StatsWales

May 012014
 

‘Jac writing about Cardiff!’ I hear you exclaim, before dropping your coffee in your lap. Yes, and I’m not even going to gloat over certain sporting matters. I’m writing this post because the Cardiff LDP could have implications well beyond the city itself. Before getting down to it let me acknowledge that the post was inspired by Councillor Neil McEvoy’s article on Daily Wales. I only know Neil through social networking but he seems the type of energetic and awkward (in the best sense of the word) politician Wales needs. The kind of man who enjoys making life difficult for those who think their decisions should be accepted without question.

First, a brief explanation. Every local authority has to produce a Local Development Plan telling us how it proposes meeting the future needs of its area in terms of population growth and housebuilding. This is done with the ‘guidance’ of the Planning Inspectorate, an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. Statistics and projections are supplied by StatsWales via the Knowledge and Analytical Services of the same London department. Both the PI and KAS have civil servants based in Cardiff, which allows the ‘Welsh’ Government to claim that it alone is responsible for planning matters in Wales. In this, as in so much else, I fear, the ‘Welsh’ Government deludes itself and misleads the rest of us.Cardiff LDP Map

Local Development Plans across Wales cover the period 2006 – 2026 and are at different stages of acceptance and adoption, so the Cardiff Plan is already way behind schedule. Something else worth saying about LDPs is that they were first compiled before the figures from the 2011 Census became available (from July 2012). Which is odd, seeing as the Census results contradicted many of the assumptions and projections on which the LDPs were predicated.

One of the great mysteries of LDPs in Wales is why they were pushed through even though it was known that the presumptions and calculations on which they were based could be undone by the findings of the 2011 Census. It’s not as if the 2011 Census sneaked up on us, everybody knew it was coming, so why not wait for the hard facts it provided. It’s almost as if certain interests wanted to rush the LDPs through before the figures used could be proved wrong by the Census.

The Deposit LDP for Cardiff can be found here and if you scroll down the page you’ll find a link to the Background Technical Paper on Population, Households and Dwellings. On page 17 of the latter document you’ll find the table below. According to this table the population will increase by 71,612 between 2006 and 2026; resulting in 42,363 new households requiring  41,132 new dwellings. These figures are interesting, but even more interesting is the source for the 2026 figures, the ones used to determine how many new dwellings Cardiff will ‘need’. The Population figures for 2006 and 2011 come from the Office for National Statistics’ Mid Year Estimates (MYE). The Household figure for 2006 comes from StatsWales because household projections are contracted out by the ONS to Knowledge and Analytical Services (i.e. StatsWales). But the all-important 2026 figures are attributed to the “Edge Report”, so what is this? Well, it refers to Edge Analytics, “the specialists in demographic modelling”.

Cardiff LDP summary table

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Which then raises the question: ‘Why would Cardiff council recruit expensive consultants? The council already employs thousands of people, it has access through electoral rolls, council tax ledgers, planning and other data to a wealth of information about the city and its people; and all this can be supplemented by the population projections and other figures provided free by the ONS and StatsWales. So why employ outside specialists?

I’ll leave that question for a while to focus on the most recent national projection released by StatsWales / KAS, which says that the population of Wales in 2026 will be 3,238,000, an increase of 164,000 on 2012. At the 2011 Census Cardiff’s population of 346,090 accounted for 11.3% of Wales’ total. So 11.3% of 164,000 would mean Cardiff’s population increasing by 18,532 to 2026. This, I concede, is unrealistic, so let us assume an increase in Cardiff of double the Welsh average, giving a figure of 37,064 and a population in 2026 of  383,154. This, I think, is reasonable, because if we see anything more, such as the 30% of Wales’ total population increase predicted by Edge Analytics (or Cardiff city council), then the rest of the country needs to start asking serious questions of the ‘Welsh’ Government about investment levels and employment opportunities in other areas of Wales.

Cardiff LDP 4

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Which may give us one reason Cardiff city council decided not to use official figures – they didn’t allow for a big enough increase in the city’s population. (Though, in fairness to them, it seems that Edge did suggest reducing certain of the counci’s predictions – see panel – but the council rejected these recommendations!) Although we have the national projection to 2026, StatsWales / KAS needs to pull its finger out and produce the breakdown by local authority, no matter how unwelcome that will be to certain people connected with Cardiff city council.

