Bawso

Jul 262015
 
CARDIGAN CASTLE

I don’t want anyone to think I’m picking on the women running and wrecking the Cardigan Castle project (nor would I want anyone to think I plan on ignoring them!) but I couldn’t write this post without a mention of developments since my previous post. Here’s a selection.

Someone informed me that at one meeting Jonathan ‘Joff’ Timms opined that Rhys ap Gruffydd and his sons were “nothing but savages”. Which again raises the question: Who the hell is Jonathan Timms and who invited a man living in Kent, England, to get involved?

Another informant sent me a copy of a letter sent to the Carmarthen Journal about three or four years ago, which served to revive an earlier suspicion that the Castle project may be disguising an even more self-serving undertaking involving property grabbing, and that this explains the two trusts. (I would appreciate a good photograph of the Green Street properties.) Elin Jones’ remarks are worth noting.

I am indebted to a third informant for this link which suggests that the Facilities Officer vacancy – the post now filled by Sue “ENGLISH” Lewis – was advertised from December 23rd 2014 to midday on January 2nd 2015. In other words, from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day. How the hell were they allowed to get away with this?

Rumours persist that non-Gang of Four trustees are ready to jump ship, leaving mesdames Tucker, Lewis, Davies and Jones even more exposed. Moves are also afoot to call an Emergency General Meeting.

Pembrokeshire Herald

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Equinox, the Cardiff PR firm working for the Gang of Four, has requested an urgent meeting with local critics. This panic move may have been instigated by the project’s funders becoming worried by the amount of shit now hitting the fan.

Gareth Gregory, the Heritage Lottery Fund’s man on the case, is known to be in the pockets of the Gang of Four. Or should that be ‘handbags’? Or would that be sexist? Who cares?

Here’s the ‘Rhys ap Gruffydd’ Proclamation read out at 7pm on Saturday outside the Castle main entrance, which I understand will also be read out at the Meifod Eisteddfod.

Elsewhere, the Pembrokeshire Herald and its Carmarthenshire sister-paper ran full-page pieces using much of the information I’d supplied on my blog. I only have a photo of the article as I couldn’t get a copy of the newspaper to scan for you, but I was sent a transcript, which you can read here.

Saturday night saw the Bellowhead concert at the Castle. To judge by the photograph I was sent the audience was in the age group 55 – telegram from Beti.

However successful the Gang of Four may want us to believe the Bellowhead concert was I can’t help thinking that a performance of Wagner would have been more appropriate given the situation they’re in, for Götterdämmerung is surely approaching. I’d just love to see the lot of them in horned helmets, wielding spears and shrieking, as a local mob storms the castle. Well, laff!

STOP PRESS: I am now told that during the interval, and at her insistence, Vicky Moller, Plaid Cymru list candidate in Mid and West Wales, was led to the mic by compère, Brychan Llyr (Dic Jones’ son, of Jess fame). She gave a rousing speech, saying that without the diligence and hard work of Cris Tomos (now given the elbow) the renovation would not have been possible. Brychan expressed similar sentiments. Then the control freak Gang of Four tried to prevent Brychan from introducing Bellowhead, but after much heated discussion he did, before leaving the castle grounds.

Finally, the Aberporth connection has been strengthened with information about the bizarre, oversized ‘bardic’ chair to be found at the Castle. Here’s a photo I took on my visit a couple of weeks ago of my wife sitting in it. (No, she hasn’t got a round, flat, black head,) This chair is said to have cost £12,000 but no one seems to recall any tendering process. The artist responsible is a Paul Clarke of . . . Aberporth! He has done work in Aberporth, paid for by the community council, on which body we of course find Jann Tucker. I suggest you read the comments by ‘Rhodri’ to my previous post. He also suggests that the escutcheons and armorials employed are not authentic, having little or nothing to do with Rhys ap Gruffydd, The Lord Rhys.

THIS WEEK’S COMPETITION: Find someone living in Aberporth – or just having a holiday home there – who has not gained financially from the largesse of Lady Tucker of Cardigan Castle.

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ORGAN ‘HARVESTING’

Not a subject I’d normally write about but friends of mine in Llanelli got to thinking about the ‘Welsh’ Government’s proposal to assume that if you don’t expressly say No then you agree to have your organs whipped out and re-used ASAP after your encounter with the Grim Reaper. The leaflet they were reading gave a phone number, and this took them to a call centre in Bristol, and a helpful young Bristolian. This, remember, was for enquiries into a ‘Welsh’ Government initiative.

The big question they asked was, ‘If I agree to donate my organs, or don’t opt out of any new scheme of assumed donation, will my organs stay in Wales (cos they’ll only get homesick otherwise)?’ ‘Er, no, they can end up anywhere in Englandandwales’. ‘Hang on, you’re saying there’ll be an opt-out system in Wales running parallel with an opt-in system in England?’ ‘Um, yes’. ‘Which will mean that the vast majority of the organs taken from Welsh stiffs will end up giving new life to our English neighbours?’ ‘Yup, that’s about the size of it’.

At this point my friends thought they’d be clever and demand the Welsh language service, as the leaflet said they could. ‘I’ll get someone to ring you back’, said the HYB. After half an hour or so the call came, again from Bristol. The Welshman they spoke with said he enjoyed working in Bristol because he and the other Welsh speakers get paid more than their English colleagues because they also answer calls in English. (Which must do wonders for workplace harmony and Welsh-English relationships!)

