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 ♦

  55 Responses to “Third Sector Woes”

  1.  

    You might want to pass your beady eye over a Community Organisation Itaca based in Abergele that is funded in very large part from public monies and is governed and staffed in large part by members of an evangelical church community. They have certainly been effective in chasing the money over the last 15 years. As you know our local North Wales press does little or no investigation of how public monies are used. Like you I desperately want transparency so we are clear what we are paying for.

    •  

      Pay increases.
      There was an increase from £16,761 in 2015 to £25,205 in 2016 in wage costs, but for only two staff. This was a 50% wage increase. These two people are recorded to be employed wholly in relation to the in-house ‘food bank’ activities. As with most food banks a ‘special relationship’ exists with a supermarket to acquire ‘past sell by dated’ items. In this case, Tesco, for a copious supply of charitable goods.

      http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Showcharity/RegisterOfCharities/ContactAndTrustees.aspx?RegisteredCharityNumber=1125169&SubsidiaryNumber=0&TID=11715036

      God squad rules.
      There are ‘Social Rules’ within the constitution of the company additional to the statutory requirements of the company and charity. This is typical of a ‘religious organisation’. For example, in Northern Ireland this can mean ‘no gays’, but in charities operating in England and Wales these rules cannot be unlawful but apply other conditions of religious devotion.

      Property.
      The building from which this charity operates, Hesketh House, must be is rented (from who?) as the fixed asset held is only £100k and there is no separate entry is made in the fixed asset register for real estate, a legal requirement if they owned title. This is most likely fixtures and fittings, and the property looks to be worth a considerable sum. The £50k a year is ‘office expenses’ which is rather a lot, and probably includes rent.

      https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/05334541

      Welsh Government Funding
      A grant of well over £100k was received over the last few years from the Welsh Government under the Community Facilities and Activities Programme. This appears to have been spent mainly on refurbishment of the second floor of the building. The tranches of the payments indicate that there were ‘milestones’ in the project, which indicates that this project was under supervision on condition of releasing funds.

      Conclusion.
      It is quite common for religious groups to get their grubby hands on public money by setting up a ‘community charity’ operation. It funds stuff like food banks, homelessness alleviation, and drop in centres for the elderly/youth/any vulnerable group they can identify, as a hook. In reality, what usually happens is that the persons involved are just using this as a front for religious conversion and preaching paid for by the taxpayer. It is however, unusual for public money to fund buildings like this case, unless it’s a heritage building which has a different tit of cash, as Jac has uncovered. This operation in Abergele is similar to the one in Carmarthenshire who think the route to salvation can be found in a bowling alley.

      Unanswered Questions.
      Unusually, I find no entry for costs of the enhanced CRB checks as this outfit is targeting young people. They also list sub-let rental income, so they should be registered on the landlord database. The building is suitable for accommodation. Also, the choice of building to operate out of is a bit weird. Are there no chapels in North Wales?

      •  

        Update…
        Cllr Jean Stubbs was elected to Conwy County Council in 2012.
        Party = Labour,
        Ward = Abergele/Pensarn.
        She was a director of Itaca from 2005 but resigned in May 2014.
        She lists her occupation as a ‘Medical receptionist’.

        There was a by-election for Abergele/Pensarn ward in September 2014.
        Cllr Rick Stubbs (relation?) was elected in her place, also for Labour.

      •  

        I agree with most of what you are saying here, and I would suggest that any Third Sector organisation applying for public funding should be required to show that a) there was significant demand for their services within a given area, b) that they publicise their aims, and make specific their road map and goals at the time of application, and c) that they are strictly secular in orientation, and finally d) that in Wales they are bound to complete bilingualism as a whole, and committed to operating solely in Welsh in areas where more than 40% of the population are Welsh speaking.

      •  

        Update :

        The current clutch of directors of Itaca directors includes..

        (a) a Welsh but well travelled lighting engineer into Opera, chrachach with beard,
        (b) a piano virtuoso from Blaenau Ffestiniog who Welsh speaking and now based in Bangor rwan,
        (c) a traditional Christian do-gooder who’s on the board of governors of a local school.

        So the governance of Itaca is not evangelical in nature and is indigenous.

        They may have been susceptible to infiltration by evangelicals in their attempts to staff the commercial subsidiary operating as a drop-in café and food bank. It is the ‘volunteers’ who are likely to be using the charity as a bible bashing opportunity, with a directorship having taken their eye off front-line operations.

  2.  

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  3.  

    Off topic, and adding to the general ambience of integrity in the Labour Party I note that our dear friend Mr Bryant M.P, and Valley Boy when it suits him, is manouvering into the bidding for the post of Speaker. Tradition indicates that, if appointed, he gets a clear unopposed run at the Rhondda seat which would preserve his income and lifestyle. Time for Plaid to serve notice, no legal obligation to defer to this odious little creep ………….

    •  

      True to form, Chris Bryant has launched his latest bid with his customary ‘victimhood’ position. This time he’s oppressed because of a response to his ‘ginger’ hair colour. It involves some nut who’s responded to a twitter remark Bryant had made to John Bercow, the existing Palace of Westminster speaker.

      Whilst threats of this kind are unacceptable, many people in public life get lots of abusive electronic communications.

      Two questions arise (a) is such a threat so credible so for Bryant to suffer genuine fear, to such an extent to be a criminal act, and (b) it would be usual to let the police do their work prior to running to the papers for some “it’s me, it’s me, it’s infamy” publicity?

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-38650463

      Presumably, the outgoing speaker and other MPs will be prompted to condemn the errant twitterati, in the hope that this will help endorse Bryant to be crowned as a successor. Personally, I have no problem with his sexuality, or his Y fronts, or his orange hair colour. I just think he’s self-publicising, conceited, arrogant, pratt.

  4.  

    Simply put Jac, we, (the citizens of Cymru) are being shafted by Labour cronies, and the party that purports to be ours (Plaid) and who should be protecting our interests as a nation are away with the fairies, playing at global pacifist games – although that amounts to little more than lighting candles and having all night vigils for some problem in a far flung corner of the earth. Charity begins at home, or in the cases you mention above, clean-ups should start at home. Where the hell are they? Can someone check behind the sofa please?

