Dec 302013
 

This post is a kind of New Year’s Resolution. Specifically, a promise to waste less time in 2014 on the ‘monkeys’ down Cardiff docks and to pay more attention to the ‘organ grinders’. For it is becoming increasingly clear that simia politicus cambrensis is encouraged to chatter and dance in order that he – and, indeed, she – may draw attention away from those who really exercise power in Wales.

It is surely unfair that those burdened with such responsibilities, those shaping the future of our country, should languish, unacclaimed, in the shadows. Seeing as Richard of Poppleton is a prominent ‘organ grinder’ it is wholly fitting therefore that he should enjoy a little of the spotlight; not least so that we might appreciate better the interesting work he does.

                                                     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Richard Poppleton is, according to the gov.uk website, “the Director of Wales at the Planning Inspectorate”. Though in this press release of February 2012, announcing his appointment, he is described as “Director for Wales” . . . while later in the same press release, it’s back to “Director of Wales”! So which is it?

Richard PoppletonThe first thing to understand is that there is a single Planning Inspectorate for Englandandwales, and it is an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. An executive agency is a “machinery of government” device that lacks the freedom from ministerial control (UK government ministerial control) enjoyed by both non-ministerial government departments and non-departmental public bodies (quangoes). In other words, it’s an arm of a UK government department trying to pretend it’s something else. That the UK government should promote this deception is perfectly understandable. What is perhaps less easy to understand is why those wretches down Cardiff docks should so willingly participate.

The clues are everywhere. For example, I have referred to the press release of February 2012, announcing Poppleton’s promotion; let’s look at it a little more closely. First, the heading. The Planning Inspectorate and its bosses obviously understand that a bit of meaningless bilingualism can fool a lot of people into believing something is ‘Welsh’. Then, in the very first paragraph, we read, “Richard Poppleton has been appointed Director for Wales in the Planning Inspectorate”. Making it absolutely clear who he works for, and who he answers to.

Moving on to the third paragraph. I couldn’t help but notice the phrase ” . . . our plans and strategies for Wales . . . “, though the sentence ends with, ” . . . serve the particular needs of the Welsh Government.” Which might appear contradictory unless, as I suspect, it is the Planning Inspectorate that decides the ‘needs’ of the ‘Welsh’ Government.

Why is any of this important? Because, the Planning Inspectorate is the agency forcing on our local councils the insane Local Development Plans I dealt with recently in this post. Plans premissed on the projection that Wales will see 323,009 new households between 2008 and 2033. Another way of putting it would be that this projection has the poKey Resultspulation of Wales increasing by some 22% by 2033. Yet elsewhere, in figures produced by Statistics for Wales, the population is predicted to increase by only 8% by 2037! An increase of somewhat less than 300,000.

They can’t both be right. Check the figures for yourself, see what a nonsense the one makes of the other. And here’s another odd thing . . . In a letter dated November 12, 2013 – the very same month of the StatsWales figures! – Carl Sargeant, Minister for Housing and Regeneration said, defending the 323,009 households projection, that the figure is ” . . . based on a Welsh specific methodology which is separate to the methodology used in England”. Which can only mean that not only do we have Statistics for Wales but we must have other agencies doing the same work, and coming up with totally different figures! How many such bodies are there? How much are we paying for this confusing duplication?

The truth is of course that the absurdly inflated figure Sargeant tries to defend is the work of the Planning Inspectorate. It is nothing more than a subterfuge to build new housing in the knowledge that the properties built, especially in more rural areas, will find English buyers. Exposing these ‘projections’ for what they are – a blatant strategy of colonisation. Which is why I suggest that anyone wishing to challenge these plans should not waste their time on the ‘monkeys’; insist on dealing with the ‘organ grinders’. In this case, the ‘organ grinder’ is Richard Poppleton.

Let me repeat what I said in an earlier post. The ‘Welsh’ Government is little more than a national version of Carmarthenshire county council, where the unelected dictate to the elected. This fact probably goes a long way to explaining why the ‘Welsh’ Government refuses to intervene in Carmarthenshire. The main difference being that the unelected in Sir Gar have a higher public profile than those running Wales! We must remedy this situation!

IN THE NEXT ISSUE! How the Housing Directorate plans to give housing associations a near-monopoly in the rented accommodation sector! How the Housing (Wales) Bill keeps mentioning ‘England’, and how being local counts for nothing! How the Planning Inspectorate recently made an almost unreported decision with massive implications regarding year-round occupation of holiday caravans! And more!!

Dec 232013
 

This video reminds us of the Plygain service, an ancient Welsh Christmas tradition. As Arfon Gwilym explains, Plygain was a carol service held in the early hours of Christmas morning. It must have been quite moving to see people arriving at the church in the darkness, on foot or by horse-drawn cart.

As is also explained, the Plygain tradition died out in most parts of Wales, surviving only in a contiguous area of central Wales from south Meirionnydd through Montgomeryshire into south Denbighshire. We’ll be having the Plygain service in our village in early January.

With Arfon Gwilym is this video are Robin Huw Bowen and Sioned Webb, giving a wonderful rendition of Ar Gyfer Heddiw’r Bore.

Use your imagination and try to picture it being sung by eighteenth-century farmers in a whitewashed church lit by flickering candles, with snow falling all over the land.