Welsh Organ

So there you are, if you agree to donate your organs, or don’t opt out of presumed consent, your kidneys could end up keeping alive a frothing-at-the-mouth Kipper, your liver in some Daily Mail journo. This is the kind of insane situation that can only arise when certain powers are devolved within an overarching Englandandwales framework. This is the sham devolution we have in Wales, and in this instance it appears that Wales is being used by England for organ harvesting – with the co-operation of the ‘Welsh’ Government!

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OVERSEAS AID PROGRAMME

I bet that heading surprised you! It certainly surprised me when I discovered that the poorest part of Europe, a country that has received billions in EU aid, is sending money to Africa. Let me explain.

On June 18th I posted ‘Welsh Poverty and “Welsh” Labour’s Third Sector Money Pit‘ and in that post I looked at the careers of husband and wife team Travers Merrill and Rose Mutale Nyoni Merrill. Travers was at the helm when the good ship Rhondda Life hit the rocks, while Rose’s Third Sector racket is BAWSO. Together they also run a private endeavour called ABESU, which, to quote the company’s website, is “a UK charity working in partnership with the ABESU Women’s Housing Co-operative in Zambia to self-build houses and establish sustainable livelihoods”. Nothing surprising there, seeing as Mrs Merrill is from Zambia.

Curiosity drove me to flick through the ABESU accounts, where I found that in the year ended March 31st 2014 ABESU had received £2,000 from the ‘Welsh’ Government. Not a great amount, but why is our puppet regime down Cardiff docks giving anything to an organisation that doesn’t even operate in Wales? As is my wont, I submitted an FoI on June 22nd. On July 1st I received an acknowledgement that promised an answer by July 16th. When that hadn’t arrived by July 23rd I wrote again, and my answer came the following day. You can read that letter by clicking here.

I asked the ‘Welsh’ Government to:

1. Confirm or deny that the Welsh Government gave Abesu £2,000.

2. If confirmed, please explain the reason for the Welsh Government giving £2,000 to Abesu, and from which funding ‘pot’ the money came.

3. Confirm or deny that the Welsh Government gives funding to other organisations that do not operate in Wales.

4. If confirmed, please supply a list of such organisations together with the amounts given, and from which ‘pots’ the funding is secured.

The response I got, from ‘the Office of the First Minister and Cabinet Office’ (‘Cabinet Office’ FFS!) said:

“I can confirm that a grant of £2000 was given to Abesu. This was by way of a grant from the Wales Africa Community Links project which was run by Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) and funded by the Welsh Government’s Wales for Africa programme.

I can confirm the Welsh Government does provide funding to other organisations that do not operate in Wales. However, with regard to the list of organisations and the amounts given, I have estimated that it will cost more than the appropriate limit established in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 to consider your request and because of this the regulations allow me to refuse to deal with it.”

The letter went on to explain why I would not have a full response, ‘over the £600 limit’, etc. A couple of sentences in this explanation caught my eye, and you may also find them interesting. They said: “The Welsh Government’s finance system contains over 14,500 companies and organisations whose address is outside of Wales. During financial year 2014/15 there was (sic) 2,331 transactions made against these companies”. Suggesting that far too much of the money spent by the ‘Welsh’ Government is leaving Wales.

Wales for Africa

Anyway, returning to the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Wales for Africa programme. With the best will in the world, it’s difficult not to see this as yet another excuse to give money to Labour’s cronies in the Third Sector. This time by sending them on African jollies to “enhance their leadership skills” and have their photographs taken with ever-so-grateful Africans. For more information just follow the link I’ve supplied, and use the drop-down menu on the right-hand side of the page.

This kind of lunacy is almost bound to happen in the system of sham devolution we know in Wales. We have a bunch of pseudo socialists (many just pseuds) behaving as if they’re running a real government. And of course, the civil servants who really run Wales, and their masters in London, are more than happy to let these self-deluding buffoons waste our money.

Message to Carwyn and the gang: Stop playing stupid games; you are not a real government, Wales is poor, so we do not have money to spare for Polly and Dominic to go showboating in Africa.

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HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS

When it comes to events and functions, weddings and conferences Cardigan Castle may not be seeing many paying customers, but one organisation that has been there a couple of times is Cantref, the housing association and white trash importer. A comment to my post The Colonisation of Wales: Help Needed tells us that things got a bit out of hand at Cantref’s AGM when, for some reason, the tenants were bused in for a hog roast and all the booze they could drink! Read the comment for yourself.

Cantref

This munificence is surprising given that Cantref may be entering Shit Creek. (Regularly laying out a few grand on hog roasts and piss-ups don’t help!) For the comment tells us that some of the commitments Cantref has taken on, such as the student accommodation in Aberystwyth, may not be turning out as planned. Hardly surprising when we see Aberystwyth Uni slipping down the league table faster than Cardiff City. Boom! boom! (Couldn’t resist it!)

‘Insider’ also tells us that, “There is something else going on but the sleepy local rags haven’t got a clue yet . . . more news on that later as it’s too dangerous to mention that yet – no wonder three top directors left all of a sudden before year end accounts, local housing consultant David Hedges of Cyngor Da being one of them”. David Hedges is the son of the former Glamorgan cricketer Bernard Hedges, who died in February 2014. (Many is the time I saw Bernard Hedges play at St. Helen’s.) His website, particularly the bullet point ”Cyngor Da’s approach’ is unmitigated Third Sector bollocks-speak. And although the stars favoured him with a Swansea birth Dai seems to have headed into the sunset and relocated to Cardigan.

