Third Sector

Jan 162017
 

INTRODUCTION

Regular readers will know that one of the ‘staples’ of this blog is the wasting of public funding by Third Sector organisations. Exposing this waste is not something I really enjoy but it’s so prevalent in Wales – and has become worse with devolution – that it just cannot be ignored.

In a very general sense it’s possible to divide most Third Sector organisations into two main groups.

The first is the local group set up to ‘regenerate’ a run-down area, with most of those involved being local people, and a surprisingly high percentage of them having connections with the Labour Party. I say ‘surprisingly high percentage’ because, while less than a third of Welsh voters may now support Labour, the party’s supporters seem to make up a clear majority in this category. Let’s call this the Community sector.

The second is not so easy to categorise. Perhaps the best way to put it is that this group is about things rather than people or a community, perhaps an old building, or a specific area of countryside. Those involved in bodies like this are unlikely to be local. Let’s call this the Conservation sector.

Despite this helpful distinction, there are of course overlaps. But it tends to be one way, with outsiders involved in, often leading, Community groups rather than finding many locals in Conservation projects.

I’ve given you this introduction because it might help with what follows. This post being about two stories breaking that involve one group from each category.

NSA AFAN

As the name suggests, NSA Afan is based in Port Talbot, and its website tells us, “The purpose of the organisation is to support regeneration to enable a better quality of life for people living in the most disadvantaged communities in the Swansea Bay Area.”  (I am grateful to the ever-alert ‘Stan’ of Neath Ferret fame for tipping me off about this story.)

The original media mention on the ninth of this month said that police are investigating the possible misuse of public funds, and tells us, ‘A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: “Following initial investigations into allegations concerning possible misuse of public funds at NSA Afan, we have suspended funding while further investigations are undertaken.”‘

UPDATE 23.01.2017: Funding has now been stopped completely.

The second report, two days later, says, quoting a police source, “We can confirm that South Wales Police has arrested a 35-year-old woman from the Port Talbot area on suspicion of theft on August 11, 2016 following a complaint received from NSA Afan.’

Now in cases like this I make my way to the figures, and so here are the most recent accounts for NSA Afan, these being for year ending 31.03.2016. A quick perusal of the nitty-gritty will tell you that income is falling, dramatically, down from £2,005,262 in 2014 to £1,428,901 in 2015 and £923,210 in 2016.

Even so, you’ll be pleased to know that despite this drop in funding staff costs at NSA Afan for 2016 were still over £800,000. Which means that in 2016 income just about covered staff costs.

‘Ah, Jac, you cynical bastard’ I can hear in the background, ‘that still still leaves a hundred grand to help people, at the Dalton Road Community Employment Academy and the Glyncorrwg Con Club’. Maybe, maybe not.

My equivocation is due to the fact that if we go to the Companies House website, there we find more information on (to give it its full name) the New Sandfields Aberafan and Afan – Community Regeneration, Company Number 03674953. Click on the ‘Charges’ tab and you’ll see that there are nine outstanding Charges against NSA Afan, that is loans or mortgages. Put it all together, the falling income, the high staff costs, payments on loans and mortgages, and it becomes clear that NSA Afan is not in the best of financial health.

In fact, the independent auditors say as much in the Accounts for 2016 (page 21, para 3), where we are warned of ” . . . material uncertainties which may cast doubt about the Charities (sic) ability to continue as a going concern.”

The more generous among you may think that the theft currently being investigated by South Wales Police plays a major role in NSA Afan’s parlous state. Not so. For elsewhere in the Accounts (page 20, para 9) we are told that “£50,000 was refunded by the credit card company during the year, however the remainder of the theft is unlikely to be recovered”.

The “remainder” may be the £46,144 we find on page 28, under ‘Donations and Legacies’. If so, how do we reconcile this amount with the statement quoted in the previous paragraph? Or is the £46,144 part of the £50,000 refunded by “the credit card company”?

Despite the falling income NSA Afan is still expanding. Curious, really, considering it’s a Communities First project and that last October even the ‘Welsh’ Government was forced to admit that Communities First had been a very expensive failure. Among NSA Afan’s recent acquisitions was Youth of Bettws (YOBS). So I made some enquiries.

What I’d assumed to be just a youth club is in fact registered with Companies House, Number 06719083. Under the Charges tab we learn that YOBS has an outstanding loan of £267,350 with the Big Lottery Fund, a loan it took out on June 29th 2011 to buy the leasehold of a former school owned by Bridgend County Borough Council.

The same property is now listed as a Charge against FSA Afan, but the details have changed. On May 27th last year The Big Lottery Fund made a ‘grant’ to NSA Afan of £388,384. This was presumably done to take over the leasehold of the property inherited from Youth of Bettws aka Bettws Boys and Girls Club, but what was the extra £121,034 for?

A question worth asking seeing as the Land Registry document tells us (page 3) that “The value as at 15 August 2016 was stated to be under £100,000”. Maybe NSA Afan is using some of the money it got from The Big Lottery Fund for some other purpose? Apparently not; because the Charge document mentions only the Bettws Boys and Girls Club. (In case you’re wondering, this is a repayable grant, what you and I would call a loan.)

To recap: we have a property, Bettws Boys and Girls Club, owned by a Labour-run council and valued – or possibly the leasehold is valued – at “under £100,000”; but a Labour-controlled, Communities First body goes out on a limb for £388,384 to lease this property! Unless NSA Afan has massive plans for YOBS I do not understand what the hell is going on here. All I see is the regular pattern of public money being shuffled around between Labour-controlled bodies to create the illusion of employment and economic activity.

And what of the Big Lottery Fund? I’m sure most of you think of the BLF as a generous body gifting large sums of money to worthy causes, money we have given to this organisation through playing the National Lottery or its other games. Did you know that the Big Lottery Fund is a commercial lender?

Perhaps lending to groups that might have difficulty getting a loan from a regular financial institution – those it describes as “community and voluntary groups”? I wonder what the interest rates are? And if those groups receiving a loan default, does the BLF take possession?

To conclude. The Communities First scheme operated in the most disadvantaged areas of Wales, in other words, areas controlled by ‘Welsh’ Labour. This gave the party a golden opportunity to engage in cronyism. Which is exactly what it did, and this explains why the Communities First project was such a disaster.

Dealing specifically with NSA Afan, I don’t doubt that someone stole money, but this is not why it’s folding. It’s folding because it was badly run. Even when it was half-way up Shit Creek with income falling it was still taking on new liabilities!

If this refers to 2017 I don’t see much point

As for the alleged theft, how was an individual employed by a body reliant on the public purse able to steal over £50,000 through a credit card? Was there no credit limit on this card? I do hope that the prosecution of this individual is not allowed to distract from the bigger problems at NSA Afan, all of which can be traced back to ‘Welsh’ Labour and the cronyism and nepotism on which it relies.

This system is now so discredited that it places ‘Welsh’ Labour at something of a crossroads. The party can either clean up the Third Sector and perhaps alienate many of those who benefit from it, or else it can stick with this system of corruption and see its electoral support slip even further.

If NSA Afan is – was? – a Community type of Third Sector organisation, this next case is most definitely about a Conservation body . . .

CAMBRIAN HERITAGE REGENERATION TRUST

This outfit has starred more than once on this blog, but before looking at previous posts let’s get the background on the Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust Ltd (CHRT). It was Incorporated with Companies House on February 28th 2003 as Ymddiriedolaeth Atgyfnerthu Treftadaeth Sir Gar (Carmarthenshire Heritage and Regeneration Trust) and appears to have been a joint venture between the County Council and Coleg y Drindod.

Lord Dynevor came on board on April 9th 2003. A few other local worthies joined on the same day, including a Meryl Gravell, described as “Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council”. Another was Roger (now Sir Roger) Jones, then of the Welsh Development Agency, and a former BBC Wales Governor. While yet another director was William Powell Wilkins, who came up with the idea of the National Botanic Garden. Quite a crew.

