Bevan Foundation

Apr 082017
 

A few days ago I got an anonymous message telling me about someone, or a group, seeking to raise money to ‘Save English Language Education in Wales’. Here’s the link to the relevant CrowdJustice site. I doubt if those behind this are susceptible to embarrassment, but just in case, and it’s been taken down, here’s what it said (click to enlarge):

click to enlarge

There are so many misleading statements and downright lies in that ‘appeal’ that it’s difficult to know where to start. The opening sentence sets the tone with the ludicrous claim that what’s happening in Llangennech is the prelude to removing English medium schools “across Wales”.

At first reading, the fourth paragraph seems to elaborate on the first, but with the qualification of “potentially”, which serves to undermine it altogether. Potentially means ‘possibly’, or ‘maybe’, or ‘who the fuck knows’. For example, potentially I’m the lost heir of the Hapsburgs. The Monster Raving Loony Party is potentially the next government of the UK. Elvis Presley is potentially alive and running a nice little B&B in Penmaenmawr.

Paragraph five: where’s the evidence that, “The majority from within Llangennech village wish to keep their Dual Stream system school, offering both Welsh and English streams . . .” Has there been a vote on it?

Paragraph six: there are a number of English medium schools within reasonable travelling distance. As for the alleged ‘move to England’ remark, it might have been said, by an individual, but this issue is about a decision taken by Carmarthenshire County Council, what individuals have said, on either side, is of less relevance.

Summary: What “apparent flaws, breaches”? And, again, where is the evidence for “overwhelming opposition”?

“Learning through the Medium of Welsh must be through choice and encouragement not by compulsion.” At last! I’ve found something I agree with, so why not remind those Labour-controlled local authorities that do their damnedest to avoid meeting the demand for Welsh language education?

The people behind this campaign claim to be defenders of democracy; yet they are opposing a decision taken by the democratic representatives of the county and they have no grounds whatever for arguing that they represent the will of the majority in Llangennech . . . apart from a biased on-line poll that attracted most of its support from outside the area.

There is a sick yet dangerous mind behind this fund-raising escapade that is premised on a palpable lie, namely, that there is a plan to “eradicate all English Medium schools”. Whoever is saying this is lying, and they know they’re lying. Consequently, this is a case of money being raised under false pretences. Which is of course a criminal offence.

Inevitably, this campaign is being promoted on social media, particularly the Families website, of which I was blissfully ignorant before this cropped up. From what I can make out this is an open website, with local pages, where people post news about their area, or ‘Ah!’ photos of their kids. Riveting stuff.

Save English Medium Education in Wales is being pushed on various local pages, both in Wales and England. Here’s the Carmarthenshire page. As you work down, you’ll read “Watkins and Gunn partner Michael Imperato”. Watkins and Gunn are the solicitors handling this fund-raiser.

It appears that Watkins and Gunn’s headquarters are in Pontypool with branches in Newport and Cardiff. Although Imperato is described as a partner he is not listed as a director on the Companies House website entry for Watkins and Gunn. The company specialises in personal injury and medical negligence; in other words – they’re ambulance chasers.

Though we do find John Michael Imperato listed as a director of the Bevan Foundation, the Labour ‘think tank’. Imperato has also stood as a Labour candidate; in the Llanishen ward of Cardiff in 2008, the Pentwyn ward in 2012, and more recently, he considered going for the Aberavon Westminster nomination, but was talked out of it, allowing Stephen Kinnock to sneak home.

In fact, the word I’m getting from the now smoke-free rooms is that Imperato was ‘persuaded’ not to throw his hat into the ring by a trade union that may have had ‘dirt’ on him. This same trade union is also said to be ill-disposed towards Lee Waters, Imperato’s mate and AM for Llanelli.

John Michael Imperato

Now, I don’t want anyone to think I’m taking a cheap shot here because of his Italian name, but there is something to be said for comparing ‘Welsh’ Labour to the Mafia. Both have contempt for ‘outsiders’, backstabbing is the norm, both are in business for themselves and their members, with the Mob having its rackets and ‘Welsh’ Labour its Third Sector.

