Whilst relaxing over a coffee a while back, and reading Llais y Sais, mine eyes alighted upon the report you see below. Straightforward enough, a story we read all too regularly; horny young teacher gets involved with pupil.
This report in Llais y Sais suggests that the accused, Christopher Wood, “lives in Tregaron” and started working at the school in Solihull, Birmingham, in September 2015. Yet on the website of its Daily Mirror sister-paper we read the prosecutor saying, “Wood, previously from Dorridge, Solihull, but now from Tregaron in Ceredigion, Wales, had started working at the school in September 2015.”
The difference is obvious. The Daily Mirror report tells us that Wood has recently moved from Solihull to Tregaron, while Llais y Sais hopes we’ll believe that he’s native to Ceredigion.
However, when I went to the WalesOnline website, I was confronted with a story that was similar, but all references to the alleged offences having taken place in Solihull had been removed. We were left with a naughty teacher from Tregaron. There’s no point in giving a link because the original version has now been updated to more closely follow what appeared in the print version.
In a normal country, any journalist writing up – even copying and pasting – this story would have asked himself or herself, ‘Hang on, why is this guy now living on our patch?’ To ask would be both good journalism and natural human curiosity. But Wales is not a normal country.
THE PAEDOPHILES ‘OF KIDWELLY’
No case in recent years highlighted this lack of curiosity better than that of the Satanic paedophile gang relocated to Kidwelly and housed by Grwp Gwalia. To believe the ‘Welsh’ media these scumbags were all Welsh.
But the English dailies reported quite properly that they had come down from London. Here’s the Daily Mail report of the case from 11 March 2011.
This is the report from WalesOnline. The original WO report of 10 March 2011 made no mention of the gang having come down from London, this was added in the extensive update of 20 September 2014.
It’s difficult to explain the September 2014 update. There was no appeal or any other development in the case. And anyway, the update was all background stuff – so why? Was it down to the bad publicity Llais y Sais was getting from me and others?
Whatever the answer, it appears that neither the ‘Welsh’ Government nor the Notional Assembly wanted to know how, why, and by what route, a gang of paedophiles could be moved down from London to cause misery in Carmarthenshire.
Presumably our AMs saw nothing wrong with such a system. Which might explain why it goes on all over Wales.
THE PAEDOPHILE ‘OF PEMBROKE DOCK’
More recently, a few days ago in fact, I read of another paedophile in Llais y Sais, this one in Pembroke Dock. Though he was on trial in Somerset, as the offences with which he was charged had taken place in Somerset.
To be fair, Llais y Sais did say that the convicted man was “originally from Bridgwater in Somerset”. Though given the facts it would have been difficult to pretend that this paedo was as Welsh as you and me, look you.
Which takes me back to the question I asked earlier when dealing with the teacher now living in Tregaron and the paedophiles dumped in Kidwelly – why did no one dealing with this story, in Wales, ask themselves how Somerset paedophile Boyle had reached Pembroke Dock.
I think we can safely assume that Graham Boyle “of Laws Street, Pembroke Dock” was moved to Wales by some agency or other. Perhaps the same agency responsible for moving a paedophile to Monkton just across the Cleddau, a decision that resulted in a near-riot.
I’m talking now of the reorganised and privatised probation service. If you want to know how it all fits together, this might help. As might the graphic below.
The Community Rehabilitation Company for Wales is owned by Working Links which is in turn owned by . . . well, your guess is as good as mine because we end up offshore. The picture is further confused by the relationship between these probation companies and third sector bodies such as Pembrokeshire Care and Cymdeithas Gofal of Ceredigion, which I wrote about recently. Then the police are involved, as are the local councils.
So not only is the system deliberately labyrinthine in order to deter investigators, the community rehabilitation companies – being private companies – are not subject to Freedom of Information legislation.
It’s a hell of a system, but ideal for dumping English paedophiles and other criminals in Wales.
THE ‘WELSH’ NEO-NAZI
Returning to the wonderful Llais y Sais, another remarkable tale emerged over the weekend.
You may have read about a number of squaddies arrested on suspicion of being neo-Nazis and belonging to National Action, a proscribed group. One of those arrested is a fitness instructor based at the Brecon barracks.
The accused appeared in court at the Old Bailey in London a few days ago. According to Llais y Sais on Friday Lance Corporal Mikko Vehvilainen, based at Brecon, is “a Welsh soldier”. The report was attributed to David Wilcock and Emily Pennick. I did a search and found that both work for the Press Association.
So I assumed that describing Vehvilainen as Welsh was a mistake made by London-based journalists. Even so, I was still angry and put out a tweet correcting them . . . and got an interesting response from David Wilcock.
So why would someone working for Llais y Sais, someone who knows that Vehvilainen is not Welsh, insert that misinformation? Why not just run the PA report unadorned? Was it a crass attempt to make the story more interesting for a Welsh readership, or was there some other motive?
The answer is that this was no clumsy attempt to give the report a Welsh angle, it was something more sinister.
THE INVISIBLE ENGLISH
There is a convention in ‘Welsh’ journalism, an unwritten rule, that wrongdoers must never be described as ‘English’. This rule applied even to Colin Batley, leader of the Kidwelly paedophile gang – despite him having an England flag flying from his drainpipe!
‘English’ and ‘England’ are verboten because they might give us a bad impression of our neighbours and thereby encourage an ‘us and them’ mindset. Far better to passively, by omission, suggest that these people are Welsh!
You’ve just had a lesson in elementary colonialist psychology.
But Llais y Sais seems to be going further. For not only does this rag withhold the truth about paedophiles and others being English, it actively promotes the idea that they’re Welsh. Most blatantly and recently with the case of the fascist squaddie, where someone in Cardiff inserted ‘Welsh’ into a story from the Press Association.
JENNY LEE CLARKE
Being the fair-minded old bastard that I am, I’m now going to offer Llais y Sais a chance to take a small step towards far-off redemption.
Regular readers will recall the disturbing case of Jenny Lee Clarke, who worked with Carolyn Harris in the Swansea East Labour Party office, and then for Harris after she became the MP in May 2015.
The comradely harmony prevailing in the Brynhyfryd office was shattered when Clarke accused Harris of assaulting her over her sexuality. This was witnessed by a Labour councillor. In retaliation, Harris accused Clarke of theft, by the curious route of giving herself a rise without the proper authority.
Bizarrely, it was through the London ‘papers reporting of the (alleged) assault in March 2016 that Ms Clarke learnt she was under investigation, but she wasn’t arrested – and then bailed – by South Wales Police until two months later on June 24.
She was re-bailed on September 19, and again on November 7. It wasn’t until February 17 this year that the papers went to the Crown Prosecution Service for evaluation and a decision on whether to proceed with the case.
When Ms Clarke attended Swansea Central police station on May 17th she was told that she was being released with no charge . . . but was also threatened with, “You may in future be asked to attend voluntarily to be re-interviewed”.
We are now coming to the end of September and Ms Clarke’s ordeal drags on. South Wales Police is making this woman’s life a misery on behalf of a vindictive politician and on the ‘advice’ of the South Wales Police DPP, who is of course former Labour MP Alun Michael.
This should not be happening in a democracy. And if Llais y Sais still harbours ambitions to be regarded as a newspaper then it would be reporting on this disgusting case of persecution and the abuse of political and police power.
But Wales is not a democracy. As I said earlier, Wales is a colonial society, and to facilitate this arrangement the Labour Party is allowed free rein to indulge in petty vindictiveness and to build up a vast network of cronies paid for out of the public purse.
Llais y Sais is just another part of the colonial system. Making Wales a very corrupt country indeed.
I learn that our tribunes have received a strange e-mail in the past few days from a Gary Watton; that e-mail is reproduced for you below. I particularly like the jaunty ‘Hello, Sailor Councillor’ way it starts.
Politics Wales will, unsurprisingly, focus on Welsh affairs, and who but the rats scuttling about in the darkness could argue that we don’t need more light shone into the murky world of Welsh politics? But will Politics Wales provide the needed illumination?
In the hope of answering that question I decided to take a look behind the scenes, as it were, and ask a few pertinent questions, such as: Who is Gary Watton? Where by is he from? What’s he been up to before he launched the imaginatively titled creation?
It seems that Gary is from the Six Counties or, as I suppose he would prefer, ‘Northern Ireland’, or ‘Ulster’ (even though NI only contains 6 of Ulster’s 9 counties), possibly ‘the Province’. His politics are obvious from the bio he has written on his Amazon page.
The giveaways to his political orientation and loyalties are ” . . . county Londonderry . . . and “In September 2012, Gary lobbied a number of MPs regarding the need to fine the next of kin who permit the funeral of their loved ones to be hijacked by a firing of shots over the coffin, as practised primarily by Irish republicans”. (Whatever your political outlook you may think that fining grieving relatives is going a bit far.)
From the Amazon page we also learn that Gary has a number of self-published books to his name, many of them about sport; including rugby, cricket and football. He also writes about music. And despite his background it seems his passion is Chelsea not Glasgow Rangers. (The ‘Billy’ referred to in the link is William of Orange*, victor at The Boyne, after which the defeated Irish bestowed the sobriquet Seamus an Chaca [James the Shithead] on their Stewart leader.)
But let us focus on the exciting new magazine, which is published (if that’s the right word in this context) by Newsstand, which has been ‘Setting Magazines Free Since 1995’, and quite right too . . . poor things . . . caged up in W H Smith . . . Flipping through the Newsstand site soon made it clear that Politics Wales complements Politics Scotland.
Both are “ground-breaking”, both are “regional” (regional!) both are “neutral”. Though they differ in that Politics Scotland has “readable material from cover to cover” whereas Politics Wales has “readable material throughout from cover to cover”. (One up on the Jocks!) After this minor deviation it’s almost word for word again, with only difference being the formatting.
Mr Watton tells us that Politics Scotland” . . . is neutral in its outlook, featuring a range of individuals, from all corners of Scotland. Politics Scotland is a platform where people on the right of centre and the left of centre can speak out about subjects that matter to Scotland.” Now what’s odd about that?
I’ll tell you. A stranger reading that might conclude that political debate in Scotland is nothing more than the dreary old slanging-match between Left and Right. Which would be a gross misrepresentation, because as we all know, the issue in Scottish politics is the independence question, where we find the whole political spectrum represented on both sides.
So how can anyone launch a magazine called Politics Scotland in which – if the blurb gives a true picture – the independence debate is ignored? The clue probably lies in Watton’s own politics. And even though independence may not be a hot topic in Wales, devolution and other specifically Welsh issues are, because we certainly aren’t fighting over ideological differences.
I don’t know what to make of Politics Wales, partly because I haven’t read it, and I certainly have no intention of paying £5 to read the contributions of “three Assembly members and four councillors”. Come on, be brutally honest; given the calibre of our Assembly Members and councillors would you pay a fiver to read their inane wittering? And how did Gary Watton find these contributors anyway, because I bet he knows nothing about Wales?
Picture the scene, gentle reader: Gary is seated at his desk, which is dominated by his prized possession, the signed photograph of Princess Brunhilde of Humperdink, eleventh cousin (three times removed) to Her Glorious Majesty. There is a box stamped on the photograph that reads “Dear (fill in name), Get Well Soon / Congratulations On Passing Your Driving Test! / I Shall Write To The Judge On Your Behalf(Tick appropriate box).”
The Ballybigot Orange Lodge banner decorates the wall behind him as our hero tips back his bowler hat and begins Googling Welsh council websites. He soon alights on the intriguing and mercifully short name of “Dai Dwp, Labour, Cwmscwt”. An introductory e-mail is sent. Dai’s eight-year-old grand-daughter goes through the daily ritual of opening the Inbox for him on his council-issue laptop. Dai reads . . .
‘Dear Councillor Dwp, could you, in no more than 2,500 words (plus diagrams and tables), give me your views on how you believe the Russian military intervention in the Middle East might impact on the price of laverbread in Swansea market?’ (There will be no payment.)
Upon reading “no payment” Dai’s face contorts into an ugly mask, he gurgles his last, and the mighty brain that had cracked so many expense-claim forms goes into meltdown as he falls from his chair.
As he lies on the floor, the spark of life yet flickering, Dai smiles as he recalls that weekend conference in Llandrindod where he sank 47 pints, 18 whiskies, shagged the fraternal delegate from the Slovenian Workers Party – or was it Slovakian? – and still came away well in pocket. That’s what politics is all about!
So obviously there won’t be an article by Dai Dwp in Politics Wales (unless his grand-daughter ghost writes it), but joking aside, I’d still like to know who did write for this magazine, and what they had to say. So has anybody out there actually bought it?
But perhaps more than that, I’d like to know why an Ulster Unionist / Loyalist has launched a magazine about a country of which he knows nothing? (Maybe two countries.) What’s behind it? Or who’s behind him?
COMING SOON: In the next post (out on Monday or Tuesday) I plan to focus on Carolyn Harris, Labour MP for Swansea East, recently embroiled in a rather unsavoury business. Anyone who has anything to contribute should write to email@example.com.