    •  

      They probably round at Bryant’s place checking he’s put clean pants on before posing for his candidate literature. Always more interested in issues other than our own. Is that a Welsh trait or just a Plaido trait ?

      •  

        Well I have to admit we do tend to be ‘curtain twitchers’ (I blame John Calvin for moulding chapel communities to be judgemental and nosey, so that you have a self regulating society that’s obsessed with what everyone else is doing – to make sure that they are up to JC’s standards, as well as being anxious about their own conduct for fear of being reported to ‘Y Sêdd Fawr).

        Mind you, as a rule we tend to steer away from involvement in things that don’t concern us outside our communities – so I guess it is a ‘Plaido’ trait. Fuelled by moral high ground perchers from among the ‘pacifist’ sons of the manse! Easy meat pickings for those in other parties.

        •  

          All of that, yeah, and also worrying too much about what the Sais think of us! Clearly still reeling from the after-effects of Brad y Llyfrau Gleision.

          •  

            Indeed! Brâd Y Llyfrau Gleision was where the beginning of the end really started – not least the fact that it was that ‘brâd’ that set in motion the compulsory education act which set in motion the accelerated decline. Another, and most potent of all the colonial weapons against us. See the essay.

  5.  

    “Lord Dynevor came on board………….. a Meryl Gravell, ………….. Roger (now Sir Roger) Jones, then of the Welsh Development Agency, and a former BBC Wales Governor………. yet another director was William Powell Wilkins, who came up with the idea of the National Botanic Garden. Quite a crew.”

    Yes indeed this is a fairly good cross section of the freeloading, fine dining parasite community that inhabits that demi monde surrounding government and public life in Wales. At whichever angle you cut through this mass of manipulative “insiders” you come up with combinations of men and an increasing number of women who have risen above the scoffing of stale buffet fodder that is the lot of “common” conference attendees at assorted departmental briefings, Bay fests and other pointless extravaganzas. These are the people who adjourn away from mass of schmoozers and in their private hours carve up the upcoming rounds of projects, funds and the spoils that come with them.

    Sadly too many people aspire to join them rather than blow the lid off the entire fuckin’ sham and take it down permanently.

  6.  

    I do agree that funding into Wales should be prioritised, but BLT and HLT funding cannot be used to back fill gaps in services that should be funded by Goverment Local, Welsh etc. These funds do say that their priorities are “in line” with government priorities. Community engagement, raising the capacity of communities and sustainability are all buzzwords to access these funds and how these things are measured is another thing, of course these funds are not meant to bankroll projects for longer than 3/5 years. Problems do indeed seem to be with the individuals with enough brass and bs to write these bids in the first place, attributes many across the border seem to be better equipped than “local” people. We need more local people driving and creating these projects, we also need to ensure that there is proper scrutiny and transparency with all publically funded projects, your blog is one of the few voices shedding light on the cronyism which is endemic in Wales.

    •  

      I agree with your point about Lottery funding, regard my reference as a rhetorical flourish, but that still leaves the ‘Welsh’ Government’s funding.

      Looking at this in more detail it soon becomes clear that there are many with a vested interest in maintaining this funding system.

      First, and most obviously, there are those looking for funding to keep them on Easy Street. These will obviously exaggerate their projects’ hopes of success and chances of continuing when funding is withdrawn.

      Second, we have those disbursing the funding. These want a quiet life, and being seen as ‘successful’ means allocating all the available funding. This is best achieved without delving too deeply.

      Third we have the politicians, God bless ’em! This funding racket is an endless series of good news stories and photo opportunities. (Trumpet blasts announce every new scheme but failures are ignored unless the police are involved.)

      Finally, we have the media, our lazy, useless, kow-towing media. This funding racket means spoon-fed ‘news’.

      Putting it all together, it could reasonably be argued that what we have here is a conspiracy.

      •  

        I don’t think it’s a conspiracy Jac, it’s policy! Of course the majority of those who write the funding bit are from the wrong side of Offa’s Dyke, Wales is a colony innit, and therefore subject to the whims of petty imperial administrators. It’s not so much that local people aren’t up to the job so much as lacking the confidence to take control. Let’s not forget that it’s almost incorporated into the DNA of Welsh people that we are a dominated and oppressed people, but the evidence that the Welsh weren’t always such push-overs is all around us – you don’t have the highest concentration of castles in the world because you’re a bunch of pacifists!

        As a (very) sweeping generalisation we Welsh lack backbone. That’s all, essentially it would take, a bit of backbone. I was recently speaking to an English friend who hails originally from North Yorkshire who now lives a very happy Welsh speaking life on Llŷn, her comment is, I think pretty illustrative of how the majority of Welsh people are – too friendly by far, to the extent of being self-effacing. If the Welsh started to assert their identity. It doesn’t have to manifest itself with nastiness or hatred, but a bit of self-assertion, not immediately turning to English immediately an English person is within earshot, (if their ears are burning, then it is they who should be questioning why anyone should even want to talk about them!)and to start insisting that deliberately mispronouncing place-names is completely unacceptable, as is complaining that they can’t get a job because they don’t speak Welsh – if they don’t make the effort to learn Welsh, then it is they who are discriminating against themselves. But again, it comes down to backbone, and sadly, as we know, virtually no-one in mainstream Plaid has any asgwrn cefn, though, paradoxically perhaps, those members that do possess a full skeleton seem often to hail from England but who have now truly settled in Wales, as opposed to an English colony in Wales.

