Ceredigion

Aug 072016
 

Cantref, or Tai Cantref, is a housing association based in Castell Newydd Emlyn (Newcastle Emlyn) on the border of Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion. It ran into trouble last year and is now in the process of being handed over to a Cardiff housing association run by a Labour Party member. This after an ‘independent’ investigation by an English management consultancy run by a Labour supporter.

Cantref Cym

Many of you will know that I’ve written about Cantref’s woes before, so listed below you’ll find the posts in which Cantref has figured. They will help you understand how we arrived at a situation where a housing association using the Welsh language in its day-to-day operations seems to have been handed over to an English housing association based in Cardiff with no concern for the Welsh language at all.

This handover was facilitated by a ‘Welsh’ Government ‘committed’ to the Welsh language that, only last week at the National Eisteddfod, expressed the ambition of having a million Welsh speakers by 2050.

Housing Associations, Time To End The Madness, 3 July 2014

To Those That Have Shall Be Given – Housing Benefit! 4 May 2015

Updates, etc: Cardigan Castle, Organ Harvesting, Overseas Aid Programme, Housing Associations, Labour Leadership Contest 26 July 2015

Boors & Crooks; Cowards, Spooks & Idiots 29 September 2015

Social Housing Back to Council Control? 11 April 2016

Tai Cantref: Favoured Suitor Named 21 April 2016

Housing Associations – All Change? 25 April 2016

Tai Cantref: Fate Decided by Labour Cronyism 29 April 2016

MELTDOWN

Let’s start by conceding that Cantref being up Shit Creek is in large part due to poor business decisions and less than inspiring management. Indicated in this comment to one of my earlier posts.

Cantref Insider comment

Even so, a change of management and the injection of a little moolah could have steadied the ship and saved it from being taken over by pirates. So what do we know of these ‘pirates’?

WALES AND WEST

Wales and West is no cuddly housing association but a ruthless and acquisitive business. ‘Association’ was dropped from the name in 2012, which should give you a clue as to how W&W likes to see itself and be perceived by others.

Something else I’ve previously remarked on is the ‘Englishness’ or non-Welshness of Wales and West, and I’m not just referring to language (when compared with Cantref), I’m talking about those who run it. Look through the Board of Management and the Directors’ Team. There seems to be minimal Welsh involvement at the top of this ‘Welsh’ housing group. (Maybe lower down as well.)

Nationality aside, the important figure to note is the chief executive, Labour Party member Anne Hinchey. She’s married to Cardiff councillor Graham Hinchey. Mrs Hinchey you may recall had her staff going around Cardiff during May’s Assembly election campaign making sure none of her tenants had the temerity to display non-Labour posters or placards, and removing any that were found.

Wales and West header

Knowing how ‘Welsh’ Labour likes to conflate Plaid Cymru with the Welsh language, and hate both, the thought of this woman taking over Cantref should make anyone concerned for the Welsh language, political pluralism, or just fair play, shudder. But then, as I’ve been telling you for years, this is how ‘Welsh’ Labour operates – when presented with the opportunity it will always encourage nepotism and cronyism to further its political ends.

Mrs Hinchey attends the Vine Christian Centre in Bridgend. Knowing how the devout enjoy each other’s company I couldn’t help but wonder if any of those listed in the Board of Management or Directors’ Team at Wales and West share Mrs Hinchey’s faith? Just a thought.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Like all housing bodies Wales and West survives and prospers due to our generosity, in the form of funding from the ‘Welsh’ Government. The main funding comes from the Social Housing Grant. Between 2008 and November 2015 Wales and West was given £65m in SHG alone.

Part of this figure is broken down (I assume) in the Wales and West entry on the Transparent Wales website, which shows a total of almost £45m between 28.04.2011 and the end of the financial year on 31.03.2016. Though one thing puzzles me.

Payments made up to 28.11.2012 are listed as “Capital Grants to Private Sector”, and after that date as “Capital Grants to Voluntary Organisations”. Yet the changes implemented in 2012 by W&W were if anything in the opposite direction, from voluntary to private.

Perhaps even curiouser is why Wales and West should have received funding from the UK Government which is – given that social housing is devolved (so we are told) – in this context the English government. Yet that’s what happened in 2014. So why did the ‘English’ government give money to a Welsh housing association?

CANTREF LATEST

The latest communication I’ve received from within besieged Cantref paints a worrying picture of intimidation, but one that also offers some hope. Read it carefully and digest what it says.

Cantref Insider redacted

Clearly, Wales and West has absolutely no sympathy for the Welsh language. In other aspects, the information above ties up with what I’m told by another contact appeared in the Carmarthenshire Herald last week.

Cantref Ble ti'n myn i fyw

So it might be that things are not yet cut and dried. Because if Wales and West needs 75% approval from stakeholders, and this group includes bodies opposed to the Wales and West takeover, indeed, in the case of Carmarthenshire County Council, a body that itself wanted to take over Cantref, then there might still be hope.

Another of the leading players in this drama remains something of a mystery. I’m referring now to the interim chair at Cantref, Kevin Taylor. (There is currently no chief executive.) It is he presumably referred to above, in the note smuggled out of Cantref, as “Cantref’s english acting chairman”.