Earlier this month Martin Shipton of the Wasting Mule and WalesOnline had a brief bout of outrage on learning that RCT Homes was advertising for a chief executive at a salary greater than that paid to the UK Prime Minister or Wales’ First Minister. Here’s the advertisement – with a London recruitment agency – that occasioned his momentary unhappiness with the colonial system.
This recruitment follows on from a number of personnel changes at RCT Homes (mentioned in the same article) that are worthy of reporting, not least the departure of Andrew Lycett, the previous chief executive. So let me hand you over to a correspondent who explains the complexities of it all. I have added links and a few comments to help you understand better who’s who and what’s what.
Now read what follows carefully and join up the dots.
“The Wasting Mule tells us that Andrew Lycett left RCT Homes for reasons that were unexplained on the grounds of “confidentiality”. A more typical corporate response to that question is that he “has found career opportunities elsewhere” which led me to investigate.
Lycett submitted his resignation from RCT Homes at the same time as Cllr Kieron Montague (Labour) announced he would step down and not seek re-election. He is Cabinet Member for Tackling Poverty, Engagement & Housing. He also sat on the RCT Homes board, on behalf of RCT council.
Lycett has actually taken up the role of Finance Director with the Jehu Group, a real estate development company, who beside being a major player at the SA1 development in Swansea, but also has expanded to the west, opening a new office in Haverfordwest, under their subsidiary Waterstone Estates.
Montague, meanwhile, has now taken up a role with Cynon Taf Housing Association, who unlike RCT Homes, has a substantial holding of vacant development land.
In a previous post (here, scroll down) you correctly pointed out the outsourcing of estates administration by a number of local authorities to PwC. A partner of PwC, Lynn Pamment, also sat on the board of RCT Homes, alongside Lycett and Montague. She will, of course, be very conversant with the issues which PwC has been required to ‘assist with’, that of, balancing the budget for Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion councils. This includes selling off land for development.
This, of course, is the very footprint that Waterstone Estates has opened an office for in Haverfordwest for. Waterstone Estates is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Jehu Group, which Lycett is now director.”
We are all familiar with the links between the Third Sector and the Labour Party, but now we see a third element become more evident, that of private businesses, which recruit people with local government and Third Sector experience to help ‘smooth the way’ with the acquisition of land, the gaining of planning approval, and of course the clamping of the sweaty paws upon the funding public.
The supplier of the information mentions the RCT Board, and so I took a peek for myself. It hasn’t been updated, so here it is before it’s changed.
It’s the usual mixture of Labour time-servers, Third Sector spongers and token residents. But as we were warned just now, there’s also the PwC representative, looking after her company’s best interests. Lynn Pamment is of course one of those selfless English missionaries without whom we Welsh would be running around naked doing unspeakable things to each other and gabbling away incoherently.
Also on the Board is someone I’ve mentioned before, a regular contributor to the Letters page of the Wasting Mule, where he can be relied upon to fly the flag for Queen and Country (his country that is, not ours), Kel Palmer. And talking of flying, his bio describes him as “A former fast jet pilot in the RAF” . . . not to be confused with those slow jet pilots . . . always getting in the bloody way . . . slowing down the bombing runs. It’s a wonder regime change is ever achieved.
This I think is one to watch. Particularly the future careers of Andrew Lycett and Kieron Montague.
[With so many different people sending me stuff I seem to have lost the original e-mail containing the information used above. So will whoever sent it please get in touch to remind me who you are.]
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the need to provide apprenticeships, with political parties trying to outdo each other in the number they’d provide if elected, but did you know that the ‘Welsh’ Government has its very own apprenticeship scheme?
I am indebted to another correspondent for drawing this to my attention. Though he’s very concerned by the fact that most of those chosen for these apprenticeships seem to be related to someone already working for Carwyn and his gang.
Which, I suppose is only to be expected. For it seems that these apprenticeships are advertised only on the ‘Welsh’ Government website. Now with the best will in the world, I doubt if many young people visit the site . . . unless advised to do so by family or friends.
Is this how it should be done? Doesn’t it risk getting nepotism a bad name?
And by the way, Carwyn, I wouldn’t give a job to that shifty-looking little bugger in the middle, the one fiddling with his tie. If he’s going to do Oliver Hardy impersonations he needs to put on about 150lb . . . and also develop a personality.
CHRISTOPHER MUNDAY, GOAT-TETHERER
A third supplier of information has very interesting things to tell us about Christopher Munday who, you may remember, is the genius who set up the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales which I – in my previous post – likened unto tethering a goat and waiting for the predators to appear.
He writes . . .
“CM is typical of many public sector employees who see their advancement “up the greasy pole” by avoiding decision making and adopting the mantra of “plausible deniabilty” if anything goes wrong.
He joined Welsh Development Agency in the 1980’s having formerly been a “site finder” for a medium sized house building company. He progressed through a number of low and medium grade clerical jobs, as the WDA expanded through the 1990’s, and then became employed in a department seeking to access private sector money to add to the Agency’s budget for property development purposes.
As he had little knowledge of funding (and no knowledge of property development), his approach was to appoint major firms of accountants to “write reports” as to how private funding might be accessed. It was quickly realised in Cardiff, that operating a large budget for the purposes of employing private sector accountants, made CM a prime target for the KPMGs, PWC, Deloittes of this world in “keeping him sweet”. He attended, for many years, the annual MIPIM property junkets in Cannes, where his time was spent networking (i.e. being entertained) by his accountancy pals.
Once these reports had been completed, at costs between tens of and hundreds of thousands of pounds, these would be “topped and tailed” by CM and subsequently presented to his line managers and, ultimately, ministers as “all his own work”. On two or three occasions the reports suggested “arms-length” initiatives, with a view to private sector organisations participating in the development of offices and factories in Wales.
In at least one of these initiatives (called WISP) the “partner participant” was a company called Babcock and Brown. By this time WDA had been “absorbed” into the Assembly. The basis of WISP was that the Assembly would take a long lease on an office block before it was built, and the investment would be pre-sold to provide the funds to build it in the first place.
Unfortunately, after a couple of office developments, Babcock and Brown went bust, and the WISP idea terminated. Babcock and Brown’s contact with CM was Leo Bedford(LB), and LB started up another company out of the ashes of Babcock and Brown, called Amber.
It was, therefore, of little surprise that when the RIFW (a.k.a. JESSICA) initiative was suggested to Welsh Government, CM was put in charge of running it, and (surprise, surprise again) Amber was appointed as Fund Manager. It is not clear who decided Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) should be appointed as Property Advisers, but it is clear that Welsh Government appointed both firms (see attached press release). It is also interesting to note that when the RIFW s**t hit the fan, CM denied flatly that Welsh Government had appointed LSH, and insisted that LSH had been appointed by Amber without his knowledge (!).
I know several people who have worked, and still work with Mr Munday, and it is the case that work colleagues, AMs and Ministers largely regard him as a . . .at which point I have to intervene because it gets rather personal, and I’m down to my last couple of mill. Munday commutes to Cardiff from Wiltshire.
What are we to make of this, boys and girls? Now as you know, Jac is a simple soul, and talk of conferences in the South of France, and big numbers that I can’t get my head around, send me into a tizzy. But if half of what my informant tells us is true, then this man sounds like a complete asshole! But of course he’s an English asshole, so he’s guaranteed an important job in Wales, losing millions and millions from the Welsh public purse.
This has nothing to do with jobs; the number of jobs created is almost irrelevant for those who persuaded the ‘Welsh’ Government to bribe Aston Martin to set up on the outskirts of Cardiff. The motivation, pure and simple, is the promotion of Cardiff.
The Aston Martin plant is just another prestige project to add to the Millennium Stadium, the Millennium Centre, the Swalec Stadium, the National Ice Rink and all the other developments we’ve seen in recent years, including – don’t laugh! – the Assembly building itself. Within a very short time I guarantee we shall be hearing, ‘Cardiff – Home to Aston Martin’.
Many are already asking how much the ‘Welsh’ Government paid Aston Martin to move to the Vale, but nobody’s answering. I am indebted to @tomgallard for letting me publish this letter in which the ‘Welsh’ Government refuses to disclose how much it invested in this wonderful project that will be of benefit to the whole of Wales.
If you think I’m just an embittered old Jack, and that the ‘Welsh’ Governments’s prime consideration was jobs, just ask yourself this – would they have rolled out the red carpet with gold thread for Kia, or Dacia, even if these companies were creating 3,000 jobs? And answer that honestly.
And if you believe that employment / investment was the prime consideration, and that’s why the ‘Welsh’ Government was prepared to break the bank to get Aston Martin to Wales, then why weren’t the jobs directed to an area where they are much more needed than the Vale of Glamorgan, where I guarantee residents will soon be opposing all the disruption the Aston Martin development threatens?
Oh, and one final thing. Scroll down on the letter to Tom Gallard and see who signed it. Yes, that’s the same Christopher Munday we discussed just now. Whenever there’s Welsh public funding to be wasted, Munday’s yer man!
P.S. Another factor worth considering is that this rush of automotive good news – Aston Martin to the Vale of Glamorgan, TVR to Ebbw Vale – comes just ahead of the Assembly elections on May 9. The Labour Party must be calculating that news like this is worth a few thousand votes, maybe saving the party a couple of seats. Very important when we remember that Labour currently holds 30 out of the 60 seats and is predicted to lose anything up to 5 of them.
What we see in these examples, and in other cases I’ve highlighted over the years, is utter contempt for the democratic process and the public purse – which works to the detriment of us all. Basically, it’s, ‘Sod off! we don’t have to tell you anything’.
When RCT Homes was questioned by Martin Shipton about the £150,000 salary for its chief executive he could only tell us, “A spokeswoman for RCT Homes said the body would not be offering a comment.”
And when Andrew Lycett left RCT Homes to take up his post with real estate company the Jehu Group, the reasons for his leaving were unexplained on grounds of “confidentially”. This, remember, is a Registered Social Landlord getting large dollops of funding from the public purse.
The ‘Welsh’ Government apprenticeships are obviously aimed squarely at those in the know. Otherwise they’d be advertised properly so that everybody’d have a chance.
The RIFW scandal for which Christopher Munday is so culpable is still shrouded in mystery because so much information is being withheld and so many lies are being told.
Finally, we have the countless millions lobbed Aston Martin’s way to get another blue chip company to Cardiff. Yet we cannot be told how much because this information is – so someone at the ‘Welsh’ Government argues – “exempt from disclosure”. Is that really true?
And all this is happening in a system that prides itself on ‘openness’, focussed on a building made of glass, so that we, the people, can see what they’re up to. What a load of deceitful symbolism and absolute bollocks!
(Calm down, Jones.)
Now a compete change of subject, but another indictment of how Wales is run, and the priorities of those who run our county and our cities.
When I was a boy, I used to catch the school bus at Brynhyfryd Square, which would then make the long haul up Llangyfelach Road, past the ‘Public Hall’ and its bust of Daniel James, before the turning left and along Heol Gwyrosydd to Penlan School.
Of course I knew the hymn Calon Lân, and I knew that the words had been written by local man Daniel James. (Bit of a hero of my mamgu!) Which was just as well, because I wasn’t going to learn things like that in Penlan School, or any school in Swansea. Trigonometry, Latin, and the history of British imperialism would stand me in much better stead for the world that awaited me.
These memories came back when I opened an e-mail and saw a photo that someone had sent with it. The photograph was taken the day after Palm Sunday, and it shows Daniel James’ sorry-looking grave in Mynyddbach cemetery. The person who sent me the photograph said he had to avoid huge Victorian headstones leaning at dangerous angles to reach the grave, and that a machete would have helped to get through the undergrowth.
Doesn’t the man who wrote perhaps our most famous hymn deserve better than this? If I was talking here about some monument to our subjugation, or a reminder of our colonialist exploitation, or some house where Nelson had enjoyed Lady Hamilton, then Cadw, or the National Trust, or some other bunch of colonialist grant-grabbers would demand a few million to ‘maintain it for the nation’. (And we know which nation.)
If you feel as I do, that Daniel James deserves to be remembered better than this, then write to somebody; Swansea council, the ‘Welsh’ Government, anybody. Send a letter or e-mail to your local paper, or the Daily Post, the Western Mail.
Because how much would it cost to maintain this grave with the dignity it merits? Less than a set of tyres on an Aston Martin. Probably less than Christopher Munday earns in a week. One per cent of what the chief executive of RCT Homes will be paid in a year. Wake up people! let’s start getting our priorities straight. Let’s start remembering who we are.
You will recall that in the previous post dealing with the highly questionable disposal of publicly-owned land by the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales we encountered two Guernsey-based companies, Imperial House Investments Ltd (Incorporated 30.11.2013) and South Wales Land Developments Ltd (Incorporated 01.02.2014) both of which had just two directors, Langley Davies and Jane Pocock.
It became clear that South Wales Land Developments was set up to serve as a vehicle for the real purchaser in the land deal with RIFW, Sir Gilbert Stanley Thomas, originally of Merthyr, but now resident in Guernsey. So what might be the purpose of Imperial House Investments Ltd?
