Category Archives: Bad Bosses

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Web ExclusiveWhat a curious development in the never-ending saga of management mishaps in the upper echelons of HorseWorld.

On Monday the Bristol University newspaper Epigram published an article about recent events at HorseWorld on its website. It covered many of the allegations which The BRISTOLIAN first brought to public attention.

Epigram's HorseWorld article - TAKEN DOWN

Epigram’s HorseWorld article – TAKEN DOWN

By mid-morning on Tuesday, readers began telling us that the article was no longer being displayed. We attempted to contact Epigram and its editors, the Student Union, the University’s Press Office and the UoB management, to find out what had happened. No one got back to us.

Then a source close to HorseWorld MD Mark ‘Not That One’ Owen told us what seemed by now to be obvious: the article had been pulled after a furious Pinocchiowen was “straight on the phone to the Uni [yesterday] morning” to demand that the article was removed.

Google Cache version - WIPED OFF THE FACE OF THE NET

Google Cache version – WIPED OFF THE FACE OF THE NET

We then posted a link to a cached version of the article still available via Google.

Today that Google cache version has also been taken down.

So in support of a free press unhindered by threats, coercion, fear or favour, we present for you here the full text of the article in question [not any more – see notes at the bottom of the page for further info!] – and call upon you, the reader, to decide whether it should have been pulled…

The BRISTOLIAN’s précis of the Max Miller Epigram article ‘Mismanagement rears its ugly head at Horseworld’

There’s a “scandal brewing” at the sixty year-old charity HorseWorld, with fears that it may have to reduce its activities and make more than 25 staff redundant after the failure of its bid for planning consent to permit the sell-off of land to developers. This is in tandem with reductions in income, a situation “mirrored by the fates of charities across the country” as donation levels drop off.

The article also notes that research by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Charities Aid Foundation shows that between 2010 and 2012 charitable giving were down £1.7bn (£2.3bn when adjusted for inflation) to £9.3bn – a plummet of 20% in real terms. This research into the donations nosedive was released shortly after an investigation by the Telegraph newspaper, which showed that the number of “executives receiving six-figure salaries at Britain’s leading aid charities, and those linked to them, rose by nearly 60 per cent from 19 to 30 over the past three years.” The article noted The BRISTOLIAN’s own coverage, in which managing director Mark Owen has been reported as having “played a part in Horseworld losing over £2 million in the last three years.

The article then summarises some of The BRISTOLIAN’s claims about Owen’s management of HorseWorld, including his starting salary of £60,000 in 2008, his £28,000 company Audi, the hiring of consultants at £525 per day, and his blaming of others for the charity’s predicament. As the author notes, this “does not exactly scream out ‘competent management.’

Next comes reflection on the overall shrinking of charity donations in the UK during recent recessionary times, pointing out how fundraising website Charity Giving shut down – with a loss of more than £250,000 in donations – and highlighting a report in The Independent which investigated the challenges faced by UK charities “battling not only the effects of economic downturn, but also theft, organised crime, fraud worries and accusations of pure mismanagement.

The article then crunches some of HorseWorld’s numbers: its income fell by nearly £200k from £1.25mn to £1.06mn in 2010-2012, with voluntary donations dropping from £728,046 to £398,214 over the same period.

Next it is pointed out that Owen’s strategy for rectifying HorseWorld’s financial freefall – an all-or-nothing green belt planning gamble – was about as high-risk as you could get. The phrases “financial mismanagement” and “major mistake” are used.

Finally, the author summarises, suggesting that what has been happening in the management of HorseWorld “is a perfect [but extreme] example of what is happening across the country.” Ultimately, when a charity sees income drying up and managers not acting appropriately, it is the good work which suffers most.