You may recall that in News Round-up 24.03.2017 I wrote of a Labour councillor in Plaid Cymru-controlled Gwynedd, Siôn Wyn Jones, and reported that a project of his had been favoured by the local funding agency, Mantell Gwynedd, which is – in the words of my informant – a “Labour closed shop”. I was told the same applies to the Citizens Advice Bureau in Bangor. So it’s no surprise to see that Imperato was once a director of the – now defunct – Cardiff Citizens Advice Bureau.

Which makes me wonder what chance I – someone who has over the years been mildly critical of the Labour Party – would have of getting fair treatment from what appears to be an offshoot of the Labour Party?

UPDATE 10:10pm: Since finishing this piece I have learnt that Mr Imperato has represented parents on the ‘other side’ of the language debate. Ceredigion in 2004, and Newport in 2014. I am happy to put the record straight.

Though in both those cases he was on firmer legal ground, which meant that he, or whoever instructed him, didn’t need to resort to hyperbole, exaggeration and downright lies, as in the Llangennech case.

The Llangennech dispute has inevitably attracted the bigots and oddballs, and they don’t come more bigoted or oddbally than Jacques Protic, a man who blames the Welsh language for his beer going flat. To judge by this Twitter reply he might even have been in the area recently. This obsessive’s blog is one sad but revealing anti-Welsh tirade after another. It paints the picture of a troubled soul.

Inevitably, Protic supports the Save English Medium Education in Wales fund-raiser, here’s a tweet (below) from a few days ago that suggests what’s happening in Llangennech is the fault of the ‘Welsh’ Government and is but a staging-post on the road to a “Welsh Speaking Republic”.

Protic has elsewhere claimed to be a Labour Party member, but believes that both Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones are ‘closet nationalists’, for no better reason than both speak Welsh! As I say, this man is troubled.

Support of a slightly more credible nature came from the Trinity Mirror Group’s Welsh mouthpiece WalesOnline, where someone called Christie Bannon gave an uncritical plug to the flagging campaign and even provided a link to the CrowdJustice page. Though somebody slipped up by using the photo of the bigots lined up with Neil – “do the honourable thing” – Hamilton and his wife-minder.

those with strong stomachs may click to enlarge

Why do ugly people always manage to find each other? Is there magnetism at work?

P.S. The WalesOnline story has finally been updated, at four minutes past three on April 11th. Instead of wondering who pulled the plug on this exercise in misrepresentation, or why, the reporter, Christie Bannon, does no more than say that it’s been taken down before repeating almost verbatim what it said and what is now no longer available on the CrowdJustice website.

click to enlarge

The bias we’ve seen in Trinity Mirror’s coverage of the Llangennech dispute has been blatant from the start. Why anyone still buys this company’s Welsh rags is a mystery. Maybe we should be thankful that sales are falling, though I’m a little sad to see the Evening Post – not so long ago the largest circulation Welsh daily – heading for the knackers’ yard as people in the Swansea area realise that ‘their’ ‘paper is now written in Cardiff.

Anyone who’s been following this story will know that there are disturbing connections between the anti-Welsh campaigners and the extreme right, the BritNats so intolerant of all other identities. To these people we Welsh, and our language, are ‘alien’, even in Wales, and must be stamped out. Everything must be English.

This attitude is not restricted to the Welsh language, it extends to anything that differentiates Wales from England, other than sporting events and other trivia. It’s what I’ve referred to more than once as ‘the package’. Those who are hostile to the Welsh language will usually be opposed to devolution and so on. Essentially, these people are English nationalists. Of course it’s dressed up as Britishness and, amusingly, opposition to ‘narrow nationalism’. But ‘British’ means little today, and once Scotland is independent and Ireland reunited it will mean nothing but Englandandwales.

Few have stirred more assiduously than Gary Robert Jones, who tweets as @poumista, a name taken from POUM, a Trotskyite party during the Spanish Civil War period. Jones is a community councillor and hopes for promotion to county hall next month, for he seeks election in the Llangennech ward.

An odd fish, Jones; sometimes he seems to be one of the more rational inmates of the asylum and then he puts out a tweet like this (below). Gifted to the world on the day – March 18 – when Wales played France at rugby in Paris. He appears to be wearing a poilu helmet from WWII, and the caption would suggest he’s supporting France!

