Nov 122017
 

THE PUBLICLY-FUNDED THIRD SECTOR

HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS

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

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

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

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

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

It can fairly be described as anti-social housing.

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

But the problem isn’t confined to housing associations.

HOMELESSNESS

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

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

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

click to enlarge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE 13.11.2017 – PARTNERSHIP?

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

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

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

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

In a sense, they complement or cancel each other.

From the Big Lottery Fund website. Click to enlarge

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

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

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

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

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

THE PUBLICLY-FUNDED PRIVATE SECTOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what’s the story?

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♦ end ♦

 

Nov 072017
 

TO RECAP . . .

I have written many times about social housing in Wales, and of the many problems created by the more irresponsible housing associations. Here are just a few of the problems:

  • Unlike in Scotland, social housing providers in Wales are tied into an Englandandwales system. This results in our housing associations having to give priority treatment to people with no Welsh connections.
  • Many of those being housed by these routes will be ‘problem families’, or young tearaways, they might be drug and alcohol abusers, or they’ll be recently released from prison. These issues will inevitably place a burden on our health service and other facilities while also affecting the quality of life in many Welsh communities.
  • Wales has an ageing population. In a decade or so Wales will be the ‘oldest’ country in western Europe. This also places a strain on our NHS and other services which results in money being taken from education and other budgets. Yet many housing associations, particularly in the north, are using public funding to build housing for the elderly and the infirm brought in from outside of Wales.
  • Despite the recommendations of the Notional Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee social housing providers are still diversifying through unaccountable subsidiaries. This results, for example, in the insane situation in Pembrokeshire where The Pembrokeshire Housing Association is passing public money to its subsidiary, Mill Bay Homes for MBH to build houses for sale on the open market!
  • Many Welsh housing associations lease or rent properties from companies based in tax havens. I explored this connection in Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd. Yet no one in the ‘Welsh’ Government seems to care that Welsh social housing tenants could be living in properties owned by the Mafia, or ISIS.
  • Housing associations form secretive and costly links with Third Sector and other bodies. Some of these links are of questionable legality, of dubious benefit to Wales, but always costly to the Welsh public purse.
  • And that, perhaps, is the biggest worry of all. That no one with responsibility for overseeing social housing bodies, no one who funds them with hundreds of millions of pounds of public money, seems to care how they operate. It’s left to self-evaluation and self-appraisal – box-ticking exercises which of course never find any problems. So everybody’s happy!

NEWS FROM THE NORTH

A taste for what follows may be obtained from the post Bits & Pieces of September 30th. Now here’s the latest:

Paul Diggory, the Chester-based former boss of ailing North Wales Housing, is now promoting himself – something he’s very good at – as a ‘housing and social enterprise freelance‘, which fits in nicely with his role as chair of the Chartered Institute of Housing in Wales.

Diggory gives us one of the two qualifications needed to run a Welsh housing association: either be English like him and the CEOs recently appointed to Valleys to Coast, Bron Afon and Hendre; or else have good links with the Labour Party, which accounts for the appointments of both Trivallis’ new £150,000 a year CEO and the new Board chair, Tracy Myhills, previously CEO at the Welsh Ambulance Trust. (How’d you like that on your CV!)

It should go without saying that if you’re English and a member or supporter of the Labour Party then you get to take your pick of which housing association you’d like to run. Being English but supporting some other party would be acceptable, but if you’re non-Labour Welsh, forget it.

This is how a one-party state operates.

Staying in the north for a minute . . . Not so long ago Labour’s most favoured housing association, Wales & West, built a big new office building in Ewloe, Flintshire, very close to the border.

Courtesy of Google, click to enlarge

Many thought at the time that a Cardiff-based housing association might be over-extending itself with this office block, but no, for since then W&W has not only swallowed up Cantref of Castell Newydd Emlyn, and branched out into Ceredigion, but is also hovering, vulture-like, over ailing HAs across the land.

One housing association viewed as sickly and about to fall is Pennaf. The Pennaf Group is based in Llanelwy (St Asaph) and includes the Clwyd Alyn housing association and Offa, a lettings and management service. A northern source tells me that a couple of factors may be contributing to make Pennaf look a tasty dish.

First, CEO Graham Worthington – also based in Chester! – has just announced his retirement; plus, it seems that Pennaf has been tardy in bringing its 4,500 properties up to Welsh Housing Quality Standard, something it should have done by 2012.

The reason for Pennaf finding itself in this parlous position is I’m told due to spending too much time and money building care and residential homes – i.e. using Welsh public funding to bring in more retirees, so as to put extra strain on the NHS and social services that will result in education and other budgets being raided.

Only in Wales!

WALES & WEST WAY OUT WEST AND WAY OUT OF LINE

I’ve just mentioned that Wales & West snaffled up Cantref of Castell Newydd Emlyn, which operated mainly in Ceredigion, but W&W is also branching out in other ways.

When the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government handed Cantref over to Wales and West part of the dowry was valuable land at Plas Morolwg in Aberystwyth, overlooking the marina and with nice views out to sea. That site is now earmarked for 60 extra care flats. It’s doubtful if Ceredigion needs this development, certainly, it’s suggested that if it goes ahead it will jeopardise Mid Wales Housing’s Cylch Caron project in Tregaron.

But things are never that simple in Ceredigion.

