Welsh Third Sector

Apr 082017
 

A few days ago I got an anonymous message telling me about someone, or a group, seeking to raise money to ‘Save English Language Education in Wales’. Here’s the link to the relevant CrowdJustice site. I doubt if those behind this are susceptible to embarrassment, but just in case, and it’s been taken down, here’s what it said (click to enlarge):

click to enlarge

There are so many misleading statements and downright lies in that ‘appeal’ that it’s difficult to know where to start. The opening sentence sets the tone with the ludicrous claim that what’s happening in Llangennech is the prelude to removing English medium schools “across Wales”.

At first reading, the fourth paragraph seems to elaborate on the first, but with the qualification of “potentially”, which serves to undermine it altogether. Potentially means ‘possibly’, or ‘maybe’, or ‘who the fuck knows’. For example, potentially I’m the lost heir of the Hapsburgs. The Monster Raving Loony Party is potentially the next government of the UK. Elvis Presley is potentially alive and running a nice little B&B in Penmaenmawr.

Paragraph five: where’s the evidence that, “The majority from within Llangennech village wish to keep their Dual Stream system school, offering both Welsh and English streams . . .” Has there been a vote on it?

Paragraph six: there are a number of English medium schools within reasonable travelling distance. As for the alleged ‘move to England’ remark, it might have been said, by an individual, but this issue is about a decision taken by Carmarthenshire County Council, what individuals have said, on either side, is of less relevance.

Summary: What “apparent flaws, breaches”? And, again, where is the evidence for “overwhelming opposition”?

“Learning through the Medium of Welsh must be through choice and encouragement not by compulsion.” At last! I’ve found something I agree with, so why not remind those Labour-controlled local authorities that do their damnedest to avoid meeting the demand for Welsh language education?

The people behind this campaign claim to be defenders of democracy; yet they are opposing a decision taken by the democratic representatives of the county and they have no grounds whatever for arguing that they represent the will of the majority in Llangennech . . . apart from a biased on-line poll that attracted most of its support from outside the area.

There is a sick yet dangerous mind behind this fund-raising escapade that is premised on a palpable lie, namely, that there is a plan to “eradicate all English Medium schools”. Whoever is saying this is lying, and they know they’re lying. Consequently, this is a case of money being raised under false pretences. Which is of course a criminal offence.

Inevitably, this campaign is being promoted on social media, particularly the Families website, of which I was blissfully ignorant before this cropped up. From what I can make out this is an open website, with local pages, where people post news about their area, or ‘Ah!’ photos of their kids. Riveting stuff.

Save English Medium Education in Wales is being pushed on various local pages, both in Wales and England. Here’s the Carmarthenshire page. As you work down, you’ll read “Watkins and Gunn partner Michael Imperato”. Watkins and Gunn are the solicitors handling this fund-raiser.

It appears that Watkins and Gunn’s headquarters are in Pontypool with branches in Newport and Cardiff. Although Imperato is described as a partner he is not listed as a director on the Companies House website entry for Watkins and Gunn. The company specialises in personal injury and medical negligence; in other words – they’re ambulance chasers.

Though we do find John Michael Imperato listed as a director of the Bevan Foundation, the Labour ‘think tank’. Imperato has also stood as a Labour candidate; in the Llanishen ward of Cardiff in 2008, the Pentwyn ward in 2012, and more recently, he considered going for the Aberavon Westminster nomination, but was talked out of it, allowing Stephen Kinnock to sneak home.

In fact, the word I’m getting from the now smoke-free rooms is that Imperato was ‘persuaded’ not to throw his hat into the ring by a trade union that may have had ‘dirt’ on him. This same trade union is also said to be ill-disposed towards Lee Waters, Imperato’s mate and AM for Llanelli.

John Michael Imperato

Now, I don’t want anyone to think I’m taking a cheap shot here because of his Italian name, but there is something to be said for comparing ‘Welsh’ Labour to the Mafia. Both have contempt for ‘outsiders’, backstabbing is the norm, both are in business for themselves and their members, with the Mob having its rackets and ‘Welsh’ Labour its Third Sector.

You may recall that in News Round-up 24.03.2017 I wrote of a Labour councillor in Plaid Cymru-controlled Gwynedd, Siôn Wyn Jones, and reported that a project of his had been favoured by the local funding agency, Mantell Gwynedd, which is – in the words of my informant – a “Labour closed shop”. I was told the same applies to the Citizens Advice Bureau in Bangor. So it’s no surprise to see that Imperato was once a director of the – now defunct – Cardiff Citizens Advice Bureau.

