May 252017
 

TURF WARS

When the SNP began rising to prominence in Scottish politics a very strange thing happened – Labour and Tories realised they quite liked each other really, to the extent of forming coalition administrations on some local authorities just to keep the SNP (majority party) out of power. It’s still happening.

Following the council elections earlier this month Labour in Scotland got itself into a bit of a tizzy due to its councillors in Aberdeen agreeing to go into coalition with the Tories . . . and then being suspended by the party. Because it doesn’t look good for Labour to be slagging off Mrs May and her gang on one level while jumping into bed with them in Scotland’s third city.

It reminds us that the ‘fight’ between Conservatives and Labour is often a very contrived affair, especially when constitutional issues are introduced. Tories and Labour stood shoulder to shoulder in the 2014 independence referendum and told the same lies. Labour paid the price for that in Scotland with certain sections of the electorate deserting the party, and Labour is now losing support from a different element which realises that if they wish to maintain the Union then they should put aside all other differences to back the Conservative and Unionist Party.

I’ve headed this section ‘Turf Wars’ because in some respects Labour and Tories can be viewed as two gangs fighting over a turf (Britain) in order to protect their rackets: riding the gravy train, promoting and aggrandising themselves and their friends, and of course reaping the rewards in peerages and consultancies/directorships on leaving office, if not before. The introduction of the threat from a third party, especially one offering radical change, makes them realise that they have more in common than they had previously wanted to admit.

On a practical level, it results in people belonging to either of these parties happier to see the other party win than have the outsider, the threat, succeed. Which gives us the reason for Labour’s current tribulations in Aberdeen. And many in Labour are quite open about preferring to see the Tories win, as this snippet from Labour Uncut reminds us.

But how far might this cynical co-operation between Labour and the Tories go? Could it happen in Wales?

Going back to the recent council elections, there might have been some jiggery-pokery in Neath Port Talbot. The Labour Party there was going through a difficult time, with many de-selections resulting in former Labour councillors standing as Independents, and to add to Labour’s woes there was a stronger than usual threat from Plaid Cymru.

All of which might explain the arrival of the cavalry in the form of unknown Conservative candidates, who seemed to do little or no canvassing, and most of whom didn’t bother to turn up at the count. What they did achieve in a number of wards was to split the anti-Labour vote and ensure a Labour victory. Some tell me there were paper candidates like these in other areas.

Then there was the Llangennech school dispute where people close to the Labour Party were more than happy to link up with UKIP in order to attack the Welsh language – ‘education’ and ‘choice’ being mere fig leaves. You might argue this was not strictly political, but Labour used the dispute, now being supported by UKIP, to attack Plaid Cymru. So we see a similar pattern at work.

Anti Welsh language campaigners outside Llangennech school with UKIP AM Neil Hamilton

And going back to my previous post, the people behind that obnoxious leaflet had a clear objective, which was to cause maximum damage to Plaid Cymru and hopefully loosen Plaid’s control on Gwynedd council. I mentioned that the leaflets had been seen in Blaenau Ffestiniog (in the Co-op store, to be exact), perhaps I should also have told you that in the Diffwys and Maenofferen ward of the town the Plaid Cymru candidate lost by just 3 votes.

With a margin that small it’s reasonable to assume that the leaflet was decisive.

MEDIA

One reason that Tories and Labour are allowed to get away with such practices is of course because, by and large, the UK media is on the same wavelength, even otherwise liberal outlets tend to line up with them when ‘ugly nationalism’ is introduced to the mix.

A case in point would be the BBC, which still wields incredible influence due to so many people relying on it for their news. People trust the BBC, but that trust is often abused. Because I am in no doubt that the BBC has done a deal with the Conservative Party to follow the required line on most issues in return for keeping the licence fee that guarantees its survival. Though on Scottish independence, for example, the Beeb might not need to be leaned on.

One recent example of the Corporation’s Unionist credentials was the televised Scottish party leaders debate on Sunday when, to believe most of the media, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon was floored by a nurse who claimed she had to use food banks. Here’s a more balanced view of that new low which exposed the BBC for the state propaganda agency it is, and always has been.

The Scottish nurse, Claire Austin, who attacked Nicola Sturgeon during a live TV debate, claiming that because of low pay she had to use food banks, photographed earlier this year dining at the Plaza Hotel in New York. She lives in a nice part of Edinburgh, dines at the best restaurants, her daughter attends a fee-paying school and has a horse. Oh, yes, and nurses in Scotland get paid more than their counterparts in Wales. Did the BBC put her up to it?                      (Picture courtesy of the Scottish Sun.)

And the BBC also proves what I said earlier about liberal outlets. For within the Corporation certain programmes – often with small, left of centre audiences – are allowed to stray from the official line in the hope of maintaining the image of impartiality. Newsnight, for example, supported Remain, Clinton, anybody but Le Pen, etc, yet when it comes to discussing the SNP or Scotland Newsnight could have Nigel Farage as its producer.

Here in Wales, supplementing the BBC’s output we have Trinity Mirror which, in addition to publishing the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror (and the Daily Record in Scotland) also owns in Wales: Western Mail, Daily Post, Wales on Sunday, the Evening Post, the Echo, Llanelli Star, Caernarfon Herald, Neath Guardian, Flintshire Chronicle, Cynon Valley Leader, Glamorgan Gazette, Gwent Gazette, Merthyr Express, Pontypridd and Llantrisant Observer, Rhondda Leader and the Rhymney Valley Express.

With all the previously separate websites now merged into WalesOnline, and controlled from Cardiff.

Trinity Mirror supports the Labour party. And with the BBC supporting any party that can maintain the Union the combination of Trinity Mirror and the BBC goes quite some way to explaining why a party as utterly useless as ‘Welsh’ Labour can hang on to power.

But Trinity Mirror’s loyalty to the Labour Party can take many forms, much of it distasteful. Further details on one such case were brought to my attention just a few days ago.

JENNY LEE CLARKE

You will recall the case of the Swansea East Labour MP Carolyn Harris’s attack on a co-worker in the constituency office of Harris’s predecessor Siân James. It made the London dailies. No charges resulted only because the complaint was made beyond the six-month limit for charges of common assault.

As might be expected, when Harris became MP for Swansea East in May 2015 things got very difficult for the woman she had assaulted, Jenny Lee Clarke, who was still working in the constituency office. It was no surprise when Harris – once ‘cleared’ – took her revenge by accusing Clarke of theft. Equally unsurprising was the fact that WalesOnline gleefully reported the baseless accusation.

Ms Clarke lost her job and was put through the mill. Here’s her timetable of events:

15.01.16 – Raised a grievance

27.01.16 – 8 hours giving a statement about the verbal, emotional and physical abuse 

28.01.16 – Sacked

26.04.16 – Discovered from broadsheets I was being investigated

24.06.16 – Arrested – bail

19.09.16 – Re-bailed

07.11.16 – Re-bailed

17.02.17 – Still on bail whilst case went to CPS for a charging decision

17.05.17 – No action taken and released with no bail conditions because process had not been adhered too

When Ms Clarke attended Swansea Central police station on May 17th she was told that she was being released with no charge . . . but was also told, “You may in future be asked to attend voluntarily to be re-interviewed”. Though an apology was made “for the length of time this has taken”.

It has been suggested to me that this nightmare only ended when it did because of the ‘no extension of bail without fresh evidence’ provision in the Policing and Crime Act 2017, brought in due to the constant re-bailing in the Cliff Richard fiasco.

As we’ve seen, the Labour-supporting Trinity Mirror Group was quick to exonerate the Labour MP and equally quick to put the boot into her victim. Though, fair play, Richard Youle, senior news reporter for the Evening Post did promise to report the outcome of the investigation, as the e-mail reproduced below tells us.

The problem is that despite being told of the outcome, and reminded of his promise, Mr Youle and Trinity Mirror seem to have lost interest in the case. I wonder why?

Labour supporters reading this – and I do get them! – will be shouting, ‘Trinity Mirror’s reluctance to report the Jenny Lee Clarke case has got nothing to do with saving Labour embarrassment, Jac, cos Carolyn Harris is safe in Swansea East’. And indeed she is, bless her . . . but the Post covers the Bay and Carmarthenshire, so what about another Swansea seat, Gower, where Labour is hoping to overcome Byron Davies’s majority of just 27? And then there’s Llanelli, where you wouldn’t bet your house on Nia Griffith being returned.

This is a case that again exposes the links between the Labour Party and Trinity Mirror, and how they are prepared to combine in destroying anyone who threatens them. For Jenny Lee Clarke is now heavily in debt, she has lost her car, her telephone has been disconnected, and – unlike the stooge-nurse in Edinburgh – Jenny really is using food banks.

And what of South Wales Police? Their role in this does their reputation no favours. I hope there’s no connection between their treatment of an innocent woman and the fact that the PCC for South Wales Police is the odious Alun Michael, former Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth who, once elected, stuffed his office with Labour apparatchiks in the time-honoured way.

Having said that the Evening Post and WalesOnline couldn’t find space to tell us that Jenny Lee Clarke was not going to be prosecuted, Trinity Mirror still found space to insult our intelligence with a truly ludicrous story about how Harris had been affected by the Manchester bombing.

Courtesy of WalesOnline

Of course, she was nowhere near Manchester on Monday night, but she had been in Westminster for that attack in March – but she was never in any danger there either. While we expect politicians to exploit tragedies for their own advantage this is still one of the more contrived and disgusting examples I’ve come across.

But it’s what happens when you have a country where the dominant political party enjoys an unhealthy relationship with the company controlling most of the indigenous print media.

Anyone considering a ‘progressive alliance’ with these bastards needs a good talking to, with the kind of implement we shall encounter in the next section.

There is nothing ‘progressive’about the Labour Party.

STOP PRESS!

I am informed by the legendary Ian Bone, founder of Class War, that on Sunday July 16th there is to be a ‘Dress Like Leon Atkin Day’ in Swansea. The message went on, “There will be a perambulation from Jimmy Wilde’s to St Paul’s Crypt followed by speechifying and singing”.  For those now staring at the screen in bewilderment, let me explain.

Leon Atkin was a man of the cloth who used to give shelter to vagrants in the crypt of his church (now a curry house), which stood on the junction of St Helen’s Road and St Helen’s Avenue, opposite the legendary Joe’s ice cream parlour. The Jimmy Wilde referred to was not that Jimmy Wilde, but the old heavyweight boxer, who’d briefly been Welsh champion until losing his title to Tommy Farr. And he had even known the immortal Marciano who, as everyone knows, started his fight career in Swansea.

By the time I knew Jimmy he looked what he was, a beaten-up old heavyweight straight out of central casting, but you knew not to mess with him. He ran a drinking club not far from High Street Station. To describe Jimmy’s place as ‘rough’ would be an understatement on a par with saying Leo Messi’s a pretty good footballer.

Image reproduced courtesy of Google

You must remember that back then the pubs closed in the afternoon so, unless you knew a friendly landlord – or landlady! – if you wanted a drink you had to go to a club. Don’t get me wrong, there were some very tidy clubs, but these tended to be more discriminating than Jimmy about who they served. They expected you to be able to stand upright without swaying, or it would be some other irritating qualification.

Even so, you couldn’t always walk straight into Jimmy’s, there was often a certain film noir element to gaining admittance. For example, you’d knock on the door and a voice from within would ask, ‘Are you a member?’ You’d answer ‘No’, and the voice would come back, ‘Oh, never mind’, and the door would open. It was a strange ritual that served no real purpose.

The link between Jimmy Wilde’s and St Paul’s was of course that many of Jimmy’s customers made a regular perambulation to the Crypt. It might be worth adding that Leon Atkin was a drinker himself, in fact, he’d sunk a few pints with Dylan.

Back in the ’70s Ian and his crew did fantastic work with their underground magazine Alarm, exposing the corruption on Swansea council. Labour Council leader Gerald Murphy eventually got sent down, and then his Ratepayer successor Sid Jenkins got done for accepting ‘favours’. As we used to say – ‘Swansea’s got the best councillors money can buy’.

I recall one night in 1980 drinking with Phil Henry in the Queens on Oxford Street (run then by the Necrews family). Ian Bone was there selling ‘Paul Ringer is Innocent’ badges. The story as I remember it was . . . he’d pissed off some local heavies who’d bent an iron bar over his head, so with the compensation money he bought himself a badge-making machine!

Happy days with unbelievable characters. When did people become so boring?

♦ end ♦

May 202017
 

I had planned to focus on the UK general election, but it’ll have to wait as I feel that an update is merited to the ongoing case of the anonymous leaflets distributed in Gwynedd prior to the council elections earlier this month.

A PICTURE EMERGES

I first dealt with this glossy, 4-page leaflet in Dirty, Dirty Politics, but at the time I was only able to provide you with copies e-mailed to me and almost certainly taken with a phone. I have since received a copy of the leaflet and I’m now able to provide a scanned version. (Click on the image to enlarge.) I also provided an update in Elections 2017 (scroll down).

Perhaps the main reason I’m returning to this subject is because information I’ve subsequently received makes it clear that these leaflets were distributed far more widely than I had originally thought, and may even constitute something of a campaign. Let me remind you how it began.

I was sent copies of the leaflet on Friday, April 28th, with a message saying that they had been handed out in Trawsfynydd by a guy driving a Mercedes. I was able to establish that the car in fact belonged to Councillor Louise Hughes, who represents the Llangelynin ward on Gwynedd County Council as an Independent. Louise Hughes told me when I phoned her the next day that she had stopped in Trawsfynydd on her way to Garndolbenmaen to canvass for the Lib Dem candidate in Dolbenmaen ward, Steven Churchman.

Then someone else got in touch to say that the leaflets had also been seen in Dolgellau, and a few individuals were named as likely distributors. Later, I heard they’d turned up in Blaenau Ffestiniog. More recently, I have been told of these leaflets turning up on Llŷn, and there seems to be a pattern emerging.

We shall look at the wider consequences, and the possible scale of this activity, later.

SO WHAT HAVE YOU DONE ABOUT IT, JAC?

I have sent a letter to North Wales Police, and accompanying the letter was a copy of the offending leaflet together with a copy of the Electoral Commission’s factsheet, the clear and concise Election Material and Imprints – Great Britain. I reproduce the relevant passages of the leaflet below.