Note 1: We reproduce this article unedited [this was before the events outlined in Note 2 below] and in its entirety in order to stimulate debate around the issue of censorship, and around the management issues at HorseWorld that the article refers to. We claim no copyright over the article, and will take it down at the request of its author, or when the original article is reinstated to the Epigram website. (12 February 2014)
Note 2: This morning (13/2/14) a person claiming to be Max Miller, the author of the article, contacted The BRISTOLIAN via the comments section to request that we “kindly delete this article and not publish it in part or in whole anywhere else on or off-line”, and that it ”was an oversight that led to its publication not censorship”. Having subsequently confirmed that this was indeed the University of Bristol student Max Miller, and the acknowledged author of the article, we have removed it.
In its place – and to ensure that the public record in this matter does not suffer – we have summarised its contents, paragraph-by-paragraph, below. We have quoted only a tiny proportion of the article directly (in red). We have also added links to other references (something not done in the Max Miller original), from which we have also included a few direct quotations (in green). We fully acknowledge that authorship of the original article lies with Max Miller; but further assert our own S.31 rights to fair dealing in our summary of that article. (13 February 2014)
Note 3: This afternoon (13/2/14) we spotted that Epigram had posted up the following retraction: “Epigram would like to retract an article published on 10 February 2014 entitled ‘Mismanagement rears its head at Horseworld’. The article was about the equine charity Horseworld and included allegations of mismanagement. The article was based on content from other sources and we regret not offering the managing director – Mark Owen – the right of reply before publication. We will rectify this by providing him the opportunity to respond in the following issue of Epigram. Meanwhile, Epigram apologises unreservedly to Horseworld and Mr Owen for the editorial oversight that led to the publication of this article.” (13 February 2014)


Web ExclusiveA reader has submitted this poem, dedicated to HorseWorld boss Mark Owen

I know a man on 80 grand,
A Black Audi he has too.
He runs a Horse Rescue Charity,
But he hasn’t got a clue.

HorseWorld Managing Director Mark Owen,
All the Charity donations he has been blowin’,
All the money he has blown,
Will soon lose the horses their home,
And 28 staff will also be going.

Seven Million Pounds he wanted to spend,
On a Brand New Visitor Attraction,
That of course, did depend,
On the BANES Councillors reaction.

BANES Councillors rejected it,
By Ten votes to Two.
HorseWorld will have to close says Owen,
So we’ll have to buy memberships for the Zoo!

Trustees held a meeting,
They came from near and far.
Some flew in from Barbados,
While others came by car.

Sustainability is an issue,
Apparently the Visitor Centre has had its day.
And so have you Mark Owen,
But we want the Visitor Centre to stay.

The stress was getting to Owen,
He didn’t know what to do.
So on a plane he hops,
“Screw the lot of you”.

A week’s skiing holiday,
For Mister 80K.
Meanwhile 28 staff worry,
Of the Mortgages they have to pay.

2 million pounds has been lost,
Since Owen came on board.
Still he fails to count the cost,
Of the 28k Audi, the Charity cannot afford.

But now word is out,
And people are on his case,
Not forgetting our wonderful Smiter,
All leaving Owen very long faced.

Feel free to email, tweet, text, phone or even write to us with your tips, suggestions or lavish praise! (Please send any green-inked critiques and legal papers to our other office.)


Web Exclusive‘It’ll all be over by Christmas,’ city council bean counters promised us in September 2013 about their dodgy Market Service and it’s never ending financial scandal:

Markets 1

Alas, it hasn’t quite gone to plan (again). Here’s their audit report for February 2014:


“Positive direction of travel”? What of? Our money in to bosses’ pockets?

Meanwhile in the trenches … The next issue of The Bristolian is on the streets next week and we’ll be looking at this Markets nonsense and a recent tragic turn of events in considerable detail. Prepare to be SHOCKED!!!


HorseWorld boss Mark Owen (left) perfects his fiddling-whilst-Rome-burns dadrock pout

HorseWorld boss Mark Owen (left) perfects his fiddling-whilst-Rome-burns dadrock pout

Web ExclusiveArk at ee, it’s our old friend MARK ‘NOT THAT ONE’ OWEN, the moribund boss of troubled equine charity HorseWorld!

Of course, when we say “troubled equine charity HorseWorld” it should be pretty clear by now just where the problem lies

Still, having terrorised his staff by doling out redundancy notices, Bristol’s COMMUNICATOR OF THE YEAR continues to work hard to undermine the hard-earned reputation of the organisation which pays for both his shiny new Audi and his not-inconsiderable salary. This week’s wheeze: trying to ignore his legal obligations under employment law.

Yes, thanks to his financial shenanigans, more than half of HorseWorld’s employees are now unionised, and we understand some heavy-hitting regional union reps have been in touch with both the charity’s trustees and Owen himself to arrange meetings this week.

As one source told The BRISTOLIAN:

Owen is shitting himself that the unions are now muscling in…

And in the words on another:

As usual Owen is refusing to answer them, [claiming] HorseWorld ‘does not recognise a union’…

Well, that’s okay then..?

Meanwhile our fearless leader has decided to put on a brave face with all this turmoil around him and go on tour with his dadrock band!

Sadly you’ve missed the first date – last Saturday at the Anchor – but you can still catch them this Friday at Blue Lagoon on the Gloucester Road, Saturday 1 March at Oldland Common’s Dolphin, at the Crown in Staple Hill on Saturday 22 March, and then back at the Blue Lagoon the following Saturday.

