Cardigan Castle

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.

*

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?

*

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”.

*

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.

Oct 132015
 

REVISED PREDICTION FOR 2016 ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS

A few months ago, in my post Vote Plaid Cymru – Get Labour I made a prediction for the outcome of the 2016 Assembly elections in which I suggested that the likeliest result would be a Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition. For a number of reasons I think it may be wise to revise my prediction.

One major change since I wrote that piece in June has been the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the UK Labour Party. At first I thought this might help the Labour Party in Wales, seeing as it is forever banging on about being more to the left than the UK party, but now I’m not so sure. Because things are starting to get nasty up in Westminster with civil war breaking out among the Labour MPs.

If Corbyn is no longer leader come next May then Labour will be hors de combat, still licking the wounds received in a bloody civil war to remove him and his right-hand man, John McDonnell. If Corbyn is still there then of course the civil war will be ongoing. What will add to the damage is that the conflict will not be confined to the House of Commons, for a few hundred thousand people – overwhelmingly leftists – joined the Labour Party during the election campaign. Attempts to remove their reason for joining Labour will be resisted, by de-selecting MPs and in other ways defending their heroes. The party might even split. However it pans out, a party so hopelessly divided will not be an attractive proposition to the great majority of voters in Wales.

Of course, Carwyn Jones and his gang will try to stay aloof, arguing that it’s, ‘Nothing to do with us, this is all happening up in London / England’, but too many Welsh voters get news from London sources, and what they’ll see is a party tearing itself apart. This is bound to affect their perceptions of what is after all only a branch of the UK Labour Party. Worse, thousands of those new members joined in Wales, so that’s another reason ‘Welsh’ Labour can not escape collateral damage.

Let’s move on to Plaid Cymru.

To begin with, Leanne Wood is not proving to be the inspirational leader many had hoped, her appeal seems limited to elements within the party and then the rag-bag left. She is making little if any impression on those voters Plaid needs if it is to gain seats, and she’s not going down much better with those voters Plaid needs if it’s to hold on to what it’s got. WhenGwynedd SW Wards merged I listen to her all I hear is socialism in Wales, rather than anything specifically Welsh. I think she’d be happier in a Labour Party led by Corbyn than any patriot should be in a party led by her.

An example of putting socialist ideology before Welsh interests is the recent announcement by the party that if it achieved power it would abolish care charges for everyone over the age of 65. This, according to Elin Jones AM, would cost – over two terms of a Plaid Cymru government (don’t laugh!) – £226m. No it wouldn’t, it would cost a hell of a lot more! Let me explain it slowly, so that even a Plaid Cymru politician can understand.

We have a problem in our rural and coastal areas with large numbers of elderly people moving from England, or moving in middle age after taking early retirement. To the point where in south Meirionnydd, where I live, two-thirds of the over 65s were born in England. A similar situation is found in many other areas, with the result that our NHS and social services are already under strain. Consequently, any measures introduced that make Wales more attractive for the elderly than England will unleash an unprecedented spate of granny dumping, and this will cost one hell of a lot more than £226m.

But this hare-brained scheme is so typically Plaid Cymru. Always looking for a pat on the head from the English Left-Green lobby rather than prioritising – or even considering – Welsh interests.

Things are no better at a local level. You may be aware that there was a recent change in Carmarthen’s shire hall. The council has for a number of years been run by the chief executive, Mark James, who regards democracy as a dangerous and unnecessary threat to his rule. The Labour-Independent coalition fronting his dictatorship broke up in May and a new coalition was agreed between the Independent Party and Plaid Cymru.

Great hopes were raised that with Plaid Cymru as the larger party Mark James might be challenged, and there might be an outbreak of democracy in Carmarthenshire, but Plaid has kow-towed to Mark James in the most cowardly manner, and it can’t all be attributed to council leader Emlyn Dole’s barn problems. (Don’t you think Emlyn Dole could pass for the mayor of a small French town? There’s even a passing resemblance to President Hollande.)

For these and other reasons I can’t see Plaid Cymru getting more than 6 seats. And a blood-spattered Labour Party will be lucky to win 20 seats. Then, given that by May 2016 the debate over EU negotiations and the impending referendum will be getting so much news coverage, the beneficiaries of that are bound to be Ukip. So here’s my original prediction from May alongside my updated prediction. Get ready for a Tory-Ukip-Lib Dem coalition!

Prediction

*

REPUTATIONS

On Friday night last I had a Twitter exchange with someone who’s hoping to be among the new Assembly intake, an aspiring Conservative politician named Matthew Paul, the candidate for Carmarthen East & Dinefwr. If the name sounds familiar, that may be because Paul stood for the same seat in this year’s Westminster elections, when he came third with some 21% of the vote.

It all began with him responding to a tweet I put out drawing attention to yet more flat pack chalets being ponced up to the status of ‘luxury resort’, and even more strain put on the bullshit generator by claiming that 200 such chalets will bring 200 full-time jobs! As with similar projects I’ve mentioned, the only thing Welsh about the Corran Resort and Spa is its location in Laugharne. Pure coloniotourism. His response was, “And what economic activity do you want in #Laugharne? A steelworks?”

Not knowing who I was dealing with – other than someone ignorant of the parlous state of the European steel industry – I decided to humour him. We exchanged a few quips before I brought up the case of a farm called Faerdre Fach being re-named Happy Donkey Hill. He responded with, “As a matter of taste, I deplore it, but would defend their right to call it whatever they want”. Maybe he thought he was sounding noble by adapting the quote wrongly attributed to Voltaire . . . if so, it didn’t work; it just made him sound like yet another Tory willing to accept the anglicisation of Wales. Or rather, refusing to confront it, choosing to retreat behind sophistry and disingenuous arguments about ‘freedom’.

Donkey Hill

Matthew Paul is a privately educated, Oxford graduate, lawyer. Have you ever wondered why so many lawyers enter politics? It’s said that it’s because of the training they receive in marshalling their arguments and presenting a case, their ability to persuade a jury to believe what they’re saying. Which a cynic might argue is just another way of saying that lawyers are good liars, which then makes them ideal politicians.

It’s always seemed to me that in reputational terms a lawyer becoming a politician is not a lot different to ‘Honest John’ from the ‘pre-loved’ cars lot branching out into double glazing. No sensible individual completely trusts anyone selling second-hand cars or double glazing, so why are we so credulous when it comes to lawyer-politicians?

*

VATTENFALL OF MONEY

I am indebted to regular contributor Brychan for bringing to my attention a rare job opportunity in the Heads of the Valleys, one paying £300 a day. Read all about it here.

