Mar 282017
 

Brexit

In a recent post, Welsh Independence Referendum, I looked at the call for a second Scottish independence referendum and a referendum on Irish reunification, before considering an independence referendum in Wales and concluding that such a referendum could not be won.

In this post I’m going to give the possibility of a Welsh independence referendum a bit more of an airing, partly because I may not have made my views clear in that earlier post and partly because I think a few other things need to be clarified. For example . . .

A few days ago I tweeted about the mother of the man who killed people outside Westminster last Wednesday, linking to a BBC report that she lives in Carmarthenshire. I received a response from ‘Cymroewrop’ accusing me of making assumptions about the man’s cushion-making, good-lifer mother. Whoever Cymroewrop is he or she had missed the point.

The point I was making was about English colonisation. And yet, I can imagine the conditioning that resulted in that response – ‘the killer was a person of colour . . . known to be a convert to Islam . . . therefore this man making the comment must be a racist and an Islamophobe’.

Naturally, I wondered who Cymroewrop is, so I checked. In addition to being obviously pro EU this person’s hash tags – #indyrefcymru #indywales @yescymru – tell us that he or she supports Welsh independence. And if we check the profile further then the header photo suggests that Cymroewrop is one of those who believes that only stupid people voted for Brexit. The analogy would appear to be lemmings.

Maybe he or she is one of the ‘progressives’ I wrote about in the post in which I explained why I was voting for Brexit, people on the political left who regard themselves as morally and intellectually superior to those holding different views.

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Cymroewrop’s Twitter timeline is full of retweets of those still fighting the Brexit battle. Predictably, Cymroewrop is also opposed to President Trump. Which brings us to the fundamental problem, and explains my reluctance to get involved in the campaign for an independence referendum.

I suspect that this campaign is attracting too many who see Welsh independence as a route back into the EU. An approach that might – and I stress might – work in Scotland but is more likely to alienate potential support in a country where a majority voted for Brexit. Consequently, promoting EU membership could damage the chances of success in a Welsh independence referendum.

As for Cymroewrop, I don’t know who you are, but it seems obvious to me that while we seem to agree on the need for Welsh independence, we would almost certainly disagree on why we need it.

Getting Personal

The reason I feel so strongly about this link with Brexit is because after the EU referendum last year I received some rather unpleasant messages from people who had obviously voted Remain. Here’s a selection of those I’m prepared to make public, with identification obscured.

The point I was trying to make with the reference to Leanne Wood was that if Brexit is so disastrous for Wales then the day after it was announced I would have expected the leader of Plaid Cymru to be somewhere other than at a Brit feminist conference. This, for me, summed up all that’s wrong with Plaid Cymru.

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These tweets betray the usual precious intolerance of the right-on left. For whom I am an “incomer”, I have blighted the lives of children, I am an utter bastard for exercising my democratic right to disagree with these people who are – remember! – all nationalists in favour of independence.

Perhaps they think that as a child of the Sixties I should now be a mellow old dude; well, I’m not. Yes, I was there, long hair and flares, even the granny glasses; I loved the music, still play my Tom Paxton albums, Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins . . . I just didn’t buy into the politics. Or rather, I saw the need for change, but not the change offered by the Soviet Union, or campus ‘radicals’ going through a phase before joining father in the oak-panelled offices of Shyster Shyster & Shyster. For fuck’s sake! I supported the US in Vietnam.* I am a reactionary beyond redemption! Get used to it.

Comments such as those contained in the tweets are water off a duck’s back to me, but they do make me pause, and wonder if I could ever co-operate with such people in an independence campaign. So you may begin to understand my concerns that a movement for independence could be subverted by those still grieving their referendum defeat last June.

*Though let me make clear that I no longer subscribe to the Domino Theory.

Independence

All my life I have wanted Wales to be independent. The earliest manifestation might have been when, as a ten-year-old in Brynhyfryd school, I submitted as my contribution to the St David’s Day eisteddfod a picture I’d drawn of Llywelyn rejecting the terms offered him by Edward I.

I’d copied it from the Odhams Press volume British History in Strip Pictures, a book I still I have. (Sentimental old bugger that I am!) What possessed a ten-year-old in Swansea, after five years of an essentially English education, hearing almost daily the horrors and heroism of WWII, to select that picture from a volume extolling the greatness of England?

For that’s the kind of book it was. The next page was devoted to ‘The Model Parliament’ and that was followed by two whole pages glorying in ‘The Hammering of the Scots’. The inside covers were given over to a parade of kings and queens of England beginning with William of Normandy.

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So you see, independence is not something I’ve come around to because of Brexit. It’s not even a position I’ve adopted because of the sheer fucking awfulness of the quisling Labour Party, or the smackinthegobability of Alun Cairns, Guto Bebb and the Fat Farmer. It’s a multiplicity of things: it’s the slimeball civil servants running Wales for their London masters; it’s the locusts of the Third Sector who have descended upon us to take what little we have; it’s the lying bastards at the BBC, the Wasting Mule and elsewhere; it’s the fact that someone as obnoxious as Mark James can be left to run one of our councils as if it was his private fiefdom; it’s the realisation that I now belong to the Welsh minority in the area I live.

These combine to tell me that Wales is a corrupt, inefficient, poor, fucked up Third World colony . . . yet it could be so much better.

But maybe things are getting better – look what I picked up in Porthmadog today! Bear Grylls has come to live among us . . . well, he’s come to live in Wales, anyway; I don’t suppose he’ll be mixing much with Welsh people seeing as he’s involved in tourism.

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‘Forage For Wild Foods’, it says! (Let Jac recommend those nice white mushrooms.) Or ‘Learn How To Protect Yourself in the Wild From Attack’. Yes, the grizzlies near Pwllheli are particularly aggressive. ‘Will You ESCAPE from Cabin Wood?’ With any luck, no; you’ll all die; Grylls will then be exposed as a self-promoting, money-grabbing bastard, and the world will be spared his puerile exhibitionism for a long, long time.

A Chorus not a Drone

Wales needs independence, to save us from all the above-mentioned ills and, more importantly, to ensure our survival as a nation.

There are those who agree with me on independence but believe socialism and the EU must be added to the mix. A country in the state Wales is in needs socialism like a dog needs more fleas, and I say that because socialism is a system for distributing wealth, not for creating it.

Which is why I could never join an organisation made up in the main of the sort of persons I introduced you to earlier. But if there were other voices, from other political standpoints, then the call for independence might garner more support, and as a result be more difficult to dismiss.

It could be that the more diverse and diffuse the call for independence the better, for different voices can make a choir, and that’s always preferable to the monotonous whine of the smug and the self-righteous.

Of course, too many different voices can also be discordant, so to avoid this let me suggest that those of us working towards the same objective of independence treat each other with a little more respect in future. We may not like each other, but let’s not give gifts to our enemies and waste time fighting amongst ourselves.

Finally, to put your minds at rest, I’m not planning to start any organisation, but I have no objection to this blog serving as a focus for those who want independence but might not feel comfortable with people who regard them as lemmings, and blighters of their children’s futures.

♦ end ♦

Jan 022017
 

It’s difficult to know where to start with this rather complex story. Maybe we should go back to 2008 and the Welsh Housing Quality Standard, presented as an attempt to improve the standard of social housing. The WHQS was in fact nothing more than the Decent Homes Standard that operated in England. Another example of ‘Welsh’ legislation being just renamed and repackaged English legislation. Though in this instance, there was one very important difference, to be found in this National Assembly document, which says . . .

If the ‘Welsh’ Government can fund housing associations and also fund councils that retain their housing stock, then surely it can find the money for ALMOs? To argue otherwise doesn’t make sense. Limiting the choice to those options might make sense though to those in the social housing sector who saw WHQS as a weapon that could be used to get local authorities to hand over their housing stock. But do housing associations really exert such influence?

Well, consider this. The umbrella body for housing associations in Wales is Community Housing Cymru (CHC). From July 2006 until July 2014 the group chief executive of CHC was Nick Bennett. Prior to that he’d been a Spad for a few years until October 2002 and in between he’d been a director of Cwmni Cyfathrebu Bute Communications. Another director of this long-defunct company was Alun Davies, who had not long before switched his political allegiance from Plaid Cymru to Labour, and would be elected as a regional AM in 2007.

So Nick Bennett was in business with a rising star in the Labour Party – who’d already stood for the party in Ceredigion in the 2005 UK election – and this would have done him no harm when he applied for the post of group chief executive of Community Housing Cymru in 2006. Bennett’s strong links with ‘Welsh’ Labour also explain why he got the job of Public Service Ombudsman for Wales in July 2014.

