May 012017
 

BIGOTRY WRIT LARGE

Last Friday I was sent photographs of a leaflet that had been distributed in Trawsfynydd. The accompanying message was that they were handed out by a guy in a Mercedes.

The contents of the leaflet fit a pattern I became familiar with long ago. ‘Plaid Cymru’ or ‘Gwynedd Council’ is attacked but the real target is us, the Welsh people. That’s because having the natives running things really upsets a certain kind of English mindset, it challenges what they believe to be the natural order of things. Such people will not be satisfied until we are fully assimilated and every vestigial memory of our identity is destroyed.

Or maybe, as with Jacques Protic and other swivel-eyed obsessives, the real target is the Welsh language, which they blame for everything from infant mortality rates to potholes, with Plaid Cymru or Gwynedd just collateral damage, along with Labour, for Protic also targets ‘closet nationalists’ like Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones. (A ‘closet’ in which both remained forever secreted.)

For Welsh medium education is also targeted in this leaflet, with defamatory references to an ‘English Not’, ‘language police’, and the suggestion that Welsh words are formed by adding ‘io’ to English words. A kind of Fast Show Channel 9 weather forecast with Poula ‘Skorchio’, but without the humour or any other redeeming features.

This opposition to ‘Gwynedd’/’Plaid Cymru’ can take bizarre forms. Around twenty years ago I recall a notable anti-Welsh campaigner arguing for local government reorganisation so that we might enjoy a council stretching along the Cardigan Bay coast because, it was argued, a coastal community had more in common with another coastal community 70 miles away than with a settlement 10 or 15 miles inland.

To understand the calculation behind this, mentally link Barmouth with Borth rather than with Blaenau Ffestiniog or Bala.

click to enlarge

After putting the leaflet out on social media I received a message on Saturday morning telling me that there were two persons involved, a man and a woman, and they’d been observed in a cafe in Trawsfynydd discussing the council election with other customers, and handing out what looked like the leaflet in question. One of the pair was the Independent councillor for Llangelynin ward, Louise Hughes. It made sense because I’d recently seen her in Tywyn driving a Mercedes.

Her male companion was described as being around 60 years of age, with dark/greying hair but not bald, quite tall, with wrinkles, and “scruffy”. Has anyone seen a man answering this description in the company of Councillor Louise Hughes?

I telephoned Louise Hughes around mid-day on Saturday and she admitted that she’d been in the Trawsfynydd cafe and, yes, she had handed out leaflets, but she became rather evasive on the nature of the leaflets and suggested she was doing it for someone else.

The reason she gave for being in the cafe was that she and her companion were on their way to canvas for Liberal Democrat Councillor Steven Churchman in Dolbenmaen ward, where he is opposed by a Plaid Cymru candidate. I am not suggesting that Churchman has any part in this despicable episode, so I invite Councillor Churchman to comment and make his position clear.

Louise Hughes also stood for Westminster in 2015, when she got 4.8% of the vote. She has stood for the Assembly twice, in 2011 and 2016. The first time was under the Llais Gwynedd banner, when she came in a respectable third, on 15.5% of the vote, but in 2016, standing as an Independent, she was fifth, with just 6.2%. So her star appears to be waning.

One of the names on her nomination paper from 2015 is George M Stevens, which might pass unnoticed until you realise that it’s her pal and political mentor, UKIP-leaning Councillor Mike Stevens. Why he should be so shy about using the name by which everyone knows him is a mystery.

Stevens it was who came up with the barmy scheme to have a local authority that would make Chile look fat. He has come up with many other barmy schemes, such as the cod and crow banner for Tywyn, which he used as an excuse to remove our national flag from Tywyn promenade (in case it frightens the tourists).

When he’s not being an annoying colonialist twat Stevens runs his own printing business in Tywyn, Genesis, which is very useful for someone who feels he has a vital message for the deluded masses unaware of the Plaid Cymru tyranny they live under.

Though I’m not for one minute suggesting that Mike Stevens printed the glossy and otherwise expensive leaflets being handed out by Louise Hughes and her scruffy companion in Trawsfynydd, and their allies in Dolgellau, such as MM and ARE.

What I am saying, and I say this quite clearly, is that this leaflet contravenes electoral and possibly other law, and those who wrote, published and distributed it, could be prosecuted, on the following grounds:

  • It describes itself as “a special Plaid Cymru Election edition”. Obviously it was not produced by Plaid Cymru. The party may care to take this up with the electoral authorities, or the police, or both.
  • It is election material, in that it is designed to influence how people vote on May 4th, yet it carries no imprint other than “Printy McPrintface”. This is definitely illegal, and not remotely funny.
  • Given what this leaflet says about an ‘English Not’ operating in Gwynedd schools and other references to the Welsh language it borders on being a hate crime.

On Thursday we have an election in our ward of Bryncrug-Llanfihangel. Our sitting candidate, local woman Beth Lawton, is being opposed by a Royston Hammond of Llanegryn. The response has been one of confusion because no one seems to know Hammond.

The confusion is partly caused by the fact that he doesn’t live in our ward, for Llanegryn is in Louise Hughes’ Llangelynin ward, so why doesn’t he stand in that ward, which he must know better – if only marginally – than the ward he’s standing for? Louise Hughes is now returned unopposed.

click to enlarge

Well, the word in the local thés dansants is that Hammond and his wife Mercia are very pally with Louise Hughes. So it’s reasonable to assume that a deal has been cut to give Hughes a clear run – and time to distribute the vile leaflets – while Hammond tries to give the gang another councillor in a neighbouring ward.

On his leaflet Hammond says “I have run my own companies”. True, but it may not be the kind of record he should boast about. Here’s the list from the Companies House website. One company he’s recently been involved with was SHS Inns Ltd of Blackburn (latterly, Southampton), which was liquidated last year.

The only company that he’s been involved with that appears to be still standing is H.I.S.&S. Ltd. (Formerly known as Hammond Industrial Services Ltd.) Though Hammond himself resigned as a director 31 December 2015 his wife remains a director. Hammond appears to have been replaced in April 2016 by Susan Salt, who was also involved with them in the ill-fated SHS Inns Ltd.

The figures for H.I.S.&S. Ltd are not good. The balance sheet up to 31 July 2016 shows total assets of -£14,305 against a figure for the previous year of £4,481. There appears to be one (depreciating) asset, possibly a vehicle, which contributes £10,786 to the value of the company, down from £18,114 the previous year. The true picture might be even worse, for these figures are taken from an unaudited return.

APOLOGY: In last year’s Assembly elections I voted for Louise Hughes, partly because I knew that the sitting AM Dafydd Elis Thomas was leaving Plaid Cymru. Now that I better understand her and the company she keeps I assure you it will never happen again. I shall henceforth do my best to atone for my mistake.

BAY OF PLENTY

No, this has got nothing to do with New Zealand, or rugby, or the forthcoming Lions tour. Now read on.

Another curious publication was brought to my attention on Friday, this one being put through letter-boxes in the City of the Blest. It’s available here on a website that does not allow downloading. So I’d catch it while you can, for it may not be up for much longer.

The magazine is called ‘Vision Swansea Bay’, described as an “independent magazine” which “is independently funded and published by an association of local residents and business owners.” The first few pages are innocuous enough, the City Deal, Swansea University, the tidal lagoon, then comes a double-page spread on the council elections – which is all about the Labour Party.

For example, “Think Jeremy Corbyn is a loser? Oh dear, you’ve been brainwashed”.

click to enlarge

Turning to the back cover provides the clue. For here we find a plug for the Aspire Foundation, an organisation for go-getting women. The Aspire Foundation website is registered to a Dawn Lyle, of Swansea, who just happens to be a Labour stalwart.

This is her:

In addition to mentoring young women, she has a company called iCreate Ltd. (There are a few other companies to be found for Dawn Muriel Lyle on the Companies House website.)

Another group with which she’s involved is Swansea Bay Futures Ltd, a company limited by guarantee and packed with local worthies, including academics and of course politicians; among them Meryl Gravell, the soon-to-retire Emissary on Earth for His Omnipotence Mark James; while among the mortals we find Rob Stewart, Labour leader of Swansea council, who we met just now in ‘Vision Swansea Bay’.

In her self-penned bio you will have noticed that, “Dawn is a motivational speaker for girls and school-leavers, and is passionate about raising aspirations and increasing opportunities for young women in Swansea and beyond.” Which presumably means that she goes around schools giving inspirational talks. For this she would need local education authority approval – no problem when Swansea and Neath Port Talbot are Labour controlled and she’s an “active member of the Labour Party”.

And it’s reasonable to assume that she gets paid by her friends in these Labour-run local authorities. Which means that what we have here is just a new slant on Labour cronyism. This woman, who modestly describes herself as “one of Wales leading women entrepreneurs”, might struggle without Labour Party patronage.

But what of those involved with the Swansea Bay project, who represent all political parties and none; how do they feel about the brand being used to promote the Labour Party just a week before a council election? Feedback I’ve already had suggests storm clouds may be gathering.

And who’s paying for it, is it Swansea Bay Futures? Is it the Labour Party? According to the imprint, “VISION is independently published by an association of local residents”! (That word ‘independent[ly]’ again!)

Are we to believe that a group of residents met up, maybe in an Uplands coffee house, and for no better reason than having time on their hands, decided to bring out a magazine; most of which consists of regurgitated ‘news’ available elsewhere, with the only departures being plugs for the Labour Party and a full-page ad for Dawn Lyle’s company?

You can buy that or you can believe my interpretation, which is that Dawn Lyle and Swansea Labour Party have subverted a cross-party or non-party body (and perhaps used its resources), to bring out a crude and obvious plug for a worried Labour Party just ahead of an election. Lay your bets!

If I’m right then this magazine is Labour Party electioneering material with a false or misleading imprint. An offence.

LEE WATERS AM

The Assembly Member for Llanelli has become something of a celebrity in some political circles, partly due to his support for the ‘protesters’ whose knuckles dragging outside Llangennech school have so disturbed the children they claim to be speaking for, and partly because of the widely-held belief that, despite being the AM for Llanelli, the man has never lived in that town.

To my knowledge, no one has ever made a formal complaint, or asked for an investigation into whether Lee Waters might have committed an offence, so I decided to do it myself.

First, I wrote to a couple of departments in the Assembly (the website not making it clear who to contact) and was eventually advised by the office of the Standards Commissioner that I should take my complaint to Paul Callard of Dyfed Powys Police, who “is the single point of contact on election matters”.

I telephoned Mr Callard on Friday. (Busy day, Friday.) He confirmed that any complaint should be addressed to him, and that time was running out, because there is only a year from the date of the election – 5 May 2016 – to make a complaint.

Fundamentally, my complaint hinges on the fact that the nomination paper submitted by a candidate must give the ‘Home Address’. Waters gave as his home address last year 25 New Zealand Street, Llanelli, when all the evidence points to him living in Barry.

It doesn’t help Waters’ case that if you read the list of nominated candidates from last year you will see that two of them knew the law, and complied with it, stating that they did not live in the constituency. Though I guarantee that, like Waters, they stayed in Llanelli at times during the campaign.

My letter was e-mailed to Mr Callard at Dyfed Powys Police this morning. You can read it here.

UPDATE 04.05.2017: After telephoning him at around mid-day yesterday I was told by Mr Callard that I would receive an answer later in the day, and it arrived at around 3:45. According to Mr Callard the year allowed in which to make a complain starts from the date on the ‘Statement of Persons Nominated’, in this case 8th April. So my complaint was too late.

Which would appear to be the end of the matter. But at least I tried, which is more than can be said for anyone else. I won’t make that mistake again.

♦ end ♦

Jan 082017
 

I’ve argued many times that Wales is in a bad way, a condition I described in a recent blog as “a basket case country with a begging bowl ‘economy'”. We’re at the bottom of every table measuring the state of the nation – PISA results are woeful, GVA figure are terrible and the number of economically inactive people is worrying.

Devolution has achieved nothing; in my more cynical moments I think it’s just a distraction, or a placebo.

All that seems to matter is that the money keeps rolling in to prop up the edifice and keep the politicians and their legions of cronies in jobs; with Labour trying to soothe away every damning statistic or latest piece of bad news with yet more platitudinous bollocks. Despite having had almost 18 years to improve things, the truth is that ‘Welsh’ Labour has made things worse.

The only conclusion to draw is that the party is either incapable or unwilling to improve things for our people. (Or maybe that devolution is designed to fail.) Which makes you wonder why so many Welsh people have stuck with Labour for so long. But now, after a hundred years of failure, I sense that more and more people realise that these clowns will never deliver a democratic, prosperous and confident Wales.

Despite Labour’s countless shortcomings there always seemed to be little point in looking to Plaid Cymru for meaningful change. (Regular readers will know my views on that score.) Though that said, one new face among Plaid politicians has caught my eye, I’m referring now to South Wales Central AM Neil McEvoy.

Let me make clear that I have never met Neil McEvoy, but it’s obvious from a distance that he’s cut from a different cloth to most Plaid politicians. He comes from neither the cultural nationalist wing nor from the Left-Green wing. He seems to be a man with both feet firmly planted in his own community, not looking to save the planet or pander to Guardianistas. This rootedness makes it almost inevitable that he confronts Labour head-on, and exposes the corruption at the heart of the ‘Welsh’ Government.

In addition, he seems to be that rarity among Plaid politicians, a street fighter, a species of which Labour has always had plenty, but dear parchus Plaid always found rather, well . . . not neis.

I find this refreshing, because as I’ve always argued, there are too many in Plaid Cymru who allow outdated and discredited ideology to dominate their thinking, and then they pile one mistake on another by lining up with their Guardianista friends in seeing the Tories as the enemy. But the biggest party in Wales, and therefore the real enemy of Wales, is Labour.

As I said just now, McEvoy fights Labour on their own turf. And it’s working. In the May 2016 Assembly elections voters in the working class estates in the west of Cardiff turned out to get him within 1,000 votes of unseating Mark Drakeford, Labour Health Minister at the time. That means that the former seat of Rhodri Morgan, head of the Morgan dynasty, is now a key marginal for the next election.

Understandably, this has sent Labour into something of a panic, and it’s not solely attributable to the votes McEvoy’s taken from them. For example, since being elected AM he’s called for an official Welsh register of lobbyists. When Carwyn Jones said lobbyists had no access to Labour Ministers McEvoy produced photographic evidence of Labour Ministers meeting with lobbyists. Backtracking followed, and Jones had to confirm that lobbyists do have access, just not formal access. In other words, and like so much else with ‘Welsh’ Labour, it’s all done in the shadows.

I’m also glad to report that McEvoy has been asking questions about David Goldstone and his influence on the ‘Welsh’ Government’s property deals. Questions that other politicians should have been asking a long, long time ago. He exposed the scarcely believable loss of £1m on just 2 shops sold by the ‘Welsh’ Government, without a valuation, in Pontypridd. (My 9-year-old grandson could have got a better deal than that! Come to think of it, so could his kid brother.)

UPDATE, 13.01.2017: We were paying for Goldstone’s trips to Cardiff, and his stays at the Hilton Hotel.

Now I hear he’s chasing up something unearthed by the Public Accounts Committee, on which he sits. It seems Cardiff Aviation at St Athan doesn’t pay rent; one suggestion being that someone, somewhere, possibly belonging to a certain political party, gave the OK for Cardiff Aviation to enjoy the St Athan facilities rent free. Then there’s an issue with planes being unable to land in fog, which it seems lost Cardiff the EasyJet link. And if that’s not enough to get the bruvvers worked up, allegations of institutionalised corruption have been made against Cardiff’s Labour-controlled council.

Despite that litany of nasal intrusions what may have really marked the South Wales Central Member’s card with ‘Welsh’ Labour is his objection to the billions likely to be made on the Cardiff Local Development Plan. Labour campaigned on the promise to protect Cardiff’s green fields. As soon as they were elected they announced plans to build on most of them. Contrived population projections from the English Planning Inspectorate (dealt with more than once on this blog) being used as the justification.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, some of the land has already been sold off at knock-down, agricultural prices. Read my posts Pies, Planes and Property Development and Pies, Planes and Property Development 2.

Make no mistake, there is something very shady about the Cardiff LDP, and challenging it will make you a target. Though I don’t think anyone expected Labour to be so desperate as to try to tarnish McEvoy a racist for his objections (a default position for Labour politicos), with even the First Minister getting involved. Bizarre in the extreme given Neil McEvoy’s multi-ethnic family background.

So deeply under Labour’s thick hide has Neil McEvoy managed to wriggle that I have it on very good authority (a former Labour councillor) that up to a third of Labour group meetings in Cardiff are dedicated to plotting his downfall. I was unable to confirm if voodoo dolls and pins are involved.

So no one should be surprised that he’s now being investigated by Wales’ Public Services Ombudsman in a desperate attempt to find him guilty of bringing the Council into disrepute – after trying to stop a bedroom tax eviction! How could anyone be charged with bringing a Labour council into disrepute!

The ‘charge’ seems to be that he was overheard saying that he can’t wait for Cardiff Council to be re-structured after May’s election. ‘Welsh’ Labour’s hope is to get the Local Government Panel to ban him from council elections – for talking about a policy of restructuring! The PSO, Nick Bennett, is hardly politically neutral himself (see my previous article here).

The article linked to reminds us that in an earlier existence Bennett was the business partner of an up and coming Labour politician who went on to become a Minister. Combine this with his lobbying for the tobacco industry and his role in huge wage increases for executives at Community Housing Cymru – the umbrella group for our housing associations (of which he was then CEO) – and it all tends to tarnish his credentials as an impartial arbiter of behaviour in political and public life.

Nick Bennett is an insider, he’s part of the ‘machine’, and in a working democracy he would never have been appointed Public Services Ombudsman.

But things go beyond run-of-the-mill political corruption when we remember that twice in the last 12 months Neil McEvoy has been burgled. In 2016 he came home from a public meeting about a landfill site to find the house ransacked by intruders, but while they took a great deal of trouble to break in they ignored the money, jewellery and pocket-sized iPads. Preferring to rifle through his paperwork, stealing some documents.

And McEvoy’s ‘Welcome to 2017, you bastard!’ was an office burglary, with valuable items once again ignored, but papers rummaged through and locked drawers broken open. This is simply too much of a coincidence not to be coordinated.

