May 292016
 

On paper at least the Welsh language has come a long way in the last 60 years. In the 1950s and 1960s the language had no official status; apart from tombstones in chapel cemeteries it was all but invisible in public, and Welsh speakers had no rights. Small wonder that so many people drifted away from a language which they were told had no future and nothing to offer their children. English was the key to a more prosperous life; English was progress.

The first stirrings of a change in attitudes among Welsh speakers can be traced back to the village of Llangennech in the 1950s where Eileen and Trevor Beasley decided to ask Llanelli Rural District Council if they could receive their rates bill in Welsh. The council, whose staff were almost all Welsh speaking, served an area which was still overwhelmingly Welsh-speaking. It refused the Beasleys’ modest request and dug its heels in. In the years that followed, the couple were taken to court on 16 occasions, and many of their possessions were confiscated by bailiffs who carted off the family piano, wedding presents and anything else which was deemed to be of value.

After eight years and at huge personal cost, the Beasleys eventually won their battle with dignity, and Eileen has often been compared to Rosa Parks whose refusal to give up her whites only seat on a bus was one of the events which triggered the US civil rights movement and the battle to end segregation.

Eileen and Rosa may have won their battles, but hostility towards the Welsh language in Wales and black people in the United States remain deeply ingrained in officialdom and sections of the public. “Black lives matter” is so evidently true that the shocking thing is that it even needs to be said.

If proof were needed that prejudice and bigotry are alive and well, the BBC this week broadcast an edition of its Week In Week Out programme which happily trotted out the old myth that the Welsh language is expensive and irrelevant.

Ahead of the broadcast, the BBC was forced to remove statements based on false calculations of the cost to local authorities of complying with the new Welsh language standards regulations. In response to complaints, the BBC issued a half-hearted apology saying that the “data was not robust”.

The broadcast nevertheless went ahead, and viewers were served up with a depressingly familiar one-sided diatribe against the Welsh language, including a claim that having to employ staff on reception desks who can speak Welsh would double the number of staff needed, presumably because a Welsh speaking receptionist would be incapable of dealing with people speaking English.

Week In Week Out spent a lot of trundling around Torfaen and Merthyr Tydfil asking locals what they thought about their councils being forced to spend millions of pounds on the Welsh language, but the programme also managed to squeeze in a cameo appearance from Michaela Beddows who is one of the leaders of a campaign to save the children of Llangennech from the evils of Welsh medium education.

Back to Llangennech

The row about the infant and junior schools in Llangennech has been rumbling on for almost six months now. The proposal, backed by the governors and the county council, is to merge the two schools and create a single Welsh medium primary on the same site to serve the village. The English stream would be phased out, but children whose parents opted for English medium education would continue to be taught through English until they complete their time in the school. After that, parents who do not want their children to be taught through the medium of Welsh would take their children to other English medium primaries close by, of which there are several.

According to the 2011 census, 39.9% of the population of Llangennech ward, which extends beyond the village, were Welsh-speaking, and the junior school’s Welsh stream has been proving to be very popular. 73% of the children attending the infant and junior schools are in the Welsh stream, with just 27% receiving their education through the medium of English. Also, contrary to claims made by opponents of the scheme, 75% of the children in the school are from its catchment area.

The proposal to phase out the English stream went to public consultation, with representations from parents and others who were both for and against the change. Parents who cannot speak Welsh and who have never mastered another language apart from English will understandably have questions and concerns about Welsh medium education.

Will my child cope? Will their English suffer? What help is available?

Inevitably, parents facing change tend to see themselves and their children in isolation, but they are by no means the first to switch to Welsh medium. Councils and the government could do a lot more to explain the advantages, and to share the experiences of schools which have phased out English medium.

There is overwhelming evidence that being able to function in more than one language gives children many advantages, including improved cognitive and communication skills. Children with more than one language tend to be more creative when processing information; they learn new languages more easily; are better at multi-tasking, listening and problem solving; and they also outperform children in spatial working memory tasks, such as performing complicated mathematical problems using short-term working memory.

Unlike the 1950s, there are now also many more well-paid jobs and career paths open to Welsh speakers.

Put simply, a Welsh medium education, while it does not come with guarantees, will give your child skills and more choices later in life, and that is why there is growing demand for Welsh medium education, including secondary education in areas where the percentages of those able to speak the language are far, far lower than in Llangennech. In Torfaen, which featured so heavily on Week In Week Out, there is Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw, and Newport is about to get its first ever Welsh medium secondary school, to name but two.

In Carmarthenshire, the county council adopted a new Welsh language strategy a couple of years ago, part of which involves moving its schools along the so-called language continuum to increase the provision of Welsh medium education. This is in line with government policy, and was supported by 73 of the council’s 74 councillors, including the unanimous backing of the Labour group.

The problems start when policy is put into practice. Some parents back change, recognising the benefits for their children and the wider community. Others may have concerns, but are open to reason and persuasion. And then there is always a hard core who reject Welsh medium education for their children, stick their fingers in their ears and yell about freedom of choice while denying their children the choices which bilingual children have.

Inevitably, these campaigns always attract the attentions of political opportunists, nasties and nutters, and that is exactly what has happened in Llangennech where a small hard core of objectors has been conducting a campaign which has descended into bullying, intimidation and abuse, with various interlopers enthusiastically fanning the flames.

Apartheid

One of those who shipped up outside the school gates was Father John Plessis, the local Anglican vicar, dressed up like an old-fashioned Catholic priest in an ankle length cassock with silk buttons and a should-length cape.

Father Plessis has come to Llangennech from the north of Ireland via South Africa. Talking to the Llanelli Herald, he held up a placard with quotes from the Bible, and explained why in his view the plans were nothing less than apartheid and segregation. Judging by his placard, Father John’s god would appear to be an English monoglot.

Llangennech predikant du Plessis

Just how phasing out a dual stream English/Welsh system, and replacing it with a school in which children are not separated on the basis of language constitutes apartheid is a question the interviewer should perhaps have put to the cleric.

One of the most vocal objectors is Michaela Beddows, who it will be remembered popped up on Week In Week Out. Beddows says she is concerned about the impact on children with learning disabilities. She is the mother of a 15 year-old child who, funnily enough, no longer attends the primary school, but that is not going to stop her campaigning to deny Welsh medium education for other children in the school, and she has vowed to fight to the bitter end.

Beddows was one of the ringleaders of a group which organised a march by objectors into the school to harangue the school governors who had called a meeting to discuss the plans with parents. Unsurprisingly, parents who took a different view felt it wise to stay away from the event.

Calpolgate

Taking time off from yelling at staff and governors of the school, Beddows recently told her followers on Facebook of a run-in she had had with staff at her local Morrisons. After her son complained of earache, she went on a shopping spree and loaded her trolley up with goodies including Ibuprofen and two different products containing paracetamol.

The poor woman at the checkout had to inform La Beddows of rules restricting the bulk purchase of medicines, and that she could only buy two of the three. Beddows insisted on calling over the supervisor before venting her spleen on the store’s customer services and the store manager, all of whom she vilifies on her Facebook page.

Llangennech Beddows clip 2

Thanks to these jobsworths, she declares, “two pretty sick children will not be getting their medicine tonight”, before storming off, vowing never to shop in Morrisons again. The staff can breathe a sigh of relief.

The Spanish Civil War comes to Llangennech

It will come as no surprise to readers of Jac o’ the North to know that one of Beddows’ buddies on Facebook is local Labour community councillor, Gary Robert Jones, aka Poumista, who seems to spend most of his waking hours on Twitter, and Jones has been assiduously fanning the flames in Llangennech.

As readers may also recall, one of Jones’s best buddies is Labour’s human megaphone, Rosemary Emery, who declared on this blog that, “compulsory education solely through the medium of Welsh for all at this time does smack of facism”.

Emery’s CV includes a stint as researcher for Keith ‘Chardonnay’ Davies, the previous Labour Assembly Member for Llanelli, and she is now busy beating the PR drum for Lee Waters.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Poumista Jones and Megamouth Emery see the future of the primary school as a political opportunity, and the question is to what extent their activities have been sanctioned higher up.

Davies was something of a Welsh language mascot for Labour, while Waters appears to be more ambivalent while keeping his hands clean of all the nasty stuff.

A Broad Church

Llanelli Labour’s tactics of being all things to all men (and women) were on public display last week when Carmarthenshire County Council’s Education and Children’s Scrutiny Committee met to consider the next steps in the plans for primary education in Llangennech.

Labour has three members on the committee, and two of those did not turn up, despite being advertised as “expected to attend” on the council’s website. Their places were taken at short notice by the group leader, the lugubrious Jeff Edmunds, and Eryl Jones, a non-entity who was catapulted into chairmanship of the council this year in a manoeuvre designed to keep out a more deserving candidate who had displeased inhabitants of the vipers’ nest.

Edmunds acknowledged that Labour had supported the policy adopted by the council (Labour was actually in charge at the time, he might have added), but he felt uncomfortable applying it in the case of an individual school. Clearly Edmunds had thought that the policy was meant to be window dressing only.

When the matter was taken to a vote, Edmunds and his colleagues decided that the best course was to abstain.

Meanwhile, opponents of Welsh medium education in Llangennech have formed themselves into a committee and set up a website, Keep Llangennech Primary Dual Stream.

Although the self-appointed committee protests that it isn’t against Welsh medium education, the mask slips on the website. Here, various anonymous articles inveigh against the evils of Welsh medium education, the governors, Gwyn Hopkins (the local Plaid councillor) and just about anyone else who disagrees with them.

Most of the writers, who are clearly proud of what English medium education did for them, do not appear to have paid much attention in English lessons. Here are a few of the gems:

Currently English stream children have been upset to be not allowed to be sung happy birthday to them in English as must be Welsh only.

Some parents worry that if the levels of Welsh increases further within the school it will affect pupils currently in the English Stream regardless that it stated that they will finish their education technically within an English stream as the level of Welsh has increase year on year already.

Currently English stream children have been apologising to their parents as arts and crafts projects in school such as Easter Cards have had to be written in Welsh only and pupils feel bad their parents can’t read what they have written.

It must be very traumatic to be faced with the words “Pasg Hapus”, and you have to feel sorry for the kids who have to apologise and spell things out for their dumb parents.

The latest contribution was written in the wake of the Scrutiny Committee meeting where the Director of Education had ‘revealed’, shock horror, that children in the reception classes were being taught in Welsh.

This has been the case for years, and is standard practice in dual stream schools, where parents are asked to choose between the Welsh and English streams when their children are aged 7.

The outrage felt by objectors raises the question of just how much interest they actually take in the education of their offspring, because clearly they had not noticed that their children were being taught in Welsh:

Another dark grey cloud called “lack of integrity” blows over and settles firmly above the roof of Llangennech School this morning. It was during the Education & Children Scrutiny Committee in Carmarthen on the 23rd May, where discussions were being made about the controversial proposed change of language category for Llangennech school from Dual Stream to Welsh Medium, where Rob Sully the Director of Education & Children and Gareth Morgans Head of Education Services confirmed to parents of pupils in the school for the first time ever that Derbyn 1 and Derbyn 2 were not currently bilingual classes and in fact they are Welsh Medium classes already.

The rant continues with attacks on the school staff and accusations of lying and corruption, finally ending with a threat that parents will up sticks and take their children to Swansea:

However the corruption surrounding this school is now driving many parents in search for other avenues to educate their children, some looking at home-schooling others are considering the likes of Pontarddulais school so to come under Swansea Council area, removing their children from illegal enforcement of the Welsh Language and Lies.

Responding to this and other online abuse, Gareth Jones, the council’s Board Member for Education, on Friday released the following statement:

Llangennech statement Gareth Jones

Unfortunately for everyone concerned, the battle still has a very long way to go. The Scrutiny Committee met to consider the outcome of a statutory public consultation. Their recommendations will now go forward to the council’s Executive Board. If the proposal is approved there, there will be a second and near-identical consultation beginning in September, with another, near-identical report from the education department.

The report will then return to the Scrutiny Committee, which will pass it on to the Executive Board, which will pass its decision on to the full council for ratification some time in 2017.

If the aim of this process had been to prolong uncertainty and encourage bitter battles, the civil service which devised it could not have done a better job, and reform of the statutory consultation process must now be a priority.

In the meantime, the council must hold its nerve, and Carwyn Jones, Lee Waters and others need to read the Riot Act to their supporters.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ END ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

JAC COMMENTS . . . 

We’ve been here before; an assortment of oddballs and bigots shrieking about ‘discrimination’ and ‘oppression’ – even ‘apartheid’! – having been stirred up by ‘Welsh’ Labour hoping to blame it all on ‘intolerant’ nashies and then reap the political dividend.

The Reverend Dr Plessis

The ‘apartheid’ slander came from a man wearing a full-length clerical habit who wasn’t on his way to a stag night. The Reverend Dr John K Plessis is an Ulster Protestant who has washed up in Llanelli via South Africa, Reading, Haverfordwest, Cardiff, Swansea and God knows where else, and is a clergyman in the Church in Wales.