 

                           NADOLIG LLAWEN / HAPPY CHRISTMAS

 

 Posted by at 13:13 on 23/12/2013  Uncategorised
Dec 192013
 

Woe! Woe! and thrice woe! Tales come from all quarters telling, variously, of Labourites turning on each other like ferrets in a sack; of Il Duce chewing the carpet in impotent rage at the behaviour of a Californian councillor; of a callow yoof in Jamesonia accumulating more ‘jobs’ than a retired government minister; and a prince of Denmark willing to exchange the bracing Baltic air of Copenhagen for the, um, intriguing aromas of Port Talbot-sur-Mer. To begin, with the aforementioned ‘ferrets’ . . .

News broke today of one bruvver in Caerffili referring to other bruvvers as ‘a joke’. The accuser was Councillor Nigel Dix, of Welsh-hating True Wales, who, in one of those hilarious cc e-mail episodes, described local AM Gwyn Price as a joke. Not content with that, he then Nigel Dixextended the description to Comrade Councillor Gez Kirby, who has himself featured on this blog.

Dix is clearly a bit of a preener, who likes to be photographed in what he probably imagines are flat caps and mufflers suitable for twenty-first century socialists. He also plays in a blues band (Rhymni delta blues) and owns a Fender Stratocaster. But the real humour here is that all this name-calling is taking place in Caerffili, one of the most dysfunctional councils in Wales which, by happy chance, also made the news today.

One question must be, will Dix’ indiscretion result in him doing something drastic. Well, if blues man Dix wants to end it all with a midnight tryst at a crossroads, then I’m sure I can borrow a car and play Satan . . . though I ain’t interested in his soul.

UPDATE 27.08.2015: Yes, I know, it’s a bit late . . . but anyway, I am indebted to GE for sending me a copy of the e-mails referred in the above report. Read them here. One thing that struck me was that the guy with whom Dix is having such fun slagging off other bruvvers is Andrew R. Whitcombe, who clearly works at Bridgend College. I trust someone had a word with Comrade Whitcombe about using his Coleg Penybont e-mail account to discuss Labour Party business. But then, this is Wales . . .

Moving west, we come to the City of my Dreams. I have oft-times dealt with the local Labour Party (sometimes I’ve even managed to do so without frightening the cat by laughing out loud). Anyone wanting to read these previous observations should just type ‘Swansea Labour Party’, ‘John Bayliss’, ‘Mitchell Theaker’, ‘DPearleen Sanghaavid Phillips’ (Il Duce), or ‘Pearleen Sangha’ into the Search box at the top of the sidebar.

Now I learn that Pearleen, a councillor for the Santa Cruz Uplands ward, has moved to Cardiff to work full-time for the party machine. I am further led to believe that this will involve working with Mick Antoniw, AM for Pontypridd and self-confessed trustee of The Bevan Foundation, in targeting a couple of Lib Dem seats ahead of the next Assembly elections in 2016. Council leader David Phillips is livid that one of his gang has left without, apparently, telling him. There are a number of issues here.

The fragrant Ms Sangha is from California and was elected to the council – after three recounts – in 2012 straight from Swansea university. She has been home at least twice this year, and regularly swans off to various Labour yoof gatherings. So she knows sod all about Swansea and cares less, yet now she has been recruited to work for the party Mick Antoniwnationally – in a country she doesn’t understand!. Small wonder fellow Uplands councillor John Boy Bayliss – now, at last, gainfully employed – is complaining bitterly about having to do more work; tedious stuff like listening to constituents talking about drains, litter, and next-door’s dog. (This is serious, for Bayliss, Sangha, Theaker and many others belong to Labour’s hedonist wing. They only joined because they heard Labour was a ‘party’.)

By an amazing coincidence, Anglo-Ukrainian Antoniw also washed up in Wales as a student. After studying law he became, ahem, a ‘personal injuries’ lawyer. Antoniw, Sangha and all the other carpetbaggers illustrate the massive problem facing ‘Welsh’ Labour – it’s becoming less and less Welsh! With few Welsh people other than self-haters joining the party nowadays it desperately embraces and promotes anyone who’s under the age of 50, free of halitosis and flatulence and able to read joined-up writing. Of course, this also means that the party is exploited by political adventurers, entryists and dilettantes, who see ‘Welsh’ Labour, with its ‘donkey’ vote, as an easy route to an undemanding political career.

Now we move further west, into Jamesonia (formerly known as Carmarthenshire), and the cautionary tale of young Calum Higgins. Said to be a clever boy, our Calum, meeting the criteria given abovCalum Higginse, which has resulted in him being deluged with work. Though the more I think about it, the more I suspect Calum’s intelligence may be over-rated. I say that because Carmarthenshire council is a house of cards that will very soon topple. Anyone too close to the ruling Labour-Independent coalition will cop some rubble. Consequently, any aspiring politician with an ounce of political nous would not be hitching his wagon to the falling stars on Jail Hill. Of course, there is the possibility that Calum is sincere, and believes in the Labour Party . . . which would only confirm my assessment.

