Nov 122017
 

THE PUBLICLY-FUNDED THIRD SECTOR

HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS

In my previous post, Anti-Welsh Housing Associations, I told you about Wales & West Housing’s irresponsible behaviour in Lampeter, part of a more widespread problem of housing associations chasing the money by housing criminals, which is much more lucrative than putting roofs over the heads of locals.

Of course they argue that there’s a dreadful shortage of accommodation for ‘vulnerable’ people, and of course they’re right – England doesn’t have enough accommodation. Which is why Wales, through its housing associations and other third sector bodies, is currently taking in so many problems.

And yet, while housing associations and others receive premium payments from whoever supplied their new tenants, plus housing benefit and other goodies, there is an obvious downside.

I’m referring to the effect on formerly peaceful communities caused by the arrival of undesirables. But there’s also the extra work for the police and associated agencies. Though perhaps the biggest burden falls on the NHS and associated services, for most of those being moved to Wales by the route described will have ‘issues’ needing expensive treatment.

So while taking on these problems is good business for housing associations and others, the wider implications, and costs, for the country as a whole, more than outweigh the financial benefits accruing to the landlords. Which makes this behaviour selfish, short-sighted and socially irresponsible.

It can fairly be described as anti-social housing.

And of course it raises the question of why the ‘Welsh’ Government allows these bodies, all of which are in receipt of public funding, to behave in this manner.

But the problem isn’t confined to housing associations.

HOMELESSNESS

I have written many times about the overlapping, interweaving and competing homelessness organisations. I thought I knew most of them but someone just brought a new one to my attention. It’s called Emmaus UK and the business model centres on charity shops and workshops for the homeless.

Which means that the Emmaus model should be self-financing. Which is what Emmaus claims.

Its Welsh presence – at the moment, anyway – seems limited to Bridgend, where it appears to have started in 2011. The screen capture below is taken from the Charity Commission website, and it tells us that in 5 years the income has rocketed from £53,728 to £1,570,327. (Private companies would love to see growth like that!)

click to enlarge

When we look more closely at the accounts for the year ended 30 June 2016 we see that the biggest source of income is the ‘Welsh’ Government with a gift of £300,000, up from £200,000 the year before.

But why does a “self-supporting” organisation require any public funding? Especially as we can see it’s not needed, for despite having an income of £1,570,237 it only spent £886,832, which leaves a profit balance of £683,405.

Does Wales have no better use for that £500,000?

Apart from the Emmaus presence in Bridgend the Charity Commission website offers dozens of options for Emmaus operations in every corner of England. Curious to see how much funding these English operations get I checked out a few.

I looked at Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol and Tyneside, four major English cities/conurbations, where the problems of homelessness must be far greater than in Bridgend and Porthcawl. What I found surprised me. Emmaus in these areas operates with a third or less of the annual income of Emmaus in Bridgend – and there’s no public funding at all!

Moving north of the border, the income for Emmaus in Glasgow, where the charity has two shops, a workshop and a warehouse, was only £572,264 in 2016. So why does the Bridgend operation get so much money?

Another telling fact is that Emmaus spends twice as much per ‘companion’ in Bridgend as it does in England. Is Emmaus in Bridgend providing luxury accommodation? Or paying £25 an hour? Is the Welsh operation just inefficient? Or is public money so easy to come by in Wales that it’s being squandered?

Finally, the Emmaus UK housing unit in Bridgend was built on land provided by Valleys to Coast Housing Association. So not only is Emmaus UK receiving Welsh public funding, it also looks as if it was gifted publicly-owned land.

I began this section by saying that Emmaus was new to me, despite being familiar with many organisations claiming to be helping the homeless in Wales. As I don’t know how many there are I have submitted a FoI to the ‘Welsh’ Government. They must know how many homelessness organisations they’re funding . . . surely?

P.S. I know there are different criteria for assessing homelessness, and those ‘threatened with homelessness’, though I don’t like that second category because – rather like ‘jobs secured’ (as opposed to ‘jobs created’) – it’s open to misuse. Even so, I went the StatsWales website and checked the figures for rough sleepers.

You’ll see that the most recent figure for Bridgend tells us that the estimated number (right hand column) of rough sleepers is 10, with nary a single emergency bed. Whereas in Ceredigion there are no less than 30 emergency beds for an estimated 6 rough sleepers.

I suggest both figures tell us a lot about what really goes on in the ‘Welsh’ homelessness racket.

UPDATE 13.11.2017 – PARTNERSHIP?

It’s become clear to me over the years that there is some kind of co-operation between the ‘Welsh’ Government – or rather, the civil servants who operate in its name – and the various Lottery funds. Emmaus South Wales provides another example.

If we go to the Companies House entry we find under the ‘Charges’ tab two listings, both concern ‘Land and buildings at Nant Lais, Heol y Nant, Bridgend’. I should explain that Charges usually means mortgages, loans, or other forms of indebtedness. If you see too many marked ‘Outstanding’ it can be a cause for concern.

On the Emmaus entry we find one charge with the number 0718 8459 0001 for a mortgage entered into between The Welsh Ministers, as the ‘Mortgagee’ and Emmaus South Wales as the ‘Mortgagor’. This agreement is dated 7 August 2015.

The other Charge, number 0718 8459 0002, is between Emmaus, the ‘Grant Holder’ and the Big Lottery Fund as ‘The Fund’. This is not a mortgage but a grant of £425,000. (See below.) So why is it treated as something other than a straight gift? Because it comes with certain conditions; for example, if Emmaus turns the building into a massage parlour, or flogs it off to some Russians looking for indoor growing facilities, then the grant is forfeit. This agreement is also dated 7 August 2015.

In a sense, they complement or cancel each other.

From the Big Lottery Fund website. Click to enlarge

Here’s a scenario. The ‘Welsh’ Government wants to give this property to Emmaus but fears some malcontent finding out and kicking up a fuss, so they contact the Big Lottery Fund – ‘Oh, look, we’ve got this very worthy cause looking for money to buy something from us, so we’d like you to oblige with a grant’.

Maybe it’s done some other way, but I am in no doubt that there is a well-used system for the various Lottery funds to give money to projects recommended by the ‘Welsh’ Government. The ‘worthy cause’ gets what it wants, the ‘Welsh’ Government can appear prudent with public money, while from the Lottery’s standpoint, if things go tits up, they can say, ‘Ah! but the Welsh Government recommended these people’.

Everybody’s back is covered. Everybody’s a winner!

Except perhaps those communities, and those projects, that aren’t so well connected. Those worthy causes that spend months or years building up support, preparing their bid, only to be beaten by insider dealing such as I’m suggesting in Bridgend. Which of course, just happens to be Carwyn Jones’s constituency.

And if I’m right, then in their very short time in Wales Emmaus has received over one million pounds thanks to the ‘Welsh’ Government.

THE PUBLICLY-FUNDED PRIVATE SECTOR

Another net importer of criminals, paedophiles and others, plus many homeless, is of course the private rented sector – just think Rhyl! – where we find the same ugly combination of self-interest and lack of concern for the consequences of pursuing that self-interest.

A recent news item re-awakened my interest in events in Pembrokeshire. On the evening of November 7 there was a disturbance at a block of flats in Meyrick Street, Pembroke Dock, and it was reported that armed police officers had attended. The flats are in the former Coronation School.

I got to wondering who owns these flats, and so I went to the Land Registry website where I was presented with what appeared to be a long list of individual titles, and although I didn’t count them I assumed it was one for each flat.

I chose two at random, Flat 10 and Flat 31, which was unnecessary because they both have the same title number CYM402081. Why so many different entries for the same title number? Was the intention to sell off the flats individually?

Both title documents say the building was bought by Cathal Eamonn McCosker for £200,000 with money that seems to have been borrowed from Barclays Bank. But others now having a claim on the property are Alexander and Rose Russell of Swindon and Pembrokeshire County Council.

It would appear that in order to meet his obligations Mr McCosker has tried to sell the building. First, at auction on Thursday 27 April 2017 with a guide price of £1.3m. This obviously failed because it was marked “withdrawn by agent”, and then put up for auction again on 08 June 2017 with the guide price now reduced to £975,000. But as we know from the Land Registry, it is still owned by Mr McCosker and his creditors.

With Cathal Eamonn McCosker we have one of the more intriguing stories to emerge from Pembrokeshire in recent times. Despite the widespread assumption that he’s Irish, on the Companies House website he describes himself as British, and gives an address in Oxford.

So what’s the story?

Basically, McCosker stands accused of receiving funding for projects in Pembroke Dock for work that was never done. This scam may have been conducted with the connivance of senior council officials and even a councillor or two. If they weren’t in on the scam then they’re now trying to draw a veil over the whole affair in the hope of saving face.

A number of people have followed the case over the years, including two councillor-bloggers. A good start would be with Councillor Jacob Williams’ Trumped-up charges – Part 4. While another excellent source is Councillor Mike Stoddart, and his Strange business.

I believe I’m right in saying that the Woodward and Bernstein of the Kremlin on the Cleddau actually unearthed the McCosker scandal.

McCosker has appeared on this blog after he cropped up a couple of years ago in a newspaper story about the vast amounts of money being paid in housing benefit to private landlords. I wrote about it in To Those That Have Shall Be Given – Housing Benefit!

McCosker was quoted as receiving £236,834 in housing benefits for his Pembrokeshire properties, with a further £35,248 paid through his E-Lettings company, which he used for the Coronation School flats. A local journalist tells me that this money was being paid into a bank account in the Irish Republic, which raises questions about taxation.

The Coronation School seems to target young people leaving care, many from ‘away’; vulnerable, mainly uneducated young people, many of them with ‘issues’. Conditions in the old school building are said to be primitive, which if true will of course qualify the tenants for social housing.

CONCLUSION

In an earlier post I referred to a system of human trafficking in Wales, a system run by selfish and unscrupulous individuals and organisations that brings into our country people needing expensive help or simply criminals and undesirables that no one else wants.

Which would be bad enough in itself, but we are paying for this. The public money of a poor country is being spent on problems that should not be ours. We are effectively paying to make our communities, like Lampeter and Pembroke Dock, less happy, less safe, and all done in order that Wales & West Housing can expand, or Cathal Eamonn McCosker can get even richer.

This system of bringing another country’s problems into Wales exposes a number of issues.

First, it tells us that we have a third sector that has become bloated due to over-feeding, and because of its size it now wields a malevolent influence on the ‘Welsh’ Government and the civil servants who actually run Wales. This influence damages other sectors that we should be encouraging . . . you know, things like real businesses, that might create real jobs, and increase Wales’ wealth . . . without wrecking Welsh communities

‘Nah, we don’t want none of that nasty prosperity round by ‘ere’.

But then there’s the issue of corruption in Welsh public life, at all levels. Who in their right mind believes it’s a good idea to give hundreds of thousands of pounds to Emmaus, a supposedly self-sufficient organisation?

And why is the investigation into the corruption centred on Cathal Eamonn McCosker stalled? Is it because too many people at both Pembrokeshire County Council and the ‘Welsh’ Government are involved? For the money used to enrich McCosker was EU funding, administered by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO).

While writing this I’ve been drawn to three recent posts about Carmarthenshire. The first, was by Siân Caiach, then there was the latest from Jacqui Thompson, and finally, another gem from my favourite blogger, Y Cneifiwr. They all prompt the same question – what other democracy would allow Mark Vincent James (OBE) to ruin so many lives and run Carmarthenshire County Council like a medieval barony?

It doesn’t have to be like this. But everything you see around you is part of the problem, and so can never be part of the solution. Radical change is needed. Wales will soon be offered the hope of change. Be ready!

♦ end ♦

 

Sep 192017
 

TWENTY YEARS ON

We are currently celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the referendum that gave us devolution. Ron Davies described it at the time as “a process not an event”, but little if any progress has been made.

In yesterday’s Llais y Sais Ron Davies was allowed to explain why he thinks devolution has failed to deliver, why it has not improved the lives of Welsh people. This seems to have been a print version of what he said the day before on radio (06:00) and television (15:26).

Llais y Sais allowed Carwyn Jones to respond, and his response was pathetic; hiding behind the shade of Rhodri Morgan and talking of increased powers rather than addressing the point raised by Ron Davies, which was that Wales is worse off today – in terms of wealth, health, education and other indices – than she was 20 years ago ergo devolution has failed to deliver. Few outside the Bay Bubble would disagree with Ron Davies.

But lurking in the shadows I perceive another threat, an existential threat to the continuing existence of Wales. A threat made easier to carry out because devolution has failed and because so many people in certain parts of Wales feel that devolution has delivered nothing for their area.

FERRY ‘CROSS THE MERSEY . . . AND MOVING TO BANGOR

Unlike Ireland and Scotland Wales does not have geography or topography on her side, we have a long border with England  and all but one of England’s major population centres are within two hours travelling time of Wales.

This plan for a ‘North Wales Metro’ rather gives the game away (click to enlarge)

Which made it relatively easy for Roman, Norman and English invaders to detach the more fertile, lowland areas from our control, largely confining our ancestors to the uplands. That Welsh nationhood survived was largely due to the fact that Wales had little else invaders coveted.

This helped preserve Welsh identity until the arrival of industrialisation, which impacted on areas that were overwhelmingly Welsh in character, and while the new-found prosperity naturally attracted immigrants these were largely assimilated. But time, an English education system, the resultant decline of the Welsh language, colonisation, tourism, lack of national leadership and other factors have taken their toll, to the point where plans are now being drawn up to finally do away with Wales altogether by dismembering our country.

Of course, these plans will never be called by their true name, they will always be presented as being ‘beneficial to Wales’.

Let’s start in the north east. The decline started with the arrival of the railways, and with them mass tourism. The Rhyl station of the Chester & Holyhead Railway Co opened on 1 May 1848. In the more industrial areas closer to the border Anglicisation took a different form with the importation of English workers and the banning of the Welsh language. Perhaps the most notorious example were the events that provoked the Mold Riots of 1869.

