E-Lettings

Dec 122017
 

Tis the time of giving, and goodwill to all men – but not on this blog!

A few old favourites return and I take another look at scams with which we are familiar . . . all too familiar. It’s Deck the Halls indeed – with oodles of public funding. For this is Wales, and it’s always Christmas!

~~~

NEIGHBOURS

Following the previous post I wrote to Wrecsam planning department over the weekend, and was answered very promptly on Monday morning. I think I’m now a little nearer to understanding what’s been going on at 33 Grosvenor Road.

To recap: there are adjoining, semi-detached properties at 31 and 33 Grosvenor Road in Wrecsam town centre. The first is owned by the ever-expanding homelessness charity and third sector outfit the Wallich; the second by Bawso, a similar body dedicated to helping women from ethnic minorities.

Both properties have been substantially extended to the rear, as shown in the title plan to 31a (which I assume is the address of the extension).

click to enlarge, below

When I consulted the Wrexham County Borough Council website I only went back as far as 2006. Which meant that I did not find the planning permission granted in July 2002 to then owner Castlemead Homes for an extension to the rear for a “two and half storey rear extension comprising covered car parking area and additional office accommodation”. A completion certificate was issued 16 November 2004.

Which would appear to put Bawso on the right side of planning regulations . . . or maybe not.

Because, if you recall, when we looked at planning permissions granted to the Wallich property at 31 we found that there was an authorised change of use in 2008 to a House of Multiple Occupation, and later that year there was further permission for a “Change of use of upper floors from office accommodation to a hostel for homeless people”.

I guarantee that the Bawso property at 33 is used for a very similar purpose to the Wallich property, but no permission for change of use has ever been granted.

I have therefore suggested to the Planning Enforcement team at Wrexham County Borough Council that they might wish to make enquiries in order to establish whether Bawso at 33 Grosvenor Road has planning permission for the uses to which the building is being put.

To be continued . . .

UPDATE 14.12.2015: The Planning Enforcement team at WCBC inspected 33 Grosvenor Road and the response I got said:

“I have been to visit 33 Grosvenor Road.  They are not running a homeless shelter there, the business merely provides advice and assistance to their customers; there is no overnight accommodation at the building.” After querying the size of the building I was sent a plan. Just look at it!

Over three floors we find fourteen separate offices plus a conference room and a former drawing office. Does Bawso really need such a building? It was probably bought in a job lot with 31 from the previous owner. For remember, Bawso ‘paid’ £457,000 for this building in 2009, a building that, if it’s not used for accommodation, is clearly too big for Bawso’s needs.

So who gave Bawso the money to buy a building it doesn’t need, was it the ‘Welsh’ Government or the Home Office?’

GARDEN PATHS

I may have mentioned that last month I submitted a FoI to the ‘Welsh’ Government asking how many homelessness organisations the WG funds and how much funding is involved. Here’s the response I received last Friday from a Carl Spiller of the Housing Policy Division.

To say I was disappointed with that response would be an understatement. Though I’m not surprised to read that there are 48 different organisations receiving funding to alleviate homelessness; no, what disappoints me is the funding quoted, which is an absurd underestimate.

Let us put this into perspective by referring back to the Wallich, an organisation based in Wales and dealing solely with homelessness. Here are the accounts for year ending 31 March 2017. Go to page 25 and you’ll see that the Wallich alone received almost seven million pounds from the ‘Welsh’ Government, yet the reply I got wants us to believe that funding for homelessness is never much more than eight million pounds a year – for 48 organisations!

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Clearly Mr Spiller has latched onto the Homelessness Prevention Grant Programme, perhaps because it helpfully uses the term ‘homelessness’ in its name. Yet there are many other funding streams for homelessness, not least the Supporting People Programme Grant from which the Wallich gained over six million pounds in the past year.

I don’t know whether Mr Spiller is confused, or whether he thinks my mother bred an idiot; but whichever it is I have written to him again asking for the right answer, which might indeed be 48 organisations, but I know damn well it involves more than one programme, with the amount of money running into hundreds of millions of pounds.

To be continued . . .

FARAWAY PLACES

Staying with the Wallich for a minute, something else that caught my eye in the 2017 Accounts was on page 31, in the section headed ’13 Investments’. Where we see this:

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Overseas Equities!!

