Sep 132017
 

To recap . . .

A plan has been unveiled to give Merthyr a ski slope and other goodies, including a much-need equestrian centre and yurt accommodation. Though I was unaware of any yurts in Merthyr needing accommodation; no doubt – as with social and other housing in Wales – these yurts will magically appear from beyond our borders.

This project at Rhydycar West is the brainchild – so Siôn Barry of WalesOnline told us – of Leigh Gerald Large, a Canadian representing a company by the name of Marvel Ltd, in cahoots with Robin Kellen of Snowsport Cymru/Wales. All this and more may be found in my earlier post Merthyr Ski Slope.

Courtesy of WalesOnline

We established that Mr Large is a man with a great interest in trees of all kinds, for he is involved with a number of companies that have trees in their names. Many of these ‘tree’ companies seek the conditions that only the British Virgin Islands can provide.

We further established that Large has enjoyed associations with some colourful characters, including a Cardiff solicitor suspended last year by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for allowing his one-man show to descend into a state of “financial chaos”.

But try as I might I was unable to find any information on Marvel Ltd. There is a company of that name registered with Companies House but it’s definitely not the company planning to house yurts in Merthyr. And as there cannot be two companies with the same name registered with Companies House it was reasonable to conclude that either Marvel Ltd didn’t exist, or else it existed in some other jurisdiction.

Now read on . . .

Thanks to information received I now know that Marvel Limited is registered in Guernsey. So I went to the Guernsey Registry for a few documents. First we have Marvel’s Memorandum of Incorporation dated 09.09.2013. There are two shares, one each held by CN Alpha Limited and CN Beta Limited, both of Guernsey. (And when searching you must type ‘Limited’, for ‘Ltd’ turns up nothing.)

click to enlarge

So I decided to dive in and get information on CN Alpha Limited. The first document I bought was a change of director dated 02.06.2014. The second was a change of director dated 30.09.2015. The third document was the Annual Validation dated 31.12.2016. This last document tells us that CN Alpha Limited has four directors with what look like genuine domestic addresses on the island.

Of course, we may be in the labyrinth of tax-haven registrations where locals can put their names to hundreds or even thousands of companies. Then again, these people might be genuine directors of the company that owns Marvel Limited. How do we know?

Blackwell and Hearse are also directors of a UK-registered property company. (As is Geoffrey Robert Le Page, a former CN Alpha director.) Though the shares in Thornhill Property Investments Ltd are owned by Thornhill Property Holdings Limited . . . of Guernsey. Round and round we go.

Turning back to Marvel Limited I learnt that CN Alpha Limited and CN Beta Limited had been joined as directors by Cavendish International Limited. Going to the Annual Validation for 2016 we see that CN Alpha Limited has now become CCD Alpha Limited, with a similar change for CN Beta Limited.

So who the hell are Cavendish International Limited? Well, that should read were, because the company was voluntarily struck-off on July 17.

Which obviously means that Cavendish International Limited can no longer be a director of Marvel Limited. But the last entry for Marvel on the Guernsey Register is dated January 17. Maybe they’re ducking and weaving so much that those behind Marvel can’t keep up with their own manoeuvrings.

And yet it could be that even if we could get to the bottom of what’s going on on Guernsey we’d find that the trail goes off to the British Virgin Islands. Marvel may have a presence on Guernsey for appearance’ sake only due to the Channel Islands being regarded as more acceptable than those tropical locations full of shifty foreigners.

One thing’s for sure, Leigh Gerald Large is not mentioned anywhere on the Guernsey documents. So perhaps he’s lurking behind the frangipani trees on the BVI. Which might suggest that he’s no more than a front man for somebody else.

Unless fresh information comes in I think I’ve gone as far as I can with this investigation. Which is why I’m passing it over to the ‘Welsh’ media and our politicians to get at the truth. (Don’t laugh!)

There must be journalists, politicians, Merthyr council and Welsh Assembly officials, who have contact details for Leigh Gerald Large. They should get in touch with him and demand that he tells them who owns Marvel Limited, and where it is ultimately registered.

Those behind this ski slope wonderland have gone to great lengths to hide their identity. Which is suspicious in itself. And worrying when we can predict with certainty that this scheme will demand large dollops of public funding.

We are entitled to know the truth.

♦ end ♦

 

Sep 112017
 

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

The latest mega-project to be promised to the Heads of the Valleys is the Merthyr Ski Slope. But the goodies don’t end with just a ski slope, no, sir! for according to WalesOnline and Siôn Barry:

“The proposals also include plans for:

  • The largest indoor water park in the UK alongside an indoor surf simulator
  • An indoor bike and skate park
  • An equestrian centre
  • A survivor adventure park, aimed at families and for corporate team bonding, as well as an air park and zipline
  • Log cabin and yurt accommodation
  • Two new hotels, with spa and conference facilities, as well as retail and restaurant units
  • An element of residential development”

Grizzled old men up on Dowlais Top have dreamed all their lives of just one of these coming to Merthyr, and now they all arrive together!

WHO’S BEHIND IT?

According to Siôn Barry, behind this realisation of so many dreams we find a company called Marvel Ltd, which has “signed an agreement with Snowsport Cymru Wales”. Marvel is represented by Leigh Large and Snowsport Cymru/Wales by Robin Kellen. So what do we know about these two?

Picture courtesy of WalesOnline. Does the body language tell us anything?

Let’s start with Kellen and Snowsport Cymru/Wales. Kellen lives in Cardiff and is the Secretary of this organisation that began life back in 1994 as The Ski Council of Wales. As far as I can see skiing has been his life, so it’s no surprise to see him involved.

Leigh Large of Marvel Ltd is less easy to figure, and although he’s Canadian I can’t find any evidence of him being involved in winter sports. Not only Canadian but a true son of the Commonwealth, for he has business interests in the British Virgin Islands, where I’m sure winter sports are less popular than back home.

According to Siôn Barry, “Utilising an existing mountain at the site, which Marvel acquired in 2013, it would be the longest indoor ski facility in the UK, eclipsing the 180-metre slope at Chill Factore in Manchester.”

After reading that I thought to myself, how did Marvel “acquire” the site in 2013, and from whom? Come to that, who or what is Marvel? All good questions, with answers in very short supply.

This is the only Marvel Ltd I could find on the Companies House website. But Large has no connection with this company. There are many dozens of companies with ‘Marvel’ appearing somewhere in the name but I didn’t have time to go through them all, so I took a different course.

LEIGH GERALD LARGE

Searching the Companies House website for Leigh Large I came up with Leigh Gerald Large. One company of which he’s a director is K10 Apprenticeships Ltd (formerly Reds 10 Trading Ltd). It was here I learnt he was Canadian, but I was surprised to read that he lived in Norway.

Maybe someone can wade through this Charge taken out with LGT Capital Invest (Ireland) Ltd and explain why a company with a net book value of £12,510 needed a global investment outfit like LGT?

The next company on the list is Spruce Fields Ltd. Large is the sole director and owner of the company. His country of residence is now given as Canada. The other two directors resigned 12 July 2017. One was Perry Johnson of Merthyr.

Next up is Crystalrock Ltd, involved in the buying and selling of real estate. Although the company’s address is in Essex, there are some Welsh connections. Among former directors are William Derek Snowdon of Llwyn y Brain Mawr Farm, Creigiau, Leighton Michael Davies of Aberdare, and Perry Johnson, again.

Large became a director on 27 August 2010, the day Snowdon and Davies resigned, with Johnson providing the continuity.

Snowdon, Davies and Johnson are also directors of Merthyr Tydfil Football Club Ltd, a company currently docked up Shit Creek.

Late development: Compulsory strike-off proceedings have begun against Crystalrock Ltd. Posted on Companies House website September 11, dated September 12.

The next company linked with Leigh Gerald Large is Pine Fields Private Ltd, also in real estate. Large was a director 24 August 2010 to 11 July 2017, and we also find Perry Johnson (24 August 2010 – 8 February 2013).

On the same day, July 5, that Large ceased to be “a person with significant control” the company was transferred to the ownership of Cherry Blossom Global Ltd . . . of the British Virgin Islands.

Pine Fields bought up two parcels of land which may now be part of the planned project. The first, in August 2011, was land at Heolgerrig for £450,000. Then, in October 2012, there was a purchase of land to the north of Upper Colliers Row (Land Registry title number CYM536607).

Though, confusingly, Crystalrock is said to have bought the same land at Heolgerrig in July 2010. Certainly the same title number is quoted, CYM457235. The figure given is £350,000.

I suspect it’s explained below. The land went from Merthyr Village Ltd (of which more below) to Crystalrock, and then on to Pine Fields.

The penultimate company we’ll look at is Impara Ltd, in the management consultancy business. Large and Johnson both joined the company 14 June 2011. Johnson left 23 April 2012 but Large stayed on until 11 July 2017. In April 2017 Impara also moved to the BVI.

From May 2012 Impara owes Cherry Blossom Global Ltd for land lying to the south of Miners Row, Aberdare, over the hill from the planned ski slope. Title numbers WA951436 and WA948019.

Finally – and something of a departure, this – we come to the Loughton Care Centre Ltd in Essex. Large was a director from 25 November 2011 to 8 September 2014. During his time there the company was owned by Pear Blossom Global Ltd, until it was transferred in December 2016 to Gibson Propco Ltd, a holding company.

You will have noticed that there are a lot of trees in these company names. I suppose spruce and pine might remind a Canadian of home, whereas cherry and pear might put him in mind of warmer climes, perhaps the British Virgin Islands?

But I could make no connection between Leigh Gerald Large and a company with ‘Marvel’ in the name.

LAND

Among the many companies with which William Derek Snowdon of Creigiau has been involved we find property company Merthyr Village Ltd which, despite the name, is now registered in Essex. Snowdon was a director from 10 August 2000 until 20 September 2012.

The company is now run by sole director Richard Frank Arnold of Essex . . . who at various times has also been a director of those other companies we’ve just looked at: Spruce Fields, Pine Fields, Impara and Crystalrock.

Others involved with Merthyr Village at various times were the Holloway clan, who were or still are also directors of Merthyr Tydfil Football Club.

Merthyr Village is in debt to the tune of almost two million pounds, and was briefly put in the hands of Receivers in September 2014. But while it might be cash poor it could be asset rich.

Some years ago, and only so as to make the land safe, you understand, Merthyr Village wanted to remove 1.2 million tonnes of coal. Ungrateful locals misinterpreted this as an open cast mining scheme by stealth.

So who owns Merthyr Village now? Here’s the latest list of shareholders available on the Companies House website, dated 24 June 2016. Let’s go through it and account for the 11,268 shares, but ignoring shareholders with 100 shares or less.

(Though one name that caught my eye among the smaller shareholders was Paul Sugrue.)

Here’s the breakdown: Victor Johnson 501 shares; Kaykem Fast Foods Ltd 309; Gary Charles Newell 1,047; Orange Blossom Global Ltd 3,245; Derek Saddler 252; William Derek Snowdon (T/A Commercial Legal Solutions) 4,944. With Snowdon owning a further 92 shares in his own name. So who are these shareholders?

Victor Johnson is Victor Herbert Johnson, with companies in Swansea and Llanelli. Kaykem Fast Foods is run by a Turkish family, and may at one time have owned part of the Rhydycar West land. Gary Charles Newell turned up nothing on Companies House, but this Canadian fits the bill. Orange Blossom Global Ltd is clearly another of the ‘tree’ companies based on the BVI, and is probably Leigh Gerald Large. Derek Saddler is unknown. William Derek Snowdon we’ve already met.

I’m still not absolutely clear which company now owns the land involved, certainly it’s not the company quoted by Siôn Barry, Marvel Ltd, unless this is a new entity or a name change yet to be registered with Companies House. But that may not matter so much, for we certainly know the principal players.

Let’s proceed on the assumption that the site is still owned by Merthyr Village Ltd. (Though ownership could have transferred to one of the BVI companies.)

HOW DOES IT FIT TOGETHER?

I believe the 538 acres of land at Rhydycar West was originally owned by Celtic Energy, but then passed to Merthyr Village Ltd, a reassuring name with strong connections to the area and the town’s football club.

So how and when did the Canadian Leigh Gerald Large get involved?

The earliest link I can find for Large with anyone based in Wales comes through Pine Fields Private Ltd, now of the British Virgin Islands. Incorporated 24 August 2010 with Large and Perry Johnson as founding directors. Johnson, as a director of Merthyr Tydfil Football Club Ltd, could have introduced Large to others who were both directors of the football club and Merthyr Village, which owned the Rhydycar West site.

