PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
I have borrowed the title of this post from a number of campaigns run by police and other agencies trying to either reduce anti-social behaviour or else protect children by getting parents to take more responsibility.
But what happens when the children are no longer with the parents? I’m thinking now of cases where the children are, supposedly, ‘in care’.
One case came to light recently of a child from Cardiff claiming to have been assaulted at a home to which he’d been sent in Swansea. The family took the case to local councillor and AM, Neil McEvoy, who sought answers . . . and, as usual, Cardiff’s Labour council turned it into a case against Neil McEvoy!
It says a lot about Wales and its political culture that, ‘I want a straight answer’ can be twisted into ‘intimidating behaviour’. But that’s where we are with the colonial management team we know as the Labour Party.
GRASSROOTS (CARDIFF) LTD
Registered as both a charity (1110186) and a company, this is a mechanism for Cardiff Labour Party to exert influence in the care sector. Described on the Charity Commission entry thus:
THE PROVISION OF A CITY CENTRE FACILITY FOR YOUNG PEOPLE WHO ARE SUFFERING SOCIO ECONOMIC DEPRIVATION WHO REQUIRE ASSISTANCE TO HELP AND EDUCATE THEM THROUGH LEISURE-TIME ACTIVITIES SO AS TO DEVELOP THEIR PHYSICAL, MENTAL AND SPIRITUAL CAPACITIES THAT THEY MAY GROW TO FULL MATURITY AS INDIVIDUALS AND MEMBERS OF SOCIETY AND THEIR CONDITIONS OF LIFE MAY BE IMPROVED.
The Charity Commission entry further informs us that, unsurprisingly, Grassroots (Cardiff) Ltd operates only in Cardiff. As it is both a company and a charity company directors serve as charity trustees
The group was launched in February 2004 and since then a number of Labour luminaries have served as directors, none more luminescent than Albert Huish, long-serving Cardiff councillor and Lord Mayor. Huish joined in April 2006, when he was 92. He died in 2009.
One who’s been with Grassroots since the start is Councillor Iona Gordon. Other Labour councillors have served as directors but Labour loyalties are not always easy to discern. Even so, it’s reasonable to view Grassroots as almost a department of Cardiff City Council.
Someone else who was in at the start was Paul Anthony O’Donnell, stepping down as a director 28 February 2013, by which time he had branched out on his own.
PRIORITY CHILDCARE LTD
Though he was in business for himself when he joined Grassroots. One company was Paul O’Donnell and Associates Consultancy and Training Services Ltd, formed in December 2001 and dissolved 30 June 2015 with an outstanding debt with HSBC. Another O’Donnell company co-existing with Grassroots was Forward Approach Ltd, but I can find no information.
More recently, May 2016, to be exact, he launched Treharne Properties Ltd with his old mate Leonard Charles Drane, this company is filing as a dormant company. Drane was also a director in Paul O’Donnell and Associates, etc.
Of more importance to this article is the company called Priority Childcare Ltd. Here’s the website and here’s the Companies House entry. Priority Childcare was Incorporated 12 October 2009.
For the first few years it seemed to do very little, but when it moved its address from Treharris, just off the A470 south of Merthyr, to Llandarcy, on the Neath side of Swansea, things started to take off.
Going back to the website – where models portray Priority Childcare’s staff and the kids they look after! – we see a page marked ‘Our Homes’ with seven properties listed. Not entirely correct, for Priority Childcare owns more than the seven listed, but not in its own name.
For the properties are all owned – with outstanding loans from the Royal Bank of Scotland – by POLD Holdings Ltd. A name made up of the initials of Paul O’Donnell and Leonard Drane. This company was Incorporated 4 January 2010.
So we see that both Priority Childcare and POLD Holdings were formed when O’Donnell was still with Grassroots, and therefore well-connected with those in Cardiff who had responsibility for children and young people in need of care, counselling and accommodation.
Wasn’t that convenient, boys and girls, for someone about to embark on a spree of buying properties for that very purpose!
In fact, the first three properties were bought a couple of weeks before O’Donnell left Grassroots.
SWANSEA, MY SWANSEA!
Back in May a report in WalesOnline told of the sudden increase in the numbers of children’s homes in Swansea that the council seemed to know little about. (Or maybe it was that nobody wanted to talk about them.)
We can account for a number of those unexplained children’s homes with what we now know of Priority Childcare. For it’s pretty obvious that Priority Childcare and POLD Holdings are taking advantage of cheaper property further west to move kids out of Cardiff.
Given O’Donnell’s Grassroots link, and given its close links with City Hall, it’s reasonable to assume that the O’Donnell-Drane companies are working with the Labour-controlled council.
But why is Swansea council so passive and accommodating when Cardiff dumps its problems on them? Swansea council knows what’s happening, and where these kids are coming from. Is Swansea council now subservient to Cardiff council?
The people of Swansea are entitled to know.
And how long has it been going on? For the table above tells us that Priority Childcare bought its first properties in Swansea in 2013. Yet this Care Inspectorate document says that the first home was not registered until May 2018. Were they operating unregistered before that date?
Staying with the website, the panel below, from the home page, is fascinating, and worrying.
To begin with, yes, the website shows seven homes, but the Care Inspectorate document mentions ten. So I’m assuming that Clydwr House in Swansea and Ty Aelwyd in Treharris link with the later purchases shown in the table, leaving one of the Swansea properties still unregistered.
Though anyone who thinks that all the homes are in ‘rural or semi-rural locations’, as Priority Childcare claim, must have been born and raised in downtown Tokyo.
More worrying is the reference to ‘Southwest Children’s Residential Commissioning Framework’, which suggests that Priority Childcare is not just bringing kids from Cardiff to Swansea and neighbouring areas, but is also bringing them from south west England!
The Priority Childcare website really is a thing of wonder. For if we scroll down to the ‘Our Partners’ graphic at the bottom of each page labelled we see Swansea council listed . . . but not Cardiff council!
Yet this outfit is almost certainly contracted by Cardiff council to move kids out of the city to homes in cheaper property further west. And exposing this system is one reason that Neil McEvoy is being persecuted, again.
In the ‘Summary of Key Findings’ (page 8) we read: ‘Better local commissioning arrangement are required to ensure children’s needs are met as close to home as possible. We found a mismatch between the location of care homes for children in Wales and the placing authorities from which children originate.’
LABOUR PARTY ETHICS
For now we come to the case that sees Neil McEvoy before Cardiff council’s Standards and Ethics Committee this very day. Yes, that’s Labour councillors debating and judging on standards and ethics. I don’t know whether to laugh or to puke. (I might do both, but not at the same time.)
Not for the first time, Neil McEvoy has rendered Wales a service. For moving kids around in the way we’ve looked at makes it difficult to keep track of them and to monitor the care they’re getting. Worse, this difficulty might be what makes such a system attractive to unscrupulous operators and callous council officials.
It’s certainly an issue that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. For not only is it happening within Wales, there’s also the cross-border dimension. For example, in Powys, all the children in private care homes come from outside the county, almost all of them from England.
Children in need need to be helped as near as possible to their homes and their families. We must stop licensing private care homes that see vulnerable children as money-spinners, with those providing these children operating on the principle ‘Out of sight, out of mind’.
This decision that took most of us by surprise needs to be examined and certain ramifications and possibilities considered. For last week’s decision might have significance beyond a single road project.
When Carwyn Jones was First Minister it was understood that the relief road would go ahead. So for a start, the decision announced last week means that things have changed under his successor, Mark Drakeford.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of last week’s decision is that Mark Drakeford, and the ‘Welsh Government’, have gone against the wishes of their superiors in London. It’s impossible to over-stress that what happened last week was a form of insubordination.
Our Secretary of State, Alun Cairns, that most London-loyal of individuals – and, we now learn, a Boris Johnson supporter – was “hugely disappointed” by the decision. It may have come as a bit of a shock to him, for Cairns knew long ago what the inspector’s recommendation was, and he probably expected the new management team in Cardiff docks to follow Compliant Carwyn’s lead and do as the inspector (and London) recommended.
So maybe any consideration of this shock to the system political boils down to two questions:
Why has Drakeford refused to do London’s bidding in this instance?
Is this a one-off act of rebellion or does it herald a fundamental change of course for ‘Welsh’ Labour?
One possible explanation might lie in the fact that despite all the criticism of London-centricity, and the disproportionate amount of infrastructure spending in London and the south east of England, for two decades Wales has followed exactly the same course.
Because a curious feature of devolution is that those areas that voted against devolution in 1997 have been the areas to benefit most since 1999. Maybe this is related to the phenomenon that has seen successive Labour administrations in Cardiff Bay neglect those areas that vote Labour.
So, to be generous, this decision not to proceed with the M4 relief road might mark the beginning of attempts to ‘rebalance’ the Welsh economy.
Even if I’m being too generous there, on a purely financial level, it would have been difficult to justify expenditure of £1.5 bn (at the very least) in a country of just over 3 million people unless the benefits are widely enjoyed. That would obviously not have been the case with the M4 relief road, and further, expenditure on that project would mean fewer infrastructure projects elsewhere in the country.
It’s even being suggested that areas of England – notably Bristol – would have benefited more from an M4 relief road than areas of Wales just twenty or thirty miles away, such as the Heads of the Valleys.
This is how Alun Davies, AM for Blaenau Gwent, put it in a couple of tweets.
Weighing up cost and benefit, the M4 relief road would have meant the ‘Welsh Government’ borrowing a great deal of money for a project that at best would only benefit one corner of the country, and at worst, might have been of more benefit to adjacent areas of England.
On those grounds alone, no body claiming to be the ‘Welsh Government’, serving the whole of Wales, could have given the go-ahead for the M4 relief road.
But that consideration has never before stopped an administration in Cardiff Bay from pouring investment into the city at the expense of the rest of the country. So there may be other explanations.
THE PLANNING INSPECTORATE FOR ENGLANDANDWALES
Having mentioned the Planning Inspectorate this is a good time to remind you of the malign influence this agency has exerted over Wales.
In this example from March 2014 I wrote about the plan to expand Bodelwyddan and how it linked with the Local Development Plan (LDP) for Denbighshire. In this post we see how the Planning Inspectorate was forcing a Welsh local authority to allow housing greatly in excess of any local need.
And even after census findings made it clear that the county would need less new housing than had previously been anticipated, the Planning Inspector insisted on keeping to the now discredited figures:
“Objects and aspirations” can only mean catering for an influx of new residents from outside of the county, and almost certainly from outside of Wales. Which means that in many cases the LDPs that have been forced on our local authorities by the Planning Inspectorate are ‘local’ only in the sense that they affect areas of Wales.
In Denbighshire, the northern part of the county lies within the A55 corridor, which is being developed as a linear commuter belt for north west England. The ‘Welsh Government’ will never admit this – in fact, it might not even be consulted – but others know, and are planning for it.
What’s being done here could be done without devolution – so what’s the point of having a ‘Welsh Government’ if it doesn’t live up to the name? Is devolution just a chimera, a smokescreen?
Cross-border co-operation is one thing, and desirable, it happens all over the world; but it must be done on a basis of mutual respect with both sides benefiting. The map you see above is Englandandwales in operation. Anyone arguing otherwise would probably describe Tryweryn as a mutually-beneficial project.
Without labouring the point I hope you get the gist – the Planning Inspectorate has done a lot of damage to Wales over the years. Which explains why the agency’s relationship with the ‘Welsh Government’ has always been a source of confusion for Welsh politicians and others.
The truth is that the Planning Inspectorate for Englandandwales has a desk in Cardiff but takes its orders from London, with the ‘Welsh Government’ allowed to pretend it has some control.
The truth is driven home when we see an inspector adjudicating on a Welsh case one week and being in Yorkshire or Devon the following week. (Though of course, never in Scotland.)
It was no surprise then that the Planning Inspectorate wanted the M4 black route. Because that’s what London wanted.
Though if Mark Drakeford can see the problem with the Planning Inspectorate for Englandandwales then he must also be aware that this is only the tip of an iceberg. That ‘iceberg’ being the problem of ‘Welsh’ civil servants relaying orders from London.
PLANNING FOR A WELSH FUTURE?
The fact that the ‘Welsh Government’ went against the recommendation of the Planning Inspectorate, its London masters, and a number of powerful lobby groups (perhaps even . . . whisper it – Deryn!), means that Mark Drakeford has really stuck his scruffy neck out.
Which leads me to suspect, or hope, that this decision might be about more than the explanations we’ve been given on cost and environment damage. There might be things bubbling below the surface that could prove to be more important in the medium term than the M4 decision itself.
First off, I am convinced that the M4 decision links with this announcement from a month ago that Wales will soon have its own planning inspectorate. Let’s look at what the article in The Planner says.
“Currently, the Planning Inspectorate for England and Wales is responsible for making decisions and recommendations on planning-related land issues and appeals. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and the Welsh Government fund it.
Based in Cardiff, the inspectorate’s Wales Division manages casework on planning and related applications and appeals, including developments of national significance. It examines local development plans, which set out land use planning policies and form the basis of local planning decisions, using a team of dedicated Welsh inspectors and administrators.
The new planning inspectorate for Wales is expected to be fully operational by the end of the current assembly term, which is May 2021.”
This move was explained by the ‘Welsh Government’ thus: “planning law and policy has diverged and continues to diverge at an accelerating rate from England”. Which makes a certain sense, but if that’s the real reason then policing, broadcasting and many other powers would also be fully devolved.
Though a cynic might suggest that Drakeford is launching the new agency because he’s burned his bridges with the Planning Inspectorate after giving them two fingers over such a high-profile project as the M4 relief road.
Whatever the reason, I’m hoping Drakeford and his cabinet want a separate Welsh planning inspectorate to do things differently in future and for the right reasons. Otherwise, why set up a new and separate agency?
IN CONCLUSION . . .
Does the dropping of the M4 relief road coupled with the announcement of the new planning inspectorate herald a change of direction for the ‘Welsh Government’?
The cynic in me thinks, ‘Nah, this leopard ain’t gonna change its spots, Jac. After twenty years of screwing up on devolution Labour’s only pretending to do things differently now because it’s slipping in the polls. Any change will be purely cosmetic.’
But then, the optimistic side to my nature (long dormant) asserts itself and says, ‘Wait! Maybe from now on they will put the interests of Wales and Welsh people first. Perhaps they’ll realise that there are communities within twenty miles of Corruption Bay approaching third world standards of deprivation. And that our rural areas need more than zip wires and granny farms.
‘Perhaps it’ll mean no more insane legislation to encourage hippies, ‘rewilders’ and other enviroshysters; no more grants showered on multinationals’ branch factories and con men with ludicrous ‘projects’; no more red carpet treatment for exploitive ‘celebs’ such as Bore Grylls; no more funding and other encouragement for the third sector to import England’s problems so as to maintain thousands of unnecessary jobs with our money.
‘Maybe, at long last, Wales will be treated as a country, in which the interests of those who belong here are considered more important than kudos gained from playing to galleries that only seek to exploit and marginalise us. Perhaps our kids will be given a decent education to prepare them for better jobs than scurrying around an Amazon warehouse or desperately waiting for Easter in the hope of some low-wage tourism job.’
I haven’t prepared any in-depth or weighty post for this week; instead, I’ve put together a few things I’ve been thinking about, or been sent, that might also be of interest to you. You know me – always trying to please!