Having dealt with population projections the other big issue is the number of new homes the council extrapolates from that figure. To be exact, 41,132 to cope with a projected 71,612 more people. Many factors go into determining how many new dwellings will be needed but the two principal considerations are household size, that is, the average number living in any dwelling; and new households forming, that is, people leaving the parental home to live alone or with a partner, marital break-up, etc.

The current average household size for Wales is 2.31 though higher for Cardiff due to its much younger age profile; and there has been a reducing rate of new household formation for a number of years, even before the recent economic crisis. (See the panel above.) One factor is that more people in their twenties and thirties are living with their parents, as this article explains. Another factor will be the changes in benefits payable to, for example, young single mothers. Finally, we need to consider the 3% of the population living in communal establishments, not households. Add it all up and it makes the claimed 42,363 new households from a population increase of just 71,612 difficult to accept, perhaps suggesting that it contains an element of wishful thinking or speculative housing. I would have thought that Cardiff had seen enough of the latter in recent years. Worse, to stick with the housing figure knowing that the population increase itself is exaggerated could mean that the whole exercise is driven by speculative housing interests.

Other factors also need to be considered in explaining why both the population and household projections are unrealistic. First, the city’s student population of some 37,000 accounts for many houses of multiple occupation (HMO), the large number of buy-to-let mortgages, and also helps push up Cardiff’s household size. But there is surely a limit to how many students Cardiff can attract without standards falling and / or too many students alienating the resident population. Second, the population increase figure between 2001 and 2011 was heavily influenced by immigration from the ‘new’ EU states, mainly Poland. The Poles are going home, and they will not be replaced because there is no large country poised to join the EU.

Cardiff LDP Household gibberish

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I conclude that the true purpose of the Cardiff LDP is to increase the size, and importance, of the city at all costs, with one eye on speculative building. This to be done with no heed paid to damage inflicted on the city’s own green spaces nor the economic health of the wider region and Wales. To achieve this grandiose aim the LDP then has to pick and choose which statistics suit the purpose and, indeed, which recommendations of is own consultants can be used. This is one reason Edge Analytics was retained – to serve as a whipping-boy or scapegoat if the opposition got organised – ‘Our consultants advised us . . . ‘. But as we’ve seen, the council was very selective in what it accepted from its consultants.

This all results in hundreds of pages designed to confuse the curious and discourage those minded to oppose the LDP. Partly achieved by passages of near-gibberish, such as the one reproduced in the panel above. There were not “346,100 households in Cardiff” in July 2012, that was the city’s population (though I don’t recognise the figure). While the 2008-based household size projection for Cardiff is actually 2.36, so I have no idea where the 2.35 and 2.33 figures quoted come from. Edge Analytics? Though it may be worth remembering that the smaller the household size then the more new dwellings that will be ‘needed’.

In many respects the Cardiff Local Development Plan is no worse than other LDPs I have looked at, such as those for Carmarthenshire, and Denbighshire. The main difference being that with Cardiff it’s difficult to detect the behind-the-scenes insistence of the Planning Inspectorate on building more houses than an area needs, presumably because Cardiff city council, unlike many other authorities, needed no encouragement. Consequently the Cardiff Local Development Plan is a compendium of carefully selected statistics plus ‘statistics’ that seem to have been plucked from thin air. As a work of the imagination it might be worth entering it for some literary award. But it should never be implemented; for to do so would be damaging both for Cardiff and for Wales.

STOP PRESS: Last night there was a referendum in the Fairwater-Pentrebane area of Cardiff on the LDP. The question posed was: ‘Do You Think That The Deposit Local Development Plan Should Be Adopted For Cardiff?’ The result: Yes 31 votes (2%), No 1,311 votes (98%) Turnout 13.55%. Read about it here in Daily Wales.

Apr 252014
 

A few days ago I was directed to a piece on the MailOnline website about Barcelona or, more specifically, tourism in Barcelona or, to be really, really specific, high volume and damaging tourism. The problem is that “uncontrolled tourism” is attracting too many low-spending tourists who are turning Barcelona into a ‘theme park’ and making locals feel like strangers in their own city. To give some idea of the perceived problem, in 1993 the city attracted 2.5 million visitors but by 2012 that figure had quadrupled to 10 million. Going to YouTube turned up other videos on a similar theme. One about the Lake District, this one about Snowdonia. And there are others.