Which makes me wonder what chance I – someone who has over the years been mildly critical of the Labour Party – would have of getting fair treatment from what appears to be an offshoot of the Labour Party?

UPDATE 10:10pm: Since finishing this piece I have learnt that Mr Imperato has represented parents on the ‘other side’ of the language debate. Ceredigion in 2004, and Newport in 2014. I am happy to put the record straight.

Though in both those cases he was on firmer legal ground, which meant that he, or whoever instructed him, didn’t need to resort to hyperbole, exaggeration and downright lies, as in the Llangennech case.

The Llangennech dispute has inevitably attracted the bigots and oddballs, and they don’t come more bigoted or oddbally than Jacques Protic, a man who blames the Welsh language for his beer going flat. To judge by this Twitter reply he might even have been in the area recently. This obsessive’s blog is one sad but revealing anti-Welsh tirade after another. It paints the picture of a troubled soul.

Inevitably, Protic supports the Save English Medium Education in Wales fund-raiser, here’s a tweet (below) from a few days ago that suggests what’s happening in Llangennech is the fault of the ‘Welsh’ Government and is but a staging-post on the road to a “Welsh Speaking Republic”.

Protic has elsewhere claimed to be a Labour Party member, but believes that both Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones are ‘closet nationalists’, for no better reason than both speak Welsh! As I say, this man is troubled.

Support of a slightly more credible nature came from the Trinity Mirror Group’s Welsh mouthpiece WalesOnline, where someone called Christie Bannon gave an uncritical plug to the flagging campaign and even provided a link to the CrowdJustice page. Though somebody slipped up by using the photo of the bigots lined up with Neil – “do the honourable thing” – Hamilton and his wife-minder.

those with strong stomachs may click to enlarge

Why do ugly people always manage to find each other? Is there magnetism at work?

P.S. The WalesOnline story has finally been updated, at four minutes past three on April 11th. Instead of wondering who pulled the plug on this exercise in misrepresentation, or why, the reporter, Christie Bannon, does no more than say that it’s been taken down before repeating almost verbatim what it said and what is now no longer available on the CrowdJustice website.

click to enlarge

The bias we’ve seen in Trinity Mirror’s coverage of the Llangennech dispute has been blatant from the start. Why anyone still buys this company’s Welsh rags is a mystery. Maybe we should be thankful that sales are falling, though I’m a little sad to see the Evening Post – not so long ago the largest circulation Welsh daily – heading for the knackers’ yard as people in the Swansea area realise that ‘their’ ‘paper is now written in Cardiff.

Anyone who’s been following this story will know that there are disturbing connections between the anti-Welsh campaigners and the extreme right, the BritNats so intolerant of all other identities. To these people we Welsh, and our language, are ‘alien’, even in Wales, and must be stamped out. Everything must be English.

This attitude is not restricted to the Welsh language, it extends to anything that differentiates Wales from England, other than sporting events and other trivia. It’s what I’ve referred to more than once as ‘the package’. Those who are hostile to the Welsh language will usually be opposed to devolution and so on. Essentially, these people are English nationalists. Of course it’s dressed up as Britishness and, amusingly, opposition to ‘narrow nationalism’. But ‘British’ means little today, and once Scotland is independent and Ireland reunited it will mean nothing but Englandandwales.

Few have stirred more assiduously than Gary Robert Jones, who tweets as @poumista, a name taken from POUM, a Trotskyite party during the Spanish Civil War period. Jones is a community councillor and hopes for promotion to county hall next month, for he seeks election in the Llangennech ward.

An odd fish, Jones; sometimes he seems to be one of the more rational inmates of the asylum and then he puts out a tweet like this (below). Gifted to the world on the day – March 18 – when Wales played France at rugby in Paris. He appears to be wearing a poilu helmet from WWII, and the caption would suggest he’s supporting France!

Get your head around that. Here’s a Labour candidate in a Llanelli ward, two months away from an election, who appears to be supporting Wales’ opponents in a rugby international! In the Llanelli I know, that’s a lynching offence. But then, as I keep saying, we are dealing here with very strange people.

Moving up a level we come to the local Assembly Member, Lee Waters. Although Waters is the AM for Llanelli he and his family live 55 miles away on Barry Island. Yet for last year”s Assembly elections he gave a Llanelli address – possibly his mother’s – on his nomination paper and sneaked in by less than 400 votes. Would he have been elected if the Turks had known he didn’t live among them? I doubt it.

