Tai Ceredigion

Apr 252016
 

I sense that changes are taking place in our housing associations. Maybe someone, somewhere, has at last realised that pouring obscene amounts of public money into fifty or so bodies, many of them overstaffed and / or inefficient may not be the best way of meeting the need for rented accommodation.

In England, the process of Registered Social Landlords merging is steaming ahead. So we can expect more mergers here because it’s basically an Englandandwales system, the main differences being of scale and the fact that concessions are made here to faux socialists over sales of social housing and other matters that might drive them to the barricades . . . or to their iPhones to put out an indignant tweet.

HA mergers England

For various reasons set out below, mergers are to be encouraged, but here in Wales they seem to be things of great mystery, perhaps because housing associations are allowed to behave like secret societies. For despite receiving hundreds of millions of pounds of public funding they are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. This cannot be right. I defy anyone to argue that it is right.

Despite being confronted with a culture of omerta a few dogged individuals have persistently asked the awkward questions, but some of the ‘answers’ from officialdom have come direct from the Ministry of Bullshit.

CANTREF

Let us start by reminding ourselves of recent developments at this housing association in Castell Newydd Emlyn, and try to figure out what these changes might mean because, predictably, the findings of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s investigation into Cantref will remain secret. For those who missed it, here’s a link to my previous post, Tai Cantref: Favoured Suitor Named.

Cantref logo

The ‘Favoured Suitor’ is the Wales and West Housing of Cardiff. A curious choice, some may think. Much of its business is in the care home sector, not only in the south but also in towns like Brecon, Llandrindod, Newtown, reaching up to Flintshire and Denbighshire where many of its clients come from over the border.

Between 2008 and 2015 Wales and West received almost £65m in Social Housing Grant alone. (There are a number of other ‘funding streams’ for RSLs or, given the amounts involved, raging torrents.) Why is Wales and West – or any ‘Welsh’ RSL – allowed to use Welsh public funding to ease the care bill of Liverpool and other English authorities?

And I’m still waiting to learn why Wales and West was awarded £25m by the Department for Communities and Local Government in 2014 “to build 251 homes in Wales”. Social Housing is devolved, so why did Wales and West apply for funding to what is in these matters the English government? Come to that, why did the DCLG award the money?

The announcement of Cantref’s proposed connubials with Wales and West was made in this press release, in which we see the name of mystery man Kevin Taylor. He turned up in 2014 after a career spent in the hotel business in Bermuda and now – in his role as ‘Interim Chair’ – he’s deciding the fate of a Welsh housing association. So I’ll ask again: Who the hell is Kevin Taylor? And who forced him on Cantref?

The only real development since my previous post is that another press release was issued late on Friday afternoon, this one by the propaganda bureau at Carmarthenshire County Council.

Having given the matter of Cantref’s fate some thought, I have concluded that while there are almost certainly better options, if it comes to a straight fight between Carmarthenshire County Council and Wales and West Housing, then I shall support Carmarthenshire. And let’s not rule out Tai Ceredigion. Now I’d better explain my reasoning.

  • Most of Tai Cantref’s properties are in Ceredigion, ideal ‘retirement’ country that granny-farmers Wales and West would certainly exploit.
  • Carmarthenshire’s tyrannical chief executive Mark James will not last for ever. His days may already be numbered.
  • Council mergers are on the horizon, so the days of Carmarthenshire itself are also numbered.

Stop Press: You will recall that in my previous post we heard – from ‘Dai the Post’ – about Hilary Jones, chief executive of the Bro Myrddin housing association, who served as interim CEO at Cantref. According to ‘Dai’, she pressed Wales and West to take over Cantref and put her in charge. And of course, ‘Dai’ also told us that Hilary’s hubby served as interim head of finance at Cantref.

Dai the Post

Another name ‘Dai’ mentioned was David Hedges. Those with good memories might recall that this man got a mention last July in this post of updates and tit-bits (scroll down). Hedges runs a ‘consultancy’ called Cyngor Da. I now learn that David Hedges has also served time recently with Cantref, presumably ‘consulting’, or rather, being consulted, or however it works. And that his time at Cantref coincided or overlapped with Hilary Jones’s.

Perhaps more importantly for the purposes of this post, I’m being told that David Hedges has also worked with Campbell Tickell, the English company called in by (London-loyal civil servants acting in the name of) the ‘Welsh’ Government to investigate Cantref.

P.S. When reading the Wales and West website I saw the name Anne Hinchey, Chief Executive, which rang a bell. She is of course married to Councillor Graham Hinchey of Cardiff Council. Yet another example of the troubling link between the Labour Party and the Third Sector.

A link that does so much damage to Welsh public life through nepotism and other forms of corruption. And in this case perhaps explains why Cantref is being gifted to a housing association in Cardiff.

RCT HOMES

In my Easter Miscellany 2016 I touched on comings and goings, and tenant unrest, at RCT Homes. A body that gained brief notoriety in the public prints when it advertised for a chief executive at a salary of £150,000 a year. Here’a report from Inside Housing dealing with the departures.

The most high profile of those departures was CEO, Andrew Lycett, who left in mysterious circumstances in November last year, but soon took up a job with the Jehu Group Ltd, a construction company “operating throughout Wales and the West”. (The ‘West’ of where?) Jehu is just the sort of company that would recruit someone with inside knowledge of how housing associations operate and public money is splashed around. Here’s a video of Lycett bragging about RCT Homes’ labour being “locally sourced” . . . but obviously not for the top jobs.

RCT Homes lost a couple of other senior staff around the same time. One was Lycett’s deputy, Malcolm Wilson, who took ‘early retirement’. Wilson is yet another Englishman who slunk over the border to take advantage of the billions of pounds in public money sloshing about Wales with neither oversight nor monitoring. Wilson is said to have been “demeaning” to Wales and the Welsh language.

The third to jump ship, or be pushed overboard, depending on how generous you feel, was Finance Director Lisa Pinney. ‘Jolly hockey sticks’ is not a phrase I employ but it’s often used to describe a certain type of female; in the case of Pinney, a board member of Hockey Wales (not ‘Welsh Hockey’, note), it seems entirely appropriate. Ms Pinney also found lucrative employment, in her case with Pobl, a recent merger between the Seren Group and Grwp Gwalia.

It really is a jobs merry-go-round, giving free rides to people who would struggle to survive in the world of real business. And we pay to keep this ‘merry-go-round’ turning.

Adrian Barber

The consultant (that word again) called in to see what was going on at RCT Homes – and no doubt paid many hundreds of pounds a day – was an Adrian Barber. It should go without saying that he’s English. What else do we know about him.

From August 2010 until April 2011 Barber was Interim Head of Housing at the London Borough of Bexley. In September 2011 he joined the PSI Consultancy (UK) Ltd. This is an outfit that provides “Interim Management” to councils and housing associations in trouble – at extortionate daily rates of course.