The page reproduced above makes it clear that Hughes and her gang constitute a non-party campaign organisation, which makes the leaflet election material – in that it seeks to influence people against a particular party – and as such it should carry an imprint, which it clearly doesn’t. (Believe me, ‘Printy McPrintface’ will not be accepted as an imprint by the Electoral Commission.)

On Thursday I received another e-mail from the Electoral Commission which said, “It appears that the material you have provided does not contain an appropriate imprint. However, as it is not clear from the material you have provided who has actually produced and distributed the leaflet, the Commission needs to consider the likelihood of being able to establish the source of the material in deciding how to progress this matter. Therefore, if you have any information as to who may have produced and distributed the material, (including the locality and volume of distribution), please could you provide this.”

I responded with the information requested and also quoted from my letter to the North Wales Police:

“There can be no doubt that Councillor Louise Hughes was distributing unlawful election material in the period preceding the council elections earlier this month. How many others were involved in the distribution remains to be established, but I’m sure Councillor Hughes can give you their names.”

I continued:

“As for who printed and published these leaflets, I’m sure Councillor Hughes can also tell you that. What seems clear to me is that the leaflets have been professionally produced, which suggests that they are the work of someone with access to commercial printing materials and equipment, or may even have been produced by a commercial printer.”

I now believe that we are moving in the right direction, though I still worry that North Wales Police might look for excuses not to get involved. They might try to interpret it as a political squabble, ‘Six of one  . . . ‘. It’s not. The law has been broken. The law in question being the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

WIDER STILL AND WIDER . . .

When my attention was first drawn to this leaflet I assumed it was the work of a few anti-Welsh bigots – camouflaging their swivel-eyed hostility to ‘all that Welsh nonsense’ with attacks on Plaid Cymru – just the usual suspects letting off steam before council elections.

Hughes and her “scruffy” companion were – as she told me – handing the leaflets out in the cafe in Trawsfynydd simply because they’d stopped there en route to Garndolbenmaen. Some leaflets had even been left with the saintly Churchman, who claimed to have destroyed them, but also admitted, “I quite like Louise Hughes”.

We now know that the leaflets were distributed from Dolgellau to Pwllheli. I’ve had no reports as yet from the north of the county, Bangor, Caernarfon, and other places, but if you’re targeting Plaid Cymru’s control of the county council it makes sense to cover the more populous parts of county.

Before leaving Garndolbenmaen, it’s worth mentioning that another source insists Hughes’ scruffy companion was seen on polling day, hanging around the polling station in Pentrefelin, which is on the A497 from Porthmadog to Pwllheli but in the Dolbenmaen ward. He is said to have been handing out copies of the leaflet, which if true, is almost certainly illegal. I’m awaiting further information.

The feedback I’ve had says that the leaflets were available in a number of “retail outlets” in Pwllheli. Which may be significant, for the town produced an interesting result on May 4th when the sitting Plaid Cymru councillor for Pwllheli North, Michael Sol Owen, lost to Independent candidate, Dylan Bullard, on roughly the same turnout as in 2012. If less than fifty people had voted differently then Owen would have been re-elected.

click to enlarge

Now Dylan Bullard may be a splendid fellow, who has never heard of Louise Hughes and her gang. But whoever distributed those leaflets in Pwllheli did so with the intention of damaging Plaid Cymru, and if they succeeded then Bullard is the beneficiary whether he acknowledges it or not.

Some reading this are now shouting, ‘But this is all supposition, Jac’. Is it? What we know for certain is that the leaflets exist, they were widely distributed prior to the council elections, and they were intended to damage Plaid Cymru’s election chances. The only imponderable is the degree to which the leaflets succeeded.

UPDATE 21.05.2017: Councillor Dylan Bullard has been in touch to say, “At no time prior to or during the local elections were these pamphlets available in any of the ‘retail outlets’ I frequent in Pwllheli, indeed a quick survey of certain towns people would suggest your feedback to be overwhelming wrong.” A sweeping statement.

He may be right, he may be wrong. But if he’s right, then I find it strange that leaflets should have been available at Bargain Booze and the shop-filling station (maybe other places) in Criccieth yet those responsible did not travel a few miles to Pwllheli where there was such a finely-balanced contest taking place.

When pressed to offer an opinion on the leaflet’s contents, Councillor Bullard said: “I have briefly read the pamphlet and can assure you that I do not agree with what is written and neither would any decent inhabitant of Pwllheli.”

UPDATE 26,05.2017: Here’s an interesting screen capture from the webcast of Gwynedd council’s full meeting on May 18. It shows of course Louise Hughes, distributor of leaflets; then, on the right of the picture, we see Steven Churchman, Lib Dem councillor and recipient of leaflets; on the far left (of the picture, never the political spectrum) we see Mike Stevens, printer of Tywyn; but who is that sitting between Stevens and Hughes, surely not Dylan Bullard?

Oh, yes, out of picture, but sitting next to Churchman, was Siôn Jones, the Labour councillor. What more do you need to know?

CONCLUSION

What might earlier have been dismissed as a few odious malcontents spreading their bigotry is no longer a valid interpretation of what happened in Gwynedd prior to the council elections. For we now know that it was more organised and widespread than that.

Not only did the recent activity cover a considerable geographical area, but the leaflet proudly announces, “this is the 6th edition of Tales With A Twist”. So were the other five produced prior to earlier elections? Will one appear before the June 8 UK general election?

click to enlarge

The fact that six of these leaflets have been produced and distributed makes it look like an ongoing conspiracy to influence the democratic process by an organised but secretive and law-breaking group. Therefore those involved must be exposed and punished.

In addition, there are features of this latest leaflet that are just crude racism: the suggestion that Welsh verbs are formed by adding ‘io’ to English words; the allegation that children are punished for speaking English in Gwynedd schools; and the reference to ‘English Not’ signs being made by ‘Waldio Priciau’.

This of course is the insulting reaction we hear from a certain English mindset whenever it’s confronted with another culture or identity. This mindset also believes that the natives are always corrupt . . . and so it is with those behind issue 6 of Tales With a Twist, which accuses Plaid Cymru of electoral fraud.

click to enlarge

Those responsible for this leaflet must feel there is an audience for their views, so let them give that audience a chance to express its contempt for all things Welsh through a new party, a kind of UKIP specific to Wales, a party for which there is only one permitted language and only one acceptable identity. A party committed to turning Wales into a greener and pleasanter England . . . without the immigrants.

But before they have that opportunity I hope that North Wales Police and the Electoral Commission do their jobs. Both have enough evidence now to begin proceedings against those responsible for the leaflet and the violations of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

♦ 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 ♦ ~

Apr 082017
 

A few days ago I got an anonymous message telling me about someone, or a group, seeking to raise money to ‘Save English Language Education in Wales’. Here’s the link to the relevant CrowdJustice site. I doubt if those behind this are susceptible to embarrassment, but just in case, and it’s been taken down, here’s what it said (click to enlarge):

click to enlarge

There are so many misleading statements and downright lies in that ‘appeal’ that it’s difficult to know where to start. The opening sentence sets the tone with the ludicrous claim that what’s happening in Llangennech is the prelude to removing English medium schools “across Wales”.

At first reading, the fourth paragraph seems to elaborate on the first, but with the qualification of “potentially”, which serves to undermine it altogether. Potentially means ‘possibly’, or ‘maybe’, or ‘who the fuck knows’. For example, potentially I’m the lost heir of the Hapsburgs. The Monster Raving Loony Party is potentially the next government of the UK. Elvis Presley is potentially alive and running a nice little B&B in Penmaenmawr.

Paragraph five: where’s the evidence that, “The majority from within Llangennech village wish to keep their Dual Stream system school, offering both Welsh and English streams . . .” Has there been a vote on it?

Paragraph six: there are a number of English medium schools within reasonable travelling distance. As for the alleged ‘move to England’ remark, it might have been said, by an individual, but this issue is about a decision taken by Carmarthenshire County Council, what individuals have said, on either side, is of less relevance.

Summary: What “apparent flaws, breaches”? And, again, where is the evidence for “overwhelming opposition”?

“Learning through the Medium of Welsh must be through choice and encouragement not by compulsion.” At last! I’ve found something I agree with, so why not remind those Labour-controlled local authorities that do their damnedest to avoid meeting the demand for Welsh language education?

The people behind this campaign claim to be defenders of democracy; yet they are opposing a decision taken by the democratic representatives of the county and they have no grounds whatever for arguing that they represent the will of the majority in Llangennech . . . apart from a biased on-line poll that attracted most of its support from outside the area.

There is a sick yet dangerous mind behind this fund-raising escapade that is premised on a palpable lie, namely, that there is a plan to “eradicate all English Medium schools”. Whoever is saying this is lying, and they know they’re lying. Consequently, this is a case of money being raised under false pretences. Which is of course a criminal offence.

Inevitably, this campaign is being promoted on social media, particularly the Families website, of which I was blissfully ignorant before this cropped up. From what I can make out this is an open website, with local pages, where people post news about their area, or ‘Ah!’ photos of their kids. Riveting stuff.

Save English Medium Education in Wales is being pushed on various local pages, both in Wales and England. Here’s the Carmarthenshire page. As you work down, you’ll read “Watkins and Gunn partner Michael Imperato”. Watkins and Gunn are the solicitors handling this fund-raiser.

It appears that Watkins and Gunn’s headquarters are in Pontypool with branches in Newport and Cardiff. Although Imperato is described as a partner he is not listed as a director on the Companies House website entry for Watkins and Gunn. The company specialises in personal injury and medical negligence; in other words – they’re ambulance chasers.

Though we do find John Michael Imperato listed as a director of the Bevan Foundation, the Labour ‘think tank’. Imperato has also stood as a Labour candidate; in the Llanishen ward of Cardiff in 2008, the Pentwyn ward in 2012, and more recently, he considered going for the Aberavon Westminster nomination, but was talked out of it, allowing Stephen Kinnock to sneak home.

In fact, the word I’m getting from the now smoke-free rooms is that Imperato was ‘persuaded’ not to throw his hat into the ring by a trade union that may have had ‘dirt’ on him. This same trade union is also said to be ill-disposed towards Lee Waters, Imperato’s mate and AM for Llanelli.

John Michael Imperato

Now, I don’t want anyone to think I’m taking a cheap shot here because of his Italian name, but there is something to be said for comparing ‘Welsh’ Labour to the Mafia. Both have contempt for ‘outsiders’, backstabbing is the norm, both are in business for themselves and their members, with the Mob having its rackets and ‘Welsh’ Labour its Third Sector.

You may recall that in News Round-up 24.03.2017 I wrote of a Labour councillor in Plaid Cymru-controlled Gwynedd, Siôn Wyn Jones, and reported that a project of his had been favoured by the local funding agency, Mantell Gwynedd, which is – in the words of my informant – a “Labour closed shop”. I was told the same applies to the Citizens Advice Bureau in Bangor. So it’s no surprise to see that Imperato was once a director of the – now defunct – Cardiff Citizens Advice Bureau.

Which makes me wonder what chance I – someone who has over the years been mildly critical of the Labour Party – would have of getting fair treatment from what appears to be an offshoot of the Labour Party?

UPDATE 10:10pm: Since finishing this piece I have learnt that Mr Imperato has represented parents on the ‘other side’ of the language debate. Ceredigion in 2004, and Newport in 2014. I am happy to put the record straight.

Though in both those cases he was on firmer legal ground, which meant that he, or whoever instructed him, didn’t need to resort to hyperbole, exaggeration and downright lies, as in the Llangennech case.

The Llangennech dispute has inevitably attracted the bigots and oddballs, and they don’t come more bigoted or oddbally than Jacques Protic, a man who blames the Welsh language for his beer going flat. To judge by this Twitter reply he might even have been in the area recently. This obsessive’s blog is one sad but revealing anti-Welsh tirade after another. It paints the picture of a troubled soul.

Inevitably, Protic supports the Save English Medium Education in Wales fund-raiser, here’s a tweet (below) from a few days ago that suggests what’s happening in Llangennech is the fault of the ‘Welsh’ Government and is but a staging-post on the road to a “Welsh Speaking Republic”.

Protic has elsewhere claimed to be a Labour Party member, but believes that both Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones are ‘closet nationalists’, for no better reason than both speak Welsh! As I say, this man is troubled.

Support of a slightly more credible nature came from the Trinity Mirror Group’s Welsh mouthpiece WalesOnline, where someone called Christie Bannon gave an uncritical plug to the flagging campaign and even provided a link to the CrowdJustice page. Though somebody slipped up by using the photo of the bigots lined up with Neil – “do the honourable thing” – Hamilton and his wife-minder.

those with strong stomachs may click to enlarge

Why do ugly people always manage to find each other? Is there magnetism at work?

P.S. The WalesOnline story has finally been updated, at four minutes past three on April 11th. Instead of wondering who pulled the plug on this exercise in misrepresentation, or why, the reporter, Christie Bannon, does no more than say that it’s been taken down before repeating almost verbatim what it said and what is now no longer available on the CrowdJustice website.

click to enlarge

The bias we’ve seen in Trinity Mirror’s coverage of the Llangennech dispute has been blatant from the start. Why anyone still buys this company’s Welsh rags is a mystery. Maybe we should be thankful that sales are falling, though I’m a little sad to see the Evening Post – not so long ago the largest circulation Welsh daily – heading for the knackers’ yard as people in the Swansea area realise that ‘their’ ‘paper is now written in Cardiff.

Anyone who’s been following this story will know that there are disturbing connections between the anti-Welsh campaigners and the extreme right, the BritNats so intolerant of all other identities. To these people we Welsh, and our language, are ‘alien’, even in Wales, and must be stamped out. Everything must be English.

This attitude is not restricted to the Welsh language, it extends to anything that differentiates Wales from England, other than sporting events and other trivia. It’s what I’ve referred to more than once as ‘the package’. Those who are hostile to the Welsh language will usually be opposed to devolution and so on. Essentially, these people are English nationalists. Of course it’s dressed up as Britishness and, amusingly, opposition to ‘narrow nationalism’. But ‘British’ means little today, and once Scotland is independent and Ireland reunited it will mean nothing but Englandandwales.