As they say:

Expect an eclectic mix of “anthems” from Oasis, Kings of Leon, The Killers, The Jam, The Foo Fighters, The Stereophonics, Wheatus, The Verve, Primal Scream – to mention just a few!

So if you’re a horse lover, one of the workers whose jobs are at threat thanks to Pinocchiowen’s business ‘skills’, or you just like covers bands, get on down…


Web ExclusiveThe latest news from inside FORTRESS WHITCHURCH is that troubled equine charity HorseWorld is to close its visitor centre in just over a month – on 27 February – despite a supposed ‘consultation exercise’ running until 24 February.

It comes on top of the sad news that today 28 REDUNDANCY NOTICES were issued to staff. Sources indicate that amongst those being primed for the chop is Animal Welfare Manager Jerry Watkins. That’s right: instead of acknowledging their terrible – and costly – business decisions and resigning themselves, the clique around MD Mark ‘Not That One’ Owen have decided to sack a bunch of already underpaid employees, including the one with the most professional experience of actually running an animal sanctuary!

If rumours are to be believed, cowardly Pinocchiowen sent Watkins his redundancy notice whilst he was away on holiday representing his country as UK team captain at the Khartoum International Tent-Pegging Competition

At this rate all that will be left of HorseWorld will be a paddock full of expensive, incompetent senior managers.

[Edited 29/1/14]


Web ExclusiveTroubled charity boss Mark ‘Not That One’ Owen is back from his LOVELY SKIING HOLIDAY today, and it seems that the pissed off Pinocchiowen has wasted no time in exercising those fabled management skills of his that have dug HorseWorld into its financial hole.

Yes, now that he is back hard-working staff, who were left shovelling the horse-shit caused by his failed financial schemes whilst he jetted off for a nice posh break on the slopes, are now in fear for their jobs thanks to his RIDICULOUS REDUNDANCY PLANS.

On his return to the office this morning, the equine charity chump wasted no time in touring his (soon-to-be-ex-) stomping ground, doing a lot of… well, stomping. Owen has never been backwards in coming forwards with his anger, but insiders say Blue Monday has seen “a ‘stompathon’ to beat all previous stompathons.”

Our spies also tell us that he was straight onto his computer and phone, wheezily admonishing anyone who he felt had criticised his years of misrule.

It’s not just those who’ve publicly spoken out – like ex-trustees in the comments section of this very website: it was those who’ve facilitated others doing so… So the Western Daily Press has caught a gobbet of his bile for DARING TO PRINT A CRITICAL LETTER and then refusing to reveal to Pinocchiowen the ‘name and address supplied’.

In fact, anyone who has done anything other than wholeheartedly back him 150 per cent is now in the firing line – which doesn’t leave many people unscarred. Just most of the current trustees and a couple of members of his management team, we reckon.

Completely coincidentally (of course!) a Twitter account which has been revealing some truths about the management of HorseWorld based solely on public domain information, @HorseWispas, (which has been gathering followers quicker than you can say “£2 million lost in three years”) was SUSPENDED just this morning. Whether this was as a result of a spurious complaint from the notoriously over-sensitive Kim-Jong-Owen is anyone’s guess.

It’s certainly fair to say that your humble ‘Smiter’ is not Pinochiowen’s favourite blog, but he’s baffled by the sources of the tales of his woe we have been able to publish. He desperately wants to know where the paper all Bristol really did ask for gets its info from.

Well Mark, the thing is with a sinking ship – it’s just full of leaks…


Web ExclusiveJust days after putting 28 staff on notice of redundancy, troubled charity HorseWorld’s managing director Mark ‘Not That One’ Owen and chairman of trustees John L Newman are obviously feeling the same extreme levels of worry and fear as those whose jobs are actually on the line. How else could one explain their movements these past couple of weeks?

You’ll recall, by way of background, that serial bungler Owen managed to lose millions of pounds of the charity’s money since joining just a few years ago. He then spectacularly failed to get his flawed planning application – backed by three trustees with professional property development interests – past clued-up councillors.

So this January kicked off with them handing notice to dozens of their low-paid staff that they probably won’t have a job in a few weeks’ time. It’s to the credit of the hard-working animal lovers who actually keep HorseWorld going that despite all the stress and uncertainty caused by their idiot bosses they have simply been getting on with caring for horses and donkeys.

Meanwhile, their esteemed MD? Gone ski-ing. Yes, an expensive week-long skiing holiday for Mister-80k-Per-Annum-Plus-Shiny-28k-Audi Mark Pinnochiowen.