As you can see, this largesse is connected with the Pen y Cymoedd wind farm, a project being undertaken by Vattenfall, a state-owned Swedish ‘company’ which is putting up lots and lots of wind turbines for no other reason than an altruistic desire to save the planet. And because they are such altruists, and philanthropists to boot, they’re giving the run-down communities in the shadow of Pen y Cymoedd wind farm £1.8m every year ’til a’ the seas gang dry. Now Vattenfall is looking for Board Members to oversee the distribution of the bribe . . . though the Board meetings will be held in Cardiff, so more money will be leaving the Valleys.

You will also note from the link provided that recruitment of these Board Members is not being done by Vattenfall itself, for the job has been contracted out to Empower. When I found the website for ‘Empower-Support for the Voluntary Sector Ltd‘, and saw that it’s address was in the Cynon Valley, and then read Empower’s Facebook page, I got that sinking feeling that comes over me when Bafetimbi Gomis is repeatedly caught offside, or I realise that I’m dealing with the Third Sector. In this instance there was no sign of an offside French striker.

Empower etc is run by a Beverly Elizabeth Garside, a highly qualified woman who turned her back on London to move to Wales. Why? The short answer is that despite the obvious deprivation, there’s a hell of a lot of money sloshing around in the Valleys . . . you just need to know how to get your hands on it. The secret is ‘social enterprises’ and other Third Sector rackets that create jobs for Labour cronies and give civil servants something to lie about on EU questionnaires. Then, feeding on the publicly-funded Third Sector, we have companies like Empower. A case of, ‘Big fleas have little fleas . . .’.

Empower

One mystery though is why, on her Linkedin profile, Bev tells us that she has been director of Empower since January 2001, yet Companies House tells us that Empower was not Incorporated as a company until February 18th 2004. So what form did it take in the intervening three years? Perhaps it too was a sucking-directly-on-the-public-funding-teat Third Sector outfit? Whatever the answer, it’s no coincidence that Bev Garside set up Empower in 2001, the same year the EU Objective One money started flowing into the Valleys. This funding was the honey-pot that encouraged her – and so many like her – to move to Wales.

Although the Empower office is in Mountain Ash, in the heart of the deprived Valleys that give Empower its income, Bev herself chooses to live in the agreeable and prosperous little village of Bwlch, near Talybont-on-Usk. More fitting for a woman who has Common Purpose running through her like ‘Barmouth’ through a stick of rock.

P.S. Vattenfall is Swedish for waterfall, and believed to be a reference to the rate at which money pours into the Swedish State’s coffers from exploiting third world communities like the Heads of the Valleys . . . with the help of economic migrants like Beverly Elizabeth Garside.

*

CARDIGAN CASTLE

Late last Saturday night I received a Facebook message telling me that Sue ‘English!‘ Lewis had been made to step down from her post as Facilities Officer or Director at the Castle because it was proving difficult to recruit trustees while she was in place. (Fortunately I was up late on Saturday night doing my bit for the Argentine economy, again.)

This news has yet to be confirmed but I have learnt today that a £40,000 a year vacancy has been advertised at the Castle, and also that Sue ‘English!‘ Lewis is notable by her absence from the old pile. Further, I am told that Equinox, the Castle’s Cardiff PR outfit, has had enough, and refuses to represent Lady Tucker and her gang any longer.

I suspect that changes are now being implemented at the Castle, maybe these changes have been enforced, by funders, or the Charity Commission, and there may be attempts to save face by keeping the news from the baying mob. Which is why I would welcome any further information.

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.

Sep 012015
 

THE LATEST IN A SERIES OF POSTS ON THE MANAGEMENT, OR MISMANAGEMENT, OF CARDIGAN CASTLE. IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE OTHER POSTS I SUGGEST YOU START WITH ‘CARDIGAN CASTLE – READY TO FALL?’

As was the case with most Welsh castles Cardigan changed hands many times, yet of all its occupants the most widely known is undoubtedly Rhys ap Gruffydd (1132 – 1197), ‘The Lord Rhys’, ruler of Deheubarth and patron of the first recorded eisteddfod in 1176, when he invited poets and musicians from all parts of Wales and beyond.

Perhaps understandably, those now controlling the Castle have sought to use The Lord Rhys in up-front displays to disguise their lack of any real interest in the history and cultural significance of Castell Aberteifi. This was to be done by having the great man’s coat of arms stamped on assorted gewgaws, banners, plus of course the famous oversized bardic chair. And yet . . .

Since I became involved with this issue I was aware of an undercurrent, a suspicion held by more than a few that someone, somewhere, had made a monumental cock-up, with the result that the Castle was using the wrong coat of arms! Let me explain.

The Lord Rhys, as I’ve said, was the ruler of Deheubarth, and grandson of Rhys ap Tewdwr, who in turn was descended from Rhodri Mawr (820 – 878). But Rhys ap Gruffydd is a name regularly encountered among the Welsh nobility and gentry in the medieval period. One reason why, in an age of almost universal illiteracy, coats of arms were so important – they told people who you were. And why poets and genealogists had to know the lineages. However, this proliferation of Rhys ap Gruffydds can lead the modern amateur into mistakes, and this is what seems to have happened at Cardigan.

In the hope of clearing up the confusion I took the advice of Rhodri Dafis and contacted Thomas Lloyd, Wales Herald of Arms Extraordinary. I asked him quite simply to tell me the coat of arms for The Lord Rhys who held Cardigan Castle in the second half of the twelfth century. His response can be found below.Coat of arms Lord Rhys caption

“The arms of The Lord Rhys are simply: Gules, a lion rampant in a border indented Or (ie: Red, a lion rampant gold, within a jagged gold border). These are the ancestral arms of the Princes of Deheubarth, as given to Rhys ap Tewdwr.

There has been confusion with his arms and those of Sir Rhys ap Gruffudd, Sheriff of Carmarthen 1322, died 1356, but he was descended from Ednyfed Fychan, and had quite different arms with six small lions on a red background above and below a jagged silver band across the centre bearing three ravens. (My apologies for non heraldic terminology, not knowing if you know the correct lingo or not!).”

Everything at Cardigan Castle purporting to be the armorials of The Lord Rhys (ap Gruffydd) carry the three ravens . . . of the much later Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd (? – 1356), and these ravens in turn derive from Urien Rheged of the Old North. The confusion may arise because the Ednyfed Fychan (ap Cynwrig) (mentioned above by Thomas Lloyd) married Gwenllian, daughter of Yr Arglwydd Rhys, but daughters did not inherit their father’s coats of arms. Or perhaps because in the fifteenth century the line of Dinefwr was re-united with the House of Deheubarth when Thomas ap Gruffydd, married Elizabeth ferch John Gruffydd, descendant of The Lord Rhys. Their son Sir Rhys ap Thomas raised an army in support of Henry Tudor and is said to have been the man who killed Richard III at Bosworth. Though Sir Rhys’ grandson, yet another Rhys ap Gruffydd, was said to have been plotting with the Scots to make himself Prince of Wales, and executed for treason in 1531. Another route to confusion might be the fact that The Lord Rhys may have called Cardigan Castle home but he held many other castles, including Dinefwr.

