Cyngor Gwynedd

Jul 032017
 

RESPECT WANTED

Tourism is a subject I’ve written about more than once, and so I think my views are pretty well known. But in case anyone’s failed to get the message . . . tourism in Wales is exploitive, tasteless, disruptive, damaging to Welsh identity and culture, destructive of our physical environment, and far too little of the wealth it generates reaches Welsh people. Tourism in Wales is one of the more obvious manifestations of colonialism.

Which is why I was encouraged to read this morning about Eryri in future being treated with “respect”. Remarkably, this is the very word I have used in my previous criticisms of the damage being done to the area by crude and exploitive tourism.

The word was used by Helen Pye, the Snowdonia National Park’s former head warden for Snowdon who is now manager of the Snowdon Partnership, a group representing various interests that has produced a draft plan for the area which invites comments. It’s a fascinating document and I urge you all to read it, and to submit your comments before Friday’s deadline.

The document tells us, for example, that Snowdon is a “national asset” . . . without stating which nation is being referred to. But as it goes on to say, ” . . . the most visited mountain in the UK.” it’s reasonable to assume that we are here discussing the mythic UKish nation.

A remarkable, and worrying, statistic may be found on page 20, which tells us that between 2013 and 2015 the percentage of first-time hill walkers attempting Yr Wyddfa doubled from 10% to 20%. Which no doubt contributes to some of the more alarming statistics found elsewhere in the report.

Page 43 bears out my criticism of tourism providing low-wage and seasonal employment, and contributing little to the overall economy of an area, with: “Tourism to Yr Wyddfa is estimated to contribute £69m of economic benefit per annum. There are low rates of full-time employment and low median wages in the Park”.

Though my spirits were briefly raised when I read, on page 48,“Invasive species are being controlled”, under the “Where do we want to be by 2030?” heading . . . only to realise that the draft was not referring to tourists.

All in all, it’s a very disappointing and unambitious document, with ‘compromise’ written through it like ‘Tenby’ through a stick of rock. Hardly surprising when we look at some of the ‘partners’: Visit Betws-y-Coed, The Outdoor Partnership, The National Trust, Beddgelert Tourism Association, Snowdonia-Active, Visit Wales, Snowdon Mountain Railway.

All of which can be grouped under the ‘Playground Wales’ umbrella. Organisations which insist that attracting unsustainable numbers of tourists, and encouraging many to settle, has no damaging consequences for Welsh identity, social cohesion, and the natural environment.

Not a lot different to tobacco companies back in the ’60s and ’70s arguing that cigarettes were not harmful to health. If you have a vested interested in denying what it is becoming clear to everyone else then that’s what you do . . . and just hope you get away with it.

TREN BACH YR WYDDFA

After writing the name I got to wondering a bit more about the Snowdon Mountain Railway, which not only owns the train to the summit but also runs the cafe close by the summit.

Reading the website one of the first things that struck me about the early days of the railway was the almost total absence of Welsh involvement. This was all happening in spite of us, or over our heads. But then, that’s colonialism; a whole nation treated as if it has learning difficulties, unable to do anything for itself.

The section below is taken from the website’s History section.

From ‘History of the Snowdon Mountain Railway’

The initial excursion in 1896 of No 1 Ladas, owned by the Snowdon Mountain Tramroad and Hotels Company Ltd, was not a great success, for the train left the track. Fortunately there was just one fatality, Ellis Griffith Roberts of Llanberis.

This episode is so wonderfully emblematic of ‘Welsh’ tourism. Not only were those making the money English, even the driver of the derailed train, William Pickles, was brought in from Yorkshire (with his nephew to serve as fireman). And as is the case 120 years later, it’s the Welsh who suffer.

The company number quoted on the website is 00042476 which, when typed into the Companies House site, takes us here. We can see that this company is based in Liverpool, and has been dormant for many years. Not only that, but since 2001 the company has got by without auditors. (You’ll note that this decision was taken at a meeting in Ripon, North Yorkshire. Perhaps in deference to Will Pickles and his nephew.)

Which means that one of Wales’ major tourism enterprises is run by an unaudited, dormant company. So who owns this outfit? Well, the answer seems to be, according to this document, that the shares – all 1,803,690 (10p shares) – are owned by Heritage Great Britain PLC of the same Liverpool address.