On 30 October 2013 the last two football-connected directors of Merthyr Village left, and on the same day Richard Frank Arnold of Essex joined, and has been the sole director ever since.

A few days after Pine Fields was set up Large joined Crystalrock where Davies, Johnson and Snowdon had been directors since the early days back in 2004. Arnold became a director on the same day and left 28 March 2013. At various times Arnold has been a director of two other companies with which Large is or was involved; Impara and Spruce Fields.

Another name connected with a number of Large’s companies is William John Handley of East Sussex, an accountant and a director of 69 companies. One of those he owns is West Wales (Property Investment) Ltd, which seems to have been dormant since it was set up in 1987.

What might have started as a few well-connected locals dreaming of making big bucks from property deals seems now to have been taken over by outsiders with a partiality for the British Virgin Islands and other ways of doing business that are less than transparent.

The one person with a Welsh address who has any substantial holding – in fact, he’s the largest shareholder in Merthyr Village – is William Derek Snowdon of Llwyn y Brain Mawr farm, Creigiau, Cardiff. Snowdon, a solicitor, who was suspended by his professional body last year “for having no proper accounting system”.

This might explain why there was no public announcement of Snowdon’s involvement in the project. Then again, his company might simply be holding shares for someone else.

I suggest that because if we refer back to the list of Merthyr Village shareholders we see that Snowdon has 92 shares in his own name. These I believe are his. Whereas the much bigger holding of 4,944 shares are listed as “William Snowdon (T/A Commercial Legal Solutions)”. These could belong to someone else.

For example, if most of these Commercial Legal Solutions shares belong to Leigh Gerald Large then, together with his Orange Blossom Global Ltd holding of 3,245 shares, he is the majority shareholder.

Come to that, and given his travails with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, is Snowdon’s company Commercial Legal Solutions still in business and entitled to hold shares for anybody? If not, shouldn’t the information available on the Companies House website be updated?

Finally, I suspect that the other man in the picture above, Robin Kellen, of Snowsport Cymru/Wales, has been roped in because, well, if you want to promote a project built around a ski slope it helps to have somebody on board who knows something about skiing.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

The gushing piece by Siôn Barry told us that the company behind the Merthyr ski slope project is Marvel Ltd. But it’s not, so what company does Canadian Leigh Gerald Large represent?

The piece I’ve referred to made no mention of public funding for this project, but we can almost guarantee that public funding will be demanded – and lots of it! To avoid another Circuit of Wales I suggest that the ‘Welsh’ Government (and perhaps also Merthyr Borough Council) makes it clear from the outset that there will be no public funding for this project.

Circuit of Wales, a warning from the very recent past . . . and very close by

If the ‘Welsh’ Government has already promised funding then it needs to explain why it has got involved with so many iffy characters and tax-haven companies.

Someone might also like to do some digging into the roles played by Richard Frank Arnold and William John Handley.

JAC SAYS . . .

The Barry piece says of the project, “it would be the longest indoor ski facility in the UK, eclipsing the 180-metre slope at Chill Factore in Manchester”, without, apparently, understanding the difference.

In a conurbation like Greater Manchester there are a few hundred thousand people earning good money in a diversified economy. This gives these people and their families a considerable amount in disposable income, some of which they will spend on entertainment and leisure, such as that provided by the Chill Factore.

Leisure and entertainment in a city like Manchester is additional to, and dependent upon, a vibrant and diversified economy. But here in Wales the ‘Welsh’ Government wants to cut out the economy bit and go straight to the leisure part, using it as a substitute for an economy.

Or, to look at it in a wider context; the low wage – and often seasonal – jobs provided by leisure facilities will be in Wales while the jobs paying the good money, enabling people to enjoy those facilities, will be in England. This is using Wales as England’s playground.

This project suggested for Merthyr is simply the latest in a long line of major leisure developments hailed as the economic salvation of Wales. In the north we have Surf Snowdoniazip wires everywhere, even giant trampolines underground in Blaenau.

Planned for the south we have the Afan Valley Adventure Resort. (Which I’ve written about.) While someone else hopes to give us yet another outdoor pursuits centre, this one near Carmarthen.

And what do they all have in common? They’re all foreign owned, the top jobs always go to outsiders, leaving the shitty, low-paid jobs for the natives. Classic colonialism. Yet to the ‘Welsh’ Government this is an economy, this is the future.

To cap it all, the ‘Welsh’ Government is proposing to remove almost all restrictions on access to the countryside. In other words, ramblers, canoeists, anyone, can come to Wales and do what they damn well like. The proposal has been welcomed by a host of English organisations such as The Open Spaces Society and Cycling UK.

Once again the ‘Welsh’ Government is prepared to legislate not for Wales and the Welsh but for the benefit of the English who regard Wales as their playground. A Labour administration will do this because it cares nothing for the countryside and has no better ideas, while it will be supported by Plaid Cymru because Plaid always grovels to the English middle classes.

The consultation period runs until the end of September. Make your objection to Wales being destroyed in order that strangers can ‘enjoy’ our homeland. You might also tell those clowns down Cardiff docks to back off from the idiocy that’s proposed for Rhydycar, and those behind it.

This has been a very complicated piece to write, so if I’ve made a mistake, please let me know. And if anyone has further information, then just send it to editor@jacothenorth.net.

♦ end ♦

 

Aug 312017
 

REFRESHER

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

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

CYMDEITHAS GOFAL WHO’S WHO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE MAN OF THE WOODS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIRMINGHAM TAKES BUT ELAN GIVES . . . TO CYMDEITHAS GOFAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIR COED AS SNAKE OIL

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

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

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

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

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

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

BRITISH, BRITISHER, BRITISHEST

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

click to enlarge

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

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

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

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

TAKING WORK HOME

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

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

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

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

THE RENTIER CLASS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♦ end ♦

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

Aug 282017
 

PEMBROKESHIRE CARE AND CYMDEITHAS GOFAL

Human trafficking is a term we’ve become increasingly familiar with in recent years, it’s a clandestine and largely illegal activity that reduces human beings to transferable commodities, to be moved around and exploited for the financial benefit of some third party.

Many people will be surprised therefore to learn that this practice is widespread here in Wales – and it’s funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government.

In January 2016 I wrote The ‘Care’ Racket in Wales, and earlier this month, Care in the South West (or the lack thereof); in both I looked at Pembrokeshire Care and Cymdeithas Gofal / the Care Society which operates in Ceredigion. Both help the homeless, and those with ‘issues’, such as drug addicts and those recently released from prison. (Or, to lapse into the jargon, ‘the secure estate’).

The England flag being larger is a simple mistake to make, as is the misspelling of Agorwch

Though in the more recent post I’d neglected to mention that the Care Society is itself a landlord with three properties in Aberystwyth. Which made me wonder – seeing as it administers the ‘Welsh’ Government’s tenant bond scheme – if it pays itself a bond for those it houses in its own properties?

Both societies also operate as lettings agencies. In Pembrokeshire we have Pathway Lettings and in Ceredigion Cymdeithas Gofal has its Estates and Lettings agency. Letting agencies always charge a commission.

From the Pathway Lettings website it looks like a £50 up-front administrative charge for tenants, the landlords pay £50 for an Introductory Service’, a ‘Let Only’ service costs £150, then there’s another £150 for the ‘Managed Property Service Charge’, plus ‘10% (negotiable) of monthly rental income’. And there are further charges! (read them all here).

Cymdeithas Gofal’s Estates and Lettings is more coy in that it doesn’t give the figures on its website, but there’s no reason to suspect that it operates a lot different to its Pembrokeshire counterpart.

So we have two letting agencies with a ready supply of customers thanks to their parent bodies, which also administer the ‘Welsh’ Government’s tenant bond scheme (to themselves?), and act as unfair competition to private letting agencies and estate agencies that don’t have access to the public purse.

Cymdeithas Gofal also hopes to be soon offering mortgage and insurance services!

Which sums up the ‘Welsh’ Government’s attitude to what it likes to pretend is business. In truth, it’s the anti-business attitude of ‘Welsh’ Labour and Plaid Cymru.

In case anyone thinks I’m making a big deal out of nothing here, let me conclude this section by telling you that the amount received by Pembrokeshire Care under the tenant bond scheme totalled £575,922.16 for the three financial years ending 31.03.2016.

And that is just part of its income; an income that allows it to sit on reserves of £756,542, with that hoard made up almost entirely of “cash at bank and in hand” most of it “unrestricted funds”, which means it was not given for a specific purpose and so can be used for just about anything. All figures available here in the latest accounts.

With a further £120,000 set aside for “Senior Management Succession Planning”. Isn’t that comforting?

ENTER GRWP GWALIA AND THE MONEYBAGS WALLICH

Anyway, the reason I’m returning to this subject is that both Pembrokeshire Care and Cymdeithas Gofal have competition, particularly the Ceredigion outfit. It began when someone referred me to a poster on the board in the Quarry Cafe in Machynlleth.

Now this is not an establishment I frequent when I’m in our ancient capital, due to its connection with the Centre for Alternative Technology in Corris, but last week the wife wanted to visit the town’s weekly street market and that’s how I found myself pushing past hippies, knocking over skinny lattes, and ignoring the ‘ . . . last time I was in Kathmandu’ conversations, to take the photo you see below.

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It looks innocent enough, until you know a little more about the two bodies involved. Grwp Gwalia is a housing association based in Swansea and is now part of the Pobl Group.

If the name rings a bell it might be because this is the housing association that was happy to take on the gang of Satanic paedophiles from London and inflict them on Kidwelly.

Though nowadays, it seems that Grwp Gwalia is concentrating on students! But should a publicly-funded housing association be in this neck of the property jungle?

Anyway, moving on.

I hadn’t realised until a short while ago that Grwp Gwalia has an office in Newtown, which is where Mid Wales Housing is based. So for a minute I wondered if the move into Powys was the first stage in a takeover bid for MWH? Well, perhaps not, because this page on the Gwalia website suggests that it has found a ‘niche’ to exploit, primarily homelessness and mental health.

Grwp Gwalia’s Newtown operation

So where does ‘The Wallich’ fit into the picture? I suppose many of you may even be wondering, ‘What is “The Wallich”?’ The Wallich is an all-Wales agency, and the trading name of the Wallich Clifford Community, which caters for the homeless and those with other – often associated – ‘issues’.

As I say, The Wallich operates across Wales, with a major presence in Swansea and Cardiff, but is also busy in Wrecsam and Rhyl (I bet that mention of Rhyl surprised you!). A quick perusal of the latest accounts (up to 31.03.2016) tells us that The Wallich is a multi-million-pound operation.

In year ending 31.03.2016 The Wallich had a total income of more than ten million pounds, six and a half million of which came from the ‘Welsh’ Government and assorted local authorities, with a further three and a half million coming from “rent and service charges”. Which contributed towards total assets of nine and a half million pounds, most of it in “tangible fixed assets” i.e. property; these figures include over one million pounds invested and £2.8 million in “cash at bank and in hand”.

The Wallich is clearly awash with cash and assets despite two-thirds of its income going on salaries and pensions. There is a strong case to be made for saving the public purse a few million pound every year by cutting back on The Wallich’s funding.

THE WALLICH IN ABERYSTWYTH

And now Grwp Gwalia and the Wallich are spreading their wings in Machynlleth. From their perspective I suppose it makes sense in that it gives them a footprint in a new area, though how much call there is in Machynlleth for the ‘services’ they provide is another matter.

As I did my checking on The Wallich I began to suspect that the operation planned for Machynlleth might be no more than an outlier for The Wallich’s operations in Aberystwyth, just 18 miles away.

For there, in Aber’, and nearby Borth, we find that The Wallich has no less than four properties:

  1. First, in 9 Corporation Street, catering for for “individuals with a range of complex support needs including needs around offending behaviour, being a prison leaver, mental health issues, substance misuse issues, physical health needs, housing needs or a mixture of these”.
  2. A few doors away, No 13 provides “temporary accommodation for single homeless people who need low level support, or for individuals ready to move-on from projects where they have received a higher level of support and wish to increase their independence.” Perhaps people move from No 9 to No 13.
  3. On No 14 Queens Road we have ‘Tŷ Nesaf’, “The project aims to work with the residents to support them to reduce the various harms they have in their lives e.g. homelessness, substance misuse issues, mental health issues and repeat offending. The project also aims to reduce the level of negative impact these individuals may have on the community in general.”
  4. Finally, just out of town, in Borth, we have the ‘Families Temporary Accommodation Project’, and the blurb tells us: “We support residents to increase their control, understanding and involvement around the issues they have identified as needing assistance with, in order to prevent further homelessness.”

