The Wallich

Aug 312017
 

REFRESHER

In my previous post I wrote of Cymdeithas Gofal / Ceredigion Care Society, and its sister-outfit to the south, the Pembrokeshire Care Society, but I focused more on The Wallich. All three are involved in the homelessness business and are funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government and local authorities.

Due to something niggling away inside the old Jac cranium, which prompted me to make more enquiries, I am returning to Cymdeithas Gofal.

CYMDEITHAS GOFAL WHO’S WHO

The homelessness that keeps Cymdeithas Gofal in business tends to be a consequence of behavioural and other issues like drug addiction and alcohol abuse, psychiatric problems, recently leaving prison, etc.

And yet, when I looked at the directors of the company Cymdeithas Gofal and the trustees of the charity (the same as the company’s directors apart from one), I was struck by the fact that despite catering for people with problems requiring treatment, counselling and other help, I could see no one among the director-trustees with a medical – let alone a psychiatric – background, or any experience in probation or social work. In short, none of them seemed qualified to be dealing with the people they claimed to be ‘helping’.

So who are these director-trustees, and what expertise do they bring to Cymdeithas Gofal?

The first name we encounter is Guy Hamilton Evans, of whom more later.

Which means we’ll start with the second name on the Companies House list of directors, Brian Craig Forbes. He is the managing director of Crystal Catering Equipment Ltd, an Aberystwyth company supplying various establishments with glassware.

The next name is Robert John Gray, listed as an accountant and a director at Francis Gray Ltd of Aberystwyth. (Formerly Francis, Jones & Davies.) Gray is also a director of Constitution Hill Ltd, the company running the cliff railway. We also see him associated with CGC Trading Ltd, of which more anon.

Next up is Anthony Philip Hearn. His other interest seems to be Circle Square Star Ltd, based in Cardiff. Though I doubt if this is his day job.

The only woman serving as a director is Susan Jane Jones-Davies. A Plaid Cymru town councillor, former mayor, and Judith Iscariot in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. She is also involved with Menter Aberystwyth.

Now we come to Tony Kitchen, also listed as an accountant, but with no other directorships.

Within a year of moving to Wales he’s a trustee of Cymdeithas Gofal. Amazing!

Next is Mark Anthony Strong, a librarian at the National Library and the Plaid Cymru county councillor for Aberystwyth North. (Though this bio insists on calling it ‘The Party of Wales’.) Strong too is a director of CGC Trading Ltd and Menter Aberystwyth. More surprisingly, he is also a director of the cliff railway company, Constitution Hill Ltd.

One who joined the board on May 10 this year, at the same time as Judith Iscariot, was Charles Alexander Symons, who is a director of Thin Place Productions, along with a Jamie Walker. (They were also involved in a now-dissolved company called Insukit Ltd.) Thin Place Productions is in the movie business, but little seems to be moving at the moment as the company is dormant. The address given for TPP is c/o Francis Gray, where of course we encountered Robert John Gray above. Again, day job unknown.

Is it me, or is this beginning to sound rather incestuous?

Bringing up the rear, understandably, we have the other new arrival in the form of Richard Graham Wells. Now I’m all in favour of experience, but still rather surprised that Cymdeithas Gofal should recruit a 77-year-old as a new director. He seems to be retired and all I could find about him is that he’s recently had a run-in with the county council.

So while the business community of Aberystwyth seems well represented – especially accountants – there is no one among the directors who seems in any way qualified to deal with the people Cymdeithas Gofal traffics, people with alcohol and substance abuse issues, criminal behaviour, psychiatric disorders and other complex needs.

THE MAN OF THE WOODS

Now let’s turn to the man who seems to be running the show, Guy Hamilton Evans, the chief executive and the only one of the directors who does not also serve as a trustee. What does Evans bring to the party?

In a word – wood. For when left to his own devices he’s a director of Tir Coed, which might ring a bell, for I wrote about them a year ago in Grant-grabbers, How They Are Related. I urge you to read that article to understand what sort of people we are dealing with. Tir Coed is also a charity.

Tir Coed has a linked social enterprise outfit called Wisewoods Wales. The three other directors – John Wildig, Basil Keith Blacker and Robert Shaw – are also directors of Tir Coed. All belong to that milieu of grant-grabbing Greens that infest our rural areas and wonders how we managed without them telling us how to look after our country.

Then there’s Kick The Bar Brewery (formerly Guy Hamilton Ltd) where Evans’ partner is Robert Lewis Bates. A dormant company.