Can anyone offer an explanation as to why an outfit like this, ministering to the homeless of Wales (and beyond), totally dependent on the public purse – plus the income derived from assets and investments paid for from the public purse – should have overseas equities?

What might these equities be? Dare we imagine this £938,478 (a mere £409,412 the year before) resting in some sun-blest tax haven?

When a third sector body reliant on public largesse has so much spare moolah then it’s reasonable to assume that it’s getting too much in the first place.

A LITTLE PLACE IN THE WEST

In this recent post there was a section headed ‘The “Bedsit Baron” of Pembroke Dock’ based on an article in the Pembrokeshire Herald about Cathal Eamonn McCosker. Well he’s made the news again.

There’s been a fire at one of his properties and someone has been badly burned.

click to enlarge

You’ll notice that there’s no mention of McCosker in the report, but there is a reference to E-Lettings being the owner of the property. This is the company set up by McCosker partly because local estate agents were loath to deal with him and partly because it maximised his profits.

Here’s another reference to E-Lettings from the same edition of the Pembrokeshire Herald, this time reporting a complaint made by E-Lettings against the councillor named in the account of the fire. The complainant is named as E-Lettings “proprietor, Miss Jill Evans”. I can only assume that Ms Evans works for McCosker, because there is no doubt about who owns E-Lettings.

McCosker is just another unscrupulous individual of the sort that has flocked to Wales since devolution turned on the tap of easy money.

It doesn’t really matter whether they speak Estuary English, attend conferences and lie to us about ‘helping people’, or whether they’re more honest about ripping off the public purse like McCosker . . . in many ways I’d prefer to deal with an unashamed rogue like McCosker than the hypocritical bastards I normally write about. You know where you are.

That said, McCosker’s reign of terror in Pembroke Dock must be brought to an end before someone dies, no matter how far up the political food chain the blame extends for corruptly funding his slum landlord empire.

To be continued . . .

THOMAS HARRY SHADY SCARROTT – SURELY NOT!

Someone else who has graced these pages in recent months is Tom Scarrott of Vale Holiday Parks Ltd. Read about him in The Caravanserai of Ceredigion. What a lad!

Our little contretemps started with a difference of opinion over the benefits of tourism. He of course wants us to believe that tourism provides lots of wonderful, full-time, well-paid jobs, it is – as the ‘Welsh’ Government would also have us believe – the economic salvation of rural Wales.

It soon became clear, even in a Twitter exchange, that Scarrott has a problem with the truth on all sorts of matters.

I was not surprised then to have a few people draw my attention to a wee piece that appeared in WalesOnline last week, headed The Welsh firms named and shamed for not paying the national minimum wage’. and to see Vale Holiday Parks appear.

So the man who claims his firm brings prosperity to Ceredigion can’t even pay the minimum wage. Like I say, he’s got a problem with the truth, that boy.

RESORTING WITH UNDESIRABLES

Staying with tourism we head from Ceredigion in a south-easterly direction towards the city of my dreams, before taking a slight detour to the Afan Valley. Of which I have writ before, first with English Tourism in the Colony of Wales, then with Colonial Investments.

This project was apparently dreamed up a Yorkshireman named Gavin Lee Woodhouse who pulled aboard that master of self-promotion, ‘Bear’ Grylls. For public consumption Woodhouse seems to have been replaced to some extent by Peter Moore, “the man who brought Center Parcs to the UK”, and Grylls is also less prominent now.

There was yet another piece extolling the benefits of this venture in yesterday’s Llais y Sais.

click to enlarge

Let me spell out what we’re dealing with here, why there is a valid comparison to be made with what Scarrott does at his Ocean Heights Leisure Park near Cei Newydd, and why they are so damaging to a country without independence and lacking politicians with the balls to impose certain conditions.

Both Ocean Heights and the planned ‘resort’ in the Afan valley are self-contained, by which I mean the intention is to get people to stay there and also make them spend as much of their money as possible on site, rather than have them wander abroad and spend some money in the Wales beyond their electric fences and guard dogs.

This inevitably means that most of the money earned will leave Wales. In Scarrott’s case we know that he banks in England, his auditors are in England – it’s almost as if he fears a coup! The company behind the Afan valley venture is of course an English company.

‘Oh, come on, Jac, you cynical old git, what about the jobs?’

Read the bit in the article where Moore says, “There will be in the region of 1,000, all-year-round, permanent, direct jobs, plus significant indirect employment, the majority of which will be relatively local”. Rarely does one encounter a single sentence containing so many weasel words. Treasure it!

