Swansea Council

Jan 262015
 

Despite having spent most of my adult life away from Swansea my dreams still tend to be set there, sometimes they’re about people, and in places, the waking me has all but forgotten. A contributing factor must be that I take a keen interest in my home town, and in recent years I have despaired at the Labour-controlled council, with its – now deposed – leader and his wife, the refugee English and Austrian Trots, and of course the students recruited to the council straight from the grant-processing plant down on the Mumbles Road. (For other posts on this subject just type ‘Swansea Council’ or ‘Swansea Labour Party’ into the Search box atop the sidebar.)

The erstwhile leader, David Phillips, now sulks like Napoleon on St. Helena, cursing those who toppled him (also rueing the massive drop in household income since him and the missus were given the old heave-ho). Let’s hope this gruesome twosome fade from politics and leave Swansea altogether. The Trotskyists, Bob and Uta Clay, are hanging on in there, still dreaming of writing Swansea’s name in the annals of glorious revolution, but as relevant to contemporary politics as Plaid Cymru is to the cause of Welsh independence. But it’s the students I want to discuss here; those bright young things who brought their joie de vivre (or something) to the drab world of Swansea council life.

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First, Pearleen Sangha, Californian councillor for the Uplands ward. It was known for almost a year that Cllr. Sangha was not attending council meetings and perhaps not even living in SPearleen Sangha party girlwansea, but that was OK because she was in Cardiff working for the Labour Party. Obviously, rumours circulated and her position became untenable when, towards the end of September last year, even the Labour-supporting Evening Post began to ask awkward questions. (Click here and scroll down.) She seemed to panic, saying she’d told “the leadership” back in July that she was resigning as a councillor, and assuring us that she had not received her councillor’s allowance since then. Which might have been more convincing if her Twitter account in late September didn’t still describe her as a councillor, or if her council e-mail account wasn’t still open; or if she wasn’t still shown on the council’s own website Pearleen Sangha Californiaas a Labour councillor for the Uplands ward.

When she wasn’t in Cardiff she was back home in California, or campaigning for a No vote in the Scottish referendum, or just gadding about having a good time. I recall voicing my concerns about a US citizen of Indian ancestry and English birth having the temerity to go to Scotland – a country of which she knows nothing – and tell the Scots how to vote. But it didn’t end there, because the other tweet I’vSangha tweete used suggests that her sister Chenisha, presumably also from California, was helping in the Ynys Môn Assembly by-election of August 2013. She knows even less about Ynys Môn than her sister does about Scotland! Ignorance and arrogance aside, whatever else she was doing Pearleen Sangha was not serving as a councillor for the Uplands ward, and while she may not have claimed her allowance after July 2014 she went missing a long time before that.

Chenisha SanghaHaving mentioned Chenisha Sangha, it should come as no surprise to learn that she also tweets. Though I have no idea who Salt Water Taffy is, I can only assume that he is a seafaring gent from one of our coastal districts. Nor do I have any idea as to why she should have thought him disgusting, but I’m glad he won her over. Picture the scene: an invitation to board his lugger, a few jars of grog by candlelight, maybe a softly crooned shanty then, before you know it, she realises that his barque is worse than his bight and starts taking an interest in his tackle. I wish them well.

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More recently, two more of Swansea Labour’s student councillors have departed . . . or at least, announced their departure. First, was Mitchell Theaker, of Cockett ward, who is moving to Dubai where he’ll recruit rich Arab students for Sheffield University. Although he announced his resignation the week before last it doesn’t officially take effect Theaker tweet Dubai, Jan 2015until March 20th – even though he’s already left Swansea to take up his new job in the Gulf! Surely he won’t be claiming anything from Swansea council between the date of leaving and the official resignation date?

Theaker’s card was probably marked last August following the overthrow of his patron, when he unwisely tweeted: “Lots of people devastated to hear David Phillips has stepped down as leader of Swansea Council. A principled and distinguished giant of a man.” Mmm. And although he was councillor for Cockett (which lies between Sketty and Fforestach), he never actually lived in the ward. He was last reported to be living with his boyfriend down the Maritime Quarter.

Another who has announced he’s going but, again, not officially until March 20th, is Nick Bradley, of Townhill ward. He too is off to foreign climes. According to the Evening Post he’s taking up a job in “the US and middle east”. Bradley, a lifelong supporter of West Bromwich Albion, was on the board running Swansea’s Liberty Stadium. The by-elections to replace Theaker and Bradley will both be held on May 7, the day of the UK General Election. The reason for this, according to Bradley, is that it “will save time, money and effort at a point when all focus has to be on the budget and the future of our city”. Which is absolute bollocks.

Uplands by-electionThe reason these by-elections are being held on the same day as the General Election is because Labour’s donkey vote will be out in force and it’s hoped they’ll unthinkingly vote Labour in the council by-elections too. An important consideration when we remember the result in the by-election held in November to replace Pearleen Sangha. (Click to enlarge.) This was won by Independent Peter May, who had formerly held the seat, and lost it, as a Lib Dem. In 2010 he had even been the Lib Dem candidate for Swansea West (which contains the Uplands ward), and came within 504 votes of the winning Labour candidate. With its hold on Swansea West weakening it’s understandable that Labour is taking no chances with its council seats.

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With Sangha, Bradley and Theaker gone, it seems the only ex-student know-nothing (of Swansea) councillor left is John Charles Bayliss, who also represents the Uplands ward. John Boy must be feeling lonely right now, and perhaps vulnerable. Though one rumour I’ve heard Bayliss Twitter picsuggests that he has chanced his arm by asking to be given the council role vacated by Theaker on a Cabinet Advisory Committee, which if true, suggests that he’s counting on his party being desperate to avoid another Uplands by-election after May 7th.

Or maybe it’s a ‘What the hell have I got to lose?’ gambit due to John Boy planning to follow Theaker and Bradley to the Gulf, because before Christmas he was in Dubai with them. His Twitter bio shows them together (Bradley left). Shouldn’t Gays boycott countries where homosexuality is illegal, or go there to protest? They also drink, quite a lot, something else disapproved of by the bearded ones. These three – and Sangha – also bang on about the environment, they all supported further enriching the Duke of Beaufort with wind turbines on Mynydd y Gwair, but they don’t give a toss about their own carbon footprint when they’re jetting off here and there. There is something very superficial and hypocritical about these people. Their ‘principles’ are for flaunting, not for defending, certainly not if such defence might interfere with their own hedonistic lifestyles.

Thankfully, they’re slowly disappearing from the scene, yet it could have been a lot worse. To become leader of the council after the May 2012 elections David Phillips needed the support of these students and others because he was never sure of Labour’s local stalwarts. Fortunately, his wife, Sybil Crouch, fellow councillor and (inevitably) cabinet member, worked in the university, and so must have been helpful in finding potential candidates. Just think, If Phillips hadn’t been removed when he was he and his missus could have recruited from the university and eventually made his position impregnable.

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This episode in the history of the Swansea Labour Party is symptomatic of a wider malaise within ‘Welsh’ Labour. Basically, the party can no longer find local recruits of a high enough calibre to be candidates, even at council level. Which results in it falling prey to drifters, chancers, entryists, arrivistes, parachutists, and single-issue obsessives such as Bayliss, for whom Gay issues are more important than anything that could improve the lives of my fellow Jacks. Leading to the Labour vote SI Exifbeing very ‘brittle’ in many parts of Wales, as we saw in the Euro elections last May. (Click here for results.)

Yet around the Bay, the bruvvers in Aberavon have had imposed on them the scion of the House of Kinnock. Contrary to what most people reading this may think, if the people of Port Talbot elect Stephen Kinnock in May it will be a splendid result for Labour, for it will confirm that the ‘donkey’ vote is holding firm. But it should also remind us that the priorities of the Labour Party and the best interests of Wales are diverging fast. Wales is currently lumbered with a dominant party devoid of ideas and reduced to what can only be described as dog in a manger politics.

