Aberystwyth University

Dec 072015
 

CHINA TO RHIGOS

Not so long ago I wrote about the Pen y Cymoedd wind farm project, and developer Vattenfall’s use of bribery to win over or silence the local populace. (Click here and scroll down to the section Vattenfall of Money.) Well now I know the route by which the turbines for Pen y Cymoedd will be arriving . . . from China. Yes, China.

Because despite what it says on the Pen y Cymoedd website about, “Siemens, our turbine supplier”, they were not made in Germany, or anywhere else in Europe. We have here a Swedish nationalised industry with a German partner importing wind turbines from China! A journey of some 10,000 nautical miles by the quickest route and taking 22 days at 20 knots. Twenty-two days of a huge ship belching smoke, spilling oil, ‘accidentally’ emptying the bilges, and all manner of things falling overboard.

Though in fairness, it is suggested that these turbines, each in three sections (plus blades and spindle), will be shipped from China to Immingham (the major container port just south of Hull) in one consignment, before being broken down into smaller cargoes for trans-shipping to Swansea. The distance from Immingham to Swansea is 606 nautical miles so if, as suggested, coastal vessels are used, each carrying the component parts of a single turbine, this adds up to a further 92,000 nautical miles (counting return trips)!

CLICK TO ENLARGE

With its turbines shipped in from China to Immingham and then shipped on to Swansea, with a total distance covered of some 102,000 nautical miles (plus 532 return lorry trips between Swansea docks and Rhigos), the Pen y Cymoedd wind farm project has the environmental credentials of a dozen coal-fired power stations, each run by a thousand spectacularly flatulent cows. Perhaps we might get a comment on this from La Bartolotti or those competing to succeed her as regional mouthpiece for the Green Party of Englandandwales.

Consider this, also . . . The European steel industry is suffering from Chinese steel being ‘dumped’ on the global market at prices with which European producers cannot compete. These Chinese-made turbines for Pen y Cymoedd will be landed in Lincolnshire, yet just a few months ago, and not far south of Immingham, it was announced that steel production will cease at Redcar with the loss of 1,700 jobs, and there are to be more redundancies at Scunthorpe. On top of which, the turbines are to be landed at Swansea docks, within sight of Port Talbot steelworks! Insult upon injury.

The turbines for Pen y Cymoedd are built in a country where environmental considerations are laughed at, then lugged across oceans, around coasts, and up steep gradients, before each of them is implanted in a concrete base the size of a football pitch in what had previously been virgin moorland. These turbines will provide no permanent jobs in Wales and the profits they generate will go to Sweden or Germany. All we shall see is the annual bribe, the pretty beads paid to the backward natives while their land is raped, again.

Let’s face it, ‘Green energy’ is a massive con. And few projects are proving to be a bigger, or a more insulting con, than Pen y Cymoedd. The turbines there will probably have to run for about 300 years just to pay off the ‘debt’ to the environment incurred by making and transporting the bloody things.

UPDATE 21:00: On Friday the 4th, a few days before posting this, I sent an e-mail to Vattenfall at Pen y Cymoedd asking where the turbines for the site were made. This afternoon I received a ‘phone call from Emily Faull of Vattenfall, a charming young lady who was able to give me a few more facts.

First, she confirmed that the turbine towers were made in China, but the blades and the spindles were made in Denmark and Germany. When I asked whether the turbines had come in through Immingham Ms Faull said no, and that on November 22nd she was at Swansea docks to see “64 sections” arrive on the good ship Amethyst from China. Though if this is the right ship, then it does not appear to have docked in Swansea on November 22nd, though at that time it was en route from Spain to the Netherlands.

Whatever, 64 sections represents 16 turbines (they come in 4 sections, not 3 as I thought), so there would still need to be another four similar voyages to bring the rest of them from China. Though Ms Faull was able to confirm that the transformers were landed at Immingham, and moved by road to Pen y Cymoedd. I’m not sure where the blades and spindles were landed, or how they reached Pen y Cymoedd if they weren’t landed at Swansea.

In a part of the conversation I had some difficulty following, Ms Faull said that it had been hoped to build the turbines at the Mabey Bridge works in Chepstow, but Mabey Bridge felt it was not worth taking on workers only to lay them off again after the Pen y Cymoedd contract was completed. There was also mention of the ‘Welsh’ Government, but what role those clowns played I have no idea.

I have sent Ms Faull another e-mail (07.12.2015) to clarify the remaining details.

UPDATE 18.12.2016: I received the reply today from Ms Faull. It reads:

“Many thanks for your email and apologies for the delay in responding.

