Apr 132018
 

A guest post by Aled Gwyn Jôb

‘Tri chynnig i Gymro’ (Three tries for a Welshman) is a very old and much-loved Welsh saying.

Where Leighton Andrews and Mark Drakeford ultimately feared to tread, the Welsh Government’s own inimitable attack dog, Alun Davies, is now all set to get his teeth into Local Government re-organisation.

But, if this to mean anything other than a tokenistic tinkering with the map of Wales once again, surely the process has to involve meaningful change this time round.

It’s an opportunity to look afresh at what local democracy should actually mean today, and how it can manifest itself anew in different parts of Wales. The long neglected link up between health care and social care should definitely be on the agenda, as well as democratic control of social housing, a sector which has grown exponentially over the past few years with little or no local scrutiny attached to it.

With Cardiff having a disproportionate slice of the political and economic cake, there is also a strong case for the creation of perhaps no more than 6 regional authorities to counter-balance the Cardiff-centricity of modern Wales, and those authorities imbued with real powers. Which could even perhaps include some element of tax-varying powers of their own, as is the case with local authorities in the thriving Basque Country.

It’s also high time for some radical thinking where the Welsh language and local government is concerned.

It presents a golden opportunity to implement the idea proposed by Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru AM – i.e. to create ARFOR, a single authority for the Welsh-speaking areas of Ynys Môn, Gwynedd, Ceredigion, and Caerfyrddin, which would operate through the medium of Welsh.

The much-maligned nationalist thinker, Saunders Lewis predicted that the Welsh language would decline faster with a Welsh Government in situ in Cardiff than it would under Westminster control, unless local government first conducted its work through the medium of Welsh in Y Fro Gymraeg.

With less than 5 per cent of deliberations at Y Senedd conducted in Welsh (well below the national 21 per cent of Welsh speakers), Saunders Lewis’ prophecy seems to have been borne out.

Every single party at Y Senedd (even UKIP) pledges strong support for Welsh in public: but the harsh truth after 20 years of devolution is that English has become the governing language in our national parliament. With the best will in the world, this is not going to change any time soon.

A cultural and political counterpoint is sorely needed to provide Cymraeg with real status and power- located in those areas where it remains an everyday living language.

Socio-linguists agree that a minority language requires some form of territorial integrity in order to thrive. Increasing use is now being made of environmental metaphors with a minority language imagined as a plant or flower which has to have a secure habitat in order to be able to breathe, grow and flourish.

If we continue with the environmental metaphor, most of us are all aware that Welsh’s natural habitat has been eroding on a frighteningly fast rate over the past two generations.

click to enlarge

At the time of the 1961 census there were areas within sight of Stradey Park and Llandudno promenade where over 80% of the population spoke Welsh, and the whole of the west apart from south Pembrokeshire was mainly Welsh speaking.

By the 2011 census however, this former solid bank of Welsh speakers across these western counties had dried up alarmingly with Gwynedd down to 64% of  Welsh speakers, Ynys Mon 59%, Ceredigion on 48% and Caerfyrddin down to 44%.

The calamitous retreat of Cymraeg in these heartlands since 1951, has been virtually ignored by all the political parties. Partly of course because of the thorny reality that this decline has been accelerated by an inflow of migration from England- with the vast majority of these incomers not showing any inclination to learn the language of their new country. Not one party, not even Plaid Cymru, has dared to challenge and oppose this hugely destructive process over the years.

But the decline has also been about an exodus of Welsh-speaking people, especially younger people in search of employment opportunities, not available in the traditional Welsh-speaking areas. Cardiff of course has been the main beneficiary of this exodus and although it’s comforting on one level that these people are at least staying in Wales, there can be no denying that this process has denuded their home communities of their  vitality, their energy and their creativity.

The habitat needs to be rewilded, and the best way to start is with an idea

ARFOR could operate with say 60 elected councillors( 15 from the 4 areas). The geographic distances between Caergybi on Ynys Môn and Llanelli in Carmarthenshire need not be a problem in an age of fast-developing video conferencing. Its nominal headquarters could be based, say, in Aberystwyth or even Machynlleth, but with specific departments located in all four areas.

Arfor should be able to draw up a strategic trajectory for its territory in terms of economic development, housing, planning, social care and other key sectors such as food and drink, tourism, entrepreneurship and language regeneration.

The overall plans could then be implemented at a more local level by beefing up the role of present day community councils. These could be re-imagined by reviving the old model of the rural/town district councils (with several local community councils coming together to form these new entities) employing staff to discharge the duties delivered downwards by the central Arfor authority.

This would allow both a regional identity and a local identity to co-exist and co-create a better future for the heartlands which have only known decline, despair and disillusionment for the past two generations.

Cyngor Sir Gwynedd has already pioneered the way, having operated successfully through the medium of Welsh since the mid 90ies. Ynys Môn has declared that they are now going to follow its example. Arfor is half way there already.

As to the predictable concerns that Arfor would “divide” Wales, and re-ignite the old arguments aired in the 1970ies about such an idea, I would argue that the Welsh national identity is much more secure today than back then. That identity is secure enough to be able to live with the thought that different parts of Wales should perhaps be able to do things differently.