PSI Consultancy

He first came to Wales to join RCT Homes as Interim Housing and Repairs Director in February 2014, and was in that post until May 2015 – at consultant’s rates. In June 2015 he became RCT Homes’ Interim Director of Homes and Neighbourhoods, a post he still fills. That is, when he’s not being Interim Chief Executive as well, a position he’s held since last September. (Does he get paid two consultant’s daily fees?)

I’m told that despite holding two ‘interim’ posts at RCT Homes Barber is never available. Is he off moonlighting, being a ‘consultant’ to somebody else!

It’s easy to understand why we, the people who pay, are being denied the facts about RCT Homes, just as with Cantref. For a start, we’d be told how much has been paid out in consultants’ fees. (Because Barber may not be the only ‘consultant’ at RCT Homes.) We’d know what gross inefficiency or corruption caused the implosion. And we’d also learn how much public money had been lost. Our money.

Something obviously went very badly wrong at RCT Homes last year – and it might have been brewing for some time before that – but just as with Cantref, we are not allowed to know the facts. Nobody is to blame, public money doesn’t matter – so mind your own business!

Though information I’ve received suggests that the sackings – for that is what they were – may have been partly due to the manner in which Lycett, Wilson and Pinney administered grants from the Tower Fund, linked to Tower colliery, and Meadow Prospect, the charitable arm of RCT Homes. If you were ‘in’, then you got a grant, if not, well . . . There is also said to be an unaccounted for deficit of £10,000 in the Tower Fund.

Tower Fund

Something else that might have contributed to the threesome’s downfall was the planned housing on Penrhys, above the Rhondda valleys.

A source has written: “Various deals were made to build more houses on Penrhys with dodgy firms some that didn’t even exist. One such scheme for several millions was fronted by a local builder who said he was raising the money on his mortgage for example”. Is this for real!

After reading this I delved into my archives (they can’t touch you for it!) and lo and behold! what did I turn up from September 2012 but Penrhys: What’s Happening? Regrettably, the comments were lost when those bastards at Google pulled the plug on my earlier blog due to some other bastard complaining about something I’d written – can you believe that!

Anyway, my guess is that there’s a lot more to be unearthed about RCT Homes, so please point me in the right direction, folks.

PEMBROKESHIRE HOUSING AND MILL BAY HOMES

This content had to be removed under threat of legal action from Hugh James of Cardiff acting for Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes.

 

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Seeing as so much Welsh public funding is being used to build social housing in Wales (or at least, being diverted to housing associations) we, the people of Wales, have every right to be assured that the money is being properly spent. Here are some observations and recommendations:

1/ RSLs should do what it says on the tin – provide social housing for those within Welsh communities who need social housing.

     They should not build student accommodation; they should not build properties for sale to ‘investors’; they should not enter into partnerships with the Probation Service and other bodies seeking to ‘relocate’ undesirables to Wales. In short, RSLs should not deviate from their raison d’être.

2/ There must be far better monitoring of RSLs by the ‘Welsh’ Government. More rigorous oversight would allow a ‘doctor’ to be sent in rather than an ‘undertaker’. 

     Though it must be a better system than the current one of importing ‘consultants’ at exorbitant fees, especially when those ‘consultants’ so often remain as ‘interim’ executives.

3/ RSLs should not be allowed to create ‘subsidiaries’ in the hope of using these to avoid legislation applying to RSLs or any other devious purpose.

4/ RSLs must be covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

5/ A RSL must demonstrate need for social housing from within a community before funding is awarded or planning permission granted for new social housing within that community.

6/ No tenancies are to be awarded to anyone who has not lived in Wales for the three years prior to the application or for five years at some earlier time.

7/ The existing system of Registered Social Landlords and the provision of social housing is unsustainable for the following reasons:

a) The vast amounts of public funding they absorb, too much of which is spent on salaries, pensions and administrative costs.

b) The inefficient or non-existent monitoring and oversight by the ‘Welsh’ Government.

c) The fact that RSLs underperform, making little real impact on housing need.

8/ In the medium to longer term RSLs must either a) have their public funding withdrawn and become private companies or b) their housing stock – built with public funding – must be taken back into local authority control or some other form of public ownership.

     Given the colonial relationship between Wales and England privatised social housing companies would inevitably be swallowed up by larger English companies; consequently (and reluctantly), I prefer the public ownership option. Not least because this course is more likely to create jobs within Wales and to keep money circulating within the Welsh economy.

END

Jan 032016
 

Last month, in Social Housing, Time to End This Lunacy, I looked at social housing provider Pembrokeshire Housing and, more specifically, its subsidiary Mill Bay Homes.

Mill Bay Homes justifies its existence by arguing that it builds and sells properties on the open market to raise funds that allow Pembrokeshire Housing to build more social housing. But we only have its word for that because being a ‘subsidiary’ organisation means that no one, certainly not those funding Pembrokeshire Housing – i.e. the ‘Welsh’ Government – will ever make enquiries into the activities of Mill Bay. A worrying phenomenon I have encountered many times before in investigating the Third Sector.

Mill Bay Help to Buy

Mill Bay Homes offers Help to Buy – Wales

Another curious feature of Mill Bay Homes mentioned in my earlier post is that it offers buyers assistance under the Help to Buy – Wales scheme while also encouraging the “Investment buyer“. Helping people buy their own home while simultaneously encouraging those who deny people their own home might be regarded as somewhat contradictory aims. And it raises the obvious question – is it the job of publicly-funded housing associations – even via ‘subsidiaries’ – to be encouraging ‘investors’ in rural areas where locals have such difficulty in finding homes?

One specific Mill Bay Homes development looked at was in Cilgerran, north Pembrokeshire. There, according to the planning application form available on the Pembrokeshire council website, Mill Bay wants to build 30 social rented housing units.

Mill Bay 1

‘BEFORE’ (Thanks to Wynne Jones)

Or at least, that’s what the planning application said when I published my original post on December 14th, but, remarkably – and here I am once again indebted to the indefatigable Wynne Jones – this planning application has since been changed. The original version can be found above, the amended version below. The latter now reads 29 open market houses and just one unit of social housing, a two-bedroom house. There is no indication of when or why the change was made. And it must be worth asking if it’s permissible to make such radical changes to a planning application already submitted?

Mill Bay 2

‘AFTER’ (Thanks to Wynne Jones)

What’s going on here? Was a genuine mistake made with the original application, and is this now being rectified? Or was the change in response to the piece I posted on December 14th? Presumably the change was made by an employee of Pembrokeshire council, but it must have been requested by someone acting for Mill Bay Homes or Pembrokeshire Housing. Again, is this allowed?

Perhaps the most disturbing possibility is that the original planning application, for 30 social housing units, was an attempt to deceive, done in the belief that planning permission would be more likely to be granted for social housing. (See Update below.)

