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.

  66 Responses to “Housing Associations: Secret or Public?”

  1.  

    It’s high time housing associations were brought back into democratic accountable public ownership. Despite being, on paper, cooperatives (IPS), is anyone allowed to become a member of said cooperative? They operate as private companies with top-heavy overpaid management that do not take risks – as you state, they receive SHG to build new housing or simply take on existing assets. They then charge obscene rents (far higher than councils) that are subsidised by Housing Benefit. The whole thing is a rip-off, where a fig leaf of Resident Directors or some notional Welsh-language or Social input covers up a public finance scandal.

    •  

      It’s an absurd system however you look at it. Why do we need so many housing associations, with all the salaries and other costs? I would go ahead with local government reorganisation, bring the number of councils down to 8, then hand back the social housing role. If the money is there for housing associations then it should be there for councils. Not only that, but councils would have their own workforces and/or use use local contractors, rather than contracting out to big English companies.

      If that can’t be done then housing associations should be privatised. We cannot continue in this shadow world of publicly-funded private bodies beyond scrutiny.

  2.  

    Another excellent post Jac and well researched. I totally agree with your conclusion. The current lack of scrutiny from regulators is scandalous. With the Public Accounts Committee {PAC} at National Assembly currently undertaking an inquiry into the regulatory oversight of Housing Associations in Wales do you think that a copy of your post should be sent to them. As I understand it, 6 January is the end date for receiving evidence from the public. As you are no doubt aware, PAC’s role is to hold Welsh Government to account with regard to the management of public funds. Your post could therefore be a valuable contribution during the evidence gathering stage of their inquiry.

    •  

      I shall of course be submitting something to the PAC. But the press releases want us to believe that the decision has already been taken to reject the ONS suggestion. If so, by whom?

      •  

        Bravo Jac, you truly are the master of bullshit. Why don’t you post a link to the actual response the Welsh Government sent you regarding Link Holdings?http://gov.wales/docs/decisions/2016/housing/161214atisn10923lttr.pdf

        It doesn’t quite match your description of the answer. But then again, you never post anything that contradicts you, or shows you for the real story teller you are.

        •  

          The reason I haven’t linked to that letter is because I haven’t got round to replying to it yet – you wouldn’t want me to give a one-sided view of the issue, now would you?

          But I’m more intrigued by how you came by the letter. It was from Simon Fowler to me. So have you gained access to the letter illegally? Or are you Simon Fowler? Either way, I think I should take this matter up with the ‘Welsh’ Government.

          •  

            What, Jac giving a one sided view? Who would ever suggest such a thing? Of course, a balanced view would be an improvement, but probably too much to expect…

            •  

              Will you explain how you came by the letter, seeing as I haven’t put it up on this blog?

              •  

                Duh, it’s published online Jac. I am a nerd who looks through the freedom of info replies on the Welsh Assembly website to see if there’s anything interesting. I went to the Jac school of investigative journalism so assumed it had been sent to you and presented it as fact. Difference is though it looks like I was right. The real question is though is why you didn’t post the response on here Jac? Could it be that you never retract your stories? You never publish anything that contradicts you? You never publish anything that proves you wrong? How can you expect anyone to take you seriously?

                •  

                  Question is, why have you only recently started taking an interest, roughly since I wrote about Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd? And after something of a lapse, what prompted the return to action yesterday?

                  •  

                    Because I’m not one of your sycophants who visits your page every day. I have life. I chuckled when I read the response aso it was obviously addressed to you. When I popped back on this blog, I was surprised you were still spouting the same rubbish without even referring to it.

    •  

      The problem I’ve found (in my experience with local government), is that the process of ‘holding to account’ is a sham. You go to great lengths writing letters and producing dossiers, and when you think you’ve cracked it, it gets dumbed down, ignored or just brushed under some carpet. The same applies to the Police Complaints Committee, Public Service Ombudsmen, OFTEL, OFCOM and I believe the PAC etc. They all seem to be tigers with no teeth and apparently exist as a show that there is some scrutiny when there’s none really. All these inquiries are also the same, especially those that involve paedophile rings in high places. Or the best example of all war crime inquiries like Chilcot. The result and punishment never seems to fit the crime. Everything is glossed over. It makes you think that the rot is so deep that there is no cure.

      When it comes to these housing associations, you have to realise that it’s an interconnected web of who you know in the right places. I can’t believe that those in Y Senedd are that blind or stupid – however how do you know who’s benefiting who on the quiet?