And now we have John Michael Imperato, failed Labour candidate; Jacques Protic, who dismisses Welsh as a “tribal language”; and a cast of similar individuals who have serious problems with the truth. In a word: they’re unable to recognise it or produce it.

Finally, with the campaign looking unlikely to meet its fund-raising target the Labour-supporting Trinity Mirror Group, using its Welsh titles and WalesOnline gives a priceless plug and a link to the site for potential donors. Curiously, although the piece asks for comments, it’s not publishing any. I know because I submitted a comment yesterday, and I can’t believe that no one has commented.

This affair has ‘Welsh’ Labour running through it like ‘Pwllheli’ through a stick of rock. The party locally has been behind the anti-Welsh campaign in Llangennech from the outset, conveniently forgetting that the county council was run by a Labour-Independent coalition when the decision on Llangennech school was taken in 2015.

No matter what pious statements Carwyn Jones or Alun Davies might make about wanting to help the Welsh language, lower down the food chain unscrupulous individuals see political capital – against Plaid Cymru – in being hysterically anti-Welsh.

And as these people make up the bulk of ‘Welsh’ Labour we can now label the party anti-Welsh. So stop-pussy-footing around with these bastards, dreaming of coalitions and talking of a ‘progressive consensus’, and fight them with their own weapons. They may be cunning and devious, but they ain’t too smart. They must be destroyed as the SNP has destroyed their corrupt, lying cousins.

I suspect this case will rumble on, so I may return to it at some point. For the full background of the squalid Llangennech saga, and its dramatis personae, I can recommend no better source than the excellent Cneifiwr.

As I finish this post I note that the CrowdJustice site has raised £1,400 of the £7,500 target with 26 days to go. Though what this deception has to do with justice I do not know.

UPDATE, 8pm: The link to the CrowdJustice site Save English Language Medium Education in Wales now comes up with this (below). Which is odd, seeing as the appeal had already been launched and was collecting money. It looks as if it has either been withdrawn by those behind it or else taken down by CrowdJustice. Or have they raised all the £6,000+ they needed this afternoon? If so, then it didn’t come in £10 and £20 donations.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I did write to CrowdJustice, using tradition Latin legal terms like ‘bollocks’ and ‘lying bastards’. But surely it was nothing to do with me!

UPDATE, Midnight: I have now been directed to a very strange tale on the Families website. In case this also disappears, I have saved it for you (below, click to enlarge). Quite what all this means I’m not yet sure, so I’m open to suggestions from my erudite readers.

Oh, yes, now I come to think of it, I may have written to Families as well.

UPDATE 10.04.2017: The CrowdJustice page now reads as shown (click to enlarge). It would appear that the appeal was closed down yesterday. But by whom?

UPDATE 2:45pm 10.04.2017: The CrowdJustice page now reads ‘Page not found’.

♦ end ♦

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 ♦

Feb 182016
 

This post examines two important votes being held in 2016; the Welsh Assembly elections on May 9th and the EU referendum on (possibly) June 23rd.

First, we shall look at the elections to our beloved and respected Assembly, wherein may already be found talent dazzling to the point of being a hazard to pilots (not that many of those intrepid aviators will be heading for the local airport) before moving on to consider the anticipated EU referendum

WELSH ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS

At present, Labour has 30 of the 60 seats, and is almost certain to lose a few, the only questions are, which ones, and to which other party or parties will those seats be lost?

To help you make comparisons I have compiled the table below, which shows each party’s percentage of the vote in 2011 compared with the percentages predicted by the latest available poll. You will note that the figures in the recent poll do not add up to 100, this is almost certainly due to respondents stating their intention to vote for the kind of minor parties that combined to give us the ‘Other’ figure in the 2011 results.

Assembly elections poll

These poll figures look credible for Labour but rather odd for the other parties due to little or no difference between the constituency votes and the regional list votes. Even so, the poll confirms that Labour will be the biggest loser and Ukip the biggest winner.

Though the level of Ukip’s support is rather surprising seeing as the party keeps choosing unknown or unattractive candidates (the one often mutating into the other) and in other ways shooting itself in both feet. It begins to look as if Ukip’s leaders could be filmed sacrificing Romanian migrants on Aberystwyth promenade, bollock naked with their nether regions painted bright green, and still not lose support.