So where are the alternatives? The Ukip surge of last May will not be replicated in a ‘serious’ election such as the UK General Election this coming May, though unless the party implodes before then (entirely possible) Ukip will gain seats in the 2016 Assembly elections. The Lib Dems struggle on and will do well to hold Brecon and Radnor in May. The Green Party of Englandandwales can be written off in most regards other than its potential to take student and other votes in marginals. Plaid Cymru failed to capitalise on Labour’s weaknesses last May and will fail to do so again this May; it’s one hope may be Ukip taking enough Labour votes to let it sneak in, Llanelli comes to mind. Which leaves the Conservatives, amazingly, the party most likely to gain in the medium term from the unconscionably slow death of ‘Welsh’ Labour.

I’m glad I was able to write this post, glad to be able to report that three of those who had somehow found their way onto Swansea council, but had nothing to contribute to the wellbeing of my belovéd city, have now left. This episode could be interpreted as locals retaking control from a gang of ‘We-know-best’ interlopers, something we should encourage all over Wales. It would be nice to think that this would be the end of the story; but given the zombie-like nature of ‘Welsh’ Labour it’s almost guaranteed to happen again, if not in Swansea, then somewhere else. Maybe it’ll be your local council . . . unless it’s already happening.

UPDATE: I have just received this telling me that Councillor John Boy Bayliss has been reported to the council, again. Among his many blind spots is the belief that any shyster who can spin a line containing the words ‘eco’, ‘green’, ‘organic’ or ‘environmentally friendly’ (or any combination thereof) must be given planning permission. Preferably carte blanche to save the poor fellowBayliss fracking having to go through the tiresome planning procedure all over again. Worse, anyone who expresses contrary views must be barred from voting on the matter . . . yet he and his (thankfully departing) friends can be quite open about their predetermination and still be allowed to vote! The panel is an example of what I’m talking about. I’ve already used the word ‘hypocrite’ to describe these buggers, and I have no hesitation in using it again.

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.

Aug 262014
 

The more I learn about how Wales is administered the more I realise that it is not run in the interests of the Welsh. Whether it’s social housing, grant funding, top jobs, higher education, the more you dig the more it’s brought home to you that Wales is a colonial possession of England, organised along worryingly discriminatory lines. All of which makes devolution a charade, and exposes the ‘Welsh’ Government to be nothing but a sad bunch of clowns and puppets dancing to London’s tune. Those in other parties who dream of replacing Labour as ‘the Government’ would do no better.

Here are some examples to explain what I mean.

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‘IEUAN AIR’

The contract for the daily air service from Valley on Anglesey to Cardiff is up for re-negotiation. The service is usually – though perhaps unfairly – known as ‘Ieuan Air’, after the former Plaid Cymru leader and Deputy First Minister in the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition (2007 – 2011), who was AM for the island and a regular user of the service. The wider issue is covered here in his usual exemplary way by Owen Donovan on Oggy Bloggy Ogwr. You’ll see that Owen tells us, “The Ieuan Air 2marketing and ticket booking services are provided by Manx company, Citywing, while the air service itself is provided by Links Air, based on Humberside”, and this aspect is what I shall focus on.

First, Citywing. In fairness, Citywing offers a full Welsh language version of its website, though seeing as it operates just one route within or from Wales this might worry some, who might wonder if this company has any other business. As Citywing is registered in the Isle of Man it’s not easy to get information on the company, which seems to have been founded as recently as November 22, 2012, when MD David Buck staged a management buy-out of the company, previously known as Manx2. A name change was possibly necessitated by Manx2 being involved in a crash at Cork airport on February 10, 2011 in which five people died. It seems that Citywing merely sells seats on “flights operated under charter from Van Air Europe and Links Air“.

My knowledge of this business is minimal, but it seems that we are very much down at the bottom end of the market, a kind of sub-Ryanair operation flying to and from Blackpool, Gloucester and other less-in-demand destinations in 19-seater planes because stricter legislation may come into force if more passengers are carried. The planes involved may be owned by the Czech company Van Air Europe and leased to Links Air with Citywing flogging tickets. Who knows? There’s so much leasing and sub-leasing going on in this game I’m surprised Nathan Gill and his gang aren’t involved, especially as Links Air is based just across the Humber from Hull.

Linksair Ltd is run by Jonathan Gordon Roy Ibbotson and his wife. It is one of three companies still trading out of a large number of companies with which 51-year-old Ibbotson has been involved. Some have failed owing money, and of the three still extant one, Linksair Properties Ltd, was only formed in July, and the other, Hangar 9 Ltd has (apparently) nothing to do with aviation, being involved in property letting, with a few outstanding mortgages to its name, and may even be Roissy Aircraft Management Ltd (another of Ibbotson’s companies) after a name change. To confuse the picture further, Ibbotson has run two companies called Hangar 9 Ltd!

Ibbotson's companies

Ibbotson obviously has an ‘interesting’ business career, so interesting that I would be loath to hand him a penny of Welsh public funding; and was there no company in Wales that could pretend to be an airline and sell a few tickets? Whether there was or not is academic, for this Anglesey – Cardiff air service has outlived whatever usefulness it might once have had, and seeing as most of the passengers have their fares paid for out of public funds it was never a viable commercial proposition. So scrap it. And if the ‘Welsh’ Government is serious about internal communications, that fare-paying passengers will use, that will create jobs within Wales, then start backing the re-opening of the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway link, as the first stage in a full west coast line.

In this first example we see millions of pounds of Welsh public funding being given to English companies for a service Wales doesn’t need. This money could obviously be better spent.

UPDATE 21.10.2015: LinksAir, the company operating the Anglesey – Cardiff service, has had its safety licence revoked by the Civil Aviation Authority. The ‘Welsh’ Government insists a new operator has already been found, said to be Danish company North Flying. The service receives a subsidy from the ‘Welsh’ Government of £1.2m a year, even though passenger numbers have dropped from 14,718 in 2008-09 to just 8,406 in 2012-13.

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CARTREFI CYMUNEDOL GWYNEDD & LOVELL

When the humour is on me I turn to a longer-term project of mine, a post examining the colonisation of rural Wales; how it’s being achieved, and what steps need to be taken to curb it. One thing that quickly became clear is how little was done at governmental level to replace the jobs lost over recent decades in agriculture (including creameries, abattoirs, etc), quarrying, forestry, utilities, nationalised industries and local government. These losses were disguised by propaganda arguing that tourism would provide jobs for everyone. This decline in the numbers of ‘real’ jobs needed by adult Welsh males resulted in the predictable reduction in the Welsh population . . . which has then been disguised by the English immigration encouraged by toLovell Reg officesurism.

Here I want to look specifically at local government, or rather, a successor body. In 2010 Gwynedd’s council housing stock was transferred to Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd, and now the housing maintenance that would previously have been done by the council’s own workforce and local sub-contractors is done by a major English company called Lovell. Gwynedd is covered from Lovell’s North West and North Wales regional offices in Altrincham, Cheshire and Birkenhead, Merseyside. The south is covered from the ‘Midlands, South Wales and Southern’ regional offices in Birmingham, Cardiff and Hampshire. Which means it’s reasonable to assume that other Welsh local authorities and housing associations have become partners with Lovell. How many I wonder? I should mention that Lovell is also in the business of building new properties.

Here we are, fifteen years into devolution, and yet this major company still carves up our homeland and attaches the dismembered parts to English regions in the traditional, contemptuous manner of English business and administration. Lovell then compounds the insult by handing out its contracts to other English companies; contracts that in many cases are too big for smaller Welsh companies to apply for. In fact, when you read more abLovellout it, it looks as if the ‘partnership’ system is designed to exclude smaller firms. And when you see a photo such as the one I’ve used here (taken from the Lovell website) you can’t help wondering if there might not be a cartel of large English companies at work deliberately excluding smaller, more local companies.