COMPETITION OR CO-OPERATION?

So now we know that Aberystwyth, the Queen of Cardigan Bay (or is that Aberteifi?) is blessed with not only Cymdeithas Gofal, providing accommodation for the homeless, those recently released from ‘the secure estate’, alcohol and substance abusers, and others, but that the town is doubly blessed in having The Wallich in the same line of business.

Together they provide many dozens of rooms for their clients, who are then passed on to private landlords and social housing providers with the tenant bond supplied by the ‘Welsh’ Government. A conveyor belt of problems.

from the Cymdeithas Gofal website

Realising how well supplied Aberystwyth is with facilities for those experiencing difficulties (invariably of their own making) some of you may be saying to yourself, ‘I didn’t realise Aberystwyth was so big’. Well, it’s not. It’s roughly the same size as Tredegar.

Yet despite being a post-industrial town, and among the poorest in Europe, Tredegar seems to suffer little from homelessness, certainly it doesn’t have the veritable industry we find in Aberystwyth. So why does relatively prosperous Aberystwyth – apparently – have such a homelessness crisis?

The answer is obvious – the ‘homelessness problem’ in Ceredigion (and Pembrokeshire) is largely imported from over the border. But who cares, everybody’s dipping their beak – from the 262 staff of The Wallich to the private landlords of Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. Plus the ‘Welsh’ Government can tick a few more boxes to claim it’s doing a wonderful job.

(The influence of private landlords, coupled with the proliferation of houses of multiple occupation – and the scarcity of both in Valleys towns – may go a long way to explaining the thriving ‘homelessness’ business in Aberystwyth.)

To answer the heading of this section, I found no evidence of co-operation. Typing ‘Cymdeithas Gofal’ or ‘Care Society’ into the Gwalia Search box turns up nothing. Type ‘Wallich’ into the Cymdeithas Gofal Search box and it comes up as one of many external links.

Which means that greedy Third Sector bodies are now in competition to import England’s problems into a small Welsh town – and you pay for it. You contribute to making Wales perhaps the only county on Earth with a state-funded system of human trafficking.

If the ‘Welsh’ Government has decided that Wales is to become the dumping ground for England’s decrepit, dysfunctional and delinquent – and to judge by the funding provided, this must be the case – then let Carwyn and his gang have the honesty to say so.

♦ end ♦

Aug 142017
 

I present here a trio of very interesting tales. The first is an update on an old favourite, Mill Bay Homes, the publicly-funded private house builder in Pembrokeshire which may now, finally, have gone straight. The second will cheer you up no end, for our wonderful ‘Welsh’ Government has cracked the problem of ‘the demographic time bomb’ that has everyone else so worried. Finally, I offer a fascinating report into police transfers, and why some forces would rather clam up.

MILL BAY HOMES

To recap: Mill Bay Homes is a subsidiary of Pembrokeshire Housing. Both are Registered Social Landlords (or were until recently). Pembrokeshire Housing has received a great deal of funding from the ‘Welsh’ Government, many tens of millions of pounds in fact.

Mill Bay Homes has received no funding directly from the ‘Welsh’ Government, but some seven million pounds was transferred or ‘loaned’ by the parent company. This funding, we were assured, came from sources other than the public purse.

click to enlarge

A number of people, principally Wynne Jones of Cardigan, assisted by others (among whom I’m proud to number myself), have queried the Byzantine structure and operation of social housing in Pembrokeshire. Basically, what is the point of Mill Bay Homes, which builds open market housing, and even touts for ‘investors’ (i.e. buy-to-let landlords)? Or to put it another way, why is Mill Bay Homes, a company that builds no social housing, registered with the ‘Welsh’ Government as a Registered Social Landlord (RSL)?

As if the situation wasn’t complicated enough, Mill Bay Homes then branched out into what it calls ‘shared ownership’. (Read the brochure here.) If you scroll down the end you’ll see a section headed ‘Your Leasehold Agreement’ . . . that’s right, it’s not shared ownership at all, anyone getting involved will be buying the share of a lease.

It so happens that the Notional Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee recently looked into the governance of housing associations. Wynne Jones and I made submissions, though God knows what happened to them, the PAC never saw them and we never received a copy of the PAC report. Even so, Recommendation 11 is worthy of note.

I draw your attention to Recommendation 11 because, without any fanfare, or public announcement of any kind, Mill Bay Homes ceased to be a Registered Social Landlord on April 5th, yet will continue as “an unregistered Subsidiary of Pembrokeshire Housing” . . . but hang on, isn’t that the very thing the PAC warns against?

click to enlarge

Now those of us who take an interest in the Pembrokeshire social housing scene first became aware of Mill Bay Homes’ de-registration on August 8th (thanks to A. E.), and on that same day Wynne Jones e-mailed the ‘Welsh’ Government asking a number of questions on the status of Mill Bay Homes.

Wouldn’t ya know it! – just three days later, on Friday August 11th, Mill Bay Homes Ltd was registered with Companies House, as a private limited company. Which still leaves a number of questions to be answered.

  • Seeing as Mill Bay Homes ceased to be a Registered Social Landlord on April 5th did its registration as an Industrial and Provident Society with the Financial Conduct Authority end on the same day? (Most housing associations have IPS status with the FCA.)
  • Either way, what was the status of Mill Bay Homes in the period between April 5th and August 11th? Important, because of course it was still trading, building new homes, selling properties, offering ‘shared ownership’, etc.
  • What steps is Pembrokeshire Housing taking to ensure that the money it has ‘loaned’ MBH is repaid?
  • What steps is the ‘Welsh’ Government taking to ensure that the money is repaid?
  • Remembering the Public Accounts Committee’s Recommendation 11, is Mill Bay Homes Ltd still “an unregistered subsidiary of Pembrokeshire Housing”?
  • Will the ‘Welsh’ Government take steps to ensure that there is no repetition of the arrangement that saw a RSL spawn and fund a private house builder – that was also a RSL! – to compete with small local firms, but having the priceless advantage of unlimited financial support and ‘Welsh’ Government backing?
  • How long will it be until Pembrokeshire Housing is taken over by Wales and West, the ‘Welsh’ Government’s in-house, Labour Party-run housing association?

Finally, if you go back to the Companies House info on Mill Bay Homes Ltd, you’ll see that the address given for all the directors is Meyler House, St Thomas Green, Haverfordwest, which is the office of Pembrokeshire Housing.

Among those directors you’ll see Nigel Charles Sinnett, who is also the sole director of Ateb Building Solutions Ltd, Incorporated 3 January 2017, which is in the business of constructing commercial buildings. Ateb’s single, £1 share is held by the Pembrokeshire Housing Association Ltd.

The screen capture below is taken from the Pembrokeshire Housing Group’s strategic plan 2017 – 2022. You’ll see that Ateb Building Solutions Ltd is listed as being currently dormant.

So, on the one hand, we see Pembrokeshire Housing divest itself of one embarrassment in the form of Mill Bay Homes, but it looks like there’s another about to emerge in the form of Ateb Building Solutions Ltd – yet another “non-registered social landlord subsidiary” of the kind the Public Accounts Committee warns against!

I think we can safely assume, in light of the Public Accounts Committee’s recommendations, that the dormant Ateb Building Solutions Ltd will be permanently put to sleep ere it wakes.

If not, then the ‘Welsh’ Government will need to step in – and pronto!

WHY IT MATTERS

Over the years I’ve written a lot about Third Sector bodies and their subsidiaries, so let me explain why it’s important.

Let us begin by assuming that the wholly imaginary Llansiadwel Housing Association sets up a subsidiary called Wales Welcomes and is Delighted to House English Criminals and Sex Offenders. (Absurd, I know, but this is just an example.)

Let us further assume that WWDHECSO strikes it rich and makes lots of money. There now exists the temptation for those running the organisation to cut themselves adrift and go private, to make money for themselves – without repaying the public funding that got them started.

Alternatively, WWDHECSO might prove to be a financial disaster (which is usually the case), giving the parent body two options: inject public funding to keep the subsidiary afloat, or just write off the loss. One often leading to the other.

Whichever the outcome, publicly-funded subsidiaries and ‘trading arms’ are in unfair competition with local companies struggling to survive, companies not enjoying handouts from the public purse.

The Third Sector in Wales is like a black hole sucking in vast amounts of public funding and once in there no one knows what happens to it. Certainly, nothing ever comes back. And that’s how the ‘Welsh’ Government likes it.

Wales needs a truly independent investigator of public funding; independent of the ‘Welsh’ Government, independent of the Notional Assembly, independent of Wales.

DEMOGRAPHIC TIME BOMB

Unless you’ve been asleep for the past decade or two you’ll know that the world’s advanced economies are facing what is invariably described as a ‘demographic time bomb’. This piece from the Telegraph explains the problem well.

But while this dire fate awaits the rest of the first world, here in the alternative reality of Wales, an ageing population is viewed as a good thing. How know I this? Because I was told so in a letter I received from the ‘Office of the First Minister’.

This letter spelled it out: “There are almost 800,000 people aged 60 and over in Wales, over a quarter of the population, and, in the next twenty years, this is expected to exceed one million people. The fact that Wales is a nation of older people should be seen as something positive”.

The letter also tells us that we have an Ageing Well in Wales project, which is no doubt commendable, but the letter informs us that this programme “will challenge the assumption that frailty and dependence are an inevitable part of ageing”.

You read it here, folks! Not only have Carwyn and his cabinet of all the talents figured out a way for Wales alone to avoid the economic consequences of the demographic time bomb, but now we have the explanation – they’ve conquered the ageing process! Wales is become Shangri-La, and our mountain springs are fountains of eternal youth!

Which is a bit confusing, cos I see wrinklies everywhere. When I go to Tywyn of a morning I have to do my Phil Bennett impersonation to dodge the mobility scooters. Surely ‘Welsh’ Labour isn’t telling porkies?

You bet they are. For the letter also wants us to believe that, “After accounting for costs relating to pensions, welfare and health, older people make a net contribution worth over £1 billion a year to the Welsh economy, almost £3 million a day”.

Now if that’s true, then those clever Japanese have got it all wrong, and rather than fearing the demographic time bomb they should be encouraging elderly Chinese to move to Japan! Why aren’t politicians and economists from around the world flocking to Wales to learn from us – Carwyn’s defused the demographic time bomb!

At one point the letter-writer even invokes the United Nations with, “Article 12.1 of the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966, which states that ‘Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence”. 

But the letter chooses to ignore that the United Nations also has something to say about indigenous cultures and identities. We Welsh are the indigenous people, not just of Wales but of Britain; we were here long before the Germanic forefathers of the English invaded. And before the Romans. As Woody put it, ‘This land is our land . . .’

Over the years I’ve read many letters from politicians and civil servants, heard speeches, attended meetings, followed discussions, read books, but never have I read such absolute bullshit as we find in this letter.

POLICE TRANSFERS

A while back, when I was taking a wee break, Big Gee wrote a piece that many of you enjoyed, though some of you found difficult to believe. He wrote about being arrested a few years back in Aberystwyth, handcuffed and taken to the police station, over a parking dispute, but specifically because he refused to speak English. Here is Careful Where You Park Your Car in Our Colonised Country – Dangers Lurk!

The arresting officer was a notorious arsehole named Michael Robert Westbury, who had transferred in to Dyfed Powys from the West Midlands force in England. ‘Laptop’, as he is known (small PC), once told colleagues that he had never read a book, and that his favourite reading was traffic regulations!

Anyway, after reading Big Gee’s article I got to wondering how many others there might be like ‘Laptop’ who had transferred in from England.

So on July 12th I sent FoI requests to all four police forces asking, “Please tell me how many of your serving officers have transferred to (force) from a force outside of Wales?” The same day I sent FoI requests to three ‘English’ police forces – Cumbria, West Mercia, Devon & Cornwall – asking, “Please tell me how many of your officers have transferred in from other police forces”.

I chose the three forces over the border because; West Mercia lies between Wales and the West Midlands, so if any officer is hoping to escape the hurly-burly of Brum then West Mercia should be his first option. While the other two areas should be attractive to officers seeking a cushy number prior to retirement in those areas.

At the time of writing, I have received five responses, three from Wales and two from England, and they tell us quite a bit, though perhaps not what I expected to learn. Let’s look at those responses one by one, the Welsh ones first.