In addition, many housing associations, particularly in the south, are stuffed with Labour Party members and supporters, and the party goes out of its way to help these associations. A recent example would be the takeover of Cantref by Wales and West. I’ve written about this disgraceful episode a few times, my posts can be traced back from Cantref: ‘Welsh’ Labour Takeover Challenged?

Cantref is a housing association based in Newcastle Emlyn, operating in a bilingual area with bilingual staff. It hit a rocky patch and a scavenger soon appeared in the form of Wales and West Housing, whose chief executive is Anne Hinchey, wife of Cardiff Labour councillor Graham Hinchey. Business is now conducted in English only and ‘Welsh’ Labour has an important beachhead in an area where it has very little electoral support.

The latest example of the influence housing associations exert over the Labour Party and its ‘Welsh’ Government comes with the news that, “In September (2016), the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced housing associations should be considered part of the public, not private, sector. But the Welsh Government promised to take “whatever steps are necessary” to reverse the change, following concerns.”

The key to understanding what’s going on here is, firstly, that these “concerns” come from housing associations and their umbrella organisation Community Housing Cymru. I am not aware of anyone – other than CHC’s fifth column inside the ‘Welsh’ Government – who believes that housing associations becoming public bodies is a bad thing.

The reason given for opposing the ONS initiative is, “Community Housing Cymru (CHC) said it could affect their (housing associations) ability to borrow money and to build new homes.”

Let us look at the first of those claims that, if reclassified as public bodies, housing associations would find it more difficult to raise private funding. Which suggests that housing associations are now borrowing considerable sums from banks and other financial institutions. But are they? In my investigations into housing associations I have found little evidence that they rely on commercial loans. So where does housing associations’ income come from?

The largest and most obvious source of income is rents from their housing stock, most of which they inherited from local authorities. Yes, these properties have to be maintained and improved, up to Welsh Housing Quality Standard, but as we’ll see below, the ‘Welsh’ Government – i.e. you and me – pays for it all! And there are other funding streams, as I explained in Housing Associations – The Great Deception. (Nov 17, 2015.)

As I said back then, “One of the facts unearthed is something called Dowry Gap funding, paid to certain housing associations for them to use in upgrading the housing stock they’ve inherited from councils under voluntary transfer (i.e. through a vote by tenants). This funding is currently being paid to ten housing associations and in 2015 – 16 the total cost will be £43.8m. Tai Ceredigion Cyf’s ‘Dowry’ will be paid at the rate of £1.6m a year for 30 years. If this 30-year term applies to the other, larger housing associations, then the total cost will be £1.3bn.

This Dowry Gap funding seems to complement the Welsh Housing Quality Standard legislation, which demanded that all RSL properties be up to WHQS standard by 2012. This deadline – and its funding of £108m a year – has now been extended to 2020. Introduced in 2004 and running to 2020, £108m a year totals up to £1.7bn.

Adding the two we get a total figure of £3bn for ‘improvements’. Seeing as Wales has 143,790 RSL properties, this works out at almost £21,000 per property! (Is this right? Will somebody please check the figures.) That is a lot of moolah for windows and doors, especially when we accept that many of the dwellings inherited from local authorities were in good condition, certainly not needing ‘refurbishment’ to the tune of 21 grand per property.”

Another lucrative source of ‘Welsh’ Government funding for housing associations is the Social Housing Grant. The latest figures I have tell us that between 2008 and November 2015 £771,708,622.59 was paid in Social Housing Grant.

We are talking billions of pounds of public funding going into social housing. Perhaps four billion pounds by 2020.

The second part of housing associations’ objections to becoming public bodies is that they claim it could affect their ability “to build new homes”. Why? They’d still have the income from their rents, and they’d still receive public funding. This claim is just baseless scaremongering done to hide the real objections those running our housing associations have to them becoming public bodies.

As things stand, housing associations, or Registered Social Landlords as they’re also known, have the best of all possible worlds. They operate as private companies, but with massive advantages over what we would normally consider to be private companies.

To begin with, most of them inherited their housing stock for nothing when council tenants were given a vote (often after receiving misleading information). Then, as I’ve just explained, they receive staggering amounts of money from the public purse, despite, with their assets, being able to raise private funding just like other businesses. Being registered as Industrial and Provident Societies with the toothless Financial Conduct Authority means that they are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act – yes, despite all that public funding! Finally, oversight and monitoring by the ‘Welsh’ Government is non-existent.

This last fact explains how we can have a situation in which a publicly-funded RSL like Pembrokeshire Housing can set up and fund a subsidiary, Mill Bay Homes, for it to build and sell homes on the open market to retirees and investors (with of course Mill Bay Homes having an unfair advantage over independent house builders in the county).

When Pembrokeshire Housing will get back the millions of pounds it is has ‘loaned’ to Mill Bay Homes is anyone’s guess . . . but why should you worry when nobody in the ‘Welsh’ Government seems in the least concerned by this bizarre arrangement. I have written about Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes many times. Work back from Welsh Social Housing, A Broken System (Oct 23, 2016) to Mill Bay Homes and Pembrokeshire Housing 2 (June 14, 2016).

Those of you who enjoy a good read should settle down with this report into the workings of the Pembrokeshire Housing Group compiled by a concerned member of the public. (No, not me.) It has been circulated to interested parties, too many of whom seem to believe that if they whistle and look elsewhere the embarrassment will disappear.

But there are so many other problems with housing associations.

The most recent stock transfer seems to have been in Gwynedd, in 2010, when the council transferred its housing stock to Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd (CCG). Among the first things CCG did was to hand over the maintenance contract for its properties to English company Lovell, which then brought in sub-contractors from north west England. I saw this first-hand in my village, and wrote about it in The Impoverishment of Wales (Aug 26, 2014).

Another issue I recently unearthed was that of housing associations leasing properties from shady offshore companies, the biggest of which is called Link holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd. I wrote about it in a piece entitled, unsurprisingly, Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd (Oct 10, 2016). Equally unsurprising is that the ‘Welsh’ Government’s civil servants don’t want to talk about this scandal, ‘All a long time ago . . . leases taken out by previous incarnations . . . stop bothering us’. But nothing changes the fact that Welsh housing associations in 2017 are putting a lot of public money into companies hiding in tax havens. Should public money be used in this way?

A long-standing problem with housing associations, perhaps more visible in rural areas, is that in order to appear busy, to pretend there’s a demand in order to keep the funding coming, they will often bring into Wales misfits and petty criminals. This was certainly an issue with Cantref. Note the reference in the information below to “young tenants from the hostel”. I’m told that Cantref brings in from England young tearaways and within a very short time extended families of scruffs and roughs are wandering Aberteifi. Other housing associations do the same, because it pays well.

One of the worst cases in recent years was the gang of paedophiles and rapists housed in Kidwelly by Grwp Gwalia. I wonder how much Grwp Gwalia was paid to inflict these creatures on a small Welsh town? Were those responsible ever reprimanded or sacked? Did Grwp Gwalia compensate the victims?

It was in attempting to get information on this case that I realised housing associations are not bound by the Freedom of Information Act. Because when I asked for details a door was slammed in my face . . . a heavy and expensive door paid for with public money.

Finally, before leaving this section, let’s ask ourselves exactly who is complaining about the ONS proposal to make housing associations open and honest public bodies? Well we can be sure that the minions employed by our RSLs don’t have a direct line to Stuart Ropke, Nick Bennett’s successor as Group Chief Executive at Community Housing Cymru. The opposition is coming from much further up the food chain.

From people like the £150,000 a year chief executive of RCT Homes. After that bit of bad publicity RCT Homes rebranded itself as Trivallis. Most people in the Central Valleys are still trying to figure out what Trivallis means, and how much it cost to change everything. But, hey, it’s only public money, and there’s plenty more where that came from.

With social housing we have bodies operating in a Twilight Zone that allows them to pretend they’re private companies, free from bothersome FoI requests and any worthwhile official scrutiny, yet enjoying assets they did nothing to build up while having their finances constantly topped up by the public purse. With overpaid CEOs pretending they’re part of the business community.

Registered Social Landlords are part of the Third Sector, that monkey that we must shake from our backs if we are to build up a healthy economy and a prosperous country. Wales is over-dependent on hand-outs, but instead of using even that funding wisely, far too much of it is passed on in further hand-outs. This is trickle-down economics Welsh style.

The fundamental problem with the Third Sector in Wales is not that it exists – for there will always be shysters looking for some ’cause’ to exploit in their own interest – but that it is so interwoven with the ‘Labour movement’; which in itself might not be a problem were it not for the fact that ‘Welsh’ Labour is the recipient and distributor of the handouts.