As for the other parties, it’s very much a case of little or no change which will, after almost a year of Tory government at Westminster, be a relief to the Conservatives; an even bigger relief to the Lib Dems following their near-extermination in the last May’s UK elections; but a major disappointment to Plaid Cymru, who should be the main beneficiary of Labour and Lib Dems losing support.

Though looked at from another angle Plaid’s level of support might pleasantly surprise some. Let me explain. The Party of Wales would have us believe that it’s a radical party, offering change, improvement. Yet down in Carmarthenshire, where Plaid became the larger party in a coalition last year (after the ‘Independents’ refused to work with Labour any more), Mark James, the tyrannical and vindictive chief executive, carries on as if nothing has happened!

The other party to be disappointed by the poll findings will be the Green Party of Englandandwales. Despite claimed increases in membership, and Welsh people being spotted in the ranks, it seems that the Greens still have difficulty in attracting support. But then, this is a party so English, so frightfully middle class in its membership and support, that it makes the Tories look like a Welsh proletarian rabble.

As I’ve been predicting for some time now, after the Assembly elections we shall probably see Labour in coalition with Plaid Cymru. Though if by some some electoral miracle Labour can cobble together a coalition with Lib Dems and Greens that leaves Plaid Cymru out in the cold, then Plaid will be condemned to another five years of impotence. A period the party may struggle to survive.

Ukip will do very well. In June last year I predicted the Kippers would gain 7 seats, and in October I upped my estimate to 10. (The latest poll suggests 9.) If, as is now being predicted, the EU referendum is held in June, and that EU campaign overshadows the Assembly elections, then Ukip will be the only beneficiary because all the other parties are pro EU and will be singing the same song.

And here’s a thought to cheer you all up. If the Assembly elections are indeed dominated by the EU referendum debate then it is not inconceivable that Ukip could win seats in ‘volatile’ constituencies that in May will be five- or even six-cornered contests. Gaining a percentage of the vote in the low to middle twenties could do it.

‘Nathan Gill, AM for Ynys Môn’ has a certain ring to it, n’est pas?

Gill of course is currently an MEP, which is a handy link to the next part of this post.

THE EU REFERENDUM

THE BIG PICTURE

When I was young and idealistic, the matinee idol of the nationalist fringe, I considered myself to be quite the ‘European’. With my study of history, my admiration for Charles de Gaulle, being avowedly anti-communist, and after reading The American Challenge, I persuaded myself that a strong Europe was needed as a bulwark against both the USSR and the USA.

I still believe I was right, but the world has moved on. For a start, the Soviet Union is no more, and its demise was the cue for the USA to begin its advance in eastern Europe, first with its war on Serbia and then by gradually encircling Russia with newly signed up members of NATO. Have you ever stopped to think how weird that is?

NATO started life in 1949 as an alliance to deter the Soviet Union from invading western Europe (if indeed the USSR ever had that intention). It was a Cold War organisation, from the era of Dr Strangelove, which should have ceased to exist along with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, yet NATO has expanded since the Cold War ended. This is bizarre.

Strangelove

Unless of course you understand that the USA (and to a lesser degree, the ‘West’) must have enemies. Now this presents a problem for a country bordered only by friendly and peaceful Canada to the north and to the south by a third world state where the strongest armed forces appear to be those of the drug cartels.

Clearly this lack of a credible threat is an inconvenience to the military-industrial complex, neocons, the National Rifle Association, big corporations, news media, and politicians looking to make a name for themselves. So ‘enemies’ have to found elsewhere, which has resulted in a succession of ‘threats’ being exposed since the Second World War. These are often pantomime villains of dusky hue, with difficult to pronounce names, and living in far-off lands of which most Americans know very little. Plus of course we have the post WWII constant – USSR / Russia.

At this point many of you will be wondering why, in a section headed ‘The EU Referendum’, I’m banging on about NATO and US foreign policy. There are two principle reasons.

First, a single political unit allows the US – as we are now seeing with TTIP – to gain preferential access to the richest market on earth through influencing just a few people. The danger here should be obvious to all. Second, the EU is viewed by many US policy-makers as a sister-body or even an extension of NATO. It’s no coincidence that NATO and the EU have marched east almost hand in hand.

Let me try to explain the NATO-EU link with the table I’ve compiled below. It gives the dates that eastern European countries joined first NATO and then the European Union. And it has always been in that order (sometimes simultaneous), but never is EU membership allowed before joining NATO.