Finally, we reach out – unworthy though we may be – to the ‘Welsh’ Labour pantheon, wherein dwell Ma and Pa Kinnock, reclining on their EU millions. Their daughter-in-law, Helle Thorning-Schimdt, is the Prime Minister of Denmark . . . yes, she of the infamous ‘selfie’ with Obama and Cameron at the Mandela funeral. It may be of significance that even though she has a double-barrelled name Kinnock is not one of those ‘barrels’.

Anyway, the son / husband is Stephen Kinnock, and he has expressed an interest in standing for the Aberavon Westminster seat, when Hywel Francis, son of miners’ leader, Dai, steps down in 2015. Though his wife thinks the ambition “unusual”. Kinnock Junior seems currently to be the Managing Director of GLTE, which forms part of xynteo, but now rather fancies a change of direction. But why? Well, the news I’m getting from my sources in the Danish parliament is that Stephen Kinnock wakes up regularly from a nightmare, the narrative of which runs thus: Him and the missus are at a Buck House garden party. Beti comes over, they are introduced, and – as she does – says, ‘And what do you do, Mr Thorning-Schmidt?’ At which point he runs off, screaming, into the shrubbery, pursued by corgies and SAS ‘waiters’. Stephen Kinnock

I jest, of course. But if the Labour Party picks for Aberavon a man who works in Switzerland, has a family in Denmark, who’s had trouble with tax authorities, and who may be untruthful about his own sexuality, then it will be further confirmation of the contempt with which it regards its ‘donkey’ voters. It will also reaffirm that ‘Welsh’ Labour is as unfussed about the hereditary principle as the Hapsburgs or the rulers of North Korea.

To conclude. Some people think I’m cruel towards the bruvvers and the sissters. But think about it . . . yes, I put my own spin on things, but no one can accuse me of making anything up. It all comes on a platter, gift-wrapped. The issue isn’t that there are ‘jokes’ in Welsh Labour, more that the whole stinking structure is a joke.

P.S. I’ve just heard that at tonight’s City Carol Service in the Collegiate and Parish Church of St. Mary’s there were bishops present, and peers, AMs and MPs, mayors from neighbouring towns, and many other worthies – but not a single member of the ruling Labour group on Swansea city council. Just rows of empty seats.

Maybe this reluctance to be seen in public accounts for Labour spending some £2,000 on a two-page Christmas spread in the Evening Post, showing photographs of all 49 Labour councillors. Giving those who voted Labour the chance to see what their out-of-town councillors look like. I just hope it’s the Labour Party and not the council paying for this extravagance.

Dec 172013
 

In a sense, this post is supplementary to the previous post. Because having made a number of references, both direct and oblique, to the problem I now think it’s time to hit the nail squarely on the head. This ‘nail’ of which I speak is the deception that has been practised for over a decade that wants us to believe Wales is run by the politicians we have elected to the Assembly.

It is now clear beyond doubt that Wales is in fact run by people we have never heard of, and have never voted for. In the main, these are civil servants. Answerable to London but, more importantly, also taking orders from London and making sure that the ‘Welsh’ Government follows the same directives. Though this often means co-operation if there is a shared objective. The number of examples proving this continue to mount.

From talking with Pol Wong about the way his Powys Fadog venture in Llangollen was sabotaged it soon became clear that civil servants – no less than Gillian Morgan, the top civil servant in Wales at the time – showed blatant bias by conspiring with Labour politicians who clearly saw Pol’s vision as being ‘too Welsh’. Meetings to discuss how best to sabotage the Powys Fadog project were even taking place in the home of a local Labour AM!

Then last week, a delegation from Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) met with Carl Sargeant, NosworthyMinister for Housing and Regeneration, in the hope of persuading him to make the Welsh language a material consideration in planning for new housing. Tweets from a couple of those at the meeting make it clear how it went. The politician was at least prepared to listen to the Society’s wishes, but the civil servants wanted to dismiss it out of hand. How do we explain such open hostility?Robin Farrar

I think this takes us back to what I said in the previous post about the insane housebuilding plans being imposed on Wales. As I showed in that post, using official figures, the only way to explain this housebuilding extravaganza is to view it as a deliberate attempt to further damage Welsh identity. That being so, then the attitude of the civil servants at the meeting with Cymdeithas yr Iaith is entirely consistent with this strategy, but difficult to explain otherwise.

Something else I pointed out in the previous post was the article in the most recent Planning Inspectorate newsletter. This piece, headed ‘Planning Reform in Wales’, contained phrases such as ” . . . (proposed reforms) resonate with those in England” and “Again reflecting change in England”. Major planning decisions in England and Wales, plus Local Development Plans, are under the control of the Planning Inspectorate, which answers solely to the UK Government. This is disguised by the UK government passing legislation ‘for England’ and the ‘Welsh’ Government ‘for Wales’ – but, increasingly, it’s the same legislation! And this is why civil servants that have been ‘advised’ by the Planning Inspectorate cannot accept any legislation for Wales that fundamentally differentiates Wales from England. (Plus of course there’s the over-arching consideration of anglicisation.)

It’s the same picture in social housing. The preserve in Wales of the shadowy Housing Directorate. Here, again, Wales is locked into an Englandandwales system. One that, inevitably, works against the Welsh national interest; a) by ensuring that, in many areas, more social housing is built than local applicants need, and b) seeing to it that Welsh applicants are always at the back of the queue for allocations. Many social housing providers are now little more than large private companies. Why they should still be treated as charities or social enterprises is a mystery. An even bigger mystery is why any housing association should be receiving funding from the ‘Welsh’ Government.