When the two burglaries are linked to the persistent allegations of the stalking of his sister, with the boys in blue refusing to interview independent witnesses, to the mass theft of placards during his election campaign (some removed by a Labour-controlled housing association!), we begin to get an understanding of the breadth, the depth, and the bitterness of the campaign against him.

I cannot think of any Plaid politician who has got under the skin of Labour in the way Neil McEvoy has – too many haven’t even tried. No Plaid politician before has ever stood up in the Assembly and named just some of the Labour cronies earning huge salaries in the public and third sectors. And no other Plaid politician has had the guts to take on the corrupt land deals that the Labour Party waived through.

One bad apple may spoil the barrel, but one good apple doesn’t save the cider either. Plaid is still too cosy with the liberal, statist, anti-Brexit, ‘Isn’t Trump ghastly’ elite, so embittered since they learnt what ordinary people really think of them and their ideas. But whether you support Plaid Cymru or not, if you believe in honesty and democracy, then you should support Neil McEvoy.

If devolution is ever going to be more than a chimera then at the very least we need more AMs prepared to take on the corrupt establishment and stand up to the vested interests. If that establishment can be so rattled by one ballsy Plaid politician then it makes you realise what effect a few more could have.

But from where I’m sitting too many in Plaid’s hierarchy seem to be ‘uncomfortable’ with Neil McEvoy. Because there have always been people in Plaid Cymru reluctant to make a ‘fuss’, terrified of actually succeeding, some have even worked to undermine the party when success threatened.

By comparison, the Labour Party in Wales has always been ruthless in maintaining its hold on power in order to support its networks of cronyism and corruption. Labour has been so dominant for so long that people seemed resigned to these abuses, but times are changing, and with Labour losing electoral support – getting just a third of the vote in last May’s Assembly election – there’s a growing perception that a century of political control – and the power of patronage that goes with it – may be coming to an end.

Which is wonderful news for Wales, but this fin-de-siècle moment is not with us yet. The system is decayed and rotten, like a dangerous tree, but while we are trying to push it over there are still many people reliant on it for sustenance, and they’ll fight dirty to keep it standing. But it will fall, that’s now certain; so it’s up to us to make sure that when it comes down it topples on the right people.

Let it be clearly understood – in case any lawyers read this – that I am not for one minute suggesting that the Labour and Unionist Party was implicated in the break-ins suffered by Neil McEvoy. No, sir. It could well be that these offences were committed by an insomniac with an insatiable urge to read political documents by torchlight. If so, then that person clearly needs help.

If there is no help available then I shall set up the Welsh Insomniac Burglars Aid Society and whack in a grant application for a couple of mill to tackle this horrendous problem; then it’ll be a new motor . . . a few months of wine-tasting in Argentina, maybe go watch Boca . . . apartment down Mumbles . . . conferences in St. Petersburg, Hong Kong, Rio . . . Why not? That’s how Labour’s Third Sector operates.

I’d have to use a false name of course, and pretend to be an English Labourite luvvie who’s just arrived in Wales.

end ♦

Dec 082016
 

When the incoming Labour government offered us devolution in 1997 I didn’t get too excited, but still, if Kinnock and George Thomas are against it, I thought, then it might have something going for it. So I voted Yes, but only because I saw devolution as a step on the road to independence. Encouraged by Ron Davies calling devolution “a process, not an event”.

Once the Yes vote had been arranged everyone assumed that the new Assembly would sit in Cardiff City Hall, but a dispute over costs blew up that was never satisfactorily explained. I believe that this spat was contrived, dreamed up in London to compensate Associated British Ports for not getting the planned opera house designed by the late Zaha Hadid.

It was no coincidence that the driving force behind the opera house project – as head man at Welsh National Opera – was Nicholas Edwards (later Lord Crickhowell), Secretary of State for Wales under Margaret Thatcher, and chairman of Associated British Ports, the company that owned Cardiff docks.

With Cardiff City Hall ruled out we had a national ‘competition’ to find a replacement. The ‘winner’, in the sense that it was the only entrant to meet the requirements of price and immediate availability, was Swansea’s pre-war Guildhall designed by Percy Thomas. But in April 1998 Secretary of State Ron Davies announced that the Assembly would be sited in Cardiff after all.

Swansea Guildhall (picture from 1991)

Everyone in Swansea – and indeed people in Cardiff and the rest of Wales – then realised that the ‘competition’ had been a charade, and that the Assembly was going to Cardiff even though there was no site for it. As late as 2001 Swansea politicians were still claiming a conspiracy.

Further, I have always believed that Ron Davies, being vulnerable to pressure, was ‘leaned on’. His justification at the time for ripping up the ‘competition’ rules and awarding the prize to Cardiff was that to have located the Assembly in Swansea would have undermined Cardiff’s status as capital of Wales. So why have a ‘competition’?

Without a building for the Assembly it was decided to lease Crickhowell House down Cardiff docks, named after Lord Crickhowell. The ‘Welsh’ Government is still leasing Crickhowell House, now renamed Tŷ Hywel. You might be interested in the figures.

From 1999 to 2012 the public purse splurged £40,654,093 on leasing, maintaining and improving the building. The current lease runs until 2032 at an annual cost of £2.3m plus VAT. When I submitted my FoI in 2013 the building was owned by Crick Properties, but was bought in March 2014 for £40.5m by a company registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The final bill for leasing and maintaining this building will be well over £100m, after which it will still belong to whoever owns it at the time. We could have had a new, purpose-built building for a tenth of that figure. But of course, that would not have suited Associated British Ports and those linked to the company.

The squalid saga of how the public purse was abused in order to transform Cardiff docks into Cardiff Bay for the benefit of Associated British Ports is explained in the Corruption Bay document I put together in 2000-2001.

It’s well over 18 years since Ron Davies announced that the Assembly would be located in Cardiff . . . somewhere. In that time Cardiff – which, incidentally, voted against devolution – has prospered greatly from hosting the Assembly, and gained from politicians and civil servants making decisions that talk of ‘Wales’ but benefit only Cardiff.

To the point where, today, it seems that all investment is focused on Cardiff while other urban areas are condemned to managed decline and our countryside and coasts serve as recreation and retirement areas for England. The north, certainly the north east, is, with the connivance of the ‘Welsh’ Government (acting on the recommendation of a Mrs Hain), being detached from Wales to become commuter territory for Merseyside and Greater Manchester. For some time now, dwellings around Wrecsam have been advertised by estate agents as being in ‘West Cheshire’!

The Mersey Dee Alliance is the plan for north west England to absorb north east Wales

This process of dismembering Wales is made easier by Cardiff’s distance from and indifference to the north east.

Few things illustrate the Cardiff-centricity of contemporary Wales – and more worryingly, how it has become accepted in official circles as the template for all development – than the Cardiff Capital Region project and its associated Metro system.

The City Region is nothing but a scheme for encouraging further investment in Cardiff but, by improving local transport links, it’s hoped that the Valleys and the M4 corridor from Bridgend to the border will feel part of this enterprise. In truth, it’s the formalisation of a city-commuter region arrangement. To dress it up as anything else is dishonest.

That this project has progressed so far with so few objections from those communities being reduced to dormitory status can be attributed to the malign influence of a Labour Party that may be losing its grip but still deals ruthlessly with dissent. Plus the fact that opposition parties seem to share the ‘Everything in Cardiff’ mindset.

To ensure that the focus remains on Cardiff major developments elsewhere in the region may be sabotaged, and this explains the recent attacks on the Circuit of Wales project at Ebbw Vale. These attacks came from the traditional mouthpiece of the Cardiff business community, the Western Mail, and BBC Wales which, as I remarked in Circuit of Wales Revisited“has as much claim to being our national broadcaster as the Mule has to being our national newspaper”.

Despite my criticisms, what I’ve dealt with thus far is understandable, even excusable, in that it’s the duty of the politicians and the business community of a city to promote the interests of that city.

Of course my absolution does not extend to Assembly Members from other areas who simply nod through every project to promote and enrich Cardiff. Nor does it extend to those who pose as our ‘national media’, or other institutions and bodies claiming to represent the whole country.

Cities, even capital cities, looking out for themselves is one thing, but we have now reached the stage in Wales where Cardiff serving its own interests, and being encouraged to do so by the media and the ‘Welsh’ Government, is working against the interests of the country as a whole.

Worse, we are now seeing the corruption that is almost inevitable when the public life of a country is concentrated in a relatively small city, and when this concentration sees those with the power of patronage and control of the public purse rubbing shoulders on a regular basis – and too regularly in social environments – with those wishing to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us. Two examples will help explain what I’m talking about.

First, a case that attracted much attention was the deal to sell off land on the outskirts of Cardiff to a very well-connected group of Cardiff businessmen at a knock-down, agricultural-use price, despite the fact that everybody knew the land had been earmarked for housing. I dealt with this in Pies, Planes & Property Development and Pies, Planes & Property Development 2. Let’s not beat about the bush, this was corruption, pure and simple.

Next, have you ever wondered why Wales – unlike Ireland and Scotland – does not have a national cricket team? The answer is that we are represented by England. No, honestly, and to be precise, by the England and Wales Cricket Board (though the ‘Wales’ bit is never used).

Swalec Stadium, home to England Test matches and the reason Wales has no national cricket team

In 2015 Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones said it was an honour to welcome the Test match between Australia and England to Cardiff, adding: “Attracting major events not only boosts our international profile, but has clear benefits for our economy”. 

Two points: First, a national team would boost our ‘international profile’ far more, because many people around the world now believe that Cardiff is in England; second, how much of the money generated by the Test match did other parts of Wales see?

Of course, at one time, we did have a national cricket team, but that was before Glamorgan County Cricket Club and others surrendered to England in order that Cardiff could enjoy the publicity, the prestige, and the revenue, from hosting England ‘home’ matches. Another example of the counter-devolution strategy at work and another step towards Englandandwales.

Another way Wales loses out to Cardiff is in the exodus of too many of the brightest and best from other parts of the country. ‘Ah, but the same thing happens in Ireland’ shout Cardiff’s defenders. Not really. The fastest growing cities there are Cork and Galway, and perhaps more importantly, Donegal and Kerry, Sligo and Roscommon are not being overrun by tens of thousands of retirees, problem families, good-lifers, hippies, paedophiles, white flighters and tourist trappers.

The economic imbalance in Wales that makes Cardiff so attractive to our young people deprives many rural communities of their future leaders, their opinion-formers, those who might challenge the invasion taking place. Coincidence, no doubt.

We have reached the stage now where that economic imbalance is so severe, and being exacerbated year on year, that those who direct things in Cardiff – including those who not so long ago would readily display their contempt for ‘Welshies’ – are quite open about their long-term strategy of positioning the city as a medium-sized provincial English city, in competition with Bristol, Sheffield, Newcastle and others. Slowly but inexorably Cardiff is turning its back on Wales.

For Cardiff has the advantage that, as capital of Wales, it can always argue that projects in the city are ‘national’ in importance, and being done for the benefit of 3.2 million people. Which makes it odd that Plaid Cymru politicians get exercised over Crossrail 2 and HS2 being described as ‘national’, yet seem oblivious to the same thing happening under their noses in Cardiff.

Though sometimes the brew gets really heady and ambition stretches beyond competing with Sheffield, proven by an article this week by Siôn Barry, Business Editor of the Wasting Mule, whose brother Mark is the brains behind the Metro system. Barry quotes some estate agent – a profession renowned for its scrupulous avoidance of exaggeration and misrepresentation – who believes that Cardiff can become a “global capital”.

click to enlarge

Think about that. We are asked to believe that a city of less than 400,000 people can compete with Tokyo and Paris, Buenos Aires and Beijing. It’s laughable; with the laughter ratcheted up to hysterical level by the fact that Cardiff’s just a provincial centre, and the full idiocy is realised by remembering that those pushing this bollocks, at the Wasting Mule and elsewhere, oppose Welsh independence, without which Cardiff is not, and never can be, a real capital.

This kind of stuff gets hyperbole a bad name; it borders on the delusional. Young Matt Phillips of Knight Frank clearly needs help, but rather than waste money on some expensive treatment I suggest that he be slapped around the head with a freshly-caught halibut until he recants. (It never fails.) As for those who repeat such nonsense, well, they want to believe it, but worse, they also want you to believe it.

Welcome to the never-never world of devolution. An estate agent tells a journalist that Cardiff is about to go head-to-head with Paris, this is repeated as gospel by our ‘national newspaper’, yet it takes place to the backdrop of Wales being colonised and by other means having its identity eroded as the prelude to complete assimilation into England.

While it yet lasts, this fantasy I’ve described bears some resemblance to a corrupt Third World country where all the goodies are concentrated in the capital and the provinces are allowed to rot; what’s missing is the dictator and his extended family and friends ripping off the state finances, but standing in we have ‘Papa’ Jones and his Labour Party, plus Labour’s cronies in the Third Sector and gangs of well-connected businessmen.

As I said at the start; when I voted Yes in 1997 it was only because I saw devolution as the first step on the road to independence. Devolution has been a complete failure in that regard, and it has even failed as a devolved system – apart from the growth of Cardiff. And this week we were told that even the devolution some thought we had is worthless because Westminster can overrule the ‘Welsh’ Government any time it chooses.

To remedy the situation in which we find ourselves Wales needs to be ‘re-balanced’. I believe that the quickest and surest way of achieving that necessary objective is by moving the Assembly out of Cardiff. Which is why I have launched a petition urging that the Assembly be moved to Aberystwyth. Click here to sign that petition.

end ♦

UPDATE 20.12.2016: Well, bless my soul – Plaid Cymru agrees with me!

Dec 052016
 

I am indebted to Brychan Davies, a regular visitor to this blog, for drawing my attention to this story and for doing a considerable amount of the initial research.

Featuring on the BBC Wales Sunday Politics show yesterday, and also topping the News was a report on the poor quality accommodation in which asylum seekers are being housed. There’s little doubt that the story was delivered, ready-written to the BBC by the Welsh Refugee Council.

Which is why I would caution against believing that the Welsh Refugee Council’s motives are entirely altruistic. For it could be that they’re a bit pissed off with an English company running the refugee/migrant/asylum seeker business on their patch. Knowing that the Clearsprings Home Office contract is up for renewal next year, the Council could be putting the boot in in the hope that it can take over.

Don’t get me wrong, if I believed that the Welsh Refugee Council was attacking Clearsprings for the right reasons, if there was anger that 17 years into devolution the Home Office in London can still award contracts like this, allowing English companies to operate in Wales, then I would unequivocally support the Welsh Refugee Council.

But the Welsh Refugee Council is part of the Third Sector, and so I suspect that the ‘outrage’ might have something to do with the allocation of  public funding. Which would make the report on BBC Wales yesterday – and the story run last year about Lynx House – little more than a propaganda offensive in a turf war.

UPDATE 06.12.2016: A trip to the Charity Commission website and a scan of the most recent accounts available would appear to bear out my suggestion of jealousy and desperation motivating the Welsh Refugee Council.

Income for the Council fell from £2.48m in y/e 31.03.2011 to just £610,000 in y/e 31.03.2015. Perhaps more significantly, in 2015 staff costs were £355,944, down from £748,470 the previous year. So there must have been quite a few redundancies and the organisation’s future might be on the line.

So let’s examine the facts. The company named by the BBC as providing the sub-standard accommodation is Clearsprings Ready Homes, here’s the Companies House information. You’ll note that it’s a relatively new company, only Incorporated on Jan 24, 2012. The original name – used until Dec 12, 2012 – was Clearel Ltd. The company’s address is given as 26 Brook Road, Rayleigh, Essex.

If you go to the latest set of accounts, up to 31.01.2016 – under the ‘Filing history’ tab – you’ll read the following –

clearsprings-operates

It would be reasonable to assume that Clearsprings Ready Homes Ltd was set up to run the contract with the Home Office that research tells us began in 2012. The contract is due for renewal in 2017 which, as I’ve suggested, almost certainly explains the timing of BBC Wales’ hostile coverage at the instigation of the Welsh Refugee Council.

If you stay on the Companies House website and type in ‘Clearsprings’ it will offer you a number of other companies, most of them sharing the same Essex address. Among them, Clearsprings (Management) Ltd. You’ll see that one of the directors is a Graham Ian King, whose address is also given as 26 Brook Road, Rayleigh, Essex. If you stick with Graham Ian King and bring up his other directorships you’ll see among them Kings Leisure Ltd, which I suspect is the original family firm, Incorporated back in January 1958.

The Kings are a family that seem to be involved in the entertainment and holiday industry, among their interests is a large caravan park on Canvey Island. A business that drew some adverse publicity last year when it was alleged that benefit claimants from other parts of England and ex-offenders were being ‘dumped’ there.

clearsprings-dumping

If we click on the ‘Charges’ tab of Clearsprings (Management) Ltd we see that this company – not Clearsprings Ready Homes – owns a number of properties in Swansea. In fact, despite what it says in the Clearsprings Ready Homes accounts about “London and the South of England”, and despite the Cardiff emphasis of the Welsh Refugee Council and BBC Wales, Clearsprings and Mr King seem to be very active in Swansea.

Here’s a list of the properties owned by Clearsprings (Management) Ltd in Swansea (according to Companies House): 14 Kildare Street, Manselton, SA5 9PH; 26 Clare Street, Manselton, SA5 9PQ; 3A Robert Street, Manselton, SA5 9NE; 57 Courtney Street, Manselton, SA5 9NR; 406 Carmarthen Road, Cwmbwrla, SA5 8LW; 16 Colbourne Terrace, Waun Wen, SA1 6FP; 42 Llangyfelach Street, Dyfatty, SA1 2BQ; 9 Portia Terrace, Mount Pleasant, SA1 6XW; 41 Landeg Street, Plasmarl, SA6 8LA; 359 Neath Road, Plasmarl, SA6 8JN; 5 Ramsey Drive, Clase, SA6 7JD; 13 Lon Hafren, Morriston, SA6 7EH; 59 Pentre-chwyth Road, Bon-y-maen, SA1 7AN; 162 Peniel Green Road, Peniel Green, SA7 9BE.

