Strange business

Old Grumpy has written frequently about the strange business in Pembroke Dock concerning various grants paid to property developer Cathal McCosker.
Initially, I thought that Mr McCosker was some sort of financial whiz kid, but when he wrote to the council  in early April 2014 offering to pay back the whole of the £180,000 he had received in grants on four projects in the town, plus foregoing another £125,000 in respect of 50 Dimond Street (then nearing completion) doubts began to creep in because the irregularities that I had detected only amounted to about £80,000.
Surrendering £225,000 more than was due didn’t seem like good business to me, though, as it was conditional on the council forgetting all that had gone before, he may have calculated that a quarter of a million was a small price to pay to avoid having his activities investigated by the police.
In the event, the police had been handed a dossier based on my findings just a couple of days earlier, so, even if the council had been willing to play ball, the bird had flown.
A reader has now sent me a link to the sale particulars for Coronation School, another McCosker project that has featured prominently in these pages.
I notice that the guide price for this warren of bedsits is £1.3 million, which is considerably less than it cost him to convert the building.

And that wasn’t even the final account.
So, if Mr McCosker did indeed pay G&G builders in excess of £1.5 million for this contract, he is on a loser, big time.
However, it should be remembered that Mr McCosker’s offer to pay back all the grant money on the projects in Dimond Street came about because of his unwillingness to provide bank statements to prove that he had actually paid the amounts claimed.
Also, that the original tender was for £1 million and, as detailed on these pages,  the final account was inflated by charges for work that was never carried out.
In addition to the £1.59 million cost of the works the building seems to have attracted  VAT at 20% which adds a handy £318,000 to the total bill.
I claim no expertise in VAT, but I always thought that conversions of non-residential buildings to residential use were charged at zero or 5% depending on the circumstances.
And that,of course, is not the end of the matter because it doesn’t include the cost of purchasing the building, planning and architect’s fees, etc, though the £183,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund will have gone some way to softening the blow.
And this is not the first time we’ve encountered peculiarities in VAT concerning Mr McCosker’s contracts.
This from 29 Dimond Street shows VAT at 5%, but the actual amount charged equates to 20%.
All very strange!

I have suggested to senior council officers on several occasions  that they might consider referring these VAT anomalies to HMCR, but, so far as I know, this has never been done.