According to his Linkedin profile Taylor was employed by Forte Hotels 1977 – 1987 then, from 1987 to 2013, he worked in Bermuda. How did this complete stranger turn up at such a critical juncture in the history of Cantref, just in time to recommend the takeover by Wales and West? Or to put it another way, who parachuted him in?

CONCLUSION

Note the reference in the message I was sent to it “all being stitched up in a Labour meeting in Cardiff last year”, for it’s easy to see the advantages for Labour in this takeover.

The bulk of Cantref’s properties are in Ceredigion, where Labour got 9.7% of the vote in the 2015 UK general election and 6.5% in May’s Assembly election. And where there is just a single Labour member on the local authority (and he’s in a university town). Consequently, ‘Welsh’ Labour controlling Cantref would give the party influence in an area where it is consistently and comprehensively rejected at the ballot box.

The suggestion that opponents of the takeover are being refused access to shareholders is worrying, as is the allegation there is also a refusal to accept new shareholders. Unfitting behaviour I would have thought for the Christian CEO of Wales and West. But not surprising, for we’re dealing here with ‘Welsh’ Labour, and that’s how they operate.

(I’m also beginning to suspect that in the wider picture ‘shareholders’ might be a way for a clique or political party to maintain control of a housing association, by encouraging ‘their people’ to become shareholders, and then be eligible to join the board of management, while turning away those who are likely to disagree with them.)

The Wales and West takeover of Cantref is less a business deal and more a political manoeuvre, and an assault on the Welsh language. An agenda that would meet with the approval of most members of ‘Welsh’ Labour, despite the pie-in-the-sky promises from the party’s local leadership.

I therefore suggest that if Carwyn Jones wants to be believed when he talks of his party’s commitment to the Welsh language he should step in and call off the Wales and West takeover of Cantref. If he doesn’t, then it’s just further proof of what I’ve been saying for years about ‘Welsh’ Labour.

P. S. A Special General Meeting is to be held on Tuesday August 9th, presumably at the Cantref offices. Why not try to get details and go along there, make your feelings known?

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Update 10.08.2016: The worst happened at the Special General Meeting last night, and Cantref is to be taken over by Labour-run Wales and West. Comments to this blog and information received by another route paint a worrying picture of how this was achieved.

First, Wales and West decided not to accept new shareholders – who would have had voting rights – after May 26. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it smacks of how Blairite Labour tried to stop any more Corbyn supporters joining. And Wales and West is run by ‘Welsh’ Labour which, above NCO level, tends to be Blairite.

Cantref Insider Aug 10 2016

The other comments made in the anonymous message I received to the ‘Contact Me’ box on my sidebar explain themselves. Plaid Cymru does not emerge from this saga with any credit. Penri James being a local Plaid luminary.

Note also the comment from ‘Simon’, another indictment of those left in charge of Cantref after the dismissals. I urge you to read ‘Simon’s comment carefully because it tells us what a shamble our housing associations are in.

Our old friend ‘Cneifiwr’, in another comment, tells us that those present last night, “were given assurances about local jobs and the use of Welsh”. Does anyone really believe that? I don’t. (Nor, I suspect, does ‘Cneifiwr’.)

Wynne Jones – who knows of these things – reminds us that a business case must be presented to the ‘Welsh’ Government by W&W and approved by the WG before the takeover can be completed. Those are the rules. But given that W&W and the WG are both Labour, I can’t see this being an obstacle.

‘Llyr’ questions Plaid Cymru’s role, wonders why they weren’t more active. They were – but on the side of the ‘enemy’!

Let me end by returning to ‘Anon’, who writes “Hillary jones sold us out to wales and west and the welsh government gave them the wink as they want only five or six rsls in wales”. Hilary Jones of the Bro Myrddin Housing Association was shipped in as Interim Strategic Director, and over a year ago rumours were circulating that she wanted Wales and West to take over Cantref but leave her in charge.

I have argued more than once that we need many fewer Registered Social Landlords. But if we are to have mergers then let them be local, with other housing associations that understand the realities of working in a bilingual rural area. Another consideration is that RSLs need a working relationship with their local authorities.

As a match, Cantref with Wales and West can be compared with Dianne Abbott shacking up with Nigel Farage. It’s so bizarre as to be unthinkable, and certainly unworkable. Or if we are to stick with matters connubial, then perhaps the best analogy is with an arranged marriage, with all that that conjures up.

May 112015
 

What an incredible election it was, with the Scottish National Party winning 56 out of Scotland’s 59 seats! Without doubt the most amazing election I have watched unfold in some fifty years of following politics. Though partly because of that SNP landslide – plus the collapse of the Liberal Democrats and a swing to the Tories – we now have a Conservative and Unionist PPlaid Cymru 1arty government in London. But as the incoming government has only one MP in Scotland the SNP is already arguing it has no legitimacy to rule Scotland, so we appear to be heading for the constitutional crisis I predicted in my previous post.

Success for the national party was not replicated here in Wales, even with Plaid Cymru’s much more modest ambitions, for it hoped to hold on to its three seats (Arfon, Dwyfor Meirionnydd and Carmarthen East & Dinefwr) and gain anything up to three other seats (Llanelli, Ceredigion and Ynys Môn). In the event, everything stayed the same, and while Ynys Môn went to a recount the results in Llanelli and Ceredigion showed how unrealistic hopes in those areas were. This despite Plaid’s leader Leanne Wood getting more exposure on television, both in Wales and at UK level than any previous leader. But there’s nothing surprising in Plaid Cymru’s failure, for it’s a party that has worked itself into a position from which it just can’t win.

