Cambrian News

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.

Sep 292015
 

BOORS: ENGLAND 25 – 28 WALES

Well done, boys. That was a truly epic game last Saturday night.

Though I must admit that I’ve been losing interest in rugby for a few years now. Maybe it’s because skills seem to have been sacrificed for bulk, ‘upper body strength’, ‘big hits’ and a litany of other cliches that don’t sound any better even if they’re spoken by Jiffy or Eddie Butler.

Or perhaps it’s the scrum, which nobody understands, and I mean nobody. Certainly not the referees, who seem to come to decisions using the tried and tested ‘Eeny, meeny, miny, moe’ system. Then there’s the rolling or driving maul, sixteen suspiciously muscular men grunting, grappling and pushing each other. Anyone finding that attractive might be in need of help.

Then there’s the way the game is organised in Wales, or rather, who organises it. Here of course I’m talking about the Welsh Rugby Union, one of the most blatantly Anglophile and Unionist bodies we’ve got (and that’s saying something!). Obvious from the feather duster badge with it’s ‘Ich Dien’ motto to the patrons, and from the refusal to use the Welsh language to the Prinz Wilhelm Cup. The last being a meaningless trophy for which Wales competes against a team that is still mainly Afrikaner, in other words, the descendants of those Boer republicans who took up arms more than once rather than be ruled by England and her royals. An insult to two nations.

And what of those who attend rugby internationals? We’ve all read of corporate ‘hospitality’ taking over, with the best seats taken up by men who couldn’t tell a flanker from a banker, and women who are there to be seen seen rather than to watch any irritating distractions on the field. Apart from these, we all know people who go to rugby internationals who wouldn’t cross the road to watch their local side. Just look at attendance figures for regional and club rugby (with Ponty’ and a few other commendable exceptions). How different to football.England fans

It may be even worse in England. The braying of Swing Low Sweet Chariot by thousands of inebriated middle-class Englishmen is one of the weirdest phenomena in sport. Or indeed in any context. I won’t try to analyse it. And what of the dressing up, as medieval knights (often slaying dragons), or 19th century colonial administrators, replete with pith helmets! Do they realise what prats they look, and what message they’re sending out about themselves, and their attitudes to others?

Perhaps they don’t care, for within the dark heart of an England rugby crowd you will find the most dangerous elements of the species; arrogant, intolerant and utterly convinced of their own superiority. Worse by far than the racists one finds at the fringes of England football crowds, because the Barbour-clad yob being carried home by his sweet chariot will too often have the power to indulge his prejudices in ways more far-reaching and pernicious than the outbursts of violence to which his working class compatriot is limited.

But I don’t want to come across as curmudgeonly at this time of officially-sanctioned national euphoria. So let me wish the boys the best of luck on Thursday against Fiji. Though if we should be knocked out, and if England should go through to the quarter-finals in our stead, don’t forget to switch your support to England. Believe me, it’s what the Welsh Rugby Union, and our political class, expects of you.

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CROOKS: SOCIAL HOUSING

Over the past sixty years rural and coastal areas of Wales have seen many tens of thousands of new homes built that were never intended for local buyers. This may once have been more obvious in areas such as the north coast, but it is now national. Even out-of-the-way villages in Powys such as Abbey Cwm Hir are no safer from ‘developers’ (what a curious use of the word!) than Abergele or Aberystwyth. To the point where, contrary to the nonsense we are fed about a ‘rural housing shortage’, rural Wales actually has a housing surplus when the housing stock is judged against any future indigenous demand.

Moreover, the situation we find in rural parts of Flintshire and Wrecsam (currently being re-branded and marketed as ‘West Cheshire’), Denbighshire, Conwy, Gwynedd, Ynys Môn, Ceredigion, Powys, Monmouthshire (sic), Pembrokeshire and large parts of Carmarthenshire, is that locals are often priced out of a housing market distorted by external forces. Which is then cleverly used by planners and aforementioned ‘developers’, estate agents and others, as an argument to build yet more new housing . . . from which most locals are again excluded. Which presents us with the dystopian choice in which house prices can only be brought into line with local purchasing power by a) either collapsing the market through building enough houses to satisfy all demand from over the border, or b) introducing legislation to reserve a percentage of the housing stock for local buyers.

But the housing problems of rural Wales are not confined to the private sector. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have written on the subject of housing associations many times before, and for a number of reasons.

1/ It annoys me to see public money being given to what are effectively private companies for them to spend on housing for which there is often no local need, and where local need does exist the mechanisms at play in the Englandandwales social housing sector ensure that many properties in Wales – paid for out of the Welsh public purse – are allocated to applicants from England having no connection with the places to which they’ve been deported.

2/ Despite being given inordinate amounts of public funding there is no obligation on housing associations to detail how the money has been spent.

3/ Nor is it possible to find other information, because housing associations are exempt from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

4/ At a time when the ‘Welsh’ Government argues for fewer and more efficient local authorities it funds dozens and dozens of housing associations. Giving us the absurd situation where an area might have ten housing associations, in competition with each other, doing the job that would once have been done – and far cheaper – by the local authority housing department.

In the hope of explaining the problem of out-of-control and unaccountable housing associations let me use a couple of examples supplied by Wynne Jones of Cardigan. I’ve never met Wynne Jones I. Eng. A.C.I.W.E.M., but he got in touch a few months back and let me see letters that have passed between him and various representatives of the ‘Welsh’ Government, local councils, and housing associations on a number of issues.

One is a development in Cardigan that has already swallowed up a great deal of funding but now seems to have hit the rocks. This is / was a project to convert a building on the High Street into 16 flats, and for which the Tai Cantref housing association has already received £782,543 in Social Housing Grant from the ‘Welsh’ Government. I’ll repeat that for the hard of reading – £782,543! As you can see, the photograph was taken on May 1st (by Wynne Jones), but little has changed since then, as the main contractor has gone into receivership. (The photo is taken from a car park behind Cardigan High Street. Click to enlarge.)

Are there local tenants lined up for these flats? If so, then they’ve got a long wait. If not, then – as is so often the case – this becomes a speculative development using Welsh public funding to house people who, as yet, have no idea they’re going to be moved to Wales.

Another example of the freedom enjoyed by housing associations is shown in the case of Tai Ceredigion at the former Meugan Centre in the town. (See picture below by Wynne Jones.) Seeing as the land in question is – it is believed – owned by the county council Mr Jones first wrote to the council on April 11th asking if planning permission had been granted a) for the demolition of the Centre and b) to allow the site to be used as a builder’s yard. He wrote again on May 6th . . . and May 26th . . . June 25th . . . July 14th (twice) . . . August 17th . . . then, finally, on August 18th he received a reply which told him that the ‘developers’ (that word again!) had now been told to apply for retrospective planning permission to use the Meugan site as a depot, but on the other matter that, “A determination decision was made on the demolition of the Centre in 2014 – planning reference A140036 – deciding that prior approval was not required for the proposed works”. (My underline.)

When Mr Jones pointed out that the planning reference A140036 was not available online, he was told that he could view a hard copy at the council’s offices in Aberaeron. He went through the advised procedure and made an appointment for 9am on August 15th . . . which was not confirmed.  After another exchange of correspondence in which he again asked to view the document, and also requested the council’s reasons for withholding it, he was told, “The request is considered to be exempt under S21 of the Freedom of Information Act since what you have asked for is reasonably accessible by other means. The information you require is available for viewing at Neuadd Cyngor Ceredigion, Penmorfa, Aberaeron.” This Kafkaesque response ignores the fact that Wynne Jones wants to see the document, and is prepared to turn up in Aberaeron at 9am, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but the council is refusing to co-operate.

I suspect that this document may not exist, perhaps it has not yet been written. But whether planning reference A140036 exists or not, it’s quite clear that Cyngor Ceredigion is reluctant to let Wynne Jones see it for himself. What’s also clear is that Cyngor Ceredigion allows housing associations degrees of latitude that private citizens or other companies can only dream of.

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COWARDS: THE ‘WELSH’ MEDIA

One problem with ‘Welsh’ housing associations and the Englandandwales allocation system into which they’re currently locked is that Welsh communities get lumbered with some very unsavoury  people, partly because housing associations (and indeed private landlords) can make more money from housing those euphemistically described as ‘vulnerable’ (i.e. criminals) and those with ‘issues’ (ditto) than from housing law-abiding locals.

This allocation system – plus the workings of the Englandandwales criminal justice system – often explains why Welsh communities end up hosting criminals and dysfunctionals such as these.

A more recent case was this one. ‘Notorious convicted paedophile flees North Wales after he was outed online’ screams the Daily Post headline. Good. But the real story here, the one the DP should have looked into, was who relocated him to Nantlle? And who is responsible for dumping known and dangerous English criminals in Rhyl, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Kidwelly and countless other Welsh towns and villages? But to answer that question would expose another form of abuse, one in which Wales is taken advantage of by our mighty neighbour . . . so our ‘Welsh’ media backs off.

Yes, our wonderful ‘Welsh’ media; never asking the difficult questions but always ready to put the boot into Wales and things Welsh if the assault can be presented as a principled condemnation of ‘extremism’, ‘racism’, ‘narrow nationalism’ and anything else that doesn’t conform to the view that ‘Welshness’ is just a quaint and touristy regional oddity, little different to Englishness (except in a harmless and manageable sporting context) and always subservient to Britishness.

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SPOOKS: CAMBRIAN NEWS

As the Welsh weekly newspaper with the largest circulation, covering an area running from north Pembrokeshire all around Cardigan Bay to Pen Llŷn, and containing constituencies and local authorities where the Welsh voice is strong, it was inevitable that the Cambrian News would be a vital cog in this permanent propaganda offensive.

The role played by the Cambrian News was first brought home to me some twenty years ago when the ‘paper carried what purported to be a letter from a survivor of the Holocaust, now living in the USA, who had visited the National Eisteddfod and been appalled because the youngsters he saw on the stage there reminded him of the Hitler Youth. The letter was typical black propaganda, designed to traduce things Welsh and thereby put Welsh people on the defensive, make them question or be less ready to defend the things they hold dear.

I recognised this letter for what it was, and in the hope of exposing the fraud I wrote to the address given for the letter writer, making sure that my own address was there on the envelope as ‘sender’. The address given for the writer was in “Upper State New York”, no zip code and, as most of you will know, Americans use the term ‘Upstate New York. My letter was returned by the US Postal Service, along with two other letters from Wales sent to the same, non-existent address.

When you know what you’re looking at, or what you’re looking for, then you can go through a rag like the Cambrian News and pick out examples of this strategy quite easily, especially when our masters wish to make a specific point. Such a case came towards the end of 2013 when Cyngor Gwynedd debated raising the council tax on holiday homes. The mere suggestion prompted a letter to the CN arguing that raising council tax on holiday homes would be ‘racist’ (that favourite allegation!), before suggesting that such a measure might lead to a resumption of arson attacks!