I was only able to find the title documents for four of these fourteen properties on the Land Registry website: 57 Courtney Street, 42 Llangyfelach Street, 41 Landeg Street, and 13 Lôn Hafren. You’ll see that they were all bought in 2007 and 2008 with loans from Barclays Bank. Interestingly, the last two properties named have a link with the Beaufort Estate, which will soon be dumping a wind farm on common grazing land at Mynydd y Gwair, and not so long ago demanded (and got) £280,000 for allowing the council to put a footbridge over the Tawe. (The Marquess of Worcester is the eldest son of the Duke of Beaufort.)

clearsprings-marquis-of-worcester

Another curiosity is that the Companies House website gives a title number, CYM66501, for 59 Pentre-chwyth Road, but when I entered this into the Land Registry search box it was refused. I suspect it’s a typo by Companies House, for I’m reasonably sure there should be six digits; but even when I tried to type in the address I still got nowhere.

As for the other properties identified as being owned by Clearsprings (Management) Ltd, and assuming these were also bought in 2007 and 2008, why haven’t they been registered with the Land Registry?

But then, Mr King is a busy man, what with everything. For he also got himself involved in the strange business of the Aquarius Film Company which, not to put too fine a point on it, was a tax scam reminiscent of, and perhaps inspired by, The Producers.

Another frustration I encountered was that even though the ‘Welsh’ Government is now supposed to maintain a register of private landlords, it’s less than useless.

It’s here on the Rent Smart Wales Website. Go to the ‘Check Register’ tab and you’ll be offered four options – Property Address, Landlord, Agent, Reference Number. Type in ‘Clearsprings (Management) Ltd’ and it brings up a list of other companies that have no connection with Clearsprings. ‘Clearsprings Ready Homes’ gets the same frustrating result. So I typed in the post code for 59, Pentre-chwyth Road, SA1 7AN, and the site came up with addresses in SA10 – Neath!

In my experience, searching for anything on a ‘Welsh’ Government website is like trying to conduct a conversation with an old and very deaf person, the ‘answer’ never matches the question: ‘It’s cold out today, Auntie Glad’. ‘Oh, thank you, two sugars please, and a couple of Digestives . . . I likes Digestives, I do’.

This post may be no more than an introduction to the King family and the various Clearsprings companies, for I suspect that there’s a lot more information to come. Some of which might be encouraged out of hiding with the following questions:

1/ Who at the Home Office thought it a good idea to give a contract to house asylum seekers to companies and a family whose main line of business seems to be a down-market caravan site on Canvey Island?

2/ Can we assume – as the Welsh Refugee Council is obviously hoping – that the contract will not be renewed in 2017?

3/ Who owns the Lynx Hotel on Newport Road in Cardiff, used by Clearsprings, for the ownership appears not to be registered with the Land Registry?

4/ Why does Clearsprings own houses in residential areas of Swansea which are clearly different to the Lynx Hotel in Cardiff in that they are not Houses of Multiple Occupation? Who is being housed in these Swansea properties? Why is the ownership of most of them not registered with the Land Registry?

5/ Does Swansea council know who lives in these properties? Does Swansea council care? Has Swansea council even been consulted? (Maybe people living near these properties can tell us who lives in them.)

6/ What is the ‘Welsh’ Government’s role in a system that sees the Home Office in London award a contract to an English company to house people in Wales? Does the ‘Welsh’ Government have any role at all? Was the ‘Welsh’ Government even consulted?

7/ Are the ‘Welsh’ Government or any of our local authorities contributing financially to the Clearsprings operations in Wales?

8/ Given the allegations made last year against the King family at their Thorney Bay caravan park, are benefit claimants and ex-offenders (perhaps others) being brought from England into Wales?

9/ If we are talking of genuine asylum seekers, then some of them will be the opponents or enemies of ruthless and bloodthirsty regimes. Regimes that may seek revenge. So is it wise to locate these asylum seekers in residential areas of Welsh cities?

10/ If what we are discussing here has been done without any input from the ‘Welsh’ Government, then what is the point of devolution?

♦ end ♦

Nov 202016
 

SWANSEA

Persecution

Where better to start than the old home town. (Which still ‘looks the same as I step down from the train, and there to greet me’ – is a welcoming committee from the local Labour Party. ‘Good old Jac’, they cry. Well, laff!)

As you may recall, I wrote a while back about the case of Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris and her alleged homophobic assault on Jenny Lee Clarke, when both worked in Labour’s Swansea East  constituency office for MP Siân James. It even made the London ‘papers, here’s how the Telegraph treated it.

Meryl

This picture has nothing to do with the article . . . but I just can’t resist it! That hat!

Harris took over from James as MP in May 2015, the story about the alleged assault made the news in the second half of November then, on January 28, Clarke was dismissed from her job with immediate effect. I’ve seen the letter from Carolyn Harris; it’s one of those, ‘Clear your desk and sod off – now!  letters. We’ve all had them, I’ve got a drawer full. Things have not gone well for Clarke since then.

For not only did she lose her job, she was also accused of stealing money from her erstwhile employer (one C. Harris); and the most recent assault on her peace of mind, in September, was to be told by Swansea council that they’d stopped her housing benefit because someone had informed them she’d died! Naturally she reported this to the police, but they just messed her about a bit and refused to proceed with the case.

As for Labour-controlled Swansea council, you have to ask whose word they took that Jenny Clarke was dead. There was obviously no death certificate produced . . . or if there was then it was a forgery. But they are unable to explain how they came to accept that Jenny Clarke was demised. A third party points the finger at a close associate of Harris within the council – but who’s gonna investigate? This is Wales. This is the Labour Party.

As for the theft allegation, well this drags on . . . and on. The cops just keep extending her ‘Pre-Charge Conditional Bail’ (as it’s described on the form); the police bail was extended until November 7, and now it’s been extended again until February 17. I doubt if there will be charges; this is just the cops playing mind games.

This is a disgusting episode even for a corrupt and backward country like ours. The dominant political party engages in the kind of vindictive behaviour for which it is infamous, and yet what’s really worrying is that the police seem to be going along with this persecution of a woman whose only mistake was crossing the local political machine.

Persecution Complex?

Someone who may have good reason to be looking over his shoulder is the leader of Swansea council, Rob Stewart, one of the Morriston councillors. For the word echoing along the corridors is that conspirators are grouping around his ousted predecessor David ‘Il Duce’ Phillips, he of the red duffle coat (click to view).Benito Phillips, Il Duce Abertawe

As we speak, plots are being hatched, alliances formed, and positions of power allotted in the post-coup council. But back to the present.

One of the popular programmes on the Swansea Sound radio station is The Sunday Hotline presented by Kevin Johns. People phone in and have a moan about this and that, you know the sort of thing.

Any criticism of Swansea council is immediately answered by Stewart, who doesn’t phone in to defend himself, but sends an e-mail! –  ‘And following that heartfelt complaint from Mrs Lloyd of Penclawdd about the council doing nothing to arrest and castrate Romanian cockle-pickers we’ve had an e-mail from council leader Rob Stewart, who argues . . . ‘.

Can’t you just picture him of a Sunday morning, still fizzy from too much lemonade the night before, in his marmalade-streaked pyjamas, trembling finger hovering over the keyboard as he listens to the bile spewing forth from his radio. It’s not a pretty sight, is it? But who knows, after next May, he might be able to cwtsh in under his duvet on a Sunday, unless of course he decides to put on strange voices and start phoning in complaints about his successor.

‘Good Night, John Boy’

Someone else I’ve written about more times than I wanted to is councillor John Charles ‘John Boy’ Bayliss, perhaps the last of the student councillors recruited by Davidbayliss-twitter-nov-2016 Phillips and his wife Sybil Crouch, who works in Swansea university. Though I suppose there could be a few new ones in May.

Despite being a councillor for the Uplands ward, and despite living in Swansea, you wouldn’t be aware of that from his Twitter account; but ‘Uplands, Swansea’ or ‘Uplands ward in Swansea’ appeared on all his previous Twitter incarnations. (Two examples here and here.) And although it says “2017 local election candidate” it doesn’t say where. He’s certainly not standing for re-election in the Uplands (here’s Labour’s Magnificent Four for May, including the balding Lili Marlene), so where is he standing, is it even in Wales?

Maybe he’s standing in Bristol, where he works. Or is he going home to mummy and daddy in Sussex? Who cares? It looks like he’s leaving Swansea, and that’s the main thing. The only one who might miss him is Il Duce.

UPDATE 21.11.2016: A good source informs me that Bayliss may be standing for Cardiff council in May, either in Fairwater or Llandaff. Which makes sense, as he works in Bristol. But he was only recruited by the Remarkable Group because he was a Swansea Labour councillor and Remarkable was involved with the contentious Mynydd y Gwair wind farm. What use might a lobbying company like Remarkable have for him in Cardiff? P.S. Now confirmed by a second source.

LLANELLI

The Invisible Man Moves

Sticking with the topic of Labour councillors on the move, we cross the tumbling waters of the mighty Llwchwr to Llanelli, where many people are asking why Rob James is moving there from Neath. At present James is the Labour councillor for the Bryncoch South ward . . . though you’d be forgiven for not knowing that, certainly if you were going by his attendance record.

For as Stan at the Neath Ferret tells us, between May and the end of October, James had attended 2/5 full council meetings; 0/3 meetings of the Environmental and Highways Scrutiny Committee; 0/4 Social Care, Health and Housing Scrutiny Committee; 0/1 Licensing and Gambling Acts Committee; 0/3 Registration and Licensing Committee: and as might be expected, he didn’t bother turning up for the council’s Annual Meeting in May either. Impressive, no?

rob-james

He may not bother turning up for meetings, but Councillor Rob James recognises a photo opportunity when he sees one. Look out, Llanelli – he’s coming your way!

What’s worse, to accommodate the Invisible Man from Neath Llanelli Labour has deselected Lliedi ward councillor Bill Thomas. Who’s he? Let Cneifiwr tell us, “Bill Thomas has ploughed his lonely furrow for 17 years, doing the sort of things which most people would like to imagine that all councillors do. For starters, he has a mind of his own, which marks him out from a good many of his colleagues. He has stood up for his ward through thick and thin, fought a long campaign to try to get justice for the cocklers whose livelihoods have been wrecked by releases of raw sewage into the Burry Inlet. He has fought an even longer and equally fruitless campaign to get justice for Mr and Mrs Clive and Pam Edwards, victims of incredible incompetence and an even more incredible refusal to put matters right by the council. He has banged on for years about the madness of building new homes on flood plains, and he played a key role in uncovering Mark and Meryl’s plans to flog off Parc Howard in Llanelli – while Labour was running the council.”

So it’s pretty obvious why Labour should want to remove a conscientious councillor and replace him with someone who’ll cause no problems, but that doesn’t explain why James is making the move. He could just as easily not turn up in Neath as Llanelli, so why go through the hassle of switching, filling in those forms and risking defeat?

In all seriousness, how does Llanelli Labour Party justify dumping a good councillor and replacing him with an outsider, especially an outsider with James’ attendance record? It really is taking the electorate for granted.

Now a Labour Politician Who Didn’t Move, Allegedly

Staying in Sosban . . . well, maybe, we look at the AM for the town, young Lee Waters. Now no one disputes that Lee was raised in Ammanford, but he’s spent recent years in the Cardiff area, and it’s being suggested that he still lives in the Vale, in Barry to be precise.

Which might be fine, had he not told the Turk electorate in May that his happy abode was in New Zealand Street, Llanelli. He pipped the Plaid Cymru candidate by 382 votes.

‘Poumista’

Another recently announced candidate for May’s county council elections is Gary Robert Jones. You’ll recognise the name from my posts on the ongoing campaign of bigotry against Welsh language education in Llangennech. No doubt ‘poumista’ is hoping to capitalise on his notoriety.

poumista

His Twitter handle is taken from the Spanish initials of the Workers Party of Marxist Unification, an extremist party active in the Spanish Civil War, mainly in Catalonia. (It might even have the same initials in Catalan.) POUM seemed to be opposed to everybody else involved, on both sides. Here’s a short write-up from 1936, but don’t all rush to join, POUM was thankfully dissolved in 1980.

That POUM no longer exists seems not to bother Jones one bit. In fact, to judge by his Twitter account, I’m not sure he realises WWII is over either. If in the modern era we judge politicians by their tweets and re-tweets then there should be some concerns about @poumista. Here’s one re-tweet I salvaged, put out late last Saturday night; it’s of a female Russian sniper under a photo of one the biggest butchers in human history. Such taste!

poumista-russian-sniper

I urge you to check out the Twitter account of the Labour hopeful for Llangennech and Bryn before he starts deleting. There are some very revealing tweets and re-tweets there. Including of course re-tweets of Lee Waters telling us of his occasional trips from Barry to Llanelli.

To finish with Llanelli I must mention a curious message I received to my ‘contact me’ box in the sidebar. It named a very prominent individual in the Llanelli Labour Party and seemed to suggest that this person had – perhaps by questionable means – come into possession of a number of former council properties. Any further information would be appreciated.

THE LEAVING OF LABOUR

It’s not just Labour politicians moving (or not, as the case may be), or putting themselves up for election, there are other movements with ‘Welsh’ Labour, and very encouraging they are too.

The first story I picked on was from Caerffili, where two Labour councillors resigned last month promising to set up their own party. One of them, Allan Rees, alleged that “nepotism and cronyism is rife” within the local Labour Party. Not just your local party, Allan, come and talk with Uncle Jac.

Then, a few days ago, we learnt that six councillors had been ‘de-selected’ (a term I’m sure the man in the photo would have approved of) by the Ogmore Constituency Labour Party.

On top of that, Labour has lost a couple of seats on Cardiff city council in recent by-elections. First, the Lib Dem candidate won in the Plasnewydd ward; then Plaid Cymru took one of the Grangetown seats.

But remember, these upheavals for Labour have nothing to do with Jeremy Corbyn and his hard left supporters eliminating the hated ‘Blairites’ – that storm has yet to break in Wales! Labour has real problems, but this is no time to stand around gloating – put the boot in!

OUR HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS

Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd is, as the name might suggest, a secretive offshore company, one owning a great deal of property across southern Wales, from Llanelli eastwards. Here’s a list of Link’s properties compiled from the Private Eye database.

link-gibraltar

Offshore property ownership is disturbing enough of itself, but the reason I wrote Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd was because I’d learnt that housing associations are leasing, and possibly renting, from Link. So naturally I wrote to the ‘Welsh’ Government seeking answers. Here’s a combined pdf of my original request, the reply, and my response to that reply. (Read it now or keep it for a rainy afternoon.)

I kept a number of politicians informed of my concerns regarding Link Holdings, and also with the bizarre – possibly unique – relationship between Pembrokeshire Housing and its offspring Mill Bay Homes. One of these politicians showed me the response received from minister Carl Sargeant. It’s worth sharing. Here it is.

You’ll note that in the first part of the letter, talking of the Social Housing Grant with regard to Pembrokeshire Housing, Sargeant, or whoever wrote the letter, is clear that SHG must be “spent on pre-determined developments and projects”. Which is what I would expect, because I’ve always regarded the SHG as a capital grant for new housing, creating jobs and putting money into an area.

Yet in the second part of the letter, when dealing with Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, we read, “An RSL (registered Social Landlord aka housing association) is able to purchase the leasehold title of a property, and is able to receive Social Housing Grant Money to do so”.  How can a capital grant for “pre-determined developments and projects” be used to lease old properties from offshore companies?

As I’ve argued for years, housing associations are one the worst uses of public funding imaginable, but major change is on the horizon. Thank God!

HAPPY DONKEY HILL

Regular readers will recall that some time ago now I had cause to write about a rather unpleasant woman named Kate Clamp living near Llandysul. She changed the name of her property – actually owned by her multi-millionaire father – from Faerdre Fach to Happy Donkey Hill.

In one of my posts I used this image from her Facebook page, but I’d assumed the use of ‘Lady’ was a joke. (As would ‘lady’ be in this case.) But not so, for a series of messages I’ve received to my Facebook page tell me that Clamp and her current consort have taken to styling themselves ‘Lord and Lady Clamp’ in earnest.

Lady Kate Clamp Facebook

My contact has been in touch with Burke’s Peerage, Debrett’s and various other sources and is assured that the duo has no claim to any title. So have they bought one off some website? Or maybe they splashed out a few thousand on one of those ‘Lord of the Manor’ titles that allows you to make a nuisance of yourself. (I used to vaguely know a bloke who collected such ‘titles’.)

But the point is – as my contact was keen to stress – the Clamps are in a competitive business, and if they’re gaining an unfair advantage over their competitors by falsely claiming to be aristocrats, then surely they’re breaking some law? If nothing else, shouldn’t the local Trading Standards office be involved?

happy-donkey-hill

My contact also had something to say about a ‘missing’ donkey, and police involvement, but that can keep for another post, because I’m sure I’ll be writing about ‘Lord and Lady’ Clamp again in the near future.

♦ end ♦

Jun 272016
 

THE REFERENDUM RESULT

In my previous post I set out my reasons for voting to leave the European Union. I didn’t think I’d be on the winning side, but there you are.

On Thursday night I’d planned to watch the results programme for a bit and then head to bed around midnight. My expectations of defeat seemed to have been met with the announcement of a substantial rise in the value of the pound and bookies telling us that one of the horses in this race was en route to the knackers yard. It wasn’t long before Nigel Farage conceded defeat.

But then a different mood began to take hold as news filtered through that pollsters, bookies and other self-appointed interpreters of the public mood might have got it wrong. For it seemed that up in north east England, in Newcastle, and Sunderland, the unwashed were in revolt. Then the results started to arrive.

Newcastle, where the Remain campaign had expected a substantial majority, was 50 / 50. (Were they blaming the EU for the Toon getting relegated?) Then came Sunderland, where Leave achieved 61.3%. (But the Black Cats escaped relegation!) Some pundit reminded us that Sunderland has a big Nissan car plant, located there to access the European market, so why were people voting Leave. Cue for much tut-tutting and superior mutterings about voters being ‘uninformed’ (i.e. stupid). It wasn’t long before Nigel Farage ‘unconceded’, and had a celebratory pint.