To begin with, Plaid Cymru has refused to challenge the strategy that is turning large parts of Wales into retirement and recreation areas for England – the strategy that (together with anti-Plaid tactical voting) has probably made Ceredigion now unwinnable at Westminster level – because to do so will bring down upon the party condemnation in the English (and ‘Welsh’) Plaid Cymru 2media. In the hope of justifying this wilful neglect of Welsh interests Plaid has to pretend that it can win the support of many of the immigrants, after all, they are now living in Wales so surely they want the best for Wales? No. They remain English, with some becoming more English after moving to Wales. And as Plaid’s candidate in Ceredigion told us, among them are out-and-out racists who see us Welsh as just another inferior people to be ridiculed and shouted at.

The corollary to this desperate desire to be liked (by people who are never going to like us anyway), is that Plaid Cymru has ignored the Welsh people in the areas being colonised. Plaid is now so concerned with avoiding any discussion of white flight, with not offending anyone except Ukip (work that out!), with getting pats on the head from Guardian readers, and with being courted by ‘progressive’ elements, within and without Wales, that it has abandoned it’s raison d’être of defending Welsh interests.

In our urban areas we see the managed decline of the Valleys and the region’s close-on one million people, now offered no better future than becoming dormitory communities for Cardiff. Yet despite a century of decline under Westminster rule, a century of Labour MPs, a century of Labour-controlled local authorities, and a Labour-controlled Notional Assembly for tPlaid Cymru 3he sixteen years of its existence, people in Blaenau Gwent still elected a Labour MP, and those who wanted an alternative to Labour found Ukip and the Tories more attractive than Plaid Cymru! It was the same in Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney, where Ukip got twice the Plaid vote!

Can we explain this vote for Ukip by the presence of predatory hordes of Poles and Romanians in the Heads of the Valleys taking all the jobs? Or is it attributable to the retired English middle classes, sipping their whisky and sodas up at Dowlais golf club while ranting against Johnny Foreigner? Face it, if Plaid Cymru cannot appeal to voters in areas where just about everyone is Welsh-identifying then where, outside of the shrinking redoubts of the Welsh language, does it have any chance?

This is an incredible and self-destructive position for any political party to have worked itself into. To take for granted your rural heartlands, that are being overrun before your eyes (and in the process, destroying Welsh as a community language) yet, paradoxically, still manage to be rejected by most voters outside those heartlands because they view you as a party oPlaid Cymru 4nly concerned with the Welsh language! This is a party with no future.

Something else we learnt from this election (and the EU election last year) is that the myth of ‘Socialist Wales’ is dead. Wales may have been ‘socialist’ when most of us worked in heavy industry, but this should now be seen as the passing phase it was, with our fathers as victims of circumstance motivated by self-interest rather than ideological socialists. And now ‘Socialist Wales’ is gone. The only socialists left belong to 57 fringe groups . . . and Plaid Cymru. The Labour Party is no longer socialist, so why is Plaid Cymru still flogging this long-expired equine? The clarion call of socialism was rejected by those who voted Labour, and rejected even more emphatically by those who voted Tory and Ukip.

Let us look at one result from last Thursday in an area with which I am familiar. Admittedly the Gower constituency contains Mumbles and the eponymous peninsula, which are relatively affluent areas, but the bulk of the seat’s population is to be found in former industrial suburbs to the west and north of Swansea, towns and villages such as Waunarlwydd, Gowerton, Penclawdd, Gorseinon, Clydach, Pontarddulais. I’ve worked in Waunarlwydd, Gowerton and Clydach; I have sunk many a pint in Penclawdd, Gorseinon and ‘Y Bont’. That these thoroughly Welsh communities would be represented by a Tory MP would have been unthinkable thirty years ago. But it’s happened, because the world has moved on . . . but not Plaid Cymru.Plaid Cymru 5

How do we explain this self-destructive streak? I believe that at the core of Plaid Cymru there is an influential grouping that has beguiled others into rejecting what it chooses to term ‘narrow nationalism’, and persuaded the party to pursue a more ‘inclusive’ and ‘progressive’ agenda. Am I wrong? Just ask yourself, why was doing a deal with the Greens such a major issue in the run-up to the election? I read more about that than I did of any hopes and ambitions Plaid has for Wales. But a confident national party shouldn’t have to worry about the votes of a few thousand lifestyle migrants and hippies, very few of whom would vote for Plaid even if there was a joint candidate in their constituency. (An unsettling truth we first learnt from Mel Witherden, the Green-Plaid candidate for Monmouth back in 1992.)