The delay in Albania’s accession to the EU can be explained by the fact that the country is a ramshackle land with large parts, especially the area bordering the Serbian province of Kosovo, controlled by people-smugglers, drug-traffickers, organ-harvesters and a motley assortment of old-fashioned vendetta-pursuing, blood-feuding bandit chiefs. Albania’s chief export is gangsters.

NATO

An exception to the NATO-followed-by-EU rule is of course Turkey, which has been a NATO member since 1952. No surprise then to learn that there have always been voices in the upper reaches of the EU arguing in favour of admitting Turkey. ‘Bridge to the Islamic world’ and other bollocks has been spouted in support of this idiocy. The truth is that the USA wants to reward its faithful ally – and currently chief Bear-baiter – so it periodically applies pressure on the EU to let Turkey join the club.

Turkey, that backward, Islamist state where the security services bomb their own people. Turkey, the country that persecutes its fifteen million Kurds and has a very ambivalent attitude towards ISIL. Turkey, that just a century ago introduced the world to the concept of holocaust with its butchering of the Armenians.

In the ongoing conflict in Syria the USA has encouraged Turkey to provoke Russia, and although the US may belatedly be trying to rein in its proxy, there remains the possibility that this dysfunctional country could start World War Three. If Russia does retaliate to Turkish provocation then we (and here I have to mean the UK), as fellow-members of NATO, are Treaty-bound to line up with Turkey.

How do you feel about going to war with Russia because Turkey has done something stupid and deliberately provocative?

THE VIEW FROM WALES

Leaving aside these wider concerns, what should be our approach to this referendum from a purely Welsh perspective?

‘Wales does well out the EU’ is a mantra trotted out by those urging us to vote to stay in. ‘Does well’ is just a euphemism for hand-outs, we export little. In other words, we get EU grants because we are so bloody poor. Which makes this ‘argument’ just another defence of begging-bowl politics, an acceptance of Wales’ poverty and deprivation.

And what has happened to the billions we’ve received in EU funding? Where are the great infrastructure projects? Where is the multi-skilled workforce we’ve trained? Where are the successful indigenous companies the funding was used to start? Nowhere to be seen, bois bach!

That’s because the greater part of this windfall has been wasted on the shysters and parasites of the Third Sector. Most of whom – unsurprisingly – seem to have Labour Party connections. 

If the UK left the EU then the UK government would have to make up the lost EU funding. If it didn’t, we’d have to go without the Third Sector. (Don’t cry!) And if the UK government didn’t make up the shortfall, then it might cause a few more people here to wake from their slumbers.

Looking further afield, the UK leaving the EU would have far more serious repercussions for England, more specifically south east England, and to be very, very specific, the City of London. Because if the UK left the EU then many of the banks, investment houses and other financial institutions would decamp for Frankfurt, Paris, Zurich, Berlin, etc.

This would result in tens of thousands of very well paid jobs being lost to London, and a few hundred thousand more would be lost in a knock-on effect. So just spare a thought for all those Lamborghini salesmen, tailors, high-class hookers, hairdressers, tattooists, coke suppliers, estate agents, jewellers, etc., etc.

eu_logo

Remove the City of London from the balance sheet and the economy of England heads south very fast. With the City of London creating less wealth the UK economy must suffer, and despite the malaise being centred on London we can be sure that – as ever – the Old Etonians will see to it that peripheral areas suffer most.

This should serve as another wake-up call to the slumberers who unquestioningly believe that London rule is best for Wales.

Another argument used is that we must vote to stay in the EU to prove how different we are to England (assuming the English vote to leave). A position that invariably cites the fact that Scotland will definitely vote to stay in. Let’s look at this argument in a bit more detail.

First, Wales is not Scotland. The obvious stated, let me add that many hundreds of thousands of Scots will vote to stay in the EU for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the EU itself. It’s all about promoting independence, hoping that England – or Englandandwales – votes for Brexit.

Should there be a vote south of the border to leave the EU, and should that decision lead to Scottish independence, then it will reverberate here no matter how Wales voted. Scottish independence will concentrate minds in Wales no matter how it comes about and will make redundant whatever views may have been held in Wales when Scottish independence was just a vague possibility.

So let me spell it out. How Wales votes in the EU referendum is almost unimportant. The vote is being hyped up in Wales by those posturers who like to regard themselves as ‘progressive’, and done in order to show how superior they are to the ‘xenophobes’ who want to leave the wonderful EU. Smug, precious, and self-deluding bollocks!