        I often find myself at odds with myself when reading this blog. It’s one of the few places where there is any real discussion of politics in the broadest sense, and I often find myself in sympathy with a lot of the arguments featured her, despite my being diametrically opposite in terms of my personal politics to most here. I am far from being right wing, (except to perhaps, someone from the SWP, but who takes any notice of rape denialists?) in any way, shape or form, but I differ from many on the left in that I do believe that a robust idea of national identity is very much in keeping with being human, so long as that idea of nationality is firmly rooted in internationalism (the one complementing and informing the other) which I sense is the kind of identity that most here would subscribe to, even though you’re a bunch of right wing bastards! (grins)

        Seriously though, if we are to continue to live in a place that is known to many of us as Cymru, (as opposed to Wales, the land of ‘foreigners’) we need to start to do something about our serious lack of self-confidence as Cymry/Welsh people. I don’t, and haven’t considered that independence for Wales is any kind of real impediment for any political party in South East Wales, (witness how popular and successful Neil McEvoy is in Cardiff – AM and also local councillor) nor is the Welsh language despised by the majority here, quite the opposite, but the vacillations of our national party over issues such as independence and really making a case for Wales, as the SNP has done in Scotland, is a huge problem in making Welsh identity and nationality mainstream. Plaid really needs to wake up and smell the coffee and realise that it really does need to be prepared to stick the boot in to Labour and start to deliver the changes that Wales needs – initially by listening to people’s concerns, and then attempting to, where possible, implement the often myriad small changes that make huge differences to ordinary people’s daily lives.

        The present fiasco of the Third Sector in Wales is just the 21st Century equivalent of those small industrial estates that most places of any size in Wales saw built in the 70s to make it look as if something was being done to develop the economy, ( yet paradoxically, the Development Board for Rural Wales was abolished because it made the WDA look inefficient, even though it had far less funding, it was relatively successful because it largely delivered because it fundamentally understood the small-scale nature of things in Wales, bychander – rather than the ‘big splash’ news headline ‘successes’ of the WDA that ultimately failed, here I’m thinking of the LG fiasco, but there were others – remember Merryweather anyone?) Even though these Micky Mouse schemes claim that they’re for sustainability the fact that they seek grant funding for their daily running costs and for salaries indicates that they are by definition, not sustainable. Grants for capital costs are one thing, (but that’s another glaring feature of these schemes, they tend to rent, at great cost, rather than buy their premises, another glaring indication that they are not going to be around for the long-term, and therefore hardly sustainable) but running costs need to be covered by the locality they serve if they are to be truly sustainable.

        •  

          I was in near-total agreement with you until the final paragraph, and your praise of the Development Board for Rural Wales. I made something of a study of the DBRW, and here’s my interpretation.

          Its objective, we were told, was to stem the outflow of people – particularly young people – from Powys, Ceredigion and Meirionnydd. Fair enough, worthy and commendable.

          However, under the terms of its Charter the DBRW could to nothing to help existing businesses or industries; it could only fund and in other ways support incoming companies. Which might have been acceptable had the jobs being brought in gone to local people, but they didn’t, they went to ‘key workers’ relocating with the company they already worked for in England.

          This explains the thousands of new houses built by the Board, primarily in Newtown and Welshpool but scattered around the whole region in smaller clusters. These houses were needed because just about anyone, tea-lady, office boy and cleaner qualified as a ‘key worker’; in other words, doing a vital job the skills for which no thick local could ever master. This housing stock was inherited by, and may have been the foundation for, Mid Wales Housing, another England-focused housing association soaking up Welsh public funding.

          Quite obviously, the DBRW was a crude and obvious colonisation strategy that did nothing for Welsh people except make them feel second class in their own country. Which tends to invalidate your comparison with the WDA. Certainly, they were similar in that they both bribed companies from outside of Wales to move here, but at least the WDA created jobs for Welsh people.

          Also remember that the DBRW was a subtle inheritor of the original 1960s plan for a new town of 60,000 people or more in the Severn valley, near Caersws. A new town for the English West Midlands that would have been the biggest town between Merthyr and Wrecsam, dominating a vast area of Wales, virtually cutting the country in half – and the idea just happened see the light of day as the bombs started going off and the protests mounted. Coincidence, of course.

          The DBRW was the new town plan dispersed so as to attract less opposition. ‘Softly, softly, catchee monkey’.

          Now don’t get me wrong, I like what you say, you talk a lot of sense, I detect a lot of common ground between us. I agree entirely that we are too welcoming, too friendly. But rest assured, old Jac is free from such faults.

          •  

            Sense of grievance really intense, sense of real injustice. So how democratically do we address this anger for being treated unfairly. Some people appear to take action to challenge each injustice. Others appear reluctantly to get involved. There also appears to be great diversity in the reasons for the sense of grievance. If we do not attempt to understand our differences and learn from each other we end up desperately thrashing around creating heat, light and noise but maybe not much influence. It seems to me that those who achieve positional or personal power have interests that combine a sense of grievance that coalesce with a means of earning a living. Some of these citizens we value others we feel aggrieved about their actions.

            Take the issue of affordable housing. There are many good citizens interested in design and construction, who have considerable knowledge and skills, who want to ensure good houses are built locally that enable well paid jobs and contribute to the local community and enable entrepreneurial citizens to live in their local communities and develop their businesses and others to contribute to a peaceful life. However, like the observations of DBRW and its leading players, citizens massively fall out with the organisation and its personnel. I keep coming back to the thought that we are often small communities in a small country but appear to want to put our energy in to disagreeing and battling with each other. I am told I am an innocent, resources are scarce and competition for them is intense. Those that want a piece of the pie fight for it others sullenly stand aside and observe. If we want to create something new, we have to learn, really learn how the present system works and then build and support each in creating something new. Many people want to find common ground, common interests and create something different. Aspects of my identity might be an obstacle, I am a non Welsh speaking Englishman whose heritage is Norman(take a look at my surname) who has lived in an Anglicised part of Wales for 28 years. However, I find most fellow citizens quite accepting but we somehow struggle to find ways to create things locally or nationally that do not rub us up the wrong way. The process of falling out continues. It need not be this way.

        •  

          Unlike Jac I’m in TOTAL agreement with you sibrydionmawr. You have put your finger on the pulse, not only highlighting the millstone around our neck that effects our psyche (the well known & documented ‘victor, vanquished’ syndrome), but also the nature of Y Cymry. We are not cut from the same cloth as the Eingl Sacsoniaid, consequently our way of doing things is totally different, as is our general outlook. You’re also absolutely right about our defeatist attitude towards Yr Estron. We need more confidence, back bone & bite. Easier said than done. Instead we are bringing up generation after generation who blend into the colonial set-up and become increasingly more Anglicized in their ways. As you know, my firm 100% belief is that the only way to break that loop is with education in our schools.