Clearly, what ‘narrow nationalism’ means is focusing on Welsh issues, something that gives Plaid Cymru nightmares after the kicking given to Ieuan Wyn Jones by Glenys Kinnock on Question Time some years ago over l’affaire Seimon Glyn, Gwilym ab Ioan et al. But Plaid Cymru only operates in Wales, so not to focus on specifically Welsh issues is perverse. Attempts then have to be made to disguise this bizarre strategy by desperately trying to put a ‘Welsh interpretation’ on issues or concerns that emanate from outside of Wales. Hugging Nicola Sturgeon and the Green woman is great television, being ‘anti-austerity’ is a good slogan, but at the end of the day it’s just idle posturing. Being ‘anti-austerity’ is attractive to Plaid because it’s a cross-border issue allowing it to line up with other ‘progressives’ while avoiding Welsh issues. (I hate that fucking word, and the smug, self-satisfied superiority it conveys. ‘Ooo, look at me, Plaid Question markI’m “progressive”, but you’re not’. Maybe those who find the word so attractive should be reminded that it was much-loved by Joe Stalin.)

If I’m wrong about these machinations then someone needs to explain how a political party whose raison d’être is Wales and Welshness consistently refuses to defend Welsh interests. I ask because it doesn’t matter how many Mike Parkers the party attracts the vast majority of English people in Wales – ‘progressive’ or not – are never, ever going to vote for Plaid Cymru. The party’s votes will only ever come from Welsh people, and until the party acknowledges this inescapable truth, and becomes brave enough to speak out for Welsh people, and to take the flak that an anti-colonialist programme will draw, then Plaid Cymru will remain as popular as a pork butcher in Jerusalem.

Nov 102014
 

As I informed you in MBrig Oubridge 1ay, I have broken with the habit of a lifetime and stopped voting for Plaid Cymru, a party I ceased to believe in decades ago. One of the reasons for my losing faith in Plaid Cymru was its infatuation with the Green Party, and its desire to cover Wales with wind turbines (a position from which it has now retreated). So, as you might guess, among the parties I shall definitely not be voting for in future is the Green Party of Englandandwales. I’m dealing with this subject now because there is talk of another electoral pact between Plaid Cymru and the Greens.

Plaid began to get seriously enamoured of the Earth-botherers back in the late 1980s, which was almost certainly connected with the fact that at the June 1989 European elections the Green Party (formerly known as the Ecology Party) gained 99,546 votes in Wales, 11.1% of the total votes cast, and a massive increase of 10.9% on the party’s performance in 1984. In fact, the Green’s total vote was not far behind Plaid Cymru’s 115,062. Someone in Plaid Cymru who could do big sums calculated that if the two numbers were combined then the result would be, well . . . a big number. That’s my take on it, but Cynog Dafis would have us beleve that the links between Plaid Cymru and the environmental lobby go back further, as he explains in Plaid Cymru and the Greens: Flash in the Pan or a Lesson for the Future? which I advise you to read, as I shall refer to it later, and also because I get a mention! (Did I really say that!)

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The first test of this love-in came at the 1991 Monmouth by-election following the death of Sir John Stradling Thomas when Mel Witherden stood as a Plaid / Green candidate. He came fifth, with 277 votes, behind the Monster Raving Loony Party. Admittedly, Monmouth is not ferile ground for Plaid, but the Plaid candidate at the 1987 General Election got 363 votes. (There was no Green candidate in 1987.) In the 1992 general election Witherden stood again, this time winning 431 votes, an improvement of sorts. Though the real significance of Monmouth was what the candidate said some time later. In essence, Witherden confessed that many Greens refused to vote for a joint candidate because, quite frankly, they were anti-Welsh, and displayed crude, colonialist attitudes. Which was no more than many nationalists suspected, and for which some of us had clear evidence. Damning proof of Green attitudes from a Green Party member.

The sort of attitudes Cynog Dafis was to learn about the hard way. In the paper linked to above he talks of meeting leading Greens from Arfon and Meirion, John Nicholson and Chris Busby, who were outraged that community councils in Gwynedd conducted their business in Welsh (which presumaChrisBusbybly prevented them from taking over the meetings), and that their kids were being taught Welsh in schools. Dafis says, “I tried to respond, rather lamely, and through rational defence rather than counter-attack, but I came from the meeting feeling quite shaken”. Rarely does one come across a passage from a leading Plaidista that so perfectly sums up Plaid Cymru’s fundamental weakness when confronted with naked racism and colonialism. In such circumstances “rational defence” will get you nowhere. When faced with colonialist bigotry like that the only response must be: ‘You don’t like Wales the way it is? – then fuck off home!’

(Following the Fukishima nuclear accident in 2011 Busby sought to capitalise by selling his anti-radiation pills online and suggested that the Japanese government was deliberately spreading cancer throughout the country in order to hide or disguise the ‘clusters’! He has a number of companies selling £25 reports, his self-published books and assorted medicinal products that experts believe do nothing except enrich Chris Busby.)

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Despite this insight into the Green colonialist mindset Cynog Dafis stood at the 1992 General Election on a Green-Plaid ticket in Ceredigion and Pembroke North. He gained the seat from the sitting Liberal Democrat MP Geraint Howells with a majority of 3,193. To a number of nationalists at the time, myself included, Howells was a good old stick, a Welshman of the old school, and preferable to Dafis, especially if the latter was going to dance to some hippy tune for the duration of the parliament. Though there remains some dispute as to whether Dafis was ever a joint Plaid-Green candidate, certainly, the official record lists him for posterity as a Plaid Cymru candidate, and some grouplets within the Green Party insist he was never formally adopted. Whatever the truth of his position, Plaid’s leadership, Dafis to the fore, had convinced itself that the party needed Green votes to win Ceredigion, and perhaps other seats.

