David Wilson’s World

David Wilson is a big mover and shaker in Leicestershire. If you are a student your might know him from your daily excursions to the David Wilson Library at the University of Leicester, but to the rest of us he is perhaps most famous for his legacy in the construction industry.

His mammoth firm Wilson Bowden plc is the creator of such modern-day monstrosities as the Meridian Business Park and the Interlink Park (in Bardon); while it is currently in the process of birthing the Glenfield Business Park.

Wilson Bowden was also the holding company for the premium David Wilson Homes brand, which turns over a tidy packet by catering for the upmarket housing market. That said, in 2007 Mr Wilson sold his company to Barratt Developments for just over £2 billion, who then proceeded to downsize and sack a third of their workforce.

Since then, Mr Wilson has turned his hand to philanthropy, which explains the library at the University of Leicester; but other causes he supports likewise combine his love of business, religion, and education. Thus for instance, Mr Wilson created the David Wilson Construction Centre at Northampton Academy.

The Northampton Academy is just one of the many (too many) educational facilities run by the United Church Schools Trust; a charity whose senior executives include Sir Anthony Greener (a former Chief Executive of both Guinness plc and Dunhill Holdings) and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton.

Other than a couple of local football teams, the only other organization listed as being supported by the David Wilson Foundation (on their web site anyway) is the now-defunct Stride (Sharp Training Recycling & Income Development Enterprise): Stride having been set up in 2000 as the trading arm of the city homelessness charity Sharp.

But even with such powerful backers like Mr Wilson — who had served as a patron of Stride since 2009 — Stride built up debts of a £1 million and sadly their operations collapsed a couple of months ago, leaving “more than 280 young people… left without jobs and training courses.”

One can only hope that the other group for which Mr Wilson serves as a kindly patron, the National Forest Charitable Trust, will not go the same way as Stride. That however seems unlikely given the fact that the other prestigious patrons of this green endeavour include the former Tory Prime Minister John Major, Patricia Hewitt, and local pie-industrialist David Samworth.

But in the end, should society really rely upon the extremely limited generosity of a handful of super-rich capitalists — who are, for the most part, hyper-allergic to taxation — to provide education and jobs for the rest of us… or for that matter to protect the environment? I think not. And the alternative to such philanthropy is not hard to find. It is socialism.

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