Despite it all, the north east remained Welsh, but it was inevitable that the factors I’ve mentioned eventually took their toll. The Flintshire of Daniel Owen, David Lloyd and Emlyn Williams is gone, replaced by what can often be mistaken for semi-rural suburbs of Merseyside.

Rhyl, the once-bustling holiday resort, is now a dumping ground for English criminals, with the town’s streets haunted by drug-addicts and their dealers. (The only plus would appear to be that the gangsters are killing each other quite regularly.) The same fate has befallen smaller communities on the north coast. And as this chaos wreaks havoc on Welsh communities Welsh politicians have done nothing.

So we arrive at the point where someone asks, ‘Oh dear, what can we do to ‘revitalise’ this region? I know! we’ll have closer cross-border co-operation.’ This was certainly the recommendation of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s City Regions Task and Finish Group’s Final Report, the group chaired by Elizabeth Haywood.

Who is Elizabeth Haywood? You don’t remember voting for this woman who wants to dismember Wales? Of course you never voted for her, nobody did; she’s Mrs Peter Hain, or Lady Hain, I suppose, since the Orange Man was ennobled. (You really should get all silly ideas about democracy and accountability out of your head, they’ll only confuse you in one-party Wales.)

The Mersey Dee Alliance to which Lady Hain refers is a body that has been in existence for some time, though it seems to have a strange idea of Welsh geography, or to go by this map that appeared on the MDA website it doesn’t accept the existence of Wales at all.

The prospect of our north east (or the whole north) being swallowed up by north west England would be bad enough, but as I explained last month in Gwynedd LDP, and Wider Considerations, the threat is not restricted to the old unitary authority of Clwyd.

Nor is this encroachment, this gradual takeover, confined to the north. If anyone was in any doubt about that, then statements made over the past few days should have made the threat very clear.

ENGLAND’S LITTLE MOUTHPIECE

One of the great conundrums of Welsh politics concerns the role of Secretary of State for Wales, and boils down to the question: ‘Is the Secretary of State for Wales the voice of Wales in the cabinet or the voice of the cabinet in Wales?’

Different Secretaries of State have provided different answers, but the current incumbent of that post, Alun Cairns MP, is most definitely – and perhaps more emphatically than any predecessor – the voice of the cabinet in Wales. Little more than a mouthpiece, but because he is a mouthpiece, we can more easily tell the plans of those who put the words into his mouth.

The thinking in London towards Wales now seems to come in two parts – gradually undo devolution and then dismember Wales.

On the first element of that dual-thrust approach I call to the witness stand Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales. The heading gives a clue to the content in “Brexit: Carwyn Jones objects to ‘hijack of devolved powers'”,  or “Ministers in London are trying to get the power to rewrite laws made in Wales – Carwyn Jones”, and a host of similar articles to be found on the internet.

Just about everyone outside of the Conservative and Unionist Party believes that Brexit will provide the excuse for Westminster to a) withhold powers repatriated from the EU, and b) ‘retrieve’ powers already devolved. While those inside the party know it but won’t openly admit it.

Even so, the clues come thick and fast. Alun Cairns was given a lot of space in Llais y Sais – with David Williamson serving as his amanuensis – to promote the idea of Cardiff detaching itself from Wales and linking up with Bristol in a Severnside region. (For some reason I can’t find the piece on the WalesOnline site.)

To ram home the message Llais y Sais chipped in with an editorial, one that went beyond Bristol to “the string of cities along the M4” which of course take us to London.

click to enlarge

I was so vexed by what I read, and incensed by the lies spouted by Cairns, that I took the unusual step of putting out a short post on my Facebook page.

On Monday morning Cairns maintained his assault on honesty with the claim that too much power is centralised in Cardiff . . . and this, remember, is the voice of the Conservative and Unionist Party that wants to centralise even more power in London!

Some might be tempted to agree with him, until they remember there’s little real power in Cardiff because Wales lacks an effective form of devolution. Of course, most people would agree that Cardiff gets more than its fair share of investment and jobs, and it was this resentment that Cairns hoped to tap into.

But let’s take him at his word. He says he wants to devolve power to the regions, he even talks of elected mayors. So would Wil Pughe of Llanfair Caereinion, like his counterparts in London and Manchester, have power over policing? Would Wil – as he has long desired – have control over local PCSO Cerys Evans?

Having one day advocated a Severnside region Cairns pushes on with a back-of-a-fag-packet suggestion masking a deeper message – ‘Devolution isn’t working for most of Wales. In fact, devolution isn’t working at all – let’s get rid of it.’

“Give power to the regions” is something trotted our regularly by the Tories, but it displays no real concern for the regions at all, it’s just a method of doing away with devolution and undermining our sense of nationhood.

DIVIDED, DISMEMBERED, DESTROYED

What of the areas left outside the shining megalopolis of ManPool and the ‘string of cities’ from Cardiff to London?

The remainder of the northern coastal strip along the A55, or those areas not being used to house drug addicts and criminals from over the border, or serving as geriatric ghettoes, will become commuter communities, even over the bridge onto Ynys Môn, as I found out by accident.

For when trawling the internet I often turn up things I wasn’t looking for, such as the map below, produced by Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners. They know that there are three Strategic Development Areas (or Strategic Planning Areas) for Wales, the two city regions and the A55 Corridor. I found a number of other references to the A55 Corridor: here’s one, here’s another.

All the sources tell us that these three SDAs/SPAs will be brought into existence by the Planning (Wales) Act 2015, which received Royal Assent on July 6.

click to enlarge

So why, two years on, are the chattering classes only talking of the two city regions? Is the A55 Corridor a dirty secret being proceeded with by stealth? Interestingly, one feature demanded by a SDA/SPA is joint Local Development Plans, which might explain why Gwynedd and Ynys Môn were recently required to produce one.

The area between the A55 Corridor and the urban south is to become one vast recreation and retirement area for England, offering everything from granny farms and zip wires to Cheshire-sur-Mer (Abersoch), the Birmingham Riviera (Cardigan Bay), and Bear Grylls parting suckers from their money with his ‘get-muddy-and-pretend-you’re-in-the-SAS!’ bollocks.

With assorted ‘Care’ bodies, probation companies and housing associations taking in England’s decrepit, dysfunction, delinquent and downright criminal. For housing ex-cons pays well.

The Valleys are to endure yet more managed decline, the Swansea region will be offered scraps from Cardiff’s table, while Cardiff itself expands and grows fat through exploiting its capital status but simultaneously playing the English provincial city, increasingly linked to Bristol and “the string of cities along the M4”.

Cardiff being a player in Severnside will be welcomed by those Cardiff politicians, such as Russell Goodway, who have always wanted Cardiff to enjoy all the benefits of being capital of Wales while looking down their noses at everything Welsh.

Result: Wales enfeebled, fragmented and exploited as never before. There can only be one outcome.

WHO CAN WE TRUST?

It should go without saying that we cannot trust an individual, or a political party, that has allowed this situation to develop.

Wales is being assaulted from all sides, yet Carwyn Jones may be motivated by loss of prestige rather than the loss of nationhood, or maybe it’s the thought of his party losing its vast network of patronage that moves him to stand alongside Nicola Sturgeon.

The Tories of course are driving this project and they’ll be supported by Ukip. As for the Lib Dems, well, who cares? Which leaves only Plaid Cymru.

Seeing as the destruction of Wales has little to do with Donald Trump, refugees, or trans-gender toilets, and is only tangentially connected with another of Plaid’s current obsessions, Brexit, it would be unrealistic to expect any opposition from Plaid Cymru.

In addition, Plaid Cymru is unsuited for the coming fight because, being a civic nationalist party that welcomes everyone (especially those with ‘ishoos’) – and by so doing supports the colonialist system that sees Wales exporting talent and importing problems – it is psychologically incapable of standing up in a struggle in which it will have to be said, ‘No, you’re not dumping any more of your problems in our country!’

And yet, one doesn’t even need to be a nationalist, or a believer in independence, to become involved in the forthcoming struggle. All that’s needed is the belief that Wales is a nation, with a defined and accepted territory, and that both must be respected.

But our enemies are gathering, they’ve laid their plans, they’ve even told us their plans, so we must resist.

Are you up for the coming fight?

♦ end ♦

Sep 062017
 

‘I can hear the rumblin’ river as it rushes underground’

Those of you familiar with 60s folk music will know that the title of this piece is shared with a great song by Tom Paxton, a song in which he articulated the growing anger he sensed among disparate elements in the 1960s USA.

For the halcyon days of the 1950s were over, gone with their jobs for all. In the inner cities and the Deep South black people were being influenced by Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jnr, and taking their destiny into their own hands. And as President Johnson sent more and more troops to south east Asia the anti-war movement grew in size and determination. America was in a ferment, from which it became impossible for anyone to insulate themselves, black or white, rich or poor, north, south, east or west.

Which probably explains why we saw an explosion of folk singers trying to articulate or capitalise on the zeitgeist. Though, musically, the 1960s was a difficult time for me; the golden era of early Rock was over, Buddy Holly was dead, and so was Eddie Cochran, while Little Richard seemed to alternate between searching for God and being searched for by the men in white coats. Fortunately, I had by then journeyed back to Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Country roots, with Folk providing another distraction from the horrors of the Beatles and the Beach Boys.

Though as I say, it wasn’t easy. For a start, I was in love with Joan Baez (and couldn’t figure out what she saw in that weird little git, ‘Dylan’). Then there was Judy Collins, and Joni Mitchell – it was great to be alive! The problem was of course that while I loved the music and the singers, I opposed the political sentiments expressed. For I supported the USA in Vietnam, Young Jac had bought into the Domino Theory.

But of all the folk singers of that era none had Tom Paxton’s range. People know his songs for children, such as Goin’ To The Zoo and The Marvellous Toy. Then there are his love songs, including the one everybody’s covered, Last Thing On My Mind, though my favourite remains My Lady’s A Wild Flying Dove.

Of course there are political songs, but even some of these are done with humour; Daily NewsWhat Did You Learn In School Today? Others songs are fun commentaries on life, a favourite of mine is Annie’s Going To Sing Her Song. It reminds me of the Swansea pubs of my youth, where there was always some old bird who’d insist on singing . . . whether anybody wanted to hear her or not. (Sophie Tucker renditions were particularly popular, I recall.)

Finally there are those Paxton songs about life, or death, that just make you think. Try I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound, and Jimmy Newman. The latter is a very strange song, but often held up as a musical companion to All Quiet on the Western Front.

‘I can hear a thousand voices making ready for a fight’

So why did I choose that particular Tom Paxton song? Because I sense a mood abroad, a growing belief that Wales is being screwed and we are being lied to. There seems to be an increasing realisation that politicians and their corrupt system – including devolution – have no answers, and may even be the cause of the problem. It almost goes without saying that we no longer trust the mainstream media or any representatives of traditional authority.

I have not known these sentiments to be so widely shared since the 1960s.

The one big difference today from the 1960s is of course that Plaid Cymru is not benefiting from this mood. Back then the national resurgence encouraged by Tryweryn, Aberfan and the Investiture resulted in an upsurge in support for Plaid Cymru, but this time around, after 50 years of Plaid Cymru failure, many have concluded that if not part of the problem, then Plaid certainly isn’t part of the solution either.

We are therefore in uncharted territory.

Another factor contributing to this strange combination of confusion and anger is that we are seeing attacks on the Welsh language from quarters that many had hitherto regarded as friendly, or certainly not hostile. From bastions of left-liberal orthodoxy such as the Guardian and Newsnight.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has proved to be another disappointment. He has certainly disappointed Welsh Remainers through his understanding that if Labour is not to become the unelectable party of the chattering classes and ethnic minorities it needs to reconnect with the English working class.

An English working class that is more aggressively and intolerantly English than at any time in living memory. A mood that has spilt over the border to encourage those among us of a BritNat or anti-Welsh mentality.

Wales needs a new voice, but where will that voice come from? And knowing that actions speak louder than words, how do we leave the enemies of Wales in no doubt about our refusal to accept the destruction of our country?

‘And I guess it’s up to me because we’ve given up on you’

The mood I’m describing runs from frustration in some to real anger in others. What unites them is a realisation that Wales is going nowhere with the current system, or with the existing political parties and politicians, except backwards.

Literally, for not only is the UK government trying to avoid devolving powers ‘repatriated’ from the EU but behind the scenes Englandandwales organisations are spreading their tentacles, making a mockery of devolution, and slowly but surely absorbing Wales into England.

Look around Wales today and everywhere our country is both less Welsh and poorer than it was when we voted for devolution 20 years ago. How did this happen, for devolution was supposed to serve the interests of the Welsh people?

It happened because the interests of the geographical area of Wales were allowed to become divorced from those of her people, to the point where politicians and other liars can argue that a policy or an initiative is ‘good for Wales’ yet closer examination reveals that it may indeed benefit somebody but that ‘somebody’ is rarely Welsh.

It’s called colonialism, and history is full of such examples. I bet that in the 1870s Indians on the Great Plains witnessing the destruction of their way of life were told, ‘But look at the money all these buffalo hides bring into the region . . . you ungrateful bastards’.

As I say, this outcome can only be achieved by divorcing a people from its territory, then insisting that the territory in question belongs to everybody, and that’s because it was terra incognita ere the arrival of the enlightened colonialist bringing ‘progress and prosperity’. (They invariably go together.)

In Wales this progress and prosperity will take many forms: managed decline, zip wires, new housing we can’t afford or don’t need, having England’s decrepit, dysfunctional and delinquent dumped on us, and seeing what were once Welsh universities engaged in a race to the bottom. All designed to increase the numbers of strangers in our country, make Wales less Welsh, and slowly assimilate Wales into England.

Any attempt to defend or promote Welshness against this ‘progress and prosperity’ will be decried as ‘racist’, even ‘backward-looking’. (Always amusing to hear this from the English Right and the London redtops.)