And there is no need to fret either that such a development would allow the other 5/6 regional authorities to ignore Welsh, because the Welsh Language Standards passed by Y Senedd recently will ensure that a modicum of bilingualism will remain in the others.

Associate membership of Arfor could also be provided over time to other Welsh-speaking areas, e.g Dyffryn Conwy, Parts of Denbighsire, Powys and Pembrokeshire, who wish to be part of the new entity.

Arfor has the potential to do more to develop the Welsh language than almost any other language success gained over the years, even arguably S4C – now a pale shadow of its former self and shorn of the clout it used to have in Welsh-speaking Wales.

It will give Welsh real political and economic clout in its traditional heartlands. It will provide employment opportunties and career structures for Welsh speakers from all over Wales. It will, at a stroke, make learning Welsh a real, economic and social necessity for incomers to these areas. It is quite literally, the golden bullet as far as language regeneration is concerned in Y Fro Gymraeg.

Cultural regeneration in the heartlands will undoubtedly lead to economic regeneration as well. It can be a magnet for Welsh speakers from all over the UK and wider afield. It can prove an inspiration to Welsh learners all over Wales and beyond to see that Welsh can thrive as a living, community language.

As Alun Davies weighs up his options, and perhaps even his legacy as far as the Welsh language is concerned as an enthusiastic learner himself, he might be tempted to bring that famous Bill Clinton slogan to mind, and re-phrase it to say : “It’s the culture, stupid” in seeking to effect change.

♦ end ♦

Jac chips in . . .

As persuasive as Aled’s argument is, I’m not totally convinced. For two main reasons. First, I’m one of those who believes it would divide Wales. Second, I look to Ireland’s Gaeltacht and I see no great success to emulate.

My fears on dividing Wales can be explained with an anecdote. My wife’s eldest brother lives in Crickhowell. About 20 years ago, with the Meibion Glyndŵr campaign still fresh in the memory, we were visiting and I got talking to my brother-in-law’s eldest son.

He brought up the subject of the campaign and made a forceful point that youngsters of his age in that area were experiencing a similar problem from retirees, good-lifers, commuters and others pushing up local property values – but nobody seemed to care about them because they didn’t speak Welsh.

The realisation of Arfor could result in those sentiments I heard in Crickhowell being raised again. And not just by sincere and sympathetic people like my nephew, but by the growing army of anti-Welsh bigots getting bolder by the day.

Which is why if Arfor does became reality I would like to see legislation introduced to protect anglophone Welsh identities in other rural areas. Otherwise Arfor could alienate people from Rhuddlan to Rhossili.

Now let’s turn to the Gaeltacht, as I guarantee many will do! It seems to be widely acknowledged in Ireland that the whole concept has been a failure. Everybody seems to blame everybody else, but the fact remains that the Gaeltacht is largely symbolic and kept afloat by a state reluctant to admit its abject failure.

The maps below tell their own story. (Available here in PDF format.)

click to enlarge

Maybe a Gaeltacht made up of small, widely separated areas was doomed to fail, and this might be Arfor’s advantage over the Irish model.

But let’s assume that the Arfor project takes off, how is it to be sold to the large, non-Welsh populations in Beddgelert, Betws-y-Coed, Barmouth, Tywyn, Aberdyfi, Borth, New Quay – even Aberystwyth? Will these communities be able to opt out?

Whether these settlements buy in or not to survive Arfor will need positive discrimination in favour of the indigenous population coupled with restrictions on who can move in . . . which would send the English media and its Welsh lapdogs into a feeding frenzy!

As I say, I would prefer to see all-Wales legislation that could protect all areas facing similar problems. A strategy guaranteeing that locals get priority in housing, employment, education, training, grants, and everything else, with nothing forced on these areas unless it is of demonstrable benefit to the local population.

But if we can’t have a national strategy, then I would support Arfor, but my support could never be wholehearted.

Feb 092018
 

INTRODUCTION

The National Renaissance of the 1960s put the wind up our masters for two main reasons.

First came the shock that there were numbers of Welsh people prepared to use violence and civil disobedience to achieve their political aims, with a far greater number supporting them.

Second, came the more worrying realisation that Welsh nationalism, hitherto regarded as a cultural issue confined to rural districts, was spreading into the more populous urban areas and ‘infecting’ people who spoke little or no Welsh. Perhaps there was even a danger of Pura Wallia being employed as Yeats and others had used the West of Ireland, a magical and unsullied ideal to be brought back to the rest of the land.

Something had to be done. The decision taken was to undermine the influential and inspiring Welshness of those western areas, which then ran from the outskirts of Llanelli in the south to the north coast around Abergele, with salients pushing towards the border.

What was envisioned was a form of social engineering, a kind of ‘watering down’ process, that would make life difficult for many Welsh people while simultaneously encouraging into western Wales large numbers of English.

To the point where the remaining Welsh would be outnumbered, anglicised, and this would result in the political threat they posed and the inspiration they provided being removed. Facilitated by legislation and other means; and if these could be sugar-coated, or disguised, then so much the better.

This is a strategy that Martiniquais poet and political activist Aimé Césaire so memorably described as ‘genocide by substitution‘.

from ‘Shifting Frontiers of France and Francophonie’ (click to enlarge)

Genocide by Substitution is just a more subtle means than outright clearance of killing off a culture and the identifications and loyalties that go with that culture.