Anyone can see the advantage for Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd in giving out a single contract for maintaining all its properties and then letting Lovell get on with it, but this is a very short-sighted policy. I have seen Lovell and their sub-contractors at work in this village. Working four-hour days due to travelling times from their English bases – and therefore taking twice as long to do the job! Does this system make sense on any level other than the convenience of the suits at CCG: employment is lost, money leaves the area, and jobs take longer to complete than if local companies were employed!

A system so ludicrous, so indefensible, can only arouse suspicion that someone at Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd, or higher up the food chain, is in receipt of certain ‘inducements’.

This example shows money raised by a ‘Welsh’ organisation – from CCG’s Welsh tenants and the ‘Welsh’ Government – given to English companies to put Welsh companies out of business and Welsh workers out of jobs. Can you imagine such a system operating anywhere else on earth!

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YMCA WALES

This is an ongoing story, so regard what I tell you here as a ‘taster’. But first, I suggest you go back to a couple of posts I put out last year; first, YMCA ‘Wales’, Another Trojan Horse At The Trough, and then, YMCA ‘Wales’ and the Green, Green Pastures.The latest news – as of Friday last – is that the ‘Welsh’ Government has called in Plod to investigate YMCA Wales. Any investigation will almost certainly centre on the organisation’s former chief executive, Mo Sykes, who seems to have left her post in unexplained circumstances last month.

When I learnt of Ms Sykes’ departure I put out a couple of tweets, and I’m pleased to say that I had some responses. Here’s one anonymous response, as I received it:

  • Mo Sykes selling assets and cashing investments to pay off YMCAW overdrafts and debts.
  • Sykes spearheading campaign to build and sell at Penrhyndeudraeth without proper discussion at board level. (See last year’s posts.)
  • Took control of Port Talbot YMCA without board approval and proceeded to empty it’s bank account to “repay” a non existent loan to the national body.
  • Local branches of YMCA not linked to the national body in any way other than name. Receive no finance or any other support from Mo Sykes or her cronies.
  • Local branches struggling to survive whilst Sykes takes her newborn child and nanny on ‘fact finding’ mission to USA.
  • Some Trustees pleaded with charity commission to step in when militant Mo would not recognise concerns of trustees and was acting without authority. (This was two years ago, so why didn’t the ‘Welsh’ Government intervene at this stage, rather than allowing things to further deteriorate?)
  • Chairman after chairman turns blind eye to numerous attempts by group of determined trustees for transparency.
  • Many trustees resign after being shouted down by CEO and chairman Peter Landers for refusing to sign off on annual accounts moments prior to AGM commencing. (Landers is elsewhere described as ” . . . head of Newport YMCA . . . a loud, scruffy man . . . counting the days to his retirement . . . “)
  • Many whistle-blowers are crushed and humiliated by Sykes for seeking the truth. One hounded from post within YMCA and then pursued and punished through a new employer.
  • Hopefully, now, the truth will out and local branches will get the support so desperately needed from Welsh Government.

Another response was equally revealing, and disturbing:

“For 20 years the Llandovery YMCA was functioning as a small charity with less than £10,000 annual income, mainly from camping trips, bible study, after school fees and renting out the meeting room. Then in 2011 it’s annual turnover suddenly rocketed to over £100,000 with an innovative food box programme. This was an emergency relief project to stem the little known Llanymddyfri famine. Over 200 relief boxes per month (food and nappies) were distributed, and according to their annual report, which was generously supplied by the Kings Church in Newport under a scheme headlined as ‘Jesus Cares’.

The new venture was kicked off in 2011 with a grant of £44,000 from Carmarthenshire County Council and Llandovery YMCA saw a jump from zero to two staff being employed, incurring a cost Sykes-Tatmanof £23,000 in salaries. In 2012 there was a further consolidation with a cash injection of £103,000 from the Big Lottery. Only a part of this was spent on refurbishment of the premises as a tidy £25,000 cash payment was made to a trustee, Ms Jill Adeline Tatman, who, incidentally, is also on the payroll. The number of staff by the end of 2013, was four, with, by now, £50,000 going out of the payroll, and an annual pension due of exactly £3,500 annually.

Then in 2013 it landed an additional £16,000 Rural Community Inclusion Grant thanks to the work of a projects officer, also employed by Carmarthenshire County Council. The cash really started creaming in and in 2014, Llandovery YMCA landed a further £250,000 grant from the People and Places Lottery Fund, for a “ground-breaking therapeutic and emotional support project”, but as far as I can see the only emotional support provided is to Jill Adeline Tatman laughing her way to the bank from her home, also, as it happens, done up with public funds.

Trustee, Jill Adeline Tatman, originally from Redhill, Surrey, educated at a privately run evangelical college in Derbyshire and, like Mo Sykes, is a former trustee of YMCA Wales. She’d purchased the grade II listed “Windermere House” in Stone Street, Llandovery. This property was part of the Llandovery and Llangadog Townscape and Heritage Scheme which was refurbished in 2011 with a portion of the £2.782millon townscape fund, £737k of which was grant funded from Carmarthenshire Country Council. Not only does she get public funds to line her purse, but got some cash to do up her own house.”

Tatman was a director of YMCA Wales from November 2004 to November 2005 and personal assistant to the CEO, which might explain why the missing Mo Sykes (originally from the Six Counties) is a Trustee of Llandovery YMCA. Though the Charity Commission website tells us she is also a Trustee of the Bargoed and District YMCA and the Onllwyn and District YMCA. Accounts are overdue for the latter, so if the Charity Commission is expecting them from Mo Sykes they may have quite a wait. Something is clearly very wrong with YMCA Wales, and has been for a considerable time, so I ask again, Why did it take the ‘Welsh’ Government so long to pull its finger out?

I’m getting shyster fatigue from writing about those who migrate to Wales in order to take advantage of the ‘How much do you want?’ grant culture, but here goes, again . . . Tatman, based in a small Welsh town, has recently been given £250,000 for: ” . . . a ground-breaking therapeutic and emotional support project . . . and also go towards developing new opportunities for the unemployed through education and training”. In a relatively prosperous little town of less than 3,000 people how many unemployed are there, and what qualifications does Ms Tatman have to help them? Or what help can she give that no one else is currently giving? And how many kids are there in Llandovery needing ” . . . therapeutic and emotional support scheme for young people through art”. Truth is, all she’s really done is secure salaries for herself and her cronies. Plus of course, pensions, which I’m told are very ‘imaginative’ in their structure and very rewarding in the benefits they bestow..

In conclusion, I should point out that even though YMCA Wales is based in Swansea, it’s up in the wilds of Llansamlet somewhere, not in the grand old YMCA building on the Kingsway, that edifice we’ve seen so often in recent years on our television screens. For as I’m sure you’ll remember, this lovely old building was once home to AWEMA and our old friend Naz Malik. Naz, I regret to say, is currently in the dock at Swansea Crown Court. You know, I sometimes think that the Third Sector in Wales should really apply for funding from the Arts and Entertainment pot, because some of what they serve up is better than any soap opera.

YMCA Wales is yet another example of a Third Sector funding scandal: immigrants of dubious probity subverting a respected organisation to serve their own interests by exploiting the poverty and deprivation that results from the Union with England. And this one could be big, it could make old Naz look small coal.

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 4, 2014: YMCA Wales in administration.

*

SWANSEA COUNCIL

It is with great relish and lashings of schadenfreude I report that civil war has broken out among the ruling Labour group on Swansea city council. Unfortunately, I cannot as yet tell you of any fatalities, but I live in hope. Here is a brief communique. It seems that the trenchcoat-wearing rodomontade (God I”ve longed to use that word!) who has until now directed this farce, one David Phillips, felt increasingly insecure and decided to sack a couple of cabinet members he felt did not worship him as he thought they ought. But now it appears they were not alone, and it may be Il Duce himself who is under threat! Some intriguing comments to the stoBenito Phillips, Il Duce Abertawery on the Evening Post website by ‘pjrpost’ allege wrongdoing by the council’s HR department and a cover-up by the Labour administration. This, again is a story with ‘legs’, so I urge you to keep up with it. Another kick in the plums for the Labour Party is always good news.