We should be thankful to the Office for National Statistics for giving us this chance to clean up the expensive mess that is social housing in Wales. We should grasp this opportunity with both hands and make our housing associations public bodies, open to public scrutiny.

The worst possible outcome would be for the ‘Welsh’ Government to be swayed by individuals like Nick Bennett, Stuart Ropke, the £150,000 a year CEO of Trivallis, and too many others with a vested interest in maintaining the indefensible status quo.

To maintain that status quo would be to pander to a selfish, sectional interest against the national interest. Of which we have seen far too much since 1999.

♦ end ♦

P.S. Here is my submission to the Public Accounts Committee for its Inquiry into the Regulatory Oversight of Housing Associations.

Oct 072016
 

A Brief Follow-up by the Guest Writer of the Previous Post

Since 1982, the diplomatic position of the British state on the Falklands-Malvinas sovereignty issue has deteriorated markedly from an already weak condition.

Britain no longer has any support among the countries of Latin America.

The US does not recognise Britain’s sovereignty claim and has been urging Britain to enter into discussions with Argentina on the sovereignty issue.

Russia has questioned Britain’s claims and senior politicians have highlighted the brazen hypocrisy of Britain’s stance on the issue of self determination for the people of Crimea.

putin-kirchner

China unequivocally backs Argentina’s sovereignty claims.

The EU currently takes no position on the sovereignty issue but accepts Britain’s “de facto administration of the Falklands-Malvinas on the basis of solidarity among member states, despite having a number of member states with profound and undisguised sympathy with Argentina’s claims. Surely, even this position of neutrality will disintegrate post-Brexit.

Currently, the only countries I have been able to identify that continue to support the British arguments are Canada and Taiwan. (The latter for very obvious and self-serving reasons, Jac.)

This must surely be the time for Wales, Scotland and Ireland to use the next meeting of the British-Irish Council to join the international consensus in urging the British state to commence discussions with Argentina immediately on the Falklands-Malvinas sovereignty issue.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ End  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jac adds . . . Until I started looking for links for this piece I hadn’t realised myself just how isolated Britain now is on the issue.

While digging I also came across the recently broken story that Israel had supplied Argentina with weapons during the war. Hardly surprising perhaps, given that Buenos Aires has one of the largest Jewish communities outside of Israel. So with Jewish boys in the conscript army we should not be surprised by this revelation.

Though many of the accounts I read, including the one linked to, personalise it by attributing the decision to Israel’s prime minister at the time, Menachem Begin, who had fought against the British in the late 1940s. He was even quoted as having invoked the name of an old Irgun comrade hanged by the British by way of justification.

Other reports of this revelation inevitably described Begin as a ‘terrorist’, which got me to thinking . . . Why is it that all my life I have heard people around the world described as terrorists by the British media and British politicians – did these people come to England and terrorise people?

Of course not, these ‘terrorists’ – De Valera, Kenyatta, Grivas and all the rest – were in their own countries, defending their own peoples. Theirs was a fight against imperialism. Yet the British/English interpretation is that the empire was benevolence manifest, consequently only unhinged terrorists could want to break the imperial connection.

de-valera-kenyatta-grivas

With the empire gone and England becoming isolationist the focus has changed, now the ‘enemy’ is anyone who isn’t English. Anyone who is different, and that includes us Welsh, unless of course we submit to the will of the xenophobes and reject everything that makes us Welsh. For in the new dispensation, to stand up for Wales and Welshness is to be an intolerant and divisive nationalist (© T. May).

This new and ugly Englishness, and all its ranting prophets and hangers-on – particularly those in Wales – must be treated with a combination of contempt and ridicule. And if that fails, then we must do to them as they do to others and shout them down.

This is no time to retreat to the moral high ground. Fight fire with fire.

Nov 032015
 

A guest post by the erudite, urbane, debonair, well-travelled, and ever well-refreshed, Gareth ap Siôn

The seemingly eternal history of struggle and conflict in the face of suppression of our Welsh national identity is not unique to the Cymric nation. It has been and is mirrored by the crushing of many an isolated society in this still unjust world.

This was sharply brought to mind after a recent visit to Frigiliana, a town situated in the most oriental region of the province of Málaga, which embraces the warm and Ap Sion 1beautiful Mediterranean coast of southern Spain.

Frigiliana is an intriguing place, with a wonderfully interesting history. It was the last bastion of Arab predominance in the Iberian peninsula, after a full 800 years of occupation; but, by 1485, the Reconquista, carried out by the Reyes Católicos had arrived. All other Moorish towns had, by then, been conquered and had forcibly been evacuated and re-populated with a Christian Spanish population. Since the town was so strongly fortified, a deal was brokered and, after the payment of tributes, the Moors were allowed to remain and practice their religion and way of life. They then became known as Mudejares. Peace and a productive tranquillity reigned between the two Spanish communities but, over the passing of time, the perverse side of human nature reared its ugly head, promises were forgotten and the population subjected to an ever- increasing oppression. The Moors were forced to convert to Christianity. The alternative was expulsion to Africa. Those that converted (often in appearance only!), became known as Moriscos.

The repression intensified during the reign of Phillip II. It became especially violent in 1567 when the Inquisition, through the sadistic insistence of the prime iAp Sion 2nquisitor Pedro de Deza, turned the screw tightly. The Moriscos were prohibited from carrying weapons, to talk or write in their own language, to marry ethnic Spanish, to wear traditional clothing or to practice their historic customs. Predictably, all this inspired rebellion, which was then ruthlessly and bloodily crushed. The Moriscos that did not flee were wiped out.

Despite all this, however, the genetic link was not entirely extinguished; to this day hearts in Frigiliana beat proud at the thought of their cultural heritage. The town is now officially designated ‘The town of the three cultures’ – Christian, Moorish and Jewish, and its logo intertwines the symbols of these cultures. After so much conflict, the three religions now co-exist in peace and harmony.

This first photograph is of a statue of the town logo, which combines the Christian, Moslem and Jewish symbols.

Interestingly, for historians, and for visitors such as myself, the council has erected, in obscure positions around the old part of the town, twelve ceramic wall plaques which tell the full tale of the rebellion and its repression. It is a very rewaAp Sion 3rding challenge for determined souls to track them all down (and attempt translation!) during the course of a day’s visit.

Here is the first plaque, which shows the fruitful state of the region before it was subject to siege and devastation.

Here is the translation:-

“The range of mountains that is Bentomiz is part of the constituency of the city of the Velez in the Málaga region. All this land is fertile, with many trees, and abundant, health-giving waters that bisect peaks that reach up to a sky so clear. The lightweight, sturdy and courageous population, the successors of Moorish royalty were the bravest in the kingdom of Granada. There were twenty-two villages of happy and content people, including Frigiliana.” wrote Mármol Carvajal in his “Rebelión y Castigo” (Libro Sexto Cap.XV Málaga, 1600).

The last plaque (above) shows the total post-conquest devastation. (Here is my approximate translation)

“An agonizing silence took over the hamlet of Frigiliana. There was the abandoned mountain, the dead bodies, the living voice of Martín Alguacil:- “If defending our freedom we die fighting, mother earth will receive us and though the graves be hidden, the sky will ever warm them. God does not want to say that the men of Bentomiz dared not die for their country.”

Between plaques one and twelve, which represent Frigiliana at its productive peak and then of the sorry state after all light was extinguished, are ten others which re-stage its swift downfall. These are shown below, listed A – K; to pause, just hold cursor over image:

 

These plaques tell their own story without real need of further translations. (Very difficult, anyway, considering the medieval Spanish used!)

Sadly, and to anyone with but a minimal knowledge of Welsh history, there are glaringly obvious parallels to Wales as it was before and after the essential, proud, but ultimately unsuccessful Llywelyn and Glyndŵr rebellions. This is well-illustrated in the Welsh bardic poetry of the time.

The immortal Gruffudd ab yr Ynad Coch wrote an elegy to Llywelyn after his death and the conquest of Wales in 1282, which mirrors the sentiments of the Frigiliana plaques, especially the last one.

Here is a portion of it :-

Poni welwch chwi hynt y gwynt a’r glaw?
Poni welwch chwi’r deri’n ymdaraw?
Poni welwch chwi’r môr yn merwinaw’r tir?
Poni welwch chwi’r gwir yn ymgweiriaw?
Poni welwch chwi’r haul yn hwyliaw’r awyr?
Poni welwch chwi’r syr wedi’r syrthiaw?
Poni chredwch chwi i Dduw, ddyniadon ynfyd?
Poni welwch chwi’r byd wedi’r bydiaw?
Och hyd atat ti Dduw na ddaw – môr dros dir!
Na beth y’n geidr i ohiriaw?