Heritage Great Britain plc is a holding company and we are also told that, “The Group undertakes the operation of various landmark and other day visitor attractions situated in the Isle of Wight, Cornwall, North Wales, and holiday accommodation in Scotland through a joint venture”.

So who owns Heritage Great Britain plc? According to this document, as at 5 April 2016 all 5,213,371 £1 shares are held by Cherberry Ltd. Which is where the trail almost goes dead. Because if you type ‘Cherberry Ltd’ into the Companies House website you draw a blank . . . for Cherberry was registered in May 1996 in Jersey.

Naturally – you know me, nosey bastard! – I went to the website of the Jersey Financial Services Commission to see what I could learn about Cherberry Ltd . . . which was not a lot. Other than the fact that the trail goes on to Dukla Ltd of Gibraltar, as set out in this document. The Dukla Articles of Association are dated August 2015. Having paid out £4 for the Jersey documents I was in no mood to splash out more than thirty quid a time for the Gibraltar docs.

And even if I’d bought some Gibraltar documents then I might have found that they led on to the Caymans or the British Virgin Islands. Which raises a few questions.

Hafod Eryri. All the architectural charm of a public urinal from communist East Germany

First, the Snowdon Mountain Railway Ltd leases the cafe at the summit, Hafod Eryri, from the Snowdonia National Park. This ‘visitor centre’ opened 12 June 2009 and was built at considerable cost. Given who owns it it’s safe to assume that a great deal of public funding was involved. How do those funders – probably using your money and mine – feel about this publicly-funded asset now being leased to a company based God knows where?

Second, the Snowdonia Mountain Railway ferries a few hundred thousand people between Llanberis and the summit every year. In the event of an accident, how easy would it be to hold to account a company we’ve traced to Gibraltar, a company that through yet more changes of name and ownership may ultimately be located even further afield?

Are Cyngor Gwynedd and the ‘Welsh’ Government satisfied that adequate insurance is in place to cover all eventualities? Satisfied that culpability can be apportioned and justice satisfied when the guilty party or parties may be beyond UK jurisdiction?

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DRAMATIS PERSONAE

The principal characters in the Snowdon Mountain Railway, in the forms of the three current directors are, Gary Johnson, Allan James Stuart Leech and Peter Miles Johnson-Treherne; the last of whom can be founded listed on other documents as Peter Treherne or Peter Johnson-Treherne.

The same three crop up running the Snowdon Mountain Tramroad and Hotels Company Ltd (where Gary Johnson now becomes Gary Andrew Johnson). You’ll remember that this is the name of the company for which the luckless William Pickles and his nephew worked back in 1896. (Though of course they were lucky compared to poor Ellis Griffith Roberts.) So what does this company do?

In a word, nothing, for it became dormant almost from the date of its Incorporation on 22 May 2013. And as we read in the Annual Report and Accounts dated 31 January 2014, “The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Heritage Great Britain plc which is registered in England and Wales. The ultimate parent company, Cherberry Ltd, is registered in Jersey . . . “. 

Something that puzzled me was, given the ages of the three I’ve named, and their relatively late entrances, who was running the show before they got involved? Part of the answer came from the former directors of the Snowdon Mountain Railway Ltd, for among them I found the information below.

Kevin Ronald Leech (born August 1943) is probably the father of current director Allan James Stuart Leech (born October 1972). Leech Senior’s Jersey address is the same address given for Cherberry Ltd.

UPDATE 04.07.2017: I am indebted to Simon Hillman for providing (in a comment below) more information on Kevin Leech. I suggest you read this Telegraph article from October 2002 and this Guardian piece from January 2014. This is the man who might still own the Snowdon Mountain Railway through a network of offshore companies, and the man to whom the Snowdonia National Park has leased Hafod Eryri. Cause for concern.

RESPECT HAS TO BE EARNED

The fundamental problem exposed here is one we find in other parts of Wales, and indeed, around the world. To wit: A beautiful area attracts tourists, the more tourists that come, the more degraded and less beautiful that area becomes. This combination of tourism and degradation is unavoidable.

Among those refusing to concede this universal truth we may find some denying that there is a limit to how many tourists an area can accommodate, especially when they don’t live in the area and run their businesses through offshore companies.