          An interesting little exercise, which I did a few years ago, is to look up who’s who in the big companies. I used (the now disappeared) Abbey National as a basis for the exercise. What you find is that the front men, the talkers and public face of the company were Saeson. The back room thinkers and directors were Cymry. Again a sure sign that we tend to be more comfortable in the back seat, giving sound advice when asked, whilst someone else is doing the driving. Many of those unseen, behind the curtain were very talented and knowledgeable Cymry. They seem comfortable in that role, but in the modern Anglo American world of business and commerce they do not market themselves, they are not brash and are not loud mouths – they don’t like to be seen and due to an inherent lack of confidence don’t allow their voices to be heard. (At the risk of becoming irksome I also blame a lot of that on Mr Calvin and our protestant work ethic, which was instilled into us – he wasn’t around when we were attacking castles!).

          As for the bit Jac disagrees with, well it’s a case of comparing bad with worse (brawd mogu yw tagu). Whilst it is very relevant to the subject material of this blog post – it is not the overall picture of things, the big canvass is far greater than that. Is it really worth debating about which body is the worst?

          What we need to focus on is WHY this state of affairs is allowed to develop in the first place, and then sustain itself at our cost. Now we’re back to the Welsh psyche again, and lack of backbone and confidence. I too can’t help noticing that the real movers & shakers within Plaid, Cymuned etc. etc. are invariably ‘adopted’ Cymry who have come to our aid, because they see our predicament and can tackle it better because they have the psyche of the Eingl Sacsoniad but have sympathy for our causes and are attracted to us, they learn our language, study our culture and fight with the zeal of the converted – they should be welcomed in greater numbers over Clawdd Offa. We cringe at their forthrightness, aggression, rudeness (often) and a bit of bloody mindedness. Whilst those traits don’t appeal to us, unfortunately without them we really are doomed.

          •  

            It’s probably why McEvoy can be like he is. His roots aren’t of the forelock tugging Welsh. (of course, not all of us are like that. But too many are) But he is definitely Welsh himself.

          •  

            I’ve found the following passages from adam price’s wales the first & final colony helpful;
            We were a colony. And now we’re in a state of denial. The factual evidence for the reality of colonisation is all around us – indeed it can even be said to be within us. But to the extent that we acknowledge it, it might as well be invisible. Dilys Davies, a Welsh psychiatrist working at Guy’s hospital who has conducted an exhaustive analysis of the Welsh psyche, has called this a form of cultural autism and drawn analogies with child sexual abuse which for all its pervasiveness was once met by a wall of silence. Colonisation is our ‘dangerous idea’, a “dirty little secret’, a ‘painful memory’ that has to be repressed. Cambridge University Press’ primer on Medieval Wales warns the reader that in Wales’ case “the colonial analogy – may be pushed too far and it must be used with great sensitivity”. The late great Rees Davies – whose revolutionary tracts Colonial Wales and Race Relations in Post-Conquest Wales were published within a year of each other in the mid 1970sas he moved to Aberystwyth – was very much the glorious exception. He himself was warned that specialising in Welsh history was reputational suicide for a young Welsh historian and, sadly, he never got to teach a course on the history of his own country here at Aberystwyth though he is probably one of our the greatest historians that Wales ever produced.
            Colonialism in any society and in any period is an act of violation which results in a kind of trauma whose effects are felt for many generations. Hence the most long-lasting and deep-seated legacy of colonialism is psychological. It was the mixed-race French-speaking Caribbean Frantz Fanon, practising psychiatry and preaching revolution in occupied Algeria, who first realised this and began to write painfully but eloquently about the psychology of colonialism. Welsh psychologists and psychotherapists by contrast have been almost completely silent on this theme. Dr Dilys Davies of Guy’s Hospital, the only professional psychiatrist to have written at all about colonialism’s effect on the Welsh psyche, suggests that – as with Rees Davies the historian, it is not in the professional interests of the Welsh psychiatrist to appear too ‘parochial’. Dr Davies, by contrast, stands out as the Frantz Fanon of Wales and virtually the entirety of what follows is based on her pioneering work.
            As with many other things, the Irish have a head start on us in thinking about the psychology of colonialism. An important feature according to the psychologist Vincent Kenny is the way in which the Irish have internalised their own oppression. One way of overcoming the feeling of powerlessness that flows from being dominated is to identify with the dominator – sometimes even unconsciously. It is a kind of sociological equivalent of Stockholm syndrome – what Fanon calls ‘adhesion’ to the dominator, the Brazilian pedagogist Paolo Freire called “housing the other” and the German-jewish psychologist Erich Fromm called an “inner duality”. It goes by many names but its self-destructive consequences are only obvious: our selves becomes divided against ourselves. We become self-oppressing.
            But it also feeds into aspects of community life, especially in Welsh-speaking Wales where a taboo against self-promotion or self-revelation, a tendency to self-censorship and deference to authority among local people contrasts with the assertiveness of the in-migrant population. Welsh speakers are often the majority in public meetings but will often remain stoically silent – even where translation facilities are availble – and let others ‘dominate’ the meeting.

            This self-censorship in the ‘public realm’ is perhaps the flip-side of another aspect of Welsh cultural psychology: a withdrawal to an inner world of self-reflection: “the everlasting Welsh habit has been to sink inwards” according to John Cowper Powys. But how does this fit with the Welsh love of performance on the stage, or the playing field where we suddenly shape-shift from a nation of passive spectators to a nation of exhibitionists. The answer can be found in the theory of constriction’ developed by the American George Kelly in the 1950s whereby the realms in which we can “be ourselves” are socially controlled. So it was that the Welsh language came to be limited to the emotive worlds of the sacred, the lyrical and familial and progressively banished from the world of the secular, official or practical.