      •  

        Yes, I take your point Big Gee. I may be naïve in thinking that the Public Accounts Committee may be in a position to hold Welsh Government to account. If they are not, I agree with you,we are in a serious situation in Wales.

  3.  

    Great post that dares to criticise one of the biggest ‘industries’ in Wales. Sadly you will no doubt receive the same old Welsh Labour refrain ‘it’s all lies!’ or if you are really lucky another threat from a lawyer in Cardiff that your home truths are libellous.
    Ignoring the points you and others have raised is a national scandal and the latest offer of what is effectively a blank cheque to reverse the decision to add housing associations to the public accounts is scandalous. Clearly somebody has a lot to lose and probably a great deal to hide.
    I look forward to the forthcoming Public Accounts Committee enquiry into Social Housing and your continued scrutiny of this shady sector.

    •  

      As you say Andy, it is a blank cheque, with no questions asked. Which would be bad enough in any situation, but when we’re dealing with public funding . . .

  4.  

    Integrity seems to be completely missing in the present set-up. With evidence of political manipulation and posturing on the one hand, and extravagant sourcing and application of funds on the other, yet very little or no concern for service to the communities within which these H.A’s operate.
    I won’t be tempted, just yet, to go back over all the old ground on this subject but you need look no further for evidence that the entire fabric of government and governance in Wales is riddled with lack of due diligence, visibility, and accountability leading inevitably to corruption in the worst cases, and negligence at best.

    No point asking Boss Carwyn to sort it, he’s in control and must feel pretty relaxed and good about it.

    •  

      That’s how housing associations get away with it. They’re part of the Third Sector, which has a free pass from the Left – Plaid and Labour – because it is seen as ‘helping people’.

      •  

        more like helping themselves, to all the loot wherever they can get their grasping paws on it ! The concept of being answerable, being accountable has been reshaped into a corrupt self serving mess. Did they fetch in consultants from the Russian mafia ? or the various Italian crime families who have developed laundering to a fine art ?

  5.  

    Dafis, you think you’re joking about fetching in consultants from the Italian crime families. But you may not be so far off the mark. I am writing this from the US. Bill Clinton/Obama/Hillary Clinton directly studied the shakedown methods of Al Capone’s mob in South Side Chicago. Hillary did a university Thesis on it. The US has exactly the culture where “a corrupt self-serving mess” becomes tinged with crime, especially in Democrat areas. I do not say Wales is there yet, but we are on the slippery slope. Maybe if Neil McEvoy & Co get re-elected in May 2017 to run Cardiff they will find that the mess HAS slipped into crime in Cardiff. This tradition in Labour-run Cardiff does exist. In other words Jac is spot on and right to ring the alarm bell.
    Point of information: Nick Bennett now the Ombudsman (how does this happen??) has started a case against McEvoy which is trivial on one level but on the other hand may well be shown to be political strong-armery. Watch this space…..and don’t let up on the shadowy bits of the shadowy Third Sector.

    •  

      I don’t joke about the deviant behaviours of our elected representatives and their unelected fellow travellers ( or is it the other way around ? – that the fellow travellers may now be manipulating the elected representatives ? or perhaps they just enjoy manipulating each other ! ) There are clusters/cliques of these deceitful bastards all through Welsh public life. They overlap with common membership often belonging to several “circles of influence”.
      Alarmingly the business community, well known for developing networking activities, have invaded these circles with well funded events and activities which fosters yet another set of relationships that do the public purse no good at all. Any benefits to communities is purely coincidental to filling the coffers of assorted public and private organisations, enabling senior executives to draw good “packages” and entertain each other in a manner to which they feel entitled.

  6.  

    Nick Bennett was / is a Lib Dem not Labour. He stood as a candidate in Ynys Mon in the early 2000s and was a SPAD in the Labour – Lib Dem ‘partnership’ government.

    •  

      Yes, Bennett was a spad to Mike German, when the Lib Dems were in coalition with Labour, and Bennett himself was in business with a Labour politician. But as we know, Lib Dems can be very ‘fluid’ in their principles, so do you have any evidence that Bennett remains a Lib Dem?

      And even if he does, it was the fact that – just like Kirsty Williams today – he was trusted by Labour politicians to do their bidding that got him the Community Housing Cymru job and the Ombudsman number.