Ravens display

So who might be responsible for this appalling mistake, this insult to heraldry, this marketing exercise masquerading as history?  From enquiries I have made the mistake seems to be a few years old, and the recently retired trustee Glen Johnson, who doubles as the local historian, denies any hand in the choosing of the coat of arms. The suspicion grows that certain persons who have been mentioned in this blog many times may be responsible.

Perhaps this awful mistake should serve as a salutary warning against relying on Wikipedia, where the entry for Yr Arglwydd Rhys makes the same mistake with regard to the coat of arms. The Wikipedia entry was updated as recently as Monday last week, August 24th, by someone called Dudley Miles, who lives in Finchley, London, and whose interests are Anglo-Saxon history and nature reserves!

The thing to remember about Wikipedia is that it’s a simple matter for anyone who has an account to sign into a page and make changes. If you go to the page for Rhys ap Gruffydd and look at the small tabs on the top you’ll see one that reads ‘edit’ and another ‘view history’. Click on the latter and you’ll find a number of pages listing changes; some of these are editing or removing what someone else has written and there is even talk of “vandalism”.

So when it comes to the coat of arms for Rhys ap Gruffydd, The Lord Rhys, we can either follow the ever-changing and consequently unreliable Wikipedia, or we can accept the description of the Wales Herald of Arms Extraordinary. The decision should be an easy one.

The inescapable conclusion is that the three ravens being used by Cardigan Castle are in no way connected with The Lord Rhys. They belong to the family of the later Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd.

*

Regular readers will recall the curious business of how trustee Sue ‘English!’ Lewis, acolyte to Lady Tucker, was appointed to the newly-created post of Facilities Officer very soon after losing her job as editor of the Tivy-Side Advertiser, and how the job was only advertised online, between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. The post was obviously created for Sue Lewis, and ‘advertised’ in the hope that no one else would notice.

Despite this plan of Baldrick-like cunning there were other applicants, one of whom – possibly others – were better qualified than Sue Lewis. This quandary was surmounted with the bizarre decision to Sue 'English!' Lewisappoint what appeared to be two Facilities Officers, Sue Lewis and Carys Ifan. Though I have heard that as the year progressed Carys Ifan became the Events Co-ordinator while Sue Lewis moved on to become Acting Director, taking over the role vacated by the recently sacked and gagging clause-bound Cris Tomos. Maybe Cris Tomos was given the elbow to resolve the absurdity of having two Facilities Officers. Who knows what goes on at Cardigan Castle.

Either way, Carys Ifan has now handed in her resignation. She joins Cris Tomos and others who have left such as Rhian Medi Jones, who was the Education Officer at the Castle until the ‘reorganisation’ towards the end of last year which removed a number of posts as the excuse to create the job for Sue ‘English!’ Lewis. It may be coincidental, but almost all those who have been eased out or made to feel unwelcome by the Gang of Four are locals, with roots in the area. (I had to be careful how I phrased that lest I gave ammunition to Phil Parry at Wales Eye, for whom sacking people for being Welsh would not be racist, but complaining about it would!)

No doubt the advertisement for the post of Facilities Officer will appear in the Belgrade Evening News next week, one night only, next to the ads for chiropody services. And of course in Cyrillic.

*

Another curious and suspect practice by the controlling clique is to approach dissidents secretly and individually to offer private meetings with Jonathan ‘Joff’ Timms who acts as secretary and front man for the Gang of Four, even though he lives over three hundred miles away in Kent. It is never promised that Lady Tucker or any member of her immediate entourage will be in attendance at these secret meetings, just Timms and perhaps one of the more ‘pliable’ trustees.

Seeing as all advances have thus far (to my knowledge) been rejected by dissidents unless Lady Tucker attends it’s difficult to know what Timms hopes to achieve by these meetings. Are they attempts to intimidate opponents? Attempts to win them over? Attempts to sow discord among the opponents of the current regime? Or a combination of all these? Maybe the set up will be ‘good cop, bad cop’, with Timms playing Mr Nasty and someone else pretending to hold him back as he polishes the brass knuckles.

As yet I have not been approached. But I am a man of principle and honour . . . consequently my silence will not come cheap.

*

The more I look at the Gang of Four + Timms the more I am reminded of those wise words spoken by Benjamin Franklin in 1776, just after he and the other Founding Fathers had signed the Declaration of Independence. He said, “Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately”. What he meant was that the breakaway colonists’ best hope of avoiding the noose was to stick together and see it through.

It may strike some as an odd analogy to make, but I see La Tucker and her cronies in a similar position. People are deserting them, their position becomes ever more exposed and isolated, and their only hope of survival is to stick together and brazen it out. Not least because while they remain in charge they have control of the records and other evidence of the way the Castle has been mismanaged these past few years, and its original mission subverted. Were they to be removed then those records – unless they went ‘missing’ – would become available to the new trustees.

The real concern now for those with the best interests of Cardigan Castle at heart should be that those whose job it was to independently monitor this project have either been negligent or else have fallen under Lady Tucker’s spell. To the point where the Heritage Lottery Fund, CADW and the ‘Welsh’ Government may have a vested interest in seeing the status quo maintained to avoid an even worse scandal than we see now. If so, then this is a short-sighted policy that  can only result in the failure of this £12m project.

*

September 10th sees the Annual General Meeting of the Cadwgan Building Trust that runs the Castle, and even though 80-year-old Lady Tucker is standing down (to comply with the rotation system), she is expected to be immediately re-elected by her gang. In fact, she has already been nominated for re-election by Glen Johnson who, you will recall from my previous post, stood down from his role as trustee due to online ‘persecution’. Yet here he is still involving himself, still doing the bidding of Lady Tucker, and if that wasn’t enough, he’s also allowed himself to be sweet-talked into serving as a ‘Patron’. He will also remain a guide. Some ‘resignation’ that was, Glen! Read it all here in the AGM agenda.

An outcome acceptable to the Gang has been assured by barring critics from joining, and attending the AGM. I have seen one very recent e-mail from ‘Joff’ Timms to someone who applied to become a member of the Cadwgan Trust. Timms wrote: “In the light of your well publicised criticisms of the trust, the trustees have asked Cllr —— —– and me to try to arrange to meet you to discuss ways in which you would be willing to support the trust in realising its objects. Following this meeting, Cllr —– and I would make a recommendation to the trustees about whether your application should be approved.”