So were the Green votes influential, even decisive? Well, let’s look at the neighbouring constituencies where no deal was struck to see if they can point us towards an answer. To the south, in the Pembroke constituency, the Green candidate got 484 votes, or 0.8% of the vote. To the east, in Brecon & Radnor, the Green candidate limped in last with 393 votes, or 0.9% of the vote. Moving north, into Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, there the Greens – in the form of Busby’s mate, Bill Pritchard – were ecstatic over their 471 votes and 1.8%.  Though in Carmarthen the Greens couldn’t even find a candidate. The flash-in-the-pan nature of the Green Party’s 1989 Euro election result was betrayed at the first ‘serious’ election, which also told us that Plaid Cymru would have comfortably won Ceredigion and Pembroke North without any pact or agreement with the Greens.

After which it was all downhill, and to cut a long story short . . . in July 1995 the inevitable, yet amicable, parting of the ways came, and here’s an extract from the statement announcing the divorce, taken from Dafis’ document: “‘a bridge was built between the indigenous people of Wales and those who had moved here to live’ for progressive and enlightened purposes”. (I bet you want to read that again!) So condemning Welsh community councillors for speaking their own language is progressive and enlightened! Now if I’d made up that statement in an attempt at ridicule or sarcasm I would be rightly criticised, but a Plaid Cymru luminary who bent over backwards to accommodate a bunch of arrogant, dictatorial and often racist immigrants can write such bollocks without any sense of irony. But that’s all in the past, and I’m not a man to bear a grudge (yes, that is sarcasm) so what of today’s saviours of the planet?

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One worth noting, for the wrong reasons – though I assure you I have no evidence that he sells pills of any description – is that five-letters-a-day (to the editor) man, John Childs, who has opinions on just about everything. I mention him because he has imposed himself on the Treboeth neighbourhood in Swansea, an area close to my heart, and indeed close to where I was raised. I recall my father telling me that, pre-war, once you’d left Brynhyfryd Square and started walking up Llangyfelach Road into Treboeth you automatically switched from English to Welsh. Treboeth was the home patch of Daniel James (‘Gwyrosydd’) writer of Calon Lân. Also where Dewi ‘Pws’ Morris has his roots, and I understand Cynog Dafis himself was born there. Nowadays the name Treboeth is seen in newspapers and other publications on a daily basis when people read the opinionated and offensive drivel of an English environmentalist.

Another who feels Swansea cannot do without him is young Ashley Wakeling (or Ŵakeling?), who is contesting the upcoming by-election in the Uplands ward. ‘So who is he?’ I hear you ask. Young Mr Wakeling is a student, and last year he was the Green candidate back home in Maidstone. Here we have a young Green who knows nothing about the city he’s just moved to, but clearly believes that such ignorance is no obstacle to him standing for election to the body running that city. It’s incredible. I sincerely believe that no one should be allowed to stand for election tMatt Cookeo any local authority until they have lived in the area for a minimum of five years. Why should we demand that taxi drivers have more local knowledge than those getting paid to run a city? Another candidate recently announced was Matt Cooke in Torfaen.

Then we have the much more mature – at 27 – Chris Were, alleged to be deputy leader of the Wales Green Party’, though how one can hold any position in an organisation that doesn’t exist is beyond my ken. Were may be 27 but he prefers to behave like a 12-year-old, as his mocking of Wales testifies. (And the silly boy can’t even spell ‘innit’!) Were was a Green candidate in this year’s memorable European elections, in which the Greens achieved 33,275 votes, or 4.5% of the total, proving yet gain what a blip that 1989 result was that set Plaid Cymru hearts all a-flutter. Ah! those European elections of May 2014, memorable because I sincerely believe that the Ukip MEP elected, a Mr Nathan LeeChristopher Were Gill, will provide hours of enjoyment in the years ahead for those of you in possession of the gift of schadenfreude. (A gift that I, alas, have been denied.)

Finally, and much closer to home, I had a run-in not so long ago with an environmentalist living just up the road. It all started with a couple of letters to the local weekly rag on the subject of raising council tax on holiday homes; one headed, ‘Second home owners keep Gwynedd economy alive’, the other arguing that it would be ‘racist’ to increase council tax, before introducng the spectre of arson. Naturally, I responded, then the following week there was a reply that concluded with a reference to “the burning of second homes by Nationalist extremists”. The two letters mentioning arson are almost certainly phoney, and the second cleverly distorts what I actually said. The exchange can be found here.

The debate rumbled on a bit, and provoked a letter from Andrew Currie, the environmentalist who lives just up the road from me. According to Currie, I had missed the point that, “coastal towns and villages came into being because of tourism in Victorian times”. In other words, there was really nothing here until English tourists ‘discovered’ Wales. This is a reminder that the most virulent and outspoken bigotry doesn’t always come from the usual suspects, because what Currie is exposing here is the traditional ‘justification’ for colonialism – ‘They couldn’t manage without us’. The full exchange can be found in this post.