Quite what this was supposed to achieve no one seemed to know, but it struck me at the time as a predictable response from Plaid Cymru’s clenched fist and beret tendency. Those who would still regard the Tories as ‘the real enemy’ even if ISIS invaded the Rhondda Fach.
Ideally, of course, Plaid Cymru would like a coalition with Labour, but thanks to Comrade Corbyn’s vacillating that is not possible. So with that hope dashed, Plaid now seeks a deal with the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, Change UK and the SNP.
Let’s consider the SNP first. Things are very different in Scotland, where the SNP will be hoping to win every seat in the next UK general election; so the chances of them doing a deal with other parties, which would almost certainly mean standing down in some seats, is a non-starter.
The SNP could even turn the next general election into a vote on independence and EU membership, especially if Westminster refuses to allow another independence referendum.
Next up is Change UK. If you’re unfamiliar with this lot, then let me explain that they’re a bunch of preening egotists who couldn’t get their own ways in their previous parties. Before the next election comes around clashing egos will have destroyed this collective huff of a party and that’ll be the end of Change UK.
On to the Greens, aka the Green Party of England, for there is no Wales Green Party. Worse, last year Greens in Wales voted on whether to set up a separate Green party and decided to stay as the Green Party of Englandandwales. Which means that Plaid Cymru wants to work with a party that refuses to recognise Wales as a country!
Finally, the Liberal Democrats, the party that kept the Tories in power at Westminster between 2010 and 2015, and the party that – with its single AM – helps keep Labour in power down Cardiff docks. A gang of opportunistic and amoral politicos that would sell their grannies for a sniff of power.
Despite decades of trying to promote themselves as the ‘nice’ party I have a deep and abiding contempt for the modern Liberal Democrats. I had time for old Geraint Howells and a few others from the genuinely Welsh Liberal tradition, but the modern party is a venomous thing not to be trusted or handled.
Containing individuals like Callum James Littlemore, who is ‘Diary Manager’ for local party leader Jane Dodds. (She needs a diary manager!) I thought for a minute it was a typo, and he worked on her farm, but apparently it’s true. Anyway, young Callum bears out all I’ve thought about LibDems.
Though he can’t have been in Wales for long if he thinks Plaid Cymru “support divisive nationalism”. Listen to Uncle Jac: Plaid Cymru is a bunch of evasive, wishy-washy, ishoo-botherers, forever seeking distractions to avoid confronting any specifically Welsh issue. Brexit being the latest such distraction.
Let’s hope we hear little more from Littlemore. (Couldn’t resist it!)
Ruling out the SNP for the reasons I’ve given, these are the parties that Plaid Cymru is ready to co-operate with thanks to Plaid’s fixation with Brexit. What would Plaid get in return – I mean, would these parties campaign for Welsh independence, or even greater devolution? I think not.
It also means that by turning the next election into a single-issue affair Plaid Cymru will ignore the things people care about. Done in order to line up with England’s Brahmin left, thereby alienating thousands upon thousands of people that must be won over if Wales is to escape the humiliation long ago imposed on us by John Bull; a colonial system loyally maintained into the present day by ‘Welsh’ Labour and its rag-bag of hangers-on.
There’ll be a price to pay for this posturing, this self-indulgent myopia. I sincerely hope.
Made possible by Secretary of State for Wales (1979 – 1987) Nicholas Edwards, who set up, in April 1987, the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation (CBDC), to be run by his good friend and fellow High Tory, Sir Geoffrey Inkin. The CBDC became the conduit for pumping hundreds of millions of pounds of public money into land owned by Associated British Ports (ABP), of which Edwards was a director.
Of course, Edwards/Crickhowell didn’t have it all his own way. For example, despite donning his Welsh National Opera tricorn he failed to get a new opera house to the Bay, but learning from that disappointment he made sure that the ‘consolation prize’ of the Notional Assembly building was located on his patch.
And while it was being built he saw to it that ABP continued to coin it by having AMs and staff use Crickhowell House – at £2m+ a year.
Crickhowell House was soon renamed Tŷ Crughywel, and is now Tŷ Hywel, apparently in honour of Hywel Dda. Which looks very much like an attempt to hide the Crickhowell connection, for I’m not aware of Hywel Dda having any local connections.
Despite having moved into the new Senedd building over ten years ago the ‘Welsh Government’ still agreed a series of leases that bind it – and us – to Tŷ Hywel until 2049, or Armageddon, whichever comes sooner. Guaranteed to cost us many more millions of pounds.
I mention this to give the background to what we see today in Cardiff Bay; the squalid and incestuous wheeler-dealing, the lying and the backstabbing, the cronyism, the incompetence, and the waste of public money.
The latest example of the incestuousness comes with Daniel Bryant leaving lobbyists Deryn for Plaid Cymru. This ménage à trois involving Deryn, Plaid Cymru and the Labour Party is not good for democracy or for Wales.
But this is what devolution has done. It has given us a class of people, divorced from the real world, who study politics, help out local politicians in their spare time and then, when they finish university, get a job working for a politician, or lobbyists, making contacts, and getting on their party’s list of approved candidates.
They then become politicians and make decisions affecting the lives of people with whom they have little contact and for whom they may have little concern. I say that because politics is no longer about serving the people, it’s a team game of abstractions and all that matters is scoring points against the opposition. (Though in Wales it often seems to be just two ‘teams’ involved.)
This system of musical chairs that begins with teenagers choosing a ‘career’ in politics goes a long way to explaining why Wales is in the mess she’s in today. And also why, alone in western Europe, Wales has no register or regulation of lobbyists – because the lobbyists won’t countenance such legislation!
Speak out in favour of such legislation – as Neil McEvoy has done more than once – and you will be hounded and vilified – by lobbyists, your own party, and anyone else the lobbyists can influence. Is this democracy?
Of course not, but it is Corruption Bay; and those we find lurking there today are worthy successors to the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation.
‘Why Brighton?’ you ask, and the answer is because that’s where his mates are. ‘Mates!’ Yes, you must remember his partners from the Cardiff Bay property business. I wrote about it in Baywatch and Baywatch 2. In particular, Mark Philip Carter, a director with James of Building and Estate Solutions Today Limited.
The two directors of Ffynnon Consultancy are James and his missus. He with 400 shares, she with 100.
It was always unlikely that when James retires later this month, and surfboards out of county hall on a flood of tears, that he would put on his slippers and take up some innocent pastime like counting his money, or evicting bloggers.
But now, with his own consultancy, his protégée Wendy Walters taking over his job, and Emlyn ‘Two Barns’ Dole keeping the councillors in check, James should be able to run the show by remote control!
For as the old saying has it – You can’t keep a good man down. Or in this case, a vindictive and manipulative megalomaniac, and Private Eye Shit of the Year 2016.
You know he can’t just walk away – for there is a Wellness Village to build!
Talking of which . . . there’s something nagging me, for there is another company with a very similar name to James’s new venture. This being the Ffynnon Consultancy Group Ltd.
‘UAE’ is of course the initials of the United Arab Emirates, and ‘GCC’ stands for Gulf Cooperation Council. So why would this obscure little company be operating in the Gulf?
I ask because I’m sure you’ll remember that it was links with that part of the world that led to suspensions at Swansea University and the halting of city deal funding for the Wellness Village.
The sole director of the Ffynnon Consultancy Group – a one-share company that appears never to have traded or done anything since being formed in June 2016 – was Angela Louise Williams of Llandybie, until she was replaced last Friday by Kevin Williams of New Quay, Ceredigion, with the company’s registered address also transferring to New Quay on 3 June.
Given the Gulf connection, I got to wondering if there might also be a link with Swansea University, the Wellness Village, or with outgoing Carmarthenshire CEO Mark James’s new company Ffynnon Consultancy Ltd?
In the hope of getting answers I e-mailed Ffynnon Consultancy Group and received a reply from Kevin Williams, who expressed surprise that Companies House had allowed registrations from two companies with such similar names.
He assured me that neither he nor Angela Louise Williams had any links to either Carmarthenshire County Council or Swansea University. So that would appear to be that . . . just an amazing coincidence . . .
M4 OR NO M4
As I write this, on Monday evening, the word is that tomorrow the ‘Welsh Government’ will not back the proposed M4 ‘relief road’ through the Gwent Levels and Newport docks. So, on that assumption, here are a few points that immediately popped into the cavernous Jac cranium.
Let us hope that this unexpected decision heralds a new era of development and investment spread across the country, thereby obviating the need for an M4 ‘relief road’.
Presumably the announcement will be accompanied by promises to invest in public transport. Again, I urge that thinking goes beyond the Cardiff region, because there is a country out there.
Nothing would prove this administration’s commitment to both Wales beyond Cardiff and public transport better than a west coast railway line from Carmarthen to Bangor.
Finally, this decision might deter commuters from Bristol and elsewhere moving into Wales for cheaper housing – have you thought about that? Well, have you!
And, finally, this week’s caption competition. I am grateful to the person who supplied this wonderful photograph of Paul and Rowena Williams of Weep for Wales fame. The picture comes from the XscapeNow Facebook page.
These crooks are former owners of the Radnorshire Arms Hotel in Presteigne, The Knighton Hotel, Plas Glynllifon, Seiont Manor Hotel and other establishments from Northumberland to Cornwall.
I can’t help thinking that holding an illustration of criminals being caught by the police might be seen as tempting fate.
PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
THE TOWN I LOVED SO WELL
As you’re probably aware, I am a native of Swansea; as it says on my Twitter profile, “A Jack by blood, birth, upbringing and inclination”. Despite having spent most of my life away from the city it remains my home town, it’s where my roots lie, and it’s where my heart will ever be. (Cue violins.)
When I was very young Swansea was still pulling itself together after being knocked about by the Luftwaffe, and despite the disastrous rebuilding of the centre we kids accepted it – ‘modern, see’. Of course, our parents and grandparents missed the old town, Ben Evans department store (‘the Harrods of Wales’) and all the rest.
And as Dylan Thomas reminds us in Return Journey, so much else was gone, including the famous Kardomah cafe, where he had ‘argued the toss’ with Vernon Watkins, Dan Jones, Arthur Janes and the rest of the gang.
On the economic front, the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s were pretty good, you could tell the boss to F— Off on Friday and find a fresh job on Monday.
Despite what Turks and other disbelievers might say, we had the best rugby team in Wales; in summer, Glamorgan could pull 20,000 to St Helen’s, and in football, well, most of the 1958 World Cup team came from Swansea, and if Big John hadn’t been hacked out by the Hungarians in the previous game we would have beaten Brazil and won the competition.
Obviously there was some disappointment when in 1955 Cardiff was named capital, but we soon got over it because what did the title mean in practical terms? So we shrugged and continued to enjoy being the pre-eminent sub-species.
But since the 1980s it’s been noticeably downhill for Swansea in just about every conceivable sphere. And devolution has only made things worse.
BALLS, AND PLAYING SILLY BUGGERS
I’ve mentioned St Helen’s Rugby and Cricket Ground (to give it its full name), which opened in 1873 and held Wales’ first-ever home rugby international in 1882. It hosted rugby internationals until 1954. I suppose some might say that Swansea’s decline began when it lost rugby international games to Cardiff. For Swansea’s loss is invariably Cardiff’s gain.
Since losing rugby international matches in 1954 St Helen’s has also lost Glamorgan CCC games to the Sophia Gardens in Cardiff, where crowds are smaller than they were at St Helen’s. So the move would appear to make no economic sense, but that’s to miss the point, for the Swalec Stadium was built so that Cardiff can host England games. Yes, honestly. This of course brings money into the city, but with collateral damage in the loss of our national cricket team.
A loss the political and business leaders of Cardiff consider a price worth paying. Which tells us a number of things, among them that it’s not simply Swansea that loses out to Cardiff’s insatiable greed and self-aggrandisement.
Of course, some of Swansea’s wounds are self-inflicted. The city centre is a disaster area. The planning of traffic movement, one-way systems, pedestrianisation and the rest could have been handed over to a bunch of ten-year-olds forty years ago and today they could be showing their adult children around the city with pride – because they couldn’t have done a worse job than successive city administrations. Administrations that, with all-too-brief interludes, have been Labour.
The most recent such interlude was from 2004 until 2012 when the Liberal Democrat-led Swansea Administration ran the council in coalition with assorted others. In 2004 Plaid Cymru had five councillors, the group led by Darren Price, but refused to join the coalition, deluding itself it held the balance of power and could therefore dictate things. Which didn’t work out, so towards the end Price was having regular and quite open meetings with David ‘Il Duce‘ Phillips, the Labour leader, and ‘Rocking’ Rene Kinzett, local Tory hetman.
This unholy alliance eventually triumphed and Il Duce was restored to power in 2012, carried aloft by a crowd of thousands marching down the Mumbles Road singing the Red Flag interspersed with throaty renditions of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow. (OK, I made that bit up.)
In the elections of 2008 Plaid Cymru went down to one seat, and since 2012 it has had none. Darren Price crossed over and sold his soul to Beelzebub. (Trans: is a councillor in Carmarthenshire serving His Omnipotence Mark James.) Today Plaid Cymru barely exists in Swansea. Some ‘Party of Wales’, eh?
That said, not all the wounds were self-inflicted, and not when it comes to the state of the city centre. For long before the rise of internet shopping started doing its damage Swansea’s city centre was being undermined by out-of-town shopping, though as I say, this time the council was not entirely to blame.
Certainly not when it came to the Swansea Enterprise Park on the east side of the River Tawe, overlooked by Bonymaen and Llansamlet, the first and largest Enterprise Zone (as it originally was) in the UK, covering some 735 acres. Planned for light manufacturing and warehousing retailing was given the green light by Nicholas Edwards, Secretary of State for Wales under Margaret Thatcher until 1987.
Major stores and other retail outlets locating to the Enterprise Park certainly hurt the city centre, but then, Edwards couldn’t be bothered with that, because he had bigger fish to fry. For Nicholas Edwards was a man with big plans for Cardiff through the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, set up by him to pump public money into land owned by Associated British Ports, of which he just happened to be the leading director.
This, perhaps the biggest single rip-off of public funding in Welsh history, is detailed in Corruption Bay, a document I compiled almost 20 years ago, but the facts, and the interpretations, still hold up.
DEVOLUTION – SHAFTED AGAIN!
Corruption Bay also explains why our Notional Assembly came to be located in Cardiff Bay – for the benefit of Associated British Ports, and as a ‘consolation prize’ for the opera house was that was never built. For among the countless ‘hats’ worn by Nick Edwards were director of the Welsh National Opera and chairman of the Cardiff Bay Opera Trust.
Even though Cardiff Bay eventually won the Assembly Swansea Guildhall was the only site that met the criteria on value for money and availability set out by Secretary of State Ron Davies in the search for a home for the new institution after negotiations over Cardiff City Hall – the assumed location for the Assembly – collapsed. But once again, Swansea was done down by certain influencers in Cardiff. (Explained in Corruption Bay.)
This competition ‘won’ by Swansea seems to have been written out of recent Welsh history; but then, as Churchill said, history is written by the victors, and what passes for the ‘Welsh media’ is the voice of Cardiff. (Fortunately, the subterranean and bomb-proof Jo’tN archives contain a library of newspaper articles from the period.)
After the ‘competition’ was launched, and as the terrifying prospect of the Assembly being housed in Swansea sunk in, the Western Mail and the rest of the ‘Welsh media’ went into hyper-drive, even accusing politicians and civil servants of leaning on Ron Davies to favour Swansea, as this ludicrous article from 3 March 1998 spells out.