Few have stirred more assiduously than Gary Robert Jones, who tweets as @poumista, a name taken from POUM, a Trotskyite party during the Spanish Civil War period. Jones is a community councillor and hopes for promotion to county hall next month, for he seeks election in the Llangennech ward.

An odd fish, Jones; sometimes he seems to be one of the more rational inmates of the asylum and then he puts out a tweet like this (below). Gifted to the world on the day – March 18 – when Wales played France at rugby in Paris. He appears to be wearing a poilu helmet from WWII, and the caption would suggest he’s supporting France!

Get your head around that. Here’s a Labour candidate in a Llanelli ward, two months away from an election, who appears to be supporting Wales’ opponents in a rugby international! In the Llanelli I know, that’s a lynching offence. But then, as I keep saying, we are dealing here with very strange people.

Moving up a level we come to the local Assembly Member, Lee Waters. Although Waters is the AM for Llanelli he and his family live 55 miles away on Barry Island. Yet for last year”s Assembly elections he gave a Llanelli address – possibly his mother’s – on his nomination paper and sneaked in by less than 400 votes. Would he have been elected if the Turks had known he didn’t live among them? I doubt it.

And now we have John Michael Imperato, failed Labour candidate; Jacques Protic, who dismisses Welsh as a “tribal language”; and a cast of similar individuals who have serious problems with the truth. In a word: they’re unable to recognise it or produce it.

Finally, with the campaign looking unlikely to meet its fund-raising target the Labour-supporting Trinity Mirror Group, using its Welsh titles and WalesOnline gives a priceless plug and a link to the site for potential donors. Curiously, although the piece asks for comments, it’s not publishing any. I know because I submitted a comment yesterday, and I can’t believe that no one has commented.

This affair has ‘Welsh’ Labour running through it like ‘Pwllheli’ through a stick of rock. The party locally has been behind the anti-Welsh campaign in Llangennech from the outset, conveniently forgetting that the county council was run by a Labour-Independent coalition when the decision on Llangennech school was taken in 2015.

No matter what pious statements Carwyn Jones or Alun Davies might make about wanting to help the Welsh language, lower down the food chain unscrupulous individuals see political capital – against Plaid Cymru – in being hysterically anti-Welsh.

And as these people make up the bulk of ‘Welsh’ Labour we can now label the party anti-Welsh. So stop-pussy-footing around with these bastards, dreaming of coalitions and talking of a ‘progressive consensus’, and fight them with their own weapons. They may be cunning and devious, but they ain’t too smart. They must be destroyed as the SNP has destroyed their corrupt, lying cousins.

I suspect this case will rumble on, so I may return to it at some point. For the full background of the squalid Llangennech saga, and its dramatis personae, I can recommend no better source than the excellent Cneifiwr.

As I finish this post I note that the CrowdJustice site has raised £1,400 of the £7,500 target with 26 days to go. Though what this deception has to do with justice I do not know.

UPDATE, 8pm: The link to the CrowdJustice site Save English Language Medium Education in Wales now comes up with this (below). Which is odd, seeing as the appeal had already been launched and was collecting money. It looks as if it has either been withdrawn by those behind it or else taken down by CrowdJustice. Or have they raised all the £6,000+ they needed this afternoon? If so, then it didn’t come in £10 and £20 donations.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I did write to CrowdJustice, using tradition Latin legal terms like ‘bollocks’ and ‘lying bastards’. But surely it was nothing to do with me!

UPDATE, Midnight: I have now been directed to a very strange tale on the Families website. In case this also disappears, I have saved it for you (below, click to enlarge). Quite what all this means I’m not yet sure, so I’m open to suggestions from my erudite readers.

Oh, yes, now I come to think of it, I may have written to Families as well.

UPDATE 10.04.2017: The CrowdJustice page now reads as shown (click to enlarge). It would appear that the appeal was closed down yesterday. But by whom?

UPDATE 2:45pm 10.04.2017: The CrowdJustice page now reads ‘Page not found’.

♦ end ♦

Mar 242017
 

Swansea Labour Party

I have it on good authority that the all-conquering Swansea Labour Party is raring to go in May’s council elections. Well oiled, with palms greased and muscles flexed from Clydach High Street to Caswell Bay. Even as you read this leafleting teams – each member carrying a 90kg rucksack – will be training by racing up and down Kilvey Hill. Platitudes are being practised and – should honeyed words fail – brass knuckles polished.

Well, perhaps I exaggerate.

It is at this point I must apologise to whoever sent me interesting information about the line-up for May . . . information I’m afraid I’ve lost, sorry. The problem is that I’m still trying to get straight after my recent computer disaster. But never mind, I shall press on with what I’ve got.

It seems that things are not well for the bruvvers on my home patch, and even worse as we look around the Bay.

First, the Clays, Bob and Uta, have upped sticks and gone. They drifted into town a few years ago, he’s English and a former MP for Sunderland North, she’s Austrian. They were immediately accepted as candidates by the Labour Party, yet they’ve spent their brief time in the city playing left wing politics and plotting against ‘colleagues’, now they’re moving on having done sod all for Swansea, their only contribution being to keep up Labour numbers on the council.

One of those hoping to replace the Clays in the Llansamlet ward is Maureen ‘Mo’ Sykes, who has appeared in this blog afore, due to her connection with the YMCA. See here, here and here.

Like the Clays and so many of the city’s recent Labour councillors Sykes is not native to Swansea or to Wales. But what the hell! Labour is an internationalist party . . . or was until it realised that most Labour voters went for Brexit due to concerns over immigration. So if Labour don’t fall into line, then those voters will switch to Ukip (even if they remain sceptical about Paul Nuttall’s claim to have scored the winning goal in the 1966 World Cup Final).

Plaid Cymru

‘But, surely’ you cry, ‘Plaid Cymru must be strong in Swansea, and putting up a raft of of inspiring candidates?’ I fear not. The last time the Jack electorate was offered credible Plaid candidates with whom they could identify was when me and my mates stood back in the ’60s and ’70s. You want to know why Plaid Cymru is almost invisible in Swansea?

First, there’s the widespread perception that Plaid is a ‘Cardiff party’. In other words, part of the ‘bubble’ that sees Cardiff get a disproportionate share of investment and everything else. This may be felt in other areas, but is more keenly felt in Cardiff’s only rival.

Second, and another reason that the party has difficulty connecting with ordinary people, is because of its obsession with ‘progressive’ politics and other bollocks that makes it hostage to single-issue obsessives and outright charlatans. Here’s an example.

Mynydd y Gwair

The long saga of Mynydd y Gwair is drawing to a close. A windfarm will soon rise on an unspoilt landscape on the edge of Swansea. Local graziers – all Welsh – will lose out to the German energy company erecting the turbines, and the Duke of Beaufort, who owns the land, much of it acquired in confiscations from Welsh landowners (among them, it is suggested, Owain Glyndŵr). Yet Plaid Cymru has done nothing to help the people of the area.

Plaid Cymru may indeed be ‘the Party of Wales’ but in its pathetic attempt to avoid the ‘narrow nationalist’ slander it refuses to acknowledge the existence of a distinct, Welsh people, promoting instead something called ‘civic nationalism’ which, when used by Plaid Cymru, is just a cop-out.

On Mynydd y Gwair, Plaid’s desperation to avoid the slander, coupled with its support for environmentalist shysters, has led the party to support a German energy company and an English aristocrat against Welsh people.

What sort of a national party is this? Perhaps one for which ‘Wales’ is just a geographical expression.

Plod, Plod, Plodding Along

Before leaving Swansea I must return to the case of Jenny Lee Clarke who, you may remember, was a colleague of Carolyn Harris, now the MP for Swansea East, and claims to have suffered a homophobic assault at the hands of Harris. (An incident that Plaid Cymru, opposed to bullying and homophobia, chose to ignore.)

In what was almost certainly a tit-for-tat move Clarke was accused of stealing money by somehow paying herself more than she was due. I’m not sure when she was initially charged (lost documents again) but I know that she was bailed, and that this initial bail period was extended until November 7th . . . when it was extended again to February 17th . . . now it’s been extended again to May 17th.

. . . for Labour politicians?

If the police have a case then they should take it to court, if they don’t have a case then they should give this poor woman a break and put an end to her worrying. I cannot believe that it takes so long to investigate a single allegation against one woman – it’s not as if we’re dealing with a complicated conspiracy involving offshore accounts used by Russian hackers.

The way the police have treated Jenny Lee Clarke makes them look incompetent. An alternative explanation, seeing as the allegation against Clarke comes from a Labour MP, one against whom she had made a serious allegation, and remembering that the South Wales PCC, Alun Michael, is a former Labour MP, might be that political influence explains this woman’s appalling treatment.

Comrades Lost on the Port Talbot Front

Around the Bay, in Neath Port Talbot, there has been internecine blood-letting on a scale unrecorded since the Peloponnesian War. The ground in Port Talbot is said to be red with the blood of fallen comrades, knives protruding from their backs, with as many as half of the sitting Labour councillors deselected, and perhaps eleven of them planning to stand as Independents in May. This could get really nasty. (Rubs hands gleefully!)

A similar situation is reported from Bridgend council, especially up around Maesteg, and from other areas such as Caerfilli, and Cardiff. It would appear that in some local authority areas ‘Welsh’ Labour is fighting a – largely unreported – civil war.

Llandovery YMCA

Hesitantly now, I cross the mighty Llwchwr into Carmarthenshire, but give Sosban a wide berth, for Cneifiwr is doing a grand job there in exposing the manifest shortcomings of the oddballs, dissemblers and grotesques collectively known as Llanelli Labour Party. I shall instead hie me away to Llandovery.

Intelligence reached me that the con trick going by the name of Llandovery YMCA had closed its doors. I call it a con trick because its greatest achievement has been to pull in hundreds of thousands of pounds of public funding to create non-jobs for good-lifers. I suggest you read Ancestral Turf and The Impoverishment of Wales (scroll down to ‘YMCA Wales’). There you will encounter in a previous incarnation ‘Mo’ Sykes, would-be successor to the Clays.

put up on March 4th, still closed

Of more immediate relevance could be that the driving force behind this scam, one Jill Tatman, is being prevented from returning to work by other trustees after a period looking after her ‘sick’ husband. I’m told that her husband is not sick at all, but perhaps keeping his own company while on bail for – it is alleged – offences involving children.

A great deal of public money has been poured into Llandovery YMCA for the benefit of a small group of recent arrivals. Given that the whole project seems to have folded there should now be an investigation of the accounts and the wider running of this good-lifers’ benefit fund.

In my Ancestral Turf post you will see a video featuring Gill Wright who branched out by taking over the old North Western Hotel, near the railway station, to run as the Level Crossing bunkhouse. Public funding was secured, but again, the venture collapsed, after just two years.

The old pile has now been bought again, this time to be run as a commercial venture, with no public funding involved. How know I this? Because the new owners sent a message to the contact box you’ll see in the sidebar.

I get some very interesting messages through my ‘Contact Me Directly’ box. Oh yes.

Sweet Charity

News from the north, now.

Over the years I’ve dealt with countless examples of the ‘Welsh’ Government blindly throwing money around in the vain hope that this will be mistaken for an economic strategy. As we know, much of this money goes to Labour Party members and hangers-on in the Third Sector; Naz Malik and the family business AWEMA being a classic example.

When it’s not going to Labourites other ways are found to squander public funding, such as showering money on the grant grabbers of Llandovery and their counterparts across the land. I’ve often thought that this group seems to make up for the lack of a Labour presence in rural areas.

For the electoral map tells us that there are fewer opportunities to reward party loyalty when we travel west of Wrecsam and Llanelli, or north of Merthyr. But little outposts of bruvverdom can still be found. One such example would be the patch of Councillor Siôn Wyn Jones in Bethel, a village to the north east of Caernarfon on the B4366.

Now I’m sure that one-time estate agent Siôn is a conscientious councillor working hard for his community, for he never tires of telling people how hard he works and how much money he’s raised for that community. But questions are being asked about his running of the village hall, Neuadd Goffa Bethel.

Back in 2013 the Neuadd was given £294,811.88 in capital grants by the ‘Welsh’ Government for a revamp. Which gave Carwyn Jones the opportunity to venture into Plaid Cymru territory to remind locals how much ‘Welsh’ Labour was doing for them.

The revamped Neuadd is a fine asset for Bethel, but questions persist. Such as, why have no accounts or annual returns been filed with the Charity Commission for two years? And why is Siôn Wyn Jones the sole trustee of the Neuadd? Because the Charity Commission recommends at least three trustees. We know young Siôn is multi-talented, but is he serving as chairman, secretary and treasurer?

I’m sure there are simple answers to these questions and equally sure that Siôn Wyn Jones will ensure that everything is soon tickety-boo. For hark! I hear the returning officer call the candidates to the stage.

P.S. I should have mentioned that even though Gwynedd Council is controlled by Plaid Cymru the local funding agency, Mantell Gwynedd, is firmly under Labour Party control. Described to me as a “Labour closed shop”. Which means that even in an area where Labour is weak, ‘loyalty’ can still be bought and rewarded. An interesting insight into how ‘Welsh’ Labour manages to control the purse-strings even in those areas where it is rejected by the electorate.

‘J Jones’

Those of us who spend too much time on the internet, and especially on sites that deal with Wales, will be familiar with ‘J Jones’, an exceptionally prolific writer whose mission in life seems to be proving that we’d all be eating caviare in the backs of our chauffeur-driven Rollers . . . if only we killed off the Welsh language.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I believe that ‘J Jones’ is our old friend, that son of the Balkans, Jacques Protic. I say that for a number of reasons. To begin with, over the years Protic has used many aliases, he may even have been Bilingo, for what really brings down the red mist for Protic is kids being taught Welsh, or worse, being educated through the medium of Welsh.

A further link is that ‘J Jones’ claims to be living on Ynys Môn, which, by a strange coincidence, is where Jacques Protic lives.