            These psychological manifestations of colonialism are not accidental by-products of broad historical processes. They are the outcome of two quite deliberate strategies of cultural alienation. The first one can be termed manipulation; inculcating within the mind of the dominated the dominator’s myths, their version of reality, their language, their values So Paolo Freire argues that at a crucial juncture in their existential development members of the dominated group begin to aspire to become part of the way of the life of the dominator. So they start to imitate them, to follow them, and talk like them. When Chretien de Troyes’ Peredur first sets out for Court his mother persuades him too leave two of his three javelins at home “because they look too Welsh”. We have been leaving our javelins at home ever since. (Of course, this comes at a cost. As Aneurin Bevan quipped, when someone accused the late Roy Jenkins of lacking application, no-one who came from Abersychan and spoke like that could ever be accused of laziness.) So we have a succession of groups that anglicise themselves in order to improve their life chances: starting with the uchelwyr who become the Welsh gentry and eventually the hated absentee landlords of the eighteenth century. But this percolated right the way down the social strata; the Welsh language came to be seen as ‘a badge of poverty”. Working class parents – like my own – decided consciously not to pass it on to their children in order to improve their children’s chances in life.

            It is this deep insecurity that I believe lies at the heart of our still tentative embrace of devolution, and our rejection of what is after all, the normal aspiration of any nation: political independence. It also, in the economic sphere, explains our over-weaning reliance on public subsidy and our failure, so far, to develop, in sufficient numbers at least, an indigenous entrepreneurial class. We are economically dependent because we are psychologically dependent , and vice versa. And we reject political independence because of both.

            •  

              Thanks for reproducing all that although a link would have sufficed. It sticks in my gullet that a speech containing so much insight was made over 7 years ago, Nov 2009, yet Adam Price’s party do not appear to have been motivated one little iota by its content. Indeed Price himself often seems a bit distracted returning from time to time to deliver a political blow which shows his capacity for massive impact if only he stuck around and focussed on his targets for a sustained period.

              Adam Price and Neil McEvoy are currently the pick of the bunch. There are others within Plaid who may have capacity for bigger things too but as your contribution shows clearly they are deflected for various deep seated reasons to engage in debates about matters which are at best only peripheral to the cause of national identity and liberation.

            •  

              THAT post of yours Cantre’s Gwaelod is probably the best read I’ve had in many, many years. In fact, it’s factual content so typifies the things that many of us have tried to put into words on this blog. It is EXCELLENT.

              It resonates so much with what we experience around us, and provides the answers to so many ‘mysteries’ as to why we are like we are as a nation. So much so it gave me goose pimples whilst reading it.

              Two things that really come out of it for me are:
              1. the wisdom of the analysis which is so accurate and backed up by actual psychiatric and psychological studies, and

              2. Why people like Adam Price, who is someone that thinks miles deeper than your average Plaid politician and who is a natural analyst should be at the helm of his party.

              Brilliant! That knowledge should be compulsory learning material in all our schools, because it would give our future generations an insight into things, and help them understand where and why we are where we are, and behave and think the way we do. What an abused person needs is insight into his/ her experience, the same applies to a nation that has been abused for centuries through colonisation.

              •  

                Couldn’t agree with you more. Even when we do have the good fortune to be able to study history from ‘o berspectif Cymreig’ as I did in the mid-80s whilst attending Coleg Harlech have difficulties in understanding why people in Wales rejected their own identity and language quite so readily. We know that parents were more than happy to have their children educated in English, as they were told that that was the language for ‘getting on in the world’, (which one still hears to this day). The general argument at the time I was studying was that the English language did not have to try hard to penetrate Wales, and that it was mostly Welsh parents themselves insisting on their children receiving an English education, without challenging that assumption, or enquiring as to whether there was something deeper behind the Anglicisation of Wales. Of course, individual actions are the responsibility of those taking them, but what about motivation? It’s pretty well known that industrialists such as David Davies urged Welsh people to embrace English, but again, what lay behind this?

                The one consideration never made was to ask whether colonialisation had significant impact on Wales itself. Certainly, Wales’ part in the wider colonisation of Britain’s (England’s, the terms are interchangeable) empire, almost as a deflection, something along the lines that Wales was as involved in the process of colonisation, and benefitted from it as well, (one could equally argue that slaves ‘benefitted’ from being kidnapped from their home in Africa and transported to the Caribbean just as easily; they didn’t have any choice). It wasn’t until some years later when I was discussing this with a friend from Zambia, where they are taught history from an anti-colonial perspective that I began to understand the processes at work.

                I think it’s high time that there were popular TV histories made in Wales, in both languages that challenge the current understanding of the history of Wales. I think the reason we only get the odd series of dumbed down historical narratives, fronted by people such as Huw Edwards is that any serious consideration of our history would prove politically very contentious, and would tend to re-inforce a Welsh identity, something that would make Welsh Labour have kittens and give Plaid nightmares!

            •  

              Thank you for reminding me of and sharing Adam Price’s analysis. It is exactly this sort of discourse that is required in the widest possible public domain. The common ground is our choice to live in Wales, whatever our heritage. There are inevitable consequences and compromises. I travelled each day into England for many years to earn a living, my wife found work in Wales and travelled extensively within Wales. In building a future we have to work together to be deeply understanding of our differences but not overwhelmed by them. I am a visitor to these lands but choose to make my home here, as have two of my adult children who returned after study and work elsewhere, a third lives on the Shropshire border with Wales because of affordable housing but part of his earning a living comes from working in Wales. The heritage locally is rich I am reminded that the Roman invaders hereabouts were predominantly Albanians and their genetic heritage remains with local residents, further that there were many battles between Saxons and the Celts in these parts and a famous Celtic Monarch, King Caradog in the eighth century was slain on Morfa Rhuddlan. Sadly none of this diverse history was taught in my children’s local schools, I am not sure how much of this rich learning is even part of our education of teachers in Wales whether they teach through the Welsh or English medium.

              I also think Adam Price and others writing here captures another aspect of reality. Yes their are in comers to Wales who are deeply ignorant and insensitive to the colonial heritage but their are many others like myself who feel a vulnerability, a self doubt about the colonial past not just in Wales but globally. We have a sense of being members of a global tribe and want to be respectful of all traditions. We tend to want to make sense about what is going on and find ways to live together despite our diverse heritage, to thrive and prosper. It is only by discourse and a deep understanding of the other that we find real meaning and respect. I see myself as a novice on this journey. I do not expect people to be gentle with me when I get wrong, it makes me more determined to understand. I want to heal divisions where possible not increase them, I do not want to deny the damage done in the past by the diversity of my ancestors.