David Hedges Cyngor Da

Naturally I tried to make enquiries into Cantref’s financial health, but unless you’re prepared to pay through the nose for them there’s no way of getting the figures. The problem is the status of housing associations. If they were charities then it would be a simple matter to visit the Charity Commission website and get the latest accounts gratis. If they were companies then it would be easy to get a financial picture from any number of sites, and pay for specific documents. These would also be available – and usually cheaper – on the Companies House website.

But because housing associations are Industrial and Provident Societies, registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies and Credit Unions Act 1965 it means they are registered with, but not regulated by, the Financial Services Authority, which then means you have to apply for any document you want and the cost becomes prohibitive.

No doubt defenders of housing associations will tell us that there is usually an annual report available on their websites. Rubbish, just look at the Cantref Annual Report, it’s just flim-flam and photographs, no better than propaganda, and nothing like the audited accounts available for charities and private companies. And if that wasn’t bad enough, housing associations are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, unlike your local council’s housing department . . . assuming your local council’s housing stock hasn’t been taken over by a secretive and acquisitive housing association.

I don’t believe that housing associations should be regarded as anything other than the private companies they are. Put quite simply, housing associations do not meet the criterion used by the FSA for Industrial & Provident Societies: “An industrial and provident society is an organisation conducting an industry, business or trade, either as a co-operative or for the benefit of the community.

It is now anomalous that they are treated the same as community organisations and private members clubs. They are – in all but name – private companies, consequently there should be no more funding from the public purse.

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LABOUR LEADERSHIP CONTEST

Another subject you may be surprised to find me writing about. And while I can’t deny deriving a great deal of pleasure from seeing the bruvvers and sissters poking each other in the eyes this is, I assure you, an attempt to make a more profound observation.

Last Wednesday I watched a debate on Newsnight between three Labour MPs, Mary Creagh, Emily Thornberry and Diane Abbott. It seems that Creagh and Thornberry nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership, but had no intention of voting for him, and were now worried that this ‘oppositional’ candidate might win! Abbott was there, presumably, to speak up for Corbyn.

We were also treated to a film of an increasingly wild-eyed and delusional Tony Blair telling his party’s members that if their heart said Corbyn then they should get a transplant! His former ‘advisor’, John McTernan, called those MPs who nominated Corbyn “morons”. It’s worth reminding ourselves that the most recent entry on McTernan’s CV is Chief of Staff to Jim Murphy, leader of ‘Scottish’ Labour in May. The political equivalent of being Custer’s chief scout at the Little Big Horn.

Anyway, the issue seems to be that the great majority of Labour MPs think Corbyn is too Left wing, but at the time of the Newsnight broadcast polls had him as the most popular choice, certainly with trade unionists and ordinary branch members. Which has left Creagh, Thornberry, Margaret Beckett (who’s admitted to being a ‘moron’!) and others suffering from Dr Frankenstein syndrome. It was one of the most enjoyable Newsnights I’ve seen for some time.

To justify rejecting Corbyn Creagh and Thornberry used the argument that Labour would be unelectable with Corbyn in charge, and unless the party wins the next election then Labour will be unable to help the people. Persuasive . . . until they expanded on that and you realised that for them winning elections is an end in itself, and this, they believe, can only be achieved through Labour being indistinguishable from the Conservatives.

The name Emily Thornberry rang a bell with me, but I had to check before I realised that she it was who had insulted the flag of England and those who proudly wave it. She was condemned as a snob for that episode, and watching her on Newsnight I could see why. It was an almost unique experience: she spoke well, her arguments were well marshalled, and yet . . . rarely have I heard anyone be simultaneously eloquent and repulsive.

She is clearly arrogant, to the extent that she kept cutting across Kirsty Wark! (Isn’t that a hanging offence?) But it was her patronising and condescending attitude towards Diane Abbott that really clinched it. She was, and in a way one rarely sees outside of the theatre or television, looking down her nose at the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

Thornberry Abbott

The Labour Party has a massive problem on its hands with this election, for it has exposed the chasm between the unworldly professional politicians in the Westminster bubble and those ordinary party members who oppose starving the poor, who believe in pursuing tax dodgers, and who are clearly unhappy with a Labour Party that is little more than the Conservative Party by another name.

Lubbly jubbly! Vote Corbyn! A las barricadas!

Jun 182015
 

A report just produced by the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government, Inquiry into Poverty in Wales: Poverty and Inequality tells us, among other things, that 23% of the population still lives in relative poverty, and while the situation is improving in England and Scotland there is no sign of improvement in Wales. In response, the ‘Welsh’ Government protests that it has “committed £323m to tackling poverty this year alone”. I shall return to this ‘commitment’ anon.

This latest report merely reinforces other reports, and evidence from a host of sources, telling us that our land is poor and becoming – relative to Scotland and England – poorer. For example, earlier this year the Wales TUC produced a report on the Living Wage, with its findings published on a constituency basis. It found that in Cardiff North just 11.4% of jobs pay less than the Living Wage, but in Gower the figure rises to 45%, while Dwyfor Meirionnydd gives the worst figure, at 51%. In both of these areas tourism undoubtedly plays a role in depressing wage levels.