Perhaps his Six Counties origins have conditioned him against the language of the indigenous population to the extent that he regards Welsh as a threat to his ‘British heritage’ (a much-loved term among Ulster Loyalists).

Llangennech Dr Father Plessis

I’m surprised by Plessis’ behaviour because the duty of the Church is surely to bring people together, but Plessis has taken sides, and accuses others of being divisive, while seeing nothing divisive in his own behaviour. (What does the Good Book say of motes and beams?)

But then, I suppose he might be representative of the Anglo-Catholic wing of the English national Church, though were I his bishop I’d be inclined to help this rootless individual keep moving.

 ‘Thou hypocrite’, indeed.

Michaela Beddows

I don’t know much about Michaela Beddows beyond what she’s told me herself, on her Facebook page, for which I am indebted to our guest writer and the link provided. But in case that post has been removed by the time you read this, I’ve saved it for you here.

Those who did not submit to Beddows in the ‘Calpolgate’ episode at Morrisons are described thus: ” . . . the checkout operator was a complete and utter jobsworth, no personality and pretty gormless, the Till Manager was arrogant, cocky and downright rude, obviously being a till manager has gone to her pretty vacant head – and the Manager of the store was a bumbling buffoon who should grow a pair of balls”.

‘Unhelpful’ or ‘incompetent’ are clearly inadequate descriptions, Beddows has to be very personal and insulting to people she doesn’t know. Which says much more about Michaela Beddows than it could ever tell us about those she thinks she’s describing.

Though the encounter with the “arrogant, cocky and downright rude” till manager might have been mildly disconcerting for her, one of those ‘doppelgänger moments’. Like looking in a mirror.

Being a student of modern English usage I was also struck by a phrase she used earlier in her diatribe. It reads, “I wasn’t happy that my daughter had also come in from school complaining of ear and throat ache”. ‘I wasn’t happy’, or ‘I’m not happy’ invariably means that the person using the phrase is annoyed with someone or something. (And who else had come in from school complaining of ear and throat ache?)

So who was Beddows annoyed with for her daughter’s ear and throat ache? If I had to guess, it would be the school, or the teachers. I say that because Michaela Beddows is obviously a ‘shouty’ sort of woman who’s in love with the sound of her own voice, while being blind to her own shortcomings, one who takes pleasure in putting people down.

In short, a bully, and just the sort of person I’d expect to find prominent in a campaign of blind bigotry.

Jones the Stirrer

Regular readers with recall – with unbridled joy, I’m sure – that in a recent post I wrote of Gary Robert Jones, and Rosemary Emery, comrades in the ongoing struggle against the encroaching forces of darkness.

Jones is a Labour community councillor in Llangennech, and takes his wit and wisdom to a wider world via his Twitter account @Poumista, the name taken from a Spanish Communist Party active during the Civil war. He has been seen at recent gatherings of the protesters energising the mob.

Hardly Napoleon addressing the Old Guard, more like some malodorous commissar spewing bullshit to keep the comrades motivated. But as our guest writer wonders, how far up the ‘Welsh’ Labour food chain does approval for this campaign reach?

Seeing as Jones is clearly given free rein by his superiors we must assume that he has their blessing, perhaps even their encouragement, because ‘Welsh’ Labour shares Joe Stalin’s attitudes towards independence of thought or action.

‘Penyfai’

I shall end with another priceless example of the sort of people who support the anti-Welsh campaign in Llangennech. Here’s a gem gleaned from this article in the Evening Post of May 23rd.

Llangennech 'Penyfai' comment

Rarely do we encounter such a brief message that says so much. ‘Penyfai’ is opposed to “monolingualism” . . . and there was me thinking that the teaching of Welsh was leading us towards a bilingual Wales.

And yet, with his / her attitude towards the Welsh language, ‘Penyfai’ is surely advocating monolingualism in Wales?

The most revealing bit though is where ‘Penyfai’ says that unless “Cymraeg coercion” is ended he / she “will refuse to buy any Welsh produce in future”. That’s telling ’em . . . until you start to wonder what Pwllheli rock, or Penclawdd cockles, Brains beer or Welsh lamb, etc., etc., have to do with a school dispute on the outskirts of Llanelli.

‘Penyfai’, like all bigots, would, I’m sure, want others to follow his / her example – and put tens of thousands of Welsh people out of work! What an absolute arsehole!!! I wonder what Plessis, Beddows and Jones have to say about their comrade in arms ‘Penyfai’? . . . but then, maybe one of them is ‘Penyfai’.

Whoever it is, this cretin serves to bring home the message that for many of those involved in the Llangennech dispute – and those outside the area who support them – this is not simply about teaching in a particular school, or even about the Welsh language, at bottom this is an attack on everything Welsh.

Fitting, then, that it should be orchestrated by anti-Welsh Labour, acting true to form. The repulsive George Thomas must be looking up approvingly from his final resting place.

UPDATE 30.05.2016: The website of the anti-Welsh has today added a report from the Llanelli Herald, without realising how critical of them that report is. You don’t need to read between the lines to understand that it says, ‘Their kids have been taught in Welsh for five years and they didn’t realise it! What sort of parents are these?’

Llangennech Llanelli Herald

CLICK TO ENLARGE

It also makes you wonder who’s really running this campaign, and where they’re from. Because as the Guardian report says, whoever put out the press release about kids being ‘secretly’ taught in Welsh – for five years! – can’t even spell Llangennech!

May 232016
 

SHADOWS

In a sense, this is a follow-up to my previous post, due to the fact that more information has come to hand on the behaviour of ‘Mill Bay Homes’ and those it employs. But before going into that I’d like to clarify a little more the status of this curious outfit.

In my previous post I made it clear that ‘Mill Bay Homes’ is not a charity registered with the Charity Commission; it’s not a company in the accepted sense of that term either, Incorporated with Companies House; nor is it a Registered Social Landlord (with the ‘Welsh’ Government), as housing associations are supposed to be; though it might, just might, be registered as an Industrial and Provident Society with the Financial Conduct Authority, as most housing associations are.

The problem with the IPS possibility is that ‘Mill Bay Homes’ has submitted nothing to the FCS since April 2013, putting it out of compliance and suggesting that it is no longer registered.

Another mystery is why ‘Mill Bay Homes’ continues to claim that it is a RSL – quoting registration number L124 – when it does not appear on the ‘Welsh’ Government’s register of social landlords. My suspicion is that this registration was ‘inherited’. Let me explain.

Something called Pembrokeshire Housing 2000 was formed in December 1998 and the name changed to ‘Mill Bay Homes’ at the end of February 2012. Though what’s important is that Pembrokeshire Housing 2000 was almost certainly a registered social landlord, and was definitely a registered IPS, and I believe that those registrations transferred to MBH. That is . . .

Until it became obvious, even to the ‘Welsh’ Government, that ‘Mill Bay Homes’ is a purely commercial, profit-making enterprise. A similar realisation probably explains its lapsed IPS registration.

MBH change of name

Though perhaps what’s really weird is that the ‘Welsh’ Government’s own Housing Regulation Team (HRT) seems to buy into the fiction of ‘Mill Bay Homes’ being both a RSL and a company limited by guarantee. Read it for yourself under ‘Description of the Group’, in this HRT Financial Viability Statement from 2015 for the Pembrokeshire Housing group. So much for ‘Welsh’ Government monitoring!

Which perhaps leaves the final question, ‘Why did Pembrokeshire Housing 2000 morph into ‘Mill Bay Homes’ and why did it happen when it did?

In the previous post we looked at the case of Help to Buy being offered to a close friend of the Land and Construction Manager at ‘Mill Bay Homes’. So might Help to Buy hold the key?

The Help to Buy scheme was introduced in April 2013, in a new financial year, but it would have been known about for some time before that. Help to Buy is only available to house builders and sellers, so a RSL like Pembrokeshire Housing, dealing solely with rented property, would not have been able to access Help to Buy. Does this explain why ‘Mill Bay Homes’ was formed – to help Pembrokeshire Housing cash in on Help to Buy?

The real questions now are, why is ‘Mill Bay Homes’, a company that exists in name only, allowed to build and sell property? More importantly, why is this non-existent company entrusted with allocating Help to Buy loans by the ‘Welsh’ Government?

The time has come for intervention. The ‘Welsh’ Government must now step in and investigate every single Help to Buy application processed by ‘Mill Bay Homes’. If necessary, Dyfed Powys Police must also be involved. Turning a blind eye, which appears to be what the ‘Welsh’ Government has done up to now, is not an option.

*

NEIGHBOUR FROM HELL

Also in the previous post I touched on the problems caused for neighbours by the activities of so-called ‘Mill Bay Homes’ in its development at Pentlepoir. Evidence has now reached me that makes the scale and severity of the problems even clearer.

As I explained in that previous post, one property was modified to suit the purchaser – and recipient of Help to Buy – Adam Karl Uka, close personal friend of Nick Garrod, Land and Construction Manager for ‘Mill Bay Homes’. To give you some idea what neighbours had to endure in this ‘tailoring’ exercise, consider these photographs taken when the dwelling was being constructed last summer.

The one on the left shows how close the digger was coming to the boundary wall of one property, with the centre picture making it clear that sometimes the digger got too close, while the one on the right gives a longer range view. (Click to enlarge.)

MBH Pentlepoir composite

Very worrying, I’m sure you’ll agree. And matters were probably not helped by ‘Mill Bay Homes’ practice of employing contractors who then subcontract out to those who actually do the work.

On the Pentlepoir site the site manager was Tom Whelan. He can be seen in the picture below (right) with (it is believed) Peter Maggs, the group chief executive. This photograph was taken in August last year, the day before an injunction hearing in Haverfordwest. It is suggested they are discussing the best way of covering their tracks.

Maggs and Phelan

Incidentally, Mr Whelan seems to have been a bit of a lad. In October he did a moonlight flit back to Ireland owing a local lady from whom he’d rented a room over one thousand pounds. I’m told she’s still waiting for the money. Perhaps she should claim it from ‘Mill Bay Homes’?

Though I have to ask why they needed to employ an Irish site manager, couldn’t they find one locally? Or was he recruited on the same principle that the Mob brings in hit men from out of town – because they won’t hang around and spill the beans?

On the same day, residents of a nearby property, whilst photographing and recording these last-minute activities, on the instructions of their solicitor, and from their own property, nearly suffered serious injury.

Recorded in this video, parts of which have been deliberately pixelated. Personally, I would have shown the buggers, because there is no question in my mind that one of the workmen tells the digger driver what to do and the others seem to be in the know.

Mill Bay Homes digger

The house being built let me remind you is the ‘bespoke’ residence for Adam Karl Uka. And the trouble was all due to the modified dwelling being bigger than planned, bigger than the dwelling that had received planning permission, which meant it had to encroach right up to neighbouring boundaries.

But never mind, because Uka is a long-time friend of Nick Garrod. So nothing’s too much for him . . . and sod the neighbours!

The only conclusion to draw from everything I’ve learnt about ‘Mill Bay Homes’ is that it’s a seriously out of control organisation. Partly because no restraint is exercised by the nominal parent body, Pembrokeshire Housing; nor by the true parent body, Pembrokeshire County Council.