Does all this sound familiar – hordes of cheapo tourists over-running a place and making the locals feel like strangers? Of course it does, because it’s what happens in Wales. Though the citizens of Barcelona should be thankful that their city isn’t being bought up by these visitors, looking for holiday homes, a lifestyle change, or somewhere to retire to. Nor is it destroying the Catalan language and identity. And I guarantee that most of the businesses taking the tourists’ money are run by natives of Barcelona. (Though the pickpockets mentioned almost certainly come from further east.)

Wales tourism stats

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The traditional reason that Wales is a low-spend destination for tourists is because tourism in Wales was developed for the convenience of England, not for the benefit of Wales. Which has meant that in practice, we – or those who run tourism here – target English tourists saving their major outlay for holidays abroad, encouraging them to use Wales for weekend breaks and secondary holidays. Then, because these English tourists don’t spend much, we must have them in damaging and unsustainable numbers. This recent news story even rejoiced in the fact that Wales is “affordable” / cheap, without apparently realising that ‘cheap’ is also a derogatory term.

Though the story in WalesOnline is rather confusing. It claims a record 9.93m tourists spending a record £1.7bn in 2013. Yet the figures on the ‘Welsh’ Government website, for 2012 (see panel), claim 10.45m tourists (from the UK and overseas) spending £2,44bn. Presumably the article refers only to tourists from within the UK, though this is not stated.

Numerate readers (of whom I have many) will have worked out that this means in 2012 UK visitors spent on average £165 (up to £171 in 2013), whereas overseas visitors spent on average £405. So why aren’t we doing more to attract overseas visitors, of whom we’d need fewer? Well, in addition to the explanation given above, tourism in Wales also has a political purpose, in that it anglicises Wales; partly by smothering areas in English tourists for months on end and partly by encouraging English tourists to make a permanent move to Wales. And don’t overlook the financial benefits . . . to England. Money spent in Wales by English tourists will eventually make its way back to London, unlike money spent abroad.

(The panel from the ‘Welsh’ Government website also quotes “around 100 million day visits” earning “over £3bn”. I have ignored these figures mainly because we are expected to believe that these are all day trips made from outside Wales; they are not. The most popular pay-to-enter ‘tourist attraction’ in Wales is Swansea Leisure Centre. Most visitors come from within a 15 mile radius. Your next shopping trip or day out in Wrecsam, Llandudno, Aberystwyth, Brecon or Carmarthen may count as a ‘day trip’. So you will understand why I treat such figures with caution, if not contempt. The (nicely rounded) figures for day trips get wild guesswork a bad name, but are, regrettably, what we expect with tourism ‘statistics’.)

The table I’ve compiled (and I hope it’s clear) gives some figures for the tourism industries in Ireland, Scotland and Wales for one year. (Click to enlarge.) The figures for Ireland and Scotland were fairly easy to come by, but not so with the figures for Wales. The ‘Welsh’ Government website is difficult to negotiate, full of guff and propaganda on tourism but low on facts. So I went to StatsWales, the ‘Welsh’ Government’s specialist group for statistics – actually part of an English government department – but the most recent figures available there are for 2010. (A regular failure with StatsWales.)

Tourism table

Click to Enlarge

A few observations from the table. As an example of how little Wales really earns from tourism note that visitors from the Six Counties to the Republic spent £225 per head, even though many would have been staying with friends and family, or making just a short trip (e.g. Derry to Donegal). Compare this to UK visitors to Wales, who spent just £165. UK visitors to Scotland spent £227 per head. In addition, Scotland made over one billion pounds more than Wales from overseas tourists. Spend per head can be equated with the profit margin, which means that when other considerations – cultural damage, traffic congestion, environmental degradation, etc  – are factored in to the equation then tourism in Wales is a loss-making, bargain basement business. To tourism what the Reliant Robin is to automotive technology. Nothing to be proud of.