THE EARLY YEARS

DEVELOPMENT BOARD FOR RURAL WALES

A good place to start would be the plan in 1965 for a new town of 60,000 or more inhabitants in the Severn valley near the village of Caersws.

Historian Kenneth O. Morgan, in Rebirth of a Nation Wales 1880 – 1980, couldn’t resist linking near-universal local opposition to the plan with Welsh nationalism and racism, “Welsh nationalists and others feared that the population of this new town might be drawn largely from English overspill from the west Midlands . . . that these migrants might be black, brown or yellow in hue”.

Here we have the authentic voice of Old, South Wales, anti-Welsh Labour.

No new town was built, but nearby Newtown was expanded, with a population imported almost exclusively from outside of Wales, and this provided the template for what was now to happen across the region with the creation of the Development Board for Rural Wales.

click to enlarge

The strange thing about the DBRW was that its charter stated it could only give financial and other help to incoming employers . . . and their employees. Which meant that small Welsh companies, family firms, could find themselves being put out of business by an English company that had moved into Wales with DBRW support.

‘But surely’, you ask, ‘these companies moving in provided jobs for local people?’ Well no, because under the ‘key worker’ provisions incoming companies were encouraged to bring their entire workforce with them, with relocation costs funded by the DBRW. On top of which the DBRW provided shiny new housing.

The Development Board for Rural Wales was the most blatant colonisation programme Wales had seen since the period following the Edwardian conquest, yet few dared question its operations for fear of being branded ‘racist’ or economically illiterate. For the DBRW was bringing jobs and people to areas suffering depopulation.

It should not surprise anyone to learn that the outflow of Welsh people from the DBRW region did not abate. Giving us a perfect example of Genocide by Substitution.

The Development Board for Rural Wales was merged with the Welsh Development Agency in 1995.

THE A55

Further north than the fiefdom of the DBRW economic and other development was said to be impossible without the A55 becoming a dual carriageway to Holyhead, for it was the ‘Highway of Opportunity’ (© Wyn Roberts) and would bring undreamed of wealth and opportunities.

One of the first consequences of the road’s upgrade was the closure of the Royal Mail’s Bangor sorting office, with work being transferred to Chester. Here we were, coming towards the end of the twentieth century, with devolution just around the corner, and Chester was reasserting its parasitic relationship with northern Wales.

For what the cheer-leaders for the A55 didn’t understand, or weren’t telling us, was that improved communications invariably result in the closure of ‘outposts’, which become redundant or expendable if their areas can now be served from further away.

Unfortunately, there was plenty of European money available for the A55 because it is a trans-national route linking Ireland with the continent. That it also opened up large areas of Wales to commuters and others from over the border was never considered.

And the spending continues. Another £250m will go into a Deeside Corridor which will help facilitate the Mersey Dee Alliance agenda by further integrating north east Wales with north west England.

LOOKING AROUND

Elsewhere in our rural areas, in the 1970s and 1980s, we saw an economy in decline. In the south west, for example, dairies and creameries closed, and milk was shipped off to England to be processed. Politicians were helpless . . . or at least, they did nothing.

And everywhere we were promised that tourism would be the economic salvation of rural Wales.

I’ve written about tourism many times and I hope I’ve made it clear that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with tourism, it can be a useful part of a diversified economy. But the tourism industry that has developed in Wales was developed to serve England, Wales happened to be conveniently near and became ever nearer with the spread of the railways and then the family car.

Even so, until fairly recently Welsh people did benefit. Many locals – my own late mother-in-law included – brought in some extra money by running a B & B. And back then local businesses such as pubs tended to be locally owned. But somewhere along the way the Welsh seem to have been squeezed out.

I remember a couple of years ago my wife and I stayed at a bed & breakfast in Abersoch, that favourite of the Cheshire Set, and the woman running the establishment told us, quite unprompted, that she was one of only two locals still running B&Bs in the village, yet there must be dozens and dozens of B&Bs in Abersoch.

Abersoch Dingy Week, organised by the Leigh and Lowton Sailing Club of Warrington. The building on the right is the clubhouse of the South Caernarvonshire (sic) Yacht Club (click to enlarge)

What we have in Wales now, masquerading as ‘the Welsh tourism industry’ is largely owned and run by strangers. The lack of decent jobs provided by tourism, coupled with its power to bring a new population into our rural and coastal areas, makes it another element in the overall strategy of Genocide by Substitution.

We have reached the point where tourists can come to certain parts of Wales, spend a week or ten days there, and not meet a Welsh person. Yet we are expected to be so proud of this ‘Welsh tourism’!

THE DEVOLUTION ERA

Those expecting things to get better under devolution were probably naive, they have certainly been disappointed. It may no longer be the blunt and obvious instruments of the DBRW, the A55 and creamery and other closures that inflicts the damage, now it is the stiletto thrusts of a ‘Welsh’ Government operating against the Welsh national interest.

Did I really say, “a ‘Welsh’ Government operating against the Welsh national interest”? Yes I did, and now I shall give some examples of this behaviour, hopefully in chronological order.

Let’s start with One Wales: One Planet, of May 2009. This publication retrospectively gave approval to a number of illegal settlements and the green light to future sustainable communities. Despite grandiose pronouncements about a “sustainable nation” it was really about encouraging those seeking a certain lifestyle to move to Wales.