If Ms Pye and her Snowdon Partnership are serious about showing respect for Yr Wyddfa then the answer is simple: rather than searching for the alchemist’s stone of attracting a limitless number of tourists and expecting them to cause no harm, accept that the problem is too many tourists and start limiting the numbers.

By all means encourage responsible walkers to ascend the mountain, but for God’s sake don’t make it easy for every lazy bastard to get there on a bloody railway – and then encourage them to fill their fat faces in the cafe at the top!

So make a start by demolishing the pissoir at the peak, after all, this is owned by the Snowdonia National Park Authority and was paid for from the Welsh public purse. With the visitor centre gone there’ll be less incentive for the obese and the idle to get the train to the summit.

If money was found for the carbuncle now desecrating the skyline then money can be found to buy out the Snowdon Mountain Railway, by compulsory purchase if necessary. Once bought, the rolling stock can be flogged off and the tracks torn up to restore Yr Wyddfa to something approaching its natural state.

Anything less is simply tinkering with the problem; so if that’s what’s happening then don’t build people’s hopes up by using words like ‘respect’. Use the word that I fear already describes the Snowdon Partnership and its draft plan – fudge.

♦ end ♦

 

May 162015
 

DAVIES THE DENIER

Reading the Daily Post a couple of days ago I saw that the new MP for Vale of Clwyd, Dr James Davies, campaigned hard on “the decline of Rhyl” and “the NHS”. Which got me wondering . . . how could an anti-devolution Tory possibly benefit from concentrating on these two issues?

The decline of Rhyl is attributable to the growth in cheap, overseas package holidays leading to ‘bucket and spade’ resorts like Rhyl losing their popularity. But this still need not have resulted in the town being surrendered to slum landlords and cross-border agencies to use as a dumping ground for criminals, drug addicts and other undesirables. Such people obviously put a greater strain on local health resources than those who enjoy a less ‘hectic’ lifestyle.DrJamesDavies

Another reason that the health service is under pressure is because large numbers of elderly people move – or are moved by relatives – to Wales. In the area where I live, the coastal stretch between Barmouth and Aberdyfi (including both communities), the 2011 census told us that two-thirds of the population in the 65+ age bracket (which makes up 30.1% of the total population locally) was born in England. (Click here for details.)

A third component becoming ever more apparent is the thousands of people with ‘learning difficulties’ or permanent medical conditions that are being relocated to Wales. This can be attributed to various charities, social housing providers and private landlords lured by the lucre paid by English local authorities and others to take on these vulnerable people, with the burden obviously falling on local services such as health that see none of that money. (This recent piece from Private Eye provides an insight into how councils “package up their vulnerable elderly or disabled people . . . and put them up for online tender”, which can involve moving to another area.)

Given that all these issues put strain on the Welsh NHS, especially in the Vale of Clwyd constituency, and given that all these issues are attributable to our colonial relationship with England, how could an anti-devolution Tory capitalise on them? Who or what did he blame for the problems? The EU? Little green men?

Open your mind to this unbeatable example of surrealist irony: Rhyl drug dealers and the English wrinklies of Prestatyn storming the polling booths to vote for James Davies because they’re angry – bloody angry! – at the decline of Rhyl and the state of the NHS. Only in Wales!

*

STAYING IN RHYL

The title to this section does not mean that I’m suggesting people actually stay inKevin John Norman the town (good God!) it just means that this piece is about Rhyl and, in a sense, carries on from the previous section.

I have decided to bow to public demand and compile a new photo collection for my sidebar, to be entitled ‘Residents of Rhyl’. Here’s a specimen who’s been in the news recently for “pleasuring himself” in a public place and will most definitely figure in the new album. (And to think that only last year he was a contender for the ‘Best Dressed Man in Rhyl’ crown.)

For younger readers, ‘pleasuring oneself’ is a rather archaic way of referring to masturbation. Though some sentimentalists may find it rather nice to see these terms of yesteryear being revived.

In his defence, he may have misunderstood the sign for the ‘Pleasure Beach’, perhaps thinking that the ‘Self-‘ bit had fallen off in the wind. And even if it hadn’t, Rhyl and Pleasure in the same sentence would be enough to confuse anyone.