The obvious question, to me, was, ‘Is there a specific Imperial House that might answer the question?’ Yes, and unsurprisingly it’s to be found on Imperial Park in Newport, listed among the publicly-owned assets disposed of by the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales.
As I shall explain below, Imperial House was bought by Langley Davies and South Wales Land Developments on behalf of Stan Thomas in the controversial ‘portfolio disposal’ of RIFW assets. But is there anything in the pipeline – as with the housing planned for the Lisvane land – that might affect its value in an upward direction? And come to that, does SWLD still own Imperial House?
The answer to the first question is that Imperial Park will be very close to the projected M4 relief road / ‘black route’ announced by Edwina Hart in July 2014, which is bound to increase its value. ‘But wait!’ I hear you cry, ‘Imperial House Investments Ltd of Guernsey was created in November 2013, a full eight months before Redwina spoke’.
Which could suggest that Stan Thomas and Langley Davies are gifted with second sight . . . or there may be a more mundane explanation
The answer to the second question is where it gets interesting. For Imperial House – or at least, part of it – is now owned by yet another Guernsey-based company involved in these shenanigans.
Here are the details and the documentation.
Imperial House was bought on July 13th, 2012, from South Wales Land Developments Ltd by Imperial House Investments Ltd – a company that didn’t officially exist until November 2013 – for the sum stated on title number WA701104 as being £1,750,000. Here is a link to that document, and here’s a link to the plan of the site, showing the land bought bordered in red.
Then, on October 26th, 2015, it appears that part of the Imperial House site – known as “Phase II” – was sold for £3,853,823 (title number CYM664986) to Oxenwood YPL (Investments) Ltd of PO Box 25, Regency Court, Glategny Esplanade, St Peter Port, Guernsey GY1 3AP. Here’s a link to the title document, and here’s a link to the plan of the site, with the Oxenwood purchase bordered in red. It’s worth comparing the two plans.
So what do we know about Oxenwood? Not a lot. I couldn’t turn up anything for Oxenwood YPL (Investments) Ltd. (And what does YPL stand for anyway?) There is however an Oxenwood Real Estate LLP based in London which might or might not be connected. Though Imperial House doesn’t show in its portfolio.
The building is shown above, with Unit 6 being the ground floor. Is this still owned by Stan Thomas or was it part of the sale to Oxenwood Real Estate LLP, which might have been no more than Stan Thomas selling from one of his Guernsey companies to another?
(To save you taking your socks off, 4,134 sq ft x £15.00 = £62,010.)
Or is this a new build on the “c1a (circa one acre) development site” that was part of the Imperial House transaction? And if “Unit 6” is offered in this ad can we assume that there are at least five other units?
Another big question is – how much did SWLD pay the RIFW for Imperial House? Whatever the answer we can be sure that it will be a very good deal for Sir Gilbert Stanley Thomas.
Reminding us that while the Lisvane site may be the ‘jewel in the crown’ there are a number of other lucrative elements to this portfolio sale by the RIFW that the media may have overlooked.
THE DELOITTE REPORT, INTRODUCTION
One thing that’s become clear as I’ve looked at the RIFW story is how the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party and its laughable ‘Welsh’ Government has procrastinated and dithered, how hard it has tried to stop the truth emerging while simultaneously trying to distance itself from the fall-out. Among the tactics employed has been to regularly trot out the line that the RIFW is an “arms-length” organisation.
The Deloitte report that we shall now consider might also be seen as another bit of procrastination, another effort to buy time in the hope that the critics would get tired and give up. The report was presented to the ‘Welsh’ Government on August 8th, 2013. Its findings are so conclusively damning that it should have resulted in immediate action, but those clowns down Cardiff docks continued to dither.
Before progressing with a detailed look into the Deloitte report I also recommend that you read Owen Donovan’s Oggy Bloggy Ogwr blog, where you will find an excellent analysis of this scandal stage by stage and learn how the Assembly and the ‘Welsh’ Government have handled it. Here’s a link to his most recent contribution, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap VI: The Debate and you can work back from there to read the earlier pieces.
Click on the title to open the full report, Welsh Government Peer Review – RIFW Asset Portfolio Disposal and keep it open in another window. I know I always say this, but this time I really mean it – please set aside an hour or so to read the report through. I should warn you that it is redacted, but not so heavily as to detract from the seriousness of its findings. (Though of course it did make me wonder, given what is left, how damning were the redacted parts.)
I shall now list what I consider to be the most important of Deloitte’s findings, page by page, but before that maybe I should explain who’s who, and what their roles were.
Chris Munday is the civil servant behind the creation of the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales. There is surely a knighthood awaiting Mr Munday . . . or possibly a posting to the Gurnos community centre (personal injury insurance provided).
Lambert Smith Hampton is the commercial property consultancy that advised the RIFW on the sales, through its Cardiff office headed by Lee Mogridge, with input from Jeremy Green who is based in London.
Amber Infrastructure was the other RIFW adviser and is now considering taking action against LSH. (The second link contains the sentence, ” . . . they [the Public Accounts Committee] were concerned that one of the company’s [LSH’s] employees was working for both RIFW, which was selling the sites, and South Wales Land Developments, which was buying the site.” This is also referenced in this report from 2013 into the internal governance of the RIFW – page 29 iii – but the individual is not named.)
The public interest was supposed to be have been safeguarded by the five people appointed to the RIFW Board by the ‘Welsh’ Government. These were Richard Anning, of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Englandandwales; Ceri Breeze, a ‘Welsh’ Government civil servant; Richard Harris, another apparatchik; Chris Holley, the former Lib Dem leader of Swansea council; and Jonathan Geen, of Acuity Legal, the Endgame Group, and, more recently, Bellerophon Scotland, plus of course, South Wales Land Developments Ltd and, ultimately, Stan Thomas.
THE DELOITTE REPORT (by page and column heading)
Page 12: Note that the original value put on Imperial House was £5.2m, yet SWLD was able to sell the property to Imperial House Investments Ltd for £1.75m, so I ask again, how much did SWLD pay for Imperial House? And remember, the £5.2m value was given before anyone knew of the M4 ‘black route’ coming right by Imperial House.
Page 14 Observations: January 31st, 2011: “The Investment Manager’s Report and the Minutes of the Board Meeting at which this document was discussed make no mention of consideration of a portfolio disposal”. Suggesting that the original intention was to sell the lots individually, or perhaps in batches.
The reference in the lower box to Imperial House could be interpreted as someone trying to drive down the asking price.
Page 15: This theme of driving down the supposed value of Imperial House continues.
Page 17 Description: The reference in the lower box makes it clear that by March 28th, 2011, an offer has been received to buy all the properties in a “portfolio disposal”.
Page 21 Observations: It seems clear that Deloitte cannot understand why the Realisation Value of Imperial House has fallen since 2011, and no explanation is offered.
Page 24 Description: This tells us that in the early part of 2011 there were a number of companies interested in the RIFW land, it lists them. Legat Owen, for example, had a client interested in all the sites in the north. But the job lot had already been promised to Stan Thomas.
Page 25 Observations:Lambert Smith Hampton – the Investment Managers to the RIFW, entrusted with securing the best possible deal for these public assets – has not advertised the properties but has “informally canvassed” likely purchasers.
Also note something I commented on in my previous post. Jonathan Geen is dealing with Langley Davies of South Wales Land Developments, Stan Thomas’ front man, but SWLD didn’t officially exist!
Page 26 Observations: Read it all. “No advertising took place” says Deloitte. Though there are more vague references to “informal canvassing”, making it clear that the deal was already done and dusted.
Page 27 Description: Some time before April 21st, 2011 it was known that an offer had been made by Stan Thomas. May 10th, 2011, Langley Davies says that Stan Thomas (through GST of Guernsey) will be lending him the money to make the purchase “at 3% over interbank rate”. So Langley is the real purchaser, with Stan just lending him the money?
Observations: On April 21st, 2011, Board member Jonathan Geen declares a “potential conflict” (of interests). AT WHICH POINT HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE OLD HEAVE-HO FROM THE RIFW.
Page 28 Description: Here we learn that the “portfolio offer letter from GST Investments Ltd” was received on March 4th, 2011.
Also that, “LSH met Sir Stanley Thomas and Langley Davies to discuss the sale” on March 30th, 2011. Was no one else present?
Page 29 Description: Value of Imperial House downplayed, again.
Page 30 Description: At 20th April, 2011, we learn of the first written evidence of LSH recommending acceptance of the Stan Thomas offer. We also learn that Carwyn Jones and the “IM” were informed of this development.
We also see yet another mention of no due diligence carried out with regard to GST or SWLD.
Pages 32 & 33: With a few minor caveats the Board decides by the end of April 2011 to (officially) accept Stan Thomas’ offer.
Page 38 Description: Lambert Smith Hampton “writes to Martin Pollock of Barclays Wealth (acting for Stan Thomas) accepting an offer of £22.5m based on three staged payments” on June 15th 2011. Anyone who’s been paying attention will have noted that this purchase figure has changed a few times.
Observations: Note Deloitte’s curious and rather worrying mention of the Board’s recorded vote.
Here’s some more information on the Board, “From January 2011, the Board comprised five voting members: two Welsh Government officials (one of whom served as Chair), a Welsh Local Government Association representative and two external members appointed following an advertised public appointments process. Although Welsh Ministers appointed the Board members, under the LLP modelall of the Board members had a legal responsibility to act in the interests of RIFW, even if those interests were not entirely aligned with those of Welsh Ministers(?). LSH told the Committee that they felt the composition of the Board contained the right expertise for this venture.”
I’m quoting there from the January 2016 report by the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (page 18). Which goes on to say, “The small size of the RIFW Board meant that its capacity to discharge its responsibilities was weakened when a conflict of interest regarding the portfolio sale to SWLD arose when one of the external members, Jonathan Geen, started to act as the legal advisor to SWLD on the sale transaction.”
Further documentation on the Public Accounts Committee investigation is available here.
Page 39 Description: It is noted on July 22nd 2011, Redrow offers “£2m unconditionally for the Bangor site”. This offer was made to Lambert Smith Hampton’s Manchester office. Why didn’t Redrow go to the Cardiff office handling the sale? Did they know something?
Whatever the answer, this offer seems to have slipped through the floorboards, though of course we should remember that the deal with Stan and Olly had already been stitched up by then.
Page 40 Description: Heads of Terms between RIFW and Newco Ltd (acting for Stan Thomas), July 15th, 2011,“describes the sale of 18 properties, but it also states that RIFW may not be in a position to dispose of Imperial House and Garth Park”.
Observations:“Jonathan Geen is noted as the purchaser’s solicitor”.
Page 44 Description: Against the date November 15th, 2011, we read, “Purchaser is now TBC – a Guernsey Registered Holding Company wholly owned by St Lawrence Property Investments Ltd, registered in UK and funded by GST”.
St Lawrence Property Investments can be found at Unit 6, Imperial Courtyard, the property for rent we looked at earlier. Its directors are Langley Davies and Jane Pocock, but as a new face we have a Karen Davies, who could be Langley’s wife or, given that she was born in the same month as him, his twin sister.
This company, Number 07545621, was Incorporated February 28th, 2011, and before moving to Newport its address, until August 17th, 2011, was 3 Assembly Square, Britannia Quay, Cardiff Bay. The same address as Acuity Legal, where Jonathan Geen is listed as “Partner – Real Estate”.
If St Lawrence Property Investments was registered at 3 Assembly Square, the address of Jonathan Geen’s company, Acuity Legal, and Incorporated on February 28th, then it’s reasonable to assume that Geen was representing Stan Thomas and Langley Davies some two months before he confessed to his “potential conflict” on April 21st. It may have been longer.
The ‘Welsh’ Government seems to think that the RIFW fiasco was all over with the Public Accounts Committee report in January. That was certainly the opinion of Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Communities . . . the very communities that have lost out by RIFW not realising anything like the potential of the assets it was entrusted with.
We have since learnt that the ‘Welsh’ Government is getting tough, and earlier this month it was announced that there are plans to take legal action against Lambert Smith Hampton, which has also been referred to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
This is the very least the ‘Welsh’ Government could do, because the performance of LSH leaves only two possibilities:
1/ Those allocated by LSH to the RIFW contract were so utterly inept and unprofessional that they should never be given another job more complicated than a house sale.
2/ The company, or one or more of its employees, was in the pay of Langley and Stan, which is what is suggested by more than one source. If an employee of LSH was simultaneously working for the RIFW and the Langley and Stan show, then surely that person can be prosecuted?
It is therefore wholly correct that Carwyn and his posse should ride off into the sunset in pursuit of the LSH gang. But I don’t understand why Jonathan Geen has been allowed to leave town unmolested. I’m assuming he’s left Cardiff, for as I suggested just now, he seems to have moved to Scotland, where he is currently starring on the Bellerophon Scotland website, now calling himself ‘Jon’ Geen but using the same, Acuity, photograph. (Open out for full profile.)