This was followed in July 2010 by Technical Advice Note 6 Planning for Sustainable Rural Communities. (A Technical Advice Note “provides detailed planning advice”.)

TAN 6 replaced an earlier document that talked only of “Agriculture and Rural Development” but something had obviously changed, new influences were being brought to bear on the ‘Welsh’ Government that had little concern for traditional agriculture, or Welsh farming.

That building centre right, is it Lammas? (click to enlarge)

January 2012 saw former Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing  in the ‘Welsh’ Government, Jane Davidson, join the University of Trinity St David’s Institute of Sustainable Practice, Innovation and Resource Effectiveness (INSPIRE). Among its aims is to “contribute to our communities by giving particular regard to issues of sustainable rural communities and the development of south west Wales as a low carbon region.

Davidson, former Labour MP for Pontypridd is from England, where she was privately educated, she knew nothing of Pontypridd when she arrived and little when she left, but being AM for the town allowed her to use her position in the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition to promote causes dear to the hearts of others like herself.

I’m thinking now of those members of the English middle classes who in times past were given to wearing indecently voluminous khaki shorts and belonged to the Ramblers Association (since re-branded Ramblers). Having been vice-president while a Minister Davidson became President of Ramblers Cymru almost as soon as she left the Assembly in May 2011. She is, predictably, also a Patron of the One Planet Council.

I took a little detour from the One Planet website after seeing the name of another Patron, Paul Taylor, and his connection with the Cwm Harry Land Trust of Newtown, Powys. Another ‘No-Welsh-Need-Apply’ organisation.

The Accounts for the Cwm Harry Land Trust Ltd are overdue at Companies House, but it’s also a charity, No 1100899, though the accounts to the Charity Commission are even further in arrears.

The Accounts for 2015 tell us that the biggest source of income was – surprise! surprise! – the ‘Welsh’ Government, and the biggest outgoing was – never! – salaries. Though another reason for Cwm Harry being in a delicate financial position may be its attempt to buy Moelyci, “a community owned farm in North Wales”, in fact, just outside Tregarth, near Bangor. (Despite being committed to Welsh heritage and culture the Welsh language version of the Moelyci website is, as ever in such cases, under construction.)

The falling through of the Cwm Harry deal for Moelyci is explained here. I hope the ‘Welsh’ Government is keeping a close eye on how Cwm Harry spends our money. It should go without saying that no more public funding should be wasted on Cwm Harry or Moelyci.

This digression started when I saw the name Paul Taylor on the One Planet site. Taylor is, or was, also involved with Home Presteigne, which seems to have folded. But he’s still a busy boy, for he tells us that he’s an “Independent Advisor Community Land Advisor (sic) Service Cymru”. So what’s that?

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At the Royal Welsh Show in late July 2013, John Griffiths, then Minister for Sport and Culture, launched the Community Land Advisory Service Cymru, part of a wider Englandandwales organisation. The Welsh operation had received a £600,000 grant from the Big Lottery’s Climate Change Programme.

CLAS Cymru is “part of a wider Community Land Advisory Service across the UK, which is managed by the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens but its press release suggests a different role in Wales with,“CLAS Cymru helps new communities to navigate through the challenges associated with finding land, negotiating a lease and obtaining planning.”

Back to the main thread.

While many of the influences behind One Wales: One Planet, TAN 6 and all the offshoots may be external to Wales native Welsh politicians have also chipped in, among them Minister for Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies, who announced in January 2014 that 15% of EU Common Agricultural Policy Funding would in future be diverted from Pillar 1 (farmers) to Pillar 2 (‘rural development projects’).

The next attack on the population indigenous to the Welsh countryside was the ‘Welsh’ Government’s decision to cancel a £360,000 grant to Wales’ Young Farmers Clubs in January 2015.

Before finishing we need to consider the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015. To save you reading through the full document, with its bullshit piled high and overhung with impossible dreams interwoven with outright lies, here’s a quick-read Guide and an illustration from it.

The way the priorities are ordered tell you why the Well-being of Future Generations Act is another Hippies’ Charter

Hooray! Wales is going to save the Planet! Or rather, we are going to use the pretext of environmental concerns to encourage hippies and other shysters to move to Wales and become yet another piece in the jigsaw of Genocide by Substitution.

Finally, I was struck by the local branch of the UK government’s BBC mouthpiece putting out this strange article earlier this week which warned us that “rural west and north Wales are the most vulnerable to economic decline as the UK leaves the European Union”.

The example we need to follow, according to the article, is a ‘network’ currently running on Exmoor. “Helping incomers to integrate is part of the network’s ethos, according to its chairman, sheep and beef farmer David Knight. One of their initiatives is a micro-farming group for new owners of smallholdings . . .

Despite everything that the UK and ‘Welsh’ governments have done since the 1970s to undermine the indigenous economy of rural Wales, to destroy the region’s social and cultural integrity, are they now hoping to blame its final eclipse on Brexit!

But no! for it is to be reborn, salvation lies in “incomers”, on “smallholdings”; “new communities” “obtaining planning”.