  7.  

    Is there anyone on the Public Accounts Committee who has asked the value of or understands the debt to asset ratio of these Housing Associations?

    What Trevallis (formally RCT Homes) has done is borrow huge sums, underwritten by the Welsh Government, to acquire land in the Pontyclun and Tonyrefail areas and has branched out into new ‘eco-builds’ and ‘affordable freeholds’ as part of expanding it’s housing stock.

    Typically these are developments of 2/3rd basic homes and 1/3rd a posher detached variant homes of bigger footprint with garden to be sold on the open market. The land is owned offshore. It’s a kind of Mill Bay operation on a grand scale. The CEO who signed up this expansion has then resigned to go work for the construction company.

    The Trevallis model of debt is segmented into short term and long term. The short-term debt is financed from the cash flow for selling the posher properties into the private sector. This pays for most of the construction phase. The long-term debt, however, is underwritten by the Welsh Government on borrowings from venture capital and is less visible due to it being held by offshore companies.

    My rough calculation is that this can only be financed by 100% occupancy rental income in the social housing sector to 45years with an assumed rental income growth (rent increases) of 4% per year, with minimal maintenance costs.

    There has already been a ‘shock’ to the Trevallis business model in that the new properties have a ‘flying freehold’ for ‘airspace’ above the properties, (shown as a charge on title at the land registry) which generated loans from a company in the channel islands. The idea was that the debt can be paid off as a long -term loan from the income from feed-in tariffs on the solar panels on the roofs. This feed-in tariff has been cut by the Westminster Government and can no longer finance this debt. It now has to be covered by increasing rents to existing tenants of the older housing stock.

    The Public Accounts Committee would have to investigate the debt ratio, and see how it compares with the standard operated in the private sector. The difference is the exposure the Welsh Government has. Also, if there is future default on borrowing, the private sector can evict the tenants and sell the property. This is not an option with social housing because not only are the tenants accommodated do not have access to buy or rent alternative homes, but also the Welsh Government itself (via the local authority) have a statutory duty to house them.

    Essentially they have embarked on a dodgy time-share villa exercise on the Costa-del-Ely with the Welsh Government having to pick up the tab when the bank wants it’s money back.

    •  

      Brychan

      You have been able to extract /obtain various bits of info regarding Trevallis’ assets, liabilities and related financial commitments. Given you are able to do this under your own steam ( with maybe a bit of help here and there ) why is it that the assorted A.M’s and M.P’s who represent constituencies in RCT, and their smart, oh so clever entourages, are so evidently unable/unwilling to dig out the same info and act upon it ?
      I keep coming back to the same old conclusion – them that are a bit dull can’t see and don’t care, and them that are intelligent are in on it in some way. Connivance, complicity, collusion comes in many guises but it looks increasingly like a number of our public figures are party to this way of conducting the affairs of service delivery in Wales.

      The earlier comment about crime families is getting to sound more appropriate with each passing day.

      •  

        The mutual society model for financing new housing was invented in the Rhondda in the 1890s. It was provide for under the Housing and Working Classes Act 1890. The coal owners wanted a way of building loads of houses quickly. Coal owners stumped up the short-term finance as loans to the society during the construction phase, and their employees got access to houses in exchange for paying off the long term debt by working in the mines. This is why we have towns named after coal owners. Tylorstown, Stanleytown, Wattstown etc.

        In WW1, however, there was a problem when the miners decided to improve their lot by striking, and there was a shortage of labour when many went to fight in the war and died. This prompted the reform contained in the Housing Act 1919. It is where those members of the mutual society got to own the property once the debt was paid off. This is how a huge chunk of the ‘privately owned’ housing in the valleys came into existence. It’s why they all look the same.

        After WW2, housing was built by the ‘public sector’. Council houses.

        (a) Plaid Cymru opposed the privatisation of public housing in RCT. They campaigned against the sell-off, Leanne Wood, now the Rhondda AM led the campaign. The sell off process started after 2004 when Plaid lost control of RCT council.

        (b) It was the Labour Party who privatised the housing stock and devised the ‘Mutual Provident Society’ to do so. They claimed that they couldn’t fix the windows and boilers in council houses without ‘borrowing powers’ because the nasty Tories didn’t allow public funding. This of couse was a lie, as it was a Labour Government in Cardiff and Westminster at the time.