The statistics already dealt with tie in with other findings that tell us Wales has the lowest levels of working-age employment and the highest rates of economic inactivity to be found on this island. But what can you expect? In my previous post I dealt with a non-working, benefit-dependent population being deliberately brought in to Dyffryn Teifi – and the same thing is happening all over Wales. Housing associations and others are importing from England white trash that England is more than happy to be rid of. While in the post before that I dealt with the unsustainable numbers of elderly people moving into Wales, and the inevitable effect this is having on the NHS and other services.

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Another piece that caught my eye today concerned Rhondda Life Ltd. Plaid Cymru – for once doing something right – finally got hold of a report from December 2012 that the party claimed the ‘Welsh’ Government had refused to release. (Though much of the information was already in the public domain by 2012, soon after the funding plug was pulled.) The report made it clear that RLL was yet another disaster of the kind we have become so familiar with in Wales: Labour Party hacks and hangers-on receiving obscene amounts of public money for doomed projects in desperate efforts to be seen to be doing something, and failing miserably to achieve anything other than secure tidy salaries and good pensions for themselves.

Running the Rhondda Life show in Ferndale was Travers Merrill. An optimist, our Travers, for while RLL was hurtling, out of control towards the buffers he reassured passengers that it was merely keeping to schedule. For just three months before an auditors’ financial review found Travers Merrillliabilities of £106,555 Merrill was insisting, “RLL is solvent for the following reasons. It has detailed cash flow forecasts; robust internal accounting procedures; detailed financial records; budgetary and corporate plans; no continuing loss-making activities; excess assets over liabilities; no loan or interest defaults on payments; rigid and regular financial activity monitoring; no unpaid tax liabilities; strong governance and management.” Nice try, Trav.

Travers Merrill is married to Rose Mutale Nyoni Merrill OBE (or combinations thereof) who is CEO of BAWSO, a well-funded Third Sector outfit catering for Mrs Merrill and her friends ethnic minority women in need of help. In addition, she was involved with MEWN, another ethnic minority women’s charity based in Swansea, which has also breathed its last. Though before it took ill and expired I – impetuous fool that I am! – suggested that MEWN might reasonably be viewed as a replacement for AWEMA – as if anyone could replace Naz Malik! How much Argie plonk had I drunk when I wrote that?!

Mr and Mrs Travers Merrill are known to have strong – if almost covert – Labour connections, but what is perhaps more interesting about them is that they also have a private company. This is ABESU, which, to quote the company’s website, is “a UK charity working in partnership with the ABESU Women’s Housing Co-operative in Zambia to self-build houses and establish sustainable livelihoods”. Zambia is of course Mrs Merrill’s homeland. The latest accounts lodged with the Charity Commission, or rather, the ‘Unaudited Financial Statements’, tell us that the charity “employs no staff in the UK and the administration is provided pro bono (by whom?) with minimal office expenses”. Which is one way of putting it.

Though a few years ago I was approached by a BAWSO insider telling me that much of ABESU’s administrative and secretarial work was being done in the BAWSO office, using equipment and facilities provided for BAWSO out of public funds. Clearly not right. Though of course this explains why ABESU’s “administration is provided pro bono with minimal office expenses” – it’s because it’s provided by us, via the ‘Welsh’ Government and its funding agencies.

AWEMA Charity Commission

Click to Enlarge

But ‘Welsh’ Labour’s generosity doesn’t end there. For the Unaudited Financial Statement for the period ending March 31st 2014 tells us that the ‘Welsh’ Government gave ABESU £2,000 in that year. (Page 12 of accounts.) Confronting us with the obvious question, why is the ‘Welsh’ Government giving £2,000 to an organisation that, by its own admission. employs no staff in the UK? This has echoes of AWEMA operating, with Welsh public funding, in Kenya and Pakistan. And me, cynic that I am, I can’t help wondering – as I do with all charities – how much of the money donated ever reaches those it was given to help.

Whatever the answer, and however you look at it, the Merrills are the perfect Labour-Third Sector family; neither of them Welsh but happily spending millions of pounds of Welsh public funding on others, most of whom are not Welsh either. And with the curious and suspect overlap with a private company that may also be benefiting from our generosity. Well, we know it’s getting at least £2,000. And for those tempted to say, ‘Oh, two thousand pounds isn’t a lot’, how many other organisations are receiving Welsh public funding for projects outside of Wales?

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Wales is a poor, post-industrial country that has never replaced the heavy industry it lost. With the inevitable result that ours is now a country with unacceptable levels of poverty, suffering a flight of the bright and an ageing population. Yet the ‘Welsh’ Government funds housing associations and others to import more poverty, while also encouraging elderly people to move to Wales! Then, due to the emasculating Left-Green mindset that has reduced Plaid Cymru to an object of ridicule, the party that should be exposing and attacking this truly wondrous strategy that both colonises and impoverishes Wales, actually applauds it! Believing, in its pathetic, socialistic distortions of reality, that Wales is somehow acting as a ‘beacon’ in ‘helping those in need’ . . . bring on the fairies!

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the money that is given to the ‘Welsh’ Government by the EU and the UK government to alleviate that deprivation is wasted on a Third Sector that is nothing more than the Labour Party funding careers for its otherwise unemployable supporters, and guaranteeing their loyalty; supporters who will then shout down opponents and commission surveys that always conclude – the ‘Welsh’ Government should give them more money! This is where the £323 million pounds will be spent this year, not on “tackling poverty” as the ‘Welsh’ Government claims, but on its Third Sector cronies, and on projects and schemes that no Welsh community would miss if they ceased tomorrow.