Ceredigion council’s leader, Ellen ap Gwynn of Plaid Cymru, is under intense pressure over the closure of the Bodlondeb care home in Aberystwyth. Motivated by nothing more than a deep and heartfelt concern for the old biddies therein Labour and Lib Dems have taken to protesting against the closure, even recruiting that one-boy rent-a-mob and self-promoting little shite, Owen Jones.

It is further suggested that certain council officials such as strategy officers and planners who – how can I put this? – whose first spoonful might not have been puréed laverbread, are bending over backwards to help an anti-Welsh organisation like Wales & West.

An unholy alliance of Plaid Cymru and Welsh-haters.

Let’s now turn our attention to Lampeter, where Wales and West is very active, and plans yet more expansion. What follows is information for which I offer thanks to someone obviously well-informed about council business.

To begin with, there are widespread concerns in Lampeter that Wales & West is failing to evict its drug-dealing tenants in Bryn Road and North Road. But things are almost certainly going to get worse, for W&W is said to be in the process of buying the old Ffynnonbedr school building in order to build yet more flats in an area of low need. So Lampeter can expect more drug addicts to arrive. Lucky Lampeter!

UPDATE 08.11.2017: A pre-planning consultation notice appeared on the door of the old Ffynnonbedr school today. The architect Geraint John of Cardiff is making the planning statement/application in the name of Hacer Developments of Swansea.

This document – at 5.5 and 5.6 – makes great play of an agreement between Ceredigion council and Cantref in the early part of 2016 and seems to suggest that Cantref is the client. But of course Cantref was taken over by Wales & West over a year ago, but I can find no mention of Wales & West. Understandable given the drug dealers and others W&W has already brought into the town.

As if that wasn’t worrying enough for the good people of Lambed, I hear from a former weekend soldier that the old Territorial Army building – also on Bryn Road – is up for sale, and word is that W&W want to buy this as well. But I bet you’d guessed that already!

I’ve mentioned that Wales & West refuses to evict its lucrative drug-dealing tenants in Lampeter, and for this it has been congratulated by fellow Labour Party members in Shelter Cymru. Mutual back-scratching among Labour-run Third Sector bodies is so prevalent and blatant that they even try to make a virtue of it.

click to enlarge

Elsewhere the tale of evictions is different. For back in Aberystwyth, mainly local 16- and 17-year-olds are being evicted from Wales & West’s Tŷ Curig hostel  . . . to make way for new ‘guests’. Most of these replacements will arrive burdened with ‘issues’, but it is these very ‘issues’ that will allow W&W to charge a hefty fee for housing them – leaving the rest of us to pick up the bill.

Before leaving Wales & West for a moment I should also point out that the new office building wasn’t restricted to Ewloe, for there’s also the new HQ in Cardiff. This too may be in anticipation of expansion, with one of the potential victims rumoured to be Cardiff Community Housing Association, where CEO Kevin Protheroe is about to retire.

WHY DO I SAY ‘ANTI-WELSH’?

I try to be careful in using the right word, and that’s why I have no hesitation in describing Wales & West Housing – and others I’ll soon mention – as anti-Welsh.

Non-Welsh or un-Welsh might imply someone or something having nothing to do with Wales; it might suggest ignorance of Wales’ distinctiveness, possibly ambivalence; but by using anti-Welsh I mean awareness of the Welsh language, and other things that make Wales different, but deliberately seeking to denigrate and undermine them. This certainly applies to Wales & West, which is why I describe W&W as anti-Welsh.

Let’s start with the W&W website – it’s in English only. As is the website of another Labour-run housing association I’ve mentioned, Trivallis (formerly RCT Homes). This is no accident, for when it comes to the Welsh language most Labour Party members and supporters agree with Neil Kinnock rather than with Carwyn Jones.

Other HAs – Bro Myrddin, for example – rely on Google Translate. The CEO at Bro Myrddin is Hilary Jones, said to be an ‘ally’ of W&W, who is rumoured to be taking an interest in Hafan Cymru, reported to be in serious trouble due to its over-reliance on the Supporting People programme and EU funding.

But the point is that all Registered Social Landlords are legally required to give equal status to both languages, and also to have a Welsh language scheme in place. But the Regulation Managers employed to enforce these requirements obviously aren’t up to the job (or maybe they too missed out on the puréed laverbread).

Or does the fault lie with those above them? I ask because this recent advertisement for a Regulation Manager bizarrely and confusingly talks of “capability to work in both English and Welsh” but then says that Welsh is “not necessary“!

click to enlarge

This seems to be a case of going through the motions: ‘Look, we’ve got to say this about the Welsh language . . . but in practice it doesn’t really mean anything‘.

A concrete example of Wales and West’s contempt for the Welsh language came recently with its advertisement for a Development Officer in Newcastle Emlyn, with the advertisement in English only and no requirement to speak Welsh in an area where Welsh is widely spoken. Welsh is certainly the majority language among the native Welsh.

This advertisement is not an oversight, nor is the absence of a Welsh website. This is flaunting power. This is a bunch of Labour bigots, with the ‘Welsh’ Government behind them saying, ‘Fuck you, and your language!

How will this attitude contribute to Carwyn Jones’ one million Welsh speakers by 2050?

IMAGE CONFLICTING WITH REALITY

We are encouraged to think of housing associations as streamlined, twenty-first century replacements for the old local authority housing departments, but doing a much better job. In fact, they have so little in common that any comparison is invalid.