        Debt is not always bad. It’s good when it’s used to fund expansion, like when a private company borrows against future revenues. However, such a deal is scrutinised by the bank, as a company has limited liability. It can also be good for an individual household, in the form of a mortgage, but this is secured on the property and you get to own the house after the mortgage is paid off. However, if you fail to keep up the payments the property is re-possessed.

        What the Labour Party did was act like a ‘coal owner’ and re-established the model as defined in the 1890s prior to the 1919 reform, only in this case the exploiters are not coal owners, but sharp-suited spivs, often Labour Party functionaries, often imported from England. You ask about the AMs in RCT. These are the same animals, sharp-suited spivs, Labour Party functionaries and ALL have been imported from England. The only exception being the new Rhondda representative, who is Plaid.

        Hope this explains.

  8.  

    The latest regulatory update report on north wales housing association makes interesting reading. An award wining association in 2015 suddenly has the worst regulatory report seen so far in december 2015, and its ceo quietly retires in may 2016. He retires but carries on as chair of institute of housing in wales and now it is rumoured is being lined up for consultancy work with Anglesey council on the wylfa newydd project to help house the rhousands of English workers due to be imported. Nwha appointed an interim ceo but reading the latest update report on wag website its the board that is still the problem ala cantref. Financial holes plus unsold flats built for english incomers in llandudno empty for years and coypled with an dementia care takeover of a local charity that got it into even more trouble with social services. Looking at their website you would think there is nothing amis! The local tory am is strangely quiet about the problems as is the local press – wonder why?

    •  

      If I get a chance next week I shall look into North Wales Housing and its recently-departed CEO. Any further information you have would be welcome. Send it direct to editor@jacothenorth.net.

      •  

        Chester based Mr Paul Diggery was the previous ceo Jac, and the interim ceo was from, yes youve guessed it, england, and the new ceo is from?” Your good friends cambell tickell were paid to recruit the new ceo in. Given the fuss made by the welsh language commissioner about cartrefi cym gwynedd recruiting in a non Welsh speaking director she has been strangely quiet about the north wales ha appointments, but they also work in gwynedd mon and denbighshire. Bit like the silence over Cantref? We smell fish here.

        Rumours coming out of newtown based rsl mid wales housing of a deal being struck between your mate ann hinchy and an engkish rsl with stock in that outreach town of birmingham llanrindod wells. The tenants are used to a non Welsh speaking distant landlord anyway! More white flight incomers clearly on the way right under the nose of kirsty williams am – should help the local schools diversification eh?
        No doubt the minister will sign the deal off as it will count towards the 20k new homes target labour have promised to deliver, and it will help wales and west justify the millions just spent on a new northern hq in the ministers constituency at Ewlo business park – which is large enough to fit north wales ha staff into if it goes the same way as cantref. Adam price needs to ask a few more questions in the Senedd before the rest of the grand masonic plan is exposed.

        More to come soon from the labour watch team……

        •  

          My next post will be on a topical issue, but this looks very promising, I wish I’d known about it before I made my submission to the Public Accounts Committee. But never mind, I know most of the AMs read my blog so they’ll see it anyway. Llandrindod used to be quite exclusive in its hey-day, now it’s becoming something of a dumping ground, almost a smaller, inland Rhyl. Any further information will be gratefully received.

  9.  

    Brychan explains a lot of the background and the shabby history of Labour in bringing RCT /Trevallis to where it is today. I also note his comment that Leanne Wood was a major player in opposing the transfer of housing assets from Public sector into their present ownership.

    The bit I don’t get, especially now Leanne has knocked Porky off his high-horse, is why isn’t this matter back on the Plaid agenda. Wales-wide it appears that H.A’s and other 3rd sector scams offer barn door sized targets for any opposition politician to aim at with knowledge that events such as Cantref takeover and the Mill Bay “mystery” present case studies in how Labour fails to govern diligently.

    If they are not careful that miserable ass Hamilton may decide to lead the campaign to tackle corruption in Wales, and the irony in that would be difficult for any of us to stomach!.

    •  

      It’s not rocket science, Dafis.
      I will demonstrate the housing associations issue with videos of two explosions….