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I can only assume that whoever is gently blowing on the embers of an extinguished love is prompted not by renewed passion but by the very pragmatic consideration that with Assembly elections due in 2016, and Plaid defending a majority of just 1,777 in Ceredigion, the 1,514 votes won by Chris Simpson, the Green candidate in 2011, could be critical for Plaid’s chances of retaining the seat. It might also be worth pointing out that while this figure of 1,514 might look impressive, it should be borne in mind that Simpson was the only constituency candidate the Greens fielded in 2011, so the party concentrated almost all its resources on Ceredigion. A more meaningful assessment of Green support would be that in the (second preference) regional list section they got just 32,649 across the whole of Wales, roughly ten thousand votes ahead of the Socialist Labour Party and the BNP.

This is a party that can deliver, at most, thirty to forty thousand votes across the whole country – and that’s if all Greens are prepared to vote for joint candidates, which of course they aren’t. And not only will joint Green-Plaid candidates alienate most Green supporters, they’ll also piss off quite a few Plaid voters – and there are many more of the latter. A further consideration could be explained as follows. The Greens are an English party attracting English votes, therefore, as few of these votes will transfer to a joint candidate in the event of a pact, it makes more sense to have a Green candidate in Ceredigion, grabbing a thousand or two votes, rather than see those English Green votes transfer to a party that could beat Plaid Cymru.

Crude, electoral considerations aside, the bigger question has to be, why would Plaid Cymru – or any self-respecting party, come to that – want an electoral pact with the Green Party of Englandandwales? A party that refuses to recognise Wales as a country. A party that has members and activists who are positively racist in their attitudes to anything Welsh. A party whose luminaries see Wales as a backward territory ripe for ‘improvement’ by superior beings like them, with we Welsh viewed – at best – as obstructive primitives to be shouted down and brushed aside. Whichever way we look at it, a pact with the Greens could be very damaging to Plaid Cymru, and should call into question the political nous or motives of anyone promoting such a deal.

Apr 292014
 
Population density 2010

Click to Enlarge

Using the population density map to the right you’ll see that what I choose to call ‘rural Wales’ is those areas with fewer than one hundred persons per square kilometre, though I would make two adjustments. If the coastal strip – Rhyl, etc – is removed then the rest of Denbighshire qualifies as rural, and although Carmarthenshire falls into the <100 category it makes sense to link Llanelli – in the south east corner – with the Swansea Bay conurbation. This leaves us with some eighty per cent of Wales’ landmass, roughly a quarter of the population, no towns bigger than Bangor, Aberystwyth or Carmarthen, and of course, what remains of the Welsh language’s heartland, Y Fro Gymraeg.

There are three main players in rural Wales whose roles I want to examine in relation to the oft-bewailed ‘rural housing crisis’.

First, we have the local big-shots; landowners, businessmen and the like, for whom personal gain takes precedence over all other considerations. A good example would be Dai Lloyd Evans and his confreres who controlled Ceredigion council, buying up land before planning strategies were made public, and then selling it to developers or building on it themselves. Arguing that without these three- and four-bedroom houses local newly-weds would have nowhere to enjoy their connubial bliss . . . even though the youngsters for whom the gang feigned concern couldn’t afford these houses!

Also involved were estate agents and others looking for a profit. Such as local builders, most of whom were honest enough to admit that the houses they were building were, in the main, for English in-comers. But one builder, who received considerable coverage in the Wasting Mule, went over the top by arguing that if he wasn’t allowed to build houses for English colonists then there’d be no work for his Welsh-speaking workers; consequently, the language would die. An intriguing argument, asking us to believe that the Welsh language in Ceredigion depends for its survival on English colonisation!

Second, we have the equally unconvincing arguments forwarded by the Planning Inspectorate to justify yet more housing such as the Bodelwyddan New Town in Denbighshire. Namely, because Denbighshire has an ageing population – with the bulk of its elderly from England – a younger influx must be encouraged to balance things out. In other words, ‘You have a problem with English colonisation – so we advocate more of it’!

Elsewhere, the Planning Inspectorate promotes housebuilding as a self-justifying, stand-alone economic activity, rather than as something that would, in any normal society, be consequential upon economic prosperity and population growth. Explained as an ‘economic boost’ for rural Wales this is the policy I outlined in my post If You Build Them, They Will Come.

Finally, we are told that ‘Wales needs more houses’ to meet an indigenous demand, and to cater for ‘natural’ growth.

Third, we have social housing providers. Ostensibly meeting the needs of those who cannot afford to buy a home, yet we all know that far too many housing association properties are being allocated to ‘the vulnerable’ and ‘the needy’ from over the border; simpering euphemisms for substance abusers, ex-cons, paedophiles, problem families and the others who make up England’s white underclass.

Y Bwthyn, Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant

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Another problem is that since social housing passed from councils to housing associations jobs have been lost in areas that can ill afford to lose any. In Gwynedd the council’s housing stock went to Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd, which then gave the contract for maintaining its properties to an English company, Lovell, which in turn sub-contracted the work to other English companies. My disabled next-door-neighbour waited weeks for his bathroom to be tiled by a firm that either didn’t turn up at all or else turned up around 11am and was gone by 3pm – because they came from Wigan, 120 miles from Tywyn!

There are serious questions to be asked about why the ‘Welsh’ Government is funding – via the Social Housing Grant and other means – what are to all intents and purposes private companies. Private companies that are a) importing undesirables and b) losing Wales contracts and jobs. Organisations about which it is almost impossible to get information due to the fact they are exempt from Freedom of Information legislation, and are not registered with Companies House due to being Industrial and Provident Societies. Conversely, if they are not private companies, but are what they claim to be, which is ‘not-for-profit’ organisations in receipt of public funding, then why are they not subject to FoI requests? Are we not entitled to know how our money is being spent?