CONCLUSION

There is no party standing in the Assembly elections for which a nationalist can honestly vote. That being so, there is an argument to be made for voting for any party that might help weaken the regional socialist party that for decades now has done so much damage to the Welsh cause.

Personally, I probably won’t bother voting. There’s a temptation to toddle along to the polling station and scribble ‘None of the above’ on my ballot paper, but that’s always struck me as a bit desperate unless part of an organised campaign.

When it comes to the EU referendum I shall definitely vote to leave the EU. That’s because the EU we know today is a great disappointment for someone of my age who genuinely wanted to see a strong and democratic Europe play a leading role in the world.

Instead, we have a byzantine nightmare that I suspect no one properly understands, a monster created by bureaucrats that seems to have been subverted to serve US economic and strategic interests rather than working for the good of Europeans.

And yet, I could still be converted to a united Europe, a European army, a European diplomatic corps . . . but my Europe would need leaders of stature, not the anonymous, paper-shuffling committeemen we are cursed with today.

If only the General would come back . . .

Nov 182013
 

SCOTLAND 2014

Another Labour big-hitter, former Lord Provost of Glasgow Alex Mosson, has said he’ll be voting Yes in the September 2014 referendum on Scottish independence. I think we’ll see many more such declarations between now and referendum day. I say that partly because leaving the big decisions with London is less attractive than in previous decades simply because the modern Labour Party is so little different to the Tories.

What’s more, with the reduction in the number of Scottish MPs there’ll be a consequential reduction in those MPs’ clout. The days of Scotland sending forty or fifty Labour MPs down to London to influence, if not control, Labour governments is a thing of the past. More and more Scottish Labour supporters are realising that their wishes – be it changes they want made, or services and benefits they want to retain – are more likely to met in Edinburgh than London. Yet devolving more power to Edinburgh will result in even fewer Scottish MPs – with London still retaining control over defence, macroeconomics, foreign affairs and some forms of taxation. When faced with that prospect many Labour supporters will view independence as the better option.

For as The Scotsman said in reporting Alex Mosson’s decision: ‘He (Mosson) said the historic vote next September is “not about the SNP, or Labour or any other political party”. A Yes vote would help boost Scotland’s self confidence, grow the economy and make society fairer, he claimed.’ Exactly. This debate has long past the SNP v The Rest stage. It’s about what’s best for Scotland. Between now and September 18th next year I expect many more Labour supporters to come around to the view that the best option is independence.

BEVERLEY! BEVERLEY! ARE YOU OUT THERE, BEVERLEY?

A couple of months ago someone managed to break into my blog and make a few changes, such as an image of steaming dog turds in the header. Nothing really damaging; it was as if someone was just letting me know they’d been here. I have since changed the Log In password to a load of gobbledygook that even I can’t remember.

Then, in the past couple of weeks, I’ve received a dozen or so e-mails addressed to Beverley@jacothenorth.net. All from banks, or Companies House, with one from H M Revenue and Customs. All official looking and alJacquesl with attachments. As far as I’m aware there is of course no such e-mail address. I certainly haven’t set up one. So why would anyone else take out such an address?  Odd.Jaco

But then, as I’ve said before, I am getting unwanted attention from a few sources, with others trying to impersonate me. One being ‘Jacques du Nord’, whose e-mail address is jaconorth@btinternet.com. I have sent an e-mail to that address asking why he or she is impersonating me, but of course I’ve had no reply. Another minor irritant is jaco the north, to whom anyone trying to access my old Google Blogger account is directed. But I’m philosophical about these things, they’re nothing that a bottle of Argie red can’t put into perspective.

Less easy to laugh off is news I received last week from  my host (in Dyffryn Silicon, Aberaeron). It seems my blog came under attack on November 12. Many of my host’s clients complained that their websites were slow or at a standstill, with the answer to the problem coming from his server in Texas, who had “restricted” the service “to avoid a complete collapse”. The issue was that my blog had come under sustained attack in the hope of bringing it down. My host traced the culprit’s IP address given him by the server – 62.219.8.230 – to Israel. Which I find rather disappointing, given my support for Israel.

Still, I suppose it’s better than being ignored.

POWER TO THE PLONKERS!