Amesthyst landed on 22nd November and I visited the ship on 24th November. The attached photo was taken at Swansea Docks on 23rd November and 64 tower sections were on board. The remaining tower sections will also come via this route. As I said on the call Mabey Bridge were lined up for the tower manufacture, but subsequently withdrew from the bidding process.

The ship came from China and the only stops required would have been for refuelling and personnel changes.

The blades have not yet been shipped, but 192 of these will come from Denmark, with 26 coming from Canada and will again be off-loaded at Swansea Docks.

The size of the wind farm means that means that the operations and maintenance team of around 30 individuals will be based on-site and early next year the team will make a special effort to recruit skilled individuals locally.

With regards to the transformers, these were manufactured at ABB in Bad Honnef, Germany, each of which weigh in at around 125,000 kg and are around 6 metres wide and 8 metres long.”

Pen y Cymoedd, Amethyst, Swansea docks

So in addition to China, Denmark and Germany, we now have components for Pen y Cymoedd also coming from Canada. The environmental credentials of this project, never good, are now compromised beyond redemption. The jobs referred to “early next year”, for which it is hoped to recruit some locals, is not a “maintenance team” at all, this team is on site solely for the erection and installation of the turbines. Once that’s done there will probably be no jobs at Pen y Cymoedd.

The Pen y Cymoedd wind farm is all about money, it’s not about the environment, or even about the generation of electricity. The hundreds of thousands of miles taken up in transporting the components from around the world, by sea and by land, means that the project’s contribution to the environment is entirely negative even if it were to run at optimum output for centuries. Pen y Cymoedd is the most blatant ‘green energy’ rip-off I have ever encountered.

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ABERYSTWYTH, THE NEXT RHYL?

Some of you may recall reading about five or so years ago that there was a terrible shortage of student accommodation in Aberystwyth, the poor dabs were dossing on the promenade, or else the lack of accommodation had driven them to outlandish places such as Corris where, it was rumoured, locals stared at strangers. Here’s one tale from the BBC in August 2011, and another from Aber Student Media a month later.

To answer this shortage of accommodation there seem to have been three separate responses. One was the university itself embarking on a building programme of ‘student villages’. The second response was that of investors buying up more large properties in the town for student lodgings. Third, local housing associations got in on the act – using public money, of course.

But now I hear that the bubble has burst, leaving the university with under-occupied ‘student villages’ that make 1960s East German architecture look attractive; private investors with Houses of Multiple Occupation suffering a dearth of multiple occupants; and overstretched housing associations . . . for example, the word on the street is that Tai Cantref is already docked up Shit Creek with its crew roistering in local taverns.

Aber student accommodation

What had once been attractive and easy-going Aberystwyth University, three years by the seaside for an undemanding 2:2, started slipping down the league tables a few years ago. In July 2014 the decline was being reported in the Times Higher Education Supplement and by October even the students were getting worried. The continuing decline was reported in May 2015. Inevitably, this resulted in a drop in the numbers of students applying to Aber’ – at the same time as there was more accommodation for them than ever. What to do?

I suggest one doesn’t need to be a soothsayer to predict that with so many properties now available in a Welsh seaside town, properties almost all of which are designed to house single people, it’s only a matter of time before the problems start arriving from over the border. (Thank God there’s still a railway line from Birmingham to Aberystwyth.) I’m thinking now of the drug addicts and the petty criminals, and of course those recently released from prison, because some of the bigger properties in the town will be ideal as ‘halfway houses’ and bail hostels. (See ‘Tragedy in Pontypridd’ below.)

All this results from Wales having a higher education sector that is too big, a higher education sector that has been encouraged to grow irresponsibly, with no reference to the effects of this unwarranted growth on host communities. While the universities willingly played along, adopting a ‘stack ’em high’ philosophy dictated by business models and profit margins that inevitably resulted in falling standards. Leaving Aberystwyth caught in a vicious circle, a refuge for third-rate academics and students who can’t gain admission elsewhere, with this inevitably deterring those who can read walls.

And now there may be a heavy price to pay. Which would be sad, because like most people, I’m very fond of Aberystwyth, I’ve had some good times there, drunk and sober. But if Aber’ is on its way to becoming the Rhyl of Cardigan Bay, in order to protect the investments of local big shots and housing associations, who will dare challenge this development?

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A LETTER FROM CEREDIGION

It’s been a while since this blog visited Cardigan Castle, but Lady Tucker and friends have been busy, and the results will take the project even further from the trust’s stated objectives of preserving the place “for the benefit of the people of Cardigan and the nation”.

The main contractors, Andrew Scott Ltd, have long since departed with their loot, leaving a very long snagging list of botched jobs behind them. A professional painter and decorator who visited recently commented that it was hard to believe from the state of some of the paint and plasterwork that the site had been handed over little more than six months ago.