Get your head around that. Here’s a Labour candidate in a Llanelli ward, two months away from an election, who appears to be supporting Wales’ opponents in a rugby international! In the Llanelli I know, that’s a lynching offence. But then, as I keep saying, we are dealing here with very strange people.

Moving up a level we come to the local Assembly Member, Lee Waters. Although Waters is the AM for Llanelli he and his family live 55 miles away on Barry Island. Yet for last year”s Assembly elections he gave a Llanelli address – possibly his mother’s – on his nomination paper and sneaked in by less than 400 votes. Would he have been elected if the Turks had known he didn’t live among them? I doubt it.

And now we have John Michael Imperato, failed Labour candidate; Jacques Protic, who dismisses Welsh as a “tribal language”; and a cast of similar individuals who have serious problems with the truth. In a word: they’re unable to recognise it or produce it.

Finally, with the campaign looking unlikely to meet its fund-raising target the Labour-supporting Trinity Mirror Group, using its Welsh titles and WalesOnline gives a priceless plug and a link to the site for potential donors. Curiously, although the piece asks for comments, it’s not publishing any. I know because I submitted a comment yesterday, and I can’t believe that no one has commented.

This affair has ‘Welsh’ Labour running through it like ‘Pwllheli’ through a stick of rock. The party locally has been behind the anti-Welsh campaign in Llangennech from the outset, conveniently forgetting that the county council was run by a Labour-Independent coalition when the decision on Llangennech school was taken in 2015.

No matter what pious statements Carwyn Jones or Alun Davies might make about wanting to help the Welsh language, lower down the food chain unscrupulous individuals see political capital – against Plaid Cymru – in being hysterically anti-Welsh.

And as these people make up the bulk of ‘Welsh’ Labour we can now label the party anti-Welsh. So stop-pussy-footing around with these bastards, dreaming of coalitions and talking of a ‘progressive consensus’, and fight them with their own weapons. They may be cunning and devious, but they ain’t too smart. They must be destroyed as the SNP has destroyed their corrupt, lying cousins.

I suspect this case will rumble on, so I may return to it at some point. For the full background of the squalid Llangennech saga, and its dramatis personae, I can recommend no better source than the excellent Cneifiwr.

As I finish this post I note that the CrowdJustice site has raised £1,400 of the £7,500 target with 26 days to go. Though what this deception has to do with justice I do not know.

UPDATE, 8pm: The link to the CrowdJustice site Save English Language Medium Education in Wales now comes up with this (below). Which is odd, seeing as the appeal had already been launched and was collecting money. It looks as if it has either been withdrawn by those behind it or else taken down by CrowdJustice. Or have they raised all the £6,000+ they needed this afternoon? If so, then it didn’t come in £10 and £20 donations.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I did write to CrowdJustice, using tradition Latin legal terms like ‘bollocks’ and ‘lying bastards’. But surely it was nothing to do with me!

UPDATE, Midnight: I have now been directed to a very strange tale on the Families website. In case this also disappears, I have saved it for you (below, click to enlarge). Quite what all this means I’m not yet sure, so I’m open to suggestions from my erudite readers.

Oh, yes, now I come to think of it, I may have written to Families as well.

UPDATE 10.04.2017: The CrowdJustice page now reads as shown (click to enlarge). It would appear that the appeal was closed down yesterday. But by whom?

UPDATE 2:45pm 10.04.2017: The CrowdJustice page now reads ‘Page not found’.

♦ end ♦

Nov 172015
 

REMEMBERING BUDDY HOLLY

Back in January I posted a piece, Let’s Be Honest About Housing Associations, that began in nostalgic-humorous mood before going on to make more serious points about the provision of rented accommodation. The fundamental point I tried to make was that up until about a century ago rented accommodation was provided by the private sector, employers, charities and other bodies, not by local authorities or any other social housing provider. I asked, in view of changes taking place in the housing market, whether we could now be moving back towards that situation, how it might be done, and what benefits it might offer.

In my January piece I made a number of points about the changing nature of housing provision in Wales and, especially, how the proportion of people living in the private rented sector (PRS) was growing, almost unnoticed and, certainly in Wales, unplanned. I used the table below to show the dwelling stock percentages in the four categories: local authority, registered social landlord (RSL), owner-occupier and PRS.