A slander made easier to lay by the position taken by Plaid Cymru. For the Party of Wales is more afraid of being labelled ‘racist’ by the Guardian than it is of its national executive being filmed in a drug-fuelled orgy with rent boys and under age girls in William Morgan’s old gaff.

And the rise of the Right across the Western world has made Plaid Cymru shy away even more from promoting Welsh interests. Which further emboldens our enemies.

So the system grinds on almost unchecked.

‘I’ve been listening to some people and one thing I understand’

Or it did until relatively recently.

But as I’ve suggested, there is a mood abroad; a mood that rejects much of what we have been asked to accept in devolved Wales. Not that there is anything anarchistic or nihilistic about this mood, it is simply a realisation and a rejection of the prevailing corruption.

A growing belief that Wales is dying before our eyes. Or, more truthfully, being killed off.

If you want to see this mood, then look at recent developments such YesCymru, consider the outcry against the Ring of Steel planned for Flint castle, and not just the responses to the recent attacks on the Welsh language from the GuardianNewsnight and elsewhere but where the responses came from.

The internet and social media are of course vital in encouraging this mood. I like to think that this blog plays its part. Fortunately I’m not alone, there are a number of good sites out there. One I’ve mentioned before is Nation.Cymru, which came up trumps again recently.

On the first of this month Dylan Iorwerth, a respected journalist, argued that immigration into Welsh-speaking areas must be halted. In other words he is calling for measures to stop English people moving into Wales. Of course this has been said before . . . and it has always provoked a violent reaction from within Wales and without.

Perhaps the most famous example would be the response to Gwynedd councillor Seimon Glyn’s call, back in 2001, to curb English immigration, for which he was pilloried in the English media. As a result, his party leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, was severely mauled over the issue on Question Time, by Glenys Kinnock.

Not long before, Plaid Cymru vice-president Gwilym ab Ioan was thrown off the party’s national executive for saying that Wales was being used as a dumping ground for England’s elderly, misfits and oddballs.

What I’ve found strange is that there has been no reaction from politicians or media to Dylan Iorwerth’s call to halt English immigration. Why might that be?

Could it be that it’s now generally accepted that there is massive and damaging immigration into the Fro Gymraeg? And if the phenomenon is undeniable then it’s best not to discuss it and stir things up further? Maybe others sense this mood I’m alluding to?

‘A great flood is a-rising fast and there’s a rumbling in the land’

If I’m right, then what’s the best way to capitalise on this mood?

For a start, I suggest that we stop fighting battles that have nothing to do with Wales, or else are beyond our power to influence. One example being those idiots who want President Trump to be impeached or removed by force. I call them idiots because achieving that objective would give the extreme Right the excuse to reject the democratic process altogether and take up arms. (And they have a hell of a lot more guns than their opponents.)

Such distractions are usually the result of ideology. Which is why there can be no place for ideology or dogma in the future struggle. Anyone trying to introduce ideology, or to promote issues external to Wales, must be dealt with, and dealt with ruthlessly. For such people are the enemies of Wales.

Equally dangerous are those who slink in the shadows, whispering, trying to get the more headstrong involved in violence. Also root them out and deal with them.

At this critical juncture Wales needs unity of purpose. As yet, we don’t need a new political party, but we do need a movement. This movement needs to coalesce from the disparate groups and individual voices found on social media and other forums.

We must promote what strengthens and advances Welsh identity, and combat everything that threatens it; all the while accepting that full independence is the only guarantee of the long term survival of Welsh national identity.

In the short term the agenda or strategy could be reduced to a simple Good / Bad list. That which is good for Wales is supported, that which is bad for Wales is opposed.

But if an issue is needed, where widespread support could surely be guaranteed, it would be a campaign to reform how housing operates in Wales. To take planning matters away from the Planning Inspectorate, to reduce the input from Wimpey, Redrow and the rest, to ensure local allocations in social housing, to demand local markets – such as operate on the Channel Islands – reserving most properties for locals.

Or to put it simply: a housing sector serving Welsh needs and interests.

If we cannot get together, sinking our various differences, to agree on a housing campaign such as that, then I’ve misjudged things completely, and there is no mood for radical change.

That’s my contribution. I now suggest that those reading this Think It Over (That’s Buddy Holly, not Tom Paxton.)

P.S. I am not putting myself forward for any role in any movement, my days of activism are long past.

♦ end ♦

Aug 312017
 

REFRESHER

In my previous post I wrote of Cymdeithas Gofal / Ceredigion Care Society, and its sister-outfit to the south, the Pembrokeshire Care Society, but I focused more on The Wallich. All three are involved in the homelessness business and are funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government and local authorities.

Due to something niggling away inside the old Jac cranium, which prompted me to make more enquiries, I am returning to Cymdeithas Gofal.

CYMDEITHAS GOFAL WHO’S WHO

The homelessness that keeps Cymdeithas Gofal in business tends to be a consequence of behavioural and other issues like drug addiction and alcohol abuse, psychiatric problems, recently leaving prison, etc.

And yet, when I looked at the directors of the company Cymdeithas Gofal and the trustees of the charity (the same as the company’s directors apart from one), I was struck by the fact that despite catering for people with problems requiring treatment, counselling and other help, I could see no one among the director-trustees with a medical – let alone a psychiatric – background, or any experience in probation or social work. In short, none of them seemed qualified to be dealing with the people they claimed to be ‘helping’.

So who are these director-trustees, and what expertise do they bring to Cymdeithas Gofal?

The first name we encounter is Guy Hamilton Evans, of whom more later.

Which means we’ll start with the second name on the Companies House list of directors, Brian Craig Forbes. He is the managing director of Crystal Catering Equipment Ltd, an Aberystwyth company supplying various establishments with glassware.

The next name is Robert John Gray, listed as an accountant and a director at Francis Gray Ltd of Aberystwyth. (Formerly Francis, Jones & Davies.) Gray is also a director of Constitution Hill Ltd, the company running the cliff railway. We also see him associated with CGC Trading Ltd, of which more anon.

Next up is Anthony Philip Hearn. His other interest seems to be Circle Square Star Ltd, based in Cardiff. Though I doubt if this is his day job.

The only woman serving as a director is Susan Jane Jones-Davies. A Plaid Cymru town councillor, former mayor, and Judith Iscariot in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. She is also involved with Menter Aberystwyth.

Now we come to Tony Kitchen, also listed as an accountant, but with no other directorships.

Within a year of moving to Wales he’s a trustee of Cymdeithas Gofal. Amazing!

Next is Mark Anthony Strong, a librarian at the National Library and the Plaid Cymru county councillor for Aberystwyth North. (Though this bio insists on calling it ‘The Party of Wales’.) Strong too is a director of CGC Trading Ltd and Menter Aberystwyth. More surprisingly, he is also a director of the cliff railway company, Constitution Hill Ltd.

One who joined the board on May 10 this year, at the same time as Judith Iscariot, was Charles Alexander Symons, who is a director of Thin Place Productions, along with a Jamie Walker. (They were also involved in a now-dissolved company called Insukit Ltd.) Thin Place Productions is in the movie business, but little seems to be moving at the moment as the company is dormant. The address given for TPP is c/o Francis Gray, where of course we encountered Robert John Gray above. Again, day job unknown.

Is it me, or is this beginning to sound rather incestuous?

Bringing up the rear, understandably, we have the other new arrival in the form of Richard Graham Wells. Now I’m all in favour of experience, but still rather surprised that Cymdeithas Gofal should recruit a 77-year-old as a new director. He seems to be retired and all I could find about him is that he’s recently had a run-in with the county council.

So while the business community of Aberystwyth seems well represented – especially accountants – there is no one among the directors who seems in any way qualified to deal with the people Cymdeithas Gofal traffics, people with alcohol and substance abuse issues, criminal behaviour, psychiatric disorders and other complex needs.

THE MAN OF THE WOODS

Now let’s turn to the man who seems to be running the show, Guy Hamilton Evans, the chief executive and the only one of the directors who does not also serve as a trustee. What does Evans bring to the party?

In a word – wood. For when left to his own devices he’s a director of Tir Coed, which might ring a bell, for I wrote about them a year ago in Grant-grabbers, How They Are Related. I urge you to read that article to understand what sort of people we are dealing with. Tir Coed is also a charity.

Tir Coed has a linked social enterprise outfit called Wisewoods Wales. The three other directors – John Wildig, Basil Keith Blacker and Robert Shaw – are also directors of Tir Coed. All belong to that milieu of grant-grabbing Greens that infest our rural areas and wonders how we managed without them telling us how to look after our country.

Then there’s Kick The Bar Brewery (formerly Guy Hamilton Ltd) where Evans’ partner is Robert Lewis Bates. A dormant company.

The other company of which Evans is a director is CGC Trading Ltd, mentioned above. If we look at the capture from Evans’ Linkedin profile we see highlighted “I have orchestrated the growth of the charity including establishing a trading subsidiary”. This of course is CGC Trading. (Cymdeithas Gofal Ceredigion?)

Though as the latest group accounts (foot of page 3) tell us, “The subsidiary reported a trading loss for the year of £24,879 (2015: £12,784).” Evans’ ‘orchestration’ seems to have hit a bum note.

But the question many of you must be asking is, ‘How and why did this man of the woods get involved with Cymdeithas Gofal, which I described in my previous post as a human trafficking organisation?’ The answer lies in the post from last year I referred you to earlier.

BIRMINGHAM TAKES BUT ELAN GIVES . . . TO CYMDEITHAS GOFAL

What I was writing about then was a scheme called ‘Elan Gives Back’, run by Natural Resources Wales and Dŵr Cymru, to “reconnect the people of Birmingham with their water source”, because of course the dam was built by the old Birmingham Corporation.

The whole premiss was insane, seeing as the land for the reservoirs had been stolen by Birmingham. It should have been Birmingham ‘giving back’ not us. But then, this is the upside down world of colonialism.

The outfit doing the ‘reconnecting’ was Tir Coed, which sent emissaries to Birmingham to meet various bodies and to find individuals worthy of enjoying “weekend retreats and bespoke activities in the Elan Valley”. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you what sort of people Tir Coed was looking for.

It’s spelled out on Tir Coed’s Charity Commission webpage.

So through the ‘Elan Gives Back’ scheme, and regular visits to Birmingham, Tir Coed – in the dapper form of Guy Hamilton Evans – built up links that could provide a regular supply of clients for Cymdeithas Gofal. Didn’t that work out well, boys and girls?

In fact, seeing as Evans became a director of Cymdeithas Gofal back in May 2011, he was using Tir Coed and the ‘Elan Gives Back’ scheme last year to recruit criminals, drug addicts and young tearaways for Cymdeithas Gofal. I wonder how Natural Resources Wales and Dŵr Cymru feel about their project being used in that way, and what about the bodies that funded the project?

TIR COED AS SNAKE OIL

This may be a good point at which to visit the Tir Coed website.

Perhaps the first thing of note is that under Our Partners we see Cymdeithas Gofal listed. Which is odd when you think about it, and look at the other Partners.

Unintentionally revealing is the Tir Coed Theory of Change which manages the near-impossible in being both laughable and insulting. Listed among the ‘Issues’ (ishoos) leading to the ‘Consequences’ of ‘Low self-esteem’ and ‘Anger and violence’, which in turn feed into the ‘Possible Outcomes’ of ‘Criminal activity’ and ‘Substance misuse’, we find ‘Rural location’.

‘Tir Coed cures all known ills’ (click to enlarge)

As I say, this is very revealing, because people born and bred in the countryside and small rural towns are less likely to follow those courses than people born in towns and cities. However, people from large towns and cities who have been trafficked into rural areas will certainly be more likely to suffer these problems – but they will have brought the problems with them! Talk about self-justifying bollocks.

It can only be a matter of time before erectile dysfunction is added to the Tir Coed Theory of Change and sales of Viagra and Cialis plummet.

BRITISH, BRITISHER, BRITISHEST

Fundamentally, you have to ask how an organisation like Cymdeithas Gofal can carry on a business that is so obviously damaging to Wales. Perhaps the answers can be found by looking again at Evans’ co-directors. The panel below shows the directors’ details taken from the Companies House website.

click to enlarge

Of the nine, just two appear to be Welsh. Evans himself, and Judith Iscariot. Which means that of nine directors of a Welsh company, just two are in fact Welsh.

What I also find worrying is that, despite Companies House offering directors the option to give their nationality as Welsh, even Evans and Jones-Davies are described as ‘British’, as is Strong, the other Plaid Cymru councillor. Only two have ‘Wales’ as part of their address, for the rest it’s ‘Aberystwyth, United Kingdom’ and ‘Borth, Great Britain’.

So stridently British does Cymdeithas Gofal appear, despite the Plaid Cymru connections, that it could be the local branch of Ukip.

Although I said that Guy Hamilton Evans is Welsh, and he certainly attended Aberaeron Comprehensive, it’s suggested that despite the name he might not be Welsh. As for Sue Jones-Davies, she only came aboard in May this year, perhaps representing the town council, Menter Aberystwyth, or just recruited to give a little Welsh flavour to this overwhelmingly English organisation.

TAKING WORK HOME

We’ve noted the absence of relative expertise among the directors, so what of those running the show day to day, do they provide it?

According to the website, the senior management team is composed of head honcho Guy Hamilton Evans plus Richard Lucas, Jeremy Brown and Amanda Gwalchmai. Lucas and Brown are both English as, I suspect, and despite the name, is Gwalchmai.

Ms Gwalchmai’s interest in property management doesn’t end when she leaves Cymdeithas Gofal Tower in downtown Aberystwyth, for with her partner, Luke John Veasey, she runs L&A Real Estates Ltd, a letting agency. In addition, both are directors of building company LJV Construction Ltd.

So no obvious medical qualifications, social work experience, background in probation services, etc., to be found among the senior management either.

THE RENTIER CLASS

I now know enough about Cymdeithas Gofal to know that, yes, it does as it claims on its Charity Commission entry, in that it helps those threatened with homelessness. What it won’t tell us – for obvious reasons – is that most of these it helps have been brought into Ceredigion through links with English charities and agencies and are likely to be both a burden on health and social services and disruptive to Welsh communities.