But the departure of Andrew Scott has not meant that building work has ceased. Tucked away behind the main house and a small cottage is an outbuilding which was renovated by Andrew Scott Ltd to serve as a garage for guests staying in the 5 star self-catering East Wing. This is now being converted into accommodation for disabled visitors, and when it is finished early next year, it will join the three B&B rooms above the usually empty restaurant, the East Wing (sleeps six) and the Gardener’s Cottage (sleeps two).

And there are more exciting developments on the drawing board.

The old stable block which was restored from its ruined state at huge expense to serve educational purposes has been ear-marked by Lady Tucker for conversion into yet more tourist accommodation. This will not come cheap, and expect building work to continue well into 2017.

Also offering exciting potential for reconversion into tourist accommodation is a small house over on the eastern fringe of the castle complex.

Converting these buildings will mean ejecting the current occupants, including a popular cynghanedd class, and the removal of the only locally based groups still using the site to be re-housed well away from the castle by mid-2016.

No longer will well-heeled paying guests have to face the awful prospect of mingling with scruffy locals speaking gibberish, and the Cadwgan Trust can get down to the serious business of marketing the place as luxury tourist accommodation and a venue for weddings and corporate jollies. Or what we locals call a posh hotel.

Paving the way for this is a Wedding Fayre on 6 December, a time of the year when all but the most self-obsessed brides and their mothers will have other things on their mind.

Cultural heritage

The cultural bit will be confined to a few events (Gilbert and Sullivan, Shakespeare, etc.) in the summer, while as a sideline, non-resident visitors willing to part with a fiver will be allowed in to gawp at the large expanse of lawn and spend a few minutes in the couple of rooms containing exhibitions of old tat. “Look Jeremy, a smashed up old 1940s typewriter which once belonged to the old girl who used to live here!”

After an injection of £12 million plus, including all the funds raised locally and countless thousands of hours of unpaid voluntary work, the people of Cardigan will find that just a year after opening, the castle will to all intents and purposes have reverted to being a private fiefdom, this time run by Lady T and her friends from Aberporth.

Spin cycle

Other recent developments include a parting of ways with Equinox, the Cardiff-based firm which tried to steer the castle through the PR catastrophes which dominated much of 2015.

PR is now being handled in-house by Sue Lewis whose portfolio of responsibilities also includes “facilities”.

When not working for Cadwgan, Sue moonlights for the dire Cambrian News, which also employs her hubby to report on local news.

Not long after it ran its notorious “Incomers are Nazis says Plaid candidate” headline, the Cambrian News was at it again with a piece which suggested that Hefin Wyn, the respected local author, journalist and prominent critic of the Cadwgan Trust, had run a campaign of harassment and “virtual persecution” against Glen Johnson, who has resigned from Cadwgan’s board and various committees more often than most of us have had hot dinners.

It subsequently turned out that the newspaper had published these very serious accusations, including a claim that Mr Johnson was having to resign to protect his family, without actually checking the facts or asking the castle’s history man for evidence to back up his claims.

The paper has refused to disclose who wrote the offending article or to hand over to IPSO, the press complaints body, what it says are e-mails citing persecution and harassment it received from Glen Johnson some weeks later.

Whoever wrote the offending article, Sue has clearly been reading a copy of “Teach Yourself PR”, including Lesson One: The Importance of Creating a Narrative because it is now being put about that she feels threatened in Cardigan, and is reluctant even to drive in from Aberporth on her own.

The narrative is that critics of Cadwgan Trust are a bunch of dangerous bigots and fanatics who, we are asked to believe, are lurking behind every lamp post and municipal litter bin between Pendre and Pwllhai in this small market town.

If it’s not the wicked Hefin Wyn and the snipers Cyfeillion Rhys ap Gruffydd have posted above Siop y Cardi, it’s the stiletto-wielding assassins of Cymdeithas y Chwiorydd and the suicide bombers of Merched y Wawr.

We’ll probably be able to read all about it soon in “Wales’ biggest selling weekly newspaper”.

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TRAGEDY IN PONTYPRIDD

Some of you will have read accounts from the trial of two men recently convicted of murder in Pontypridd. One of the killers, and the victim, were residents at the Morning Star Inn, on Llantrisant Road. (The second killer was said to be of no fixed abode, but I suspect he too has a connection with the Morning Star.) As you might expect, I got to wondering about the Morning Star, and it’s quite a story.