Yes, Rachel Lomax, then top civil servant at the Welsh Office, had been born in Swansea; and yes, there was something odd and unconvincing about her spat with council leader Russell Goodway over leasing Cardiff City Hall; but there was never any danger of the Assembly not being in Cardiff, but it was going to the Bay, for the benefit of Nick Edwards and his mates in Associated British Ports.
Which meant that the real beneficiaries of a National Assembly for Wales were a bunch of Tories who had always opposed devolution. They laughed all the way to their banks. (Which were probably offshore.)
How energetically Swansea’s case was argued by the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ is anyone’s guess. If I had to put money on it, I’d say the response was, ‘OK, fair enough, we’ll pass the message on’.
Even after the disappointment of electrification and the tidal lagoon there were still bright spots in the gloom. Among them, the growing reputation of Swansea University, and its increasingly lucrative spin-offs.
Now I won’t deny that the Wellness Village project may be the ultimate vanity project; and maybe the University’s involvement should have appeared more institutional than personal; but at the same time, I can imagine certain interests in Cardiff jumping at the opportunity to take Swansea University down a peg or two. And the ‘Welsh Government’ was only too happy to assist.
Vice-Chancellor Richard Davies has been replaced by Paul Boyle, an uninspiring Englishman who is “looking forward to being back by the sea!” – is he going paddling? No doubt Boyle is under instructions to rein in Swansea’s ambition and not get ideas above his University’s ordained station (below Cardiff in any rankings that matter).
UPDATE 13.03.2019: Just one day after I published this post the Western Mail, which used to be known as Llais y Sais (voice of the English), and could more correctly be re-named Llais Caerdydd (voice of Cardiff), published another piece it hoped would reflect badly on Swansea University. The unmistakeable message in the unattributed article is that these donations are ‘irregular’, perhaps dirty money.
AND THEN THERE’S THE WELSH RUGBY UNION
It’s difficult to know where to start with this section, because rarely, even in the history of Wales, have so many been pissed off by so few. The few in question belong to the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and something called the Professional Rugby Board. Few would have heard of the PRB until last week.
For it was last week we heard that the WRU intended forcing through a merger of the Ospreys (the West Glamorgan region) and the Scarlets, the Llanelli super club. Not only that, but we also learnt that the WRU had previously tried to force through a ‘merger’ of the Ospreys with Cardiff Blues, another club that rejected regional rugby back in 2003.
No matter on which level we consider this, or from which angle we approach it, these proposed ‘mergers’ are insane. The Ospreys are Wales’s most successful rugby outfit yet the WRU wants to do away with them.
And then, how drunk do you have to be to think that Swansea rugby fans, having seen their team killed off, would travel the 40-odd miles to support Cardiff?
And when it comes to the takeover by Llanelli Scarlets, the WRU’s argument is that the Ospreys are broke while the Scarlets are in rude financial health. Llanelli Scarlets were for a long time kept afloat by the WRU, then Carmarthenshire County Council – Mark James again – took over the life-support system and poured in millions of pounds of council taxpayers’ money.
Not only that, but all manner of imaginative special arrangements were dreamed up by Mark James to keep Llanelli Scarlets, and their white elephant stadium, afloat. Because Parc y Scarlets has never been financially viable. Whereas the Ospreys have no such worries because they share the Liberty Stadium with the Swans.
Mark James retires in June, and when he’s gone those who have cowered in his shadow this many a year may grow cojones and start questioning some of his decisions. Not least why Carmarthenshire County Council has written off millions of pounds owed to the people of Carmarthenshire by Llanelli Scarlets. And why revenue was lost in ‘concessions’ and all manner of questionable arrangements.
But anyone, in the Welsh Rugby Union, or anywhere else, who thinks that Llanelli Scarlets is a financial success story must be relying on the kind of accountants who appear on this blog . . . and often appear before a judge and jury.
Looking east, the WRU owns Newport Dragons, the least successful of our four ‘regions’. Newport is the same distance from Cardiff as Llanelli is from Swansea, so why not merge Cardiff and Newport into a South East region, and have them play at a new stadium to be built in Pontypridd or Pontypool? For neither Cardiff nor Newport has made any serious attempt to engage with their Valleys’ hinterlands. Making a mockery of ‘regional rugby’.
Another aspect is that these absurd mergers were proposed because the WRU wants a new region in the north. Back in 2003, when regional rugby was being discussed, David Moffett, then group CEO of the Welsh Rugby Union, proposed four regions: North, West (Llanelli, Swansea, Neath and others playing in Swansea), South (Cardiff, Pontypridd, Bridgend and the Central Valleys), and East (Gwent).
Llanelli, Cardiff and Newport refused to become regions but called themselves regions anyway, and the WRU caved in. Swansea and Neath merged to form the Ospreys, a genuine region, and they are now being rewarded with oblivion.
Whatever the WRU’s grand plan may have been – and I’m being generous in assuming there is, or was, a coherent plan – viewed from Swansea this looks like just another Cardiff-based organisation doing Swansea down.
And if the WRU has its way and destroys the Ospreys then a new rugby entity will almost certainly emerge in Swansea and may have no alternative but to affiliate to the English Rugby Football Union. Is that really what those clowns in the WRU and the PRB want?
MAKING SENSE OF IT
Sticking with the Welsh Rugby Union for a minute, nothing surprises me when it comes to that BritNat-Masonic outfit, forever fawning over English royals, with its ludicrous feathers badge. Other countries have emblems representing the country and its people, Wales has one representing an individual claiming to be ‘Prince of Wales’ who has as much claim to the title as my cat.
Looking back to 1955 and the announcement that Cardiff was the official capital of Wales, maybe the rot set in for Swansea then, for it was obvious that, being more convenient for England, all manner of agencies would base themselves in Cardiff. Since then it’s been a drip-drip effect.
Devolution should have ‘evened things out’, but instead it’s made them worse, and not just for Swansea but for every part of Wales other than Cardiff. It used to be said – I heard it back in the 1970s – that devolution would simply give us ‘Glamorgan County Council on stilts’. Devolution has actually given us Cardiff City Council on steroids.
The reason devolution has failed ninety per cent of Wales economically is that concentrating everything in Cardiff has made it easier for bodies concerned only with Cardiff to influence decisions for Wales. For example, I guarantee that the denizens of the Cardiff and County Club have more influence on the economic life of Swansea than Swansea council and all the politicians the Swansea region sends to Cardiff Bay and Westminster combined. And that influence is malign.
And Swansea has no independent voice to speak up for her. The Evening Post, once Wales’s biggest selling daily ‘paper (it may still be), is now printed in England and censored in Cardiff, and losing readers fast; partly because it refuses to criticise the Labour Party, whether in County Hall or Cardiff Bay.
And all the while, thanks to this combination of Labour ineptitude, the lack of an effective media, and Cardiff pushing to become a major provincial city on a par with Bristol or Leeds, Swansea and the rest of the country must pay the price.
Poor old Swansea!
♦ end ♦
UPDATE 15.03.2019: From today’s Western Mail. BBC Radio Wales is dropping Mal Pope of Swansea from its schedules and it looks as if it’s also closing the historic Alexandra Road studios from where Dylan Thomas broadcast.
It may be Hallowe’en but you’ll find no ghosties or ghoulies here, just the usual parade of grotesques and exhibitions of idiocy and cupidity that haunt modern Wales. Night and day. All year round.
Seeing as I haven’t put anything out for over a week this is a bumper issue, around 4,000 words, but there’s no single, linking theme other than the sheer fuckedupedness of Wales. I have, as old Nennius said, ‘made a heap of things’. On the plus side, because this is a meal made up of a number of courses, you can take your time.
And if kids come knocking on your door, demanding money with menaces, set the dog on them.
THE OLIVE TRUST
In the previous post, Hate Crime, I told you about the insults aimed at me by Denise Kingsley-Acton, a very strange woman currently domiciled in Kidwelly. A very strange woman indeed. That anyone takes her seriously is difficult to believe, but if they do it may be due to the fact that she has a ‘minder’ in the form of Swansea Labour councillor for 43 years, and now Alderman, Alan Lloyd.
While Lloyd obviously opens doors for Denise Kingsley-Acton, it’s difficult to see what he gets out of it. But being a former Labour councillor we can be sure that he’s not acting as her guide and guarantor for altruistic reasons.
Since posting that piece last week a bit more information has come to light, some of which was added as an update, some of which will be fresh.
You no doubt shared my astonishment that this woman had been given a grant to educate young people about hate crimes. According to her Facebook page she had received a grant from the “Police Commissioner for Dafed (sic) Powys”. So I wrote to the PCC.
The initial response from the office of the PCC said, “The Police and Crime Commissioner has not awarded a grant to the Olive Trust. The grant was awarded from the Safer Dyfed-Powys Diogelach charity, to which the Commissioner is a trustee.”
After a follow-up e-mail I was told, again from the office of the PCC, “The grant was awarded to the Olive Trust as an organisation and it was for £1000.” The wording suggests that we should regard the Olive Trust as something unconnected with Denise Kingsley-Acton, when in fact she is the Olive Trust, and the Olive Trust is her.
I’m still waiting to hear if the grant offer has been withdrawn.
The latest entry on the Olive Trust Facebook page is shown below.
Denise Kingsley-Acton says I have harassed her “continually for many years”. The truth is that in 2012 I wrote about her attempt to screw £1,000,000 out of the Wales European Funding Office. There was a passing reference in September 2014, before two pieces about her in March this year after someone had drawn my attention to an article in Llanelli Online.
That was it, until the bizarre and slanderous allegations that came out of the blue on October 19. Had I not received those insults it’s unlikely I would have written about her ever again.
But if I learn that the Olive Trust or Denise Kingsley-Acton is trying to rip off the public purse, again; or if she posts slanders about me, again; then I shall write about her, again. And that’s a promise.
Mumbles and its pier is close to my heart. I can remember as a young boy riding the old Mumbles Train that used to clatter along the seafront.
In my early teens I spent many happy hours, whole days even, fishing. We’d usually cycle down, fishing rods strapped to our crossbars, bags on our backs containing tackle, bait, sandwiches (which often got mixed up).
At the pier we’d follow the tide out, which meant, once the two top bars of the safety rail around the eastern ‘well’ on the intermediate level became visible, working our way along, standing on the middle bar and holding tight onto the top one with one hand while holding our rod in the other, with bag on back, until we reached the far side, so that the fast ebbing tide could take our lines. And as the tide ebbed further the death-defying stunt was repeated on the bottom level.
I look back at what we did then and I wonder how we survived. Because anyone falling into the ‘well’ would either have been trapped under the floor and drowned, or else been taken out to sea so fast that they would have been lost unless a nearby boat could have reached them quickly.
From home to pier was a seven-mile ride, which was great on the first leg, partly because we were fresh and partly because it was downhill into town and then flat along the Mumbles Road. Coming home after a day’s fishing the pedals would always be heavier, especially if there were no nice fish to show your mam.
As an older teenager I did the Mumbles Mile on a Saturday night. Often after watching the Swans. We’d come out of the Vetch, have a bite to eat in a little caff we used in Wind Street, wash and brush up in one of those old public conveniences with an attendant, then catch the bus (was it the 77?) to Mumbles – White Rose, Pilot, Prince of Wales, Antelope . . . before walking home, which with diversions and digressions might mean getting home in time for breakfast
But then, I’m sure Mumbles and the pier plays a role in the life of anyone from Swansea and the wider area.
So it’s understandable why there is such interest in the proposed development. Now I shan’t comment on the development itself because it’s complicated – obstruction of views, etc – and I don’t have the space here, but there are a few points worth raising.
Someone we’ve encountered on this blog more than once is Lawrence Bailey, former leader of the local Labour Party, former Lord Mayor, and of course leader of the council. Or, rather, he was fulfilling these roles when he could tear himself away from his real interest of pornography. For which he was awarded the coveted Private Eye Pornographer of the Year award.
He also used to write to the Evening Post as Phyllis Evans of Cwmrhydyceirw, Disgusted of Dunvant, and a host of others who all seemed to support the Labour Party. Fancy! It seems likely that the Beans on Toast was complicit in this deception.
After these unfortunate revelations Bailey resigned from the council and branched out into public relations with a company called Whiterock, which first came to my attention when ‘Stan’ pointed out that this outfit was receiving regular payments from the dike-bashing MP for Swansea East, Carolyn Harris.
(Who, let’s be brutally honest, needs all the image-massaging she can get.)
Bailey seems to have used the Whiterock name for some time before registering it with Companies House in August 2015. Nothing else was ever filed with Companies House and Whiterock-Wales was dissolved in January 2017.
This is something I come across regularly, many different but similar names designed solely to confuse. So tell us, Lawrence, what is the name of your company and is it registered? Nobody’ll care if you’re just a one-man band. We all know you enjoy your own company.
Of course, Bailey’s big attraction for any potential client is that he knows the local Labour Party, he’s another like Lloyd who can open doors. So it should surprise no one to learn that he is representing owners Ameco who are hoping to make many millions of pounds from luxury housing in the vicinity of the pier as the ransom price for renovating the pier itself.
There was a meeting a couple of months back between the developers and the council, or at least, the council leader, Rob Stewart. Someone sent me a link to a secretly-filmed video, which I can no longer find, but fortunately I took a few screen grabs which you can see below.
Stewart is the one in the dark suit and Bailey is the grey-headed geezer.
This is all run-of-the-mill stuff for a Labour council, but now protesters are arguing something very odd may have happened around the time the outline planning application (2010/1451) was received by the council on 17 September, 2010.
This was during a period when the city was enjoying a respite from Labour rule with a Lib Dem-led alliance in charge. Which of course meant that Bailey’s political connections would have counted for naught.
What’s being suggested is that during a process of digitisation in 2010, by the council’s officers, the boundary of the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was moved so that the land on which the housing development is now planned was somehow moved outside the AONB. Here’s a BBC report.
Now if this suggestion is true, then it could scupper the whole development. If the boundary change was deliberate rather than error, then who might be responsible? Names of people – who may or may not be connected with Lawrence y Garreg Wen – carry on zephyrs wafting up from Mumbles.
Anyone with information is welcome to get in touch, with the usual guarantee of anonymity. Either use the contact box in the sidebar or write to email@example.com.
UPDATE 03.11.2018: The whole thing has now been put on hold by the ‘Welsh’ Government. It seems Swansea council has the power to refuse planning permission but it does not have the power to grant planning permission.
UPDATE 07.11.2018: In a strange twist, Swansea council’s planning committee has unanimously voted to approve the scheme. Does this mean that the Labour Party in Swansea is starting to stand up to London’s management team in Cardiff? Does it suggest that opponents of the scheme may not be as representative of the wider public as they might like to believe?
A LITTLE PLACE IN THE WEST
You may recall that the chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, Mark Vincent James, has a keen personal interest in property, with properties of his own in Cardiff Bay. I wrote about this in Baywatch and Baywatch 2.
Now I learn that he is branching out with a company called Cartrefi Croeso Cyfyngedig (CCC, geddit?) This report from 6 June tells us, among other things, that, “The council is the sole shareholder in Cartrefi Croeso, which will have five directors – two council officers, one councillor and two external appointees.”
As I say, that was early June, here we are at the end of October and according to Companies House there are just two directors, both employees of the council, and therefore answerable to Mark James not the elected representatives. But James’s hold over this new company doesn’t end there.