In other words, ‘Submit, in advance, to the will of Lady Tucker and her cohorts or you will not be allowed to play any role in the running of Castell Aberteifi’. This way of doing things is comparable to a ruling junta in a third world country allowing ‘elections’, but restricting those elections to candidates who agree with the junta! And just in case any dissident sneaks through the screening process, there is a short and strict AGM agenda with “Any other business at the discretion of the chairman”. The chairman is presumably Timms, so if someone wants to raise an issue embarrassing to the regime he will refuse to allow it to be debated. This is what passes for democracy in Cardigan Castle – Joe Stalin would have approved!

Listen, Joff, or whatever your name is, this AGM should not be about maintaining your friend Jann Tucker and her gang in power; membership and participation should be open to everyone with the best interests of the Castle, the town and the wider area at heart. You are damaging the whole £12m project by reducing it to nothing more than a desperate struggle by you and your friends to stay in power against mounting opposition.

And who are you, anyway? You, living in Kent, with no known connections to Aberteifi; who are you to sit in judgement and decide which locals are allowed to serve their Castle? Who the hell are you to turn away people whose ancestors perhaps knew The Lord Rhys, and could have told your women friends that there are no bloody ravens in his coat of arms? Time is surely running out for you, them, and the hangers-on.

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 032015
 

Despite all that’s been written and said about the goings-on at Castell Aberteifi there always seems to be fresh information coming to light. This truly is the gift that keeps on giving, the sort of thing a humble blogger like me dreams of stumbling upon as he lies tossing and turning in his windy garret. As this saga lurches between farce and tragedy more and more ‘coincidences’ and ‘connections’ come to light; and as if that wasn’t enough, there are also the ironies the saga exposes that raise a chuckle.

Such as the fact that while Lady Tucker and her gang were adamant there should be as little archaeological work as possible carried out at ‘their’ castle, there is now a small army digging away and investigating them! And gems are coming to light. Well, laff.

For latecomers, let me explain that those who imposed their tyrannical grip on the running of the Cardigan Castle renovation project, and silenced or excluded dissenting voices, were totally opposed to any serious investigation into what might lie beneath the surface – in case they found something! That ‘something’ being anything of historical significance that could interfere with the Gang of Four’s ambition to turn Castell Aberteifi into a commercial ‘venue’, with little more than a nod to its fascinating past.

Yet remember! this rejection of history and heritage in favour of crass and very Gareth Gregoryunimaginative commercialism is being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Or to be more exact, the Fund’s man on the job, wine-lover Gareth Owain Gregory. The word in the coffee-houses and taverns of old Aberteifi is that when he comes down to Cardigan for trustee meetings he stays at Tucker Towers in Aberporth, where Lady Tucker’s butler keeps his glass filled.

Call me old-fashioned, but I would have expected the representative of the major funder to maintain a discreet and professional distance from the recipients of his organisation’s funding.

Before leaving Mr Gregory, one of his friends up in Cardiff, and a colleague through the Menter Iaith movement, is Eryl Wyn Jones, managing director of Equinox Public Relations Ltd, the Castle’s PR company. I suggest no irregularity or impropriety, I merely observe yet another in a long list of ‘connections’.

*

Another little mystery that has presented itself is the Castle’s IT contract. For a few years it has been known that ‘Clive’ from Cliand Computers in Chancery Lane has been doing the IT work at the Castle, so some assumed he’d been passed over when the contract was awarded to Dyfed IT Solutions Ltd.

Not so, for Clive Morris, is one of the three directors of Dyfed IT. The other two being Gareth William Robinson and Dean Houghton. The company seems to be registered at Houghton’s “nondescript detached house” in Aberarad, Castell Newydd Emlyn. The company was Incorporated on April 20th, 2013, and doesn’t appear to have done much since, unless of course Clive Morris has been running the Castle’s IT on behalf of Dyfed IT rather than Cliand.

Note that Louise Cowan’s tweet (below) is dated July 22nd, and she seems keen to stress that Dyfed IT Solutions is a local company. It may be worth remembering that by July 22nd I had already posted three articles about Cardigan Castle, and one of the major complaints locally was that little of the work at the Castle was going to local companies. For anyone wondering who Louise Cowan is, she’s the secretary at Cliand Computers.

DyfedIT 1 tweet

There’s more information on Dyfed It Solutions here. As for it being a local company, well, read on and make up your own mind. We know it’s registered office is in CNE, we know Clive Morris already had a computer business near to the Castle, and Dean Houghton may even have gone to school locally. But what of Robinson, who I suspect is the main man and driving force behind this enterprise?

Gareth William Robinson has over thirty companies to his name, most of which are now dissolved or no longer trading. He specialises in online businesses. The address normally given for Robinson is on a trading estate in Watford, Hertfordshire, England. In most of his business ventures he has had the same two partners, Andrew John Stevens and Douglas Stuart Scott. Stevens and Scott have been involved in over fifty companies each, though invariably in partnership.

Now by one of those quirks we have come to expect in this saga, Robinson, Stevens and Scott have come together again, this time in the Cardigan area, at Morfa Green, Llangrannog. This being the registered address for Broody Media Ltd., Company No 05889172. This company was Incorporated on July 27th 2006 but is dormant. Why would these three dotcom whizzkids turn up in Ceredigion? And why, when and how did Clive Morris link up with them?

One answer would be that Robinson has property in the area; to be precise, Bryn Berwyn at Tresaith. Here it is advertised in English Country Cottages. (He is also rumoured to have a place for himself at Aberporth.) Though of course, people like Robinson rarely own property in their own name, so Bryn Berwyn is owned by a company named Oakley Consultants Ltd, Incorporated March 16th 2005, Company No 05394028. Bryn Berwyn is almost certainly Oakley Consultants Ltd‘s only asset. The two directors of Oakley are Robinson and, I assume, his wife.

*

Why is the IT contract important? some may ask. Because, I would argue, here we see more evidence of a pattern I have previously commented on when it comes to how Cardigan Castle awards contracts and makes appointments. It’s a system in which who you know is everything. And if you know the Gang of Four then you’re in the money.

First, let us ask if the IT contract was it properly advertised? I don’t know, but some tell me it was never advertised. If anyone has evidence of this contract being advertised then please send me a link. Another reason concerns are being raised is that, yet again, we see a contract going to someone, Gareth Robinson, who has no obvious connection with the town or the area but, yet again, this person has holiday accommodation up the coast and is almost certainly known to the Gang of Four.

And that might not be all. If we look at Gareth Robinson’s Linkedin profile we see that he did his A Levels at Ashford College. Ashford is a town in Kent, England . . . now who else do we know from Ashford? Why! Jonathan Timms, the mysterious contact for the Cadwgan Trust lives in Ashford . . . and he too has a holiday home just up the coast, and him being known to, and approved of, by Jann Tucker almost certainly explains his appointment.