*

A PLAGUE OF DAVIESES

Observant readers will have noticed that the three new Tory MPs elected last week are all named Davies. In addition to Jimbo (above) there was Byron in Gower and Chris in Brecon & Radnor. There was already David Davies as MP for Monmouth, and of course there’s Glyn Davies in Montgomeryshire. Which means that five out of the eleven Tory MPs elected in 2015 are named Davies. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the leader of the Conservatives in the Assembly is Andrew R T Davies! And who’s the Deputy Leader – Paul Davies!!

This is not good. I mean, having so many Tory politicians in Wales is bad for a start, but that so many of the buggers are called Davies takes us into the scary realm of premonition and plagues. For I seem to recall that there’s an obscure Nostradamus quatrain that predicts all sorts of disasters befalling the land when this happens. I’ll try to dig it out for you.

*

STAYING WITH BUGGERS

The late and unlamented George Thomas, Lord Tonypandy, is still making the news. The most recent allegation to surface is that he inappropriately touched a young man on a London to Aberystwyth train many years ago. Well, you’ve got to do something to while away the time, train journeys can be sooo boring.

OK, sorry, but it’s so easy to take the piss, a closet homosexual who gave the game away with his love of the leggings, wigs and all the other nonsense he got to wear as Speaker of the House of Commons and a peer. (Not for nothing was he known as ‘The Danny La Rue of the Rhondda’.) Then there was his truly odious fawning over young Charles Saxe-Coburg-GothaGeorge Thomas during the Investiture period. (Though I bet they never left him alone with the boy!) What’s not so funny is that this bastard was a very influential politician, who had powerful friends and allies, both within Wales and beyond.

When considering cases like Thomas we must remember that all MPs are investigated by the intelligence services. Ostensibly done as security checks this process also uncovers an individual’s likes and dislikes, peccadilloes and weaknesses. Once a weakness is identified, and the embarrassing evidence is gathered, then whoever holds that information has great power over the politician concerned. I think we can be certain that George Thomas’ liking for boys and young men would have come to the attention of such people very early in his political career.

But you mustn’t think that this is a one-sided arrangement, for the ‘victim’ in this situation does not have to worry about being publicly exposed as long as he plays ball. Also, any attempts at blackmailing him will be dealt with. Documents and files can be ‘lost’. People like George Thomas are then free to carry on abusing.

Such arrangements help explain how judges, high-ranking military men, top civil servants, MPs and others could meet regularly for orgies at which young boys were abused and even killed. It was because those involved almost certainly enjoyed the protection of a certain agency and in return did what they were told when those running this agency wanted the favour returned. A practice perhaps developed in Northern Ireland, at the infamous Kincora Boys Home, used for decades as a honey trap.

The United Kingdom is a sick, corrupt and increasingly unequal state. The sooner we get out of it the better.

 *

REVOLVING DOORS

I am indebted to ‘Stan’ of the Neath Ferret site for this latest news from within the Labour Party on the east side of Swansea Bay. Councillor Ms Cari Morgans, who represents the Tonna ward on Neath Port Talbot council, was the office manager for outgoing Neath MP Peter Hain. She is now office manager for Stephen Kinnock, the newly-elected MP for Aberavon. Seeing as we are dealing here with the Labour Party this switch in masters could only have been effected after a full and open selection process . . . a very speedy selection process indeed.

UPDATE 17.05.2015: I am now informed that jobs for new MPs’ staff should be advertised. (Read this.) This is unlikely to have been done in this case because Ms Morgans registered her interest (as Kinnock’s office manager) with Neath Port Talbot council very soon after Kinnock was elected. Which would have allowed no time for advertising the post and selecting the successful candidate after May 7th. Which suggests that any ‘selection process’ was probably completed before Stephen Kinnock was elected MP for Aberavon, or else there was no advertisement and no selection process at all. Which would almost certainly be wrong, if not illegal.

An MP’s office manager, working outside of London, is paid in the range £26,000 – £38,121. But then, I suppose it’s fair in a way that Ms Morgans gets this salary, because I doubt if Port Talbot will see any more of Stephen Kinnock than the Islwyn constituency saw of his father.

*

THE INLAND RHYL?

When I first visited Blaenau Ffestiniog back in the 1960s it was quite unnerving. ‘This can’t be north Wales’, I told myself, ‘with its rows of terraced houses and enormous slag heaps this place belongs in the Valleys’. It was my introduction to the slate-quarrying region of the north west, or what, even by that time, had become the former slate-quarrying region.