Houses by tenure

I am now able to follow up that January piece thanks to a regular source who has drawn my attention to a recently published report examining the advantages of giving a greater role to the PRS in the provision of social and rented housing. The report is produced by the Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW) and is entitled The Potential Role of the Private Rented Sector in Wales. I advise you to open the report in another window or browser in order to follow the points I shall pick up on later in this article. But before that, let’s take a fresh look at the RSL sector, using information not previously available to me.

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WAY OUT WEST

For much of this new information I am indebted to another contact who has looked into the workings of the RSL sector in Ceredigion, an investigation that has unearthed a number of disturbing issues, prompting him to submit important questions to the ‘Welsh’ Government. Unsurprisingly, the civil servants acting as the ‘Welsh’ Government refuse to answer his questions, so he has now taken the matter to the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales.

Alas, the PSOW is Nick Bennett, former head of Community Housing Cymru, the umbrella body for housing associations, so I have warned my contact not to expect any help from that quarter. (Bennett’s appointment was a pre-Sophie Howe illustration of how incestuous and corrupt public life is in modern Wales.)

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

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

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

Then there seem to be two funding streams for capital projects, i.e. new-build housing, the Social Housing Grant and the Housing Finance Grant. I knew about the first, and I submitted an FoI last year to the ‘Welsh’ Government asking how much had been dished out under the SHG. I used the answers to compile the table below (click to enlarge). It shows that the figure for the six years 2008 – 2013 is £692.5m. (The explanation for the declining amount paid out in SHG can be found below in other, newer funding streams.)

Social Housing Grant 1

But at that stage I knew little about the Housing Finance Grant. Now I know a little more.

Even though I’m a regular and consistent critic of housing associations one feature of their operations that I have always regarded as commendable is that they raise funding from banks and other commercial lenders. Which means they are not entirely reliant on the public purse. Well, that’s what I thought; the reality is very different, as I learnt from my enquiries into the Housing Finance Grant.

The system works thus: Yes, housing associations find commercial lenders prepared to give them large loans – but then the ‘Welsh’ Government – i.e. you and me! – repay those loans over 30 years to the lenders, M&G Investments and Affordable Housing Finance, the latter being funding guaranteed by the UK Department for Communities and Local Government.

(And as the DCLG website puts it, “Borrowers will need to be Registered Providers (or equivalent in the devolved administrations) and classified to the private sector”. Which suggests that housing associations are not public bodies. Or maybe they are, in which case why is a Conservative government putting so much money into public bodies in order for them to build up valuable assets . . . unless they are being fattened up for full privatisation?)

Housing Finance Grant clip

The system of repaying lenders also applies to the ‘Dowry Gap’; housing associations take out loans, paid in lump sums, and the ‘Welsh’ Government repays those loans over 30 years. This explains why Tai Ceredigion has now completed its programme of upgrading its properties but will continue to receive the ‘Dowry Gap’ funding every year. The money is repaying Tai Ceredigion’s loan, which seems to be itemised in the latest financial statement at £23m.

It is even suggested that ‘Dowry Gap’ and WHQS funding is being used – improperly – for capital projects, but financial oversight of housing associations by the ‘Welsh’ Government is so lax that there’s no way of proving or disproving this claim.

All of which means that housing associations, despite the flim-flam about ‘new ways of doing things’ are old-fashioned Statist creations, entirely dependent on the public purse, which explains why they are favourites of the anti-business parties, Labour and Plaid Cymru.

Their only assets, their only other source of income, is of course their housing stock – either inherited from local authorities or built with public funding. So, again, at no cost to them. It’s a ‘new way of doing things’ only in the sense that it’s more opaque than straightforward dollops of public funding.

Seeing as housing associations are entirely dependent on the public purse it’s worth asking, again, why they are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act? Maybe the duplicitous and very expensive way they’re funded provides the answer.

Another point, one that I have raised before – dealt with in my January post, and also here – is the scandalous amount of this public funding that our ‘Welsh’ housing associations spend over the border. In the case of Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd it was the insanity of giving its total maintenance contract to English firm Lovell which, from its Cheshire base, recruited its sub-contractors exclusively from north west England.