Between April 2008 and November 2015 Pembrokeshire Housing received £27.4m of our money in Social Housing Grant (see table below). Prior to that the SHG seems to have been allocated to local authorities, and between 2000 and 2008 the county of Pembrokeshire received £31.6m. See these figures for yourself (in Excel format) here. You might also find it worthwhile reading Housing Associations – The Great Deception in which I explain that there are other methods of funding social housing.

SHG 2008 - (Nov) 2015

Feel free to use this table but please attribute source

Another curiosity unearthed by Wynne Jones is to be found in the guide to planning applications issued by Pembrokeshire council. Open the document at section 18, which reads: “Social rented – includes rented housing owned by local authorities and registered social landlords for which guideline target rents are determined through the national rent regime, set out in the ‘Guide to Social Rent Reforms’ published in March 2001. Also includes rented housing owned by other persons and provided under equivalent rental arrangements to the above, as agreed with the local authority or funded with grant from the Housing Corporation, as provided for in the Housing Act 2004.

The format of this guide seems to be dictated by the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, and appears to have been updated here and there with references to subsequent legislation applying only to Wales. Which makes it a bit of a dog’s dinner. Surely, after 17 years of devolution we should be using specifically Welsh forms? If only to avoid references such as that in section 18 to the Housing Corporation, an England-only body . . . abolished in 2008.

Mill Bay Investors

From Mill Bay Homes website

Perhaps of more significance for our enquiry is the section I’ve underlined, in which I interpret “other persons” to mean privately-owned properties used as social housing. So does this explain why Mill Bay Homes, a subsidiary of a Registered Social Landlord, is encouraging investors? Is Mill Bay offering the properties they build to investors with the guarantee that Pembrokeshire Housing will supply the tenants?

There are just so many questions to be answered about the operation of Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes, also other housing associations and their unaccountable subsidiaries, because they take such a huge chunk out of a total Welsh budget of only some £15bn per annum.

Another disturbing case unearthed by Wynne Jones is upstream of Cilgerran, at Cenarth. There, Tai Ceredigion put in a planning application for 15 social housing units at Maes Awmor. There was considerable opposition from those already living in an adjacent private estate on grounds of increased traffic and a belief that locals would be low on Tai Ceredigion’s allocation list.

Help to Buy

From ‘Welsh’ Government’s Help to Buy – Wales Buyers’ guide

This latter concern might be explained by looking at the plans and seeing how many of these properties are designed for those with special needs. (Click here and enlarge.) Is there really a demand for so many such properties from within this rural area? Or has Tai Ceredigion done a lucrative deal with an English local authority or some other agency that will pay well to move people to Wales? As I say, such a deal would be lucrative for Tai Ceredigion, but could only put further strain on the Welsh NHS. But maybe I’m being cynical, so let Tai Ceredigion convince us that there is a demand for these properties from within the local population.

Perhaps we should be flattered by how many agencies in England believe in the therapeutic and reforming qualities of Welsh country air. It seems that once relocated to Wales the elderly cease to wrinkle and the obese become obsessive joggers, ‘disaffected’ youngsters join the Boy Scouts and criminals transform into model citizens, drug addicts get their highs from watching Hinterland and former problem families can be seen every Sunday trooping to the Tabernacle of the Happy Clappy Outsourcing Agents for Local Authorities Ltd . . .

Then again, this belief in Welsh country air could be nothing more than cynically dumping your problems on your neighbour. But that would at least be understandable, what is neither understandable nor acceptable, is that there are those within Wales co-operating in this scam – and that they are able to use Welsh public funding to do it! 

Cenarth housing

Maes Awmor, Cenarth. The Tai Ceredigion development is planned for the land in the foreground

The latest news from Cenarth (December 14, 2015) is that six of the properties are now to be sold on the open market. But planning permission was granted for 15 social housing units. And Tai Ceredigion is a Registered Social Landlord, it cannot build houses for sale to the highest bidder. What the hell is going on?

Here are some questions for the ‘Welsh’ Government. These questions are not in any way rhetorical, I really would appreciate some answers. Because what’s been reported here, from Duffryn Teifi, is happening all over the country.

  • We can safely assume that money given to Pembrokeshire Housing to provide social rented accommodation has reached its subsidiary, Mill Bay Homes, so how does the ‘Welsh’ Government feel about public funding being used to build new properties for sale to ‘investors’?
  • Given that Mill Bay Homes on its website advertises the Help to Buy – Wales scheme and also encourages ‘investors’, what guarantees can the ‘Welsh’ Government give us that no ‘investors’ have secured Help to Buy funding? (To answer this will require a thorough, forensic and, most importantly, independent, investigation into the workings of Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes.)
  • With its use of terms such as “lifestyle” and “retirement” it would appear that Mill Bay Homes is targeting buyers from outside of Wales. Is the ‘Welsh’ Government comfortable with funding it has provided to Pembrokeshire Housing being used by Mill Bay Homes to further the colonisation and anglicisation of rural Wales?
  • Turning to the development at Cenarth, many of these properties have wheelchair access and are in other ways adapted for the disabled, adaptations that are expensive to design and construct. So will the ‘Welsh’ Government confirm that these properties are to meet a local demand rather than being the result of a deal or understanding struck between Tai Ceredigion and agencies outside of Wales?
  • If publicly-funded housing associations are allowed to build open market properties, placing them in direct competition with local companies not enjoying public funding, then, quite clearly, they have an unfair advantage over those local companies. Is this another example of the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party’s hostility to private business, and perhaps, more generally, the countryside?
  • Finally, how many tens of millions of pounds does the ‘Welsh’ Government estimate could be saved every year by a) reducing the number of housing associations, b) properly monitoring their spending, and c) implementing a three-year local residency rule to qualify for social housing?

UPDATE 7pm, 04.01.2016: Received the message below in a comment. I am now happy to accept that the original Cilgerran planning application was a simple slip of the pen or the cursor on the part of whoever filled in the form. Though if that is what happened, why didn’t the planning application change from 30 social housing units to 30 private dwellings, rather than to 29 private and one social? Something I did not mention in my original post is that Trevor Hopkins Associates is also involved with the Tai Ceredigion project at Cenarth.

Dear Sir,

I refer to the content posted on your web page/twitter account regarding the Planning Application we submitted on behalf of Mill Bay Homes for 30 dwellings on Land Adjacent Holly Lodge, Cilgerran. The reference to Social Housing on the Planning Form was an error on our part and this has now been corrected to open market dwellings. The modified forms are available to view on the Planning Portal.

I trust you will now update your social media/website accordingly.

Yours faithfully.

Trevor Hopkins Associates.

UPDATE 06.01.2016: Even though planning permission has not yet been granted for the Cilgerran development this sign was erected this morning. Making it look as if Pembrokeshire County Council has already agreed to grant planning permission and has also decided to disregard in advance the objections from local residents that will follow the granting of planning permission. So much for local democracy!