Until quite recently, Protic and ‘J Jones’ seemed to work as a team, appearing on the same blog or website feeding off each other. But we seem to be reading less from Protic nowadays and more from ‘J Jones’, who may be trying to explain the Protic reticence in the comment below, made in December to a Cardiff University blog by Professor Roger Scully.

Significantly, the police doing “nothing” to protect Jacques Protic from nationalist lynch mobs is a refrain we’ve heard from Protic himself. It has even been taken up by Labour blogger Phil Parry. To savour his take on the persecution of Jacques Protic – and my role in it! – work back from (takes deep breath), If Third-Rate Journalism Reliant On Endless Repetition Was A Crime Then Phil Parry Would Have Been Banged Up Long Ago.

‘J Jones’ of course shares the Protic obsession with education, to the extent that towards the end of 2015 he even commissioned a survey with YouGov into attitudes to Welsh language education. How much does it cost to have your own survey? How much of an obsessive do you have to be to arrange one? Or is someone else paying?

I suggest that newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites, take rather more care than hitherto when dealing with comments and other contributions from ‘J Jones’, if only because he doesn’t exist.

Brexit

To finish, a little contribution from another source who tells me that Whitehall mandarins are in a tizzy because they fear May and her Three Brexiteers may be planning to do a runner so as to avoid the €60bn ‘divorce settlement’ and other punitive measures that Johnny Foreigner will seek to impose.

The scenario runs thus: Once the German elections are out of the way at the end of September a spat will be contrived that will see the UK raise two fingers to her erstwhile partners in the EU and walk away without paying anything.

I’m still trying to get my head around this, and figure out how it might impact on Scotland. Surely it would be a gift for the SNP? And what about us?

I’m sure my erudite and imaginative readers will have opinions on this and the other matters raised in this post.

♦ end ♦

Mar 072017
 

Neil McEvoy

There’s no question that Neil McEvoy divides opinion, both within his own party, Plaid Cymru, and also within the wider community. The one place where opinion seems to be united is in the Labour Party, where people universally hate him. In many ways he is the enfant terrible of Welsh politics, a role that has gone unfilled for far too long.

Now you know me, in my book, being hated by ‘Welsh’ Labour is no bad thing, and can very often be a mark of distinction given the odious bastards we find in that corrupt and self-serving gang of liars, crooks, bigots, careerists and BritLanders. (‘BritLanders’ are sad cases who delude themselves that Britain or the UK is something other than England by another name.)

Neil McEvoy’s latest mention in the headlines is due to an appearance last week before something called the Adjudication Panel for Wales over an allegation of bullying. Now as kangaroo courts go, this one could make it from Cardiff to Bangor in a single hop, because the whole process was a stitch-up from start to finish. The charge hinges on an uncontested remark, the issue being to whom it was directed.

Leaving Cardiff Civil Justice Centre with a constituent in July 2015 after an unsuccessful appeal against eviction for non-payment of rent McEvoy said, “I can’t wait until May 2017 when the restructure of the council happens”. He maintains that he was talking to his constituent, the council official thought it was directed at her, and that it could be construed as a threat to her job if and when Plaid Cymru was running the council. (Which in July 2015 seemed a very unlikely prospect.)

Those of us of a certain age, who have enjoyed the company of ‘colourful’ characters, and frequented the kinds of “low dives” our mothers always told us to avoid, may think that as threats go – and even if it was directed at the council official – this was mild to the point of being innocuous. There was no weapon involved, not a hand was laid, there wasn’t even a swear word employed! And it would appear that the official took the same view . . . but then the Labour Party got to hear of it.

Although unwilling to press charges, the official, under pressure now from her ‘Welsh’ Labour Party employers, changed her mind. Maybe it was spelled out to her that if she didn’t co-operate then she could lose her job a lot sooner than May 2017, and it wouldn’t be Plaid Cymru handing her her P45.

For we are dealing here with the Labour Party in Cardiff, where the bullying of women is rampant, perhaps even party policy. For as Neil McEvoy said in the article I’ve linked to –

Seven female councillors have resigned from Labour in Cardiff. Seven!

So Why Was Neil McEvoy Stitched Up?

This section begins in the same vein as the first; Neil McEvoy was stitched up because he’s made a lot of enemies, a hell of a lot of enemies. It’s no exaggeration to say that in the past few years he might have pissed off more people than me! And while Neil McEvoy and I might not agree on much, I suspect that when it comes to pointing the finger at those Wales would be better without, then we’d be pointing in the same directions many a time. Where to start?

As I’ve already said, and as should be obvious, he is detested by the Labour Party with a particular vehemence for two main reasons: first, until 2003 he was a member of that party, and second, since then he has been an opponent who’s landed many damaging blows. Being elected to Cardiff city council and the Notional Assembly are just the more obvious of those blows.

Recently Neil McEvoy has served on the Public Accounts Committee, which has been looking into the workings of our housing associations, and he’s been asking awkward questions, and in other ways annoying people. For as I’ve explained, housing associations, especially the favoured and rapidly expanding Wales and West Housing, are just the Labour Party by another name.

Over the years he’s asked many more awkward questions of the Third Sector in general. Which means there are thousands of people in Wales living high on the hog of public funding who’d like to see the back of Neil McEvoy. (Preferably with a knife between his shoulder blades.)

Then there’s Deryn. You haven’t heard of Deryn? Well, it’s a kind of lobbying or PR company, made up of insiders that is so good that it wins contracts without even having to tender for them! Neil McEvoy has been asking why Ofcom Wales awarded a contract to Deryn and whether this was connected to the fact that two of Deryn’s senior people sit on the Ofcom advisory board for Wales.

But you mustn’t think he’s picking on Deryn alone, for last year he asked the ‘Welsh’ Government to copy Westminster and Holyrood by introducing legislation to regulate lobbyists. But when we have firms like Deryn, stuffed with politicians, former politicians, spads and other insiders, we can’t realistically expect the ‘Welsh’ Government to do anything.

I could go on, but take my word for it, Neil McEvoy has pissed off a lot of people who are taking the public and/or the public purse for a ride. These people are ‘insiders’, by which I mean, they belong to the Cardiff or Bay ‘bubble’. That self-contained world where people tell themselves that everything across Wales is hunky-dory because they are doing well.

A bubble wherein we find lazy incompetents promising not to attack each other for being lazy and incompetent, then dressing this up as some laudable ‘consensus’. It’s nothing of the kind. It’s third-raters deluding themselves they’re achieving something and it’s a cruel deception practised on the Welsh people.

Neil McEvoy exposes this ‘consensus’ for what it is, and threatens to shake this cosy world apart. Do you still want to know why he was stitched up?

Why Neil McEvoy Embarrasses Plaid Cymru’s Leadership

To understand just how cosy this ‘consensus’ really is, just take a look at the leading lights in Deryn. You’ll find representatives of ‘Welsh’ Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives. (It’s only a matter of time before Ukip’s Neil Hamilton gets the call. Christine will be delighted!)

In talking of ‘consensus’, it is the relationship between Labour and Plaid Cymru that goes a long way to explaining the Plaid leadership’s reaction to recent events. Because Plaid’s leadership dreams wet dreams of a coalition with Labour and so reality – in the form of Neil McEvoy – must not be allowed to intrude. Without a formal coalition then Plaid likes to kid itself that more can be achieved by co-operation than by confrontation – with ‘Welsh’ Labour!

All of which results in Plaid Cymru being reluctant to attack Labour. Labour knows this, and laughs at Plaid’s naivete. And this, boys and girls, is the truth about the ‘consensus’. Neil McEvoy understands this better than most.

Beyond the one-sided or imagined cosy relationship another explanation for the party leadership’s attitude to Neil McEvoy can be explained by the special interest groups that make up Plaid Cymru. I’m now referring to those who join Plaid for no other reason than to promote socialism, environmental issues, LGBT politics, the Welsh language, feminism, etc. On the McEvoy issue it is clearly the feminists driving the agenda – those same Plaid Cymru ‘feminists’ who were silent as the Cardiff Labour Party behaved like a gang of latter-day Bluebeards.

To explain what I mean about special interest groups, and in particular, feminism, let me remind you of something I covered back in November 2015, in a compendium post, scroll down to the section ‘Sophie Howe, More Labour Cronyism’.

The eponymous Sophie Howe is a lifelong Labour Party member, the daughter of a one-time councillor in Cardiff, who worked as South Wales Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, her boss being former Labour MP Alun Michael. When she couldn’t land herself a safe seat a totally new post, Future Generations Commissioner, was created for her.

This news was greeted by Jocelyn Davies, then a Plaid Cymru Assembly Member, with the tweet below. For a feminist like Davies, this squalid example of Labour cronyism could be excused – because Sophie Howe is a “strong woman”. God Almighty!

This blind spot that so many Plaid leaders have for Labour – and, more generally, those on the left – manifests itself in many ways. One example I ran across a few days ago was on the blog of Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid candidate for Clwyd South in 2016.

In his latest post Mabon deals with Welsh language education in Dyffryn Ceiriog, and asks in the title ‘Was Llangennech a stand alone issue? No. Here’s why . . . ‘ He tells of a local bigot opposing Welsh medium education, but he doesn’t lay into him because this bugger is “solidly left of centre”, a trade unionist and, presumably, a member of the Labour Party.

Yet the article makes a direct comparison with Llangennech, and if there’s one lesson to come out of Llangennech it is that the Labour Party, and socialists like Gary ‘Poumista’ Jones, have schemed and connived, been guilty of lies and intimidation, all to thwart kids getting a Welsh education. Some of them linked up openly with Ukip, and less openly with even uglier elements further to the BritNat right.

Listen, Mabon; the real message from Llangennech is that anti-Welsh bigotry comes from across the political spectrum, it is not an ideological issue. Because if we follow your logic, then I, being on the political right, am less acceptable to you than this bigot on the left. Know your friends. More importantly, know your enemies.

I didn’t enjoy writing that because Mabon is a good boy. But some things have to be said.

Let me finish by saying that I don’t really know Neil McEvoy; for all I know he could be an utter cad, or perhaps someone who bites the heads off fluffy lickle bunny wunnies.

But I do know why he was stitched up. And I know who stitched him up. And I’ve explained why many in Plaid Cymru are uncomfortable with him – it’s because he threatens their ludicrous ‘consensus’ that is nothing more than an excuse for inertia and betrayal.

Some people, myself included, regard him as a breath of fresh air, others clearly view him as something more destructive, perhaps a whirlwind. Either way, I sense that he is forcing Plaid Cymru to confront its relationship with ‘Welsh’ Labour in a way that no one has done for some time.

Which is good, for I believe that Plaid Cymru either needs a revolution from within to re-focus the party, or else it needs to be killed off and replaced by a new party that will better serve the Welsh national interest.

Wales is the poorest country in Europe, due to Labour’s corruption and incompetence, aided and abetted by Plaid Cymru’s insane belief in ‘consensus’. Anything will be an improvement on this.

♦ end ♦

Nov 142016
 

When I first heard of the Circuit of Wales project back in the early part of 2013 I was somewhat sceptical of its chances of success, and the reasons for my scepticism were set out in Vroom, Vroom – The Next Gravy Train? 

Despite being doubtful that the project would ever materialise I was (in the even-handed manner for which I am rightly acclaimed) also critical of some of those raising objections to the CoW, not least the environmentalists who seem to oppose anything that might benefit those who live permanently in Wales.

For various reasons that I don’t have the space to analyse here, the project has ‘drifted’ somewhat since my original post, and in recent weeks we have witnessed attacks on the Heads of the Valleys Development Company (HOTVDC) and its Circuit of Wales from what might, at first sight, appear to be unconnected sources. So let’s look at these attacks and see if we can make sense of them.

ebbw-vale

A long-time critic of what could be the economic salvation of the region is Conservative MP David Davies, who represents the neighbouring constituency (to Ebbw Vale) of Monmouthshire, perhaps the most affluent area in the country. It’s reasonable to assume that those who vote for Davies don’t want anything noisy on their doorstep, attracting people who will drive through their area to get to the circuit. So while not wishing to be unfair – for there may indeed be more to it – I suspect that nimbyism with a dash of snobbery lies behind the attacks from that direction.

But as I say, Davies, chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee at Westminster, has been a consistent critic, and no doubt he’d argue that he’s just doing his job. And his job has been made easier for him by some strange spending of the millions already invested by the ‘Welsh’ Government.

But the criticism of this project comes from beyond leafy Monmouthshire and its well-heeled inhabitants, from those who cannot be dismissed as nimbys or snobs.

On November 1, after regular sniping from its news broadcasts, BBC Wales made a frontal assault using its Week In Week Out series with A Safe Bet? (Video available here for a while.) There was little pretence at impartiality. Anyone watching this programme with no knowledge of Wales, and how it works, would have concluded that the Circuit of Wales is a complete waste of money and should be ditched immediately.

I admit that Michael Carrick, the man behind HOTVDC, doesn’t always instill confidence, and he has certainly made mistakes. Even so, it appears to me that critics have too often been playing the man rather than the ball. By which I mean, the project needs to be considered on its merits; after all, Einstein being a philanderer didn’t undermine his Theory of Relativity.

The attacks have continued, culminating today in a front page lead continued on page 2 plus an editorial in the Wasting Mule. All written by my old mucker, Martin Shipton.

The justification for today’s attack seems to be that the HOTVDC used the Silverstone circuit in England in 2015 and 2016 to host MotoGP races that it had contracted to host at the Circuit of Wales, and had lost money. Now with the best will in the world, I detect an element of having your cake and eating it in this criticism.

Because those attacking the HOTVDC for making a loss at Silverstone – due to the Circuit of Wales not being completed – are the very same people who have been doing their very best to derail the CoW project altogether!

circuit-of-wales-wm-editorial

click to enlarge

As for losing money by going to Silverstone, even before reading the response from the HOTVDC I knew the answer. The owners of the Silverstone circuit creamed off the profits, from the hot dog stands to the champagne hospitality suites and from the Ducati baseball caps to the sales of £300 leather biker boots.

A child could work that out, and a younger sibling could add that those profits would have accrued to Ebbw Vale if the Circuit of Wales had been operational, as would other benefits to the area from those visiting for a few days.

God Almighty! Break somebody’s leg and then criticise him for limping.