The slate industry has all but gone, Blaenau’s population has halved, while successive governments in London and Cardiff have done nothing to halt the decline. One result of that decline is thaCN Brennant Blaenau Ffestiniog now has some of the cheapest, if not the cheapest housing to found in Wales outside of the Heads of the Valleys. Cheap property – as in Rhyl – attracts buyers who have no intention of living in Blaenau themselves but are adept at finding tenants of the kind that local authorities and other agencies over the border will pay a lot of money to get rid of. ‘Out of sight, out of mind . . . and somebody else’s problem’. (So look out Heads of the Valleys!)

This week’s Cambrian News (no, I didn’t buy it) carried the latest story about a thug who’s been dumped in Blaenau Ffestiniog. Read it for yourself by clicking to enlarge the image on the right. In addition to what the report tells us Carl Martin Brennan has stabbed a local boy with a bottle, mugged an alcoholic (though not charged), and beat up his girlfriend. Not a welcome addition to any community, so how did he get to Blaenau Ffestiniog, who ‘encouraged’ him to move from Birmingham?

Last year two local men were jailed for over three years each following a vigilante attack on Brennan. Commenting after their trial Detective Sergeant Gerwyn Thomas of North Wales Police said: “I welcome the sentence and hope it will provide the victim and local community with reassurance that North Wales Police will relentlessly pursue those individuals who commit offences of this nature which fortunately are not common in the area”. Which is not how people in Blaenau see it. They want protection against Brennan, not against local lads who were doing the police’s job in protecting them.

In fact, the people of the town are becoming increasingly angry at the charmed life Brennan leads, they wonder who’s protecting him, and how he manages to stay out of prison. They also wonder what sort of system we live under when two young fathers from their community are languishing in prison while Brennan is still strutting the streets of Blaenau, bullying and intimidating people.

Before this saga causes any more misery maybe North Wales Police should start doing its job by looking out for the people it’s supposed to protect rather than baby-sitting a dangerous and violent criminal, for reasons that can only be guessed at. And maybe it’s also time for Cyngor Gwynedd to stop Blaenau turning into a housing benefit sink-hole full of relocated misfits and criminals. Perhaps the newly-elected MP might have something to say on the matter. I certainly don’t pay my council tax to keep the likes of Carl Martin Brennan in a town where no one wants him.

*

‘DON’T AFFECT US ROUND ‘ERE’

What I’ve written about Rhyl and Blaenau Ffestiniog is of course not confined to these towns, the problem of undesirables being shunted from England can be found in Colwyn Bay, Barmouth, Holyhead, Fishguard and countless other communities that have seen better days. As for the influx of elderly people this tends to take place in the more agreeable towns and the countryside, though those that move directly into retirement homes can be found anywhere.

People living elsewhere in Wales, particularly city dwellers, might take the view that this doesn’t affect them a) because they’ve already got enough of their own criminals and b) few people retire to Swansea or Cardiff. Wrong. The NHS could almost certainly be providing a better service in Cardiff, Swansea and other major centres if so much of Wales’ NHS funding was not being diverted to hospitals and services in the west, the centre and the north to treat people, many of whom weren’t even living in Wales 10 years ago. It all comes out of one pot.

Another drain on Welsh funding is housing benefit, that bonus for greedy and unscrupulous private landlords. A few figures extracted from this table I used in my recent post To Those That Have Shall Be Given – Housing Benefit! will explain the problem. Powys has a population (mid-year est. 2013) of 132,705, Conwy’s population is 115,835. Yet last year Powys paid out just £8.66m to private landlords in housing benefit while Conwy coughed up £18.11m. Why the difference? Because Conwy contains Llandudno and other coastal towns. Even starker is the difference between Monmouthshire (92,100 & £6.16m) and Denbighshire (94,510 & £17.65m). What’s the difference here? Rhyl is in Denbighshire. But the whole of Wales is paying for Rhyl and similar towns because the ‘Welsh’ Government has to give more in grants to areas being inundated with undesirables from England and this means less for other councils.