The Morning Star was, until closed after the murder on February 28th, run as both a pub and a bail hostel or halfway house for released criminals. Owned and / or run by “former Egyptian police officer Saad Taha”. Here’s a report from July 2013 of a public meeting organised so that various authorities and local politicians could hear locals voice their concerns about the Morning Star. They relate things they have witnessed first-hand only to be met with a wall of denials and evasions.

According to DePlod despite reports of knife-carrying, discarded needles and bad behaviour in and around the Morning Star “there is little evidence this came directly from the Morning Star”. Of course not, it was pure coincidence. The incredulity increased when I read that Taha wants us to believe that even though these ex-cons are living above a pub, they are not allowed to drink in the pub! I battled through this storm of bullshit and made further enquiries.

In July 2007 there was a planning application (07/1389/10) for a “raised patio / bar extension – beer garden”, and in March 2008 (08/0393/10) for a “rear balcony”. The first application was submitted in the name of a Mr D Watkins and the second in the name of Saad Taha, so is it reasonable to assume that the Morning Star was still being run as a pub in 2007 but the premises changed hands some time in late 2008 or early 2009 and was then run as both a pub and a halfway house? Both applications were withdrawn.

Next, on September 20th 2011, Taha made an application (11/1140/10) for “Conversion of existing bar areas into bedrooms (Change of use).- amended plan received 25/11/11 – reduction in total number of bedrooms from 17 to 16 – amended location plan received on 26/01/12.” With the first floor already being used to house ex-convicts it appears Taha now sought to convert the ground floor (pub) area and even the basement (cellar). This plan was very wisely turned down by RCT council.

But then, on December 14th, 2012, another application (12/1293/09) was lodged, “Application for a Lawful Development Certificate for an Existing use as a public house and hostel.” Which I take to mean that Taha was now asking for retrospective planning consent for a building already being used – without permission – as a hostel. Planning permission was refused.

I find it significant, and rather confusing, that in his rejected planning applications of September 2011 and December 2012 Taha is asking for a “change of use”. Also confusing, is that the earlier of those applications states that there are already 16 bedrooms at the Morning Star, yet according to the WalesOnline report of the July 2013 public meeting the place only has only “seven beds”. Which is right?

Morning Star reviews

So here’s the question. Seeing as retrospective planning permission for a change of use to a hostel was refused in 2011 and 2012, why was the Morning Star allowed to operate as a hostel? Everybody in the area knew what the building was being used for, including the police and the council, so was it somehow allowed to operate as a hostel without the required planning permissions? If not, then perhaps someone at RCT council can direct me to the approval for the Morning Star to be used as a halfway house for criminals.

Another teaser is, who owns the Morning Star? Having checked on the Land Registry website using the correct post code I can find nothing under Morning Star or 59 Llantrisant Road. So we can’t be sure if Taha actually owns the property (as he claims) or if he’s merely an agent for someone else. Presumably Rhondda Cynon Taf council knows who owns this place, and if it is Saad Taha, why doesn’t he register his ownership with the Land Registry? He’s had long enough.

There’s something odd about the Morning Star saga. Not least, how does a former Egyptian copper end up running a halfway house in Ponty? And what checks were done into his background? Where do his ‘clients’ come from? And who supplies them?

Anyway, undeterred by the minor inconvenience of a man being beaten to death on the premises, and before those charged with the murder had been tried, Saad Taha was again thinking of profiting from the Morning Star when, on August 26th this year, he submitted a planning application (15/1170/10) that reads, “Proposed change of use from existing public house and bedrooms to 6 no. self contained flats”. Wording that raises yet more questions.

For example, why does it describe a home for ex-cons as “bedrooms”? Or is this more evidence that no permission was ever granted for the property to be used as a hostel? Though a bigger worry for the local residents should be, who is going to live in these flats? Given the record of Saad Taha, Rhondda Cynon Taf council, and the pooh-pooh police, locals have every reason to be concerned.

Dec 272014
 

Despite fierce competition from Channel 17 in Albania and the Nova Scotia Parrot Breeders’ Monthly Jac o’ the North is delighted to have secured exclusive rights to First Minister Carwyn Jones’ end-of-year Review. Enjoy!

                                *Carwyn Jones 9

Hello there, I’m Carwyn Jones, you may not know me, but I’m the First Minister of Wales. More importantly, I also run the local branch of the Labour Party (along with Owen Smith MP and a few other people). I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas, I know I did. It gave me a chance to put my feet up and relax for a change, after another hectic and hugely successful year in Wales. Let’s go through it month by month.

P.S. Jac has kindly added some pictures showing me at work, so click on them to make them bigger.