We know that some of those links were established by Tir Coed through the ‘Elan Gives Back’ nonsense, which was yet another insulting waste of Welsh public funding. Tir Coed, remember, run by Cymdeithas Gofal’s chief executive Guy Hamilton Evans.

I think we have found enough connections and extra-curricular activities to warrant serious questions being asked about the real purpose of Cymdeithas Gofal. Given the interconnectedness we have found, we might start with, what is being withheld in “related party disclosures”? (See capture from the accounts, below.)

It might help evaluate this decision if Cymdeithas Gofal was more specific and quoted the section of the Financial Reporting Council guidance it’s using to justify withholding information.

Is this refusal to disclose “related party transactions with wholly owned subsidiaries” a reference to the Estates and Lettings agency run by Cymdeithas Gofal? If so, what would it have to hide?

A cynic might suggest that Cymdeithas Gofal exists in order to benefit none but the rentier class of Ceredigion. For not only does Cymdeithas Gofal ensure a steady supply of tenants for private landlords, those it brings in carry premium payments.

Because of course any private landlord will demand a lot more money to house ex-cons, drug addicts, etc., and why not, when he or she knows the money is readily available from probation companies, charities and other agencies, and of course from our very own ‘Welsh’ Government.

WALES GETS POORER BUT THE THIRD SECTOR GROWS. IS THERE A CONNECTION?

Cymdeithas Gofal is a perfect example of the Third Sector we’ve seen grow at an alarming rate since the advent of devolution. A Third Sector that soaks up a vast chunk of the Welsh budget every year, and yet, when looked at closely, seems to be largely irrelevant to the needs of the indigenes.

The time has surely come to start asking the difficult questions about Cymdeithas Gofal, such as:

  • How many of Cymdeithas Gofal’s clients were living in Wales a year before first being ‘helped’ by the Society?
  • How many directors or staff of Cymdeithas Gofal benefit – other than through salaries and other authorised payments – from the work done by the Society?
  • How many third parties providing accommodation or other services for Cymdeithas Gofal enjoy close links with directors or staff of the Society?
  • Might there not be a conflict between Cymdeithas Gofal being both a charity helping the homeless and others while simultaneously acting as a commercial lettings agency? Shouldn’t the two roles be split?
  • Seeing as Cymdeithas Gofal works with those having substance or alcohol abuse problems, people prone to disruptive – often violent – behaviour, others recently released from prison, where does the necessary expertise come from, for there seems to none among the senior management, trustees or directors?
  • Why are so few Welsh people involved with Cymdeithas Gofal?
  • Why can the ‘Welsh’ Government, local authorities and other bodies, find no better use for hundreds of millions of pounds every year than taking on problems that should be nothing to do with Wales?
  • Apart from those directly involved, and the local rentier class, who in Wales benefits from the activities of Cymdeithas Gofal, the Pembrokeshire Care Society, and their counterpart organisations across the land?

♦ end ♦

UPDATE 01.09.2017: Word on the street is that a ‘merger’ is being lined up between Cymdeithas Gofal and Tai Ceredigion. Any further information anyone might want to send me will be used in strictest confidence.

Jun 182017
 

WHAT WE HAVE ALREADY ESTABLISHED

If you haven’t yet read ‘Baywatch’, my earlier post on this subject, then I suggest you do.

In that first post we established that Mark Vincent James, Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, is in partnership with Stephen James Corner and Warwick Estates Property Management Ltd, (said to be Corner by another name), in three companies, Century Wharf (One) RTM Company LtdCentury Wharf (Two) RTM Company Ltd and Century Wharf (Three) RTM Company Ltd.

Century Wharf

RTM means ‘Right to Manage’, a vehicle by which those owning or leasing apartments in a block may exercise some control over the running of that block. An RTM is a company limited by guarantee having no share capital and with each member usually being liable to a nominal sum such as £1 in the event of it all going belly-up.

That there are three Century Wharf RTMs suggests that each represents a different block on Century Wharf, which covers a considerable area on the east bank of the River Taff, to the north of Clarence Road, the A4119.

It’s worth considering the timeline for these three companies. All were Incorporated 18 October 2012, with Steven James Corner as a founding director, but he resigned from all three on 21 December 2012. He re-joined all three on 27 November 2014, as did Stephen John Kass. James also joined (One) and (Three) on that day, but for some reason he’d joined (Two) five months earlier, on 27 June 2015.

Despite being involved with all three RTMs I have only found one lease in Century Wharf held by James, this being 186 Hansen Court. Which makes it reasonable to conclude that either he has other properties in Century Wharf that we don’t yet know about, or that he’s involved with the RTMs in a ‘professional’ capacity, a possibility I’ll discuss later.

In addition, we know that James owns the leases on two properties near to where the A4232 lands on the west side of the Bay. These are 6 Davaar House and 9 Davaar House. As we learn from White Pages (see below), Patrycja (D) Nowak, the young Polish woman I wrote about in Baywatch, has lived at both 9 Davaar House and 186 Hansen Court.

Ms Nowak living in two different properties leased by Mark Vincent James, Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, was obviously a perfectly proper landlord-tenant relationship, and this blog will not stoop to suggest otherwise.

Ms Nowak, you may recall, is said to be the woman who fell from a seventh-floor flat at Century Wharf. Knowing that Ms Nowak has lived at two addresses leased by Mark Vincent James it’s not unreasonable to assume that her fall might have occurred at another property owned or leased by him.

It’s worth adding that the relationship between James and Corner seems to be strengthening. For in March they formed a company, Building and Estate Solutions Today Ltd, the only other director being a Mark Philip Carter, who seems to be based in Brighton.

THE RACKET EXPLAINED FURTHER

Quite obviously, Mark Vincent James doesn’t live in any of the properties he leases in the Bay; he lives, with his devoted and pious wife, in Carmarthen. Which means that the properties in Cardiff Bay are investments, intended to swell the James family fortune beyond even that which Carmarthenshire Council Council and assorted lawyers have thus far achieved.

Which takes us to the heart of the issue, and why so many of James’s neighbours in Cardiff Bay are unhappy with his behaviour, and the company he keeps. It’s because many of those living in the buildings we’ve discussed are permanent residents, and they bought their properties in order to live in them. A number of these permanent residents are retired and elderly.

While on the other hand, we have those, like Mark Vincent James, who own or lease properties in the Bay as investments. And because they’re investments, it follows that their owners wish to maximise the return on those investments.

Some two-bed flats on Century Wharf and elsewhere in the Bay are currently advertised for rent for as little as £650 pcm, which will cover the mortgage and provide a regular income for the holder of the lease. However, much more can be made by renting out flats for short stays.

Because the real money is to be made from holidaymakers, weekend visitors, business visitors, those attending conferences, sporting events, and others in Cardiff for short periods who prefer self-catering accommodation to hotels. Equally clearly, and especially when these short-stay visitors are stag and hen parties, there will be disruption for the permanent residents.

As we read in ‘Baywatch’, one of the companies involved in the rental business in Cardiff Bay is Squarefoot Estate Agents, a company owned by Michael James Corner through another of his companies, Imaginative Property Group Ltd. Squarefoot (or Square Foot, as it’s known to Companies House), also sells properties in Cardiff Bay.

Another company involved in the Cardiff Bay letting business is A Space In The City, and Companies House tells us that Corner is again a director. In fact, this new company, Incorporated as recently as 1 December 2016, is now wholly owned by Corner’s Imaginative Property Group Ltd.

And as we’ve seen, Corner is also the man running the three Century Wharf RTMs. This is achieved by him controlling, by various means, the leases, or the votes of leaseholders, for 80 – 90 properties on Century Wharf. So with anything between 80 and 140 attending the AGM it’s clear that his block vote will trump the individual leaseholders unless there’s a very good turnout and they’re united.

This is further helped by Mark Vincent James serving as chairman at these AGMs, and refusing to allow questions that might embarrass him or his partner(s), while also ensuring that ‘troublemakers’ are not allowed to participate. If this sounds familiar, then of course it’s how James has run Carmarthenshire County Council for too long.

Through A Space in the City, Squarefoot Estate Agents, Warwick Estates and other companies Stephen James Corner controls the leases of many properties in Cardiff Bay. These properties are run to maximise profit and by so doing make life miserable for others, including many retired people. His front man now appears to be Mark Vincent James.

The irony, or tragedy, here is that the three RTMs were set up originally by residents in order to free themselves from one exploitive agent in the form of Peverel OM, the company mentioned in this Guardian article. Instead, they eventually fell into the clutches of Corner, Kass and James. Talk about frying pan and fire!

The deeper problem might be that too many flats have been built in Cardiff Bay. If not too many, then no attempt made to separate those wanting a quiet life and those prepared to rent out their investments to stag parties. When rules and agreements do exist to limit the uses to which these flats can be put, Corner and others like him seem able to waltz around them.

WILL HE RETAIN HIS CROWN?

Mark Vincent James is in business with a man, Steven James Corner, who set up a company, Imaginative Property Group Ltd, with a woman, Barbara Kahan, who is accused by the The Sunday Times and others of allowing her name to be used in setting up UK companies that are used by criminals to launder money.

The address now given for the Imaginative Property Group is 98 Davaar House, a building where Mark Vincent James leases two flats. Given Corner’s link with Kahan, and James’s business links with Corner, we’re entitled to ask:

Is Mark Vincent James, Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, the man who wants to make a blogger homeless, Private Eye Shit of the Year 2016, now linked with property companies that might be laundering money for criminals?

click to enlarge

What we know for certain is that Mark Vincent James is involved with companies riding roughshod over residents in certain blocks of flats in Cardiff Bay. Various permissions and lease conditions are breached for the personal benefit of Steven James Corner, Mark Vincent James and Stephen John Kass. These three now control the Right to Manage companies that were set up to defend permanent residents from people like them.

I think the time has come for Mark Vincent James to make a clean breast of his activities in Cardiff Bay. How many properties does he own or lease? Before becoming a director, and then chair, of the RTMs, did James declare to other leaseholders – as he was required to – his pecuniary interest (of which others only became aware when they realised his relationship with Corner and Kass)?

Should the public be concerned that a man embroiled in a shady and little known sector of the property jungle is also the chief executive of a Welsh local authority? Has he declared his property dealings in Cardiff Bay to his employer, Carmarthenshire County Council? (Though seeing as he is chief executive, and controls everything on the council, to whom would he declare it?)

And what is the ‘Welsh’ Government’s view of Mark Vincent James’s dealings in the Cardiff Bay property market, and the disreputable company he keeps? Shouldn’t this be a matter for concern?

The ‘Welsh’ Government might also care to question whether any dealings it has had with Mark Vincent James, or any advice it might have accepted from him, could have profited James and those he is involved with in the Cardiff Bay property racket.

HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL . . .

In an attempt to establish the propriety of Mark Vincent James’s excursion into one of the more opaque areas of the property business I have written to the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales. The current holder of that post is Nick Bennett, a former CEO of Community Housing Cymru, and an ‘insider’ to the tips of his shapely and well-manicured fingertips.

I don’t expect Bennett to tell me that James has done anything wrong (even if he has), because one thing that has become clear in recent years is that in the eyes of the ‘Welsh’ Government and others Mark Vincent James is a man without fault. Telling me that either he has his own flock of guardian angels or else he knows where a lot of bodies are buried.

But anyway, I’ll go through the motions. Here’s a copy of my letter to Bennett.

♦ end ♦

May 312017
 

MERGERS AND GROWTH

One of the ways I combat ennui (and hangovers) is by visiting websites such as Companies House and seeing what I can turn up, because it’s possible to search for an individual’s name as well as a company name. For example, is Carwyn Jones a director of the Come And Get It, Big Boy! massage parlour in Nantyffyllon? (Of course not, how could you think such a thing! Ach y fi!)

This is what I was doing when one thing led to another and I turned up something rather interesting, or disturbing, possibly both. Let me explain.

As you may know, Coleg y Drindod/Trinity College in Carmarthen merged a few years ago with Swansea Metropolitan University and St David’s College Lampeter to give us (deep breath), University of Wales Trinity St David. Among its developments is a £300m new campus in SA1, on the city side of Swansea University’s new Bay Campus. This is an area where Jac and his mates, long, long ago, used to dodge the docks police to go fishing. I got to wondering who was running the show.

UWTSD’s new waterfront campus in Swansea

The UWTSD itself has a Royal Charter, which means there are no details available on the Companies House website. However, there is information available for Trinity University College, and there, among the directors, we find Mark Vincent James, ‘Local Government Chief Executive’. I experienced a ‘Eureka!’ moment, for I had searched the CH website for the Carmarthenshire CEO before, but had drawn a blank because there are so many Mark Jameses out there. But now, armed with the ‘Vincent’, where might it take me?

If you type ‘Mark Vincent James’ into the Companies House website search, you come up with two appointments; one, as we’ve seen, is Trinity University College, but the other is Building and Estate Solutions Today Ltd. The other directors of this company being Mark Philip Carter and Steven James Corner. The address given for the company and the three directors is, 4 Regents Canal House, 626 Commercial Road, London, England, E14 7HS, a nondescript commercial building in Limehouse.

I could find no other Welsh link for Carter, whose business activities seem to focus on Brighton, but Corner threw up some very interesting revelations.

CORNERING A MARKET

Among the companies of which Steven James Corner is a director are: Century Wharf (One) RTM Company Ltd, Century Wharf (Two) RTM Company Ltd, and Century Wharf (Three) RTM Company Ltd. RTM means Right to Manage, a system that allows leaseholders to organise themselves and run, for example, their block of flats. Explained here. The companies’ numbers probably refer to different blocks, but all at Century Wharf in Cardiff Bay.

If we rummage through the other directors of these RTM companies we see a ‘Mark James’, sans Vincent, with the ‘Occupation’ box left blank, and an address in Essex. But, believe me, this is Mark Vincent James, Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council. For one thing, the date of birth is the same as on the entry for Trinity University College, June 1959. And of course, we have already established the connection with Steven James Corner through Building and Estate Solutions Today Ltd.