The debate rumbled on, I got involved, ridiculing the suggestion that anyone would be incited to burn holiday homes if those properties paid more council tax, which in turn encouraged someone to suggest that I had made the suggestion of arson attacks but, cleverly, without actually saying I’d said it.

In the post I’ve linked to there are two letters worthy of note. The first is from a ‘Pat Beaumont of Shropshire’, and the second from a ‘Stephen Smith of Sunbeach Holiday Park, Llwyngwril’. Both are gems. They are full of non-sequiturs, scaremongering, misrepresentation, and getting people to believe that raising council tax on holiday homes is little different to burning them down. I believe Cambrian News Nazisboth letters are as genuine as the one from the Holocaust survivor in ‘Upper State New York’.

This bizarre defence of holiday homes is quite easy to explain, and has nothing to do with economics. From ‘a certain perspective’ holiday homes are viewed as a weapon in the armoury being used to ‘integrate’ Wales with England. In other words, they help anglicise Wales and thereby remove the threat of nationalism. Consequently holiday homes must be defended. Simple as that.

A more recent example of how the Cambrian News is used by others as a conduit and an outlet for anti-Welsh propaganda was the attack on the Plaid Cymru candidate in Ceredigion prior to this year’s General Election. I dealt with it here. To understand this extraordinarily vicious attack you must appreciate the wider political context.

Ceredigion was held by a Liberal Democrat MP, yet after five years in coalition with the Tories the Lib Dem vote was collapsing. Also, after five years in government, the Tories themselves were expected to lose votes and seats. In Scotland, the only question was whether the SNP would have a clean sweep of MPs. Everyone expected a hung parliament, with Labour running the UK in coalition with the SNP, Plaid Cymru, SDLP and Greens. In fact, it was the English tabloids frightening their readers with the prospect of Alex Salmond in charge (despite him no longer being leader of the SNP) that won the election for the Conservatives. In that context, anything that the darker forces of the British State could use to damage the prospect of Labour-SNP-Plaid Cymru rule was worth a try. The Cambrian News played ball, as always.

*

IDIOTS

Though sometimes the Cambrian News’ desperation to push its anti Welsh – and in our local edition, anti-Plaid Cymru and anti-Gwynedd – message is sometimes almost funny. Take this story from last week’s Meirionnydd edition. (No, of course I didn’t buy it.) Some Englishman named Paul Taylor living in Bryncrug, about two miles out of Tywyn, received what everyone has received recently, the electoral registration form, but claims he got confused because the form was ‘labelled’ in Welsh. (‘Labelled’? Does he mean ‘addressed’?)

Cambrian News voting

So here we have someone who receives what is obviously a communication from the council, one being delivered to every home in the county; if it had been written in Chinese its nature and purpose would have been obvious – yet he cannot see it for what it is, and when he consults his friend – who is “pretty proficient in Welsh” – these great brains conclude that the mysterious communication is addressed to a woman called Annwyl ddeiliad! (I know her intimately.) Eventually he is told what it means. Now seeing the dastardly plot for what it is – an attempt to deny a free-born Englishman his rights, the outraged Paul Taylor contacts the Cambrian News.

I have no way of knowing whether this man is just stupid, or whether he’s a fully-fledged bigot. But any responsible newspaper would at this point have spared him embarrassment by declining the ‘story’; and any reporter worthy of the name would have laughed out loud on hearing it. But this is the Cambrian News, the spooks’ mouthpiece, and so it does what it does and publishes this unadulterated bollocks, conveying the predictable messages that, ‘ . . . shouldn’t use Welsh on official communications . . . anti-democratic . . . discriminatory . . . anti-English . . . whatever next? . . . God Save the Queen!’

Here’s some advice for Paul Taylor, who clearly gets confused by anything that’s not ‘labelled’ in English. Next time you buy a bottle of Scotch don’t hand over your cash ’til you get a translation of Glenfiddich! And avoid French restaurants . . . Italian restaurants too. And if you win the Lottery, don’t start celebrating until them Champagne labels are translated. (Bloody Frogs!) Then, when you’ve sobered up, and are looking around for a motor, don’t write the cheque until them Eyties translate the Ferrari label into English. Same with flying to they there foreign places with funny names – Rio de Janeiro? come off it!

And this place where you’re living, called Bryncrug, it’s obviously part of this massive anti-English conspiracy of which you are so clearly a victim, so demand that it be ‘re-labelled’. In fact, get in touch with the Cambrian News, they’ll probably start a campaign on your behalf.

UPDATE 01.10.2015: There was a very good letter in today’s issue of the Cambrian News responding to the bigotry and intolerance displayed last week. Had I written this letter I would also have criticised the Cambrian News‘ editorial judgement in treating such ugly views as a worthwhile news item. But as I point out in the post, this is how the Cambrian News has operated for many years.

Sep 222015
 

CARDIGAN CASTLE

Not a lot to report from the Gang of Five and I probably won’t do another post until I get something important to report. But if I am silent then you mustn’t think I’m ignoring Timms and the gels; no, siree, it’s because I’ve decided to approach the problem from a different angle.

Though one thing that does merit mention, something now obvious beyond any doubt, is the disturbing fact that those who have been sacked, forced out, or ‘encouraged to leave’, such as Director Cris Tomos, Eduction Officer Rhian Medi, and others, are all local and Welsh. Those taken on in this period, from Facilities Officer Sue Lewis to the caretaker and the gardener, are all English. The pattern in the employment policy of the Castle is now unmistakable – Welsh out, English in.

Of all the things going wrong at Castell Aberteifi this might be the ugliest and most reprehensible. And yet, local politicians will stay schtum, and the only criticism we’re likely to hear will be levelled against anyone complaining against this discrimination, as the Cambrian News cranks up the ‘outrage’ to direct its venom at the ‘racists’ asking for Welsh people to be treated fairly.

*

EQUINOX

On a lighter note, while visiting the website of Equinox, the Castle’s PR outfit, I was surprised to see a photo containing David Phillips, the man overthrown last year from his position of leader of Swansea council. The Equinox picture is of one of the company’s clients, the Swansea Bay City region project, though it’s at least a year old (see below), as Phillips was also given the heave-ho from the board of the city region outfit. (He’s the one in the centre, under the England flag.)

Equinox Phillips

Predictably, the board has among its members the leaders of the four local authorities involved, but strangely, in the case of Carmarthenshire, and only Carmarthenshire, we find a second representative. And who might that be? Meryl Gravell of course. Can anyone offer a suggestion as to why Carmarthenshire, but not Swansea (with its greater population) or any of the other councils, should have two representatives?

Ere his downfall I regularly chronicled Phillips’ deeds and utterances on this blog (just use the Search box atop the sidebar); indeed, I even gave him a nickname. In fact, I’m almost missing him, for he provided the citizenry of Swansea with hours of harmless fun. Such as going out in public, in daylight, in a red duffle coat? I repeat, a red duffle coat. Not even the Celtic scarf could save him from the fashion police.

In the duffle coat picture I’ve linked to, and on the extreme right, we can see acolyte and protégé Councillor John Charles Bayliss, one of the students Labour had to recruit to compensate for the party’s failure to find local candidates who could write their own name without biting off the tip of their tongue. After a few years of being a professional councillor Bayliss has at last found gainful employment, as an ‘account executive’ with PR outfit the Remarkable Group.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no objection to councillors earning an honest crust away from the council chamber. Indeed, it can be viewed as a good thing, otherwise we’d be lumbered with councils made up of the retired, the unemployable and the permanently sick (as has often been the case with Labour groups). No, the problem arises over the kind of work they do, and whether they might have been employed in the hope they can swing decisions to the advantage of their employers’ clients.

Not that I am for one minute suggesting that this is why the Remarkable Group recruited Councillor Bayliss – heaven forfend! – but I cannot help noticing that among his new employer’s clients we find many companies raking in the loot from wind farms, solar complexes and other activities that usually face local opposition and often struggle to gain planning consent. And as it says on John Boy’s Linkedin profile, his employer provides, “communications support for clients across England and Wales navigating the complex planning application process”.

Bayliss Remarkable

Which is a load of old bollocks. Because the big companies that are Remarkable’s clients employ lawyers and planning experts who understand planning law better than most councillors; what they’re really looking for is an extra advantage from having ‘someone on the inside’. So, without downplaying his undoubted abilities, I think it’s reasonable to assume that John Charles Bayliss would never have landed the job with the Remarkable Group had he not been a member of the party controlling Swansea council. Moving on, but not far, in any sense . . .

*

GARETH LODWIG WARDELL

To save you scratching your head, or Googling, he was the Labour MP for the Swansea constituency of Gower from 1982 until 1997.

Wardell is the son of legendary Gwendraeth barber Jack Wardell, but he himself resisted the temptation to offer customers ‘Something for the weekend’ and took himself off to the London School of Economics before getting a gullible electorate to vote for him. Curiously, I could only find four photographs of Wardell online, and all are marked ‘Copyright Victor Patterson’, a Belfast photographer! So that’s why you’re not getting a mugshot. (Though you’re not missing much!) In fact, there’s little information of any kind about Wardell on the internet, unless you’re prepared to dig. Which I enjoy!

So what is he doing nowadays? Well, here’s an example. Swansea council’s planning committee recently considered an application for 14,970 solar panels in the Cockett Valley. The application had been made in the name of Renewable Developments (Wales) Ltd, run by one Huw Davies, a former fixer for the late Bryn Llewellyn, of Abergelli Farm, Felindre, on the outskirts of Swansea, who was a self-made multi-millionaire in haulage and small coal mines.

(Having mentioned Abergelli Farm, it’s probably worth adding that Davies is planning a 299Mw gas-fired power station there that will – it’s argued – complement the Swansea tidal lagoon. This is being promoted by Abergelli Power, which seems to be acting in concert with Millbrook Power, which is in turn a subsidiary of Watt Power Ltd of Edinburgh.)

As you might expect, the local residents objected to the solar scam scheme, partly because the Cockett Valley is a ‘green wedge’ in an increasingly built up area. Their councillor, Ann Cook, who sat on the planning committee, conscientiously represented the wishes of her constituents by objecting to the planning application. In fact, at the July 14th planning committee meeting most Labour councillors on the planning committee voted against the application.

But by the time the planning application was reconsidered on August 11th the situation had changed dramatically. The Labour councillors trooped into the meeting holding each other’s hands and all bar one voted for the solar rip-off, while Ann Cook, the local councillor, was allowed / instructed to feign sickness rather than turn up and risk losing her (and Labour’s) seat by voting in favour of something her ward was vehemently against.