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The response from Gwent, in e-mail format, came from Steve Woolway on behalf of Detective Inspector Andrew Tuck. After explaining that to comply with my request would be prohibitively expensive it said: “Please Note: that to obtain the information sought would mean a manual trawl of each officer’s personal record. It would take approximately 10 minutes per record to locate the information and due to the numbers this would take approximately 24 hours to complete”.

(The mathematicians among you will have worked out that 10 minutes per officer = 6 records per hour; and if we multiply that by the 24 hours quoted it gives us a total of 144. Yet there are over 1,000 full-time officers in the Gwent force.)

Dyfed Powys responded in a very similar vein, but quoting ” . . . a minimum of 15 minutes to review each Police Officers (sic) file/record to obtain the information in respect of your request”. Read it for yourself here.

From South Wales I received the following, rather bizarre response to what I’d thought was a very simple question. I have written again to South Wales Police in the hope that this time they will understand what I’m asking for.

From North Wales Police I have heard nothing, not even an acknowledgement. I have sent a reminder. Now let’s turn to the boys in blue over the border, who have been far more forthcoming.

The first to respond was West Mercia. The e-mail reply was simple, succinct, and told me exactly what I wanted to know – “REPLY: As of 14/07/17 the force has 390 current officers who have transferred in from other Police forces”.

Next was the Cumbria force (though the original reply got lost somewhere). This response was even more informative than the one from West Mercia. You’ll see part of it below, with the full document available here.

As yet I have received nothing, not an even acknowledgement, from the Devon & Cornwall Police, but a reminder has been sent. So how do the responses from different sides of the border compare?

Well, without being too unkind, either the Welsh forces are choosing to withhold information they could easily release or, if we take the answers from Gwent and Dyfed Powys at face value, then our police forces are much less efficient than their English counterparts. Do they have computers yet in Cwmbran and Carmarthen, or do they have to go down the cellars and bat away the cobwebs before struggling with rusty filing cabinets?

Another interpretation, certainly in the case of Dyfed Powys, could be that there are too many like Westbury transferring in, and this is not something they want the public to know about.

Of course, there will be those who’ll accuse me of ‘racism’ for even wanting to know the truth (and thereby hope to close down the debate). So let me spell out why I feel it’s important to know how many police officers are being transferred into Wales.

  • Every transfer into Wales is a career denied to a Welsh person, and this applies to all employment.
  • How can a police officer, who doesn’t know the area, who can’t pronounce the local names, who doesn’t understand anything of Wales, possibly do a better job than an officer recruited from within the local population?
  • Many of those who transfer into Wales, especially into rural areas, do so because they couldn’t ‘cut it’ in high-crime urban areas – do we really need such people? Should they even be in the police service?
  • With Welsh police officers there’d be much less chance of a Welshman or Welshwoman being arrested and treated like a criminal for speaking Welsh in a parking dispute.

UPDATE 15.08.2017: As I mentioned above, following the bizarre response from South Wales Police I wrote again hoping to make it clear what I was asking for. Well now I’ve had the second response, read it for yourself.

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Can you make sense of that reply? It claims that SWP does “not hold data on out of force transferees”. Yet we know that Dyfed Powys and Gwent hold such information . . . but won’t release it because, they claim, it would take too long and cost too much. Two English forces however have supplied the information without a fuss.

I’m being lied to.

So there you have it, three tales of contemporary Wales telling us what a mess our country is in. We are constantly lied to, and when we try to get information to see the facts for ourselves, either we are told more lies or else the information we need is denied us.

What a country!

end ♦

Aug 022017
 

CARMARTHENSHIRE, KIDWELLY

A few years ago we learnt of the shocking case of the Satanist paedophiles relocated from London to Kidwelly and housed by Grwp Gwalia of Swansea (since merged with Seren to create Pobl). Their trial even made London prints such as the Daily Mail and Guardian.

In addition to being a sick and dangerous pervert, the leader of the gang, Colin Batley, was also an English patriot, with the Cross of St George flying from the flagpole on his front lawn. He was also described as a swaggering bully, often accompanied by his two rottweilers.

In the Daily Mail piece, one ‘local’ is quoted: “Nobody understands how so many of them could come down and all end up living in one place in the town”. Anyone who knows anything about social housing in Wales could have explained it to him.

As if to prove that lightning does strike twice, and yea! thrice . . . two more individuals with an unhealthy interest in children have recently been unearthed in Kidwelly.

The first was 71-year-old retired probation officer, Michael Nathan Cohen, who moved with his wife from Manchester some ten years ago. Though this WalesOnline report from early July prefers to describe him, both in the headline and the first line of the report, as a “Kidwelly man”.

Around the same time we heard about the case of 61-year-old retired civil servant Vincent Barbary – who has since been moved to Abertillery!

You’ll note that both men had pornographic images on their computers, and both were caught when police went to their houses, presumably acting on information received. Where did that information come from?

It would appear to be pure coincidence that these people from different backgrounds and locations – London, Manchester, Leicester – ended up in the same town of some 3,500 people. Though it does make you wonder if there might be some other factor at work.

CARMARTHENSHIRE, FALSE ALLEGATIONS

We now move down the road a bit from Kidwelly to Burry Port, to look at a very troubling case. This Llanelli Herald report from May 2015 will give you the background.

In a nutshell, some seven years ago Carina Burn, a 19-year-old autistic woman with communication difficulties, was locked away in a secure unit for six months because a carer alleged that she was being sexually abused – even prostituted! – by her parents Robin and Julia.

Two weeks after she was taken from her parents six police officers in plain clothes descended on the family home; it was searched, the computers were seized, and the parents arrested. Read more details here in this Daily Express account of the story.

Those responsible for inflicting this trauma were employed by Perthyn, a care company based in Swansea, which does work for a number of local authorities in both Wales and England.

Carina is now back with her parents and £30,000 in compensation has been paid; £26,000 from Carmarthenshire County Council, £1,000 from Dyfed Powys Police, and £3,000 from Dr Rowan Wilson, a man with no experience in the field who was called in by CCC to defend the original decision.

Carina Burn, Courtesy of the Daily Express

There is a strong suspicion that the case began when the parents decided to end the arrangement with Perthyn due to their fears that money being given for their daughter’s lunch was being pocketed. The very day that Perthyn was told the arrangement was ending the carers persuaded Mrs Burn to let them take her daughter swimming one last time. Carina did not come home.

Naturally, the parents want a full investigation into this case so I’d better not name the carer involved, the one who claimed that Carina was making the allegations, nor her supervisor, though I have both names. I am, however, prepared to name Trevor Stainsby, the local area manager for Perthyn, because what happened to him was quite remarkable.

Once the police dropped the case against the parents, and the focus shifted to Carmarthenshire County Council, who had employed Perthyn, Stainsby was recruited by the Council! Was this because Vinny, the Cardiff Bay property whizz, recognised Trev’s potential, or because he hoped to buy his silence? All might be revealed in the inquiry the ‘Welsh’ Government can no longer dodge.

The pressure might increase when the ITV Wales interview done with Robin and Julia Burn today is televised. Unless of course ITV was there on a fact-finding mission for someone else. These things happen.

CEREDIGION

In January 2016 I wrote The ‘Care’ Racket in Wales in which I looked at organisations operating under that generic label in the Wild West. It might be worth you reading that minor masterpiece of the blogger’s art before you push on with this update. But if you’re too bloody lazy! . . .

At various times the south west was blessed with (takes deep breath) The Ceredigion Care Society, The Dyfed Care Society, The Carmarthen Care Society, The Pembrokeshire Care Society.

All shared the same espoused objective: “1. The relief of poverty, the relief of sickness and the advancement of education and training amongst: A) Persons who have suffered a legal restriction on their liberty in the community, or any penal establishment or institution B) The families and descendants of such persons described in A) above C) Persons in need, hardship or distress.

In other words, they helped ex-cons. As I said in that original ” . . . of whom there must be hundreds every year returning to the mean streets and gang life of Ystrad Meurig, Marloes and Ponterwyd.” My way of saying that we can with some certainty conclude that most of those helped came from outside of Dyfed, and outside of Wales.

The Ceredigion Care Society has now changed its name to Cymdeithas Gofal / The Care Society, it has moved to a new address at 21 Terrace Road Aberystwyth, it serves Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Powys (though only Ceredigion funds CG), and it no longer claims to be helping ex-cons.

For “Persons who have suffered a legal restriction on their liberty in the community, or any penal establishment or institution” has now been replaced with what you see below.

Which is not to say that Cymdeithas Gofal doesn’t still help those who’ve been in trouble with the law, because one focus is on young tearaways leaving secure units. For “It is recognised that wherever possible the best place for a child is within her/his own family.” This explains young criminals turning up out of the blue at the Young Persons Project in Cardigan, often with their problem family in tow.

The latest accounts available are to year ending 31.03.2016. You’ll see that the numbers housed is quite commendable . . . especially in a rural county of some 70,000 people with no real social problems.

And keeping with the housing side of the business, we see that Cymdeithas Gofal has its own Estates and Lettings department. So let’s say you’ve got a few bedsits in Aber’, you can get in touch with CG and – bingo! – they’ll find you tenants and look after your property for you!

Couple that side of the business with the fact that one of the company’s income streams is administering the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Bond Scheme (£42,707 y/e 31.03.2016), and you have to wonder whether, in a town like Aberystwyth, with so many properties for rent, so many Houses of Multiple Occupation, providing a regular supply of tenants for local landlords isn’t the real purpose of Cymdeithas Gofal. That’s certainly a purpose it fulfils.

From Cymdeithas Gofal website ‘Estates and Lettings’ section

The services Cymdeithas Gofal provides, and the public funding it swallows up, are certainly not justified by the needs of the population indigenous to the area it covers. Looks to me like a nice little racket. Which might not bother me if I wasn’t paying for it. So are you.

PEMBROKESHIRE CARE SOCIETY

Now I bet the heading confused you. You’re asking, ‘Hang on, if Cymdeithas Gofal covers the south west and Powys, how can there also be a Pembrokeshire Care Society?’ Well, let Jac explain.

As with Cymdeithas Gofal, the Pembrokeshire Care Society is both a company registered with Companies House and a charity registered with the Charity Commission. This Pembrokeshire outfit is also in on the bond scheme, and wouldn’t you know it! – it also has its own lettings agency in Pathway Lettings.

What’s more, it’s doing pretty well, because the accounts for y/e 31.03.2016 tell us that the Pembrokeshire Care Society was sitting on reserves of £756,542, and that hoard was made up almost entirely of “cash at bank and in hand” most of it “unrestricted funds”, which means it was not given for a specific purpose and so can be used for just about anything.

Will funders, such as the ‘Welsh’ Government, now be asking for any of their funding to be returned? For it’s clearly not needed.

The bigger question is why public funding is being given to organisations like Cymdeithas Gofal and Pembrokeshire Care to bring people into the area, often undesirables, for no better reason than to provide tenants for local landlords, while also running lettings agencies of their own on the side?

PEMBROKESHIRE, TRAGEDY

Seren Bernard was 14 when her body was found, near Milford Haven, in April 2012. This is one of the few facts we can be sure of in this case. Another is that she was living with foster parents and under the care of Pembrokeshire County Council.

A serious case review undertaken in 2013 concluded that Seren’s death “might not have been preventable”. Though at that review Seren’s mother, Sarah Pollock, insisted that the agencies involved had “willingly and knowingly exposed Seren to harm”.

At the inquest in June 2015, despite highlighting a number of cock-ups on the part of the Pembrokeshire authorities, the coroner had little alternative but to return a verdict of suicide. As a comment to the Western Telegraph from ‘Deryn Bawddwr’ put it, “The teflon coated PCC get away with it again”.

Then, last month, came the kerfuffle in Monkton, over the paedophile that locals believed had moved (or been moved) to the area. After the riotous night the protesters met outside the council offices in Pembroke Dock on July 13th, as reported here by the Pembrokeshire Telegraph.

(It may be worth pointing out that the council, the police, and just about every arm of officialdom, is staying schtum on the details of the Monkton affair. Refusing to even say who owns the property in question.)

Among those in the gathering outside the council offices was Seren Bernard’s mother. She spoke with Herald TV, watch her (4:32). Here’s a written account of what she said.

The allegation is that Seren Bernard was drugged and raped by a group of men, they may have been local, they may have come down from Swansea. What’s more, the solicitor acting for Mrs Pollock has names said to be the men responsible, names giver by Seren herself. The police also have these names.