I’m sure Tai Ceredigion uses local firms to do its work, but I still question why a firm operating on Cardigan Bay should have external auditors based in Birmingham (Mazars LLP) and internal auditors in Hampshire (TIAA Ltd). Both may have offices in Cardiff, but neither is a Welsh company. There are genuine Welsh companies closer to and even in Ceredigion that could and should be doing this work that is paid for with Welsh public funding.

Tai Ceredigion auditors

‘Welsh’ Government funding should carry the stipulation that as much as possible of that funding remains in Wales. This can only be achieved if the funding reaches genuinely Welsh firms, not outside firms with an office in Wales funnelling profits back to HQ, or those seeking to capitalise on the public funding bonanza with a hastily set up ‘Welsh branch’ that is little more than a post-box and a telephone number.

Of course, it would be easy to argue that none of this really matters because all the funding comes, in one form or another, from London. But only part of the Housing Finance Grant comes directly from London, the rest is raised commercially, and the other funding streams – Social Housing Grant, Welsh Housing Quality Standard and ‘Dowry Gap’ funding – seem to be ‘Welsh’ Government initiatives.

Which is worrying, because it gives us a situation in many parts of Wales, perhaps especially in rural areas, where housing associations are on a treadmill of growth and expansion fuelled by this funding – yet there is often little or no local demand for more social housing.

Housing associations are perhaps the ultimate manifestation of the Third Sector, the shadow world that those buffoons down Cardiff docks want us to believe is an economy, but it’s all smoke and mirrors, all underpinned by public funding. And all unnecessary. As I shall now explain by delving a little more into the Public Policy Institute for Wales report I mentioned earlier.

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‘THE POTENTIAL OF THE PRIVATE RENTED SECTOR IN WALES’

Before diving into the report it might be worth just pausing to see what kind of an organisation the Institute is. It was formed in January last year to “provide the Welsh Government with authoritative independent analysis and advice.” If you look through the names to be found in ‘The Team’, ‘The Board of Governors’, and the ‘Executive Group’, you get the impression that the PPIW is very much a cross-border outfit, containing – on the Board of Governors – people who know Wales such as Gerry Holtham, along with people, such as Will Hutton, who may be very clever and a Newsnight regular but know little about our country. ‘The Team‘, presumably those running the PPIW day-to-day, is disappointingly top-heavy, to the point of capsizing, with apparatchiks and people from the Third Sector.

The Executive Group “is made up of representatives from the organisations that formed part of the consortium that collaborated in the development of the PPIW”. These are ‘our’ universities (including Liverpool but not Glyndŵr!) and Victoria Winkler of ‘Welsh’ Labour’s very own think-tank, the Bevan Foundation.

The report set out to answer three questions, found below.

PPIW report aims

Some Report Findings

The PPIW report confirms that the PRS is growing in every single local authority area, though predictably, Cardiff, with its vast student population and other young singles, outstrips all other areas. In fact, the report tells us that in Cardiff, “owner occupation has actually fallen compared to renting in both absolute and proportional terms”. Table 6 shows that 22.1% of Cardiff’s dwellings are privately rented. The next highest local authority area is Ceredigion with 17.5%, and then in third place comes Denbighshire with 16.5%.

PRS changes

The figures for both Cardiff and Ceredigion are influenced by the student presence while the ‘Rhyl factor’ explains the Denbighshire figure, correlated in Table 1, which tells us that Sir Dinbych lost 870 private households between 2001 and 2011 while the same period saw an increase of 1,468 in the PRS. Other areas saw a decline in the number of private households but nowhere was the fall as dramatic as in Denbighshire.

Staying with Table 6, in percentage and absolute terms Carmarthenshire saw the highest increase in private households due mainly to the saturation housing strategy devised by the Planning Inspectorate and eagerly implemented by those running the council. The same designed-to-attract-English-buyers process can also be observed at work in Powys. (N.B. A ‘household’ can be a person living alone or a family of 10.)

Table 9 tells us that rents in the PRS are always higher than the RSL sector though this varies from area to area. In Blaenau Gwent the average social rent is £61.68 per week, or 89% of the PRS, whereas in Wrecsam, Swansea and Cardiff the percentage drops to 67%, though the average PRS rent in Wrecsam is lower than the two southern cities.

Poor PRS

Of course there is a downside to this unplanned and largely unchecked growth in the PRS, especially in decaying coastal towns like Rhyl, and areas of our cities taken over by students. That downside is the breakdown of community life and an increase in various forms of criminality and anti-social behaviour.