Jonathan Geen was appointed to the RIFW Board in December 2010. The Terms and Conditions of his appointment can be found here (page 31). I’m linking again to the somewhat neglected report, published in April 2013, into the governance arrangements of the RIFW, written by Gilbert C. Lloyd FCA CPFA. You can read it for yourself, but I can save you the trouble by telling you that Mr Lloyd concludes that the RIFW is a bit of a shambles.
The penultimate Duty reads, “Acting in the best interests of the Fund”. Was it possible for Jonathan Geen to act in the best interests of the Fund while also serving Langley and Stan? His responsibility to the Fund should have meant maximising its profits, yet the gruesome twosome wanted to pay as little as possible for the land.
The final Duty says that the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s Seven Principles of Public Life are adhered to. Read them and you may think that Jonathan Geen broke most of them while acting as a Board member of the RIFW, supposedly safeguarding the public interest.
So why was Jonathan Geen allowed to take the high road?
The Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales was a cock-up from the outset. A perfect example of what goes wrong when civil servants and politicians with no knowledge of the real world try to deal with ‘businessmen’. Setting up the RIFW in the manner it was done was like tethering a goat and waiting for the predators to appear.
Another contributing factor was that, despite its grandiose ambitions, Cardiff remains a relatively small city, and those in particular sectors – such as property sales and development – will almost certainly know each other. Not only professionally, but also socially. Perhaps they’ll belong to the same Lodge or golf club.
While I consistently argue for contracts and jobs to be given to local companies, in the case of the RIFW land disposal, the contracts should have been dispersed to people unknown to each other. This must be borne in mind for all similar business in future and, indeed, more generally when awarding contracts.
For as I travel around Wales I notice signs on development sites telling me that the architect, or the surveyor, or the agent involved, is based in Cardiff, and almost certainly got the contract because he is close to the ‘Welsh’ Government, perhaps in more senses than one.
So let’s learn from the RIFW scandal and in future spread the contracts and the wealth they generate around the country.
All that said, the ultimate blame for the Welsh people being deprived of £200m or more does not lie with Langley Davies or Stan Thomas, Jonathan Geen or anyone at Lambert Smith Hampton, for these were simply being true to their natures. No, the blame lies squarely with the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government down Cardiff docks.
The Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales was a disaster waiting to happen, and it was obvious as early as March 2011 that the disaster was playing out, that there were conflicts of interest, that companies showing interest in doing deals were being cold-shouldered in favour of a single buyer, who seemed to be known to all involved, and was at the very same time making a tidy profit out of selling Cardiff airport to the ‘Welsh’ Government!
And while this tragedy was unfolding those buffoons were hiding behind the ‘arms-length’ defence. Yet the RIFW was their creation and they could have stepped in at any time to protect public assets. And that’s exactly what they should have done. It was their duty.
The response of the wretched Lesley Griffiths sums up not only the ‘Let’s move on’ attitude of her administration, but also ‘Welsh’ Labour’s complete lack of ambition for Wales, which could be summed up with, ‘Ooo, we’ve got about 5% of what these assets should have realised – isn’t that wonderful’!
As I’ve said, these clowns will be asking for your vote again in May. Anyone who votes Labour does not – cannot – have the best interests of Wales at heart. Vote for anyone but Labour!
The mythical Wales Green Party is holding its Annual General Meeting on Saturday at the Angel Hotel in Cardiff between 10:30 and 17:00. I have been given sight of some important documents that shed light on both the Greens’ approach to next year’s elections to the Notional Assembly and the personalities likely to be playing prominent roles in that campaign.
I describe this party as ‘mythical’ because there is no Wales Green Party, all we have is a regional branch of the Green Party of Englandandwales. But rather than confuse you as to why I’m writing about something that doesn’t exist, let us go along with the pretence and, for the purposes of this post, pretend that there is a Wales Green Party. (Though of course there isn’t.)
Let us start with the recent meeting of the party’s Council on October 10th. Among other things it was agreed that although she is ineligible – not even being a member of the Wales Green Party – UK deputy leader Amelia Womack will be standing for the Assembly next year in the Cardiff Central constituency while also topping the list in the South Wales Central region.
So much for rule books and the party constitution. Though I’m hearing that Ms Womack’s selection has not been universally accepted, and has the potential to cause serious disruption within the party.
Though it could be argued that there is a certain logic at work here. For how can this Womack woman be a member of a party that doesn’t exist? She is deputy leader of the only Green Party in Englandandwales, and is therefore perfectly entitled to stand.
Though the likeliest winner could be whoever tops the list for the Mid and West Wales region, and the one who’s bagged this spot is Alice Hooker-Stroud. It seems Hooker-Stroud has connections with the Centre for Alternative Technology in Corris (surprise! surprise!), and busies herself with other hippy activities in the area, such as the Machynlleth Housing Coop and the Machynlleth Food Coop.
But you have to give Hooker-Stroud credit, when it comes to self-publicity this girl is bloody good, as you’d expect from someone in her line of work, Public Relations and Communications. Her Linkedin profile is one of the fullest, most comprehensive, I’ve ever read.
Then there’s the videos . . . believe me, this girl is no shrinking violet, just Google Alice Hooker-Stroud to see what I mean. It should come as no surprise to learn that she is also standing for the leadership of the Wales Green Party, against the dynamic duo of Ashley Wakeling and Anthony Slaughter. ‘Leadership election!’ you cry, ‘what about Pippa Bartolotti?’
Ah, yes . . . I can’t keep the bad news from you any longer, boys and girls – Pippa Bartolotti is standing down! I must admit, I shed a little tear when I heard that news.
Here is Pippa’s valedictory report. It tells us just a little of what she’s been up to this year, from opening the Rhwiderin (sic) “Save our Woodlands” fund-raiser to hosting the South Wales Greens summer party. (My invitation must have got lost in the post.)
But don’t do anything drastic, for the lovely Pippa will be standing for the Assembly next year in Newport West, and also topping the regional list for South Wales East. So dry those eyes and put away the tissues!
UPDATE 16.12.2015: The winner is (drum roll!) . . . Alice Hooker Stroud! You will note that in the report I’ve linked to there is no mention of Ashley Wakeling; that’s because he pulled out of the contest at the end of November and resigned from the party. Reading his resignation blog post makes it clear that he was coming under attack from Neath . . . which is where Martyn Shrewsbury is now based . . . and seeing as Shrewsbury is La Bartolotti’s faithful retainer, dare we consider that getting rid of Wakeling was her way of ensuring the successor she prefers? Note that Wakeling was accused of being rather too fond of himself . . . so to prove his accusers wrong he will now stand in the Assembly elections as an independent.
In case you can’t make it to the AGM on Saturday, here is a copy of the agenda, to help you follow the international media coverage I’m sure the event will generate. Having flicked through it myself, I urge you to read it, because it’s more than just an agenda, it runs to 29 pages and is also an annual report, a balance sheet, a list of officials and candidates, election results and reports, and much, much more. It is a very revealing document.
For example, it reminds us what a thoroughly English and middle class party the Green Party is with this analysis of its general election candidates in Wales.
Elsewhere the membership secretary boasts that membership has doubled in 2015, to a high point of 2,850 on September 6, but then has to concede that things have gone into reverse since Corbyn became Labour leader.
Though I found it encouraging to read that the Green Party supports the “greater economic independence of poor countries” . . . but not of course, Wales.
Another document of which I have had sight is the Greens’ Strategy document 2015 – 2017. I can also recommend this 28-page document, it’s another fascinating read. I suppose no one should be surprised by this, but for next year’s Assembly elections the Greens will be bringing in lots of helpers from England . . . how will we manage to tell them apart from our ‘Welsh’ Greens?
Anyway, the Greens’ primary objectives for the Assembly elections next year are set out in the panel below.
Elsewhere in the document we are told that ‘our core demographic remains the left-of-centre “lower class professionals”, likely to work in the third sector or the creative industries’. Plus of course, layabout hippies and other wastrels infesting the Welsh countryside.
Annex 2:5 is good for a laugh. For once the Greens get something right; yes, Plaid Cymru is on a downward trend, and at present it’s still slow. But anyone who believes that Plaid Cymru is a party that wants independence hasn’t been paying attention, or doesn’t know much about Wales, both of which could apply to the Green Party.
Plaid Cymru also gets a mention in a discussion of election strategies and relationships with other parties.
Them bloody badgers!
The final part of the document is taken up with wild hypothesising and guesswork on election outcomes. Here’s an example: ‘Some of the implications are downright weird – for example, in MWW (Mid and West Wales), if the Corbyn bubble continues to expand, we should target Plaid Cymru, but if it bursts, we should target the Lib Dems’.
Believe me, there are some really strange and highly improbable – though very entertaining – calculations in there (some even involve the Socialist Labour Party!), but I shall avoid any snide reference to smoking.
Because those documents reminded us yet again what a thoroughly English party the Greens in Wales are. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of names are given in them, and yet I doubt if more than a handful are Welsh. Alice Hooker-Stroud clams to have attended Llanfyllin High School; maybe she did, but I guarantee she comes from a white settler family.
There is something so ineffably colonialist about the Greens in Wales that I cannot think of any comparison. Not simply because they’re English, but also because of their dictatorial ‘We know best’ attitudes. I cannot think of any party, operating in any Western country, that is so divorced from the indigenous population of that country. So where should we look for an analogy – the Chinese Communist Party in Tibet?
Any Welsh person with concerns for the environment should think long and hard before voting for a party whose members regard him as a quaint and primitive native. And if Plaid Cymru suggests another deal with the Green Party of Englandandwales then that should be taken as final confirmation that Plaid has given up all hope of victory.
UPDATE 12:50: I’ve just been told that Dan Boyle has been appointed to manage the Greens’ Assembly campaign next year. Who is Dan Boyle? Well, he’s an Irish politician, from Cork. In his favour – and unlike the shower we’ve got in Wales – this guy has actually been elected. But he doesn’t know Wales any better than those who’ve appointed him. I hope he knows what he’s let himself in for.
UPDATE 20.11.2015: Predictably, I suppose, this post didn’t go down well in Green circles. To get revenge La Bartolotti revived her attack hamster, Martyn Shrewsbury. Here’s his comeback post. Shrewsbury has served this purpose before as this makes clear. Here’s another account. As these sources also remind us, Shrewsbury very nearly ended up in the slammer. Here’s one report of the case.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there are some very ugly people in the Wales Branch of the Green Party of Englandandwales. When they aren’t fighting each other like ferrets in a sack they’re up to dirty tricks against anyone exposing them for the charlatans they are. Sometimes it’s both.
This post re-visits a subject I dealt with in September 2012. (Unfortunately, the original comments and other features were lost when Google pulled the plug on my earlier blog in December 2012. See sidebar) The reason I am returning to the subject is that, on the one hand, there has been no change for the better, yet on the other hand, there has been a change for the worse. Put it together and it gives a stronger case in 2015 for regional parties than when I originally mooted the idea almost three years ago.
There are a number of reasons for promoting the case for regional parties standing in the ‘Welsh’ Assembly elections of 2016. I try to deal with them in the various sections below. The map on the right will help you understand the boundaries, click on it to enlarge it.
1. SHAM DEVOLUTION
The first of those reasons is one that I dealt with back in 2012, namely that devolution is a sham. Wales is more firmly under England’s control than ever, but now it’s done through civil servants taking orders from London yet doubling as ‘advisors’ to the self-deluding ‘ministers’ of the ‘Welsh’ Government. In reality, of course, these civil servants / advisors are relaying orders. It is a charade of the kind we would have found in the old East Germany, or any country run by a regime reliant on US support.
Among the many agencies of this sham devolution I have dealt with, one that has received more attention than most, is the Planning Inspectorate. (To find the many articles I have written on the subject type ‘Planning Inspectorate’ in the Search box at the top of the sidebar.) It is this agency that facilitates the colonisation of Wales with its bullying of our local councillors (or working with alien and eager senior officers), justifying building new homes we don’t need with ludicrously inflated population ‘projections’, or reduced household (size) estimates.
To keep up the pretence of ‘devolution’ the Planning Inspectorate maintains an office in Cardiff, it even has a few Welsh planning inspectors, but this is all window-dressing. As we saw with the review of the Local Development Plan for Denbighshire. Two inspectors were involved in assessing the protests of the local council, which argued that the 2011 census showed the county did not need the number of new homes the Planning Inspectorate had demanded. Read about it here.
The two inspectors involved in the ‘assessment’ of March 2014 were Anthony Thickett (see panel) and Gwynedd Thomas. Within a few months Thickett was appointed chief inspector for the Wales region of the Planning Inspectorate. Poor old Gwynedd Thomas was there just to add a little local colour, in the hope of disguising that this was part of the colonisation process, and all determined in London.
It doesn’t matter how we look at, What we have in Wales is a system designed to frustrate Welsh ambitions rather than satisfy them. It is a system of devolution for the benefit of England. And this explains why the ‘Welsh’ Government can do nothing to serve Welsh interests if that might work against English interests, yet agencies like the Planning Inspectorate are daily working in England’s interests against Wales.