Though for the purposes of this article I suppose the most important recruit was Claire Deacon, who became a Director on October 8th 2008. At the time, Ms Deacon, based in Marloes, Pembrokeshire, was working as a lecturer and also as a consultant (possibly to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park). Ms Deacon served as a director until June 9th 2010.

The reason for Ms Deacon resigning as a Director was to take over as CEO, soon after the Trust bought its main project, Llanelly House in Llanelli. Though she rejoined the Board on June 1st 2011 as Secretary.

LLANELLY HOUSE

The name of the body was officially changed, with Companies House, from Ymddiriedolaeth Atgyfnerthu Treftadaeth Sir Gar to Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust Ltd on February 25th 2015. (All the information here, and more, can be found under Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust Ltd on the Companies House website.)

In addition to the main company, there is also the charity of the same name, and down the years there have been a few of what I can best describe as subsidiary companies. The only one I think is worth bothering with is Plas Llanelly House Cyf, where we again find Ms Deacon as Secretary.

Previous posts told how the CHRT is branching out, first to Merthyr, with the purchase of the YMCA building in Pontmorlais, and then in the other direction, down to the ruins of Ystrad Fflur (Strata Florida Abbey) with the purchase of the farm buildings at Mynachlog Fawr. So you may wish to read Ystrad Fflur – The Heritage Industry Moves On and Conserving Heritage, Maintaining Colonialism, both by a guest writer.

The reason for CHRT branching out from Llanelly House was quite simple – the funding was running out, and there was no way that Llanelly House could ever pay its way – and Ms Deacon’s salary – unless a fairy godmother stepped in with oodles of loot.

The time had come to find another project, concoct another ludicrously optimistic business plan, rake in the grants, live high on the hog for a few years, get plenty of good publicity, improve the CV . . . until it becomes clear that this is yet another project that will never survive without the drip-feed of public funding. By which time people like Ms Deacon have usually moved on to the next project. And so it continues. This is the Conservation element of the Third Sector in Wales, and the beneficiaries are almost always, like Ms Deacon, from over the border.

Which brings me to the reason for writing this piece. The word on Stepney Street is that Ms Deacon recently parted company with the CHRT. And when you read the latest accounts you’ll understand why. The auditors state quite clearly (page 11, para 1) that the net deficit at 31.03.2016 of £114,038 “. . . may cast significant doubt about the Charity’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

A number of entries in the Accounts caught my eye, and if I was involved in CHRT or Llanelly House I’d be asking questions about them. The first is to be found on page 18 in ‘Direct Costs of Charitable Activities’, where we are told that in the year that ended 31.03.2016 £262,482 was spent on “Legal and Professional Fees” (£168,146 the previous year). That figure seems very high, and I’d like to have it explained.

Another perplexing entry, on page 26, tells us that . . .

How does the CEO get taken on as a consultant? CEO Claire: ‘Oh, hello, Claire, this Claire here, would you like to work for a while as a consultant, for a much higher rate than your CEO salary?’ Consultant Claire: ‘Well, thank you, Claire, I’d love to‘. This is bizarre, but I’ve reported on it before, so it’s not new to me.

As if the figures for CHRT weren’t bad enough the Plas Llanelly House Cyf Accounts tell us that that venture is sixty-five grand down the Swanee. But perhaps worst of all is that – just as with NSA Afan – in addition to falling income and rising debt there are Charges against CHRT, held by Finance Wales, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Architectural Heritage Fund, and Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council. If the Trust can’t meet its obligations then presumably each of these Charges will become the responsibility of its guarantor, be that the ‘Welsh’ Government, Llanelli town council, or Carmarthenshire county council.

In case the escape plan in the forms of Merthyr YMCA and Ystrad Fflur don’t work out, Ms Deacon has now gone into business on her own account, with Marloes Conservation Ltd. This company was only Incorporated on December 1st (soon after the latest Accounts were published), which lends credence to the suggestion that she is no longer with CHRT. Perhaps she’s had a vision – Meryl Gravell leading the band into Abide With Me as the good ship Llanelly House heaves her last and slips into the abyss.

It will be interesting to see what work comes the way of Marloes Conservation Ltd. And where from.

Although very different in their fields of operation, and those involved, NSA Afan and CHRT have a lot in common.

To begin with, both have swallowed up large amounts of public funding. And now, with both projects in serious financial difficulties, it becomes clear that much of that public funding has been wasted. Which is not to say that some people haven’t benefited from NSA Afan’s courses, or that good work hasn’t been done at Llanelly House, but the issue is surely priorities.

With an economy in serious trouble, with EU funding bound to end soon, how do you feel about paying for classes on ‘The American Century’ in Port Talbot, and a new rococo balustrade for Llanelly House, when sick people have to spend hours on a trolley in our hospitals?

Obviously that money would be better spent on the hospitals, and on training doctors, nurses and other staff we need.

Another troubling issue with these and other projects is the ease with which they secure Lottery funding. In the case of NSA Afan it’s Big Lottery Fund, and with CHRT it’s Heritage Lottery Fund, but it’s still money we’ve given. It’s almost as if Lottery funders take their cue from the ‘Welsh’ Government. Is there a connection?

In a poor country like Wales, what funding we have must, in the first instance, be spent on what we need, and in the longer term there must be investment in making Wales wealthier, not in glossing over the deprivation with publicly-funded Labour cronyism, or by restoring Georgian mansions into which our ancestors would only have been allowed as servants.

It’s long past the time when the ‘Welsh’ Government and the civil servants it claims to control did what other governments across the globe do – prioritise, and stop wasting money we can’t afford to lose.

end ♦

Aug 122015
 

In February I posted ‘Welsh’ Labour And A Milking System Unknown To Farmers, which recently received a very interesting comment from ‘Brychan’, a regular contributor to this blog. He drew our attention to Monwel, a social enterprise in Glyn Ebwy making road signs and similar products. He also provided this link to a story that appeared last week in the South Wales Argus (Newport). It seems that no one in our ‘national’ media has yet taken up the story, which explains why most of you reading this will not have heard of Monwel.

Monwel grew out of Blaenau Gwent Council’s sign-making department. In the dystopian economic landscape of ‘Welsh’ Labour social enterprises and Third Sector rackets are viewed as commercial enterprises. However you choose to view it, Monwel, the registered company, was Incorporated on November 9th 2012, Company Number 08284345. The four directors at the time of Incorporation were David Michael Davies, Mrs Leslie Scott Barr, Mr Andrew Richards and Mrs Colleen Andrews. Mrs Barr doubles as managing director, which means, presumably, that she is involved in the day-to-day running of Monwel which, according to Company Check, has a net worth of £-53,983.

Monwell Directors

Beyond the fact that he lives in Brynmawr, I know little of David Michael Davies. Leslie Scott Barr was, ‘Brychan’ told me, “a bridal shop owner from Motherwell in Scotland”! Andrew Richards is the man who does the introduction on the video we see on the Monwel website, and appears to have been the Chairman. Mrs Colleen Andrews is presumably the same person who was a director of Tredegar-based Rainbow Community Enterprises, another Heads of the Valleys outfit, where husband Wayne is still a director.

The mission statement for Rainbow Community Enterprises is typical of the vacuous, politically correct bullshit such organisations use: “Our aim is to benefit the surrounding areas through sustainable development of community projects that foster social inclusion and community participation regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability or social status, and to work in partnership with other community, voluntary and statutory organisations to further these objects”. Now that you’ve read it, do you have any better understanding of what Rainbow Community Enterprises actually does . . . apart from keeping a few Labour loyalists in what they hope will be mistaken for gainful employment? More on Rainbow later.