At this second meeting applicant Huw Davies was allowed to address the committee. Sitting alongside him, glaring at the assembled councillors, was Gareth Wardell, even though he had no obvious connection with the application. He certainly doesn’t seem to be on the company’s books.

I’ve already mentioned the lack of photographs of Wardell, and then there’s his Wikipedia entry, which is skeletal. Though a little digging did put flesh on the bones. For example, I found this on a Bloomberg page, which lists Wardell as “Energy Advisor – Planning” to an outfit called the Camborne Energy Group Ltd. When I checked Camborne Energy on Company Check I was confronted with about a dozen companies of that name, at the same Cardiff address, and all marked “dissolved”. Though there is a company in Bridgend called Camborne Energy Investments (10) Ltd, described as “active”, but does no trading! Who starts up so many companies, to do nothing? And why?

Another company with which Wardell is, or was, linked is 3C Energy. Now this may or may not be an Irish company, it certainly had an address in Dublin. The panel below (click to enlarge) is taken from a cached version of the site because all links to 3C websites are broken. Note again, Wardell’s usefulness is made clear – his ability to get planning permission.

Wardell Advisor

As with Camborne Energy Investments Ltd, we find multiple identities for 3C Energy. The only one of which that appears to be trading, 3C Renewable Energy Investments Ltd, is based in Cardiff and has a net worth of £-86,195. At 11 Oaklands Road, Bridgend, the same address as one of the Camborne companies, we find 3C Energy Developments (1) Ltd. And you will not be surprised to learn that we find the same man mentioned as director of both, Jonathan David Townend. But since June 26th, we also find Wardell as a director. The companies Townend has been involved with deserve a post on their own, but who is he?

I have argued for many years that the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party is corrupt to its core. It’s members as venal and selfish as those of any party the bruvvers and sissters condemn. What you have just read is, perhaps, another example of that venality.

Without wishing to unduly excite his lawyers it’s pretty clear that Gareth Wardell advertises himself as a kind of gun for hire. A man who, for a price, will use his influence within the Labour Party to get planning permission for the rogues inhabiting the renewables sector, parasites feeding off the public purse who, in truth, have no more concern for the environment than I have for the well-being of the Labour Party.

What Wardell does may be legal, then again it may not. Perhaps it depends where the line is drawn between lobbying and exerting undue pressure in order to influence planning and other decisions for the material gain of those exerting the pressure. Where Wardell appears to be clever is in having few if any direct involvements with the projects for which he’s lobbying. Take the Cockett Valley solar farm, he seems to have no official or registered connection with the applicant, so why was he ‘phoning and in other ways applying pressure on Labour councillors, especially the ward councillor?

Wardell’s influence can obviously swing things in Swansea, but how far does that influence reach? Can he affect decisions made by the Notional Assembly and the ‘Welsh’ Government? Whatever the answers, this little tale, this potted biography, is an indictment of the planning system, the political system, and the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party.

*

TERRY MATTHEWS

When the unlamented David Phillips was overthrown in Swansea he also lost his role as chairman of the Swansea Bay City Region consortium, though at the time he seemed to think he could carry on with the city region role. Others clearly had different ideas. He was replaced by Sir Terry Matthews, usually described as ‘Wales’ richest man’ or ‘Wales’ most successful entrepreneur’. (‘Entrepreneur’, a word for which there is no Welsh equivalent, by the way.)

I’ve never been too sure who exactly appointed Matthews, was it the members of the consortium, or the ‘Welsh’ Government? Recent statements by Matthews only add to my confusion.

Speaking last week at a question and answer session held at Trinity St. David University’s Carmarthen campus Matthews declared that he is “in favour of Carmarthenshire branding itself as region of Cardiff to boost the area’s economy”! Carmarthenshire, remember, is to the west of Swansea, and at the nearest point is over 50 miles from Cardiff, the county council is a member of the Swansea Bay city region, yet Matthews is telling Carmarthenshire to link itself with Cardiff! Then, when asked by a student how Carmarthenshire could compete with big cities, Matthews’ response was “You can cheat”!

Terry Matthews

And Matthews has form when it comes to advising people to lie, and be “shifty”. Around the same time he told business leaders in Gwent to tell people they’re based in Cardiff. Here’s a response to that suggestion in the form of a letter published in the South Wales Guardian.

Matthews is supposed to be heading the Swansea Bay City Region project, yet seems more concerned with promoting Cardiff, which makes me even more suspicious of his appointment. For I have regularly argued that the Swansea Bay City Region was added as an afterthought in order to disguise the fact that the Cardiff City region was all that really mattered to the ‘Welsh’ Government. Which makes me suspect that it was the ‘Welsh’ Government that appointed Matthews, perhaps to ensure that the Swansea Bay City Region isn’t too successful, and doesn’t interfere with Cardiff’s ambitions. Certainly, that’s the only interpretation to draw from the man’s bizarre statements.

But, for a minute, let’s listen to Matthews, let’s take his advice ad absurdum. If what he advises for Carmarthenshire, Swansea and the Valleys is credible, then why doesn’t he suggest that Cardiff brand itself as part of Bristol, after all, Bristol is a much more attractive and famous city? Why stop there – why shouldn’t every city from Plymouth to Inverness pretend to be part of London? ‘But wait!’ I hear you cry, Cardiff’s on the up, getting a lot of positive publicity from major sporting events being held in the city, such as the 2017 Champions League final.

OK . . . let’s consider that for a minute. It is generally agreed that the greatest final of all time was in 1960, when the great Real Madrid team of Puskas, di Stefano, Ghento and the rest beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7 – 3 before 127,621 fans. That game was played at Hampden Park, Glasgow. How much did Glasgow really benefit from that in hard, economic terms? The same could be asked of more recent venues, cities such as Athens (1983), Seville (1986), Istanbul (2005), Lisbon (2014). Like Glasgow, all great cities, but I think someone’s over-egging it to suggest that a few hours of television exposure will have investors rushing, and ‘swarms’ of people wanting to settle in any city hosting a major sporting event.

Matthews gravell

Though if there is some truth in this, then Swansea is obviously getting more regular and wholly positive global exposure from the Swans playing in the Premier League. All Swans’ games are televised around the world, with massive audiences when they play one of the ‘big’ clubs. And what’s more, the name ‘Swansea’ is inescapable, it’s visible from the score to the players’ shirts. By comparison, when people view the 2017 Champions League final they’ll only be interested in the two teams, not that it’s taking place in Cardiff.

Clearly, a lot of nonsense is spouted by the Cardiff propaganda machine (otherwise known as the ‘Welsh media’) which tries to justify the disproportionate investment and expenditure in Cardiff. Yet this, as the letter-writer to the South Wales Guardian pointed out, is the real problem. It is a dangerous and anti-national strategy that risks alienating other parts of the country, and poses the very real danger that large parts, especially in the north, will identify even more strongly with coterminous areas of England.

Devolution should mean nation building, not favouring one city over all other parts of the country. It’s about time those clowns down Cardiff docks, and the civil servants who manipulate them, realised that the strategies pursued since 1999 are dividing not uniting us. (Though from the perspective of the civil servants, answering to London, maybe this is the strategy.) The areas that were poor in 1999 are relatively poorer today, compared with Cardiff, and almost all other parts of Europe.

Wales needs a strategy to bring us together; the south east, the north, the Green Desert, and of course the Swansea Bay area, where those involved in the city region project might start asking themselves whether Terry “region of Cardiff” Matthews is the right man for the job.

Sep 142015
 

One of Wales’ many pockets of totalitarianism went through what its defenders would have us believe approximates to democracy last Thursday when the beleaguered clique running the show emerged briefly from behind the PR defences to hold the Cardigan Castle AGM 2015. A gathering from which television cameras were banned, perhaps because the Castle had gained some rather unflattering coverage from the BBC on the very day of the AGM. (Translated, the headline reads, ‘Has Cardigan Castle lost its way?’)

Seeing as Lady Tucker, the grande dame of the whole shooting-match, had herself gone through the charade of a ceremonial abdication (in order to be almost immediately restored to power) Hedydd “Over my dead body!” Jones began the scripted and rigidly controlled meeting by announcing that no awkward questions about staffing or other sensitive issues would be allowed! Which set the tone for what followed. Though, to the surprise of many there gathered, she said this in Welsh. In fact, I’m informed that the meeting was conducted largely in Welsh with translation facilities available. Clearly, recent criticism of the direction the project is taking have had some effect.

One question that did slip through PR company Equinox’ net was why the Castle doesn’t get better reviews on TripAdvisor. To which Dr Jones haughtily replied that she didn’t bother herself with such things. An odd response. Here we have a project that has been steered away from its original Castlecultural and historical focus to become just another dreary tourist attraction, yet those responsible for this subversion are unconcerned that a website likely to be consulted by potential visitors gives such mixed reviews! And as if that wasn’t bad enough, some unkind souls even suggest that most of the positive reviews on TripAdvisor have been written by Sue “English!” Lewis. (Reviews aren’t much better on Google. Though I do like “Community-run”!)

Among other issues raised by those prepared to risk being ostracised were: Why there was so little interaction with the volunteers, and why was the membership list not made public before the AGM and the election of new trustees (as it should have been).

Tony Tucker, consort to Lady Tucker, was applauded when he made the bland and vacuous appeal for ‘Everyone to pull together . . . make the project a financial success . . . Father Christmas . . . kittens . . . blah, blah, blah . . . zzzzzzzzzzz . . . ‘. The applause came in the main from Aberporth residents who had been bused in for the meeting, and most of whom had walked through the town of Cardigan unrecognised by locals. Tucker’s contribution is another reminder of the tactics being employed under the tutelage of Equinox. Anyone who criticises the Gang of Five (I have promoted Timms) is trying to ‘wreck’ the project; when in reality the critics are the ones trying to save the project and keep it to its original course.

Another questioner asked why the trustees did not engage with their critics, rather than dismiss them (as Sandra “Bigots!” Davies did) as “bigots”. For some reason, answering this question was left to Councillor Gareth ‘Clettwr’ Lloyd, the representative of the county council. He argued that the term had been used by the media, not by the trustees. Another example of misinformation. Or, to be generous to Cllr. Lloyd, perhaps he had not read the Pembrokeshire Herald article, nor seen the original e-mail. If so, then that’s rather worrying, seeing as Cllr. Lloyd is a trustee.

*

Other information has reached me in the form of comments to my previous post, by that prolific writer Anon. One comment adds to the mystery surrounding the ‘resignation’ of Glen Johnson.