As I was finishing off this piece, and thinking it couldn’t get any worse, I noticed a tweet from @johnsouthwales telling of a ‘community embankment‘ built in Ammanford as part of the Communities First programme. Tell me this is not real. Tell me I’ll wake up tomorrow and realise that this country I think I live in is really just a bad dream.

May 042015
 

We should all be indebted to the Daily Mirror for the work put in to gather a breakdown of the housing benefit being paid to private landlords by every local authority on this septic isle. The figures are for “last year”, though it’s unclear whether this means the calendar year or the financial year ending on March 31st. Either way, we are only interested in the figures for the Welsh councils, but gluttons for statistics can find the full piece here. The table I have produced below gives the bare bones of this scam essential funding  You will see that the bottom line (how nice to use that term literally) gives two totals for two of the columns, this is due to the figures calculated in different ways not agreeing. Any statistician out there is welcome to explain this apparent anomaly.

Let’s start by looking at the national picture I’ve tried to explain in the table. It tells us that, as a general rule, urban authorities pay a lower percentage of their housing benefit to private landlords than more rural authorities, with Torfaen paying just 18.2%. (Though the Vale of Glamorgan, with 49.7% needs some explaining. Unfortunately the VoG council declined to release detailed figures.) The two exceptions to this rule, the two rural authorities paying the lowest percentages, lower than many urban areas, are Monmouthshire (28.6%) and Gwynedd (32.2%). Monmouthshire’s low figure can be accounted for partly by its prosperity, while the figures for both councils are also influenced by a refusal to patronise many of the Labour-allied shysters dealt with below.

The two authorities paying the very highest percentages to private landlords are – and I bet you’d never have guessed! – on the north coast. Conwy pays out 50.8% and Denbighshire 53.2%. (Though not far behind is Ceredigion with 48.2%.) Many unfamiliar with this area will think of these as rural councils but they are overwhelmingly urban, containing Llandudno, Conwy, Prestatyn, Colwyn Bay, and of course – Rhyl! Much of the housing benefit paid here will be going to slum landlords and third sector parasites that have shipped in ‘clients’ from Liverpool and Manchester, then demanded that Wales pays to look after their charges, while also providing said parasites with salaries and pension packages . . . for to demur would be ‘racist’. One such organisation in Conwy, the biggest grossing private landlord, is dealt with below, but Denbighshire came over all coy and named just four out of the top twenty earners on its patch.

Housing benefit tax table

For more detailed results, you’ll see that I have screen captured from the Daily Mirror interactive to make the gallery below. (In order to avoid confusion I have kept to the names – some obviously English – used on the DM website, so it starts with ‘Anglesey’.) Keep your cursor off the image and each of our 22 local authorities will appear for 8 seconds. If you want to study the details for any particular council then leave your cursor on the image or its black surround. If you don’t like the gallery then just click on the name of the council in the details section below to bring up the information. (God! I spoil you!)

A number of councils refused to give out information beyond the total amount paid to private landlords, these shy, retiring types are, Anglesey, Ceredigion, Flintshire, Powys, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Vale of Glamorgan and Wrexham. A mixed bag in terms of the rural / urban divide, culture and language, and also political control. Other councils released only partial information, in that they named some of the private landlords trousering the loot, but not all. Though if I was one of the private landlords named I’d want to know why others were granted anonymity. These councils were Denbighshire, Monmouthshire and Torfaen. So that’s ten of Wales’ twenty-two local authorities withholding information. Not a great start.

 

So let us look a little more closely at the twelve local authorities that made full disclosure, and let’s do it alphabetically.

BLAENAU GWENT: The individuals named mean nothing to me, and this is why I suggest that local knowledge will be needed to identify these people. The same will apply in other areas. The one name I do recognise is Wallich Clifford Ltd, the charity for the ‘homeless’, which received £56,728. Is there that much homelessness in Blaenau Gwent? Not always easy to keep track of Wallich Clifford aka The Wallich and operating under various guises as both a charity and a business. Though top of the list in Blaenau Gwent, by some way, with £263,159, is Ronald Herbert Lawrence. So who is he, one of the Herbert clan?

BRIDGEND: The biggest recipient of housing benefit in Bridgend is . . . well, Bridgend. The council paid itself £685.595, which I don’t quite understand seeing as the council housing stock appears to have been taken over by Valleys to Coast Housing. I suppose it depends when the transfer took place. Someone down that neck of the woods will have the answer. Next in the queue for the easy money vital funding is A1 Lettings of Maesteg, coining no less than £391,410. Wallich Clifford appears again – this time as ‘The Wallich’ – for £139,216.

CAERPHILLY: Again, many of the individuals listed will be known to those familiar with the area. Though the biggest earner by a mile is the Shaw Healthcare Group Ltd of Cardiff which, as the name suggests, specialises in care homes rather than rented accommodation. Shaw scooped £482,792. Second on the list, with a paltry £83,739, is the Care Management Group, an English company with a Welsh branch operation. Are there really that many care homes in Caerphilly? If so, why? And does the absence of The Wallich / Wallich Clifford suggest that there is no homelessness in the borough? Maybe the homeless are all in the care homes!