Then, last year, and purely by chance, I ran across the Wales Rural Observatory. This is a group of English academics, funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government, that comes up with ‘policy suggestions’ for its benefactor. Their website talks of Wales as if was East Anglia, there is no mention of the language or any other distinctively Welsh factors. This is the blind leading the blind. A bunch of English interlopers funded with Welsh money ‘advising’ a political party that believes civilisation stops somewhere just after Llanelli, or the western outskirts of Wrecsam.

It used to be said, back in the pre-devolution days, that a Welsh parliament would be nothing more than ‘Glamorgan County Council on stilts’, suggesting that it would just be a glorified county council controlled by Labour. Looking at what we have today down Cardiff docks there is a comparison to be made with a county council, but it’s not Glamorgan. With the elected representatives surrendering their authoritypuppets to civil servants, the real comparison is with Carmarthenshire. An authority where the unelected are firmly in control, and General James marches his bedraggled and increasingly mutinous troops towards the unavoidable fate of Special Measures (and probably legal action, as well).

I have believed for some years that Wales under devolution has become less, not more, democratic. The more evidence that comes to light of the power wielded by civil servants then the more obvious this becomes. ‘Welsh’ Labour goes along with this system partly because it lacks the balls to stand up to London; partly because it doesn’t really care about Wales; and partly because as a reward for its submission it is given the freedom to indulge in socialistic fol-de-rols like free prescriptions and the like. Which, if you think about them, are all measures likely to attract into Wales those who’ll be a burden on health care and other services. Coincidence, no doubt.

We need to face up to the truth that devolution has been a dismal failure. I voted for devolution because I wanted a system prioritising Welsh needs and protecting Welsh identity. What we have is a collaborationist regime working with those whose objective is the assimilation of Wales into England. And it wouldn’t matter which party claimed to be in charge down Cardiff docks. Our enemies get away with this because we don’t stand up to them. Consequently, they regard us Welsh with the contempt we deserve. We need to start defending Welsh interests, any way we can.

Dec 122013
 
I am grateful to Gruffydd Meredith of Cymru Sofren / Sovereign Wales
for providing the inspiration for this post.

 

The title of this post is obviously taken from the great baseball movie Field of Dreams. And even though the subject matter of this post is the ‘Welsh’ Government’s housebuilding programme to 2033, similar reasoning underpins both the storyline of the movie and the programme, as you’ll soon realise.

By now, anyone who takes an interest in Welsh affairs will be aware that someone, somewhere, has decided that between 2008 and 2033 the number of households in Wales will increase by 323,009. This figure, according to Carl Sargeant, ‘Welsh’ Government Minister for Housing and Regeneration, in a letter dated November 12th, 2013, is ” . . . based on a Welsh specific methodology which is separate to the methodology used in England”.

This projected increase accounts for the Local Development Plans (LDPs) that in recent years have been imposed on our local authorities; forcing them into planning for thousands of new houses they know are not needed by local people. Schemes adopted only because our councillors know in advance they’ll lose any appeal and will also be burdened with punitive legal costs. So do these projections stand up to scrutiny?

The first question to ask is, fairAv Household size by yearly obviously, what is the size of a ‘household’? According to the ‘Welsh’ Government – and available here on the StatsWales website (or click on panel left) – it currently stands at 2.20 persons, but it is predicted to drop steadily until it reaches 2.02 persons per household in 2033.

The figure of 323,009 over 25 years averages out at 12,920 new households per year. So multiplying the annual average of 12,920 new households by 2.2 gives us an increase in population for 2013 of 28,424, falling gradually until we reach 26,098 in 2033. Yet between the censuses of 2001 and 2011 Wales saw an average annual increase of just 15,300. Another curiosity is that according to these household projection figures, Wales should have seen an increase in population between 2008 and 2012 of roughly 114,000. Yet elsewhere on the StatsWales website we learn that the estimated population increase in that pPop leveeriod was only 48,200. (Click on panel right to enlarge.) Clearly, the figures for the projected increase in the number of households in Wales is, what statisticians call, a load of old bollocks.

So what is the justification in planning for an annual household / population increase of almost double that we have seen in the decade up to 2011, and more than double what we are experiencing today? Is Wales to enjoy an economic upsurge? Not with Labour running things. Are we to suddenly revert to having large numbers of children? Unlikely. And even if we were, this wouldn’t impact on the household figures until after 2033. Are we to become a nation of misogynist loners? We are already. The only explanation is that Wales is to see an influx of people from outside the country. And given that this is being planned for now, it will be an engineered influx.

These massive and unprecedented increases in population and household numbers can not come into play until the imposed LDPs are in operation. This explains why the household number projection from 2008 to the present is so woefully out of sync with the statistical realities. This also means that Wales is being told to build hundreds of thousands of new houses when those giving these instructions know in advance that the bulk of these new homes are designed solely to encourage English colonisation.