So we now have a company, Cartrefi Croeso Cyf, using public money, run by people answerable only to Mark James, but with no democratic accountability whatsoever. What the hell is the Plaid Cymru-led council doing?
A regular source whose judgement I trust reminds me that Cartrefi Croeso is another arms-length company of the kind that Mark James seems to favour as a way of running and controlling things without having to worry about answering to those who pay his salary. Or anyone else.
Another such company is CWM Environmental Ltd. (Carmarthenshire Waste Management.) Something similar has happened to social care, and leisure services will be next. While looming at Delta Lakes is the Wellness Centre Village, where the lame shall be made to walk, one-eyed Scarlets’ supporters will be blessed with 20/20 vision . . . and some shifty buggers will make a fortune from the public purse thanks to Mark Vincent James.
From the perspective of a man like Mark James setting up private companies run by his placemen offers many advantages. Like some Mafia don he controls things but his underlings take any flak. Being private companies they are not subject to Freedom of Information requests (as they would be as in-house council departments). And of course rules on the use of the Welsh language do not apply.
It is quite amazing how, in a Western democracy, the employee of a public body can take over that body and run it as if it were some private company he had created himself! Which would be bad enough, but neither the elected representatives of those that employ him, nor the superior level of government that should be holding him to account, are prepared to do anything!
But as I keep saying, Wales has more in common with the third world than with Western Europe: Poverty, colonialism, exploitation, colonisation, widespread corruption, no oversight and monitoring of public officials and public bodies, etc., etc.
A FAIT ACCOMPLI
Midnight yesterday was the deadline for submissions in a consultation process launched on July 10 about the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) to farmers. It’s been pretty clear for some time that the whole issue is being controlled from London and that the management team in Cardiff docks is simply doing what it’s told, and saying what it’s told to say.
Though in fairness it was all play-acting, for his masters had decided the outcome long in advance. The showboating and the bluster, the trips to Edinburgh, the ‘strong words’ for Mrs May’s government, were designed to placate a certain audience that in Wales often seems to care more about the EU than it does about Wales.
As a direct consequence of the Labour management team agreeing that the London Government could effectively withdraw BPS we now face the destruction of Welsh upland farming, together with the jobs, plus the language and the culture, farming sustains.
But this has little to do directly with Brexit, for if Carwyn Jones had not surrendered powers to London Welsh farmers could be receiving the same treatment as their Scottish counterparts, who have been guaranteed the continuation of the Basic Payment Scheme.
The sad little mouthpieces of the collaborationist regime in Cardiff docks, are reading from scripts prepared for them by civil servants like those you see above, one of whom has been heard to say that he hates farmers! Making it clear that Welsh farmers are to be forced from their land to make way for more English settlers. I wrote about it in The Welsh Clearances.
I can hear the objections – ‘But you misrepresent the proposals, Jac!’ Do I? Let the readers decide.
Funding is to be withdrawn from farmers and given to environmentalists, ‘re-wilders’ and others without whose help Mother Nature would simply give up and go home. The losers will almost all be Welsh, while the winners will be overwhelmingly English, but we’re expected to believe that this is pure coincidence.
Though it must be said, that over many years there have been some people (especially in Plaid Cymru) who have been very supportive of this replacement population. In fact, some seem to have identified more strongly with incoming ‘environmentalists’ than with their own people.
While Remain fanatics argue that farmers have brought it on themselves by voting for Brexit. Ignoring the fact that this is a decision taken by the London government using Brexit as a pretext.
Wake up! This is undisguised colonialism. Taking land off the natives is what our masters are good at, they’ve been doing it for centuries. That so much Welsh land is still in Welsh hands is an affront to everyone in whose veins runs the blood of pith-helmeted district officers and their crinolined memsahibs.
THE DISASTER OF DEVOLUTION
Reading this blog can I’m told be both entertaining and informative, but often depressing. (It’s the same writing it, but I take my ‘medicine’.) While things at the moment may look more depressing than usual I’m strangely – perhaps perversely – encouraged by recent developments.
First, the crushing defeat dished out to Leanne Wood in the Plaid Cymru leadership election made her acolytes realise how little support there is for niche politics. And if there is little support within Plaid Cymru for such nonsense then there’s even less support in the wider population. But then, when you debate issues in echo chambers you can persuade yourself that everybody is discussing what you and a tiny group of friends think is important.
That said, I can’t see Plaid Cymru getting its act together over the longer term. It will fall back into its old ways, because despite being a minority, the niche left knows how to inveigle itself into positions of influence and authority, and to intimidate others into silence. The ‘nationalists’ will have to reach some compromise with LW’s supporters.
Which means that eventually, a new party will be needed to prioritise the needs and interests of Welsh people while working towards the independent state that alone can permanently safeguard those needs and interests. Ein Gwlad already exists, and will grow into that role.
Looking at the wider picture it should now be obvious that devolution is a sham. But worse than being a sham, devolution, and the existence of a ‘Welsh’ Government, allows the UK government to get away with things that might have been very difficult without devolution.
Let’s take a few very recent examples to explain what I mean.
THE FLINT RING
This ‘initiative’ came from Cadw, which is just English Heritage West, ensuring a ‘safe’ and acceptable interpretation of Welsh history. That being so, we can be sure that the Flint Ring idea originated over the border.
To give an example of how Cadw operates I’ll go back a couple of years to something I found on its website. Cadw was promoting, “It’s 1295 and peace reigns in Caernarfon”, before going on to paint a picture of English soldiers flirting with Welsh maids. (Yes, honestly!)
The truth is of course that in 1294/5 Wales was in rebellion, and Caernarfon Castle was taken by Madog ap Llywelyn’s men. Any English soldiers still in the castle would either have been lying dead somewhere or, if they were lucky, languishing in the dungeons.
After I put out a tweet Cadw immediately took the page down. But why did the body entrusted with interpreting and presenting Welsh history get it so wrong, giving out a picture of Welsh and English living happily together in conquered Wales, us Welsh not at all resentful?
Shit! I’ve just answered my own question.
Interpreting a colonial people’s history is fundamental to maintaining a hold over that people. This is Cadw’s role in Wales. (And of course, ensuring that no Welsh are employed at our castles and other monuments.)
Far easier to do this with a Welsh name and the pretence that Cadw is an agency of a ‘Welsh’ Government.
PRINCE OF WALES BRIDGE
Yes, I know, this was announced by Alun Cairns, Conservative Secretary of State for Wales, but Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones was involved from very early on, and to a considerable degree Jones’s approval was used to justify the whole thing. A kind of joint enterprise, sharing the blame.
Had the naming been imposed directly from London there would have been far more opposition, maybe even from within the Labour Party. Devolution served to confuse what was a clear, colonialist imposition.
This was another clear, colonialist imposition. But because the ‘Welsh’ Government, and Natural Resources Wales were so co-operative, and so devious about their involvement, it served to confuse the picture. It left those objecting uncertain who to blame.
Which, again, could not have happened without the ‘shield’ of devolution.
The ‘M4 improvements’ is a long-running saga.
‘Business’ believes that the M4 must be upgraded to do away with bottlenecks and speed up travel between England and Cardiff. Most politicians seem to agree.
Late in 2013 the UK/English government gave the ‘Welsh’ government power to borrow up to £1bn to spend on the M4. On Monday we learnt from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there was now an extra £300m available, but only if it is spent on the M4.
Huffing and puffing, millionaire socialist contender for the purely figurehead positions of leader of the English Labour Party in Wales and First Minister, Mark Drakefraud, insisted it was up to AMs how the money was spent.
Small but perfectly formed SoS Alun Cairns retorted by saying that the ‘Welsh’ Government had asked for the money specifically for the M4. ‘Liar’ liar, pants on fire!’ shouted Drakefraud, at which point the exchange got too highbrow for this simple old Swansea Jack.
The bottom line is that improving the M4 will help England far more than Wales because improving communications to peripheral regions invariably works against those peripheral regions. It means what makes them attractive can be reached easier and what makes such regions valuable can shipped out faster.
If the M4 ‘improvements’ go ahead jobs will be lost because it will be easier to serve ‘South Wales’ from depots and offices in England, but Wales’s cheaper homes will be brought within reach of more English commuters to Bristol and the Thames Valley.
What the A55 has done for the north on a bigger scale.
How much easier it is to perpetrate this con with the help of a ‘Welsh’ Government that can’t see beyond Cardiff – and then get the silly buggers to put the whole country in debt to pay for it! Self-financing colonialism.
Just imagine no devolution, and the UK government saying it wanted to upgrade the M4 but that Welsh local authorities were going to pay for it.
UPDATE: On the very day this post appeared this letter was published in the Western Mail. I have no idea who David Gwyn Watts of Milford Haven is, but he’s right. (Though I think the Letters Editor went a bit overboard with ‘doom’.)
As you’ve read above, Welsh farmers will be forced from their land in a policy worthy of comparison with Clearances or ethnic cleansing. The orders come from London. Civil servants answering to London will implement the strategy in Wales. And Welsh politicians will pretend it’s their policy out of a combination of vanity, congenital deviousness, and contempt for those who’ll suffer.
If a government minister had stood up in the House of Commons and said, ‘Her Majesty’s Government plans to clear Welsh farmers from their ancestral land and replace them with English environmentalists, ‘re-wilders’ and the like’, there would have been uproar in Wales. There would have been demonstrations, riots even.
But no, get some stupid woman in Cardiff to pretend it’s a decision of her ‘government’ and it confuses the natives. Use devolution as a ‘screen’ and as with the Flint Ring, and The PoW Bridge, and the toxic mud, and the M4 money, and a host of other damaging schemes, we won’t know who’s really to blame, and who we should be attacking.
This confusion can only arise because of devolution. And because of the way London uses devolution, and because of the way our politicians allow devolution to be used. Strip away devolution and we’ll see colonialism for what it really is.
Forget the comforting bollocks about devolution being a ‘badge of nationhood’. Welsh nationhood is being destroyed behind the façade of devolution. Devolution is a Trojan horse.
I predict with certainty that if there is another Tryweryn or another Investiture, it will be presented as a decision of our wonderful ‘Welsh’ Government, and because of that, it will be accepted by more Welsh people than if it had come in the form of a diktat from London.
If we had a vote to abolish the Assembly, I would vote to abolish. And I wouldn’t need to think twice about it.
On Tuesday, February 6th, there will be a by-election in the Alyn and Deeside constituency following the death of sitting Assembly Member Carl Sargeant of the Labour Party.
The facts in the public domain are that on November 7th last year Sargeant took his own life four days after being forced to step down from his post of Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children. This was linked with allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct.
The death and the circumstances surrounding it have been covered extensively, but with the ‘Welsh’ media being its usual cowardly self when honest reporting carries any risk of annoying the Labour Party. Fortunately, there are other sources who can not be intimidated by the bruvvers.
Then, news of Sargeant’s sacking was leaked to a number of quarters in the media and elsewhere before he himself had met with Carwyn Jones. Again, the finger points to the First Minister’s staff.
Due to the circumstances of his death Sargeant post mortem has been turned into something of a saint, and a victim. So it may be time to put the record straight.
THERE’S BULLIES AND THERE’S BULLIES
First, let’s look at the allegations of ‘bullying’.
I find it difficult to believe that Kiernan or anyone else on Carwyn Jones’s staff could physically bully a burly individual like Carl Sargeant, so what we are talking about here is almost certainly something different. I suggest that it was psychological pressure or mind games, with which an unsophisticated man like Sargeant was ill-equipped to deal.
From what I know of him he was very much Old Labour, of the Labour Club rather than the bistro, mushy peas rather than guacamole. Which makes it no surprise to learn that his home town of Connah’s Quay has a fine example of such an establishment.
The sort of place where the ‘made men’ of the local Labour Party hang out, to be approached by supplicants seeking advice, or a favour (or maybe asking to have somebody whacked). Where for every ideologically committed party member you will find three or four who are in the locally dominant party in order to boost their standing in the community, while bringing in a little extra money.
Ah! those Labour clubs of yore – where are they now? Gone, most of them, thank God. Which makes Connah’s Quay something of a throwback, a curiosity. And this I think accounts for Carl Sargeant’s problems with Carwyn Jones’ back-room staff who, if not New Labour, were certainly less antediluvian than the denizens of Connah’s Quay Labour Club with whom Sargeant was familiar.
No doubt what these sophisticates did qualifies as ‘bullying’ (what doesn’t nowadays?) but it might have been no more than a few clever and devious people being nasty to a man they viewed as a dinosaur. They may even have seen it as a game.
Unless of course they choose to employ the Nuremberg Defence by arguing that they were only obeying orders.
THE MAN HIMSELF
From the information I’ve received I’m prepared now to say that despite what many want us to believe, Carl Sargeant was no saint.
One incident of bullying that’s been reported has Sargeant’s hand on an intern’s throat with the intern pinned to a wall and Sargeant screaming at him. The crime? – getting Sargeant’s lunch order wrong.
He is said to have been in a relationship with a woman running a very prominent women’s organisation; an organisation that received a grant not unadjacent to £400,000. When she ended the relationship Sargeant made life difficult for her.
There were other relationships, a number with civil servants, who left their jobs at some cost to the public purse.
One source told me of great mirth among Flintshire councillors when Sargeant’s wife found out about his swordsmanship and to pacify her he had to shell out on a cruise.
Less funny are persistent rumours of dodgy procurement deals that are said to have somehow benefited Sargeant’s extended family and friends. It’s even rumoured that BBC Wales was investigating these allegations until the Labour Party took out an injunction.
Most civil servants are mystified by Sargeant’s beatification, for his department had the highest absence and sickness rates, with two senior civil servants taking early retirement, again, at some cost to the public purse.
It’s even been suggested that Sargeant was stitched up because Carwyn Jones wished to clear a path for his anointed successor, Vaughan – ‘I’m black, I am’ – Gething. Though it now looks as if the timing of his own departure may no longer be in the First Minister’s hands.
And yet, despite his many failings, I am assured that the final allegations made against Carl Sargeant, those that got him sacked, and perhaps led to his suicide, were fabricated.
THOSE IN THE SHADOWS
Given that Jo Kiernan was long gone from Carwyn Jones’ office when Sargeant was dismissed she was unlikely to have leaked the news . . . but may still have been involved.
For after leaving the employ of our Beloved Leader she betook herself unto Deryn Consulting, where she must have felt right at home among schemers and plotters just like herself, almost all of them with political experience and therefore a great interest in events in the Bay.
The word in the corridors and conference rooms is that the whispering campaign against Sargeant continued when Kiernan teamed up with Deryn (which might suggest that her antipathy was personal as well as – or rather than – political). He reciprocated by refusing to employ Deryn.
But Deryn wields (or used to wield) considerable political clout, and perhaps Sargeant underestimated his adversary, for few now doubt that Deryn was instrumental in his downfall, with some singling Cathy Owens out for special mention.
Guido Fawkes tells us, “Cathy Owens, head of Deryn and herself a former special adviser who was embroiled in an earlier bullying scandal, took to the BBC in the days before Carl’s death to allege sexual harassment from an unnamed politician. She pointedly did not rule out Sargeant from her unsupported allegations as part of a concerted campaign to try and humiliate and discredit him.”
If the name Deryn rings a bell it’s because it’s the same company that has been involved in trying to destroy both the reputation and the political career of Assembly Member Neil McEvoy. I wrote about it just over a week ago in Plaid Cymru and the defenestration of Neil McEvoy.