As the graphic tells us, within a few months of Monwel Ltd setting up Councillor Haydn Leslie Trollope joined the Board (20.05.2013). Richards and Andrews ceased to be directors on May 31st this year, while two new directors joined in February last year, these being Councillor Jennifer Morgan JP and Mr John Anthony Bennett of Worcester, an ‘expert’ in social enterprises. It’s reasonable to assume that Bennett was piped on board when the crew of the good ship Monwel began to discern Shit Creek on the horizon. Someone else who was briefly aboard (10.02.2014 – 26.09.2014) was Paul Byard, the Wales representative for the Engineering Employers Federation. It’s reasonable to assume that he too was recruited in a trouble-shooting role, and may have jumped ship as he too saw Shit Creek draw ever nearer.

The current board of Monwel is comprised of Councillors Trollope and Morgan, David Michael Davies, the ‘expert’ Bennett, and our cousin from Yr Hen Ogledd, Mrs Barr. Davies and Barr are the only directors who’ve been with Monwel from the start which, let’s remind ourselves, was less than three years ago. Although I’m sure she enjoys the bracing upland air of north Gwent Mrs Barr also experiences the atmosphere of Port Talbot, where she has, since February 2014, been a director with Dewis Housing, which specialises in helping young people in the 16 to 25 age bracket.

More interestingly, perhaps, when she isn’t running social enterprises Mrs Barr advertises her talents as a ‘spiritualist medium’. Now you know me, boys and girls, I’m not one to be judgemental, and what Mrs Barr gets up to in her spare time is her own business. I reproduce here for you Mrs Barr’s Facebook page. Though that background, surely it’s not Ebbw Vale . . . even on a bad day?

Leslie Scott Bass Spiritualist

As recently as March this year our ghost-botherer picked up three awards on behalf of her company at some do in a posh nosh joint in the Vale. To quote from the article linked to here, “Ebbw Vale-based Monwel has picked up three awards in recognition of its success in turning a loss-making public sector service into a profit-making social enterprise in the space of just over a year.” It gets better: “The road traffic sign manufacturer won the Large Social Enterprise category and shared best overall Social Enterprise 2010-2015, while managing director Leslie Barr also won the Women in Enterprise category.”

The bash in the Vale was organised by the “EU-funded South East Wales Community Economic Development programme, run by a six valleys local authorities’ consortium of Merthyr Tydfil, Bridgend, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Torfaen”. Has anyone ever heard of this outfit? What the hell does it do . . . apart from organising bun fights awards ceremonies? In fairness, the SEWCED website does claim to have created 100 jobs . . . a figure that presumably includes the 30+ being made redundant at Monwel. Not a lot for the £6.4m SEWCED claims to have invested, but then, awards ceremonies don’t come cheap . . .

The article also informs us that Mrs Barr “ran her own bridal and evening wear and children’s clothing business” which, the Argus article goes on to tell us, gave her the “experience to help Monwel become a social enterprise away from local authority control”! Of course it did, measuring women up for wedding dresses and hiring out tuxedos and kilts is the perfect training for the intimately related activity of bashing out road signs.

More to the point, these awards were being showered on Mrs Barr and Monwel when the company was already in deep schtuck. And if Monwel was regarded as an exemplar among social enterprises, what the hell does that tell us about the rest of them? Dishing out prizes to Monwel is like awarding Best Bird in Show to John Cleese’s Norwegian Blue!

Clearly, Monwel is another for us to add to the already long list of failed social enterprises and Third Sector funding sink-holes. And it may not end there. Earlier in this post I referred to Rainbow Community Enterprises in Tredegar. This is run by Wayne Andrews, husband of recently-resigned Monwel director Colleen Andrews, who at one time was herself a director at Rainbow. According to Company Check, Rainbow’s net worth has declined from £-4,630 in 2012 to £-11,635 in 2013 to £-15,931 in 2014. This is another ‘company’ hurtling to oblivion. It came close last September, when a notification of strike-off appeared in the London Gazette, only to be discontinued a month later. The two directors (in addition to Andrews) are Ian Marc Anthony Morgan and Raymond Davies.

Rainbow Community Enterprises

Morgan appears to be a young employee with no other directorships, but Raymond Davies has been involved in a number of companies in the area, among them Graig Rhosyn Cleaning Services Ltd of Bedwas, now known as grcleaning, Company Number 06828778. His time as a director, which ended in December last year, overlapped for a few months with Colleen Andrews, who remains a director. And guess what? – yes, grcleaning is also funded by SEWCED! Despite the change of name, and the glowing report in the Argus, grcleaning is another company where liabilities exceed combined assets and cash.

Curiously, Rainbow Community Enterprises shares an address with C A Metal Recycling Ltd, which appears to be a commercial outfit with just one director – Wayne Andrews. Although the Registered Address for C A Metal Recycling Ltd is a private house in New Tredegar the company operates out of Unit 15A of the Capital Valley Eco Park in Rhymni. Rainbow’s address is Unit 15. The private address in New Tredegar, and the added ‘A’, are attempts to disguise that the two companies share premises. Further established by the fact that the telephone number given on the (one-page) Rainbow website, above, is the same number as that given for C A Metal Recycling in the extract from Google, below.

Should a social enterprise in receipt of public funding share premises with a private company, and should the owner of that private company also be a director of the social enterprise? I have never come across an arrangement like this before.

In fact, I cannot believe that those disbursing the EU funding would not have raised objections to this undesirable proximity, unless of course the funding was distributed by the local representatives of the South East Wales Community Economic Development programme, in other words, the local Labour Party machine. Googling Rainbow Community Enterprises brings up what you see in the panel below.

C A Google

Almost as an aside, one who left the board of Rainbow at the end of last year was John Michael Bungay. Despite his unusual name it’s difficult to get information on Bungay other than that he lives up on the border, in or near a village called Coedway. He was also, for eight months in 2007, director at Torino Enterprises, Company No 03754420 which, despite the name (Torino being Turin in Italian), is based in Capel Bangor, just outside Aberystwyth, and is run by Edward Phillip Owen Evans and Howard Wyn Evans. Torino is in the business of warehousing and storage units. The first notification of strike-off action for Torino appeared in the London Gazette on June 11th.

But then, according to Yell (see below) and other sources, there seems to be another Torino Enterprises in Rhymni! Not only that, but it is based in Unit 15 of the Capital Valley Eco Park, and described as a ‘property management company’. Bloody hell! it must be getting crowded in Unit 15, what with Rainbow, C A Metal Recycling and now Torino all jostling for space. Not only that but Bungay was simultaneously working for Rainbow and Torino! Who pays the rent? Or is the unit rent free, seeing as Rainbow is a social enterprise? Or maybe Rainbow owns Unit 15?

Torino Yell

It’s difficult to understand what’s going on here. Googling ‘Torino Enterprises’ brings up only the Gwent operation. Yet Companies House and Company Check both tell us that the company is registered to the address in Capel Bangor. (There was another Torino Enterprises in Wexford, Ireland, though this seems to be dissolved, with no information available.)

There is clearly a connection, if only via John Michael Bungay, between Torino Enterprises of Aberystwyth and whatever is going on under the same name in Rhymni. Despite leaving the Capel Bangor operation in 2007 was he still representing Torino Enterprises years later in Gwent? And is there a connection between the impending demise of Monwel, the striking off of Torino Enterprises, and the near-certain collapse of Rainbow in the very near future? If there’s no connection then it’s one hell of a coincidence.

I mentioned that the mysterious Mr Bungay lived up near the border, well, very fittingly his address is given as Tŷ Cudd (the secret or hidden house).

No matter where we look in this Gwent tale we find the dirty fingers of ‘Welsh’ Labour everywhere. Dishing out EU funding to ‘social enterprises’ that have Labour councillors and supporters as directors and management. These social enterprises then give each other ‘work’ in the vain hope that this sleight of hand, this shuffling money around, will be mistaken for genuine economic activity.

In truth, it is just another example of how Labour controls Wales through its dependency culture. EU funding that is supposed to be invested in real business, and infrastructure, and training, is being cynically employed to create a whole sector of Welsh life beholden to, and therefore loyal to, the Labour Party. An incestuous, unproductive and, inevitably, corrupt sector of our national life.