It could even be argued that there is a case to be made for paying compensation to long-term residents of such neighbourhoods. Compensation to be paid by the ‘Welsh’ Government or the local authority, whoever was responsible for not guarding against such decline or refusing to implement the legislation that could have prevented it.

A Better Way

Happily, the report also makes clear that there are alternatives to endlessly pumping public money into secretive, unaccountable and amateurishly run housing associations, or otherwise allowing the growth of ghettoes of cross-border criminals and misfits housed by slum landlords. To avoid these outcomes the report draws our attention to institutional investment such as pension funds to provide rented and other property, coupled with more imaginative and varied housing options.

In the Appendix the report’s authors look at three examples in the south where the ‘Welsh’ Government is in partnership with the Principality Building Society in a venture called Tai Tirion (or Tirion Group Ltd, Co. No. 08891823) to build over a thousand new homes on brownfield sites in Cardiff, Newport and the Rhondda. Though that said, there is not a lot of progress being made. Not really surprising, seeing as the ‘Welsh’ Government is involved . . .

I say that not out of malice, it’s just the way things are. Institutional investors such as pension funds are viewed with suspicion by Statist ‘Welsh’ Labour. As the report puts it – refer to ‘three questions’ panel above – “the Minister confirmed that the emphasis of the project should be concentrated mainly on (i) and (ii)”.

PRS minister response

To remind you . . . Question iii reads, ‘If the PRS is to be a long term tenure of choice, whether it is likely to be possible to interest institutional money and professional management in the market (i.e. what are the barriers to large scale investment?).’

On reading that you can almost imagine a ‘Welsh’ Labour politician or apparatchik having an involuntary evacuation of the bowels . . . “‘institutional money’! . . . ‘professional management’! . . . people who might understand business! . . . what about our friends in the Third Sector, how are they to sustain their muesli-weaving, skinny latte lifestyles? . . . oh, no, we can’t have that!

So the ‘Welsh’ Government prefers to let the private rental sector grow in a reckless and uncontrolled manner through the activities of Buy to Let ‘investors’ and people who buy dilapidated hotels in Colwyn Bay to house Scouse junkies.

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CONCLUSION

It is surely obvious that if housing associations are the answer, then the question must have been, ‘What is the most expensive (to the public purse) and least efficient way of delivering rented social housing?’ In the hope of disguising this monumental error we are now encumbered with secretive, unaccountable money pits.

Which would be bad enough if they were at least spending the money on housing Welsh people, but due to the Englandandwales allocation system into which our housing associations are locked a Welsh family is all too likely to discover that the Family from Hell has been given the house next door . . . ‘Hell’ in this case will be Birmingham, or Stoke-on-Trent, or Sheffield, or . . .

Consequently, there is no justification for pouring any more money into housing associations. Especially given that the Conservative government in London is almost certainly planning to do away with them. Or does the ‘Welsh’ Government think this is a devolved matter? Maybe it is, but that won’t count for anything if Westminster forces change through by cutting the block grant. And further undermines the sector with selected benefit cuts.

So my advice to the ‘Welsh’ Government is this: realise that housing associations are an expensive failure. Then, get ahead of the curve by taking control of the social rented sector nationally and looking for the kind of investors mentioned in the Public Policy Institute for Wales report, pension funds and others looking for the kinds of large-scale investments that individual housing associations and single sites cannot provide.

To take advantage of this private funding, and to save the public purse a hell of a lot of money, you, the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’, need to put aside your congenital hostility to business and real money and, for a change, prioritise the best interests of the Welsh people. It’s what you were elected to do – remember?

END

Jan 302014
 

Monday saw the unveiling of the Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW) by First Minister Carwyn Jones. Or maybe it was last May. Or was it November 2012? Perhaps it was mentioned in the Act of Incorporation of 1536. Whatever, the PPIW is a group made up mainly of academics, and expected to “give ministers fresh ideas on how to improve Wales’ public services”. These academics will be doing their day jobs in the universities at Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Glamorgan, Liverpool and Swansea, plus the London School of Economics. The academics of Cardiff will run the show, to ensureCarwyn Jones 3 that Cardiff continues to rip off the rest of the country enjoy the benefits of its capital status.