Furthermore, reReliant Robinmember that Ireland and Scotland are some four times the size of Wales and both see a ‘spread’ of tourists across the land, whereas most of those who come to Wales head for the west and the north, and stick fairly close to the coast. This, inevitably, results in the kind of overcrowding and unsustainabilty being complained of in Barcelona.

Given the damning facts why is ‘Welsh’ tourism trumpeted as a great success story that cannot be improved on? Why are we constantly reminded that our rural and coastal areas were wastelands ere the arrival of English tourists, and without them to wastelands they will return? In a word, we’ve been brainwashed. We can either continue accepting this ludicrous – and, frankly, racist – propaganda or we can start arguing for a tourism industry for the twenty-first century rather than the nineteenth, one that serves Wales and Welsh people.

Fundamentally, and for benefits across the board, we need to attract more overseas visitors and fewer low-spend tourists from England. To do that we must ditch the defeatist argument that says Scotland and Ireland have a higher international profile. Because even though this may be true today, there are successful tourism destinations now that were unknown a few decades ago. It comes down to promotion, and priorities.

The first priority is for the soi-disant ‘Welsh’ Government to start living up to its name, by putting Welsh interests first. A phased move from caravans to serviced accommodation would be a start. Tourism taxes – especially at ‘hot spots’ – would be another step in the right direction. The second priority must be minimising the influence of the tourism operators who currently control long-term and strategic planning. Few of these are Welsh and consequently have little regard for the damage being inflicted. Too many are driven by self-interest and believe there can never be too many tourists. That’s the major problem with tourism – if you allow it to be run by such people then you end up with the problems of Barcelona, or Venice, or Prague, or Wales. Restraining influences are needed.

Feb 072014
 

I hope I can explain this without it getting too complicated. Here goes . . .

In a number of recent posts I have stressed the importance of household size / composition in determining how many new dwellings will be needed. So I thought I’d better check with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for the correct definition, which is: “A household is defined as one person living alone, or a group of people (not necessarily related) living at the same address who share cooking facilities and share a living room, sitting room or dining area”. Which means that a group of students sharing a house would presumably be a household, but a retirement or nursing home for elderly people would be a “communal establishment”.

This is important because each household is a separate dwelling. It follows therefore that predicted household size coupled with projected population increase will be used to assess the number of new dwellings needed. The smaller the household size, then the greater the number of dwellings.Households

Returning to the ONS, that agency’s Table KS101EW, says that when the Census was taken in March 2011 the number of persons living in a household in Wales was 3,011,182. Table CH01, also ONS, tells us that at the Census Wales had 1,302,700 households. If we divide the number of persons living in households with the number of households we have a figure of 2.31 persons per household. Yet in its (2008-based) household size projections, Knowledge and Analytical Services (KAS), an arm of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in London, but based in Wales, predicted a household size for 2011 of 2.23.

This difference of .08 may seem unimportant . . . until you remember that it equates to 46,764 dwellings and (x 2.31) a population of 108,025. To put that into perspective, at the 2011 Census there were just 31,600 households in Ceredigion. Also bear in mind that, due to the ONS ‘outsourcing’ household size projections to the DCLG, it is KAS projections that are used to determine how many new homes will be needed in Wales in future years. Clearly, anyone wishing to make Wales plan for more new homes than she really needs has only to underestimate household size.

I understand that new household size projections covering the next 25 years are due out any day. These projections from the KAS will be invalid from the outset if they do not start at 2.31 in 2011, because this figure comes from the Census, it is not guesswork. The new household size projections must also take into account other evidence that suggests a slowing in the rate of household size decline, if not a static household size.

These new projections must then be used to revise Local Development Plans and all other housing need projections in Wales.

Jan 142014
 

Following on from the previous post, here is my response to the Welsh Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government’s Housing (Wales) Bill. The deadline for responses is Friday, so if you want to make a point then do it now, and send it to CELGCommittee@wales.gov.uk.

In case the PDF version below should disappear (as they have a habit of doing) the document should be available here.

 

Dec 122013
 
I am grateful to Gruffydd Meredith of Cymru Sofren / Sovereign Wales
for providing the inspiration for this post.

 

The title of this post is obviously taken from the great baseball movie Field of Dreams. And even though the subject matter of this post is the ‘Welsh’ Government’s housebuilding programme to 2033, similar reasoning underpins both the storyline of the movie and the programme, as you’ll soon realise.