CONCLUSION

I don’t wish to appear overly cynical, but when so much legislation is churned out by the ‘Welsh’ Government that is clearly designed to draw into Wales those seeking a green or eco-friendly lifestyle, then we are entitled to ask why.

Another reason for suspicion is the contradiction inherent in what is being done. For the purpose of the legislation, and the various initiatives is, we are told, to reduce Wales’ carbon footprint, but by attracting into Wales a whole new population that will keep animals, burn timber and in other ways bother the environment we can only increase Wales’ carbon footprint.

Which means that what is being done only makes sense on an Englandandwales level, which in turn means that a ‘Welsh’ Government is now legislating for Englandandwales by agreeing to take in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hippies and others that England wants to offload.

I can see the advantage for England in this arrangement, but where’s the benefit to Wales?

On the plus side, I suppose those living in eco-villages might be an improvement on the white trash being imported by some third sector outfits and certain housing associations, or the hypochondriacs and worse attracted by free prescriptions, and the retirees taking over so many communities. And let’s not forget the white flighters and other flag-fliers.

But none of these groups will create wealth, or generate employment. If anything, they will take the Welsh economy in an opposite direction, making Wales poorer by any criteria you care to employ. While also draining the Welsh public purse.

So the motive for encouraging this multi-faceted influx cannot be economic growth or job creation.

During this same period there has been no legislation, not even a vague promise, to defend our rural areas in a way that will protect their Welsh identity. So what is the point of a ‘Welsh’ Government if it only cares for strangers and works against the interests of its own people?

What we are witnessing in the Welsh countryside, and along our coasts, is a crude attempt to remove a perceived or potential political threat posed by a people and their distinct identity, in the manner described by Aimé Césaire – Genocide by Substitution.

♦ end ♦

 

Aug 072017
 

Everybody seems to have had their say on this subject so I might as well make my contribution.

First, remember that what was passed a week last Friday was the LDP for Gwynedd minus the Snowdonia National Park, which has its own planning authority and its own LDP. Even though the Park covers most of the county, in population terms it accounts for just over a fifth.

This is due to the largest towns being outside the Park, while Blaenau Ffestiniog, Barmouth and Tywyn are surrounded by the Park but form ‘islands’ covered by the Gwynedd LDP. The largest towns within the Snowdonia National Park are Bala and Dolgellau.

I’ve read the arguments on both sides of this debate, thanks in part to Nation.Cymru, where we were offered, ‘Building 8,000 new homes on Gwynedd and Môn is a defeat for Welsh democracy’ by Huw Williams, with the counter argument from Dyfrig Jones in ‘Building fewer houses would drive up prices and drive away our youth’.

In a sense, both are right. But Dyfrig Jones is also wrong. Let me explain.

‘WHERE WILL OUR YOUNG PEOPLE LIVE?’

Once upon a time, when tribunes of a fraternal bent controlled rural councils, Ceredigion was ruled by Dai Lloyd Evans and his crew, one of the most corrupt, self-serving groups ever to run a Welsh council. (And by God that is saying something!) Not for nothing did Paul Flynn MP refer to Ceredigion in some Commons committee as “the Wild West Show” when it came to planning matters.

Because most of these fraternalist councillors were landowners they wanted to build lots of houses to enrich themselves. Dai Lloyd Evans even bought a field – or was it two? – outside of his native Tregaron and then made sure that the settlement boundary was moved to include his field(s). Planning permission was of course granted for said fields.

In defence of this bonanza of housebuilding all sorts of bollocks was trotted out; from Dai Lloyd himself I remember, ‘But without these new houses where will our young people live?’ We were asked to believe that three- and four-bedroom houses selling for £180,000+ (in 2005) were targeting young, local buyers.

Now I’m not comparing Dyfrig Jones to Dai Lloyd Evans, but . . . the ‘young people’ argument does echo the timeless hypocrisy of the former Ceredigion council leader.

For a start, too many of our young people can’t afford to buy a new house – full stop. But these properties are not intended for local buyers anyway, something made clear from where the new developments are located.

click to enlarge

The new housing planned for Gwynedd is mainly in the north of the county (as is the case in Conwy and Denbighshire) and there’s a very good reason for that – the A55 Expressway. What is taking shape before our eyes is a commuter corridor along the A55 that will allow people working in the Merseyside and Manchester conurbations to live ‘in the country’.

OH, GIVE ME A HOME WHERE THE MILLIONAIRES ROAM

Let me start explaining this with a wee digression.

When I was growing up in Swansea, someone who moved out to Gower was usually thought to have ‘made it’, done well for themselves (or maybe knocked over a bank). I suppose the Vale of Glamorgan fulfils a similar function for Cardiff.

On a larger scale, Cheshire entices those who wish to, and can afford to, avoid the urban sprawl of north west England. Some of the communities with the highest property prices outside of London and its ‘stockbroker belt’ are to be found in Cheshire.

Human nature being what it is, if you’ve paid a million or two for your house in Prestbury, Wilmslow or Alderley Edge, then you don’t want your idyll spoilt – and the value of your property lowered – by a new estate full of double-glazing salesmen and Stockport County footballers. It’s ‘Him off the telly’ and Wayne Rooney or nothing. Which results in many of those who’d like to live in leafy Cheshire being moved on. (This also explains why, in the code used by estate agents, Wrecsam is now ‘West Cheshire’.)