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JANUARY: The Dylan Thomas Centenery Year got off to a wonderful start when documents were found at Transport House showing that Dylan was a lifelong supporter of the Labour Party, joining the party in 1938 while fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Not only that, but a previously unknown poem also came to light. Here’s a brief extract showing both his mastery of pomes and stuff and also his commitment to the party he loved: ‘I’ve always been ronk Labour / Its meeCarwyn Jones 2tings are never missed; / Its nostrums are adhered to, / Even when I’m pissed’. The second verse is playfully romantic: ‘I love the Labour Party, / It’s meetings are such fun, / The branch secretary’s a honey, / I wouldn’t mind giving her one’. Chokes me up, it does. And I bet it brings tears to the eyes of all poetry lovers.

FEBRUARY: It was brought to my attention that some foolish people are campaigning to re-open the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway line, possibly even go on to Bangor. It should be obvious to everyone that if you’re travelling by rail from north to south (or even south to north) then the existing route via Norwich is clearly the best option and gives people hours, days even, of extra working time. As the old English saying goes, ‘East to west is always best (especially in Wales)’. Who can argue with this tried and tested legitimisation of colonialism?

MARCH: I was surprised to receive from Mr Sargeant and his friends in the Planning Inspectorate a report saying Wales needs one million new homes by 2025. In fact, I said to him, “This seems like a lot, Carl”. But then it was explained to me that this number is due to our soaring birthrate fuelled by the booming Welsh economy which can only be attributed to 15 years of wonderful WelshCarwyn Jones 3 Labour controlling the Assembly. So when you look at it like that it makes perfect sense. In fact, a million may not be enough. (Which is what the Planning Inspectorate is already suggesting.)

APRIL: The London media, at the behest of the Coalition government, said terrible things about the Welsh NHS, so let me put a few things straight. The reason Mrs Rhian Evans of Llanrwst’s baby was delivered by the men re-possessing her three-piece suite was not because we had no ambulances available, it was because she tried calling for one in Welsh! Another calumny (a posh word taught to me by Mrs Hutt) being bandied about is that people have to wait ages before being seen by a doctor. Mr Bowen Owen of Ystradgynlais – fleeting cause celébrè of the right-wing English press – would not have spent three weeks in the waiting room if he’d told staff he was deaf. (And it goes without saying that patient confidentiality is our watchword.)

MAY: No, not Mrs May up in London, over whom certain men fantasise. (Ych a fi!) I’m thinking of the European elections, which Labour won with a stonking majority when almost 10% of those elligible to vote in Wales voted Labour. There’s no arguing with a victory of that mCarwyn Jones 4agnitude. Though of course some nit-pickers did try, saying that Ukip got nearly as many votes as us. But that’s to miss the point, because – and I’m not talking about Europe here – on the issue that really matters, Labour and Ukip are gobbing into the same spittoon.

JUNE: Unkind things were also being said about our higher education sector, so let’s put the record straight. To suggest that some of our universities are lowering entry requirements and cutting corners in pursuit of money is both insulting and incorrect. The fact that Aberystwyth now accepts students with two F grades and a new toothbrush should not deflect from the excellent work being done there by the very popular Ms April McMahon and her loyal and supportive staff. As for Glyndŵr university, degrees were not – as was alleged – being sold in Turkmenistan, far from it. The truth is that a Welsh university broke into new markets by respecting local traditions. In this case, courtesy demanded that certain local dignitaries be allowed to take away examination papers and return them at a time of their own choosing. When it was accepted that the fruit of the potentates’ loins Carwyn Jones 7had completed the papers unaided, with everything above board due to the process having been overseen by invigilators provided at said potentates’ expense. How could anyone question such an arrangement?

JULY: Even though I was on holiday with Mrs Carwyn and the kids I couldn’t stop thinking about the job. One day, whilst sipping a mint julep (with shaved ice, natch), I was forced to concede that there are ‘issues’ in local government. That said, all the problems in Caerphilly were clearly the responsibility of the previous Plaid Cymru administration. If they had paid the chief executive a decent whack then there would have been no need for him to conspire arrange to have a massive salary increase from Mr Gezwell Kirby and his Band of Bruvvers in the incoming Labour administration. While down in Carmarthenshire the Independent Party and Plaid Cymru made a terrible mess of things. Later in the year, the leader of Swansea council had my full support . . . until the coup, after which the new leader had my full support. The bottom line is that everywhere you look around Wales you see the same problem – everything going to pot because people won’t let the Labour Party run things unhindered. (Or the chief executive, whichever applies.)Carwyn Jones 8

AUGUST: I went to the National Eisteddfod, held this year in Llanelli. As you can see from the photograph, I was mobbed by hordes of young Labour activists. (Phwoar!) While there I made a firm commitment to defend the Welsh language at all times . . . unless it meant contradicting the Planning Inspectorate, annoying the Secretary of State, pissing off Labour MPs, interfering with the colonisation strategy, damaging the profits of Wimpey, Redrow, Persimmon, etc., or alarming anyone in London. Those minor caveats aside, let there be no questioning of my firm resolve to do everything I can to ensure that Welsh-speaking communities survive and prosper.