It is now up to the ‘Welsh’ Government to step in and put a stop to the corruption, the contempt for planning regulations, the intimidation and all the other problems being inflicted on Pembrokeshire by a body that doesn’t officially exist.

~~~~~~~~~~ END ~~~~~~~~~~

I’m off for a few days now, but Big Gee will check on the comments from time to time. I may even get a chance myself. For the next piece I’m hoping to have a guest post on the increasingly bitter campaign against Welsh language education in a Llanelli suburb.

 

May 202016
 

BACKGROUND

In recent months I have written a number of times about Pembrokeshire Housing and its alleged ‘subsidiary’, Mill Bay Homes. First with Social Housing, Time to End This Lunacy; then Mill Bay Homes, Tai Ceredigion, Answers Needed; next in Shorts & Updates for St. David’s Day (scroll down); and most recently in Housing Associations – All Change? (scroll down);

The claim is that Pembrokeshire Housing is a provider of rented social housing and that Mill Bay Homes exists to build open market properties with the money from the sales passed back to the parent body. Except that . . .

The problem with that interpretation is that no one at either Pembrokeshire Housing or the ‘Welsh’ Government can say that money has ever been passed from Mill Bay to Pembrokeshire Housing, despite Mill Bay having a number of completed developments to its name. There are also other doubts attaching to Mill Bay Homes:

  • Although apparently registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (28837R) no accounts have been filed since October 2013.
  • Mill Bay Homes is not registered with Companies House.
  • Mill Bay Homes is unknown to the Charity Commission.
  • Despite statements made by both Pembrokeshire Housing and the ‘Welsh’ Government Mill Bay Homes is not a Registered Social Landlord.

The final point is a real puzzler. Because in its financial viability statement of 2015, under ‘Description of the Group’ the ‘Welsh’ Government says, “All three organisations – i.e. Pembrokeshire Housing, Mill Bay Homes and Pembrokeshire Care & Repair – are registered social landlords”. Yet a quick check of its own register would show that only Pembrokeshire Housing is a RSL.

I believe that whatever route we take trying to establish the existence of Mill Bay Homes we always arrive at the same ‘destination’ – Mill Bay Homes is a façade, a flag of convenience used by Pembrokeshire Housing when it builds properties for sale, to ‘investors’, and retirees. Yet the pretence must be maintained, and cash provided to the mythical ‘Mill Bay Homes’ so that Pembrokeshire Housing can build open market properties.

This sham of parent and subsidiary is maintained in the Pembrokeshire Housing Association’s Report and Financial Statements for year ended 31st March 2015, which tells us that over six million pounds was loaned to a “subsidiary company”. But as Mill Bay Homes does not exist, this must be read as Pembrokeshire Housing putting aside £6m for the building of open market properties.

Pembs Housing loan to MBH

The question then becomes, ‘What is the ultimate source of the funding Pembrokeshire Housing uses to build properties for sale to ‘investors’ and retirees. The answer is, almost certainly, the ‘Welsh’ Government. Money given to Pembrokeshire Housing for social housing is being used for speculative developments from which properties have been sold to buy-to-let investors and people wishing to retire to Pembrokeshire from England.

If you thought that was bad enough I suggest you make yourself comfortable, because it gets worse, bordering on corruption – certainly favouritism – and possibly misappropriation of public funds; behaviour that may be endemic to Pembrokeshire Housing; behaviour that thrives unchecked due to two factors I shall explore below.

*

FRIENDS 1

Let’s start with a project that has caused considerable disruption and unhappiness, the development in the village of Pentlepoir, near the small town of Saundersfoot on the south Pembrokeshire coast. There the spectral Mill Bay Homes rode roughshod over locals’ concerns and deviated from planning permission with apparent impunity.

Retrospective planning permission was granted without a quibble when it was realised that one of the four-bedroom houses being built deviated from the original planning permission in a number of ways: for example, being taller than planned (thereby looking into a pre-existing property), and also being nearer to that pre-existing property than originally promised.

In fact, this particular property underwent so many adaptations, both inside and out, to suit the person lined up to buy it, that it was described as a “bespoke” dwelling. On this illustration (from the ‘Mill Bay’ website) the property I’m describing is on the far right of the picture, and is now known as 35 Coppins Park, Pentlepoir. You’ll see that it’s the prime location on this site, enjoying greater privacy than the other properties and having considerably more land.

Coppins Park

Naturally, I got to wondering how much these four-bedroom houses sell for, and Googling found that they’ve been selling for around £235,000 through Pembrokeshire estate agent FBM’s Tenby Office. This is almost certainly Pembrokeshire Housing’s asking price. But what of the ‘bespoke’ dwelling, on which so much extra work was lavished? Next stop, the Land Registry.

There I learnt that despite all the extra work, the expense of retrospective planning permission, and despite it being the most desirable of the properties, No 35 sold for a rather disappointing £245,475. Somebody got a bargain, so who was the lucky buyer? The answer is a Mr Adam Karl Uka, read the Land Registry details for yourself.

Not only was he lucky with the purchase price, but the title document tells us that Mr Uka also landed himself a handout from the Help to Buy scheme. One aspect of Pembrokeshire Housing’s operations not yet mentioned is the provision of Help to Buy, designed to help first-time buyers and those moving into new-build properties.

Mill Bay Help to Buy

So who is Adam Karl Uka? According to his Facebook page he went to Greenhill School in Tenby, the University of the West of England, and he’s an insurance broker for Antur Insurance of Swansea (though he may work from home).

So how might Mr Uka have got so lucky with a ‘bespoke’ house and Help to Buy? The answer may not be unconnected with the fact that he’s a close personal friend of Nick (or Nicky) Garrod, Land and Construction Manager at the ethereal Mill Bay Homes.

Garrod also attended Greenhill School and also went on to the University of the West of England. This is Garrod’s Linkedin profile and this his Facebook page. Here’s a cover photo from his Facebook page with a comment by Adam Uka.

Nicky Garrod Facebook

Below is another photo from Garrod’s Facebook page showing him (left) and Uka (centre). In fact, Garrod and Uka seem to run with a crowd of local Hoorays who enjoy dressing up. Excruciatingly juvenile I know, but nonetheless revealing.

Garrod is also the club captain of Trefloyne Golf Club, just outside Tenby. (Why does that not surprise me?)

Garrod and Uka

Now the case of Adam Karl Uka and 35 Coppins Park throws up a number of questions:

  • Would Uka have secured Help to Buy if it had not been for his friendship with Garrod?
  • The answer is almost certainly no; so how can this be reconciled with the Buy to Let rules: “The contract for Help to Buy – Wales states that an eligible purchaser is a person who is not connected with the ‘Provider’, therefore you cannot sell to friends and family“.
  • Was the extra work done on Uka’s house added to the purchase price?
  • If not, who bears the cost? Because if it’s Pembrokeshire Housing then that almost certainly means the Welsh public purse.
  • How many other friends and family of Pembrokeshire Housing / ‘Mill Bay Homes’ employees have received preferential treatment?
  • How many buyers have secured Help to Buy via Pembrokeshire Housing and other bodies who might not have been entitled?
  • Seeing as ‘Mill Bay Homes’ targets them has Help to Buy been secured by buy-to-let investors?

*

FRIENDS 2

Another project where Pembrokeshire Housing is causing problems by trying to disregard the legitimate concerns of local people is in Cilgerran. Many of the local residents are concerned over inadequate drainage at the mooted new development leading to the risk of flooding.

Fortunately my collaborator, the indefatigable Wynne Jones, is on the case. In addition to being an Incorporated Engineer Wynne also belongs to the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, which almost certainly gives him the edge over Garrod and his gang when it comes to the subject of flooding.

Pembrokeshire Housing was hoping to push ahead with the Cilgerran development in advance of planning permission, without adequate surveys of the flooding risk and other important considerations, but why were they so cocky? The answer lies with the body that should have been exercising restraint and considering the interests of those living nearby. I am of course referring now to Pembrokeshire County Council.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at the council’s insouciance. For Nick Garrod worked for Pembrokeshire County Council immediately before transferring to Pembrokeshire Housing. Matthew Owens, Operation Manager for the fictional Mill Bay Homes, is also believed to have worked for the local authority.

Then there are the councillors co-opted to Pembrokeshire Housing plus, sitting on the Board, ex-councillor Yvonne Evans BA. (She also served as Chair of Pembrokeshire Housing Two Thousand Ltd, before it changed its name to ‘Mill Bay Homes’ on February 28th, 2012.) And let’s not forget Christina Hirst, who has in her time been principal planning officer for the council and chair of ‘Mill Bay’.

There have been so many comings and goings between Pembrokeshire County Council and Pembrokeshire Housing that it’s almost impossible to keep track, or tell the two bodies apart.

Cilgerran sign

All you need to know is that Pembrokeshire Housing and the spectral Mill Bay Homes are controlled by, and to some degree act as a department of, Pembrokeshire County Council. This explains why Pembrokeshire Housing, whether acting in its own name of that of its ‘subsidiary’, can do what it damn well likes, disregard planning law and other regulations, and completely ignore the victims of its contempt, a contempt that has occasionally spilled over into threats.

This is not how Registered Social Landlords (housing associations) are supposed to behave. They are expected to have a businesslike relationship with local authorities. They are not supposed to be taken over by local authorities, to become a law unto themselves, and to terrorise communities in their fiefdom. But this is what has happened – and continues to happen – in Pembrokeshire.

Even so, there should have been oversight from a higher authority, namely the ‘Welsh’ Government.

*

THE SLEEPING WATCHDOG

Last August someone warned the Help to Buy Fund that there had been, or might soon be, a ‘problematic’ application. Ms Lewis-Jones confirmed that no application had been received for the ‘bespoke’ property in Pentlepoir, but promised that “appropriate measures will be taken” if one is received. Of course.

Uka Help to Buy e-mails

Then there’s the worry of the ‘investors’ that the wraith-like Mill Bay Homes is so keen to attract. Wynne Jones has repeatedly sought assurances that investors have not accessed the Help to Buy fund. The response has been obfuscation, evasion and, most recently, a silly claim by Laura Brown, Marketing Housing Officer of the Help to Buy – Wales fund, that the information is exempt under S.40 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Wynne has responded by telling Ms Brown that all personal information may be redacted. He simply wants to know, as a taxpayer and a council tax payer, how many of the investors purchasing from Pembrokeshire Housing, in either of its guises, has received Help to Buy. A very reasonable request. He still awaits a response after his most recent e-mail on April 28th.

So what the hell is going on with housing associations?Pentlepoir

To answer that you have to understand that the ‘Welsh’ Government is no real government, just a conduit for funding received from the UK government or the EU. That being so, it simply wants to get rid of the money it’s received and pretend that it’s all been well spent, with no jiggery-pokery.

To achieve this state of delusional bliss the ‘Welsh’ Government must avoid making enquiries that might – God forbid! – uncover wrongdoing, so ‘self-assessment’, relying on everyone giving a good report on their behaviour, is the rule. Maybe it works thus:

‘Did you rob the Glasgow to London train, Mr Biggs?’

‘Er, no. And call me Ronnie.’

‘That’s good enough for me, Ronnie; off you go in your shiny new Jag’.

Which means that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer or a Faceless One in Brussels asks, ‘Has that funding we gave you been well spent?’ the answer is always ‘Yes’. And that’s how the donors want it; straightforward, nothing messy.

And this message percolates down the chain, through the agencies distributing the funding to the recipient bodies. Everyone knows that this is a box-ticking exercise; so everyone has a vested interest in pretending that every penny has been well spent, from politicians and civil servants in London and Brussels down to Fastidia Smokeweed running her EU-funded hedgehog training classes in Cwmscwt.

And because that’s the way it is, this insane system will always be exploited, and countless millions of pounds of public funding will be stolen, misappropriated or wasted – Because nobody wants to know the truth!

CONCLUSION

Let me finish with a few questions for Carwyn Jones and his exciting new team down Cardiff docks. (Well, I’m excited . . . no, honestly. OK, I’m lying.)

  • Do you believe that housing associations should be selling properties to buy-to-let investors?
  • Do you believe that housing associations should be attracting retirees from England?
  • Do you really believe it’s the job of housing associations – even when acting through fictitious ‘subsidiaries’ – to build four-bedroom, detached houses for open market sale?
  • Don’t you think it might be a good idea if you started checking on housing associations rather than just accepting their word that everything’s hunky-dory? (Cos what else are they gonna say?) 
  • Does anyone we can trust check on who gets Help to Buy loans?

~~~~~~~~~~ END ~~~~~~~~~~

May 122016
 

As you know, I detest the Labour Party in general and its ‘Welsh’ branch with a special vehemence. My contempt for Labour is due primarily to the damage Labour has done to Wales over the past century, summed up in my post Why I Detest The ‘Welsh’ Labour Party.

But my contempt is also attributable to the self-serving scumbags drawn to Labour because it controls Wales and therefore has the power of patronage and funding. These creatures can end up as elected representatives or Third Sector parasites sucking billions of pounds from the Welsh public purse. Often both, for there is a constant to-ing and fro-ing between these sectors.

Inevitably, my criticisms of the Labour Party draw attacks from that quarter. One famous incident occurred  just over a year ago when the leading reporter of the Wasting Mule, a known Labour supporter, got a blogger friend to publish attacks on me which he then repeated in his rag.

You can follow this despicable episode here with the following posts: I Must Be Doing Something Right! (Jan 28, 2015); Now I KNOW I’m Doing Something Right! (Feb 3, 2015); Helping A Man In A Hole (Feb 5, 2015); OMG! I Have Offended The ‘Progressives’! (Feb 10, 2015); Where Is Franz Kafka When You Need Him? (Mar 1, 2015). In this final post I published the apology I extracted from Trinity Mirror, the owners of the Mule, published both online (shown below) and in the rag itself on February 27th.

Wales Online apology 1

Over the years, in this blog and the previous blog, I have highlighted corruption within the Third Sector by people with strong Labour Party connections, I reminded people that Naz Malik of AWEMA fame began his political career in the race relations racket by regularly attacking ‘racist Welsh nationalists’ for his Labour funders.

I have enjoyed laughing at the Labour group on Swansea council, led by a preening prat from Liverpool reliant on immature students who are also strangers to the city!

Small wonder then that I have made an enemy of ‘Welsh’ Labour, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. For I understand better than most – and better than many in Plaid Cymru – that the real obstacle to achieving a better Wales is the Labour Party. It must be smashed as the SNP has done in Scotland.

This approach inevitably results in regular attacks on me in social media and elsewhere by Labour’s defenders, but rarely as frontal and crude as the Parry-Shipton assault last year. Though some try, such as a woman I’d never heard of until she opened up on me with both barrels.