Resignation AGM

This tells me two things. First, due to those running the project getting so much adverse publicity someone thought it best to get the AGM done with sooner rather than later, then batten down the hatches and ride out the storm before the 2016 AGM. Second, the timing makes Glen Johnson’s ‘resignation’ look ever more suspicious. Either ‘Joff’ Timms is psychic, or someone said to the ever-obliging Johnson, ‘Look, Glen, you’re standing down anyway, so why not render the project a great service by letting us stage-manage your resignation?’

Other matters raised by ‘Anon’ are jobs claimed to have been created by the Castle, most of which are almost certainly being done by agency staff and are unlikely to add up to the number of FTE (full-time or equivalent) jobs claimed. Then there are the bookings to stay in the Castle’s accommodation, again being handled by an agency, which will take its cut and thereby limit the Castle’s profits. Though as ‘Dai Dom Da’ points out, there are precious few bookings of any description. For example, despite being open since April, and spending £100,000 on a permanent marquee, the Castle will not see a single wedding this year! ‘Brychan’s comments are also worth reading as he picks out some interesting points from the Annual Report.

Finally, Ian Perryman throws fresh light on the role of Sue ‘English!’ Lewis in the creation of the post of Facilities Officer, the job that she came to fill after beating off dozens of other applicants who’d seen the job advertised in all the local ‘papers. (Yes, that’s sarcasm; and as my old mate Meic Phillips would say, “laid on with a trowel, boy”.)

Anyway, what Ian says is this: If the job was created when Sue Lewis knew she was getting the elbow from the Tivy-Side Advertiser then clearly she would have had a hand in the dirty work. But the trustees counter this suggestion by arguing that the ‘re-organisation’ – of which the new post was a part – had been planned a long time before. But Sue ‘English!’ Lewis was a trustee for many years, which means that whenever the job was created she put herself in breach of Charity Commission regulations by taking a post she had been instrumental in creating when a trustee.

Charity Commission trustee to employee

Unless of course clearance was sought from the Charity Commission for her to take up the post. Though if not, why not? And if, as I suspect, the Charity Commission is ignorant of how the post was created and allocated, then someone should inform them. In fact, I might do it myself.

Symptomatic of a project in serious trouble, in so many ways. Public bodies have given over twelve million pounds of our money to a venture that was to have been a celebration of Welsh history and culture but has now degenerated into little more than the most expensive B&B in Wales. This change of course can be attributed to the Gang of Five, possibly others, but as ‘Dai Dom Da’ reminds us, there has not been a single wedding yet. So Cardigan Castle fails both as a heritage project and as a commercial ‘venue’.

*

While in the background we still hear the rumblings about the lack of contracts awarded to local companies, and the suspicion of favouritism, or pre-existing connections, that attach to some of the contracts awarded. Why, for example, did the Castle feel the need to go to a firm in Leicester for a £44,400 quote for a website, something that a Welsh firm could have provided for £5,000 or less? (That was obviously too greedy, but this outfit still got the contract to provide Fort Knox-level display cabinets for the Castle’s rusty tat and old photos.) And was there really no firm nearer than Hampshire to supply the Castle with glasshouses?

Small wonder that funders and other stakeholders such as the local councils are now taking greater interest in the project; and that dealings with the media are controlled by Equinox, which uses its contacts to put out a stream of positive stories. Like this one in today’s Cambrian News. But even here, Councillor Lloyd has to admit to a “breakdown in communication”, and the CN writer refers to “the lack of dialogue bet­ween trustees and members of the community who had concerns about the inclusion of heritage at the site”. I think that’s meant to be a reference to the lack of a heritage element (but then, with the Cambrian News you can never be sure what it’s trying to say).

And yet, I guarantee that anyone coming on this saga afresh would soon come to the conclusion that the reason for the ‘breakdown in communication’, the reason for ‘the lack of dialogue’, the reason it ceased to be a heritage project (yet fails as a commercial venture), the reason there is an alarming turnover of both trustees and staff, the reason that a clear majority within the local population feels alienated . . . these and all the other ills can be attributed to those running Cardigan Castle.

The only way for this project to regain the affection and support of the local population, and thereby become commercially viable, is to remove those who have got it into this mess. If Cardigan Castle was a purely commercial venture then heads would have rolled a long time ago; but not here, for we are now in the parallel universe of the Welsh Third Sector, where vast amounts of funding are wasted on social enterprises and other excuses for an economy, projects that it can never be admitted have failed. So lies are told, truths are withheld, and more and more money is poured into sink holes.

Outside of the ‘developing world’ there are few countries where a scandal such as Cardigan Castle could happen. Unfortunately, Wales, thanks in no small part to the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government, is one such country.

*

P.S. In addition to the reluctance to communicate with the public at large, something else I should have remarked on is the lax record keeping. For example, I have just (20:50 Sept 14) been to the Charity Commission page for Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust Charity (Number 1080667), which still shows Glen Jonsonh (sic) as a trustee with the new trustees elected last Thursday not shown. It is not difficult to keep up to date on the Charity Commission website, I know, I’ve done it myself many times. You simply log in, make the necessary changes to the trustees, or whatever, and those changes appear on the website immediately.

It’s difficult to know whether this reluctance to keep records up to date is attributable to laziness, or the more general tendency of the Gang of Five to behave like a secret society. Either way, the law says that the records should be kept up to date.

Aug 252015
 

The ‘resignation’ of Glen Johnson due to “online harassment” and “virtual persecution” continues to reverberate, here’s an update. (Though what is virtual persecution? Is it something less than real persecution?)

To begin with, it’s worth remembering that the press release announcing the resignation was issued by Equinox, the Castle’s PR company. Given how these things are done, with the Castle paying the bills, it’s reasonable to assume that the press release was sent to Equinox ready-written, with instructions for the agency to merely issue it to its media contacts.

Glen Johnson Cambrian News

CLICK TO ENLARGE

One of those contacts was of course the Cambrian News . . . or maybe the Cambrian News got the resignation story directly from the Castle . . . or maybe the Cambrian News didn’t need to be informed at all . . .

Seeing as both my blog and I were mentioned in the Cambrian News report I wrote to managing editor Beverly Davies making it clear that the only references to Glen Johnson on my blog were positive, and so I should not have been mentioned in a way that obviously tried to implicate me in the alleged ‘harassment’. I was refused an apology but given a few hours to make a comment to a follow-up story . . . without being given any details of that follow-up!

Even so, I did give her a statement, though I doubt if it will be published. Here it is. ‘I want nothing to do with the Cambrian News because it cannot be trusted to report honestly on any issue where its over-riding political, ethno-cultural and constitutional prejudices come into play’.

In my exchange of e-mails with Beverly Davies I made the point that, “The Facilities Officer at Cardigan Castle is Sue Lewis, who was, prior to that job being created for her, a trustee. She is one of those I have criticised in my blog. She is also a freelance reporter for your newspaper, and her husband Mike is your South Ceredigion reporter. What a cosy arrangement!”

Beverly Davies responded with, “While Sue Lewis does do some freelance work for our paper, she only covers Aberporth Town (sic) Council and Cardigan Town Council meetings. She has had no involvement in our Cardigan castle stories.” My incredulity becomes clear in my response, “Do you seriously expect me, or any other sentient being, to believe that Sue Lewis has no input to articles written by her husband (or even his colleagues) about the place she works!”

But what if it’s true! Picture the scene chez Lewis, gentle reader, He: ‘I’m working on a story about the place where you work, Sweetie Pie, but you mustn’t tell me anything, or try to influence the article in any way – is that clear?‘ She (eyelashes fluttering): ‘Of course not, Big Boy, you know I wouldn’t do that, I’m an obedient lickle wifey‘. Yes, that must be how things are done in the Lewis household, or maybe not . . .

For there must, regrettably, be the possibility that that image of connubial bliss exists nowhere but in my imagination, and that in the real world the press release and the Cambrian News article were both written by Sue Lewis. In which case, is Glen Johnson just a willing dupe in the machinations of others? If not, if he is the author of the resignation statement, how does he feel about the trustees and the Cambrian News using his resignation to attack me, a man who has done him no wrong, and said nothing about him that was hurtful or even critical?

Let’s have some straight answers, Glen. Are you accusing me of harassing you? If not, how about correcting the impression your resignation has allowed others to create  – people you recently worked with – that I am some kind of ogre stalking the internet terrorising women and children. The time for vague allegations and innuendo is past. Things are coming to a head. Let’s have some straight answers, Glen.

Elsewhere, an old comrade, completely unprompted, complained to the BBC about its treatment of the Johnson resignation. His point about cut and paste journalism, and treating press releases as news items, are worrying reminders of the state of the Welsh media. Read it here.

Time now to turn to a recurring theme in the saga of Cardigan Castle, money being squandered.

*

WEBSITE? THAT’LL BE FORTY-FOUR GRAND, LOVE.

One of the complaints levelled again and again against the project is that there is little to see for the £12m expenditure. People go there and wonder what that vast sum was spent on. One specific complaint made more than once is that the display cabinets are of a similar standard – and cost – to those housing the English crown jewels in London, even though Cardigan Castle has little if anything of value to display. This complaint puzzled me, but recent information may throw some some light on this issue.

A former trustee has sent me a quote, from September 2012, to set up a website for the Castle. The quote comes from a firm called Haley Sharpe Design of Leicester, in England. The quotation – just for a website, remember! – is £44,000. Read it here for yourself; read it through, item by item, and you’ll realise what a rip-off it would have been. Of course, this was three years ago, no doubt HSD would now charge £50,000.

This is what happens when public money is involved and there is no adequate oversight from the funders’ representatives, as is the case with Cardigan Castle. The customer thinks, ‘What the hell, it’s not our money!’ and the supplier rubs his sweaty hands thinking, ‘They’re getting millions in grants, let’s get our snouts in the trough’. Incidentally, I’m told that all the other quotes for a website came in under £5,000.

One obvious question is, why did the trustees ever go to a firm like this, so far away, so expensive, to get a quote for something that could have been provided by Dai Jones down the road for one tenth of the price? Does someone connected with the Castle know someone involved with HSD?

Thankfully, HSD did not get the website contract. An outlay like that would have been difficult to explain, even with the cosy relationship between Lady Tucker and the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Gareth ‘Yes, Ma’am’ Gregory. The website now running appears to the creation of Sugar Creative of Cardiff, though there are many firms much nearer to Cardigan that could – and should – have been given the work.

Let us conclude this section by returning to Haley Sharpe Design, for despite losing out on the website rip-off contract the company was asked to fit out the Castle with display cabinets and similar equipment, and also to hold exhibitions. (See left sidebar when page opens.) Knowing how much HSD wanted to charge for a website we can be fairly sure that Cardigan Castle has paid over the odds for its display cases and much else. But then, it’s only public money.