But even if giant ‘Sod Off!’ signs were placed at regular intervals on every highway and by-way approaching the Golden Triangle it would do little to stem the flow of the upwardly mobile out of the nearby cities. And as there’s not much of a welcome further west, around Chester, either, they trudge on further.

Another reason for building so many new houses close to the A55 is that politicians, being what they are – lying bastards, generally – can interpret this protection of Cheshire property values as an indicator of a healthy economy along the north coast. It’s nothing of the kind, or course, but politicians will never miss an opportunity to pat themselves on the back.

Just picture it – Guto Bebb, David Jones, Michelle Brown plus Carwyn and his cohorts fighting over the best spot in front of the cameras!

Finally, let us not forget the grand design to assimilate Wales into England. New housing built in Wales for which there is little or no local demand is a vital part of that strategy.

‘STATISTICS, WHAT STATISTICS?’

Huw Williams was right to argue that accepting this LDP was a defeat for Welsh democracy, though not only because Gwynedd council caved in but because of the way in which housing ‘need’ figures are arrived at, or contrived, and the ruthless inflexibility with which they have been enforced.

I’ve dealt with Local Development Plans and the Planning Inspectorate many times before. (Just type Planning Inspectorate into the ‘Search’ box at the top of the sidebar.) Reading ‘Planning Inspectorate: New Gauleiter for Wales’ will help.

The problem with LDPs is that the Planning Inspectorate predicted future need on a combination of population and household size estimates produced before the data from the 2011 Census were available, and using recent demographic trends – i.e. English immigration!

When the Census findings became available, and they showed that population increase from 2001 to 2011 was less than the Inspectorate had predicted, and that household size was greater – combining to mean fewer properties needed – these inconvenient truths were brushed aside to insist on sticking to the original, and now discredited, predictions.

One example is Denbighshire. The council there argued that in light of new figures the county now needed far fewer properties than had been called for by the ‘Welsh’ Government’s projections, which argued for 8,500 new units between 2008 and 2023. For what the Census and the ONS’ predictions told us was that the projected population increase for Denbighshire in that period was now 4,134.

The Planning Inspectorate accepted the council’s argument (how could they contradict the Census and the Office for National Statistics?) but insisted on sticking with the original – and now discredited – projection! The clip below is from the Inspectors’ report.

click to enlarge

So, for a predicted population increase of just 4,134, and a household size of 2.31 reducing to 2.23 in 2026 Denbighshire must still build 8,500 units.

Of course, it helps to understand all this when you realise that the Planning Inspectorate is an Englandandwales body answering to the Department for Communities and Local Government in London . . . though the ‘Welsh’ Government is allowed to pretend that it has control of the Inspectorate in Wales. It doesn’t.

As might be predicted with such a body, the Welsh language is a vital concern. The recommendation for Denbighshire being . . . bilingual signage.

click to enlarge

A SYSTEM TO SERVE WALES

Where Dyfrig Jones is right is in arguing that building fewer houses will drive up prices . . . but to follow that argument to its illogical conclusion is to believe that house prices will start falling, will come within the reach of Welsh people, only when the external demand is sated – but the external demand is insatiable.

With Local Development Plans we are dealing with a broken system, certainly one that does not work for Wales. There are a number of reasons for this.

First, and as I hope I’ve explained, is the role of the Planning Inspectorate, an Englandandwales body working within an Englandandwales strategic framework that sees Wales helping meet England’s need for housing. There is no way that such a body can serve Wales.

Second, when it comes to strategic planning, the ‘Welsh’ Government has willingly subordinated itself to the UK government to the detriment of Wales’ best interests. So much for devolution!

Third, as Huw Williams suggested on Nation.Cymru, the whole system is a negation of democracy that sees those we elect bullied by persons sent into Wales to serve a dubious agenda. That is bad enough, but too often the Planning Inspectorate finds ready accomplices in the higher ranks of council employees.

Radical change is needed.

It should go without saying that Wales needs a planning system that serves Welsh needs, not the interests of those who can’t afford to buy the property they’d like in Wilmslow. This must be a priority. No more imposed LDPs.

To build fewer houses yet ensure that Welsh people are not excluded we need legislation to guarantee that a majority of the housing stock is restricted to those with strong local connections. To those born and educated in the area, perhaps those who have lived locally for a given period.

It might be worth considering the models that operate in the Channel Islands.

On the largest island, Jersey, there are four categories of resident: ‘Entitled’, ‘Licensed’, ‘Entitled to Work’ and ‘Registered’. As the website tells us, “The “Entitled” category is attributed to those who are Jersey born and have reached the required aggregate residency period.  This category also applies to people who have lived in Jersey for a continuous period of 10 years.”

Jersey

On the second largest island, Guernsey, the system is even simpler. There they have a Local Market and an Open Market, which is almost self-explanatory. The Open Market covers larger, more expensive properties (some 7% of the housing stock), and while locals can buy in the Open Market the Local Market is reserved for them.

‘Ah, but Jac’, I hear you protest, ‘to implement such a policy in Wales would be decried in the English media as ‘racist’. Really! How could it be racist in Wales yet no one complains about the Channel Islands using these methods?