In areas of the north tens of thousands of new houses will be built for commuters moving out of Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire, further weakening Welsh identity. In Carmarthenshire, so pivotal in recent political history, the Welsh language is to be reduced to curio status and the Welsh born marginalised. Powys is to become Outer Green Belt for the English West Midlands. For what we’re discussing here is not really about households and statistics, it’s about nationhood; our nationhood, and the continuing attempts to destroy it, and, by so doing, remove a political threat. This genocidal strategy is being implemented by the Planning Inspectorate, an English body – or, if you prefer, an Englandandwales body – that pretends it is in some way answerable to the ‘Welsh’ Government. It is not.

Sargeant BawsoThe role of the English Planning Inspectorate has become ever clearer in recent years and this, inevitably, has resulted in growing criticism. Presumably in an attempt to prove its independence, the ‘Welsh’ Government has recently produced a Housing Bill, dealing mainly with social housing and private rented accommodation. This Bill is the social housing partner to the LDPs, for it confirms that when it comes to social housing in Wales everyone has priority over the Welsh. For example, in 85 pages it makes no mention of the Welsh language, yet contains half a dozen pages on ‘Gypsies and Travellers’. While I can’t directly blame them for this Bill, it certainly carries the fingerprints of another group of English civil servants pursuing an anti-Welsh agenda, this time the secretive Housing Directorate which, like the Planning Inspectorate, claims to be answerable to the ‘Welsh’ Government. A claim that is equally spurious.

By one of those coincidences that brings a wee shaft of brightness to these short days I yesterday received the latest Planning Inspectorate newsletter. Scroll down and you’ll see a piece headed, ‘Planning Reform in Wales’. (Note also that it mentions ‘Carl Sargeant the Welsh Minister . . . ‘ but neglects to give his portfolio!) Click on the link to the article or read below). I don’t know about you, but I find some of this chilling. “Joint planning boards would produce ‘sub regional’ type plans in those areas of the county (i.e. Wales) that require a more strategic approach than currently exists. Local Devolopment plans would remain but would be subject to refinement. (My italics.) Which can only mean that the plans currently being forced on our local authorities can be changed. It goes on: “It is evident that further casework would be likely to come to the Planning Inspectorate, both in terms of dealing with applications for developments of national significance and other major developments”. Mmm. So here we are, discussing ‘Welsh’ legislation, yet it will result in more work for an English agency! Then we come to the final paragraphs, which I have reproduced in full. (Again, my italics.)

“In terms of appeals, many of the proposed reforms resonate with those introduced in England. e.g. submission of full statements of case with no opportunity thereafter to introduce argument/evidence.

The right to appear before an Inspector would be removed with the Inspectorate taking a more pro-active, case managing role in determining the appropriate format for appeals.  Reflecting the Scottish system, appeals would be started as written representations with the Inspectorate escalating the format type as deemed necessary.  This would include a hybrid format, similar to that used in Local Development Plan examinations, where the Inspector decides that most aspects could be dealt with via written representations, but certain aspects would require a hearing or inquiry format.

Again reflecting change in England, Inspectors would be able to inPlanning Reform in Walesitiate cost awards against parties and to recover the costs in dealing with the appeal.

Third party rights of appeal have been ruled out following the evidence considered by the Independent Advisory Group and their recommendations.

Major changes are afoot.”

So, what have we learnt from this? First, that there people out there trying to destroy Welsh identity. Second, they don’t all live in England. Third, Wales, despite the posturing of Welsh politicians, with their silly gimmicks, is really controlled by shadowy civil servants answerable to even more shadowy agencies in London. Fourth, Wales is more closely integrated with England today than she was before ‘devolution’. Fifth, ‘devolution’ is an insulting sham.

But just in case I’m wrong I’ll give Sergeant a chance. You claim that the household projections for Wales up to 2033 are “based on a Welsh specific methodology which is separate to the methodology used in England”. The Planning Inspectorate suggests otherwise, welcoming the increasing uniformity of the planning systems operating in Wales and England. But just in case you’re right; it’s clear from the figures I’ve provided – or, rather, that the Office for National Statistics has provided – that those who supplied your figures for the increase in household numbers have made a mistake.

The population of Wales increased by an average of 15,300 a year between 2001 and 2011, and just 12,050 a year between 2008 and 2012, so how do you – or your ‘Welsh’ statisticians – explain a projected annual increase in population of almost 28,000 a year from now to 2033? If you cannot satisfactorily explain this projection, then you, and the Planning Inspectorate, have no alternative but to scrap Local Development Plans forced on Welsh local authorities to meet this unprecedented and unjustifiable increase.

P.S. Hope you enjoyed yourself at the Labour Christmas bash in Mischiefs Bar last night. (Heard you were DJ!) Also hope you were all spending your own money.

Dec 092013
 

As I mentioned in my earlier post on this topic (here) I submitted a Freedom of Information request to the ‘Welsh’ Government asking if it had given any money to The Bevan Foundation, and if so, how much, plus subsidiary questions. My e-mail request was submitted on November 5th and I received the reply on the 27th. The request and the response can be read below.

Between 2001 (the year the Foundation was formed) and 2008 the ‘Welsh’ Government handed over £20,270.50, and a further £51,251.00 from 2008 up to the present day (or whenever these figures were compiled). Making a grand total of  £71,520.50. The attachments I received were in Excel format but they may be read as PNG files on the right, click to enlarge.