The reason I’m including it here is because – as regular readers will know – I’ve written about this Labour shower before, many times. (Just type ‘Swansea council’ into the search box at the top of the sidebar.) It is the worst council the city has ever known, not least because many Labour councillors, including the council leader, are strangers to Swansea; they neither know the city nor care about it. Their loyalty is to the Labour Party, and the Labour Party alone. This is the dog-in-the-manger politics we suffer nowadays that sees political parties wanting power not to exercise it on behalf of the people but to keep some other crew out of power. For serving the Labour Party in this way Swansea’s councillors are rewarded by being allowed to pursue their pet issues (using council money of course), be that obsession promoting gay rights, saving the planet, or funding the Cwmrhydyceirw Unicorn Sanctuary.

On another level, as I write this the Swans are doing rather well, having won their first two games, but of course the club’s income is somewhat limited by having such a small stadium, which also means that many fans are unlikely to ever see a live game. The stadium should have been extended when the Swans were in the Championship, certainly after the first season in the Premier League. The Liberty Stadium is owned by Swansea council, and you’ll understand why the stadium is not being expanded when I tell you that the council leader, the aforementioned David Phillips, is a Liverpool supporter; one of the council’s representatives on the stadium management committee, Nick Bradley, proudly boasts of his undying love for West Bromwich Albion; while the chief executive of Swansea council, ciggie-puffing Jack Straw (no, not that one), is a Nottingham Forest supporter. This is the sort of thing you can expect when a council is run by a rag-bag collection of drifters, political chancers, students who couldn’t find their way home and single-issue obsessives.

Though on the plus side it is rather encouraging; for it suggests that Labour can no longer find local candidates, and has to rely on English immigrants. This is Bangor and Aberystwyth writ large.

In this final example we see Wales’ second city being run by strangers loyal to a political party whose only ambition is to keep Wales subservient to England. A gang who then waste public money funding all manner of nonsense but neglect the real interests of a city they don’t understand and people with whom they cannot possibly identify.

UPDATE August 28 2014: Disillusioned party members cornered Il Duce this evening and forced his resignation without recourse to the indignity of lamp-posts. It only remains now to see what happens to the clique with which he surrounded himself; these include his wife, assorted losers, and odious, self-promoting members of Labour Yoof who need Sat Nav to find their way around the city they help run.

Many would have it that Phillips jumped before he was pushed, as – it is alleged – was the case when he left his job with HMRC (or whatever it was then called) down in Pembrokeshire.

 *

Here we have looked at some examples of colonialism and discrimination at work. The UK government gives the ‘Welsh’ Government billions of pounds, but then civil servants and others ensure that as much as possible of that money either makes its way back to England, is given to English people living in Wales, or else is spent on projects that do nothing to improve the wellbeing of Welsh people.

These examples show this evil and discriminatory system at work. A system that makes a mockery of devolution; for unless devolved powers are exercised in the interests of Welsh people then ‘devolution’ is more damaging to Welsh interests than the system we knew before.

Oct 252013
 

When I was a boy (yes, a long time ago now) summer meant cricket. We’d play in the park until the park keepers threw us out (remember ‘parkies’?) then it would be any patch of waste ground or even the street. We’d play all day until we were stopped not so much by bad light as total darkness. And it was the same with kids everywhere. Not only that, we’d follow the fortunes of Glamorgan County Cricket Club and, if they were playing in Swansea, we’d try to sneak in to St. Helen’s to watch. Innocents that we were, we even supported the England test team. (Ah!)Hedges Black

But things have changed, I can’t recall the last time I saw kids playing an impromptu game of cricket. Glamorgan is now Cardiff City Cricket Club, and cricket more generally has become a minority sport, kept alive only by ever more garish and desperate attempts to make it ‘interesting’. Necessary, because, with its instant gratifications, modern life has given most people under the age of 50 the attention span of a goldfish; so for these, sitting through a three-day county game or a five-day test, watching men all dressed in white, is akin to being forced to read War and Peace in Russian. So it has to be gaudy colours, shorter and shorter games, more and more sixes, and all the distractionary razzmatazz the organisers can muster to get the goldfish interested. Subtle, it ain’t. Which is not to deny that the game is still big (and thoroughly corrupt) in India and Pakistan, but it’s losing popularity in many former strongholds, such as the West Indies, as those Caribbean islands pass from England’s to America’s sphere of cultural influence.

Some of you will have guessed that I’m dragging you down Memory Lane and various other byways because on Wednesday the Assembly debated whether to support the creation of a national cricket team for Wales, a subject I have dealt with previously. The filmed record of the debate can be found here. There were a number of interesting contributions, not least that from Mohammad Asghar, a man who can recognise a sticky wicket better than most. ‘Oscar’, as he is known to his colleagues in the Conservative Party (and his former colleagues in Plaid Cymru and Labour), was fully supportive of the idea, informing other AMs that he himself had played the game at the highest level before leaving Pakistan. Less surprising was the negativity from other quarters.Peter Black

Let’s start with Peter Black, the Liberal Democrat and regional member for South West Wales. In his spare time he’s a councillor in Swansea. Black is an Englishman who washed up in my home town – like so many of those on the council today – as a student, in the late 1970s. I first came across the name on visits home in the 1980s, when the Liberals were into ‘pavement politics’ – remember that? What it boiled down to was not a lot different to the pestering behaviour of religious sects and chuggers. Anyway, Black’s take on the subject is summed up in the quote on the right, but it merits a few words from me.

He talks of St. Helen’s in the 1960s, which he’s perfectly entitled to do, but of course at this time, he was just out of nappies and living on the Wirral. Whereas I remember St. Helen’s in the ’60s – I was there, son, winter and summer. Talking of St. Helen’s, maybe Black should remind himself how many games Glamorgan play there nowadays. Not many, is it? Here we have a man, elected by the people of Swansea as a councillor and an AM, defending the interests of a body that has treated Swansea abominably due to the fact that he is a self-serving politico who doesn’t really give a shit about the city. Worse, his attitude towards a Wales cricket team is coloured by his own nationality, a truth he tries to disguise by getting his retaliation in first and condemning the proposal’s backers as nationalists. Of course they are, Come December, I’ll be singing rebel songs with ‘Oscar’ at Cilmeri, him resplendent as usual in his FWA uniform.