Sarah Pollock, mother of Seren Bernard, courtesy of Western Telegraph

Now if this is true then it could explain Seren’s suicide, and her strange, uncharacteristic behaviour in the period leading up to her suicide, behaviour which Pembrokeshire council and its agencies were so keen to stress in seeking to exonerate themselves. It may also explain why Sarah Pollock was never given the full report of the serious case review in 2013.

As a man with grand-daughters I find this case harrowing. It seems clear to me that the truth is being withheld, and the reason for that may lie in the names on the list of alleged rapists. Are there prominent men named, and is that why justice is being denied (as in the never-ending ‘North Wales child abuse’ saga)?

I would love to see that list, and make my own enquiries.

CONCLUSION

We clearly have a dysfunctional system of ‘care’ in Wales, exposed by what we see happening in the south west.

On the one hand, we have ‘care’ agencies such as Cymdeithas Gofal and Pembrokeshire Care receiving millions of pounds in public funding yet they seem to do little more than deliver up tenants – complete with bonds! – to local landlords, private and social. Also bringing in young tearaways plus paedophiles and other criminals.

On the other hand, we have the true care system, that which betrayed both Carina Burn and Seren Bernard. Not only that, but once the mistakes were exposed the machinery of cover-up swung into action. We saw it in Carmarthenshire with the council recruiting Trevor Stainsby of Perthyn, and in Pembrokeshire with the council preferring to blame a ‘suicidal’ child rather than wonder what drove her to suicide.

Now here’s a revolutionary suggestion. Why not ditch the landlords’ friends, Cymdeithas Gofal and Pembrokeshire Care, and give the money to real care bodies, so that they can train staff and avoid another disaster such as befell the Burn family. Also use it to ensure that if there’s another Seren Bernard, that she’s helped rather than abandoned.

The system as it stands is indefensible, but it is being robustly defended: by the ‘Welsh’ Government – because it can’t admit that it’s pouring money down so many drains; by local authorities and their agencies – that can’t afford to admit the mistakes they’ve made; and by others making too much money out of this insane, corrupt system of public funding

For more money withdraw the blank cheque the ‘Welsh’ Government gives to housing associations, organisations deeply involved in the racket. Housing associations that in rural areas are building more homes than are needed locally and also building properties for sale on the open market – even advertising for ‘investors’!

♦ end ♦

Jun 292017
 

But first . . .

A LESSON FROM HISTORY

Following victories over the Persians at Salamis (480 BC) and Plataea (479 BC), and with mainland Greece liberated, the Spartans withdrew from their leadership of the wartime alliance. Athens seized the opportunity and in 478 BC created the Delian League.

Athenian greed and heavy-handedness soon made the other city-states realise that what they’d thought was an alliance of equals was nothing of the kind. Everything now flowed to Athens and the other city-states were little more than colonies. The League’s treasury was used to enhance and glorify Athens, funding prestige projects such as the Parthenon.

Courtesy of Ancient History Encyclopedia

Eventually, the other city-states could take no more and rebelled. They appealed to Sparta for help and so began the Peloponnesian War, which ran, in three phases, from 431 BC to 404 BC. At the end of the war Athens was defeated and ruined, Thebes and Corinth even wanted to destroy the city and enslave its citizens, but Sparta said no.

The Peloponnesian War was bloody and destructive. Due to Athenian selfishness the other Greek states were even prepared to seek Persian help in bringing her down and ending the golden age of Greece.

Two news items this week have reminded me of Athens and the Delian League.

BACK TO THE 1960s

The first was that the ‘Welsh’ Government will not back the Circuit of Wales in Ebbw Vale. This is something most of us knew weeks ago, it’s why announcing the decision was postponed until after the general election.

But don’t worry! Economy and Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates, softened the blow with: “The Welsh Government is therefore today committing to building a new automotive technology business park in Ebbw Vale, with funding of £100million over 10 years, with the potential to support 1,500 new FTE jobs. We will begin this work with the delivery of 40,000 sq ft of manufacturing space on land currently in public ownership.”

So the ‘Welsh’ Government kills off the Circuit of Wales yet still plans to build an ‘automotive technology park’ in Ebbw Vale. Apart from Ferrari’s Cafe what links does Ebbw Vale now have with the automotive industry? Or to put it another way, after 18 years of devolution and ‘Welsh’ Labour rule we’ve gone back to the 1960s with depressed areas offered nothing better than industrial parks. God Almighty!

But this saga may not be finished, for what if the scheme’s backers are able to find full private funding for the venture, will the ‘Welsh’ Government then support the Circuit of Wales or continue to be obstructive? I know where my money would go.

Let’s be absolutely clear: The Circuit of Wales was not supported by the ‘Welsh’ Government because Ebbw Vale is too far from Cardiff and the project didn’t offer enough benefits to Cardiff.

MAJOR TRAUMA

The nearest major trauma centres to Wales are in Liverpool, Stoke, Birmingham and Bristol. Some time ago the decision was taken that south Wales should have its own trauma centre. The two candidate sites were Morriston Hospital in Swansea and the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

On Wednesday we learnt that some anonymous panel had recommended that the MTC  should be located in Cardiff . . . despite Cardiff being so near to the existing centre in Bristol.

The centres in England are located where they are for the very good reason that patients suffering serious injury or sudden and serious debilitation benefit greatly from being treated within the first hour; in fact, it’s a matter of life or death. This period is referred to as the ‘golden hour’.

The maps (kindly supplied by BBC Wales) below show the ‘golden hour’ distances from those Major Trauma Centres closest to Wales together with the predicted ‘golden hour’ ranges for MTCs located in Cardiff and Swansea.

The first map, for existing MTCs, tells us that Cardiff and Newport are already within the ‘golden hour’ for the Bristol MTC, while anywhere west of Bridgend is not covered.

Turning to the second map, the Cardiff option, we see a slight improvement, in that Swansea Bay is now covered by the ‘golden hour’, but not western Gower, nor, I suspect, Llanelli. What’s more, rather than complementing the Bristol MTC to form a network of coverage – as we see in England – a Cardiff MTC would almost be in competition with Bristol. The overlap is huge.

The Swansea option, however, provides a real improvement, with the ‘golden hour’ now extending deep into Pembrokeshire and reaching the Cardigan Bay coastline. The ranges of the Swansea and Bristol MTCs overlap around Cardiff and Newport, but they don’t duplicate each other to anything like the same extent as the Cardiff option. Swansea and Bristol would complement each other perfectly.

Of course it’s being argued that, ‘Cardiff has this, and Cardiff has that’, to justify a MTC, but anything can be built or transferred. What cannot be changed is geography, and the critical and determining criterion for locating the Major Trauma Centre should be saving lives in the ‘golden hour’. You cannot emphasise the golden hour all the way through the process and then ignore it in order to locate the MTC in Cardiff.

To put a large area of the south west outside the ‘golden hour’ through handing Cardiff yet another prestige project – for that’s how it’s viewed in Cardiff – will be a difficult decision for politicians to defend.

The role of the ‘Welsh’ media in this debate has been somewhat bizarre, though predictable. On Wednesday WalesOnline ran this story. Putting the case for Swansea was Rob Stewart, leader of Swansea council. (Though the story was quickly updated and for some reason Stewart was replaced with Clive Lloyd, his deputy!)

Putting the case for Cardiff – which is what I assume he was doing – was a ‘speed flyer’ named Niall McCann. (Though by the time the story appeared this morning in Llais y Sais McCann’s contribution had disappeared.)

click to enlarge

McCann had shattered his spine speed flying off Pen y Fan and it had been put together by the University Hospital of Wales. McCann opined, “I’m 100% on board with anything that will improve the NHS services on offer. We are a capital city and we should be leading the way in Wales.”

So in the expert opinion of Niall McCann of Cardiff the new MTC should be in Cardiff, ‘Cos Cardiff’s the capital, innit?’ For reasons best known to itself WalesOnline even included in the article a video of McCann speed flying to remind us of the unnecessary risks he takes.

Perhaps the message we were expected to glean from this article was that having injured himself on the Beacons McCann would have been dead or crippled ere the donkey carrying him could have reached an MTC based at Morriston Hospital. If not, then I have no idea what purpose Trinity Mirror thought it was serving by including McCann’s cameo.

Then on Thursday, the BBC rubbed it in with a story headlined “Swansea ’10 to 15 years behind Cardiff’, think tank says”. Obviously unsuited to have a Major Trauma Centre.

TIME TO RETRACE OUR STEPS

But the problems of Wales today go beyond putting all the nation’s eggs in the Cardiff basket, they reach into every corner of our national life. Just look around you and ask what 18 years of devolution have achieved. Go on, and be honest!

Wales is poorer relative to other parts of the state, and other parts of Europe, than she was before we voted for devolution. Outside of Cardiff our urban and post-industrial areas are suffering managed decline, while our rural and coastal areas serve as recreation and retirement areas for England, with the Welsh population, and their identity, marginalised in both situations.

We have a self-styled Labour ‘Government’ in Cardiff docks that refuses to use even the limited powers it has for fear of upsetting anyone in London – including its own MPs and peers! Competing with Labour we have a Conservative Party currently in league with the Orange Order and the UDA, and a ‘national party’ that is, as Martin Shipton described it this morning, “a pressure group”. (And it’s not often I agree with Shippo!) Though it’s questionable whether Plaid Cymru really is challenging Labour.

‘Ah, but we’ve got devolution now, it’s something to build on’, I hear, from those who are in reality satisfied with this simulacrum of self-government, where free suppositories or some such nonsense qualify as radical initiatives. So who’s going to do the ‘building’? We know it won’t be Labour. It will never be the Conservative and Unionist Party. And there’s not a hope in hell of it being the pressure group.

Devolution has delivered a comfortable and undemanding level for ambitious councillors. To serve these politicians we now have a burgeoning and expensive bureaucracy. Because the party in control is Labour devolution has resulted in a vast and corrupt Third Sector sucking up billions of pounds to keep otherwise unemployable Labour supporters in jobs.

Yet we have no media to hold this juggernaut to account. (Though it’s debatable which is worse – the absence of a Welsh media or the constant bigotry exposed in the English media.) There is no real oversight or control of expenditure, and no justice for anyone wronged by this system. Yet if you investigate ‘devolution’ in any depth you soon realise what a sham it is.

For example, the ‘Welsh’ Government pretends it has its own Planning Inspectorate. The truth is that the Planning Inspectorate for Englandandwales answers to the Department for Communities and Local Government in London, it merely has a branch office in Cardiff. Which means that the Local Development Plans for Welsh local authorities are determined in London . . . and the ‘Welsh’ Government goes along with the charade!

P.S. Soon after publishing this post my attention was drawn to a perfect example of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s relationship with the Planning Inspectorate. This development at Llay is part of a wider strategy to turn our north east into commuter territory for north west England. And Carwyn Jones knows it.

The ‘Welsh’ Government and the whole apparatus of devolution soaks up money that could be better spent in Wales, and might be better spent if the useless edifice was swept away. Which is why I plan to start a petition to the UK Parliament asking for a referendum to be held to determine whether we should keep the Welsh Assembly and all that goes with it. (This will be done once a new Petitions Committee is formed.)

Yes, I know such a petition will attract Kippers and other BritNats, but I don’t care, there are bigger issues at stake. On almost every issue that matters we are still ruled from London anyway – so what do we stand to lose? Devolution is used to hide this fact, and to make us believe that we control our own affairs. It acts like some national dose of Prozac.

When you’ve taken a wrong turning you have two choices: either plod on until you fall off a cliff or sink in a bog, or else admit you made a mistake, retrace your steps, and next time make sure you know where you want to go.

Devolution was a wrong turning.

♦ end ♦

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 ♦

Apr 182017
 

THIS PIECE BEGAN LIFE AS JUST ANOTHER ITEM IN ONE OF MY REGULAR NEWS ROUND-UPS, BUT AS IT GOT MORE INTERESTING I THOUGHT IT MERITED A POST TO ITSELF. SO HERE IT IS

About a week or so ago WalesOnline, one of Trinity Mirror’s Labour Party mouthpieces, told us of an exciting new development in Cwm Afan, behind Port Talbot. The article generated some interesting comments, here are a couple, but I urge you to read them all.

click to enlarge

As the comments tell us, this development is fronted by television ‘personality’ Edward Michael Bear Grylls, though it seems to be the brainchild of a Gavin Lee Woodhouse of Yorkshire, through his Northern Powerhouse Developments. There are a number of companies – all new – sharing that name.

You can have, in chronological order: Northern Powerhouse Developments LtdNorthern Powerhouse Developments Adventure Resorts LtdNorthern Powerhouse Developments Adventure Resorts Management LtdNorthern Powerhouse Developments (Holdings) Ltd and Northern Powerhouse Developments Hotels Ltd.