I regard Deryn as a very dangerous organisation: A danger to democracy, and a threat to people’s faith in politics. That Deryn is so influential is indicative of how in less than twenty years devolution has been corrupted.
THE SON ALSO RISES
And now we face a by-election on Tuesday to elect another Assembly Member for Alyn and Deeside.
As the name suggests, the constituency straddles Afon Dyfrdwy and runs east to the border and Chester, while also running south to Llay, Gwersyllt and Coedpoeth on the outskirts of Wrecsam.
I’ve always thought of the northern section as a rather bleak and characterless area, unattractive industrial towns and dormitory communities, the western edge of the Cheshire Plain, somewhere to pass through on the way to somewhere else.
But there you go, that’s just the opinion of someone lucky enough to have been born and raised in a city of hills and beaches.
Given the short time frame between the death and the by-election, further shortened by the Christmas and New Year holiday, plus the circumstances occasioning the by-election, Labour may have had little alternative but to choose Carl Sargeant’s son, Jack.
And it might have seemed like a wise choice.
For young Jack offers everything: ‘You want to vote Labour – vote for young Jack Sargeant’. ‘You want to give Labour a gentle kicking for the way they treated poor old Carl – vote for his son, Jack’. This is bloody clever, worthy of Baldrick. Let’s hope it gangs agley like the schemes of Blackadder’s dogsbody.
My advice to the voters of Alyn and Deeside is this. If you want to show your anger at the unnecessary death of Carl Sargeant then don’t vote for the party instrumental in his death. Don’t vote Labour.
Of course, you may believe what young Jack says about going down to Cardiff Bay and getting the truth about what happened to his father. If so, just think about that for a minute. If they were too much for Carl Sargeant then they’ll eat the boy alive. So again, Don’t vote Labour.
Think of young Jack and put his welfare first – Don’t vote Labour.
I’ve mentioned Deryn and the treatment meted out to both Carl Sargeant and Neil McEvoy, so I hope you’re getting the message. Cardiff Bay – and here I include politicians, advisers, lobbyists, third sector parasites – is now a national disgrace, an embarrassment to us all.
Not only is it corrupt to its stinking core but it has cost us billions of pounds as money has been diverted to unworthy causes because those getting the money are well connected, or because they’re shagging so-and-so. Yes, there is to be an investigation into how the case was handled by Carwyn Jones, but I’m not holding my breath because ‘investigations’ down there reveal nothing.
Wales is now the poorest country in Europe, and the most corrupt. And it can all be traced back to the Labour Party and Cardiff Bay. Is there something in the air? Because even before we had devolution Cardiff Bay gave us the biggest case of corruption in Welsh history. I wrote about it here in Corruption Bay.
There have always been sound economic and other arguments for moving the Assembly out of Cardiff, preferably to somewhere more central like Aberystwyth or Llandrindod. If we did that then investment and jobs would be far more likely to be spread fairly around the country.
Not only that, but if we moved the Assembly then other investment would surely follow, such as road and rail communications. Allowing our Assembly Members to jump on a train and be home in a couple of hours.
For Cardiff Bay is detached from the city and even more isolated from the country it claims to serve. It has become a world unto itself, with its own mores, its own distorted standards, all of which are damaging Wales.
Had he not been exposed to the temptations of Sodom-in-the-Bay poor Carl Sargeant would be downing a pint this weekend in Connah’s Quay Labour Club, and the voters of Alyn and Deeside wouldn’t be voting on Tuesday.
Cardiff Bay killed Carl Sargeant.
♦ end ♦
UPDATE 08.02.2018: In one of the most bizarre election results in recent Welsh history Jack Sargeant was elected as the new Assembly Member for Alyn and Deeside. Thanks to the untimely death of his father he was able to increase Labour’s majority over that gained by his father in 2016.
We now wait to see whether he falls into line as a loyal AM to leader Carwyn Jones, or whether he keeps to his promise to get at the truth about his father’s suspension. If it’s the latter then the Labour Party in Wales, and certain semi-detached ‘helpers’ it has used, such as lobbyists and third sector bodies, could be in for a rocky spell.
Llais y Sais (Voice of the English) is an alternative name for our much-reviled and laughingly self-styled ‘National Newspaper of Wales’. It’s readership has plummeted over the years and I think it’s now down to me and some old bird in Ponty.
Yes, I still read it, but then, I’m a masochist; I have to be to stay in Wales and witness the idiocy, duplicity and corruption at all levels of our national life. What’s more, as a blogger, I feel it’s my duty to read it so that you may be spared, with me bringing you the occasional report here or on Twitter. (God! the things I do for you.)
Today is your lucky day because I’m going to give you four stories from today’s issue. So relax, and enjoy.
First up is a strange little story about someone complaining that a Santa Claus couldn’t speak Welsh. Does this really merit half a page?
As I suggest, this is a curious non-story designed to get the likes of Jacques Protic and Clements of Llangyfelach pounding their keyboards. It’s news value is zero, especially weeks after Christmas, which makes it nothing more than a ‘Welsh bastards!’ story designed to suggest intolerance or extremism on the part of Welsh speakers.
Which makes it entirely predictable that this ‘story’ originated with English Heritage West (aka Cadw) and ended up in Llais y Sais.
‘A BIGOT WRITES . . . ‘
It would be easy to dismiss this reader’s letter from today’s issue as more bigot fodder . . . but it comes from a bigot.
If I’m reading this letter correctly, then Dennis Coughlin believes that ‘Welsh’ Labour’s undemocratic internal processes are there to keep in power “dominant quasi-nationalists whose raison d’etre is to placate those of a direct lineage to the sons of Owen Glendower”. He seems to hate things Welsh so much that he can’t even bring himself to write Owain Glyndŵr.
As if that wasn’t enough, in his final paragraph he goes on to accuse these ‘quasi-nationalists’ of racism, for there’s no other way to interpret his reference to skin colour.
And yet, this idiot does represent traditional Labour in Wales – the anti-Welsh Labour Party of George Thomas and Neil Kinnock. That party we’d hoped was behind us . . . but maybe it’s just been biding its time.
Is he a member of the Labour Party, and if so, will he be disciplined? And why did Llais y Sais publish such a disgraceful, anti-Welsh smear?
Out of curiosity I Googled ‘Dennis Coughlin’, and came up with this letter, published by Llais y Sais on January 8th. This man clearly has a problem with the Welsh language. Rather than pander to it maybe Llais y Sais should have a word with his family.
And not publish any more bigoted garbage like the two letters it’s published this week from Dennis Coughlin.
TAX AND SPEND
A regular columnist in Llais y Sais is economist Dylan Jones-Evans. I read him with no great enthusiasm but it helps pass the time. In today’s piece he again attacked the possibility – no more at this stage – of the ‘Welsh’ Government introducing a tourism tax.
Some of what he’s written deserves comment.
As you may know, I support a tourism tax because I would like to see the money raised spent on those areas suffering excessive levels of tourism. I live in such an area and I know that the great majority of local people see no benefit from tourism.
Worse, they are disadvantaged in a number of ways: tourism provides low skill, low pay and often seasonal employment; tourism results in people wanting to settle, which leads to higher house prices and, due to the age profile of these immigrants, increased strain on our NHS and other services; tourism also results in Anglicisation; then we have the issues of traffic congestion, environmental degradation, waste, etc.
So if we are to have a tourism tax then I would want to see the revenue collected used to alleviate some of these problems, perhaps by helping local young people get on the housing ladder.
But Dylan Jones-Evans questions if the revenue from a tourist tax, “will really go towards improving the tourism facilities as promised”. Promised by whom? What is the point of levying a tax on tourism only to put it straight back into tourism?
Any tourism tax in Wales must be compensatory or it’s not worth bothering.
Elsewhere he tells us that “the tourism industry generates nearly £9bn for the economy and supports around 242,000 jobs”. Which if nothing else, reminds us that when it comes to tourism figures can be plucked out of thin air, because there is no independent source for figures on tourism and no trustworthy verification.
Perhaps it came from some body run by tourism operators, which looks at towns like Llandudno and Tenby, or areas like Snowdonia and Gower, and concludes that everyone working there must be involved in tourism. Deceitful and deliberately misleading.
And the same can be said for the figure of £9bn.
‘AS LONG AS HE’S FROM CARDIFF’
As you probably know, I’m a football fan. Obviously I support the Swans and Wales, but I also watch games involving other clubs and countries. In this year’s World Cup I shall again be supporting Argentina, though I had hoped to be swearing at the telly wearing red, but a combination of bad luck and cynical Irish tactics put paid to that prospect.
So football coverage is one reason I buy Llais y Sais, though even this is marred by the contributions of Paul Abbandonato, ‘Head of Sport’, no less. But I should be used to it because I remember when that shyster Sam Hammam took over Cardiff City Abbandonato went into overdrive using photos of the National Stadium and insisting that Cardiff City would soon need to play there because they’d be entertaining the likes of Barcelona.
Hammam it was who played his role in Swans-Bluebirds relations by insisting that Swans’ fans should switch their allegiance to Cardiff City. And Abbandonato lapped it up. Abbandonato is not just biased towards the football club, he’s something of a Cardiff nationalist, singing from the ‘Welsh’ media’s Cardiff über Alles song sheet.
Today’s contribution from Abbandonato was in keeping with all that has preceded it except that it wasn’t a report or a preview of a game, instead it was an attempt to influence a decision soon to be made by the Football Association of Wales.
As far as Abbandonato is concerned the FAW’s decision is between Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy, there’s nobody else in the frame.
Though if you read the article there is – given its subject matter – one glaring lacuna, and that is that despite bigging up his favourites he has nothing to say about their experience. Because quite simply they have none. Which means that Abbandonato wants our national football team to be managed by a man with no experience and for no better reason than that he comes from Cardiff.
But there are other considerations, especially with Giggs. To begin with, I don’t think most fans would accept him due to his reluctance to turn out for the national team when selected (which he has blamed on his manager at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson).
But then there’s a question mark over what kind of a man he is. I’m referring now to his eight-year affair with his brother Rhodri’s wife, which seems to have taken its toll on his brother. Do we really want such a man in charge of our national football team, and impressionable young men?
I believe that following the performance of our national team in Euro 2016 the FAW could aim a bit higher and get a top coach, someone with experience. So I urge the FAW not to be swayed by Abbandonato and the Cardiff lobby and to cast the net wider, find an experienced coach and a man we can all respect.
UPDATE 16.01.2017: And lo! it came to pass as predicted that the selection committee empowered by the FAW did appoint the aforementioned Ryan Giggs as the new manager of our national football team. The media was forced to admit that the news was not welcomed by all Welsh fans but tried to play down the hostility.
Unfortunately for the BBC it ran a poll which showed that only a minority thought it was a good decision. And this, remember, was on the UK BBC website, which means that a lot of Manchester United fans would have voted ‘Yes’ for a club legend. Which tells us that most Welsh fans oppose the decision.
So there you are, I’ve reminded you why you no longer read Llais y Sais – I bet you’re glad!
Before you start, let me warn you that this is quite a long piece, it’s long because it deals with the fundamental problems of devolution, and explains why devolution has resulted in Wales becoming poorer.
Though you can console yourselves with the knowledge that unless some bastards really annoy me between now and Hogmanay this will be my last posting of 2017.
Here’s how devolution makes Wales poorer, with a few of the consequences:
Fundamentally, devolution makes Wales poorer due to the way devolution is funded
A problem exacerbated by separate legislation and funding allowing England to impose burdens on Wales that would be impossible without devolution
That said, Wales being poor suits the interests of the Labour Party, which blames others for the state of Wales while exploiting the poverty for electoral gain and to build a crony empire
As there is no party or alliance of parties capable of breaking Labour’s stranglehold Wales is condemned to ever-worsening poverty
With devolution being so disastrous for Wales we are left with only two realistic alternatives: independence or being treated more fairly as part of England
I shall deal with all of the above points but not necessarily separately (or even in that order) because of linkages that I hope become clear.
There is no question that Wales is worse off today than when we had the first elections to the Welsh Assembly in May 1999. The evidence is everywhere, and not only is the Wales of 2017 poorer than the Wales of 1999, we are also poorer relative to other parts of the UK than we were in 1999, and falling further behind every year.
It doesn’t really matter which index you use – GVA, GDP, wages, child poverty – the picture painted is the same. (While our GVA may have grown faster than the other countries of the UK in recent years that growth seems to be restricted to Cardiff.)
Note that it admits, “The figures vary slightly every year, but in 2012-2013 Northern Ireland got the most – £10,876 per head. Scotland got £10,152 per head and Wales, despite being much poorer, got £9,709.” (My underline.)
So we see that, to begin with, Wales is disadvantaged in the allocation of funding, but it gets worse. For in the article we also read, “Some argue a needs-based system – which would take into account factors such as the age of the population and levels of poverty – would be a fairer formula.”
The importance of the reference to “the age of the population” will be explained in a minute.
Now in any normal country this deteriorating situation might have resulted in a change of government, if not social upheaval, but this is Wales and such things never happen, partly because there’s a scapegoat. For since 2010 there’s been a Conservative government in London, and so for ‘Welsh’ Labour and its little helper it’s all the fault of them wicked Tories.
But Wales had been in decline since the beginning of the devolution era, and from 1999 until 2010 there was a Labour government in London, first led by Tony Blair and then by Gordon Brown. So did Labour and Plaid Cymru blame ‘London’ then? Well, obviously, Labour didn’t, and Plaid’s criticism was usually muted, certainly after the palace coup that removed leader Dafydd Wigley in 2000 (after he’d led his party to its greatest electoral success), and also during the Labour-Plaid coalition of 2007 – 2011.
To reverse this decline would require radical change, but ‘Welsh’ Labour is as afraid of radical change as the stone throwers of Saudi Arabia; for Labour in Wales is a very conservative party. It wants things to stay the same because the status quo serves its interests, with no change countenanced unless it can benefit the party.
The other consideration is that change of a radical nature, i.e. Wales doing things for itself, to benefit itself, might unleash demons that could inflame a hitherto resigned populace with ideas of Welsh competence. Clearly, a dangerous road to take for a party that, when it comes to the relationship with England, may be viewed as the DUP without the bowlers and the sashes.
To understand Plaid Cymru you need to know that Plaid today is a bound-for-oblivion alliance of a socially conservative rural grass-roots with a leadership stratum made up of ‘progressives’ fighting UK-wide or even global battles against the forces of darkness.
While Trump is president, Brexit looms, the globe warms, the right marches in Freedonia, and Wales lacks transgender toilets in every coffee shop, Wales is too small and too poor to interest such ‘progressives’.
I’ve said that Wales will never prosper under devolution, but in the heading to this article I suggest that devolution by its very nature is partly responsible for our decline. So let me explain.
Fundamentally, devolution has made it easier for England to impose financial and other burdens on us that would have been almost impossible prior to 1999. This has inevitably contributed to our decline.
In that article from the BBC Northern Ireland website that I used you read, regarding the Barnett Formula, the suggestion that, “a needs-based system – which would take into account factors such as the age of the population and levels of poverty – would be a fairer formula.”
This would definitely help us in Wales because our population is older than those in the other administrations, and ageing faster. The percentage of our population in the 65+ bracket in 2008 was 21.4%, while in Northern Ireland it was 16.7%, England 19.1%, and Scotland 19.7%.
A major reason for the high proportion of elderly people in the Welsh population is the large numbers of English people retiring to Wales. And this influx inevitably increases the burden on our NHS and other services.