This investigation into the goings-on at Cardigan Castle started out trying to figure out what was going on, then trying to make the connections between A and B. As those linkages have been established it begins to look more and more as if we are dealing with a network of well-heeled and well-connected persons who have taken over the Cardigan Castle project for the benefit of themselves and their friends.

To achieve this outcome they have, of necessity, excluded the uncouth locals, with their unreasonable demands that Cardigan Castle should have something to do with their town, and them; with its history, and with their identity. How unreasonable can you get!

*

Let us end on a more cultural plane (well this is Eisteddfod week!) I have been sent rhymes that are currently being declaimed in the aforementioned coffee-houses and taverns. The limerick below refers to the response of trustee Hedydd Jones when it was suggested the Gorsedd should be allowed in to the accepted birthplace of the Eisteddfod. “Over my dead body”, she shrieked.

Dead body limerick

(Translation: ‘Only “Over my dead body / Will the Gorsedd come to Aberteifi, / Cadwgan has the reins; / We know the signs, / And it’s clear who reigns’.)

Now if I was a trustee I’d be getting worried at this development, because any student of Welsh history and culture could tell them that, when dealing with people, poetry is rarely neutral. Poems are not written about those who fail to excite the muse. Generally speaking, poetry either lauds, eulogises or ridicules. What I’ve been sent most definitely falls into the third category.

The other work will be accessible to those without the language. It is entitled The Ballad of Castell Aberteifi, penned by A. W. Minstrel (Ms), a promising young rhymester.

Ballad Aberteifi

*

Footnote: As you can see in the sidebar, this blog is hosted by www.sccambria.com, a contract that of course went out to tender (seeing as this blog receives official funding). On Saturday night Systemau Cyfrifiadurol Cambria got a curious complaint that my blog was racist towards “English citizens living in Wales”. Obviously an attempt to get this blog closed down.

When I checked out the e-mail address from which the silly message came Pipl suggested it had come from an arty individual – previously unknown to me – living in Aberporth. (Where else!) Obviously this man would be known to Lady Tucker and her underlings from living in the same village, and via other routes, such as Oriel Mwldan in Aberteifi.

UPDATE: It has now been confirmed beyond peradventure that the sender of the silly e-mail was indeed the Aberporth ‘artist’. The only question now is, did he do it of his own volition, or was he put up to it by the Gang of Four? Is the fight getting dirty?

As I said in an earlier post, it really is a small world . . . especially in Cardigan and the villages to the north of the town. And the world seems to contract dramatically once you start asking who knows who in the Cardigan Castle saga.

Jul 302015
 

It was quite a week for the trustees of Cardigan Castle. What was supposed to have been a gradual build-up of excitement culminating in the Grand Opening Concert featuring Bellowhead, the English folk-rock group, turned instead into an epic PR disaster for the board, headed by Aberporth’s answer to Sepp Blatter, the 80 year-old Jann Tucker MBE.

Two rival petitions were launched calling for the reinstatement of sacked Director, Cris Tomos, and an extraordinary general meeting of the Trust to decide whether the current trustees are fit to go on running the £12 million project.

Meanwhile, the trustees themselves concluded their kangaroo court “investigation” into Mr Tomos, and paid him off in return for a gagging clause.

Cris Tomos was the third Director to leave the project, and all three are known to have departed in acrimonious circumstances because of micro-managing interference by a small group of board members.Castle

Two former trustees and a third prominent volunteer wrote to the Tivy-Side Advertiser to express their concerns about governance of the trust. They have been in contact with the Charity Commission to see what can be done about what they say are serious abuses by the clique which dominates the board of trustees. Under the trust’s constitution, ten members can call an extraordinary general meeting of the membership, and they are now gathering names. One of their objectives is to arrange an independent audit of the trust’s books.

All of this would be bad enough, but the trust has also found itself at the centre of a media storm, with the most startling revelations coming from Jac o’ the North himself, as readers of this blog will know.

This is a multi-million pound undertaking led and controlled by a handful of chums with homes and holiday homes in and around Aberporth, some seven miles to the north of Cardigan, with an official contact address in Kent.

A project which was meant to have the history of the Eisteddfod movement, and the Welsh language and culture at its heart, has been turned into a high-end hospitality venture for upmarket weddings, corporate bashes and a handful of well-heeled, braying visitors wishing to spend a few days roughing it in West Englandshire.

A shot in the arm for local economy?

Vanishingly little of the £12 million poured into the project has benefited local businesses, with even most of the tat in the gift shop having being purchased in Birmingham.

A huge chunk of the money went to Andrew Scott Ltd with insiders reporting massive waste and botched work; £40,000 went on high security glass cases used to display artefacts with little or no monetary value; and local businesses did not get a look in when it came to supplying the furnishings and fittings.

Serious questions are being asked about the tender processes, as well as the trustees’ appointment of one of their own to the post of Facilities Manager while scrapping the role of Education Officer.

All through the construction and restoration phase of the project contracts and jobs have gone to businesses well outside the local area, although large numbers of locals have worked as unpaid volunteers. The hope was that when the gates finally opened, paid employment would be created to benefit locals, but this has not happened either. There remains a heavy reliance on unpaid volunteers, while most of the real jobs have gone to non-Welsh speaking incomers.

It is now clear that the start-up phase of the project has brought almost no economic benefit to the town, and while this new attraction will undoubtedly bring more visitors into Cardigan during the short summer season, there has been further criticism of the tLady Tuckerrust for pricing the castle’s holiday accommodation at levels which will undermine existing local businesses. At the same time, the wedding venue business is being pitched at well-heeled clientèle from outside the area and priced at levels which will exclude most locals.

Gilbert and Sullivan

If the castle’s contribution to the local economy has so far been minimal, what of the castle’s cultural offering which is supposed to have the Welsh language and culture and the history of the Eisteddfod movement at its heart?

If you missed the Grand Opening Concert and Bellowhead, there are plenty more cultural events coming up, including a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe, Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew and an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s The Reluctant Dragon. Originally set in the Oxfordshire Downs, the story tells the tale of a dragon’s fraught relationship with the locals. The townsfolk bring in Saint George to rid them of the beast, but its life is eventually spared when they realise that the dragon is now a reformed character and not dangerous.

There seems to be a message in there somewhere.

Anyone hoping to see any sign of our rich cultural heritage, or the lively contemporary Welsh cultural scene, will search the castle’s forthcoming events schedule in vain.

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”.

The Welsh Language Learning Centre never came about, and the Welsh classes that are held in the castle are confined to outbuildings on the periphery behind heavy metal gates, padlocks and “no entry” signs.

Moreover, there are persistent claims that archaeological investigation of the site was kept to a minimum by the trustees who were much more interested in developing the castle as a high-end wedding, holiday and conference venue.