I propose returning to the intriguing matter – and anomalous status – of housing associations later, with a full post. (Any information received will be treated with the usual sagacious discretion. Send to: editor@jacothenorth.net.)

Social Housing Grant

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What we see in the three examples I have used above is how deliberate lies become the terms of debate, the very vocabluary, when dealing with rural housing in Wales. It’s like some parallel universe where black is white and right is wrong. That said, there is one unavoidable truth upon which everyone agrees . . . before corrupting that truth to serve the same selfish or anti-Welsh interests. As you will read below.

Rural Wales has an oversupply of housing . . . by which I mean, more housing than will be needed by the indigenous population for at least a generation.

The true problem is that the indigenous Welsh are excluded from much of this housing. Either because they are unable to afford the prices asked for open market housing or else because social housing providers too often find ‘clients’ over the border who take precedence over locals.

But then something very clever happens. The inability of Welsh people to buy private dwellings, or access social housing, is used as the excuse to build yet more housing – from which the unchanged system still excludes them!

To remedy this institutionalised con trick we need to a) provide meaningful financial aid for Welsh (especially first-time) buyers and b) move towards a split market, where a percentage of properties in all areas is reserved for local buyers; while in the social housing sector ensure that no one qualifies for social housing unless they have been resident in Wales for at least five years.

Sep 252013
 

I am indebted to Dennis Morris of Plaid Glyndwr (south Pembrokeshire and nationalist) for bringing to my attention a recent snippet about one of my favourite subjects – social housing.

It’s not easy to make sense of the report on the BBC website, for the headline talks of a ‘Post’ while the article (click to enlarge) gives no further information on any such new post. The article talks of both renting property and buying, but without giving any clue as to what the scheme is supposed to achieve. In fact, the article confuses more than anything else. It’s journalistic gibberish.

Even so, we must assume that Ceredigion council, with the help of the ‘Welsh’ Government, plans to introduce a scheme that will help local people rent or buy property in “their local community”. But we already have ‘affordable housing’ and social housing, so why do we need yet another scheme? One answer might be that locals seem to be at the back of the queue every time, as priority for social housing is given to people from over the border, the bigger their ‘problems’, or their families, the better.

Which explains why we keep revisiting this issue – the problem is not being solved. For example, here’s a link to a similar story from 2010, again concerning Ceredigion. When you have a problem that just about everyone can see for what it is, and when it is discussed endlessly, with repeated promises to remedy the problem, but nothing improves, then you have to ask what the hell is going on. Here’s my interpretation. First, there is a deliberate and concerted strategy at work to colonise Wales with English settlers. This includes those who cannot afford to buy a home . . . even those who may not want to move to Wales! But benefit-dependent families can’t be choosers, so they are being shipped in whether they like it or not.

The ONLY answer to this problem is to change the rules so that in the allocation of social housing being local – i.e. Welsh – outweighs any number of ‘problems’, or kids. Our politicians, especially the so-called ‘Welsh’ Government needs to get a handle on this issue. A start could be made by reining in the civil servants, such as those at the Housing Directorate, who are doing so much damage with the rules they set. Ostensibly working for Wales but in reality answering to London. Simply changing the points system would achieve more than any number of new posts, and it would be far cheaper. It would also save us the regularly regurgitated flim-flam. Moving north . . .

In 2010 Gwynedd’s stock of council housing was transferred, following a tenants’ vote, to Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd. Although I’m no longer a tenant (having gratefully bought my house under the Right to Buy scheme) I take an interest in CCG. One of the first things I noticed was that the new outfit’s vehicles were registered in Essex (maybe a deal with Ford) and they sport ‘UK’ plates. How difficult would it have been to ask for ‘Cymru’ plates, this is Gwynedd, after all?

The new housing association of course inherited part of the Gwynedd workforce, but we see less and less of CCG’s own workers as jobs are increasingly contracted out. Initially, it seemed that these jobs were contracted out to Gwynedd firms. More recently, to firms in other parts of the north, and now to firms from outside of Wales altogether. I noticed this recently with vans in my village for two companies in particular: Lovell of Staffordshire and DNA Plastering & Tiling Ltd of Wigan. (I CCGcan find no website for DNA, which was only incorporated as a company in December 2011!) As might be expected, I contacted Cartefi Cymunedol Gwynedd, or rather, I initiated a Twitter exchange. (Click to enlarge.)

Now, in fairness, Lovell does have a ‘regional’ office . . . in Altrincham, for the ‘North West and North Wales’. In its defence, CCG argues that of the 144 Lovell workers on CCH contracts 124 live in North Wales. I have no way of checking that. But even if it’s true, how many of them are Welsh? Even if they’re all Welsh, Lovell remains an English company with profits – from work in Wales – going back over the border.

When it comes to DNA CCG throws in the towel with: “We monitor our contractors & subcontractors closely and set targets to ensure local people are employed whenever possible”. ‘WHENEVER POSSIBLE!!’ God Almighty! this is supposed to be a Welsh company; it takes money from Welsh people, yet it feels under no obligation to provide Welsh people with jobs! Nor does it feel it has any responsibility to the local economy of which it is part, and upon which its tenants rely!