The other company of which Evans is a director is CGC Trading Ltd, mentioned above. If we look at the capture from Evans’ Linkedin profile we see highlighted “I have orchestrated the growth of the charity including establishing a trading subsidiary”. This of course is CGC Trading. (Cymdeithas Gofal Ceredigion?)

Though as the latest group accounts (foot of page 3) tell us, “The subsidiary reported a trading loss for the year of £24,879 (2015: £12,784).” Evans’ ‘orchestration’ seems to have hit a bum note.

But the question many of you must be asking is, ‘How and why did this man of the woods get involved with Cymdeithas Gofal, which I described in my previous post as a human trafficking organisation?’ The answer lies in the post from last year I referred you to earlier.

BIRMINGHAM TAKES BUT ELAN GIVES . . . TO CYMDEITHAS GOFAL

What I was writing about then was a scheme called ‘Elan Gives Back’, run by Natural Resources Wales and Dŵr Cymru, to “reconnect the people of Birmingham with their water source”, because of course the dam was built by the old Birmingham Corporation.

The whole premiss was insane, seeing as the land for the reservoirs had been stolen by Birmingham. It should have been Birmingham ‘giving back’ not us. But then, this is the upside down world of colonialism.

The outfit doing the ‘reconnecting’ was Tir Coed, which sent emissaries to Birmingham to meet various bodies and to find individuals worthy of enjoying “weekend retreats and bespoke activities in the Elan Valley”. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you what sort of people Tir Coed was looking for.

It’s spelled out on Tir Coed’s Charity Commission webpage.

So through the ‘Elan Gives Back’ scheme, and regular visits to Birmingham, Tir Coed – in the dapper form of Guy Hamilton Evans – built up links that could provide a regular supply of clients for Cymdeithas Gofal. Didn’t that work out well, boys and girls?

In fact, seeing as Evans became a director of Cymdeithas Gofal back in May 2011, he was using Tir Coed and the ‘Elan Gives Back’ scheme last year to recruit criminals, drug addicts and young tearaways for Cymdeithas Gofal. I wonder how Natural Resources Wales and Dŵr Cymru feel about their project being used in that way, and what about the bodies that funded the project?

TIR COED AS SNAKE OIL

This may be a good point at which to visit the Tir Coed website.

Perhaps the first thing of note is that under Our Partners we see Cymdeithas Gofal listed. Which is odd when you think about it, and look at the other Partners.

Unintentionally revealing is the Tir Coed Theory of Change which manages the near-impossible in being both laughable and insulting. Listed among the ‘Issues’ (ishoos) leading to the ‘Consequences’ of ‘Low self-esteem’ and ‘Anger and violence’, which in turn feed into the ‘Possible Outcomes’ of ‘Criminal activity’ and ‘Substance misuse’, we find ‘Rural location’.

‘Tir Coed cures all known ills’ (click to enlarge)

As I say, this is very revealing, because people born and bred in the countryside and small rural towns are less likely to follow those courses than people born in towns and cities. However, people from large towns and cities who have been trafficked into rural areas will certainly be more likely to suffer these problems – but they will have brought the problems with them! Talk about self-justifying bollocks.

It can only be a matter of time before erectile dysfunction is added to the Tir Coed Theory of Change and sales of Viagra and Cialis plummet.

BRITISH, BRITISHER, BRITISHEST

Fundamentally, you have to ask how an organisation like Cymdeithas Gofal can carry on a business that is so obviously damaging to Wales. Perhaps the answers can be found by looking again at Evans’ co-directors. The panel below shows the directors’ details taken from the Companies House website.

click to enlarge

Of the nine, just two appear to be Welsh. Evans himself, and Judith Iscariot. Which means that of nine directors of a Welsh company, just two are in fact Welsh.

What I also find worrying is that, despite Companies House offering directors the option to give their nationality as Welsh, even Evans and Jones-Davies are described as ‘British’, as is Strong, the other Plaid Cymru councillor. Only two have ‘Wales’ as part of their address, for the rest it’s ‘Aberystwyth, United Kingdom’ and ‘Borth, Great Britain’.

So stridently British does Cymdeithas Gofal appear, despite the Plaid Cymru connections, that it could be the local branch of Ukip.

Although I said that Guy Hamilton Evans is Welsh, and he certainly attended Aberaeron Comprehensive, it’s suggested that despite the name he might not be Welsh. As for Sue Jones-Davies, she only came aboard in May this year, perhaps representing the town council, Menter Aberystwyth, or just recruited to give a little Welsh flavour to this overwhelmingly English organisation.