Do you not see the path of the wind and the rain?
Do you not see the oak trees in turmoil?
Cold my heart in a fearful breast
Thou great Creator of the world,
Why are not thy red lightnings hurled?
Will not the sea at thy command swallow up this guilty land?
Why are we left to mourn in vain,
The guardian of our country slain?

Following that, there is nothing else that could be said, is there?

*

Jac writes: I have taken issue with Gareth over what he describes as the “glaringly obvious parallels to Wales”. The Moors that attract his sympathy were themselves conquerors and invaders; the Reconquista was the native Spanish reclaiming their land. (The clue is in Reconquista.) But then, this is the kind of error – ‘The white man is always in the wrong’ – into which socialism, alas, beguiles otherwise sound and sensible Welsh partiots.

Sep 292015
 

BOORS: ENGLAND 25 – 28 WALES

Well done, boys. That was a truly epic game last Saturday night.

Though I must admit that I’ve been losing interest in rugby for a few years now. Maybe it’s because skills seem to have been sacrificed for bulk, ‘upper body strength’, ‘big hits’ and a litany of other cliches that don’t sound any better even if they’re spoken by Jiffy or Eddie Butler.

Or perhaps it’s the scrum, which nobody understands, and I mean nobody. Certainly not the referees, who seem to come to decisions using the tried and tested ‘Eeny, meeny, miny, moe’ system. Then there’s the rolling or driving maul, sixteen suspiciously muscular men grunting, grappling and pushing each other. Anyone finding that attractive might be in need of help.

Then there’s the way the game is organised in Wales, or rather, who organises it. Here of course I’m talking about the Welsh Rugby Union, one of the most blatantly Anglophile and Unionist bodies we’ve got (and that’s saying something!). Obvious from the feather duster badge with it’s ‘Ich Dien’ motto to the patrons, and from the refusal to use the Welsh language to the Prinz Wilhelm Cup. The last being a meaningless trophy for which Wales competes against a team that is still mainly Afrikaner, in other words, the descendants of those Boer republicans who took up arms more than once rather than be ruled by England and her royals. An insult to two nations.

And what of those who attend rugby internationals? We’ve all read of corporate ‘hospitality’ taking over, with the best seats taken up by men who couldn’t tell a flanker from a banker, and women who are there to be seen seen rather than to watch any irritating distractions on the field. Apart from these, we all know people who go to rugby internationals who wouldn’t cross the road to watch their local side. Just look at attendance figures for regional and club rugby (with Ponty’ and a few other commendable exceptions). How different to football.England fans

It may be even worse in England. The braying of Swing Low Sweet Chariot by thousands of inebriated middle-class Englishmen is one of the weirdest phenomena in sport. Or indeed in any context. I won’t try to analyse it. And what of the dressing up, as medieval knights (often slaying dragons), or 19th century colonial administrators, replete with pith helmets! Do they realise what prats they look, and what message they’re sending out about themselves, and their attitudes to others?

Perhaps they don’t care, for within the dark heart of an England rugby crowd you will find the most dangerous elements of the species; arrogant, intolerant and utterly convinced of their own superiority. Worse by far than the racists one finds at the fringes of England football crowds, because the Barbour-clad yob being carried home by his sweet chariot will too often have the power to indulge his prejudices in ways more far-reaching and pernicious than the outbursts of violence to which his working class compatriot is limited.

But I don’t want to come across as curmudgeonly at this time of officially-sanctioned national euphoria. So let me wish the boys the best of luck on Thursday against Fiji. Though if we should be knocked out, and if England should go through to the quarter-finals in our stead, don’t forget to switch your support to England. Believe me, it’s what the Welsh Rugby Union, and our political class, expects of you.

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CROOKS: SOCIAL HOUSING

Over the past sixty years rural and coastal areas of Wales have seen many tens of thousands of new homes built that were never intended for local buyers. This may once have been more obvious in areas such as the north coast, but it is now national. Even out-of-the-way villages in Powys such as Abbey Cwm Hir are no safer from ‘developers’ (what a curious use of the word!) than Abergele or Aberystwyth. To the point where, contrary to the nonsense we are fed about a ‘rural housing shortage’, rural Wales actually has a housing surplus when the housing stock is judged against any future indigenous demand.

Moreover, the situation we find in rural parts of Flintshire and Wrecsam (currently being re-branded and marketed as ‘West Cheshire’), Denbighshire, Conwy, Gwynedd, Ynys Môn, Ceredigion, Powys, Monmouthshire (sic), Pembrokeshire and large parts of Carmarthenshire, is that locals are often priced out of a housing market distorted by external forces. Which is then cleverly used by planners and aforementioned ‘developers’, estate agents and others, as an argument to build yet more new housing . . . from which most locals are again excluded. Which presents us with the dystopian choice in which house prices can only be brought into line with local purchasing power by a) either collapsing the market through building enough houses to satisfy all demand from over the border, or b) introducing legislation to reserve a percentage of the housing stock for local buyers.

But the housing problems of rural Wales are not confined to the private sector. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have written on the subject of housing associations many times before, and for a number of reasons.

1/ It annoys me to see public money being given to what are effectively private companies for them to spend on housing for which there is often no local need, and where local need does exist the mechanisms at play in the Englandandwales social housing sector ensure that many properties in Wales – paid for out of the Welsh public purse – are allocated to applicants from England having no connection with the places to which they’ve been deported.

2/ Despite being given inordinate amounts of public funding there is no obligation on housing associations to detail how the money has been spent.

3/ Nor is it possible to find other information, because housing associations are exempt from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

4/ At a time when the ‘Welsh’ Government argues for fewer and more efficient local authorities it funds dozens and dozens of housing associations. Giving us the absurd situation where an area might have ten housing associations, in competition with each other, doing the job that would once have been done – and far cheaper – by the local authority housing department.

In the hope of explaining the problem of out-of-control and unaccountable housing associations let me use a couple of examples supplied by Wynne Jones of Cardigan. I’ve never met Wynne Jones I. Eng. A.C.I.W.E.M., but he got in touch a few months back and let me see letters that have passed between him and various representatives of the ‘Welsh’ Government, local councils, and housing associations on a number of issues.

One is a development in Cardigan that has already swallowed up a great deal of funding but now seems to have hit the rocks. This is / was a project to convert a building on the High Street into 16 flats, and for which the Tai Cantref housing association has already received £782,543 in Social Housing Grant from the ‘Welsh’ Government. I’ll repeat that for the hard of reading – £782,543! As you can see, the photograph was taken on May 1st (by Wynne Jones), but little has changed since then, as the main contractor has gone into receivership. (The photo is taken from a car park behind Cardigan High Street. Click to enlarge.)

Are there local tenants lined up for these flats? If so, then they’ve got a long wait. If not, then – as is so often the case – this becomes a speculative development using Welsh public funding to house people who, as yet, have no idea they’re going to be moved to Wales.

Another example of the freedom enjoyed by housing associations is shown in the case of Tai Ceredigion at the former Meugan Centre in the town. (See picture below by Wynne Jones.) Seeing as the land in question is – it is believed – owned by the county council Mr Jones first wrote to the council on April 11th asking if planning permission had been granted a) for the demolition of the Centre and b) to allow the site to be used as a builder’s yard. He wrote again on May 6th . . . and May 26th . . . June 25th . . . July 14th (twice) . . . August 17th . . . then, finally, on August 18th he received a reply which told him that the ‘developers’ (that word again!) had now been told to apply for retrospective planning permission to use the Meugan site as a depot, but on the other matter that, “A determination decision was made on the demolition of the Centre in 2014 – planning reference A140036 – deciding that prior approval was not required for the proposed works”. (My underline.)

When Mr Jones pointed out that the planning reference A140036 was not available online, he was told that he could view a hard copy at the council’s offices in Aberaeron. He went through the advised procedure and made an appointment for 9am on August 15th . . . which was not confirmed.  After another exchange of correspondence in which he again asked to view the document, and also requested the council’s reasons for withholding it, he was told, “The request is considered to be exempt under S21 of the Freedom of Information Act since what you have asked for is reasonably accessible by other means. The information you require is available for viewing at Neuadd Cyngor Ceredigion, Penmorfa, Aberaeron.” This Kafkaesque response ignores the fact that Wynne Jones wants to see the document, and is prepared to turn up in Aberaeron at 9am, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but the council is refusing to co-operate.

I suspect that this document may not exist, perhaps it has not yet been written. But whether planning reference A140036 exists or not, it’s quite clear that Cyngor Ceredigion is reluctant to let Wynne Jones see it for himself. What’s also clear is that Cyngor Ceredigion allows housing associations degrees of latitude that private citizens or other companies can only dream of.