In some areas a majority of the over 65s was born in England. Here’s a table I compiled a while back using figures gleaned from the 2011 census. In 2011 only 68.8% of the 65+ age group in Wales was actually born here.
In Conwy only 37.1% of the over 65s were born in Wales. That’s a staggering statistic.
This should be a cause for concern, because every western country worries about the ‘ticking timebomb’ of an ageing population, but don’t worry, because in Wales a rapidly ageing population is seen as a positive.
A letter I received from the Office of the First Minister assured me, “There are almost 800,000 people aged 60 and over in Wales, over a quarter of the population, and, in the next twenty years, this is expected to exceed one million people. The fact that Wales is a nation of older people should be seen as something positive”.
So there you have it, here in Wales we’ve found the right wire to snip in order to de-activate the demographic time-bomb. So why aren’t economists, health professionals and others flocking here from around the world to learn from us? Because it’s all bullshit, that’s why.
And there’s another reason for lying, because to prop up the NHS and related services education and all sorts of other budgets have to be raided. One organisation suffering badly is Natural Resources Wales, which looks after our forests, rivers and other assets.
From £139m in 2013/2014 the ‘Welsh’ Government grant to NRW will fall to £65m in 2019/20. Falling by more than half in six years, in a country supposedly dedicated to protecting the natural environment (if only to attract tourists).
Of course people were retiring to Wales long before we had devolution, but if health services were not devolved then we would almost certainly have seen an increase in funding, but with devolution and the block grant the attitude is, ‘You’ve had your money, it’s up to you how you allocate it’.
This is just one of the ways in which devolution allows England to dump on Wales, but there are many others, which I shall deal with soon.
THE POLITICAL CLASS
As we’ve seen, Labour blames the Conservative government in London for all our ills, and conveniently ignores the fact that it was in power in the UK until 2010 and could have reformed the Barnett Formula. But Labour prefers to exploit Welsh poverty by blaming the Tories for causing it in order to maintain Labour’s hold on Wales.
Plaid Cymru’s position is marginally less discreditable, but in attacking them wicked Tories up in London too many in Plaid tend to forget who runs the administration nearer home. For them, perceptions of ideological solidarity with Labour blur the reality.
Giving us two parties for which what’s best for Wales will always take second place to (for Labour) hanging onto power, and (for Plaid) being a peripheral part of some UK leftist-‘progressive’ front.
On the other side, the Tories turn up to slag off the left and carry tales to their bosses in London for them to use in order to warn English voters of the perils of voting Labour. Former prime minister David Cameron even described the Wales-England border as the “line between life and death” due to the state of the NHS in Wales.
But Cameron was right, the Welsh NHS is crumbling, and it’s partly due to the influx of elderly English, most of them Tory voters, but he’s not going to admit that, is he?
So we see that the Tories also exploit Wales’ poverty for electoral gain. Great system, eh! – ‘Let’s keep Wales poor so both the main English parties can use it to their advantage’.
We’ve seen that Labour’s response to Wales’ plight is not to reform the Barnett Formula, not to fight the invasion of the blue rinses, not to stand up for Wales in any way. So how does Labour respond?
Well, in addition to blaming everything on them wicked Tories, Labour sets up one organisation after another to ‘combat poverty’, or ‘deprivation’, or ‘discrimination’, or homelessness, or whatever else third sector shysters can persuade civil servants and politicians needs to be combated.
For Labour, the advantage is that those who make up the third sector tend to be on the luvvie left, which makes them natural Labour sympathisers; while the bloated third sector these parasites create also provides opportunities for ‘Welsh’ Labour to practice the patronage and cronyism for which it is rightly famed. Which gives Wales a third sector providing sinecures for both those who could smell the money from afar and failed local politicians and loyal hangers-on.
Inevitably, this has resulted in a movement of people from England to Wales to take advantage of our generosity, people with long-term medical conditions, which further increase the burden on our NHS. Something that, again, would have been impossible without devolution.
But to talk of such things would make us ‘uncaring’, or ‘selfish’, heinous crimes in a country as rich as Wales.
THE POVERTY SECTOR
I’ve written many times about Registered Social Landlords, more usually known as housing associations, and so I don’t propose to go into any great depth here, suffice it to say that we have a system of social housing so mismanaged and damaging to Welsh interests that it could only have been developed with objectives other than providing good rented accommodation for Welsh people.
For a start, our social housing is – despite ‘devolution’ – part of an Englandandwales system that, through the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, awards priority status to English criminals, drug addicts, problems families and others. To the extent that social housing, especially in some rural towns, is now often referred to as ‘anti-social housing’ due to the problems it imports.
To make matters worse, there is now an ‘arms race’ under way as it becomes obvious that we have too many social housing providers and the number must be reduced. So all manner of ill-considered and irresponsible ‘agreements’ are being entered into with probation companies and other English or cross-border agencies.
Also, in this era of ‘consolidation’, we see Labour blatantly backing housing associations controlled by its supporters – RSLs such as Wales & West, Pobl Group – to expand and take over housing bodies concerned with providing a decent service rather than with spreading ‘Welsh’ Labour influence.
Closely linked with social housing is the ‘homelessness’ racket, that ships in homeless people from England and elsewhere in order to increase the problem of ‘Welsh’ homelessness and guarantee funding increases for third sector bodies, due to another ‘arms race’ under way here.
A letter I recently received from the ‘Welsh’ Government told me there are 48 homelessness agencies operating in Wales and being funded by the WG (though the figure given for the amount of funding involved was wildly – and I hope not deliberately – misleading). This is obviously a ludicrous and unsustainable number and so I can guarantee a cull.
To give specific examples we’ll go to the website of the Wallich, one of the big boys in the homelessness industry with an income for year ended 31 March 2017 of almost £13m, £7.8m of which went on salaries, but still left £2.8m for investments, £938,478 of it in ‘overseas equities’. (Read the accounts for yourselves.)
Here are some Wallich case studies: First, Anthony, who (we are asked to believe) got on the wrong train in Devon and arrived in Cardiff. Then there’s Peter, who (of his own volition, honest) moved from Birmingham to Swansea. Finally, there’s Kerry, a victim of domestic violence with a drink problem herself who made the move from Northern Ireland to Wales, presumably because there were no nearer refuges.
Another major player in the homelessness business is Llamau which is currently reminding us that if you want to stay afloat in a cut-throat market then you’ve got to be innovative, find yourself a niche, get celebs on board. Which is what they believe they’ve done by focusing on homelessness among young people. (Apparently the other 47 homelessness outfits are turning youngsters away!)
And of course, you’ve also got to use the media, something the third sector is very good at, with newspaper articles and a television series. Until quite recently the chair of the Llamau board was Angela Gascoigne, who represents the trans-Severn future planned for our south east.
She has strong links with housing and ex-offender bodies in England, she’s also on the board of the Wales Probation Trust (part of an Englandandwales set-up), and here we find her with Llamau, a body that has suddenly discovered there’s money to be made from housing homeless youngsters.
I assure you, Gasgoigne’s CV dovetailing so perfectly with Llamau’s latest scam scheme is not accidental, for Gascoigne’s English connections provide many of Llamau’s clients.
Another lesson from Llamau is that if you want to rip off the Welsh public purse, but throw the locals off the scent, choose a Welsh name you can’t properly pronounce while stuffing the board and senior management with your English friends.
There are just too many other examples of how Wales is put upon, how our funding is stolen, for me to deal with them all, but here’s one final example that would be impossible to inflict on Wales without devolution.
I’ve told you that the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 guarantees homeless people and others with no Welsh connections priority treatment, and this explains both the funding wasted by housing associations and the plethora of homelessness organisations currently plaguing Wales. If they don’t ship them in themselves then both encourage homeless people and others to turn up in Wales and demand to be housed.
But in some areas the legislation is so specific that it’s quite striking. For example, if we go to 70 (1) (i) we read that Wales must also give priority to homeless ex-service personnel, but why doesn’t the comparable English legislation make the same demands of English social housing providers? Don’t you find that odd?
One doesn’t need to be ‘uncaring’, or even ‘callous’, to realise that homeless ex-service personnel in England are now being directed to Wales. And that 70 (1) (i) was a deliberate insertion into what is supposed to be Welsh legislation . . . which means it couldn’t have been done without devolution.
And it will of course cost the Welsh public purse a great deal of money. So how the hell did this little sub-clause appear in ‘Welsh’ legislation?
I hope I’ve lived up to the promise I made in the Introduction and explained why devolution has been disastrous for Wales, and why things can only get worse.
Only a liar or a fool will argue that devolution delivers for Wales and that we should stick with it, ‘make it work’. It is designed not to work . . . not for Wales, anyway. It’s clear that ‘Welsh’ devolution works better for England than it does for Wales. Labour and its third sector guarantee that.
Which is why I say in the Introduction that if we want to avoid Wales becoming a third world country for our people then we have only two alternatives: either we choose to officially and constitutionally become a part of England, or we push for independence.
If you agree with me that independence is the only acceptable route for anyone who truly cares about Wales, anyone with an ounce of patriotism, then you must also accept that no political party we have today is capable of delivering independence. It’s questionable if any of the parties we know today even wants independence.
Fortunately a new party was recently formed that will argue for Welsh interests to be given priority, for Welsh needs to be met, for Wales to aspire to prosperity and independence rather than virtue signalling poverty.
This new party is Wales’ only hope; perhaps our last hope. The choice is yours, but I urge you to get involved and play your part. Start now by clicking here to register your interest.
Unless of course you’re content with Wales remaining Labour’s poverty-stricken fiefdom and England’s dumped-on colony, where the only growth industry is the third sector, which maintains Labour’s control and facilitates England’s exploitation.
Personally, I think our people deserve better. And I know we can do better – if we give ourselves the chance.
In my previous post I wrote about Rose Mutale Nyoni Merrill, queen of the race relations industry in Wales, perhaps undisputed monarch since the downfall of the Malik dynasty.
If you go to that previous post, Wales: Corruption and Poverty, and scroll down to the section ‘Hired Bullies’, you’ll see that I looked at the various roles to which Mutale Merrill has been appointed by the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government, and I explained how she’d used her authority – on more than one occasion – to stifle criticism of her political masters who, in addition to elevating her to these posts, also funded her various companies and charities.
A symmetry with which we are only too familiar in Wales. It’s the form of corruption known as cronyism, or patronage.
Bawso was founded in January 1996, and although Merrill isn’t listed among the founding members she does appear as the witness to their statements on the Certificate of Incorporation, where she is ‘Rose M. Nyoni’ and described as a ‘project co-ordinator’. So, clearly, she was involved with Bawso from the outset.
Now she appears at the top of the pile on the Companies House page where we are told that she came aboard 27 August 2004 as secretary. As she is also chief executive she would appear to have Bawso in an iron grip.
Though despite Mutale Nyoni being appointed secretary 27 August 2004 she didn’t sign the consent document for that post until 19 May 2005, and it was eventually registered with Companies House 2 June 2005. So was she acting as secretary without official recognition, and then her appointment had to be backdated?
A figure that struck me as odd was, on page 22, ‘Rental Income’ of £388,803. We find what I assume to be the same figure on page 16, listed there as ‘Income from charitable activities’. That’s a lot of money for rental income, it works out at over thirty thousand pounds a month. Apart from the various grants this is Bawso’s biggest source of income. Where might it come from?
Information on other pages suggests that Bawso has a substantial building – possibly buildings – in the north from which it derives a considerable rental income. Page 28 suggests that Bawso also leases property.
Bawso’s Wrecsam address is 33 Grosvenor Road, a relatively quiet commercial street near the centre of town. At 31 and 31a we encounter another outfit that has appeared on this blog more than once – The Wallich Clifford Foundation.
In fact, the Wallich and Bawso occupy the same building, as the photograph shows. The large building on the left of the picture is split between the Wallich on the left, at 31, with Bawso the right, at 33. (On the right of the picture, at 35, we see the Citizens Advice Bureau.)
Naturally, I downloaded the Land Registry details for both properties. Here are the title details for 31, and here the details for 33. You’ll see that the Wallich property was bought in 2009 for £312,000 with no loan or mortgage involved. Bawso’s property next door was bought around the same time for £457,000, again, with no loan or mortgage involved.
A total of £769,000. Substantial purchases for third sector bodies like the Wallich and Bawso. Did some fairy godmother buy this building for them?
The same map shows that number 33, the Bawso property, has also been extended, and this is confirmed by the Google screen capture (2) above.
Which raises a number of questions. Such, as why did the Wallich and Bawso both feel the need to extend their properties so soon after buying them, and who paid for the extensions?
Perhaps more worrying is, why hasn’t Bawso notified the Land Registry of its footprint-doubling extension? Here’s the latest available title plan for number 33. It shows just the original outlines for both the Wallich and the Bawso properties.
I don’t want you to think that I’ve got in for the third sector, but bloody hell! . . . Here we have two outfits dependent on the public purse and yet they can buy a substantial building in the centre of Wrecsam and then spend another dollop on doubling its size! Altogether this must have cost well over a million pounds.
And Wrecsam is just one corner of their national networks.
Oh, and didn’t I mention . . . the Wallich has another building not far away, St John’s House on Chester Road. Though this is owned by the council. So presumably the Wallich rents it, for I can find no leasehold arrangement. Or maybe they get it for free. Who cares? – it’s only public money after all.
*Scroll to foot for important update regarding the Bawso property in Wrecsam*
While researching into Labour Party heavy Mutale Merrill I of course looked into those companies with which she is still involved. These being, Bawso Training and Interpreting Services Ltd and Abesu Ltd. The latter she runs with hubby Travers and step-son Samuel Oliver Crichton.
There’s little to report on either company. Unless they’re fronts for something bigger then they’re just ticking over.
Though one thing I did notice was that on the Certificate of Incorporation for Abesu, in the box marked ‘Previous surname(s)’, is typed Kalimamukwento. So is this her original or maiden name, and Nyoni the name from an earlier marriage?
The accounts up to 31 March 2017 are now available. So what do they tell us? Well, before getting to the figures we read on page 14 that “SSAP is currently setting up a young women’s safe space platform in Newport, Bangor and Edinburgh” Edinburgh! With Welsh public money?
The figures tell us that income is rising nicely, though staff costs of £51,488 account for the greater part of the income, and 78% of the £66,162 total SSAP spent. Leaving £36,319 as current assets, i.e. cash at bank and in hand £25,444, plus debtors £10,875.
Though I’m wondering who actually does the work, because page 13 tells us that SSAP “recruited a project officer (part-time) in Wales following interviews of 5 candidates. The person in post has been effective as of 1st of November 2016”.
Seeing as the accounts go up to 31 March 2017 the salary for a part-time project officer would never amount to £51,000 in five months; so who’s running the show, pulling down the big bucks?
I’m also a little concerned by the use of the phrase “in Wales”. Does this suggest that the Sub Sahara Advisory Panel has employees outside Wales?
Anyway, to the funders . . .
Wales for Africa, as it says on the tin, “. . . works with individuals, communities, the third sector and the public sector to build the world we want to live in and the Wales we want to be.”
If you have the time, and the inclination, you might wish to read the Wales for Africa 10 Year Report, 2006 – 2016. It has a foreword by Carwyn Jones who, at the time of writing, was still First Minister. Moving on . . .
Comic Relief we know about, and I’m sure we all have our own thoughts.