Mill Bay sign

Nov 172015
 

REMEMBERING BUDDY HOLLY

Back in January I posted a piece, Let’s Be Honest About Housing Associations, that began in nostalgic-humorous mood before going on to make more serious points about the provision of rented accommodation. The fundamental point I tried to make was that up until about a century ago rented accommodation was provided by the private sector, employers, charities and other bodies, not by local authorities or any other social housing provider. I asked, in view of changes taking place in the housing market, whether we could now be moving back towards that situation, how it might be done, and what benefits it might offer.

In my January piece I made a number of points about the changing nature of housing provision in Wales and, especially, how the proportion of people living in the private rented sector (PRS) was growing, almost unnoticed and, certainly in Wales, unplanned. I used the table below to show the dwelling stock percentages in the four categories: local authority, registered social landlord (RSL), owner-occupier and PRS.

Houses by tenure

I am now able to follow up that January piece thanks to a regular source who has drawn my attention to a recently published report examining the advantages of giving a greater role to the PRS in the provision of social and rented housing. The report is produced by the Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW) and is entitled The Potential Role of the Private Rented Sector in Wales. I advise you to open the report in another window or browser in order to follow the points I shall pick up on later in this article. But before that, let’s take a fresh look at the RSL sector, using information not previously available to me.

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WAY OUT WEST

For much of this new information I am indebted to another contact who has looked into the workings of the RSL sector in Ceredigion, an investigation that has unearthed a number of disturbing issues, prompting him to submit important questions to the ‘Welsh’ Government. Unsurprisingly, the civil servants acting as the ‘Welsh’ Government refuse to answer his questions, so he has now taken the matter to the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales.

Alas, the PSOW is Nick Bennett, former head of Community Housing Cymru, the umbrella body for housing associations, so I have warned my contact not to expect any help from that quarter. (Bennett’s appointment was a pre-Sophie Howe illustration of how incestuous and corrupt public life is in modern Wales.)

One of the facts unearthed is something called Dowry Gap funding, paid to certain housing associations for them to use in upgrading the housing stock they’ve inherited from councils under voluntary transfer (i.e. through a vote by tenants). This funding is currently being paid to ten housing associations and in 2015 – 16 the total cost will be £43.8m. Tai Ceredigion Cyf’s ‘Dowry’ will be paid at the rate of £1.6m a year for 30 years. If this 30-year term applies to the other, larger housing associations, then the total cost will be £1.3bn.

This Dowry Gap funding seems to complement the Welsh Housing Quality Standard legislation, which demanded that all RSL properties be up to WHQS standard by 2012. This deadline – and its funding of £108m a year – has now been extended to 2020. Introduced in 2004 and running to 2020, £108m a year totals up to £1.7bn.

Adding the two we get a total figure of £3bn for ‘improvements’. Seeing as Wales has 143,790 RSL properties, this works out at almost £21,000 per property! (Is this right? Will somebody please check the figures.) That is a lot of moolah for windows and doors, especially when we accept that many of the dwellings inherited from local authorities were in good condition, certainly not needing ‘refurbishment’ to the tune of 21 grand per property.

Then there seem to be two funding streams for capital projects, i.e. new-build housing, the Social Housing Grant and the Housing Finance Grant. I knew about the first, and I submitted an FoI last year to the ‘Welsh’ Government asking how much had been dished out under the SHG. I used the answers to compile the table below (click to enlarge). It shows that the figure for the six years 2008 – 2013 is £692.5m. (The explanation for the declining amount paid out in SHG can be found below in other, newer funding streams.)

Social Housing Grant 1

But at that stage I knew little about the Housing Finance Grant. Now I know a little more.

Even though I’m a regular and consistent critic of housing associations one feature of their operations that I have always regarded as commendable is that they raise funding from banks and other commercial lenders. Which means they are not entirely reliant on the public purse. Well, that’s what I thought; the reality is very different, as I learnt from my enquiries into the Housing Finance Grant.

The system works thus: Yes, housing associations find commercial lenders prepared to give them large loans – but then the ‘Welsh’ Government – i.e. you and me! – repay those loans over 30 years to the lenders, M&G Investments and Affordable Housing Finance, the latter being funding guaranteed by the UK Department for Communities and Local Government.

(And as the DCLG website puts it, “Borrowers will need to be Registered Providers (or equivalent in the devolved administrations) and classified to the private sector”. Which suggests that housing associations are not public bodies. Or maybe they are, in which case why is a Conservative government putting so much money into public bodies in order for them to build up valuable assets . . . unless they are being fattened up for full privatisation?)

Housing Finance Grant clip

The system of repaying lenders also applies to the ‘Dowry Gap’; housing associations take out loans, paid in lump sums, and the ‘Welsh’ Government repays those loans over 30 years. This explains why Tai Ceredigion has now completed its programme of upgrading its properties but will continue to receive the ‘Dowry Gap’ funding every year. The money is repaying Tai Ceredigion’s loan, which seems to be itemised in the latest financial statement at £23m.

It is even suggested that ‘Dowry Gap’ and WHQS funding is being used – improperly – for capital projects, but financial oversight of housing associations by the ‘Welsh’ Government is so lax that there’s no way of proving or disproving this claim.

All of which means that housing associations, despite the flim-flam about ‘new ways of doing things’ are old-fashioned Statist creations, entirely dependent on the public purse, which explains why they are favourites of the anti-business parties, Labour and Plaid Cymru.

Their only assets, their only other source of income, is of course their housing stock – either inherited from local authorities or built with public funding. So, again, at no cost to them. It’s a ‘new way of doing things’ only in the sense that it’s more opaque than straightforward dollops of public funding.

Seeing as housing associations are entirely dependent on the public purse it’s worth asking, again, why they are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act? Maybe the duplicitous and very expensive way they’re funded provides the answer.

Another point, one that I have raised before – dealt with in my January post, and also here – is the scandalous amount of this public funding that our ‘Welsh’ housing associations spend over the border. In the case of Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd it was the insanity of giving its total maintenance contract to English firm Lovell which, from its Cheshire base, recruited its sub-contractors exclusively from north west England.

I’m sure Tai Ceredigion uses local firms to do its work, but I still question why a firm operating on Cardigan Bay should have external auditors based in Birmingham (Mazars LLP) and internal auditors in Hampshire (TIAA Ltd). Both may have offices in Cardiff, but neither is a Welsh company. There are genuine Welsh companies closer to and even in Ceredigion that could and should be doing this work that is paid for with Welsh public funding.

Tai Ceredigion auditors

‘Welsh’ Government funding should carry the stipulation that as much as possible of that funding remains in Wales. This can only be achieved if the funding reaches genuinely Welsh firms, not outside firms with an office in Wales funnelling profits back to HQ, or those seeking to capitalise on the public funding bonanza with a hastily set up ‘Welsh branch’ that is little more than a post-box and a telephone number.