CARDIFF: The first thing to say about Cardiff is that the amounts paid are surprisingly low given the total figure of over 53 million pounds paid to private landlords, with the top landlord getting just £192,822. So it’s reasonable to assume that there are a great many small- to medium-sized enterprises in the city. Unless I’m missing something? Whatever the answer to that, one of the major earners in Cardiff, with £138,908, is the Reside Housing Association Ltd, a company based in Kingston-upon-Thames. But if there is a local need for the service provided by Reside why doesn’t Cardiff council find a Welsh company to provide that service rather than sending money out of Wales? And despite Cardiff having the largest population of any Welsh council, and despite The Wallich / Wallich Clifford being headquartered in Cardiff, it does not appear on the list of the top private landlords. Why? In fact, the most striking feature of the Cardiff figures is the total absence of the big third sector recipients found elsewhere, found especially in Swansea.

CARMARTHENSHIRE: Always ‘interesting’, Carmarthenshire doesn’t let us down by throwing up a major query. The biggest private landlord, with £455,893, is listed as ‘Social Lettings Agency’, which turns out to be an umbrella for a number of local housing associations, Coastal Group, Gwalia, Cantref and others (though, confusingly, Coastal also appears on its own, lower down the list, with a figure of £62,134). Suggesting that the council ruled over by the litigious and overbearing Mark James regards housing associations as private landlords, which I would argue is correct. Carmarthenshire pays 36.8% of its housing benefit to private landlords, compared to Cardiff’s 35.8%. But why don’t housing associations appear in the Cardiff list, and the lists for most of the other authorities?

CONWY: Touchstones 12 is the biggest recipient of housing benefit here with £167,485, and as already stated it makes its money by bringing into northern Wales alcoholics and drug addicts from north west England. Another big earner is Sanctuary Trust, an English charity also dealing with the homeless, alcoholics and drug addicts. Just read the link I’ve provided and see how grateful these parasites are for ‘Welsh’ Government help. And you wonder why Wales is poor! Again, no housing associations listed.

GWYNEDD: Few surprises here. The main recipient being Agorfa / Cefni Lettings. Though it’s not easy to find information about this outfit, certainly I can’t find the website, only ‘company check’ references and a Facebook page. As far as I’m concerned the jury is still out on Agorfa / Cefni, it receives a lot of money but I’d like to know more about the organisations it deals with. The same applies to number two on the list, GISDA. Things are much clearer with another body, one that received £59,027 last year, though I’m surprised to see Nacro Cymru, the organisation for offenders and ex-cons, so active in largely law-abiding Gwynedd.

MERTHYR TYDFIL: Being the smallest of our local authorities in terms of population, and one of the poorest, there’s not a lot of housing benefit to be distributed in Merthyr. The biggest payout was £43,104 to a ‘Mr Evans’, no forename or even an initial. As for the rest, they’re mainly individuals and a few small companies.

NEATH PORT TALBOT: More individuals interspersed with small companies are to be found in NPT, but with six exceptions who all received over £100,000 last year. These are, Tony John & Co (£498,113); Port Talbot YMCA (£240,398), “No local connection required”; Pennaf Sales and Lettings Ltd (£123,753); Parker Estates of Skewen (£118,263); Mr David Breach (£116,330); and I E S Davies Property Rentals (£103,959), which seems to be based in Ceredigion, though of course we can’t check how much business it does on its home patch because Ceredigion won’t release any detailed figures.

NEWPORT: Top of the pops in our third city is ‘Mrs M Payne’, with £181,558, but a quick check on Google turned up nothing. So who is she? We can only assume that Newport City Council knows, if only to send the cheques to the correct address. Second on the list with £148,051 is Newport Mind. Now we all know that Mind is the charity helping those with mental health problems, but why is it a major recipient of housing benefit in Newport but not in other local authority areas? Third on the list with £135,311 is the Libra Investment Property Group, another of those agencies that acts on behalf of landlords and those who’ve taken advantage of ‘Buy to Let’ mortgages. It has offices in Newport and Wolverhampton.

PEMBROKESHIRE: If Carmarthenshire’s dysfunctional council has provided much entertainment over recent years then the same can also be said of Pembrokeshire with the Bryn Parry-Jones saga. Though it doesn’t end with the great man. A case currently being investigated by a number of agencies is that of grants awarded in Pembroke Dock for renovation work that, it is alleged, was never carried out, or certainly did not cost anything like the amount charged. The developer at the centre of the confusion is one Cathal Yell E-Lettings reviewMcCosker, who also trades as E-Lettings of Pembroke Dock. The panel (click to enlarge) shows a review from the Yell E-Lettings page. Anyway, who do you think comes top of the Pembrokeshire list for private landlords in receipt of housing benefit? Yup, leading the pack with £236,834 is Mr Cathal Eamonn McCosker . . . and lower down the list, with a mere £35,248, we find E-Lettings. Compared to McCosker the rest are small fry, though I was taken by the name Graham Perfect.

SWANSEA: Ah! the city of my dreams. At the top of the list, receiving no less than £1,632,262 in 2014 is “Community Lives Consortium” which “provides support for adults with learning disabilities working in partnership with Social Services and Health Agencies” in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot. (Though it seems to receive no housing benefit from NPT!) Now I’m sure this body does good work, but knowing my home town’s reputation for third sector spivery there is bound to be a strong element here of ‘Invent an “ishoo”‘ and then milk the system for all you can get!’.

