Newcastle wind turbine company in RGF grant row

A wind turbine company which was awarded a reported £4.5m Regional Growth Fund grant made thousands of pounds in donations to the Conservative party

A wind farm with many wind turbines
A wind farm with many wind turbines

A wind turbine company which was awarded a reported £4.5m Regional Growth Fund grant made thousands of pounds in donations to the Conservative party.

Offshore Group Newcastle (OGN) gave David Cameron’s party almost £140,000 between November and August this year. One of the company directors, Russian businessman Alexander Temerko, also ploughed huge sums into the Conservative coffers.

Last year the Wallsend-based company, a major supplier to the offshore energy industry, was reported to have been awarded a £4.5m subsidy towards making steel foundations for wind turbines.

Shadow defence minister Kevan Jones said the new figures raised questions over the bidding process for an already “competitive” RGF pot.

The MP for Durham North told The Journal last night: “Many firms lost out during the RGF strategy. It seems remarkable that this company can afford to donate more than £100,000 to the Tories and it raises the question of whether it needed the money at all. Serious questions need to be asked including whether they should be paying the money back.”

Electoral Commission records show that in the eight months before the grant was announced, donations totalling £49,905 were made to the Conservative Party. In the year that followed the grant, Mr Temerko and OGN company donated a further £298,250 to the party.

Nick Brown, MP for Newcastle East, insisted OGN’s RGF grant had been awarded “on its merits”. He said: “Giving money to the Conservative Party is regarded as anti-social behaviour here in the North East. However OGN are important and valuable corporate citizens and an important part of our plans to bring industrial work back to the North bank of the River Tyne.

“The state aid rules are scrupulous administered and very carefully scrutinised. OGN’s case for support in the procurement was very strong and was agreed on its merits.”

Mr Temerko is a former top executive of Yukos, the Russian oil giant. Its chief, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was a political opponent of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and was jailed in May 2005. Mr Temerko was allowed to stay in Britain after a judge ruled an attempt to extradite him on fraud charges was politically motivated. A spokesman for OGN said: “In accordance with legislation OGN discloses any political donations made in the year in its annual accounts. Any donations made by OGN are fully declared.”

A Business Department spokesman said: “BIS is absolutely committed to transparency and adherence to due process .”

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “All donations to the Conservative Party are fully and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer