Gwynedd

May 012017
 

BIGOTRY WRIT LARGE

Last Friday I was sent photographs of a leaflet that had been distributed in Trawsfynydd. The accompanying message was that they were handed out by a guy in a Mercedes.

The contents of the leaflet fit a pattern I became familiar with long ago. ‘Plaid Cymru’ or ‘Gwynedd Council’ is attacked but the real target is us, the Welsh people. That’s because having the natives running things really upsets a certain kind of English mindset, it challenges what they believe to be the natural order of things. Such people will not be satisfied until we are fully assimilated and every vestigial memory of our identity is destroyed.

Or maybe, as with Jacques Protic and other swivel-eyed obsessives, the real target is the Welsh language, which they blame for everything from infant mortality rates to potholes, with Plaid Cymru or Gwynedd just collateral damage, along with Labour, for Protic also targets ‘closet nationalists’ like Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones. (A ‘closet’ in which both remained forever secreted.)

For Welsh medium education is also targeted in this leaflet, with defamatory references to an ‘English Not’, ‘language police’, and the suggestion that Welsh words are formed by adding ‘io’ to English words. A kind of Fast Show Channel 9 weather forecast with Poula ‘Skorchio’, but without the humour or any other redeeming features.

This opposition to ‘Gwynedd’/’Plaid Cymru’ can take bizarre forms. Around twenty years ago I recall a notable anti-Welsh campaigner arguing for local government reorganisation so that we might enjoy a council stretching along the Cardigan Bay coast because, it was argued, a coastal community had more in common with another coastal community 70 miles away than with a settlement 10 or 15 miles inland.

To understand the calculation behind this, mentally link Barmouth with Borth rather than with Blaenau Ffestiniog or Bala.

click to enlarge

After putting the leaflet out on social media I received a message on Saturday morning telling me that there were two persons involved, a man and a woman, and they’d been observed in a cafe in Trawsfynydd discussing the council election with other customers, and handing out what looked like the leaflet in question. One of the pair was the Independent councillor for Llangelynin ward, Louise Hughes. It made sense because I’d recently seen her in Tywyn driving a Mercedes.

Her male companion was described as being around 60 years of age, with dark/greying hair but not bald, quite tall, with wrinkles, and “scruffy”. Has anyone seen a man answering this description in the company of Councillor Louise Hughes?

I telephoned Louise Hughes around mid-day on Saturday and she admitted that she’d been in the Trawsfynydd cafe and, yes, she had handed out leaflets, but she became rather evasive on the nature of the leaflets and suggested she was doing it for someone else.

The reason she gave for being in the cafe was that she and her companion were on their way to canvas for Liberal Democrat Councillor Steven Churchman in Dolbenmaen ward, where he is opposed by a Plaid Cymru candidate. I am not suggesting that Churchman has any part in this despicable episode, so I invite Councillor Churchman to comment and make his position clear.

Louise Hughes also stood for Westminster in 2015, when she got 4.8% of the vote. She has stood for the Assembly twice, in 2011 and 2016. The first time was under the Llais Gwynedd banner, when she came in a respectable third, on 15.5% of the vote, but in 2016, standing as an Independent, she was fifth, with just 6.2%. So her star appears to be waning.

One of the names on her nomination paper from 2015 is George M Stevens, which might pass unnoticed until you realise that it’s her pal and political mentor, UKIP-leaning Councillor Mike Stevens. Why he should be so shy about using the name by which everyone knows him is a mystery.

Stevens it was who came up with the barmy scheme to have a local authority that would make Chile look fat. He has come up with many other barmy schemes, such as the cod and crow banner for Tywyn, which he used as an excuse to remove our national flag from Tywyn promenade (in case it frightens the tourists).

When he’s not being an annoying colonialist twat Stevens runs his own printing business in Tywyn, Genesis, which is very useful for someone who feels he has a vital message for the deluded masses unaware of the Plaid Cymru tyranny they live under.

Though I’m not for one minute suggesting that Mike Stevens printed the glossy and otherwise expensive leaflets being handed out by Louise Hughes and her scruffy companion in Trawsfynydd, and their allies in Dolgellau, such as MM and ARE.

What I am saying, and I say this quite clearly, is that this leaflet contravenes electoral and possibly other law, and those who wrote, published and distributed it, could be prosecuted, on the following grounds:

  • It describes itself as “a special Plaid Cymru Election edition”. Obviously it was not produced by Plaid Cymru. The party may care to take this up with the electoral authorities, or the police, or both.
  • It is election material, in that it is designed to influence how people vote on May 4th, yet it carries no imprint other than “Printy McPrintface”. This is definitely illegal, and not remotely funny.
  • Given what this leaflet says about an ‘English Not’ operating in Gwynedd schools and other references to the Welsh language it borders on being a hate crime.

On Thursday we have an election in our ward of Bryncrug-Llanfihangel. Our sitting candidate, local woman Beth Lawton, is being opposed by a Royston Hammond of Llanegryn. The response has been one of confusion because no one seems to know Hammond.

The confusion is partly caused by the fact that he doesn’t live in our ward, for Llanegryn is in Louise Hughes’ Llangelynin ward, so why doesn’t he stand in that ward, which he must know better – if only marginally – than the ward he’s standing for? Louise Hughes is now returned unopposed.

click to enlarge

Well, the word in the local thés dansants is that Hammond and his wife Mercia are very pally with Louise Hughes. So it’s reasonable to assume that a deal has been cut to give Hughes a clear run – and time to distribute the vile leaflets – while Hammond tries to give the gang another councillor in a neighbouring ward.

On his leaflet Hammond says “I have run my own companies”. True, but it may not be the kind of record he should boast about. Here’s the list from the Companies House website. One company he’s recently been involved with was SHS Inns Ltd of Blackburn (latterly, Southampton), which was liquidated last year.

The only company that he’s been involved with that appears to be still standing is H.I.S.&S. Ltd. (Formerly known as Hammond Industrial Services Ltd.) Though Hammond himself resigned as a director 31 December 2015 his wife remains a director. Hammond appears to have been replaced in April 2016 by Susan Salt, who was also involved with them in the ill-fated SHS Inns Ltd.

The figures for H.I.S.&S. Ltd are not good. The balance sheet up to 31 July 2016 shows total assets of -£14,305 against a figure for the previous year of £4,481. There appears to be one (depreciating) asset, possibly a vehicle, which contributes £10,786 to the value of the company, down from £18,114 the previous year. The true picture might be even worse, for these figures are taken from an unaudited return.

APOLOGY: In last year’s Assembly elections I voted for Louise Hughes, partly because I knew that the sitting AM Dafydd Elis Thomas was leaving Plaid Cymru. Now that I better understand her and the company she keeps I assure you it will never happen again. I shall henceforth do my best to atone for my mistake.

BAY OF PLENTY

No, this has got nothing to do with New Zealand, or rugby, or the forthcoming Lions tour. Now read on.

Another curious publication was brought to my attention on Friday, this one being put through letter-boxes in the City of the Blest. It’s available here on a website that does not allow downloading. So I’d catch it while you can, for it may not be up for much longer.

The magazine is called ‘Vision Swansea Bay’, described as an “independent magazine” which “is independently funded and published by an association of local residents and business owners.” The first few pages are innocuous enough, the City Deal, Swansea University, the tidal lagoon, then comes a double-page spread on the council elections – which is all about the Labour Party.

For example, “Think Jeremy Corbyn is a loser? Oh dear, you’ve been brainwashed”.

click to enlarge

Turning to the back cover provides the clue. For here we find a plug for the Aspire Foundation, an organisation for go-getting women. The Aspire Foundation website is registered to a Dawn Lyle, of Swansea, who just happens to be a Labour stalwart.

This is her:

In addition to mentoring young women, she has a company called iCreate Ltd. (There are a few other companies to be found for Dawn Muriel Lyle on the Companies House website.)

Another group with which she’s involved is Swansea Bay Futures Ltd, a company limited by guarantee and packed with local worthies, including academics and of course politicians; among them Meryl Gravell, the soon-to-retire Emissary on Earth for His Omnipotence Mark James; while among the mortals we find Rob Stewart, Labour leader of Swansea council, who we met just now in ‘Vision Swansea Bay’.

In her self-penned bio you will have noticed that, “Dawn is a motivational speaker for girls and school-leavers, and is passionate about raising aspirations and increasing opportunities for young women in Swansea and beyond.” Which presumably means that she goes around schools giving inspirational talks. For this she would need local education authority approval – no problem when Swansea and Neath Port Talbot are Labour controlled and she’s an “active member of the Labour Party”.

And it’s reasonable to assume that she gets paid by her friends in these Labour-run local authorities. Which means that what we have here is just a new slant on Labour cronyism. This woman, who modestly describes herself as “one of Wales leading women entrepreneurs”, might struggle without Labour Party patronage.

But what of those involved with the Swansea Bay project, who represent all political parties and none; how do they feel about the brand being used to promote the Labour Party just a week before a council election? Feedback I’ve already had suggests storm clouds may be gathering.

And who’s paying for it, is it Swansea Bay Futures? Is it the Labour Party? According to the imprint, “VISION is independently published by an association of local residents”! (That word ‘independent[ly]’ again!)

Are we to believe that a group of residents met up, maybe in an Uplands coffee house, and for no better reason than having time on their hands, decided to bring out a magazine; most of which consists of regurgitated ‘news’ available elsewhere, with the only departures being plugs for the Labour Party and a full-page ad for Dawn Lyle’s company?

You can buy that or you can believe my interpretation, which is that Dawn Lyle and Swansea Labour Party have subverted a cross-party or non-party body (and perhaps used its resources), to bring out a crude and obvious plug for a worried Labour Party just ahead of an election. Lay your bets!

If I’m right then this magazine is Labour Party electioneering material with a false or misleading imprint. An offence.

LEE WATERS AM

The Assembly Member for Llanelli has become something of a celebrity in some political circles, partly due to his support for the ‘protesters’ whose knuckles dragging outside Llangennech school have so disturbed the children they claim to be speaking for, and partly because of the widely-held belief that, despite being the AM for Llanelli, the man has never lived in that town.

To my knowledge, no one has ever made a formal complaint, or asked for an investigation into whether Lee Waters might have committed an offence, so I decided to do it myself.

First, I wrote to a couple of departments in the Assembly (the website not making it clear who to contact) and was eventually advised by the office of the Standards Commissioner that I should take my complaint to Paul Callard of Dyfed Powys Police, who “is the single point of contact on election matters”.

I telephoned Mr Callard on Friday. (Busy day, Friday.) He confirmed that any complaint should be addressed to him, and that time was running out, because there is only a year from the date of the election – 5 May 2016 – to make a complaint.

Fundamentally, my complaint hinges on the fact that the nomination paper submitted by a candidate must give the ‘Home Address’. Waters gave as his home address last year 25 New Zealand Street, Llanelli, when all the evidence points to him living in Barry.

It doesn’t help Waters’ case that if you read the list of nominated candidates from last year you will see that two of them knew the law, and complied with it, stating that they did not live in the constituency. Though I guarantee that, like Waters, they stayed in Llanelli at times during the campaign.

My letter was e-mailed to Mr Callard at Dyfed Powys Police this morning. You can read it here.

UPDATE 04.05.2017: After telephoning him at around mid-day yesterday I was told by Mr Callard that I would receive an answer later in the day, and it arrived at around 3:45. According to Mr Callard the year allowed in which to make a complain starts from the date on the ‘Statement of Persons Nominated’, in this case 8th April. So my complaint was too late.

Which would appear to be the end of the matter. But at least I tried, which is more than can be said for anyone else. I won’t make that mistake again.

♦ end ♦

Dec 042014
 

Few people seemed to have noticed the passing last Friday of the deadline for our 22 local authorities to submit their Expression of Interest (EoI) on agreed council mergers to the ‘Welsh’ Government. Only 3 EoIs were received, covering just 6 local authorities. It seems that Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen would be happy to tie the knot, as would the Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend, while in the north, the only two to have taken the first, hesitant steps to the altar are Conwy and Denbighshire.Population density

To help you with what follows, and to give the current lie of the land, the map on the right shows the distribution of our population (this can be enlarged by clicking). It tells us that, in the north, the population is concentrated in Wrecsam, Deeside and the coastal strip; while in the south it’s Swansea Bay, Cardiff, Newport and the Valleys. The area in between the two, and further west, is more sparsely populated or, in some areas, almost uninhabited. You will notice a rough corellation between population distribution and the size and configuration of the existing councils.

It’s also worth remembering that certain constraints were put on the exercise by the Williams Commission. Which, as the BBC reported ” . . . recommends the new councils should be within current health board and police force areas and also not cross the geographical areas governing eligibility for EMap1 (eng)U aid.” So let us look at a few more maps showing. top to bottom, the EU aid map, which also shows the current council boundaries, the health board areas, and the police force areas. (Again, all can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

Looking at the maps we see that the highest level of EU aid does not cross local authority boundaries. The health boards also keep to local authority boundaries. However the police forces, while also observing local authority boundaries group them differently to the  health boards. (Though other than pandering to the ‘Monmouthshire is English’ lobby I have no idea what the justification is for retaining the Gwent Police.) Finally, just for fun, and to show how silly it is to stick rigidly to the existing boundaries of other organisations I have thrown in (below right) the fire and rescue service map. While also respecting local authority boundaries this shows yet another way of dividing ufire and rescue servicesp the country.

Also bear in minHealth boardsd that these divisions have not been handed down to us from our ancestors on tablets of stone. Take the seven health boards, which came into effect in 2009. These replaced the seven Local Health Trusts and the twenty-two Local Health Boards that went all the way back to 2003. (So are we due another reorganisation in 2015?) The point to be taken from these various maps is that for different purposes Wales is divided up in different ways, but each and every organisation dealt with here follows local authority boundaries, thereby establishing their primacy. So rather than screw up local government reorganisation, again, by being too restrictive with the ground rules, let’s be more flexible – get the new local authority boundaries right then – if necessary – let other bodies reconfigure their boundaries to fit the local government map, not the other way round.