You will note that the response tells me that not all the information I requested can be supplied because to collect and collate it would exceed the £600 limit set by the UK Government for processing Freedom of Information requests. If I have read this section correctly, then the information I have not been given is, 1/ who made the decisiBevan Foundation 2001 - 2008ons to allocate specific funding or work to The Bevan Foundation, and, 2/ if this was contracted work rather than grant funding, then did it follow a fair and open tendering process. Important points, I would have thought, given that we are dealing with an organisation in The Bevan Foundation inextricably linked with the Labour Party and its associated bodies.

Despite the sparsity of the information, I still believe we can draw certain conclusions. In the figures for 2001 – 2008, and in the column headed ‘System Reference’, I see ‘Fees’ cropping up regularly (though not for the larger amounts). So does this suggest work contracted to The Bevan Foundation rather than grants? By the time we come to the 2008 – Present table (using the new accounting method mentioned in the Bevan Foundation 2008 - Presentreply) we see in the ‘Payment Type’ column ‘Invoice’ against most entries. I take this to mean invoices from The Bevan Foundation to the ‘Welsh’ Government for work done on behalf of that body. So what kind of work was this?

The first one mentioned, in the ‘Division’ (of the ‘Welsh’ Government?) column, is ‘Fairer Futures’. But what does it mean? I assume it is in some way connected with the Fairer Futures Division of the ‘Welsh’ Government. (I bet you didn’t even know there was one!) Further down we see that close on thirty grand has been allocated to ‘Democracy Ethics & Partnerships’, for which I can find no information at all. Nor did the ‘Division Code’ X211 turn up anything on the ‘Welsh’ Government website. Also in the ‘Division’ column we can see, ‘Homes and Places, ‘Housing Policy’, ‘Employability & Skills Division’, ‘Chief Economist’, ‘Constutional Affairs & Inter-Government’, ‘Cabinet Division’, ‘Communities Directorate’ and ‘Strategic Budgeting Division’. So what does it all tell us? In case anyone is still in doubt . . .

In 2001 Labour politicians and activists set up a think tank to produce ‘reports’ favourable to the Labour Party. The ‘Welsh’ Government gives work to said think tank, thereby providing State-funded employment for Labour activists to produce Labour propaganda. In return for our generosity we get Reports and Surveys telling us that people without money are poor; that the world would be a better place if we were all nicer to each other; that people with somewhere to live aren’t homeless. Platitudinous bollocks we could get for nothing from an idiot savant like Forrest Gump.

Consequently, I think this is seventy-one thousand pounds wasted. Because it is used for no better purpose than to produce vacuous observations and naive wish-lists. Though this money from the ‘Welsh’ Government is not the only route by which Labour Party largesse reaches The Bevan Foundation. Because the Foundation also does ‘work’ for the Wales TUC and the Wales Co-operative Development Centre. And let us not forget the generosity of cash-strapped Blaenau Gwent council in helping the Foundation pay for a Research Officer . . . to produce yet more vacuous observations and naive wish-lists.

This is just an update to my earlier post; but if anyone reading it can see anything I’ve missed, or can ‘translate’ some of the codes used in relation to the ‘Welsh’ Government spending, then please get in touch.

Dec 052013
 

There’s a little magazine that circulates in south Meirionnydd called Sybridion (Whispers), it comes out every couple of months. I generally pick one up in Tywyn when I get petrol. It’s basically a series of adverts fSybridion coveror small local firms which helps cover publishing costs and pay for things like ‘What’s On’ listings for village halls and other voluntary groups. I picked up the most recent issue yesterday.

Flicking through it I was drawn to a full page advertisement for something called Family Voices Ltd. (Left, click to enlarge.) Once I’d started reading the advert it quickly became clear that Family Voices is another attempt to make money out of the Family Voicescurrent fad for family history. Basically, getting people to talk to a camera – in the interests of ‘posterity’, you understand – then selling them a DVD of their talk at anything up to £895 a pop.

The puff was written by one Dominic A. Ghisays (who may live in Barmouth). He tells us that the founder and chairman of Family Voices is Arnold Matthews, “retired businessman and philanthropist who has recently made Dolgellau his new home town”. Ghisays continues by telling us that Matthews “wants to create local employment opportunities and to give something back to his new home town of Dolgellau (‘Dollywood’?) and Wales on the whole”.

I think I should tell you, Dominic, that the name ‘Dollywood’ is taken. It’s Dolly Parton’s theme park in Tennessee. Believe me, pal, you don’t wanna tangle with that ol’ gal! And why be so flippant and disrespectful about the name Dolgellau? (And “Wales on the whole”!) As if that wasn’t enough, a couple of paragraphs later, Dominic asks, “So, could Dolgellau be Wales’ answer to Hollywood?” Er, no. From what I can see you’ve got a couple of video cameras and a room in downtown Dolgellau yet you’re talking about taking on Spielberg. What are you smoking! Or is this Valleywood resurrected?