In addition to being new companies these five also share a single director – Woodhouse – have just a few quid in share capital and are yet to submit any accounts or returns.

Alternatively, another company that might fit the bill for Cwm Afan is Active Resorts UK Ltd, which, again, was set up last year. Or perhaps Afan Valley Ltd (formerly Caerau Parc Ltd). In fact, Gavin Lee Woodhouse has been involved in a surprising number of companies for a man of 39 years. As many as 78, many of which seem to change their name soon after starting up, often the address as well.

And yet, I cannot find him shown as a director of any company before the latter part of 2014, so what was he doing up until then, and why so many companies since? If we go back to his Linkedin profile it doesn’t really help. For it tells us that he founded the MBi Group of Companies in November 2011 with nothing before that except, under ‘Education’, “Norwich City, Law 1995 – 1997”. Which means what – did he do night classes while playing for Norwich City Football Club?

The Company Check website (below) confirms a sudden irruption into the world of business some three-and-a-half years ago but does nothing to explain what he was up to between 1997 and 2013. Also note that according to this source Woodhouse is a director of 58 extant companies, and has been involved with 45 dissolved companies. All in the space of less than four years!

What we can be sure of is that since he decided to take the business world by storm he’s become familiar with the exploitation of Wales. For among his other companies we find the Carmarthen Bay Hotel Ltd, which may refer to the Fourcroft Hotel in Tenby, which was probably bought last year. Another of his companies, the Wyncliffe House Hotel Ltd, may own the Fishguard Bay Hotel.

In the north, among Woodhouse’s companies, we find the Caer Rhun Hall Hotel Ltd which runs the establishment of that name in Conwy (and serves as the address for many of his other companies). There’s the MBI Newborough Hall LtdQueen’s Hotel (Llandudno) Ltd, Llandudno Bay Hotel & Spa Ltd and, also in Llandudno, there’s the Belmont Hotel Ltd.

Just one more company might be worth mentioning. Again, this is a company set up very recently, on 10 November 2016, and once again Gavin Lee Woodhouse is the sole director. Though what the purpose of Woodhouse Family Overseas Ltd is I do not know, but the name does make one think.

At this point you’re probably shouting, ‘No more bloody companies!’, so let’s continue in my coruscating – yet informative! – narrative style.

Looking at those companies in the north you might think – as I did – that Newborough Hall is somewhere near the village of that name on Ynys Môn, but no, Newborough Hall was a name used to market Plas Glynllifon, near Caernarfon. A short time later, in what became something of a minor cause célèbre, the former mansion of Lord Newborough was marketed as Wynnborn.

Plas Glynllifon

The Daily Post article I’ve linked to tells us that late in 2015 Plas Glynllifon was bought from receivers by “MBI Hotels, part of the MBI Consulting group”. MBI Hotels was a relatively new company Incorporated with Companies House on 13 May 2015. The two founding directors were Robin Scott Forster and Gavin Lee Woodhouse.

Following the furore over ‘Wynnborn’, Forster and Woodhouse resigned as directors on 11 November 2015 and were replaced by what a cynic might regard as stooges. To further cover their tracks the company name was changed on 1 February 2016 to Giant Hospitality Ltd, under which name you can find the information I’ve just given. Woodhouse re-instated himself as a director of Giant Hospitality Ltd on March 30 2017.

Despite all the ducking and weaving, it appears that MBI’s purchase of Plas Glynllifon fell through, for the Daily Post reported in April 2016 that the pile had now been bought by a “mystery buyer”. The mystery buyer turned out to be a couple named Paul and Rowena Williams who, despite the name, are not Welsh.

The couple have promised to keep the name Plas Glynllifon and that seems to have satisfied Plaid Cymru. For superficial displays of outrage while ignoring the underlying colonialism is Plaid Cymru’s trademark.

The couple have also ‘purchased’ the Seiont Manor in nearby Llanrug through their company Rural Retreats & Leisure UK Ltd aka Plas Glynllifon Ltd. Both companies were Incorporated on 1 August 2016. There are four Charges (loans or mortgages) against Plas Glynllifon Ltd. The lender is Together Commercial Finance Ltd of Cheshire, and the solicitor used was Lanyon Bowlder of Shrewsbury.

Putting it all together there seems to be no Welsh involvement at all . . . oh, wait, I’m forgetting, the Daily Post report told us that Paul and Rowena Williams are “in talks with the Welsh Government about grant support”. So Welsh involvement might be limited to paying for another piece of Wales to pass into English hands!

this is how you ‘buy’ something without any money

I suppose the Charges Companies House lists against Plas Glynllifon Ltd could be bridging loans until the ‘Welsh’ Government grants come through.

Let’s get back to Cwm Afan. I don’t know how well Grylls and Woodhouse know each other, where or when they met, but their relationship makes sense for the following reason.

Woodhouse is a property developer in the tourist accommodation sector, who also has stakes in student accommodation and care homes. Which fits, because, fundamentally, this new development is about 900 lodges in the £149,000 to £249,000 price range. Let’s split the difference: 900 x £200,000 = £180,000,000. There’s also a 5 star hotel, spa, and other facilities. We’re talking big bucks here.

To disguise the fact that this is just an upmarket caravan site (which is all that ‘lodges’ are) Bear Grylls is brought on board to give it that, je ne sais quoi, that, ‘outdoory’ appeal. Bingo! now we have the Afan Valley Adventure Resort, pulling in overweight suburbanites then getting them wet and dirty so they can fantasise about doing special forces training. Much as Grylls has done since inflicting himself on Llŷn. (Which I wrote about quite recently, scroll down in this post.)

click to enlarge

Wales’ past prosperity may have been built on agriculture, coal, steel and other heavy industry, but the ‘Welsh’ Government now believes that any prosperity we might enjoy in the years ahead depends almost solely on zip wires and the like; the more the merrier, zip wires everywhere. ‘Wales – the country with the zip wire economy!’

As one of the comments to WalesOnline (above) suggest, there is already quite a lot in the Cwm Afan area for the public to enjoy, almost all of it paid for by the public purse. I’ll let Brychan, a regular visitor to this blog, take over:

“There are leisure facilities already present in the valley, most notable a mountain bike centre which has had substantial council investment from the taxpayers of Neath Port Talbot, and of course a building up at Glyncorrwg which has a café, which was funded by Communities First.

The ‘ponds’ at Glyncorrwg are a series of reclaimed colliery reservoirs stocked with fish. The cycle paths, which taxpayers paid millions into, are the ones which run along the trackbed of the old Rhondda to Swansea railway line from Blaengwynfi (Rhondda tunnel) down to Port Talbot, and its spur up to Glyncorrwg.

The forest plantation came into the possession of Natural Resources Wales (Forestry Commission). The old coal tips were reclaimed at public expense, the land having been gifted to the council from the National Coal Board.”

So we see that a large amount of public money was spent healing the scars of previous exploitation . . . only for these public assets to be handed over to twenty-first century exploiters in the forms of Gavin Lee Woodhouse and Edward Michael Bear Grylls. Two men with nothing but contempt for what makes Wales Welsh.

For I’ve already told you about Gavin Woodhouse’ attempts to market Plas Glynllifon as Wynnborn. (What the hell is ‘Wynnborn’ supposed to mean, anyway?) Grylls’ record is no better, maybe worse. First there was his tasteless ‘slide’ on St Tudwal’s Island (which he owns), then his attempt to put beach huts at Llanbedrog. In the second of those ventures he was in partnership with the Llanbedrog Headland Company Ltd, of Cheshire.

Who are these bloody people that own so much of our country!

We are dealing here with people who see easy money to be made turning Wales into a recreation and retirement destination for England. They don’t even need money, for they can borrow it on the value of the asset being acquired, or get it from suckers investors, while also relying on the ‘Welsh’ Government chipping in with grants and gifts of public assets. It’s a no-lose situation, for them.

There’s nothing surprising about this, it’s how British business operates. The UK state itself is floating on an ocean of debt, disguised by accountancy practises that have got some people banged up. What should disappoint anyone reading this is that the ‘Welsh’ Government is so ready to be part of this. But then, when you’ve got no ideas of your own on how to generate wealth or create employment you’re going to welcome with open arms any shyster who comes along with a ‘project’.

And as I asked earlier, what do we know about Woodhouse’s background? Well, for a start, he seems to have been convicted for driving while disqualified in June 2009. (Ban extended.) I also learnt that, Prior to founding MBi in 2011 he (Woodhouse) was a director of several other companies”.

The same source tells us that Woodhouse has – according to his lawyer – also suffered the misfortune of holding “short-lived directorships of two businesses that left debts when they were wound up. He was appointed without his knowledge and/or not removed when he should have been”.

The same Bureau of Investigative Journalism report found that MBi’s chief commercial officer was a struck-off solicitor named Alan Cockburn, who “had acted for the buyer, seller and lender in the same transaction and caused the Yorkshire Bank to lose hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

The report also informs us that “Companies House lists Woodhouse as director from late October 2012 until May 2013 of Harjen Limited, which held a sexual entertainment licence for the Leeds strip club, Wildcats, throughout that time. Woodhouse’s lawyer said his client had not been involved with the management of the strip club and that the dates of his directorship listed at Companies House were incorrect. The lawyer said Woodhouse had “immediately resigned” when he found out about the business.”

This is terrible! Some unscrupulous bastards keep making Gavin Lee Woodhouse a director of dodgy companies without his knowledge. Should the ‘Welsh’ Government be doing business with such an unlucky man? Come to that, how did the ‘Welsh’ Government get involved with him in the first place, didn’t they do background checks?

Still, this explains the gaps on his Linkedin profile. Now if I was Bear Grylls I’d use my SAS training to melt into the shadows and then put as much distance as possible between me and Gavin Lee Woodhouse, the Wolf of Wharf Street.

All joking aside, the examples of Plas Glynllifon and Cwm Afan are all too representative of ‘Welsh’ tourism – no Welsh involvement, no Welsh benefits yet, somehow, we end up paying for it! I often think that if Venice was in Wales then the gondoliers and everybody else making the money would be English. That’s because Wales is ruled by England, in the interests of England.

It’s called colonialism; it’s been around since the dawn of time, and although it’s fallen from favour elsewhere in recent decades, here in Wales our elected representatives still prefer supporting colonialism to standing up for Welsh interests.

Unless we start calling time on this variety of tourism we shall increasingly find ourselves strangers in our own country, for the trend is already established along the north coast and elsewhere – where tourism takes hold Welsh people lose out and Welsh identity becomes weakened, trivialised, and eventually destroyed.

♦ 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 ♦

Feb 272017
 

I’ve been away. No, not in the pokey, or on holiday, but hors de combat due to a malfunctioning computer, one that had served me well for many a year but finally gave up the ghost. After first buying myself a dud – hoping I could replace my old one on the cheap! – I eventually splashed out on a tidy machine that might accompany me to that stage of life where I can walk around in slippers all day, dishevelled and with a vacant look on my face. (‘So what’s new, Jac?’)

While I’ve been away things have turned quite nasty in Llangennech over the language controversy at the local infants school. Or rather, the nasties behind the opposition to Welsh language education were exposed for pallying up to the English Defence League and for inviting down Neil Hamilton the Ukip AM (and of course his wife-minder).

The day the Hamiltons came a-visiting. Fourth from the left is Neil Hamilton, on his right we find Michaela Beddows, and in the pink-ish trousers, we have Christine Hamilton.

Seeing as many of those opposing Welsh medium education are either Labour Party members, activists, or candidates in the May council elections the Ukip revelations didn’t do the bruvvers any favours. Action was belatedly taken after Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards wrote an open letter to UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Had he not taken this course we would probably still be waiting for the deadbeats in Cardiff to act.

Inevitably, the Labour Party hit back, using the Wasting Mule and, more surprisingly, Private Eye. The former a regular and willing accomplice against ‘them nationalists’, the latter almost certainly misinformed. The outrage that followed the disgraceful Wasting Mule piece resulted in an apology the very next day, and I’m sure someone will put the Eye straight as well.

The day following the apology, Saturday the 25th, there was another article, this one making it clear there was no connection between the school dispute and incidents of tyre slashing in the village, as the original WM article had alleged. Though that original piece had been written by a woman who is said to have ‘a problem’ with the Welsh language. Which I suppose makes her an ideal Education Editor.