“Not much to see here”

Meanwhile, the trust’s efforts to market the castle have fared no better if Tripadvisor is anything to go by, with a very mixed bag of reviews. A common theme here is that visitors unfamiliar with the town were expecting a castle rather than a heavily restored Georgian house and a vast expanse of lawn, and there is not much to excite the interest of children.

This won’t help in an age where mums and dads tap their smartphones before deciding what to do with the kids on a wet Welsh summer’s day.Sue Lewiis 2

Pressure cooker

Which brings us to the trustees’ PR strategy. A leaked e-mail showed that Sandra Davies, a member of the inner circle, told Cris Tomos that the board had decided he should not contact critics of the project. They were bigots, and the best thing would be to let them run out of steam, she said.

By refusing to talk to local critics and disillusioned volunteers, the trustees instead created a pressure cooker.

Cyfeillion Rhys ap Gruffudd, a local group dedicated to celebrating the castle as the home of the Eisteddfod and a cradle of Welsh culture, wrote to the board three months ago to ask for a meeting and an opportunity to present constructive new ideas. The letter did not even receive an acknowledgement.

Negotiations with the Gorsedd to hold a special ceremony of blessing collapsed in acrimony, with Father Seamus Cunane, the trust’s unofficial spin-doctor-in-chief telling readers of the Tivy-Side Advertiser that the Gorsedd had behaved like a bunch of divas.

This week several of these chickens came home to roost, with damning articles in the Carmarthenshire Herald, the Tivy-Side and Golwg.

The piece in Golwg was notable for the appearance of an unnamed spokesperson for the trust who told the somewhat surprised journalist that the trustees would in fact welcome an opportunity to meet the Cyfeillion, and would welcome a grand ceremony of the Gorsedd.

This sudden U-turn clearly had nothing to do with the catastrophic response in the mainstream and social media, and the trust’s Cardiff-based PR agency is now desperately engaged in a fire fighting exercise.

Pressure is growing on the trust to open up its books, and for the octogenarian chair of the trustees and her inner circle to step down and make way for a new team to turn the project round and ensure that it works for the people of Cardigan, rather than friends and family.

Jul 262015
 
CARDIGAN CASTLE

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

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

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

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

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

Pembrokeshire Herald

CLICK TO ENLARGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

ORGAN ‘HARVESTING’

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

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

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

Welsh Organ

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

*

OVERSEAS AID PROGRAMME

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

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

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

I asked the ‘Welsh’ Government to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wales for Africa

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

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

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

*

HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS

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

Cantref

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

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

David Hedges Cyngor Da

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

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

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

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

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

 *

LABOUR LEADERSHIP CONTEST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thornberry Abbott

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

Lubbly jubbly! Vote Corbyn! A las barricadas!

Jul 212015
 

My two recent posts on Cardigan Castle have generated an incredible response. On Thursday the 9th – when I was away in Pembrokeshire – my blog received a record 2,223 visits, and the ‘Cardigan Castle – Ready to Fall?’ post has been shared on Facebook an incredible 534 times, another record. Since then, more information has been received, in comments to the blogs, and also in e-mails and DM tweets. To the point where I feel the time has come to lay out the allegations against those who are – allegedly – running this fiasco.

Those familiar with the saga will know that the four principals are Mrs Elizabeth Jann Tucker MBE, Mrs Susan Joy Lewis, Mrs Sandra Margaret Davies and Dr Hedydd Parry Jones. The ‘One’, and the only man, is Jonathan Timms. Between them, these five play various roles in the running of the project. Those roles will be explained below.

To recap: Cardigan Castle is an old pile that changed hands many times over the centuries, and as castles go, in a land that has so many, Cardigan is not one of our great castles. But for the people of the town it’s their castle, and for the rest of the nation it’s important because in 1176, when it was home to Rhys ap Gruffydd (1132 – 1197), it hosted the first ever national eisteddfod.

I would advise everyone to set aside half an hour or so and read my previous posts before starting on this one. They are Cardigan Castle – Ready to Fall? (July 7), and  Cardigan Castle – It’s Getting Worse! (July 12).

*

It seems only fitting that we start with the grande dame of this enterprise, Mrs Elizabeth Jann Tucker OBE. She was born in 1935 in Cross Hands, Carmarthenshire, the “only child of a well-to-do family” and was, I’m further informed, educated at an English boarding school. She now lives 7 miles north of Cardigan with her husband Tony in Aberporth, where they run a holiday homes business. She was awarded the OBE last year, as this report from the Tivy-Side Advertiser tells us.Jann Tucker

By an example of happenstance such as litter this saga, the newspaper report was almost certainly written by Mrs Susan Joy Lewis who was then the editor of the Tivy-Side Advertiser. I say happenstance because Mrs Lewis also lives in Aberporth. And as if that wasn’t enough happenstance for one paragraph, both are trustees at Cardigan Castle!

Jann Tucker and her husband strike me as the kind of people who like to ‘involve’ themselves. Perhaps because they know best. The Charity Commission website tells us that Mrs Tucker is also a trustee of Aberporth and District youth club, and also Aberporth village hall and recreation ground. Hubby is also a trustee of the latter body, and managed to upset locals with a plan hatched in 2008 to sell off part of the car park. And as might be expected, Jann Tucker also belongs to Aberporth community council, whose meetings Sue Lewis used to attend representing the Tivy-Side Advertiser.

It seems that Jann Tucker and Sue Lewis have been friends and neighbours for some years, and if one comment to my blog is to be believed, mutual back-scratching has been the norm. For according to ‘Wenda of the West’, “apparently back in 2006 ish Jan Tucker stole/claimed a parcel of land from Aberporth Primary School, who was chair of the school governors – Sue Lewis, she did nothing to stop her and Mrs Tucker added a nice piece of land to her estate”.

Jann Tucker joined Joined Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust (hereinafter referred to as ‘Cadwgan’) on 21.03.2000, and Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Castell Aberteifi Cardigan Castle Building Preservation Trust (hereinafter referred to as ‘Castell’) 28.03.2000. She still serves as trustee on both charities and also served as a trustee / director on Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd from 15.06.2010 to 28.01.2015.

*

The next up in our Gang of Four profiles is Mrs Susan Joy Lewis herself. So what do we know? For a start, she was born in Devonshire, England, in 1962. Until late last year she was the editor of the Tivy-Side Advertiser. As we’ve already learnt, she lives in Aberporth, with husband Mike, who is also a journalist.

Sue Lewis served as a trustee on ‘Cadwgan’ from 18.03.2002 until 12.01.2015. (Though she is still shown as a trustee on the woefully out-of-date details to be found on the Charity Commission website.) She probably resigned from this charity to take up the paid post of the Castle’s Facilities Officer, something I shall return to in a minute. Though she still serves as a trustee on ‘Castell’, which she joined 19.12.2007. And she is also a trustee / director of Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd, which she joined 16.06.2010. Away from the Castle she is also a trustee / director of Small World Theatre.