Second on the list with a whopping £727,426 is Walsingham, yet another outfit providing support for those who cannot look after themselves. Walsingham is an English company, with English partners and suppliers, so this is another dollop of Welsh money leaving the country. Also on the Swansea list we find, inevitably, The Wallich (£588,342) and a host of third sector grant-grabbers such as Cyrenians Cymru (£207,651), Swansea Womens Aid (£190,463), Haven Trust Supporting People Ltd (£135,994), S.Y.S.H.P. (Drws Agored) (£130,161), Cymdeithas Caer Las (£118,801), S.Y.S.H.P. (again!) (£103,525), Black Association of Women Step Out Ltd (BAWSO) (£98,323), Cymdeithas Caer Las (Carmarthen Road Project) (£77,355).

It grieves me to say it, but Swansea is a magnet for third sector shysters. If I’m wrong, then explain to me how other local authorities can manage without all these agencies. If I’m wrong, then explain why organisations such as The Wallich, BAWSO and others, with their headquarters in Cardiff, seem to do all their work in Swansea. Is it – as I have been told, and as the Cardiff figures suggest – that neither Cardiff council nor the ‘Welsh’ Government wants the capital’s streets despoiled with dossers, disabled people and others who might give important visitors the wrong impression? Whatever the answer, it is clear that to justify the grants, the housing benefit and all the other goodies that keep so many in unnecessary jobs the groups operating in Swansea must be importing many of their ‘clients’ because there’s no way Swansea, or the wider conurbation, could provide enough.

*

Some of you reading this will dismiss me as a callous, hard-hearted bastard, but I’m not. This article is prompted by the knowledge that the housing benefit system is a racket that attracts the wrong sort of people to rented housing and the third sector. It is a system that is taken advantage of in so many ways, especially in Wales. For example, in dealing with Swansea I mentioned Walsingham, which received from Swansea council last year £727,426. The Walsingham website tells us that this company operates across WalsinghamEnglandandwales. Yet according to the Daily Mirror article that supplied the figures, this £727,426 from Swansea was Walsingham’s total income from housing benefit. (Click on panel to enlarge.) So why doesn’t Walsingham receive housing benefit for any of its many operations in England?

I genuinely want to believe that housing benefit is being well spent and that people are being helped without those providing the funding – and this means all of us – being taken advantage of. But this is not the case. We have a corrupted housing benefit system in urgent need of reform. And given the colonial relationship between Wales and England Wales will always lose out.

UPDATE 05.05.2015: I should of course have mentioned this in the main article, but it needs to be said. In the table I’ve used subtract the amount paid to private landlords from the total housing benefit and it gives us a figure of £634m. The bulk of this will be going to housing associations. Add this to the amounts paid in Social Housing Grant – and remembering that housing associations also have yet other funding streams! – and we get an idea of how much money is paid to the third sector, which is then promoted as if it was a real economy. It is not, and never will be. An over-large third sector is a sure indicator of poverty. And because it cannot generate wealth it guarantees that the poverty persists. And when one country is prepared to take in another country’s ‘problems’ then the problem will be exacerbated.

Dec 122013
 
I am grateful to Gruffydd Meredith of Cymru Sofren / Sovereign Wales
for providing the inspiration for this post.

 

The title of this post is obviously taken from the great baseball movie Field of Dreams. And even though the subject matter of this post is the ‘Welsh’ Government’s housebuilding programme to 2033, similar reasoning underpins both the storyline of the movie and the programme, as you’ll soon realise.

By now, anyone who takes an interest in Welsh affairs will be aware that someone, somewhere, has decided that between 2008 and 2033 the number of households in Wales will increase by 323,009. This figure, according to Carl Sargeant, ‘Welsh’ Government Minister for Housing and Regeneration, in a letter dated November 12th, 2013, is ” . . . based on a Welsh specific methodology which is separate to the methodology used in England”.

This projected increase accounts for the Local Development Plans (LDPs) that in recent years have been imposed on our local authorities; forcing them into planning for thousands of new houses they know are not needed by local people. Schemes adopted only because our councillors know in advance they’ll lose any appeal and will also be burdened with punitive legal costs. So do these projections stand up to scrutiny?

The first question to ask is, fairAv Household size by yearly obviously, what is the size of a ‘household’? According to the ‘Welsh’ Government – and available here on the StatsWales website (or click on panel left) – it currently stands at 2.20 persons, but it is predicted to drop steadily until it reaches 2.02 persons per household in 2033.

The figure of 323,009 over 25 years averages out at 12,920 new households per year. So multiplying the annual average of 12,920 new households by 2.2 gives us an increase in population for 2013 of 28,424, falling gradually until we reach 26,098 in 2033. Yet between the censuses of 2001 and 2011 Wales saw an average annual increase of just 15,300. Another curiosity is that according to these household projection figures, Wales should have seen an increase in population between 2008 and 2012 of roughly 114,000. Yet elsewhere on the StatsWales website we learn that the estimated population increase in that pPop leveeriod was only 48,200. (Click on panel right to enlarge.) Clearly, the figures for the projected increase in the number of households in Wales is, what statisticians call, a load of old bollocks.