To begin with, councils operate within defined geographical areas, whereas housing associations are spread all over the country competing with each other and duplicating each other’s work. Competition and duplication that places a wholly unnecessary burden on the public purse.

This has obviously been realised, and the problem is being addressed by encouraging those housing associations that are most ‘reliable’ from a Labour Party perspective – which also happen to be the least Welsh in staff and attitudes – to expand and take over the others. Which has two main results.

One, it increases Labour Party influence in areas of Wales where the party has no MPs or AMs. Two, it encourages instinctively anti-Welsh organisations to expand into areas where the Welsh language is strong. Good for the Labour Party but a disaster for the Welsh language and for Wales

Another difference is that local authority housing departments would never have struck deals with outside agencies to import someone else’s criminals, paedophiles, drug addicts, problem families, etc. The reason being that councils had that link with their patch, that commitment to their people, and of course councillors needed to be re-elected. With housing associations such considerations and restraints are absent.

For housing associations are distant bodies, answerable to nobody, and can do what they damn well like. And because there’s little profit to be made from housing decent, law-abiding locals, but lots of money available if they inflict problems on small Welsh towns like Lampeter, that’s the model they follow.

A good source of income for many ‘Welsh’ housing associations

And while there are healthy profits for Wales & West and others from importing undesirables, once here they place an inevitable burden on local health and other services, and police resources, while causing misery and disruption to Welsh communities. In a different category, but having a similar effect on the Welsh public purse, are the retirees being brought into Wales, and this is no longer confined to the Costa Geriatrica.

All of which results in the Welsh public purse, which funds W&W and the rest of them, losing out again, and again, and again. And we are the public purse, you and I. It is we who lose out in having to endure inferior facilities and strained resources.

But the model followed by Wales & West is profitable. And the profits made, coupled with ‘Welsh’ Labour backing, allow W&W to undermine and then swallow up their smaller and weaker brethren, which will include responsible social housing providers sticking to what should be the role of housing associations – providing rented housing for local people.

And some day in the not-too-distant future, when towns like Lampeter and Aberystwyth are awash with drug addicts and criminals from God knows where, and there are only a few housing associations left standing, the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party will control them all.

Allowing ‘Welsh’ Labour, through its housing associations and other Third Sector bodies, to exert a control over Wales denied it by the ballot box. We shall have arrived at the one-party state.

Endgame.

♦ end ♦

Sep 302017
 

This is a bumper issue to keep you going as the nights draw in and I get on with a couple of jobs that must be done ere winter tightens its icy grip. The post consists of a number of items enabling you to take it in in easy, bite-sized chunks. (‘Bite-sized chunks’!)

Enjoy!

NORTH WALES HOUSING LTD

News reaches me of another housing association heading for the rocks, this time it’s North Wales Housing Ltd. A body all too representative of ‘Welsh’ housing associations, especially with the retirement properties built by its wholly owned “commercial subsidiary” Domus Cambria. (Though it’s nice to see a bit of Latin being used.)

Looked at more critically, Domus Cambria helps explain what’s wrong with housing in Wales. The Welsh NHS is stretched to breaking point by the demands made on it by, among others, English retirees, yet in Conwy, where almost two-thirds of the pensioners were born in England (2011 census), the council is still giving planning permission for retirement flats that are marketed over the border!

Domus Cambria recently sold the last of its leasehold flats on Llandudno’s West Shore . . . after years of trying. Which explains why it is finally showing a slight profit, though as with Mill Bay Homes in Pembrokeshire, this ray of financial sunshine may be due to cash transferred from the parent body rather than any business acumen attaching to those running the subsidiary.

The ‘Welsh’ Government’s Regulatory Opinion and Financial Viability Judgement for 2015 on North Wales Housing was none too encouraging, and explains what a drag Domus Cambria has been for a small RSL with just over 2,000 rental properties.

“Selling homes has proved challenging, but has been managed within the Group’s existing financial resources. Originally, homes were planned to be sold by May 2012. To date, 10 are provisionally under offer but remain unsold. The response from the Group to address the slow sales has drifted along with no real impetus. The mitigations put in place were reasonable but demonstrate the difficulties of the Board deciding to press ahead with this product in highly challenging market conditions.

Despite Domus Cambria’s difficulties, the leadership and some elements of the Board continue to press to undertake more business of this nature – even though phase 1 has fallen short of expectations.” (Something of an understatement considering sales were 5 years behind schedule.)

The Regulatory Opinion for 2016 is marginally better, but the beguiling song of the Shit Creek sirens can still be heard.

Given the problems with Domus Cambria it’s difficult to understand why North Wales Housing has taken on another sideline in Rakes and Ladders an “in house grounds maintenance team”. Especially as the name is hardly original, for I found another Rakes and Ladders in Bridgend, one in Gloucestershire, yet another in Vancouver, and I’m sure there must be more. Confusion guaranteed.

North Wales Housing has also been trustee since 2007 for The Olinda Trust, a registered charity, which ran the Plas Parciau home for dementia sufferers in Old Colwyn. The accounts up to 31 August 2016 paint a bleak picture, showing a deficit of £264,568, which explains the charity ceasing to trade in October 2016.

North Wales Housing Ltd is, like almost all housing associations, an Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. The FCA website suggests that since 16 September 2016 NWH has also been in the consumer credit business.

click to enlarge

This would have been around the time that The Olinda Trust succumbed to the sirens’ call.