Mike HedgesThe other contribution that caught my jaundiced eye came from another Swansea politician, Mike ‘Mr. Bean’ Hedges. Of whom I have spoken in the recent past. Squeaked he (or possibly Teddy), “There is a Welsh team which plays in the Minor Counties League”. On that logic, if we didn’t already have a national rugby team, but ‘Wales’ played in the English County Championship, Bean would be quite satisfied! He then goes on to defend the benefits accruing to Cardiff City Cricket Club and the city of Cardiff”! But, again, this is a politician supposedly representing Swansea. TELL US, BEAN, WHAT BENEFIT DOES THE CITY YOU REPRESENT SEE FROM THE CURRENT ARRANGEMENT? I’ll help. The answer is sod all, and that’s been the case since Glamorgan County Cricket Club morphed into Cardiff City Cricket Club and abandoned St. Helen’s – so why are you defending it? Because . . . Bean-Hedges belongs to the Wales haters of the Labour Party who cannot tolerate anything that differentiates Wales from England, however beneficial to Wales. Jonathan Edwards MP summed it up perfectly in this tweet.J Ed cricket

So what have we learnt from this debate? In some respects, it had little to do with cricket. It was the usual suspects on both sides lining up on another issue and exposing  ‘the package’. Though those proposing and supporting the creation of a national cricket team belong, by and large, to the ‘positive’ or ‘ambitious’ element of Wales’ population. While those opposing the initiative are drawn from the ‘be happy with your lot’ and ‘Wales can’t do this, that . . .’ element. Though, interestingly, a third element emerged – and not just ‘Oscar’ – of people no one would describe as ‘nationalist’ but who could nevertheless see the benefits to Wales, and her international profile, from having a national cricket team playing in international competitions. On a more parochial level, I was, as you may have guessed, disgusted with the ignorance, or the short memories, of some of those representing Swansea. What has my beloved city done to deserve assholes like this? Cliff ap criced May 1

Finally, as if to prove what I’m saying about ‘the package’, as an illustration of how one can predict reactions to an issue like this from an individual’s known views on related matters, here’s a little contribution to a WalesOnline debate back in May, something I found when Googling. It’s our old friend ‘Cliffoch ap Cliffoch’ or, as we now know him, Chris Clifford, being true to form in expressing his hatred and / or contempt for anything distinctively or differently Welsh. Though I like the ‘score’!

P.S. More info here from the Welsh Cricket Team blog.

Jul 022013
 

Two important and encouraging pieces of news today, and both damaging to the Labour Party or, as its local manifestation prefers, ‘Welsh Labour’. I welcome this because all my life I have dreamed of seeing the Labour Party broken, its control over our country destroyed.

It has become evident to me of late that – perhaps due to English politics being so dull – a number of England’s political commentators have begun to look over the border, and they’ve been amazed at what they’ve found. Basically, a third world country on their very doorstep. Not just poor, but also corrupt. In the past few weeks alone, we’ve had Mark Easton of the BBC trek to darkest Blaenau Gwent, his filmed visit followed by a blog posting which in turn prompted a response from Sarah Bees. (Who she?) In addition, there has been increasing notice taken by important bloggers such as Guido Fawkes, most recently with this piece about the Michael dynasty. Then, to fill my my cup to overflowing, today we heard of collars being felt in Caerphilly, a Labour fiefdom again since last year’s elections. Oh happy day!

Without stating it, Mark Easton’s little film was a condemnation of the Labour Party. The party that has controlled the Heads of the Valleys for a century and the Welsh Assembly since 1999. The party that chooses to use Welsh deprivation to blame the Tories and garner votes, then provide funding for its cronies in the Third Sector. In fact, anything but tackle the problem – cos there ain’t no mileage in that for Labour.Alun Michael

Turning to the Michael clan, it might be worth reminding younger readers that once upon a time Alun Michael was top man in the Assembly, before Rhodri Morgan took over. In fact, Alun Michael was pushed into the job by his bosses in London so that Rhodri Morgan couldn’t take over. It may have been this episode that made Michael realise that selection processes and the will of party members could be overridden. (Though it did not work out for him in the Assembly.)

Last year Alun Michael resigned as MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, and ensured he was succeeded by Steven Doughty, the son of a long-time friend. Michael stood down to run for the newly-created post of Police and Crime Commissioner for the South Wales Police area. He was elected. His son, Tal, standing for the North Wales Police area, was not so fortunate. But the boy done bounced back . . . now he is the Labour Party candidate for Anglesey in the August 1 Assembly by-election to replace Ieuan Wyn Jones. Though dark mutterings are being heard from the bruvvers about a stitch-up. Oh, and did I mention that Tal’s wife Mary (Wimbury) is the Labour candidate in Aberconwy for the 2015 elections to the imperial parliament? (Competition at last for the Kinnock clan!)

Alun Michael is the stereotypical Welsh Labour politico. After migrating to the Lesser Wen from the frozen north he worked for a short time as a reporter before becoming a yoof and community worker for 16 years. In 1972, aged 29, he was made a JP. A year later he became a councillor, and in 1987 became MP for Cardiff South and Penarth following the retirement of Jim Callaghan. So he seems never to have done a ‘real’ job. After a lifetime spent climbing the greasy pole he must feel the party owes him a few favours.

Returning to Caerphilly, more fun and games. It emerged a while back that the council, or a small caucus of councillors, had agreed to greatly increase the salaries of the chief executive and 20 other senior officers . . . this done at the suggestion of the chief executive, Anthony O’Sullivan . . . with the decision ‘taken’ at a meeting at which he was present throughout. Now readers outside of Wales might find this way of doing things a little odd, but bear with me, we are talking Welsh Labour here (to help you, just think of those comforting TV programmes about criminals getting caught due to their own stupidity). Then there was the business of the car payment allowances. Anyway, things came to a head today when the already suspended Mr O’Sullivan was arrested, as was his deputy. As yet, no Labour councillor has been arrested. As yet.

Anthony O'SullivanI’ve thought about this case, and tried to visualise what happened, but it’s not easy. O’Sullivan and his gang are all, theoretically, employees of the council, made manifest in the collective and impressive bulk of the ruling Labour group on Caerphilly council. This being so, they should have submitted a request for salary increases and argued their case in the normal way. But no, something totally different happened. Maybe something like this: ‘Me an’ the boys been talking . . . we’ve decided we’re worth more than you are paying us. So you’re gonna make us an offer we can’t refuse. Capice?’ (Or have I watched the Godfather too many times?)

Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but when I put this together with other Labour news from around the country, such as Swansea’s anybody-but-locals council, or the Nazi-Soviet pact running Carmarthenshire, I can’t help but feel a little frisson, for I see the monolith cracking. I see a party unable to find local candidates with IQ higher than waist measurement; a party that ‘controls’ councils that are in fact run by the employees (most from outside Wales); a party that capitalises on Welsh deprivation to ‘send messages to London’ rather than dealing with that deprivation; a party happy to ally itself with closet Tories; a party now further to the Right than it has ever previously been; a party refusing to do what’s best for Wales lest it succeed, and excite nationalist passions; a party reliant for support on the most dispirited and uncritical element of the nation.

It would be tempting to look at the situation now and compare it with the political scene a century ago. Then, the Liberal Party came to the end of its long reign in Wales and was replaced by Labour. Labour today is perhaps in a worse position than the Liberals were a hundred years ago. After all, the Liberals had an up-and-coming David Lloyd George. Labour has no one of that stature, or political cunning. But perhaps the real difference is that today we have a party dead on its feet, devoid of ideas, believing in power for its own sake and nothing more, that can continue to dominate Wales because there is no viable or attractive alternative.

Apr 232013
 

Peraleen Sangha TwitterMore news from the soap opera that is Swansea Labour Party. You will recall that in earlier episodes we met those bright young things Pearleen Sangha (@PearleenSangha), “Big fan of Ray-Ban eyewear”; Mitchell Theaker (@mitchelltheaker), “Labourite and gin lover”; and John Bayliss (@JohnCBayliss), “LGBT campaigner”; all students at Swansea University when they were elected to the council last May. (Click to enlarge images.) These three are devoted to, in order of precedence: 1/ preening and promoting themselves, 2/ helping the good times roll, 3/ student politics, 4/ the internal bitching of the Labour Party (at a ‘national’ level), 5/ assorted rightMitchell Theaker Twitter-on causes, 6/ enriching the shysters of the wind con racket.

Although, nominally, Swansea councillors, these three don’t give a lot of thought to the city and its people. Swansea council merely gives them a platform from which to giggle and gossip with slightly more credibility about what really interests them . . . be that gin, Gay ‘rights’, bars and restaurants, the next yoof commissar of the Labour Party, feminism, name-dropping, recipies, etc., etc. That’s the thing you notice when you look over their tweets, there are virtually no references to the city they’re supposed to be serving, unless it can be used to promote one of their pJohn Bayliss Twitteret causes. Other than that, it’s all about enjoying themselves, but only with ‘their people’, as I’ll explain. Something else I should have mentioned is that they have opinions, on everything. They know nothing, but give out their views on everything. Take Pearleen Sangha, an American, living in Wales, but she has taken sides in the Scottish independence debate. No prizes for guessing . . .