The ‘Welsh’ Government is, like poor Gwynedd Thomas, nothing more than a fig leaf for this colonialist reality; it’s only real power lies in being able to distribute funding handed down to it. Yet far too much of this money currently goes to Cardiff or to Labour’s cronies and hangers-on in our irredeemably corrupt Third Sector.
It is the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party that, for sixteen years, has fronted the colonialist system of sham devolution I just mentioned. This explains why the only time we see the self-styled First Minister on UK-wide television is when he’s proving how loyal we Welsh are despite devolution (which for some reason, still worries many English!). Such as welcoming Bet Windsor to Wales, or spouting BritNat bollocks during last year’s Scottish independence referendum campaign. The man is an embarrassment to all right-thinking Welsh.
One feature of this sham devolution is the growth of Cardiff, due to it serving as the ‘capital’, and because so much of the colonial bureaucracy is centred there. Though this can have a damaging effect on other areas.
I travel around Wales much more than most people, and one thing that strikes me whether I’m in Llandudno, Newtown or Haverfordwest is that on any contract connected with or funded by an agency based in Cardiff, the hoardings tell me that the estate agent dealing with the sale or, in the case of a new project, the company that drew up the plans and others, will also be found in Cardiff. Suggesting to me that companies based in Cardiff have an unfair advantage when it comes to these civil servants drawing up lists of ‘approved’ estate agents, contractors, architects, and others, or else we dealing with a form of favouritism that comes close to corruption. But this Cardiff bias can take other forms.
I am indebted to a correspondent in regular contact with the aforementioned civil servants for a recent example of the way Cardiff is favoured above other areas. Regular readers of this blog will be aware of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. Among the provisions of the Act is a new register of private landlords. This work – and the jobs it will generate – has been allocated to Cardiff City Council, without any tendering process. Why should the richest area of Wales be gifted yet more jobs when this work could have been done by any local authority? And who made the decision?
Though an irony in this situation is that even the Conservative and Unionist Party, the party of the City and big business, has finally conceded that England has an economic imbalance, with too much of the country’s wealth and power accumulated in London and the south east. Hence the talk of investing hundreds of billions of pounds in HS2 and Northern ‘Powerhouses’. Yet here in Wales, we are replicating the system England is now seeking to remedy!
3. PLAID CYMRU
My feelings on Plaid are equally well documented. I suppose Plaid Cymru: Ninety Wasted Years, from October last year, sums it up as well as anything I’ve written, but use the Search box atop the sidebar to find other posts. Nothing has improved since I wrote that piece. In this year’s General Election Plaid Cymru again performed miserably, dealt with in Election 2015: Plaid Cymru Fails, Again.
And from all quarters comes news that that Plaid Cymru continues to be the most impotent ‘national’ party in Europe, afraid of upsetting anyone. Here’s one recent example that says it pretty well.
Followers of Welsh public life will be aware of a growing problem in local government that sees senior officers take over the running of certain councils. Nowhere has this trend been more apparent than in Carmarthenshire, where the council has for some years been run by the chief executive, Mark James, with the approval of the leaders of the parties in coalition there, Labour and ‘Independents’. But recently, after a change of leadership in the local Labour Party, there was a falling-out between the former love-birds and Independent leader Meryl Gravel began smooching Plaid Cymru, which resulted in a new coalition between the two.
With Plaid Cymru the larger of the parties, and Plaid’s Emlyn Dole named council leader in May, most people expected things to change in Carmarthenshire but that, alas, has not happened. It appears to be business as before, as this little cameo, received from a reliable source, illustrates.
The trade union Unison, ” . . . had to wait 2 months to get a meeting with Dole. There were a number of items on the agenda (employment issues and the council’s plans for publicly owned assets such as Parc Howard in Llanelli). To Unison’s surprise, waiting to greet them in Dole’s office was Mark James, although the union had asked for a private meeting with the leader. The meeting did not go well.”
Emlyn Dole’s submission to The Ultimate Authority may be connected with his little ‘difficulty’, for Plaid’s leader in the seat where Gwynfor Evans won that famous 1966 victory has been caught flouting planning regulations. But never mind, for Plaid Cymru has not forgotten its primary role – sticking up for Labour. As I reminded people in my June 28th post Vote Plaid Cymru – Get Labour’, and as Plaid itself continues to remind us.
Just last Saturday, at the commemoration of the 1911 Llanelli Riots, local Labour MP Nia Griffith was getting a bit of stick from some in the crowd for making a big noise about the Tories’ austerity measures but neglecting to inform her listeners that she had abstained when presented with the chance to show her ‘opposition’ in the House of Commons vote a few weeks ago. Who rode to her rescue? Helen Mary Jones, the Plaid candidate for Llanelli in next year’s Assembly election, and Vaughan Williams, who failed so miserably to win the seat in May this year.
Plaid Cymru is now more of an asset to England than to Wales. From England’s perspective Plaid Cymru is the perfect ‘in-our-pocket’ regional party. That’s because it can still attract the votes of many who want independence / greater devolution, or who care about Welsh cultural identity, but for all sorts of reasons Plaid Cymru will never get more than 25% of the vote, even in the most favourable circumstances, yet – in the absence of an alternative – it can still be presented as ‘the Welsh nationalist party’.
If there was any danger of Plaid Cymru collapsing, perhaps due to the emergence of that alternative national party, then it would be in our masters’ interests to keep Plaid Cymru alive. It may already be happening.
Finally we come to perhaps the major difference today from the situation prevailing when I wrote the earlier piece on regional parties back in December 2012. Then there was a perception that Ukip, being primarily an anti-EU party, would do well in European elections, but only European elections.
The General Election earlier this year taught us the fallacy of that belief as we saw the Ukip vote in Wales reach 13.6%, and in so doing exceed the Plaid Cymru share of the vote. But this increase in Ukip vote has been aided by the collapse of the Liberal Democrats and a weakening of the Labour Party, which was of course almost wiped out in Scotland. To help you understand how things have changed I’ve compiled a table showing the vote shares for the major parties in Wales over the five most recent elections. (The two figures shown for 2011 represent the constituency vote and the regional vote.)
The Labour Party is in turmoil and, as I write this, looking likely to elect Jeremy Corbyn as leader; the Lib Dems are unlikely to recover any time soon, if ever; and Plaid Cymru seems doomed to a slow, lingering death. Few of those turning away from Labour and Lib Dems find Plaid Cymru attractive (hardly surprising seeing as long-time Plaid Cymru voters are deserting the party), and while some of those abandoning Labour, Lib Dems and Plaid will simply not vote, many will turn to the Tories or Ukip.
One thing’s for sure, Labour will definitely not have a majority after next year’s election, and may have difficulty forming a coalition with Plaid Cymru and / or Liberal Democrats. Taking us into uncharted territory, but also presenting great opportunities.
Regional parties contesting regional list seats are the only possible way to address the various problems listed above, the only way to ensure a more equitable Wales in which Labour is not completely dominant, with the added advantage of checking the advance of Ukip.
We can be sure that Ukip will view the list for the north as one its best hopes of winning Assembly seats, especially with the party’s local hetman, Nathan Gill MEP, being domiciled on Ynys Môn. So the first regional party I want to propose is for the north. Yes, I can already hear people asking, ‘What does Arfon have in common with Deeside?’ Short answer would be that across the north you will hear, ‘Everything is down south’. This will be Ukip’s message next year to northern voters. It can also be the message of an alliance made up of people with roots in northern Wales, committed to serving the area, and hopefully objecting to the A55 corridor becoming a planned commuter belt. Because we can be sure Ukip won’t object! Neither will the other parties. (Click on image to enlarge.)
Another area where Ukip did well in 2014 and again this year is the Valleys. While the elected leaders in the region seem happy to surrender to Cardiff’s city state ambitions I’m sure there are many others in the Valleys who believe their towns and villages deserve better than a future as dormitory communities. This could be one message for a Valleys grouping. Another message for Labour could be, ‘Instead of using EU and other funding to help your cronies capitalise on our deprivation, use it to help us and our communities – the reason the EU gave it to us’.
The third region is obviously the Swansea Bay conurbation.
What I am suggesting is not formal political parties in the accepted sense. I am arguing for ad hoc regional groups with no ambitions beyond using their voice to demand fair shares for all, something that could perhaps be monitored by publishing regular figures for public spending and jobs created in each region. Because as I say, the only real power in this system of sham devolution is the power to divvy up the hand-outs. Which means that going down to Cardiff docks to play politics, to pretend that it’s a real parliament, is a waste of time. Focus on the money.
The suggestion of regional parties has both greater urgency and greater potential now than when I first mooted the subject because of the decline of three parties and the unattractiveness of those likely to gain from that decline. (And here I include the Greens.) I further predict that regional parties would get support from some of those who would not otherwise vote next year. And there’s guaranteed publicity in the interest that can be predicted from the local media.
To gather enough like-minded individuals in order to compile a raft of regional list candidates should be relatively easy, there’s no great expense involved, and for just nine months of work the rewards could be great. And with Welsh politics in a state of flux not seen in living memory, who knows where it might lead? And if that doesn’t persuade you, then do you really want to vote for any of the failed parties, or the unattractive alternatives I’ve dealt with here?
In February I posted ‘Welsh’ Labour And A Milking System Unknown To Farmers, which recently received a very interesting comment from ‘Brychan’, a regular contributor to this blog. He drew our attention to Monwel, a social enterprise in Glyn Ebwy making road signs and similar products. He also provided this link to a story that appeared last week in the South Wales Argus (Newport). It seems that no one in our ‘national’ media has yet taken up the story, which explains why most of you reading this will not have heard of Monwel.
Monwel grew out of Blaenau Gwent Council’s sign-making department. In the dystopian economic landscape of ‘Welsh’ Labour social enterprises and Third Sector rackets are viewed as commercial enterprises. However you choose to view it, Monwel, the registered company, was Incorporated on November 9th 2012, Company Number 08284345. The four directors at the time of Incorporation were David Michael Davies, Mrs Leslie Scott Barr, Mr Andrew Richards and Mrs Colleen Andrews. Mrs Barr doubles as managing director, which means, presumably, that she is involved in the day-to-day running of Monwel which, according to Company Check, has a net worth of £-53,983.
Beyond the fact that he lives in Brynmawr, I know little of David Michael Davies. Leslie Scott Barr was, ‘Brychan’ told me, “a bridal shop owner from Motherwell in Scotland”! Andrew Richards is the man who does the introduction on the video we see on the Monwel website, and appears to have been the Chairman. Mrs Colleen Andrews is presumably the same person who was a director of Tredegar-based Rainbow Community Enterprises, another Heads of the Valleys outfit, where husband Wayne is still a director.
The mission statement for Rainbow Community Enterprises is typical of the vacuous, politically correct bullshit such organisations use: “Our aim is to benefit the surrounding areas through sustainable development of community projects that foster social inclusion and community participation regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability or social status, and to work in partnership with other community, voluntary and statutory organisations to further these objects”. Now that you’ve read it, do you have any better understanding of what Rainbow Community Enterprises actually does . . . apart from keeping a few Labour loyalists in what they hope will be mistaken for gainful employment? More on Rainbow later.
As the graphic tells us, within a few months of Monwel Ltd setting up Councillor Haydn Leslie Trollope joined the Board (20.05.2013). Richards and Andrews ceased to be directors on May 31st this year, while two new directors joined in February last year, these being Councillor Jennifer Morgan JP and Mr John Anthony Bennett of Worcester, an ‘expert’ in social enterprises. It’s reasonable to assume that Bennett was piped on board when the crew of the good ship Monwel began to discern Shit Creek on the horizon. Someone else who was briefly aboard (10.02.2014 – 26.09.2014) was Paul Byard, the Wales representative for the Engineering Employers Federation. It’s reasonable to assume that he too was recruited in a trouble-shooting role, and may have jumped ship as he too saw Shit Creek draw ever nearer.
The current board of Monwel is comprised of Councillors Trollope and Morgan, David Michael Davies, the ‘expert’ Bennett, and our cousin from Yr Hen Ogledd, Mrs Barr. Davies and Barr are the only directors who’ve been with Monwel from the start which, let’s remind ourselves, was less than three years ago. Although I’m sure she enjoys the bracing upland air of north Gwent Mrs Barr also experiences the atmosphere of Port Talbot, where she has, since February 2014, been a director with Dewis Housing, which specialises in helping young people in the 16 to 25 age bracket.
More interestingly, perhaps, when she isn’t running social enterprises Mrs Barr advertises her talents as a ‘spiritualist medium’. Now you know me, boys and girls, I’m not one to be judgemental, and what Mrs Barr gets up to in her spare time is her own business. I reproduce here for you Mrs Barr’s Facebook page. Though that background, surely it’s not Ebbw Vale . . . even on a bad day?