I get the impression of a bunch of incompetents running a housing association too small to survive diversifying desperately in the hope that anyone witnessing this activity will be fooled into thinking those behind it know what they’re doing. They don’t.

Even though North Wales Housing is an IPS, force of habit took me to the Companies House website where, sure enough, I found an entry for ‘North Wales Housing Association Ltd’.

Linked with it is Erw Villas Management Company Ltd, the kind of organisation we encountered when we looked into the Cardiff Bay property dealings of Mark Vincent James, chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council. An organisation that allows tenants a say in the running of the block of flats in which they live . . . unless of course Mark Vincent James and his associates get involved.

Erw Villas Management Company Ltd was originally registered to an address in Catford, East London. It was struck off in May 2008 but restored 31 January 2011. On 2 February 2011 the address was changed to that of North Wales Housing in Llandudno Junction. On the same day all the old directors resigned and North Wales Housing was named as secretary and director.

Though in the Annual Return of 12 August 2015, and even though Paul William Diggory, the North Wales Housing CEO at the time, is named as director, the two original directors – Raymond Marquis and Jonathan Colin – are still the only shareholders.

Diggory was succeeded as director by Owen Ingram, who has in turn been replaced by Helena Kirk, the current CEO of North Wales Housing.

No Annual Return for 2016 is available with Companies House, so I assume it has not been submitted.

So what is the connection between North Wales Housing, Raymond Marquis and Jonathan Colin, and Erw Villas on Conway Old Road in Penmaenmawr? Answers on a postcard, please. (And make sure there’s a stamp on it this time! cos I’m not bloody paying again.)

The more I looked into North Wales Housing the more clear it became how thoroughly English it is. Take a look at the Board; start with the chair, Tom Murtha, who retired in 2012 from Midland Heart and now seems to have a number of part-time jobs, including NWH. There may be two or three Welsh people on the Board of 12.

Or how about the management team, headed by Helena Kirk, who arrived in Wales last October?

Even the job of designing the website was given to a company in England, Hallnet Ltd of Warrington, Cheshire. Is there no company in Wales that could have designed a website? Is this the Mersey Dee Alliance in practice, or is it just taking the piss?

Because it always makes me smile when I hear someone respond to complaints about Welsh organisations stuffed with English staff with, ‘Ah, yes, but you’ve got to get the best people for the job – no matter where they come from’.

North Wales Housing is on the brink of oblivion, brought there by bad management, so to suggest that the current shower, and its predecessors, are and were the best for the job is an insult to the Welsh nation. And that’s without considering the longer term consequences.

Domus Cambria sought, selfishly and irresponsibly, to increase the burden on local services by attracting to the Costa Geriatrica yet more elderly people – and all because the parent body was struggling financially!

‘Ah, but that don’t affect us down by ‘ere, look’. Yes it does, you thick-as-shit Labour-voting cretin! To prop up a failing NHS and social services burdened by the activities of Domus Cambria and others your Labour government down Cardiff docks will rob money from other budgets, and that affects us all, in every part of the country.

There is no reason to keep North Wales Housing afloat any longer, so let it be taken over by another RSL, one that is larger, more efficient, more responsible, and more Welsh.

TRIVALLIS

‘Not more f###ing Latin!’ you scream. Well, yes, and from that hotbed of classical learning, Rhondda Cynon Taf. (Three valleys, geddit?)

Trivallis is another Registered Social Landlord aka housing association that I’m told is in trouble. Hardly surprising when we read in the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Regulatory Judgement of June 2017“The Group has a number of unregistered subsidiary companies – Trivallis Ltd, Meadow Prospect, GrEW, Homeforce, Porthcwlis, Porthcwlis Homes and Bellerophon Project 1 LLP.”

In my experience, whenever a third sector body / housing association creates a ‘trading arm’ or a ‘subsidiary’ things go wrong, as we’ve just seen with North Wales Housing. That’s because these are set up by people who are used to being bailed out by the public purse and have little or no understanding of the realities of business.

Too often they are disasters waiting to happen.

The subsidiaries I’ve just just listed – some of which are dormant, having never got off the ground – are all being brought in-house, obviously heeding the recent recommendation of the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee on “diversification”. (Though I was unable to find anything at all for GrEW.)

In case you haven’t noticed, go to the Trivallis website again and look in the top right corner, where you’d expect to find the ‘Cymraeg’ option, or the flag. It’s not there, is it? The website is entirely in English, and that’s because of the strong ‘Welsh’ Labour influence at Trivallis.

Scroll down to the bottom of the home page and you’ll read ‘Powered by VerseOne Technologies Ltd’. Click on the link and you’ll see that the Trivallis website was designed by a Manchester company, with an office in Edinburgh.

Such commitment to Wales! But so typical of ‘Welsh’ Labour, and too many of its housing associations.

‘HOUSE!’ (but nothing to do with housing)

Back in July Llais y Sais ran a story on bookies’ fixed odds betting terminals. In it, Carolyn Harris is horrified to learn that £8m a year is lost on FOBTs in the Swansea Bay region. And so she should be, for Carolyn Harris chairs the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals All Party Parliamentary Group.

Fast forward to last week and the same local media treated us to news that the cavernous Castle Bingo club in Morriston has been refurbished. And there to re-open it was – Carolyn Harris. ‘But bingo’s diff’rent, innit, not like them cowin’ FOBTs’. 