We don’t have independence, but if we had politicians with balls they would insist that: 1/ All direct jobs go to locals. 2/ Indirect employment also goes to locals by using local contractors and suppliers. 3/ Profits will be re-invested in Wales.

But who have we had representing us – why! Ken Skates! The same Ken Skates who thought the Flint Ring was a wonderful idea. Now ably assisted by Dafydd Elis Thomas.

This is flim-flam all the way. In one quote Moore describes the Afan Valley as a rural area, but the truth is the resort will be 10 miles from Swansea city centre and less from Port Talbot steelworks. Rural, yes, but guests are not going to be kept awake by the howling of wolves.

But enough! feast your eyes on the artist’s impression here.

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Look at it! Bloody wonderful, innit . . . I mean, look at them, er, umbrellas, and that bridge – tidy bridge, that is. Makes ew proud to be Welsh, mun . . . not that there’ll be much about it that’s Welsh, apart from its location.

But then, that sums up tourism in Wales.

To be continued . . .

♦ end ♦

 

Nov 122017
 

THE PUBLICLY-FUNDED THIRD SECTOR

HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS

In my previous post, Anti-Welsh Housing Associations, I told you about Wales & West Housing’s irresponsible behaviour in Lampeter, part of a more widespread problem of housing associations chasing the money by housing criminals, which is much more lucrative than putting roofs over the heads of locals.

Of course they argue that there’s a dreadful shortage of accommodation for ‘vulnerable’ people, and of course they’re right – England doesn’t have enough accommodation. Which is why Wales, through its housing associations and other third sector bodies, is currently taking in so many problems.

And yet, while housing associations and others receive premium payments from whoever supplied their new tenants, plus housing benefit and other goodies, there is an obvious downside.

I’m referring to the effect on formerly peaceful communities caused by the arrival of undesirables. But there’s also the extra work for the police and associated agencies. Though perhaps the biggest burden falls on the NHS and associated services, for most of those being moved to Wales by the route described will have ‘issues’ needing expensive treatment.

So while taking on these problems is good business for housing associations and others, the wider implications, and costs, for the country as a whole, more than outweigh the financial benefits accruing to the landlords. Which makes this behaviour selfish, short-sighted and socially irresponsible.

It can fairly be described as anti-social housing.

And of course it raises the question of why the ‘Welsh’ Government allows these bodies, all of which are in receipt of public funding, to behave in this manner.

But the problem isn’t confined to housing associations.

HOMELESSNESS

I have written many times about the overlapping, interweaving and competing homelessness organisations. I thought I knew most of them but someone just brought a new one to my attention. It’s called Emmaus UK and the business model centres on charity shops and workshops for the homeless.

Which means that the Emmaus model should be self-financing. Which is what Emmaus claims.

Its Welsh presence – at the moment, anyway – seems limited to Bridgend, where it appears to have started in 2011. The screen capture below is taken from the Charity Commission website, and it tells us that in 5 years the income has rocketed from £53,728 to £1,570,327. (Private companies would love to see growth like that!)

click to enlarge

When we look more closely at the accounts for the year ended 30 June 2016 we see that the biggest source of income is the ‘Welsh’ Government with a gift of £300,000, up from £200,000 the year before.

But why does a “self-supporting” organisation require any public funding? Especially as we can see it’s not needed, for despite having an income of £1,570,237 it only spent £886,832, which leaves a profit balance of £683,405.

Does Wales have no better use for that £500,000?

Apart from the Emmaus presence in Bridgend the Charity Commission website offers dozens of options for Emmaus operations in every corner of England. Curious to see how much funding these English operations get I checked out a few.

I looked at Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol and Tyneside, four major English cities/conurbations, where the problems of homelessness must be far greater than in Bridgend and Porthcawl. What I found surprised me. Emmaus in these areas operates with a third or less of the annual income of Emmaus in Bridgend – and there’s no public funding at all!

Moving north of the border, the income for Emmaus in Glasgow, where the charity has two shops, a workshop and a warehouse, was only £572,264 in 2016. So why does the Bridgend operation get so much money?

Another telling fact is that Emmaus spends twice as much per ‘companion’ in Bridgend as it does in England. Is Emmaus in Bridgend providing luxury accommodation? Or paying £25 an hour? Is the Welsh operation just inefficient? Or is public money so easy to come by in Wales that it’s being squandered?