So what is the justification in planning for an annual household / population increase of almost double that we have seen in the decade up to 2011, and more than double what we are experiencing today? Is Wales to enjoy an economic upsurge? Not with Labour running things. Are we to suddenly revert to having large numbers of children? Unlikely. And even if we were, this wouldn’t impact on the household figures until after 2033. Are we to become a nation of misogynist loners? We are already. The only explanation is that Wales is to see an influx of people from outside the country. And given that this is being planned for now, it will be an engineered influx.

These massive and unprecedented increases in population and household numbers can not come into play until the imposed LDPs are in operation. This explains why the household number projection from 2008 to the present is so woefully out of sync with the statistical realities. This also means that Wales is being told to build hundreds of thousands of new houses when those giving these instructions know in advance that the bulk of these new homes are designed solely to encourage English colonisation.

In areas of the north tens of thousands of new houses will be built for commuters moving out of Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire, further weakening Welsh identity. In Carmarthenshire, so pivotal in recent political history, the Welsh language is to be reduced to curio status and the Welsh born marginalised. Powys is to become Outer Green Belt for the English West Midlands. For what we’re discussing here is not really about households and statistics, it’s about nationhood; our nationhood, and the continuing attempts to destroy it, and, by so doing, remove a political threat. This genocidal strategy is being implemented by the Planning Inspectorate, an English body – or, if you prefer, an Englandandwales body – that pretends it is in some way answerable to the ‘Welsh’ Government. It is not.

Sargeant BawsoThe role of the English Planning Inspectorate has become ever clearer in recent years and this, inevitably, has resulted in growing criticism. Presumably in an attempt to prove its independence, the ‘Welsh’ Government has recently produced a Housing Bill, dealing mainly with social housing and private rented accommodation. This Bill is the social housing partner to the LDPs, for it confirms that when it comes to social housing in Wales everyone has priority over the Welsh. For example, in 85 pages it makes no mention of the Welsh language, yet contains half a dozen pages on ‘Gypsies and Travellers’. While I can’t directly blame them for this Bill, it certainly carries the fingerprints of another group of English civil servants pursuing an anti-Welsh agenda, this time the secretive Housing Directorate which, like the Planning Inspectorate, claims to be answerable to the ‘Welsh’ Government. A claim that is equally spurious.

By one of those coincidences that brings a wee shaft of brightness to these short days I yesterday received the latest Planning Inspectorate newsletter. Scroll down and you’ll see a piece headed, ‘Planning Reform in Wales’. (Note also that it mentions ‘Carl Sargeant the Welsh Minister . . . ‘ but neglects to give his portfolio!) Click on the link to the article or read below). I don’t know about you, but I find some of this chilling. “Joint planning boards would produce ‘sub regional’ type plans in those areas of the county (i.e. Wales) that require a more strategic approach than currently exists. Local Devolopment plans would remain but would be subject to refinement. (My italics.) Which can only mean that the plans currently being forced on our local authorities can be changed. It goes on: “It is evident that further casework would be likely to come to the Planning Inspectorate, both in terms of dealing with applications for developments of national significance and other major developments”. Mmm. So here we are, discussing ‘Welsh’ legislation, yet it will result in more work for an English agency! Then we come to the final paragraphs, which I have reproduced in full. (Again, my italics.)

“In terms of appeals, many of the proposed reforms resonate with those introduced in England. e.g. submission of full statements of case with no opportunity thereafter to introduce argument/evidence.

The right to appear before an Inspector would be removed with the Inspectorate taking a more pro-active, case managing role in determining the appropriate format for appeals.  Reflecting the Scottish system, appeals would be started as written representations with the Inspectorate escalating the format type as deemed necessary.  This would include a hybrid format, similar to that used in Local Development Plan examinations, where the Inspector decides that most aspects could be dealt with via written representations, but certain aspects would require a hearing or inquiry format.

Again reflecting change in England, Inspectors would be able to inPlanning Reform in Walesitiate cost awards against parties and to recover the costs in dealing with the appeal.

Third party rights of appeal have been ruled out following the evidence considered by the Independent Advisory Group and their recommendations.

Major changes are afoot.”

So, what have we learnt from this? First, that there people out there trying to destroy Welsh identity. Second, they don’t all live in England. Third, Wales, despite the posturing of Welsh politicians, with their silly gimmicks, is really controlled by shadowy civil servants answerable to even more shadowy agencies in London. Fourth, Wales is more closely integrated with England today than she was before ‘devolution’. Fifth, ‘devolution’ is an insulting sham.

But just in case I’m wrong I’ll give Sergeant a chance. You claim that the household projections for Wales up to 2033 are “based on a Welsh specific methodology which is separate to the methodology used in England”. The Planning Inspectorate suggests otherwise, welcoming the increasing uniformity of the planning systems operating in Wales and England. But just in case you’re right; it’s clear from the figures I’ve provided – or, rather, that the Office for National Statistics has provided – that those who supplied your figures for the increase in household numbers have made a mistake.

The population of Wales increased by an average of 15,300 a year between 2001 and 2011, and just 12,050 a year between 2008 and 2012, so how do you – or your ‘Welsh’ statisticians – explain a projected annual increase in population of almost 28,000 a year from now to 2033? If you cannot satisfactorily explain this projection, then you, and the Planning Inspectorate, have no alternative but to scrap Local Development Plans forced on Welsh local authorities to meet this unprecedented and unjustifiable increase.

P.S. Hope you enjoyed yourself at the Labour Christmas bash in Mischiefs Bar last night. (Heard you were DJ!) Also hope you were all spending your own money.