I ask again, who is the link between Cardigan Castle and HSD?

Alas, problems rarely come singly, do they, boys and girls? and poor old Jac has also been assailed by that master of the vituperative, that Woodward and Bernstein of the Welsh blogosphere, Phil Parry of Wales Eye.

*

IS THAT SUPPOSED TO BE ME?

Every so often, when the bile rises, or I have criticised his belovéd Labour Party too effectively, Phil Parry girds his loins and sallies forth to engage with the evil dragon of nationalism – me! These attacks invariably take the form of Parry telling his vast readership that I am about to be banged up because someone has reported me to the police. This ‘someone’ is usually Jacques Protic, a Serbian gent living on Ynys Môn, a man who manages to be a Labour Party member while simultaneously believing that Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones are closet nationalists! (No, I did not make that up, as the panel below testifies. It is a comment Protic made to a BBC blog.)

Parry’s latest assault on the dragon can be found here. I recommend that you be sitting down when you read it, and without a hot drink in your hand. (I should also warn you that in this latest piece Parry offers links to earlier works of fiction in which I star – apparently forgetting that these are behind a paywall!) Now, where to start?

Protic-Labour

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Well, Parry begins with some bizarre story about an investigation by GogPlod into comments on my blog. He writes, “An investigation was launched by North Wales Police after a complaint from a member of the public about the website ‘Jac o’ the North’, and the Editor, Royston Jones, was officially warned to remove abusive comments or it may be closed down, according to sources.” I have received no such warning. North Wales Police has not contacted me.

Other than that, almost everything in the article is a re-hash of what he’s written before. Protic predictably appears, there is yet another mention of the Cayo Evans photograph, the social housing petition is regurgitated, and then he flaunts his powers of investigation with, “Mr Jones is currently embroiled in a controversy which centres on Cardigan castle”. Wow!

The thing about Parry is that he is consistent . . . consistent in attacking me for things I have not done. Let’s start with Protic. The basis for this story is that Protic alleges he was threatened over the telephone and had his car’s tyres slashed, and all because of something I’d written about him on my blog. As if Protic doesn’t draw enough attention to himself by expressing his odious views on every forum he can find.

The Cayo Evans photograph. I don’t know who took it, I don’t appear in it, but putting it up on my blog makes me guilty of . . . well, something. The social housing petition was launched by Dennis Morris of Plaid Glyndŵr. I put it on my sidebar because I’m unreasonable enough to believe that local people should enjoy priority in the allocation of social housing. And of course the ‘hook’ for the latest Parry article is that someone – but not me – wrote something some arsehole somewhere considers ‘racist’.

If online racism really concerns Phil Parry then let him visit MailOnline or Guido Fawkes or a host of other ‘mainstream’ sites, where he will find all the racist comments a man in search of them could desire, made against the Welsh and just about every nation other than the English. But of course Parry won’t do that, because he’s not really interested in racism per se; he is, just like the Cambrian News, and politicians in Wales and elsewhere, simply interested in using the slur of racism to silence people whose views he doesn’t like.

Though let us not be too harsh on Phil Parry for I fear he may be losing it, or maybe someone is playing jokes on him. In what I assume to have been a desperate attempt to say something new about me Parry wrote, “He retired as director of a Barmouth air conditioning firm . . . “ Who? Me! Accusing me of being a gun-toting, ethnic-cleansing, bodice-ripping, baby-eating nationalist I can live with, but you go too far when you accuse me of being a director of an air conditioning firm in – of all places – Barmouth!

I don’t know who, or what, you’re talking about, Parry . . . and neither, I suspect, do you.

*

IT WAS THE CAMBRIAN NEWS WOT WON IT!

Apart from learning that Beverly Davies has a sense of humour, something else I learnt yesterday was that Elin Jones AM has been asked for a comment on the Johnson resignation, and it will appear in this week’s issue of the rag. No doubt it will be in with the comments from the Pope and the mayor of Wagga Wagga, both outraged by my criticisms of certain Cardigan Castle trustees.

This, I’m told, is what she will say: “Glen Johnson has been a long-time champion of the castle and its history. He is one of the local experts and was influential in convincing me and others of the merits of the need to invest and restore the castle. I am sure he has spent years of voluntary effort in researching and supporting the castle. It is a travesty that he now feels pressured by social media to withdraw as a trustee. We need to thank him for all he has done and hopefully he can continue to contribute in other ways to the project.” So the local AM appears to have swallowed the Cambrian News story hook line and sinker . . . or maybe not, because here’s my interpretation.

Elin Jonres

Elin Jones will be standing for re-election next May which, let me remind you, is just over eight months away. She is very mindful of how the Cambrian News may have destroyed her colleague Mike Parker’s chances of becoming Ceredigion’s Plaid Cymru MP just three months ago, in the May General Election. For anyone who has perhaps forgotten, check out my post, Mike Parker and Huw ‘Tipp-Ex’ Thomas in Full Agreement.

What the Cambrian News did with that piece of gutter journalism was deliberately misrepresent something Parker had written many years earlier. For soon after moving to Wales he wrote a piece for Planet magazine telling of his shock at realising many English people move to rural Wales to escape the multiracial towns and cities of England. (But he never used the word ‘Nazi’.) He also told us that many of the English who move to Wales look down on their Welsh neighbours with contempt. Read the original 2001 article here. Compare it with what the Cambrian News wrote and you’ll realise what a squalid distortion the latter was.

Remarkably, it was left to the Western Mail to put this story into its correct perspective, with Martin Shipton writing, “The purpose of this attack on Mr Parker, of course, is to dissuade people from voting for him.” In other words, it was an attempt by the Cambrian News to influence the outcome of the General Election in Ceredigion by telling lies about the candidate the ‘paper did not want to win. And it may have worked.

*

THREAT TO DEMOCRACY?

Its victory over Mike Parker, and the muted response from Plaid Cymru, has emboldened the Cambrian News, making it believe that it can control the political debate, certainly in Ceredigion, and perhaps beyond. Given who owns the ‘paper there is nothing surprising here.

The Cambrian News is part of the Tindle Group, still run by the eponymous, and 88-year-old Sir Ray Tindle. Sir Ray is a patriot of the old school, the man who told his editors, once Bush and Blair began their illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, “to ensure that nothing appears in your newspapers which attacks the decision to conduct the war”. (Read full article here.)

When it comes to Wales, we can be sure that Sir Ray’s views are unequivocally Unionist, which means doing everything possible to portray nationalists as a dangerous and evil enemy . . . especially when they look like winning. The only way dissenting voices can hope to avoid the Tindle treatment is to dissent as little as possible . . . the course Elin Jones has so clearly adopted. With the result that debate is stifled, truth takes a kicking, and democracy in Wales is further weakened.

This assault on truth and democracy in the service of English interests becomes increasingly more obvious as Tindle and other owners ship in journalists recruited in England, journalists who don’t know their patch, and thus make a mockery of ‘local journalism’. The pretence can only be maintained with the assistance of a ‘Welsh’ veneer provided by the likes of Beverly Davies.

The Cambrian News and many other ‘local’ newspapers are now a threat to the democratic process. They promote a viewpoint that is hostile to Welsh interests, they try to intimidate those who dare challenge them and their viewpoint, and they have lost that fundamental connection with local communities that should justify their existence.

The Elin Jones approach is nothing less than surrendering to the diktats of a warped old man who cares nothing for Wales. How does a Plaid Cymru politician justify such a stance, even to herself? The way forward must be to challenge the Cambrian News and all the other BritNat propaganda rags. If Plaid Cymru isn’t prepared to stand up to this bullying, then it does not deserve to survive.

UPDATE 27.08.2015: Yesterday, some 30 people, including ex-volunteers, gathered outside the Castle to make a presentation to sacked Director Cris Tomos. There were young and old there, Welsh and English, to present him with gifts, including a blooming apple tree, showing the gratitude of the townspeople for all the work he has done for Cardigan. Inside, the remaining trustees plotted at their monthly meeting.

UPDATE II 27.08.2015: In this week’s online South Ceredigion edition of the Cambrian News Glen Johnson seems to saying something different regarding his family. Last week it was, “The main reason for my resignation is to protect my family from the virtual persecution being dealt out . . . “. This week, the writer of the article says, ” . . . with his family bearing the brunt of ‘overheard conversations'”.

The implication is inescapable – nothing was said directly to his family. That his family overheard unflattering conversations around the town only proves what a hot topic the running of the Castle has become. Even then, I guarantee that if ‘them trustees’ were getting a slagging, it wasn’t Glen Johnson the critics had in mind. I’m beginning to worry that the saintly Glen Johnson may be developing a martyr complex.

Curiously, although the article is headed ‘AM steps into Cardigan Castle row’ there is no quote from Elin Jones. Perhaps you have to pay for the full edition to read what Elin Jones said. Which I’m sure you’re prepared to do, especially after seeing the subscription page.

Aug 192015
 

My first post on this subject was Cardigan Castle – Ready to Fall? on July 7th. Since then I have posted Cardigan Castle – It’s Getting Worse! (July 12th), Cardigan Castle: Gang of Four + One (July 21st), there was a section in Updates, etc (July 26th), then came Cardigan Castle: Guest Post by ‘Dyn Deche Rhys’ (July 30th), and finally, Cardigan Castle: Connections Keep A-Coming (August 3rd). IGlen Johnson‘m listing them in case you feel the need to refer to them as you read on.

The reason I’m returning to the subject now is that it’s all getting a bit naughty. Those I’ve written about, and others behind them, are pulling out the stops in order, not to answer the many questions being asked, but to silence those doing the asking. I suppose things came to a head yesterday with the resignation of Glen Johnson, one of the trustees. Mr Johnson cited as his reason for stepping down the need to protect his family from “online persecution”.

This is the report from the BBC Wales website. Here’s the Tivy-Side Advertiser. Finally, the Cambrian News report talks of “online harassment” and mentions my blog, even gives my name, thereby inviting readers to make the erroneous connection. But then, this is the Cambrian News, and this is the nature of the beast. No one should be surprised to learn that Mike Lewis, husband of trustee Sue Lewis, is a staff reporter, possibly deputy editor, on this rag. Perhaps more pertinent may be the fact that Sue Lewis herself freelances for the CN, as these minutes from Aberporth Community Council make clear. Could it be that Sue Lewis herself wrote the Cambrian News report on Johnson’s resignation?

The first thing to understand about Glen Johnson is that for months he’s been telling anyone who’d listen that he’d had enough, and was stepping down at the September AGM of trustees . . . and these declarations of intent pre-date anything I’ve written about Cardigan Castle. His FaceGlen Johnson Facebookbook page carries a few of these statements. Here’s a couple from July. (Click to enlarge.)