Nissan Sunderland

As more results became known a picture emerged suggesting that results could be predicted with near-certainty by checking an area’s indicators of wealth – poor areas were voting to Leave, rich areas voting to Remain. There were of course exceptions, such as Liverpool (58.2% Remain), a result some attributed to the pro-Leave Sun newspaper being boycotted in that city. This may have played a part, but let’s not overlook the fact that Liverpool has received billions in EU funding, perhaps more than the Valleys. What’s more, in Liverpool people can see what the funding has been spent on, and by and large they approve.

Perhaps the divide in England was summed up with this article in the Guardian by John Harris headed, ‘If you’ve got money, you vote in . . . if you haven’t got money, you vote out’. The picture in Wales was almost identical; and yet, just a few short months ago Plaid Cymru was hoping for a substantial Remain majority to contrast Wales with England. (Making me wonder yet again what ‘Wales’ this lot claims to be the party of.)

During the night itself, the voice that stood out for me was that of John Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw in north Nottinghamshire (to the east of Sheffield). Mann made it clear that the referendum had been largely won for Leave by Labour voters in the ‘forgotten’ post-industrial regions of England (and Wales) of which the metropolitan elite knows little and cares less.

A few others also saw the true picture, but these were a minority. I found this article from the Guardian by Mike Carter compelling, it details a meandering walk from Liverpool to London.

The picture in Scotland was the one we’d expected. Even so, it was strange to hear English Remain supporters blame the SNP for not getting enough of its support out, which – it was argued – might have swung the whole UK result. The claim seemed to be that because everyone knew which way Scotland would vote, many Scots Remain supporters stayed at home. In Glasgow, the largest authority, the turnout was just 56.2% (66.6% Remain), whereas in the September 2014 independence referendum the turnout was 75% (53.5% Yes).

In the North of Ireland the picture was rather more difficult to interpret because the two Unionist parties followed different courses. The Democratic Unionist Party (the party of the late Rev Dr Ian Paisley) urged its supporters to vote Leave, while the Official Unionist Party favoured Remain. Both Sinn Féin and the Social Democratic and Labour Party wanted to Remain. And of course, hovering over any political debate in that part of the world is the wider consideration of relations with Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

The result for the whole of the Six Counties was 55.8% Remain, telling us that many Unionists voted with nationalists and Republicans to stay in the EU. Though it’s unlikely that many of them would allow their referendum vote to be seen as support for a re-unified Ireland, which seems to be how Sinn Féin is choosing to interpret the result. Yet almost everyone views the return of a visible, patrolled border with the Republic as a dangerously retrograde step.

REACTIONS AND FALL-OUT

The chaos that has ensued is being attributed to a number of factors, with ‘uncharted waters’ being among the favoured analogies, and not just with those of a nautical bent. Of course it’s true; no one has ever been in this situation before so no one is quite sure what happens next. Certainly our politicians seem to be lost.

Though it’s significant that those who led the Brexit campaign – Farage excepted – seem to be backtracking. Strange behaviour for victors. They remind me of a gang of young tearaways who went to start a fire in their school but didn’t mean to burn the whole place down.

We can now divide the Brexiters into two camps (as indeed they split themselves during the referendum campaign). First, we have those who want to disengage from the EU but regard ‘losing’ Scotland and Ireland as too high a price to pay, hence the backtracking. These can be regarded as BritNats. While on the other hand we have those who want to go the whole hog and have an England independent of the EU, independent of Scotland and Wales, independent of just about everybody and everything. We could be unkind, but let’s call these the EngNats. They include the twat in this article who believes that Catholic Croatia is not part of Europe.

Brexit taxi

But what really struck me about the reporting of the referendum and its result was the uncomprehending anger of London commentators, luvvies and others who know less about the lives of people in Sunderland and Swansea than I do about yak herders on the Eurasian steppe. ‘How could they be so stupid?’ was their cry.

The BBC – wedded to the US-NATO-EU line I wrote of in my previous post – didn’t actually call those who voted Leave ‘stupid racist bastards’ . . . it was marginally more nuanced. Perfectly illustrated with the picture below for an article on the BBC website.

BBC Brexit graduates

Some of course did not hold back. Among the more offensive Remainers I encountered was a John Niven; apparently he’s a Scottish writer now living in some Buckinghamshire slum. I can’t say I’ve read anything he’s written, and I certainly haven’t troubled Amazon since reading this asshole’s tweets.

Tweet John Niven

The message from infuriated Remainers was consistently offensive, insulting and intimidating. This is the liberal elite at its worst – still feeling superior but angry and confused because its collective will has been thwarted by the untermensch. Summed up rather well by his article by Brendan O’Neill in the Spectator, The howl against democracy.

The ironies and paradoxes abound. Here we have a group that has for months demonised and belittled others as bigots, yet if poor whites qualified as a minority then the commentariat would be equally guilty of bigotry!

When the BBC wasn’t telling us that thick bastards non-graduates voted for Brexit, it was consulting opinion among groups thoroughly representative of the population. One such group was those attending the Glastonbury Festival, an event covered to an excessive degree by the Beeb. Unsurprisingly, the sons and daughters of the Corporation’s bigwigs and their friends were simply ‘devastated’ at the referendum result.

Brexit Glasto

Just put yourself in the position of a single mother on hearing those views, perhaps a young woman bringing up two or three kids on a sink estate or a flat above a moneylender on a decaying High Street in a forgotten town. Will they make her regret voting Leave? No, but I’ll tell you what it will do, it’ll make her feel angry, hearing people who have so much, and can look forward to so much more, condemning her for her desperation.

Yet another example of hypocrisy. For while the liberal elite and the Leftists accuse those who voted Brexit of causing divisions it is they, who largely control the media, with their patronising bullshit about stupid poor people racists, that risks turning social divisions into yawning chasms.

Another popular theme was that of the young being deprived of their futures by selfish old gits. The Wasting Mule got in on the act with this piece from its Saturday edition. Dan Baker is nineteen years of age and studying in Paris. He believes that we who voted Leave have “succumbed to ignorance”. But then, Dan is 19, and knows everything.

So there you are – you’re stupid and racist for voting Leave, while the ‘more mature’ among us are thoroughly bloody selfish for not dying off pronto, as we would if we really cared about Dan and other deprived youths.

As in England, the insults were flying here too. One my attention was drawn to was a comment from an Englishman making a living out of covering Wales with wind turbines. (This link to his LinkedIn profile no longer works as the page has been removed. Possibly connected with Smith being reported to South Wales Police for a Hate crime.) Not only does he think the country that gives him a living is a pimple on the buttock of his homeland but he also re-tweeted another insult about us deserving a Darwin Award, given for stupidity by the kind of smart-arses who are now lashing out in all directions.

Jeremy Smith

UPDATE 29.06.2016: Around 6pm on the 28th this appeared on Smith’s Twitter account.

Tweet Jeremy Smith apology

I’ll conclude this section with another piece that appeared in the Mule, this one by regular columnist Carolyn Hitt. Now in the past I might have been a little unkind to Carolyn Hitt, lumping her with Jason ‘Jase’ Mohammad and the other bollocks-spouting muppets in our very own Cardiff bubble.

Carolyn Hitt wanted to tell us that she grew up in the Rhondda, an area that attracted migrants from all over, and that the referendum result had “shaken to the core” her “sense of self as a Welsh person”. Serious stuff. But then she goes and blows it all by arguing that in voting to leave the European Union “the majority of Welsh voters threw in their lot ideologically with Middle England”.

‘Middle England’ be buggered! Middle England voted to Remain. The kindest thing I can suggest is that Ms Hitt had not checked the map, or the results, before rushing into print.

THE POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES

Since the referendum result became known the UK has been in a state of political chaos. the only politician who seems to know what she’s about and what she wants is Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon.

Prime Minister Cameron stood down soon after the result was known and now there’ll be an election to choose his successor as Tory leader. As the new leader will lack a mandate he or she will almost certainly call a general election. The original hope seems to have been that this could be done at a leisurely pace without interfering too much with everyone’s summer holidays, but pressure from the EU seems to have speeded up the process and the new leader is expected to be in place by September 2nd. Boris Johnson is the front-runner, with Theresa May as the ‘Block Boris’ candidate.

We’ve always known that the Conservative Party in Westminster is split on Europe, but what this referendum exposed is how detached from its traditional support the irredeemably metropolitan Labour Party has now become. Made obvious by the fact that those areas that voted most heavily to Leave are areas where Labour has dominated for decades.

Now the prospect of a general election before the year’s out has concentrated Labour MPs’ minds and they have turned on their hapless leader Jeremy Corbyn who, they believe, could never win an election . . . which would of course result in many Labour careerists losing their seats. The problem is that while Corbyn may lack support among MPs he has the backing of party activists, many of whom are Leftist agitators and activists who took over the Labour Party around a year ago to elect him leader.

So we have the Labour Party itself split between members and representatives, with a third element being the Labour voters who chose to leave the EU last Thursday against the advice of the party. These disillusioned voters have no truck with the comrades and little faith in the MPs. Consequently, the Labour Party is in one hell of a mess – and I haven’t even mentioned Scotland, where the Labour Party, for so long dominant, is almost dead and buried.

The picture is different in London, where the vote to stay in the EU was 59.9%. This can be explained by greater wealth, the presence of the liberal elite / Leftist types who now control the Labour Party, plus of course large numbers of immigrants. London may have provided good news for the pro-EU campaigners but it also tells us how divided England has become.

Here in Wales, Cardiff, which has long sought mini London status, grabbing all the goodies for itself, achieved that ambition last Thursday when 60% of its voters chose to Remain against a national figure of just 47.5%. Two capitals unrepresentative of the countries that support them.

March on the Assembly

The vote in Wales so outraged the youth of Cardiff that many thousands a few dozen were persuaded to take part in a ludicrous march on the Notional Assembly, among their demands were a second referendum (and a third if that was lost), tattoos on the NHS, and votes for foetuses (possibly eggs). Though I didn’t spot Dan Baker among them. Perhaps the poor boy is in his Paris garret drowning his sense of betrayal with glass after glass of pastis.

It only remains to discuss Plaid Cymru. When the full horror of the defeat dawned on the party leadership the immediate response from leader Leanne Wood was to propose a Labour-Plaid coalition. A response typical of those for whom Plaid Cymru is an alternative socialist party rather than a nationalist party. This suggestion was quickly dropped as opposition from within the party mounted.

Though on the weekend immediately following the referendum, when we might have expected the Plaid Cymru leadership to be monitoring and debating a constantly changing situation and planning ahead, Leanne Wood and Jill Evans MEP, were attending a two-day feminist event in Cardiff, and there were other Plaid wimmin there as well.

The latest news seems to be that Plaid is belatedly trying to emulate the Scottish National Party, but it may be too late. I say that because the SNP has for years been appealing directly to the Scottish people, in direct competition with the Labour Party, to the point where it was eventually able to supplant Labour; whereas Plaid Cymru has farted about with Greens, ‘feminists’, and other cross-border ‘progressives’, only focusing on Labour and Wales when forced to do so at election times, and then, almost apologetically.

LOOKING AHEAD

There will be no clean break with the European Union, things will get very messy from now on, and for the obvious reasons. There may be no break at all.

Just about every pillar of the UK establishment supported the Remain campaign, and they won’t give up without a fight. (A fight most of us will not even realise is happening.) So we can expect increasing calls for a second referendum, perhaps after the general election. (It will be interesting to see what is in the manifestos.) And already we are being reminded that the referendum result is not binding, it was a ‘consultative’ exercise. With most MPs in favour of EU membership that opens up another route for the Remainers.

Even so, there will still be dangerous divisions and tensions between London and the rest of England, tensions that have been obvious for some time, prompting initiatives such as HS2 and talk of a ‘Northern Powerhouse‘, which as we know plans to absorb and assimilate northern Wales. Initiatives that might benefit Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Leeds – all of which voted Remain (though only just in the case of Newcastle and Leeds) – but will do little for Hull, Plymouth, Carlisle, Peterborough, Barnsley, Isle of Wight, Stoke, Dagenham, Wolverhampton, Doncaster, Dartford, Blackpool and countless other smaller cities and towns that voted decisively Leave.

northern-powerhouse-1000x290

I have already dealt with the divide between England and Scotland. While UKIP and other EngNats might be resigned – even glad – to see Scotland go the BritNats will do all in their power to hang on to the country. So expect to hear promises of a ‘federal structure’ for Britain, which might – as with devolution – see Wales offered the same as Scotland to avoid showing fear of the SNP.

It seems that politics in Englandandwales – as in the USA and continental Europe – is moving to the Right. For few of those who voted Remain did so for the noble and altruistic reasons the metropolitan elite and the commentariat ascribe to themselves – most voted to stay in the EU out of perceived self-interest. City traders in their Cotswold retreats who voted Remain and former steel workers in Ebbw Vale who voted Leave were driven by a very similar impulse.

The next general election could be a choice between the English Centre Right and the English Extreme Right, BritNats and EngNats. Scotland will of course be insulated by the SNP and slowly extricating herself from this threatening mess (perhaps helped by the EU). Wales’ defence however will be limited to a rump Labour Party made up of careerists and mediocrities, a temporarily resurgent Hard Left, and Plaid Cymru. Which is really no defence at all.

So I say, yes, by all means capitalise on the current chaos, but what Wales really needs is a national movement promoting independence for the right reasons, rather than some ad hoc alliance formed in reaction to Brexit that will fall apart once the threat passes. A national movement unconcerned with the views of metropolitan ‘progressives’ and concentrating solely on defending and promoting Welsh interests.

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

 

Mar 242016
 
RCT HOMES

Earlier this month Martin Shipton of the Wasting Mule and WalesOnline had a brief bout of outrage on learning that RCT Homes was advertising for a chief executive at a salary greater than that paid to the UK Prime Minister or Wales’ First Minister. Here’s the advertisement – with a London recruitment agency – that occasioned his momentary unhappiness with the colonial system.

This recruitment follows on from a number of personnel changes at RCT Homes (mentioned in the same article) that are worthy of reporting, not least the departure of Andrew Lycett, the previous chief executive. So let me hand you over to a correspondent who explains the complexities of it all. I have added links and a few comments to help you understand better who’s who and what’s what.

Now read what follows carefully and join up the dots.

“The Wasting Mule tells us that Andrew Lycett left RCT Homes for reasons that were unexplained on the grounds of “confidentiality”. A more typical corporate response to that question is that he “has found career opportunities elsewhere” which led me to investigate.

Lycett submitted his resignation from RCT Homes at the same time as Cllr Kieron Montague (Labour) announced he would step down and not seek re-election. He is Cabinet Member for Tackling Poverty, Engagement & Housing. He also sat on the RCT Homes board, on behalf of RCT council.

Lycett has actually taken up the role of Finance Director with the Jehu Group, a real estate development company, who beside being a major player at the SA1 development in Swansea, but also has expanded to the west, opening a new office in Haverfordwest, under their subsidiary Waterstone Estates.

Montague, meanwhile, has now taken up a role with Cynon Taf Housing Association, who unlike RCT Homes, has a substantial holding of vacant development land.

In a previous post (here, scroll down) you correctly pointed out the outsourcing of estates administration by a number of local authorities to PwC. A partner of PwC, Lynn Pamment, also sat on the board of RCT Homes, alongside Lycett and Montague. She will, of course, be very conversant with the issues which PwC has been required to ‘assist with’, that of, balancing the budget for Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion councils. This includes selling off land for development.

This, of course, is the very footprint that Waterstone Estates has opened an office for in Haverfordwest for. Waterstone Estates is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Jehu Group, which Lycett is now director.”

We are all familiar with the links between the Third Sector and the Labour Party, but now we see a third element become more evident, that of private businesses, which recruit people with local government and Third Sector experience to help ‘smooth the way’ with the acquisition of land, the gaining of planning approval, and of course the clamping of the sweaty paws upon the funding public.

The supplier of the information mentions the RCT Board, and so I took a peek for myself. It hasn’t been updated, so here it is before it’s changed.

kieron-montague-978729428

It’s the usual mixture of Labour time-servers, Third Sector spongers and token residents. But as we were warned just now, there’s also the PwC representative, looking after her company’s best interests. Lynn Pamment is of course one of those selfless English missionaries without whom we Welsh would be running around naked doing unspeakable things to each other and gabbling away incoherently.

Also on the Board is someone I’ve mentioned before, a regular contributor to the Letters page of the Wasting Mule, where he can be relied upon to fly the flag for Queen and Country (his country that is, not ours), Kel Palmer. And talking of flying, his bio describes him as “A former fast jet pilot in the RAF” . . . not to be confused with those slow jet pilots . . . always getting in the bloody way . . . slowing down the bombing runs. It’s a wonder regime change is ever achieved.

This I think is one to watch. Particularly the future careers of Andrew Lycett and Kieron Montague.

[With so many different people sending me stuff I seem to have lost the original e-mail containing the information used above. So will whoever sent it please get in touch to remind me who you are.]

APPRENTICE APPARATCHIKS

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the need to provide apprenticeships, with political parties trying to outdo each other in the number they’d provide if elected, but did you know that the ‘Welsh’ Government has its very own apprenticeship scheme?

I am indebted to another correspondent for drawing this to my attention. Though he’s very concerned by the fact that most of those chosen for these apprenticeships seem to be related to someone already working for Carwyn and his gang.

Which, I suppose is only to be expected. For it seems that these apprenticeships are advertised only on the ‘Welsh’ Government website. Now with the best will in the world, I doubt if many young people visit the site . . . unless advised to do so by family or friends.

Is this how it should be done? Doesn’t it risk getting nepotism a bad name?

WG Apprenticeships

And by the way, Carwyn, I wouldn’t give a job to that shifty-looking little bugger in the middle, the one fiddling with his tie. If he’s going to do Oliver Hardy impersonations he needs to put on about 150lb . . . and also develop a personality.

CHRISTOPHER MUNDAY, GOAT-TETHERER

A third supplier of information has very interesting things to tell us about Christopher Munday who, you may remember, is the genius who set up the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales which I – in my previous post – likened unto tethering a goat and waiting for the predators to appear.

He writes . . .

“CM is typical of many public sector employees who see their advancement “up the greasy pole” by avoiding decision making and adopting the mantra of “plausible deniabilty” if anything goes wrong.

He joined Welsh Development Agency in the 1980’s having formerly been a “site finder” for a medium sized house building company. He progressed through a number of low and medium grade clerical jobs, as the WDA expanded through the 1990’s, and then became employed in a department seeking to access private sector money to add to the Agency’s budget for property development purposes.