SEPTEMBER: First, I summoned all the world’s leaders to a NATO summit in Newport so I could tell them how to deal with ISIS, Putin, Salmond and assorted threats to our perfect Western system. (Thankfully, no one realised there were any ‘protests’ in Newport because they were sabotaged organised by Ms Bartolotti of MI6 the Green Party.) Next, I flew (from Bristol) to Scotland to confront the aforementioned Alex Carwyn Jones 1Salmond and frustrate his dastardly plan to make Scotland democratic, fair and wealthy. (Jesus! think of the trouble that would have caused!) Due to some very nifty work backstage and in the wings (by those I dare not name) the referendum vote was an emphatic and overwhelming No. It was so emphatic and overwhelming that support for the Scottish National Party has now collapsed as Scots have come to their senses and flock to join the Labour Party. Mr Salmond himself is a broken man, and has abandoned all political ambitions to open a barber shop in Kirriemuir.

OCTOBER: Due to the thousands of new businesses that were created by Welsh Labour with the first two rounds of EU Structural Funds, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that came with them, those nice people in Europe wisely gave us another two billion pounds to continue with our wonderful work. We are open to imaginative suggestions on how to use this money. Applications containing words or phrases not unlike those here listed stand a good chance of scuring funding: ‘eco-‘ / ‘community space’ / ‘CVs’ (as in ‘help with completing . . . for non-existent jobs’) / ‘enviro-‘ / ‘Labour Party’ (as in, ‘I am a member / supporter . . . ‘) / ‘self-esteem’ / ‘Green’ / ‘multicultural’ / ‘holistic’ / ‘LGBT’ / ‘social enterprise’ / ‘England’ (as in, ‘recently moved frobucket 3 am . . . ‘) / ‘raiki’ / ‘not-for-profit’ / ’empowerment’ / ‘real job’ (as in, ‘never had a . . .’).

NOVEMBER: After reading that every Norwegian is now, theoretically, a millionaire, due to the success of Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, I decided we must have one in Wales. (Though I have reservations about using the term ‘sovereign’.) Starting in January, groups of highly-trained financial analysts will be touring the country with state of the art buckets taking up a national collection. So give granny a good shake, slash open the sofa and chairs, and give whatever you can find to Welsh Labour because, deep inside, you know we’ll use it wisely.

DECEMBER: Mr Vincent Tan has made such a favourable impression on Cardiff City fans that we decided to capitalise on his popularity and fast-track him into the Assembly. He’ll be taking over Vaughan Gething’s seat of Kerdiff South and Penarth. We haven’t told Vaughan yet, it’ll be a surprise! . . . a hell of a surprise seeing as we’ve spread a rumour that he’s my annointed successor! (Well, laff!!)

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2015: I look forward to 2015 with great optimism. Due to the wonderful work of the Welsh Government’s Bread and Circuses Division our boys will either win the Rugby World Cup or fail heroically; either way, if celebrated properly (with the help of our wonderful Welsh media), it should then give us a majority in the Assembly elections of 2016. As if that wasn’t enough, a string of blockbusters will be filmed at Valleywood: cruise liners will make their first, serene appearance on the Llangollen canal; the roar of F1 cars will be heard at the Circuit of Wales; Cardiff International airport will enter an exciting partnership with Bristol and be re-named Bristol (West); thousands of jobs will be created at the Margam Superpit; Llanelli town centre will become the favoured location for post nuclear holocaust movies; and Rhyl will be twinned with any other shit-hole desperate enough for the connection.

Cardiff airport

Take my word for it, 2015 is going to be a great year in Wales. Everywhere you go you’ll hear shoe-shine boys and beggars, bailiffs and food bank staff, whistling that old Harry Secombe number, Every day when I wake up, I thank the Lord I’m Labour.

Dec 172014
 

The ‘Welsh’ Government has just announced the first allocation of the 2014 – 2020 EU structural funds. Twenty million pounds is to go towards a new £40m innovation and enterprise centre at Aberystwyth university, to be built next to IBERS (Institute of Biological Environmental and Rural Sciences).