Might the silence have something to do with so many English newspaper proprietors and others having money hidden business interests on the islands, with the Barclay brothers, owners of the Telegraph, actually owning one of the smaller islands, Brecqhou?

CONCLUSION

As someone who has been involved in nationalist politics – often on the ‘hairier’ fringes . . . sometimes very hairy – I know that for fifty years our masters have carefully avoided gifting us another Tryweryn, or another Investiture, anything that might mobilise armchair patriots and produce converts.

Instead, the strategy employed since the 1960s has been to chip away at what makes Wales different. The most effective tactic being demographic change; reduced to its crudest expression – ‘Welsh out, English in’.

The beauty of this strategy is that no single blow ever rouses enough people to challenge the strategy . . . so on it goes . . . chip, chip, chip. The Gwynedd LDP, the managed decline of the Valleys, turning our countryside into a recreational and retirement area for England . . . all these are chipping away at the distinctiveness of Wales, and the survival of Welsh identity.

This strategy is succeeding; soon there will be little left at which to chip. If we don’t wake up soon and grasp that we are in a struggle for national survival, one that must transcend politics and take precedence over everything else, then we might as well stop kidding ourselves and call it a day.

A national struggle against English colonialism is our only hope. No party politics. No divisive ideologies. A national struggle.

♦ end ♦

 

Feb 072014
 

I hope I can explain this without it getting too complicated. Here goes . . .

In a number of recent posts I have stressed the importance of household size / composition in determining how many new dwellings will be needed. So I thought I’d better check with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for the correct definition, which is: “A household is defined as one person living alone, or a group of people (not necessarily related) living at the same address who share cooking facilities and share a living room, sitting room or dining area”. Which means that a group of students sharing a house would presumably be a household, but a retirement or nursing home for elderly people would be a “communal establishment”.

This is important because each household is a separate dwelling. It follows therefore that predicted household size coupled with projected population increase will be used to assess the number of new dwellings needed. The smaller the household size, then the greater the number of dwellings.Households

Returning to the ONS, that agency’s Table KS101EW, says that when the Census was taken in March 2011 the number of persons living in a household in Wales was 3,011,182. Table CH01, also ONS, tells us that at the Census Wales had 1,302,700 households. If we divide the number of persons living in households with the number of households we have a figure of 2.31 persons per household. Yet in its (2008-based) household size projections, Knowledge and Analytical Services (KAS), an arm of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in London, but based in Wales, predicted a household size for 2011 of 2.23.

This difference of .08 may seem unimportant . . . until you remember that it equates to 46,764 dwellings and (x 2.31) a population of 108,025. To put that into perspective, at the 2011 Census there were just 31,600 households in Ceredigion. Also bear in mind that, due to the ONS ‘outsourcing’ household size projections to the DCLG, it is KAS projections that are used to determine how many new homes will be needed in Wales in future years. Clearly, anyone wishing to make Wales plan for more new homes than she really needs has only to underestimate household size.

I understand that new household size projections covering the next 25 years are due out any day. These projections from the KAS will be invalid from the outset if they do not start at 2.31 in 2011, because this figure comes from the Census, it is not guesswork. The new household size projections must also take into account other evidence that suggests a slowing in the rate of household size decline, if not a static household size.

These new projections must then be used to revise Local Development Plans and all other housing need projections in Wales.

Feb 052014
 

There was a piece in today’s WalesOnline by Graham Henry telling us that Wales needs a few hundred thousand more dwellings than are currently planned. I don’t know who fed him the story, but I suspect the Wales-based statisticians of the Knowledge and Analytical Services, who answer to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in London. I say that because anyone doing serious journalism on housing projections and Local Development Plans would be bound to mention the Planning Inspectorate. Not mentioning this executive agency of the DCLG is rather like discussing the current upheavals in Welsh rugby and ignoring the role of the Welsh Rugby Union.

What is perhaps worse is that this omission allowed the article to be read as if Welsh local authorities are solely responsible for deciding how many new homes will be built. They are not. That power rests with the Planning Inspectorate, which does not hesitate to regularly insist that councils increase the number of new homes to be planned for. Councils accept these diktats because they simply cannot afford to challenge them, with the Planning Inspectorate backed financially by the UK government.Household projections Carmarthenshire

As the WalesOnline article focused on Carmarthenshire let’s look at the county’s Local Development Plan (of October 2013). Go to section 5.4.7 and we learn that the council anticipates an increase in population from 175,063 in 2008 to 192,740 in 2021, and a projected increase in households in the same period (5.4.8) of 15,197. (The 2011 census gave Carmarthenshire’s population at 181,227.) That the number of new households is not much smaller than the projected population increase is due partly to new families forming, partly to in-migration but mainly to projected smaller household size. In fact, before I started investigating housing and planning in Wales I hadn’t appreciated the importance of the household size figure. Yet it’s difficult to make sense of LDPs and other demands for housing without understanding the relationship between population growth and household size. Put simply, a household means a dwelling. If the projected population increase for an area was 20,000, and average household size was four persons, then a council would need to plan for the building of roughly half the homes needed if the household size was only two persons. Smaller households = more dwellings.