I hope those aren’t “dyke shoes”!

Maybe not, except that it’s not all ‘legs eleven’ and ‘two fat ladies’ in Morriston, for the club provides its customers with other ways to lose their money enjoy themselves on what look suspiciously like FOBTs, or approximations thereof.

Described as “electronic entertainment” in the annual accounts

So why was Carolyn Harris there, officially re-launching Morriston’s answer to Las Vegas? The justification seems to have been that Castle Bingo was giving Harris a cheque for GambleAware.

As I wrote this I got to wondering about Castle Bingo, and so I checked on the Companies House website. The company was Incorporated in December 1995. You’ll see that there were two directors; Mrs Diane Elizabeth Stockford of Pontprennau, Cardiff and Mr Jeffrey Charles Harris of Sketty, Swansea.

Harris was also a director of Crown Buckley Ltd, the Brains subsidiary; Cadwalader (Ice Cream) Ltd, which went into administration in October 2015; and Cadwalader (Criccieth) Ltd. Harris is also a director of Meeron Ltd., another company in the gambling business.

Stockford became Brierley, and moved to Rudry, while Harris moved to St Nicholas. Brierley resigned as director in September 2012 and was replaced by Lisa Mary Morgan as both secretary and director. All the while Castle Bingo was providing accounts as a dormant company, explained by the fact that both Stockford and Harris were also directors of Castle Leisure Ltd.

Parent company Castle Leisure Ltd began life in 1911 as The Central Cinema, Cardiff, Ltd. Somewhere along the way, and certainly before May 1988, the company became known as Castle Leisure Ltd.

Here’s the latest list of shareholders for the 235,533 shares. In the year ended 25 December 2016 Castle Leisure Ltd had an operating profit of £4,164,319 on a turnover of £30,591,231. The company has 661 employees at its 8 clubs in Wales and 3 in England.

Of course it would be easy to be snobbish, or judgemental, but after all is said and done, this is an established Welsh company, one that has branched out into England and provides hundreds of jobs giving a lot of people what they want.

That said, there are obvious benefits for all concerned: Castle Bingo operates in Carolyn Harris’ constituency; Castle Bingo gives Harris publicity and a little cheque in the hope that she steers MPs away from their business model; a mutually beneficial association which Labour-backing Trinity Mirror is happy to report having for years enjoyed ‘promotions’ and ‘partnerships’ with Castle Bingo.

Finally: A disturbing report reaches me of unseemly, drunken cavorting at the Labour Party conference in Brighton this week involving – it is alleged – Carolyn Harris and rugby-playing Tonia Antoniazzi, the Labour MP for neighbouring Gower.

I don’t want to believe this scurrilous allegation so I would welcome any further information. Especially photographic evidence proving that such an incident did not take place.

CADW

It’s not often that I get the chance to talk of good news and Cadw in the same report, so I’m going to make the most of this.

A good source informs me of a victory won by the natives of Cydweli, who can now enter their local castle for free. Of course they have to provide proof that they are local, and then sing the first three verses of God Save the Queen. (Joke . . . possibly.)

Castell Cydweli

I’m told that the people of Caerffili enjoy the same concession, while in Conwy it’s just a 20% discount on the entrance fee. But why isn’t there a national scheme to allow all Welsh people into all Cadw premises for free? For God’s sake, it’s not as if Cadw built them, or owns them!

And how difficult would such a scheme be to administer? I mean, everybody nowadays has a passport, a driving licence, a bus pass or something that identifies them. Even if it’s only discharge papers from the Sea Scouts (which I still cherish).

The vast majority of those who visit Cadw sites are tourists, with more money than our people, so let them subsidise our visits. To do so would achieve the impossible – make tourism benefit Welsh people.

A national scheme such as I’m proposing could also introduce more of our people to their country’s history, but of course we’d need someone other than Cadw to interpret that history.

‘SPECIAL TRAIN FOR ATKINS’*

There are many people in Wales who take great pride in devolution, and especially in the thought of Welsh laws being made to serve Wales and her people. Obviously, I’m not one of these because without independence or at the very least a Welsh legal system there can be no Welsh laws.

Without independence or a separate jurisdiction what we are served up too often is simply English legislation with ‘(Wales)’ added to the name. We are given the chimera of legislative power but the real purpose is to keep us in line with England.

Where a genuine ‘Welsh’ initiative is allowed, it’s either an expensive gesture such as free prescriptions, or else it’s the ‘Welsh Government’ succumbing to English pressure groups. The perfect example of the latter would be the proposal to open Wales up to canoeists, ramblers and the rest, dressed up as ‘Sustainable Management’.

But I want to focus on the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. I have written about it before and pointed out that it gives homeless people priority for housing, and who would argue with that? Well, I would, because we are locked into an Englandandwales system that means a family of scruffs making themselves homeless anywhere in England qualify for accommodation in Wales ahead of locals.

Another curiosity of this legislation is that homeless ex-service personnel are also mentioned in the Act as being priority cases. Curious because homeless ex-service personnel do not qualify as priority cases in the equivalent English legislation. The reference can be found at 70 (1) (i).

So why are men and women who have served the English Crown, and suffered for it, not given priority treatment in England? And isn’t it all too predictable that England’s homeless, disabled ex-service personnel, and those suffering from PTSD, those with drug and alcohol problems, will be ‘directed’ to Wales?