TAKING WORK HOME

We’ve noted the absence of relative expertise among the directors, so what of those running the show day to day, do they provide it?

According to the website, the senior management team is composed of head honcho Guy Hamilton Evans plus Richard Lucas, Jeremy Brown and Amanda Gwalchmai. Lucas and Brown are both English as, I suspect, and despite the name, is Gwalchmai.

Ms Gwalchmai’s interest in property management doesn’t end when she leaves Cymdeithas Gofal Tower in downtown Aberystwyth, for with her partner, Luke John Veasey, she runs L&A Real Estates Ltd, a letting agency. In addition, both are directors of building company LJV Construction Ltd.

So no obvious medical qualifications, social work experience, background in probation services, etc., to be found among the senior management either.

THE RENTIER CLASS

I now know enough about Cymdeithas Gofal to know that, yes, it does as it claims on its Charity Commission entry, in that it helps those threatened with homelessness. What it won’t tell us – for obvious reasons – is that most of these it helps have been brought into Ceredigion through links with English charities and agencies and are likely to be both a burden on health and social services and disruptive to Welsh communities.

We know that some of those links were established by Tir Coed through the ‘Elan Gives Back’ nonsense, which was yet another insulting waste of Welsh public funding. Tir Coed, remember, run by Cymdeithas Gofal’s chief executive Guy Hamilton Evans.

I think we have found enough connections and extra-curricular activities to warrant serious questions being asked about the real purpose of Cymdeithas Gofal. Given the interconnectedness we have found, we might start with, what is being withheld in “related party disclosures”? (See capture from the accounts, below.)

It might help evaluate this decision if Cymdeithas Gofal was more specific and quoted the section of the Financial Reporting Council guidance it’s using to justify withholding information.

Is this refusal to disclose “related party transactions with wholly owned subsidiaries” a reference to the Estates and Lettings agency run by Cymdeithas Gofal? If so, what would it have to hide?

A cynic might suggest that Cymdeithas Gofal exists in order to benefit none but the rentier class of Ceredigion. For not only does Cymdeithas Gofal ensure a steady supply of tenants for private landlords, those it brings in carry premium payments.

Because of course any private landlord will demand a lot more money to house ex-cons, drug addicts, etc., and why not, when he or she knows the money is readily available from probation companies, charities and other agencies, and of course from our very own ‘Welsh’ Government.

WALES GETS POORER BUT THE THIRD SECTOR GROWS. IS THERE A CONNECTION?

Cymdeithas Gofal is a perfect example of the Third Sector we’ve seen grow at an alarming rate since the advent of devolution. A Third Sector that soaks up a vast chunk of the Welsh budget every year, and yet, when looked at closely, seems to be largely irrelevant to the needs of the indigenes.

The time has surely come to start asking the difficult questions about Cymdeithas Gofal, such as:

  • How many of Cymdeithas Gofal’s clients were living in Wales a year before first being ‘helped’ by the Society?
  • How many directors or staff of Cymdeithas Gofal benefit – other than through salaries and other authorised payments – from the work done by the Society?
  • How many third parties providing accommodation or other services for Cymdeithas Gofal enjoy close links with directors or staff of the Society?
  • Might there not be a conflict between Cymdeithas Gofal being both a charity helping the homeless and others while simultaneously acting as a commercial lettings agency? Shouldn’t the two roles be split?
  • Seeing as Cymdeithas Gofal works with those having substance or alcohol abuse problems, people prone to disruptive – often violent – behaviour, others recently released from prison, where does the necessary expertise come from, for there seems to none among the senior management, trustees or directors?
  • Why are so few Welsh people involved with Cymdeithas Gofal?
  • Why can the ‘Welsh’ Government, local authorities and other bodies, find no better use for hundreds of millions of pounds every year than taking on problems that should be nothing to do with Wales?
  • Apart from those directly involved, and the local rentier class, who in Wales benefits from the activities of Cymdeithas Gofal, the Pembrokeshire Care Society, and their counterpart organisations across the land?

♦ end ♦

UPDATE 01.09.2017: Word on the street is that a ‘merger’ is being lined up between Cymdeithas Gofal and Tai Ceredigion. Any further information anyone might want to send me will be used in strictest confidence.

Aug 282017
 

PEMBROKESHIRE CARE AND CYMDEITHAS GOFAL

Human trafficking is a term we’ve become increasingly familiar with in recent years, it’s a clandestine and largely illegal activity that reduces human beings to transferable commodities, to be moved around and exploited for the financial benefit of some third party.

Many people will be surprised therefore to learn that this practice is widespread here in Wales – and it’s funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government.