So how do we account for this recent onslaught from BBC Wales and the Wasting Mule? I suspect there are two, linked, answers.

First, just last month, it became clear that the project had a good chance of proceeding without needing to be underwritten by the ‘Welsh’ Government. Even so, this report from WalesOnline still manages to put a negative spin on the news with, “However, without approval on underwriting from the Welsh Government, the project will effectively be dead as there is little private sector appetite to take a 100% risk exposure position.”

Though I’m a little nonplussed by the phrase “approval on underwriting”. If the writer means underwriting, why not just say that rather than employ such a convoluted phrase? Though with heavyweight backing from Aviva and Kleinwort Benson underwriting from the ‘Welsh’ Government may no longer be needed . . . and it may be this realisation that has triggered the recent attacks.

The article in question was written by Siôn Barry, of whom I shall have more to say in a moment.

Second, if the Circuit of Wales goes ahead then it will challenge the thinking behind the Cardiff Capital Region project. Which, in its simplest terms, is as follows: As many jobs as the Region’s architects can get away with are to be concentrated in Cardiff, as are the Region’s sporting, recreational, cultural and other facilities. So that people from the Valleys will come into Cardiff to earn their crust, and they will come back into Cardiff to be regularly relieved of a great part of that crust.

Which makes it anathema to those behind the City Region that places like Ebbw Vale should be allowed anything as grand as a race circuit, ‘Bloody hell, people will go there spending their money rather than going into Cardiff. Where will it end? They’ll all want something!’

Now the Wasting Mule, despite its hyperbolic claim to be ‘The National Newspaper of Wales’, is, as we all know, a Cardiff newspaper, and the mouthpiece of those seeking to enrich the city at the expense of the rest of Wales. This explains today’s editorial.

The Wasting Mule does not want the Circuit of Wales to progress even if it has 100% private funding, for fear it might limit Cardiff’s ability to enjoy the full benefits of the City Region scam.

Consequently, the final paragraph of Shippo’s editorial is a direct appeal to his friends in the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government to put obstacles in the way of HOTVDC, perhaps to use environmental or other planning ruses. We can be sure that representations are also being made through more ‘private’ channels.

Fundamental to the Cardiff Capital Region project is the Metro system – for how else are people from Merthyr, Ebbw Vale, Maesteg and other outposts of the empire to reach the City of Milk and Honey? Since 2010 the job of promoting the Metro has fallen to a Mark Barry, some might go so far as to say that the Metro is his idea.

metro-network

After working for the Welsh Development Agency (2002 – 2003) he has maintained good connections with the ‘Welsh’ Government. Though some might suggest a conflict of interests in the following roles:

  • Owner of M&G Barry Consulting (Sept 2009 – Present) His Linkedin profile tells us that M&G Barry Consulting was set up to promote the Metro project.
  • Board Advisor for Transport and the Economy for the Cardiff Business Partnership (Oct 2010 – Oct 2013)
  • Founder of the private sector Metro Consortium (Aug 2011 – Nov 2013)
  • Metro Development Director and Advisor to the ‘Welsh’ Government (Nov 2013 – Jan 2016).

(Though seeing as M&G Barry has been going since September 2009 I would have expected the website to be up and running by now. But then, I suppose it’s not looking for business, it’s a one-trick pony.)

I’m telling you this because of course Mark Dafydd Barry is the brother of Siôn Barry, Business Editor of Media Wales, and this explains Siôn Barry’s regular plugging of his brother’s Cardiff Metro scheme, and of course his hostility to the Circuit of Wales.

Yet another example of the incestuous relationship between politics, business, media and academe in Cardiff is provided by the fact that since April this year Mark Barry has been Professor of Practice in Connectivity at Cardiff University, “Exploring the wider economic and regional benefits of the South Wales Metro”.

Though some might think that’s an odd post – created specially? – for a man who did his degree at Manchester in Physics and The Analysis of Science & Technology and who, for many years after leaving university, worked in software design. In fact, Barry seems to have neither qualifications nor experience in the fields of transport and communications before he was granted his vision of the Cardiff Metro . . . and sold it to his former employers at the ‘Welsh’ Government. 

This defence of Cardiff’s interests tells us why the Wasting Mule is hostile to the Circuit of Wales, while BBC Wales’ attitude can be explained by the fact that it has as much claim to being our national broadcaster as the Mule has to being our national newspaper.

The Circuit of Wales is a real test for the ‘Welsh’ Government, in a number of ways.

First, and most obviously, it is a massive project, promising thousands of jobs, in an area that badly needs those jobs and the economic boost they’ll bring to the wider economy.

Second, it is becoming clear that for those who believe Cardiff must be the hub for all investment in the south east the Circuit of Wales poses a challenge, partly of itself, and partly because it might encourage other distant towns to question their allotted status of dormitory settlements.

The issue can’t be funding alone. Certainly not for the ‘Welsh’ Government which, it is rumoured, will give more than £100m so that near-bankrupt Aston Martin can relocate in the Vale of Glamorgan, very near to Cardiff. And then there are the hundreds of millions of pounds squandered on the Third Sector for what often seems to be no other reason than providing jobs for Labour cronies and hangers-on. Communities First, which has spent over £300m would be a good example.

aston-martin

Then there are the hundreds, maybe thousands, of smaller projects that have cumulatively swallowed up more money over the years than Aston Martin, Communities First and all the others we know of. Read this puff from 2013, and then read this from just a few days ago. This project was a non-starter, doomed from the outset – but what the hell, it’s only public money!

What’s worse, is that one of the women involved in this doomed venture, Gill Wright, featured in Ancestral Turf, a post I wrote in September 2014. She belongs to a network of people in the Tywi valley – all of whom seem to be English – who appear to be in competition to dream up ever more ludicrous ‘schemes’ for milking the Welsh public purse. And it works – for they get grant after grant that benefits no one but themselves!

The other woman involved with setting up the Level Crossing Bunkhouse in Llandovery, Jane Ryall, is a ‘social enterprise advisor’. So not only do our funding bodies attract all manner of grant-grabbers to take advantage of the easy money, they also pull in those who are now living off those who are living off the Welsh public purse. And it’s all dressed up as economic activity. What a system!

And how can we forget the land deals that were so beneficial to Sir Gilbert Stanley ‘Stan the Pies’ Thomas yet so damaging to the public purse? For those who need to be reminded, read my posts Pies, Planes & Property Development and the sequel – with the same stars! – Pies, Planes & Property Development 2.

So any reticence on the part of the ‘Welsh’ Government to supporting the Circuit of Wales can’t be due to a fear of wasting public money, or a worry that some malcontents might suggest a lack of financial rectitude. For ‘Welsh’ Labour is inured to such criticism.

The Circuit of Wales offers tangible benefits for thousands of our people and a whole region of our country. Which is why the ‘Welsh’ Government needs to put aside its Cardiff bias, ignore the fact that there may be few sinecures in it for Labour Party cronies, and for once – just once – suppress its suspicion of business and entrepreneurship.

Help it happen!

~ ~ ~ ♦ end ♦ ~ ~ ~ 

UPDATE 17.11.2016: Would you Adam and Eve it! Shippo has returned to the attack on the Circuit of Wales, and what’s more, now he seems to be having a go at my old mate Neil! Bloody hell! where will this end? (Though I note there was no mention of the Brothers Barry.)

circuit-of-wales-wm-nov-17-2016

I can’t provide a link because the article doesn’t appear to have been uploaded yet to WalesOnline’s appalling and almost unnavigable website.

UPDATE 24.11.2016: Shippo mounts another attack, this time using a spokesman for the Silverstone circuit.

circuit-of-wales-wm-nov-24

click to enlarge

Oct 232016
 

My previous post dealt with offshore property company Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd and housing associations leasing properties from it, though I made passing reference – just a paragraph – to another publicly funded housing association, Pembrokeshire Housing, and Mill Bay Homes, the latter a subsidiary of the former that builds houses to sell to anyone.

This brief mention was enough to send someone scampering to Hugh James, the ‘Welsh’ Government’s favourite legal firm. (Indeed, to judge by the amount of business Carwyn’s civil servants put the way of Hugh James you’d think there were no other lawyers in Wales.) And so on Friday evening I received another threatening letter from Ms Tracey Singlehurst-Ward.

It says: “You are required to remove the statement from the website and any other location (either in hard or soft copy) in which you have published it by no later than 9am on Monday 23 October 2016. (Monday is actually the 24th.) You are also required to confirm in writing by way of undertaking that the allegation will not be repeated.” Read it for yourself.

Hugh James logo

You will see that the period of grace I am allowed in which to recant left me no opportunity to seek advice from other members of Ms Singlehurst-Ward’s profession. So I have had to rely on my own counsel, which directed me to refuse capitulation but to amend the offending paragraph. If it still offends, anyone, hard luck, because that’s all you’re getting.

In many ways, Mill Bay Homes is a curious beast. To begin with, it is a Registered Social Landlord (No L124) and yet (as far as I can tell), it receives no funding from the ‘Welsh’ Government. But then, this is as it should be, for Mill Bay Homes does not build or rent social housing . . . so why is it a Registered Social Landlord?

The answer is that Mill Bay Homes ‘inherited’ its RSL number when Pembrokeshire Housing 2000 – a craft that never launched – changed its name to Mill Bay Homes in February 2012. After which Mill Bay Homes took off to become one of the leading house builders in the county, using money transferred from Pembrokeshire Housing – which of course does receive public funding.

This paragraph is directed to the ‘Welsh’ Government, more specifically, the Housing Directorate.

If Mill Bay Homes applied to become a Registered Social Landlord tomorrow you would, quite correctly, turn down the application for the obvious reason that MBH neither builds nor rents social housing. (This explains why it does not receive Social Housing Grant or other funding.) That being so, why do you allow MBH to retain the RSL number of its predecessor?’

Anomalies abound when we consider the relationship between Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes. We can even add Pembrokeshire County Council to the mix, for both have a close relationship with the local authority. Take, for example, this S106 agreement drawn up just before Christmas last year between MBH and the council.

The agreement deals with “four Social Rented Housing Units” and “two Intermediate Housing Units” in the Newton Heights development totalling some 55 properties at Kilgetty. Later in that document, in Schedule 4, we encounter the paragraph below.

mbh-s106

“The RSL” has to be Pembrokeshire Housing, if only because Mill Bay Homes does not receive grant funding (and wouldn’t be buying from itself). Which means that, having transferred millions of pounds to Mill Bay Homes for it to build homes for sale, Pembrokeshire Housing will then use grant funding to buy one (or more?) of those properties.

I can’t help thinking that something ‘clever’ is going on here. Maybe too clever for old Jac. Another one for the Housing Directorate? So let me frame it as a question.

‘Publicly funded Pembrokeshire Housing shuffles money to its subsidiary, Mill Bay Homes. Mill Bay Homes builds private dwellings. Now it appears that Pembrokeshire Housing buys properties from Mill Bay Homes with grant funding.

Why doesn’t Pembrokeshire Housing just build its own social housing with the money it receives from the ‘Welsh’ Government for that express purpose?’

Come to that, how many social housing units could Pembrokeshire Housing have built with the millions it’s passed to Mill Bay Homes? Is there no demand in Pembrokeshire for more social housing? If not, why is Pembrokeshire Housing still receiving grant funding?

Something is not right down west. Money goes into Pembrokeshire Housing from various sources, gets mixed up, and comes out the other end, with over £6m going to MBH (by the end of the financial year 31.03.2015).

Yet we are asked to believe that none of this money comes from grants received from the ‘Welsh’ Government. In other words, it is not public funding. Maybe the source is rents received from PH’s tenants, or money from sales of social housing. But who paid for that housing in the first place?

All of Pembrokeshire Housing’s assets and income ultimately derive from the public purse. That being so, should any of it be used to build open market housing?

As I say above, my mention of Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes was little more than a passing reference in a piece about Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, a company that owns a few thousand properties across southern Wales, from Llanelli eastwards, so let us return to the main dish.

I contacted the Coastal Housing Group in Swansea, one of the housing associations leasing properties from Link Holdings, but the exchange ended with the message below. Clearly, the shutters have gone up.

coastal-housing

In the hope of getting more information on the relationship between housing associations and offshore companies I tried another angle by writing to the First minister, Carwyn Jones. Within a couple of days I received this response from the Housing Directorate.

We can do naught but wait, and hope . . .

Looking at this latest threat from Hugh James I can’t help wondering who exactly triggered it. Was it really Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes? If so, then they were a bit slow off the mark, because the post had been up for a week before Ms Singlehurst-Ward swung into action.

Picture it, gentle reader; there I am, blogging merrily away, exposing the scandal that housing associations are dealing with property companies registered in tax havens, and that money is passing from a publicly-funded RSL to its subsidiary, for that subsidiary to build private housing, and wham! – out of a clear blue sky comes another threatening letter from Hugh James, a company that itself has grown fat off the public purse.

An unkind soul might say they’re all in it together, civil servants, RSLs, lawyers, etc, all sucking on the teat of the public purse, so why not watch each other’s backs, hang together lest they hang separately?

Which raises the possibility that certain persons know about the arrangement in Pembrokeshire, and are quite happy to fund it. And perhaps these same people also know that housing associations are dealing with companies hiding in tax havens that could be run by gangsters, and they also support this arrangement.

Because imagine the embarrassment in certain quarters if it became known that homes were being built in Pembrokeshire by a company funded by a housing association that has received tens of millions in grants from the ‘Welsh’ Government, and that some of these properties are sold to English retirees or used as holiday homes. Or that housing associations are officially encouraged to deal with faceless companies in tax havens!

This would explain why such people, instead of responding with, ‘Thank you, Jac, for drawing this to our attention, your OBE is in the pipeline, regularly set the dogs on me!

I have argued for some time that the system of publicly-funded Registered Social Landlords is unsustainable in the long run. We are, effectively, giving public money to what are in many cases unaccountable private companies. As I see it, there are three options:

1/ Cut RSLs adrift and let them support themselves by raising private funding. (After all, they are asset rich.)

2/ Return the role of social housing provision, together with the current stock, to local authorities. 