*

COWARDS: THE ‘WELSH’ MEDIA

One problem with ‘Welsh’ housing associations and the Englandandwales allocation system into which they’re currently locked is that Welsh communities get lumbered with some very unsavoury  people, partly because housing associations (and indeed private landlords) can make more money from housing those euphemistically described as ‘vulnerable’ (i.e. criminals) and those with ‘issues’ (ditto) than from housing law-abiding locals.

This allocation system – plus the workings of the Englandandwales criminal justice system – often explains why Welsh communities end up hosting criminals and dysfunctionals such as these.

A more recent case was this one. ‘Notorious convicted paedophile flees North Wales after he was outed online’ screams the Daily Post headline. Good. But the real story here, the one the DP should have looked into, was who relocated him to Nantlle? And who is responsible for dumping known and dangerous English criminals in Rhyl, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Kidwelly and countless other Welsh towns and villages? But to answer that question would expose another form of abuse, one in which Wales is taken advantage of by our mighty neighbour . . . so our ‘Welsh’ media backs off.

Yes, our wonderful ‘Welsh’ media; never asking the difficult questions but always ready to put the boot into Wales and things Welsh if the assault can be presented as a principled condemnation of ‘extremism’, ‘racism’, ‘narrow nationalism’ and anything else that doesn’t conform to the view that ‘Welshness’ is just a quaint and touristy regional oddity, little different to Englishness (except in a harmless and manageable sporting context) and always subservient to Britishness.

*

SPOOKS: CAMBRIAN NEWS

As the Welsh weekly newspaper with the largest circulation, covering an area running from north Pembrokeshire all around Cardigan Bay to Pen Llŷn, and containing constituencies and local authorities where the Welsh voice is strong, it was inevitable that the Cambrian News would be a vital cog in this permanent propaganda offensive.

The role played by the Cambrian News was first brought home to me some twenty years ago when the ‘paper carried what purported to be a letter from a survivor of the Holocaust, now living in the USA, who had visited the National Eisteddfod and been appalled because the youngsters he saw on the stage there reminded him of the Hitler Youth. The letter was typical black propaganda, designed to traduce things Welsh and thereby put Welsh people on the defensive, make them question or be less ready to defend the things they hold dear.

I recognised this letter for what it was, and in the hope of exposing the fraud I wrote to the address given for the letter writer, making sure that my own address was there on the envelope as ‘sender’. The address given for the writer was in “Upper State New York”, no zip code and, as most of you will know, Americans use the term ‘Upstate New York. My letter was returned by the US Postal Service, along with two other letters from Wales sent to the same, non-existent address.

When you know what you’re looking at, or what you’re looking for, then you can go through a rag like the Cambrian News and pick out examples of this strategy quite easily, especially when our masters wish to make a specific point. Such a case came towards the end of 2013 when Cyngor Gwynedd debated raising the council tax on holiday homes. The mere suggestion prompted a letter to the CN arguing that raising council tax on holiday homes would be ‘racist’ (that favourite allegation!), before suggesting that such a measure might lead to a resumption of arson attacks!

The debate rumbled on, I got involved, ridiculing the suggestion that anyone would be incited to burn holiday homes if those properties paid more council tax, which in turn encouraged someone to suggest that I had made the suggestion of arson attacks but, cleverly, without actually saying I’d said it.

In the post I’ve linked to there are two letters worthy of note. The first is from a ‘Pat Beaumont of Shropshire’, and the second from a ‘Stephen Smith of Sunbeach Holiday Park, Llwyngwril’. Both are gems. They are full of non-sequiturs, scaremongering, misrepresentation, and getting people to believe that raising council tax on holiday homes is little different to burning them down. I believe Cambrian News Nazisboth letters are as genuine as the one from the Holocaust survivor in ‘Upper State New York’.

This bizarre defence of holiday homes is quite easy to explain, and has nothing to do with economics. From ‘a certain perspective’ holiday homes are viewed as a weapon in the armoury being used to ‘integrate’ Wales with England. In other words, they help anglicise Wales and thereby remove the threat of nationalism. Consequently holiday homes must be defended. Simple as that.

A more recent example of how the Cambrian News is used by others as a conduit and an outlet for anti-Welsh propaganda was the attack on the Plaid Cymru candidate in Ceredigion prior to this year’s General Election. I dealt with it here. To understand this extraordinarily vicious attack you must appreciate the wider political context.

Ceredigion was held by a Liberal Democrat MP, yet after five years in coalition with the Tories the Lib Dem vote was collapsing. Also, after five years in government, the Tories themselves were expected to lose votes and seats. In Scotland, the only question was whether the SNP would have a clean sweep of MPs. Everyone expected a hung parliament, with Labour running the UK in coalition with the SNP, Plaid Cymru, SDLP and Greens. In fact, it was the English tabloids frightening their readers with the prospect of Alex Salmond in charge (despite him no longer being leader of the SNP) that won the election for the Conservatives. In that context, anything that the darker forces of the British State could use to damage the prospect of Labour-SNP-Plaid Cymru rule was worth a try. The Cambrian News played ball, as always.

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IDIOTS

Though sometimes the Cambrian News’ desperation to push its anti Welsh – and in our local edition, anti-Plaid Cymru and anti-Gwynedd – message is sometimes almost funny. Take this story from last week’s Meirionnydd edition. (No, of course I didn’t buy it.) Some Englishman named Paul Taylor living in Bryncrug, about two miles out of Tywyn, received what everyone has received recently, the electoral registration form, but claims he got confused because the form was ‘labelled’ in Welsh. (‘Labelled’? Does he mean ‘addressed’?)

Cambrian News voting

So here we have someone who receives what is obviously a communication from the council, one being delivered to every home in the county; if it had been written in Chinese its nature and purpose would have been obvious – yet he cannot see it for what it is, and when he consults his friend – who is “pretty proficient in Welsh” – these great brains conclude that the mysterious communication is addressed to a woman called Annwyl ddeiliad! (I know her intimately.) Eventually he is told what it means. Now seeing the dastardly plot for what it is – an attempt to deny a free-born Englishman his rights, the outraged Paul Taylor contacts the Cambrian News.

I have no way of knowing whether this man is just stupid, or whether he’s a fully-fledged bigot. But any responsible newspaper would at this point have spared him embarrassment by declining the ‘story’; and any reporter worthy of the name would have laughed out loud on hearing it. But this is the Cambrian News, the spooks’ mouthpiece, and so it does what it does and publishes this unadulterated bollocks, conveying the predictable messages that, ‘ . . . shouldn’t use Welsh on official communications . . . anti-democratic . . . discriminatory . . . anti-English . . . whatever next? . . . God Save the Queen!’

Here’s some advice for Paul Taylor, who clearly gets confused by anything that’s not ‘labelled’ in English. Next time you buy a bottle of Scotch don’t hand over your cash ’til you get a translation of Glenfiddich! And avoid French restaurants . . . Italian restaurants too. And if you win the Lottery, don’t start celebrating until them Champagne labels are translated. (Bloody Frogs!) Then, when you’ve sobered up, and are looking around for a motor, don’t write the cheque until them Eyties translate the Ferrari label into English. Same with flying to they there foreign places with funny names – Rio de Janeiro? come off it!

And this place where you’re living, called Bryncrug, it’s obviously part of this massive anti-English conspiracy of which you are so clearly a victim, so demand that it be ‘re-labelled’. In fact, get in touch with the Cambrian News, they’ll probably start a campaign on your behalf.

UPDATE 01.10.2015: There was a very good letter in today’s issue of the Cambrian News responding to the bigotry and intolerance displayed last week. Had I written this letter I would also have criticised the Cambrian News‘ editorial judgement in treating such ugly views as a worthwhile news item. But as I point out in the post, this is how the Cambrian News has operated for many years.

Jun 222015
 

Dear Prime Minister,

During the recent election campaign – and even before the campaign started – you made a number of attacks on the NHS in Wales, claiming that the border between our two countries marked the difference between life and death, and that the Labour Party shouldn’t be trusted to run anything. All good knockabout stuff, and when it comes to the Labour Party I’m with you one hundred per cent.

Which means that I’m not writing this in defence of Carwyn Jones and his gang, many of whom seem to be abandoning ship ahead of next year’s Welsh Assembly elections (with three announcing in recent days that they’re standing down). No, my concern is that your regular attacks on the running of the NHS in Wales gives too many people the wrong impression of my country, suggesting that we Welsh are incompetent or incapable of running anything. So I think it’s time to put you straight.