It all started when @DilysDavies tweeted me a link to an article on the Grauniad website by Michael White. White wondered why Neil Hamilton had been elected to the Assembly and mused, “What could Wales . . . have been thinking of when it elected him on Thursday? Probably of immigration and job security”. To which I responded:

Twitter 1

I urge you to note that I say “many” of UKIP’s votes come from English people who have moved to west Wales. That is, “many”, not ‘most’, and certainly not ‘all’. As far as I was concerned, that was it.

This tweet of mine prompted a response from @CwmniDB, a David Bullock, reminding me of UKIP’s support “in old coalfield seats where there’s little immigration from England”. Very true, I have written about this phenomenon more than once.

Here, for example, is my post on the 2014 Euro elections. For other posts in which I search for the answer to UKIP’s appeal in Wales just type UKIP or Ukip (I’m never sure) in the search box.

Twitter 3

The next contribution came from the person hinted at earlier, a clearly outraged @RosemaryEmery. She is a member of the Labour Party in Llanelli. She was “shocked”. (In my experience, Labour people are very easily ‘shocked’.)

Twitter 5

We exchanged a number of tweets – God! it was fun – and it became clear that what ‘shocked’ her was my use of the term immigrant to describe English people who move to Wales. (The fact that David Bullock had also used the term seemed not to bother her at all.)

I argued that anyone moving from one country to another was an immigrant to the country he or she moved to, and that this spat she had engineered depended on whether one believed that Wales and England are different countries. To which she responded, ” . . . we are all citizens of Britain and there are no border controls.”

In an attempt to explain that it’s quite possible to have different nations and countries in the same state, I used the example of Tibet . . . which is when it got a bit weird.

Twitter 6

Now I don’t deny that I’m partial to the odd allusion, the well-chosen analogy, but I used Tibet in order to vividly explain the suffering that can befall a minority identity in a multinational state, I was certainly not arguing that there is a valid comparison between Tibet and Wales. Rosemary Emery had other ideas, and clearly another agenda.

A few more tweets were exchanged then we were joined by @poumista, who is Gary Robert Jones, another Labour Party member from Llanelli. I was fairly sure that his handle referred to a Spanish communist party from the Civil War days, I remembered that from Homage to Catalonia. Just to be sure I asked him, you can see his response below.

Twitter 8

How reassuring to know that the Labour Party in 2016 contains class warriors still fighting the Spanish Civil War. Jesus!

Anyway, I eventually tired of Dozy Rosie and Señor Jones and ended the illuminating exchange. After which I got a message with the rather sinister hashtag #WeWillBeWatching, which I could only interpret to mean that I was being monitored by deranged members of ‘Welsh’ Labour.

So I decided to complain to their party headquarters, confident of redress, and reassurance . . . or something. As yet, I have had no response, perhaps they’re busy with something.

Twitter 7

I wouldn’t have bothered you with Dozy Rosie and Comrade Jones were it not for the fact that this is all of a pattern. Just as with the Parry-Shipton comedy duo last year I was again accused of saying things I hadn’t said, thoughts were ascribed to me that I don’t hold, and there was always the lurking suspicion that there was someone ‘further back’ controlling these people.

And of course my exchange with the delusional duo in Llanelli came soon after the Assembly elections, during which Labour behaved so badly. Perhaps the worst example was the trade union Unison putting out lies about Plaid Cymru’s policies. I’m not surprised by that, Labour tells lies, that’s how it hangs on to power in Wales.

What did surprise me is that Plaid leader Leanne Wood is a member of Unison. For fuck’s sake, when are these people going to wake up and see Labour and its subsidiary organisations for what they really are?

Well, after the shenanigans on Wednesday, when the other parties challenged Labour’s divine right to rule by supporting Leanne Wood for First Minister, and the Labour lie machine went into overdrive, perhaps those in Plaid Cymru who had a lingering affection for ‘fellow-socialists’ will finally have woken up.

I suspect that a debilitating spell may finally have been lifted.

Carwyn vote

Photo courtesy of BBC Wales

‘Welsh’ Labour is rattled, its share of the vote is down to a third, it has no allies other than a desperate and lonely woman who has made a tragic miscalculation, and it can see the Scottish scenario approach. Wonderful!

Labour has become a sickness from which Wales has suffered for a century, a synonym for corruption and cronyism, patronage and waste. Labour in our country is a party that serves a different country. It’s time to cure Wales of Labour and make her healthy.

Last year, during my tussle with Parry and Shippo I was accused of calling Labour vermin. Yes, I did call Labour vermin. My one regret is that in using that term I was being unfair to rats and other creatures whose company I would prefer to any verminous bastard connected with the Labour Party.

UPDATE 13.05,2016: I now know a little more about Rosemary Emery and Gary Robert Jones.

Emery is of course English, possibly from Yorkshire, and her Facebook page tells us that she is a supporter of the England rugby team which, as ‘Sosban Fach’ commented, might explain why she has never stood for elected office in Llanelli.Emery England

Jones is a community councillor in Llangennech, and seems to be one of those Labourites who believes that the Welsh language is a nationalist conspiracy, and as such it must be fought tooth and nail. To this end he has been going around Llangennech stirring things up and dividing the community by arguing how divisive it would be for the council to meet the demand for Welsh language education.

Jones got involved with an online petition opposing Welsh language education. The comments make interesting reading, especially as so many of them come from people who cannot possibly be parents with children at Llangennech school. Comments come from Loughor, St Clears, Carmarthen, Swansea, even England! I hope nobody’s paying too much attention to this bigoted tripe!

Something else I found online linked to Jones is a picture of Dennis Coslett’s grave, one of a number of his photographs on the americymru website. Draw your own conclusions.

Returning to England-supporting Emery, she is, as she promised, watching me, and picked up on a tweet I put out earlier about yet another English sex offender turning up in rural Wales. Her tweet reminds us how the Labour Party operates – lies, distortions, non-sequiturs and ascribing views and opinions to opponents that they know to be wrong. (The most popular one at the moment being that Plaid Cymru is in “coalition” with Tories and UKIP.)

Emery sex offenders

Rather than worry about sex offenders being dumped in Wales she uses my tweet to suggest that I don’t mind Welsh sex offenders! On the one hand such tactics are obviously devious and distasteful, but they’re also silly, and on an intellectual level that would almost certainly be surpassed in the playground of Llangennech school . . . in both languages.

So there you are, two fine examples of anti-Welsh Labour. Carwyn Jones must be so proud of them. It’s sad really, because I’m old enough to remember when the Labour Party in Llanelli was Welsh, and a party of the people, led by men of the people like Jim Griffiths.

Now it’s just a refuge for bigots and chancers, dilettantes and poseurs, crooks and wankers, who regard politics as a game, with the purpose of the game being to beat the opposition and keep control of the gravy train, rather than to serve the people and improve their lives.

UPDATE TO UPDATE

As if to prove my point, Emery has just put out the tweet below. “Substitute English for Polish”, says Emery. Why not Bolivian, or Ugandan, or fucking Martian? I couldn’t have asked her to perform better, to prove me right, if I’d written it myself.

1/ She refuses to address the facts as reported by the BBC.

2/ I did not say ‘Polish’ because the man is not Polish, he’s English. (I know this is difficult for Labourites, but it’s called sticking to the facts.)

3/ Rather than address the issue of yet another English sex offender ending up by some route, with the help of some agency, in a small Welsh town, she uses it to link me with UKIP!

Emery sex offender 2

Carry on like this, Emery – and this applies equally to your dilettante-revolutionary friend – and I might conclude that you’re too stupid and / or too dishonest to bother with.

  ~ ~ ~ ~ END ~ ~ ~ ~

May 082016
 

In my previous post I told you that I was going to vote for Independent Louise Hughes as my constituency AM, and that’s what I did. She didn’t win, nobody expected her to win, but she finished fifth in a seven-horse race, above the Lib Dem and Green candidates; the second of those – and bottom of the poll – being Alice Hooker-Stroud, the recently elected leader of the Wales region of the Green Party of Englandandwales. So well done Louise for beating a party leader. (Well, a regional leader anyway.)

Dwyfor-M

CLICK TO ENLARGE

In fact, the poor showing by the Greens was for me one of the highlights of the night. Clearly their electoral appeal has been greatly over-estimated by just about everyone, especially themselves. I don’t think a single Green constituency candidate reached 4% (can’t be bothered to check them all), while on the regional lists, where they might have been expected to do better, they polled just 3%, a drop of 0.5% on 2011.

Not even that grande dame of the local Greens, Pippa Bartolotti, could break through the 3% barrier. What is wrong with the voters of Newport West; they are offered as a candidate the woman who’s led the Greens to the giddy heights they now occupy and yet the fools refused to elect her! Never mind, posterity will I’m sure be gentle on her. For her amanuensis, ex-con Martyn Shrewsbury, is hard at work right now making up excuses for the woman he adores . . . but does she reciprocate? And if so, how? And do you really want to think about it!

The Greens are so adept at self-publicity that we tend to forget what a tiny and insignificant party they really are.

You’ll see from the Dwyfor Meirionnydd constituency figures above that as elsewhere the new ingredient in the mix was UKIP, whose candidate on my patch, Frank Wykes, got 10.6% of the vote. Wykes describes himself as a Cornishman, which is rather disappointing. And this picture (below) don’t do him no favours either. Looks like it’s been taken from inside the female changing room at the local swimming pool . . . possibly with the same phone used to send the unsettling image to the gendarmerie. Leg it, Frankie!

Frank Wykes

The figures suggest that in Dwyfor Meirionnydd it was the Tories who took the hit from UKIP. (So it’s not all bad news.) Though I note with some anger that candidate Neil Fairlamb labels himself ‘Welsh Conservative’. No you are not! – you are an English bloody Conservative who happens to be in Wales; there is nothing Welsh about you apart from your location. I represent that elite and transcendental band of true Welsh Tories, a man without a port of call, a political Flying Dutchman.

On the regional list I voted Liberal Democrat in the hope of seeing William Powell, a very decent and capable man, re-elected, but again, my hopes were dashed. The four elected on the regional list were Joyce Watson and Eluned Morgan for Labour, Simon Thomas for Plaid and – wait for it! – Mr and Mrs Neil Hamilton for UKIP. I mention them both because although Hamilton N. is, technically, the elected Assembly Member, his missus Christine will be doing the thinking and the talking for him.

What really did for William Powell though was not the calibre of the opposition – couldn’t be, could it! – but the re-election of Kirsty Williams in Brecon and Radnor coupled with the general decline in the Lib Dem vote elsewhere. Sad, but that’s how this Labour-biased electoral system operates.

Mid and West Wales

CLICK TO ENLARGE

*

Of course the one result everyone is talking about is Rhondda (make that ‘Rhonnda’ if you’re in UKIP) where Plaid leader Leanne Wood beat the popular and unassuming Labour candidate, Leighton Andrews. Yes, they were dancing in the streets of Treorchy on Friday morning when the result was announced. But then, they’re always dancing in the streets of Treorchy.

Though if you want an illustration of how far the Liberal Democrats have sunk then the Rhondda result provides it. Here the Green candidate got 1.1% of the vote – but still beat the Lib Dem candidate on 0.7%.

The Rhondda result was obviously a victory for a well-respected local candidate, unfortunately Plaid Cymru was unable to repeat this victory elsewhere in the south. Though two results deserve to be mentioned.

First, Neil McEvoy giving Labour a fright in Cardiff West, the first of many frights, I’m sure. Delighted though to see Neil elected on the South Wales Central regional list. I just hope that the Plaid establishment doesn’t ‘get to’ him. Plaid Cymru needs more Neil McEvoys and fewer sons of the manse and masters of cynghanedd, and fewer entryists using the party to promote socialist, environmentalist and other agendas.

And then there was the somewhat overlooked result in Blaenau Gwent. A result that in some ways was more praiseworthy than Rhondda and Cardiff West. There Nigel Copner – a name new to me – came within 650 votes of the winning Labour candidate. In the process local boy Professor Copner increased the Plaid share of the vote by a staggering 31.2%.

Overall, and given the problems being experienced by their rivals (dealt with below) Plaid’s very modest increase in both constituency (+1.3%) and list votes (+3.0%) must be viewed as a failure.

*

For the Conservatives it was also a case of little real change. They must be disappointed to have lost three seats and not to have repeated their 2015 successes in Gower and Vale of Clwyd, though in both constituencies they closed the gap on Labour incumbents who saw support fall away.

And they must be wondering what might have been if local leader Andrew R T Davies had contested the Vale of Glamorgan rather than sticking with the regional list. As it was the Tory candidate came within 777 votes of Labour minister Jane Hutt . . . but the seat might have been won if local farmer Davies had stood. There might yet be repercussions from his decision.

Yet the Tories had to contend with the rise of UKIP and the fact that the party on UK and Welsh levels is split over next month’s EU referendum; then there’s the crisis in the steel industry, the Panama papers, and the fact that many in Wales believe Cameron and Osborne are planning the reintroduction of workhouses.

Putting it all together the party’s showing wasn’t too bad at all. Down just 3.9% in the constituency share of the vote and 3.7% on the regional lists could even be seen as rather good in the circumstances.