As he had little knowledge of funding (and no knowledge of property development), his approach was to appoint  major firms of accountants to “write reports” as to how private funding might be accessed. It was quickly realised in Cardiff, that operating a large budget for the purposes of employing private sector accountants, made CM a prime target for the KPMGs, PWC, Deloittes of this world in “keeping him sweet”. He attended, for many years, the annual MIPIM property junkets in Cannes, where his time was spent networking (i.e. being entertained) by his accountancy pals.

Once these reports had been completed, at costs between tens of and hundreds of thousands of pounds, these would be “topped and tailed” by CM and subsequently presented to his line managers and, ultimately, ministers as “all his own work”. On two or three occasions the reports suggested “arms-length” initiatives, with a view to private sector organisations participating in the development of offices and factories in Wales. 

In at least one of these initiatives (called WISP) the “partner participant” was a company called Babcock and Brown. By this time WDA had been “absorbed” into the Assembly. The basis of WISP was that the Assembly would take a long lease on an office block before it was built, and the investment would be pre-sold to provide the funds to build it in the first place.

Unfortunately, after a couple of office developments, Babcock and Brown went bust, and the WISP idea terminated.  Babcock and Brown’s contact with CM was Leo Bedford(LB), and LB started up another company out of the ashes of Babcock and Brown, called Amber.

It was, therefore, of little surprise that when the RIFW (a.k.a. JESSICA) initiative was suggested to Welsh Government, CM was put in charge of running it, and (surprise, surprise again) Amber was appointed as Fund Manager. It is not clear who decided Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) should be appointed as Property Advisers, but it is clear that Welsh Government appointed both firms (see attached press release). It is also interesting to note that when the RIFW s**t hit the fan, CM denied flatly that Welsh Government had appointed LSH, and insisted that LSH had been appointed by Amber without his knowledge (!).

I know several people who have worked, and still work with Mr Munday, and it is the case that work colleagues, AMs and Ministers largely regard him as a . . . at which point I have to intervene because it gets rather personal, and I’m down to my last couple of mill. Munday commutes to Cardiff from Wiltshire.

What are we to make of this, boys and girls? Now as you know, Jac is a simple soul, and talk of conferences in the South of France, and big numbers that I can’t get my head around, send me into a tizzy. But if half of what my informant tells us is true, then this man sounds like a complete asshole! But of course he’s an English asshole, so he’s guaranteed an important job in Wales, losing millions and millions from the Welsh public purse.

JAMES BOND COMES TO CARDIFF

The ‘Welsh’ media has gone overboard reporting the fact that Aston Martin is to build a new plant in Sant Tathan, just outside Cardiff. Now me explain this to you.

This has nothing to do with jobs; the number of jobs created is almost irrelevant for those who persuaded the ‘Welsh’ Government to bribe Aston Martin to set up on the outskirts of Cardiff. The motivation, pure and simple, is the promotion of Cardiff.

The Aston Martin plant is just another prestige project to add to the Millennium Stadium, the Millennium Centre, the Swalec Stadium, the National Ice Rink and all the other developments we’ve seen in recent years, including – don’t laugh! – the Assembly building itself. Within a very short time I guarantee we shall be hearing, ‘Cardiff – Home to Aston Martin’.

Many are already asking how much the ‘Welsh’ Government paid Aston Martin to move to the Vale, but nobody’s answering. I am indebted to @tomgallard for letting me publish this letter in which the ‘Welsh’ Government refuses to disclose how much it invested in this wonderful project that will be of benefit to the whole of Wales.

If you think I’m just an embittered old Jack, and that the ‘Welsh’ Governments’s prime consideration was jobs, just ask yourself this – would they have rolled out the red carpet with gold thread for Kia, or Dacia, even if these companies were creating 3,000 jobs? And answer that honestly.

Aston Martin Logo 1

And if you believe that employment / investment was the prime consideration, and that’s why the ‘Welsh’ Government was prepared to break the bank to get Aston Martin to Wales, then why weren’t the jobs directed to an area where they are much more needed than the Vale of Glamorgan, where I guarantee residents will soon be opposing all the disruption the Aston Martin development threatens?

Oh, and one final thing. Scroll down on the letter to Tom Gallard and see who signed it. Yes, that’s the same Christopher Munday we discussed just now. Whenever there’s Welsh public funding to be wasted, Munday’s yer man! 

P.S. Another factor worth considering is that this rush of automotive good news – Aston Martin to the Vale of Glamorgan, TVR to Ebbw Vale – comes just ahead of the Assembly elections on May 9. The Labour Party must be calculating that news like this is worth a few thousand votes, maybe saving the party a couple of seats. Very important when we remember that Labour currently holds 30 out of the 60 seats and is predicted to lose anything up to 5 of them.

 *

What we see in these examples, and in other cases I’ve highlighted over the years, is utter contempt for the democratic process and the public purse – which works to the detriment of us all. Basically, it’s, ‘Sod off! we don’t have to tell you anything’.

When RCT Homes was questioned by Martin Shipton about the £150,000 salary for its chief executive he could only tell us, “A spokeswoman for RCT Homes said the body would not be offering a comment.”

And when Andrew Lycett left RCT Homes to take up his post with real estate company the Jehu Group, the reasons for his leaving were unexplained on grounds of “confidentially”. This, remember, is a Registered Social Landlord getting large dollops of funding from the public purse.

The ‘Welsh’ Government apprenticeships are obviously aimed squarely at those in the know. Otherwise they’d be advertised properly so that everybody’d have a chance.

The RIFW scandal for which Christopher Munday is so culpable is still shrouded in mystery because so much information is being withheld and so many lies are being told.

Finally, we have the countless millions lobbed Aston Martin’s way to get another blue chip company to Cardiff. Yet we cannot be told how much because this information is – so someone at the ‘Welsh’ Government argues – “exempt from disclosure”. Is that really true?

And all this is happening in a system that prides itself on ‘openness’, focussed on a building made of glass, so that we, the people, can see what they’re up to. What a load of deceitful symbolism and absolute bollocks!

(Calm down, Jones.)

Now a compete change of subject, but another indictment of how Wales is run, and the priorities of those who run our county and our cities.

BEDD GWYROSYDD
Bedd Gwyrosydd

Feel free to use this photograph

When I was a boy, I used to catch the school bus at Brynhyfryd Square, which would then make the long haul up Llangyfelach Road, past the ‘Public Hall’ and its bust of Daniel James, before the turning left and along Heol Gwyrosydd to Penlan School.

Of course I knew the hymn Calon Lân, and I knew that the words had been written by local man Daniel James. (Bit of a hero of my mamgu!) Which was just as well, because I wasn’t going to learn things like that in Penlan School, or any school in Swansea. Trigonometry, Latin, and the history of British imperialism would stand me in much better stead for the world that awaited me.

These memories came back when I opened an e-mail and saw a photo that someone had sent with it. The photograph was taken the day after Palm Sunday, and it shows Daniel James’ sorry-looking grave in Mynyddbach cemetery. The person who sent me the photograph said he had to avoid huge Victorian headstones leaning at dangerous angles to reach the grave, and that a machete would have helped to get through the undergrowth.

Doesn’t the man who wrote perhaps our most famous hymn deserve better than this? If I was talking here about some monument to our subjugation, or a reminder of our colonialist exploitation, or some house where Nelson had enjoyed Lady Hamilton, then Cadw, or the National Trust, or some other bunch of colonialist grant-grabbers would demand a few million to ‘maintain it for the nation’. (And we know which nation.)

If you feel as I do, that Daniel James deserves to be remembered better than this, then write to somebody; Swansea council, the ‘Welsh’ Government, anybody. Send a letter or e-mail to your local paper, or the Daily Post, the Western Mail.

Because how much would it cost to maintain this grave with the dignity it merits? Less than a set of tyres on an Aston Martin. Probably less than Christopher Munday earns in a week. One per cent of what the chief executive of RCT Homes will be paid in a year. Wake up people! let’s start getting our priorities straight. Let’s start remembering who we are.

UPDATE 28.03.2016: Good News! A mystery benefactor has appeared to help with the restoration of the Gwyrosydd headstone.

 

Mar 212016
 

TO RECAP . . . 

You will recall that in the previous post dealing with the highly questionable disposal of publicly-owned land by the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales we encountered two Guernsey-based companies, Imperial House Investments Ltd (Incorporated 30.11.2013) and South Wales Land Developments Ltd (Incorporated 01.02.2014) both of which had just two directors, Langley Davies and Jane Pocock.

It became clear that South Wales Land Developments was set up to serve as a vehicle for the real purchaser in the land deal with RIFW, Sir Gilbert Stanley Thomas, originally of Merthyr, but now resident in Guernsey. So what might be the purpose of Imperial House Investments Ltd?

The obvious question, to me, was, ‘Is there a specific Imperial House that might answer the question?’ Yes, and unsurprisingly it’s to be found on Imperial Park in Newport, listed among the publicly-owned assets disposed of by the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales.

RIFW Land Sales

IMAGE COURTESY OF BBC WALES

As I shall explain below, Imperial House was bought by Langley Davies and South Wales Land Developments on behalf of Stan Thomas in the controversial ‘portfolio disposal’ of RIFW assets. But is there anything in the pipeline – as with the housing planned for the Lisvane land – that might affect its value in an upward direction? And come to that, does SWLD still own Imperial House?

The answer to the first question is that Imperial Park will be very close to the projected M4 relief road / ‘black route’ announced by Edwina Hart in July 2014, which is bound to increase its value. ‘But wait!’ I hear you cry, ‘Imperial House Investments Ltd of Guernsey was created in November 2013, a full eight months before Redwina spoke’.

Which could suggest that Stan Thomas and Langley Davies are gifted with second sight . . . or there may be a more mundane explanation

The answer to the second question is where it gets interesting. For Imperial House – or at least, part of it – is now owned by yet another Guernsey-based company involved in these shenanigans.

Here are the details and the documentation.

Imperial House was bought on July 13th, 2012, from South Wales Land Developments Ltd by Imperial House Investments Ltd – a company that didn’t officially exist until November 2013 – for the sum stated on title number WA701104 as being £1,750,000. Here is a link to that document, and here’s a link to the plan of the site, showing the land bought bordered in red.

Then, on October 26th, 2015, it appears that part of the Imperial House site – known as “Phase II” – was sold for £3,853,823 (title number CYM664986) to Oxenwood YPL (Investments) Ltd of PO Box 25, Regency Court, Glategny Esplanade, St Peter Port, Guernsey GY1 3AP. Here’s a link to the title document, and here’s a link to the plan of the site, with the Oxenwood purchase bordered in red. It’s worth comparing the two plans.

So what do we know about Oxenwood? Not a lot. I couldn’t turn up anything for Oxenwood YPL (Investments) Ltd. (And what does YPL stand for anyway?) There is however an Oxenwood Real Estate LLP based in London which might or might not be connected. Though Imperial House doesn’t show in its portfolio.

While searching for Imperial House I did turn up an advert for offices for hire in Imperial Courtyard, which forms part of the Imperial House purchase. The agent is Lambert Smith Hampton, the company that advised RIFW on the sale of its assets.

Imperial Courtyard

PICTURE COURTESY OF https://propertylink.estatesgazette.com

The building is shown above, with Unit 6 being the ground floor. Is this still owned by Stan Thomas or was it part of the sale to Oxenwood Real Estate LLP, which might have been no more than Stan Thomas selling from one of his Guernsey companies to another?

(To save you taking your socks off, 4,134 sq ft x £15.00 = £62,010.)

Or is this a new build on the “c1a (circa one acre) development site” that was part of the Imperial House transaction? And if “Unit 6” is offered in this ad can we assume that there are at least five other units?

Another big question is – how much did SWLD pay the RIFW for Imperial House? Whatever the answer we can be sure that it will be a very good deal for Sir Gilbert Stanley Thomas.

Reminding us that while the Lisvane site may be the ‘jewel in the crown’ there are a number of other lucrative elements to this portfolio sale by the RIFW that the media may have overlooked.

THE DELOITTE REPORT, INTRODUCTION

One thing that’s become clear as I’ve looked at the RIFW story is how the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party and its laughable ‘Welsh’ Government has procrastinated and dithered, how hard it has tried to stop the truth emerging while simultaneously trying to distance itself from the fall-out. Among the tactics employed has been to regularly trot out the line that the RIFW is an “arms-length” organisation.

The Deloitte report that we shall now consider might also be seen as another bit of procrastination, another effort to buy time in the hope that the critics would get tired and give up. The report was presented to the ‘Welsh’ Government on August 8th, 2013. Its findings are so conclusively damning that it should have resulted in immediate action, but those clowns down Cardiff docks continued to dither.

Before progressing with a detailed look into the Deloitte report I also recommend that you read Owen Donovan’s Oggy Bloggy Ogwr blog, where you will find an excellent analysis of this scandal stage by stage and learn how the Assembly and the ‘Welsh’ Government have handled it. Here’s a link to his most recent contribution, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap VI: The Debate and you can work back from there to read the earlier pieces.

Click on the title to open the full report, Welsh Government Peer Review – RIFW Asset Portfolio Disposal and keep it open in another window. I know I always say this, but this time I really mean it – please set aside an hour or so to read the report through. I should warn you that it is redacted, but not so heavily as to detract from the seriousness of its findings. (Though of course it did make me wonder, given what is left, how damning were the redacted parts.)

I shall now list what I consider to be the most important of Deloitte’s findings, page by page, but before that maybe I should explain who’s who, and what their roles were.

  • Chris Munday is the civil servant behind the creation of the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales. There is surely a knighthood awaiting Mr Munday . . . or possibly a posting to the Gurnos community centre (personal injury insurance provided).
  • Lambert Smith Hampton is the commercial property consultancy that advised the RIFW on the sales, through its Cardiff office headed by Lee Mogridge, with input from Jeremy Green who is based in London.
  • Amber Infrastructure was the other RIFW adviser and is now considering taking action against LSH. (The second link contains the sentence, ” . . . they [the Public Accounts Committee] were concerned that one of the company’s [LSH’s] employees was working for both RIFW, which was selling the sites, and South Wales Land Developments, which was buying the site.” This is also referenced in this report from 2013 into the internal governance of the RIFW – page 29 iii – but the individual is not named.)
  • The public interest was supposed to be have been safeguarded by the five people appointed to the RIFW Board by the ‘Welsh’ Government. These were Richard Anning, of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Englandandwales; Ceri Breeze, a ‘Welsh’ Government civil servant; Richard Harris, another apparatchik; Chris Holley, the former Lib Dem leader of Swansea council; and Jonathan Geen, of Acuity Legal, the Endgame Group, and, more recently, Bellerophon Scotland, plus of course, South Wales Land Developments Ltd and, ultimately, Stan Thomas.
THE DELOITTE REPORT (by page and column heading)

Page 12: Note that the original value put on Imperial House was £5.2m, yet SWLD was able to sell the property to Imperial House Investments Ltd for £1.75m, so I ask again, how much did SWLD pay for Imperial House? And remember, the £5.2m value was given before anyone knew of the M4 ‘black route’ coming right by Imperial House.

Imperial House

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Page 14 Observations: January 31st, 2011: “The Investment Manager’s Report and the Minutes of the Board Meeting at which this document was discussed make no mention of consideration of a portfolio disposal”. Suggesting that the original intention was to sell the lots individually, or perhaps in batches.

The reference in the lower box to Imperial House could be interpreted as someone trying to drive down the asking price.

Page 15: This theme of driving down the supposed value of Imperial House continues.

Page 17 Description: The reference in the lower box makes it clear that by March 28th, 2011, an offer has been received to buy all the properties in a “portfolio disposal”.

Page 21 Observations: It seems clear that Deloitte cannot understand why the Realisation Value of Imperial House has fallen since 2011, and no explanation is offered.

Page 24 Description: This tells us that in the early part of 2011 there were a number of companies interested in the RIFW land, it lists them. Legat Owen, for example, had a client interested in all the sites in the north. But the job lot had already been promised to Stan Thomas.

Page 25 Observations: Lambert Smith Hampton – the Investment Managers to the RIFW, entrusted with securing the best possible deal for these public assets – has not advertised the properties but has “informally canvassed” likely purchasers.

Also note something I commented on in my previous post. Jonathan Geen is dealing with Langley Davies of South Wales Land Developments, Stan Thomas’ front man, but SWLD didn’t officially exist!

Page 26 Observations: Read it all. “No advertising took place” says Deloitte. Though there are more vague references to “informal canvassing”, making it clear that the deal was already done and dusted.

Page 27 Description: Some time before April 21st, 2011 it was known that an offer had been made by Stan Thomas. May 10th, 2011, Langley Davies says that Stan Thomas (through GST of Guernsey) will be lending him the money to make the purchase “at 3% over interbank rate”. So Langley is the real purchaser, with Stan just lending him the money?

               Observations: On April 21st, 2011, Board member Jonathan Geen declares a “potential conflict” (of interests). AT WHICH POINT HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE OLD HEAVE-HO FROM THE RIFW.

Page 28 Description: Here we learn that the “portfolio offer letter from GST Investments Ltd” was received on March 4th, 2011.

Also that, “LSH met Sir Stanley Thomas and Langley Davies to discuss the sale” on March 30th, 2011. Was no one else present?

Page 29 Description: Value of Imperial House downplayed, again.

Page 30 Description: At 20th April, 2011, we learn of the first written evidence of LSH recommending acceptance of the Stan Thomas offer. We also learn that Carwyn Jones and the “IM” were informed of this development.

We also see yet another mention of no due diligence carried out with regard to GST or SWLD.

Pages 32 & 33: With a few minor caveats the Board decides by the end of April 2011 to (officially) accept Stan Thomas’ offer.

Page 38 Description: Lambert Smith Hampton “writes to Martin Pollock of Barclays Wealth (acting for Stan Thomas) accepting an offer of £22.5m based on three staged payments” on June 15th 2011. Anyone who’s been paying attention will have noted that this purchase figure has changed a few times.

               Observations: Note Deloitte’s curious and rather worrying mention of the Board’s recorded vote.

