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 ♦

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54 Comments on "Third Sector Woes"

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Paul Luckock
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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.

Brychan
Guest

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?

Brychan
Guest

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.

sibrydionmawr
Guest

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.

Brychan
Guest

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.

dafis
Guest

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 ………….

Brychan
Guest

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.

Big Gee
Admin

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?

dafis
Guest

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 ?

Big Gee
Admin

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.

sibrydionmawr
Guest

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.

Big Gee
Admin

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.

dafis
Guest

“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.

TEILO
Guest

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.

Vlad the inhaler
Guest

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.

Paul Luckock
Guest

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.

dafis
Guest

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.

dafis
Guest

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.

dafis
Guest

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 !

Brychan
Guest

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.

dafis
Guest

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.

Brychan
Guest

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.

dafis
Guest

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.

Brychan
Guest

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?

dafis
Guest

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.

Red Flag
Guest

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.

Red Flag
Guest

(Oh – and watch them all blame Brexit when people kick-off about it. Even though 5 banks for example started the process 2 years ago)

dafis
Guest

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

David Robins
Guest

“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.

dafis
Guest

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.

Red Flag
Guest

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.

dafis
Guest

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.

Big Gee
Admin

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.

Paul Luckock
Guest

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.

dafis
Guest

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.

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