Of course, it would be easy to argue that none of this really matters because all the funding comes, in one form or another, from London. But only part of the Housing Finance Grant comes directly from London, the rest is raised commercially, and the other funding streams – Social Housing Grant, Welsh Housing Quality Standard and ‘Dowry Gap’ funding – seem to be ‘Welsh’ Government initiatives.

Which is worrying, because it gives us a situation in many parts of Wales, perhaps especially in rural areas, where housing associations are on a treadmill of growth and expansion fuelled by this funding – yet there is often little or no local demand for more social housing.

Housing associations are perhaps the ultimate manifestation of the Third Sector, the shadow world that those buffoons down Cardiff docks want us to believe is an economy, but it’s all smoke and mirrors, all underpinned by public funding. And all unnecessary. As I shall now explain by delving a little more into the Public Policy Institute for Wales report I mentioned earlier.

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‘THE POTENTIAL OF THE PRIVATE RENTED SECTOR IN WALES’

Before diving into the report it might be worth just pausing to see what kind of an organisation the Institute is. It was formed in January last year to “provide the Welsh Government with authoritative independent analysis and advice.” If you look through the names to be found in ‘The Team’, ‘The Board of Governors’, and the ‘Executive Group’, you get the impression that the PPIW is very much a cross-border outfit, containing – on the Board of Governors – people who know Wales such as Gerry Holtham, along with people, such as Will Hutton, who may be very clever and a Newsnight regular but know little about our country. ‘The Team‘, presumably those running the PPIW day-to-day, is disappointingly top-heavy, to the point of capsizing, with apparatchiks and people from the Third Sector.

The Executive Group “is made up of representatives from the organisations that formed part of the consortium that collaborated in the development of the PPIW”. These are ‘our’ universities (including Liverpool but not Glyndŵr!) and Victoria Winkler of ‘Welsh’ Labour’s very own think-tank, the Bevan Foundation.

The report set out to answer three questions, found below.

PPIW report aims

Some Report Findings

The PPIW report confirms that the PRS is growing in every single local authority area, though predictably, Cardiff, with its vast student population and other young singles, outstrips all other areas. In fact, the report tells us that in Cardiff, “owner occupation has actually fallen compared to renting in both absolute and proportional terms”. Table 6 shows that 22.1% of Cardiff’s dwellings are privately rented. The next highest local authority area is Ceredigion with 17.5%, and then in third place comes Denbighshire with 16.5%.

PRS changes

The figures for both Cardiff and Ceredigion are influenced by the student presence while the ‘Rhyl factor’ explains the Denbighshire figure, correlated in Table 1, which tells us that Sir Dinbych lost 870 private households between 2001 and 2011 while the same period saw an increase of 1,468 in the PRS. Other areas saw a decline in the number of private households but nowhere was the fall as dramatic as in Denbighshire.

Staying with Table 6, in percentage and absolute terms Carmarthenshire saw the highest increase in private households due mainly to the saturation housing strategy devised by the Planning Inspectorate and eagerly implemented by those running the council. The same designed-to-attract-English-buyers process can also be observed at work in Powys. (N.B. A ‘household’ can be a person living alone or a family of 10.)

Table 9 tells us that rents in the PRS are always higher than the RSL sector though this varies from area to area. In Blaenau Gwent the average social rent is £61.68 per week, or 89% of the PRS, whereas in Wrecsam, Swansea and Cardiff the percentage drops to 67%, though the average PRS rent in Wrecsam is lower than the two southern cities.

Poor PRS

Of course there is a downside to this unplanned and largely unchecked growth in the PRS, especially in decaying coastal towns like Rhyl, and areas of our cities taken over by students. That downside is the breakdown of community life and an increase in various forms of criminality and anti-social behaviour.

It could even be argued that there is a case to be made for paying compensation to long-term residents of such neighbourhoods. Compensation to be paid by the ‘Welsh’ Government or the local authority, whoever was responsible for not guarding against such decline or refusing to implement the legislation that could have prevented it.

A Better Way

Happily, the report also makes clear that there are alternatives to endlessly pumping public money into secretive, unaccountable and amateurishly run housing associations, or otherwise allowing the growth of ghettoes of cross-border criminals and misfits housed by slum landlords. To avoid these outcomes the report draws our attention to institutional investment such as pension funds to provide rented and other property, coupled with more imaginative and varied housing options.

In the Appendix the report’s authors look at three examples in the south where the ‘Welsh’ Government is in partnership with the Principality Building Society in a venture called Tai Tirion (or Tirion Group Ltd, Co. No. 08891823) to build over a thousand new homes on brownfield sites in Cardiff, Newport and the Rhondda. Though that said, there is not a lot of progress being made. Not really surprising, seeing as the ‘Welsh’ Government is involved . . .

I say that not out of malice, it’s just the way things are. Institutional investors such as pension funds are viewed with suspicion by Statist ‘Welsh’ Labour. As the report puts it – refer to ‘three questions’ panel above – “the Minister confirmed that the emphasis of the project should be concentrated mainly on (i) and (ii)”.

PRS minister response

To remind you . . . Question iii reads, ‘If the PRS is to be a long term tenure of choice, whether it is likely to be possible to interest institutional money and professional management in the market (i.e. what are the barriers to large scale investment?).’

On reading that you can almost imagine a ‘Welsh’ Labour politician or apparatchik having an involuntary evacuation of the bowels . . . “‘institutional money’! . . . ‘professional management’! . . . people who might understand business! . . . what about our friends in the Third Sector, how are they to sustain their muesli-weaving, skinny latte lifestyles? . . . oh, no, we can’t have that!

So the ‘Welsh’ Government prefers to let the private rental sector grow in a reckless and uncontrolled manner through the activities of Buy to Let ‘investors’ and people who buy dilapidated hotels in Colwyn Bay to house Scouse junkies.

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CONCLUSION

It is surely obvious that if housing associations are the answer, then the question must have been, ‘What is the most expensive (to the public purse) and least efficient way of delivering rented social housing?’ In the hope of disguising this monumental error we are now encumbered with secretive, unaccountable money pits.

Which would be bad enough if they were at least spending the money on housing Welsh people, but due to the Englandandwales allocation system into which our housing associations are locked a Welsh family is all too likely to discover that the Family from Hell has been given the house next door . . . ‘Hell’ in this case will be Birmingham, or Stoke-on-Trent, or Sheffield, or . . .

Consequently, there is no justification for pouring any more money into housing associations. Especially given that the Conservative government in London is almost certainly planning to do away with them. Or does the ‘Welsh’ Government think this is a devolved matter? Maybe it is, but that won’t count for anything if Westminster forces change through by cutting the block grant. And further undermines the sector with selected benefit cuts.

So my advice to the ‘Welsh’ Government is this: realise that housing associations are an expensive failure. Then, get ahead of the curve by taking control of the social rented sector nationally and looking for the kind of investors mentioned in the Public Policy Institute for Wales report, pension funds and others looking for the kinds of large-scale investments that individual housing associations and single sites cannot provide.