While this could all be dismissed as harmless fantasising, less funny was what I read in paragraphs three and four: “Arnold Matthews and his team are taking an ‘all inclusive’ business model approach by using local strategic alliances with local authorities, colleges, the third sector (other not for profit companies) and private companies. Recently, the company has secured an office and excellent studio space in the heart of Dolgellau, he has employed a full time local project manager and has offered a local college student studying computer science, a work experience opportunity recently”. So we have here another ‘Blanche DuBois‘ outfit, dependent on the kindness of strangers, an arrangement euphemistically – and, it must be admitted, imaginatively – described as “all inclusive”!

Undaunted, though against my better judgement, I went to the website, which you can enjoy here. On the home page I was greeted with a video by Arnold Matthews himself, who told me he was formerly head of the Family History Centre in Bedfordshire. There’s nothing in the video that is specific to Dolgellau, or to Wales; giving me the impressionFamily Voices contact that Family Voices may operate right across the land we love so dear, Englandandwales. Though rummaging around in the website did bring a few gems to light.

For example, the “local full time project manager” we read mentioned in a previous paragraph is none other than Dominic A. Ghisays himself. On the ‘Contact Us’ page we are given an address for Family Voices – ‘Hollywood Heights'(!) Dolgellau! Showing a commendable respect for their adopted homeland, its language and customs. Though it should be stressed that this is only a ‘regional’ office; the Registered Office is back in Bedfordshire, England. But as I’ve already confessed, I can’t resist a bit of digging, so off I went to the Companies House website to see what it could tell me about Family Voices Ltd.

Family Voices Companies HouseThe Company Number is 06944080. (Do your own search here.) There were some  intriguing details given. For example, before August 16th, 2011 the company was known as the ‘Open-Door’ Club Ltd. But only a year earlier – on June 22nd, 2010 – it had changed its name from ‘Rent-A-Bond Ltd’. There is a Secretary mentioned, named Derek Skinner, who lasted just one month in 2009. There is no one else listed as being connected with the company . . . other than ‘Alfred Matthews’. Though, confusingly, on Linkedin there is an Arnold Matthews listed as owner of Rent-A-Bond Ltd. (Anyone signed up to Linkedin might care to check the details.) Then, according to DueDil, it is Alfred rather than Arnold. DueDil also suggests that Family Voices Ltd is not in robust financial health. (What’s more, it tells us Alfred Matthews is 86!) Why the company name changes? Are ‘Alfred Matthews’ and Arnold Matthews the same person?

I am not suggesting that Mr. Matthews (Alfred, Arnold or both) and Mr. Ghisays are involved in anything naughty, though I do wonder how a financial services company like Rent-a-Bond Ltd mutated into a fluffy genealogy business called Family Voices. Another mystery is how those involved with Family Voices Ltd will gather and properly edit the reminiscences of elderly locals speaking a language they don’t understand.

Arnold Matthews may be nothing worse than a harmless old duffer unsure of his own name who, for whatever reason, thought it a good idea to relocate to Dolgellau. (The puff in Sybridion talks of “his new young family”!) Even so, I would be rather concerned if the council to which I pay my council tax had any financial involvement with Family Voices. And I would like to know by what route Family Voices Ltd came by the “office and excellent studio space in the heart of Dolgellau”. Are these facilities rented or leased, or were they some kind of gift?

Family Voices Ltd is a private company offering a ‘service’ that anyone with elementary IT skills could deliver. Even so, the company is free to advertise for business, but that business must be conducted on a commercial basis, without public hand-outs. Though surely this service could be provided by Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor, the local sixth form college from which (presumably) Family Voices plans to recruit a student for ‘work experience’. It would give the students practical training and open up an income stream for the college. College involvement would also mean the provision of a bilingual service. So why does anyone need Family Voices Ltd?

Dec 022013
 

I went to a Christmas Fayre on Saturday afternoon. While there I was approached by a former tribune who still involves himself with local affairs. He recounted a recent meeting he’d had with Edwina Hart AM, the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport. He was mightily impressed with Redwina. I bit my tongue. (For you know me, boys and girls, diplomacy is my middle name.) Anyway, to cut to the chase, as they say, the subject they had discussed was a new crossing of the Dyfi on the A487 at Machynlleth. To explain . . .

The A487 runs from Bangor to Haverfordwest, though for a short stretch after Porthmadog it becomes the A470, before rediscovering itself at the Cross Foxes, close to Dolgellau. After parting company the A470 then runs on to Llanidloes, Builth, Brecon, Merthyr and Cardiff. The A487 sticks to the west coast linking Machynlleth, Aberystwyth, Aberaeron, Cardigan, Fishguard, St, David’s and, finally, Haverfordwest. One might think the A470 would be the busier road but it’s often empty of traffic – especially in the ‘Green Desert’ – until it reaches Merthyr. (Though more than once I’ve been on the A470 south of Merthyr in the middle of the day in very light traffic.)

Despite this, the A470 receives far more funding for road improvements than the A487, with this justified by arguing that it is ‘the main north-south artery’. It’s not; it’s the main road from the north to Cardiff, which is not the same thing. The A487 is busier than the A470, for two main reasons. First, it has a much higher population density along its length than the A470. Second, the A487 is the main route from the north west, Aber’ and other places – via Lampeter – to the Swansea Bay conurbation. These are uncomfortable facts for a Cardiff-obsessed ‘Welsh’ Government. But the problems of the A487 will not go away, and in this neck of the woods, as the former councillor reminded me, the big and enduring problem is Dyfi Bridge.