Century Wharf

Having established a double connection between Corner and James I began to think a little more about Corner and wonder what else he might be up to. So I went through the list of companies with which he’s linked. One is Regents Canal House Ltd, which explains why Building and Estate Solutions Today Ltd is registered there.

Another company with which Corner has been linked since it was set up in September 2003 is Property Matters (Britain) Ltd, which is also registered at Regents Canal House. Among the more recent additions to the board of this company we find a Michal Swiatek, who is Polish, and 37 years of age. Here’s his Linkedin profile.

Mr Swiatek can also be found at the Squarefoot estate agents, which has an office in the Bay, and also one on 198 Cowbridge Road East. Although called Squarefoot, it’s registered with Companies House as Square Foot Estate Agents Ltd, using the Cowbridge Road East address. Among the directors we find a ‘Steve Corner’, who is of course, Steven James Corner, though the address given for him is in Brighton.

Another Polish connection with Squarefoot/Square Foot is the website. For if you scroll down to the bottom of the home page and click on ‘Site by: Orth Multimedia‘ you are wafted through the ether to 4-200 Rybnik ul. Wodzisławska 112 tel. 660 091 847.

Let us return to Property Matters (Britain) Ltd, for now things begin to get a little disturbing.

YIDDISHE MAMA

This Confirmation Statement, from the Companies House website, dated 15 February 2017, and shown below, tells us that Property Matters (Britain) Ltd has two shareholders, each with 100 shares. They are, Michal Swiatek and Imaginative Property Group Ltd. The next and obvious question – what is the Imaginative Property Group Ltd?

The answer is that the Imaginative Property Group Ltd was Incorporated 10 June 2013, with the Registered Office Address given as 98 Davaar House Ferry Court, Prospect Place, Cardiff, Wales, CF11 0LB. Again, in Cardiff Bay. The real surprise comes when we look at the directors for while, predictably, we find Steven James Corner, we also find Barbara Kahan. So who is she?

Barbara Kahan is listed as an appointee against no fewer than 22,576 companies according to Companies House, and 25,802 according to the Times. ‘How can that be?’ you ask. I asked myself the same question as I Googled ‘Barbara Kahan’. What I came up with is very worrying. For this 85-year-old woman is said to allow her name and status as a UK citizen be used by Israeli crooks.

Here’s a link to the Times report (paywall, unfortunately), and here are the details on the FinanceFeeds website, both from December.

There isn’t even the defence that Imaginative Property Group was an off-the-shelf company, lying dormant for a while until Corner came along. For the Companies House website makes it clear that Corner and Kahan were both appointed on the day of the company’s Incorporation, 10 June 2013. Kahan immediately stood down leaving Corner as the sole director and shareholder.

It should also be pointed out that the original name of the company was Scorn Properties Group Ltd, based at Regents Canal House, before the name was officially changed, 11.10.2013, and the address changed to the current Cardiff location, 06.06.2016.

Which means that the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council is in business with a man, Steven James Corner, who can be linked to a woman, Barbara Kahan, who is accused of acting as a front for Israeli crooks!

MAN ABOUT THE BAY

Once I knew what I’ve just told you, I began to wonder exactly what James and Corner might be up to, so I asked around, made enquiries with contacts in Cardiff. Here’s what I’ve been told.

It was obvious that they’re involved in property in Cardiff Bay. Given the names of three of the companies it was also reasonable to assume that Century Wharf is involved somehow, and so it is, for I’m told that Mark James owns a property there.

My feedback also suggests that James owns property in Prospect Place, which is where the Imaginative Property Group Ltd is based, in a seventh-floor flat with a 125-year lease in the name of the company.

A name we find listed with Prospect Place Management (Cardiff) Ltd is Warwick Estate Property Management Ltd, which seems to be concerned with management and maintenance of buildings of multiple occupation, for we also find it with the three Century Wharf RTMs.

Perhaps the most perplexing thing I discovered about Corner was his foray into soft furnishings. For he served as a director of Curtain Gallery (Wales) Ltd, a company formed by a Kathleen Bowen, who seems to live in Gorseinon, but had her shop across the mighty Llwchwr in Llanelli. I use the past tense because the company was struck off in December 2016.

Corner was appointed as a director on 20 May 2015 – but why? Is he an expert on curtains and cushions? But of course, by May 2015 he was in business with Mark Vincent James, and the shop was in Carmarthenshire, so maybe James asked him to get involved. If so, why?

Answers on a postcard, please, to . . . .

But enough of dusty documents, let us focus for a while on human beings.

FULL OF EASTERN PROMISE?

Among the snippets of information that winged their way to Château Jac was one telling of a connection that made no immediate sense. For someone believes that a young Polish woman is working as a manager of properties with which James and Corner are involved, and she may be living in one of these properties herself.

The name I was given is Patrycja Nowak who, my informant added, is connected with the Wales International Academy of Voice (WIAV), which is a constituent part of the University of Wales Trinity St David. And indeed, we find her on the ‘Staff’ page. (Since removed, but fortunately I screen captured it, and you can read it below.) As you might expect, I began to wonder about Ms Nowak, so I started Googling.

As far as I can see there is just one Patrycja Nowak living in Cardiff. Another source linked Ms Nowak with an incident in which a woman had fallen from the seventh floor of a block of flats in Hansen Court. By pure coincidence, Mark Vincent James owns a property at Hansen Court, which is on Century Wharf, though he appears to have bought it last year.

Further enquiries suggested that Ms Nowak might also be known as Patrycja D Nowak.

I say that because White Pages gives us two recent addresses in the Bay for a Patrycja D Nowak. One is in Davaar House, which you’ll remember is where the Imaginative Property Group Ltd is based, that company set up with the busy old lady, Barbara Kahan. While Hansen Court is of course where we have established Mark James owns a property, and where a 23-year-old woman fell(?) from a balcony four years ago.

I think it’s reasonable to assume that this Patrycja D Nowak is the same woman as the Patrycja Nowak who worked at the Wales International Academy of Voice. And if they are one and the same, then the 192 site suggests that she may now have moved to Brighton.

Which is entirely plausible, given that Brighton addresses have cropped up time and again in this enquiry, Steven James Corner himself has given Brighton addresses, and ere it slipped down the back of the sofa forever even the Llanelli soft furnishings business had a Brighton address.

Steven James Corner’s Companies House entry for Curtain Gallery (Wales) Ltd

UPDATE 01.06.2017: Thanks to a source I now have Land Registry documents for two more properties leased by Mark Vincent James in Cardiff Bay. They are 6 Davaar House and 9 Davaar House, the latter address being where Ms Nowak lives, or lived. And the same building in which we find the Imaginative Property Group Ltd, formed by Steven James Corner and Barbara Kahan. This gives us three properties in Cardiff Bay leased by Mark Vincent James. Are there more?

Also note the involvement, on both title documents, of Prospect Place Management (Cardiff) Ltd of, Unit 9, Astra Centre, Edinburgh Way, Harlow, Essex, England, CM20 2BN. The Astra Centre again, where the three Century Wharf RTMs are registered. Though I’m surprised not to see Steven James Corner listed among the directors. Though another familiar name is there, Warwick Estates Property Management Ltd.

SO WHAT HAVE WE LEARNT?

To begin with, we now know that the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council is branching out into the property business in Cardiff Bay, and he’s doing so in partnership with a man who has done business with a very questionable individual who may be laundering money for gangsters and terrorists.

Then there’s the Polish connections, are they entirely coincidental?

If Mark James owns or leases properties in the Bay then some might suppose that he expects Corner et al to help him maximise the income from his properties. If so, then in return maybe Corner would expect James to use his undoubted influence for the benefit of his new friends and business partners.

One suggestion is that Corner and others have ambitions to take over the lucrative contracts for cleaning, maintaining and repairing buildings in the Bay . . . whether the residents want them to or not. A clue may be found in another company, formed in February, Housekeeping and Cleaning (UK) Ltd. Corner’s partner in this new Cardiff-based venture is Richard James Godfrey, who seems to specialise in modern Mrs Moppery.

Whatever lies behind the connection between Mark Vincent James and Steven James Corner and his associates, a council chief executive teaming up with property dealers concerns me, and should be of concern to others.

Something else I find truly odd – given what we hear about networks and grapevines in Cardiff Bay – is that Mark James has been able to launch himself as a property tycoon, keeping pretty racy company to boot, and yet no one seems to have known about it!

Even odder (perhaps the stone in my shoe), was Corner’s detour to Llanelli and the soft furnishings business – what the hell was that about?

Something we’ve learnt – or had confirmed – is that the redevelopment of Cardiff docks has sucked in public funding to benefit, originally, Lord Crickhowell and his friends in Associated British Ports, and then, smaller property speculators, most of whom have descended on Cardiff from outside of Wales. What benefits have we seen in Cwmbran and Corwen?

Now Cardiff looks forward to the Champions League Final on Saturday between Juventus and Real Madrid. Of course, the city is too small to host an event of this magnitude, which explains the exorbitant rates being charged for accommodation. We can confidently assume that owners of flats down the Bay will be making a killing, among them perhaps . . .

I wonder if Patrycja has a ticket for the game?

♦ end ♦

Apr 272017
 

Bear Grylls: ‘It’s not for me, you understand . . . ‘

I’ve written about Bear Grylls, the television personality, survival expert and tourism operator a couple of times recently. Now I find myself writing about him again.

My first mention of Grylls was an almost light-hearted look at his ‘survival camp’ on Llŷn, done only because I’d picked up a leaflet for this nonsense on a visit to Porthmadog. So demanding and dangerous is this camp that it caters for drunks on stag and hen parties. (Scroll down in this post.)

I next wrote about him was in more serious vein, after learning of his involvement with wide boy Gavin Lee Woodhouse – of ‘Wynnborn’ fame – and their joint attempt to take over another piece of Wales and re-name it the Afan Valley Adventure Resort. Read English Tourism in the Colony of Wales.

I have been in contact recently with a Gwynedd councillor who had more to tell me about Bear Grylls, and although this tale takes us back to July 2014 I think it deserves an airing, so I’m reproducing in full an e-mail exchange that took place between Bear Grylls and Councillor Craig ab Iago. (You can either click on the image on the right to enlarge it, or read it in pdf format by clicking here.)

At the time of this exchange Grylls was applying for planning permission to build a new stone jetty on St Tudwal’s Island (which he owns) off the coast of Llŷn. As a follow-up to the official planning application he wrote to all members of the planning committee.

I’m unsure about the propriety, or the legality, of seeking to influence elected representatives in this way. Maybe an Old Etonian who is now a ‘celeb’ regularly uses back channels in order to get what he wants. Of course, what works in London doesn’t always translate to Gwynedd.

First off, let’s remember that this is a planning application by a businessman to make one of his assets more profitable. That’s all there is to it, really, it’s about Bear Grylls seeking to make more money.

But he can’t say that, so he has to try a different tack; he starts off by mentioning his “young family”, which might influence an application to build an extra bedroom but is totally irrelevant in this context.

Then he presents himself as the benefactor to the local community “in and around Abersoch” (i.e. the Cheshire set), and the partner of Trinity House, which maintains St Tudwal’s Island lighthouse.

At which point you might, like me, be wondering: if Trinity House needs a new jetty why couldn’t they apply for it themselves? Come to that, does a body like Trinity House even need to apply for planning permission?

This appeal by Bear Grylls is nothing but simpering, self-serving bollocks; just a cut above, ‘think of all the drowning kiddies, sob! sob!’ I don’t want to dwell on this stomach-churning bullshit any longer.

Thankfully, Craig ab Iago was able to answer Grylls, and he did so with dignity and passion. It is a response worth reading for its honesty, and how it contrasts to Grylls’ artifice and dissimulation. I urge you to read Craig’s cri de coeur and ensure that it has the widest possible audience.

Tourism and the colonisation it encourages is the surest way of destroying our rural way of life. That’s why Wales is being offered little other than tourism. 

 ~ ♦ ~

Redrow Homes, Goetre Uchaf

One of Wales’ great success stories, so the media would have us believe, is Redrow Homes. A company formed by Steve Morgan, with headquarters in Ewloe, Flintshire, and quoted on the FTSE 250. The truth is that Redrow being in Wales is just an accident of geography, there is no commitment to Wales or things Welsh whatsoever.

Proven by the twee names Redrow gives to its developments and the names of its house types – The Ludlow, The Warwick, The Cambridge, The Windsor, The Shaftesbury, etc. But occasionally Redrow gives the appearance of recognising it’s in Wales by using a Welsh name for one of its developments. An example would be Goetre Uchaf in Bangor.

Unfortunately, the ‘commitment’ is just skin deep. Because of course, like so many companies operating in the building trade and property development – and especially in the north – Redrow targets English buyers. So it is with Goetre Uchaf, as this advertisement proves with, ‘Move to North Wales with Redrow Homes’.

If you want further proof, then listen to the start of this video and hear the mangling of Goetre Uchaf. And if these houses are not needed in Bangor – and seeking buyers over the border suggests they’re not – then why was planning permission granted?

~ ♦ ~

Pole Polling

I am indebted to another source for making me realise that, with two elections coming up, ‘Welsh’ Labour will again target the Polish vote in Llanelli (and perhaps elsewhere). For Labour has worked assiduously over the years to exploit forge links with the Polish community in the town.

The starting point would appear to be 2004 when, according to this WalesOnline article from May 2014, a desperate Pole went into the office of the SaveEasy Credit Union in downtown Llanelli, where manager Jeff Hopkins was eventually able to find a Polish speaker to help him.

From this encounter grew the Welsh Polish Mutual Association which opened in 2006 to help Polish migrants arriving in the town. The chairman of the Association is the aforementioned Jeff Hopkins. In an earlier incarnation he had been the agent for Denzil Davies, the town’s Labour MP from 1970 until 2005.