Finally, the Emmaus UK housing unit in Bridgend was built on land provided by Valleys to Coast Housing Association. So not only is Emmaus UK receiving Welsh public funding, it also looks as if it was gifted publicly-owned land.

I began this section by saying that Emmaus was new to me, despite being familiar with many organisations claiming to be helping the homeless in Wales. As I don’t know how many there are I have submitted a FoI to the ‘Welsh’ Government. They must know how many homelessness organisations they’re funding . . . surely?

P.S. I know there are different criteria for assessing homelessness, and those ‘threatened with homelessness’, though I don’t like that second category because – rather like ‘jobs secured’ (as opposed to ‘jobs created’) – it’s open to misuse. Even so, I went the StatsWales website and checked the figures for rough sleepers.

You’ll see that the most recent figure for Bridgend tells us that the estimated number (right hand column) of rough sleepers is 10, with nary a single emergency bed. Whereas in Ceredigion there are no less than 30 emergency beds for an estimated 6 rough sleepers.

I suggest both figures tell us a lot about what really goes on in the ‘Welsh’ homelessness racket.

UPDATE 13.11.2017 – PARTNERSHIP?

It’s become clear to me over the years that there is some kind of co-operation between the ‘Welsh’ Government – or rather, the civil servants who operate in its name – and the various Lottery funds. Emmaus South Wales provides another example.

If we go to the Companies House entry we find under the ‘Charges’ tab two listings, both concern ‘Land and buildings at Nant Lais, Heol y Nant, Bridgend’. I should explain that Charges usually means mortgages, loans, or other forms of indebtedness. If you see too many marked ‘Outstanding’ it can be a cause for concern.

On the Emmaus entry we find one charge with the number 0718 8459 0001 for a mortgage entered into between The Welsh Ministers, as the ‘Mortgagee’ and Emmaus South Wales as the ‘Mortgagor’. This agreement is dated 7 August 2015.

The other Charge, number 0718 8459 0002, is between Emmaus, the ‘Grant Holder’ and the Big Lottery Fund as ‘The Fund’. This is not a mortgage but a grant of £425,000. (See below.) So why is it treated as something other than a straight gift? Because it comes with certain conditions; for example, if Emmaus turns the building into a massage parlour, or flogs it off to some Russians looking for indoor growing facilities, then the grant is forfeit. This agreement is also dated 7 August 2015.

In a sense, they complement or cancel each other.

From the Big Lottery Fund website. Click to enlarge

Here’s a scenario. The ‘Welsh’ Government wants to give this property to Emmaus but fears some malcontent finding out and kicking up a fuss, so they contact the Big Lottery Fund – ‘Oh, look, we’ve got this very worthy cause looking for money to buy something from us, so we’d like you to oblige with a grant’.

Maybe it’s done some other way, but I am in no doubt that there is a well-used system for the various Lottery funds to give money to projects recommended by the ‘Welsh’ Government. The ‘worthy cause’ gets what it wants, the ‘Welsh’ Government can appear prudent with public money, while from the Lottery’s standpoint, if things go tits up, they can say, ‘Ah! but the Welsh Government recommended these people’.

Everybody’s back is covered. Everybody’s a winner!

Except perhaps those communities, and those projects, that aren’t so well connected. Those worthy causes that spend months or years building up support, preparing their bid, only to be beaten by insider dealing such as I’m suggesting in Bridgend. Which of course, just happens to be Carwyn Jones’s constituency.

And if I’m right, then in their very short time in Wales Emmaus has received over one million pounds thanks to the ‘Welsh’ Government.

THE PUBLICLY-FUNDED PRIVATE SECTOR

Another net importer of criminals, paedophiles and others, plus many homeless, is of course the private rented sector – just think Rhyl! – where we find the same ugly combination of self-interest and lack of concern for the consequences of pursuing that self-interest.

A recent news item re-awakened my interest in events in Pembrokeshire. On the evening of November 7 there was a disturbance at a block of flats in Meyrick Street, Pembroke Dock, and it was reported that armed police officers had attended. The flats are in the former Coronation School.

I got to wondering who owns these flats, and so I went to the Land Registry website where I was presented with what appeared to be a long list of individual titles, and although I didn’t count them I assumed it was one for each flat.

