Roddy & Max Turner are listed as directors, with Sam Turner a former director. Max Turner is the son of Jerry Turner (brother of Ben), Jerry is the Safety Innovations director for yet another covid contract winning company in Tower Supplies.
It would appear that the Stronghold Global was incorporated in September 2012 by the Shore family under the name Millform Products, prior to them leaving to start up Millform in Australia. The business transferred to Jerry, Roddy & Max Turner.
There were a number of changes to the ownership & registered address of Stronghold Global throughout 2020, with the registered address transferring at first to Poseidon Way in Warwick in May 2020, this is also the address of UBT, the central business support partner for Plymouth Brethren companies. It then transferred again in August 2020, to the current registered address of Bumpers Way, Chippenham, incidentally Michelle Donelan has campaigned to get better road traffic management for the Bumpers Way industrial park. The ownership changes has seen Roddy Turner return as a director and the setting up of a parent company Turner investments group as the significant shareholder, along with Lydia Turner. Lydia Turner (nee Wade) is the cousin of Keith Wade, Keith is director of covid contract winning business Origin Packaging.
Currently Stronghold Global employs nine members of the Turner family, according to linkedin, they are Max, Roddy, Tim, Lydia, Katrina, Campbell, Marine, Luke & Sam. These are the offspring and spouses of Ben, Andrew, Jerry & Stuart Turner. It would suggest that they are either still part of the brethren Turner family empire or that they have all left the Plymouth Brethren Church in what would be considered a substantial event in the Church.
Our investigation also highlighted a number of other intriguing events surrounding this story.
Andrew Turner of V12 Footwear & Allington IP is also a director of Rapid Relief Team, the "catering in a crisis" charity, which is funded by the Grace Trust, which is the main Plymouth brethren charity and one of the UK's biggest charities in terms of income (£127 million in the last reported accounts), though interestingly only around 2% off the Grace Trust income is given to non brethren charities.
The Plymouth Brethren church is led by one man, Sydney based, Australian Bruce Hales. Hales made a visit to the Chippenham Gospel Hall in February 2020, which is in the middle of the timeline of events above.
There is also a unusual battle going on currently with the Kington Communities Enterprise Ltd formed by a group of residents from the villages of Kington Langley & Kington St Michael, the same village location as the Plymouth Brethren gospel hall. This is in regards to 400 year old listed pub, The Plough. The Plough is situated adjacent to the Plymouth Brethren Hall and was purchased by a Brethren member in that area. The local community group is appealing for the pub to be granted as an Asset of Community Value in an attempt to keep it as a pub. The objections to this all appear to be from the local brethren members including Ben Turner.
Michelle Donelan was also very active in the Young Britons Foundation (YBF) up until winning her constituency seat. The YBF was linked to the Conservatives and was heavily involved in elections in 2010 & 2015. It was mired in a bullying scandal following the sad death of an activist. This is the same YBF that was also linked to Plymouth Brethren members, through donations by Healthgear Contracts (believed to be ran by Plymouth Brethren Member). that paid for leafleting and newspaper advertisements back in 2010. There were also reports in the Times & Third Sector in 2015 around Plymouth Brethren members actively leafletting in key marginal seats for Conservative candidates. This did include Chippenhan.
In summary we have a Conservative government minister, whose partner's father owns a company that won Covid Contracts, the first company owned by a Plymouth Brethen member to win a DHSC contact, and then his fellow directors of another company also won covid contracts. It is an interesting story in terms of how many ex brethren believe the church operates and if when money is involved is there a difference in how families are treated? The timeline is significant from September 2019 to September 2020 as it suggest Tom Turner was living with Michelle Donelan and yet still actively involved in the family business.
Sept 2019 - Tom Turner resigns his directorship from V12 Footwear
Feb 2020 - Michelle Donelan is appointed minister for Universities
Feb 2020 - Bruce Hales leader of Plymouth Brethren visits Chippenham
March 2020 - Michelle Donelan declares her related party transaction in DfE annual report
April 2020 - Toffeln Ltd, contracts awarded, first brethren member owned company to win a DHSC contract
May 2020 - Michelle Donelan confirms that her partner lives with her in interview with Open Doors UK & Ireland on Facebook
May 2020 - Stronghold Global registered office transfers to UBT address
June 2020 - Tom Turner leaves V12 Footwear
August 2020 - Stronghold Global registered office transfer to Bumpers Park, Chippenham
We are not suggesting any wrong doing or impropriety of anyone involved in the award of any of the above contracts.