By now, anyone who takes an interest in Welsh affairs will be aware that someone, somewhere, has decided that between 2008 and 2033 the number of households in Wales will increase by 323,009. This figure, according to Carl Sargeant, ‘Welsh’ Government Minister for Housing and Regeneration, in a letter dated November 12th, 2013, is ” . . . based on a Welsh specific methodology which is separate to the methodology used in England”.

This projected increase accounts for the Local Development Plans (LDPs) that in recent years have been imposed on our local authorities; forcing them into planning for thousands of new houses they know are not needed by local people. Schemes adopted only because our councillors know in advance they’ll lose any appeal and will also be burdened with punitive legal costs. So do these projections stand up to scrutiny?

The first question to ask is, fairAv Household size by yearly obviously, what is the size of a ‘household’? According to the ‘Welsh’ Government – and available here on the StatsWales website (or click on panel left) – it currently stands at 2.20 persons, but it is predicted to drop steadily until it reaches 2.02 persons per household in 2033.

The figure of 323,009 over 25 years averages out at 12,920 new households per year. So multiplying the annual average of 12,920 new households by 2.2 gives us an increase in population for 2013 of 28,424, falling gradually until we reach 26,098 in 2033. Yet between the censuses of 2001 and 2011 Wales saw an average annual increase of just 15,300. Another curiosity is that according to these household projection figures, Wales should have seen an increase in population between 2008 and 2012 of roughly 114,000. Yet elsewhere on the StatsWales website we learn that the estimated population increase in that pPop leveeriod was only 48,200. (Click on panel right to enlarge.) Clearly, the figures for the projected increase in the number of households in Wales is, what statisticians call, a load of old bollocks.

So what is the justification in planning for an annual household / population increase of almost double that we have seen in the decade up to 2011, and more than double what we are experiencing today? Is Wales to enjoy an economic upsurge? Not with Labour running things. Are we to suddenly revert to having large numbers of children? Unlikely. And even if we were, this wouldn’t impact on the household figures until after 2033. Are we to become a nation of misogynist loners? We are already. The only explanation is that Wales is to see an influx of people from outside the country. And given that this is being planned for now, it will be an engineered influx.

These massive and unprecedented increases in population and household numbers can not come into play until the imposed LDPs are in operation. This explains why the household number projection from 2008 to the present is so woefully out of sync with the statistical realities. This also means that Wales is being told to build hundreds of thousands of new houses when those giving these instructions know in advance that the bulk of these new homes are designed solely to encourage English colonisation.

In areas of the north tens of thousands of new houses will be built for commuters moving out of Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire, further weakening Welsh identity. In Carmarthenshire, so pivotal in recent political history, the Welsh language is to be reduced to curio status and the Welsh born marginalised. Powys is to become Outer Green Belt for the English West Midlands. For what we’re discussing here is not really about households and statistics, it’s about nationhood; our nationhood, and the continuing attempts to destroy it, and, by so doing, remove a political threat. This genocidal strategy is being implemented by the Planning Inspectorate, an English body – or, if you prefer, an Englandandwales body – that pretends it is in some way answerable to the ‘Welsh’ Government. It is not.

Sargeant BawsoThe role of the English Planning Inspectorate has become ever clearer in recent years and this, inevitably, has resulted in growing criticism. Presumably in an attempt to prove its independence, the ‘Welsh’ Government has recently produced a Housing Bill, dealing mainly with social housing and private rented accommodation. This Bill is the social housing partner to the LDPs, for it confirms that when it comes to social housing in Wales everyone has priority over the Welsh. For example, in 85 pages it makes no mention of the Welsh language, yet contains half a dozen pages on ‘Gypsies and Travellers’. While I can’t directly blame them for this Bill, it certainly carries the fingerprints of another group of English civil servants pursuing an anti-Welsh agenda, this time the secretive Housing Directorate which, like the Planning Inspectorate, claims to be answerable to the ‘Welsh’ Government. A claim that is equally spurious.