Here’s some more information on the Board, “From January 2011, the Board comprised five voting members: two Welsh Government officials (one of whom served as Chair), a Welsh Local Government Association representative and two external members appointed following an advertised public appointments process. Although Welsh Ministers appointed the Board members, under the LLP model all of the Board members had a legal responsibility to act in the interests of RIFW, even if those interests were not entirely aligned with those of Welsh Ministers(?). LSH told the Committee that they felt the composition of the Board contained the right expertise for this venture.”

I’m quoting there from the January 2016 report by the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (page 18). Which goes on to say, “The small size of the RIFW Board meant that its capacity to discharge its responsibilities was weakened when a conflict of interest regarding the portfolio sale to SWLD arose when one of the external members, Jonathan Geen, started to act as the legal advisor to SWLD on the sale transaction.”

Further documentation on the Public Accounts Committee investigation is available here.

Page 39 Description: It is noted on July 22nd 2011, Redrow offers “£2m unconditionally for the Bangor site”. This offer was made to Lambert Smith Hampton’s Manchester office. Why didn’t Redrow go to the Cardiff office handling the sale? Did they know something?

Whatever the answer, this offer seems to have slipped through the floorboards, though of course we should remember that the deal with Stan and Olly had already been stitched up by then.

Page 40 Description: Heads of Terms between RIFW and Newco Ltd (acting for Stan Thomas), July 15th, 2011,“describes the sale of 18 properties, but it also states that RIFW may not be in a position to dispose of Imperial House and Garth Park”.

                Observations: “Jonathan Geen is noted as the purchaser’s solicitor”.

Page 44 Description: Against the date November 15th, 2011, we read, “Purchaser is now TBC – a Guernsey Registered Holding Company wholly owned by St Lawrence Property Investments Ltd, registered in UK and funded by GST”. 

St Lawrence Property Investments can be found at Unit 6, Imperial Courtyard, the property for rent we looked at earlier. Its directors are Langley Davies and Jane Pocock, but as a new face we have a Karen Davies, who could be Langley’s wife or, given that she was born in the same month as him, his twin sister.

This company, Number 07545621, was Incorporated February 28th, 2011, and before moving to Newport its address, until August 17th, 2011, was 3 Assembly Square, Britannia Quay, Cardiff Bay. The same address as Acuity Legal, where Jonathan Geen is listed as “Partner – Real Estate”.

If St Lawrence Property Investments was registered at 3 Assembly Square, the address of Jonathan Geen’s company, Acuity Legal, and Incorporated on February 28th, then it’s reasonable to assume that Geen was representing Stan Thomas and Langley Davies some two months before he confessed to his “potential conflict” on April 21st. It may have been longer.

THOUGHTS

The ‘Welsh’ Government seems to think that the RIFW fiasco was all over with the Public Accounts Committee report in January. That was certainly the opinion of Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Communities . . . the very communities that have lost out by RIFW not realising anything like the potential of the assets it was entrusted with.

RIFW Lesley Griffith

We have since learnt that the ‘Welsh’ Government is getting tough, and earlier this month it was announced that there are plans to take legal action against Lambert Smith Hampton, which has also been referred to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

This is the very least the ‘Welsh’ Government could do, because the performance of LSH leaves only two possibilities:

1/ Those allocated by LSH to the RIFW contract were so utterly inept and unprofessional that they should never be given another job more complicated than a house sale.

2/ The company, or one or more of its employees, was in the pay of Langley and Stan, which is what is suggested by more than one source. If an employee of LSH was simultaneously working for the RIFW and the Langley and Stan show, then surely that person can be prosecuted?

It is therefore wholly correct that Carwyn and his posse should ride off into the sunset in pursuit of the LSH gang. But I don’t understand why Jonathan Geen has been allowed to leave town unmolested. I’m assuming he’s left Cardiff, for as I suggested just now, he seems to have moved to Scotland, where he is currently starring on the Bellerophon Scotland website, now calling himself ‘Jon’ Geen but using the same, Acuity, photograph. (Open out for full profile.)

Jonathan Geen was appointed to the RIFW Board in December 2010. The Terms and Conditions of his appointment can be found here (page 31). I’m linking again to the somewhat neglected report, published in April 2013, into the governance arrangements of the RIFW, written by Gilbert C. Lloyd FCA CPFA. You can read it for yourself, but I can save you the trouble by telling you that Mr Lloyd concludes that the RIFW is a bit of a shambles.

The penultimate Duty reads, “Acting in the best interests of the Fund”. Was it possible for Jonathan Geen to act in the best interests of the Fund while also serving Langley and Stan? His responsibility to the Fund should have meant maximising its profits, yet the gruesome twosome wanted to pay as little as possible for the land.

The final Duty says that the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s Seven Principles of Public Life are adhered to. Read them and you may think that Jonathan Geen broke most of them while acting as a Board member of the RIFW, supposedly safeguarding the public interest.

So why was Jonathan Geen allowed to take the high road?

RIFW Jonathan Geen

PICTURE COURTESY OF ACUITY LEGAL

CONCLUSIONS

The Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales was a cock-up from the outset. A perfect example of what goes wrong when civil servants and politicians with no knowledge of the real world try to deal with ‘businessmen’. Setting up the RIFW in the manner it was done was like tethering a goat and waiting for the predators to appear.

Another contributing factor was that, despite its grandiose ambitions, Cardiff remains a relatively small city, and those in particular sectors – such as property sales and development – will almost certainly know each other. Not only professionally, but also socially. Perhaps they’ll belong to the same Lodge or golf club.

While I consistently argue for contracts and jobs to be given to local companies, in the case of the RIFW land disposal, the contracts should have been dispersed to people unknown to each other. This must be borne in mind for all similar business in future and, indeed, more generally when awarding contracts.

For as I travel around Wales I notice signs on development sites telling me that the architect, or the surveyor, or the agent involved, is based in Cardiff, and almost certainly got the contract because he is close to the ‘Welsh’ Government, perhaps in more senses than one.

So let’s learn from the RIFW scandal and in future spread the contracts and the wealth they generate around the country.

All that said, the ultimate blame for the Welsh people being deprived of £200m or more does not lie with Langley Davies or Stan Thomas, Jonathan Geen or anyone at Lambert Smith Hampton, for these were simply being true to their natures. No, the blame lies squarely with the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government down Cardiff docks.

The Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales was a disaster waiting to happen, and it was obvious as early as March 2011 that the disaster was playing out, that there were conflicts of interest, that companies showing interest in doing deals were being cold-shouldered in favour of a single buyer, who seemed to be known to all involved, and was at the very same time making a tidy profit out of selling Cardiff airport to the ‘Welsh’ Government!

And while this tragedy was unfolding those buffoons were hiding behind the ‘arms-length’ defence. Yet the RIFW was their creation and they could have stepped in at any time to protect public assets. And that’s exactly what they should have done. It was their duty.

The response of the wretched Lesley Griffiths sums up not only the ‘Let’s move on’ attitude of her administration, but also ‘Welsh’ Labour’s complete lack of ambition for Wales, which could be summed up with, ‘Ooo, we’ve got about 5% of what these assets should have realised – isn’t that wonderful’!

As I’ve said, these clowns will be asking for your vote again in May. Anyone who votes Labour does not – cannot – have the best interests of Wales at heart. Vote for anyone but Labour!

Let’s get the Labour monkey off Wales’ back!

Mar 152016
 

Back in October 2012, on my old Google blog, in the post Wales: Sicily Of The North, I touched on the emerging story of publicly-owned land being sold off rather cheaply by the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales. Sold to the mysterious, Guernsey-based company, South Wales Land Developments.

Information on the deal was sparse in 2012 beyond the fact that the public face of South Wales Land Developments was one Langley John Davies. As I said back in 2012, “a busy boy, our Langley”, who’d been involved with many companies, but of course information on SWLD was sparse because it’s based in Guernsey.

Some information on SWLD has since filtered into the public domain, this tells us that there are only two directors, Langley Davies and Jane Pocock. Davies has some background in property, but most of his companies seem to have been in finance and loans, perhaps for vehicle purchase.

Pocock’s background as a director was exclusively in vehicles – vans by the look of it – until she joined Davies in another Guernsey-registered company, Imperial House Investments Ltd (Incorporated 30.11.2013), and then South Wales Land Developments.

Lisvane

You’ll note that nothing has ever been filed for either Imperial House Investments Ltd or South Wales Land Developments. And while the role of SWLD will be explained below, I can’t begin to guess at the purpose of IHI. (All suggestions welcome.)

Clearly, Davies and Pocock were unlikely buyers of parcels of land in various parts of Wales, and probably didn’t have the £21m needed to complete the purchase. And although the report from September 2012 tells us that the land has already been transferred to South Wales Land Developments, SWLD wasn’t incorporated in Guernsey until the first of February 2014.

*

This was all rather confusing until we learnt last year that the initial offer for the land came from GST Investments, also of Guernsey, and that GST stands for (Sir) Gilbert Stanley Thomas, brother to Peter Thomas OBE; scions of the House of Pies founded by their father Thomas Stanley Thomas, who died last year aged 98.

The quid pro quo for Davies and Pocock distracting attention from Sir Stan might have been him becoming a director of their company Vans Direct Ltd, Company Number 06971144, in September 2013 . . . and no doubt investing ‘a little something’ in repayment for services rendered.

So here are two, linked, questions:

  • Seeing as the original purchaser in March 2012 was Stan Thomas, why has the ‘Welsh’ media avoided mentioning his name, and that of his company, GST Investments?
  • Why have we been repeatedly told that these parcels of land were sold, in March 2012, to a company, South Wales Land Developments, that didn’t officially exist until February 1st, 2014?

We know now that Langley Davies and Jane Pocock were fronting for Stan Thomas, and were no doubt paid well to hide his involvement in the purchase, but why would Thomas have felt the need for this subterfuge?

Part of the answer might lie in the fact that around the same time as the land sales were being ‘arranged’ he and brother Peter were benefiting from another lucrative deal at the expense of the Welsh public purse. This was the sale of Cardiff airport to the ‘Welsh’ Government for £52m.

*

The airport had been owned by Glamorgan Country Council and then its successor councils of Mid, West and South Glamorgan until another round of local government reorganisation saw the facility privatised and sold to TBI plc in April 1995. So what do we know about TBI?

A 2004 BBC article tells us, “Stanley Thomas, now 62, started TBI with developer Paul Bailey in the early 1990s, and the firm became a fully listed company on the Stock Exchange in 1994”. True . . . up to a point. The original company, Incorporated on August 8th 1972, was called Markheath Plc, Company Number 01064763

Markheath changed its name to Thomas Bailey Investments Plc in March 1994 and to TBI Ltd in 2009. Clearly using the surnames of Paul Bailey and Gilbert Stanley Thomas to give us TBI. Though Paul Bailey only served as a director of TBI from 28.03.1994 to 28.02.1996, while Thomas became a director on the same date but stayed on until 04.01.2005.

And yet, another curiosity is that TBI seems to have been in existence before Bailey and Thomas became directors. As of September 5th 1992 – eighteen months before they joined – we find five directors, named Springer, Haines, Creber, Rendle and Westcott. While another who became a director at the same time as Bailey and Thomas was a Paul Meyrick Guy. Check out the full list of directors here.

The influx of Iberian names post January 2005 can be attributed to the fact that in 2004 TBI became a subsidiary of (90% owned by) the multinational, Barcelona-based Abertis Infraestructuras SA.

TBI figures

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Before proceeding maybe we should establish who Paul Meyrick Guy is. He lives on Rudry Road in Cardiff or, to be more exact, in the suburb of Lisvane. Rudry Road meanders out into open country, under the M4 and on towards the Rhymni river, through the kind of green fields so coveted by ‘developers’. And wouldn’t you know it – he’s a neighbour to Peter Thomas!

Paul Meyrick Guy has held many directorships . . . many, many directorships. In his 61 years among us Guy has held no less than 111 directorships. Is this a record?

Having mentioned Peter Thomas it struck me as strange that he was never a director of TBI like his brother. Though in the BBC report I linked to earlier, headed ‘Brothers go from pies to planes‘, it says, “The brothers, from Merthyr Tydfil, own almost a fifth of TBI’s shares“. In the graphic above we see that in 2012 TBI’s net worth was £408,634,000, so work it out for yourself.

*

It became known in the early part of 2013 that Cardiff Airport had been sold to the ‘Welsh’ Government. And although sold for £52m the site was independently valued in the £20m – £30m bracket, suggesting that the ‘Welsh’ Government paid well over the odds.

According to the article I’ve just linked to, “Ministers bought Cardiff Airport from its Spanish owners Abertis for £52m”. Note that in this report – and other reports at the time – the Thomas brothers’ company, TBI, has now vanished from the picture. But as I explained above, TBI still owned Cardiff Airport, but TBI was now owned by Abertis.

Thomas Brothers

To put the price paid for Cardiff Airport into perspective, consider this: Also in 2013, the Scottish Government bought Prestwick Airport for £1, and Prestwick is a ‘real’ airport, with transatlantic flights.

Also owned by TBI-Abertis was Belfast International Airport, enjoying passenger numbers over four times higher than Cardiff. It too was sold in 2013, to a US company, as part of a package that also included Stockholm Skavsta Airport, terminals at Orlando Sanford in Florida, and an airport management business in the USA. The package price was just £244m.

If Cardiff, with less than one million passengers a year, and airlines abandoning the facility like the proverbial rats, was worth £52m then Belfast must have made up almost all of the package price in the other sale with Stockholm, Orlando, etc., thrown in for good luck!

*

The latest news in the land sale scandal is that the ‘Welsh’ Government plans to begin legal proceedings against Lambert Smith Hampton, the company that advised the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales with the valuation of the land. But is LSH the right target? And even if it is, should it be the only target?

There is an obvious and understandable desire on the part of Carwyn and his gang to deny political opponents ammunition, to look ‘strong’ (don’t laugh!), especially with elections coming up in May, but it’s all pointless window dressing.

I say that because the problem exposed by the sales of Cardiff airport and the prime development land reaches deep into the Welsh body politic, and exposes associated weaknesses in the media and elsewhere.

I have always argued that Wales is Europe’s Third World. The greater part of the country is ignored and allowed to decline while investment is poured into the capital at the behest of – and for the benefit of – business interests that don’t give a damn about Wales or the Welsh people. Devolution has only made things worse.

The warnings were there at the very outset, when Lord Crickhowell – formerly Nicholas Edwards MP – and his gang at Associated British Ports, manoeuvred the newly created Assembly into taking out a punitive lease on Crickhowell House, owned of course by ABP, and then to build the new Assembly building on land owned by ABP rather than take over Cardiff City Hall, or Swansea Guildhall which had clearly won Ron Davies’ ‘competition’.

And let’s remember that this crew had already made a killing with the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, using public money to redevelop land owned by ABP. Where was the ‘Welsh’ media when this scandal needed to be exposed?

The ‘Welsh’ media is the Cardiff media, and will support anything it believes is in Cardiff’s interests, even when done at the expense of the rest of Wales. (The city region project and the ‘improvements’ demanded for the M4 being ongoing examples.) And when it comes to powerful individuals like Nick Edwards and the Thomas brothers then men like these are beyond scrutiny and above criticism.

Which explains why few if any Welsh people are aware that the Thomas brothers made a killing out of the sale of Cardiff Airport – because according to the ‘Welsh’ media the vendor was a totally unconnected Spanish company!

Equally, in the land deal, Stan Thomas has not been mentioned in the mainstream media, we’ve only been told of his mouthpiece, Langley Davies, and South Wales Land Developments, a company that exists in name only.

*

Let’s be blunt. We are dealing here with corruption. Corruption and incompetence at the very highest levels within a devolved system. Facilitated by a ‘Welsh’ Labour Party that knows nothing about business and can be given the runaround by any shyster spinning a line.cash dispenser

The aforementioned ‘Welsh’ Labour Party then deludes itself into  believing that it creates a ‘balance’ by investing in the Third Sector. But here, again, it is given the runaround by parasites in it for no one but themselves. Here’s a very recent example.

And what benefits do we, the Welsh people, see from the enrichment of Cardiff businessmen, or the billions poured into the Third Sector? We see nothing – this is the cause of our deprivation.

This is Wales in the twenty-first century; the perfect storm of a devolved administration that is little more than a cash dispenser being run by people who understand nothing of the world beyond political debate and who are preyed upon by unscrupulous individuals and interests.

No matter who you vote for in May, nothing will change. This system cannot be tinkered with, or improved from within, it must be swept away. Wales needs a revolution, and a fresh start. Independence, and a new capital far from Cardiff and its malign influences, is the only answer.

Nov 082015
 

HOOKED ON FUNDING

Drugs is big business, as this recent case reminded us, and drugs generates lots of money for people other than drug dealers. Even the UK government has acknowledged that drug dealers buy cars, houses, boats, bling, foreign holidays, etc., etc. On top of that, the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ keeps cops, lawyers and prisons in business. And as if that wasn’t enough, we then have all those who’ve found jobs ‘helping’ drug addicts.

There must now be thousands of agencies, large and small, operating locally, at Wales level, UK level, which often overlap and duplicate each other’s work and, in total, receive billions of pounds in funding from various sources. The only losers in this situation are of course the drug addicts – but ‘it’s their own fault anyway’. A strange attitude to take towards those who keep this ship afloat.

Of course, the only other blot on this landscape of economic win-win is that those involved in manufacturing, importing and distributing drugs tend to keep their assets offshore, or under granny’s mattress, and therefore pay no tax. But since when have such practices ever troubled UK politicians, of any party?

If you wanted to be utterly cynical, you could argue that there are now so many people dependent on the drugs trade that if the ‘War on Drugs’ was, by some fluke, won, then it might have a seriously detrimental effect on the UK economy.

Drugaid

I am indebted to Brychan for reminding us that among the big players in Wales in the ‘helping drug addicts’ racket is The South Wales Association For Prevention Of Addiction Ltd (Charity No 265008), more usually known as Drugaid. Its four trustees are Professor Neil Frude, Miss Sylvia Diana Scarf, Mr William George David Smith and Mrs Linda Hodgson. As well Prof Frudeas being trustees of the charity these four are also the only directors of the cash-rich Newport-based company of the same name (No 01073381).

Professor Frude appears to be a somewhat unorthodox psychologist and one-time stand-up comedian, who runs the Happiness Consultancy in Berkshire. He is also an external professor at the University of South Wales and has some connection with Cardiff University. Though his main income is said to be from his work for BUPA, which no doubt contributes greatly to Frude’s personal happiness.