3/ Let the ‘Welsh’ Government take over the social housing stock and set up a national body along the lines of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

The more I learn of RSLs the more convinced I become that the existing system of social housing provision in Wales is broken. For anyone to pretend otherwise is to be wilfully blind or else defend known practises that would shock and outrage most people if they gained wider publicity than they get from my blog.

Which might be the answer to everything.

END 

Sep 262016
 

BY A GUEST WRITER

It’s a pleasure to follow the excellent guest posts on tourism and heritage that have generated a fair amount debate, shining a light on the dubious practices of the Welsh tourism industry and how these practices affect local communities as a result of flawed Welsh Government policy.

The focus of the posts so far has been on the neglect of heritage, history and tourism in rural Wales under non-Labour councils which – and though it’s not a view I share – could perhaps be expected. I say that because most people in rural Wales vote Plaid Cymru, Tory or Lib Dem, so wasting public money, trashing our heritage and screwing people over, has no consequences, electoral or otherwise, for the Labour Party.

But what about a Labour-controlled council in the Valleys, surely they’d take more care of local history and heritage when their own party’s history is intertwined with the area?

The Plan

If only that were true, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, the smallest local authority in Wales and back in Labour hands since 2012 as the result of an appalling smear campaign to oust the Independents who’d run the Council and started many of the successful projects that Labour councillors and the new MP and AM are now claiming credit for, published a few weeks back its Area Destination Plan for 2016 – 2018.

merthyr-plan

With its main focus on outdoor activities and leisure it could belong to any rural or semi-rural local authority, and don’t get me wrong, BikePark Wales, Dolygaer Outdoor Activity Centre and Cyfarthfa Castle Park and Museum are great attractions, but when Merthyr Tydfil has so much political, industrial, social and cultural history failing to acknowledge the majority of it makes a mockery of any tourism plan.

There is a nod to Merthyr’s epoch-defining industrial past in the plan with a commitment to looking to rebuild a life size replica of Richard Trevithick’s steam locomotive engine, the first in the UK, but that’s reliant on the local heritage society raising enough money to get it built. Perhaps Labour Councillors aren’t willing to celebrate innovation, engineering excellence and vision for fear of showing local people there’s more to life than mediocrity, dependency and poverty that hallmark ‘Welsh’ Labour at all levels of government.

The Plan also talks of Welsh language provision via the Welsh language centre Canolfan Soar but again if you look closer the centre is facing its own financial difficulties as a result of funding cuts with its Welsh shop closing earlier this year. And as this is the Valleys, hostility to the Welsh language spending is never far away, as demonstrated by Labour and the opposition Independents in the full Council meeting earlier this month.

Another area mentioned is the lack of indoor activities in a town where rain is more often the order of the day than sunshine. So a lack of museums, interactive galleries and the like does seem particularly stupid to me.

Although to be fair the Plan does have an excellent SWOT analysis, but the action plan doesn’t include solutions for central recommendations like the lack of a Tourist Information Office and large scale accommodation. Even if we suspend belief and buy into the tourism lite guff they’re peddling, how can you be a serious tourist destination without enough beds or a central tourist information office?

The irony of course is that loads of places would love to have even half the history Merthyr Tydfil has and it could be that if tourism was done properly then the Borough would have year-round tourism selling Merthyr to the world. It could be integrated into local education, provide better job and career opportunities and re-instill some pride back in the place for those who were born here or made the place their home.

Welsh History started with Labour

However, we shouldn’t be surprised, this is the Labour Party after all, which believes Welsh history started with the birth of their party or the election of James Kier Hardie in 1900 . . . even though he is hardly celebrated anywhere in the town.

As if to reinforce this, Neil Kinnock’s ‘Welsh history’ quote did the rounds on social media last week, the quote reads, ‘Between the mid sixteenth and mid eighteenth centuries Wales had practically no history at all, and even before that it was a history of rural brigands who have been ennobled and called princes.’

The local Labour Party does hold a Kier Hardie lecture that’s only open to party members, and speakers also have to be Labour members or Labour affiliated, and no press is allowed. Held now in secret because last year there was great embarrassment when the keynote speaker was First Minster Carwyn Jones, and the local party was reduced to giving tickets away and begging people to go.

What a difference it would make if the party opened it up to everyone, picked radical topics and speakers, had a question and answer session with a panel afterwards, possibly publish a paper on the topic and made it into a real community event. I doubt it would happen, but it’s one of many ideas to celebrate the town’s history and create an event for all.

merthyr-rising

Even the raising of the red flag and the Merthyr Rising festival that celebrates it is shunned by the local council, though UNISON stepped in to save the festival this year thanks to the new Labour AM Dawn Bowden who used to be a UNISON big wig and whom Jac has helpfully written about. Time will tell if the festival becomes a Labour sop which would be a shame as the festival organisers are about as far away from the ignorant, conservative Labour Council leadership values as it’s possible to be.

Labour leadership & Red flag

Speaking of the red flag and going slightly off course, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn came to Merthyr Tydfil on 5th August as part of his leadership campaign and unsurprisingly found no support from the local Labour leadership who were all supporting Owen Smith.

Council Leader Brendan Toomey, Gerald Jones MP and Dawn Bowden AM (who was on holidays), took to Twitter to vent their anger about the rally saying he didn’t represent the party or local people etc., but Jeremy Corbyn had the last laugh, not only did he draw a sizeable crowd, but his use of the red flag brought the history of the town to a UK wide audience and got the town and red flag trending on social media for positive reasons.

corbyn-merthyr

It’s easy to see how the Merthyr & Rhymney Labour leadership were so annoyed, Jeremy Corbyn’s two hours in Merthyr did more to promote the town’s radical history than Council leader Brendan Twomey and his Cabinet have managed in four years.

Speaking of our elected representatives, on Twitter, Dawn Bowden, Bristol City fan living in Llantrisant, posted a picture of the overgrown blast furnaces in Merthyr Tydfil saying ‘what an incredible history this wonderful town has’. It seems the new AM is fitting right in with the dinosaur tendency that believe Welsh history began with industrialisation.

Weight of History and Remembering

I’ve written a fair bit and barely scratched the surface of the borough’s history or introduced the one person who belongs solely to the town yet rarely gets mentioned, despite the place being named after her, St Tydfil/Tudful, the princess and daughter of King Brychan who was martyred in the fifth century by raiding Picts.

She’s remembered with a Church in Wales church named after her, as is the local shopping centre, while Merthyr Tydfil Football Club’s nickname is the Martyrs. Yet outside of the church there is no acknowledgement of her, indeed admitting that Tydfil lived and died and was renowned for good deeds and values such as compassion to all, would mean Welsh history didn’t start with the Industrial Revolution or the Labour Party after all. But I suspect it’s also because she’s a woman and a victim of Labour’s patriarchal and misogynist attitudes, especially in the Valleys.

the-martyrs

Of course Labour blames its wider lack of action on austerity, ‘We would love to do things’, they sigh, ‘but we’ve got no money’, when opposition councillors ask why aren’t things done. But what about things that don’t cost and could raise awareness of local history, like using the flag poles outside the Council office on St David’s Day or flying the Red Flag in May or Owain Glyndŵr’s banner in September? And I’m sure there are other little things that could be done, but I suspect it’s all a leap too far for closed, anti-Welsh minds.

I could write more on all that’s happened and why it should be celebrated; there’s Lucy Thomas, called the mother of Welsh steam coal trade, a widow who was the first person to export stream coal and give birth to coal exports. Away from industry, Merthyr was also the birthplace of designers Laura Ashley and Julian McDonald; and then there’s Charlotte Guest, wife of iron-master John Guest, who arranged for the Mabinogion to be translated into English. (Also, Dr Joseph Parry, who wrote the music for that all-time favourite, Myfanwy. Jac.)

To bring us up to date, a recent archaeological study found evidence of Roman activity in the borough, and Merthyr-born Samuel Griffiths, whose family emigrated to Australia, was responsible for writing Australia’s constitution, a fact recently in the news as the current Australian Chief Justice visited the town and called for closer cooperation – will Merthyr’s Labour leaders take him up on the offer?

Conclusion

Sometimes the sheer weight of remembering everyone and everything that’s happened can feel overwhelming, but it’s important because it tells us who we are and where we’ve come from.

I’ll end by pointing out that the lack of imagination coupled with an ingrained indifference or hostility towards Welsh history before the Labour Party, or industrialisation, means that even in Merthyr Tydfil, which gave birth to the modern Labour Party, we get the Area Destination Plan pushing Welsh history and heritage to the margins instead of using it front and centre. Most places in the world would kill for the history we have yet the Council focus is on weather dependent tourism in the rainy Valleys.

Of course, if there was a decent opposition here it could challenge the status quo. Which is why we should be grateful for the work of genuinely local history societies and historians, doing what they can to counter the hostility and apathy found all over Wales, attitudes that contribute to the slow death of our nation.

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

Jac says . . . I’ve always had a soft spot for Merthyr, going back to those happy hours spent at the Lamb Inn, in the days of its irreplaceable mine host, the late John Lewis. This magnificent pub, almost unchanged since the days when Dic Penderyn was said to have drunk there, was demolished in the early 1970s to ‘make way’ for something that was never built.

The truth was that the Labour council didn’t like the Lamb’s clientèle. As our guest writer informs us, nothing has changed when it comes to the Labour Party in Merthyr and its attitudes to expressions of Welshness.

green-desert-complete-red

One of the best LPs ever produced in Wales (click to enlarge)

Moving away from delicate concerns of identity and loyalties, our guest writer offered some hope for the area by mentioning BikePark Wales and Dolygaer Outdoor Activity Centre; and so, you know me, I just had to learn more. I’m afraid what I learnt is not encouraging.

BikePark Wales is the trading name for something called Beic Parcio Cymru Ltd. (Yes, honestly!) So while everyone knows it as BikePark Wales it’s official name is something else, perhaps done to make it difficult to get information on the company. (I’ve encountered the practice before.) To help you follow this, here’s the link to the Companies House website.

BikePark Wales looks like one of those outfits so common – perhaps unique – to Wales, a publicly-funded private company, for the website (designed by a company in Cornwall) carries the logos of Visit Wales, the ‘Welsh’ Government and the European Regional Development Fund. I suspect the directors are not local . . . certainly not the New Zealander.

In financial terms the company seems to be in good health, with net assets of £674,963 (y/e 31.03.2015). Though there are three outstanding charges registered with ‘The Welsh Ministers’, and a debenture held by Ian Campbell Officer (the New Zealander director).

A founding director of BikePark Wales is Martin Astley. But his Linkedin profile would suggest that his day job may be Marketing Manager for Saddleback Ltd, a Bristol company selling mountain bikes and associated ephemera. In fact, BikePark Wales serves as a useful retail outlet for Saddleback’s wares. Just think about that, here we have a venture funded with Welsh public money giving an English company an advantage over Welsh retailers. Now that’s colonialism for you!

martin-astley-bikepark-wales

The other directors are the aforementioned Kiwi, Astley’s wife Anna, and another husband and wife team, Rowan John Sorrell and Elizabeth Sorrell, also founding directors. In addition, the Sorrells have their own company over in Pontypool, Back-on-Track Mountain Bike Solutions Ltd which designs and builds mountain bike tracks. So I wonder who designed and built BikePark Wales’ tracks around Merthyr?

The other location mentioned by our guest writer was the Dolygaer Outdoor Activity Centre. All that needs to be said is that Dolygaer is owned by English company Parkwood.

If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise . . . not because you’ll meet a teddy bear but because there’s a good chance you’ll get knocked down by a mountain biker taking advantage of Playground Wales. Or maybe you’ll be stopped from going any further by a gang of hippies opposed to capitalism and private property . . . unless it’s theirs. And all because as a matter of ‘Welsh’ Government policy our woodlands are being surrendered to enviroshysters and ‘the leisure industry’.

Now I could put up with restricted access if our woods and forests were productive, providing the thousands of local jobs of which they’re capable. But no, Natural Resources Wales sees our woodlands as areas of recreation, and itself as an extension of the tourism industry. And through the Welsh public purse we pay for it all!

There is probably no country on earth where so much public money is spent with so few benefits for the indigenous population. But as I say, that’s how colonialism operates.

Jun 142016
 

This is just a brief update to my previous post. I have to be careful what I write because I’m being watched. No, honestly, this is not paranoia, certain people will be reading this very carefully.

Therefore I hope you will understand that I have to be cautious, avoiding the injudicious phrase, the unintended calumny, otherwise certain persons down west will again be scuttling to £260-an-hour Ms Tracey Singlehurst-Ward of Hugh James Legal.

A BIG FAT I.O.U.

To recap . . . Mill Bay Homes is a ‘subsidiary’ of Pembrokeshire Housing, it’s raison d’être is to build and sell houses, then hand the profits from the sale of those properties back to the parent company so that it can build more social units for rent.

It may be worth mentioning – by way of background information – that before a name change in the first quarter of 2012 Mill Bay Homes was known as Pembrokeshire Housing Two Thousand Ltd, a company set up in 1998 that never traded.

MBH Why Buy With Us

FROM THE MILL BAY HOMES WEBSITE (click to enlarge)

So that’s the theory, the justification for Mill Bay Homes. But how’s it working out in practice? Let’s look at what information is available, add a few things that have been said, and then let us draw some conclusions, which we are fully entitled to do, as members of the generous Welsh public that has poured tens of millions of pounds into Pembrokeshire Housing.

When it comes to available information, we encounter a major obstacle in that it’s probably easier to get hold of Vladimir Putin’s personal e-mails than it is to see accounts for Mill Bay Homes. The problem being that because it’s not a regular company there’s nothing filed with Companies House. Because it’s not a charity it’s ditto with the Charity Commission. And while MBH claims to have filed accounts with the Financial Conduct Authority, the FCA says it has received nothing since the report for y/e 31.03.2013.

Though when my collaborator Wynne Jones wrote to the ‘Welsh’ Government, using an FoI request to ask for those accounts he was told, by Ceri Breeze, Head of Housing Policy, that the accounts were already in the public domain – with the Financial Conduct Authority! Sometimes it’s difficult to avoid the suspicion that information is being deliberately withheld on Mill Bay Homes, and that fibs are being told in order to throw people off the scent.