By one of those coincidences that brings a wee shaft of brightness to these short days I yesterday received the latest Planning Inspectorate newsletter. Scroll down and you’ll see a piece headed, ‘Planning Reform in Wales’. (Note also that it mentions ‘Carl Sargeant the Welsh Minister . . . ‘ but neglects to give his portfolio!) Click on the link to the article or read below). I don’t know about you, but I find some of this chilling. “Joint planning boards would produce ‘sub regional’ type plans in those areas of the county (i.e. Wales) that require a more strategic approach than currently exists. Local Devolopment plans would remain but would be subject to refinement. (My italics.) Which can only mean that the plans currently being forced on our local authorities can be changed. It goes on: “It is evident that further casework would be likely to come to the Planning Inspectorate, both in terms of dealing with applications for developments of national significance and other major developments”. Mmm. So here we are, discussing ‘Welsh’ legislation, yet it will result in more work for an English agency! Then we come to the final paragraphs, which I have reproduced in full. (Again, my italics.)

“In terms of appeals, many of the proposed reforms resonate with those introduced in England. e.g. submission of full statements of case with no opportunity thereafter to introduce argument/evidence.

The right to appear before an Inspector would be removed with the Inspectorate taking a more pro-active, case managing role in determining the appropriate format for appeals.  Reflecting the Scottish system, appeals would be started as written representations with the Inspectorate escalating the format type as deemed necessary.  This would include a hybrid format, similar to that used in Local Development Plan examinations, where the Inspector decides that most aspects could be dealt with via written representations, but certain aspects would require a hearing or inquiry format.

Again reflecting change in England, Inspectors would be able to inPlanning Reform in Walesitiate cost awards against parties and to recover the costs in dealing with the appeal.

Third party rights of appeal have been ruled out following the evidence considered by the Independent Advisory Group and their recommendations.

Major changes are afoot.”

So, what have we learnt from this? First, that there people out there trying to destroy Welsh identity. Second, they don’t all live in England. Third, Wales, despite the posturing of Welsh politicians, with their silly gimmicks, is really controlled by shadowy civil servants answerable to even more shadowy agencies in London. Fourth, Wales is more closely integrated with England today than she was before ‘devolution’. Fifth, ‘devolution’ is an insulting sham.

But just in case I’m wrong I’ll give Sergeant a chance. You claim that the household projections for Wales up to 2033 are “based on a Welsh specific methodology which is separate to the methodology used in England”. The Planning Inspectorate suggests otherwise, welcoming the increasing uniformity of the planning systems operating in Wales and England. But just in case you’re right; it’s clear from the figures I’ve provided – or, rather, that the Office for National Statistics has provided – that those who supplied your figures for the increase in household numbers have made a mistake.

The population of Wales increased by an average of 15,300 a year between 2001 and 2011, and just 12,050 a year between 2008 and 2012, so how do you – or your ‘Welsh’ statisticians – explain a projected annual increase in population of almost 28,000 a year from now to 2033? If you cannot satisfactorily explain this projection, then you, and the Planning Inspectorate, have no alternative but to scrap Local Development Plans forced on Welsh local authorities to meet this unprecedented and unjustifiable increase.

P.S. Hope you enjoyed yourself at the Labour Christmas bash in Mischiefs Bar last night. (Heard you were DJ!) Also hope you were all spending your own money.

Apr 182013
 

NUMBER ONE, PENSION SERVICE: My mother is resident in a council-run retirement home. Seeing as State Pensions increased in April the council wants to know by how much my mother’s pension has gone up so they can re-calculate her payments. Fair enough. Problem being that despite the fact that everyone should have been informed by the Pension Service of their increase by the end of March, my mother has received nothing.

So last week I went on the internet, put in the correct post code, and came up with the details for the Swansea office of the Pensions Service. Using my dainty and impeccably manicured digit I telephoned the number given. Eventually I reached a live, unrecorded, human being, to whom I explained my predicament. After repeating that all notifications had been sent out long ago the woman on the other end of the line finally accepted that my mother had not received hers, and that this was why I was ringing.

In the hope of being helpful I suggested that she tell me the the address to which the notification would be sent in order for me to confirm that it was correct. She: “Oh, can’t do that”. Me: “But if you sent the original notification to the wrong address then you’re going to repeat the mistake”. Silence. Me: “Why can’t you tell me the address – I’m her son, for God’s sake!” She: “I’ll have to put you on to the supervisor”. (I felt like saying that had no desire to mount her supervisor, but I bit my tongue.) From the supervisor I got the same metronomic response. Which I could have understood if I’d been asking MI6 for the names of their operatives in Dushanbe . . . but I was asking these bloody women to give me the address of a retirement home in Gwynedd!