Coming from the north, the only way of reaching Machynlleth by road is over an antiquated stone bridge in the wrong place and just not up to the standard demanded by modern transport. (Obviously, heading north out of the town means using the same bridge.) With the result that, even on good days, there can be problems . . . but there are fewer and fewer good days. Being so narrow, big trucks have great difficulty negotiating Pont Dyfi, often resulting in other traffic having to back up, with all sorts of chaos resulting. Predictably, the bridge is regularly hit and damaged by trucks. At present, there are traffic lights operating following the latest incident.

There is no viable detour – certainly not for heavy traffic – yet the road is vital for people in south Meirionnydd to reach their local hospital in Aberystwyth, or just to go shopping. Apart from the problem with the bridge there is also an issue with flooding on the road between the bridge and Machynlleth itself and, on the other side of the town, at Derwenlas. These problems may now have been remedied . . . though I stress may. Time – plus a combination of a high tide and heavy rain – will tell. So it has been obvious for many years that a new bridge is needed, and perhaps a more far-reaching solution that also provides Mach’ with a by-pass. To inspect the problem first-hand, and get a few pics, I took myself off to Machynlleth this morning. There are five photos in all, click on the ‘I’ to get a brief description.

Dyfi Bridge

This is the bridge over the Dyfi on the outskirts of Machynlleth. It carries the A487, the busiest north-south route in Wales. It is a vital economic artery and the only route for many in Meirionnydd to reach their nearest hospital in Aberystwyth. Yet despite the bridge being incapable of dealing with the demands of today's traffic the 'Welsh' Government has no plans to replace it.

From Aberdyfi and Tywyn
From Aberdyfi and Tywyn
Looking Towards Machynlleth
Looking Towards Machynlleth
From Corris and Dolgellau
From Corris and Dolgellau
Pembrokeshire Truck Heading North
Pembrokeshire Truck Heading North
Close-up of Damage (Note slabs in water.)
Close-up of Damage (Note slabs in water.)

 

On my return I got to wondering if the ‘Welsh’ Government had plans to improve the situation, so I went to that body’s webWelsh Government roadssite, where I found the following information (right, click to enlarge), and nothing more recent. The ‘Welsh’ Government (more likely, the civil servants who take too many decisions in Wales) is prioritising three – I repeat, THREE, east-west links – and one north-south route. Suspecting that the north-south link referred to Roads, specificmight be the A470 I dug a little deeper into the website. My suspicions were confirmed. (Click on panel, left.)

In the works listed to start by 2011 the only one on the A487 is the Porthmadog by-pass, now completed. It’s probably no coincidence that this improvement is located at a point just before the A487 becomes the A470, so in many ways it’s an improvement for the A470 as much as for the A487. The only improvement in the pipeline on the A487 is the stretch from Bontnewydd to Caernarfon. (With which no one could argue.) The other road mentioned here is the A483, the old Manchester-Swansea trunk road.

Given the pressing need for a new bridge over the Dyfi why is the ‘Welsh’ Government refusing to do anything? My suggestion is that there are three principal reasons:

  • The A487 is a north-south road which means that – unlike east-west routes – it offers limited benefits to English companies exploiting the colonial nature of the ‘Welsh’ economy.
  • There are no Labour seats along the entire length of the A487 at either Westminster or in the Welsh Assembly, and little chance of Labour winning any. (This also explains the refusal to re-open the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth rail link.)
  • Any improvements to the A487 at Machynlleth would be of no discernible benefit to Cardiff.

So yet again we see how certain parts of Wales are ignored by the Cardiff Assembly, and why. For a party as tribal, vindictive and anti-Welsh as Labour this neglect of the whole western side of the country is entirely predictable. What’s not so easy to explain is why those MPs and AMs representing the constituencies along the A487, and especially those representing the areas immediately affected by the Dyfi bridge bottleneck, aren’t doing more to press the Labour Party into acting like a government for the whole of Wales.

Which in a curious, roundabout way, reminds me that many years ago political analyst Denis Balsom suggested a tripartite political division of Wales along lines of cultural identity. These were ‘Cymru Cymraeg’ (the Welsh-speaking areas – remember them?), ‘Welsh Wales’ (the Valleys and Swansea Bay), and ‘British Wales’ (the north east, south east and Pembrokeshire). Maybe it’s time we updated this tripartite interpretation taking contemporary realities into account. More specifically, how Labour runs Wales and decides priorities.

I would suggest that Labour also sees Wales in three parts, according to voting habits, and treats each area accordingly in everything from funding on infrastructure to health care, broadband provision, etc., etc. These categories are:

1/ Areas that can be taken for granted, and therefore ignored (the Valleys, Swansea Bay and the urban north east).

2/ Areas that don’t vote Labour – so they can be ‘punished’ (the rural areas of central, western and northern Wales plus perhaps Monmouthshire).

3/ Areas Labour needs to keep ‘rewarding’ in order to hang on to power in the Assembly (basically, a few seats in, and close to, Cardiff).

Which means that unless we see a major shift in voting patterns Labour only needs to worry about six or seven (out of 40) seats to stay in power for ever and a day. This division of Wales certainly explains a lot, but is it a fair or proper way to run a country?