I suppose it’s worth asking why there is no Welsh version of ‘Castle Enterprises Ltd’. Perhaps because it wasn’t formed until 2010, and Lewis was on board from the start, as was her neighbour, Tucker. Though that said, and despite its name, it’s a company that doesn’t seem to be that enterprising, with a net worth of £0 and doing hardly any tradiSue Lewisng. Which only serves to make more corporeal the spectre of yet another project that will forever be suckling on the teat of public funding.

A few lines back I mentioned Sue Lewis becoming Facilities Officer at the Castle early this year . . . very soon in fact after losing her job as editor at the Tivy-Side Advertiser. In the taverns and coffee-houses of Cardigan dispute rages as to how this came about. Essentially, there are two interpretations.

The first – and more charitable version – posits a scenario along these lines. With the Castle opening to the public in 2015 it was felt – in the latter part of 2014 – that a restructuring was needed to meet the fresh challenge. And so existing staff were laid off (but encouraged to re-apply for their jobs). It was simply unfortunate – but unavoidable – that the new post of Facilities Office (salary £25,000 p.a.) was advertised over the Christmas period, and only on the Castle’s Facebook page, which must have been visited by as many as . . . oh, I don’t know, a dozen people.

(UPDATE 25.07.2015: I am indebted to ‘M O’ for providing this link which seems to show that the post of Facilities Officer was first advertised on December 23rd 2014 with a closing date for applications of January 2nd 2015. In other words, from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day. This is how things are done when the post has already been allocated but the clique involved has to pretend otherwise.

That this was allowed strengthens my belief that what we see at Cardigan Castle is what the funders want – an English tourist attraction and events venue stripped of all Welsh content and significance. Though I’m not sure the funders fully understand that the project they’re supporting may be camouflaging the real estate ambitions of some of those involved, and others close to them.

What is now clear is that Sue Lewis became Cardigan Castle Facilities Manager by deception and nepotism. I would hope that the way this post was advertised and allocated broke both charity law and the rules applied by the funders. But even if it didn’t, Sue Lewis’ position is now untenable. She must go, from her post as Facilities Manager and from all involvement with Castell Aberteifi.)

The second – and less charitable version – portrays a different sequence of events entirely. Having been told in early December that she was about to get the chop Sue Lewis and her friends decided to capitalise on the already announced restructuring and use it to create a new post for her, and then go through the motions of advertising that post over Christmas. She may even have been tipped off about her redundancy before the restructuring was announced.

Proponents of both versions seem to agree on three important points:

1/ The post of Facilities Officer was inadequately advertised, if it was advertised at all.

2/ Sue Lewis was appointed to the post by her friends and neighbours.

3/ She has no experience of the duties she is now expected to fulfil.

The Small World Theatre is a company based in the town that, with its falling income, may see regularly performing at the Castle as its financial salvation. If so, then it was obviously a wise move to get Sue Lewis on board in May, 2012, and it’s already reaping rewards. For as this letter written to a local politician puts it, “It is also worrying to be told that over £15,000 has been given to Small World Theatr for putting on very English based summer activities for children without any opportunity for other Welsh theatre groups to bid for the money and offer more suitable performances. There is a very serious and corrupt edge to this development as Sue Lewis is a trustee of Small World . . . “.

Elin Jones, the Plaid Cymru AM, is a ‘Friend’ on Lewis’ Facebook page.

In fact Plaid Cymru, the party, has behaved in its usual manner when confronted with ‘awkward’ situations – it has slunk away to the shadows for fear of upsetting people. And in the process abandoned a Welsh cause. God! I hope Plaid Cymru is destroyed next May.

*

Next in line is Mrs Sandra Margaret Davies, born 12.06.1949. She is married to Meirion Davies, a teaching assistant some 17 years her junior. Having been born and raised locally she of course speaks Welsh, but like Jann Tucker, chooses not to. Now prepare to overdose on happenstance.

Mr and Mrs Davies live in Aberporth. (Where else!) Sandra Davies is the vice-chair of the governors of Ysgol Gynradd Aberporth. The chair, you will remember, is Sue Lewis! Meirion helps out at the local youth club, where other trustees are Jann and Tony Tucker. I stopped digging at this point because, quite frankly, there’s a limit to how many connections I can take. But I think I’ve established that we have here three people, Jann Tucker, Sue Lewis and Sandra Davies, who are all trustees at Cardigan Castle, who all live in the same small village some 7 miles up the coast, and who all know each other very well, having worked together on other bodies.

We all say, ‘It’s a small world’, but humbling phenomena like this bring home to us how true that is. Oh, yes.

Sandra Davies is now retired but formerly worked at the English military’s weapons establishment in Aberporth which used to provide many jobs for local people, alongside the service personnel and the ex-servicemen (who always had priority for civilian jobs). Nowadays the base employs far fewer locals and is engaged in developing drones, for both military, surveillance and commercial use.

She joined ‘Castell’ 27.11.2013, but seems never to have been a member of ‘Cadwgan’, maybe because, as she claims to be the trustee-accountant or some such, she too is getting paid. She joined the spectacularly unenterprising Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd on 24.04.2013.

Though one perplexing chapter in her recent history is Keykeeper Wales Ltd, Company No 08517357. It was in existence from 07.05.2013 to 20.01.2015 but never made any returns or filed any accounts. It seems to have been one of those companies that are set up, do nothing, and then fold; leaving one to think, ‘What the hell was that about?’ Apart from the Davieses the only other directors were William Neil Chambers and Nicola Lesley Chambers.

Sandra Davies world class staff

To help you understand Sandra Davies, and other self-hating Welsh, I’ll recount her answer when it was suggested to have bilingual front-of-house staff at the Castle. “We’ll never get world class staff if we have to rely on the Welsh”. World class staff! How much do they intend paying these ‘world class staff’?

Sandra Davies is also on Facebook.

*

If we pass the Davies residence and keep going up the road we soon come to the village of Tresaith, near to where we find Dr. Hedydd Parry Jones. On the one hand, it’s nice toHedydd Jones get away from the stifling incestuousness of Aberporth, but on the other hand, we are of course moving further away from Aberteifi.

There’s not a lot to report about Dr Jones, she’s another who keeps a low profile. I’m told that before her retirement she was a GP in Castell Newydd Emlyn and is, I’m also told, married to a farmer in the Tresaith area.

She came relatively late to the Gang of Four, joining ‘Cadwgan’ on 18.11.2009, and ‘Castell’ on 25.04.2012. She served her time with Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd from 15.06.2010 to 28.01.2015.

One spectacularly offensive remark has been attributed to her. During a discussion on whether the Gorsedd should be invited to the spiritual home of the National Eisteddfod, she is reported to have contributed, “Over my dead body”.