            •  

              Diolch Cantre’r Gwaelod for posting that very insightful passage from Adam Price’s speech. It makes for uncomfortable reading in places, because his words get very close to home and therein lies the key to make the changes that are needed.

              http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/wales-first-final-colony—2070487

  7.  

    I noticed from the figures given that NSA’s average staffing costs rose from approx £19.5k per person to approx £25.3k per person (a rise of approx 30%) over 2 years. Curious.

    •  

      When things got tight I’m sure it was the younger, lower-paid staff, and part-timers, who were the first to go. This would then bump up the average wage.

  8.  

    Brychan has shared some new information re Itaca, Abergele Youth Action and Abergele Community Action. Thank you I suspect we are all learners in the full complexity of these processes.Please excuse my naïveté but what specific role does the Auditor General of Wales have when public monies are released to these Third Sector organisations. Do they have a role on checking the political and other affiliations of governance and paid personnel. Is there an official report for instance on the Community Facilities and Activities Programme? How is an independent inquiry initiated? I would certainly be a lot happier if all the affiliations political, religious and others plus the detail of funding and personnel were explicitly recorded and accessible. If you have nothing to hide it should all be displayed on a public notice board on the outside of the Third Sector building.

  9.  

    Picking up on your Tweet re Cymdeithas – I disagree. Just because the Cynulliad is a democratically elected body doesn’t make it immune from the dynamics of the world around it. Cymdeithas quite rightly identify UKIP as a particularly nasty virus imported amongst us. UKIP has no interest at all in the survival and recovery/ development of the Welsh language. Indeed its very ethos indicates that it will do its best to supress and exterminate the language. I wonder why it bothers taking its place on that committee unless of course it intends to reduce its effectiveness by attacking its work from within. Therefore Cymdeithas is justified in telling Bethan Jenkins and her crew that Cymdeithas’ contribution is to be limited by “having that piece of shit in the room” or words to that effect.

    Whether Cymdeithas is Left, Right or agnostic is of no relevance in this context. It has correctly identified where the stink is coming from. It does something which others refrain from doing, because perhaps that deference mentioned in the long tome above remains at the heart of our response to UKIP and so many other things that come from beyond Offa’s Dyke.

  10.  

    yesterday you re tweeted Radnorian’s link to a lengthy article titled “Theory of Everything” which is a further expose of the unelected corporate deep state which in some circles may pass off as the New World Order or parts of it. Later on the same site Radnorian features an interview with Christopher Davidson whose book Shadow Wars is a “must read” if you really want to get to grips with complex, manipulative dirty dealing of the foreign policy and related military (mis) conduct of USA, UK and assorted allied powers.

    Now all this stuff is pretty heavy going with lot of detail flying about and I could only cope with it by having already got through most of Davidson’s book before this tweet appeared. Reading this stuff doesn’t make one feel any better about the world we live in but it is damned good ammo when facing up to the raging torrent of bullshit that’s poured over us every day by MSM & government spokesmen.

  11.  

    Need a Trump inauguration or something similar everyday so that we can flush out some entertaining moronic attempts at protesting. That fiasco at Mach led by some Anglo Green woman looks a real bundle of laughs, while the demented Charlotte threatens to join some Wimmins march over the weekend. Obviously the gigs and TV shows have dried up and she’s now going to recycle herself as a crashed diva with a social conscience. Marvellous.

    Refugee Action was a charity doing useful work but now seems to have been infiltrated by a bunch of useless muppets. “Not my President ” is their call here in Wales – well course he fuckin’ isn’t . He was elected in the USA and he can stay there but there’s no use shouting about his appointment/election here especially as we have plenty of problems of our own that these myopic wankers don’t appear to care one pissy little iota about. Like where’s their respect for the indigenous Welsh culture ? No it’s irrelevant to them, it’s too near home, they can’t be bothered to learn the language, everybody speaks English round here, you can’t do drugs in Welsh, etc etc

    I can’t stand Trump – but when it comes to a choice between these whining irrelevant tosspots and the man with the impossible hairdo, I go for the barnet every time !

    •  

      The issues in Pittsburgh is the same as in Port Talbot.

      Trump got his votes in the ‘rust belt’ by slogans like ‘jobs for Americans’ and ‘Make America Great Again’. Trouble is, he can’t make new technology disappear. Port Talbot steelworks can make much more (and better quality) steel with a few thousand employees than it did thirty years ago with tens of thousands of employees. The same applies to plants in Pennsylvania and Ohio. You don’t need men with wooden sprags to marshal wagons of coke and ore or technicians measuring the gauge of rolled coil with slide rules. Computers do these jobs.

      Whilst Trump can promise ‘a return to the boom times of old with good old fashioned American values’ a reaction to globalisation, the reality is that putting up trade barriers will not un-invent efficiency and technology. It will just prevent poor people getting access to cheap consumer goods from China, not give them well paid jobs.

      The rust-belt poor of middle America will not get their jobs back. They will just be employed as minimum wage pillow stuffers in resort hotels when illegals like Sanchez and Pedro get sent back to Mexico. Trumps popularity will be very short-lived, unless there’s a war (a really big one not just bombing villages on the Tigris), in which case they will need to make ships and tanks.

      •  

        I don’t disagree with your analysis at all, especially the comment about Port Talbot which has consistently reduced its numbers employed ( albeit grudgingly at times) to maintain competitiveness in a global steel market. This will be one of the big challenges for post Brexit era and it leaves one wondering what really motivated the change in Tata’s stance. Granted prices have recovered ( a bit ) but could easily ease back down again as one big steelworks and one company don’t drive or determine world prices. The Indian parent will go into a joint venture with KruppThyssen, or someone else, if it suits their “global vision” as Tata is most definitely one of those corporates who think they have much more to gain by keeping up the trend to globalisation without really giving a shit about local issues ( hence their demand that the pension scheme be diluted ).