In January 2016 I wrote The ‘Care’ Racket in Wales, and earlier this month, Care in the South West (or the lack thereof); in both I looked at Pembrokeshire Care and Cymdeithas Gofal / the Care Society which operates in Ceredigion. Both help the homeless, and those with ‘issues’, such as drug addicts and those recently released from prison. (Or, to lapse into the jargon, ‘the secure estate’).

The England flag being larger is a simple mistake to make, as is the misspelling of Agorwch

Though in the more recent post I’d neglected to mention that the Care Society is itself a landlord with three properties in Aberystwyth. Which made me wonder – seeing as it administers the ‘Welsh’ Government’s tenant bond scheme – if it pays itself a bond for those it houses in its own properties?

Both societies also operate as lettings agencies. In Pembrokeshire we have Pathway Lettings and in Ceredigion Cymdeithas Gofal has its Estates and Lettings agency. Letting agencies always charge a commission.

From the Pathway Lettings website it looks like a £50 up-front administrative charge for tenants, the landlords pay £50 for an Introductory Service’, a ‘Let Only’ service costs £150, then there’s another £150 for the ‘Managed Property Service Charge’, plus ‘10% (negotiable) of monthly rental income’. And there are further charges! (read them all here).

Cymdeithas Gofal’s Estates and Lettings is more coy in that it doesn’t give the figures on its website, but there’s no reason to suspect that it operates a lot different to its Pembrokeshire counterpart.

So we have two letting agencies with a ready supply of customers thanks to their parent bodies, which also administer the ‘Welsh’ Government’s tenant bond scheme (to themselves?), and act as unfair competition to private letting agencies and estate agencies that don’t have access to the public purse.

Cymdeithas Gofal also hopes to be soon offering mortgage and insurance services!

Which sums up the ‘Welsh’ Government’s attitude to what it likes to pretend is business. In truth, it’s the anti-business attitude of ‘Welsh’ Labour and Plaid Cymru.

In case anyone thinks I’m making a big deal out of nothing here, let me conclude this section by telling you that the amount received by Pembrokeshire Care under the tenant bond scheme totalled £575,922.16 for the three financial years ending 31.03.2016.

And that is just part of its income; an income that allows it to sit on reserves of £756,542, with that hoard made up almost entirely of “cash at bank and in hand” most of it “unrestricted funds”, which means it was not given for a specific purpose and so can be used for just about anything. All figures available here in the latest accounts.

With a further £120,000 set aside for “Senior Management Succession Planning”. Isn’t that comforting?

ENTER GRWP GWALIA AND THE MONEYBAGS WALLICH

Anyway, the reason I’m returning to this subject is that both Pembrokeshire Care and Cymdeithas Gofal have competition, particularly the Ceredigion outfit. It began when someone referred me to a poster on the board in the Quarry Cafe in Machynlleth.

Now this is not an establishment I frequent when I’m in our ancient capital, due to its connection with the Centre for Alternative Technology in Corris, but last week the wife wanted to visit the town’s weekly street market and that’s how I found myself pushing past hippies, knocking over skinny lattes, and ignoring the ‘ . . . last time I was in Kathmandu’ conversations, to take the photo you see below.

click to enlarge

It looks innocent enough, until you know a little more about the two bodies involved. Grwp Gwalia is a housing association based in Swansea and is now part of the Pobl Group.

If the name rings a bell it might be because this is the housing association that was happy to take on the gang of Satanic paedophiles from London and inflict them on Kidwelly.

Though nowadays, it seems that Grwp Gwalia is concentrating on students! But should a publicly-funded housing association be in this neck of the property jungle?

Anyway, moving on.

I hadn’t realised until a short while ago that Grwp Gwalia has an office in Newtown, which is where Mid Wales Housing is based. So for a minute I wondered if the move into Powys was the first stage in a takeover bid for MWH? Well, perhaps not, because this page on the Gwalia website suggests that it has found a ‘niche’ to exploit, primarily homelessness and mental health.

Grwp Gwalia’s Newtown operation

So where does ‘The Wallich’ fit into the picture? I suppose many of you may even be wondering, ‘What is “The Wallich”?’ The Wallich is an all-Wales agency, and the trading name of the Wallich Clifford Community, which caters for the homeless and those with other – often associated – ‘issues’.

As I say, The Wallich operates across Wales, with a major presence in Swansea and Cardiff, but is also busy in Wrecsam and Rhyl (I bet that mention of Rhyl surprised you!). A quick perusal of the latest accounts (up to 31.03.2016) tells us that The Wallich is a multi-million-pound operation.