*

For the first time UKIP now has Assembly Members, and an interesting bunch they are, who will provide hours of side-splitting entertainment, to the point where many of you will actually miss them when UKIP finally implodes.

Though it might not have come to pass without a favourable alignment in the heavens that saw the Assembly elections precede the EU referendum. Had it been the other way round there might be no UKIP AMs.

Hamiltons

But already the ‘scorpion’ impulse is asserting itself and just days after the elections Christine Neil Hamilton is challenging Nathan Gill for the leadership – yet Gill was anointed by Farage himself! The entertainment has started! Though the leadership challenge can’t take place until Hamilton has taken the Oath of Allegiance (to Mrs Windsor), this is delayed as it’s proving awkward for him to get to Cardiff from his English home.

Perhaps now that he’s back among us we should start using his first given name. To help you become familiar with it, I shall henceforth refer to the new AM for Mid and West Wales as Mostyn Hamilton.

*

The real winner last Thursday was quite obviously the Labour Party. With an aggregate vote of 33.1% Labour gained 49.3% of the seats in what is supposed to be a system of proportional representation. It is nothing of the sort. It is a system designed to give the impression of being a PR system while reinforcing the position of the largest party. A system chosen by Labour to benefit Labour.

Let us hope that with the long promised reorganisation of Westminster constituencies there comes a better PR model. Or if we must stick to the same model, then there must be an increase in the number of regional list seats. In the Scottish Parliament 56 of the 129 seats are regional seats, that’s 43.4%. Here in Wales of course it’s 20 out of 60, or 33.3%. Come to that, why does Scotland have more than twice the number of MSPs for a population well short of double ours?

If, as is predicted, Wales’ representation at Westminster is reduced to 29 or 30 constituencies then this would provide the perfect opportunity to reform the system for Assembly elections. But whatever happens in the future it is now clear that the current system for electing AMs is flawed and discredited. It must be reformed.

Hello, Hello, Hello

I can’t finish without mentioning the Police and Crime Commissioner elections that also took place last Thursday, the results of which have just been announced. Labour took Gwent and South Wales while Plaid Cymru took North and Dyfed Powys.

PCC Dyfed Powys

A very good result for Plaid Cymru, and with Arfon Jones becoming PCC for GogPlod it means that I got one out of three right last Thursday. But then, with my constituency choice being a no-hoper (sorry, Louise), my list choice a long shot, Arfon was always my best chance of getting one right.

I don’t know Dafydd Llywelyn the new Dyfed Powys PCC at all, but someone has been trying to tell me there was something irregular about his selection. The allegation being that he had not been a party member for the stipulated length of time before being selected as a candidate. Surely not!

I would hate to think that Plaid Cymru is slipping into the bad practices of other parties.

~ ~ ~ END ~ ~ ~

NEXT: Why are housing associations allowed to use public funding to build properties for sale to ‘investors’? And more . . .

May 022016
 

This is the post I promised in which I shall tell you who I’m voting for on Thursday and why.

CONSTITUENCY SEAT

I live in the Dwyfor Meirionnydd constituency and my Assembly Member is Dafydd Elis Thomas, or Lord Elis Thomas if you prefer. I’ve known him for many years, and when I arrived home last Friday afternoon, there he was, large as life, talking to my missus at the front gate. When I got out of the car we had a little chat.

Now I don’t dislike Dafydd, but obviously we don’t see eye to eye on much . . . if anything. Even so, I’ve usually voted for him; but this time round I’m changing. It’s not a single utterance or deed that accounts for this decision, more a build-up of little things with nothing to maintain balance – hence my arrival at the tipping point.

Many of these little disaffections can be grouped under DET’s fondness for the Labour Party. His liking, even preference, for Labour surfaced again a week or so ago when he urged Plaid, Tory and Liberal Democrat supporters to give their second vote in the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner election to the Labour candidate David Taylor. (Here’s a link to information on all five candidates.)

The explanation he gave at my front gate last Friday was the same he gave to the media – it was a calculated attempt to stop the UKIP candidate being elected on the second ballot.

In PCC elections, as in the Assembly elections, we get two votes, and if no candidate gets a majority first time round then the two with the most votes go into the second round, in which the second preferences of the eliminated candidates are allocated. I shall return to the PCC elections, and young Mr Taylor, later.

My Choice

So who am I voting for? (Drum roll!) Well the answer is that my vote will go to a shy, retiring local councillor with whom I have enjoyed many a profound political discourse in the aisles of Tywyn Co-op. I’m referring to Louise Hughes, who is standing as a (genuine) Independent.

Louise Hughes

Some may condemn me for ‘wasting’ my vote and arguing that, even if elected, Louse will be unable to achieve anything down Cardiff docks. I disagree.

What we have down Cardiff docks is a branch office of the London government, run by civil servants answering to their London masters. The politicians we elect may strut and puff, but apart from being allowed ‘gimmick’ legislation every now and again, they have little real control over anything. Much of the legislation the ‘Welsh’ Government claims as its own is nothing but English legislation with ‘(Wales)’ squeezed into the name. Perhaps their only real power is being able to dish out the lolly.

Yet far too much of this funding goes to Labour’s allies in the Third Sector in blatant patronage and cronyism, or else is ‘invested’ – ‘for the good of Wales’ – in Cardiff. One of the most disappointing results of devolved politics is how AMs of all parties end up following the party line and squandering money on Third Sector spongers like these.

Click on the link I’ve provided, scroll down to the second section, and ask yourself who, apart from Jill Tatman and her gang of colons, benefits from all the money they’ve been given? Or to put it another way, would Llandovery be any poorer, any more deprived, if she and her co-conspirators had been denied public funding?

I’m voting for Louise Hughes because if she is elected, and even if she is ignored, she’ll still be speaking for those that elected her. Though take my word for it, Louise can make herself very difficult to ignore.

Finally, and perhaps decisively, there is the dishonesty in Plaid Cymru asking the voters of Dwyfor Meirionnydd to vote for a candidate who could have the Plaid Cymru whip withdrawn if re-elected, and who might be in the Labour Party a few months down the line.

THE REGIONAL LIST

An Assembly Member who has received favourable mention in this blog is William Powell, the Liberal Democrat AM for the Mid and West Wales region. (That I’ve been complimentary to any AM may surprise a number of you.)

There are two reasons for this. First, Powell turns up at Cilmeri for the annual December commemoration of the slaying of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (Y Llyw Olaf). You could argue that as a local AM he is obliged to attend. He’s not obliged to attend at all; I believe he comes because he shares some of the sentiments of those, like me, who have been going to Cilmeri for longer than we care to remember.

Perhaps William Powell should be an example to Plaid Cymru politicians whose enthusiasm for Cilmeri tends to waver, and can perhaps even be influenced by ‘Shippo’ down at the Wasting Mule. (Which is what he, his mate Phil Parry, and their Labour cronies would like to believe.)

My second reason for choosing Powell is his response to a petition I submitted to the Assembly a few months ago, and how his response contrasted with that of the Assembly’s Petitions Committee. I dealt with it back in January, in Local Democracy Endangered, here’s a brief summary.

Petitions Committee

I submitted a petition asking the ‘Welsh’ Government to consider intervening when it became clear that a chief executive, acting alone or in concert with others, was subverting the democratic process by acting beyond his powers and / or without consulting the elected councillors.

When my petition was discussed on January 19th the Petitions Committee consisted of Joyce Watson, the Labour AM for Mid and West Wales, and Elin Jones, the Plaid AM for Ceredigion. This is how I reported their ‘consideration’ of my petition:

Watson Elin Jones

I would expect no better from a Labour time-server like Watson, but against my better judgement I still thought Elin Jones might have had a contribution to make.

William Powell clearly understood what my petition was about, and tried to get a discussion going with, “It (the petition) does raise some very serious issues”. To no avail. Mesdames Watson and Jones had no intention of discussing anything that might have discomforted Mark James or embarrassed the ‘Welsh’ Government.

So for these and other reasons, and secure in the knowledge that the Liberal Democrats are very unlikely to gain more than a single list seat in Mid and West Wales, I shall be giving my second vote, my regional list vote, to the Liberal Democrats. Though had anyone other than William Powell topped the list my vote would have gone to another party, or I might not have used my second vote at all.

THE PCC ELECTION

Quite frankly, and despite what Dafydd El professes to fear, I believe the chances of UKIP winning in the second round of the North Wales PCC election are slim, and simply exposes again his Labour leanings. But even if there was a threat from UKIP I cannot see how anyone outside of Labour could possibly be attracted to David Taylor.

Taylor first came to the attention of an incredulous public as an acne-plagued hobbledehoy living somewhere near Rhuthun. This was in 2004, when he set up a website to “undermine Labour rebel Clare Short”. Note that the Daily Post account I’ve linked to tells us that 18-year-old Taylor was already secretary of the Clwyd West constituency party and also sat on Labour’s ‘Welsh’ executive.

The boy was obviously destined for greatness, and it duly arrived when he became advisor to Leighton Andrews AM in 2005. Though he soon embarrassed his party with another childish, and similarly unsavoury stunt, this time the infamous Aneurin Glyndŵr website. Around the same time he tweeted what might have been interpreted as a distasteful reference to the Hillsborough disaster.

Taylor also spent a short period as Special Advisor to Peter Hain, when the Man of Tan was briefly Governor-General, a post he lost in the 2010 general election. But Taylor seems to have stayed on in London as a ‘Senior Political Adviser’ to the Labour Party.

David Taylor canvassing

Since 2012, according to his Linkedin profile, he has been a director of a company called Leckwith, which has undergone a few changes of both name and address. It was originally known as Albacore Associates before morphing, in July 2012, into Westgate Strategy Ltd, before changing again, just a month later, to Leckwith Ltd. There were also physical moves from Cardiff to Newport to London. (Here’s the website.)

It’s reasonable to assume that this PR company was set up to capitalise on Taylor’s proven talent in the field of influencing people and also to exploit his contacts in the Labour Party. Though to judge by the accounts Leckwith has been slow to take off.

Taylor is also a non-executive director of Westgate Cyber Security Ltd of Newport, formerly London. This company also was incorporated in August 2012, but this is not a one-man band, for Taylor has a co-director, one David Wyn Jones, whose business background can be seen by clicking on his name under the ‘Officers’ tab. (Here’s the website.)

Having mentioned Leighton Andrews, I am indebted to ‘STaN‘ of Neath Ferret fame for reminding me that Andrews came quite late to the party, having been a leading light in the Liberal Democrats until just over a decade ago. Here’s a piece by Michael Meadowcroft lamenting Leighton Andrews’ departure. (I kid you not!)

I’ve also mentioned Peter Hain, and for information on the bête noire of the Boers, STaN‘s yer man.

David Taylor is a Labour insider of the worst kind. The type who joins the party before he starts shaving and spends the rest of his life in a cocoon, while determining what’s best for people of whose feelings and aspirations he knows nothing. He is exactly the kind of person – the professional politician – that either turns people off politics or else drives them towards more ‘colourful’ politicians.

Sorry, Dafydd, this is another wrong call. And if it was a straight fight between David Taylor and the UKIP candidate for North Wales PCC, and if I was forced to vote, then I couldn’t promise that I wouldn’t vote UKIP.

My Choice

I shall be voting for Arfon Jones as our PCC. As coppers, or ex-coppers, go, Arfon’s not bad, he was our village bobby for a while. And he’s never been afraid to speak out and question his former employer, something we encounter all too rarely.

Arfon leaflet 1

In addition, having served and lived in Gwynedd, and also having spent many years on the other side of the region, Arfon knows the north from Holyhead to Bangor-on-Dee a lot better than most.

He’s also a sociable individual, going for the occasional drink at the Saith Seren, with which he has been long involved, and following Wrexham football club home and away, while not neglecting the rugby. He’s married, with children and grandchildren, in Wales and Scotland, so I wouldn’t hesitate to describe him as a ’rounded’, mature individual of many interests . . . unlike, I fear, David Taylor.

CONCLUSION

Looking at the wider picture, my reluctance to vote for Plaid Cymru at this election (over and above my longstanding criticisms) can be summed up in one word – Labour. And I’m not referring now to Lord Elis Thomas’ as yet unconsummated attraction.

It seems very likely that Labour and Plaid will be in coalition after Thursday’s election. That’s unless Plaid’s nightmare scenario materialises in which Labour can cobble together a coalition with two or three Lib Dem AMs, and possibly even a Green.

Now my views on the Labour Party generally, and ‘Welsh’ Labour in particular, are well known. A clue may be found in the title of my post, Why I Detest The ‘Welsh’ Labour Party. I urge you to read it.

What Wales desperately needs is wealth creators, visionaries prepared to take risks and by so doing create jobs and a wealthier country. But such people are frowned on by socialist parties like Labour and Plaid Cymru, for they cannot be controlled like a publicly-funded client class masquerading as an ‘economy’.