They even use a cash-strapped city’s money to promote those ’causes’, and possibly to promote their friends. For it is rumoured that the soon to be announced GLBT Officer for the city will be a ‘friend’ of John Bayliss. Now of course, our three – and, it must be said, there are others – will argue that this new post is ‘serving Swansea’ . . . leaving us to wonder how the city could possibly have managed in the past without such an appoinSangha caketee.

And they do get about! ThiSangha Scots year alone, Pearleen Sangha has been home to California for a wedSangha weddingding, and was also in Leicester for the conference of Labour Yoof. A busy girl, Pearleen. Too busy to be a councillor on Saturdays, as one of her constituents found out recently – “Do you know what day it is?” the impudent constituent was told. I mean, bothering your globe-trotting councillor as she prepares for dinner with friends! Mitchell Theaker has been to India for a few weeks, empathising and meeting “bigwigs”. While John Bayliss has been home in Sussex for a while helping Labour candidates in the elections there next month. Of course it can be argued that while Bayliss is away the Uplands ward is in the delicate and fragrant hands of comrade Pearleen . . . unless of course anybody wants help on a Saturday. (The large photo of Councillor Bayliss below is taken from his blog. Quite franBayliss Eatbournekly, it’s toe-curlingly embarrassing. He looks like ‘the podgy one’ from a boy band, feigning modesty as Bayliss Ricardohe’s hailed by the total membership of his fan club.)

More thoughtful – cynical? (do I attract cynics?) – readers may at this point be asking themselves, ‘California, Leicester, India, Sussex . . . what the fuck has this got to do with running Swansea?’ A question more and more people are asking, even within the Labour Party.

Another thing you’ll notice by going through their tweets is that the Labour Party isn’t just the political party they belong to, it’s eBayliss Uplandsverything they are. They live on Planet Labour. One tweeter from the Labour Yoof shindig claimed that one third of all the people he knew were at the conference! That’s sad, and worrying. For here we have an organisation that has virtually cut itself off from the rest of society and whose members only mix with ‘their own’. This is New Labour’s gift to us all – a class of professional politicians for whom the talents of being glib and photogenic, being astute at networking and ruthless in back-stabbing, count for more than unBayliss Argentinaderstanding life outside the bubble. As it must, for they know nothing of life outside the bubble. It’s odious; almLuke Youngost incestuous.

Yet these middle-class kids are helping run Swansea. They puff and posture as the defenders of the downtrodden, people they would never mix with socially, but to whom they must pander because that’s where their votes come from. And it’s all feigned, all hypocrisy. All done to justify their hedonistic, gossipy lifestyles which, let me remind you, are being paid for by the citizens of Swansea.

GethingBefore we can achieve indepenTheaker Indiadence from England we must gain independence from a Labour Party that becomes less and less Welsh every year. As the Party fills up with careerists and chancers from outside Wales, and the disconnect between the party apparatus and its captive vote increases year on year, there is no longer any reason for Welsh people to vote Labour. If only we could offer them a viable alternative!

 

UPDATE 24.04.13: Someone phoned me to ask, ‘Why are they allowed to get away with it?’, meaning why aren’t the lotus eaters being reined in. The leader of the Labour group on Swansea council, and the council itself, is a scouser named David Phillips. I’m using a photo here that I’ve run across more than once. It shows him, steely-eyed, looking into the distance for foes to crush and challenges to overcome. Mussolini liked to be photographed in a similar pose. (I wonder how Phillips would look in a helmet?)David Phillips

You will remember that I wrote about him a while ago, when it was realised he wasn’t allowed to use the letters after his name that he’d been using to impress people since washing up in Swansea. Around the same time I heard that he’d turned up for the funeral of a former Labour councillor in a long, flapping, white trench coat, looking like an extra from a film noir. (Everyone else was in black.) And it should go without saying that his wife, Sybil Crouch, is also on the council, and a cabinet member.

So it would be pointless hoping for intervention from that quarter. Phillips is just another poseur. Swansea Labour Party is full of them now, all trying desperately to impress each other. They can’t pronounce Cwmrhydyceirw or Waunarlwydd, they know nothing of the history of Swansea, they don’t understand its people, but none of that matters. All that matters is that Labour now controls Swansea again. My city reduced to a ‘scalp’.This is ‘Welsh’ Labour 2013.

Mar 202013
 

The leader of the Labour gang now running Swansea council is David Phillips who, despite the name, is English, and from Liverpool. It seems he came to Wales to take a job with Customs and Excise, in Pembrokeshire, some 40 years ago. Leaving after little more than 20 years service he drifted up to Swansea and became an adviser on VAT and similar issues to small businesses. For personal and council purposes Phillips has always signed himself ‘David Phillips AIIT, MInstD’.

The first set of letters stand for Associate of the Institute of Indirect Taxation. Though some unkind souls – even within his own party – questioned whether he should be using this ‘qualification’. Not least because in August last year the Institute of Indirect Taxation merged with the Chartered Institute of Taxation. (You must have seen it on the News!) It was also suggested that his membership of said body hadDavid Phillips lapsed years before the merger.

The Institute of Directors on the other hand is extant and going strong. A global body catering mainly for those on the boards of large companies . . . odd, because Phillips the tax adviser was never much more than a one-man band. There was also the problem that claiming to belong to this organisation, and perhaps having shared a fat cigar with these oppressors of the proletariat, did not go down well on the barricades with the more right-on members of Swansea Labour Party.

Anyway, things came to a head recently when an FoI was lodged asking for clarification of these letters and whether the Great Leader was entitled to flaunt them. The response was swift and Ealing-esque. Staff at the Civic Centre swung into action deleting AIIT and MInstD from all publications, physical and electronic. So we can safely assume that Phillips was not entitled to use these letters.

Leaving me to ask: What sort of man tries to impress people with letters after his name that he is not entitled to use? (And should such a man be a council leader?) Having been responsible for the expense, will Phillips now recompense the council tax payers of Swansea for council staff having to spend time covering up his little ‘oversight’?

STAYING IN SWANSEA . . .

Intelligence reaches me of regular deliveries of wind turbines through the docks, bound for Brechfa Forest, Mynydd y Betws and other sites. These turbines are coming in from, Spain, China, the USA and Denmark. On foreign-crewed and foreign-owned ships that do a quick turnaround, thereby denying the local bars and massage parlours a chance to lighten the sailors’ wallets.

The turbines then cause massive traffic problems as they are transported on specialist haulage units brought in from outside of Wales, to be erected by construction crews also from outside of Wales. Once up, they will be milking the subsidies making massive profits for their foreign owners. Often on land owned by government agencies (Forestry Commission) or English absentee landlords (Duke of Beaufort). And of course, once erected, they will not provide any employment. So who in Wales – dockers apart – benefits from these rapacious, ugly monsters? I link this with the above story because of course Swansea Labour Party is in love with wind turbines, and recently voted to inflict them on Mynydd y Gwair.

Of perhaps greater concern is a rumour circulating locally that not all the wind turbines arriving in Swansea docks and / or being erected in Wales are new. If so, is any agency empowered to monitor these turbines, check that they are up to scratch? And seeing as the effective working life of a new turbine was recently lowered from 25 to 15 or 16 years, what is the life expectancy of a second-hand machine? How could it be calculated? And who’s going to remove them and engage in genuine environmentalism – by repairing the damage done – when they cease to be of use?

Feb 282013
 

A lot has been written in recent years (some of it by me!) about the flawed reasoning used to justify the Local Development Plans forced on our local authorities by the English Planning Inspectorate; this body allowed to act in the name of the Welsh Government and aided by non-Welsh senior officers in our de-democratised councils.