Feb 182015
 
Cash cow 1

CLICK TO ENLARGE

The ‘milking’ referred to is done by the Third Sector, that demi-monde wherein dwell ‘Welsh’ Labour’s kept women (and a few men), serving no purpose beyond diverting public money from better use and performing all manner of despicable acts for those who own them. Perhaps it was ever thus, but since the arrival of devolution, and the recognition by our continental cousins of our relative poverty, what had once been a cottage industry of home-grown Labour nepotism and corruption has expanded into a pseudo-economy.

A few years back I started looking into the Third Sector and its relationship with ‘Welsh’ Labour, and in that time certain features have become obvious. Chief among them, that we now have a whole sector of Welsh life dependent upon Labour Party patronage in the form of funding and preferment, which those belonging to this sector repay by promoting the Labour message and by attacking Labour’s political opponents. This client class has become the Japanese knotweed of Welsh life – invasive, destructive, of no use to anyone (other than Labour), and damaging to the wider environment. We should be rooting it out, but it won’t be done because ‘Welsh’ Labour, losing support among the native electorate, is becoming ever more dependent on this monster it has introduced.

One obvious manifestation of Labour losing support is its inability to recruit decent Welsh candidates. It was this problem that led to the recent fiasco in Swansea when the ‘local’ Labour Party was eventually taken over by people who were strangers to the city. Resulting in the embarrassment of Il Duce Phillips and the student councillors, with their sybaritic lifestyles and complete ignorance of the city they were supposed to be running. A self-inflicted wound caused by Labour offering free party membership to students in Swansea University. Yes, that’s how bad it has become for Labour. Something else illustrated by this episode is Labour’s worrying links with certain trade unions, the National Union of Students being one, but another worthy of mention is Unison.

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Now when I were nobutalad – a long time ago I know – trade unions were taken seriously by working class men such as those among whom I grew up. They elected their union representatives, they knew them, and if there was any issue that needed to be discussed then they could have it out with them, at union meetings or even down the pub or club. It was the trade unions, more than anything else, including the Labour Party, that defended their interests. All that is gone. After countless mergers and a dramatic fall in union membership we are left with a few big unions run by professional union officials, mirroring the professional politicians, all equally divorced from real life.Dawn Bowden

As mentioned, one such union is Unison, and one of its full-time officials is Dawn Bowden of Bristol Cardiff, who is tipped to become Labour’s candidate for Caerffili or Islwyn (depending on whether there’s a gender fix) in next year’s elections to the Notional Assembly. Quite how long she’s lived in Wales is uncertain, but she’s loyal to the Labour Party and belongs to that union which is almost ‘Welsh’ Labour by Eaglestoneanother name, so that’s her elevation assured.

Her Twitter account says that she is married to @Carrageryr, so who might that be? Well, it’s another Labour Party star named Martin Eaglestone, perennial Labour loser in Arfon. (Eaglestone, Carrageryr, geddit?) Though in past elections he was living with his wife and five children in Y Felinheli. (I blame all these conferences they go to, and the drinking.) Eaglestone’s Linkedin profile describes him as, “Welsh Policy Officer at Labour Party – Welsh Labour”, whatever that means. He supports West Bromwich Albion while Bowden supports Brizzle City, so neither knows much about football.

I single out Unison because this seems to be the union of choice for many Labour politicians in Wales, even those, like Swansea’s student councillors, who’ve never done a day’s work in their lives. In many ways Unison operates (certainly in Wales) as an adjunct to the Labour Party rather than as a trade union in the traditional sense. Maybe Labour’s political opponents should have a new slogan – ‘Vote Labour, get Unison!’. Though the problem is also found in England, with other unions.

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Returning to the Third Sector, in my delvings a number of things have become apparent, but one that I feel needs to be highlighted is the practice of publicly-funded bodies setting up wholly-owned subsidiaries, for reasons that are not entirely clear, or may even be of dubious probity.

In recent posts I have looked at Canoe Wales, and the extraordinary level of funding that body receives from Sport Wales, £378,000+ in the current financial year alone (see panel below). Yet Canoe Wales has two subsidiaries, C W Sales and Services Ltd and Canoe Wales (Commercial) Ltd. The first of these subsidiaries runs the adult playground at Frongoch, near Bala, while the other is dormant. The representative of Canoe Wales that I spoke with assured me that Canoe Wales’s finances would soon start to improve, and I’m sure he’s right, for seeing as the running of the Frongoch Centre has passed to the subsidiary and Canoe Wales is so well funded it would be strange if Canoe Wales’s books didn’t begin to look healthier. The Canoe Wales representative also told me that his organisation had passed all the auditor’s checks. Which, again, I don’t doubt; but I guarantee that the Wales Audit Office does not look into subsidiaries, for the very simple reason that these do not – directly – receive any public funding.

consolidated accounts

Allowing publicly-funded bodies to form subsidiaries creates the temptation for an organisation to transfer ‘bad news’ to a subsidiary, safe in the knowledge that the WAO will not investigate the subsidiary. I’m not for one minute suggesting that this is what has recently happened with Canoe Wales, but C W Sales and Services Ltd is not in a healthy financial state. If C W Sales and Services Ltd did not exist then its indebtedness of £76,798 would be shown against Canoe Wales, and would be picked up by auditors.

That said, it could be that funders are aware of such arrangements. Staying with Canoe Wales, its accounts for year ending March 31 2013 state that “As at 1st April 2013, commercial trading activities and the operation of the White Water Centre at Canolfan Tryweryn were transferred to C W Sales and Services Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary.” Yet despite this burden being lifted Canoe Wales’ funding from Sport Sport Wales fundingWales leapt from £266,000 in 2012/13 to £378,000 in 2013/14 and 2014/15 (click to enlarge). How do we explain this unless Sport Wales is aware of, and approves the use of, a subsidiary that may be beyond the remit of the Wales Audit Office and will – as the clip above reveals – not be mentioned in future Canoe Wales accounts?

As I say, it’s a phenomenon I have observed regularly in my investigation of how public funding is dished out in Wales. Here’s another example, with a further twist. This example is Carmarthenshire Heritage Regeneration Trust / Ymddiriedolaeth Adfywio Treftadaeth Sir Gaerfyrddin, according to its website, but Ymddiriedolaeth Atgyfnerthu Treftadaeth Sir Gaerfyrddin on the websites of both the Charity Commission and Companies House. Confusing. Maybe deliberately so. Is this a laudable use of yr hen iaith or an attempt to hinder investigation into a body universally known as the Carmarthenshire Heritage Regeneration Trust?

Either way, the Trust has a subsidiary, deep in the red, called CHRT Ventures Ltd. Now for the ‘twist’ I referred to earlier. The chief executive of the Trust is Claire Deacon, and the Trust’s 2012 accounts say this:  “During the year, Ymddiriedolaeth Atgyfnerthu Treftadaeath Sir Gar (CHRT) employed the services of Ms Claire Deacon, CEO, a historic building consultant. The total expenses paid by CHRT for consultancy was £59,159 (2012: £41,873). At the year end, CHRT owed Ms Claire Deacon £9,436 (2012: £3,386). This balance is included in trade creditors”. How the hell can an employee suddenly declare herself a consultant to the body she works for and then demand more than she would have been paid in salary? The full story of Ymddiriedolaeth Atgyfnerthu Treftadaeth Sir Gaerfyrddin, and more, can be found here

Here’s another example, this one from the fleece jacket sector. The issue of public funding and subsidiaries, with the added problem of Welsh public funding seeping across the border, even extends into academe, as this post explains. And how could anyone forget Naz Malik and Awema? Let us remember that the Malik family was staunch Labour, with father and son hoping to be Labour candidates. To help their cause Naz Malik would regularly sing for his supper by proclaiming against ‘racist (Welsh) nationalists’. And what the hell is happening at the YMCA? Then there’s housing associations. We are told by the ‘Welsh’ Government that 22 local authorities is far too many, too expensive, and so there must be ‘streamlining’ – so why is that same ‘Welsh’ Government funding dozens and dozens of housing associations that compete with each and duplicate each other’s work? The answer is that housing associations are stuffed with Labour supporters (and future candidates). Read about it here.