So generous is this system now that its fame has spread; spongers and leftie bandwagon-riders flock to Wales to take advantage of ‘our’ generosity. And the funding given to alleviate Wales’ poverty, to educate and train us, to build infrastructure, achieves nothing because it is squandered on a Third Sector the greater part of which achieves nothing beyond generous salaries and pensions for the charlatans involved.

Wales needs radical change; a new national mindset. None of the parties involved in this election provide anything other than tired and discredited ideas dressed up and repackaged. Consequently it matters little what emerges after Thursday.

The Welsh people deserve better. They just need to realise it. Who’s going to make them realise it? And how?

~ ~ ~ END ~ ~ ~

 

Apr 292016
 

You will recall that in a few recent posts (below) I have looked at the Newcastle Emlyn-based Cantref housing association, which seems to have gone through a rocky patch of late and, following an ‘investigation’, is to be taken over by Wales and West Housing of Cardiff. A bit of digging combined with election dirty tricks has turned up some rather disturbing connections.

Social Housing Back to Council Control? Tai Cantref: Favoured Suitor Named. Housing Associations – All Change?

The investigation into Cantref was carried out by a company called Campbell Tickell, of London. So who are Campbell Tickell? They seem to be a company that has all the bases covered in the social housing and charities sector.

They are, in their own words, ” . . . an established multidisciplinary management consultancy focusing principally on housing, regeneration, charities and social care, and with a growing involvement in sports and leisure. Our services extend across: strategic and business planning; governance and regulation; performance management; procurement; asset management and development; growth and new business; regeneration and stock transfer; customer services; communications and public relations; human resources and recruitment. Alongside our central team of 18, we have a network of nearly 150 associate consultants, both generalist and specialist”. Phew!

The eponymous Campbell and Tickell are Greg Campbell and James Tickell. So who are they?

Well, Greg Campbell has a long career in social housing, local government and the Labour Party. (The three often intertwine.) And as his Linkedin profile tells us, for three years he was a full-time employee of the Labour Party.

Linkedin tells us that James Tickell has a somewhat similar career history to Campbell; that is, after attending prep school, Westminster School and Cambridge. (Sub, check if he’s the son of Sir Crispin Tickell.) And while I’ve found no direct link with the Labour Party we can be fairly certain he’s no Conservative.

James Tickell tweet

Campbell Tickell it was that recommended Cantref be gifted to Wales and West Housing. The chief executive of Wales and West is Anne Hinchey, wife of Cardiff Labour councillor Graham Hinchey. Anne Hinchey herself has worked for Cardiff city council.

If the name Anne Hinchey sounds familiar, it may be because she’s been in the news recently for ordering Plaid Cymru election placards to be removed from Wales and West properties in Cardiff (2:05). Mrs Hinchey is of course a paid-up member of the Labour Party. In fact, there seems to have been a coordinated effort by ‘Welsh’ Labour and its offshoots – especially in Cardiff – to engage in lies, vandalism, intimidation and other tactics. This is nothing new.

A few years back a Cardiff shopkeeper was threatened because he refused to promote Labour Party literature. A few miles away, during the 2011 election, a Labour MP admitted to taking down Plaid Cymru placards. Today it’s being reported that Plaid supporters in the Butetown (‘Tiger Bay’) area of Cardiff are being intimidated.

Perhaps one of the weirder incidents thus far reported (for I have no doubt there will be others) is the pub that was visited by council officials after putting up Plaid Cymru posters . . . so now they’ve put up placards!

Robin Hood pub

But as we know, this is how Labour operates. Labour, and especially its ‘Welsh’ branch, is corrupt and anti-democratic. It now begins to look as if canvassing returns in some areas are giving Labour activists the heebie jeebies, and panic is setting in.

Carwyn Ceaucescu

But enough of this visual banter, let us return to Cantref, and Wales and West, and of course, Campbell Tickell. This is how they are connected:

The Labour regime down Cardiff docks went to a Labour-supporting company in London and asked it to look into a (non-Labour) housing association in west Wales. The unsurprising outcome was that the company in London recommended that said housing association be handed over to a housing association in Cardiff run by a Labour Party member whose husband is a Labour councillor.

Perfectly normal behaviour . . . for a one-party state.

I don’t doubt that things went wrong at Cantref. But nor do I doubt that those involved in the ‘investigation’ had a vested interest in transferring its operations to Wales and West Housing.

A cynic might wonder if the decision to gift Cantref to Wales and West wasn’t taken before Campbell Tickell got involved; and that they were brought in as an expensive cosmetic exercise, given the desired result, and told to manufacture ‘justification’. But as I say, only a cynic would think that, and there’s no place for such people on this blog. Oh no.

What I will say is that this whole business stinks. And until there is an independent investigation into how best to resolve Cantref’s difficulties it must not be taken over by the Labour Party Wales and West.

 

COMING UP: In my next post I’ll tell you how I’m voting on May 5th, and try to explain why.

 

Apr 252016
 

I sense that changes are taking place in our housing associations. Maybe someone, somewhere, has at last realised that pouring obscene amounts of public money into fifty or so bodies, many of them overstaffed and / or inefficient may not be the best way of meeting the need for rented accommodation.

In England, the process of Registered Social Landlords merging is steaming ahead. So we can expect more mergers here because it’s basically an Englandandwales system, the main differences being of scale and the fact that concessions are made here to faux socialists over sales of social housing and other matters that might drive them to the barricades . . . or to their iPhones to put out an indignant tweet.

HA mergers England

For various reasons set out below, mergers are to be encouraged, but here in Wales they seem to be things of great mystery, perhaps because housing associations are allowed to behave like secret societies. For despite receiving hundreds of millions of pounds of public funding they are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. This cannot be right. I defy anyone to argue that it is right.

Despite being confronted with a culture of omerta a few dogged individuals have persistently asked the awkward questions, but some of the ‘answers’ from officialdom have come direct from the Ministry of Bullshit.

CANTREF

Let us start by reminding ourselves of recent developments at this housing association in Castell Newydd Emlyn, and try to figure out what these changes might mean because, predictably, the findings of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s investigation into Cantref will remain secret. For those who missed it, here’s a link to my previous post, Tai Cantref: Favoured Suitor Named.

Cantref logo

The ‘Favoured Suitor’ is the Wales and West Housing of Cardiff. A curious choice, some may think. Much of its business is in the care home sector, not only in the south but also in towns like Brecon, Llandrindod, Newtown, reaching up to Flintshire and Denbighshire where many of its clients come from over the border.

Between 2008 and 2015 Wales and West received almost £65m in Social Housing Grant alone. (There are a number of other ‘funding streams’ for RSLs or, given the amounts involved, raging torrents.) Why is Wales and West – or any ‘Welsh’ RSL – allowed to use Welsh public funding to ease the care bill of Liverpool and other English authorities?

And I’m still waiting to learn why Wales and West was awarded £25m by the Department for Communities and Local Government in 2014 “to build 251 homes in Wales”. Social Housing is devolved, so why did Wales and West apply for funding to what is in these matters the English government? Come to that, why did the DCLG award the money?

The announcement of Cantref’s proposed connubials with Wales and West was made in this press release, in which we see the name of mystery man Kevin Taylor. He turned up in 2014 after a career spent in the hotel business in Bermuda and now – in his role as ‘Interim Chair’ – he’s deciding the fate of a Welsh housing association. So I’ll ask again: Who the hell is Kevin Taylor? And who forced him on Cantref?

The only real development since my previous post is that another press release was issued late on Friday afternoon, this one by the propaganda bureau at Carmarthenshire County Council.

Having given the matter of Cantref’s fate some thought, I have concluded that while there are almost certainly better options, if it comes to a straight fight between Carmarthenshire County Council and Wales and West Housing, then I shall support Carmarthenshire. And let’s not rule out Tai Ceredigion. Now I’d better explain my reasoning.

  • Most of Tai Cantref’s properties are in Ceredigion, ideal ‘retirement’ country that granny-farmers Wales and West would certainly exploit.
  • Carmarthenshire’s tyrannical chief executive Mark James will not last for ever. His days may already be numbered.
  • Council mergers are on the horizon, so the days of Carmarthenshire itself are also numbered.

Stop Press: You will recall that in my previous post we heard – from ‘Dai the Post’ – about Hilary Jones, chief executive of the Bro Myrddin housing association, who served as interim CEO at Cantref. According to ‘Dai’, she pressed Wales and West to take over Cantref and put her in charge. And of course, ‘Dai’ also told us that Hilary’s hubby served as interim head of finance at Cantref.

Dai the Post

Another name ‘Dai’ mentioned was David Hedges. Those with good memories might recall that this man got a mention last July in this post of updates and tit-bits (scroll down). Hedges runs a ‘consultancy’ called Cyngor Da. I now learn that David Hedges has also served time recently with Cantref, presumably ‘consulting’, or rather, being consulted, or however it works. And that his time at Cantref coincided or overlapped with Hilary Jones’s.

Perhaps more importantly for the purposes of this post, I’m being told that David Hedges has also worked with Campbell Tickell, the English company called in by (London-loyal civil servants acting in the name of) the ‘Welsh’ Government to investigate Cantref.

P.S. When reading the Wales and West website I saw the name Anne Hinchey, Chief Executive, which rang a bell. She is of course married to Councillor Graham Hinchey of Cardiff Council. Yet another example of the troubling link between the Labour Party and the Third Sector.

A link that does so much damage to Welsh public life through nepotism and other forms of corruption. And in this case perhaps explains why Cantref is being gifted to a housing association in Cardiff.

RCT HOMES

In my Easter Miscellany 2016 I touched on comings and goings, and tenant unrest, at RCT Homes. A body that gained brief notoriety in the public prints when it advertised for a chief executive at a salary of £150,000 a year. Here’a report from Inside Housing dealing with the departures.

The most high profile of those departures was CEO, Andrew Lycett, who left in mysterious circumstances in November last year, but soon took up a job with the Jehu Group Ltd, a construction company “operating throughout Wales and the West”. (The ‘West’ of where?) Jehu is just the sort of company that would recruit someone with inside knowledge of how housing associations operate and public money is splashed around. Here’s a video of Lycett bragging about RCT Homes’ labour being “locally sourced” . . . but obviously not for the top jobs.

RCT Homes lost a couple of other senior staff around the same time. One was Lycett’s deputy, Malcolm Wilson, who took ‘early retirement’. Wilson is yet another Englishman who slunk over the border to take advantage of the billions of pounds in public money sloshing about Wales with neither oversight nor monitoring. Wilson is said to have been “demeaning” to Wales and the Welsh language.

The third to jump ship, or be pushed overboard, depending on how generous you feel, was Finance Director Lisa Pinney. ‘Jolly hockey sticks’ is not a phrase I employ but it’s often used to describe a certain type of female; in the case of Pinney, a board member of Hockey Wales (not ‘Welsh Hockey’, note), it seems entirely appropriate. Ms Pinney also found lucrative employment, in her case with Pobl, a recent merger between the Seren Group and Grwp Gwalia.

It really is a jobs merry-go-round, giving free rides to people who would struggle to survive in the world of real business. And we pay to keep this ‘merry-go-round’ turning.

Adrian Barber

The consultant (that word again) called in to see what was going on at RCT Homes – and no doubt paid many hundreds of pounds a day – was an Adrian Barber. It should go without saying that he’s English. What else do we know about him.

From August 2010 until April 2011 Barber was Interim Head of Housing at the London Borough of Bexley. In September 2011 he joined the PSI Consultancy (UK) Ltd. This is an outfit that provides “Interim Management” to councils and housing associations in trouble – at extortionate daily rates of course.

PSI Consultancy

He first came to Wales to join RCT Homes as Interim Housing and Repairs Director in February 2014, and was in that post until May 2015 – at consultant’s rates. In June 2015 he became RCT Homes’ Interim Director of Homes and Neighbourhoods, a post he still fills. That is, when he’s not being Interim Chief Executive as well, a position he’s held since last September. (Does he get paid two consultant’s daily fees?)

I’m told that despite holding two ‘interim’ posts at RCT Homes Barber is never available. Is he off moonlighting, being a ‘consultant’ to somebody else!

It’s easy to understand why we, the people who pay, are being denied the facts about RCT Homes, just as with Cantref. For a start, we’d be told how much has been paid out in consultants’ fees. (Because Barber may not be the only ‘consultant’ at RCT Homes.) We’d know what gross inefficiency or corruption caused the implosion. And we’d also learn how much public money had been lost. Our money.

Something obviously went very badly wrong at RCT Homes last year – and it might have been brewing for some time before that – but just as with Cantref, we are not allowed to know the facts. Nobody is to blame, public money doesn’t matter – so mind your own business!

Though information I’ve received suggests that the sackings – for that is what they were – may have been partly due to the manner in which Lycett, Wilson and Pinney administered grants from the Tower Fund, linked to Tower colliery, and Meadow Prospect, the charitable arm of RCT Homes. If you were ‘in’, then you got a grant, if not, well . . . There is also said to be an unaccounted for deficit of £10,000 in the Tower Fund.