Though perhaps the real question is, who inserted this sentence into the Bill? Was it the ‘Welsh’ Government, once again playing gesture politics? Or was it slipped in by a civil servant based in Wales but obeying his or her masters in London?

I’ve got no problem with looking after some poor sod who’s lost both his legs on a foreign adventure about which we were lied to from start to finish, but the way it’s being done looks suspiciously like Wales being dumped on, again.

  • I’ve taken the heading for this section from Kipling’s Tommy. It seemed somehow appropriate.

♦ end ♦

Sep 192017
 

TWENTY YEARS ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENGLAND’S LITTLE MOUTHPIECE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

click to enlarge

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIVIDED, DISMEMBERED, DESTROYED

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

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

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

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

click to enlarge

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHO CAN WE TRUST?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you up for the coming fight?

♦ end ♦

Sep 062017
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are therefore in uncharted territory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So the system grinds on almost unchecked.

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

Or it did until relatively recently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♦ end ♦

Aug 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.

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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?

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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 ♦

Jul 152017
 

JULIAN RUCK

While I was away I picked up a copy of the Evening Post, a Swansea institution that has gone downhill in recent years. The ‘paper I knew long ago used to bring out its first edition around midday, with further editions up to and including the ‘Final’ or ‘Late Night Final’. You knew which edition it was by the number of windows filled in on the Mumbles lighthouse image at the top right of the front page. One window filled for the first edition . . .

Then of course there was the Sporting Post on Saturday night, with young boys racing from pub to pub to sell their allotted copies. In competition with them were the ladies of the Sally Ann with bundles of War Cry, and occasionally, yours truly with a band of Plaidistas, offloading Welsh Nation. The competition was fierce! (Though unlike the paper-sellers and the bonneted ladies I could – and did – partake of liquid refreshment to keep me going.)

In those days, long before the internet, before pubs had wall to wall television, but after bookies became legal in 1960, the pubs downtown seemed to be filled in the afternoons with men reading newspapers, men of studious mien, a pencil in one hand and often a half-smoked fag behind an ear. The real professionals had a fag behind one ear and a spare pencil behind the other.

I am of course referring now to aficionados of the turf, the sport of kings . . . and of layabouts dreaming of easy money. For members of the latter group to know which nag had won the 2:30 at Doncaster required the ‘Stop Press’ entry on latest edition of the Post, and it was quite common to see breathless groups of men waiting at the Post‘s various delivery points in anticipation of sudden wealth. All gone.

In recent years, printing was moved out of the city, the Evening Post became a morning paper, and what had once been the Welsh daily with the largest circulation lost its crown to the Daily Post. Then, in what might prove to be the coup de grace the Post was taken over by Trinity Mirror, and is now controlled from Cardiff, its online presence merged with Llais y Sais and the Echo in WalesOnline.

If further proof was needed of the Post‘s downward slide it came when I saw that Julian Ruck now has a weekly column. Here’s his effort from the 7th. (Click to enlarge.)

Before considering what he wrote let’s look at how he’s described by the Post“Julian Ruck is a novelist, broadcaster, political commentator and guest public speaker”.

His ‘novels’ are excruciating pot-boilers that he publishes himself but nobody buys. “Broadcaster”? Mmm, has anyone seen or heard him ‘broadcast’ – or have I been lucky? “Political Commentator”; well, I’m a political commentator, everyone who expresses a political opinion is a political commentator, the term means nothing. “Guest public speaker” is a curious phrase, why not just ‘public speaker’? I suppose it’s trying to say that he gets invited to places. (Twice?)

As for what he has to say, well, here’s a sample, “Dear me, this Welsh bit is getting a bit tedious isn’t it?” The senior language of this island, the language spoken in London when the English were still Germans, is reduced to “this Welsh bit”. What a twat!

Later he describes Welsh as “a foreign tongue”, which is not only offensive but also inaccurate. Because you see, Ruck, it wouldn’t matter if no one spoke Welsh – it would still be the national language of Wales. That’s because it is unique to Wales, it is the ancestral language of the Welsh, and for most of our history it defined Welsh nationality. English may now be the majority language of Wales, but it can never be the national language.

From Amazon, where his books can be bought for £0.01

It would be easy to dismiss Ruck as a pompous little prick, a snob, but I feel rather sorry for him. He’s bitter because he’s been denied the success he feels he deserves. His search for a scapegoat has led him to a conspiracy of Welsh speakers who produce dastardly schemes to deny us the wit and wisdom of Julian Ruck. This leads to him hating the Welsh language itself and all those who speak it . . . maybe he thinks all Welsh speakers are in on the conspiracy.

Face it, Ruck, you’re a crap writer and a mercenary bigot, an opinionated nobody. But to give your attacks some credibility you have to be bigged up into a popular writer, someone whose opinion matters.

Though it says a lot about modern Wales that it’s the Labour-supporting, Welsh-hating, Trinity Mirror Group that provides you with a platform for your BritNat bigotry.

P.S. I’m informed that Ruck’s latest column, on the 14th, was used to attack Welsh language education. Why does anyone buy a rag from Trinity Mirror?

THOSE LEAFLETS

Now let’s turn to others who share Ruck’s attitude to the Welsh language, I’m talking now of those connected with Tales With a Twist.