Miss Sylvia Diana Scarf is a retired lady of 79, who may live in Newport, or she may live in Oxford. I’m told that she recently got an OBE for her work with the Girl Guides. (When I tried to ‘work’ with Girl Guides during my Sea Scouts days all I ever got was ‘Get lost, you dirty sod’!) Miss Scarf is also said to be ‘big’ in the Anglican Church. When I read that it made me think of John Major’s old ladies cycling to Evensong after a skinfull of warm beer. Ah!

William George David Smith seems to be a chartered accountant in Cardiff and Linda Hodgson may, or may not, live in Porth, in the Rhondda. The contact and director for Drugaid is a Caroline Phipps from God knows where but currently domiciled in Caerffili. All in all, a typical ‘Welsh’ Third Sector outfit, made up of willing locals and those who can sniff out easy money from 500 miles away.

Drugaid first saw the light of day in Cardiff, in 1972, brought into this cruel world by the Reverend Peter Keward, and christened South Wales Action to Prevent Addiction (SWAPA). Since when it seems to have moved to Newport and concentrated its activities in the central and eastern Valleys, even into prosperous Monmouthshire. And despite what the outdated ‘About Us’ page says, Drugaid is also spreading west, yea unto Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion. In fact, the organisation now covers the whole of the south, from the border to the Irish Sea . . . apart from Cardiff and Swansea Bay, perhaps having been warned off the two main cities.

In figures submitted to the Charity Commission Drugaid had income for the year ended March 30, 2014 of £2,727,668 and expenditure of £2,789,439. It had 78 employees and 30 volunteers, so we are dealing here with a sizeable operation, and it’s still growing, currently advertising to fill 8 vacancies. (Here in screen capture.)

What does Drugaid actually do?

This is the tricky bit. Drugaid seems to work with ‘partner’ bodies, these include GPs, health services, various other Third Sector bodies, and the ‘National’ Probation Service (for Englandandwales). The latest available accounts show that these ‘partners’ (excluding local health boards and councils) put £1.74m into the Drugaid pot y/e 31.03.2014, with a further £606,397 coming from our wonderful ‘Welsh’ Government. So where does it go?

Drugaid income

Well, £1.83m went on wages and salaries, then there was ‘Hire of equipment and services’ (£211,870), ‘Motor and mileage costs’ (£88,151), ‘Light and heat’ (£80,287), ‘Telephone’ (£42,249), ‘Other operating leases’ (£162,854), ‘Sundries’ (£160,807), ‘Depreciation’ (£91,902), etc., etc. Apart from ‘Needles’ (£31,949), it’s difficult to identify any direct spending on those the charity is supposed to be helping, but let’s remember, this is a major employer, pushing towards 100 employees. (The two columns show y/e 31.03.2014 on the left, 2013 on the right.)

Drugaid spending

If one wished to be unkind it would easy to dismiss Drugaid as yet another charity where almost all the funding goes on salaries and administrative costs. A grotesquely bloated organisation, currently expanding beyond its ability to cope with this expansion and, as a result, not achieving a lot. Hardly surprising perhaps for a charity overseen by a stand-up comic.

I say that because in searching the Drugaid website I could find nothing boasting of ‘outcomes’, that word so beloved of Third Sector organisations, used in describing successes, numbers of ‘clients’ helped. Then my hopes soared as I saw ‘Drugaid Annual Review‘ . . . but the last one was posted in 2011! How is anyone – funders, for example – supposed to know whether Drugaid is actually doing any good? Or is Drugaid just part of some Third Sector merry-go-round where ‘cases’ get moved on from one agency to another with each agency taking its cut?

Drugaid gobbledegook

Another indicator that all may not be well is something else I found on the website, an invitation to tender, worded thus: “Drugaid is currently reviewing the provision of Supervision to our employees.  Following feedback from staff, a review of our Supervision Policy and research into best practice in Supervision, Drugaid has decided to redefine the supervision that is offered to all staff to provide a more inclusive, productive and efficient means of providing this vital support to all who work for us.”

Oh sorry, the closing date for that tender was 20th of February 2013!!! This is getting worrying. If the website is anything to go by, Drugaid is in one hell of a mess – but remember, this is an organisation that’s still expanding! Here’s a screen capture of the 2013 invitation to tender, because I guarantee it won’t be on the website much longer.

What else do we know?

I’ve already mentioned that in addition to the charity there is also a private company, limited by guarantee, with the same directors as are trustees of the charity. The company has a net worth of £1.1m, and £1.2m in cash.

Having also mentioned the situations currently vacant, it may be worthwhile focusing on one of these, the job in Merthyr catering for veterans. This caught Brychan’s eye due to a difference in legislation between Wales and England. Here in Wales, the Homeless Persons (Priority Need) (Wales) Order 2001 specifies that anyone who finds himself / herself homeless after leaving the armed forces is categorised as a priority for social housing. The Homelessness Act 2002, which applies to England only, allows local authorities there to reject applicants on the grounds of ‘no local connection’.

Given what we already know about the operations of the Third Sector and social housing bodies, and how lax legislation allows – even encourages – the importation of ‘clients’ from England, it demands no great leap of the imagination to envision Drugaid bringing in English ex-service personnel with drugs problems. Does this go some way to account for the recent expansion, both in personnel numbers and geographical reach?

Whatever Drugaid is doing, or supposed to be doing, it doesn’t seem to do it well. Nowhere does it give figures for those it has helped, as a result there seems to be no way whatsoever of gauging its success.  The percentage of its income spent on salaries and administrative charges is ludicrous, and should be unacceptable to its funders. The website, Drugaid’s window to the world, is an absolute shambles, full of gibberish and out-of-date pages. There has been no Yearly Review posted since that for 2011. How the hell can an organisation in such a state be allowed, even encouraged, to expand?

Finally, and being guided by the latest accounts, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that Drugaid is no more than a glorified needle exchange. As such, it does not deserve the excessive funding it receives. It is surely time for partners and funders to review their support for Drugaid.

*

NEIL WOOLLARD, ANOTHER UPLANDS COUNCILLOR GONE MISSING?

Following on the recent news of the departure from Swansea of Uplands councillor John Charles ‘John Boy’ Bayliss, which itself followed on the departure last year of his friend Pearleen Sangha, I now hear that another Labour councillor from that ward may have disappeared.Phil Tanner

The name I’m hearing is Neil Woollard, an interesting character, Woollard, for in addition to his day job, and his council work, Neil and some friends are the Rag Foundation, a popular folk ensemble. The group’s repertoire draws heavily on the songs of Gower folk singer Phil Tanner (1862 – 1950), a man whose life covered the ending of south Gower’s ‘island’ status, those centuries when it had more in common with Somerset than with north Gower. I’ve even read somewhere that Woollard is Tanner’s grandson, but to my knowledge Tanner had no children, certainly none are recorded.

What I’m hearing is that Woollard is employed by ‘a company involved with the Swansea tidal lagoon’, yet for some reason this means that he now lives in the Cardiff area. Though this might not be as odd as it sounds, for the company behind the lagoon is based in Gloucester, so maybe he’s chosen to live somewhere roughly half way between Swansea and Gloucester. But I’m only guessing. My source is however adamant that Woollard now lives somewhere in the Cardiff area.

While Woollard’s attendance record at council meetings has not taken the dramatic turn for the worse we saw with Bayliss (and why should it, for Bayliss is further away, in Bristol), there has still been a marked decline. In the period 14.05.2015 – 06.11.2015 his attendance record was 30%, but for the six-month period before that it was 60%.

So the question on Woollard is roughly the same as I asked for Bayliss.Is he still able to properly discharge his duties as councillor for the Uplands ward in Swansea? If not, then there must be a by-election, not another lengthy period – as we saw with Sangha – of the Labour Party staying schtum or, when pressed, maintaining that he’s still, ‘livin’ down by ‘ere, mun’ and that nothing has changed.

Dylan Thomas’s old neighbourhood is now an area of flats and houses of multiple occupation, with a largely transient population of students and drifters, but that is no reason for this transient and footloose lifestyle to extend to the Labour councillors elected to represent the ward.

UPDATE 19:25: I am now informed by one of my alert readers that Woollard is actually working on the proposed Cardiff tidal lagoon, as Head of Local Engagement. The Cardiff Tidal Lagoon bio blurb makes it clear why Woollard was recruited – his contacts within the Labour Party.

Neil Woollard Tidal Lagoon

Strangely, or perhaps not, there is no mention that Woollard is a Swansea councillor. What do the rules say about elected councillors canvassing other councillors, AMs and ministers on behalf of a private company? And how should people back in Swansea feel about one of their councillors working on what could be viewed as a rival project to the Swansea tidal lagoon? Serious questions here for Woollard and Labour.

*

SOPHIE HOWE, MORE LABOUR CRONYISM

Earlier this year I wrote about Sophie Howe, the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales. Well now her Labour cronies have given her another well-paid job, this time as Future Generations Commissioner, a flim-flam post created, it would appear, for no better reason than to pander to the Green lobby . . . and of course to create another cushy number for one of the insiderest of Labour insiders.

Howe is the daughter of a Labour councillor, who herself became a councillor at 22, she also worked as a Research / Casework Assistant for both Julie Morgan MP and Sue Essex AM, before moving up to do similar work for Julie Morgan’s husband and First Minister Rhodri Morgan, and then his successor in that post Carwyn Jones, before most recently becoming No 2 to former Labour MP Alun Michael in February 2013, after he became the PCC. She was hoping to find a safe seat for the May General Election, but failed, so this post could be viewed as a consolation prize. But I have no doubt that a safe seat will be found for her before 2020, so no one should expect her to see out the ‘seven-year term’ of this job.

Her father, Peter Howe, followed her into the office of Julie Morgan to, eventually, become office manager. A correspondent insists that Howe was a bully, a failing overlooked by his adoring daughter who was otherwise so interested in protecting women from male bullying. Though in this instance the suggested ‘trigger’ might have been jealousy, as the woman being bullied had been selected to stand for Cardiff City Council . . . whereas Peter Howe had been overlooked.

Sophie Howe

Reactions to the appointment varied. Tory leader Andrew R T Davies did his ‘Confused but Mildly Outraged of Cowbridge’ act while others were less charitable. Among them a rising star within Plaid Cymru, councillor Neil McEvoy. On a lighter note, Llanelli Plaid Cymru councillor Ruth Price made a Sharon Stone comment which unfortunately allowed Howe’s defenders to focus on this merry quip rather than on the appointment itself.

Howe’s boss, PCC Alun Michael, went into full feigned outrage mode and was quoted as saying, ‘There is no place for comments of this sort in a civilised society and it is particularly unacceptable in Wales.” What utter bollocks. A civilised society is judged by far, far more important things than an off-the-cuff remark like this. Among them, openness in public appointments. You sanctimonious little prick!

For her pains Ruth Price also took stick from her own party, including a Twitter DM from Llanelli Assembly candidate Helen Mary Jones. In fact, among Plaid’s big-wigs there seemed to be considerably more support for Sophie Howe than opposition. It even seemed to be decided by an individual’s attitudes to a Plaid coalition with Labour next year. Here’s what Plaid Cymru regional AM Jocelyn Davies tweeted almost as soon as the announcement was made public.

Jocelyn Davies tweet

Well, well, there was me thinking that this Sophie Howe appointment was about Labour cronyism corrupting the public and political life of Wales, a reminder that Wales is a one-party state, but no! – it’s a wimmin issue. And everything’s OK cos our Sophie is “a strong woman”. Is Jocelyn Davies standing again next year?

Using this rationale, perhaps it would have been acceptable for a misogynist communist to have sent Hitler a telegram in 1933, saying, ‘Good to see a strong man in charge, Mein Fuhrer‘ . . . before he was dragged off to the concentration camp.

It’s said that Sophie Howe is a lawyer, if so, she’s never used that training for anything other than political purposes. Every job she’s ever done has either been working directly for the Labour Party, or else was gained through her Labour Party connections. Consequently, there is no way of gauging this woman’s real ability because there has never been any politically impartial assessment. She should never have been appointed Future Generations Commissioner.

*

SAM WARBURTON, CAPTAIN CARDIFF

The Rugby World Cup circus has departed, the ball has gone from the castle wall, and despite all the hype and expectation, we didn’t win the bloody thing, again. Yes, I know, we had lots of injuries, and biased refs (no, sorry, that was Scotland), but what struck me was that even when it was all over the ‘Welsh’ media couldn’t stop being . . . well, the Cardiff media.

Soon after the Final final whistle two of Wales’ great rugby pundits weighed in in the Wasting Mule to tell us that Sam Warburton, the Wales captain, is the best player we’ve got, and the only one who’d make it into the World XV to take on the tourists from Mars. First, on October 29th, it was former Wales captain Gwyn Jones, and a few days later, on November 1st, it was the turn of rugby correspondent Andy Howell.

Don’t get me wrong, Sam Warburton is a fine player, it’s just that the Cardiff media is besotted with him. Sometimes it’s possible to pick up the Llais y Sais and find him on the front page, a few of the sports pages, and a couple of inside pages. It’s bizarre, because it’s quite obvious that on the field of play – and I suspect in training and elsewhere – the national team is actually led by Alun Wyn Jones and Dan Biggar. Whereas Warburton, on the field, is almost silent, and certainly no captain. So is it a ceremonial role?

This adoration of Sam Warburton does not extend beyond Wales, or perhaps beyond Cardiff. Shown by another report I picked up around the same time, sandwiched between the two I’ve quoted, this being the six-player shortlist for the Rugby World Player of the Year. Who do we see on the shortlist – Sam Warburton, surely? No, the only Welshman there is Alun Wyn Jones. Suggesting that people outside of Wales have a better perspective on Welsh rugby than many inside Wales.Dan Biggar

This corrupted view of various players’ qualities is due to the fact that the Wasting Mule, and to a lesser degree the BBC and ITV, see a great part of their role in being to promote the city of Cardiff, and anyone or anything that can in turn be used to promote Cardiff. This can not be done with Biggar or Jones because both come from Swansea, which is the worst of all possible alternatives. So it has to be wall-to-wall Warburton.

Of course it was the Welsh Rugby Union not the media that made Warburton captain, and there’s little doubt in my mind that Warburton regarding himself as British rather than Welsh makes him the perfect captain for hard-line Unionists like WRU Chairman David Pickering, for whom Wales flickers into life only on the rugby field. A kind of sporting Brigadoon.

Why Wales coach Warren Gatland falls into line with this nonsense is no great mystery. He knows Alun Wyn will sing the anthem lustily enough for both himself and Warburton, and put himself about for the full 80 minutes; he also knows that Biggar will cajole and inspire his team-mates for as long as he’s left on, so if it keeps the WRU suits and the Cardiff media happy why not play along with the charade of a figurehead captain?

*

WHERE WOULD THEY BE WITHOUT US?

Lying in bed the other morning, picking my nose and flicking bogies around the yet-dark room, I got to thinking about devolution, as you do when engaged in activity so conducive to deep, analytical thought.

It occurred to me that devolution, coupled with EU poverty funding, higher education, local government and other fields, have created in Wales tens of thousands of jobs in management roles for English administrators and others of moderate or even dubious ability who would struggle to land jobs offering anything like the same salaries and pension benefits in the private sector.

I’m thinking here of civil servants attached to the ‘Welsh’ Government and its various agencies, so many of the officers in our twenty-two local authorities, those innumerable managers in our seven health boards (plus the hospitals, clinics, centres, etc), housing associations beyond counting, third-rate academics in a higher education sector that ceased serving Welsh needs almost half a century ago, third sector organisations and other bodies too numerous to mention that have either come into existence since devolution or else have set up a ‘Welsh’ presence by transferring in staff.

Looking at it this way, devolution has been of more benefit to perhaps 30,000 members of England’s middle class than it has to 2.5 million Welsh. And most of this generosity is paid for out the Welsh public purse. But hey! that’s how colonialism operates.

Mar 162015
 

As regular readers will be aware, certain people have been saying all sorts of nasty things about me, even trying to get my collar felt. These attacks almost certainly result from my criticisms of the Labour Party, its scrounging cronies in the Third Sector, and the influence of London-loyal civil servants wielding far too much power in a country we are asked to believe James Pritchardis now running its own affairs in so many spheres.

Unintentionally perhaps, these attacks on me exposed the linkages between the Labour Party, the police, and certain elements of the Labour-supporting media, specifically, Martin Shipton at Media Wales and his venomous little sidekick, Phil Parry at the Wales Eye blog. I am not the only one who has found himself on the receiving end of such machinations. Indeed, the other victim, who has recently been in contact, has suffered more than me, and although now hors de combat still suffers petty harassment and vindictive behaviour, but to cut a long story short . . .

A name mentioned to me, that might suggest – until very recently, anyway – a link between the police and Media Wales, is James Pritchard, see his Linkedin profile here, or here in pdf. You will see that Pritchard, educated at Rydal School, Bae Colwyn, and Swansea University was, between 2001 and 2004, the London Editor of Media Wales, and from January 2013 to October 2014 Assistant Director, Corporate Communications at South Wales Police. After leaving Media Wales Pritchard worked for Westminster City Council for a couple of years, where he gained a brief notoriety for an incident reported here in the Daily Telegraph. And here’s a nice picture of Jimmy (fourth from left, front row), back in Swansea with his London cricket team; though why does his captain refer to him as the “Ageing lothario”!

When he’s not sating his overactive libido Pritchard likes to gamble, in fact, looking at his Twitter account I see that he follows dozens of bookies, tipsters and others associated with the Turf, with many following him! Clearly, Jimmy Boy loves the ladies and the gee-gees, and so can’t help coming across as a bit of a chancer, certainly a swordsman, talking of which, and staying with the police . . .

*

The elections for Police and Crime Commissioners in November 2012 didn’t exactly have people fighting to get into the polling stations. In the South Wales Police area the turnout was a risible 14.7% and it saw Alun Michael, former Labour MP (and, very briefly, First Secretary), get 47% of the first round vote and 54.4% in the second round run-off against his Independent rival Michael Baker. So Alun Michael became the Labour PCC for South Wales with the votes of some 8% of the electorate. A ringing endorsement for him and the Labour Howe tweetParty to take control of the Police and Crime Commissioner office.