Tower Fund

Something else that might have contributed to the threesome’s downfall was the planned housing on Penrhys, above the Rhondda valleys.

A source has written: “Various deals were made to build more houses on Penrhys with dodgy firms some that didn’t even exist. One such scheme for several millions was fronted by a local builder who said he was raising the money on his mortgage for example”. Is this for real!

After reading this I delved into my archives (they can’t touch you for it!) and lo and behold! what did I turn up from September 2012 but Penrhys: What’s Happening? Regrettably, the comments were lost when those bastards at Google pulled the plug on my earlier blog due to some other bastard complaining about something I’d written – can you believe that!

Anyway, my guess is that there’s a lot more to be unearthed about RCT Homes, so please point me in the right direction, folks.

PEMBROKESHIRE HOUSING AND MILL BAY HOMES

To recap: Pembrokeshire Housing, the main provider of social housing in our most westerly county, has a ‘subsidiary’ called Mill Bay Homes. This ‘subsidiary’ exists to build properties for sale on the open market, many to ‘investors’, and with some purchasers enjoying the benefits of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Help to Buy scheme. No one is able to satisfactorily establish that ‘investors’ have not – illegally – availed themselves of Help to Buy.

This inability to establish the fact is due to a) an almost total lack of oversight and monitoring on the part of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Housing Directorate, coupled with, b) the more general attitude prevailing among all the aforementioned, London-loyal civil servants of, ‘No longer our concern’ once public funding has been granted.

Update 26.04.2016: Here’s an example of how Mill Bay’s properties are advertised, this one in Letterston with Haverfordwest estate agent, FBM & Co some three years ago. Here’s a link to the advert on the Rightmove website but just in case the advert is no longer available, here it is in png format.

Note that its selling points are listed “2 Bedroom Semi Detached House, New Build, New Development, First Time Buy, Investment, Help To Buy Registered” as if they’re complementary, when in fact, some of them are mutually exclusive. For example, ‘Help To Buy’ is only available to ‘First Time Buyers’, and ‘Investors’ are specifically disbarred from applying for ‘Help To Buy’, but would you know that from the advert?

And in practice, does Mill Bay Homes really deny ‘investors’ Help to Buy? In a worst case scenario, those running Mill Bay could be using intermediaries to sell properties to themselves using Help to Buy. Nobody’d know because nobody checks.

Now 8 Longstone Court is back on the market with John Francis, a long-established Swansea estate agent with branches throughout the south west, taken over by English company Countrywide late in 2015. After being originally marketed for £125,500 the asking price is now £120,500. Note that it is also being advertised as a “retirement property”.

Mill Bay Help to Buy

I often think that the only priority is to get rid of the funding in order to ensure next year’s dollop, or the next round of EU Regional Development Fund, and that this explains the almost complete lack of concern as to whether it’s used properly. ‘A project to breed toothless ferrets and market them at £5,000 each for “Ferret-down-the-trousers” contests, you say? And you only want £10m! Your grant will be processed immediately!’

Another problem announcing itself with flashing lights and blaring sirens is that despite Mill Bay Homes’ raison d’être being to sell property and pass the profits on to the parent company so that Pembrokeshire Housing can build more social housing, nary a penny seems to have passed between them – or certainly not from MB to PH – and this after some six developments by Mill Bay.

Wynne Jones, a man I have mentioned more than once for his dogged investigations into the bizarre workings of housing associations down that neck of the woods, recently drew my attention to this document, a Financial Viability Judgement of June 2015, issued by the Housing Regulation Team of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Housing Division.

If we scroll down to page 1 we find the passage below:

Mill Bay WG assessment

The “three organisations” are Pembrokeshire Housing and its two subsidiaries – Mill Bay and Pembrokeshire Care & Repair, and the only interpretation is that they are registered separately as social landlords, or RSLs. Yet when we consult the ‘Welsh’ Government’s register of RSLs we find no mention of Mill Bay Homes (or Pembrokeshire Care & Repair). Either it is not a Registered Social Landlord, or else it has been left off the register.

Mill Bay Homes we are told is also a company limited by guarantee, but no information is available on the Companies House website other than what you see below, informing us that Mill Bay Homes is in fact an Industrial and Provident (IP) Society, and therefore registered with the Financial Conduct Authority.

Mill Bay Companies House

So I went to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) website, where I found the information below. (Here’s the link.) This confirms that Mill Bay Homes is, or perhaps was, registered with the FCA and its predecessor the Financial Services Authority. But nothing has been filed since October 2013, so what’s going on?

Mill Bay FCA

I’m wondering if Mill Bay Homes falling off the FCA register has anything to do with new legislation introduced in 2014. We saw it mentioned in the quote I used above from the Housing Regulation Team of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Housing Division. I’m referring to the Co-operative and Community Benefits Society Act 2014.

Did someone conclude that under the new legislation, Mill Bay Homes, in the business of selling property, was neither a co-operative nor a community benefit organisation? In the hope of finding an answer I went to the Mill Bay Homes website where, under the ‘About Us‘ tab, it should clarify things. This being where one normally finds the company number or charity number and any similar information.

But there was nothing there. What I should have found was information akin to what you see below, taken from Pembrokeshire Housing’s ‘About Us’ page. (Click to enlarge.)

Pembs Housing About Us

So where are we with Mill Bay Homes? We know it is not a Registered Social Landlord with the ‘Welsh’ Government. It has not filed any accounts or other documents with the Financial Conduct Authority since October 2013. And its own website provides no information on its status whatsoever.

It’s almost as if Mill Bay Homes exists is some kind of legal limbo . . . or maybe it doesn’t officially exist at all. Perhaps it’s just a useful alter ego for Pembrokeshire Housing. Which would explain why no money has ever been passed from Mill Bay Homes to Pembrokeshire Housing for the properties sold by Mill Bay – because how do you give yourself money?

Here’s Jac’s suggestion to the boys and girls of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Housing Regulation team in Merthyr: Stop trying to pretend that everything is just hunky-dory down in Pembrokeshire, because it’s not. At the very least you need to clarify the wraith-like status of Mill Bay Homes; and if it does exist, then why has it stopped filing accounts? Alternatively, if Mill Bay Homes is without corporeal or corporate form, and simply a convenient alias for Pembrokeshire Housing, why do you allow this deception?

One final thing. If you’re tempted to call in yet another £1000-a-day ‘consultant’, forget it! I’ll do it for half the price. And I’ll get to the bottom of things. I look forward to hearing from you.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Seeing as so much Welsh public funding is being used to build social housing in Wales (or at least, being diverted to housing associations) we, the people of Wales, have every right to be assured that the money is being properly spent. Here are some observations and recommendations:

1/ RSLs should do what it says on the tin – provide social housing for those within Welsh communities who need social housing.

     They should not build student accommodation; they should not build properties for sale to ‘investors’; they should not enter into partnerships with the Probation Service and other bodies seeking to ‘relocate’ undesirables to Wales. In short, RSLs should not deviate from their raison d’être.

2/ There must be far better monitoring of RSLs by the ‘Welsh’ Government. More rigorous oversight would allow a ‘doctor’ to be sent in rather than an ‘undertaker’. 

     Though it must be a better system than the current one of importing ‘consultants’ at exorbitant fees, especially when those ‘consultants’ so often remain as ‘interim’ executives.

3/ RSLs should not be allowed to create ‘subsidiaries’ in the hope of using these to avoid legislation applying to RSLs or any other devious purpose.

4/ RSLs must be covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

5/ A RSL must demonstrate need for social housing from within a community before funding is awarded or planning permission granted for new social housing within that community.

6/ No tenancies are to be awarded to anyone who has not lived in Wales for the three years prior to the application or for five years at some earlier time.

7/ The existing system of Registered Social Landlords and the provision of social housing is unsustainable for the following reasons:

a) The vast amounts of public funding they absorb, too much of which is spent on salaries, pensions and administrative costs.

b) The inefficient or non-existent monitoring and oversight by the ‘Welsh’ Government.

c) The fact that RSLs underperform, making little real impact on housing need.

8/ In the medium to longer term RSLs must either a) have their public funding withdrawn and become private companies or b) their housing stock – built with public funding – must be taken back into local authority control or some other form of public ownership.

     Given the colonial relationship between Wales and England privatised social housing companies would inevitably be swallowed up by larger English companies; consequently (and reluctantly), I prefer the public ownership option. Not least because this course is more likely to create jobs within Wales and to keep money circulating within the Welsh economy.

END

Apr 212016
 

Tai Cantref, the Newcastle Emlyn-based housing association has been in the news recently, but for all the wrong reasons. It has, I regret to say, found its way up Shit Creek, where it will struggle to find a berth due to all the other wrecks jostling for space.

For Shit Creek is now home port to a whole fleet of rusting hulks that have collectively ripped countless millions from the Welsh public purse in the devolution era, a period that has given us successive administrations believing that handing out billions to the Third Sector and assorted peripatetic shysters is a substitute for an economy.

Cantref 1

The troubles at Cantref did not come out of the blue, they’ve been predicted for some time. They seemed to start with a few poor business decisions, such as trying to turn the old government building at the foot of Bronglais Hill in Aber’ into student accommodation.

Though, in fairness, Cantref may have been trying to do the right thing. For here, in the Annual Report 2012 / 2013 (page 16) we read, “To build new homes, Cantref need (sic) to generate more income and rely less on Social Housing Grant. A successful new initiative to Cantref this year was the introduction of our new student accommodation. We were successful with the submission of 65 units to be part of the Welsh Government’s Revenue Grant programme”. Alternatively, Cantref was laying off one teat to start sucking on another.

The old government building though is quite impressive, as you can see . . . but then, white elephants so often are.

Cantref 2

Picture courtesy of Herald Group Newspapers

And then, when it began to be realised that Cantref was failing, it seems that a ‘What the hell!’ mentality took over and those responsible for Cantref’s demise decided to invest some of the remaining money in drowning their sorrows.

Or certainly, that’s the impression I gained from this comment to the blog last July. The ‘castle’ referred to is of course Chateau Tucker, the £15m B&B in Cardigan (paid for with public funding, of course), of which I have written many times.

Cantref Insider comment

Even though Cantref, a publicly-funded body, was subsequently investigated by persons answering to our democratically-elected representatives we, the public at large, we, whose money is used to fund these bodies, were not allowed to know what had gone wrong. And this from a Labour regime that preaches ‘openness’.

Cantref 3

Once it became known that Cantref was in trouble the vultures started circling, among them Mark James, chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, though how much the councillors knew of this bid is open to question. For Mr James believes in treating councillors as one would mushrooms. (Keep them in the dark and ply them regularly with shit.)

But there were others interested in taking over Cantref, as we were told by ‘Dai the Post’, in this comment from earlier this month. In particular, note Dai’s reference to “Hillary Jones, from neighbouring ha Bro Myrddin has been trying to self promote herself by persuading Wales and West ha from Cardiff to bail out Cantref and give her a bigger job as head of their western poorer Welsh speaking colony. Perhaps she has been getting advice from her (x Gwalia finance director) husband? More hostels anyone?”

Dai the Post

And so it came to pass. Today it was announced by a Cardiff PR company that the option preferred by Cantref is a ‘merger’ with Wales and West Housing of Cardiff. (Read the press release here.)

~~~

Extra! Extra! You will note in the press release that the person speaking on behalf of Cantref, and in favour of the merger with Wales and West is, “Kevin Taylor, Interim Chair”. Now I mentioned Taylor in Social Housing Back to Council Control? earlier this month, and I wondered who he is. Here’s what I wrote in that earlier post:

Cantref Kevin Taylor

I’m still wondering – Who is Kevin Taylor? Who appointed him to the chair of Cantref? (Here’s his Linkedin profile.)

~~~

Returning to Wales and West Housing, I have a number of problems with this proposal:

  • Judging by this video and other information on the website Wales and West spends a lot of our money building retirement homes for English people, which obviously increases the load on our overburdened NHS and other services. Acquiring Cantref, which operates mainly in Ceredigion, could represent something of a bonanza for a company seeking to attract English retirees.
  • There is a distinctly ‘unWelsh’ feel to Wales and West that perhaps reflects its areas of operation in the south east and the north east. (Check out the Directors to see what I’m alluding to. This is clearly a business, but not a Welsh business.) No merger should be allowed unless – at the very least – there are firm assurances that Cantref’s existing Welsh staff in Newcastle Emlyn will be retained.

This is clearly a ‘merger’ of the kind that took place between Nazi Germany and Poland, or between Communist China and Tibet . . . or between England and Wales.

That’s all for now but I shall be back next week with more on our housing associations, including RCT Homes and Pembrokeshire Housing and its ‘subsidiary’ Mill Bay Homes. And there will also certainly be more to report on Cantref and Wales and West.

UPDATE 23.04.2016: Here’s a press release put out by Mark James Carmarthenshire County Council expressing disappointment at being kicked in the nuts rejected by Kevin Taylor Cantref. I suspect this story has more twists and turns yet.