Thanks to the Electoral Commission I now know that distributing election material lacking an imprint is not an offence; the offence lies in publishing and printing election material without an imprint. But of course, without an imprint, it’s very, very difficult to prove who wrote and printed the document being distributed. Something of a Catch-22 situation.

Which is why I asked the Electoral Commission to give me examples of successful prosecutions for not having an imprint. The response was: ” . . . where the material is a newspaper advertisement we can contact the newspaper for the details of the person who placed the advertisement.” Obviously, but with the best will in the world, someone would have to be really, really stupid to put election material that lacked an imprint in a newspaper advertisement. And would a newspaper accept such an advertisement, knowing that it broke the law?

click to enlarge

Though one possibility intrigues me. What if I was to write and run off a few hundred copies of a leaflet ahead of the next general election, a leaflet claiming that the local Labour candidate attends the same Penrhyndeudraeth coven as the Conservative candidate, where they romp around bollock naked, beating each other with riding crops – but the leaflets never left my house.

According to the Electoral Commission I would have committed an offence, even though no one would read what I’d written. Which is absurd, because what I’d written and printed could only influence electors if it was distributed, yet distributing unattributed election material is not an offence. Am I alone in thinking that the law has got this the wrong way round?

Anyway, things are moving, slowly. North Wales Police seem to be interested. I now have copies of issues 1 and 2 of Tales With a Twist, proving that we are dealing with a campaign rather than a one-off, and even though Councillor Louise Hughes has denied distributing the leaflets I have statements that a) confirm she was distributing them in Trawsfynydd on April 28, and b) that she gave copies to Steven Churchman, the Lib Dem councillor. Other statements are promised.

As for who printed the leaflets, well we all know who that was. What’s more, when I spoke with the DC in Caernarfon on Thursday afternoon we discussed the printer and yet neither of us needed to mention his name. He is – to quote Donald Rumsfeld – a known known.

I have a feeling this may not be over.

PLAID CYMRU & THE SNP

Many of you reading this may get a warm glow from watching Leanne Wood hugging Nicola Sturgeon, but how realistic is it to compare Plaid Cymru with the Scottish National Party? I got to wondering how their results since the first elections to the devolved bodies in 1999 compared.

In 1999 Plaid did marginally better than the SNP; point three of a percentage point lower in the constituency vote but over three percentage points higher in the regional/list vote. A good showing.

In 2003 both parties lost support. Plaid Cymru’s performance can be largely attributed to the palace coup that removed Dafydd Wigley, Plaid’s most popular ever leader. The fall in support for the SNP is due to a number of factors, certainly a change of leader also played a part, though most would agree that John Swinney was a more inspiring replacement for Alex Salmond than Ieuan Wyn Jones was for Dafydd Wigley.

The picture in Scotland was further complicated by what could be explained, perhaps paradoxically, as a falling off in support for the SNP, but the electorate still returned more MSPs in favour of independence.

For while the SNP lost 8 seats in 2003 the Scottish Greens gained 6 seats and Tommy Sheridan’s Scottish Socialists increased their tally by 5. Which meant that there were 40 MSPs (out of 129) supporting independence after the 2003 election against 37 in 1999.

When we move on to 2007 we see the gulf opening. Plaid Cymru improves marginally on 2003 but nothing like the increase that was expected with an unpopular Labour government in Westminster, whereas the SNP’s support increased by almost 50% to make it the largest party.

The election of 2011 is remarkable in that, in Wales, with the Tories now in power in London, many Welsh voters were persuaded to ‘send a message to Lundun, innit’ by voting Labour. By comparison, in Scotland, a Tory government in London did nothing for Labour as the SNP romped home with a majority of the seats.

Most recently, in 2016, the SNP may have lost six seats (and its majority) but in terms of votes there was a fall of only 2.3% in the regional share but an increase of 1.1% in the constituency vote. Add in the two Scottish Green representatives and there is still a pro-independence majority of 65 MSPs in Holyrood.

Here in Wales, Plaid Cymru may have improved on its dismal performance in 2011 (if it hadn’t, then it might have been time to call it a day), partly due to having a new leader in Leanne Wood, but still got less than half the SNP’s share of the vote, leaving the 1999 result looking like a lost golden age.

In Scotland, the issue for a decade or more, and the issue still dominating political debate, is independence. Here in Wales we have a ‘national’ party that would prefer not to debate independence (or colonisation, or exploitation, or anything that might upset or annoy anyone), a party that is bumping along the bottom and going nowhere.

You know my view, I gave up on Plaid Cymru years ago. With Wales falling apart around us, suffering attacks from all quarters, how much longer can you continue supporting a party going nowhere, a party that will sabotage itself if there’s any possibility of success? (Believe me, it will!)

(You’ll notice that I’ve spared Plaid Cymru’s embarrassment by sticking with the devolved vote, not comparing the relative showings for Westminster elections, in which Plaid does even worse.)

MONKTON

In the interests of clarity this whole section was re-written 17.07.2017

WHAT WE KNOW

There were unpleasant scenes in Monkton, Pembrokeshire, on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning last week when a crowd gathered to protest about a paedophile the crowd believed was living at Gwilliam Court. As is invariably the case in such incidents the crowd included some seeking an excuse for trouble, these being responsible for allegedly setting bins on fire, letting down the tyres on police vehicles and other mischief.