The Welsh Centre for International Affairs is a registered charity, number 1156822, and based at the Temple of Peace in Cardiff, which, conveniently, is where Mutale Merrill’s Sub Sahara Advisory Panel is also located. I couldn’t help but notice that funding for the WCIA went up from £335,881 for year ending 31 March 2015 to £988,946 for year ending 31 Match 2016.
The accounts for the Welsh Centre for International Affairs come in a glossy and expensive document in which the actual accounts seem almost incidental, so where does it get its money from?
Well, as we can see, some 87% of the income came from just two sources; Wales for Peace with £243,233 and Hub Cymru Africa with £614,000. Have you ever heard of these? I hadn’t, so I did a little trawling.
Wales for Peace seems to be some kind of subsidiary of the Welsh Centre for International Affairs – but how can a subsidiary be giving money to the parent company! Because according to the figures below Wales for Peace gave the Welsh Centre for International Affairs £243,233 and the WCIA gave back £254,734.
I can see how shuffling money around within an organisation might create employment, and give the impression of industry, but does it really achieve anything else?
Are you getting dizzy from going round in circles? Let’s stop now and retrace our steps before we get completely lost, because we are in a maze, and it has been created to deter investigation.
Also, to disguise the fact that Wales, a country so poor it doesn’t have a pot to piss in, has a foreign aid programme! Think about that – a foreign aid programme!
And all so that a bunch of delusional liberals down in Cardiff can be manipulated by shysters into ‘helping’ the less fortunate in foreign climes, and send delegates to conferences in Paris and God knows where else.
These bastards shouldn’t be given public funding, they should be taken around Wales and shown the realities of life – the food banks, the failing services, the deteriorating infrastructure, the poverty, the vandalism, the drugs, the crime, the sheer fucking hopelessness.
But of course those I’m talking about don’t notice any of that, it doesn’t affect them in their insulated lives; they’re doing just fine, and feeling frightfully good about themselves as well. With the rest of us paying for this illusion.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
Let’s conclude by returning to Wrecsam, a town for which I’ve got a soft spot.
I am absolutely certain that the Wallich and Bawso buying adjoining properties within months of each other was no coincidence. Neither were the extensions. It suggests that they may be collaborating. But on what?
The mission statement for the Wallich can be found in the Objects of the charity, which were revised on October 18, to read:
Whereas Bawso caters to black and ethnic minority women, as it explains on the home page of its website:
“Established in 1995, Bawso is an all Wales, Welsh Government Accredited Support Provider, delivering specialist services to people from Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) backgrounds who are affected by domestic abuse and other forms of abuse, including Female Genital Mutilation, Forced Marriage, Human Trafficking & Prostitution.”
So with one catering exclusively to the homeless and the other to BME women, where’s the overlap, or connection? Homeless BME women, perhaps, but how many would there be in the Wrecsam area?
Maybe the answer lies with human trafficking. Certainly this would explain the Bawso presence in Wrecsam. For if we go to the website and the Diogel Project page, we read, “In 2010 Welsh Government funded the expansion of the project to North Wales in response to increased demand for the service.” (Diogel is Welsh for safe or secure.)
So does this tell us that the property on Grosvenor Road was bought for Bawso by the ‘Welsh’ Government? And presumably the same applies to the Wallich property?
It certainly makes sense, for if we return to the most recent accounts we see, on page 20, that the Home Office gave £373,769 to the Diogel Project and the ‘Welsh’ Government gave another £74,000.
Though if women trafficked from eastern Europe are now being targeted by Bawso then it suggests that the definition of BME has stretched way beyond its original remit. But then, that’s how third sector bodies operate, if there’s an ishoo to be exploited and money to be made . . .
What a mess Wales is in with this self-serving Labour crony-filled third sector, with its property empires and investment portfolios, most of its funding going on salaries, motors and ‘conferences’, and achieving sod all for Wales despite being funded from the Welsh public purse.
It only remains for me to write to the Land Registry informing them that 33 Grosvenor Road in Wrecsam has been doubled in size but it seems the owner has neglected to notify them.
An oversight, I’m sure.
♦ end ♦
UPDATE 08.12.2017: We know that the Land Registry was not informed of the major changes to 33 Grosvenor Road, even though the title plan for 31 was revised towards the end of 2015.
So I got to wondering what changes had been approved by the local planning authority, Wrexham County Borough Council. I checked for both 31, the Wallich property, and for 33, the Bawso property, in the 10 years between 2007 and today.
Here’s what the WCBC website gave me.
There is a full set of planning consents for 31 Grosvenor Road, but nothing for 33. Which suggests that the extension to 33 may have been built without planning permission.
Though of course, if no planning permission was granted then this would explain why Bawso didn’t notify the Land Registry about the extension.
I’m no longer sure whether this is just a planning irregularity or whether a criminal offence has been committed.
We are currently celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the referendum that gave us devolution. Ron Davies described it at the time as “a process not an event”, but little if any progress has been made.
In yesterday’s Llais y Sais Ron Davies was allowed to explain why he thinks devolution has failed to deliver, why it has not improved the lives of Welsh people. This seems to have been a print version of what he said the day before on radio (06:00) and television (15:26).
Llais y Sais allowed Carwyn Jones to respond, and his response was pathetic; hiding behind the shade of Rhodri Morgan and talking of increased powers rather than addressing the point raised by Ron Davies, which was that Wales is worse off today – in terms of wealth, health, education and other indices – than she was 20 years ago ergo devolution has failed to deliver. Few outside the Bay Bubble would disagree with Ron Davies.
But lurking in the shadows I perceive another threat, an existential threat to the continuing existence of Wales. A threat made easier to carry out because devolution has failed and because so many people in certain parts of Wales feel that devolution has delivered nothing for their area.
FERRY ‘CROSS THE MERSEY . . . AND MOVING TO BANGOR
Unlike Ireland and Scotland Wales does not have geography or topography on her side, we have a long border with England and all but one of England’s major population centres are within two hours travelling time of Wales.
Which made it relatively easy for Roman, Norman and English invaders to detach the more fertile, lowland areas from our control, largely confining our ancestors to the uplands. That Welsh nationhood survived was largely due to the fact that Wales had little else invaders coveted.
This helped preserve Welsh identity until the arrival of industrialisation, which impacted on areas that were overwhelmingly Welsh in character, and while the new-found prosperity naturally attracted immigrants these were largely assimilated. But time, an English education system, the resultant decline of the Welsh language, colonisation, tourism, lack of national leadership and other factors have taken their toll, to the point where plans are now being drawn up to finally do away with Wales altogether by dismembering our country.
Of course, these plans will never be called by their true name, they will always be presented as being ‘beneficial to Wales’.
Let’s start in the north east. The decline started with the arrival of the railways, and with them mass tourism. The Rhyl station of the Chester & Holyhead Railway Co opened on 1 May 1848. In the more industrial areas closer to the border Anglicisation took a different form with the importation of English workers and the banning of the Welsh language. Perhaps the most notorious example were the events that provoked the Mold Riots of 1869.
Despite it all, the north east remained Welsh, but it was inevitable that the factors I’ve mentioned eventually took their toll. The Flintshire of Daniel Owen, David Lloyd and Emlyn Williams is gone, replaced by what can often be mistaken for semi-rural suburbs of Merseyside.
Rhyl, the once-bustling holiday resort, is now a dumping ground for English criminals, with the town’s streets haunted by drug-addicts and their dealers. (The only plus would appear to be that the gangsters are killing each other quite regularly.) The same fate has befallen smaller communities on the north coast. And as this chaos wreaks havoc on Welsh communities Welsh politicians have done nothing.
So we arrive at the point where someone asks, ‘Oh dear, what can we do to ‘revitalise’ this region? I know! we’ll have closer cross-border co-operation.’ This was certainly the recommendation of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s City Regions Task and Finish Group’s Final Report, the group chaired by Elizabeth Haywood.
Who is Elizabeth Haywood? You don’t remember voting for this woman who wants to dismember Wales? Of course you never voted for her, nobody did; she’s Mrs Peter Hain, or Lady Hain, I suppose, since the Orange Man was ennobled. (You really should get all silly ideas about democracy and accountability out of your head, they’ll only confuse you in one-party Wales.)
The Mersey Dee Alliance to which Lady Hain refers is a body that has been in existence for some time, though it seems to have a strange idea of Welsh geography, or to go by this map that appeared on the MDA website it doesn’t accept the existence of Wales at all.
The prospect of our north east (or the whole north) being swallowed up by north west England would be bad enough, but as I explained last month in Gwynedd LDP, and Wider Considerations, the threat is not restricted to the old unitary authority of Clwyd.
Nor is this encroachment, this gradual takeover, confined to the north. If anyone was in any doubt about that, then statements made over the past few days should have made the threat very clear.
ENGLAND’S LITTLE MOUTHPIECE
One of the great conundrums of Welsh politics concerns the role of Secretary of State for Wales, and boils down to the question: ‘Is the Secretary of State for Wales the voice of Wales in the cabinet or the voice of the cabinet in Wales?’
Different Secretaries of State have provided different answers, but the current incumbent of that post, Alun Cairns MP, is most definitely – and perhaps more emphatically than any predecessor – the voice of the cabinet in Wales. Little more than a mouthpiece, but because he is a mouthpiece, we can more easily tell the plans of those who put the words into his mouth.
The thinking in London towards Wales now seems to come in two parts – gradually undo devolution and then dismember Wales.
Just about everyone outside of the Conservative and Unionist Party believes that Brexit will provide the excuse for Westminster to a) withhold powers repatriated from the EU, and b) ‘retrieve’ powers already devolved. While those inside the party know it but won’t openly admit it.
Even so, the clues come thick and fast. Alun Cairns was given a lot of space in Llais y Sais – with David Williamson serving as his amanuensis – to promote the idea of Cardiff detaching itself from Wales and linking up with Bristol in a Severnside region. (For some reason I can’t find the piece on the WalesOnline site.)
To ram home the message Llais y Sais chipped in with an editorial, one that went beyond Bristol to “the string of cities along the M4” which of course take us to London.
I was so vexed by what I read, and incensed by the lies spouted by Cairns, that I took the unusual step of putting out a short post on my Facebook page.
On Monday morning Cairns maintained his assault on honesty with the claim that too much power is centralised in Cardiff . . . and this, remember, is the voice of the Conservative and Unionist Party that wants to centralise even more power in London!
Some might be tempted to agree with him, until they remember there’s little real power in Cardiff because Wales lacks an effective form of devolution. Of course, most people would agree that Cardiff gets more than its fair share of investment and jobs, and it was this resentment that Cairns hoped to tap into.
But let’s take him at his word. He says he wants to devolve power to the regions, he even talks of elected mayors. So would Wil Pughe of Llanfair Caereinion, like his counterparts in London and Manchester, have power over policing? Would Wil – as he has long desired – have control over local PCSO Cerys Evans?
Having one day advocated a Severnside region Cairns pushes on with a back-of-a-fag-packet suggestion masking a deeper message – ‘Devolution isn’t working for most of Wales. In fact, devolution isn’t working at all – let’s get rid of it.’
“Give power to the regions” is something trotted our regularly by the Tories, but it displays no real concern for the regions at all, it’s just a method of doing away with devolution and undermining our sense of nationhood.
DIVIDED, DISMEMBERED, DESTROYED
What of the areas left outside the shining megalopolis of ManPool and the ‘string of cities’ from Cardiff to London?
The remainder of the northern coastal strip along the A55, or those areas not being used to house drug addicts and criminals from over the border, or serving as geriatric ghettoes, will become commuter communities, even over the bridge onto Ynys Môn, as I found out by accident.
For when trawling the internet I often turn up things I wasn’t looking for, such as the map below, produced by Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners. They know that there are three Strategic Development Areas (or Strategic Planning Areas) for Wales, the two city regions and the A55 Corridor. I found a number of other references to the A55 Corridor: here’s one, here’s another.
All the sources tell us that these three SDAs/SPAs will be brought into existence by the Planning (Wales) Act 2015, which received Royal Assent on July 6.
So why, two years on, are the chattering classes only talking of the two city regions? Is the A55 Corridor a dirty secret being proceeded with by stealth? Interestingly, one feature demanded by a SDA/SPA is joint Local Development Plans, which might explain why Gwynedd and Ynys Môn were recently required to produce one.
The area between the A55 Corridor and the urban south is to become one vast recreation and retirement area for England, offering everything from granny farms and zip wires to Cheshire-sur-Mer (Abersoch), the Birmingham Riviera (Cardigan Bay), and Bear Grylls parting suckers from their money with his ‘get-muddy-and-pretend-you’re-in-the-SAS!’ bollocks.
With assorted ‘Care’ bodies, probation companies and housing associations taking in England’s decrepit, dysfunction, delinquent and downright criminal. For housing ex-cons pays well.
The Valleys are to endure yet more managed decline, the Swansea region will be offered scraps from Cardiff’s table, while Cardiff itself expands and grows fat through exploiting its capital status but simultaneously playing the English provincial city, increasingly linked to Bristol and “the string of cities along the M4”.
Cardiff being a player in Severnside will be welcomed by those Cardiff politicians, such as Russell Goodway, who have always wanted Cardiff to enjoy all the benefits of being capital of Wales while looking down their noses at everything Welsh.
Result: Wales enfeebled, fragmented and exploited as never before. There can only be one outcome.
WHO CAN WE TRUST?
It should go without saying that we cannot trust an individual, or a political party, that has allowed this situation to develop.
Wales is being assaulted from all sides, yet Carwyn Jones may be motivated by loss of prestige rather than the loss of nationhood, or maybe it’s the thought of his party losing its vast network of patronage that moves him to stand alongside Nicola Sturgeon.
The Tories of course are driving this project and they’ll be supported by Ukip. As for the Lib Dems, well, who cares? Which leaves only Plaid Cymru.
Seeing as the destruction of Wales has little to do with Donald Trump, refugees, or trans-gender toilets, and is only tangentially connected with another of Plaid’s current obsessions, Brexit, it would be unrealistic to expect any opposition from Plaid Cymru.
In addition, Plaid Cymru is unsuited for the coming fight because, being a civic nationalist party that welcomes everyone (especially those with ‘ishoos’) – and by so doing supports the colonialist system that sees Wales exporting talent and importing problems – it is psychologically incapable of standing up in a struggle in which it will have to be said, ‘No, you’re not dumping any more of your problems in our country!’
And yet, one doesn’t even need to be a nationalist, or a believer in independence, to become involved in the forthcoming struggle. All that’s needed is the belief that Wales is a nation, with a defined and accepted territory, and that both must be respected.
But our enemies are gathering, they’ve laid their plans, they’ve even told us their plans, so we must resist.
Following victories over the Persians at Salamis (480 BC) and Plataea (479 BC), and with mainland Greece liberated, the Spartans withdrew from their leadership of the wartime alliance. Athens seized the opportunity and in 478 BC created the Delian League.
Athenian greed and heavy-handedness soon made the other city-states realise that what they’d thought was an alliance of equals was nothing of the kind. Everything now flowed to Athens and the other city-states were little more than colonies. The League’s treasury was used to enhance and glorify Athens, funding prestige projects such as the Parthenon.
Eventually, the other city-states could take no more and rebelled. They appealed to Sparta for help and so began the Peloponnesian War, which ran, in three phases, from 431 BC to 404 BC. At the end of the war Athens was defeated and ruined, Thebes and Corinth even wanted to destroy the city and enslave its citizens, but Sparta said no.
The Peloponnesian War was bloody and destructive. Due to Athenian selfishness the other Greek states were even prepared to seek Persian help in bringing her down and ending the golden age of Greece.