Politicians, political commentators, anoraks, interested bodies, and Uncle Tom Cobbleigh an’ all have been getting excited about today’s announcement of further powers being devolved from London to Cardiff. Among these powers is the ability to set business rates and er, that appears to be it, apart from powers (after a referendum) over income tax. But this would be under a ‘lockstep’ sysyem, which would mean that reducing the lowest rate of tax would have to be applied, penny for penny, in the higher tax bands. Oh yes, there was also mention of borrowing. In other words, a poor country being allowed to go further into debt. But these new powers, we are told, make Wales more like Scotland.

Let me explain why it’s all a load of bollocks. Unlike Scotland, Wales is close to all the major English conurbations bar one. That one, the Tyne-Wear conurbation, is still 150 miles from Glasgow. To a far greater degree than Scotland, Wales suffers from cross-border institutions and ‘arrangements’. Unlike Scotland, Wales lacks her own legal system, education system, financial sector, media, cultural life and other features of nationhood that have, over centuries, created an indigenous middle class which, even though many of its members might oppose independence, will always defend what is uniquely Scottish. Which is why Scots live in Scotland, and we live in Englandandwales.

Giving more power to those buffoons down Cardiff docks is bound to result in that power being misused; is bound to make Wales poorer; and is guaranteed to lock Wales even more firmly into the Englandandwales framework. Let me explain. Thanks to the socialist culture prevailing here there is an obsesssive desire to prove how more ‘caring’ we are than the English, and especially them wicked Tories, to whom we must always send ‘messages’ . . . achieved by, um, voting Labour. The more power (and sources of funding)  ‘Wales’ has, then the more freedom the aforementioned buffoons have to show the world what a bunch of altruists inhabit this little corner of Europe.

If the ‘Welsh’ Government has more power to make Wales more ‘caring’, then I can predict with certainty – based on countless examples from the past decade and a half – what will happen. Shysters will slip over the border to take advantage of the funding. The halt and the lame, the workless and the degenerate, will appear as if by magic. Englandandwales bodies will heap upon us fulsome praise for being so caring . . . then transfer their ‘clients’ and ‘service users’ to properties in Wales that our politicians have helped them buy. In short, we shall be taken advantage of. Wales will become both poorer and more English. But to even whisper that we are being exploited, or to dare question why another three busloads of ‘homeless’ ex-cons have turned up in Swansea will make us, not only ‘uncaring’, but ‘racist’.

Increasing the potential for such disaster by giving more powers to a bunch of left-leaning incompetents driven by the desire to please the Third Sector and get Brownie points off the Guardian is not only a mistake – it’s positively bloody dangerous! Which might explain why the UK government has given Carwyn Jones and his gang more rope more powers.

Nov 112013
 

It all started with a tweet, last week, someone drawing attention to a post on the Bevan Foundation blog. This post, I think. Doesn’t really matter. As you can probably guess, the Bevan Foundation is not a site I visit regularly but, summoning up my courage (and clutching my crucifix) I ventured deep into this forbidding realm of socialist gobbledygook. Soon forgetting about the post that had drawn me hither as my attention was grabbed by other things I read.

In the ‘About Us’ section, we learn that the Bevan Foundation regards itself as an “independent think tank”, is a “company limited by guarantee” and “registered as a charity in 2004”, then: “We take our name from Aneurin Bevan, founder of the NHS and welfare state. Although he was a Labour politician, Aneurin Bevan is today remembered for his achievements to make society fairer”. Which struck me as an odd way of putting it; for it could be read: ‘Despite being a Labour politician Bevan nevertheless believed in fairness’!

(In contrast to the websites of other organisations the Bevan Foundation’s seems somewhat reluctant to give its company number, 04175018; and its charity number, 1104191. This is how it should be dERDFone.)

At the foot of the page I came across these two logos. The blue one I recognised from having used it, or something very similar, myself. It is the logo recipients of European Funding must use on their communications, websites, etc. In Wales, this money is usually doled out by the Welsh European Funding Office, set up by the ‘Welsh’ Government to disburse EU funding; though when I spoke with WEFO they denied that The Bevan Foundation had received funding from them. The other logo tells us that the Bevan Foundation has received funding from Communities 2.0, a “digital inclusion proCommunities 2ject” offering “free training and support to small enterprises”.

In what I confess was a rather cheeky attempt to get further information on funding I submitted a FoI request to The Bevan Foundation, knowing in advance it was exempted from this legislation. Even so, I received a polite reply from Victoria Winckler, Director of the Foundation, which read:

How we are funded.“Thank you for your request under the Freedom of Information Act for information about the Bevan Foundation.  The Bevan Foundation is not a public body, nor does it receive sufficient public funding for it to be considered as such, and it is therefore not covered by the Act. You will however find information about the Foundation’s income, including our audited accounts, on the Charity Commission’s website.”