Rome, burning? Pass me my fiddle!

And the Chairman of Trustees? Surely he’s around to field the flak and take the concerns of staff to heart? Well, er, no actually. He’s said to be sunning it in Barbados, returning in a few weeks’ time.

The need for these hard-pressed holidaymakers to pack their cases and ship out suddenly might just explain the careless and hurried approach to their redundancy announcement two weeks ago.

Having ordered the affected 28 in a meeting that they were not to go public, or involve unions, and to keep the whole thing in-house, word naturally leaked out and found itself in your humble ‘Smiter’.

Cue a boardroom panic, a quick purchase of Employment Law For Dummies, and lo and behold, the next day a press release was issued (which even the Evening Bristol Post was highly sceptical of), claiming the charity is consulting on redundancies with ALL staff (except the MD, presumably).

So, to recap: first scare the life out of 28 people. Then extend the fear to roughly sixty. While they quake and tremble in the wake of your redundancy process fuck-ups, what do you do? Leave the country. Simples.

Can it be long before these muppets start offering expensive consultancy packages on crisis management?


Web ExclusiveSad news reaches us from inside troubled equine charity HorseWorld… Thanks to shocking mismanagement under the Mark ‘Not That One’ Owen regime – which pinned all hopes on a misconceived development project – it seems that staff have today been told of MASSIVE JOB LOSSES on the horizon.

Of course, the cuts won’t be felt by Owen or his equally culpable senior management team, who together presided over a financial nosedive at the previously solvent and successful horse charity (latest estimates suggest losses of more than £2 million in just three years). Instead around TWENTY-FIVE MEMBERS OF STAFF will be dismissed at the end of February – including some involved in vital animal welfare work. Figures supplied to the Charity Commission indicate that HorseWorld employs 43 people, so that would be nearly 60% OF JOBS LOST. Even by Pinocchiowen’s more fanciful figure of 62 employees, that’s still a staggering 40% of employees getting the heave-ho thanks to their boss’ failed development gamble.

Whether workers and volunteers there are prepared to stand for this shameless attempt by Owen and his clique to save their own jobs at the expense of everyone else remains to be seen…


HorseWorld boss Mark Owen: full of pony

HorseWorld boss Mark Owen: full of pony

Web ExclusiveTrustees of troubled charity HorseWorld meet tomorrow (Wednesday 18 December) to consider what they do next after the SPECTACULAR FAILURE of MD Mark Owen to persuade local councillors to give him the green light to fill Whitchurch’s green belt with lots of unaffordable posh houses.

Faced with a CRISIS of Becher’s Brook proportions, the trustees have important decisions to make that will decide the futures of many staff and still more animals.

Under Owen’s watch in the last five years HorseWorld has shipped millions of pounds – but frittered away hundreds of thousands on consultants working on his ill-judged master plan. This came crashing to the ground at the first fence last month when BANES councillors showed that they could think for themselves and act in the best interests of local people who didn’t want posh houses and a big arena, thank you very much, by voting against Owen’s plans.

And when they voted against his harebrained scheme to knock down the visitor’s centre and sell off prime land to profiteering property developers, they didn’t do it by half-measures.

Comments from councillors considering the application included:

…10% affordable housing was not good enough…

…information about visitor figures was not clear…

…not convinced the proposal would solve HorseWorld’s problems…

…10% affordable housing was not enough, it should be 35%…

…not convinced there were very special circumstances outweighing the need to protect the Green Belt…

…information about transport issues was incomplete…

…worried about transport issues…

…HorseWorld, with 100,000 visitors a year, should already be successful…

…not convinced about the commercial viability of HorseWorld…

…concerned about the impact of a new housing development on the local primary school…

So that would be a resounding ‘no’, it would seem.

Since then Owen has FURIOUSLY STOMPED around the local press fuming that his failure to get the nod for the plan means the charity will close. ‘It’s unsustainable,’ he whines. Well, insiders retort, it’s certainly unsustainable to retain this INCOMPETENT TWAT on £80,000 per year (plus 28k company car).

Owen’s HorseWorld business model has long been seen to be redundant, and now he should be too.

So is this the moment when trustees finally ditch the hapless Owen so he can spend more time playing guitar in his pub covers band?

At the meeting Owen is expected to plead with his trustee bosses for CLEMENCY. His latest ruse will be to tell them they can overturn the BANES decision on appeal, and he has already started a petition. A bit late in the day for petitions, but you can expect some (non-local) people – including staff – to sign it. ‘Think of my mortgage… err, I mean, the horses!’