After reading the media accounts I went to my blog to check what I had written about him . . . as opposed to what people what you to believe I’ve written. I could only find two references to Glen Johnson in my blog posts and both were positive. The first in my post of July 7th and the second in the guest post of July 30th. Read both extracts below.

JULY 7: “So this place (Cardigan Castle) has immense significance in Welsh history, yet I don’t think there’s a trustee other than Glen Johnson with any relevant expertise (in history).”

JULY 30: “A glimpse of what might have been is provided by A History of Cardigan Castle written by local historian Glen Johnson. Johnson is currently a trustee who has signalled his intention of stepping down from the role next year, but for years he was a persona non grata to the Aberporth clique running the show because of his awkward insistence on uncovering the archaeology and history of the site.

Bringing his story up to date, Johnson notes that, “in September 2007 Cadwgan B. P. T. revealed their plans to convert the front range of Castle Green House into a Welsh Language Learning Centre and the remainder of the building and all of the outbuildings into holiday accommodation”.

This is harassment! This is “online persecution”!

So if I haven’t been attacking him, what exactly is going on with this ‘resignation’? I am convinced that this whole episode can be explained by the press release issued to the media. Enquiries are referred to a Cardiff telephone number belonging to Equinox, Cardigan Castle’s PR agency. This resignation is nothing but a publicity stunt, one staged to depict critics of the Castle’s trustees as the sort of bastards who threaten the trustees’ wives and children. Remember! this man was resigning anyway, before I put out a word on Cardigan Castle, but someone, somewhere, saw the chance to capitalise on a long-planned resignation by twisting it into the sudden decision of a persecuted man forced out by internet bullies – i.e. me! And all designed to deflect criticism from the ruling trustees, and even allow them to shelter under the umbrella of victimhood.

Here’s my message to Glen Johnson. If your family really is being intimidated then you should have reported it to the police, not a PR agency. And if, as I suspect, you haven’t yet reported it to the police, get in touch with me and I’ll accompany you to the police station. Yes, I’ll hold your hand. But my best advice for you is, don’t allow yourself to be used by people much cleverer and more ruthless than you.

Glen Johnson’s stage-managed resignation is only the latest in a list of incidents which have been attempts to either frighten me off or have my blog closed down. Here’s an example worth recounting.

On August 12th a comment was made to my post, Cardigan Castle – Ready to Fall? of July 7th. The first comment to that post in a fortnight, and it came from ‘Charity Solicitor’. I responded and he / she came back the following day with a longer comment that contained, “It is, therefore, entirely ludicrous to claim, as you and your friends often do, that the trustees have their hands in the till.” I had never accused the trustees of that, and I made that fact clear; I also asked ‘Charity Solicitor’ to direct me to where, as he alleged, I had accused the trustees of theft.

Of course ‘Charity Solicitor’ could not find anything like this on my blog, for the simple reason that I had never written it. Others joined in the debate and eventually ‘Charity Solicitor’, realising he’d been sussed, admitted he was Dr (Charles) Robert Anthony. On August 14th he made what, for a lawyer, was an extraordinary statement, done in a pathetic attempt to laugh off the very serious allegation he had made against me only a few days earlier. He wrote, “‘Hands in the till’ is a figure of speech or metaphor. It’s not meant to be taken literally.” Sorry, pal , ‘hands in the till’ most definitely means stealing, there is no other interpretation. And for what, exactly, could ‘hands in the till’ be a metaphor?

Throughout this exchange with me and others Dr Anthony wasn’t clear whether he was speaking officially for the trustees or merely on their behalf, unofficially. Make your own guesses.

But yet again we have someone riding to the rescue but refusing to address the questions raised, and instead trying to steer the debate onto more promising ground by making me defend myself against things I never said. Very similar to what is happening with this ludicrously contrived resignation. I’m confronted with evasion, innuendo, non-sequiturs, smears, misrepresentation, and downright lies. So let me make my position clear.

I retract nothing I have written about Jann Tucker, Hedydd Jones, Sue Lewis and Sandra Davies. To see them hoping to hide behind poor, manipulated Glen Johnson is despicable, and it will not succeed. The questions are still awaiting answers.

  • Who is Jonathan Timms of Kent, and how did he get involved? Is he perhaps related to a trustee, or does he own a holiday home in Aberporth? Possibly both?
  • Why have so many trustees and staff walked away from this project (before I ever got involved)?
  • How many times did Sue Lewis shout ‘ENGLISH!’ in that now infamous e-mail?
  • How often does Jann Tucker crack open a bottle or twa with the Heritage Lottery Fund’s supposedly impartial representative, Gareth Gregory?
  • Was Hedydd Jones reprimanded for saying ‘Over my dead body” at the prospect of the Gorsedd visiting the Castle?
  • Why did the project – as Glen Johnson himself bemoaned – change from a historical and cultural icon into a tacky tourist venture that is financially unworkable?
  • What did Sandra Davies mean by saying, “We’ll never get world class staff if we have to rely on the Welsh”? Was she asked to explain that insulting remark?
  • What did Jonathan Timms, the trustees’ contact point and secretary, mean when he described Rhys ap Sue Lewis fairy godmotherGruffydd and his sons as “savages”?
  • Can you provide satisfactory evidence of contracts being properly advertised and put out to tender? Evidence that would satisfy someone other than Jann Tucker’s drinking buddy.
  • The same applies to appointments, or were they all advertised – online only – from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day, as was the case with the post created for trustee Sue Lewis almost immediately after she lost her job at the Tivy-Side Advertiser?

And yet, despite the slanders, I am greatly heartened that the Gang of Four’s defenders feel they need to resort to these tactics. I say ‘defenders’ because I am convinced that what we see now, with Johnson’s resignation especially, is intervention by persons who have come to realise that the Gang of Four are a liability, but to remove them would be an admission of defeat, so they have to be defended at all costs. It’s a difficult situation for them; and so desperate are they that someone must have thought this resignation stunt was worth a try.

Just stand back and consider the absurdity of the news coverage given. Here we have a nobody, in a small town, who resigns from a trust few will have heard of – but it makes the BBC News! This of course is the BBC we have come to know, this is the BBC of the Scottish independence referendum, the BBC of ‘British’ this and ‘Great British’ that, the defender of the British establishment. So in conclusion, let me reiterate . . .

Despite what has been alleged by the Cambrian News and others, nothing mildly derogatory, let alone threatening, has appeared on this blog in relation to Glen Johnson. Anyone persisting with these groundless accusations – or making fresh accusations – should be very careful what they say or write.

UPDATE 20.08.2015: La Tucker is to step down from her position of trustee at the AGM next month. Apparently, something to do with ‘rotation’ . . . are we talking turnips here?

Apr 132015
 

Thus far, this has been a stultifying election campaign enlivened only by the glorious promise of the SNP destroying the Labour Party in Scotland and then regaining Scotland’s independence. Here in Wales independence is a dream shared by only a few, so we are reduced to taking solace in sideshows and distractions, with explains why I’m reporting here on the two curious incidents, or the two-act farce, in Ceredigion.

First there was the disgraceful smear against Plaid candidate Mike Parker mounted (or fronted) by the Cambrian News, a rag with a long-standing policy of publishing anonymous or fake anti-Welsh letters and, in my area, serving as a mouthpiece for lodge and golf club to rail against ‘the council’ (code for Plaid Cymru) ‘neglecting’ south Meirionnydd. Complaints from men who argue for smaller local authorities on the groundCambrian News Naziss that these would be more ‘democratic’ when what they really want are councils run by . . . well, men like them, handing out planning permissions willy-nilly to each other’s friends and families.

I have no wish to deal with the Cambrian News at any length, so let me try to explain it briefly for anyone unfamiliar with the tale. Mike Parker, the Plaid Cymru candidate in Ceredigion, is an Englishman who, some fifteen years ago, wrote a book in which he said that a number of the English who move to Wales are white flight racists. This suggestion would encourage much head-nodding among the Cambrian News‘ readership so, in order to damage Parker, the story had to be spiced up to the point where the headline screamed: ‘Incomers are ‘Nazis’, says would-be MP’. Clearly implying that Mike Parker is an intolerant, if not unhinged, individual who believes that all English people moving to Wales are followers of Adolf Hitler.

The fact that Mike Parker never even used the term ‘Nazi’ was irrelevant. The use of it by the Cambrian News and others has been justified on the grounds that ‘this is what Parker meant’, or, ‘there can be no other interpretation of Parker’s reference to “Final Solution crackpots”‘. Both wrong. First, attacking someone for what they have written is one thing, but once people start guessing what writers meant, then accusers are on very shaky legal ground. Second, if you read what Mike Parker wrote in Planet in 2001, especially his comparison of rural Wales with those western states of the USA that attract anti-federal government militias, it becomes obvious that the full sentence “To some extent, rural Wales has become the British equivalent of the American mountains (that are) inhabited by a sprinkling of paranoid conspiracy theorists, gun-toting Final Solution crackpots and anti-government obsessives” can only be referring to the USA. (My parenthesis.) Mike Parker is definitely not saying that rural Wales contains small armies of English nutters living in encampments and stockades. Which fatally undermines the excuse given for the use of ‘Nazis’.

The chorus of outrage and condemnation inevitably contained Labour voices. Among them was the dulcet tenor of Peter ‘the Great’ Hain, who repeated the word ‘Nazi’. Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair’s propaganda chief also joined in, before recanting. One contribution came from Parker’s Labour rival, Huw Thomas, a councillor in Cardiff but originally from Ceredigion. Young Huw was outraged by the alleged anti-English sentiment expressed by Parker (himself English, remember!). He fulminated, “These outrageous and deeply offensiveHain Parker tweet remarks are exactly the sort of poisonous rhetoric you’d expect from Ukip, not a party that claims to be progressive and left wing. There should be no place in our politics or our society for such divisive and hateful language. As a Cardi to my core, I’m proud that Wales and Ceredigion have a history of welcoming people from across this island and across the world. These comments are totally at odds with the Ceredigion I know and love.”All good stuff, though I’d recommend that Huw Thomas downplays the “Cardi to my core” bit, Labour’s supporters in Aber Uni and elsewhere might not like being reminded that their candidate is one of the natives.