To take advantage of this private funding, and to save the public purse a hell of a lot of money, you, the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’, need to put aside your congenital hostility to business and real money and, for a change, prioritise the best interests of the Welsh people. It’s what you were elected to do – remember?

END

Sep 292015
 

BOORS: ENGLAND 25 – 28 WALES

Well done, boys. That was a truly epic game last Saturday night.

Though I must admit that I’ve been losing interest in rugby for a few years now. Maybe it’s because skills seem to have been sacrificed for bulk, ‘upper body strength’, ‘big hits’ and a litany of other cliches that don’t sound any better even if they’re spoken by Jiffy or Eddie Butler.

Or perhaps it’s the scrum, which nobody understands, and I mean nobody. Certainly not the referees, who seem to come to decisions using the tried and tested ‘Eeny, meeny, miny, moe’ system. Then there’s the rolling or driving maul, sixteen suspiciously muscular men grunting, grappling and pushing each other. Anyone finding that attractive might be in need of help.

Then there’s the way the game is organised in Wales, or rather, who organises it. Here of course I’m talking about the Welsh Rugby Union, one of the most blatantly Anglophile and Unionist bodies we’ve got (and that’s saying something!). Obvious from the feather duster badge with it’s ‘Ich Dien’ motto to the patrons, and from the refusal to use the Welsh language to the Prinz Wilhelm Cup. The last being a meaningless trophy for which Wales competes against a team that is still mainly Afrikaner, in other words, the descendants of those Boer republicans who took up arms more than once rather than be ruled by England and her royals. An insult to two nations.

And what of those who attend rugby internationals? We’ve all read of corporate ‘hospitality’ taking over, with the best seats taken up by men who couldn’t tell a flanker from a banker, and women who are there to be seen seen rather than to watch any irritating distractions on the field. Apart from these, we all know people who go to rugby internationals who wouldn’t cross the road to watch their local side. Just look at attendance figures for regional and club rugby (with Ponty’ and a few other commendable exceptions). How different to football.England fans

It may be even worse in England. The braying of Swing Low Sweet Chariot by thousands of inebriated middle-class Englishmen is one of the weirdest phenomena in sport. Or indeed in any context. I won’t try to analyse it. And what of the dressing up, as medieval knights (often slaying dragons), or 19th century colonial administrators, replete with pith helmets! Do they realise what prats they look, and what message they’re sending out about themselves, and their attitudes to others?

Perhaps they don’t care, for within the dark heart of an England rugby crowd you will find the most dangerous elements of the species; arrogant, intolerant and utterly convinced of their own superiority. Worse by far than the racists one finds at the fringes of England football crowds, because the Barbour-clad yob being carried home by his sweet chariot will too often have the power to indulge his prejudices in ways more far-reaching and pernicious than the outbursts of violence to which his working class compatriot is limited.

But I don’t want to come across as curmudgeonly at this time of officially-sanctioned national euphoria. So let me wish the boys the best of luck on Thursday against Fiji. Though if we should be knocked out, and if England should go through to the quarter-finals in our stead, don’t forget to switch your support to England. Believe me, it’s what the Welsh Rugby Union, and our political class, expects of you.

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CROOKS: SOCIAL HOUSING

Over the past sixty years rural and coastal areas of Wales have seen many tens of thousands of new homes built that were never intended for local buyers. This may once have been more obvious in areas such as the north coast, but it is now national. Even out-of-the-way villages in Powys such as Abbey Cwm Hir are no safer from ‘developers’ (what a curious use of the word!) than Abergele or Aberystwyth. To the point where, contrary to the nonsense we are fed about a ‘rural housing shortage’, rural Wales actually has a housing surplus when the housing stock is judged against any future indigenous demand.

Moreover, the situation we find in rural parts of Flintshire and Wrecsam (currently being re-branded and marketed as ‘West Cheshire’), Denbighshire, Conwy, Gwynedd, Ynys Môn, Ceredigion, Powys, Monmouthshire (sic), Pembrokeshire and large parts of Carmarthenshire, is that locals are often priced out of a housing market distorted by external forces. Which is then cleverly used by planners and aforementioned ‘developers’, estate agents and others, as an argument to build yet more new housing . . . from which most locals are again excluded. Which presents us with the dystopian choice in which house prices can only be brought into line with local purchasing power by a) either collapsing the market through building enough houses to satisfy all demand from over the border, or b) introducing legislation to reserve a percentage of the housing stock for local buyers.

But the housing problems of rural Wales are not confined to the private sector. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have written on the subject of housing associations many times before, and for a number of reasons.

1/ It annoys me to see public money being given to what are effectively private companies for them to spend on housing for which there is often no local need, and where local need does exist the mechanisms at play in the Englandandwales social housing sector ensure that many properties in Wales – paid for out of the Welsh public purse – are allocated to applicants from England having no connection with the places to which they’ve been deported.

2/ Despite being given inordinate amounts of public funding there is no obligation on housing associations to detail how the money has been spent.

3/ Nor is it possible to find other information, because housing associations are exempt from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

4/ At a time when the ‘Welsh’ Government argues for fewer and more efficient local authorities it funds dozens and dozens of housing associations. Giving us the absurd situation where an area might have ten housing associations, in competition with each other, doing the job that would once have been done – and far cheaper – by the local authority housing department.

In the hope of explaining the problem of out-of-control and unaccountable housing associations let me use a couple of examples supplied by Wynne Jones of Cardigan. I’ve never met Wynne Jones I. Eng. A.C.I.W.E.M., but he got in touch a few months back and let me see letters that have passed between him and various representatives of the ‘Welsh’ Government, local councils, and housing associations on a number of issues.

One is a development in Cardigan that has already swallowed up a great deal of funding but now seems to have hit the rocks. This is / was a project to convert a building on the High Street into 16 flats, and for which the Tai Cantref housing association has already received £782,543 in Social Housing Grant from the ‘Welsh’ Government. I’ll repeat that for the hard of reading – £782,543! As you can see, the photograph was taken on May 1st (by Wynne Jones), but little has changed since then, as the main contractor has gone into receivership. (The photo is taken from a car park behind Cardigan High Street. Click to enlarge.)

Are there local tenants lined up for these flats? If so, then they’ve got a long wait. If not, then – as is so often the case – this becomes a speculative development using Welsh public funding to house people who, as yet, have no idea they’re going to be moved to Wales.

Another example of the freedom enjoyed by housing associations is shown in the case of Tai Ceredigion at the former Meugan Centre in the town. (See picture below by Wynne Jones.) Seeing as the land in question is – it is believed – owned by the county council Mr Jones first wrote to the council on April 11th asking if planning permission had been granted a) for the demolition of the Centre and b) to allow the site to be used as a builder’s yard. He wrote again on May 6th . . . and May 26th . . . June 25th . . . July 14th (twice) . . . August 17th . . . then, finally, on August 18th he received a reply which told him that the ‘developers’ (that word again!) had now been told to apply for retrospective planning permission to use the Meugan site as a depot, but on the other matter that, “A determination decision was made on the demolition of the Centre in 2014 – planning reference A140036 – deciding that prior approval was not required for the proposed works”. (My underline.)