I can see the sense in involving the LSE, but Liverpool? Is it to offer advice on the north east? Perhaps to implement the takeover of that corner of the country proposed by the Mersey Dee Alliance, and backed by civil servants and local government chiefs . . . until the plan became public? Has the ‘Welsh’ Government forgotten that there is a university now in Wrecsam? Does it matter, because the academics involved on both sides of the border will, in the main, be English.

As I’ve explained in recent posts, the ‘Welsh ‘ Government is already taking orders from London departments and their civil servants, plus agencies such as the Planning Inspectorate; then there’s the self-serving ‘advice’ from the scroungers of the Third Sector. Talking of which, I note that the Bevan Foundation is also to be involved with PPIW. Which probably explains why a few high-profile Labour politicians recently resigned as Trustees of the Foundation. Can’t have a Labour administration giving work and funding to an organisation too obviously linked to the Labour Party.

What a way to run a country! A collection of weaklings masquerading as a ‘Government’, taking orders from those they claim no longer have authority in Wales, while also seeking ‘advice’ from cronies whose only motivation is milking the public purse. Didn’t we used to have politicians of vision, who would tell civil servants: ‘Here’s my idea, you lot come up with the nuts and bolts to make it work’. Labour in Wales reveres Aneurin Bevan – was the National Health Service the idea of his civil servants, or was it his vision that he made civil servants implement?

This problem of unimaginative, weak, time-serving politicians being manipulated by those who should be serving them is not confined to the ‘Welsh’ Government. We also see it at local government level, as we were reminded today with the release of the Wales Audit Office report into curious payments in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.

Though I am not suggesting that Dr. Elizabeth Haywood, Chair of the City Regions Task and Finish Group, is a Labour crony. Yet her Report, completed in 2012, did strike me as totally superfluous, seeing as city regions were already a done deal. Decided by, among others, the Cardiff and County Club, some 20 years ago. Be that as it may, Doctor Haywood fulfilled her alloted role and dutifully confirmed the desperate need for a Cardiff city region (and wondered how Wales had survived this long without it), recommended a Swansea city region in the hope of disguising Cardiff’s takeover of the south east, and she also advised acceptance of the Mersey Dee Alliance plan for the north east – i.e. Clwyd should be swallowed up by Liverchester. So, pray tell, who is this woman given a totally pointless – but publicly funded – job? Who is She who can, with a few taps on her keyboard, recommend the dismemberment of our ancient homeland? Of course! she is none other than Mrs Peter Hain . . . though you wouldn’t know that from any reports in the Welsh media.

Another concern that has me pacing my bedroom all night is the future of the Wales Rural Observatory. I did a post on the WRO on September 17, 2012, on my Google Blogger site; now, sadly, demised by those lovers of free speech (and conscientious payers of tax) at Google. Fortunately, Stuart Evans (WelshnotBritish) had saved my posts, minus comments, in RSS format, which explains why you can still read it. Though the WRO website seems to have been re-written, and is now less open about the fact that the WRO is funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government to come up with original and mind-blowing findings – e.g. rural Wales has an ageing population, it’s handy to have a caPaul Milborner if you live in the countryside, etc. Another change I noticed was that the home page now carries a video by the WRO’s Director, Professor Paul Milbourne, reading from a script, and explaining what his organisation does. The video is dated October 22, 2012, just five days after my original post. I do hope it was nothing I said!

So where does the Wales Rural Observatory stand vis-a-vis the new Public Policy Institute for Wales? Will the WRO be allowed to carry on with its ground-breaking research into the more bucolic aspects of Welsh life, leaving the PPIW to focus on urban areas? Or will there be a turf war, two gangs of English academics, both funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government, fighting it out to prove which of them knows the least about our country and cares the less about us? Do we need both? Do we need either one? Should we have to suffer any?

Legislation is being forced on Wales to which this ‘Welsh’ Government is neither mother nor father. It is not even the midwife, or the nanny. It is nothing more than a slow-witted serving girl from the village, left holding the baby in the hope that people will believe it’s hers. And now this ‘serving girl’ is to be handed more ‘babies’. And she will do exactly as she is told . . . then say ‘thank you’, and probably curtsey!

This is not devolution. This is not democracy.