      Glasgow
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsmZcYHDAso
      The public sector housing stock was privatised by the Labour Party, in 2003, with the claim that the only way to raise borrow the cash to build decent homes to replace the tower block was to create a Housing Association. However, the SNP had a clear view on Housing, Both as the main opposition party during the minority years and as a governing party. The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 was amended with the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 the Social Landlords (Purposes or Objects) (Scotland) Order 2006). It limits the way Housing Associations behave. They have to be a registered public charity both for the purposes of section 7 of the 2005 Act and also section 505 of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988. Their operational footprint has be specific. In this case, wholly within the administrative area of Glasgow City Council. There is no unaccountable borrowing, and no secrecy. Full details here..
      http://www.oscr.org.uk/charities/search-scottish-charity-register/charity-details?number=SC034054

      Hirwaun.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqBv2YylJrw
      The public sector housing stock was privatised by the Labour Party, in 2004, with the claim that the only way to raise borrow the cash to build decent homes to replace the tower block was to create a Housing Association (RCT Homes, now Trevallis). However, in Wales despite housing being devolved, firstly as legislative competence orders, and now with primary legislation, there has been no attempt to keep the activities of housing associations under public scrutiny. The result is predator acquisitions from over the border in an attempt to dilute debt, dodgy dealings in off-shore tax havens, and complete lack of public accountability. They were able to run a business model using the Mutuals Register, a scheme originally designed to keep your pension scheme confidential. The only detail is available here.
      https://mutuals.fsa.gov.uk/SocietyDetails.aspx?Number=30261&Suffix=R

      So when is Plaid Cymru going to come up with a credible programme of legislation for Welsh Housing? If in doubt they can cut and past from the SNP with examples exposed on this blog.

      •  

        ‘The only way to raise the cash needed to improve these properties is to create a housing association’ is the message Labour has been giving out for years, and still does. Yet as I explain in this and other posts, housing associations raise very little private funding. Their primary sources of income are rents and hand-outs from the ‘Welsh’ Government, which would – or should – have been available to local authorities.

        So why create housing associations? The only justification seems to be the one you suggested in an earlier comment – to create well-paid jobs for Labour functionaries moving in from England.

        Going back to funding for a minute, I’m still waiting for an explanation as to how a Welsh housing association, Wales and West, was able to obtain £25m from the UK (i.e. English) government “to build 251 homes in Wales” in 2014.

        You will note that on the UK government website I’ve linked to it gives the name as “Wales and West Housing Association”, yet the ‘Association’ bit was dropped in 2012. Why? Wales and West is of course the Labour-run housing association that has been allowed to take over Cantref down in CNE.

        •  

          One of my sons is the contracts manager with a company that does work for Cantref. Cantref nosedived over the last couple of years and have now been taken over by Wales & West. He was doing an overall site survey with this new outfit, that included all the existing sites run by Cantref, as all the contracts had to be reassessed. His impression was that the new outfit have money coming out of their ears, and there is a ‘money no object’ impression given. The question that begs asking is where does all this magical money come from?

        •  

          “I’m still waiting for an explanation as to how a Welsh housing association, Wales and West, was able to obtain £25m from the UK (i.e. English) government “ – Jac.

          There’s a very simple explanation.
          The Westminster government can’t see Wales.

          The English parliament have a problem in London and the South East of England. It relates to affordable housing, and a need to ‘socially cleanse’ the leafy suburbs of the metropolis, yet still have somewhere for the office cleaners, binmen, and those with McJobs to live. They made available a wad of cash.

          W&West HA saw the yellow brick road, and got their grubby paws on the cash and apply a dilution the debt of the failing Cymdeithas Tai Cantref. W&W HA applied for some of this gold, but to qualify, the terms mean that you provide houses for the poor. It gives access to dump an English granny in Wales (with the excellently designed wheelchair-accessible toilet and country views) and still gets to milk the flats in Bristol for a wedge occupied by the low paid binmen who empty the skips for the mansions of Clifton.

          It happens because the Welsh Government are sleeping on the job, and some of the Labour AMs still try to hide their Bristol City football shirts. Do you still have the photo?

          •  

            My reading of the situation in London is that, increasingly, it’s difficult for binmen, nurses, bus drivers, waiters, cleaners, etc to afford to live there, but of course they must. It’s those not needed to service the wealthy who tend to be moved out. This will be the ‘unwaged’, the elderly, and assorted misfits.

            Was this the picture you were thinking of?

            Dawn Bowden 3

    •  

      Too right dafis, it would almost be like a hyaena stealing the carcass off a lion! The problem is this ‘lion’ in the guise of Plaid hasn’t got a backbone, and is also afraid to upset the Labourites.