When Mr Jones pointed out that the planning reference A140036 was not available online, he was told that he could view a hard copy at the council’s offices in Aberaeron. He went through the advised procedure and made an appointment for 9am on August 15th . . . which was not confirmed.  After another exchange of correspondence in which he again asked to view the document, and also requested the council’s reasons for withholding it, he was told, “The request is considered to be exempt under S21 of the Freedom of Information Act since what you have asked for is reasonably accessible by other means. The information you require is available for viewing at Neuadd Cyngor Ceredigion, Penmorfa, Aberaeron.” This Kafkaesque response ignores the fact that Wynne Jones wants to see the document, and is prepared to turn up in Aberaeron at 9am, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but the council is refusing to co-operate.

I suspect that this document may not exist, perhaps it has not yet been written. But whether planning reference A140036 exists or not, it’s quite clear that Cyngor Ceredigion is reluctant to let Wynne Jones see it for himself. What’s also clear is that Cyngor Ceredigion allows housing associations degrees of latitude that private citizens or other companies can only dream of.

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COWARDS: THE ‘WELSH’ MEDIA

One problem with ‘Welsh’ housing associations and the Englandandwales allocation system into which they’re currently locked is that Welsh communities get lumbered with some very unsavoury  people, partly because housing associations (and indeed private landlords) can make more money from housing those euphemistically described as ‘vulnerable’ (i.e. criminals) and those with ‘issues’ (ditto) than from housing law-abiding locals.

This allocation system – plus the workings of the Englandandwales criminal justice system – often explains why Welsh communities end up hosting criminals and dysfunctionals such as these.

A more recent case was this one. ‘Notorious convicted paedophile flees North Wales after he was outed online’ screams the Daily Post headline. Good. But the real story here, the one the DP should have looked into, was who relocated him to Nantlle? And who is responsible for dumping known and dangerous English criminals in Rhyl, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Kidwelly and countless other Welsh towns and villages? But to answer that question would expose another form of abuse, one in which Wales is taken advantage of by our mighty neighbour . . . so our ‘Welsh’ media backs off.

Yes, our wonderful ‘Welsh’ media; never asking the difficult questions but always ready to put the boot into Wales and things Welsh if the assault can be presented as a principled condemnation of ‘extremism’, ‘racism’, ‘narrow nationalism’ and anything else that doesn’t conform to the view that ‘Welshness’ is just a quaint and touristy regional oddity, little different to Englishness (except in a harmless and manageable sporting context) and always subservient to Britishness.

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SPOOKS: CAMBRIAN NEWS

As the Welsh weekly newspaper with the largest circulation, covering an area running from north Pembrokeshire all around Cardigan Bay to Pen Llŷn, and containing constituencies and local authorities where the Welsh voice is strong, it was inevitable that the Cambrian News would be a vital cog in this permanent propaganda offensive.

The role played by the Cambrian News was first brought home to me some twenty years ago when the ‘paper carried what purported to be a letter from a survivor of the Holocaust, now living in the USA, who had visited the National Eisteddfod and been appalled because the youngsters he saw on the stage there reminded him of the Hitler Youth. The letter was typical black propaganda, designed to traduce things Welsh and thereby put Welsh people on the defensive, make them question or be less ready to defend the things they hold dear.

I recognised this letter for what it was, and in the hope of exposing the fraud I wrote to the address given for the letter writer, making sure that my own address was there on the envelope as ‘sender’. The address given for the writer was in “Upper State New York”, no zip code and, as most of you will know, Americans use the term ‘Upstate New York. My letter was returned by the US Postal Service, along with two other letters from Wales sent to the same, non-existent address.

When you know what you’re looking at, or what you’re looking for, then you can go through a rag like the Cambrian News and pick out examples of this strategy quite easily, especially when our masters wish to make a specific point. Such a case came towards the end of 2013 when Cyngor Gwynedd debated raising the council tax on holiday homes. The mere suggestion prompted a letter to the CN arguing that raising council tax on holiday homes would be ‘racist’ (that favourite allegation!), before suggesting that such a measure might lead to a resumption of arson attacks!

The debate rumbled on, I got involved, ridiculing the suggestion that anyone would be incited to burn holiday homes if those properties paid more council tax, which in turn encouraged someone to suggest that I had made the suggestion of arson attacks but, cleverly, without actually saying I’d said it.

In the post I’ve linked to there are two letters worthy of note. The first is from a ‘Pat Beaumont of Shropshire’, and the second from a ‘Stephen Smith of Sunbeach Holiday Park, Llwyngwril’. Both are gems. They are full of non-sequiturs, scaremongering, misrepresentation, and getting people to believe that raising council tax on holiday homes is little different to burning them down. I believe Cambrian News Nazisboth letters are as genuine as the one from the Holocaust survivor in ‘Upper State New York’.

This bizarre defence of holiday homes is quite easy to explain, and has nothing to do with economics. From ‘a certain perspective’ holiday homes are viewed as a weapon in the armoury being used to ‘integrate’ Wales with England. In other words, they help anglicise Wales and thereby remove the threat of nationalism. Consequently holiday homes must be defended. Simple as that.

A more recent example of how the Cambrian News is used by others as a conduit and an outlet for anti-Welsh propaganda was the attack on the Plaid Cymru candidate in Ceredigion prior to this year’s General Election. I dealt with it here. To understand this extraordinarily vicious attack you must appreciate the wider political context.

Ceredigion was held by a Liberal Democrat MP, yet after five years in coalition with the Tories the Lib Dem vote was collapsing. Also, after five years in government, the Tories themselves were expected to lose votes and seats. In Scotland, the only question was whether the SNP would have a clean sweep of MPs. Everyone expected a hung parliament, with Labour running the UK in coalition with the SNP, Plaid Cymru, SDLP and Greens. In fact, it was the English tabloids frightening their readers with the prospect of Alex Salmond in charge (despite him no longer being leader of the SNP) that won the election for the Conservatives. In that context, anything that the darker forces of the British State could use to damage the prospect of Labour-SNP-Plaid Cymru rule was worth a try. The Cambrian News played ball, as always.

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IDIOTS

Though sometimes the Cambrian News’ desperation to push its anti Welsh – and in our local edition, anti-Plaid Cymru and anti-Gwynedd – message is sometimes almost funny. Take this story from last week’s Meirionnydd edition. (No, of course I didn’t buy it.) Some Englishman named Paul Taylor living in Bryncrug, about two miles out of Tywyn, received what everyone has received recently, the electoral registration form, but claims he got confused because the form was ‘labelled’ in Welsh. (‘Labelled’? Does he mean ‘addressed’?)

