Wales and West Housing Association

Oct 172016
 

October 17th 2016

First Minister,

You may have read my previous post, ‘Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd‘. If not, then I suggest you read it, if only to help you understand what follows.

Your government gives a great deal of public money to housing associations. These bodies are largely unregulated and, as a consequence, a law unto themselves. (One reason so many of them run into ‘difficulties’.) For example, Pembrokeshire Housing – a body that receives a great deal of money from the public purse – funds its subsidiary Mill Bay Homes in the building of private houses for sale.  

The emergence of this particular scandal is due entirely to dedicated individuals rather than to the media, politicians, or those answerable to you who claim to be overseeing the Registered Social Landlords you so lavishly fund.

Now it emerges that housing associations funded by your government are leasing – perhaps also renting – property from Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, a company that is registered in a tax haven to hide the identity of those behind it, also to escape UK regulations and of course to avoid paying UK tax.

On Sunday, the Guardian told us that Arron Banks, funder of Ukip, friend of Nigel Farage and financial backer of his recent Leave.EU campaign, also makes use of Gibraltar. (Read it here.) When I read the story bells rang because details of Banks’ Gibraltar connection seemed familiar to me.

That’s because both Link Holdings and Arron Banks use Parliament Lane Nominees as directors, and both also use STM Fidecs Management Ltd as secretaries. (Check Link Holdings’ company profile from Companies House in Gibraltar to confirm this.)

Coincidence? Probably, but the Guardian article raises the possibility that Welsh housing associations, funded and supposedly regulated by the Welsh Government, could be leasing properties from Arron Banks.

Despite the blog post I refer you to focusing on Swansea this problem is not confined to that city, or to Link Holdings. To begin with, Link Holdings owns property across southern Wales, so it’s reasonable to assume that RSLs in other areas have an arrangement with Link. Then, knowing that Link is one of many offshore companies owning property in Wales makes it equally reasonable to assume that housing associations have dealings with companies other than Link. (Read this.)

It doesn’t matter which possibility we consider, neither does your government or the housing associations involved any favours. Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd could be owned by Arron Banks, or it could be owned by the Mafia, the Moonies, or money-launderers, we just don’t know.

Successive Labour administrations in the Assembly have told us they believe in ‘openness’, they’ve also reminded us how responsible they are in their handling of the public purse. You now have an opportunity to prove that these claims are more than empty rhetoric.

Unless, that is, you see nothing wrong with housing associations passing on public funding to property companies registered in tax havens. But I find that difficult to believe.

I also believe that no right-thinking Welsh politician would sanction what I have explained here, so we are entitled to know who is behind Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd. We are also entitled to know if you and the housing associations involved are unable to identify who is behind this company.

Someone also needs to explain why the Welsh Government allowed publicly-funded bodies to do business with companies registered in tax havens. Before, finally, promising that such behaviour will be brought to an end.

It’s clear from the Link Holdings case, from what’s happening in Pembrokeshire, and from other evidence, that the social housing sector is in one hell of a mess. A well-funded but almost completely unregulated mess.

The answer to this problem lies in genuine reform, not in encouraging housing associations run by Labour Party members to take over faltering RSLs in order to increase Labour’s stranglehold on Welsh public life. (I am of course referring here to the recent Wales and West takeover of Cantref.)

Let me conclude by suggesting that you, First Minister, practise what your party preaches about openness and concern for the public purse by making sure that no more of our money reaches secretive companies registered in Gibraltar or any other tax haven.

END

UPDATE 18.10.2016: I have now decided to write directly to the First Minister. Here’s my letter.

Jan 092014
 

In my recent posts I have dealt with the projected increase in households Wales will see in the next few decades. Predictions made by civil servants answering to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in London, and who are provided with a fig leaf of ‘Welsh’ credibility by Carl Sargeant, Minister for Housing and Regeneration in the self-styled ‘Welsh’ Government.

One problem is that these household projections made by the DCLG’s Knowledge and Analytical Services unit (KAS) have been used to formulate Local Development Plans that insist Welsh local authorities plan for the building of new dwellings in quantities that cannot be justified by any future Welsh demand. But we mustn’t overlook the fact that, while the majority of these new properties will be for sale, a sizeable percentage will be for rent. Which is an opportune moment to introduce you to the Housing (Wales) Bill, new legislation proposed for the rented sector in Wales. This Bill is currently being nodded through by the buffoons down Cardiff docks, with Carl Sargeant again acting as ‘fig leaf’.

Let’s look at the Bill; click here or read it below to appreciate the emotional-ideological triggers designed to elicit the right response from the right-on: ‘Social housing’ – ‘Hooray!’ ‘Private landlords’ – ‘Boooo! Bastards‘ ‘People with “problems”‘ – ‘Ah! Poor dabs.’ ‘The Homeless’ – ‘Bloody market forces’. ‘Gypsies and Travellers’ – ‘Innocent victims of persecution’. Among other things, this Bill is an attack on the private rented sector. For it seeks to ensure that housing associations, charities and the like, have a virtual monopoly in the rented sector. Which would be bad for Wales. We know what housing associations are guilty of now; if this Bill becomes law it will give them carte blanche to ignore local need and concentrate on taking in England’s problems. Before explaining the Bill’s other intentions, I want to mention something that throws light on issues raised in recent posts, and also helps us better understand the Bill.

I previously mentioned that the household numbers projection came from the Knowledge and Analytical Services unit of the Department for Communities and Local Government but, so the KAS claimed, was based on population projections made by the Office for National Statistics. So I contacted the ONS to ask if they produced their own households projections. By way of response, I was provided with this link, which takes us back to the DCLG! (The ONS has subsequently confirmed that household projections “is sourced to the Department for Communities and Local Government”.)