In year ending 31.03.2016 The Wallich had a total income of more than ten million pounds, six and a half million of which came from the ‘Welsh’ Government and assorted local authorities, with a further three and a half million coming from “rent and service charges”. Which contributed towards total assets of nine and a half million pounds, most of it in “tangible fixed assets” i.e. property; these figures include over one million pounds invested and £2.8 million in “cash at bank and in hand”.

The Wallich is clearly awash with cash and assets despite two-thirds of its income going on salaries and pensions. There is a strong case to be made for saving the public purse a few million pound every year by cutting back on The Wallich’s funding.

THE WALLICH IN ABERYSTWYTH

And now Grwp Gwalia and the Wallich are spreading their wings in Machynlleth. From their perspective I suppose it makes sense in that it gives them a footprint in a new area, though how much call there is in Machynlleth for the ‘services’ they provide is another matter.

As I did my checking on The Wallich I began to suspect that the operation planned for Machynlleth might be no more than an outlier for The Wallich’s operations in Aberystwyth, just 18 miles away.

For there, in Aber’, and nearby Borth, we find that The Wallich has no less than four properties:

  1. First, in 9 Corporation Street, catering for for “individuals with a range of complex support needs including needs around offending behaviour, being a prison leaver, mental health issues, substance misuse issues, physical health needs, housing needs or a mixture of these”.
  2. A few doors away, No 13 provides “temporary accommodation for single homeless people who need low level support, or for individuals ready to move-on from projects where they have received a higher level of support and wish to increase their independence.” Perhaps people move from No 9 to No 13.
  3. On No 14 Queens Road we have ‘Tŷ Nesaf’, “The project aims to work with the residents to support them to reduce the various harms they have in their lives e.g. homelessness, substance misuse issues, mental health issues and repeat offending. The project also aims to reduce the level of negative impact these individuals may have on the community in general.”
  4. Finally, just out of town, in Borth, we have the ‘Families Temporary Accommodation Project’, and the blurb tells us: “We support residents to increase their control, understanding and involvement around the issues they have identified as needing assistance with, in order to prevent further homelessness.”

COMPETITION OR CO-OPERATION?

So now we know that Aberystwyth, the Queen of Cardigan Bay (or is that Aberteifi?) is blessed with not only Cymdeithas Gofal, providing accommodation for the homeless, those recently released from ‘the secure estate’, alcohol and substance abusers, and others, but that the town is doubly blessed in having The Wallich in the same line of business.

Together they provide many dozens of rooms for their clients, who are then passed on to private landlords and social housing providers with the tenant bond supplied by the ‘Welsh’ Government. A conveyor belt of problems.

from the Cymdeithas Gofal website

Realising how well supplied Aberystwyth is with facilities for those experiencing difficulties (invariably of their own making) some of you may be saying to yourself, ‘I didn’t realise Aberystwyth was so big’. Well, it’s not. It’s roughly the same size as Tredegar.

Yet despite being a post-industrial town, and among the poorest in Europe, Tredegar seems to suffer little from homelessness, certainly it doesn’t have the veritable industry we find in Aberystwyth. So why does relatively prosperous Aberystwyth – apparently – have such a homelessness crisis?

The answer is obvious – the ‘homelessness problem’ in Ceredigion (and Pembrokeshire) is largely imported from over the border. But who cares, everybody’s dipping their beak – from the 262 staff of The Wallich to the private landlords of Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. Plus the ‘Welsh’ Government can tick a few more boxes to claim it’s doing a wonderful job.

(The influence of private landlords, coupled with the proliferation of houses of multiple occupation – and the scarcity of both in Valleys towns – may go a long way to explaining the thriving ‘homelessness’ business in Aberystwyth.)

To answer the heading of this section, I found no evidence of co-operation. Typing ‘Cymdeithas Gofal’ or ‘Care Society’ into the Gwalia Search box turns up nothing. Type ‘Wallich’ into the Cymdeithas Gofal Search box and it comes up as one of many external links.

Which means that greedy Third Sector bodies are now in competition to import England’s problems into a small Welsh town – and you pay for it. You contribute to making Wales perhaps the only county on Earth with a state-funded system of human trafficking.

If the ‘Welsh’ Government has decided that Wales is to become the dumping ground for England’s decrepit, dysfunctional and delinquent – and to judge by the funding provided, this must be the case – then let Carwyn and his gang have the honesty to say so.

♦ end ♦

May 042015
 

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

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

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

Housing benefit tax table

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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