You may have heard that the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which covers the whole of the north, and its population (2011 census) of 687,937, has been placed in special measures by the ‘Welsh’ Government, with its chief executive suspended. That our largest health board is in trouble should surprise no one, once they’re acquainted with the facts.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that elderly people inevitably put greater demands on the NHS than younger age groups. In north Wales there are 138,325 people over the age of sixty-five, making up some 20% of the population, a figure well above the Welsh average of 18.4 per cent. But what is even more striking is that of the over sixty-fives in northern Wales 61,644, or 44.6 per cent of the total, were born in England.

Within that headline figure there are of course variations. In the local authority area of Conwy just 37.1% 0f the over 65s were born in Wales. Where I live, in southern Gwynedd, the five electoral wards between (and including) Barmouth and Aberdyfi have a combined population of just over ten thousand people . . . of whom nearly one fifth are English pensioners! Or to put it another way, in these five wards only 31.6% of the over 65s are Welsh. And only 43.9% of the total population. Do you think there’s an area of rural England where the English make up less than a third of the 65+ age group, and less than half of the total population? I very much doubt it. You English wouldn’t stand for it.

These figures are quite remarkable, and go a long way to explaining why the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is up Shit Creek. And of course it’s not just the NHS that suffers, other overstretched Welsh budgets must pay for home help and all the other services elderly people need, for many of them have no family living locally, having, effectively, been abandoned in Wales.

Though it’s not just the elderly from England that put a strain on Welsh services. Let me explain the next problem with a question. Where do you think you’d find Wales’ ‘hotspot’ for crime and anti-social behaviour? Some sink estate in Swansea or Cardiff maybe, or some post-industrial wasteland in the former mining valleys? Wrong and wrong – it’s Rhyl; sunny, seaside Rhyl or, to be exact, west Rhyl. Now why do you think that is? Save the old grey matter, I’ll tell you.

For decades Rhyl and the towns along our northern coast have been used as a dumping ground for criminals, paedophiles, drug addicts and others that Liverpool, Manchester and other places in north west England want rid of. These undesirables have been relocated by English local authorities, charities, the Probation Service and other agencies. Another route is social housing, for Welsh housing associations and councils are locked into an Englandandwales allocation system that sees someone making themselves homeless in Stoke on Trent ‘qualifying’ immediately for accommodation in Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant ahead of all locals.

Those I am dealing with here are of course footloose, non-working and benefit-dependent; many with long-term health problems caused by substance abuse and a generally chaotic lifestyle. These, again, put a much greater strain on the Welsh NHS, and other services – not least the police – than others in their age groups. And again, this is a problem that is imposed on Wales (often surreptitiously), making extra calls on our already stretched resources.

These problems I have described are not confined to the north of Wales, they are merely worse there. The issues that afflict Rhyl are now spreading along our coasts, and even inland. The problem of social housing in Wales being used to accommodate white trash from England is now a national problem, but noticeable in rural and coastal areas because so many of the indigenous Welsh have left due to the lack of employment opportunities. And it goes without saying that this unwanted influx is having a very damaging effect on the Welsh language and Welsh cultural identity generally.

The only reason I’m writing this is because although everyone is aware of the problems I’ve listed most people are afraid to speak out in case your attack-dogs in the media start barking ‘racist’ or ‘anti-English’. Though there are also those who feign ignorance. Among these is your new MP for the Vale of Clwyd, Dr James Davies, who focused his recent election campaign on the decline of Rhyl and the state of the NHS in Wales. A campaign from which facts were scrupulously excluded – no wonder you’ve taken a shine to him!

There we are, I’ve had my say. Let me conclude by suggesting that if you and your government are genuinely concerned about the NHS and other deteriorating services in Wales, then there’s a simple option open to you. You can either cough up more money for us to look after people who are in reality England’s responsibility, or you can stop dumping England’s problems in Wales.

                                                                                                             Jac

 

P.S. Pass this on to your boy Jimbo. He obviously needs to learn the truth about what’s happening in his constituency.

cc the Welsh media and the Welsh political class. Both too scared to speak the truth. They deserve each other.

Apr 262015
 

I am indebted to my old confrère André Jacob for drawing my attention to an upcoming musical event entitled ‘Beyond the Marches’, information for which is reproduced below. You’ll see that I have highlighted a passage that reads, “Six of the finest young folk musicians from Wales and England come together to explore and celebrate the shared history and culture of the two nations”. As you might imagine, this got me thinking about our “shared history and culture” and so, now infused with the spirit of sharing, I feel compelled to share my thoughts with you.

Trac, Beyond the Marches

Let’s look at our ‘shared history’, and where better to begin than with our first contact with the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians who invaded Romano-Welsh Britain following the collapse of the empire. What this episode tells us is that the ancestors of the modern English introduced themselves as invaders. In the centuries that followed these Germanic peoples pushed west and north, taking more of our territory, killing, expelling or enslaving our people, until we were left with little more than what we today call Wales.

The aggression and conquest continued, until the death of Llywelyn in 1282 and that of his brother Dafydd the following year, their children either killed or imprisoned to ensure no succession. This was followed by a period in which we were treated as second-class citizens in our own country, a colonialist system that an African-American or a Tibetan would understand. This discriminatory system was one of the causes of Glyndŵr’s great war for national liberation that began in 1400 and explains why so many rallied to his cause.

Glyndŵr was unsuccessful but victory at Bosworth in 1485 put a Welshman (of sorts) on the throne of England and things began to look up . . . if only for the Welsh aristocracy and gentry. Harri Tudur and his son Henry VIII decreed that Welshmen would in future be treated exactly the same as Englishmen . . . because there would be no recognition of any distinct Welsh identity.

The next great stage in the ‘shared history’ came with the Industrial Revolution, which saw our people and our natural resources exploited for the glory of imperial England. And so it has continued to the present day when we can now add colonisation to the list.

As for the ‘shared culture’ referred to, where in England can you hear penillion sung? Where are the great English practitioners of cynghanedd to be found? Just as with history’s march, the cultural influences are all one way, as they must always be between a colony and the country that exploits and dominates that colony. So who’s responsible for this insulting nonsense, this pretence that Wales and England are equal, each having influenced the other?

The body organising ‘Beyond the Marches’ is Trac (Traddodiadau Cerdd Cymru / Music Traditions Wales), Charity Commission number 1085422. Trac is also a company limited by guarantee, No 4106014, with the charity’s trustees also acting as directors of the company. Among these director-trustees are “performer, author and TV producer” Eiry Palfrey, Cardiff folk singer Frank Hennessy, radio celeb Huw Stephens, Dafydd Iwan, and the man currently campaigning to be re-elected Labour MP for Cardiff West, Kevin Brennan. Trac is funded by the Arts Council of Wales, the ‘Welsh’ Government and the National Lottery.

Trac appears to be run by director Danny Kilbride, manager Blanche Rowen, with Angharad Jenkins serving as project officer. It might help if I knew a bit more about Danny Kilbride and Blanche Rowen. Kilbride lives in the Mount Pleasant area of Swansea, and the charity is registered at the same address. Though the company is registered at an address in the neighbouring Uplands area. I know little about Blanche Rowen beyond that she performs with a Mike Gulston.

trac staff

It would be easy to think of Trac as something like the cultural organisations one encounters in totalitarian states – funded by the government and designed to keep artists and ‘creatives’ in order to ensure that nothing subversive emerges. Or am I being unkind? Even if I am, and at the very least, Trac carries the hallmarks of a Welsh Third Sector body funded by the Labour Party to serve Labour Party interests and promote the Unionist message. Which makes it look like yet more squalid politicking using public funding.

How else could anyone interpret ‘Beyond the Marches’, a musical event clearly promoting the idea that there is little or no difference between Wales and England? Such a perfect way to push the Unionist, Better Together message. And this being done just days before the general election, with concerts in Aberystwyth on May 2nd, Cardiff on May 3rd, and London on May 4th. Will these concerts end with Rule Britannia and God Save the Queen?

Perhaps next year, before the Assembly elections, Trac can balance things out by organising a few concerts promoting the message that Wales is most definitely a different country to England, and one that has always been abused and exploited by England, so remember this when you go to vote . . . but it ain’t gonna happen.

May 082014
 

Regular followers of this blog may recall that back in 2012 (on the old Google blog, now, sadly, demised) I was able to give out some good news. Which was . . . that for properties to be built by Cymdeithas Tai Clwyd on a new development in Tywyn, “Prospective tenants must have lived and worked Tai Clwydin the area for at least five years”. I learnt this, first, from a piece in our local edition of the Cambrian News, in July (left, click to enlarge), and then it was confirmed in an e-mail I received from Tai Clwyd in September (below, ditto). These two pieces of information can only be read as saying, ‘these properties are reserved for local people’. Or, to be more specific – as Tai Clwyd was in its e-mail – a Section 106, local occupancy, restriction. (Though S106 can deal with other issues.)