Clicking on the link in the second paragraph takes us here. Scroll down and you will read what I have reproduced in the panel. What struck me was the phrase “changes in household formation contributed about 3% of household growth”. Which means that, as the ONS predicts Wales’ population will increase by 247,000 between 2012 and 2037 then, with an average household size for Housholds contribution to growththe period of 2.12, and allowing for the 3% (changes in household formation), the projected increase in population could be accommodated with roughly 120,000 new dwellings. Yet the Knowledge and Analytical Services unit, speaking through its mouthpiece, Carl Sargeant, says we must prepare for 323,009 or even 331,168 new dwellings between 2008 and 2033. Doesn’t add up, does it? Let’s go back to the Bill, and something else that caught my eye.

If you go to the ‘Welsh’ Government website page for the Bill, and click on the link for Explanatory Memorandum, scroll down on that document to Section 3.4, you’ll see that alongside the opening word “Research” is a tiny 4, directing the reader to a reference that, in this case, takes us to Housing Need and Demand in Wales 2006 – 2026, by Alan Holmans and Sarah Monk of the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research. On this document scroll down to 2.12 and you’ll read what I’ve reproduced in the panel.one-person households This research tells us there will be an increase of 269,000 new households between 2006 and 2026, to cater for a projected population increase (ONS) of 282,600. With an average of some 2.12 persons per household this is a very high figure . . . but there’s an explanation – 66 per cent of that increase will be made up  of one-person households, and 21 per cent one-parent families!

If these predictions are correct, then they presage either the end of family life as we have known it, or they warn us to anticipate an influx of the elderly, the unemployed / unemployable, ex-cons, substance abusers, single mothers, ‘battered wives’, etc. This, let me remind you, is the “research” that underpins the Housing (Wales) Bill and the Local Development Plans. (The figure used by Sargeant is just an ‘updated’ version.) Reliable “research” that elsewhere – Table D6, page 98 – informs us that Denbighshire will see over 80,000 more households between 2006 and 2026! To put this into perspective, at the census of 2011 Denbighshire had just 40,500 households.

The evidence presented in this post, and recent posts, suggest strong linkage between the Department for Communities and Local Government in London and Carl Sargeant, the ‘Welsh’ Minister for Local Government and Communities. The Local Development Plans, for which Sargeant acts as front man, are ruthlessly pushed through by the Planning Inspectorate using ‘statistics’ concocted by the Knowledge and Analytical Services unit (aided by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research). Both are arms of the DCLG. Now it appears that the linkage may be getting even stronger.

A comment to my previous post provided this link. It tells us that the DCLG is providing funding – made available by the European Investment Bank (EIB) – to social housing providers. Something that should be of little interest to Wales . . . except that down among the English organisations listed as recipients of this funding we see the Wales and West Housing Association, which is receiving “up to £25m to build 251 homes in Wales & West HousingWales”. Does it qualify because it’s a cross-border outfit? I don’t think so; the website says it has offices in Cardiff and Flint (convenient for Merseyside) but says nothing of any activities in England. So why is an English government department giving money to a Welsh housing association to build properties in Wales? Why isn’t the ‘Welsh’ Government handling this funding? One suggestion is that this is devolution being secretly rolled back. And here’s another oddity. This Bill is, supposedly, Welsh legislation, dealing with housing and building in Wales – yet in 85 pages it contains not a single reference to the Welsh language!

In fact, the Bill abounds with curiosities. Here’s another. I was struck by the number of references to ‘England’, thirty-nine in all. So, for comparison, I consulted the Housing (Scotland) Bill, and do you know what? – it doesn’t contain a single reference to ‘England’. Because the Scottish Bill is precisely that – legislation for Scotland; whereas the ‘Wales’ Bill is yet more Englandandwales treachery, legislation that seeks to fully integrate social housing provision in the two countries. But not equally. For the Bill seems to suggest that someone refused social housing in England because of criminal or other behaviour must be housed in Wales. And that a local connection to any English local authority counts as ‘local connection’ in Wales!

Thirty-nine references to England and no mention of the Welsh language should tell you all you need to know about this Bill, and why it should more honestly be renamed the Housing (Englandandwales) Bill, for that’s what it is, and it’s been handed down by the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. It’s a plan to give more money and powers to ‘Welsh’ housing associations – bodies exempt from Freedom of Information legislation – in order that they can take in tens of thousands of English tenants. Why now? Well, for a start, there’s the ‘bedroom tax’, and the changes in benefits, which will result in many thousands being moved out of London. Now the UK government is talking about reducing housing and other benefits for under-25s. We could be moving towards a situation where, with legislation being slightly different in Wales to England, Wales takes in a large part of the London exodus; a paedophile refused accommodation in Birmingham could be housed in Bargoed; a young criminal evicted from a flat in Bradford will be dumped in Barmouth; and non-working families with 7 or 8 unruly kids will become your neighbours in Blaenau Ffestiniog or Blaenau Gwent. Because, don’t forget, the Department for Communities and Local Government is calling the shots, framing the legislation and dishing out the cash.

It would be nice to think that some, at least, of our AMs will see the Housing (Englandandwales) Bill for what it really is, but most will fall for the ‘triggers’ and think it ‘progressive’. And all the while, those who wish to destroy Welsh identity through colonisation will be smiling; and the parasites of the Third Sector, Labour’s Fifth Column, will be rubbing their hands at the prospect of the increased power, and more money, they’re being handed by a Tory minister in London! Wales carved up by the Brit Right and the Brit Left, both getting what they want. With we Welsh losing out, yet again.

The consultation period ends on January 17th.

Please make your feelings known about this disgraceful Bill.