      Surely they are not so stupid as not to understand the problem, or to understand the solution.

      Brychan – why don’t you send that excellent post of yours directly to Leanne Wood and ask for answers? Leanne.Wood@assembly.wales And whilst you’re at it send her the URL address for jacothenorth, so that she can read other blog entries on here that Jac has written on the subject in the past.

      •  

        now, now Gwilym bach. You are ordering a very rich diet all of a sudden. Poor girl will have a serious weakness of the bowels if she takes all that on board in one session. However she might feel a lot better and thoroughly refreshed and enlightened as a result !

        •  

          We can but hope dafis – we can but hope. I wouldn’t like to think that my suggestion to Brychan would cause colitis for anyone – leaders of political parties included (well some anyway!).

          •  

            I don’t need to tell Leanne anything.
            She knows.
            It’s what we discussed a few years ago on Heol y Mynydd when collecting votes from the ignored.

            She lives and breaths her community. That’s why she evicted the Porky. The point is, you know, and I know, and she knows, that the same issues relate in Penrhys as it does in Pencader, as it does in Maesgerchen.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9epWfCcvpM

            The issue for Plaid is not just what needs to happen, it’s also whether they’ve got the guts to do it.

            •  

              Brychan – If Leanne has the appetite for a fight on good ground, then this subject is as good as any she is likely to find. Now I’m not saying that it’s for her alone to get into a political scrap but she’s the Leader of that Party and she must organise a number of A.M’s, call in the party’s M.P’s where appropriate, and deploy some heavy duty party members to launch a real and sustained assault on the crooks and fudge merchants now in power. That piece of correspondence, Adam Price to John Griffiths, copied by Jac, is a good opener but should not be regarded as anything other than that. It will need dogged following through to expose the skullduggery that happens in the name of government in Wales.

              In due course Leanne could organise more sustained barrages of attacks on any of the other “hot topics”, thus proving to the electorate that she and the Party knows its stuff, is willing to challenge and ask awkward questions. This is not a case of firing off a single question and sitting back but pursuing a matter until its gory detail is utterly exposed. By 2020 the corrupt Labour regime should be well gutted and then she can go to the electorate and demand her own mandate to govern.

            •  

              I can’t argue with that Brychan, you’re probably spot on, especially when it comes to your last sentence.

              The reality is they should be putting their foot on Labour’s throat with regard to this, but as you know, there is a little tender spot in the hearts of many Plaid people when it comes to Labour – it’s like being a policemen who knows the villain but because he’s you’re friend, you look the other way. Could you imagine the SNP doing that? That’s why they wiped Labour out north of the border, and why we’ve had, and continue to have the corrupt Labour government in power in Y Senedd.

              It’s a case of growing a pair of balls & doing your job properly by changing something, instead of sympathising with the masses and not actually doing anything.

        •  

          Years ago a Welsh MP who tried to impeach the prime-minister would have made a meal of this, where is he now?!

          •  

            I’m trying to finish my submission (deadline tomorrow) to the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee which is looking into the regulation of housing associations. In fairness, this PAC investigation was kicked off by questions asked by Adam Price about the Wales and West takeover of Cantref.

      •  

        Bullshit. She had a backbone when challenging Carwyn Jones for First Minister. Pick our enemies better,

        Plaid also got the Wales Housing Act amended to get extra council tax on second homes.

        The SNP in government has made housing associations more transparent (excellent post by Brychan- I’d not heard of those Acts) but is still putting billions into them. It would be good to get a breakdown of how much SNP Govt money goes to RSLs/associations and how much to councils- http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Built-Environment/Housing/investment/ahsp

        It does seem like the SNP is spending MORE than Welsh Labour, but Scotland is a bigger country. It probably works out the same. Plus more of the SNP money might be kept in local councils and not go into associations. But it doesn’t seem right to somehow claim Plaid Cymru is on some different page.

        Agree with Jac’s points generally. Can the stock not be taken into council ownership or regional ownership?

        Not out to attack the broader point. We need accountability in this multi billion pound industry.

  10.  

    Social housing in north-west Wales has a record of providing affordable housing to many local people and Welsh speakers. There are also some English already there in those houses but it is majority Welsh. I am very familiar with the area though not a housing expert.