I’ve just phoned the Pension Service again. To be told that “it takes seven to ten working days”. Why should it take that long to do something that should have been done properly by the end of bloody March! And another thing. Although the telephone number given on the web page suggested I would be put through to the Swansea office, the three women I spoke with (two last week and one today) all had north west English accents, making it very unlikely that they are based in the City of the Blest.

NUMBER TWO, WELSH EUROPEAN FUNDING OFFICE: About thirteen years ago I allowed myself to be talked into raising money for a new community centre in the village. After a few false starts, and once I was allowed free rein, I got into my stride and raised the necessary lucre. The major funder was the Welsh European Funding carwyn-jones-755691908Office. Which, if nothing else, proves that some EU funding is well spent. For our now self-funding community centre provides jobs, facilities and amenities for the community seven days a week. Anyway, last month, out of the blue, came a letter from WEFO’s Aberystwyth office saying that they wanted to call and check on how the money had been spent.

The meeting went ahead last week. Fortunately, I had kept all the paperwork they needed and was able to answer the questions. (I managed to steer the inquisitor away from my six-week fact-finding mission to Tahiti.) I was not surprised to learn that this visit should have been made in 2009 or 2010, rather than eight years after the building had opened. The meeting ended with the WEFO official giving me an e-mail address to which I would send copies of invoices and other documents requested. Which I did . . . but they didn’t get through, because the WEFO Internet system does not accept e-mails with attachments.

Or perhaps not from unverified sources, which I could understand. But if so, then it should be possible for a member of WEFO’s staff to contact their IT department and say, ‘Let this one through, please, I’m waiting for this information’. How hard can it be? Anyway, once we’d realised what the problem was WEFO sent me an envelope, with two first class stamps. Then I had to print out the various bits of paperwork, put them in the envelope. and mail the envelope. Money and time wasted, unnecessary delay, me frustrated, and all so bloody avoidable.

How can WEFO, or any organisation, operate at anything approaching maximum efficiency when people like me cannot e-mail the information WEFO itself is asking for! No wonder they’re years behind with their work. And perhaps this goes some way to explaining why we ‘qualify’ for a third round of EU Structural Funds.

NUMBER THREE, STATS WALES: Earlier this week I went to the StatsWales website looking for the numbers of English born living in Wales, by local authority area, from the 2011 census. Once into the site, I went to the publications under ‘Population’, but nowhere could I find the information I wanted; even though the section was able to offer bed-time reading like, ‘Child poverty dental indicators by year‘ and ‘European Union harmonised unemployment rates by gender, area and year‘, plus the absolutely riveting, ‘Smoke detectors and other fire detection equipment in dwellings by year and Fire and Rescue Service area‘. The section contained many reports covering ‘gender’ and ‘ethnicity’, such as ‘Ethnicity of staff by Fire and Rescue Service‘.

Today I got my reply (see panel). Now, in fairness, I knew that this information was available on the Office of National Statistics website, and has been for a few months, but that’s not the point. These are important figures relating to Wales, so I have every right to expect to find them on a website devoted to Welsh statistics.Stats

Given the data available on the site, the obvious obsession with race and gender, my guess would be that this site is maintained by someone more concerned with observing political correctness than with providing information. And given the absence of the figures I wanted, maybe no friend of the Welsh. Then again, perhaps it was a political decision not to offer these damning and alarming figures.

Though, surely, if there are figures to tell us how many Afro-Caribbeans, women and other groups are employed by the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service then it must be possible to tell us how many English are employed, and in what ranks? And how many of the top civil servants in Wales are English? Senior police officers . . . academics . . . doctors and other medical staff . . . senior officers in local government, BBC, etc., etc. Could it be that StatsWales is a bit like our media and our politicians, treating us as mushrooms? Keeping us in the dark by withholding the really damning stuff that would lay bare colonial Wales, while feeding us regular dollops of shit in the form of what they deem it safe to tell us.