Fast forward to 2014 and the word on the mean streets of Tywyn is that these properties are now to be allocated to “people from away” and “people on benefits”. In other words – welcome to Wales’ social housing allocation system: social housing either built in excess of local demand or, where there is local demand – as in Tywyn – locals being passed over in favour of people who have never been to Wales in their lives. A system I have explained more than once, and I shall do so again later in this piece.

In order to find out what has happened between the good news of 2012 and the sobering realities of colonial Wales in 2014 I decided to contact Cymdeithas Tai Clwyd . . . only to learn that it had recently merged with Cymdeithas Tai Eryri to form Grŵp Cynefin, which is “the only housing association to operate across all six north Wales counties plus north Powys”. My initial enquiries with Grŵp Cynefin (GC) drew a blank because it was denied there ever had been a S106 applying to Pendre Gardens, and therefore no guarantee could be given that locals would be offered any of the properties there. After e-mailing GC a copy of the September e-mail my query has now been passed to the Housing Manager.

In a follow-up phone call to GC I was told that it must be the fault of Cyngor Gwynedd that there was no S106. So I next checked the planning consent given by the council (because of course Tywyn is outside the Snowdonia National Park) and could find no mention of a S106. This full planning consent is dated July 23, 2012. So why did the Cambrian News run that piece telling everyone that these new dwellings were for locals only? And why was I told the same thing in September 2012 by Tai Clwyd, two months after that body had been granted the – S106-less – planning permission?

Grŵp Cynefin also referred me to Gwynedd’s Housing Options Team (GHOT), which seems to act as a link for the various social housing providers in the county while also serving as first contact for would-be tenants. The man I spoke with there was courteous and helpful, but could only point me in certain direTai Clwyd replyctions and suggest that an S106 would need to have been agreed between the council and the housing provider.

In another attempt to get answers I phoned the council’s planning department, where it took me a while to explain – or make the woman answering my call understand – that I wanted to know why something was not in an approval granted by the council. Having had my request accepted it could now be 15 days before I receive a response.

I suppose I could have waited until I got answers before writing this post, but my worry is that I’m not going to get the answers I’m after. If I had to bet on it, I’d say I’m in for a game of blame ping-pong. So I’m writing this post half-hoping it might get a better result than yet more phone calls and e-mails. Even so, the questions I would ask are these:

  1. Was it ever proposed to have a Section 106 local – 5-year residency – qualification attaching to the Pendre Gardens development?
  2. If it was, why was the proposal dropped, or the decision changed?
  3. Who authorised the change?
  4. For what reason(s) was the change made?
  5. If there was never any intention of attaching a S106 to Pendre Gardens why was everyone misled (if not lied to); why did no one from the council step in and give the correct information?

The main reason we’re in this mess is that to all intents and purposes Wales and England now operate a single, integrated social housing system. Just like one vast council, or housing association. Which means in practice that if there is a vacant property in Wales, and someone in England – anywhere in England! – has more ‘points’ than local applicants, then the English applicant could be allocated the property. Local connections count for very little. So if you are a law-abiding local, in regular employment, and have any kind of roof over your head, your chances of being allocated social housing are slim. My advice to you is start taking drugs, causing trouble and, best of all, make yourself homeless.

Of course, there will be those who argue that this is a two-way street, for Welsh people can move to England. Yeees . . . but given that England has 53 million people against our 3 million, it’s a two-way street with a bicycle travelling west to east and a 40-tonne juggernaut hurtling east to west. And I’m not just talking quantity, I’m also talking quality. For many of those being moved to Wales will be people that no self-respecting country would allow in. Here’s a selection. But bear in mind that this post I refer you to only deals with those who have made the news. The problem families, the pit bull fanciers, the casual criminals, the anti-social, the wife-beaters, the congenitally irresponsiblePendre Gardens sign, the ‘Ten-pints-and-I’m-Mike-Tyson, me’ types, the ‘breeders-for-benefit’ with their stupid, uncontrollable kids, the all-night party-holders, the fat, ugly women who think smoking ciggies keeps their weight down, these and others go unreported.

So I just cannot understand how this system that is so damaging to Wales and Welsh people has been accepted without resistance. I can only assume that housing associations are doing well out of it financially, and don’t really give a toss about the communities or the country in which they operate. Which might make sense; for Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd (after taking over Gwynedd council’s housing stock) gave the maintenance contract for its properties to an English company that in turn employs sub-contractors from over the border who can only spend a short time actually working because of the distances involved travelling to and from work!

It cannot be right that someone who has never heard of Tywyn, or Tredegar, or Treaddur can qualify for social housing in these communities ahead of people who have lived there maybe all their lives. It cannot be right that Wales is used to help solve England’s housing problems. For as Gwynedd’s Common Housing Allocation Policy makes clear, “The scheme also complies with requirements of the legislation by providing priority or additional priority to: transferring tenants who will release accommodation in short supply . . . “ So if, say, Stoke-on-Trent council, or housing associations in that city, are experiencing pressure on their housing stock, then they can ask – maybe demand – that Welsh local authorities and housing associations give priority to those the Potteries would like to get rid of ‘transfer’ in order to make housing available. Some system, eh!

Change is needed. Social housing providers in Wales can no longer use the ‘Nuremburg Defence’ to implement an iniquitous system that so obviously works against Welsh interests. Social housing provision in Wales must be disentangled from that in England. A five-year residency qualification must be introduced for all social housing in Wales, with the only exceptions being genuine refugees and those who will be of benefit to Wales. Finally, those clowns down Cardiff docks need to realise that calling themselves the ‘Welsh Government’ must mean more than obeying civil servants and nodding through essentially English legislation with ‘(Wales)’ stuck in the title . . . like the Housing (Wales) Bill, and the Planning (Wales) Bill.

Apr 012014
 

‘Who he?’, I hear you implore. The answer is that Mr Poppleton is the esteemed head of the Planning Inspectorate in Wales, that wonderful agency that not only grants us wind farms but also forces our councils to build thousands of new homes for people who haven’t yet thought of moving to Wales.

Regular readers of my bloRichard Poppletong will know that over the past few months I have given quite a bit of coverage to the Planning Inspectorate. I believe I have established that, despite claiming to be somehow under the control of the ‘Welsh’ Government, the Planning Inspectorate is in fact an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. Further, the Inspectorate is run on an Englandandwales basis with – for appearanceʽ sake – a branch office in Cardiff. To mistake this for a separate, Welsh organisation (as we are encouraged to) would be a grave mistake. Mr Poppleton and his agents carry out the wishes of their masters in London. Neither tolerates any Welsh interference.

Perhaps Mr Poppleton, or someone, has been reading my blog; for I learn that the man himself is currently on a tour of all twenty-two Welsh local authorities in the hope of ‘explaining’ how the Planning Inspectorate is organised and how it operates. To aid him he has a little PowerPoint presentation, so here I offer you the chance to go through the document; while beneath it I have selected a few points I think deserve to be highlighted. (To open the document in a separate window and follow page by numbered page, right click here.)

Download (PDF, 114KB)

P4        Curious wording for the first bullet point, but note that it makes no claim to a separate Welsh framework, merely “a section based in Cardiff dealing with Welsh matters”.

The second bullet point is very interesting. Are we expected to believe that the “planning inspectors” are freelance, independent of the Planning Inspectorate? Who recruits them? Who do they report to? Who pays them? How would a planning inspector keep canis lupus from his portal if he fell foul of the Planning Inspectorate?

P5        This page desperately tries to pretend that planning in Wales is determined by the ‘Welsh’ Government. But the only planning officials in Wales are those working for the Planning Inspectorate which, as we know, is an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London.

Also worth remembering is that “Welsh policy” is invariably – and increasingly – the same law as England with ‘(Wales)’ inserted into the name of the Bill / Act. A perfect example would be the Housing (Wales) Bill currently snaking its way through the Notional Assembly. The Bill makes thirty-nine references to ‘England’. The Housing (Scotland) Bill makes not one reference to our shared neighbour. There’s a message there!

P6        Again, in bullet point 1, weird syntax. (Is this a translation?) But note, “supported by the administration in Cardiff” but not ‘answering to the administration’. Suggesting yet again that the ‘Welsh’ Government merely provides office space.

Bullet point 2 confirms what I’ve been told by a number of people. Planning inspectors are brought in from England to adjudicate on matters in a country they know nothing about.