Writing in Monday’s Wasting Mule self-styled ‘Finance and Government Business Minister’ Jane Hutt waxed lyrical about this project in an article headed ‘Vital that we make most of EU investment to transform Hutt pieceWales’. (Click on image to enlarge and click here for online version.) A headline that is insulting to the intelligence of anyone who appreciates why we – almost uniquely in Europe – are now receiving a third round of structural funds. The reason is that the ‘Welsh’ Government squandered the first two rounds of funding on projects with no chance of success or wasted it on Labour’s right-on cronies in the Third Sector, who have flocked to Wales since devolution to get their noses in the trough. Let me spell it out. The reason Wales is getting a third round of structural funds is because the ‘Welsh’ Government, ‘Welsh’ Labour, and the London-answering civil servants who run Wales, have all screwed up. And it may have been deliberate.

Let us all understand that simple fact before proceeding, because as someone once said, if we don’t learn from past mistakes then we are almost certain to repeat them. Seeing as all the mistakes with EU structural funds have occured within recent memory no one should have forgotten what went wrong. Moving on . . .

As I’ve already said, the new centre is to go up alongside the IBERS complex at Gogerddan, making it reasonable to assume a connection, so here’s another chance to link with the IBERS website. You will note that the Wasting Mule piece mentions alongside IBERS the ‘Beacon Centre of Excellence for  bio-refining’, so I also checked out their website. It was no surprise to read that this partnership between the universities at Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea “is backed with £10.6 million from the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government”. But to do what exactly? Well, it seems that the academics and students at IBERS and Beacon experiment with crops, animal feed and the like, the idea being that some of them will come up with a good idea that can be marketed and make oodles of money. As, I say, that’s the hope. The Beacon website provides a list of companies with which it is in partnership. Let’s look at them one by one.

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ABER INSTRUMENTS seems to be a partnership between Aberystwyth university and the Centre for Alternative Technology in Corris and sells to the brewing industry. Given the partners, Welsh involvement is predictably minimal. The company seems to be in reasonable financial health.

AGROCEUTICAL PRODUCTS is based in Glasbury on Wye, close to the border, which might raise queries about the use of EU structural funds allocated to west Wales. Its claim to fame appears to be that “Agroceutical Products’ work on the production of Galanthamine from daffodils grown in Wales was featured in the BBC’s Countryfile program which was broadcast on Sunday 24th April 2011.” Which seems to jar with what we read elsewhere on the website about the company not being formed until 2012.

AXIUM PROCESS Ltd is certainly based within the ‘Objective One’ area, in Hendy, just outside Swansea. Axium’s business is stainless steel fabrication, so it’s not immediately obvious what links it with academics in Aberystwyth specialising in biorefining. Financially, Axium appears to be up Shit Creek, with DueDil suggesting net assets of -£624,000. The major shareholder, with some 76% of the shares is Moda Systems Ltd of the same address, and with the same directors. Moda appears to be in better financial health than Axium with net assets (at June 2010) of some £200,000, but the company does not appear to trade.

CLIFFORD JONES TIMBER GROUP appears to be an established Welsh company based in Rhuthun with a net worth of over four million pounds.

COMPTON GROUP is a property development company based in Swansea which “invests in biotech research at Welsh universities”. This munificence is explained thus on the Compton website: “Compton Group’s interest in research projects is primarily financial; we look to out-license the intellectual property at an early stage . . . “. Phew! thank God for that; for one terrible minute I thought the ugly lovely town was producing philanthropists!

DTR Medical is another Swansea company, formed in 2005, this one produces medical and surgical instruments. The company is owned 100% by its managing director John Richard Salvage, of Surrey, and is part of his Medsa Group Ltd. Mr Salvage is quite the entrepreneur, though some of his ventures, such as Saifer Hygiene Ltd, are among the departed, while others struggle on through this Vale of Tears, including the Medsa Group itself which, if DueDil is correct, has liabilities of £1.5m.

FARMACEUTICAL INNOVATIONS is a new company, Incorporated July 2011, based at Llanfair P G and involved in “the clean extraction of phytochemicals from sustainable sources”. Financial health would appear to be shaky, with liabilities climbing and assets dropping. The company is run and owned (33.33% each) by Richard Douglas Henry Potterill (aged 29), Dr Kevin Wall (58) and Jennifer Helen Wall (29). The two younger partners seem to haFruiting Bodiesve no previous business experience but Kevin Wall is also a director of Ingenious Extractions Ltd and Zun Energy Ltd, the first based at an address in Holywell, Flintshire, the latter in Rhuthun.

FRUITING BODIES deals in fungus extracts and is part of the Red Pig Farm, a hippy venture located in Bethlehem, near Llangadog. A 100ml bottle of fungus extract will set you back £17,50. (Though you can get 6 bottles for £100. Click on image to enlarge.) I could find no company number for either Fruiting Bodies or Red Pig Farm, suggesting they are not registered companies. Maybe they deal in cash, or barter.