As recently as March this year our ghost-botherer picked up three awards on behalf of her company at some do in a posh nosh joint in the Vale. To quote from the article linked to here, “Ebbw Vale-based Monwel has picked up three awards in recognition of its success in turning a loss-making public sector service into a profit-making social enterprise in the space of just over a year.” It gets better: “The road traffic sign manufacturer won the Large Social Enterprise category and shared best overall Social Enterprise 2010-2015, while managing director Leslie Barr also won the Women in Enterprise category.”
The bash in the Vale was organised by the “EU-funded South East Wales Community Economic Development programme, run by a six valleys local authorities’ consortium of Merthyr Tydfil, Bridgend, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Torfaen”. Has anyone ever heard of this outfit? What the hell does it do . . . apart from organising bun fights awards ceremonies? In fairness, the SEWCED website does claim to have created 100 jobs . . . a figure that presumably includes the 30+ being made redundant at Monwel. Not a lot for the £6.4m SEWCED claims to have invested, but then, awards ceremonies don’t come cheap . . .
The article also informs us that Mrs Barr “ran her own bridal and evening wear and children’s clothing business” which, the Argus article goes on to tell us, gave her the “experience to help Monwel become a social enterprise away from local authority control”! Of course it did, measuring women up for wedding dresses and hiring out tuxedos and kilts is the perfect training for the intimately related activity of bashing out road signs.
More to the point, these awards were being showered on Mrs Barr and Monwel when the company was already in deep schtuck. And if Monwel was regarded as an exemplar among social enterprises, what the hell does that tell us about the rest of them? Dishing out prizes to Monwel is like awarding Best Bird in Show to John Cleese’s Norwegian Blue!
Clearly, Monwel is another for us to add to the already long list of failed social enterprises and Third Sector funding sink-holes. And it may not end there. Earlier in this post I referred to Rainbow Community Enterprises in Tredegar. This is run by Wayne Andrews, husband of recently-resigned Monwel director Colleen Andrews, who at one time was herself a director at Rainbow. According to Company Check, Rainbow’s net worth has declined from £-4,630 in 2012 to £-11,635 in 2013 to £-15,931 in 2014. This is another ‘company’ hurtling to oblivion. It came close last September, when a notification of strike-off appeared in the London Gazette, only to be discontinued a month later. The two directors (in addition to Andrews) are Ian Marc Anthony Morgan and Raymond Davies.
Morgan appears to be a young employee with no other directorships, but Raymond Davies has been involved in a number of companies in the area, among them Graig Rhosyn Cleaning Services Ltd of Bedwas, now known as grcleaning, Company Number 06828778. His time as a director, which ended in December last year, overlapped for a few months with Colleen Andrews, who remains a director. And guess what? – yes, grcleaning is also funded by SEWCED! Despite the change of name, and the glowing report in the Argus, grcleaning is another company where liabilities exceed combined assets and cash.
Curiously, Rainbow Community Enterprises shares an address with C A Metal Recycling Ltd, which appears to be a commercial outfit with just one director – Wayne Andrews. Although the Registered Address for C A Metal Recycling Ltd is a private house in New Tredegar the company operates out of Unit 15A of the Capital Valley Eco Park in Rhymni. Rainbow’s address is Unit 15. The private address in New Tredegar, and the added ‘A’, are attempts to disguise that the two companies share premises. Further established by the fact that the telephone number given on the (one-page) Rainbow website, above, is the same number as that given for C A Metal Recycling in the extract from Google, below.
Should a social enterprise in receipt of public funding share premises with a private company, and should the owner of that private company also be a director of the social enterprise? I have never come across an arrangement like this before.
In fact, I cannot believe that those disbursing the EU funding would not have raised objections to this undesirable proximity, unless of course the funding was distributed by the local representatives of the South East Wales Community Economic Development programme, in other words, the local Labour Party machine. Googling Rainbow Community Enterprises brings up what you see in the panel below.
Almost as an aside, one who left the board of Rainbow at the end of last year was John Michael Bungay. Despite his unusual name it’s difficult to get information on Bungay other than that he lives up on the border, in or near a village called Coedway. He was also, for eight months in 2007, director at Torino Enterprises, Company No 03754420 which, despite the name (Torino being Turin in Italian), is based in Capel Bangor, just outside Aberystwyth, and is run by Edward Phillip Owen Evans and Howard Wyn Evans. Torino is in the business of warehousing and storage units. The first notification of strike-off action for Torino appeared in the London Gazette on June 11th.
But then, according to Yell (see below) and other sources, there seems to be another Torino Enterprises in Rhymni! Not only that, but it is based in Unit 15 of the Capital Valley Eco Park, and described as a ‘property management company’. Bloody hell! it must be getting crowded in Unit 15, what with Rainbow, C A Metal Recycling and now Torino all jostling for space. Not only that but Bungay was simultaneously working for Rainbow and Torino! Who pays the rent? Or is the unit rent free, seeing as Rainbow is a social enterprise? Or maybe Rainbow owns Unit 15?
It’s difficult to understand what’s going on here. Googling ‘Torino Enterprises’ brings up only the Gwent operation. Yet Companies House and Company Check both tell us that the company is registered to the address in Capel Bangor. (There was another Torino Enterprises in Wexford, Ireland, though this seems to be dissolved, with no information available.)
There is clearly a connection, if only via John Michael Bungay, between Torino Enterprises of Aberystwyth and whatever is going on under the same name in Rhymni. Despite leaving the Capel Bangor operation in 2007 was he still representing Torino Enterprises years later in Gwent? And is there a connection between the impending demise of Monwel, the striking off of Torino Enterprises, and the near-certain collapse of Rainbow in the very near future? If there’s no connection then it’s one hell of a coincidence.
I mentioned that the mysterious Mr Bungay lived up near the border, well, very fittingly his address is given as Tŷ Cudd (the secret or hidden house).
No matter where we look in this Gwent tale we find the dirty fingers of ‘Welsh’ Labour everywhere. Dishing out EU funding to ‘social enterprises’ that have Labour councillors and supporters as directors and management. These social enterprises then give each other ‘work’ in the vain hope that this sleight of hand, this shuffling money around, will be mistaken for genuine economic activity.
In truth, it is just another example of how Labour controls Wales through its dependency culture. EU funding that is supposed to be invested in real business, and infrastructure, and training, is being cynically employed to create a whole sector of Welsh life beholden to, and therefore loyal to, the Labour Party. An incestuous, unproductive and, inevitably, corrupt sector of our national life.
In recent years I have published many posts arguing that devolution is a sham. That’s because Wales is run by departments of the UK government in London. Decisions made by these departments are then implemented by civil servants based in Wales. These civil servants are, invariably, ‘advisers’ to ‘Welsh Ministers’, but the true relationship is more like puppeteer and puppet.
A perfect example, and one that I have dealt with more than once, is the Planning Inspectorate. We are asked to believe that Wales has its own Planning Inspectorate, based in Cardiff, answering to the ‘Welsh’ Government. The truth is that the Planning Inspectorate, responsible for forcing tens of thousands of unneeded new dwellings on Welsh local authorities (in order to encourage English colonisation) is part of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London, with a branch office in Cardiff. The Planning Inspectorate takes orders from London; and gives orders to Cardiff.
This situation of Wales being run by civil servants on behalf of the London government has been in place as long as we’ve had devolution. Usually it just rumbles along in the background, unnoticed, but recently Wales has seen two very important pieces of legislation that have exposed this system as never before.
One new law is the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. Now while this legislation plays to the gallery with tough talk on private landlords, protecting vulnerable tenants, etc., these are distractions from the real purpose of the Bill, which is to confirm beyond any lingering doubt that social housing in Wales is now part of an Englandandwales system. Which means that someone who qualifies for social housing anywhere in England can be allocated a property in Wales. A policy so insidious and damaging that housing associations, especially in rural areas, are now building and buying properties – with Welsh public funding – for which there is no local demand!
The Housing (Wales) Act contains thirty-nine references to ‘England’ By comparison, the Housing (Scotland) Bill has not one. Though absent from the Welsh Bill is any reference to the Welsh language, providing further proof that this is ‘Welsh’ legislation designed to serve England’s interests, as is so much else done by the ‘Welsh’ Government.
Such as the funding that has gone into the Deeside Industrial Park, that runs almost up to the border, providing jobs for north west England and keeping the resultant mess, noise and traffic out of leafy Cheshire. Then there’s our failing NHS, especially in the north, which the UK prime minister and local Tory politicians have capitalised on, yet only a ‘racist’ would make the obvious connection between a failing health service and many tens of thousands of elderly English people moving into the affected region.
And the impression given that Wales is doing things differently, being tougher on private landlords, is just so much flim-flam, as I discovered a couple of days ago when making enquiries about the regulation of private landlords. Here’s the link, but the screen capture below makes it clear enough that – despite the Housing (Wales) Act – England and Wales are covered by the same legislation, but not Scotland.
The second piece of legislation worth highlighting is the Planning (Wales) Bill. This again was designed to bring Wales into line with England. As was made clear by the (now defunct) Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) in its December 2013 Newsletter. Unfortunately the link provided in the newsletter is no longer working, so I can’t offer it to you, but among the things it said was ” . . . many of the proposed reforms resonate with those introduced in England.” And later, “Again reflecting change in England . . . “.
As might be expected, in its original form, this legislation also neglected to take any account of the Welsh language. That’s because, as with the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, it is English legislation, drawn up by English civil servants, for England, who neither understand nor care about Wales, who then stick ‘(Wales)’ in the title and tell some ‘Welsh Minister’ to run with it.
Those clowns down Cardiff docks masquerading as the ‘Welsh’ Government must know what’s going on, this explains why so many of them are reluctant to give interviews to explain or defend the legislation they’ve announced – they don’t understand it, and they don’t understand it because they had no input to it. But in return they are allowed – perhaps even encouraged – to introduce pet schemes for the sole purpose of giving the impression they’re in charge.
For who can forget the rejoicing – and the global media attention – that attended the abolition of ferret licences back in 2006. While the Zeppelin service between Penclawdd and Amlwch that took off in 2010 was universally welcomed . . . especially in Penclawdd and Amlwch. Now I hear that next year, just before the election, our ‘Welsh’ Government plans to bring in a vote-winning policy of free toothbrushes for the over 90s. Verily! our cup runneth over.
OK, so I’m taking the piss, but it’s publicity-grabbing and largely valueless legislation such as free prescriptions that the ‘Welsh’ Government is allowed to introduce as a reward for acting as puppets. These ‘giveaways’ are then used to distract us from the more weighty English legislation with ‘(Wales)’ in the name that is constantly being pushed through by civil servants of whom we know nothing.
To conclude . . . The post-devolution era sees a regular stream of England-only legislation in areas that have been ‘devolved’. What happens is, that after a decent interval, and in the interests of an undeclared policy of ‘harmonisation’, this England-only legislation is re-packaged with ‘(Wales)’ in the name and passes through the Assembly. To disguise what’s being done the re-packaged law may differ in a few minor details, but never in anything of substance. End result? The same laws in both countries for the convenience of the Planning Inspectorate and countless other Englandandwales organisations.
After sixteen years of devolution it is clear that Wales is not allowed to have separate legislation that is meaningfully different to England’s unless the ‘Welsh’ law actually benefits England. This is the sham of devolution, the polar opposite to what it was promised devolution would deliver, and it explains how ‘devolution’ is helping assimilate Wales into England more effectively than the pre-devolution system, for now it’s easier to introduce Wales-specific laws to achieve that assimilation. With the added attraction that because these laws have ‘(Wales)’ in the name too many people are misled into believing they’re designed to serve Welsh interests.
And yet if you think about it, there should be nothing here to surprise anyone. Since the introduction of this non-devolution, implementing the ethnocidal planning policies of a non-existent ‘Welsh’ Planning Inspectorate, the Notional Assembly has been under the control of the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party. So we have a sham devolution run by a fake party, for a country that will soon exist nowhere outside of our imaginations.
Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru, has announced that her party will not go into coalition with the Conservatives after next May’s elections to the Notional Assembly. (Read all about it!) From where I’m sitting, this would appear to condemn Plaid Cymru to either impotence or a pact with Labour. Not an attractive choice, but then, when you play student politics with a nation’s future, and duck the real issues, you deserve no third option. Though the nation of course deserves a lot better than Plaid Cymru.
If my judgement strikes some as a little harsh, then that’s because, as a nationalist, I have little time for Plaid Cymru. But before dismissing my opinion out of hand let us examine the possibilities for next May’s elections. A good way to start is by reminding ourselves of the results from the Assembly election in 2011 and the two polls since then, the Euro elections of May 2014 and the UK general election of May 2015.
In 2011, Labour gained 30 seats, half of the total, and chose not to go into coalition with another party. They’ve never really come unstuck. Plaid Cymru came third, with less than half of Labour’s vote in both constituencies and regions, and well behind the Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats averaged over 9% of the total, while Ukip, who contested only the regional lists, gained a paltry 4.6% of the votes cast.