Anyway, let’s see what we can glean from the Pembrokeshire Housing accounts. In particular, the extracts below taken from the figures for the year ending on March 31st 2015. Figures that I suspect are connected.

PH Combined figures 2015

You will see that between 31.03.2013 and 31.03.2015 Pembrokeshire Housing’s cash reserves fell dramatically, from £12,551,763 to £2,782,838. A reduction of £9,768,926, or 78%.

During the years ending 31.03.2014 and 31.03.2015 £6,135,000 was ‘loaned’ to Mill Bay Homes. The most recent figures available for Mill Bay Homes, those for y/e 31.03.2013, show a ‘loan’ of £245,000, which we can be fairly sure came from the parent company. If we add them it gives us a total of £6,360,000.

MBH Loans received 2013

Without wishing to over-egg it I suggest we must also add other costs not stipulated. For example, Pembrokeshire Housing staff must have been working on the Mill Bay Homes ‘project’, and they must have used Pembrokeshire Housing offices and equipment, plus consumables, before Mill Bay Homes was up and running.

So I think we can reasonably assume that Mill Bay Homes owes Pembrokeshire Housing closer to seven million pounds than six. How is this to be repaid? Fortunately, last week’s Pembrokeshire Herald ran an article on my recent, ahem, difficulties and in this article group supremo Peter Maggs was quoted as saying, “The target is (for MBH) to deliver £1m of surplus for each of the next five years”. Which will – if achieved – return just five of the six million plus that’s owed.

(Note that the Pembrokeshire Herald couldn’t get my name right – “Roytston”, they called me, bloody “Roytston”!!! Is that defamation? Maybe I need a good solicitor – I wonder if Ms Singlehurst-Ward would take the case?)

‘A MILLION A YEAR FOR FIVE YEARS’, SAYS YER MAN

I have no opportunity to buy the otherwise excellent Pembrokeshire Herald except when I’m visiting the county, so I haven’t seen the ‘paper myself. But someone was kind enough to send me a photograph of the article, here, and another kind act saw the piece sent as text.

Seeing as we are talking of Mill Bay Homes repaying Pembrokeshire Housing a cool million a year it might be instructive to know if any of the outstanding six million plus has yet been repaid. The figures for y/e 31.03.2016 are obviously not yet available, but the previous year’s figures tell us that the princely sum of £36,070 was received. Which leaves . . . roughly the same figure we started with. And that’s without taking interest into account.

Another way of looking at it would be that at the rate of £36,070 a year it would take Mill Bay Homes 176 years to repay what it owes.

PH Income from subsidiary 2015

This might make some of you think that Peter Maggs’ claim is a little overblown, but it could be worse than that. Here are a number of things to consider:

  • I’m told that Mill Bay Homes is working to a 17% profit margin while the building industry usually works to a 25% margin on new builds.
  • Before anything can be returned to Pembrokeshire Housing Mill Bay Homes will have to deduct its costs. In addition, it will need to buy the next development site and go through the planning process and other procedures, then pay to build that next development.
  • So how much from each house sale will Pembrokeshire Housing actually see? Let’s assume that the average sale price of a Mill Bay property is £130,000. At 17% and deducting the costs just mentioned Pembrokeshire Housing might see a return of £50,000 per property.
  • Of course, these calculations are necessarily speculative due to the absence of any publicly available accounts or other information for Mill Bay Homes.
  • If the purpose of lending money to Mill Bay Homes is to generate income to build social housing why didn’t Pembrokeshire Housing instead of lending the money to get part of it returned use all of it to build social housing?

INTERPRETATIONS

One worry I have is that achieving Peter Maggs’ target will result in unfair competition for local building firms without the benefit of Mill Bay Homes’ inexhaustible source of funding, a source that relieves it of the need to return a profit. Is this the plan?

‘Welsh’ Labour we know is anti-business, also a ‘statist’ party that wants to control everything. So is this its way of surreptitiously making house building a state-controlled industry? If not, how else do we explain a publicly-funded housing association being allowed to set up a subsidiary that is, effectively, a no-risk private house builder?

One possibility is that we are discussing a trailblazer for a new type of business entirely. This is not idle speculation on my part, the idea has been knocking around for a while. I’m talking now of fully privatised housing associations. And it’s already started, as this article from the Guardian last August tells us.

The advantages are obvious. Housing associations have solid assets in the form of bricks and mortar, so they’ll have little trouble finding investors and securing loans. As long as the right legal safeguards are in place for all types of tenants, and the right incentives for investors, why not relieve the public purse of a massive burden by privatising social housing in Wales? These could be lucrative, profit-making businesses.

Proven by Pembrokeshire Housing itself. In 2013 it had cash reserves of £12,551,763, yet it’s one of the smaller housing associations, this is partly due to the fact that Pembrokeshire County Council retains its own council housing stock. If such a small outfit can build up such cash reserves then what is the picture with the big boys?

Though that said, some people – more cynical than I, you understand – might suggest that Mill Bay Homes was set up for the express purpose of soaking up this embarrassment of cash. For the nest-egg might otherwise have had to be returned, or might have resulted in reduced funding. Because I’m sure most people would believe that a relatively small, rural housing association with over £12m stashed under the mattress should not be receiving a penny from the public purse.

One thing’s for sure, housing associations as we know them in Wales are discredited. For a start, there are just too many of them, receiving inordinate amounts of funding, with too much of that money going on inflated salaries and administrative costs, and with very little effective oversight by the ‘Welsh’ Government. Housing associations are out of control, like some over-indulged adolescent forever finding new ways to get money out of his parents.

RCT Homes salary

In addition, and perhaps especially in rural areas, housing associations waste money on new properties for which there is no local demand, then they import tenants, many of whom have ‘issues’, because of course they can charge more for housing problem families, petty criminals, drug addicts and other undesirables than they could ever charge hard-working, law-abiding locals.

Unless I receive important new information on Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes this may be my final post on the subject. I think I’ve said everything I need to say at present.

If those who claim to be managing Wales still see nothing wrong with the parent – subsidiary arrangement I’ve described, and if they believe that the current plethora of publicly-funded and competing housing associations is the cheapest and most effective way of delivering rented accommodation, then Wales is in a bigger mess than I had ever imagined.

UPDATE 17.06.2016: Surprise! Surprise! After all the attention Mill Bay Homes has been getting of late the Annual Return and Accounts for y/e 31.03.2014 and y/e 31.03.2015 are finally available on the Financial Conduct Authority website. They were added just a few days ago.

As I’m tied up for the next few days I won’t have time to give these accounts the attention they deserve, but perhaps my analytical readers would like to peruse them and give us their interpretations. Here are the accounts for 2014 and here for 2015.

Quickly skimming through them I was struck by the fact that in the 2015 report, in answer to question 1.19, Mill Bay Homes claims to be a Community Benefit Society because it benefits, “People seeking housing accommodation” (as opposed to any other form of accommodation). If Mill Bay Homes is accepted as a Community Benefit Society then I suggest the FCA gets ready for a rush of applications to join the club – from Wimpey, Persimmon, Redrow and all the rest.

But of course MBH would defend its claim to be a Community Benefit Society by the answer it gives to 1.21, which asks how surpluses or profits are used. The answer reads, “Surplus was transferred to the parent Registered Social Landlord to invest in affordable housing”. Why not just say ‘the parent company’, why stress that it’s a RSL? And why “affordable housing” not ‘social housing’? MBH claims to build and sell ‘affordable housing’.

Though these considerations bring us back to the underlying idiocy of this model. Pembrokeshire Housing, a provider of social housing, has £10m in spare cash. Rather than use that money for the purpose it was given the money is loaned to Mill Bay Homes to build and sell houses. Then perhaps £1m of profit is returned to PH for social housing. Why not use the original £10m for its intended purpose of social housing?

Could it be that Pembrokeshire Housing had more money than it needed, or knew how to use, and rather than admit to that embarrassment, it came up with the absurdity that is Mill Bay Homes?

UPDATE 21.07.2016: In an e-mail of July 18th Simon Fowler of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Housing Directorate, had this to say: “We have had sight of a confirmation from the FCA that Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes submitted all their regulatory returns by the given deadline. It went on to confirm that due to an error at the FCA, the returns were not published. We are satisfied that PHA and MBH have not acted inappropriately – either deliberately or mistakenly – when submitting the returns required by law.”

Today, my co-investigator, Wynne Jones, received an e-mail from Nazmul Ahmed at the FCA, he had this to say of the Mill Bay Homes returns: “I have spoken to my colleague and we can provide the dates we received the annual return and accounts – 2013/14- 2 June 2016, 2014/15- 2 June 2016′. 

The timing is significant. I published posts on Mill Bay Homes on the following dates, April 25th, May 20th and May 23rd. These were taken down under threat of legal action conveyed in a letter from Ms Tracey Singlehurst-Ward of Hugh James Solicitors of May 31st. I can imagine Ms S-W saying to MBH, ‘OK, I’ll try and put the frighteners on him, but you’ve got to get your house in order, don’t give him ammunition’.

But where does this leave Simon Fowler? I think the kindest thing I can say of Mr Fowler and his colleagues is that they make it up as they go along. What I and others have learnt in recent months suggests there is no oversight of housing associations by the ‘Welsh’ Government, little regulation, and that they are free to do as they like – with hundreds of millions of pounds of our money.

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

NEXT: The promised article in which I explain why I’m voting Leave in the EU referendum

 

Jun 072016
 

THREAT OF LEGAL ACTION

Late in the afternoon of Tuesday May 31st I received an e-mail from Tracey Singlehurst-Ward of Hugh James Legal in Cardiff. Ms Singlehurst-Ward was of the opinion that I’d been a naughty boy for saying things about her clients, Pembrokeshire Housing and its ‘subsidiary’ Mill Bay Homes. I of course responded.

Ms Singlehurst-Ward’s letter threatened me with a deadline of 4pm on June 3rd, just three days away. If I had not drastically re-written the offending posts by that time then all manner of unpleasant things would befall me. Being a reasonable man, I offered the compromise of taking down the offending pieces by June 10th, by when I would have published a ‘clarification’ post. Having heard nothing from Ms Singlehurst-Ward by the afternoon of June 2nd I thought I’d better get in touch again, to see if my offer had been accepted.

Finding that my offer had been rejected I had to accept that I was in a somewhat tricky position, and so I decided upon a tactical withdrawal by taking down the offending pieces rather than redacting the offending passages and making them unintelligible.

For there were things I’d written that could be misinterpreted, some of what I’d written might have been wrong (usually due to misinformation, often from official sources). And then Ms Singleton-Ward had produced a litany of earth-shattering inaccuracies such as someone described as a ‘former councillor’ by Pembrokeshire Housing not having been a councillor in Pembrokeshire, as I had reasonably assumed, and stated.

Hugh James logo

There followed a third round of correspondence between us and, hopefully, that’s the end of it, otherwise we’ll have enough material for an epistolary novel. But wait! – Ms Singlehurst-Ward and her clients haven’t read this post yet!

It seemed fairly obvious from the initial salvo that someone had gone to Ms Singlehurst-Ward with a dossier of posts from my blog. This was, basically, what she sent me; screen shots from my blog topped and tailed with her listing my heinous crimes. It probably didn’t take her long to put together.

But seeing as this assault on me is being funded out of the Welsh public purse, and seeing as Ms Singlehurst-Ward charges £260 an hour, maybe we should be thankful she hasn’t been asked to do too much work.

*

WHERE I’M COMING FROM

In this blog, which has been running since January 2013 (and in the blog that preceded it on the Google platform), I have consistently criticised the Labour Party and the cronyism and nepotism associated with it; a system of patronage that has seen billions of pounds of public money wasted, a system that does so much to condemn Wales to relative poverty.

One of the great weaknesses of this system is that there is no effective oversight or monitoring of the bodies receiving large amounts of public funding. Much is left to self-evaluation and self-regulation, an approach that served the public interest so well with MPs, newspapers, banks, etc. On the other hand, one of the system’s strengths, certainly from the perspective of the Labour Party, is that it helps spread Labour’s influence.

Because if a Labour regime in Cardiff ultimately controls the purse strings of a body in an area where the Labour Party is weak, then a passive ‘loyalty’ of the not-biting-the-hand-that-feeds-you variety can be assured. Which is rewarded with the ‘light touch’ regulation referred to in the previous paragraph.

Another reason this system flourishes is due to the lack of an effective political opposition. Plaid Cymru occasionally threatens to hold Labour to account but invariably falls into line because too many in that party still view Labour as comrades in arms against the real enemy of the Tories, or the here-today-gone-tomorrow ‘threat’ of UKIP.

But beyond that, Plaid Cymru is fundamentally weak. Even in the dictatorship that is Carmarthenshire Plaid Cymru, the larger party in the ruling coalition, refuses to oust, or even curb, Mark James, which tells us that the chances of Plaid Cymru seriously threatening Labour’s entrenched hegemony in Wales are close to zero.

Another factor that allows Labour to chug on unworried by criticism is that Wales has no media to talk of, virtually nothing that is not owned or controlled from outside of Wales. What masquerades as our ‘national newspaper’ exists to promote Cardiff, to donate page after page to the Welsh Rugby Union and, despite having a readership plummeting towards man and dog proportions, is kept financially afloat by official announcements, legal notices and advertisements paid for by – the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government.

And yet, despite having no real opposition, and with no media to hold it to account, Labour is still losing its grip on Wales. Perhaps it’s an example of the old adage ‘You can’t fool all of the people all of the time’; but whatever the reason, Labour gained just a third of the vote in last month’s Assembly elections.

Wales in 2016 lives under a corrupt political system that generates little wealth and is over-reliant on hand-outs; but these hand-outs, rather than being used for the purposes the money was given – education and training, building of infrastructure, encouragement of twenty-first-century businesses – are instead used to build up a network beholden to those doling out the money.

Which results in Wales today having more in common with the developing world than with Western Europe. In a couple of weeks we’ll be voting on whether to stay in the EU, maybe we should be voting on whether or not to join the African Union.