I chose two at random, Flat 10 and Flat 31, which was unnecessary because they both have the same title number CYM402081. Why so many different entries for the same title number? Was the intention to sell off the flats individually?

Both title documents say the building was bought by Cathal Eamonn McCosker for £200,000 with money that seems to have been borrowed from Barclays Bank. But others now having a claim on the property are Alexander and Rose Russell of Swindon and Pembrokeshire County Council.

It would appear that in order to meet his obligations Mr McCosker has tried to sell the building. First, at auction on Thursday 27 April 2017 with a guide price of £1.3m. This obviously failed because it was marked “withdrawn by agent”, and then put up for auction again on 08 June 2017 with the guide price now reduced to £975,000. But as we know from the Land Registry, it is still owned by Mr McCosker and his creditors.

With Cathal Eamonn McCosker we have one of the more intriguing stories to emerge from Pembrokeshire in recent times. Despite the widespread assumption that he’s Irish, on the Companies House website he describes himself as British, and gives an address in Oxford.

So what’s the story?

Basically, McCosker stands accused of receiving funding for projects in Pembroke Dock for work that was never done. This scam may have been conducted with the connivance of senior council officials and even a councillor or two. If they weren’t in on the scam then they’re now trying to draw a veil over the whole affair in the hope of saving face.

A number of people have followed the case over the years, including two councillor-bloggers. A good start would be with Councillor Jacob Williams’ Trumped-up charges – Part 4. While another excellent source is Councillor Mike Stoddart, and his Strange business.

I believe I’m right in saying that the Woodward and Bernstein of the Kremlin on the Cleddau actually unearthed the McCosker scandal.

McCosker has appeared on this blog after he cropped up a couple of years ago in a newspaper story about the vast amounts of money being paid in housing benefit to private landlords. I wrote about it in To Those That Have Shall Be Given – Housing Benefit!

McCosker was quoted as receiving £236,834 in housing benefits for his Pembrokeshire properties, with a further £35,248 paid through his E-Lettings company, which he used for the Coronation School flats. A local journalist tells me that this money was being paid into a bank account in the Irish Republic, which raises questions about taxation.

The Coronation School seems to target young people leaving care, many from ‘away’; vulnerable, mainly uneducated young people, many of them with ‘issues’. Conditions in the old school building are said to be primitive, which if true will of course qualify the tenants for social housing.

CONCLUSION

In an earlier post I referred to a system of human trafficking in Wales, a system run by selfish and unscrupulous individuals and organisations that brings into our country people needing expensive help or simply criminals and undesirables that no one else wants.

Which would be bad enough in itself, but we are paying for this. The public money of a poor country is being spent on problems that should not be ours. We are effectively paying to make our communities, like Lampeter and Pembroke Dock, less happy, less safe, and all done in order that Wales & West Housing can expand, or Cathal Eamonn McCosker can get even richer.

This system of bringing another country’s problems into Wales exposes a number of issues.

First, it tells us that we have a third sector that has become bloated due to over-feeding, and because of its size it now wields a malevolent influence on the ‘Welsh’ Government and the civil servants who actually run Wales. This influence damages other sectors that we should be encouraging . . . you know, things like real businesses, that might create real jobs, and increase Wales’ wealth . . . without wrecking Welsh communities

‘Nah, we don’t want none of that nasty prosperity round by ‘ere’.

But then there’s the issue of corruption in Welsh public life, at all levels. Who in their right mind believes it’s a good idea to give hundreds of thousands of pounds to Emmaus, a supposedly self-sufficient organisation?

And why is the investigation into the corruption centred on Cathal Eamonn McCosker stalled? Is it because too many people at both Pembrokeshire County Council and the ‘Welsh’ Government are involved? For the money used to enrich McCosker was EU funding, administered by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO).

While writing this I’ve been drawn to three recent posts about Carmarthenshire. The first, was by Siân Caiach, then there was the latest from Jacqui Thompson, and finally, another gem from my favourite blogger, Y Cneifiwr. They all prompt the same question – what other democracy would allow Mark Vincent James (OBE) to ruin so many lives and run Carmarthenshire County Council like a medieval barony?

It doesn’t have to be like this. But everything you see around you is part of the problem, and so can never be part of the solution. Radical change is needed. Wales will soon be offered the hope of change. Be ready!