        Had Port Talbot been consigned to the scrap heap last year it is fair to conclude that a “Trump type” would have enjoyed some traction here too. The fact that he may be pissing into the wind ( or inviting others to do so) is lost in the heat of the moment, hence the natural instinctive reaction of those whose lives have been blighted. Add the fact that mainstream parties have nothing seriously constructive to say about this predicament, indeed appear not to have any sincere concerns at all and you have a potent mix of sentiment and real suffering. Memories of how quickly the chicken heads at Westminster jumped to bail out banks in 2007/8, without any stings attached, still remain vivid in the memories of the ordinary working man and woman. Indeed with the passing of time instead of easing the anger hangs on as the subsequent austerity was disproportionately inflicted on ordinary lower income folk while the well to do just tightened their belts a small notch and got on with scoffing champers and canapes ( or whatever passes for posh snacks these days ! )

        Trump may mitigate or delay the erosion of his initial popularity if he launches a major programme of capital works soon. That can be used to drive some upturn in economic activity as long as the pool of labour contains the necessary skills to undertake such work which apparently has been long neglected in the USA, much to my surprise.

        •  

          Tata in Ijmuiden (Netherlands) is the premier core steel production plant in Europe. Port Talbot is the ‘flakey’ additional capacity plant that is at risk when steel demand and prices are low. EU funds in the Netherlands were invested in the revolutionary Hisarna adaptations of the blast towers. Money is used to educate and create high paid steel technicians, and technical college is free.

          All the schools in Ijmuiden teach through the medium of a small European language called Dutch, however, all pupils at these schools also learn German and English to fluency.

          The cycle path from Ijmuiden follows the old canal to Amsterdam. By train, just change onto the Orange Line (no surprise there then) to go light rail to Bijlmer for the Ajax stadium. Swansea does not have this. Although you do get a good view of the Liberty as you fly by. AFC Ajax spends EU Social Fund on their Football Youth Academy. In Port Talbot it’s spent on a third sector café, and the kids from Port Talbot only get to go to Swansea if they can dodge the train fare after buying cans of Stella from Bargain Booze in the precinct.

          Ijmuiden has a district heating system where waste heat from the steel works is pumped to a social housing estate, a scheme called Mpower. It was an EU funded start-up. Conversely, on the Sandfields Estate in Port Talbot the residents struggle with energy bills, and the EU funds go to the third sector groups to dish out food parcels because the residents have spent all their income on winter heating.

          You cannot un-invent the new technology. You can, however, embrace it. Then invest the added value in the local area through innovation and infrastructure. Will Trump do this to Ohio? Carwyn is a million miles away from doing this in Wales, he’s telling steelworkers to give up their pensions.

          •  

            interesting assessment of the model being used in Holland. As you imply, Wales could learn a lot from it and much of it is capable of replication as long as someone has the sense to see it in the first place. Certainly goes some way to explaining why my cousin’s son went there, courtesy of Corus, over 10 years ago and doesn’t look like ever wanting to return to Wales ! An education system that promotes bi-lingualism or more is in sharp contrast to our own derelict provision which seems to produce illiteracy in more than one language as a norm.

            How do the Dutch get Tata to give up some of their technology gains ( profits/surplus ) for social investment or is that picked up by EU and Dutch Government ? Either way it beats letting some nebulous 3rd sector activists getting their paws on funds and “redistributing” in their eccentric fashion.

            Not surprised to note that CJ is willing to advise steelworkers to accept a dilution of pensions. This could be very severe for the younger members unless private pension funds start to really perform ( and that would be a major shock ! ), yet when Westminster /Whitehall bailed out the banks and institutions I don’t recall any pension packages being diluted. Indeed recent press coverage of fat cat rewards suggest that hitherto unequalled amounts of loot are still being poured into pension packages for senior execs in many industries. Sharing the grief ? not on your nelly !

            As for Trump’s prospects in Ohio we shall see. I think his affinity with other big business players will be an obstacle to major gains for ordinary folk so in a kind of perverse way I hope that his maverick side will drive him to at least create work for the decade or so it will take to reconfigure the country’s infrastructure. That should get many of his working class support back into real jobs.

            With Hillary in charge I think they would have been waiting a lot longer. Better part of a bad choice is probably the best I can say right now. Bit like us limiting ourselves to May and Corbyn with the pimple Farron as a side show and the nut Nuttall providing background turbulence. More reasons why Leanne should be sharpening her tools ready for some surgical strikes because the season of opportunity is soon upon us.

            •  

              You ask – How do the Dutch get Tata to give up some of their technology gains (profits/surplus) for social investment?

              Simples. Tata cannot make their technological advances in India as the infrastructure (includes a healthy, well nourished and educated workforce as well as reliable electricity supply, shipping and rail connections) is excellent in the Netherlands. It’s what they need to make profits in Europe. A symbiotic relationship exists. Also, the vast amounts of water required in steel making does not rely on the monsoon in Europe. Tata find that having their most advanced steel making facilities inside the EU allows them to access social as well as physical infrastructure. This begs the question, why keep the ‘disposable additional capacity’ plant in Port Talbot open after Brexit?

              •  

                So I’ll take liberty and ask another – why can’t Welsh and London governments not apply similar logic to their relationship with business ?

                On numerous occasions I have commented that our business community – corporates and entrepreneurial – rely heavily on all sorts of grants to stimulate any interest, yet those investments of public moneys seldom, if ever, produce an outcome like that produced in Holland. It is therefore evident that either the Dutch government, or businesses like Tata ( and Philips at Eindhoven), or both parties, show immense initiative and imagination when confronting the challenges of economic and social progress.

      •  

        The issue for the next 10 years is that all the major corporations have already started what will be a massive relocation of white collar professional jobs – Corporate Legal, HR, Compliance, remote IT support, Databasing, Accounts, etc etc. Initially (it’s already starting) these are filtered out to Spain etc, with the final destination of China, Thailand and the Philipines.

        Underpinning this is that major companies (and I know this for a fact from my union activities) are now recruiting engineering graduates, on-site IT, on-site HR junior management etc from the Baltic states (in Lithuania for example all university education is done in English – ergo their graduates are fluent English speakers), and taking them on 3 year contracts for less than 20K then binning them at the end of the 3 years.

        One major hospital in Wales now recruits nurses from the Philipines because nurses from elsewhere in the EU cost to much and have too high expectations.

        The next big victims of globalisation wont be shelf stackers in Tescos, security guards or lowly clerks – it will be our young who went to university to get skills that very soon will no longer need to be located in the west or can be bought-in from cheaper countries where the people with the skills have lower expectations.