A SaveEasy Credit Union employee involved with the new Association was Halina Ashley, Polish herself. It should go without saying that Mrs Ashley is also a member of the Labour Party. I suppose it’s reasonable to assume that Mrs Ashley was the Polish speaker Jeff Hopkins was able to find on that Sunday morning back in 2004.

The official opening took place in September 2006, conducted by Edwina Hart. From its outset the Association was funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government, partly through the ill-starred Communities First programme, which was finally put out of its misery in February.

Though the Polish-Welsh Association was not registered as a company until 27 February 2013. On the Companies House website you’ll see that the only director other than Hopkins is Janice Williams, a Labour county councillor. Williams has also been a director of the local Citizens Advice Bureau, that body taken over by the Labour Party years ago.

To this day, I understand, the ‘Welsh’ Government funds the Welsh Polish Mutual Association centre in Llanelli, and pays for the ‘Welcome’ packs for arriving Poles, with the SaveEasy Credit Union paying the overheads for the building.

Though I must confess to being appalled to read my source suggesting, “It would not be a surprise to discover that the packs contain postal voting forms . . . I am led to believe that Llanelli Labour have form regarding this”.

I had just put away the smelling salts after reading that when I found myself scrabbling for them again on reading that Hopkins and Ashley have access to confidential data that could be of great use to the Labour Party in targeting the Polish vote.

As I said to myself, ‘But they would never do anything like that, because to do so would contravene the Data Protection Act 1998.’ That said, there is some evidence . . .

The leaflet below, for example, from last year’s Assembly election, is obviously for the benefit of Polish voters; and seeing Mrs Halina Ashley, a woman they know, in the company of the Labour candidate, clearly carries the message, ‘Vote Labour!’.

click to enlarge (no, it wasn’t me what ripped it.)

The Polish vote in Llanelli may not be as large as in some English towns, but it still makes up five or six per cent in the wards where Poles tend to congregate. The percentage is higher in the Tŷ Isha ward where not so long ago the Safer Community Action Group was set up to counter the allegedly anti-social behaviour of gangs of drunken young Polish males.

The group was supported by thirsty Labour councillor and recipient of someone else’s liver, Keri Thomas, on the grounds that the Polish influx “put a burden on services, on the GPs and the hospitals and the schools”. (You couldn’t make this up, could you?) Like most Labour politicians, Thomas is talking rubbish.

The Polish migrants are overwhelmingly healthy young men, consequently they are unlikely to be a burden on the health service. If Keri Thomas and others are so concerned about people moving to Wales and putting a strain on our services why do they say nothing about retirees, or the substance-abusing riff-raff and others with ‘issues’ who get priority treatment from housing associations and other agencies?

Knowing ‘Welsh’ Labour as we do, and with the evidence from last year’s election to guide us, it is entirely reasonable to assume that ‘inside information’, unavailable to other parties, is being used to target the Polish vote in Llanelli for both the council elections and the UK general election

Footnote: Councillor Janice Williams is standing down next month in the Lliedi ward, where one of the Tory candidates is a Stefan Ryszewski. Woe! Woe! Even the Fates mock Labour!

~ ♦ ~

Pond Life in Ebbw Vale 

A Gwent source tells me of an interesting sale taking place at 5pm today, in the Park Inn Hotel at Llanedeyrn in Cardiff. (If you hurry, you might still make it!) His interest was aroused by one particular lot of three former feeder ponds for the local steelworks and the land around them.

The catalogue makes interesting reading, for it contains all manner of properties but a majority seem to be small terraced houses of the kind that often make the news when a London ‘paper reports, ‘Englishman buys whole Welsh street for £37.50, ha! ha!’

Which says something about many things, such as the ‘Welsh’ Government’s neglect of the Valleys, and our relationship with England. Consider also that many of these humble dwellings being auctioned are repossessions, each one representing someone’s dashed hope of owning a home. But the Daily Mail don’t give a fuck about that.

In March 2009 the Newport-based South Wales Argus reported that the ‘Welsh’ Government had given £150,000 to transform the site in question, the Argus even saying that work had started. Yet to look at the site now it appears that little if anything was ever done.

click to enlarge

So the questions are:

  • What happened to the £150,000?
  • Why wasn’t the area improved as promised?
  • What’s been happening for the past 8 years?
  • Who owns this land today?
  • Why is it being sold?

Maybe the ‘Welsh’ Government is hoping that Bear Grylls and ‘Wynnborn’ Woodhouse come galloping over the Beacons, bugles blowing and flags fluttering, to unveil their plan for the Waun-y-Pound Aquatic Adventure Resort, replete with crocodiles and piranhas – let the good times roll!

~ ♦ end ♦ ~

Jan 232017
 

If you read this blog regularly you’ll know about the takeover of Cantref, a housing association based in Newcastle Emlyn, by Wales and West Housing of Cardiff, a company with strong links to the Labour Party. For those catching up, I advise starting with the post Cantref: ‘Welsh’ Labour Takeover Challenged? To give some chronological marker, the takeover was officially registered with the Financial Conduct Authority 19 September 2016.

Even before the takeover I was receiving information from a person or persons I must assume were ‘in the know’. This information came by a number of routes, and was of varying degrees of confidentiality; what came as comments to this blog I can use in full, but information received by more discreet routes will require more circumspect treatment.

Let’s start with a comment from July 2015. Two points from it are worth noting. First, I believe the “something else going on” is a reference to the increasing suspicion that Cantref was about to be sold down the river. Second, the reference to “David Hedges of Cyngor Da” (Good Counsel/Advice) was a little confusing at the time because Hedges is a consultant and Cyngor Da is his company, yet he’s described as one of Cantref’s directors.

I shall return to our Dai, son of Glamorgan cricketer the late Bernard Hedges, later.

As we now know, Cantref was indeed sold down the river, taken over by Wales and West Housing of Cardiff, ‘Welsh’ Labour’s favourite housing association. (Though the ‘Association’ bit was dropped from the name in 2012, now it’s just Wales and West Housing.)

As the takeover was going through I was being told about Wales and West “surveyors” evaluating Cantref’s stock and joking about taking down opposition party – mainly Plaid Cymru – placards and posters from WWH properties in the Cardiff West constituency during last year’s Assembly election campaign. There was no attempt to hide the fact that Wales and West Housing is ‘Welsh’ Labour by another name.

Something else I was hearing through other channels – though I confess I paid little attention at the time – was that Wales and West is linked somehow with the Mid Wales Housing Association. Now MWH inherited much of its stock, either directly or indirectly, from the Development Board for Rural Wales, that agency set up to ‘repopulate’ the five counties of central Wales. Part of the DBRW strategy included building homes for ‘key workers’, which in practice meant housing the complete workforces of relocating English companies or factories.

As I say, I should have paid more attention to this Mid Wales Housing reference if only because something interesting had emerged a few years earlier.

The nub of the story I’m referring to can be found in this news item from 2012 which tells that the Development Board for Rural Wales borrowed money at 14% interest over 50 years to build those ‘key worker’ houses, and when the DBRW (together with the Land Authority for Wales) was merged with the Welsh Development Agency in October 1998 that debt was transferred to the ‘Welsh’ Government.

Which if you think about it was odd . . . if not impossible.

Because the devolution referendum was held on September 18th 1997 and the first Assembly elections on May 6th 1999. Which means that when this transfer was effected in 1998 there was a devolutionary void. The transfer was therefore accomplished by Westminster, and this saw our incoming AMs confronted with a fait accompli. (Makes you wonder what else might have been dumped on our Assembly before it came into existence.)

In addition to the news story there was an interesting discussion on the blog of Montgomeryshire Tory MP Glyn Davies. Davies was the last chief executive of the DBRW.

Now we hear of deals being struck between Mid Wales Housing, Wales and West Housing and an unnamed English housing association to bring in tenants to Llandrindod. The ‘Paul Diggery’ referred to is Paul Diggory, currently chair of the Chartered Institute of Housing in Wales, and before that, for over 15 years, chief executive of North Wales Housing.

The ‘Ann Hinchy’ mentioned is Anne Hinchey, chief executive of Wales and West Housing, wife of Graham Hinchey, Labour councillor for the Heath ward in Cardiff.

Naturally, I tried to make enquiries about WWH developments in Llandrindod. Turning to Google I came up with this . . . but the link is broken. I was unable to find anything for Llandrindod on the Wales and West website, either.

So what ‘Jonny English’ seems to be saying is that Wales and West Housing, with its HQ in Cardiff, its new western office (the former Cantref office) in Castell Newydd Emlyn, it’s northern base on Deeside, is now trying to get a footprint in the middle by linking up with Mid Wales Housing and some English housing association.

Entirely predictable, because when we look at who’s running MWH we see the usual English mediocrities staring back at us from the Executive Group page. Without whom we’d still be living in caves.

I’m sure ‘Jonny English’ will read this, as will others with information, so please let me have more details, most importantly, the name of the English housing association involved in this scheme. I’d also appreciate clarification on the relationship between WWH, MWH and the English outfit (the one from England).

Let us return now to David Hedges. After being at Cantref when the transfer to Wales and West was arranged, the word on the street is that he’s now ensconced at Pembrokeshire Housing! What can it mean?

Again, for newcomers, or those with short memories, Pembrokeshire Housing is a body I have written about many, many times. Not just the parent body but also its bonny offspring Mill Bay Homes. I suggest you start here with Mill Bay Homes and Pembrokeshire Housing and then Mill Bay Homes and Pembrokeshire Housing 2.

The set-up is as follows. (And here I have to be careful cos writing about this lot has resulted in Jac getting solicitor’s letters.) Pembrokeshire Housing appears to be a normal housing association, grabbing its whack from the Welsh public purse to build social housing, much of which is allocated to persons and families having no previous connection with the area, or indeed with Wales.

Back around 2011 someone came up with the wheeze of using the dormant Pembrokeshire Housing Two Thousand Ltd to build properties and sell them on the open market. The name was soon changed to Mill Bay Homes. Now, after £7m+ has been transferred from parent to subsidiary, and houses built for retirees, investors, and friends of the MBH management, it seems that questions are – belatedly – being asked about this highly unusual arrangement.

This might explain the recent ‘retirement’ of Peter Maggs, Pembrokeshire Housing’s chief executive, and the arrival of David Hedges as – so ‘Dai the Post’ tells us – interim housing director.

Even allowing for the fact that within the social housing racket field in Wales there are bound to be connections and linkages, there seem to be far too many between Cantref, Pembrokeshire Housing, Wales and West and Campbell Tickell, of whom more in a moment.

As I said at the outset, David Hedges appeared in Cantref just before it was handed over to Wales and West Housing, like some harbinger of doom. Now we hear that he’s involved with Pembrokeshire Housing, and we’re also told that Wales and West is again manoeuvring into position to pounce. Interestingly, if we consult David Hedges’ Linkedin profile we see that he has worked for Wales and West. (If you can’t access the Linkedin profile click here for a downloaded version.)

UPDATE 26.01.2017: An anonymous source tells me that Dai Hedges is more of a fire-fighter than an assassin, sent in when things are going pear-shaped. Which may be true, but won’t be much consolation to those at Pembrokeshire Housing.

I’m reasonably certain that Jonny English is somewhere in the north, while Dai the Post is probably in the south west, so it’s interesting that both mention Campbell Tickell; which gives me the opportunity to explain for late arrivals where this management consultancy fits into the big picture.

Campbell Tickell is the company of Greg Campbell and James Tickell, both Labour Party supporters. And as his Linkedin profile tells us, Campbell has even worked for the party. Also note the reference to Common Purpose, that shadowy, some say sinister, Labour-leaning, globalist organisation for professionals in public life.

In addition to being rather suspect in its motivation and workings Common Purpose has a distinctly contemptuous attitude towards Wales. Check out this list of CP’s programmes for 2017. Scotland and Northern Ireland are covered, as are the regions of England (even individual cities in Scotland and England), but Wales might as well not exist. Search for ‘Wales’ on the Common Purpose website and you’ll turn up this little story about Chinese students on a flying visit to the Assembly in December 2015, nothing more.

Here we have a network that results in English appointees to many Welsh jobs. On the ground, it operates thus. ‘Welsh’ Labour helps its very own housing association to expand within Wales to the point where – already the largest – Wales and West Housing becomes dominant. (What’s the next stage?) To avoid accusations of cronyism it passes the recruitment process to Campbell Tickell, a Labour-supporting Common Purpose recruitment agency.

This procedure is not confined to housing associations, it can be found across public life in Wales, to the extent that I sometimes wonder if devolution is nothing but a scam to create a few thousand jobs for our neighbours in the £50,000+ salary bracket. Worth asking because devolution is achieving sod all for us Welsh.

This system satisfies two vaguely linked agendas.

On the one hand, it helps the Labour Party compensate for its declining electoral support by spreading the party’s influence, via Wales and West Housing and other agencies, into areas where many would rather Glasgow kiss a rough stone wall than vote Labour. Areas such as Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Powys.

But the system also serves the agenda of civil servants in Cardiff and elsewhere, who answer to mandarins in London, and whose overarching ambition is to keep a check on – even roll back – devolution. One of the best ways of achieving this to ensure that as few Welsh people as possible fill positions of authority. This creates the impression that we Welsh can do nothing for ourselves and also comes in useful when ‘consultations’ are undertaken to determine future policy direction.

All of which brings us back to my post earlier this month Housing Associations: Secret or Public?, in which I explained why Labour politicians and civil servants wish to maintain the secretive status of our public funds-guzzling housing associations. I suggest you read it.

And if you have a beef with a housing association then there’s no point in appealing to Nick Bennett, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. Bennett was CEO of Community Housing Cymru, the umbrella organisation for housing associations, from July 2006 until July 2014. Bennett is also close to ‘Welsh’ Labour, having been in business with a former Labour minister.