Cambrian News voting

So here we have someone who receives what is obviously a communication from the council, one being delivered to every home in the county; if it had been written in Chinese its nature and purpose would have been obvious – yet he cannot see it for what it is, and when he consults his friend – who is “pretty proficient in Welsh” – these great brains conclude that the mysterious communication is addressed to a woman called Annwyl ddeiliad! (I know her intimately.) Eventually he is told what it means. Now seeing the dastardly plot for what it is – an attempt to deny a free-born Englishman his rights, the outraged Paul Taylor contacts the Cambrian News.

I have no way of knowing whether this man is just stupid, or whether he’s a fully-fledged bigot. But any responsible newspaper would at this point have spared him embarrassment by declining the ‘story’; and any reporter worthy of the name would have laughed out loud on hearing it. But this is the Cambrian News, the spooks’ mouthpiece, and so it does what it does and publishes this unadulterated bollocks, conveying the predictable messages that, ‘ . . . shouldn’t use Welsh on official communications . . . anti-democratic . . . discriminatory . . . anti-English . . . whatever next? . . . God Save the Queen!’

Here’s some advice for Paul Taylor, who clearly gets confused by anything that’s not ‘labelled’ in English. Next time you buy a bottle of Scotch don’t hand over your cash ’til you get a translation of Glenfiddich! And avoid French restaurants . . . Italian restaurants too. And if you win the Lottery, don’t start celebrating until them Champagne labels are translated. (Bloody Frogs!) Then, when you’ve sobered up, and are looking around for a motor, don’t write the cheque until them Eyties translate the Ferrari label into English. Same with flying to they there foreign places with funny names – Rio de Janeiro? come off it!

And this place where you’re living, called Bryncrug, it’s obviously part of this massive anti-English conspiracy of which you are so clearly a victim, so demand that it be ‘re-labelled’. In fact, get in touch with the Cambrian News, they’ll probably start a campaign on your behalf.

UPDATE 01.10.2015: There was a very good letter in today’s issue of the Cambrian News responding to the bigotry and intolerance displayed last week. Had I written this letter I would also have criticised the Cambrian News‘ editorial judgement in treating such ugly views as a worthwhile news item. But as I point out in the post, this is how the Cambrian News has operated for many years.

Jun 152015
 

After interruptions and various distractions I’m finally pressing on with my Magnum Opus ‘The Colonisation of Wales’. One distraction has been the disturbing news received from a number of quarters about the Llandysul, Drefach and Dre-Fach Felindre area of Dyffryn Teifi. It seems that this area, straddling the boundary between Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion, is a hotspot for the importation of non-working and elderly populations, by both private landlords and Registered Social Landlords (RSLs).

Llandysul non-working

CLICK TO ENLARGE

I’m hearing of ex-council properties being turned into flats, and these then being rented to drug addicts and others brought in from over the border. I’m hearing of people who bought their council house being pestered by ‘investors’ and housing associations to sell to them. I’m hearing of an estate in Llandysul owned by Tai Ceredigion where most of the tenants, originally from Birmingham and Liverpool, are almost all of the non-working and / or long-term ‘sick’ variety. Yet Tai Ceredigion plans to extend this estate by adding 50 more houses!

Which means that Tai Ceredigion expects the rest of us to pay – through the Social Housing Grant and other ‘Welsh’ Government funding – for new properties for which there is clearly no local demand. And once they’ve arrived, then we shall be expected to pay housing benefit for those Tai Ceredigion will import to fill the 50 new properties.

Other reports talk of an influx of Londoners and Brummies into Dre-Fach Felindre. While nearby, at Waungilwen, there are bungalows for elderly and disabled people, a disproportionate number of which are now occupied by other recent arrivals from England, some of whom don’t seem too sure where they are! When canvassed for the general election one response was, “Is it Labour or Conservative round here?” So who is bringing into Wales people that can only be a burden on the NHS and other services? And do the housing associations (and private landlords) responsible pass on to the NHS and other providers part of the extra funding they get for taking in people with ‘problems’?

Another angle I’d like to explore is the possible relationship between private landlords and RSLs. Because it has been suggested to me that a relationship exists, with private landlords taking in dubious and undesirable tenants with the guarantee that such tenants will soon be re-housed by a local housing association. This system leads to certain privately-owned properties operating a revolving-door system of tenants changing every few weeks. (One advantage here being that, with such people already having an address in the area, an RSL can claim it’s housing ‘locals’.) So any info on links between private landlords and RSLs would be welcome.

Another aspect to the wider racket much-needed work being done is the re-housing of the ‘homeless’. I hear of a large terraced house in Aberteifi (Cardigan) owned by Cantref. A steady flow of ‘homeless’ individuals and families pass through this property before, presumably, being housed elsewhere by Cantref. What these people have in common is that none of them is Welsh. Nor were any of them ever homeless in Wales. So why is a Welsh housing association using our money, yours and mine, to house people who became homeless in England?

Llandysul Social Rented Housing with towns -1

CLICK TO ENLARGE

The RSLs involved in Dyffryn Teifi are, in addition to Tai Ceredigion, Cantref (formerly Tai Cantref) and, possibly, our old friends Gwalia, responsible for inflicting the Kidwelly Paedophile Gang on Wales. Given that I already have such good information on Dyffryn Teifi I plan to use it as an example of the wider problem to be found across rural and coastal Wales. A problem that makes it clear there is no shortage of social housing, in fact, in most areas there is an oversupply – so why is the ‘Welsh’ Government funding housing associations and others to build yet more properties for which there is clearly no local demand?

The only answer is that the ‘Welsh’ Government is deliberately funding, from the stretched budget of a poor country, the colonisation of that country. There can be no other explanation for what would otherwise be economic illiteracy. With one result being that Dyffryn Teifi, an area that until very recently was overwhelmingly Welsh in language and sentiment, is being rapidly anglicised.

So I appeal to everyone reading this for more information on the rented and social housing sector in Dyffryn Teifi. I want to know which housing associations are involved and which properties they own. I would also like specific addresses for the privately rented properties – particularly former council houses now converted into flats – in the hope that I can find out who owns them. I would also be interested in hearing from locals who might have experienced difficulty in securing social housing.

Finally, I appeal to those working for housing associations, in Dyffryn Teifi and elsewhere in our rural and coastal areas. You know how your employer operates, you should therefore realise that this lunacy cannot continue. Sooner or later the ‘Welsh’ Government will have to pull the funding plug on a system that sees housing associations wasting tens of millions of pounds every year bringing into Wales the kind of people that would have doors slammed in their faces if they tried to move anywhere else.

They’ve had a good run but time is running out for housing associations. So think ahead, and think of yourself; a few years from now having ‘————- Housing Association’ on your CV may not do you any favours. Write in confidence to editor@jacothenorth.net.