One regular complaint is that previous, undesirable, levels of English immigration are used to justify more of the same. Or that there has been too much input allowed from those with a vested interest in building more new houses. But whatever the exact complaint, it has tended to centre on interpretation, or presentation, rather than on the raw data used. But there may be problems here as well.

Unable to yet make the emotional break with the City of my Dreams, this afternoon I looked through the ward profiles data used to inform Swansea’s LDP. And I found something that brought back memories . . . memories strong enough to make me realise that someone had dropped a rather large testis.

Those of you older than some of the councillors I have been dealing with lately, and who were – also unlike them – living in Wales at the time, will remember that the 2001 census neglected to provide a Welsh tick box. This led to a campaign, organised by the Independent Wales Party, and supported by many others, to boycott the census. The centrepiece of the protest was a ‘coffin’ that travelled the length of Wales collecting census forms that people had refused to complete. After arriving in Cardiff Bay the coffin containing the forms went missing. (And I honestly don’t know where it went.) As I travelled with the coffin for most of the route I can testify to the anger we encountered.

So I was surprised to read in the ward profiles figures given for “People identifying themselves as Welsh” – with the source for this information being the 2001 census! Which, as you can imagine, gave rather odd ‘statistics’. According to Swansea council, using Office of National Statistics data, in 2001 just 15.29% of Swansea’s population identified as Welsh. The 2011 census, which did allow people to describe themselves as Welsh, found that 70.4% chose one or other form of Welshness. Surely someone at the council should have realised that the 2001 figure is rubbish. So why use it without a health warning?

In fairness, the council does admit, “The Profiles (published in July 2012) are a snapshot based on currently available information. They are published in draft form only, as they will need to be updated when the 2011 Census findings are published and as further information becomes publicly available”. Fair enough, but the 2011 census figures have now been out for a few months, so why haven’t these ward profiles been updated? And wasn’t the Swansea LDP based on these wrong figures?

Which brings me to my real worry. If I can find such obviously incorrect ‘data’ from just a quick glance, how many of the other ‘facts’ used to justify LDPs across Wales can be trusted? Is there any independent assessment or evaluation? What about those LDPs, such as Denbighshire’s, planning thousands of new houses not needed by the local population, were they also compiled on faulty data? Did someone look at the 2001 census and say, ‘Only 12% here are Welsh. Let’s build – everywhere!’

Feb 252013
 

Following on from the previous post I have now written to the Welsh Government asking that the Mynydd y Gwair project be ‘called in’ due to the many irregularities attaching to the February 7th vote and other, linked issues.

For if the Council’s legal officers strongly advised Councillor Ioan Richard (of the affected ward) to absent himself from the debate then there were a number on the other side as obviously predetermined to vote in favour as Councillor Richard was to vote against, so were they given the same advice? And if so, why were they allowed to ignore that advice? All explained in the letter here. A further copy, with a covering letter, has been sent to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

Looking at the wider picture, the Mynydd y Gwair case, and what I’ve learnt about the state of the Swansea Labour Party in the past couple of weeks, it fits in with a wider picture of the Labour Party in Wales. It is a party increasingly reliant upon a regular influx of non-Welsh candidates in order to keep up the appearance of strength. What’s interesting, is how it achieves and maintains that influx.

I began this series of posts with a fit of nostalgia by recalling the Labour Party I knew back in Swansea when I was growing up there in the 1950s and 1960s. Few of our local councillors and activists impressed me in a positive way, but at least I knew them. I knew who they were. Or if I didn’t, then the chances were that my father knew them, or worked with one of the Brother’s brothers. Most Labour councillors of that era started their political careers in the trade unions, blue collar trade unions catering for the working classes.

Despite their many shortcomings no one could argue that our local councillors did not know their patch, and did not want the best for Swansea. Looking back to those days, the Labour Party I knew back then was, through the trade unions and other activities, part and parcel of the lives and experiences of those who supported the party. Not so today.

THE ‘PAINTED SHELL’ PARTY

I have chosen this metaphor because the more I think of today’s Labour Party the more I see an empty but cleverly decorated shell where once there had been something less attractively adorned but with more content. A party today still able to rely on the ‘donkey’ vote, but with the problem that ‘donkey’ voters rarely join the party, let alone become candidates. Thus leaving Labour dependent on other avenues for many of its representatives.

One route for that supply, obvious when we consider Swansea, is higher education. With two universities and a few other colleges the higher education sector is a valuable source of council candidates for Labour in Swansea. This applies elsewhere in Wales and may go some way to explaining why the ‘Welsh’ Government is so keen on giving Wales a higher education sector grotesquely and damagingly in excess of what a small country needs.

Then, when we look at another route, the Third Sector, and strip away all the political correctness and touchy-feely nonsense, what we see is naked politics. An overlarge Third Sector such as we suffer in Wales attracts a steady inflow of individuals to take advantage of sinecures, jobs and funding handed out by the party they belong to or support.

Making the Third Sector a system of political patronage, plain and simple. Nothing more than a party in power with money to disburse rewarding its friends and supporters. This kind of mild corruption is found all over the world, but it’s rare to find it practised so blatantly in Protestant Europe. In return for this largesse the Labour Party has a ready supply of candidates.

Which means that since the first round of EU Objective One funding in 2000 the Welsh economy and the welfare of our people have taken a back seat to the Labour Party’s ‘patronage-results-in-candidates’ system. That’s bad enough, but understandable in a selfish kind of way. What’s unforgivable is that both the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru have supported this corruption . . . and being the unprincipled chancers or deluded ‘socialists’ they are, would do so again, tomorrow, given the opportunity.

Something else that struck me as I trawled through the available information on Swansea’s new intake of Labour councillors was how many of them belonged to trade unions. Or rather, a single trade union, Unite. And how many are members of the Co-operative party. Which provides another stark contrast with the days of my youth.

For I recall horny-handed sons of toil (unless of course they were shop stewards) who belonged to the TGWU or the NUR, and who drank in the Dockers Club. But today’s skinny latte Labour Party, to maintain the pretence of a link with the hoi-polloi, has union representation from a white collar union that has as members people who’ve never done what most people would regard as work! Somehow I can’t see their names being stitched onto the union banner by candlelight prior to the dawn assault on the bastions of capitalist oppression.

This final observation (no, not the candlelight stitching) brings me to the ugly reality of professional politicians; which is where academe, Third Sector and white collar unions inexorably takes us. To the realisation that we now have a class of people – especially within the Labour Party – who got involved in student politics then, on leaving university became an ‘adviser’ to an MP or AM, or worked for a trade union or a grant-guzzling Third Sector body and, then, without venturing into the ‘real world’ inhabited by un-networked mortals like thee and me, go on to ‘represent’ us in our local authority, or else in Cardiff, London or Brussels.

Throw in the loose canon or crank who nevertheless knows how to play the selection process and you can understand how the Labour Party on Swansea City Council is what it is today: a repulsive collection of carpetbaggers, trendies, oddballs and single-issue obsessives exploiting the indigenous ‘donkey’ vote in order to serve constituencies such as the GLBT community.

I leave you all to consider this. Due to the assorted machinations listed above it could be that the Conservative Party is today, for the first time ever, more representative of the Welsh nation than the Labour Party.

 

UPDATE 27.02.2013: More information has come to light that has resulted in me making another complaint to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. To explain.

Just before Christmas all Swansea’s councillors received a copy of a book, The Wind Farm Scam, by Dr. John Etherington. The book was sent by the organisation leading the resistance to the Mynydd y Gwair wind turbines, SOCME (Save Our Common Mountain Environment).