On top of which, there is the endless funding poured into Rhyl and other towns for ‘regeneration’ schemes. And those who’ve been brought over the border and dumped in some slum in Holyhead or Denbigh can then jump the housing queue ahead of locals! Which means that Registered Social Landlords such as housing associations are, in many areas, building far more new properties than the local population needs. And who pays for this? YOU DO, no matter where you might be living in Wales. Because of course the ‘Welsh’ Government gives out Social Housing Grant. In the six years 2008 to 2013 the figure was £692m.

This is colonialism of the crudest and most offensive kind. A large country dumps its criminals, its elderly and other dependent groups on a small neighbour – and then gets the neighbour to pay for all this out its own stretched resources! The dumped-on neighbour is too afraid to speak out for fear of being called ‘unwelcoming’, or ‘racist’. (Though it must be said that there are many who welcome this cross-border trafficking as an anglicising strategy; in addition, there are many doing well out of it, not least ‘Welsh’ Labour’s client class in the Third Sector.)

So while there may be a temptation to dismiss what’s being done to Rhyl, Blaenau Ffestiniog and other places as someone else’s problem, it’s not. It’s YOUR problem because it’s happening in YOUR country and one way or another YOU are paying for it, no matter where in Wales you live.

*

‘HA, HA, HA, THEY DON’T HAVE THESE IN AUCHTERMUCHTY!’

To end on a lighter note . . . or is it? Judge for yourselves. We all know that the BBC is now thoroughly discredited as an impartial conveyor of news. Its bias was plain for all to see in the Scottish referendum campaign last summer, not so much party political as thoroughly English and Unionist. Well, it was at it again this week, the culprit being Newsnight, and again, it was having a go at the SNP . . . but hoping to get away with it due to its ‘humorous’ approach.

Newsnight on Monday May 11th ran a piece about the new intake of MPs, but then concentrated entirely on the SNP contingent, and had a laugh showing them struggling with complicated things like revolving doors and ticket machines on the Tube. See it here for yourself on BBC iPlayer and start at 43:20. This strikes me as the twenty-first century equivalent of old Punch cartoons showing African chiefs with bones through their noses visiting the imperial capital and being overawed by English superiority and white man’s magic.

Newsnight SNP

May 082014
 

Regular followers of this blog may recall that back in 2012 (on the old Google blog, now, sadly, demised) I was able to give out some good news. Which was . . . that for properties to be built by Cymdeithas Tai Clwyd on a new development in Tywyn, “Prospective tenants must have lived and worked Tai Clwydin the area for at least five years”. I learnt this, first, from a piece in our local edition of the Cambrian News, in July (left, click to enlarge), and then it was confirmed in an e-mail I received from Tai Clwyd in September (below, ditto). These two pieces of information can only be read as saying, ‘these properties are reserved for local people’. Or, to be more specific – as Tai Clwyd was in its e-mail – a Section 106, local occupancy, restriction. (Though S106 can deal with other issues.)

Fast forward to 2014 and the word on the mean streets of Tywyn is that these properties are now to be allocated to “people from away” and “people on benefits”. In other words – welcome to Wales’ social housing allocation system: social housing either built in excess of local demand or, where there is local demand – as in Tywyn – locals being passed over in favour of people who have never been to Wales in their lives. A system I have explained more than once, and I shall do so again later in this piece.

In order to find out what has happened between the good news of 2012 and the sobering realities of colonial Wales in 2014 I decided to contact Cymdeithas Tai Clwyd . . . only to learn that it had recently merged with Cymdeithas Tai Eryri to form Grŵp Cynefin, which is “the only housing association to operate across all six north Wales counties plus north Powys”. My initial enquiries with Grŵp Cynefin (GC) drew a blank because it was denied there ever had been a S106 applying to Pendre Gardens, and therefore no guarantee could be given that locals would be offered any of the properties there. After e-mailing GC a copy of the September e-mail my query has now been passed to the Housing Manager.

In a follow-up phone call to GC I was told that it must be the fault of Cyngor Gwynedd that there was no S106. So I next checked the planning consent given by the council (because of course Tywyn is outside the Snowdonia National Park) and could find no mention of a S106. This full planning consent is dated July 23, 2012. So why did the Cambrian News run that piece telling everyone that these new dwellings were for locals only? And why was I told the same thing in September 2012 by Tai Clwyd, two months after that body had been granted the – S106-less – planning permission?