Two news items this week have reminded me of Athens and the Delian League.
BACK TO THE 1960s
The first was that the ‘Welsh’ Government will not back the Circuit of Wales in Ebbw Vale. This is something most of us knew weeks ago, it’s why announcing the decision was postponed until after the general election.
But don’t worry! Economy and Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates, softened the blow with: “The Welsh Government is therefore today committing to building a new automotive technology business park in Ebbw Vale, with funding of £100million over 10 years, with the potential to support 1,500 new FTE jobs. We will begin this work with the delivery of 40,000 sq ft of manufacturing space on land currently in public ownership.”
So the ‘Welsh’ Government kills off the Circuit of Wales yet still plans to build an ‘automotive technology park’ in Ebbw Vale. Apart from Ferrari’s Cafe what links does Ebbw Vale now have with the automotive industry? Or to put it another way, after 18 years of devolution and ‘Welsh’ Labour rule we’ve gone back to the 1960s with depressed areas offered nothing better than industrial parks. God Almighty!
But this saga may not be finished, for what if the scheme’s backers are able to find full private funding for the venture, will the ‘Welsh’ Government then support the Circuit of Wales or continue to be obstructive? I know where my money would go.
Let’s be absolutely clear: The Circuit of Wales was not supported by the ‘Welsh’ Government because Ebbw Vale is too far from Cardiff and the project didn’t offer enough benefits to Cardiff.
The nearest major trauma centres to Wales are in Liverpool, Stoke, Birmingham and Bristol. Some time ago the decision was taken that south Wales should have its own trauma centre. The two candidate sites were Morriston Hospital in Swansea and the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.
On Wednesday we learnt that some anonymous panel had recommended that the MTC should be located in Cardiff . . . despite Cardiff being so near to the existing centre in Bristol.
The centres in England are located where they are for the very good reason that patients suffering serious injury or sudden and serious debilitation benefit greatly from being treated within the first hour; in fact, it’s a matter of life or death. This period is referred to as the ‘golden hour’.
The maps (kindly supplied by BBC Wales) below show the ‘golden hour’ distances from those Major Trauma Centres closest to Wales together with the predicted ‘golden hour’ ranges for MTCs located in Cardiff and Swansea.
The first map, for existing MTCs, tells us that Cardiff and Newport are already within the ‘golden hour’ for the Bristol MTC, while anywhere west of Bridgend is not covered.
Turning to the second map, the Cardiff option, we see a slight improvement, in that Swansea Bay is now covered by the ‘golden hour’, but not western Gower, nor, I suspect, Llanelli. What’s more, rather than complementing the Bristol MTC to form a network of coverage – as we see in England – a Cardiff MTC would almost be in competition with Bristol. The overlap is huge.
The Swansea option, however, provides a real improvement, with the ‘golden hour’ now extending deep into Pembrokeshire and reaching the Cardigan Bay coastline. The ranges of the Swansea and Bristol MTCs overlap around Cardiff and Newport, but they don’t duplicate each other to anything like the same extent as the Cardiff option. Swansea and Bristol would complement each other perfectly.
Of course it’s being argued that, ‘Cardiff has this, and Cardiff has that’, to justify a MTC, but anything can be built or transferred. What cannot be changed is geography, and the critical and determining criterion for locating the Major Trauma Centre should be saving lives in the ‘golden hour’. You cannot emphasise the golden hour all the way through the process and then ignore it in order to locate the MTC in Cardiff.
To put a large area of the south west outside the ‘golden hour’ through handing Cardiff yet another prestige project – for that’s how it’s viewed in Cardiff – will be a difficult decision for politicians to defend.
The role of the ‘Welsh’ media in this debate has been somewhat bizarre, though predictable. On Wednesday WalesOnline ran this story. Putting the case for Swansea was Rob Stewart, leader of Swansea council. (Though the story was quickly updated and for some reason Stewart was replaced with Clive Lloyd, his deputy!)
Putting the case for Cardiff – which is what I assume he was doing – was a ‘speed flyer’ named Niall McCann. (Though by the time the story appeared this morning in Llais y Sais McCann’s contribution had disappeared.)
McCann had shattered his spine speed flying off Pen y Fan and it had been put together by the University Hospital of Wales. McCann opined, “I’m 100% on board with anything that will improve the NHS services on offer. We are a capital city and we should be leading the way in Wales.”
So in the expert opinion of Niall McCann of Cardiff the new MTC should be in Cardiff, ‘Cos Cardiff’s the capital, innit?’ For reasons best known to itself WalesOnline even included in the article a video of McCann speed flying to remind us of the unnecessary risks he takes.
Perhaps the message we were expected to glean from this article was that having injured himself on the Beacons McCann would have been dead or crippled ere the donkey carrying him could have reached an MTC based at Morriston Hospital. If not, then I have no idea what purpose Trinity Mirror thought it was serving by including McCann’s cameo.
But the problems of Wales today go beyond putting all the nation’s eggs in the Cardiff basket, they reach into every corner of our national life. Just look around you and ask what 18 years of devolution have achieved. Go on, and be honest!
Wales is poorer relative to other parts of the state, and other parts of Europe, than she was before we voted for devolution. Outside of Cardiff our urban and post-industrial areas are suffering managed decline, while our rural and coastal areas serve as recreation and retirement areas for England, with the Welsh population, and their identity, marginalised in both situations.
We have a self-styled Labour ‘Government’ in Cardiff docks that refuses to use even the limited powers it has for fear of upsetting anyone in London – including its own MPs and peers! Competing with Labour we have a Conservative Party currently in league with the Orange Order and the UDA, and a ‘national party’ that is, as Martin Shipton described it this morning, “a pressure group”. (And it’s not often I agree with Shippo!) Though it’s questionable whether Plaid Cymru really is challenging Labour.
‘Ah, but we’ve got devolution now, it’s something to build on’, I hear, from those who are in reality satisfied with this simulacrum of self-government, where free suppositories or some such nonsense qualify as radical initiatives. So who’s going to do the ‘building’? We know it won’t be Labour. It will never be the Conservative and Unionist Party. And there’s not a hope in hell of it being the pressure group.
Devolution has delivered a comfortable and undemanding level for ambitious councillors. To serve these politicians we now have a burgeoning and expensive bureaucracy. Because the party in control is Labour devolution has resulted in a vast and corrupt Third Sector sucking up billions of pounds to keep otherwise unemployable Labour supporters in jobs.
Yet we have no media to hold this juggernaut to account. (Though it’s debatable which is worse – the absence of a Welsh media or the constant bigotry exposed in the English media.) There is no real oversight or control of expenditure, and no justice for anyone wronged by this system. Yet if you investigate ‘devolution’ in any depth you soon realise what a sham it is.
For example, the ‘Welsh’ Government pretends it has its own Planning Inspectorate. The truth is that the Planning Inspectorate for Englandandwales answers to the Department for Communities and Local Government in London, it merely has a branch office in Cardiff. Which means that the Local Development Plans for Welsh local authorities are determined in London . . . and the ‘Welsh’ Government goes along with the charade!
P.S. Soon after publishing this post my attention was drawn to a perfect example of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s relationship with the Planning Inspectorate. This development at Llay is part of a wider strategy to turn our north east into commuter territory for north west England. And Carwyn Jones knows it.
The ‘Welsh’ Government and the whole apparatus of devolution soaks up money that could be better spent in Wales, and might be better spent if the useless edifice was swept away. Which is why I plan to start a petition to the UK Parliament asking for a referendum to be held to determine whether we should keep the Welsh Assembly and all that goes with it. (This will be done once a new Petitions Committee is formed.)
Yes, I know such a petition will attract Kippers and other BritNats, but I don’t care, there are bigger issues at stake. On almost every issue that matters we are still ruled from London anyway – so what do we stand to lose? Devolution is used to hide this fact, and to make us believe that we control our own affairs. It acts like some national dose of Prozac.
When you’ve taken a wrong turning you have two choices: either plod on until you fall off a cliff or sink in a bog, or else admit you made a mistake, retrace your steps, and next time make sure you know where you want to go.
RTM means ‘Right to Manage’, a vehicle by which those owning or leasing apartments in a block may exercise some control over the running of that block. An RTM is a company limited by guarantee having no share capital and with each member usually being liable to a nominal sum such as £1 in the event of it all going belly-up.
That there are three Century Wharf RTMs suggests that each represents a different block on Century Wharf, which covers a considerable area on the east bank of the River Taff, to the north of Clarence Road, the A4119.
It’s worth considering the timeline for these three companies. All were Incorporated 18 October 2012, with Steven James Corner as a founding director, but he resigned from all three on 21 December 2012. He re-joined all three on 27 November 2014, as did Stephen John Kass. James also joined (One) and (Three) on that day, but for some reason he’d joined (Two) five months earlier, on 27 June 2015.
Despite being involved with all three RTMs I have only found one lease in Century Wharf held by James, this being 186 Hansen Court. Which makes it reasonable to conclude that either he has other properties in Century Wharf that we don’t yet know about, or that he’s involved with the RTMs in a ‘professional’ capacity, a possibility I’ll discuss later.
In addition, we know that James owns the leases on two properties near to where the A4232 lands on the west side of the Bay. These are 6 Davaar House and 9 Davaar House. As we learn from White Pages (see below), Patrycja (D) Nowak, the young Polish woman I wrote about in Baywatch, has lived at both 9 Davaar House and 186 Hansen Court.
Ms Nowak living in two different properties leased by Mark Vincent James, Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, was obviously a perfectly proper landlord-tenant relationship, and this blog will not stoop to suggest otherwise.
Ms Nowak, you may recall, is said to be the woman who fell from a seventh-floor flat at Century Wharf. Knowing that Ms Nowak has lived at two addresses leased by Mark Vincent James it’s not unreasonable to assume that her fall might have occurred at another property owned or leased by him.
It’s worth adding that the relationship between James and Corner seems to be strengthening. For in March they formed a company, Building and Estate Solutions Today Ltd, the only other director being a Mark Philip Carter, who seems to be based in Brighton.
THE RACKET EXPLAINED FURTHER
Quite obviously, Mark Vincent James doesn’t live in any of the properties he leases in the Bay; he lives, with his devoted and pious wife, in Carmarthen. Which means that the properties in Cardiff Bay are investments, intended to swell the James family fortune beyond even that which Carmarthenshire Council Council and assorted lawyers have thus far achieved.
Which takes us to the heart of the issue, and why so many of James’s neighbours in Cardiff Bay are unhappy with his behaviour, and the company he keeps. It’s because many of those living in the buildings we’ve discussed are permanent residents, and they bought their properties in order to live in them. A number of these permanent residents are retired and elderly.
While on the other hand, we have those, like Mark Vincent James, who own or lease properties in the Bay as investments. And because they’re investments, it follows that their owners wish to maximise the return on those investments.
Some two-bed flats on Century Wharf and elsewhere in the Bay are currently advertised for rent for as little as £650 pcm, which will cover the mortgage and provide a regular income for the holder of the lease. However, much more can be made by renting out flats for short stays.
Because the real money is to be made from holidaymakers, weekend visitors, business visitors, those attending conferences, sporting events, and others in Cardiff for short periods who prefer self-catering accommodation to hotels. Equally clearly, and especially when these short-stay visitors are stag and hen parties, there will be disruption for the permanent residents.
Another company involved in the Cardiff Bay letting business is A Space In The City, and Companies House tells us that Corner is again a director. In fact, this new company, Incorporated as recently as 1 December 2016, is now wholly owned by Corner’s Imaginative Property Group Ltd.
And as we’ve seen, Corner is also the man running the three Century Wharf RTMs. This is achieved by him controlling, by various means, the leases, or the votes of leaseholders, for 80 – 90 properties on Century Wharf. So with anything between 80 and 140 attending the AGM it’s clear that his block vote will trump the individual leaseholders unless there’s a very good turnout and they’re united.
This is further helped by Mark Vincent James serving as chairman at these AGMs, and refusing to allow questions that might embarrass him or his partner(s), while also ensuring that ‘troublemakers’ are not allowed to participate. If this sounds familiar, then of course it’s how James has run Carmarthenshire County Council for too long.
Through A Space in the City, Squarefoot Estate Agents, Warwick Estates and other companies Stephen James Corner controls the leases of many properties in Cardiff Bay. These properties are run to maximise profit and by so doing make life miserable for others, including many retired people. His front man now appears to be Mark Vincent James.
The irony, or tragedy, here is that the three RTMs were set up originally by residents in order to free themselves from one exploitive agent in the form of Peverel OM, the company mentioned in this Guardian article. Instead, they eventually fell into the clutches of Corner, Kass and James. Talk about frying pan and fire!
The deeper problem might be that too many flats have been built in Cardiff Bay. If not too many, then no attempt made to separate those wanting a quiet life and those prepared to rent out their investments to stag parties. When rules and agreements do exist to limit the uses to which these flats can be put, Corner and others like him seem able to waltz around them.
WILL HE RETAIN HIS CROWN?
Mark Vincent James is in business with a man, Steven James Corner, who set up a company, Imaginative Property Group Ltd, with a woman, Barbara Kahan, who is accused by the The Sunday Times and others of allowing her name to be used in setting up UK companies that are used by criminals to launder money.
The address now given for the Imaginative Property Group is 98 Davaar House, a building where Mark Vincent James leases two flats. Given Corner’s link with Kahan, and James’s business links with Corner, we’re entitled to ask:
Is Mark Vincent James, Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, the man who wants to make a blogger homeless, Private Eye Shit of the Year 2016, now linked with property companies that might be laundering money for criminals?
What we know for certain is that Mark Vincent James is involved with companies riding roughshod over residents in certain blocks of flats in Cardiff Bay. Various permissions and lease conditions are breached for the personal benefit of Steven James Corner, Mark Vincent James and Stephen John Kass. These three now control the Right to Manage companies that were set up to defend permanent residents from people like them.
I think the time has come for Mark Vincent James to make a clean breast of his activities in Cardiff Bay. How many properties does he own or lease? Before becoming a director, and then chair, of the RTMs, did James declare to other leaseholders – as he was required to – his pecuniary interest (of which others only became aware when they realised his relationship with Corner and Kass)?
Should the public be concerned that a man embroiled in a shady and little known sector of the property jungle is also the chief executive of a Welsh local authority? Has he declared his property dealings in Cardiff Bay to his employer, Carmarthenshire County Council? (Though seeing as he is chief executive, and controls everything on the council, to whom would he declare it?)
And what is the ‘Welsh’ Government’s view of Mark Vincent James’s dealings in the Cardiff Bay property market, and the disreputable company he keeps? Shouldn’t this be a matter for concern?
The ‘Welsh’ Government might also care to question whether any dealings it has had with Mark Vincent James, or any advice it might have accepted from him, could have profited James and those he is involved with in the Cardiff Bay property racket.
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL . . .
In an attempt to establish the propriety of Mark Vincent James’s excursion into one of the more opaque areas of the property business I have written to the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales. The current holder of that post is Nick Bennett, a former CEO of Community Housing Cymru, and an ‘insider’ to the tips of his shapely and well-manicured fingertips.
I don’t expect Bennett to tell me that James has done anything wrong (even if he has), because one thing that has become clear in recent years is that in the eyes of the ‘Welsh’ Government and others Mark Vincent James is a man without fault. Telling me that either he has his own flock of guardian angels or else he knows where a lot of bodies are buried.