Alongside this petition strategy is the key part of his new vision – the immediate closure of the existing visitor centre, home to 24 horses, donkeys and ponies, and employer of several low-paid staff. Retain the rest of the charity land as a small scale sanctuary for animals, he’ll urge, but scale down the operation. ‘Oh, and keep me as MD, pretty please!’

There is of course another option for trustees. It’s not one which Owen will recommend to them, but maybe like the BANES councillors did, THEY’LL PROVE THEY HAVE MINDS OF THEIR OWN…

  1. Flog the Audi;
  2. Sack this expensive failure and his overpaid management cronies; and
  3. Move to a different model that puts long-suffering animals and hard working charity staff first.

It’s an option that would allow HorseWorld to continue working, but in creative co-operation with the local community, not against it.

Nobody in their right mind would believe councillors who overwhelmingly rejected an application by 10 to 2 votes would just overturn the decision on appeal. But are HorseWorld trustees in their right mind?

The acid test will come at this week’s meeting…

PS: For over a year Owen has been telling anyone who’ll listen that if HorseWorld failed to get planning permission he would RESIGN. He hasn’t.

What Mark Owen tells the Charity Commission - not quite what he tells BANES...

What Mark Owen tells the Charity Commission – not quite what he tells BANES…

I say 62, you say 43, let's call the whole thing off!

I say 62, you say 43, let’s call the whole thing off!

But then he’s been telling everyone he employees over sixty staff (most notably going with the figure 62, as shown on the HorseWorld website here and here, and in submissions to BANES Council – see page 92), when official figures submitted the Charity Commission claim the true figure is 43.

Pinocchiowen indeed.


Microsoft Word - NO SECRETS IN BRISTOL 2010.docSo, how did the Holmwood House scandal come to be plastered over the pages of The BRISTOLIAN and featured in gruelling detail at last Thursday’s Cabinet meeting?

Web ExclusiveAs usual, distant, arrogant council managers who refuse to be accountable to the public – even in the most extreme cases such as the unexplained death of an elderly woman in their care – are the authors of their own public humiliation and downfall.

Rest assured, the Holmwood case did not come out of a clear blue sky last Thursday: Kathleen Cole died in July and her daughter Annette Whiting has been asking questions ever since then and not getting any answers.

A key figure in the scandal is DAVID TOOLE, the Bristol City Council Health and Social Care Manager who oversaw the six safeguarding reports into Kathleen’s care. It was he who worked closely with the home’s struck-off nurse ‘consultant’, ISLA MEEK, to play down the dangerous quality of care at Holmwood House. By September, he simply stopped taking Annette Whiting’s concerned phone calls over the circumstances of her mother’s death.

So did he think she’d just go away? On the basis that when some middle manager plonker at the council stops taking your phone calls that’s the end of any matter? How wrong can he be?

It was at this point, Annette sought the only immediate help at hand, which was seasoned care campaigner Steve Norman and The BRISTOLIAN. She was immediately put in touch with firebrand lawyers Irwin Mitchell, specialists in public law, while Steve tackled the council privately and requested a meeting with the Social Care Strategic Director ALISON COMLEY.

Fat chance. Apparently Comley – herself an ex-social worker, but now a six-figure salaried City Hall boss – was far too busy at strategy meetings to worry about suspicious deaths on her watch. The actual  response from Comley’s PA was that her boss was “too busy” and that Annette would need to complete a ‘Fair Comment’ corporate complaint form!

Because obviously the best way to deal with a bereaved relative – with a series of highly compelling issues to raise regarding the care your organisation provided –  is to get them to fill in a form and force them through a useless  bureaucratic process!

It was at this stage that The BRISTOLIAN took the decision to go public with Holmwood House immediately. It was plainly apparent to us that none of these managers gave a toss about Annette or her mother and were behaving as if they were not accountable to the likes of us.

Just how stupid and arrogant are these council managers? What planet are they living on, which makes them think they can treat ordinary Bristolians with utter contempt and get away with it?

Well, things have changed a bit now haven’t they? Rest assured Comley, her sidekick MIKE HENNESSEY and that lamentable safeguarding manager arsehole DAVID ‘WATTA’ TOOLE are now running round like blue arse flies trying to explain their bizarre conduct and lunatic decisions. And this is just the start …

To steal their own soundbite – “There’s no secrets, no cover-ups, no hiding places in Bristol”.

» Be sure to keep an eye on The BRISTOLIAN: there will be further Holmwood House revelations this week…