♦ end ♦

 

May 042015
 

We should all be indebted to the Daily Mirror for the work put in to gather a breakdown of the housing benefit being paid to private landlords by every local authority on this septic isle. The figures are for “last year”, though it’s unclear whether this means the calendar year or the financial year ending on March 31st. Either way, we are only interested in the figures for the Welsh councils, but gluttons for statistics can find the full piece here. The table I have produced below gives the bare bones of this scam essential funding  You will see that the bottom line (how nice to use that term literally) gives two totals for two of the columns, this is due to the figures calculated in different ways not agreeing. Any statistician out there is welcome to explain this apparent anomaly.

Let’s start by looking at the national picture I’ve tried to explain in the table. It tells us that, as a general rule, urban authorities pay a lower percentage of their housing benefit to private landlords than more rural authorities, with Torfaen paying just 18.2%. (Though the Vale of Glamorgan, with 49.7% needs some explaining. Unfortunately the VoG council declined to release detailed figures.) The two exceptions to this rule, the two rural authorities paying the lowest percentages, lower than many urban areas, are Monmouthshire (28.6%) and Gwynedd (32.2%). Monmouthshire’s low figure can be accounted for partly by its prosperity, while the figures for both councils are also influenced by a refusal to patronise many of the Labour-allied shysters dealt with below.

The two authorities paying the very highest percentages to private landlords are – and I bet you’d never have guessed! – on the north coast. Conwy pays out 50.8% and Denbighshire 53.2%. (Though not far behind is Ceredigion with 48.2%.) Many unfamiliar with this area will think of these as rural councils but they are overwhelmingly urban, containing Llandudno, Conwy, Prestatyn, Colwyn Bay, and of course – Rhyl! Much of the housing benefit paid here will be going to slum landlords and third sector parasites that have shipped in ‘clients’ from Liverpool and Manchester, then demanded that Wales pays to look after their charges, while also providing said parasites with salaries and pension packages . . . for to demur would be ‘racist’. One such organisation in Conwy, the biggest grossing private landlord, is dealt with below, but Denbighshire came over all coy and named just four out of the top twenty earners on its patch.

Housing benefit tax table

For more detailed results, you’ll see that I have screen captured from the Daily Mirror interactive to make the gallery below. (In order to avoid confusion I have kept to the names – some obviously English – used on the DM website, so it starts with ‘Anglesey’.) Keep your cursor off the image and each of our 22 local authorities will appear for 8 seconds. If you want to study the details for any particular council then leave your cursor on the image or its black surround. If you don’t like the gallery then just click on the name of the council in the details section below to bring up the information. (God! I spoil you!)

A number of councils refused to give out information beyond the total amount paid to private landlords, these shy, retiring types are, Anglesey, Ceredigion, Flintshire, Powys, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Vale of Glamorgan and Wrexham. A mixed bag in terms of the rural / urban divide, culture and language, and also political control. Other councils released only partial information, in that they named some of the private landlords trousering the loot, but not all. Though if I was one of the private landlords named I’d want to know why others were granted anonymity. These councils were Denbighshire, Monmouthshire and Torfaen. So that’s ten of Wales’ twenty-two local authorities withholding information. Not a great start.

 

So let us look a little more closely at the twelve local authorities that made full disclosure, and let’s do it alphabetically.

BLAENAU GWENT: The individuals named mean nothing to me, and this is why I suggest that local knowledge will be needed to identify these people. The same will apply in other areas. The one name I do recognise is Wallich Clifford Ltd, the charity for the ‘homeless’, which received £56,728. Is there that much homelessness in Blaenau Gwent? Not always easy to keep track of Wallich Clifford aka The Wallich and operating under various guises as both a charity and a business. Though top of the list in Blaenau Gwent, by some way, with £263,159, is Ronald Herbert Lawrence. So who is he, one of the Herbert clan?

BRIDGEND: The biggest recipient of housing benefit in Bridgend is . . . well, Bridgend. The council paid itself £685.595, which I don’t quite understand seeing as the council housing stock appears to have been taken over by Valleys to Coast Housing. I suppose it depends when the transfer took place. Someone down that neck of the woods will have the answer. Next in the queue for the easy money vital funding is A1 Lettings of Maesteg, coining no less than £391,410. Wallich Clifford appears again – this time as ‘The Wallich’ – for £139,216.