By the European elections of 2014 Ukip had transformed itself into a major force in the politics of Englandandwales (but not Scotland), and was now the second party in Wales, just .6 of a percentage point behind Labour. All the other parties bar the Greens lost ground.
Just seven weeks ago we saw Ukip fall back somewhat, and drop from its second place in 2014 to third, but it still got more votes than Plaid Cymru. In fact, Ukip came second to Labour in a number of Valleys’ seats which, when taken with the increase in the Tory vote, tells us there was a move to the right which, as I suggested in my blog post Election 2015: Plaid Cymru Fails, Again, might have marked the death of the ‘socialist Wales’ myth. From these recent results it’s reasonable to predict that Labour, with just 30 seats in 2011 and its share of the vote dropping since then, will not win 30 seats in 2016.
The major changes since 2011 are, quite obviously, the rise of Ukip, then there’s the increase in the Tory vote, and finally the near-demise of the Liberal Democrats. Next year Ukip could, if the heavenly bodies align aright, win a seat or two; though if that doesn’t pan out, and given that the party might get 15 – 20% of the regional vote, then it could pick up 5 – 8 seats.
Labour has in previous Assembly elections gained less than other parties from the regional lists, just two seats in 2011, because it wins so many constituency seats, so the bigger threat to Labour may come at the constituency level. With Labour losing Gower and the Vale of Clwyd to the Conservatives last month, and the Lib Dems losing Brecon & Radnor to the same opponents, there must be a possibility that these results will be repeated next year. If so, then it would establish the Tories as the second largest party by some margin. This seems predictable because the number of Plaid Cymru AMs is bound to fall, partly because other than Llanelli it’s impossible to see a seat Plaid could gain (though maybe not if Siân Caiach stands again), and Plaid is bound to lose out to Ukip in the regional allocation. Though if the Lib Dems do lose Brecon & Radnor then that makes it more likely they will be compensated with a couple of regional seats.
Looking at the bigger picture it would not be unreasonable to predict the following result for next year’s Assembly elections: Labour 26 seats (-4), Conservative 17 (+3), Ukip 7 (+7), Plaid Cymru 7 (-4), Lib Dems 2 (-2), Greens 1 (+1). Which would mean that to cobble together an administration Labour would need to go into coalition with Plaid Cymru, which is almost certainly what influenced Ms Wood’s rejection of a deal with the Tories. But this is so short-sighted.
Being a native of the Rhondda Ms Wood must know that throughout the Valleys (and indeed the south) there are tens and tens of thousands of people looking for a viable alternative to Labour, that’s why they turned out last month and last year to vote Tory and Ukip in Caerffili, Merthyr, Blaenau Gwent and Islwyn, and in the process pushed Plaid Cymru down to fourth place. So why should anyone who doesn’t want Labour in power vote for the party that will keep Labour in power?
There may be another, even less charitable way of looking at this. Over the years I have consistently argued that the Labour Party relies on deprivation in Wales – and blaming the Tories for that deprivation – to keep people voting Labour. This means that Labour has no incentive to make Wales a wealthier country, and this then explains the obscene amounts of public funding wasted on Labour’s cronies in the Third Sector, so that they can make an industry out of deprivation and present their parasitism as a form of economic activity.
Could it be that Plaid Cymru, most definitely a begging bowl party, has taken this reasoning a step further? Have those at the highest, policy-making levels of the party calculated that if a poor Wales votes Labour, then a poorer Wales might swing towards Plaid Cymru? Don’t dismiss the suggestion out of hand; just ask yourself, what other hope has Plaid Cymru got of ever becoming a successful party? Well, of course, there is one, obvious route; Plaid could be a Welsh party, focusing on Welsh issues, from a Welsh perspective. But that option was rejected in favour of a slow, lingering death – for both nation and party – decades ago.
Last month I loaned Plaid Cymru my vote because I persuaded myself that doing so was a way of giving a proxy vote to the SNP, a party I respect greatly for confronting the Labour monster head-on, and slaying it. Compare that to what we now hear from Plaid Cymru – ‘A vote for us is a vote for Labour’. How do we explain the difference?
I can’t help thinking that one explanation for ruling out any pact with the Tories may be Ms Wood’s desire to play to a foreign gallery. I’m thinking now of those Left-Green ‘progressive elements’ Plaid so assiduously courted a few months ago. If so, then it’s another reminder of how divorced from Wales and Welsh issues Plaid Cymru has become. By comparison, the Scottish National Party does not fashion its policies to appeal to audiences in Islington, or the offices of the Guardian newspaper . . . and certainly not Labour HQ!
But if Plaid Cymru wants to talk about poverty, then okay. Let’s talk about the poverty of ambition in the party that has the nerve to call itself The Party of Wales. While the SNP is leading the Scottish people to independence, Plaid Cymru’s ambition extends no further than begging a few more crumbs from England’s table and propping up Carwyn Jones and his gang of deadbeats. Almost fifty years after Gwynfor Evans won Carmarthen Plaid Cymru’s ambition today extends no further than acting as a crutch for the party of George Thomas and Neil Kinnock in a system of sham devolution. Now that’s poverty! And total failure.
Despite fierce competition from Channel 17 in Albania and the Nova Scotia Parrot Breeders’ Monthly Jac o’ the North is delighted to have secured exclusive rights to First Minister Carwyn Jones’ end-of-year Review. Enjoy!
Hello there, I’m Carwyn Jones, you may not know me, but I’m the First Minister of Wales. More importantly, I also run the local branch of the Labour Party (along with Owen Smith MP and a few other people). I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas, I know I did. It gave me a chance to put my feet up and relax for a change, after another hectic and hugely successful year in Wales. Let’s go through it month by month.
P.S. Jac has kindly added some pictures showing me at work, so click on them to make them bigger.
JANUARY: The Dylan Thomas Centenery Year got off to a wonderful start when documents were found at Transport House showing that Dylan was a lifelong supporter of the Labour Party, joining the party in 1938 while fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Not only that, but a previously unknown poem also came to light. Here’s a brief extract showing both his mastery of pomes and stuff and also his commitment to the party he loved: ‘I’ve always been ronk Labour / Its meetings are never missed; / Its nostrums are adhered to, / Even when I’m pissed’. The second verse is playfully romantic: ‘I love the Labour Party, / It’s meetings are such fun, / The branch secretary’s a honey, / I wouldn’t mind giving her one’. Chokes me up, it does. And I bet it brings tears to the eyes of all poetry lovers.
FEBRUARY: It was brought to my attention that some foolish people are campaigning to re-open the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway line, possibly even go on to Bangor. It should be obvious to everyone that if you’re travelling by rail from north to south (or even south to north) then the existing route via Norwich is clearly the best option and gives people hours, days even, of extra working time. As the old English saying goes, ‘East to west is always best (especially in Wales)’. Who can argue with this tried and tested legitimisation of colonialism?
MARCH: I was surprised to receive from Mr Sargeant and his friends in the Planning Inspectorate a report saying Wales needs one million new homes by 2025. In fact, I said to him, “This seems like a lot, Carl”. But then it was explained to me that this number is due to our soaring birthrate fuelled by the booming Welsh economy which can only be attributed to 15 years of wonderful Welsh Labour controlling the Assembly. So when you look at it like that it makes perfect sense. In fact, a million may not be enough. (Which is what the Planning Inspectorate is already suggesting.)
APRIL: The London media, at the behest of the Coalition government, said terrible things about the Welsh NHS, so let me put a few things straight. The reason Mrs Rhian Evans of Llanrwst’s baby was delivered by the men re-possessing her three-piece suite was not because we had no ambulances available, it was because she tried calling for one in Welsh! Another calumny (a posh word taught to me by Mrs Hutt) being bandied about is that people have to wait ages before being seen by a doctor. Mr Bowen Owen of Ystradgynlais – fleeting cause celébrè of the right-wing English press – would not have spent three weeks in the waiting room if he’d told staff he was deaf. (And it goes without saying that patient confidentiality is our watchword.)
MAY: No, not Mrs May up in London, over whom certain men fantasise. (Ych a fi!) I’m thinking of the European elections, which Labour won with a stonking majority when almost 10% of those elligible to vote in Wales voted Labour. There’s no arguing with a victory of that magnitude. Though of course some nit-pickers did try, saying that Ukip got nearly as many votes as us. But that’s to miss the point, because – and I’m not talking about Europe here – on the issue that really matters, Labour and Ukip are gobbing into the same spittoon.
JUNE: Unkind things were also being said about our higher education sector, so let’s put the record straight. To suggest that some of our universities are lowering entry requirements and cutting corners in pursuit of money is both insulting and incorrect. The fact that Aberystwyth now accepts students with two F grades and a new toothbrush should not deflect from the excellent work being done there by the very popular Ms April McMahon and her loyal and supportive staff. As for Glyndŵr university, degrees were not – as was alleged – being sold in Turkmenistan, far from it. The truth is that a Welsh university broke into new markets by respecting local traditions. In this case, courtesy demanded that certain local dignitaries be allowed to take away examination papers and return them at a time of their own choosing. When it was accepted that the fruit of the potentates’ loins had completed the papers unaided, with everything above board due to the process having been overseen by invigilators provided at said potentates’ expense. How could anyone question such an arrangement?
JULY: Even though I was on holiday with Mrs Carwyn and the kids I couldn’t stop thinking about the job. One day, whilst sipping a mint julep (with shaved ice, natch), I was forced to concede that there are ‘issues’ in local government. That said, all the problems in Caerphilly were clearly the responsibility of the previous Plaid Cymru administration. If they had paid the chief executive a decent whack then there would have been no need for him to conspire arrange to have a massive salary increase from Mr Gezwell Kirby and his Band of Bruvvers in the incoming Labour administration. While down in Carmarthenshire the Independent Party and Plaid Cymru made a terrible mess of things. Later in the year, the leader of Swansea council had my full support . . . until the coup, after which the new leader had my full support. The bottom line is that everywhere you look around Wales you see the same problem – everything going to pot because people won’t let the Labour Party run things unhindered. (Or the chief executive, whichever applies.)
AUGUST: I went to the National Eisteddfod, held this year in Llanelli. As you can see from the photograph, I was mobbed by hordes of young Labour activists. (Phwoar!) While there I made a firm commitment to defend the Welsh language at all times . . . unless it meant contradicting the Planning Inspectorate, annoying the Secretary of State, pissing off Labour MPs, interfering with the colonisation strategy, damaging the profits of Wimpey, Redrow, Persimmon, etc., or alarming anyone in London. Those minor caveats aside, let there be no questioning of my firm resolve to do everything I can to ensure that Welsh-speaking communities survive and prosper.
SEPTEMBER: First, I summoned all the world’s leaders to a NATO summit in Newport so I could tell them how to deal with ISIS, Putin, Salmond and assorted threats to our perfect Western system. (Thankfully, no one realised there were any ‘protests’ in Newport because they were sabotaged organised by Ms Bartolotti of MI6 the Green Party.) Next, I flew (from Bristol) to Scotland to confront the aforementioned Alex Salmond and frustrate his dastardly plan to make Scotland democratic, fair and wealthy. (Jesus! think of the trouble that would have caused!) Due to some very nifty work backstage and in the wings (by those I dare not name) the referendum vote was an emphatic and overwhelming No. It was so emphatic and overwhelming that support for the Scottish National Party has now collapsed as Scots have come to their senses and flock to join the Labour Party. Mr Salmond himself is a broken man, and has abandoned all political ambitions to open a barber shop in Kirriemuir.
OCTOBER: Due to the thousands of new businesses that were created by Welsh Labour with the first two rounds of EU Structural Funds, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that came with them, those nice people in Europe wisely gave us another two billion pounds to continue with our wonderful work. We are open to imaginative suggestions on how to use this money. Applications containing words or phrases not unlike those here listed stand a good chance of scuring funding: ‘eco-‘ / ‘community space’ / ‘CVs’ (as in ‘help with completing . . . for non-existent jobs’) / ‘enviro-‘ / ‘Labour Party’ (as in, ‘I am a member / supporter . . . ‘) / ‘self-esteem’ / ‘Green’ / ‘multicultural’ / ‘holistic’ / ‘LGBT’ / ‘social enterprise’ / ‘England’ (as in, ‘recently moved from . . . ‘) / ‘raiki’ / ‘not-for-profit’ / ’empowerment’ / ‘real job’ (as in, ‘never had a . . .’).
NOVEMBER: After reading that every Norwegian is now, theoretically, a millionaire, due to the success of Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, I decided we must have one in Wales. (Though I have reservations about using the term ‘sovereign’.) Starting in January, groups of highly-trained financial analysts will be touring the country with state of the art buckets taking up a national collection. So give granny a good shake, slash open the sofa and chairs, and give whatever you can find to Welsh Labour because, deep inside, you know we’ll use it wisely.
DECEMBER: Mr Vincent Tan has made such a favourable impression on Cardiff City fans that we decided to capitalise on his popularity and fast-track him into the Assembly. He’ll be taking over Vaughan Gething’s seat of Kerdiff South and Penarth. We haven’t told Vaughan yet, it’ll be a surprise! . . . a hell of a surprise seeing as we’ve spread a rumour that he’s my annointed successor! (Well, laff!!)