While all this was going on that Greek bloke Hu Bris must have been lurking close by, hand cupped to his shell-like because, within days, it was Labour’s turn to squirm as the election in Ceredigion took a bizarre twist with revelations about the saintly and ‘welcoming’ Huw Thomas. It came to light that Huw had, during the 2006 World Cup, been much vexed by the proliferation in Ceredigion of cars flaunting England flags. His answer to the problem, aired on a Welsh language website, was to use Tipp-Ex correcting fluid to mimic “bird poo”! (Yes, I know, very weird.) Thomas was forced to admit his silliness, but rather than leave it at that Labour luminaries rallied around, trying to turn this minor disaster in an unwinnable seat into a national triumph, arguing that this was how aAndrews Tipp-Exn apology should be made – in contrast to the unashamedly unapologetic Mike Parker! The Labour Assembly Member for the Rhondda, Leighton Andrews, made himself look really stupid with a couple of tweets to which I couldn’t resist replying. (Click to enlarge.) Now I’m blocked from Porky’s Twitter account as well. These Labour politicos are so sensitive!

What a to-do, eh, boys and girls! So have we learnt anything from all this thud and blunder? Well, if nothing else, the Cambrian News has told us what a disgusting, anti-Welsh rag it is, and why it should be boycotted. BBC Wales, whose newsreaders can’t be bothered to properly pronounce Welsh place names, reminded us that, just like the Secretary of State for Wales, it is the voice of London in Wales. But for me, the real lesson is that when we clear away the party politicking, the posturing and the propaganda it becomes obvious that Parker and Thomas were in fact dealing with the same problem, and agreeing. That this important fact will be ignored by the ‘Welsh’ media tells us all we need to know about its colonial nature.

Mike Parker was saying that there are some very ugly specimens among the English in rural Wales, racists, bigots, and “Little Englanders”. Talking of the England flags that so irked him, Huw Thomas wrote, “It truly shows the degree our society has been infiltrated by incomers who are not ready to integrate. Very often, from what I see, some flying English flags are young people, who have been brought up in Wales, but who are loyal to England”. Elsewhere Thomas refers to such people as “chavs” and “casual racists”. Both men are talking about the influx into rural Wales of people for whom Wales is just a western extension of England, some enlarged Cornwall with even ‘funnier’ names.

What’s more, the English colon isn’t a demon conjured up by Parker and Thomas, for he’s introduced himself to others, as this account by Martin Shipton in the Western Mail makes clear, ‘Like Mr Parker, I was once approached in a pub in rural Wales by an Englishman whose opening conversational gambit was: “Isn’t it great here without any f****** P****?”’ And if you’re the type of English person who is intolerant of other identities, then Welsh is just another non-English identity. The mistake that’s been made – especially by the professional ‘anti-fascists’ of the Left – has been to focus on Nick Griffin and other high-profile individuals – but they were never the problem! (Here’s Shipton’s piece on the Thomas revelation.)

So Mike Parker and Huw Thomas were both talking honestly of English colonisation. That taboo subject that will draw accusations of ‘racism’ against anyone who dares raise it. Making it almost a contemporary Welsh version of The Emperor’s New Clothes . . . but in this version the small boy who blurts out the truth gets run through with a pike. The fact that ‘racism’ has been used so consistently and over such a long period should make it obvious that those behind this tactic will not be found in the offices of local weekly rags, or at BBC ‘Wales’. This denial of rational debate is UK State policy, as is English colonisation itself.

Jul 032014
 

It’s taken about eight months, but I finally got the information I requested on the Social Housing Grant (SHG). Though let me make it clear that I attach no blame to the Housing and Regeneration section of the ‘Welsh’ Government or the Housing Directorate (which, despite being in Wales is, I believe, an outpost of the UK / England Department for Communities and Local Government); for both have been very helpful. It seems that in the first instance I was asking for too much information, which exceeded the obligations placed on government departments by the Freedom of Information Act, with the delay extenuated by me seSocial Housing Grantnding e-mails to someone who’d left his job but whose e-mail account was still open and accepting incoming e-mails!

As you might have guessed, I’m talking about housing associations, and more especially, how much they receive from the ‘Welsh’ Government through the SHG (click on panel to enlarge). In other words, public funding, money that could – with different priorities – be spent on other things. Between 2008 and 2013 housing associations in Wales were given £692,541,022.51. (I can give you the figure to the exact penny because that’s how it was given to me.) However you look at it, 692 million is a lot of moolah. It could have built a few hospitals, 12 Newtown bypasses, covered most the M4 upgrading, re-opened the Carmarthen-Aberystwyth railway line, or funded a lot of other projects around the country. And remember, that’s just the money received from one funding scheme over six years. There is also the funding prior to 2008 to be considered, funding from other sources, plus the loans that housing associations are allowed to negotiate. Putting it all together makes it clear that social housing is big business, and accounts for a lot of money in a small country like Wales.

Before looking more closely at some of the individual recipients of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s largesse, maybe I should give some background and explain what kind of beast we are dealing with. Anyone over the age of forty-five will remember that social housing used to be the responsibility of the local council; in other words, council houses. Housing associations were usually small organisations supplementing the work of local councils in catering for specific groups, be they disabled ex-servicemen, Jewish widows or distressed gentlefolk. Then came the hammer-blow of Right to Buy legislation (Housing Act 1980) coupled with the inability of councils to use the funding raised to build replacement dwellings. Housing associations were then encouraged into a cannibalistic feeding frenzy that left us with fewer, but bigger organisations while – in Wales at least – they were also stopped from buying existing properties. This seemed to serve a number of purposes: keeping up the stock of social housing, providing work for private builders (as opposed to councils’ own workforces) and, in rural and coastal areas of Wales, ensuring that no cottages or houses that might prove attractive to English buyers became social housing. I believe that my suspicions about the purpose and activities of housing associations began around this time.

The housing associations we see today are either the result of one merger after another of the old units, or else shiny new organisations resulting from councils selling off their housing stocks. All tend to be ‘not for profit’ Industrial and Provident Societies registered with the Financial Conduct Authority, which makes it rather more difficult, and expensive, to get information on them than if they were registered with the Charity Commission or Companies House. (Though there are usually abbreviated accounts on their websites.) In addition, they are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, even though councils’ housing departments are! Odd, really, that it’s so difficult to get information on bodies receiving so much public funding.

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The breakdown, by housing association, can be found below (in PNG format, click to enlarge); or here in Spreadsheet format, with links to each HA website available by clicking on the HA name in the left-hand column. I would suggest opening either file in another window to better follow what I’m going to say. Or just use it to check up on your local housing association. (Right click on the panel, then click on ‘Open link in new window’ or however your browser words it.)

Social Housing full

A quick scan reveals that Wales & West Housing Association got the largest amount in the period covered by the table, no less than £63 million. I had cause to mention Wales and West not long ago, when I learnt that it will Wales & West Housingborrow up to £25m from the UK government, through the Affordable Housing Guarantees, “to build 251 homes in Wales”. (Left, click to enlarge.) Why is the UK government loaning money to a Welsh housing association to build homes in Wales? It doesn’t make sense. The other big gainers are all familiar to me, though some of the smaller ones are eyebrow-raisers, and I always get suspicious when I see ‘Wales’ in the name of any organisation, for it often means an English outfit with a Welsh presence that may be nothing more than a post-box.

Having mentioned mergers earlier, Cymdeithas Tai Clwyd and Cymdeithas Tai Eryri have recently merged to form Grŵp Cynefin which, by happy chance, I wrote about quite recently. The episode in Tywyn tells us quite a lot about how housing associations really operate. In my experience they are devious, if not dishonest; promoting themselves as the answer to society’s ills while operating as ruthless and almost secretive commercial entities. Not only is it difficult to get informaTai Cantreftion about housing associations but what they do put out is often misleading, sometimes deliberately so. Take this sentence, highlighted on page 12 of the 2013 – 14 annual report of Cymdeithas Tai Cantref, which operates out of Castell Newydd Emlyn and covers an area from Machynlleth to just south of Fishguard, and inland as far as Llandovery. Note the use of the deliberately misleading term ‘people living locally’ in the hope that anyone reading it will think it means locals. It does not.

Go down to page 16 and you will read this: “To build new homes, Cantref need (sic) to generate more income and rely less on Social Housing Grant. A successful new initiative to Cantref this year was the introduction of our new student accommodation. We were successful with the submission of 65 units to be part of the Welsh Government’s Revenue Grant programme”. An interesting passage in a number of ways. For it identifies yet another income stream from the ‘Welsh’ Government, given as funding for what is clearly not social housing. Or to put it another way, the almost inevitable coming together of two ways in which Welsh public funding is used for the benefit of England, social housing and higher education.

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Soon after starting on this post I bought the latest issue of our weekly rag, the Cambrian News, where I came across this story, involving an outfit to which I just introduced you, Grŵp Cynefin. This time the project is in Harlech, a place close to my heart from having spent a couple of years there, in good company, in good pubs, Cambrian News, Harlech homeswearing flares and hair over my shoulders . . . I even made it to the Coleg once or twice. (I also met the missus there, but we don’t want to spoil a happy memory, do we.) Anyway, click to enlarge and read it for yourself.

Warms the cockles of your heart, no? What callous brute could possibly object to sheltered housing for adults with learning difficulties? Well, me, for one, if there is no local demand for such housing. Because when I read that story I reminded myself that certain agencies in England would pay handsomely to relocate their clients to Wales. If that’s what will happen in Harlech then it will make this development little more than a housing association irresponsibly increasing the load on the Welsh NHS.

The problem here is obvious, it extends across the social housing sector. There is too much knee-jerk reaction on the part of politicos at all levels to requests for funding – with no thought to the bigger picture and the wider implications – when those making the requests exert emotional blackmail by pressing certain buttons. The biggest ‘button’ is social housing itself, beneath which can be found an array of secondary controls that include ‘sheltered housing for adults with learning difficulties’, ‘victims of domestic violence’, alien abductees, etc. (Go on, make up your own, I guarantee nobody will challenge it! It’s money for old rope.) All such requests for funding or planning should be answered by a simple question from our politicians: ‘Is there a demand from within the established local community for these properties?’ If no such demand exists, then funding, planning permission, and all other help should be refused.

Had this rule been followed, in tandem with a locals-only allocation policy, it would have saved lives and avoided many other tragedies, such as that which unfolded in Kidwelly not long ago, in properties owned by the Gwalia Group (£30 million raked in in the period covered). Gwalia housed Colin Batley and his paedophile gang; an appalling episode that reminds us of a darker side to social housing that the touchy-feely, politically correct, social conscience burdened hypocrites running our housing associations would rather not discuss; namely, providing accommodation for known criminals and undesirables from over the border, inflicting them on Welsh communities. Where does this leave the sanctimonious piffle about ‘being committed to serving our communities’? Yet more bollocks from housing associations.