Hedydd Jones remark

Hedydd Jones is also on Facebook, and despite her being another shrinking violet, I have managed to secure a photograph.

*

It’s almost a merciful relief to be leaving the Ceredigion coast, but I don’t believe we should have to move as far as Kent, in England, for that relief, which is where we find Jonathan Richard Timms. ‘Who’, you cry, ‘is Mr Timms?’

Another figure of mystery is Jonathan ‘Joff’ Timms. We know he was born in 1945, so he’s of a ripe age, and he joined ‘Carigan contact TimmsCadwgan’ 15.11.2006. On the Charity Commission website he is even listed as the contact for the trust. (Click to enlarge panel on right.) He joined ‘Castell’ 18.04.2007.

As if that wasn’t enough, he and Sue Lewis seem to be the only directors left standing at Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd. So he appears to be the one person who is a trustee for both trusts and is also a trustee / director of the trading arm. So how does that work, with him living so far away? Does he make the 620 mile round trip to attend every meeting, or are meetings arranged for when he might be in the area? Though come to that, why would he be in the area at all? Well, boys and girls, you will not be surprised to learn that a dickie-bird tells me Mr Timms has a holiday home in Aberporth, and that he was almost certainly invited aboard the good ship Cardigan Castle by Jann Tucker.

A regular contributor to my blog, ‘Brychan’, had this to say of Mr Timms:

“The mysterious Mr Timms has moved.

When originally registered at the charity commission he declared he was resident at a period mansion, Glebe House, Mersham in the Weald of Kent. This property is Grade II listed. It was renovated by Talus, who are specialists in restoring period structures and sub dividing the property for sale. Half of this property is now up for sale for £950,000. I find no record of title change for the other parts of the structure. 12 other properties were built on associated land.

Mr Timms subsequently changed his address declared at the charity commission to another of his properties at 44 Oxenturn Road, Wye, a village some miles away, nestled in the North Downs.

It is quite evident, as his original Glebe House period mansion changed from detached to two semi-detached properties, that he specialises in buying and renovating period structures and then sub-dividing them for sale as separate units at vast profit. The ‘wedding venue’ and ‘events’ businesses that habit the property for a short period are merely ghost enterprises, the real cash is generated by the sub-division and subsequent piecemeal sale of a renovated freehold.

Do the good people of Aberteifi really know who they’re dealing with? I have assumed the ‘Welsh’ Government, CADW and Cyngor Ceredigion have done the precautionary background checks on this geezer. I wonder what he did with his bats? Did they move to Wye or Aberteifi?”

So Jonathan Timms appears to be a property specialist whose forte might be converting and flogging period and listed buildings, such as – dare I say it? – Castle Green House inside the Castle grounds. (Click to enlarge image.)Castle Green House 1

Also note that both trusts, in their declarations to the Charity Commission, state their objectives thus: “To preserve for the benefit of the people of Cardigan town and of the nation the historical, architectural and constructional heritage that may exist in and around Cardigan town in buildings (including any building as defined in Section 336 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990) of particular beauty or historical, architectural or constructional interest’. Which suggests that certain persons’ ambitions may not be limited to the Castle.

I’m told Mrs Timms was acting as a ‘volunteer’ when Our Glorious Leader visited the Castle last month.

*

This is the situation now, but the problems with Cardigan Castle go back years, to when the renovation was being done. There are too many problems to list them all, but one worth mentioning is the complaint from local businesses that they were not invited to tender for the work being done on the Castle.

Now there could be a simple explanation for this in that the main contractor, Andrew Scott Ltd of Port Talbot, was allowed to choose its sub-contractors and suppliers, perhaps arranging its own tendering processes. But if so, why did those representing the Castle not insist that the process be opened up to local contractors and suppliers?

Alternatively, if handing out the contracts to suppliers was within the gift of the trustees then local anger is understandable, and helps explain why a complaint I’ve heard more than once concerns the work given to Leekes of Cross Hands to supply furniture, fittings, sanitary ware and much else that could have been sourced cheaper locally. Inevitably, seeing as Jann Tucker was born in Cross Hands, people suggest she is related to the Leekes family. Possibly, though another option is that a member of the Leekes clan has a holiday home on the Ceredigion coast – Llangrannog has been mentioned – and is known to the Gang of Four, or some of them, or perhaps just one of them.

One of the most serious complaints I’ve heard is contained in the letter to a local politician I linked to above. (Here’s the link again.) The writer says, “We have at least 60 people in Cardigan who have asked to join (the trust, presumably) but have just been ignored”. This suggests that the Gang of Four doesn’t want anyone involved who isn’t going to toe their line. No elections, no applications; entry is by recommendation and invitation only, a methodology they might have picked up from their Freemason husbands.

Another regular complaint is that there seems to be no constitution for members of the public to consult, which charity law says there should be. Then there’s the issue of minutes being doctored, with the final versions bearing little resemblance to what took place in the meetings the minutes supposedly refer to. And as mentioned in the earlier posts, there is the absurdly high turnover in staff and trustees for the very simple reason that no one can work with the Gang of Four.

One of the more bizarre complaints is that the trustees spent £100,000 on a wedding marquee, a permanent structure but, of course, without foundations. This was done despite being told that weddings can only be in held in a building with three sides and a roof. As I say, this is one of the more bizarre complaints, but if true, then it displays a stupidity, and exposes a waste of public money, that should not go unpunished. Regarding this marquee, Jann Tucker averred that she didn’t want any “local riff-raff” getting married in it.

Sticking with the bizarre, another story I was told by, I suspect, someone who worked on the project, was that the main contractor, Andrew Scott Ltd, was told by a local contractor that the sewage / drainage system was 300mm ‘out’. The advice was ignored and now the Castle is said to have problems with this system. Oh yes, the same source tells me that the Castle has bought two banana trees. I just hope these are traditional Welsh banana trees.

Cardigan Castle is clearly in deep, deep trouble. A £12m project is being run by people who are out of their depth. Incompetence would be bad enough, but they compound that failing by being unpleasant creatures given to venomous, insulting outbursts. Small wonder the townspeople of Aberteifi feel alienated. They see no one from their town involved in running the Castle, and local businesses excluded from the £12m bonanza! Welcome to Aberporth Castle . . . with the contact address in Kent.

*

That the major funders involved, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the ‘Welsh’ Government, have not stepped in to replace these women, and Mr Timms, with a board of trustees operating more transparently, a board more representative of Cardigan and the surrounding area, makes those funders complicit in and responsible for the malpractice now taking place.

Beyond malpractice we also have the clearly expressed sentiments of hostility towards the Welsh language, Welsh culture, and Welsh people. Outbursts that should disqualify these women from involvement in any project in Wales using public funding.

They themselves are the intolerant bigots they accuse their critics of being. Get rid of them!