Grŵp Cynefin also referred me to Gwynedd’s Housing Options Team (GHOT), which seems to act as a link for the various social housing providers in the county while also serving as first contact for would-be tenants. The man I spoke with there was courteous and helpful, but could only point me in certain direTai Clwyd replyctions and suggest that an S106 would need to have been agreed between the council and the housing provider.

In another attempt to get answers I phoned the council’s planning department, where it took me a while to explain – or make the woman answering my call understand – that I wanted to know why something was not in an approval granted by the council. Having had my request accepted it could now be 15 days before I receive a response.

I suppose I could have waited until I got answers before writing this post, but my worry is that I’m not going to get the answers I’m after. If I had to bet on it, I’d say I’m in for a game of blame ping-pong. So I’m writing this post half-hoping it might get a better result than yet more phone calls and e-mails. Even so, the questions I would ask are these:

  1. Was it ever proposed to have a Section 106 local – 5-year residency – qualification attaching to the Pendre Gardens development?
  2. If it was, why was the proposal dropped, or the decision changed?
  3. Who authorised the change?
  4. For what reason(s) was the change made?
  5. If there was never any intention of attaching a S106 to Pendre Gardens why was everyone misled (if not lied to); why did no one from the council step in and give the correct information?

The main reason we’re in this mess is that to all intents and purposes Wales and England now operate a single, integrated social housing system. Just like one vast council, or housing association. Which means in practice that if there is a vacant property in Wales, and someone in England – anywhere in England! – has more ‘points’ than local applicants, then the English applicant could be allocated the property. Local connections count for very little. So if you are a law-abiding local, in regular employment, and have any kind of roof over your head, your chances of being allocated social housing are slim. My advice to you is start taking drugs, causing trouble and, best of all, make yourself homeless.

Of course, there will be those who argue that this is a two-way street, for Welsh people can move to England. Yeees . . . but given that England has 53 million people against our 3 million, it’s a two-way street with a bicycle travelling west to east and a 40-tonne juggernaut hurtling east to west. And I’m not just talking quantity, I’m also talking quality. For many of those being moved to Wales will be people that no self-respecting country would allow in. Here’s a selection. But bear in mind that this post I refer you to only deals with those who have made the news. The problem families, the pit bull fanciers, the casual criminals, the anti-social, the wife-beaters, the congenitally irresponsiblePendre Gardens sign, the ‘Ten-pints-and-I’m-Mike-Tyson, me’ types, the ‘breeders-for-benefit’ with their stupid, uncontrollable kids, the all-night party-holders, the fat, ugly women who think smoking ciggies keeps their weight down, these and others go unreported.

So I just cannot understand how this system that is so damaging to Wales and Welsh people has been accepted without resistance. I can only assume that housing associations are doing well out of it financially, and don’t really give a toss about the communities or the country in which they operate. Which might make sense; for Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd (after taking over Gwynedd council’s housing stock) gave the maintenance contract for its properties to an English company that in turn employs sub-contractors from over the border who can only spend a short time actually working because of the distances involved travelling to and from work!

It cannot be right that someone who has never heard of Tywyn, or Tredegar, or Treaddur can qualify for social housing in these communities ahead of people who have lived there maybe all their lives. It cannot be right that Wales is used to help solve England’s housing problems. For as Gwynedd’s Common Housing Allocation Policy makes clear, “The scheme also complies with requirements of the legislation by providing priority or additional priority to: transferring tenants who will release accommodation in short supply . . . “ So if, say, Stoke-on-Trent council, or housing associations in that city, are experiencing pressure on their housing stock, then they can ask – maybe demand – that Welsh local authorities and housing associations give priority to those the Potteries would like to get rid of ‘transfer’ in order to make housing available. Some system, eh!

Change is needed. Social housing providers in Wales can no longer use the ‘Nuremburg Defence’ to implement an iniquitous system that so obviously works against Welsh interests. Social housing provision in Wales must be disentangled from that in England. A five-year residency qualification must be introduced for all social housing in Wales, with the only exceptions being genuine refugees and those who will be of benefit to Wales. Finally, those clowns down Cardiff docks need to realise that calling themselves the ‘Welsh Government’ must mean more than obeying civil servants and nodding through essentially English legislation with ‘(Wales)’ stuck in the title . . . like the Housing (Wales) Bill, and the Planning (Wales) Bill.