CAERPHILLY: Again, many of the individuals listed will be known to those familiar with the area. Though the biggest earner by a mile is the Shaw Healthcare Group Ltd of Cardiff which, as the name suggests, specialises in care homes rather than rented accommodation. Shaw scooped £482,792. Second on the list, with a paltry £83,739, is the Care Management Group, an English company with a Welsh branch operation. Are there really that many care homes in Caerphilly? If so, why? And does the absence of The Wallich / Wallich Clifford suggest that there is no homelessness in the borough? Maybe the homeless are all in the care homes!

CARDIFF: The first thing to say about Cardiff is that the amounts paid are surprisingly low given the total figure of over 53 million pounds paid to private landlords, with the top landlord getting just £192,822. So it’s reasonable to assume that there are a great many small- to medium-sized enterprises in the city. Unless I’m missing something? Whatever the answer to that, one of the major earners in Cardiff, with £138,908, is the Reside Housing Association Ltd, a company based in Kingston-upon-Thames. But if there is a local need for the service provided by Reside why doesn’t Cardiff council find a Welsh company to provide that service rather than sending money out of Wales? And despite Cardiff having the largest population of any Welsh council, and despite The Wallich / Wallich Clifford being headquartered in Cardiff, it does not appear on the list of the top private landlords. Why? In fact, the most striking feature of the Cardiff figures is the total absence of the big third sector recipients found elsewhere, found especially in Swansea.

CARMARTHENSHIRE: Always ‘interesting’, Carmarthenshire doesn’t let us down by throwing up a major query. The biggest private landlord, with £455,893, is listed as ‘Social Lettings Agency’, which turns out to be an umbrella for a number of local housing associations, Coastal Group, Gwalia, Cantref and others (though, confusingly, Coastal also appears on its own, lower down the list, with a figure of £62,134). Suggesting that the council ruled over by the litigious and overbearing Mark James regards housing associations as private landlords, which I would argue is correct. Carmarthenshire pays 36.8% of its housing benefit to private landlords, compared to Cardiff’s 35.8%. But why don’t housing associations appear in the Cardiff list, and the lists for most of the other authorities?

CONWY: Touchstones 12 is the biggest recipient of housing benefit here with £167,485, and as already stated it makes its money by bringing into northern Wales alcoholics and drug addicts from north west England. Another big earner is Sanctuary Trust, an English charity also dealing with the homeless, alcoholics and drug addicts. Just read the link I’ve provided and see how grateful these parasites are for ‘Welsh’ Government help. And you wonder why Wales is poor! Again, no housing associations listed.

GWYNEDD: Few surprises here. The main recipient being Agorfa / Cefni Lettings. Though it’s not easy to find information about this outfit, certainly I can’t find the website, only ‘company check’ references and a Facebook page. As far as I’m concerned the jury is still out on Agorfa / Cefni, it receives a lot of money but I’d like to know more about the organisations it deals with. The same applies to number two on the list, GISDA. Things are much clearer with another body, one that received £59,027 last year, though I’m surprised to see Nacro Cymru, the organisation for offenders and ex-cons, so active in largely law-abiding Gwynedd.

MERTHYR TYDFIL: Being the smallest of our local authorities in terms of population, and one of the poorest, there’s not a lot of housing benefit to be distributed in Merthyr. The biggest payout was £43,104 to a ‘Mr Evans’, no forename or even an initial. As for the rest, they’re mainly individuals and a few small companies.

NEATH PORT TALBOT: More individuals interspersed with small companies are to be found in NPT, but with six exceptions who all received over £100,000 last year. These are, Tony John & Co (£498,113); Port Talbot YMCA (£240,398), “No local connection required”; Pennaf Sales and Lettings Ltd (£123,753); Parker Estates of Skewen (£118,263); Mr David Breach (£116,330); and I E S Davies Property Rentals (£103,959), which seems to be based in Ceredigion, though of course we can’t check how much business it does on its home patch because Ceredigion won’t release any detailed figures.

NEWPORT: Top of the pops in our third city is ‘Mrs M Payne’, with £181,558, but a quick check on Google turned up nothing. So who is she? We can only assume that Newport City Council knows, if only to send the cheques to the correct address. Second on the list with £148,051 is Newport Mind. Now we all know that Mind is the charity helping those with mental health problems, but why is it a major recipient of housing benefit in Newport but not in other local authority areas? Third on the list with £135,311 is the Libra Investment Property Group, another of those agencies that acts on behalf of landlords and those who’ve taken advantage of ‘Buy to Let’ mortgages. It has offices in Newport and Wolverhampton.