More than likely, what has happened here is that the main contract was given to Lovell, who have then sub-contracted some of the work to DNA. But this is what happens when the main contract is awarded to an English company, which will use the sub-contractors it regularly employs. Though the body awarding the main contract can insist that the sub-contracts go to local firms . . . obviously CCG couldn’t be bothered. Better still, and to avoid any such problems – award the main contract to a Welsh company, or keep it in-house.

I live in a small, relatively isolated village, so I can only report what I have seen with my own eyes, the problem may be much more widespread. Something is clearly wrong at Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd. It is now surely time for local politicians to take an interest – for it is their constituents, and the local economy, losing out as a result of CCG awarding contracts to English firms (irrespective of whether they employ a few Welsh workers). At the very least I would expect our local politicians to query the tendering process at CCG. Establish whether it takes into account the benefit of keeping money in the area, and that this ensures ‘weighting’ that results in accepting higher tenders from local firms. Speaking of ‘weighting’, does the tendering process also take into account the environmental impact of workers from England travelling to work in western Wales?

I can’t help feeling that, one way or another, social housing providers are now part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. A review of how social housing is delivered in Wales is long overdue.

Aug 282013
 

Plaid Cymru’s relationship with the Green Party has ranged from what appeared to be full coalition through local understandings to what at other times appeared to be no linkage whatsoever. The prime mover of co-operation between the two parties was Cynog Dafis, who was elected as the Plaid-Green MP for Ceredigion in 1992. His majority cynog-caroline-bbcwas 3,193. But the results from neighbouring constituencies made it clear that the Green vote – had the parties stood separately – would have been far less than that majority. To the north, in Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, Bill Pritchard got just 471  votes; whereas to the south, in Carmarthen, the Greens couldn’t even find a candidate! Making it clear who was benefitting from this alliance. Not only did Plaid Cymru not need the Green vote, what this misalliance taught us was that many or most Greens refused to vote for a joint candidate. I shall explain why in a moment.

Now I hear of another local alliance forming, this time in the area that used to be covered by Lliw Valley District Council, those communities to the north and west of what might be termed Swansea ‘proper’: Clydach, Pontarddulais, Gowerton, Gorseinon, Pontardawe, etc. The threat of Underground Coal Gasification in the Burry Inlet or Loughor Estuary has aroused some local residents to voice their protests, but few of these seem to be, well . . . genuinely local. This has somehow got linked with protests against new housing planned for the area.

The flyer below (click to enlarge) was handed out at the recent Pontaddulais Show by local members of Plaid Cymru, advertising a new “coalition of individuals and organisations under the Greenspace Cymru banner”. Ok, so we know Plaid is involved, but who else is part of this ‘coalition’? Greenspace Cymru is said to have a Facebook page but I can’t find it. So let me hazard a guess that the local Plaidistas have jumped into bed with a bunch of English nimbys and a shower of Greens, again. So why am I writing about this obscure local issue? PLliw flyerartly because it’s on my old home patch, but also because it has wider ramifications.

Let’s start with the housing. This not Ceredigion or Denbighshire; few of these homes will be bought by retirees, good-lifers, or commuters to English cities. What’s proposed is just more infilling between Swansea and Llanelli. The majority of these houses will be bought by people already living in the region. That being so, for Plaid Cymru to become part of this ‘alliance’ is weird. Then there’s the gas. With oil supplies finite, the Middle East in constant turmoil, the example of falling gas prices in the USA, and wind power and other ‘green’ energy exposed as a waste of money, shale gas, or whatever you want to call it, is going to happen. I have argued that we should fight to have control of this resource devolved to Cardiff Bay, but if this proves impossible then we have to make the best of it, we must ensure that Wales, and Welsh people, get the maximum benefits.

So why do I hate the Greens? In Scotland there is a genuine Scottish Green Party, and it supports full independence. Here in Wales, we have a rag-bag collection of hippies, good-lifers and other zealots forever dictating to us, thinking they can grant themselves planning permission – even in a National Park. They don’t like to be reminded that they’re in a country other than their own. (This is why so many of them were hostile to the electoral link-up with Plaid Cymru.) Yet for some perverse reason many in Plaid Cymru still view the Greens as kindred spirits. Which often results, as we see today in Lliw Valley, in the party supposedly representing the interests of the Welsh people lining up with Greens who don’t give a damn about us Welsh, and nimbys who want to see zero development in Wales lest it interfere with their comfortable lives. The kind of Fleece Jacket Fascists I dealt with a while back.

Tilting at windmills is all very well in its place – God knows I’ve done enough of it! – but if Plaid Cymru wants to be taken seriously as a political party it should choose its friends more carefully and remember whose interests it’s supposedly serving. Going overboard for wind turbines and other renewables was a mistake. One doesn’t need to be a Mail or Telegraph reader to know they’re expensive and they don’t deliver. That mistake is starting to be remedied. Rhun ap Iorwerth’s support for Wylfa B was another step in the right direction. A further positive is Helen Mary Jones stepping down as party chair. But if Plaid Cymru is going to oppose the new homes that Welsh people need, and the jobs that building them will create; plus cheaper gas prices and the jobs extracting the gas will provide, then the party will take yet another wrong turning.