        In the stagnant economies of the west the only way corporate profit levels can be maintained is by reducing wage costs at all levels.

  12.  

    Liverpool 2 Swansea 3 ! – time to turn their water off & really rub it in.

  13.  

    “Socialism is the language of priorities.” (Aneurin Bevan)

    I’d like to see FEWER hospital beds, Jac. It’s time we had a National Health Service and not a National Sickness Service. Welsh people are notorious self-harmers, overdosing on booze, fags and fat. Switch the money from cure to prevention. A National Movement Service, to promote walking, cycling, dance and participatory sport. A National Nutrition Service, to ensure easy access to fresh food and encourage home cooking.

    I don’t begrudge Plas Llanelli a new rococo balustrade. It’s a significant building in the town’s history, with potential to aid economic development. But we have CADW. So why give money to private trusts to organise the restoration? Castell Aberteifi is another example where CADW could have been involved in a hands-on way, if only the law weren’t so structurally biased against the public sector. I’m not saying that the organisational culture at CADW is perfect but at least it’s a publicly accountable body, not an infestation by the great and the good.

    ‘Welsh’ Labour has seen how to use arm’s-length funding to conceal what’s really going on. It’s lapped up the message of Thatcherism, which is that national and local government bodies are inefficient and wasteful. Better to give the money to people with business acumen (proven or unproven) who can waste it more efficiently. But the fault isn’t just with these two mainstream political traditions. The Third Sector ethos especially appeals to all those hippies who don’t like the nasty, transparent hierarchies of more traditional, elected government. All that command-and-control looks too much like it might get things done and spoil the mood.

  14.  

    Following on from my earlier comment ( 11.48 today ) I want to expand briefly on the scope for Plaid to make some assertive points in relation to how resources are likely to be divided by UK government.

    Every time the departure from EU is used as an excuse by Whitehall/Westminster for witholding funds from Welsh agriculture, industry, education, health, infrastructure,etc she and her team can pipe up along the lines of –

    “we were going to save C.£10 billion ( or some other figure) net by leaving EU, SAVING not gross, so that money, which used to go to other EU countries, can now be distributed across UK. So by our calculation, based on per head of population, or the Barnett formula, or better still Leanne’s own formula built on values of moneys flowing from EU coffers into Wales over previous 3,4,5 years we expect Westminster /Whitehall to pass additional money over”

    Every time this is refused Plaid must get the message out that London is shitting on Wales. There is no point grieving over the departure from EU but we can use their duplicity over sharing the spoils of that departure to political advantage. This will lead to disputes with Welsh Labour who will be just as devious when confronted by shortage of funds. They will bleat about London ( for about 10 minutes ) then set about tilting the table so that their pet projects get to the front of the queue. They can’t even understand that Health is a crisis sector because we now have a sick society, too many people drifting into poor health and then landing into a muddled care and health sectors with no systematic link between the two. Al about vote grabbing, looking after their own, and ignoring the real bigger picture.

    •  

      Nobody listens to Plaid anymore – not even it’s own membership. For example, they currently are promoting a petition about Wales remaining in the Single Market. Despite repeated mass mail shots to it’s members and constantly pushing it on social media, it has amassed less than 2000 signatures.

      Nobody gives a toss about what they say about anything really because in the main it’s garbage, excrutiatingly condescending, mixed-message and contradictory. And I’m a member.

      •  

        sadly, what you say is consistent with much of the earlier criticism on this blog. However we won’t get much joy out of asking the Cons, LibDems or UKIP to stick up for Wales, so it’s back to Plaid, or some other form of response.

      •  

        If you’re a nationalist then it’s Hobson’s Choice sadly. The other alternative is to not vote for anyone, until a proper nationalist party is formed (that’s where I’m camped at present), a party that drops this ‘right’ or ‘left’ crap. Attracts people of all political persuasions – as long as they are proper nationalists and ‘healthy’. With a back bone, teeth and proper principles.

    •  

      The thread from the original posting is one of governance and the generation and allocation of resources, the initial concern was the processes involved with the Third Sector. The emotional feel to it all is this real sense of grievance and injustice. Also a real sense of lack of transparency.

      Even if Wales gained full independence, a circumstance that does not seem very likely at the moment, there would still be the issue of how resources would be generated and allocated efficiently and effectively. Which brings us back to the real divisions in Wales.

      Since devolution, governance has been undertaken by the Labour Party in conjunction with Plaid and the Liberal Democrats, along with a dependency on the UK taxpayer ( individual and business ) especially the English taxpayer. The regular assertion being the lack of an equitable allocation from Westminster and now an anxiety that the allocation after BREXIT will also be inequitable. For me a further strong theme is the migration of Welsh residents to the rest of the UK or globally to earn a living and a more amenable way of living, a significant number were born in Wales and many speak Welsh. Some return but many stay away forever.

      Which brings me back to the common ground of those that choose to live in Wales finding away to run the country and allocate resources that heals some of the divisions. I feel strongly that we are all learners in this process. However, I do think that unless information about the explicit detail of what is happening now is more readily available in all formats it is doubtful we will find the means to achieve more acceptable and consensual ends. I feel very uneasy about the level of angst so many of my fellow citizens feel. Sadly the political and professional leadership in Wales do not appear to fully grasp the scale of the issues to be resolved. I am constantly encouraging people to get involved but sadly I strongly suspect in most areas of Wales there will be very few people standing for the local elections particularly younger people. We will only have a vibrant and dynamic society when we can encourage more people to become involved. This social media platform is a small but significant part of the process. I for one want to find solutions for the issues of living in Wales and ongoing discourse in all its forms is required.

  15.  

    Well how’s that for a good start to the week ! Those kind folk from over the border want to give us more part time and low wage, service sector jobs just to ensure we don’t get above ourselves.

    Plan to build luxury lodges in campsite in the foothills of Snowdon

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/business/business-news/plan-build-luxury-lodges-campsite-12495112

    The scheme would include a mixture of lodges from one bedroom cabins to four beds homes for large family groups and ‘treehouse’ style lodges.

    After reading Brychan’s report on the kind of investment going into Holland this little snippet just reinforces the feeling that we are being dumped on from a great height.

Ok, you’ve read what I think, now what do you have to say?