P8        Ah, posterity, what bullshit is spouted in thy name! The Edmund Burke appeal to “those who are to be born”, a weapon regularly found in a dissembler’s armoury.

P9        Very interesting first bullet point. And note the underlining. Could almost be a reference to social engineering. For wasn’t the Nazi lebensraum policy about ‘shaping’ eastern Europe?

P13      “Co-operation and collaboration”. Interesting, this. I have no objection in principle to cross-border commuting, it’s commonplace on the continent and elsewhere, however . . . I suspect that ‘housing market areas’ and ‘travel to work areas’ are used here to justify excessive house building for the benefit of English commuters in the north east, Powys and Gwent.

P14      Ah! posterity, again. Though isn’t ‘constituents’ a word from the political rather than the planning lexicon? Wouldn’t ‘residents’ or ‘population’ fit better? Is it telling us that tomorrow’s constituents, in large parts of Wales, will not be today’s constituents, or their descendants?

P15      “Those yet to come”. Enough posterity, already!

P21      “Plans and policies are not to be slavishly followed without thought and local application”. Of course not. As Denbighshire found out, when a planning inspector went back and demanded yet more unnecessary housing.

P26      Translation of bullet point 3: ‘Local knowledge is OK, but you must have outside experts like our inspectors who can’t even pronounce the name of the community they’re wrecking.’

P27/28  Explains why so many damaging schemes succeed – the law is weighted against anyone – individual, interest group or local authority – engaging in what will almost always be decided is vexatious obstruction, and they will have to pay the cost(s).

P29      “Sheer volume not enough”. If everybody in an area was to object to a scheme their views could be disregarded by a “decision maker”, i.e. a planning inspector.

P31      “National policies”. Which nation?

P33      “S106”. Planning conditions or sweeteners, such as a local occupancy stipulation or the developer building a highway or other community benefit.

P34      “S73” Can be used to undo S106 conditions, and can also be used to grant retrospective planning permission. Which could mean in practice that a scheme is given planning permission on the understanding that there will be local occupancy clauses attaching to all or some of the properties, but that this is then overturned by an S73 ruling. Or, to be utterly cynical, those applying for any scheme could use the S106 local occupancy clause as a ploy to gain planning approval while knowing that once approval is granted they will apply for an S73. Worse, those granting planning consent could also know this.

P35      The figures speak for themselves; though it should be remembered that even though almost two-thirds of appeals are dismissed this does not take into account the many who would like to appeal but are deterred by the prohibitive costs.

P36      The English Planning Inspectorate is to be given even more power in Wales.

P37      A blueprint for taking more power from local authorities. Not necessarily a bad thing, but when the power is to be transferred to the Planning Inspectorate, an unelected foreign agency, then it’s definitely a bad thing. Note the implication of bullet point 3. “(Welsh) Minister (though PINS) to administer and decide the largest development applications”. In other words, the Planning Inspectorate will make decisions and get some dumbo down Cardiff docks to make the announcements.

Also, “poorly performing” Local Planning Authorities – i.e. not passing enough planning applications – are to be stripped of their power. This threat coupled with the punitive costs involved will emasculate any local authority that refuses to nod through virtually every application that comes before it. Plus, of course, the LDP.

P38      Reinforcing the threat of the Planning Inspectorate taking over responsibility for planning in Wales using the puppet regime down Cardiff docks as a human shield and mouthpiece.

Planning Bill

Click to Enlarge

Planning in Wales (I nearly made the mistake of saying ‘Welsh planning’!) is undergoing big changes, and few outside of the ‘opposition’ appreciate the full implications. Though the building industry understands, as this piece illustrates. (Note how the quote from Carl Sargeant makes yet another bloody reference to “future generations”!) The Bill dealt with in the article I’ve linked to is the Planning (Wales) Bill, available here. You can read it yourself, but this piece from the Planning Inspectorate media centre might tell you all you need to know. Again, let me pick out what I consider to be the salient points.

  1. The ‘Welsh’ Government is to take powers from local planning authorities; that is, your local council. As I said above, no bad thing in itself, given the record of many councils, but with larger and possibly more efficient councils on the horizon why do it now? Or is that the reason?
  2. Local development plans would be “subject to refinement”. In other words, councils could be told to build even more unnecessary new homes than had been agreed in the LDP.
  3. Planning applications could by-pass local planning authorities and be made direct to the ‘Welsh’ Government (fronting for the Planning Inspectorate). Worrying, and would this apply to National Parks?
  4. Despite the comforting reference to Scotland the Planning Inspectorate does not operate there. It is an Englandandwales body.
  5. Though it talks of the ‘Welsh’ Government this legislation officially hands control over virtually all planning in Wales to the Planning Inspectorate, an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London.
  6. The Planning Inspectorate article makes it clear, more than once, that when this legislation is enacted the chances of successfully appealing against any of the Inspectorate’s decisions will be almost zero.
  7. “Major changes are afoot”. Yes, indeed. And all for the worse.

Another Bill currently going through the stages is the Housing (Wales) Bill. I have written a number of posts on this subject, work back from here. The only publicity this Bill is getting concentrates on the provisions for tighter regulation of private landlords. But the Bill covers the entire rented sector, and makes clear that our social housing providers – councils and housing associations – will in future co-operate fully with their English counterparts. This means that anyone qualifying for a home in England will automatically qualify in Wales . . . even if they’ve never set foot in Wales.

The consequences are easily predictable. Our less responsible housing associations will go on a building spree knowing they now have an inexhaustible supply of potential tenants in England. These will be described as  ‘vulnerable’ and having ‘needs’. But don’t shed any tears, for these are just euphemisms for problem families, drug addicts, paedophiles, other criminals, the (deliberately) homeless, etc. While this is obviously good news Puppet show, captionfor social housing providers has anyone considered the wider costs of bringing such people into Wales? This post might help. Another consideration is that despite the increase in the social housing stock it will become more difficult for Welsh people to secure social housing because of that inexhaustible supply over the border.

It has become obvious to me in the research I’ve done into the Planning Inspectorate and other agencies that housing and planning is used to attract English colonists with the express intention of weakening and eventually destroying Welsh identity. For the simple and obvious reason that without Welsh identity there can be no political threat to emulate Scotland. That being so, then the counter-measures needed are equally obvious.

We need a five-year residency period before anyone can access social housing, and social housing providers – especially in rural and coastal areas – must be encouraged to buy existing properties (as they were once able to). We need open market housing limited to meeting local need; but more than anything, in the private housing sector we need a mechanism that either reserves a percentage of housing stock for local people, or else financial assistance enabling Welsh people to compete with outside buyers.

This was always about more than housing and planning. They know it; it’s about time we realised it.

Feb 072014
 

I hope I can explain this without it getting too complicated. Here goes . . .

In a number of recent posts I have stressed the importance of household size / composition in determining how many new dwellings will be needed. So I thought I’d better check with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for the correct definition, which is: “A household is defined as one person living alone, or a group of people (not necessarily related) living at the same address who share cooking facilities and share a living room, sitting room or dining area”. Which means that a group of students sharing a house would presumably be a household, but a retirement or nursing home for elderly people would be a “communal establishment”.

This is important because each household is a separate dwelling. It follows therefore that predicted household size coupled with projected population increase will be used to assess the number of new dwellings needed. The smaller the household size, then the greater the number of dwellings.Households

Returning to the ONS, that agency’s Table KS101EW, says that when the Census was taken in March 2011 the number of persons living in a household in Wales was 3,011,182. Table CH01, also ONS, tells us that at the Census Wales had 1,302,700 households. If we divide the number of persons living in households with the number of households we have a figure of 2.31 persons per household. Yet in its (2008-based) household size projections, Knowledge and Analytical Services (KAS), an arm of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in London, but based in Wales, predicted a household size for 2011 of 2.23.

This difference of .08 may seem unimportant . . . until you remember that it equates to 46,764 dwellings and (x 2.31) a population of 108,025. To put that into perspective, at the 2011 Census there were just 31,600 households in Ceredigion. Also bear in mind that, due to the ONS ‘outsourcing’ household size projections to the DCLG, it is KAS projections that are used to determine how many new homes will be needed in Wales in future years. Clearly, anyone wishing to make Wales plan for more new homes than she really needs has only to underestimate household size.

I understand that new household size projections covering the next 25 years are due out any day. These projections from the KAS will be invalid from the outset if they do not start at 2.31 in 2011, because this figure comes from the Census, it is not guesswork. The new household size projections must also take into account other evidence that suggests a slowing in the rate of household size decline, if not a static household size.

These new projections must then be used to revise Local Development Plans and all other housing need projections in Wales.