    What is really a problem is the private housing. Killing our villages and driving up house prices. The privately owned homes are also nicer than the RSL homes, though the quality of the RSL ones is getting better. We need the extra council tax on second homes. This was secured by Plaid Cymru in the Assembly but my understanding is that each local council gets to choose the rate. Gwynedd Plaid Cymru will set a higher rate but I have not seen any such plans from Ynys Mon or Conwy, even though Conwy is led by Plaid (as a coalition). Please correct me if I am wrong. I would add Sir Dinbych but don’t have knowledge of the situation there. Ranting here but we also need a way of stopping people registering their second home as a business. This might need a law. Call it tax avoidance.

    We also need to scrap the right to buy as SNP has done in Scotland. It may well be on the way in Wales. I am slightly reluctant as I know people who have benefited, including Welsh speakers from home, but we are leaking them to buyers many of whom are not keeping the money of Wales.

    Concrete solutions to protect our communities. We need nationalist councillors to push this, as in alot of cases the Assembly or government has given them local policy choice on council tax.

    •  

      It’s always difficult to defend the indefensible Martin. Quoting Leanne Wood’s attempt to challenge Carwyn Jones’ job as first minister is hardly concrete proof of a backbone, neither hers or her party’s.

      Pick our enemies better“? Who’s picking enemies? A simple statement pointing out inadequacies which go back years – to the time I was one of the vice presidents of Plaid, and then way back further than that to the time that the socialists took hold of the party. That was the beginning of the end for Plaid as a true nationalist party. Nothing to do with “picking enemies“. Plaid have been paralysed for a long time, making gooey eyes at Labour as their heroes. They need to wake up and start acting on their own two feet, with their eyes opened to what’s going on, instead of encouraging Labour by standing back and not giving them a hard time. They need to learn a lot of lessons from the SNP.

      On a brighter note, those copies of letters between Adam Price, (one of the ones with a bit more bite in Plaid) Nick Ramsay & John Griffiths sounds a bit more encouraging. It’s very important for you to get your submission out in time Jac. Good luck with it!

  11.  

    Away from our political cesspit I see that Turkey is attributing Izmir incident to Kurdish faction. They just got to have a go at the Kurds despite them being the only nation willing to unreservedly challenge IS. Turkey’s motives are therefore very questionable – do they have some grandiose vision of a revived Ottoman Empire extending over Middle East ? or are they just being egged on by our ever reliable USA, UK and other NATO partners ?

    •  

      Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus has said [quote] “I am of the opinion that it’s not possible for the perpetrator to have carried out such an attack without any support. It seems like a secret service thing. All these things are being assessed,” Kurtulmus said, without speculating which state actor might be involved.

      Kurtulmus expressed concern that with support from external intelligence other potential attackers could evade Turkish security radars. “As they are supported by some organizations with intelligence capacity, they can conduct terror acts in the way your security system may not even be able to think of,”

      Whilst Turkey DO blame all their woes on the poor Kurds, it seems that they are now pointing fingers (quite rightly) in other directions. Now since they have cutched up to Russia, guess who is in the frame? Turkey is now acting independently of the U.S. and NATO on Syria. That does not bode well for them – look out for more ‘false flag’ happenings in Turkey.

      Another point to ponder. The US-led international coalition did not bomb oil production facilities captured by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants in Syria, Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov has stated.

      Miraculously, only oil fields, captured by ISIS allowing the militants to earn tens of millions of dollars every month on illegal oil sales and recruit mercenaries from all over the world, did not come under the US bombardment,” Konashenkov said.

      Now isn’t that strange? The Istanbul massacre has the CIA’s fingerprints all over it.

      Footnote:
      In a meeting with Putin, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and Foreign Secretary Lavrov, Russia told America that the threat of a nuclear war between the US and Russia was a very real possibility due to the continued support of ISIS by the U.S.

      As some of us have repeatedly said ISIS is the creation of the US to cause instability in the Middle East, and behind that project is the Rothschild’s Israel who stand to benefit the most out of this mess.

      Former NATO Commander General Wesley Clark – watch the videos – it’s incredibly revealing. Nothing to do with the Arab Spring. All of this sadistic nightmare and massacre in the Middle East was pre-planned years ago. The USA SET-UP the so called terrorist groups to do their dirty work for them. Pretending to fight them is just a scam. That’s why the propaganda about Russia, because Putin has grasped the nettle and done the job properly – buggering up the ‘hidden hand’s plan in the process. Now they’re seething over it in Washington.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LTdx1nPu3k
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7NsXFnzJGw
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jy5F5nDuXYY

  12.  