Control helped when, in February 2013, Sophie Howe, former Labour councillor and Special Adviser to both Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones was – “after a public advert and open selection process” (i. e. ‘open’ to Labour Party members) – appointed Michael’s deputy. Her Linkedin profile (here in pdf) suggests that like so many others associated with ‘Welsh’ Labour she’s a) a lawyer, and b) has never had a ‘real’ job; by which I mean that all her positions have been gained through her membership of the Labour Party. Though it seems that despite having been close to so many top Labour men she is currently on the cardboard chicken circuit and dodging the gropers while seeking a seat. So with three young children to care for and her other work for the party, it’s reasonable to assume that Deputy PCC is just another political sinecure rather than her first real job.

Despite this being another dreary saga of Labour Party corruption and nepotism, with undesirable linkages and malicious leaking thrown in, this being Labour, the laughs are never far away. For example, Alun Michael appears to have two Twitter accounts, oneSophie Howe other merged as Alun Michael, the other as the PCC, which might seem reasonable enough. Though many PCC tweets go out on his ‘personal’ account! Curiously, he has more followers as himself than as PCC, so is he that interesting?

Naturally, Alun Michael follows Sophie Howe, and as a loyal underling desperately seeking a seat, she reciprocates. But Alun Michael also follows another Sophie Howe, many of whose own followers’ tweets are ‘secured’, suggesting . . . well, I’d rather not think about it. Is this Sophie Howe the deputy PCC’s alter ego or someone else entirely? And if she is a different young woman, why is Alun Michael, the Police and Crime Commission for the South Wales Police, following her?

This idea of the alter ego on Twitter amuses me. Take this from the ‘real’ Sophie Howe, retweeting a tweet of Leighton Andrews (the grotesque on the right in the picture above). The tweet attacks a Plaid Cymru AM who, along with others, had raised the issue of the unhealthy links between the Third Sector and the Labour Party, and how Labour’s private army, dependent on patronage, harasses AMs on behalf of the party. (Andrews chose to deliberately misinterpret this criticism of the Labour – Third Sector nexus as ‘sexism’!) Despite this tweet from Andrews being so obviously party political, it’s apparently OK for the ‘impartial’ Deputy PCC to join in because it’s done on her personal Twitter account!

But then, given the Labour-leaning media that Wales suffers, who’s going to make an issue of such hypocrisy and double standards when it comes from a woman who may officially be the Deputy PCC but, no matter what her title, is always working for the Labour Party, and can brazenly display that bias.

UPDATE 20.03.2015: I have now been informed that Sophie Howe is the daughter of another Labour apparatchik, Peter Howe. He was at one time the office manager for Julie Morgan and, allegedly, something of a bully. Julie Morgan was of course Labour MP for Cardiff North until 2010 and is the wife of Rhodri. Howe was an unsuccessful Labour candidate in 2008 for the Whitchurch and Tongwynlais ward, where electors found him considerably less attractive than his daughter, which might account for him subsequently being passed over by Labour selection panels, something that might have embittered him.

*

The fellow-victim to whom I’ve referred has provided me with an insight from the other side, as it were, having had experience inside the Cardiff bubble. The story he tells substantiates much of what I knew, or had worked out, with other behaviour that I – having led a sheltered and blameless life – never suspected.Howe retweet More of which anon . . .

Let’s take Our Glorious Leader. I’ve always argued that he is a weak and vacillating individual who pipes up only when squeezed like some child’s toy, and then usually with something idiotic like his pre-referendum threat to veto any currency union between the FUK and an independent Scotland following a Yes vote in the independence referendum. As if he could! My contact confirms what I have long suspected, Carwyn Jones is a plaything of his special advisers and civil servants, pulled this way and that, but he always ends up serving the interests of London and the Labour Party.

This is allowed to happen – by the ultimate controllers up in London – because in Wales Labour is the ‘establishment’ party, and viewed as the bulwark against any Scottish-style ‘problems’ (not that Plaid Cymru poses much of a threat). It could be that someone up in London follows the old US State Department dictum and looks at ‘Welsh’ Labour thinking, ‘They may be sons of bitches, but they’re our sons of bitches!’. How else do we explain Labour being allowed to build up a vast network of cronies and hangers-on to support it and keep it in power, with virtually all those making up this network – even the media – dependent to a greater or lesser degree on the public purse? A network whose members contribute nothing to the wealth of Wales other than their spending power, which of course is derived from the public purse in the first place! And you still wonder why Wales is so poor!

This network guarantees Labour – and, consequently, Unionist – control over many aspects of Welsh life. If that makes no sense to you, or you think I’m exaggerating, then just remember that in Scotland at the moment, though obviously to a much lesser degree in Wales, ideological politics is dead, or at least in suspended animation, for what matters is the constitutional debate and holding the Union together. This is why we hear commentators speculate on a previously unthinkable Conservative – Labour coalition. And why people in MI5 and GCHQ who think Hitler was a dangerous liberal will be doing their best – with the help of their tame media – to make Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy look like a composite of William Wallace, Jimmy Reid and Superman as we near polling day on May 7.

*

While much of what I have learnt lately accords with what I previously knew or suspected, my new source was able to tell me of behaviour of which I was previously unaware; which is hardly surprising, given its nature. I’m talking now about sex. More specifically, a very easy-going attitude that you wouldn’t need to be a maiden aunt to regard as rather shocking. For example, there’s the ex-minister universally known as ‘Shagger ______’. Then there’s the very senior civil servant who likes to film himself having sex, and uses his official credit card to pay for rooms in London where his epic performances can be saved for posterity on video and still footage. In addition, there’s wife-swapping and group sex available down the Bay with very little of this involving, ahem, professionals. For we are talking here of talented and enthusiastic amateurs.

Yet despite Cardiff being a relatively small city, and with the Bay bubble throbbing with scandal, little of this will be reported in the ‘Welsh’ media. The only cases tKeith Davies 2o surface are instances of laddish drunkenness, and incidents where there are witnesses. One gem in this category was provided by the ever-thirsty Keith Davies, AM for Llanelli, when he took some slapper back to his five star hotel. (He has to stay in Cardiff because Llanelli is 700 miles away . . . and his wife lives there.) Here’s a photo of Keith Davies taken at last year’s National Eisteddfod in Llanelli. He’s the one on the floor suffering, according to Labour, from a virus. I know the feeling, I had a ‘virus’ of Argentine red Saturday night, and very nice it was too, Shiraz.

Then, a few weeks ago, while looking into something totally different, I ran across this example of hanky-panky among the comrades. It’s almost as if fidelity and sobriety are rejected as bourgeois values that should not apply to the right-on, morally superior, posture-adopting, self-congratulatory (but still angst-ridden), freedom-loving, eco-friendly paragons of ‘Welsh’ Labour.

And while writing this piece I learnt of this story of a Labour councillor from Cardiff who’s moved 100 miles to Pembrokeshire, but intends to stay on as a councillor and collect her Cardiff council allowances. Though I’m assured by another Cardiff councillor that she is hard-working and dedicated to serving her ward. It is further suggested that she is on the wrong side in the civil war currently raging inside the Cardiff Labour Party. (Who shouted, ‘Arm both sides!‘?) Giving us another example of how Labour operates – make waves, or challenge those in power, and you will, at the very least, be briefed against. But your problems could be even worse if you leave Labour and have the potential to seriously damage the party with your revelations.

Which is what has been happening recently to my fellow-victim, and why he describes the Labour Party in Wales as being like a cult. For just as with a cult, it was after he’d left the party, and his job in the Bay, that his problems really began. Police came to the house he shares with his teenage son over a minute book belonging to a charity he himself had founded and had handed over to someone else eight months previously. Now the thing to understand here is that there was no police investigation into the charity so the whereabouts of that minute book had nothing to do with the police. This heavy-handed visit is inexplicable . . . unless South Wales Police was harrasing him at the behest of ‘Welsh’ Labour. A worrying thought.

But a valid one, because it soon became clear to my contact that he was being watched, and that someone, somewhere, was carefully sifting through his every action and utterance, present and past, in a search for anything that could be used to discredit him. He has been further pursued by the police over trivial and domestic matters. He has suffered electronic and other sabotage, such as being unable to use his credit cards, having unsummoned taxis arrive, and being accused of insane things by persons who appear to be manipulated by Labour’s Third Sector cronies.

In my case, I have recently been called an ‘extremist’, attacked for being a member (forty-odd years ago) of the Free Wales Army, and accused of launching a ‘race hate’ social housing petition (see it in my sidebar) that a) was perfectly reasonable and b) had nothing to do with me. Yet neither Phil Parry nor Martin Shipton would have taken any interest in me, and would certainly not be trying to get me arrested, if I wasn’t a regular critic of their Labour Party and its empire of evil. The question I ask is, are they doing this off their own bat, or are they acting on instructions from within ‘Welsh’ Labour? Either way, I promise to keep them busy.

*

The Labour Party in Wales is now comparable to the ruling party in a crumbling totalitarian state. Due to the absence of any real opposition it is out of control, a law unto itself. There is no independent media to hold it to account beyond a few websites and lone bloggers. Enough power has been devolved from the centre to allow this situation to develop, but we are consistently denied a judicial system that might hold it to account. (Is this coincidence?) And before our eyes we see this party that always places its own survival above the best interests of the people become ever more corrupt and desperate as its power ebbs. This party that once acted as a magnet for idealists now draws careerists, shysters, single-issue obsessives, and probably contains more spin doctors than socialists. Without its regular intake of activists – mainly English – from the universities, the Third Sector, the trade unions and elsewhere, the Labour Party in Wales would find it very difficult to continue functioning at grass roots and local authority level. (This is one reason Labour wants to reduce the number of councils.) But perhaps worst of all, Labour doesn’t seem to understand that it’s doing anything wrong. Or if Labour does understand, then maybe it thinks itself untouchable.

Labour is coming to the end of a long road, but unlike in Scotland there is no obvious successor, so we may be entering a period in Welsh Assembly politics that sees no party enjoy an overall majority. In which case, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats should start thinking of persuasive excuses if they’re considering going into coalition in 2016 with this corrupt and decadent party that is, in all that really matters, no different to the Conservatives. The reputation of Wales, the prosperity of her people, the integrity of her public life, and the vitality of her democracy, all demand that the Labour Party be denied power, and then the evil empire Labour has created to keep it in power must be dismantled.

May 012014
 

‘Jac writing about Cardiff!’ I hear you exclaim, before dropping your coffee in your lap. Yes, and I’m not even going to gloat over certain sporting matters. I’m writing this post because the Cardiff LDP could have implications well beyond the city itself. Before getting down to it let me acknowledge that the post was inspired by Councillor Neil McEvoy’s article on Daily Wales. I only know Neil through social networking but he seems the type of energetic and awkward (in the best sense of the word) politician Wales needs. The kind of man who enjoys making life difficult for those who think their decisions should be accepted without question.

First, a brief explanation. Every local authority has to produce a Local Development Plan telling us how it proposes meeting the future needs of its area in terms of population growth and housebuilding. This is done with the ‘guidance’ of the Planning Inspectorate, an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. Statistics and projections are supplied by StatsWales via the Knowledge and Analytical Services of the same London department. Both the PI and KAS have civil servants based in Cardiff, which allows the ‘Welsh’ Government to claim that it alone is responsible for planning matters in Wales. In this, as in so much else, I fear, the ‘Welsh’ Government deludes itself and misleads the rest of us.Cardiff LDP Map

Local Development Plans across Wales cover the period 2006 – 2026 and are at different stages of acceptance and adoption, so the Cardiff Plan is already way behind schedule. Something else worth saying about LDPs is that they were first compiled before the figures from the 2011 Census became available (from July 2012). Which is odd, seeing as the Census results contradicted many of the assumptions and projections on which the LDPs were predicated.

One of the great mysteries of LDPs in Wales is why they were pushed through even though it was known that the presumptions and calculations on which they were based could be undone by the findings of the 2011 Census. It’s not as if the 2011 Census sneaked up on us, everybody knew it was coming, so why not wait for the hard facts it provided. It’s almost as if certain interests wanted to rush the LDPs through before the figures used could be proved wrong by the Census.

The Deposit LDP for Cardiff can be found here and if you scroll down the page you’ll find a link to the Background Technical Paper on Population, Households and Dwellings. On page 17 of the latter document you’ll find the table below. According to this table the population will increase by 71,612 between 2006 and 2026; resulting in 42,363 new households requiring  41,132 new dwellings. These figures are interesting, but even more interesting is the source for the 2026 figures, the ones used to determine how many new dwellings Cardiff will ‘need’. The Population figures for 2006 and 2011 come from the Office for National Statistics’ Mid Year Estimates (MYE). The Household figure for 2006 comes from StatsWales because household projections are contracted out by the ONS to Knowledge and Analytical Services (i.e. StatsWales). But the all-important 2026 figures are attributed to the “Edge Report”, so what is this? Well, it refers to Edge Analytics, “the specialists in demographic modelling”.

Cardiff LDP summary table

Click to Enlarge

Which then raises the question: ‘Why would Cardiff council recruit expensive consultants? The council already employs thousands of people, it has access through electoral rolls, council tax ledgers, planning and other data to a wealth of information about the city and its people; and all this can be supplemented by the population projections and other figures provided free by the ONS and StatsWales. So why employ outside specialists?

I’ll leave that question for a while to focus on the most recent national projection released by StatsWales / KAS, which says that the population of Wales in 2026 will be 3,238,000, an increase of 164,000 on 2012. At the 2011 Census Cardiff’s population of 346,090 accounted for 11.3% of Wales’ total. So 11.3% of 164,000 would mean Cardiff’s population increasing by 18,532 to 2026. This, I concede, is unrealistic, so let us assume an increase in Cardiff of double the Welsh average, giving a figure of 37,064 and a population in 2026 of  383,154. This, I think, is reasonable, because if we see anything more, such as the 30% of Wales’ total population increase predicted by Edge Analytics (or Cardiff city council), then the rest of the country needs to start asking serious questions of the ‘Welsh’ Government about investment levels and employment opportunities in other areas of Wales.

Cardiff LDP 4

Click to Enlarge

Which may give us one reason Cardiff city council decided not to use official figures – they didn’t allow for a big enough increase in the city’s population. (Though, in fairness to them, it seems that Edge did suggest reducing certain of the counci’s predictions – see panel – but the council rejected these recommendations!) Although we have the national projection to 2026, StatsWales / KAS needs to pull its finger out and produce the breakdown by local authority, no matter how unwelcome that will be to certain people connected with Cardiff city council.

Having dealt with population projections the other big issue is the number of new homes the council extrapolates from that figure. To be exact, 41,132 to cope with a projected 71,612 more people. Many factors go into determining how many new dwellings will be needed but the two principal considerations are household size, that is, the average number living in any dwelling; and new households forming, that is, people leaving the parental home to live alone or with a partner, marital break-up, etc.

The current average household size for Wales is 2.31 though higher for Cardiff due to its much younger age profile; and there has been a reducing rate of new household formation for a number of years, even before the recent economic crisis. (See the panel above.) One factor is that more people in their twenties and thirties are living with their parents, as this article explains. Another factor will be the changes in benefits payable to, for example, young single mothers. Finally, we need to consider the 3% of the population living in communal establishments, not households. Add it all up and it makes the claimed 42,363 new households from a population increase of just 71,612 difficult to accept, perhaps suggesting that it contains an element of wishful thinking or speculative housing. I would have thought that Cardiff had seen enough of the latter in recent years. Worse, to stick with the housing figure knowing that the population increase itself is exaggerated could mean that the whole exercise is driven by speculative housing interests.

Other factors also need to be considered in explaining why both the population and household projections are unrealistic. First, the city’s student population of some 37,000 accounts for many houses of multiple occupation (HMO), the large number of buy-to-let mortgages, and also helps push up Cardiff’s household size. But there is surely a limit to how many students Cardiff can attract without standards falling and / or too many students alienating the resident population. Second, the population increase figure between 2001 and 2011 was heavily influenced by immigration from the ‘new’ EU states, mainly Poland. The Poles are going home, and they will not be replaced because there is no large country poised to join the EU.

Cardiff LDP Household gibberish

Click to Enlarge

I conclude that the true purpose of the Cardiff LDP is to increase the size, and importance, of the city at all costs, with one eye on speculative building. This to be done with no heed paid to damage inflicted on the city’s own green spaces nor the economic health of the wider region and Wales. To achieve this grandiose aim the LDP then has to pick and choose which statistics suit the purpose and, indeed, which recommendations of is own consultants can be used. This is one reason Edge Analytics was retained – to serve as a whipping-boy or scapegoat if the opposition got organised – ‘Our consultants advised us . . . ‘. But as we’ve seen, the council was very selective in what it accepted from its consultants.

This all results in hundreds of pages designed to confuse the curious and discourage those minded to oppose the LDP. Partly achieved by passages of near-gibberish, such as the one reproduced in the panel above. There were not “346,100 households in Cardiff” in July 2012, that was the city’s population (though I don’t recognise the figure). While the 2008-based household size projection for Cardiff is actually 2.36, so I have no idea where the 2.35 and 2.33 figures quoted come from. Edge Analytics? Though it may be worth remembering that the smaller the household size then the more new dwellings that will be ‘needed’.

In many respects the Cardiff Local Development Plan is no worse than other LDPs I have looked at, such as those for Carmarthenshire, and Denbighshire. The main difference being that with Cardiff it’s difficult to detect the behind-the-scenes insistence of the Planning Inspectorate on building more houses than an area needs, presumably because Cardiff city council, unlike many other authorities, needed no encouragement. Consequently the Cardiff Local Development Plan is a compendium of carefully selected statistics plus ‘statistics’ that seem to have been plucked from thin air. As a work of the imagination it might be worth entering it for some literary award. But it should never be implemented; for to do so would be damaging both for Cardiff and for Wales.

STOP PRESS: Last night there was a referendum in the Fairwater-Pentrebane area of Cardiff on the LDP. The question posed was: ‘Do You Think That The Deposit Local Development Plan Should Be Adopted For Cardiff?’ The result: Yes 31 votes (2%), No 1,311 votes (98%) Turnout 13.55%. Read about it here in Daily Wales.