While I would love to have written up the daily revelations and developments from Llangennech and beyond I know I couldn’t have done it better than Cneifiwr, who has kept us informed of every twist and turn. I suggest you start with Jacques, Jacqueline & Neil on February the 11th and bring yourself up to date from there. Also worthy of mention is Caru Cymru, which may be a new blog, it’s certainly new to me.

Instead, I shall try to look beyond Llangennech in the hope of putting events there into a wider perspective . . . with a few digressions along the way. (Humour me!)

Before moving on, it’s worth linking to this essay by Dr Huw L Williams, which makes it clear that Labour’s hostility to the Welsh language is not currently confined to Llangennech. He suspects that Labour in Cardiff fears that Welsh medium education is less likely to provide voters for the party, and this explains the reluctance to meet the demand for Welsh medium education. Or, to put it another way, kids from bog-standard schools taught by unmotivated teachers are more likely to vote Labour.

Stripped of its various interpretations and grotesque characters Llangennech reaffirms what I have always known about the Labour Party in Wales. Anyone in any doubt about my feelings could do a lot worse than read Why I Detest The ‘Welsh’ Labour Party, which I penned in March 2014.

As I argue there, to understand ‘Welsh’ Labour we need to go back a century or more, perhaps as far back as the 1880s or 1890s. Those decades when – to quote Gwyn Alf Williams – the ‘human reservoir’ of rural Wales could no longer meet the manpower demands of the industrial south, which resulted in Wales experiencing a great influx of workers from England and elsewhere, especially Ireland.

Up to this point the great majority of Welsh people, both those who remained in the rural areas and those who had left for the industrial belts, supported the Liberal Party, and this persisted into the twentieth century, but the Liberal Party was linked with the nonconformist chapels, which in turn tied in with the Welsh language. To further complicate matters there was Cymru Fydd, which pushed for some sort of Home Rule for Wales. All of which tended to make the Liberal Party unattractive to recent arrivals.

This hostility to the ‘Welsh’ Liberal Party was perfectly articulated by Alderman Robert Bird of Cardiff at the 1896 AGM of the South Wales Liberal Federation when he declared “You will find, from Swansea to Newport, a cosmopolitan population who will not submit to the domination of Welsh ideas!”. Bird of course was English, and though a prominent nonconformist he opposed his own party’s policy of Disestablishment. I often think of the arrogance implicit in Bird’s statement, and of my eight Welsh-speaking great-grandparents living in and around Swansea, and the thousands upon thousands like them who did not belong to any “cosmopolitan population”, being more closely linked with their relatives in Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire.

Alderman Bird strikes me as yet another of those we’ve suffered throughout our history; people who know nothing about us, who don’t have our interests at heart, yet tell us what’s best for Wales.

Courtesy of National Library of Wales

The Labour Party found many converts among the English, the Irish and others simply because these found the Liberal Party to be ‘too Welsh’. Though this was never a black and white issue, many Welsh went over to Labour early on, and immigrants – though many fewer – took up the Liberal cause. For example, many of the Irish in southern Wales originally supported the pro-Home Rule Liberal Party before switching to Labour. Explained in this essay by socialist academic Dr Daryl Leeworthy.

(For some unfathomable reason I’m blocked from his Twitter account. Can you believe that! Infamy! Infamy! etc.)

From its early days this Labour Party of Englandandwales exhibited certain attitudes towards all things Welsh. At its worst it seemed that we Welsh were regarded no differently to other ‘primitives’ around the empire who had to be saved from themselves through stern paternalism. In our case, the best medicine was the English language, for many in the Labour Party agreed with the authors of the Blue Books who in 1847 had decreed that the Welsh language led us into all sorts of immorality while also impeding our educational and economic advancement.

As time passed it became convenient to pretend that almost all Welsh workers had embraced the Labour Party from the outset, but this was not true, as I recall from my own childhood. My paternal grandparents lived in Landore, and my grandfather, who’d worked at the Mannesmann tube works, was a deacon in Siloh Newydd. My grandmother’s working class credentials were equally impeccable. They supported the Liberal Party.

(‘The Mannesmann’ figured prominently in the lore of the Lower Swansea Valley when I was growing up. While working on the Evening Post Dylan Thomas covered boxing matches at the Mannesmann Hall. The plant ended its days owned by Stewarts & Lloyds.)

This was the 1950s, remember, and my grandparents’ rejection of the Labour Party was not unusual, even in a working class community like Landore. I concede that their adherence to the Liberals owed much to their age, their religious beliefs and the fact that they spoke Welsh. But that only tells us that there would have been many more like my mamgu and tadcu forty and fifty years earlier.

And I suspect that their parents might have agreed with Cymru Fydd rather than with Alderman Bird, their bollocks-spouting and self-appointed ‘representative’.

However it came about the decline of the Liberal Party and the unquestioned hegemony Labour achieved over the Welsh working class gave us the party we know today.

A ‘hybrid’ party still containing the twin strands of its early days: those who reject almost everything Welsh other than harmless, apolitical diversions such as sport, and the ‘Welsh’ element, which believes that Wales and Welshness extend beyond the rugby field.

This fault line has always resulted in ‘tensions’, but devolution, even the discussion of devolution, exposed the divide vividly. The campaign ahead of the devolution referendum in September 1997 brought out some of the worst anti-Welsh aspects of the Labour Party.

Neil Kinnock was particularly offensive, which may be understood, given his background, but his hysterical vilification of things Welsh was almost matched by his wife, who comes from a totally different, and Welsh, background. (A reminder of how the Labour Party can corrupt.) What we also see in Neil Kinnock is the ‘package’ I’ve referred to in other posts.

I think I first used the term after a visit to Pembrokeshire where I’d encountering the new county flag. When I made enquiries into its origin I saw a name with which I was familiar, a man who had campaigned against devolution, in 1979 and 1997, who had argued to ‘Bring Back Pembrokeshire!’ (because Dyfed was too Welsh) and had then helped devise a county flag to avoid flying the Ddraig Goch.

Show me someone who’s hostile to the Welsh language and I’ll show you someone who is probably opposed to devolution and almost anything likely to distinguish Wales from England – even if it will benefit Wales. In the 1979 devolution debate Neil Kinnock trotted out ridiculous stories of schoolchildren in Ynys Môn wetting themselves because they were unable to ask in Welsh to go to the toilet, coupling his contempt for the Welsh language with his opposition to devolution.

Alderman Bird was another. As a nonconformist and a Liberal he should have welcomed the Disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Wales. In rural areas poor, Liberal-supporting people were being forced to pay tithes to a church they did not attend in order to support clergymen who didn’t speak their language. And being evicted from their farms when they refused to pay the tithe. Yet Bird opposed Disestablishment, probably because he viewed it as being ‘a Welsh thing’.

A great-grandfather of my wife, a John Jones, was arrested for his part in the Llangwm riot of 1887. John was related by some convoluted route to Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones, the Newtown mail order pioneer. (We really should know more about Pryce from Llanllwchaiarn but, as he was a successful Welsh businessman who brought prosperity to his area, it serves the interests of both our colonial masters and our native leftists to ignore him.)

Courtesy of Casgliad y Werin

And so it is today in Llangennech. A gang of shouty, anti-Welsh bullies with strong links to the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party is opposing the teaching of Welsh – and don’t fall for the bullshit about ‘choice’, there are many English medium schools within easy travelling distance. Llangennech is on the outskirts of Llanelli, a large town.

For many people the most remarkable aspect of this saga is that people belonging to what many believe is still a socialist party should be so ready to mix with Ukip, and be quite open about it. Some of those opposed to Welsh language education in Llangennech have even flirted with elements further to the right. How do we explain this? I believe that as with most irrational fixations hatred for things Welsh clouds the judgement.

To understand that just follow the rantings of Jacques Protic, or someone like K Clements of Llangyfelach, who writes regularly to newspapers bemoaning the fact that we are starving and dying because of the billions spent on the Welsh language; his hatred for things Welsh is coupled with an intolerant Britishness usually confined to the extreme Right, Ibrox Park, and the Six Counties. Here he is, in a letter to the Evening Post, demanding that Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy be summarily executed for not singing GSTQ.

Another ‘hybrid’ party is of course Plaid Cymru. The dividing line here is between the nationalist/culturalist wing and the Green-socialists, with the latter in the ascendant for the past thirty years, to the detriment of the party, of Wales and of Welsh nationhood.

The reason Wales has suffered is because these eco-friendly leftists seem to have great difficulty focusing on Wales and Welsh issues. They’re forever trying to save the planet or else getting agitated over some issue far away over which they cannot possibly have any influence. Recent examples would the election of President Trump and the decision of the Welsh people to leave the European Union.

Many of this persuasion view their party as a regional outrider for ‘progressive’ forces elsewhere in Britain and beyond. Exemplified by this tweet by Leanne Wood I picked up on a few days ago. She’s responding to a tweet by Jeremy Corbyn, rebuking him by saying that they should “build alliances needed to defeat Tories”.

The realities are that Plaid Cymru has just three MPs in a 650-member House of Commons, so the chances of Plaid being an influential part of any anti-Tory coalition are slim. What’s worse is that here in Wales it’s not the Conservative Party that rules the roost but Labour; through its councillors, and its Third Sector, and the overpaid shysters to be found everywhere from academe to housing associations, all of them part of a system that has had almost a century to embed itself into, and corrupt, Welsh public life.

Yet Ms Wood and her ilk can blind themselves to all of this, for they view the Labour Party as fellow-socialists. Comrades in the crusade to cleanse Wales of initiative, pride and corrupting prosperity. For only through the begging bowl shall we attain the socialist nirvana of freedom from material possessions.

And of course, if we can’t afford to drive cars, or heat our homes, then Wales will be doing more than its share to save the planet, and that will please Plaid’s friends in the Green Party and the wider ‘environmental’ movement. They’ve got it all worked out!

Yes, I know, Plaid Cymru did eventually get involved in the Llangennech dispute, but they could hardly avoid it any longer seeing as the party had been targeted by the anti-Welsh crew, but even then Plaid waited until those clowns had shot themselves in the foot by inviting down the Hamiltons.

During my wee break I got to thinking about Llangennech and associated matters. I concluded that this is not really about language, or education; nor is it ideological or party political. To put it bluntly, this is a conflict of identities, a struggle that pits Welsh identity against an increasingly aggressive and intolerant English or British nationalism. (There is no meaningful distinction.)

These attacks on us and our identity come from both Left and Right, and indeed from those who otherwise regard themselves as liberal. As this recent tweet from Huw Edwards to Robert Peston reminds us. Which is why I say that ideology and party politics have no place in what must from now on be a national struggle fought on all fronts.

If we lose this struggle, then we lose our Wales; what will remain will be nothing but a hollowed-out geographical area called ‘Wales’, containing a couple of English provincial cities, a few other towns, post-industrial regions offering cheap housing for agencies relocating the rejects of England, and rural parts serving as recreation and retirement areas. In fact, this is the path Wales is already following.

But of course we’ll still have the ‘national’ rugby team, with the feathers on the shirt, so everything will be just fine.

Plaid Cymru, with its split personality, conflicting loyalties, and failure to focus on what matters, will not win this fight. Plaid Cymru won’t even join the fray for fear of upsetting the ‘liberals’ Huw Edwards talks of, and others with whom Plaid’s leadership has over the years become far too pally. Something new is needed.

This ‘something’ can only be effective if it is broad-based, national, free of ideology, and prepared to defend Wales, Welshness and Welsh interests against all threats. The first step must be trying to counter the pernicious influence of the BBC, ITV and the print media.

Which is why in future this blog may spend less time exposing lying politicians (of whom there are just too many) or crooks milking the public purse (ditto) to concentrate on the national picture and promote a nationalist message.

Stay tuned!

♦ end ♦

Jan 162017
 

INTRODUCTION

Regular readers will know that one of the ‘staples’ of this blog is the wasting of public funding by Third Sector organisations. Exposing this waste is not something I really enjoy but it’s so prevalent in Wales – and has become worse with devolution – that it just cannot be ignored.

In a very general sense it’s possible to divide most Third Sector organisations into two main groups.

The first is the local group set up to ‘regenerate’ a run-down area, with most of those involved being local people, and a surprisingly high percentage of them having connections with the Labour Party. I say ‘surprisingly high percentage’ because, while less than a third of Welsh voters may now support Labour, the party’s supporters seem to make up a clear majority in this category. Let’s call this the Community sector.

The second is not so easy to categorise. Perhaps the best way to put it is that this group is about things rather than people or a community, perhaps an old building, or a specific area of countryside. Those involved in bodies like this are unlikely to be local. Let’s call this the Conservation sector.