*

There are countless other examples of Third Sector bodies, publicly-funded agencies, etc., ‘diversifying’, or setting up subsidiaries and ‘trading arms’ into which ’embarrassments’ can be diverted, beyond the scope of auditors mandated only to check the recipient body itself. Though what happens if one of these subsidiaries actually makes a profit, will the profit be declared to the funding body?

This loophole is known to those disbursing the funding and is almost certainly familiar to those entrusted with ensuring that the funding can be properly accounted for. Which raises the question, why is this loophole not closed? The suspicion must be that it’s left Eaglestone Linkedinopen in order to help hide some of the public funding being wasted by the Third Sector. Because to expose this waste would damage both the Third Sector and the Labour Party, and they need each other, their fortunes and their futures are intertwined.

We have on our hands a sick man called the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party or, if we go by Eaglestone’s Linkedin profile, “Labour Party – Welsh Labour”. (Perhaps the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party is as much a fiction as the ‘Wales Green Party’.) This party is no longer able to find decent candidates from within the nation so it has to rely on recruiting officials imported by its trade union partners and those who have swarmed here to make careers for themselves out of celebrating and exaggerating Wales’ deprivation in order to get their sweaty paws on the money that has been given to alleviate that deprivation.

The Labour Party, with all its hangers-on and cronies, is suffocating Wales. Unpatriotic, anti-initiative, increasingly dependent for its survival on people who don’t know Wales and don’t care about Wales, it can only maintain its position because there is no other party electors find more attractive. Which is why I repeat that Plaid Cymru has fifteen months (the General Election of May 2015 and the Assembly elections of May 2016) to prove that it can mount a serious challenge to Labour; if it fails, yet again, then we must have a new nationalist party, a party that puts Wales and Welsh people first, rather than one that constantly exposes its weaknesses and lack of ambition by looking to do deals with anti-Welsh parties. Fifteen months.

Feb 272014
 
(What I argue in this post in no way invalidates my assertion that Wales is, in reality, run by civil servants answering to London; a sitution that reduces ‘Welsh’ Government spokespersons to mere mouthpieces. In this post I am dealing with perceptions, and for the vast majority of people in Wales the country is ‘run’ by the Labour Party government in Cardiff.)

 

In a piece I posted on February 18th, Polls and Donkeys, and in other posts, I may have given the impression that I view the Labour Party in Wales as a bunch of unprincipled, self-serving, dim-witted and traitorous self-abusers. This is still my view. However, in the post referred to I should perhaps have expanded my interpretations of the opinion poll that formed the basis of that post, as I subsequently did in answer to certain comments.Labour Performance

What the poll told us, among other things, was that despite the abysmal performance of the Labour Party its vote in Wales is holding firm. Looking at the approval ratings we see from the table that the highest rating was 41%, this from Labour supporters who believe the ‘Welsh’ Government is doing a good job with the economy. (I kid you not!)

Yet when we consider voting intentions, in the rather colourful table below, we find that support for Labour is little changed from earlier contests. In any normal society this would be regarded as very odd, even perverse; perhaps an indication of endemic or congenital masochism within the population. A condition possibly resulting from centuries of being kicked around and exploited. Yet while history may play a part in shaping attitudes in twenty-first century Wales there’s a much simpler explanation. For too many Labour supporters there is no credible or attractive alternative to Labour.

Now, clearly, the Tories are never going to be that alternative. Perhaps because there has never been a coherent and recognisably Welsh Tory voice; by which I mean a patriotically Welsh, but Unionist, position prepared to argue Wales’ corner. I had hoped we might be moving towards such a party, but the recent split over income tax, and the Uriah Heap-like behaviour of David Jones tells me that the Conservative and Unionist Party in Wales still contains a majority of politicians wanting a party that represents the interests of England, and the English within Wales; often done by promoting the view that our best interests are served by ‘smoothing out’ all differences with England, done for our own good of course, because whatever makes us different is just ‘ugly, intolerant nationalism’ – ach y fi!

Then there are the Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Greens, BNP, Monster Raving Loony Party and other, even more outlandish groups, unlikely to ever over-work ballot-counters and Returning Officers. Which leaves only Plaid Cymru. For despite the fact that Labour’s ‘Donkey’ voters belong to the most deracinated and, um . . . ‘uninformed’ (that the word?) elements of the nation, there still resides within most of them a spark of Welshness. This spark flickers into life for sporting events, and on those occasions when someone reminds them they’re just a ‘Welsh bastard’, but not when Plaid Cymru comes knocking. Telling us that Plaid Cymru, Voting Intentionsa ‘national’ party, is failing on the most basic level.

Partly because being a Labour Party Mk 2 will make no headway with Labour supporters. They will ask themselves why they should vote for the imitation when they can vote for the real thing. Equally pointless is pathetically struggling to win the approval of Guardianistas and the scroungers and shysters of the poverty celebration industry. Also worth remembering is that for every Mike Parker there are a dozen or more English in Wales who resent being reminded they are even in Wales. (To verify that, just pop in to your local golf club.) What I’m trying to say is that the only hope for Wales, and the only possible threat to the Labour Party, lies in Plaid Cymru appealling to the ‘Donkey’ voters on a different level. Which will have to mean Plaid reasserting itself as a Welsh party, rather than continuing to posture as some kind of lefty Brit regionalist party.

To achieve this will mean standing up for the Welsh, rather than for the cop-out of ‘Wales’. Because if you restrict yourself to ‘Wales’, and divorce it from Welsh nationhood, then you are left with nothing but a geographical expression, or an empty shell. It then becomes possible to argue – as with tourism – that something is ‘good for Wales’ while working against the interests of Welsh people and Welsh nationhood. Plaid has to face the reality that distancing the party from perceptions of ‘nationalism’ has paid no electoral dividend. Plaid Cymru must re-unite with the Welsh nation, all of the nation. Demand that Welsh people, those with roots in this country, have priority claim in employment, social housing, training, grants – everything ‘Wales’ has to offer.

Plaid must no longer avoid the inescapable truth that its existing and potential electorate is almost entirely restricted to those who regard themselves as Welsh. So unashamedly target this electorate, speak up in its defence, demand measures that specifically benefit Welsh people. Done effectively this will allow the party to take votes directly from Labour, which will obviously damage Labour far more than by taking votes from other parties. There is no other way for Plaid Cymru to become the major political force in Wales other than by attacking Labour head-on. (As the SNP has so successfully done in Scotland.) Given that the two parties are so close ideologically, the only hope of victory lies in appealing to people’s innate Welshness.

If Plaid Cymru is unwilling to change direction, to speak in defence of Welsh people, then it has no purpose, and no future. By refusing to fulfil its obvious role it guarantees its continued impotence and takes up space that could or should be filled by a genuinely Welsh party . . . while also gifting the Labour Party – and England – unchallenged hegemony over our homeland.

Apr 162013
 

About a month ago I wrote a piece on the failure of yet another “helping people back into employment” initiative set up by the Welsh Government. This £36m scheme called Genesis was launched in 2010, and although declared officially deceased it seems to be taking a long time a-dying. With its death-throes still attracting morbid curiosity and asinine comment. Made painfully clear by the article in today’s Mule. (Click to enlarge.)

According to Deputy MGenesisinister for Skills and Employment Jeff Cuthbert: “While Genesis helped many people to develop their confidence and self-esteem to find work now or in the future, we cannot ignore the fact that the programme was continuing to underperform”. Listen, Cuthbert, do you know what really helps people with their confidence and self-esteem? A job. A decent bloody job. Not wasting time on some poxy ‘course’ designed solely to provide funding for Labour’s Estuary English-speaking cronies.