 

Apr 182016
 
JAC O’ THE NORTH PRODUCTIONS® PROUDLY PRESENTS ANOTHER CHAPTER IN THE NEVER-ENDING SWANSEA LABOUR PARTY SAGA – AN ONGOING BLOCKBUSTER OF SEX! VIOLENCE! CORRUPTION! BACK-STABBING! NEPOTISM! DUPLICITY! NAKED AMBITION! POLITICAL INTRIGUE! AND, INEVITABLY, MISUSE OF PUBLIC FUNDS!

 

THE ASSAULT

In recent years I have written many times about the thoroughly dysfunctional Labour Party in the city of my dreams, and now, with heavy heart, I must do so again. (Sob, sob, sob, sigh.)

You may recall a news story from earlier this year in which Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris was accused of attacking colleague Jenny Lee Clarke, because – the victim alleged – of her sexuality. At the time of the alleged assault both women were working for Siân James, the previous Labour MP for Swansea East, succeeded by Harris in the general election of May 2015.

Bizarrely, shortly after the alleged assault Jenny Lee Clarke met with Carolyn Harris at the latter’s home – this was on December 14th 2014 – and came away with a quite remarkable document – a handwritten letter promising that if elected in the May 2015 election then Clarke was guaranteed a full-time job.

Here’s the Sun‘s account of the incident. Here it is in the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, and Wales Online. In a couple of the links I’ve given we read a Labour spokesman saying, “It is town hall politics from a little place in South Wales. It’s a nest of vipers.” A bit insulting to Swansea, but he was spot-on about the “nest of vipers”, which gave me the title for this post.

It is noticeable that WalesOnline puts a totally different slant on the story: the MP is the real victim and the accuser now stands accused. Clearly Shippo [as he insists I call him] had been briefed by his mates in the Labour Party. And not for the first time.

WalesOnline

The truth is that the case against Carolyn Harris was not ‘dropped’ at all, the police took no action because the complaint against her was made outside the six-month time limit for common assault allegations. Or rather, no prosecution took place due to someone’s decision to class the incident as common assault. A more serious charge could have been laid and the six-month time limit would not have applied.

Without inferring anything it’s worth mentioning that complaints against, or incidents involving, senior public figures such as MPs go straight to the chief constable’s office. And may then be referred to a higher authority.

I was not in that office when the incident occurred, but I am reasonably certain that the assault reported by Ms Clarke happened if only because there was a witness, a Paulette Smith, who is the Labour councillor for the Clydach ward on Swansea council. She is reported in the Sun as saying, “I heard a blood-curdling scream. I saw Carolyn pulling her hair. I thought she’d gone mad.”

So, for the time being, let’s take it as read that the assault took place, on November 24th, 2014, and the complainant’s statement – a copy of which I have seen – was timed by D C Ben Rees in Swansea Central Police Station at 13:24 on January 27th, 2016. The following day Jenny Lee Clarke was dismissed by Carolyn Harris MP.

As for the allegations of financial irregularity and Clarke being investigated, well, on the evening of Friday last, the 15th, I am told that Ms Clarke received a phone call from a female police officer at Swansea Central to tell her that she is indeed being investigated for fraud.

WHITEROCK AND HALF-FORGOTTEN MEMORIES

Seeing as fraud has been mentioned, I am indebted to the help I’ve received from ‘Stan‘ on the Neath Ferret site, who has considerable experience of digging through parliamentary expenses and the like. He it was who alerted me to money being paid to a firm called Whiterock, which seemed to be the biggest outgoing from the Swansea East Labour Party constituency office apart from staff salaries.Whiterock 1

Making my own enquiries through other information received, the earliest invoice I could find was for July 2011. I reproduce it here (click to enlarge). You’ll see from the invoice that the company is called, variously, Whiterock Consulting (top right), White Rock Research and Consultancy (bottom right), and whiterock-wales.com (bottom left).

The name(s) may come from a place I recall from my youth. The White Rock copper works – established in 1737 and demolished in 1963 – was near to the site of today’s Liberty Stadium, and I believe there was even a petition to have the Swans’ and Ospreys’ new home named the White Rock Stadium.

Naturally, I searched on the Companies House website for a company by any of those names at the address given, 2 Princess Way, in the city centre, though at a different address I eventually I came up with this. And here is the website for Whiterock-Wales Ltd. A very basic website that is never updated and offers the barest details. For example, it doesn’t even say who runs this company, it list no clients, it’s basically nothing more than an ‘enter your details here’ template.

Companies House tells us that Whiterock Wales was Incorporated on August 11, 2015, and the Company Number is 09726831. It’s two directors are Lawrence David Bailey and Susan Bailey.

One obvious question is, ‘If this company was only formed in August 2015, what company was issuing the invoices going back to 2011?’. And it may be worth adding that all these invoices are unnumbered. The other question is, ‘Who are Lawrence and Susan Bailey?’ That’s another story in itself, so here goes.

ENTER LAWRENCE ‘THE LIBIDO’ BAILEY

Lawrence Bailey is a former council leader, and a former Lord Mayor. He came to grief about ten years ago when indecent images were found on three separate computers despite previous warnings. Private Eye bestowed on him the coveted Pornographer of the Year award. In his defence, let me say that this was all adult stuff.

In addition to the porn, computer engineers found “253 documents, mostly letters to the Swansea Evening Post under false names and / or from phoney addresses, or else using names and addresses of real people without their knowledge. Bailey argued that ‘writing letters to the press under pseudonyms “was widespread practice in political life in Wales”‘. What he meant to say was that it is widespread in the Labour Party. It obviously helped that his lover at the time was chief reporter on the Evening Post.Whiterock 2

While Googling for more info on Bailey I came up trumps with this story linking him with the Swansea East Labour constituency office. Observant readers will have noticed that the Sun story, although undated, was obviously printed just before last year’s general election; Lawrence Bailey then went legitimate and registered his company with Companies House a few months later. This is no coincidence, it’s a case of cause and effect.

Of course, when Carolyn Harris was elected as MP last May she told Lawrence Bailey to sling his hook, and to stop embarrassing the constituency party . . . well . . . no – she kept him on and started paying him even more! The most recent invoice I have is dated August 2015 (for the month of July) but ‘Stan’ tells me there are more records to be found on the IPSA website, though it should be borne in mind that even IPSA is always a month or two behind.

So the first invoice from Lawrence Bailey back in 2011 was for £862.50 a month, and by July 2015 he’s getting £1,550 a month. That’s one hell of an increase. But what does he actually do for it? ‘Stan’ tells me it’s listed on the IPSA website under ‘Professional Services (Staff)’ – maybe he writes letters for Carolyn Harris!

Though cynics might suggest that the relationship between the Swansea East constituency office and Whiterock Wales is just another example of something the Labour Party does so well – circulating public money amongst its members with no discernible benefit to the public.

UPDATE 29.04.2016: Here is ‘Stan’ of Neath Ferret‘s final figures for money received by Lawrence Bailey / Whiterock from the Swansea East Labour constituency office.

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY

Before leaving the matter of the finances of the constituency office it’s worth mentioning a couple of other invoices. (Reproduced below, click to enlarge.) These are for £6,500 in total, both from April 2015, and both made out to DCG Property Services at a private dwelling in the Gendros district of Swansea.

This work was commissioned by Carolyn Harris just before she was elected MP. Siân James of course would have stood down by then, and Harris was running the show in anticipation of being elected the following month.

Harris son invoices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m told that DCG Property Services is run by an individual, DH, who has a mate who is also a builder, and that this fellow-builder mate just happens to be Carolyn Harris’ son. The word is they did the work together, and presumably split the money.

——————————————

To conclude: My interpretation of events is that the assault took place as reported. Carolyn Harris may have offered her victim a job as a way of silencing her. The role of South Wales Police in all this is somewhat questionable. The role of the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party and its alter ego unions is despicable. I am also persuaded that Carolyn Harris is a rather unpleasant, bullying individual none too careful in her use of public money.

However . . .

SEEDS OF DOUBT

But, then, out of a clear blue sky, came other information, that in many ways contradicted this interpretation. This fresh information came in the form of e-mails with what looked like a genuine name attached. So what does this other information suggest?

Before I go into that let me theorise that for all I know this other source could be Carolyn Harris, or perhaps someone close to her. I offer the second possibility because the source couldn’t immediately reply to my questions and had to check with her “friend”.

Even so, what this source had to say makes a lot of sense because it ties up with other information in my possession.

*

INVASION OF THE TROTS

At the risk of repeating myself, let me say that nothing in this fresh information persuades me that Jenny Lee Clarke – or indeed Cllr Paulette Smith – has lied about the assault by Carolyn Harris MP.

What concerns me is how the assault might subsequently have been exploited by shit-stirrers with no commitment to Swansea and who, despite their age, still love to plot and play student politics.

What this new information suggests is that Trotskyist interlopers Bob Clay and his wife Uta – he English, she Austrian – are exploiting the situation in order to remove Caroline Harris and replace her with Andrea Lewis, Country music diva and a councillor for the Morriston ward. Morriston is also represented by current council leader, Rob Stewart, who is said to be unduly influenced by Bob Clay. (I thought I’d better cover myself by saying ‘current’ because you never know in Swansea.)

Vipers

I have written about the Clays before, a number of times, and as I say, it now appears that they are seeking to use assault victim Jenny Lee Clarke and witness Paulette Smith to remove Carolyn Harris, though my mystery source argues that the assault itself is a fabrication and the beginning of the plot.

All very strange, but given some credence by this remarkable document headed “To oblige CH (Carolyn Harris) to retire”, almost certainly written by Bob Clay and signed by him, Jenny Lee Clarke and Paulette Smith. Note that Bob Clay was uncertain whether to move on Harris before the Assembly elections in May or whether to bide his time. It may be significant that this document was signed on January 20th, a week before Jenny Lee Clarke went to the police.

My mystery informant goes further, writing, “Lots of people think the assault story is something Bob Clay cooked up to get Harris thrown out. He is now shitting himself because the story backfired and ended up in the Sun and Daily Mail. His branch want him suspended and deselected as a the councillor. There is infighting everywhere and Wales Labour is pretending nothing is happening”.

So how did the story make the tabloids? Did someone deviate from the script?

*

TRADITIONAL LABOUR VALUES

I’d like to end on a lighter note, if that’s possible when talking about the Labour Party in Swansea. But I enjoyed this story because it reminded me of traditional ‘Welsh’ Labour values. And I am nothing if not a traditionalist.

A while back now an Indian restaurateur wanted permission to demolish a two-storey building on St Helen’s Road and replace it with a three-storey building with a restaurant on the ground floor and staff accommodation above. Planning officers recommended refusal, but it soon became clear that the Labour councillors had decided beforehand to grant planning permission, and so the application was allowed.

Soon afterwards, my mate, who was on the planning committee, and also voted in favour, got a phone call from the Indian restaurateur. He said, ‘Mr R——, you must bring your wife down for a meal’. Taken slightly aback my mate replied, ‘That’s very kind of you but councillors have to be careful about that sort of thing’. The disappointed restaurateur responded with, ‘But the other councillors have been! And (a leading Labour councillor) even had his wedding reception here!’ (I should add that this is a very upmarket Indian restaurant.)

Let me make it clear that I am not for one minute suggesting that this hospitality was not paid for in full. Labour councillors – as we all know – do not accept freebies.

This restaurateur is expanding his empire, and recently sought permission for a takeaway in Killay (where he already has a restaurant), and the property in question is on the busy Gower Road, which at that point has double yellow lines. Again, the Labour members on the planning committee nodded it through despite the obvious issues and some 25 individual objections plus a petition with a further 77 names.

The Indian restaurateur in question himself lives in one of the big houses further along Gower Road, here’s a photo of his home taken within the past couple of days.

Gower Road

*

SUMMARY

The Labour Party came into being to fight entrenched and unrepresentative power, yet now, in Wales, it has become that very same thing itself; corrupt and representing nothing but the selfish interests of its members and hangers-on.

Because Labour can offer favours, jobs, sinecures, council seats, and positions as an MP or an AM it inevitably attracts chancers, crooks, careerists and just about anybody looking for easy money and a cushy life.

This contempt for the public at large is nowhere more evident than in Swansea where Labour is in a permanent state of civil war. Its members more concerned with plotting against each other than with running the city effectively.

But this is what results when any political party enjoys unchallenged power for too long. It gives us a corrupt and self-serving gang able to hang on to power because Wales lacks a party like the SNP to apply the coup de grace.

Worse, the party that likens itself to the SNP, the party whose leader loves to be photographed with Nicola Sturgeon, will be in coalition with Labour after May 5th. Which means that nothing will change.

 ~ § END § ~

 

COMING SHORTLY: In my next post (out perhaps on the 25th) I plan to look at what’s happening in our housing associations. There’s talk of collapse, council takeover, merger, incompetence and God knows what else. I shall be paying particular attention to Cantref and RCT Homes, so I would welcome any information on these, or indeed any other housing associations.

Either use the contact box at the head of the sidebar or write to editor@jacothenorth.net.

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