*

THE SUBSTANCE OF THE MATTER

Pembrokeshire Housing Association is a Registered Social Landlord (P072) with the ‘Welsh’ Government and also registered with the Financial Conduct Authority as an Industrial & Provident Society (23308R). Since 2008 Pembrokeshire Housing has received around £28m in Social Housing Grant from the ‘Welsh’ Government, and there are other funding streams.

The issues arise when we consider Pembrokeshire Housing’s subsidiary, Mill Bay Homes, and to appreciate my concerns we need to go back a bit. In 1998 Pembrokeshire Housing formed a subsidiary called Pembrokeshire Housing Two Thousand Ltd, the sort of name popular at the time as we prepared for the Millennium.

The genesis of Mill Bay Homes

The panel below is taken from what I believe to be the last return made by PH2000 Ltd to the FCA before the name was changed in 2012 to Mill Bay Homes Ltd. You’ll see that despite being in existence for some twelve years PH2000 Ltd did nothing. The Return says that turnover for the year was just £810, which seems mainly attributable to interest on assets of £30,995.

PH2000 Ltd FCA return 2011

Though it does perhaps raise the question of how a company that had never traded came into possession of any assets.

The nature of Mill Bay Homes

So what is Mill Bay Homes, why was it set up and what does it do? Apparently it was set up to do exactly what PH2000 Ltd never got round to doing: “undertake trading activity outside the charitable objectives of parent association”. In that case, why change the name?

The home page of the Mill Bay Homes website spells out quite clearly what it thinks it does, it seems to be all about that overworked word, ‘lifestyle’:

MBH Welcome

Elsewhere the website tells us, under the ‘Purchasers’ tab, that Mill Bay Homes seeks ‘First Time Buyers’, ‘Moving Up Buyers’, ‘Retirement Buyers’ and ‘Investment Buyers’. So that’s downsizers and upsizers catered for.

The first, and only, returns that I can find for Mill Bay Homes are those for 2012 / 2013, made to the Financial Conduct Authority. It will be seen that Mill Bay Homes has assets of over £300,000, of which £294,390 is “Work in progress”, presumably the development of 11 properties at Letterston, helped with a “Loan from parent company” of £245,000. This seems to be the only sizeable debt – but enough to build eleven new houses?

‘Welsh’ Government’

In the now removed posts I made the mistake of suggesting that Mill Bay Homes was not a Registered Social Landlord because I couldn’t find it on the ‘Welsh’ Government’s website where RSLs are listed. That was because the website did not include subsidiaries. I am happy to clear that up and direct you to the relevant page.

This registration, and the very number, L124, were inherited from Pembrokeshire Housing 2000 Ltd, which some might argue legitimises Mill Bay Homes as a RSL, being nothing more than PH2000 Ltd after a name change. Whereas others might say, ‘Ah, but Pembrokeshire Housing Two Thousand Ltd never traded, consequently there was neither need nor opportunity to challenge its right to be a RSL’. Others, that is, not necessarily me.

Because I’m sure that some people reading this article are wondering whether Mill Bay Homes – which to all intents and purposes is a private house builder – should be a Registered Social Landlord. A question motivated by nothing more than curiosity and a wish to see everything ship-shape.

So let me suggest that the ‘Welsh’ Government clears this matter up. All it needs to say is:

‘We are perfectly happy for Mill Bay Homes to remain a Registered Social Landlord while selling four-bedroom, detached properties, and building other dwellings that target buy-to-let investors and retirees from England’.

What could be easier than that, just to set the record straight?

Financial Conduct Authority

A similar problem presents itself with Mill Bay Homes status via-à-vis the Financial Conduct Authority, where – I am given understand – Mill Bay Homes is registered as an Industrial & Provident Society. And yet, things are not clear-cut.

Mill Bay Homes insists it is registered with the FCA, and indeed, in the second batch of correspondence between us, Ms Singlehurst-Ward even supplied copies of what she said were letters accompanying those returns. Yet the FCA says Mill Bay Homes has filed nothing since 2013. The website says the same thing.

I can’t help wondering if this conundrum might have something to do with the Co-operative and Community Benefits Societies Act 2014. This new legislation seems to suggests that Industrial and Provident Societies are now a thing of the past – replaced by ‘registered societies’ – though the label may be retained by an I&PS in existence when the Act came into force.

Where I’m really confused – and here perhaps Ms Singlehurst-Ward or one of her colleagues can help – is by the information contained in the panel below. Under the new legislation is Mill Bay Homes is ‘”bona fide” co-operative’ or a ‘for the benefit of the community’ organisation?

FCA new rules

I’m genuinely confused, so I shall write to the FCA asking for clarification of Mill Bay Homes’ status. I’m sure officials at Mill Bay Homes have already written to the FCA, demanding an explanation as to why two years’ returns fail to show on the FCA website.

My confusion is not helped by Ms Singlehurst-Ward being unable to provide any evidence of the FCA receiving those submissions beyond an unspecific automated response. And while the Mill Bay Homes return for y/e 31.03.2014 is in the name of Mill Bay Homes alone, for y/e 31.03.2015 the return was made for MBH by Pembrokeshire Housing.

Is the difference in procedure between end of March 2014 and end of March 2015 somehow linked with the new legislation that came into force on August 1st 2014?

Help to Buy – Wales

In the posts now committed to the Outer Darkness I wrote of the Help to Buy – Wales scheme, and Mill Bay’s involvement. Specifically, I drew attention to the fact that one of the beneficiaries of HtB on the Pentlepoir development, Adam Karl Uka, is a close personal friend of Nick Garrod, Land and Construction Manager for Mill Bay Homes.

Ms Singlehurst-Ward had this to say: “For the avoidance of doubt the connection between our client’s employee (Garrod) and Mr Uka could not have had any impact upon the latter’s application to the Help to Buy scheme because our client does not administer that funding”.

So there you have it. Being buddies with the builder is unconnected with being allowed to buy the most desirable property on the development, a property offering access to Help to Buy, and one that, furthermore, was extensively modified to Uka’s personal specifications.

UPDATE 21:26 (see image, click to enlarge)

Uka land grab

There were quite a number of other Help to Buy properties at the Pentlepoir development. Many more than at all Mill Bay Homes’ other developments combined.

This talk of Pentlepoir brings us to an issue covered in one of my now lost posts that clearly annoyed Ms Singlehurst-Ward’s clients. I’m referring to my claim that Mill Bay Homes were, in the specific example I used, ‘Neighbours from Hell’. So let me explain why I used that emotive term.

‘Neighbours from Hell’

The property bought by Adam Karl Uka underwent considerable modifications, and these changes caused a lot of anguish and no little suffering to the family most directly affected.

Before going into details of their plight let me clear up the issue of planning permission, for Ms Singlehurst-Ward seems to believe there was no deviation from the original planning permission. This document makes it clear there was deviation. The ‘Plot 10’ referred to in the document became 35 Coppins Park, Adam Karl Uka’s residence.

What Ms Singlehurst-Ward actually said in relation to planning permission was, “All properties (at Pentlepoir) were constructed in accordance with the planning permission granted”. Maybe, but in the case of 35 Coppins Park, it was not in accordance with the original planning permission.

As you can work out from the ‘Variation’ document, the new property became both higher, raised by at least a metre, thereby overlooking neighbouring properties, and it also moved closer to the property most directly affected. This resulted in work being carried out by Mill Bay’s contractors right up to the boundary of a neighbouring property, resulting in damage.

Both proximity to the boundary and some of the damage caused are clearly visible in the photographs below. (Click to enlarge.) Other problems were subsidence and damage to a boundary fence.

MBH Pentlepoir composite

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the contractors showed they had a sense of humour (or something) with this almost unbelievable incident in which a digger bucket was deliberately swung towards two neighbours. Just watch this video. The neighbours could have been seriously injured or even killed by this idiotic stunt. Here’s a still showing how close the bucket came to the head of the woman.

MBH digger bucket, head

There is no question that for one family at least, Mill Bay Homes definitely proved to be the ‘Neighbour from Hell’. Read these neighbours’ chilling account of what they had to put up with here.

It may be significant that for Phase 2 at Pentlepoir, which included Mr Uka’s house, and where neighbours experienced such problems, the contractors did not register with the Considerate Constructors Scheme, as they had for Phase 1. I wonder why?

Considerate Constructors

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‘SUBSIDIARIES’

The relationship between a ‘parent’ organisation such as Pembrokeshire Housing and a subsidiary like Mill Bay Homes is one I’ve encountered many times before in my delving into the Third Sector and other publicly-funded outfits.

These subsidiaries are often known as ‘trading arms’. After many years investigating the use of public funding by all manner of imaginative organisations I still get a little frisson when I encounter the term.

Here’s an example from early last year when someone drew my attention to Canoe Wales. My first post was White Water Up Shit Creek, followed by Canoe Wales 2, and finally, Canoe Wales 3: Paddling One’s Own Canoe. Not.

It’s quite a complicated picture of an organisation receiving public funding but with money and tangible assets passing between it and subsidiaries, with subsidiaries folding and debts being written off. But the worry here, and this applies to other groups I’ve looked at, is that the funder – in this case, Sport Wales – seems only interested in the parent body because it is the one receiving the moolah. Nobody seems concerned about subsidiaries that may be indirect recipients of public funding.

I am not for one minute suggesting that this is the sort of thing that happens between Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes, I merely use it as a warning of the kind of problems that can arise when a publicly-funded body sets up subsidiaries or ‘trading arms’.

That said, there is one area where Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes could certainly learn from Canoe Wales. After publishing the first post I had a telephone call from a representative of the paddlers. A charming Caledonian gent named Mark Williamson. He even invited me over to their White Water Centre on Afon Tryweryn.

I was tempted, but then I thought, ‘What if it’s a dastardly plot to drown old Jac!’ Because I’ve heard that there are one or two people out there who’d like to do that! (Difficult to believe, I know, but there you are.)

The point is that Mr Williamson didn’t run to a £260 an hour solicitor, he fronted up like a man and said, ‘Let me put you straight on a few things’. Just think of all the misunderstandings that could be avoided, all the problems that could be resolved, and all the public money that could be saved, if more people adopted that approach.

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A PLAGUE OF LAWYERS

For a sensitive soul such as I it was quite disconcerting to be on the receiving end of a sudden and unexpected assault from Hugh James, but I soon learnt that I wasn’t the only one getting attention.

At around the same time I received my initial letter from Hugh James my server Systemau Cyfrifiadurol Cambria also received a threatening letter from Ms Singlehurst-Ward. It read ” . . . website hosted by you . . . defamatory . . . Jac utter bastard”. Almost certainly done in the hope that it would lead to the plug being pulled on my blog. Gwilym, of SCCambria, gave a robust response.

But it didn’t end there!

For on Friday June 3rd I learnt that the family in Pentlepoir that had suffered so much, they who had the digger bucket swung at them, had also received a letter from Ms Singlehurst-Ward of Hugh James. Her clients obviously knew who had been giving me information. (Which says a lot, if you think about it.)

I loved the bit in the letter that read, “Whilst out clients have no desire to stifle free speech or indeed honest debate . . . “. Sorry, Tracey, love, but that’s exactly what your now embarrassed clients are trying to do.

The aggrieved couple referred the threatening Hugh James letter to both their solicitor and Dyfed Powys Police.

Then, to cap an extraordinary week, Gwilym received a second letter, from another solicitor, this time a Wayne Beynon of Capital Law in Cardiff. This letter had nothing to do with Pembrokeshire Housing or Mill Bay Homes.

capital_law_Logo_500x260

Beynon was acting on behalf of Leighton Andrews. You must remember him, he used to be the Assembly Member for Rhondda. He was upset about a comment to my post Assembly Elections 2016. This comment suggested a link between a jailed paedophile a failed PCC candidate and Andrews.

The strange thing about this was that the complaint came down to a single comment made to this post by a third party. So why not write to me? I would have removed it, as I did when Gwilym told me about it. (Here’s my reply.)

While writing this I’ve heard from Gwilym, telling me that he’s had a reply from Beynon. It says, “I have also been contacted by your client, Mr Jones, who has removed the unlawful statements from his website.” And there was me thinking that decisions on what was unlawful involved the police, judges, courts, juries. Perhaps we should do away with the rest of the apparatus and hand the legal system over to lawyers.

What are we to make of the events of last week? If it had just been a letter to me then I would have assumed that I had pissed off Pembrokeshire Housing and / or Mill Bay Homes. But the letters to my server, and the people in Pentlepoir? And then the letter on behalf of Leighton Andrews?

If I wanted to be generous, then I suppose I’d dismiss it all as coincidence. But on reflection I think it could be an attempt to a) deter anyone from associating themselves with this blog and, b) get this blog closed down.

Which I find rather encouraging; for it suggests I might be doing something right!

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MY MOTIVATION

I do not know any of the leading players in Pembrokeshire Housing or Mill Bay Homes, so there can be no question of me being motivated by personal animus. I have had no dealings of any description with PH or MBH. I have never even lived in Pembrokeshire. And I stand to make no personal gain from my writings on PH and MBH.

My motivation in my enquiries into PH and MBH – and countless other organisations I have investigated – has always been protection of the public interest and defence of the public purse; these ambitions being inseparable from the desire to see transparency in the operations of devolved government, local government and the Third Sector.

I find myself writing this on the anniversary of the attack on the toll gate at Yr Efail Wen. A banner often carried by ‘Rebecca’s followers read ‘Cyfiawnder nid Cyfraith’ (Justice not Law). As appropriate now as it was back then, because not a lot seems to have changed in almost two hundred years.

Wales is still a land with too much law and too little justice. And as ever, it’s those with deep pockets who can afford lawyers – but too often nowadays their pockets bulge with our money!

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NEXT: The EU referendum, and why I’m voting Leave

Jun 052016
 

After assorted threats from various sources – possibly a single source – to me and others associated with this blog, I plan to publish my definitive post on Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes within the next few days.

If certain persons in the south west, or elsewhere, don’t like what I write, then they can run – again – to a £260-an-hour Cardiff lawyer, and pay her out of the public purse, or they can just go fuck themselves. Don’t bother me one way or the other.

I’ve been reasonable, I have taken down everything that it was claimed offended these sensitive souls, but henceforth I shall stand by what I write. NOTHING will be taken down. I am calling your bluff, boys and girls.