Despite the behaviour of these idiots there was a genuine cause for concern, for the woman allegedly living in Gwilliam Court was identified (though not named) by both the Sun and the Daily Mail as Amber Roderick. Her record would cause any parent to worry about her presence on their estate. And yet there are so many questions about the whole business.

On the assumption that we are dealing with Roderick let’s look at her most recent conviction, at Reading Crown Court in January 2012. As the Crown Prosecution Service summary tells us, she was jailed for a minimum of four years and placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register. This NACRO document tells us that anyone imprisoned for 30 months or more stays on the register “indefinitely”.

THE AFTERMATH

It became clear from police and council statements that if it was Roderick – now going by the name of Bridget McGinley – then she was not the tenant of the property in Monkton, the tenant being a man with whom she was co-habiting.

But then, to confuse matters, in this report from the Pembrokeshire Herald Superintendent Ian John of Dyfed Powys Police, says, “The two residents of that flat, as it stands, neither of those two people, were actually currently on the sex offender’s register. The facts are, they were not on the sex offender’s register. It would be inappropriate for me to go into specific detail, but what I will say, the lady who moved in with the gentleman who is the tenant of the flat, was not required to record her movements, as she would have been if she was on the sex offenders register.”

Superintendent John’s convoluted statement suggests three options. 1/ Somebody made a terrible mistake, stirring up a mob when it was not Amber Roderick/Bridget McGinley in that flat, 2/ If it was her, then she has somehow been taken off the Sex Offenders’ Register, 3/ Superintendent John is mistaken.

Also quoted in the Pembrokeshire Herald report is ‘Annalee’ who seems to suggest that in Wales offenders remain on the Sex Offenders Register for only five years, with the clear implication that in Scotland and England the period is longer. Is this true?

Well, after consulting the NACRO document again I believe that in the case that ‘Annalee’ refers to, the age of the offender, and the sentence handed down, meant that he stayed on the register for only five years. And it would have been the same in England. (I can’t speak for Scotland.)

Something else that struck people about the Herald report was local councillor Pearl Llewellyn saying, “I was told by Pembrokeshire County Council not to get involved or to come to these meetings, but I have, because my daughter lived in Monkton.” But she’s the elected representative of these people! Why would the council – and what does she mean by “the council”? – tell her not to get involved?

CONCLUSIONS

There are obviously questions to answer, not least – who owns the property in question; is it Pembrokeshire County Council or Pembrokeshire Housing Association? Or is it perhaps a third party, a private landlord, or even an offshore entity leasing property to social landlords, such as I exposed in Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd?

Someone with whom I’m in contact is having great difficulty getting an answer to that simple question from Pembrokeshire County Council.

In the original version of this section I quoted the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 70 (1) (j) which says that sex offenders and others coming out of prison get preferential treatment in the allocation of social housing.

I was pulled up and pointed to the preamble reading, “a person who has a local connection with the area of the local housing authority . . . “. This is not worth the paper it’s printed on. After years of studying the operations of social landlords I know that no ‘local connection’ is needed to be housed by social landlords in Wales.

If the Llansiadwel Housing Association is offered two or three times the normal rate to house a paedophile from Newcastle who’s never set foot in Wales they’ll jump at it.

To understand the truth of what I’m saying you only have to consider the case in Monkton. If it was Roderick/McGinley living there, then it’s reasonable to assume that the tenant was the boyfriend identified in Reading Crown Court as Patrick Maughan and sentenced to six years in prison at the same trial. Both could have been recently released, and neither has a local connection to Pembrokeshire.

As I say, there are just so many questions. The best way to clear things up, to placate the residents of Monkton, and to restore faith in the council, is for both the council and the police to come clean and give the full details of this case.

Also, for social housing providers and other agencies to stop dumping undesirables from England in Wales, no matter what financial and other incentives are offered.

♦ end ♦

 

Jan 022017
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there are so many other problems with housing associations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♦ end ♦

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

Nov 202016
 

SWANSEA

Persecution

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

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

Meryl

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

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

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

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

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

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

Persecution Complex?

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

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

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

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

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

‘Good Night, John Boy’

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

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

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

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

LLANELLI

The Invisible Man Moves

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

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

rob-james

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

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

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

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

Now a Labour Politician Who Didn’t Move, Allegedly

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

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

‘Poumista’

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

poumista

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

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

poumista-russian-sniper

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

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

THE LEAVING OF LABOUR

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

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

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

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

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

OUR HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS

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

link-gibraltar

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

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

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

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

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

HAPPY DONKEY HILL

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

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

Lady Kate Clamp Facebook

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

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

happy-donkey-hill

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

♦ end ♦

Nov 012016
 

INTRODUCTION

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

gwynedd-council-tax

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

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

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

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

COUNCIL TAX ON SECOND HOMES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cambrian-news-letters-1

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

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

LAND TRANSACTION TAX (FORMERLY STAMP DUTY)

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

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

1/ Chartered Institute of Taxation and Stamp Taxes Practitioners Group

2/ Residential Landlords Association

3/ National Association of Estate Agents

4/ KPMG

5/ Central Association of Agricultural Valuers

6/ Wales Association of Self-Catering Operators

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gwynedd SW Wards merged

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

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

TOURIST TAX

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

venice

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END 

Oct 232016
 

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

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

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

Hugh James logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mbh-s106

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

coastal-housing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which might be the answer to everything.

END