Cuthbert continued: “One of the key aims of the programme was to support hard-to-reach groups into employment and performance figures showed that this objective was simply not being met for the project as a whole and did not compare favourably with other programmes delivering to similar groups of participants”. Other progrGenesis Wales p1ammes delivering to similar groups of participants. Think about that, readers. Might the fundamental problem with Genesis have been that it was trying to duplicate the work already being done by other agencies? Because in answer to an FoI request I submitted the Welsh Government confessed that it was funding no less than thirty “helping people back into employment” schemes across Wales. (See right, click to enlarge.)

We were then reminded that despite yet another Third Sector funding fiasco Jeff Cuthbert has at least retained his sense of humour, for he said: ” . . . we will ensure that we integrate the best practice from Genesis into the development of future programmes”. Best practice be buggered! You’re pulling the plug on it becuse it was a total and utter bloody failure! What I find even more worrying is the reference to “future programmes”. For this suggests you’ve learnt nothing, and will continue to pour money into the funding black hole (sucks in everything, gives nothing back) that is the Third Sector.

What the Genesis fiasco has exposed, yet again, is that Labour’s antipathy to business and the employment that a healthy economy provides is one of the major reasons for Wales’ relative poverty. This is what “clear red water” really means – an anti-business Labour Government in Cardiff. Labour prefers to keep Wales poor so it can capitalise on the poverty for its own political ends and further use it to provide a cottage industry for its cronies and supporters.

For me, the big question now has to be, ‘For how much longer will the EU keep pouring money into the black hole of the Third Sector?’ The first two rounds of Structural Funds were wasted, and that’s why we now qualify for a third round. To avoid yet more wasted funding, shouldn’t the EU examine the possibility of allocating the money to Wales but have it disbursed by some agency independent of the Welsh Government? Why should ‘Welsh’ Labour be given so many chances to screw up?

UPDATE 17.04.2013:I recently came into possession of this document (Mutuals) telling us that the Welsh Management is keen to push Co-operative and mutual ventures. I have no insurmountable objections to these kind of undertakings, but I do have a few observations.

First, this seems to be further proof of ‘Welsh’ Labour’s irrational hostility to a real economy; you know, business, private enterprise, capitalism. The giveaway for me is in the use of the term, “the co-operative and mutual economy”. Second, shouldn’t co-operatives be spontaneous, grass-roots creations? Redundant workers saying, ‘Let’s have a buy-out and run the business as a co-operative’. But not in Wales. Here we see again ‘Welsh’ Labour’s top-down, Statist approach to everything – ‘You will have Co-operatives! Is that understood?’ A mentality not a lot different to Stalin imposing collective farms.

If the logo at the bottom of the page is anything to go by then it seems that the poor EU is also paying for this latest departure from reality. How much longer are our continental cousins going to fund Labour’s delusion that prosperity can be created without a healthy commercial economy?

Mar 252013
 

As from next week Scotland will have just one police force dealing with everything from Glasgow gangsters to Shetlands’ sheep rustlers. Scotland, with approaching twice the population of Wales and almost four times the land area. Here in Wales we shall plod on justifying four separate police forces on the grounds that Holyhead is nothing like Fishguard, while Llangollen and Brecon might as well be on different planets. OK, so policing is not a devolved issue. But it should be; and it could have been if New Labour had given us a more respectful and workable form of devolution.

As with police forces, so with our 22 councils, a system that has run out of defenders yet staggers along because the Labour Party fears the consequences of culling so many of its councillors. Then there are 7 health boards (plus their impotent ‘shadows’, the health councils). How can the Welsh Management argue it is building a national health service when it fragments decision-making so that those responsible for health in one region look over the border rather than seek, or demand, solutions within Wales?

And how can we ignore the Third Sector? In answer to an FoI I was recently told that the Welsh Management is funding no fewer than 30 schemes across the country ‘helping people back into employment’. Do we really need 30 such schemes in a country the size of Wales? Why not put that money into creating real jobs rather than using it to disguise the fact there are so few jobs . . . and to hell with the hangers-on in the Third Sector, however loyal they may be to Labour.

One issue here is clearly unnecessary duplication. A problem that is almost inevitable in a country dominated by an outdated Statist ethos. For why have one person doing a job when you can have two, and thereby create the illusion of two jobs? A system administered by politicians and others who are good at spending money but have no idea how to generate it, beyond begging.

Responsible for this mess (at least within Wales) is the Labour Party, today driven by little more than the political equivalent of an ancient blood-feud, revived periodically to remind voters of how evil the Tories are. About the only other thing helping Welsh Labour hang on to its vote is the distance it manages to keep – in the public imagination if nowhere else – between itself and its iFlowchartdeology-free masters in London. Done by keeping Wales poor, blaming someone else, then, ostentatiously managing the poverty it must perpetuate to maintain its political grip. The poverty that is then used to justify the colonial relationship with England. As the flowchart explains.(Click to enlarge.)

Having saved most of our people from the corrupting influence of prosperity, and convinced too many of them that the noblest ambition is humbly accepting poverty, in a colony that can aspire to nothing more, the brothers and sisters then frolic and posture on the moral high ground, from where they survey their fiefdom, ‘Caring Wales’. Where everyone is welcome, and everything will be paid for  . . . for something will turn up.

(In fact, if you want to delve into literature to explain this Welsh Government then Wilkins Micawber, hoping something will turn up, and Blanche DuBois, depending on the kindness of strangers, are almost unavoidable. Carwyn MicawberMicawber and Edwina DuBois?)

But over the horizon I see threats to this idyll. One being that down in the amoral lowlands of Tory England plans are afoot that might prove a test for Labour’s vision. David Cameron has promised legislation to deny social housing to immigrants until they have lived in England for at least 2 years. If enacted, this legislation would apply only to England. So what will be the Welsh Management’s response? The immediate impulse will be to flaunt their moral superiority by not enacting similar legislation. Which will mean . . . what?

Well, if you’re coming from Bangladesh, then no doubt you’d prefer to move to an English city where there are other Bangladeshis. But if the only social housing available is in Bargoed or Blaenau Ffestiniog, then some will inevitably settle for those towns. Pretty soon, the Welsh Management and its cronies in the Third Sector will realise that the moral high ground can be a very expensive neighbourhood. Unless, of course, the UK Government – partly to offload a few ‘problems’ and partly in order to hold Wales up as an example of why not to vote Labour – is prepared to fund it all. For keeping Wales poor serves the interests of both Conservatives and Labour. Knowing they have no chance of winning a majority in Wales the Tories may even view funding Labour’s lunacies as money well spent.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Wales is potentially a very wealthy country. That we are poor today is due to the colonial relationship with England, aided by the corruption and self-interest of the Labour Party, and ‘policies’ such as actually funding our ‘brain drain’! Yet unfortunately Labour faces no real threat, because the party that once hoped to topple Labour has revised down its ambitions. The best it hopes for now is to be a very junior partner to the party destroying Wales. Which means the opposition must come from somewhere else

Feb 252013
 

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

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

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

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

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

THE ‘PAINTED SHELL’ PARTY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Feb 182013
 

In a sudden and uncontrollable thirst (for knowledge) I have this very day sent off not one but two Freedom of Information requests to our glorious and inspiring leaders down in Cardiff docks.

One was addressed to Jane Hutt; in which I ask about the leasing arrangements for Tŷ Hywel, or Crickhowell House. The letter to Ms Hutt can be found here, with background information here.

The other request was to Leighton Andrews. This dealt with the multiplicity of organisations to be found in Wales claiming to be ‘helping people back into employment’. Moreover, I expressed my heartfelt concern at the high mortality rate to be found in this sector. The letter may be perused ici.

I now look forward to the replies from both Ministers.