A final consideration may bepolice forces that some of these other boundaries may not exist for much longer. For example, many people believe it’s only a matter of time before Wales has a single police force (like Scotland). Perhaps we’ll also have a national fire and rescue service. And as for EU Structural Funds, well, if the ‘Welsh’ Government uses this funding wisely, rather than squandering it on its sponging cronies in the Third Sector, then this will be another internal division that disappears. And even if ‘Welsh’ Labour does make the same mistake for a third time the 2014 – 2020 round is the last tranche of Structural Funds we’ll see. So it would be foolish to use boundaries that may be gone in three or four years time to determine the map of a local government structure we hope will last at least a couple of generations.

Even though the ‘Welsh’ Government only received three Expressions of Interest that doesn’t mean that other local authorities haven’t been discussing mergers and suggesting options. The most interesting proposal I know of is the paper put out by Swansea council, which stated as its preferred option a merger with Neath Port Talbot and, more surprisingly, linking with Llanelli, and also taking in part of Powys, presumably the area around Ystradgynlais at the top of the Swansea Valley. This would create a council with a population of some half a million and would obviously be the core for the proposed Swansea city region.Swansea Bay

Clearly, Swansea, Neath, Llanelli and Port Talbot is a ‘natural’ unit, already a contiguous urban-industrial complex. That Swansea should have made this proposal its number one option suggests to me that preliminary talks have already taken place with Labour councillors in Llanelli, who are known to be unhappy with their party’s leadership on Carmarthenshire county council and the coalition with the Independent Party. (Yes, it is a party.) For Neath Port Talbot the Williams Commission mooted a merger with Bridgend, yet Bridgend, as we know, has already agreed a merger with the Vale of Glamorgan, for which the Commission had Cardiff lined up as a suitable match. The full Williams Commission recommendations can be seen in the table below (click to enlarge).

Looking north, we see that the Commission suggests mergers giving us three authorities instead of the current six, yet others are calling for just two, or even a single authority for the whole north. If we went for two, then presumably Conwy would join with Gwynedd and Ynys Môn while Denbighshire would link up with Wrecsam and Flintshire (maybe the latter authority can be called West Cheshire). Though perhaps the biggest problem is what to do with Powys, currently our largest authority in terms of area but with a population less than that of Wrecsam or Bridgend. Though with the relentless policy of colWilliams Comm 12onisation now being implemented its population is guaranteed to rise faster than almost any other part of the country. Looking again at some of the other recommendations you have to wonder at the reasoning behind them. Why link Pembrokeshire with Ceredigion but leave Carmarthenshire as a stand-alone authority?

Another problematic authority is obviously Monmouthshire. For many of those living in Monmouthshire being part of Wales is bad enough, but having to link up with burger-eating oiks in Newport or the Heads of the Valleys is just too too much. For such people the preferred option would probably be to join Herefordshire or Gloucestershire, which is why I suggest linking Monmouthshire with Blaenau Gwent, Newport, Torfaen (and perhaps part of Caerffili) in a new authority with ‘Gwent’ as the sole official name.

The Williams Commission and the silly restrictions it imposed on the exercise – no crossing existing council, police or health bouundaries – made it impossible to come up with the best solution for Welsh local government. Another concern I have is that in asking for ‘voluntary’ mergers, who exactly is being asked? The answer seems to be whoever ruEight countiesns the council, be that councillors or officers, which means that we shall end up with political stitch-ups. For while I support the plan for the new Swansea Bay authority I am not blind to its attractions for the Labour Party. And where is the public consultation – or will the public be invited to give its views on done deals? Has there been input from business and other sectors of Welsh life? And isn’t the exercise somewhat undermined by Cardiff planning to leave Wales and join up with Bristol?

My view remains that the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 threw out the baby with the bathwater. Admittedly, the two-tier system of 8 counties and 37 districts introduced in 1974 was a confusing and expensive mistake. But another mistake was made in 1994 when we should have kept the 8 county councils as the new unitary authorities instead of ditching them in favour of 22 new unitary councils, including that unworkable sop to Labour sentimentality, Merthyr. Had it been done properly in 1994 we wouldn’t be discussing local government reorganisation again today.

That’s two huge and very expensive mistakes in the space of just forty years, and surely all the more reason to get it right this time rather than trying to do it on the cheap by sticking with existing boundaries we know will be changed, or even cease to exist, in the near future. So, my advice would be – with a few modifications, such as Swansea Bay – revert to the eight pre-1994 councils and have done with it.