PEMBROKESHIRE: If Carmarthenshire’s dysfunctional council has provided much entertainment over recent years then the same can also be said of Pembrokeshire with the Bryn Parry-Jones saga. Though it doesn’t end with the great man. A case currently being investigated by a number of agencies is that of grants awarded in Pembroke Dock for renovation work that, it is alleged, was never carried out, or certainly did not cost anything like the amount charged. The developer at the centre of the confusion is one Cathal Yell E-Lettings reviewMcCosker, who also trades as E-Lettings of Pembroke Dock. The panel (click to enlarge) shows a review from the Yell E-Lettings page. Anyway, who do you think comes top of the Pembrokeshire list for private landlords in receipt of housing benefit? Yup, leading the pack with £236,834 is Mr Cathal Eamonn McCosker . . . and lower down the list, with a mere £35,248, we find E-Lettings. Compared to McCosker the rest are small fry, though I was taken by the name Graham Perfect.

SWANSEA: Ah! the city of my dreams. At the top of the list, receiving no less than £1,632,262 in 2014 is “Community Lives Consortium” which “provides support for adults with learning disabilities working in partnership with Social Services and Health Agencies” in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot. (Though it seems to receive no housing benefit from NPT!) Now I’m sure this body does good work, but knowing my home town’s reputation for third sector spivery there is bound to be a strong element here of ‘Invent an “ishoo”‘ and then milk the system for all you can get!’.

Second on the list with a whopping £727,426 is Walsingham, yet another outfit providing support for those who cannot look after themselves. Walsingham is an English company, with English partners and suppliers, so this is another dollop of Welsh money leaving the country. Also on the Swansea list we find, inevitably, The Wallich (£588,342) and a host of third sector grant-grabbers such as Cyrenians Cymru (£207,651), Swansea Womens Aid (£190,463), Haven Trust Supporting People Ltd (£135,994), S.Y.S.H.P. (Drws Agored) (£130,161), Cymdeithas Caer Las (£118,801), S.Y.S.H.P. (again!) (£103,525), Black Association of Women Step Out Ltd (BAWSO) (£98,323), Cymdeithas Caer Las (Carmarthen Road Project) (£77,355).

It grieves me to say it, but Swansea is a magnet for third sector shysters. If I’m wrong, then explain to me how other local authorities can manage without all these agencies. If I’m wrong, then explain why organisations such as The Wallich, BAWSO and others, with their headquarters in Cardiff, seem to do all their work in Swansea. Is it – as I have been told, and as the Cardiff figures suggest – that neither Cardiff council nor the ‘Welsh’ Government wants the capital’s streets despoiled with dossers, disabled people and others who might give important visitors the wrong impression? Whatever the answer, it is clear that to justify the grants, the housing benefit and all the other goodies that keep so many in unnecessary jobs the groups operating in Swansea must be importing many of their ‘clients’ because there’s no way Swansea, or the wider conurbation, could provide enough.

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Some of you reading this will dismiss me as a callous, hard-hearted bastard, but I’m not. This article is prompted by the knowledge that the housing benefit system is a racket that attracts the wrong sort of people to rented housing and the third sector. It is a system that is taken advantage of in so many ways, especially in Wales. For example, in dealing with Swansea I mentioned Walsingham, which received from Swansea council last year £727,426. The Walsingham website tells us that this company operates across WalsinghamEnglandandwales. Yet according to the Daily Mirror article that supplied the figures, this £727,426 from Swansea was Walsingham’s total income from housing benefit. (Click on panel to enlarge.) So why doesn’t Walsingham receive housing benefit for any of its many operations in England?

I genuinely want to believe that housing benefit is being well spent and that people are being helped without those providing the funding – and this means all of us – being taken advantage of. But this is not the case. We have a corrupted housing benefit system in urgent need of reform. And given the colonial relationship between Wales and England Wales will always lose out.

UPDATE 05.05.2015: I should of course have mentioned this in the main article, but it needs to be said. In the table I’ve used subtract the amount paid to private landlords from the total housing benefit and it gives us a figure of £634m. The bulk of this will be going to housing associations. Add this to the amounts paid in Social Housing Grant – and remembering that housing associations also have yet other funding streams! – and we get an idea of how much money is paid to the third sector, which is then promoted as if it was a real economy. It is not, and never will be. An over-large third sector is a sure indicator of poverty. And because it cannot generate wealth it guarantees that the poverty persists. And when one country is prepared to take in another country’s ‘problems’ then the problem will be exacerbated.