2015: I look forward to 2015 with great optimism. Due to the wonderful work of the Welsh Government’s Bread and Circuses Division our boys will either win the Rugby World Cup or fail heroically; either way, if celebrated properly (with the help of our wonderful Welsh media), it should then give us a majority in the Assembly elections of 2016. As if that wasn’t enough, a string of blockbusters will be filmed at Valleywood: cruise liners will make their first, serene appearance on the Llangollen canal; the roar of F1 cars will be heard at the Circuit of Wales; Cardiff International airport will enter an exciting partnership with Bristol and be re-named Bristol (West); thousands of jobs will be created at the Margam Superpit; Llanelli town centre will become the favoured location for post nuclear holocaust movies; and Rhyl will be twinned with any other shit-hole desperate enough for the connection.
Take my word for it, 2015 is going to be a great year in Wales. Everywhere you go you’ll hear shoe-shine boys and beggars, bailiffs and food bank staff, whistling that old Harry Secombe number, Every day when I wake up, I thank the Lord I’m Labour.
When I was a boy (yes, a long time ago now) summer meant cricket. We’d play in the park until the park keepers threw us out (remember ‘parkies’?) then it would be any patch of waste ground or even the street. We’d play all day until we were stopped not so much by bad light as total darkness. And it was the same with kids everywhere. Not only that, we’d follow the fortunes of Glamorgan County Cricket Club and, if they were playing in Swansea, we’d try to sneak in to St. Helen’s to watch. Innocents that we were, we even supported the England test team. (Ah!)
But things have changed, I can’t recall the last time I saw kids playing an impromptu game of cricket. Glamorgan is now Cardiff City Cricket Club, and cricket more generally has become a minority sport, kept alive only by ever more garish and desperate attempts to make it ‘interesting’. Necessary, because, with its instant gratifications, modern life has given most people under the age of 50 the attention span of a goldfish; so for these, sitting through a three-day county game or a five-day test, watching men all dressed in white, is akin to being forced to read War and Peace in Russian. So it has to be gaudy colours, shorter and shorter games, more and more sixes, and all the distractionary razzmatazz the organisers can muster to get the goldfish interested. Subtle, it ain’t. Which is not to deny that the game is still big (and thoroughly corrupt) in India and Pakistan, but it’s losing popularity in many former strongholds, such as the West Indies, as those Caribbean islands pass from England’s to America’s sphere of cultural influence.
Some of you will have guessed that I’m dragging you down Memory Lane and various other byways because on Wednesday the Assembly debated whether to support the creation of a national cricket team for Wales, a subject I have dealt with previously. The filmed record of the debate can be found here. There were a number of interesting contributions, not least that from Mohammad Asghar, a man who can recognise a sticky wicket better than most. ‘Oscar’, as he is known to his colleagues in the Conservative Party (and his former colleagues in Plaid Cymru and Labour), was fully supportive of the idea, informing other AMs that he himself had played the game at the highest level before leaving Pakistan. Less surprising was the negativity from other quarters.
Let’s start with Peter Black, the Liberal Democrat and regional member for South West Wales. In his spare time he’s a councillor in Swansea. Black is an Englishman who washed up in my home town – like so many of those on the council today – as a student, in the late 1970s. I first came across the name on visits home in the 1980s, when the Liberals were into ‘pavement politics’ – remember that? What it boiled down to was not a lot different to the pestering behaviour of religious sects and chuggers. Anyway, Black’s take on the subject is summed up in the quote on the right, but it merits a few words from me.
He talks of St. Helen’s in the 1960s, which he’s perfectly entitled to do, but of course at this time, he was just out of nappies and living on the Wirral. Whereas I remember St. Helen’s in the ’60s – I was there, son, winter and summer. Talking of St. Helen’s, maybe Black should remind himself how many games Glamorgan play there nowadays. Not many, is it? Here we have a man, elected by the people of Swansea as a councillor and an AM, defending the interests of a body that has treated Swansea abominably due to the fact that he is a self-serving politico who doesn’t really give a shit about the city. Worse, his attitude towards a Wales cricket team is coloured by his own nationality, a truth he tries to disguise by getting his retaliation in first and condemning the proposal’s backers as nationalists. Of course they are, Come December, I’ll be singing rebel songs with ‘Oscar’ at Cilmeri, him resplendent as usual in his FWA uniform.
The other contribution that caught my jaundiced eye came from another Swansea politician, Mike ‘Mr. Bean’ Hedges. Of whom I have spoken in the recent past. Squeaked he (or possibly Teddy), “There is a Welsh team which plays in the Minor Counties League”. On that logic, if we didn’t already have a national rugby team, but ‘Wales’ played in the English County Championship, Bean would be quite satisfied! He then goes on to defend the benefits accruing to Cardiff City Cricket Club and the city of Cardiff”! But, again, this is a politician supposedly representing Swansea. TELL US, BEAN, WHAT BENEFIT DOES THE CITY YOU REPRESENT SEE FROM THE CURRENT ARRANGEMENT? I’ll help. The answer is sod all, and that’s been the case since Glamorgan County Cricket Club morphed into Cardiff City Cricket Club and abandoned St. Helen’s – so why are you defending it? Because . . . Bean-Hedges belongs to the Wales haters of the Labour Party who cannot tolerate anything that differentiates Wales from England, however beneficial to Wales. Jonathan Edwards MP summed it up perfectly in this tweet.
So what have we learnt from this debate? In some respects, it had little to do with cricket. It was the usual suspects on both sides lining up on another issue and exposing ‘the package’. Though those proposing and supporting the creation of a national cricket team belong, by and large, to the ‘positive’ or ‘ambitious’ element of Wales’ population. While those opposing the initiative are drawn from the ‘be happy with your lot’ and ‘Wales can’t do this, that . . .’ element. Though, interestingly, a third element emerged – and not just ‘Oscar’ – of people no one would describe as ‘nationalist’ but who could nevertheless see the benefits to Wales, and her international profile, from having a national cricket team playing in international competitions. On a more parochial level, I was, as you may have guessed, disgusted with the ignorance, or the short memories, of some of those representing Swansea. What has my beloved city done to deserve assholes like this?
Finally, as if to prove what I’m saying about ‘the package’, as an illustration of how one can predict reactions to an issue like this from an individual’s known views on related matters, here’s a little contribution to a WalesOnline debate back in May, something I found when Googling. It’s our old friend ‘Cliffoch ap Cliffoch’ or, as we now know him, Chris Clifford, being true to form in expressing his hatred and / or contempt for anything distinctively or differently Welsh. Though I like the ‘score’!
CARDIFF: The council of our capital city is advertising for an ‘adviser’ to the council leader . . . though not in Wales, for the advertisement appeared in the Sunday Times. Which I assume means that knowledge of Cardiff, or Wales, is not required. As this article makes clear, the news has provoked a debate to which a number of people have made interesting contributions.
Local Government consultant Jeff Jones wants to see full-blown political appointees as in the USA. Which is where we’ve been heading since New Labour came to power in 1997 and took on what were clearly political appointees as ‘special advisers’ to the Prime Minister and other senior cabinet members. Though this was never a satisfactory arrangement, partly due to these appointees’ ambivalent relationship with the civil service and, towards the end of Blair’s tenure of No 10, advisers for Blair and Brown being engaged in almost open warfare. Plaid Cymru’s Neil McAvoy also sees this danger and makes the same point while generally endorsing Jeff Jones’ argument.
One problem here is the ambiguity surrounding the exact status of this ‘Head of Cabinet Office’ post. Given that Cardiff is controlled by Labour we can safely assume that whoever is appointed will be a Labour Party member or supporter. Yet we shall be asked to believe that the post is politically neutral. Another worry for me is that the post was advertised as offering an opportunity to ‘shape policy’. Now, with Caerffili and Carmarthenshire fresh in our minds, do we really want more unelected people exercising control over our local authorities?
The answer to this and many other problems in local government is to give us eight new authorities with no more than thirty full-time councillors per authority. Attract a better quality of councillor prepared to make the council a job and a mission rather than using it as an excuse to earn beer money from handing out contracts and planning consents to friends, family, and those belonging to the same organisation.
CARMARTHENSHIRE: Today’s Wasting Mule carried an incredible letter from Siân Caiach, former Plaid Cymru luminary, more recently Plaid’s nemesis in Llanelli. (Standing as an independent in 2011 she gained 2,004 votes, while Plaid Cymru lost to Labour by just 80.) That aside, what she says in her letter is so damning of both Carmarthenshire County Council, and the Welsh Government, that answers must be forthcoming to explain the lie upon lie that almost destroyed one of the area’s traditional industries. No, more than that, part of its culture. And the culture of a wider area. How many of us used to enjoy a packet of cockles on a Saturday night as the sellers made their way from pub to pub, jostling with the ladies trying to make us feel better about ourselves (and to banish or sublimate our carnal thoughts of them) by buying War Cry?
It is difficult to imagine the pond life running Carmarthenshire – whether that be the Nazi-Soviet pact nominally in charge, or he who breaks butterflies on wheels – being so utterly and bastardly irresponsible as to do what is alleged by Siân Caiach, just so they could build yet more houses in the county, for yet more English colonists. But if that is the case, then we can almost guarantee that the English Planning Inspectorate is lurking somewhere in the shadows.
CYMRU: In my post of February 18th I told you I had submitted two Freedom of Information requests. One asking how many publicly-funded bodies we have in Wales ‘helping people back into employment’, and the other asking how much we are paying for Tŷ Hywel, formerly Crickhowell House, so central to the scam that was the regeneration of Cardiff docks. The reply to the first of those FoIs was dealt with here a few days ago. I now have some answers to the second FoI, and boy! do they make interesting reading!
First, let’s recap. Crickhowell House is an office block in Cardiff Bay, built in the late 1980s by Associated British Ports. (Head honcho, Lord Crickhowell, formerly Nicholas Edwards MP for Pembrokeshire and Secretary of State for Wales from 1979 to 1987.) The building cost some £11m to build and no one wanted to buy or lease it until 1993, when the Tory-controlled Welsh Office under David Hunt helped out his old friend, Lord Crickhowell, by taking out a 20-year lease on the building for the use of the Welsh Combined Health Services Authority. Crickhowell House was far too big and the WCHSA never used much more than a third of it. You will probably remember that from 1999 to 2006 Crickhowell House was used as the Assembly building. The lease was said to be worth just over £2m a year plus maintenance and other costs. So this Tory old pals act takes us from 1993 to 2013.
Next, when the deal was done with Associated British Ports to lease for 150 years, and for just £1, the land on which the Senedd today stands, it was rumoured that Ron Davies secretly agreed to extend the lease on Crickhowell House for a further 5 years. So that would have been another £10m+. It was even being suggested there was an option to extend the lease further. So in order to get at the facts I submitted my FoI. The answers to which may be read here.
The facts are that Tŷ Hywel is leased until 2032 at an annual cost of £2.3m + VAT. Yet the total figure given, in response to my question, “What will be the total expenditure, since 1993, of leasing,improving and maintaining Tŷ Hywel?” the answer given is £40,654,093 (from 1999), which can’t be right, can it? By my calculations, at £2.3m a year the lease from 1999 to 2032 comes to £75.9m. Add in the six years from 1993 to 1999 and it’s closer to £90m! And that’s without VAT, maintenance and all the other costs! I’d like you to give some thought to these figures, see if they, literally, add up.
The reply contained the names of two bodies that I just had to check, because they were new to me. The first was the Assembly Commission, described as “the corporate body of the National Assembly for Wales”. And Crick Properties, who now own Tŷ Hywel. The Assembly Commission is made up of the Presiding Officer and four other AMs with various portfolios. Today’s Commission members are shown in the panel (click to enlarge) though it would have been Dafydd Elis Thomas who led the Commission when it decided to extend the lease on Tŷ Hywel in 2007. Crick Properties turned up little on Google, apart from this intriguing snippet on Slugger O’Toole. But given the name, it must be reasonable to assume a connection with Lord Crickhowell.
Another thought struck me as I digested the astronomic figures for Tŷ Hywel. We like to pride ourselves in Wales on the fact that we rejected Private Finance Initiatives. But remember this; in addition to £2.3m + VAT per annum lease, the Assembly Commission is also responsible for upkeep and renovation of the building. So if Tŷ Hywel, a building that will end up costing us well over £100m – yet is said to have sold in 2009 for £31m – is not a PFI, then what is? And bear in mind that the sale price in 2009 was greatly inflated by the fact that the Assembly Commission had agreed – in 2007 – a lease extension to 2032. Which means that had they refused to extend the lease, then the Assembly Commission might have been able to buy the building for considerably less than £31m.
So there you are, mes enfants; three stories which, in their own way, paint a depressing picture of public life in Wales today. Lies being told, public money being squandered, the interests of the people ignored and democracy treated with contempt. Why do we bother playing this game we can’t win? And if we could win it, would the victory be worth it?