MDF RECOVERY is another very small enterprise, a two-man band by the look of it. The website is odd in that it does not divulge where the company is based, nor does it give a company number. Though the STD code given locates the company in Macclesfield, Cheshire, and I was about to leave it at that before another line of enquiry presented itself. This told me that the company is in fact registered at 36 Castle Street, Beaumaris, which is an office of the Letterbox Recruiting agency. I suspect Letterbox lives up to its name by providing a Welsh address for MDF Recovery. Financially, MDF is not a well outfit.

PENNOTEC is another company that does not provide either a postal address or a company number on its website. Pennotec is almost certainly part of the Pennog group, with which it shares a phone number and, despite the Welsh-sounding name, the ‘phone number suggests that Pennog is based in Huddersfield. Yet, here again, despite the telephone number suggesting an operation in England, the company is actually registered at a private residence in Nefyn. And once again, I must report a company with assets dipping and liabilities on the rise.

PHYTOQUEST provides the welcome opportunity for me to tell you that this is a Welsh company, with an Aberystwyth address and an Aberystwyth telephone number. In fact, the registered company address is c/o IBERS. Though when I say ‘Welsh’, I mean it’s located in Wales, for there don’t seem to be any Welsh people involved with the company. Unlike some of the other companies I’ve looked at I’m pleased to be able to report that Phytoquest is in reasonable financial health, though these things are relative. By which I mean that between May 2013 and May 2014 Phytoquest’s net worth dropped by 75.11% and its liabilities increased by 1,177% in the same period.

PLANT FIBRE TECHNOLOGY was Incorporated in 2005 but the website is still under construction! Based in Bangor the company is wholly owned by a Gary Newman, who may not be an academic, whereas the company secretary glories in the name of Dr Mary Anne Pasteur. Mr Newman is involved with a few other companies, all of them unlikely to ever trouble the Stock Exchange. Plant Fibre Technology itself leads a precarious financial existence with net assets of £88 at March 2014 and total liabilities of £11,616.

SPENCER ECA is based in Penrhiwllan near Llandysul and is definitely a growing company . . . unfortunately liabilities seem to be growing as fast, if not faster, than assets. That said, Spencer ECA seems to be one of very few of the companies on the Beacon list that actually employs people, let’s hope they’re Welsh. Spencer ECA also has a presence in Ireland, Scotland, England, Swansea and Newtown.

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So those are the companies listed as ‘partners‘ on the Beacon website, and Beacon is linked with IBERS, the recipient of £20m of EU Structural Funds. Perhaps the kindest thing one can say about these companies is that they’re a mixed bunch. What we have in many cases is academics deluding themselves they’re entrepreneurs, but what the hell! it’s someone else’s money. And that’s a major problem nowadays, dream up any ridiculous project using the magic words ‘eco’, ‘bio’, ‘enviro’ and you can just hold out your hands and wait for the money to drop. Throw in a glossy new building and lots of publicity in the specialist press and civil servants and politicians can’t give out the money fast enough.

Though what are we to make of what appear to be English companies taking out letter-box addresses in areas of Wales qualifying for Structural Funds? That looks a bit iffy.

There is nothing wrong with universities co-operating with business, I support that, but the difference between what’s happening in Aberystwyth and what happens elsewhere is obvious. Real universities in England, Scotland and elsewhere have major corporations fighting to invest hundreds of millions of pounds, yet here in Wales there’s no queue of big companies, the money has to come in hand-outs of EU funding. Hardly surprising when we remember that Aberystwyth is a refuge for third-rate English students . . . with academics to match. Are these going to come up with world-beating ideas? No; so why waste money on them?

You will have noticed as we went through Beacon’s partners an almost total absence of Welsh involvement. So will the latest £20m create any jobs for Welsh people? No. Will it provide facilities or amenities that will benefit local communities? No. Will this money create infrastructure that will be of wider benefit than just for the university? No. Like the countless millions already wasted on Aberystwyth University this latest £20m will be squandered on academics’ playthings, hippy ventures and companies that will never employ a single Welsh person.

The first two rounds of Objective One / Structural Funds were wasted. Now, with this announcement it looks as if the third round of funding will also be wasted. This money has been given by the EU to raise living standards, to create employment, to build infrastructure, in the poorest areas of western Europe and the people living in those areas. If it is not used for that purpose then the EU should step in and withhold the funding. Seeing as we Welsh get no benefit from EU funding it would be better to go without it entirely than see it used to fund the colonisation of our country.