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The social housing sector is an unsustainable drain on the Welsh public purse. It soaks up vast amounts of money, providing more dwellings than are needed in many (usually rural) areas and often not enough in other (usually urban) areas. It is made up of semi-secret organisations that are – despite the public funding – private companies in all but name. Too often contracts are given to firms from outside the area of the contract or even from outside Wales, which results a) in a loss of income and jobs to local economies, b) projects taking longer than needed to complete, due to workers having to travel long distances, c) lives put at risk as workers pile into vans for the mad rush home around the time children are leaving school. And all this being done while operating an allocations system that prioritises those who have never set foot in Wales over native-born Welsh. A monster encouraged for 15 years by a political party that is ideologically and emotionally hostile to commercial enterprise and initiative, instead funding its cronies to run housing associations and other third sector chimerae in the hope that the faffings of these charlatans might be mistaken for an economy at work. The truth is, a well-regulated private sector could meet most of Wales’ indigenous social housing Wales needs at a fraction of the cost of housing associations. Housing associations are a drain on the Welsh economy for no discernible return – get rid of them!

Nov 212013
 

If you scroll down a bit on this blog you’ll find my earlier post about my local weekly rag, the Cambrian News, Media Lies and Propaganda. It dealt with assorted correspondence on the issue of council tax on holiday homes. In particular, the contributions of two English writers, both of whom raised the spectre of an arson campaign, with one suggesting that any increase in council tax would be “racist”.

I also recounted the curious tale of a letter published in the Cambrian News some years ago, a phoney letter comparing youngsters at the National Eisteddfod to the Hitler Youth! I made the point that this letter might have been published in the knowledge that it was phoney, or it could even have been written in the office of the CN.

Finally, I appended a copy of my latest letter to the CN. Without mentioning the ‘Hitler Youth’ episode, I drew attention to the fact that one of the English letters bore the inadequate address ‘Shropshire’, while the other writer was allowed to give the address of a caravan site where he has a mobile home. Which prompted me to ask in my letter: “Does he really live there? If not, why didn’t the Cambrian News publish his real address?”

I concluded my letter with, “Nor must the atmosphere for these debates must CN 1be polluted by desperate claims of racism, and slanderous allegations of arson. One way of helping ensure this would be for the Cambrian News to insist that no letter will be published unless it arrives accompanied by the home address and home telephone number of the writer.”

My letter, as published in today’s issue, along with other letters on the same subject, can be found on the right (click to enlarge). I believe the writer Ceri Jones belongs to a local farming family in Cwm Maethlon (alternatively known as ‘Happy Valley’), which runs up into the hills behind Aberdyfi. Andrew Currie is a Green – English, obviously – who lives just up the road from me and has a lot to say for himself. Far too much.

Now if you compare the letter I submitted for publication with what actually appeared in today’s issue, you will note that the CN chose to make a number of changes. Specifically, the reference to accepting a letter with the caravan site address, and also the final paragraph in which I suggested that before publishing any letter the editor should assure herself of its authCN 2enticity by insisting on the writer’s full home address and telephone number.

So why were these references to establishing the authenticity of letters submitted for publication edited out? The answer came with a letter published just below those shown above; it came from a Mrs Bowron of Aberdovey (sic), who complained that a letter published the previous week, bearing her name and address, was not in fact written by her!

What a predicament for the Cambrian News! After the fuss I made with the blog and the phone call they had little alternative but to publish my letter; but after their cock-up with ‘Mrs Bowron’s’ letter they were left with no alternative but to publish the letter from the real Mrs Bowron . . . and their apology! Which in turn meant the editor had little option but to redact from my letter criticisms of the CN being, er, careless(?), in establishiAndrew Currieng the genuineness of letters submitted.

Talk of serendipity! You couldn’t make it up. Priceless!

UPDATE 28.11.13: As might be expected, I was moved to reply to Andrew Currie’s letter (see above). My reply was not published in today’s edition. In fact, there were no letters at all on the subject in today’s Cambrian News, so I assume the editor has decided to end the debate. Even so, here is my response to Andrew Currie. Click to enlarge.

Nov 142013
 

Two weeks ago, soon after it was suggested that Cyngor Gwynedd shoCambrian News letters 1uld consider raising council tax on holiday homes to 200%, two letters appeared in the Meirionnydd edition of the Cambrian News. (Owned by the Trinity Mirror Group.) They can be found on the right, just click to enlarge.

I responded (as did someone else) and my letter was published last week. It’s the one on the left, again, click to enlarge.

Cambrian News letters 2This week’s issue carried a third letter on the subject, which can be found on the right. (You know what to do.) In the final paragraph, writer Stephen Smith calls my letter “frightening”Cambrian News letters 3, and links me with the burning of second homes! Yet I only mentioned this in order to ridicule the writer of an earlier letter for predicting “property burning starting again”! Either Stephen Smith hasn’t read the earlier letters properly or else he’s deliberately misinterpreting what was said, and by whom. I’m amazed the Cambrian News didn’t delete this grossly offensive final paragraph. It is defamatory and without foundation.

Then there’s the addresses. In publishing my letter the Cambrian News gave my full address minus only the house number. In a street of just twelve houses mine would not be difficult to find. Yet the address for one of the letters published a week earlier, from ‘Pat Beaumont’, is no more specific than ‘Shropshire’. While the letter from Stephen Smith used the address of a caravan site! Why publish a letter from what is clearly not the writer’s permanent address? (Sunbeach Holiday Park in Llwyngwril is owned by Allens Caravans of Warwickshire.)

My initial reaction was to wonder if there really is a Stephen Smith. (There is.) Worth asking because the Cambrian News has ‘form’ when it comes to printing phoney letters. It goes without saying that these are always anti-Welsh or anti-nationalist. The most notorious example in my experience happened about 15 or so years ago. (Regrettably, I have lost the documentation, unless my wife has put it ‘safe’.) A letter was published purporting to have been written by a Jew, who had suffered in the Holocaust, and now lived in ‘Upper State New York’. The writer claimed to have been to the National Eisteddfod and been horrified at what he found. The young people there reminded him of the Hitler Youth!

The letter was riddled with absurdities and inconsistencies. Not least ‘Upper State New York’. For as most of you will know, the term Americans use is ‘Upstate New York’, but that’s not an acceptable mailing address. So I wrote to the editor asking why she hadn’t picked up on the glaring errors that were so obvious to me. The response I got made me suspect that the local editor wasn’t overly concerned with the almost laughable errors. Which then raised uncomfortable questions: Does she agree with the sentiments expressed? Was the letter cooked up in the offices of the Cambrian News?

To cut a long story short, I wrote to the name and address given, making sure to put my return address on the back of my envelope. A couple of weeks later my letter was returned by the US postal authorities with ‘no such address’ written across it . . . and accompanied by two other letters sent from Wales to the same address. One was from a woman prominent at the time in Cymdeithas yr Iaith (can’t recall her name), and the other was from the now deceased wife of prolific letter-writer Trefor Davies of Penrhyndeudraeth. I returned both letters to their writers, and had a nice phone call from Mrs Davies in thanks.

However one cuts this story it is a damning indictment of the Cambrian News. For even if that letter had been genuine, the writer who and what he said he was, the content was such utter, insulting bollocks that the letter should have been immediately binned. It was telling thousands of readers of the Cambrian News that their children and grandchildren were no better than Nazis; that our National Eisteddfod is not a lot different to a Nuremberg Rally; and that Welsh culture is racist and fascistic.

So where does this take us with the debate on council tax for second homes? We are already – in Gwynedd, anyway – having a debate over raising council tax on holiday homes. With power over stamp duty now transferred to the ‘Welsh’ Government it won’t be long before a debate opens on how best to use this new power. Yet there are those who would like to strangle such debates in their infancy by, for example, raising the spectre of an arson campaign. That’s because those I speak of want Wales to remain a colony of England. It would be sad if our media were to collaborate with this agenda. But not surprising.

P.S. If Stephen Smith, of Sunbeach Holiday Park, reads this, then I would like an apology, Mr Smith, for deliberately and provocatively linking my name – in one, unpunctuated sentence – with criminal offences.

UPDATE 16.11.13: I rang the Cambrian News on Friday morning and spoke with the editor. She saw nothing wrong with the final paragraph of Stephen Smith’s letter. Our conversation was brief because she had to go somewhere. Below you’ll find my letter in response to Smith. I shall report later if it was published, and published unedited.

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4K4SZ2l1_qISUVScnpNZmVQZG8/edit

Apr 192013
 

Earlier this week a party of schoolchildren from Tywyn, Meirionnydd, returning home from  a trip to France, was delivered by mistake to Towyn on the north coast, almost 80 miles away. The story provided the local edition of the Cambrian News with its front page lead, and the story also made it to the BBC News and Wales Online.

A spokesman for the company that owns the bus, Llew Jones International Coaches of Llanrwst, explained the mistake by saying that the driver was “not from the area” and put Towyn not Tywyn into his SatNav. By ‘area’ I suspect the Llew Jones spokesman means Wales, for any driver familiar with northern Wales would, on hearing the name, ask himself, ‘Is that Tywyn or Towyn?’ And having established which one it was, would not need SatNav.

An irony here is that at one time the name of Tywyn was spelt the same way way as the other place, but partly to avoid confusion the Meirionnydd community reverted to its correct Welsh spelling over forty years ago. The native Welsh welcomed the change, but there is noticeable resistance from the English who’ve moved to the area. Many of whom view the change of spelling as a concession to extremists, and perhaps the first step on the slippery slope to English colonists being murdered in their beds.

This resistance makes itself manifest in the names of those organisations with – how can I put it? – a very ‘British’ outlook, or run by persons susceptible to this unfortunate attitude. Such as the Towyn and Aberdovey Royal Air Forces Association. When at one go you can corrupt two Welsh place names then you know it’s due to more than just carelessness. For there is something fundamental at stake here – the Englishman’s ancient and God-given right to go abroad and mangle the local languages.

I guarantee that this week down in the bar of Abbaduvet golf club local RAFA members and others have been harrumphing into their whisky and sodas and reminding all and sundry that this would never have happened in ‘their day’, perhaps when returning from a raid on some defenceless German city. Never for one minute conceding that their intransigence and hostility to things Welsh is still contributing to the confusion that results in cock-ups like this.

Before finishing, another irony I’ve just noticed is that the Cambrian News made a big thing of coach company Llew Jones’ driver getting Welsh spellings wrong but, at the foot of their online version of the story, I found this:

Cambrian News

UPDATE 20.04.13: I hear that the driver involved has been dismissed. Some might think that’s a bit harsh. Maybe the fault lies with his employer, for recruiting someone to drive around Wales who clearly doesn’t know our country. But nowadays, ignorance of Wales seems to be no obstacle to landing a job here, whether it’s as a coach driver, a council chief executive, a policeman or a postman. Which means cock-ups are inevitable; most of which – unlike this one – can be brushed under the carpet.