HE’S NOT AND HE IS (if you want to watch the video click here)

To take the explanation a stage further, we have a system of social housing, increasingly controlled at national level and managed at local level by people who know nothing about Wales and without any concern for – or even contemptuous of – Welsh identity, using vast sums of Welsh public funding, and regularly housing people with no connection to Wales. Because of course social housing in Wales is locked into an Englandandwales system. I have that on impeccable authority.

Back in early December 2010 I wrote a reader’s letter to the Wasting Mule seeking answers from Nick Bennett to a number of points. Instead of publishing it the Letters Editor passed my questions on to Bennett who then e-mailed me directly, saying: “Strong local connection cannot be the only acceptable qualification for social housing in Wales. Social housing is a scarce resource for homeless people and those on low incomes who can’t access housing in the private sector. There are over 2 million people on waiting lists for social housing”.

Wales is the most corrupt country in Europe because it suits so many to have it that way. This corruption helps the Labour Party in Wales maintain power and influence despite declining support at the ballot box. Facilitated by Common Purpose and other bodies, this corruption discredits devolution and thereby strengthens England’s hold on Wales to the point where assimilation will have been achieved before most of us realise it.

If I was working for Pembrokeshire Housing I’d be getting worried now, because the vultures are circling – they may already have landed! And yet, just like Cantref, you brought it on yourselves, in your case with the insane decision to fund a private house builder subsidiary. And what will happen to Mill Bay Homes when Wales and West Housing takes over?

To understand how this system of colonialist corruption operates you have to recognise and understand the linkages, how they influence and contaminate public life in Wales. Social housing is the perfect example because it brings together so many threads. And it explains why the ‘Welsh’ Government and the civil servants who ‘advise’ it want to save housing associations from public scrutiny.

But don’t think for one minute that the corruption is confined to our housing associations. Corruption is endemic in Welsh public life – because it’s encouraged.

♦ 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 ♦

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.

Nov 012016
 

INTRODUCTION

In addition to the previous post on tourism I also put out a message on Twitter and Facebook last week reminding people that Gwynedd Council was consulting over whether, or by how much, to raise council tax on holiday homes. The ability to raise council tax on second homes and empty homes being just one of a number of changes we can look forward to in the housing market.

gwynedd-council-tax

Holiday homes also face the possibility of higher Stamp Duty Land Tax when this is devolved in April 2018. (As do Buy-to-Let properties.) Or rather, from that date, we shall see Stamp Duty replaced with a new Land Transaction Tax, to bring Wales into line with the Scottish and UK governments. There was a consultation process, but few responded, seeing as it was not well advertised and ran from July 13 to the end of August.

High summer is an odd time to hold a public consultation process, but while the rest of us were sipping mint juleps and humming Summertime, you can be sure that the organisations representing holiday home owners and private landlords were beavering away ensuring that those they represent had their concerns noted.

Another change is that the ‘Welsh’ Government is now empowered to introduce a tourist tax of the kind found across Europe in cities and regions experiencing large numbers of tourists, with the money raised then used to fund those local services that tourists use but otherwise would not pay for.

Taken together, and implemented imaginatively, as an integrated system, these changes could have wide-ranging and far-reaching implications, all of which would be beneficial to the national interest. Let’s look at these measures in a little more detail.

COUNCIL TAX ON SECOND HOMES

This is an issue that provokes a great deal of debate and passion, and tends to divide people along rather predictable lines. For example, how many second home owners will support increasing council tax on their properties? And how many of those attending one of the regular Meibion Glyndŵr Reunion Dinners (black tie affairs) will argue for anything less than a 500% increase?

A great deal of nonsense is talked in defence of second homes. Here are some of the arguments we’ve heard ad nauseum over the years.

‘To raise council tax on holiday homes in Wales would be racist’. Which is one way of confirming that they are overwhelmingly English owned.

‘Holiday homes put a lot of money into the local economy’. Which wants us to believe that a property lived in for two or three months a year puts more into the local economy than that same property would if lived in permanently by a local family.

‘Nobody else wanted to buy it’. Of course not, you conducted a comprehensive local survey, didn’t you?

‘People would stop coming here’. Why? And as I say, holiday homes often put little into the local economy. Something brought home to me a few weeks ago as I was a-sauntering through Aberdyfi.

A builder crossed the road and asked, ‘Are you Royston Jones?’ Despite not knowing him, and being unsure of his position, I nevertheless answered in the affirmative. After which he introduced himself and we discussed this and that. He’d been in school with my kids and he seemed an easy-going sort of bloke until, while discussing holiday homes, he made it clear that one thing that really pissed him off was holiday home owners bringing in tradesmen from their home area, rather than giving work to locals.

I knew exactly what he was talking about. My wife looks after a holiday home in our village for a family from the East Midlands (she has done for a few decades). Earlier this year there was a builder from the same area working on the property for months, and living in it while he worked. So here we had an example of local tradesmen denied work and local B&Bs denied business.

There is no doubt that raising council tax on holiday homes would encourage some owners to sell and deter others from buying. And the greater the increase then the greater the encouragement/deterrent. More importantly, increasing council tax on holiday homes would bring more properties into full-time use, and this would lead to more vibrant towns and villages, because shops, pubs and other facilities struggle to survive in communities with too many properties empty for most of the year. And this is not just a Welsh problem.

Consequently, there is no sensible or rational argument against raising council tax on holiday homes across Wales, which is why opponents of such moves are forced to employ absurd arguments. Here are a couple of examples that the Cambrian News (where else?) carried some three years ago, when the subject of council tax on holiday homes was being discussed. (Click to enlarge.)

cambrian-news-letters-1

According to Eric Richards of Aberdyfi, second homes are essential to the local economy. He seems to believe that a property ceasing to be a holiday home would remain empty and fall derelict. Another blind spot is failing to understand that Aberdyfi is not representative of Gwynedd. The economy of Bangor – the largest settlement – is based on higher education, administration, the retail sector, etc. The economy of north Gwynedd as a whole would hardly notice a doubling of the council tax paid on holiday homes.

While ‘Pat Beaumont’ believes that increasing council tax “borders on racism”, and might result in “property burning starting again”. Quite how tackling the problem of holiday homes would lead to “property burning” is not explained. Does the writer envision an arson campaign being waged by those feeling aggrieved because they’ve sold their holiday homes to locals?

LAND TRANSACTION TAX (FORMERLY STAMP DUTY)

The new Land Transaction Tax (from April 2018) offers another tool with which to reduce the numbers of holiday homes, or certainly to tax sales of holiday homes and invest the funding gained in the wider community. Of course there are issues to be resolved, fine tuning needed here and there, but a feel for the issues involved can be found in the Summary of Responses (to the consultation process).

As I suggested in the Introduction, those in the know, the property professionals and the business associations, made sure their views were known. The Summary tells us there were six, formal written responses, and these came from:

1/ Chartered Institute of Taxation and Stamp Taxes Practitioners Group

2/ Residential Landlords Association

3/ National Association of Estate Agents

4/ KPMG

5/ Central Association of Agricultural Valuers

6/ Wales Association of Self-Catering Operators

I bet you didn’t even know there was a Chartered Institute of Taxation and Stamp Taxes Practitioners Group (and it is ‘Chartered’, not ‘Charted’, as it says in the Summary).

Many of these organisations of course operate within an Englandandwales framework, which explains their wish that there “should be ‘only one rate throughout the UK’.” Though I suggest that the ‘Welsh’ Government be guided by what’s best for Wales, not what’s convenient for the National Association of Estate Agents.

The current Stamp Duty does not apply to the following categories: property purchases of £40,000 or less; caravans, mobile homes and houseboats; non-residential transactions; employer provided accommodation; and certain purchases of leasehold interests subject to specified conditions.

Seeing as those responding to the survey were asked if they agreed with these exceptions it’s reasonable to assume that these are not set in stone. Which would mean that it’s within the powers of the ‘Welsh’ Government to reduce the threshold to £10,000 or less and apply the new Land Transaction Tax to the sale of static caravans.

Another imaginative use of the new Tax would be to reduce the numbers retiring to Wales, or certainly make retirees contribute more to the country in which they plan to spend their declining years. There is nothing heartless or racist about this, it’s pure economics.

Everyone – and here I really do mean everyone – agrees that the ‘advanced world’ is facing a demographic time-bomb with its ageing population. With a decreasing percentage of the population in work, paying the taxes needed, it becomes more and more of a burden on the national purse to support the growing numbers of elderly people.

Therefore, any country or territory attracting elderly people from outside of its borders has problems. Any country actively encouraging another country’s older people to move in is behaving irresponsibly.

Yet in Wales, this is exactly what we do, by allowing, even encouraging, the building of tens of thousands of new properties in rural and coastal areas that planners – and here I include the Planning Inspectorate – know will not be bought by local people, some of them will even be marketed over the border as ‘retirement properties’. And yet politicians and civil servants refuse to publicly admit what they all know – attracting large numbers of elderly migrants inevitably results in an overburdened health service and other issues.

I know I’ve used this example before, but it explains perfectly what I’m talking about. In the area where I live, south west Gwynedd between Barmouth and Aberdyfi, the 2011 census told us that the 65+ age group makes up 30.1% of the population. And within that age group 65% was born in England.

The figure for the percentage of the population in the 65+ age group is 20.7% for Gwynedd as a whole. For Flintshire it’s 17.6%. For Cardiff 13.2%.

Gwynedd SW Wards merged

This is not natural. This is not sustainable. This is a recipe for disaster for our health service and our wider economy. Unless of course you believe that retirement homes and the like, paying the minimum wage or less, can be the foundation for a healthy economy.

A partial remedy lies in applying a higher level of the new Land Transaction Tax – why not double? – to persons over the age of 50 moving to Wales who have never previously lived here. The extra funding could go straight into the Welsh NHS.

TOURIST TAX

As I’ve said above, tourist taxes of various kinds can be found around the world and, increasingly, across Europe. This article from lovemoney.com explains the tourist taxes you can expect to pay in a variety of countries. If we look at the figures for Italy we see that – as in other countries – different cities and regions charge different rates. Rome charges €6 a night to stay in a four-star hotel whereas Palermo, on Sicily, charges just €2. Florence charges €2.50 a night for self-catering, Milan charges nothing.

venice

There is no reason why Gwynedd couldn’t charge £2 a head per night for self-catering, including static caravans, but Merthyr, or some other area wanting to attract more visitors, could decide against any charge at all. The system across Europe seems to be left to local authorities to decide and it could be the same in Wales.

The Bevan Foundation discussed the issue in February and said, “We suggest that a tourism tax should operate in Wales as a per night charge on hotel room and holiday park stays, capped at seven nights. The tax would be collected and managed by local authorities, and the money raised would be allocated to fund local authority and police services.”

For once I find myself agreeing with the Bevan Foundation (God!), the money raised by a tourist tax must stay within the area where it has been collected and used for the benefit of the local people, the majority of whom derive no benefit from tourism. The money raised must not, as the tourism operators will demand, be spent on encouraging more tourists.

And as for something else we’ll hear –‘This will drive people away!’ The continental experience is that it doesn’t. It’s just a small surcharge that ensures tourism puts something back into the communities it affects. The greater that effect, then the more that should be put back. (And with the post-Brexit pound plummeting and hard times ahead, now is the ideal time for Wales to introduce a tourist tax, ready for the 2017 season.)

CONCLUSION

With a co-ordinated strategy using legislation already in place or soon to be enacted we could achieve a number of what I consider to be desirable objectives:

  • By increasing council tax on second homes, and also using the new Land Transaction Tax, we could greatly reduce the numbers of holiday homes and make the dwellings released available to the wider community.
  • By applying the Land Transaction Tax and a tourist tax to static caravans, but exempting serviced accommodation, we could take the first step on the long road to removing the hideous caravan sites that mar our coastlines and replacing them with hotels and other establishments that will provide more jobs and put more money into local economies.
  • By applying the Land Transaction Tax (and perhaps Council Tax) selectively to retirees we could reduce the pressures on the NHS and various services in many parts of the country. Again, this could be done by district. For example, increase the LTT for those wanting to retire to Pembrokeshire and Conwy, but not to Wrexham and Neath Port Talbot.

There will of course be obstacles to making any of this happen.

To begin with, there will be those who’ll argue, ‘Oh, but caravans and care homes are the basis of our local economy’. If anyone really believes that then what they consider to be ‘the local economy’ is no better than living in the shadow of a big house, surviving off scraps and cast-offs, and constantly being lied to about ‘generosity’.

Yet the defenders of caravan sites and care homes will not all be beaten and brainwashed, for some people make a lot of money from them. These will not give up easily. There will also be well-connected interests opposing Wales using the Land Transaction Tax, council tax and tourist tax in her own interests.

Finally we can guarantee opposition from the ‘Welsh’ politicians in London, who see their role as opposing anything that might benefit Wales . . . if there’s the remotest possibility it might harm England’s interests. Also the civil servants in Wales, advising our Assembly and ‘Welsh’ Government, but answerable to London. And with so many senior officers in local government having no loyalty to Wales we can expect hostility from that quarter too.

It will be an uphill struggle to change a system that has been in place for centuries in order to start running Wales in the interests of the Welsh. The tools are available; it’s now a question of having the will, the courage, to use those tools.

But it must be done, because living in the shadow of the big house has never served our interests. And nowadays, the big house is not what it was; cracks are appearing and they’re struggling to pay the bills. They’ve also started drinking, shouting at the neighbours and anybody else who comes too close.

It’s time to put up a little fence, nothing too intimidating, just enough to make them understand that this side of the fence belongs to us. They’re still welcome to come . . . but on our terms.

END 

Oct 102016
 

Regular readers of Private Eye – and perhaps those who abjure Lord Gnome’s organ – will know there is now a database available that tries to list all property in Wales and England owned by overseas registered companies. You can browse it here.

Naturally, my interest was in Wales, and so I extracted the Welsh properties from the database and these can be viewed here, grouped by local authority, and then, within each LA area, ownership is shown alphabetically.

It soon becomes clear that different companies can be found operating in different areas, some in more than one area; but one particular company stood out for the sheer number of properties it owns.