According to the panel, taken from its website, The Bevan Foundation “doesn’t get funding from government or any political party”, yet the ‘Welsh’ Government logo linked to the ERDF logo suggests otherwise. And seeing as Labour has been in power since 1999 it rather undermines the claim to be getting no funding from government or any political party. (Getting the funding at one remove doesn’t change anything.) Equally untrue is the claim that The Foundation is an “independent think tank”. It was set up in 2001 by Labour politicians to counter the Institute for Welsh Affairs, which Labour thinks is too ‘Nashie’. It may have been entirely co-incidental that 2001 was also the year the European lucre started rolling into Wales.

Returning to Communities.2, this funding is distributed by another outfit with Labour links, the Wales Co-operative Centre and a few ‘partner’ organisations (one being the in-a-hole-and-still-digging corruptionCarmarthenshire County Council). So where does the Co-op get the money from? Well, that’s the ‘Welsh’ Government again. And where does the ‘Welsh’ Government get the money from? Again, from those generous people on the Continent through the European Regional Development Fund. Two logos, same money, same source.

I sent a further e-mail seeking a breakdown of the rather vague ‘Research income’ given in the documents submitted to the Charity Commission (£60,731 for the year ended 2012; £84,976 for the previous year). This elicited another polite response from Ms Winckler saying that the exact amounts were confidential, but the organisations for which the Foundation had worked could be found elsewhere in the report submitted to the Charity Commission. So I looked. (Incidentally, let me make it clear that I responded in kind. This was a brief but very civilised exchange. So there!)

If I have read and understood the report . . . the bodies for which The Bevan Foundation is doing work are, the Wales TUC and the Wales Co-operative Development Centre. Then, in the ‘Restricted Funds’ section, we learn that it received £4,875 from the ‘Welsh’ Government’s New Ideas Fund, and a further £4,015 from the ‘Welsh’ Government for an ‘Equality Festival’ held in Ebbw Vale in February 2011. (I never got an invite!) Finally, the report also tells us that in 2012/13 the Foundation will be “employing a research office” (sic) thanks to the generosity of (Labour-controlled) Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council. Oh, and the Communities 2.0 grant I mentioned earlier, well,  that amounted to a “£4,665.40 package of support by Communities 2.0 to network their computers to a central data storage facility, update their website and for google analytics training. Additionally The Bevan Foundation received 28.5hrs of ICT support and consultancy assistance”. A detailed FoI has also been submitted to the ‘Welsh’ Government asking how much money, and by what routes, has been channelled to The Bevan Foundation, but I ain’t holding my breath on that one. So what have we got? Here’s how I see it.

As the name suggests, The Bevan Foundation is an adjunct to the Labour Party. As such it should not be receiving funding from the Labour Party, the ‘Welsh’ Government, local authorities controlled by Labour, or third parties funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government.

The EU has given Wales money in the expectation that we would use it to drag ourselves out of the spiral of economic and social decline we have suffered for over thirty years. Yet after twelve years of such funding those areas that voted for devolution in 1997, the same areas that qualify for the highest level of EU funding, are poorer now than they were then. This is why . . .

Instead of using the funding to tcorruptionrain people in new skills, on infrastructure, and enterprise, the funding is squandered on schemes and projects that are politically correct rather than economically viable, often run by people who were able to smell the funding from a great distance; schemes that create employment only for those running them; schemes that rely solely on EU (and other) funding and are incapable of growth – not least because of duplication – yet a mirage of entrepreneurialism is created by the funding being broken up and re-packaged, passed on to other third sector groups; allowing grant-reliant charities, social enterprises and community groups to be presented as ‘businesses’. And with every scandal it becomes ever clearer that a disproportionate number of those benefitting from this system are Labour Party members and supporters, often using the funding to disseminate Labour Party propaganda, and other information that might be of benefit to the Labour Party.

It truth, the only real achievement of EU funding in Wales has been the underwriting and strengthening of the pre-existing system of Labour Party patronage, cronyism and nepotism. In short, corruption . . . with the added felony of money laundering. What we see today is the party of power, the party holding the purse-strings, rewarding its supporters, as happens in the Third World that Wales will soon join. Though were this happening in Korruptistan then the ‘serious’ publications in London, Newsnight, even, might take an interest . . . but, Wales? nah, who cares?