Feb 052013
 

Yesterday I noticed a story on the BBC West Anglia website about a ‘summit’ to tackle youth unemployment. Not a ‘meeting’ or a ‘conference’, but a summit, no less; the sort of thing that kept us on the edge of our seats during the Cold War. Serious stuff, eh! This particular summit brought together in Newport First Minister Carwyn Jones and Secretary of State David Jones, along with various other loafers with nothing better to do. I quickly realised that this was another case of the clueless getting together for reassurance that political ‘opponents’ were equally devoid of ideas, and all hoping that this gathering might be misinterpreted by an incompetent media as ‘doing something’. The news moved me to Tweet.

Later in the day, on the BBC WA 6:30 news there was a lengthy report from Merthyr (regrettably this seems to be no longer available on BBC iPlayer), about an organisation called Merthyr Youth (MY), a kind of self-regulating youth club for kids from the age of eleven. My doubts about Merthyr Youth began with this poster (left ) on the wall, making me think, ‘Surely kids of 14 (and older) are too young to work. And aren’t they supposed to be getting advice on employment in school and college?’ The more I saw of MY, and its Deputy Director, Jack Law, the more I thought to myself, ‘this looks like yet more Third Sector duplication’ (of work being done by other agencies). A thought strengthened by young Mr Law himself. For although this was in Merthyr, his accent did not suggest Gurnos or Dowlais, or anywhere nearby. All that was missing from the growing impression of this being another example of a problem I commented on very recently was the usual Third Sector funding. So I did a little Googling on Merthyr Youth, and Jack Law. I was not disappointed.

Very quickly I learnt that Merthyr Youth was given £49,300 in December by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to make six short films about the town’s ‘diversity’. (Yet more ‘Everybody but the Welsh’ bollocks?) Jennifer Stewart, head of HLF Wales was quoted as saying, “We are delighted to support this project which will enable young people to research the history of Merthyr Tydfil’s migration and by so . . . ” Hang on! “Migration”! Is she saying Merthyr came from somewhere else? The report also made a number of mentions of “drama” and “musical theatre”. Merthyr Youth also received £300 from the Galaxy Hot Chocolate Fund “to record an album of songs”! It therefore seems reasonable to assume that other grants have been applied for and, possibly, gained. Though the Merthyr Youth website makes no mention of any funding received.

It will come as no surprise to regular readers, and others knowledgeable on the machinations of the Third Sector, that much of the HLF money will be used to pay a Project Manager. According to the MY website the successful applicant started in the job on December 1st, but the website neglects to name him or her. A rather worrying omission seeing as we are dealing now with grant funding. Another thing, I couldn’t help but notice that the whole application process was rather, well . . . rushed. Deadline for applications on November 16th, interviews November 20th, start job on December 1st.

Makes me wonder how well it was advertised, and for how long. Another curiosity is that there is no mention at all of the post of Project Manager, let alone a name, in the Wales Online piece (linked to above) of December 13th, even though this piece dealt exclusively with the project twelve days after the Project Manager was due to start. Was a Project Manager appointed? If so, who is it? If not, why not?

I made mention above of MY’s emphasis on the performing arts. Which should be no surprise seeing as young Jack is a bit of a thespian himself, being director of the Broken Leg Theatre Company. Now I have no way of knowing what the connection is – if any – between Merthyr Youth and the theatre company, certainly there is no mention of the company on the MY website. So it may be an entirely separate venture to Merthyr Youth. If so, and just in case, I have a word of fatherly advice for Jack. In my studies of the Third Sector I have come across a number of cases in which grants have been awarded to persons running charities or the like who simultaneously run their own companies operating in the same, or a closely associated, sphere. This often leads to, um, ‘confusion’, with funding and equipment given to the charity being used by the private company.

So good luck to Jack, I say. He’s obviously found his niche, and at an early age he’s already learning his way to the troughs. This could be the start of a long career in the Third Sector . . . using money that could be better spent elsewhere duplicating work that others are – or should be – doing. But hey! even though Jack is a mere minnow in a sea of sharks it all helps funders pretend they’re disbursing money ‘imaginatively’; it gives photo opportunities to politicos and other pond life; and it helps the ‘Welsh’ media fill pages and air time. Everybody’s a winner . . .

. . . Until that is you give a bit more thought to those kids in Merthyr. Remember them? That’s what it’s all supposed to be about – the blight of youth unemployment. How many of them do you think are going to get a worthwhile job out of this circus? I guarantee that, as with so much of the Third Sector in Wales, everyone will get a slice of the cake, while those the project is supposed to be helping will be lucky to see the crumbs.

All because of this stinking colonial system that guarantees Welsh poverty; poverty that is then celebrated and perpetuated by our local politicians for their own political advantage. Think about that! Both the London government and the Cardiff government share the goal of keeping Wales poor. Resulting in the grotesquery of ‘Welsh’ Labour ‘fighting for Wales’ by blaming others, ‘sending messages to London’, and funding its charlatan cronies in the Third Sector, rather than actually doing anything to build a Welsh economy.

Jan 222013
 

Once upon a time . . . in a big city in Englandland lived four friends, Jacqui, Jenni, Jimmi and Maximilian. They’d been friends since they’d first met, some ten years earlier, at Lowestoft University (formerly Suffolk Fish-boners’ Polytechnic). They weren’t happy in the big city. For one thing, they didn’t like the work they did, nor the people they worked for . . . or even the people they worked with. What they really wanted was to work for themselves and to live somewhere nice, perhaps in the country.

One Friday evening, the four friends were having a candle-lit dinner in Jimmi’s basement flat and, just before Jimmi opened another bottle of Lidl’s famed Afghan red wine (‘£2.99 for 3! This month only!’), Jenni piped up with, “Do you remember Primrose . . . was in college with us . . . real swot, got a 2/2?” The question got a mixed response, but undeterred Jenni went on, “Well, she runs some charity or something, down in Wales, catering for trans-sexual trawler men. I was thinking we might do something like that.” This information was greeted with a more interested response, and it was Maximilian who articulated the thoughts of the other two, “Sounds good, but . . . Wales!” “Yes”, answered Jenni, “It’s not that bad, honestly. Let me explain”. And she went on.

“You see, the way Primrose explained it to me there’s oodles of money being dished out in Wales to anybody who can come up with the right idea. What you have to do is find a ‘niche market’ that no one else has thought of. Once you’ve identified it, and set up your group, you apply for the grants.” “Like trans-sexual trawler men, you mean?” interjected Jimmi. “Exactly”, she replied, “We’d be working for ourselves; and it wouldn’t be like running a real business . . . y’know, capitalism and all that . . . ripping people off, taking money for nothing. We’d be helping people . . . wouldn’t we?” The others nodded thoughtfully.

“The other thing Primrose said was that Labour Party connections help. Well, Max is a member . . . and we’ve all helped out in some way or another over the years. I mean, we share the values, right?” Jimmi gave a half-hearted clenched fist salute before contributing, “Yeah, this could work. But how do we identify a niche market?” There was a silence for a moment before Jacqui – who up until then had been under the table doing something – patted her hair into place and made her contribution.“There must be a list somewhere of all the groups currently being funded, so we avoid these and think up something really imaginative that’s not on the list. Simples!” This met with general approval, and it was decided that Jenni should make a trip to Wales to learn more from Primrose, do a little networking, and get the lie of the land.

So off Jenni went to Wales. Rather than travel all the way to Pembrokeshire – where Primrose had her ‘Mission’ for sexually confused net yankers – they had decided to meet in Swansea. Primrose was waiting on the platform, excitedly waving her Andean recycled llama wool scarf as the train pulled in. They hugged and kissed effusively, attracting much attention. Then, as they gaily waltzed out of the station, they were confronted by the harsh realities of modern Wales . . . in the form of a foul-smelling beggar shouting, “Gis a tenner for a cuppa, you slag!” They both moved quickly away from her, and as they pulled away saw many others of the same type, drinking from bottles, fighting, urinating and generally making mayhem. They jumped into the nearest taxi and sped off to an agreeable little bistro down Mumbles.