I’m referring of course to the company of the title, Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd. Here’s a list of Link’s properties, again, grouped by local authority, and in date order with the most recent purchases at the top. Though you’ll see that Link also owns a few houses (and a garage!) in Colchester, Essex, which seem to be the only properties the company owns outside of Wales. I’d love to know the explanation for the Essex outlier.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the Link properties is that a great majority of the title documents, almost all, in fact, bear the same date, July 24, 2006. There are so many titles bearing this date that I think it must signify the transfer of a large property portfolio to Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd on that date. Which raises the question, whose portfolio was it before Link bought it? Alternatively, it could just be a change of name. In which case, what was the previous name of Link?

Although my interest was aroused by reading the articles in Private Eye and checking out the map, what really kick-started this investigation was someone in Swansea contacting me through Facebook to say that a number of the properties listed for Link in fact belonged to a housing association, which I thought was odd.

The properties my source was referring to are in Penmaen Terrace in Mount Pleasant, three- or four-storey houses, once homes to the local bourgeoisie now broken up into self-contained flats of the kind popular with students. (The picture below shows the kind of properties I’m talking about, though not necessarily the one I shall now focus on.)

penmaen-terrace

My informant referred me to No 5, which she assured me was rented out by the Coastal Housing Group. Nearby properties were also said to be rented out by Coastal. The obvious thing to do was check with the Land Registry, where the mystery was cleared up . . . sort of.

Yes, 5 Penmaen Terrace is owned by Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, but there is a leasehold agreement with Coastal. The details can be found here in the freehold title document, and here in the leasehold title document.

Though remember that Coastal is a relatively new organisation, registered on April 1, 2008 and formed through the merger of Cymdeithas Tai Dewi Sant (1991) and the Swansea Housing Association (1978). Which means that although Coastal is named as the registered owner and proprietor (of the lease) on 04.02.1983 this must have been the Swansea Housing Association.

The two ‘Restrictions’ dated 23.04.2008 would appear to be some kind of recognition that the merger and reorganisation had taken place.

Scrolling to the end of the leasehold document, under the ‘Charges’ (loan, mortgages, etc.) heading brings us to this entry: “(04.02.1983) Proprietor: The Housing Corporation of 149 Tottenham Court, Road, London W1T 7BN.” This quango was the body that oversaw and funded housing associations between 1964 and 2008. I assume it ceased to have any authority in Wales after devolution.

An assumption that seems to be confirmed by a later entry reading: “(12.10.2000) A Deed dated 4 October 2000 made between (1) National Westminster Bank Plc (2) The National Assembly For Wales and (3) Swansea Housing Association Limited relates to priorities as between the Charges dated 12 January 1983 and 4 October 2000 referred to above as therein mentioned.”

In order to find out exactly what this meant, I contacted the ‘Welsh’ Government with a FoI. I submitted the request on Sunday, October 2, which meant that no one would have read it until Monday, then I had a phone call on the Tuesday from a Regulation Manager at the Housing Directorate! Here’s a section from the written reply that arrived a couple of days later.

link-5-penmaen-terrace-welsh-gov-deed

The answer to my question, ‘How much did the ‘Welsh’ Government chip in?’ would appear to be that the ‘Welsh’ Government put in no money but instead acts as some kind of guarantor for housing associations taking out or revising loans.

Having satisfied myself as to who owns and who leases 5 Penmaen Terrace I decided to look at another property in Swansea owned by Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, one mentioned in the freehold of 5 Penmaen Terrace, where it says, almost at the end, “(24.07.2006) Registered Charge dated 29 June 2006 affecting also other titles. NOTE: Charge reference WA99891”.

WA99891 takes us to a part of town with which I am more familiar, for this title number refers to the freehold of 379 Neath Road in Plasmarl, the neighbourhood where my father was born and raised. Once a busy road, in fact, the main road from town to Morriston, it has become something of a backwater due to the new road that now runs past the Liberty Stadium and on up to the M4.

The property on Neath Road is a just a terraced house but, again, it’s owned by Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, though unlike the one in Penmaen Terrace it belongs to those properties bought, or registered, after 24.07.2006. To be exact, 06.10.2006. Another difference is that the lessee in this instance is the Family Housing Association Wales Ltd. And the money to fund the lease came from Orchardbrook Ltd.

family-housing-association

I couldn’t get a great deal of information on Orchardbrook, for one thing, it doesn’t seem to have a website, but I did turn up minutes from a 2009 meeting of the York Housing Association, which say, “The Chair explained that Orchardbrook (a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland) took over all Housing Associations loans and the interest rate specified was high.” Suggesting that when the Housing Corporation was wound up in 2008 its assets, in the form of loans made to housing associations, were sold off.

So the Charge entered against the leasehold title of the Neath Road property in 2014 probably means that Orchardbrook ‘revised’ the terms of the loan it had inherited from the Housing Corporation.

We don’t want to get bogged down in the minutiae of Land Registry documents so to explain a little more I’ll use the Zoopla website. Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd owns hundreds of properties in Swansea and many more across the south (but none west of Llanelli).

For example, Link owns many properties on relatively new developments in the Llansamlet area, in Brynteg, Ryw Blodyn, Lon Brynawel and Clos Eileen Chilcott and other streets. Using the data I’d compiled and cross-referencing with Zoopla and other property websites we find that most of these properties are leasehold.

link-clos-eileen-chilcott

Obviously I can’t check all Link’s properties, there are just too many, but I suspect the same picture will be found elsewhere: older properties – especially large ones and Houses of Multiple Occupation like those in Penmaen Terrace – are leased or rented to housing associations, with newer properties – bought as buy-to-lets – are privately leased or rented. Though I’m not ruling out that newer properties might also be leased or rented to RSLs.

Which leaves the big question – what exactly is Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, and who’s behind it? Against my better judgement – knowing I wasn’t going to learn much – I shelled out £15 for a company profile from Companies House in Gibraltar.

While the big question – ‘Who owns Link?’ – goes unanswered, the profile does advance our knowledge in other areas. It tells us, for example, that Link was incorporated in Gibraltar on September 11, 2003.

Digging around in the FCA website turned this up, which tells us that on 24.02.2006 Cymru Investments Ltd of Jersey changed its name to or merged with Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd. This might explain the rush of registrations with the Land Registry a few months later, for this could be the Cymru Investments portfolio being registered under the new name.

link-fca-info-name-change

Though given that Link was Incorporated in Gibraltar in September 2003 what was it doing in the intervening period?

You’ll also see that the name Cymru Investments Ltd had only been used for a year or so, so was there a previous name? Yes there was, as this document from the Jersey Financial Services Commission tells us. From 10.09.1991 to 15.02.2003 Cymru Investments was known as Rastlebeg Investments (Jersey) Ltd, and before that, from 14.03.1974, the company went by the name of Gwalia Investments Ltd.

Something you may have picked up on is that there’s a gap of 23 months between Jersey saying the name Rastlebeg ceased to be used (15.02.2003) and the FCA telling us that the name Cymru investments was adopted (08.01.2005). Is this a typo, or was another name used in this period?

link-jfsc-name-change

In the hope of getting to the bottom of things I decided to buy the original registration document for Gwalia Investments Ltd from 14.03.1974 from the Jersey Financial Services Commission. Here it is. You’ll see that despite what we’re being told, the company was originally registered as Castlebeg Investments (Jersey) Ltd not Gwalia Investments Ltd. Yes, that’s Castlebeg not Rastlebeg – another typo? Well, no.

Because further Googling turned up this entry (below) from Hansard. Castlebeg and Rastlebeg are one and the same, so why the different spellings, was the name changed in an attempt to confuse, or is it a repeated typo?

link-castlebeg-hansard

Here’s a link to another Commons exchange from 1986 concerning Castlebeg Investments (Jersey) Ltd. The company was clearly behaving in improper and even underhand ways. There seems to have been some reluctance on the part of the then Conservative government to introduce leasehold reform. The kind of reforms recommended in the Nugee Report.

Having started the previous section by saying I didn’t want to get bogged down in the minutiae of Land Registry documents I’m now in danger of getting us bogged down in information from other sources, so I’ll just refer to a few more scraps of information before trying to pull the various threads together.

This first document, from the FCA, is the one that confirms Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd as the successor to Cymru Investments Ltd of Jersey (see panel above), but there are tabs on it we have yet to explore. If we click on the ‘Principals’ tab we bring up the name of Brian D Thomas Insurance Services Ltd of Swansea. Here’s the Companies House entry.

This company goes back to May 1977 and was chugging along quite comfortably, with total assets less current liabilities of £399,517 at year end 31.03.2005. But then, this thoroughly Swansea company, soon after it gets involved with Link Holdings, is taken over by the Jelf Group of Bristol, undergoes a few name changes, is moved to Bristol, goes dormant, and is finally put out of its misery by being dissolved 07.09.2010.

Interestingly, one of the many names Brian D Thomas briefly traded as in this period was Gwalia Insurance Services. It’s strange how the name Gwalia keeps cropping up, and those of you familiar with the social housing scene will know that there’s a Gwalia Housing Group in Swansea, which recently merged with the Seren Group to create Pobl. Is there a connection?

link-brian-d-thomas-fca-gwalia

You will have noticed that the Principal Place of Business given on the FCA document for Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd is, ‘Cymru Investments Ltd., Po Box 232, Jersey, Channel Islands JE4 8SF‘.

At that same address we find Cymru Management Ltd, Company Number 91117, Registered 06.09.2005. The date of Registration fits perfectly with all the moving and shaking going on, and Link Holdings in the wings waiting to take over. The Annual Return for 2016 informs us that Cymru Management has just two £1 shares issued to Mrs Deanne Mary Pascoe.

Mrs Pascoe is a woman pushing 80 and a director of GUKL Ltd, which I guess is run by another director, Paul Henry Barron Pascoe, a solicitor, who I take to be her son. The registered office is in London, and yet, if you scroll down on the ‘People’ page you come to a couple of names and addresses from the city of my dreams.

One is Zoe Teresa Brooks of Killay, and the other is James Christopher Coughlan of Llansamlet. Both served as directors for just six weeks, from 15.05.1995 until 30.06.1995. And when appointed Ms Brooks was only 18 years of age! Mr Coughlan is a builder, and had his own firm for a short time. It appears Ms Brooks did not trouble Companies House ever again.

Digging into the history of GUKL tells us that it began life in March 1990 as Cruisebase Plc, but the name was soon changed, in July 1990, to Golfads (UK) Plc, and again in October 2015 to GUKL. Would it be reasonable to assume that the current name means Golfads UK Ltd? And if so, what the hell does such a company have to do with Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd?

It might be worth adding that even though a number of sources suggest Cymru Investments morphed into Link Holdings it still exists in some ethereal form, using the same number, 8431, as this Annual Return for 2016 to the Jersey authorities tells us. Five thousand £1 shares held by Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd.

I feel a bit like old Gildas writing De Excidio, where he talks of having made a ‘heap’ of all he’d found, because I’ve collected a lot of information but I’m still not sure what it tells us. Anyway, let’s try to make sense of it. (And I need your help.)

We know from Hansard, quoting Ron Davies and Nicholas Edwards, that there was a leasehold company operating in the mid-1980s named Castlebeg Investments (Jersey) Ltd. This company was also and variously known as Cymru Investments (Jersey) Ltd and Gwalia Investments (Jersey) Ltd. Though the jury is out as to whether it also called itself Rastlebeg or whether this was a clerical error. As the names suggest, all these companies were based on Jersey in the Channel Islands.

This company leased both to private individuals and bodies such as housing associations. It may or may not have also rented properties. Then, after being Incorporated in Gibraltar 11.09.2003 (but, according to the FCA, still using the Jersey address of Cymru Investments Ltd) Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd took over or became the latest incarnation of Gwalia/Cymru/Castlebeg. Probably confirmed with the splurge of Land Registry registrations of 24.07.2006.

It doesn’t matter how many sidetracks we follow, or from which angle we choose to approach this subject, there always seems to be a path back to Swansea. Whatever we are dealing with has its origins in or close to that city. But what is it? If Link Holdings is now a massive buy-to-let portfolio, then there is one outstanding candidate for the man behind it. I won’t name him, but everything fits.

It could even be that the Link portfolio today is an amalgam of an older leasehold business, Castlebeg, and more recent purchases by another party of newer properties, such as those in Llansamlet and other parts of Swansea which look as if they could have been bought off plan. So please look at the Private Eye map and the data I’ve compiled, what kind of properties does Link own in your area?

And yet . . . I have this nagging worry that some of the properties now owned by Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd may once have belonged to social housing providers. I hope not. Equally, I hope that Link is not a social housing portfolio that has been moved offshore.

link-gibraltar

What we can be sure of is that Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd is registered where it is a) to pay as little tax as possible, b) to escape the UK regulatory system, and c) to hide the identity or identities of whoever owns the company. That in itself arouses suspicion.

More worrying is that Link and other offshore companies own so much property in Wales. But worse, is that housing associations, bodies receiving hundreds of millions of pounds in public funding, are doing business with Link.

My enquiries covered just one local authority area, and I looked into only one (admittedly large) offshore property company. But I doubt if the picture will be very different in other areas and with other companies. So go through the information I’ve linked to, have a look around your area, and send me your feedback.

We are entitled to know how much Welsh public funding ends up with companies registered offshore. The ‘Welsh’ Government also needs to explain why these deals were entered into. Finally, we must have a promise that there will be no more of these deals, and that Welsh public funding will no longer enrich those who view Wales as a country to be exploited.

END

UPDATE 16.10.2016: The online Guardian today carried a piece about Arron Banks, big buddy of Nigel Farage and funder of both Ukip and the Leave.EU campaign. Unsurprisingly, Banks has accounts in many a tax haven, including Gibraltar, where Link Holdings also hides its loot.

But the connection doesn’t end there, for Banks also uses Parliament Lane Nominees Ltd as directors and STM Fidecs Management Ltd as secretaries, just like Link Holdings. (Read Link Holdings’ company profile.) Probably just coincidence, I suppose, but what if . . .