One councillor, young John Charles Bayliss (who has cropped up here quite often of late!) was mightily unimpressed with this Yuletide gift. So unimpressed that he was moved to tweet. My interpretation of this tweet is as follows. The Bayliss, coalreference to “coal” I take to mean that the book should be burned. “#Scientificallyilliterate” is probably his opinion of those who sent the book, or possibly Dr. Etherington. While “#BuggerOff” can only be his response to those who kindly sent him the book. Such ingratitude! (The picture referred to in the tweet is simply the front cover of the book with the SOCME complimentary slip.)

This tweet for me is proof positive that as early as December 11th (and almost certainly long before) Bayliss was predetermined to vote in favour of wind turbines on Mynydd y Gwair. That being so, John Charles Bayliss is another councillor who should not have voted on February 7th.

Feb 212013
 

Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Because what follows gets a bit complicated. That said, I believe there is now enough evidence to question the legitimacy of the decision taken by Swansea council on February 7th to allow RWE to erect wind turbines on Mynydd y Gwair, common land owned by the Duke of Beaufort on the city’s northern outskirts. My previous posts this month on Swansea council are, in chronological order, here and here.

Perhaps the first thing to make clear is that the long-serving local councillor, Ioan Richard, was not allowed to vote on February 7th because he had previously shown his opposition to the project. In other words, he’d been open and honest about his position. The same may not be the case for a number of those who voted to grant planning permission.

My attention has been drawn to the fact that RWE’s Renewables Developer for Mynydd y Gwair, Gwenllian Elias, tweets as @gwenll_elias, and among her 59 followers are Councillor Mitchell Theaker (@mitchelltheaker) and Councillor Pearleen Sangha (@PearleenSangha). She reciprocates Sangha 2by following them. (Another Swansea councillor Ms Elias follows is Nick Bradley (@CllrNickBradley) the council’s number one West Bromwich Albion fan.) On the night of (possibly the day after) the Mynydd y Gwair vote, Pearleen Sangha tweeted her joy at the outcome of the council meeting . . . and her tweet was almost immediately retweeted by Gwenllian Elias of RWE! Great minds, eh!

Now this may be harmless enough, perhaps nothing more than contact limited to Twitter. Alternatively, it could suggest that Elias, Sangha and Theaker were known to each other before the vote was taken. In which case it puts a totally different complexion on the matter. For if they knew each other before the vote then, seeing as both Sangha and Theaker voted for the bird and bat mincers, they were as ‘compromised’ as Councillor Richard in that their minds were also made up long before the discussion of the matter, and the vote, on February 7th. If that was the case then they should not have been allowed to vote.

Now let us turn to Llansamlet’s very own advocate of permanent revolution, Councillor Uta Clay, who has come in for a bit of a hammering of late, partly for stoutly defending the Duke of Beaufort’s financial interests, and partly for making silly remarks during the February 7th debate. This letter is just one of a number I am told have appeared in the Evening Post. As the letter suggests, how could this woman, who has only been in Swansea for five minutes, be so silly and insulting as to slur ordinary Welsh protesters as belonging to the “privileged few”. A category to which an English nobleman apparently does not belong! (Is this making sense?)

You also have to ask why, after the local party had the good sense to deselect her, and suspend her and her husband, some unnamed authority representing ‘London’ stepped in to insist the Clays’ suspensions be lifted and she be reinstated as candidate for the May 2012 council elections. What happened to devolution? What happened to ‘Welsh’ Labour?

Someone else who’s only been in Swansea for five minutes is New Zealander Andrew Hore, ‘Elite Performance Director’ at the Ospreys. (Not to be confused with the Andrew Hore who did the dirty on Bradley Davies last autumn) Hore was allowed to speak at the February 7th meeting in favour of the Mynydd y Gwair money machine. RWE sponsors the Ospreys, and a number of councillors are season ticket holders at the Ospreys; others have received ‘hospitality’. Which looks a bit . . . er . . . iffy? Here is a (PDF) link to an interesting exchange between Edwina Hart, a local AM, and Patrick Arran, Head of Legal, Democratic Services and Procurement at Swansea council, in which Ms Hart questions why Hore was allowed to speak at the council meeting. A good question.

Then, today, a letter appeared in the Wasting Mule from a Swansea councillor – one who actually knows the city, and can pronounce Mynydd y Gwair! What Councillor Tyler-Lloyd is (perhaps unwittingly) alluding to is a system now becoming dominant in Welsh political and public life. It begins with civil servants in London or Cardiff issuing diktats. When this is done in London it’s invariably done on the instructions of  politicians; when it’s done in Cardiff it’s too often done on orders from London and presented to the self-styled Welsh Government as a fait accompli. (Well, what do you expect? If Welsh Labour won’t stand up to ‘London’ on matters of internal party discipline do you really think they’re going to challenge Sir Humphrey in Whitehall?) These diktats then become Gospel for senior officers in local government who use them – and the threat of the expense involved in challenging them – to silence debate and stifle opposition. R.I.P. Welsh local democracy.

As it takes hold we see this process leading to situations such as that which has been played out in a London courtroom this week, as Fuehrer James of Carmarthenshire County Council sues – with public money – a blogger who dared criticise his regime. Or the cabinet of Labour-controlled Caerffili council meeting behind closed doors to give whopping pay rises to senior officers . . . at the insistence of the chief executive – i.e. the major beneficiary!

The wider and more worrying picture though is of a Wales in which we have the chimera of devolution while the reality sees us Welsh becoming increasingly marginalised and silenced across the land. In the rural areas the picture is stark, and villages and small towns are taken over by English colonists, but even in the city of Swansea we see it happening.

For one interpretation of that vote on the 7th of this month would be thart it was a victory for those who view our homeland as a resource to exploit, or else the political equivalent of a sandpit, somewhere to start one’s political career. On the one hand we had an English lord whose family has been robbing us for centuries, a German company here to milk the absurd subsidies paid for so-called ‘renewable energy’, a bunch of ex-student politicians that include a GLTB fanatic, a Californian, a West Brom supporter, another with an interest in cadets, then there’s a New Zealander working for the local rugby team (most of whose supporters still don’t understand what his bloody job is), and assorted other drifters, misfits and parasites who know fuck all about the city I love.

All these were allowed to speak, despite many if not all having already made up their minds on the issue or, worse, having a vested financial or other interest in seeing wind turbines on lovely Mynydd y Gwair. Yet, the councillor in whose ward Mynydd y Gwair is to be found, who had no financial or other interest, who had been open and honest in his opposition, and who represented the views of the overwhelming majority of his constituents – that is, those directly affected by the industrialisation of Mynydd y Gwair – was thrown out of the council chamber.

Where does this leave democracy, local or otherwise? And given that virtually all those on the one side of this debate were foreign, and almost all those on the other side were Welsh, what does it tell us about our country today? And our place in it?

UPDATE 23.02.2013: Interesting comments to the post from Jeff Jones and James Dunkley. Both question whether Councillor Ioan Richard was given the correct legal advice by the council officer(s). (Jeff Jones is the former leader of Bridgend Council who now works as a local government consultant.) They aren’t the only ones asking these questions. If Cllr Richard was wrongly told to leave the chamber then it must call into question either the competence or the impartiality of the person who gave that advice. (Patrick Arran. See the link in the post to his exchange with Edwina Hart AM.)       

Gwenllian Elias, the RWE Npower project officer for Mynydd y Gwair’s CV reads: 2007, left Cardiff University with BSc in Geography and Planning. September 2007 to September 2008 Planner with Newport City Council. September 2008 to August 2009 Planner with City and County of Swansea Council. August 2009 to April 2010 Planning Liason Officer with the Environment Agency. April 2010 to present Renewables Developer with RWE Npower Renewables Ltd. Looks like a planned career course: gain the background knowledge and contacts in the public sector before heading into the private sector and the serious money. And all done in less than three years.

The behaviour of certain councillors at the February 7th meeting, the near certainty of them being predetermined to vote in favour of the Mynydd y Gwair development, plus their established links with RWE’s project officer, has been referred to the Local Government Ombudsman for Wales.