Once safely ensconced at a table overlooking the bay, and waiting for their Indian filter coffee to arrive, Jenni felt safe enough to ask, “What the hell was that all about up at the station?” Primrose grimaced before explaining. “Well, thing is . . . homelessness is something of a cottage industry in Swansea. The way it works, right . . . you argue that there’s many homeless people in the city, so you get funding . . . then – and this is the clever bit – you make Swansea attractive to homeless people from all over the place. Bingo! More homeless equals more funding; more funding attracts more homeless; which then results in more funding. It’s what we in the Third Sector call a virtuous circle.

“Now a few more things to remember. First, get to know your local Labour councillors and officials. Second, make sure you put ‘Cymru’ (it means ‘Wales’) in the name of your organisation. Third, employ somebody with a Welsh accent to answer the phone, maybe give the odd interview (otherwise certain people will try to undermine the good work we’re doing). Fourth, identify a disadvantaged group that didn’t even realise it was a group (let alone that it was disadvantaged), then start a campaign saying how this group is losing out. Fifth, finally, and most importantly! don’t ever succeed in solving the problem you’re being funded to deal with. Because if you do that, the funding stops and you join the ranks of the unemployed”.

The following Friday it was dinner again at Jimmi’s. Jenni explained what she’d learnt in Wales and the discussion was soon in full swing. All sorts of ideas were aired for the new group – someone wondered if gay and lesbian ramblers were catered for. Or could they get funding for bar staff to get breast implants. (Or was that sexist?) Jenni reminded the others that ‘Helping people back into employment’ was a very popular area for funding, but all possible angles seemed covered: black and ethnic minorities, battered wives, east Europeans, defrocked vicars, etc. There was even a group in Cardiff getting funding to help find employment for Vietnamese waiters with speech impediments – of whom there were two! (Possibly one, if the European-looking one is in fact – as many suspect – named Evans, and comes from Brecon.) It was then that Maximilian had his moment of inspiration. “Wait! I’ve just thought of a group not covered in all these lists we’ve been looking at. How about – wait for it! – holistic car mechanics? Instead of all those spanners and stuff, we train car mechanics to repair cars holistically. What about that?” The others looked nonplussed to begin with but their faces changed as they gave the idea more thought. Eventually it was enthusiastically agreed (even by Jacqui under the table). They would set up the Holistic Car Mechanics’ Co-operative Cymru and unveil it after meeting with the local Labour hierarchy in Cwmscwt, with whom they had made initial contact, Cwmscwt being where they had decided to set up base camp.

And lo! it came to pass. The founders of HCMCC changed trains in Cardiff and soon arrived in Cwmscwt, with its long rows of terraced houses climbing up the sides of the valley. It was raining. They looked for a taxi outside the station, but all they could see was a burnt-out car and a few supermarket trolleys in only slightly better condition. So they trudged up the hill to their guest house. After freshening up, they went down for tea. They were greeted by the proprietrix, Mrs Lucrezia Leyshon who, after scanning the signing-in book, felt confident enough to suggest, “From away, are ew?” Not entirely sure how to respond, they simply nodded. In a desperate attempt at conversation Jimmi informed Mrs Leyshon that in a couple of hours they would be in the Labour Club meeting with Councillor Josef S. Lloyd. This seemed to leave the good woman unimpressed, for after extracting another bogie, and flicking it at the cat, merely responded with, “Mmm . . . I yeard ʼe was out.” Unsure what to make of this remark, or indeed, what to make of the taciturn Mrs Leyshon, the group tucked in to their guinea pig and cockle pie with feigned gusto.

It was still raining as they walked up the hill towards the Lord Tonypandy Memorial Labour Club. The proud banner fluttering above the building carried the inspiring motto – ‘It’s Always Somebody Else’s Fault’. Upon enquiring at the bar they learnt that Councillor Lloyd was waiting for them in the committee room, along with a couple of other local party officials. As the representatives of HCMCC made their way across the large bar area towards the committee room they couldn’t help but feel the many eyes (some in working pairs) scrutinising them. For the lack of scar tissue and the full complements of natural teeth betrayed them as strangers, as did the four unbroken noses.

They reached the door of the committee room unmolested, though not without many ribald and sexually explicit remarks being directed at the women. (Jimmi and Max certainly hoped they were directed at the women.) They knocked on the door, and were invited in. Seated at a table before them were, in the centre, a large man with a bulbous nose and a curiously shaped ear; to his right, an even larger man bearing a number of tattoos and other adornments; and on the other side, a skinny, rather gormless looking youth with a lazy eye. The man in the centre spoke: “I am Councillor Lloyd; this gentleman on my right is David, our branch secretary, and this young man on my left, is Klarence . . . um, my, er (clearing his throat), sister’s boy. Now then, ʼow can we ʼelp ew?”

The four missionaries explained their plan to use holistic car mechanics as a means of encouraging local youths to take responsibility for their lives; to lay off the drugs and the booze, to desist from thieving, impregnating the local females, and in other ways blighting society. (Though it should be said that most local youths would have thought that, far from blighting society, the activities listed were all that gave meaning to their otherwise empty lives.) All the while Councillor Lloyd nodded sagely, “I loves it, I loves it! ʼOlistic car mechanics. Nobody’s thought of that scam before . . . scheme! I meant to say scheme. I can’t see no problem” the local worthy continued. “Sounds just the kind uh thing they loves to fund. We’ll be ‘appy to join ewer organisation”. The four were not sure how to take this last remark, so it fell to Maximilian to ask, “How do you mean, ‘join’? What exactly will you be doing in our organisation?” Before Maximilian could continue Councillor Lloyd was on his feet . . .

After a pause that took in a quizzical, even pitying look at the putative Board of HCMCC, he continued: “Ew don’ understand ʼow it works, do ew? Le’ me spell it out. Ew people comes ʼere lookin’ to get ew ʼands on funding. Fair enough! We controls the fundin’. People like me puts in a good word, ew gets ew fundin’. In return, ew shows ew gratitude by puttin’ me on the books . . . and Dai by here, and Klarence. Ew scratches our backs, we scratches ewers. Tidy!” Slowly it dawned on our four ingénues that they were lumbered with Josef Stalin Lloyd, his minder, and his nephew. (Klarence was by now making Jacqui slightly uneasy. He was staring at her and drooling but she couldn’t be sure if he was also winking because of the eye.)

And so it came to pass that the Holistic Car Mechanics Co-operative Cymru received £2.3 million in EU Structural Funds and – because it was such an “imaginative scheme” (local Labour AM) and a worthwhile idea – another £750,000 from one of the Welsh Government’s own funds. Councillor Lloyd was paid a fee for ‘advisory services’, but these ‘on book’ figures made no mention of the other payments. And the expenses claims were things of great imagination and no little literary merit. (As the auditors confirmed in the unpublished codicil to their report.) Josef Stalin Lloyd went on to become Leader of the local authority, a position from which he was able to provide for both his henchman and his simple-minded kinsman.

No cars were holistically repaired. No local youths were ever trained to perform this miracle. Jenni became a local Labour councillor. Jacqui had a breakdown, but recovered enough to ‘pull down’ more grants for her Indonesian Massage treatment for Tourette’s Syndrome, a ‘technique’ she had picked up while a guest at Doctor McLoony’s Retreat in Aberdeenshire. Jimmi took to the bottle and eventually went to live with a Chinese herbalist in Trimsaran. Only Maximilian ever made it back to Englandland. He had thought of writing a book about their experiences in Wales, but soon realised no one would believe it.

No matter; for a great purpose was served. The Holistic Car Mechanics Co-operative Cymru, and countless similar ‘projects’, allow civil servants in Cardiff to report to civil servants in Brussels that over one billion pounds of EU funding has been well spent, with remarkable ‘outcomes’. The wheel will turn and more funding will arrive. To be spent in exactly the same way. So keep voting Labour. Keep sending the message to those wicked Tories up in Lundun. We don’t want their type down by ‘ere. For Labour is more than capable of wrecking Wales on its own.