    What do you people think of this proposed new online Welsh version of ‘Wings over Scotland’? I am fairly excited about it unless it gets taken over by people who want to save the worlds before Cymru. I’m sure you know what I mean.

    •  

      I agree, it must focus on WALES, not try to save the planet or pander to Islington Guardianistas. Also, it needs to be firm with trolls and Britlanders; basically, ‘You’ve got your own media, so fuck off!’. That was one failing of Daily Wales; it allowed Jacques Protic and his ilk to take over a thread to the point where everybody else lost interest.

    •  

      I haven’t come across that daffy2012. Putting in a search for ‘Wings over Wales’ and you come up with things like this:
      https://www.angelaburns.org.uk/news/wings-over-wales
      Pretty typical I suppose.

      Can you post a link to information on what you posted? Thanks.

      •  

        it’s in Jac’s Tweets column – Nation.Cymru

      •  

        Here it is Nation.Cymru

        •  

          VERY Interesting. It needs more exposure – that’s the key – otherwise it will be singing to itself in the shower (again)!

          Having a mention in amongst a mass of other links is not really practical. I for one had totally missed it. I’m sure a better idea would be to have a link at the foot of every blog post drawing attention to it. Just a thought – it could be arranged Jac – if you gave the nod.

          •  

            What I might do is put a box in the sidebar, but I’m not sure how much he’s chasing. He might have already reached his target. Will check.

  13.  

    Just a comment, possibly off beam – but the message coming out of the City is that social housing is on its way to being privatised. See stock exchange listing for Civitas REIT.

    Buy to let landlords are being squeezed out by a new tax regime. Where else are the pension funds going to find the yield and income with interest rates/gilt yields being so low to pay future pensions for less capital.

    Residential housing is seen as ultra safe investment [even when it is not – see the Film Big Short for a small insight into it and what goes wrong].

    Only big Companies & pension funds can cope with the regulatory burdens which govt’s such as WAG like to put on it. Big Co’s are easier for govt’s to deal with than all these annoying BLT people [and the possibility of a board seat afterwards?]

    Something to think about.

    •  

      I have argued on this blog that privatisation would be preferable to the current opaque system of semi-private companies milking the public purse. Read it here. The other alternative being a return to public ownership.

      •  

        Jac – That’s fine in theory but you know damn well from previous/current experience of other sectors ( like Rail ! ) that privatisation does not stop the flow of public money down the sink hole. Indeed with the prevalent cosy relationship between big business and government the corporate spivs will develop even more sophisticated subtle methods for dragging cash out of daft Ministers and their stupid senior civil servants.

        You can safely bet now that in the event of H.A’s being consolidated into a small number of big corporates with assortment of public listings, V.C, private equity backing etc the ordinary family reliant on these providers will be no better off and the State purse will still be pouring money into them.

        I’m being very negative but I’m up to spotting wankers at considerable distances !

        •  

          Of course there are concerns with full privatisation, not least that Welsh social housing will be owned by English companies, or offshore entities. This is why the ONS suggestion of housing associations becoming public bodies is attractive. The options then would appear to be that the housing associations we know today become open and public; we return the social housing role to local authorities, with all the funding and full role of HAs; or that the ‘Welsh’ Government follows the example of NI and sets up a fully accountable all-Wales social housing body.

  14.  

    Did you manage to get your submission in on time Jac?

  15.  

    […] The ‘charge’ seems to be that he was overheard saying that he can’t wait for Cardiff Council to be re-structured after May’s election. ‘Welsh’ Labour’s hope is to get the Local Government Panel to ban him from council elections – for talking about a policy of restructuring! The PSO, Nick Bennett, is hardly politically neutral himself (see my previous article here). […]

  16.  

    Its getting worse by the day Jac – the government regulation team are in at rct homes at present and all of a sudden their new chief executive left last week for “confidential reasons” ie yet another compromise agreement. The boyos in the labour party are trying to keep a lid on it all for obvious reasons but its starting to hit the rumour mill within the third sector by now. Strange that the western mule has not carried the story yet again – just like when the last £150K chief quietly left along with the rest of his team. Its all a bit awkward given that the regulation chiefs are up in front of the Public Accounts Committee later this month! Tick tock who will be next?

Ok, you’ve read what I think, now what do you have to say?