Despite this helpful distinction, there are of course overlaps. But it tends to be one way, with outsiders involved in, often leading, Community groups rather than finding many locals in Conservation projects.

I’ve given you this introduction because it might help with what follows. This post being about two stories breaking that involve one group from each category.

NSA AFAN

As the name suggests, NSA Afan is based in Port Talbot, and its website tells us, “The purpose of the organisation is to support regeneration to enable a better quality of life for people living in the most disadvantaged communities in the Swansea Bay Area.”  (I am grateful to the ever-alert ‘Stan’ of Neath Ferret fame for tipping me off about this story.)

The original media mention on the ninth of this month said that police are investigating the possible misuse of public funds, and tells us, ‘A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: “Following initial investigations into allegations concerning possible misuse of public funds at NSA Afan, we have suspended funding while further investigations are undertaken.”‘

UPDATE 23.01.2017: Funding has now been stopped completely.

The second report, two days later, says, quoting a police source, “We can confirm that South Wales Police has arrested a 35-year-old woman from the Port Talbot area on suspicion of theft on August 11, 2016 following a complaint received from NSA Afan.’

Now in cases like this I make my way to the figures, and so here are the most recent accounts for NSA Afan, these being for year ending 31.03.2016. A quick perusal of the nitty-gritty will tell you that income is falling, dramatically, down from £2,005,262 in 2014 to £1,428,901 in 2015 and £923,210 in 2016.

Even so, you’ll be pleased to know that despite this drop in funding staff costs at NSA Afan for 2016 were still over £800,000. Which means that in 2016 income just about covered staff costs.

‘Ah, Jac, you cynical bastard’ I can hear in the background, ‘that still still leaves a hundred grand to help people, at the Dalton Road Community Employment Academy and the Glyncorrwg Con Club’. Maybe, maybe not.

My equivocation is due to the fact that if we go to the Companies House website, there we find more information on (to give it its full name) the New Sandfields Aberafan and Afan – Community Regeneration, Company Number 03674953. Click on the ‘Charges’ tab and you’ll see that there are nine outstanding Charges against NSA Afan, that is loans or mortgages. Put it all together, the falling income, the high staff costs, payments on loans and mortgages, and it becomes clear that NSA Afan is not in the best of financial health.

In fact, the independent auditors say as much in the Accounts for 2016 (page 21, para 3), where we are warned of ” . . . material uncertainties which may cast doubt about the Charities (sic) ability to continue as a going concern.”

The more generous among you may think that the theft currently being investigated by South Wales Police plays a major role in NSA Afan’s parlous state. Not so. For elsewhere in the Accounts (page 20, para 9) we are told that “£50,000 was refunded by the credit card company during the year, however the remainder of the theft is unlikely to be recovered”.

The “remainder” may be the £46,144 we find on page 28, under ‘Donations and Legacies’. If so, how do we reconcile this amount with the statement quoted in the previous paragraph? Or is the £46,144 part of the £50,000 refunded by “the credit card company”?

Despite the falling income NSA Afan is still expanding. Curious, really, considering it’s a Communities First project and that last October even the ‘Welsh’ Government was forced to admit that Communities First had been a very expensive failure. Among NSA Afan’s recent acquisitions was Youth of Bettws (YOBS). So I made some enquiries.

What I’d assumed to be just a youth club is in fact registered with Companies House, Number 06719083. Under the Charges tab we learn that YOBS has an outstanding loan of £267,350 with the Big Lottery Fund, a loan it took out on June 29th 2011 to buy the leasehold of a former school owned by Bridgend County Borough Council.

The same property is now listed as a Charge against FSA Afan, but the details have changed. On May 27th last year The Big Lottery Fund made a ‘grant’ to NSA Afan of £388,384. This was presumably done to take over the leasehold of the property inherited from Youth of Bettws aka Bettws Boys and Girls Club, but what was the extra £121,034 for?

A question worth asking seeing as the Land Registry document tells us (page 3) that “The value as at 15 August 2016 was stated to be under £100,000”. Maybe NSA Afan is using some of the money it got from The Big Lottery Fund for some other purpose? Apparently not; because the Charge document mentions only the Bettws Boys and Girls Club. (In case you’re wondering, this is a repayable grant, what you and I would call a loan.)

To recap: we have a property, Bettws Boys and Girls Club, owned by a Labour-run council and valued – or possibly the leasehold is valued – at “under £100,000”; but a Labour-controlled, Communities First body goes out on a limb for £388,384 to lease this property! Unless NSA Afan has massive plans for YOBS I do not understand what the hell is going on here. All I see is the regular pattern of public money being shuffled around between Labour-controlled bodies to create the illusion of employment and economic activity.

And what of the Big Lottery Fund? I’m sure most of you think of the BLF as a generous body gifting large sums of money to worthy causes, money we have given to this organisation through playing the National Lottery or its other games. Did you know that the Big Lottery Fund is a commercial lender?

Perhaps lending to groups that might have difficulty getting a loan from a regular financial institution – those it describes as “community and voluntary groups”? I wonder what the interest rates are? And if those groups receiving a loan default, does the BLF take possession?

To conclude. The Communities First scheme operated in the most disadvantaged areas of Wales, in other words, areas controlled by ‘Welsh’ Labour. This gave the party a golden opportunity to engage in cronyism. Which is exactly what it did, and this explains why the Communities First project was such a disaster.

Dealing specifically with NSA Afan, I don’t doubt that someone stole money, but this is not why it’s folding. It’s folding because it was badly run. Even when it was half-way up Shit Creek with income falling it was still taking on new liabilities!

If this refers to 2017 I don’t see much point

As for the alleged theft, how was an individual employed by a body reliant on the public purse able to steal over £50,000 through a credit card? Was there no credit limit on this card? I do hope that the prosecution of this individual is not allowed to distract from the bigger problems at NSA Afan, all of which can be traced back to ‘Welsh’ Labour and the cronyism and nepotism on which it relies.

This system is now so discredited that it places ‘Welsh’ Labour at something of a crossroads. The party can either clean up the Third Sector and perhaps alienate many of those who benefit from it, or else it can stick with this system of corruption and see its electoral support slip even further.

If NSA Afan is – was? – a Community type of Third Sector organisation, this next case is most definitely about a Conservation body . . .

CAMBRIAN HERITAGE REGENERATION TRUST

This outfit has starred more than once on this blog, but before looking at previous posts let’s get the background on the Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust Ltd (CHRT). It was Incorporated with Companies House on February 28th 2003 as Ymddiriedolaeth Atgyfnerthu Treftadaeth Sir Gar (Carmarthenshire Heritage and Regeneration Trust) and appears to have been a joint venture between the County Council and Coleg y Drindod.

Lord Dynevor came on board on April 9th 2003. A few other local worthies joined on the same day, including a Meryl Gravell, described as “Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council”. Another was Roger (now Sir Roger) Jones, then of the Welsh Development Agency, and a former BBC Wales Governor. While yet another director was William Powell Wilkins, who came up with the idea of the National Botanic Garden. Quite a crew.

Though for the purposes of this article I suppose the most important recruit was Claire Deacon, who became a Director on October 8th 2008. At the time, Ms Deacon, based in Marloes, Pembrokeshire, was working as a lecturer and also as a consultant (possibly to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park). Ms Deacon served as a director until June 9th 2010.

The reason for Ms Deacon resigning as a Director was to take over as CEO, soon after the Trust bought its main project, Llanelly House in Llanelli. Though she rejoined the Board on June 1st 2011 as Secretary.

LLANELLY HOUSE

The name of the body was officially changed, with Companies House, from Ymddiriedolaeth Atgyfnerthu Treftadaeth Sir Gar to Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust Ltd on February 25th 2015. (All the information here, and more, can be found under Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust Ltd on the Companies House website.)

In addition to the main company, there is also the charity of the same name, and down the years there have been a few of what I can best describe as subsidiary companies. The only one I think is worth bothering with is Plas Llanelly House Cyf, where we again find Ms Deacon as Secretary.

Previous posts told how the CHRT is branching out, first to Merthyr, with the purchase of the YMCA building in Pontmorlais, and then in the other direction, down to the ruins of Ystrad Fflur (Strata Florida Abbey) with the purchase of the farm buildings at Mynachlog Fawr. So you may wish to read Ystrad Fflur – The Heritage Industry Moves On and Conserving Heritage, Maintaining Colonialism, both by a guest writer.

The reason for CHRT branching out from Llanelly House was quite simple – the funding was running out, and there was no way that Llanelly House could ever pay its way – and Ms Deacon’s salary – unless a fairy godmother stepped in with oodles of loot.

The time had come to find another project, concoct another ludicrously optimistic business plan, rake in the grants, live high on the hog for a few years, get plenty of good publicity, improve the CV . . . until it becomes clear that this is yet another project that will never survive without the drip-feed of public funding. By which time people like Ms Deacon have usually moved on to the next project. And so it continues. This is the Conservation element of the Third Sector in Wales, and the beneficiaries are almost always, like Ms Deacon, from over the border.

Which brings me to the reason for writing this piece. The word on Stepney Street is that Ms Deacon recently parted company with the CHRT. And when you read the latest accounts you’ll understand why. The auditors state quite clearly (page 11, para 1) that the net deficit at 31.03.2016 of £114,038 “. . . may cast significant doubt about the Charity’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

A number of entries in the Accounts caught my eye, and if I was involved in CHRT or Llanelly House I’d be asking questions about them. The first is to be found on page 18 in ‘Direct Costs of Charitable Activities’, where we are told that in the year that ended 31.03.2016 £262,482 was spent on “Legal and Professional Fees” (£168,146 the previous year). That figure seems very high, and I’d like to have it explained.

Another perplexing entry, on page 26, tells us that . . .

How does the CEO get taken on as a consultant? CEO Claire: ‘Oh, hello, Claire, this Claire here, would you like to work for a while as a consultant, for a much higher rate than your CEO salary?’ Consultant Claire: ‘Well, thank you, Claire, I’d love to‘. This is bizarre, but I’ve reported on it before, so it’s not new to me.

As if the figures for CHRT weren’t bad enough the Plas Llanelly House Cyf Accounts tell us that that venture is sixty-five grand down the Swanee. But perhaps worst of all is that – just as with NSA Afan – in addition to falling income and rising debt there are Charges against CHRT, held by Finance Wales, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Architectural Heritage Fund, and Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council. If the Trust can’t meet its obligations then presumably each of these Charges will become the responsibility of its guarantor, be that the ‘Welsh’ Government, Llanelli town council, or Carmarthenshire county council.

In case the escape plan in the forms of Merthyr YMCA and Ystrad Fflur don’t work out, Ms Deacon has now gone into business on her own account, with Marloes Conservation Ltd. This company was only Incorporated on December 1st (soon after the latest Accounts were published), which lends credence to the suggestion that she is no longer with CHRT. Perhaps she’s had a vision – Meryl Gravell leading the band into Abide With Me as the good ship Llanelly House heaves her last and slips into the abyss.

It will be interesting to see what work comes the way of Marloes Conservation Ltd. And where from.

Although very different in their fields of operation, and those involved, NSA Afan and CHRT have a lot in common.

To begin with, both have swallowed up large amounts of public funding. And now, with both projects in serious financial difficulties, it becomes clear that much of that public funding has been wasted. Which is not to say that some people haven’t benefited from NSA Afan’s courses, or that good work hasn’t been done at Llanelly House, but the issue is surely priorities.

With an economy in serious trouble, with EU funding bound to end soon, how do you feel about paying for classes on ‘The American Century’ in Port Talbot, and a new rococo balustrade for Llanelly House, when sick people have to spend hours on a trolley in our hospitals?

Obviously that money would be better spent on the hospitals, and on training doctors, nurses and other staff we need.

Another troubling issue with these and other projects is the ease with which they secure Lottery funding. In the case of NSA Afan it’s Big Lottery Fund, and with CHRT it’s Heritage Lottery Fund, but it’s still money we’ve given. It’s almost as if Lottery funders take their cue from the ‘Welsh’ Government. Is there a connection?

In a poor country like Wales, what funding we have must, in the first instance, be spent on what we need, and in the longer term there must be investment in making Wales wealthier, not in glossing over the deprivation with publicly-funded Labour cronyism, or by restoring Georgian mansions into which our ancestors would only have been allowed as servants.

It’s long past the time when the ‘Welsh’ Government and the civil servants it claims to control did what other governments across the globe do – prioritise, and stop wasting money we can’t afford to lose.

end ♦