The table above right (click to enlarge) is taken from a June 2011 document, Population and Housing – Revised Topic Paper 2, used to inform the Carmarthenshire LDP. It tells us that the statisticians predict massive increases in the following types of households: single people, couples, and single parents with children. The figures come from, Household Projections for Wales (2006-based), which sees household size in the county drop from 2.25 in 2006 to 2.04 in 2021. Though seeing as this Topic Paper was produced in 2011 it’s strange that it used the 2006 figures rather than those for 2008, which predict a slightly higher average in 2021. It should be pointed out here that the Office for National Statistics has “sourced out” household projections to the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. This being the department to which the Knowledge and Analytical Services (KAS) answers.

Living at homeSo how reliable are these household size projections? Not very. The 2011 census tells us there were in Carmarthenshire 78,800 households of one or more persons. If we divide this into the population figure of 181,227 it gives us a household average size of 2.30. Obviously this is not exact, but even so, it is higher than the KAS estimate for 2011 0f 2.17. Other information suggests that, far from falling, household size may actually be rising. For example, this recent report tells us that an increasing number of young adults are living at home with a parent or parents, and that this trend was observable before the economic downturn. (See panel, left.) Then, the UK government plans to cut housing benefit for under 25s rather than reduce universal pensioner benefits. Both measures are bound to increase household size. And, as a consequence, reduce the need for new housing.

No one reading this must think that I’m talking only of private, open market, dwellings, for these projections also apply to social housing, which is covered in the Housing (Wales) Bill (see recent posts). This legislation, handed down by the Department for Communities and Local Government in London, will ‘harmonise’ the provision of social housing in Wales and England. In other weopposebedroomtaxwords, anyone qualifying for social housing in England will automatically qualify for social housing in Wales. Which, when added to the UK government’s welfare reforms (such as the ‘bedroom tax’), might explain the Carmarthenshire household projections in the table above . . . if Carmarthenshire is being prepared for an influx of single mothers and others from the Great Wen.

Before concluding I must return to private housing in order to bring to your attention the remarkable transformation that occurs between statisticians’ projections and housebuilders’ planning applications. As we have seen, statisticians argue for ever smaller household size, due to more and more people living alone and an increasing number of childless – usually retired – couples. One team of academics employed by the ‘Welsh’ Government (or someone) told us that, “Of the projected net increase of 269,000 households between 2006 and 2026, 66 per cent are one-person households and 21 per cent one-parent families. ‘Couple’ households contribute 16 per cent of the total increase in households”. (Numerate readers will have noted that these three categories alone add up to 103 per cent!) Which should result in the vast majority of properties built being one- and two-bedroom dwellings – but they’re not. The latest figures available, July – September 2013, tell us that 62.6% of completed dwellings in Wales were three- and four-bedroom houses!

Clearly, a deception is being practised. On the one hand, the UK government and its Wales-based statisticians predict – against increasing evidence – smaller households in order to bump up the number of new properties needed. But then, the Planning Inspectorate, working with housebuilders and others, takes the ‘new dwellings needed’ figures, transforms them into much larger dwellings, and forces Local Development Plans on our councils. We are being made to build social housing to meet an English demand, and also private housing, from Carmarthenshire to Denbighshire, to accommodate a wealthier English influx. All part of a wider strategy of colonisation.

The Local Development Plans for Carmarthenshire and other local authorities were rushed through before the underpinning ‘statistics’ could be invalidated by: a) the consequences of the economic crisis that began in 2008 and b) the 2011 census. Almost as if the Planning Inspectorate and the statisticians knew they had only a short ‘window’ in which to force their plans on our local authorities. Now that we have more reliable statistics the Local Development Plans thus far adopted are invalidated. They must be revised. From now on we must plan for Welsh need and Welsh need only.

Oct 062013
 

I know I did a post on our ageing population quite recently but I make no apologies for returning to the subject because it’s important and it affects us all, no matter what our age. The more elderly people we have in our society, the higher the percentage of the public ‘pot’ that will need to be spent on caring for them, leaving less of that ‘pot’ to be spent on health, education, transport and a host of other areas crying out for investment. The more retired people we have then the more people we need in work, paying taxes to cover the unavoidable (in a civilised society) expenditure on an ageing population.

This fact is universally acknowledged, and is currently causing great concern in some of the most advanced economies in the world, not least Japan. Which goes some way to explaining why the Japanese are pushing ahead in robotics and similar fields. In neighbouring China, there is a real fear that the economic progress made in recent decades could be dramatically slowed, if not reversed, by a growing imbalance in the population, as the single child policy introduced in 1971 starts to take effect, and China faces an ageing population supported by a workforce that is, in relative terms, shrinking.Age, where born

So we have a problem universally acknowledged . . . except, apparently, in Wales. For here, not only do we have an ageing indigenous population, but we also have to contend with the activities of the short-sighted and the selfish who add to the problem by attracting retired and elderly people from outside of Wales. To make things worse, the areas most likely to experience this are often areas losing their own young people, thereby further exacerbating the population imbalance. (With one, rather curious, consequence – the resultant need to attract younger immigrants to ‘service’ the older immigrants!) The map will help explain what I mean. (Click to enlarge. For a fuller breakdown by local authority area look to the table below.) The famous ‘Costa Geriatrica’ shows up clearly on the north coast, while the other areas with large percentages of non-Welsh in the 65+ age bracket are all rural or coastal areas. The region with the highest percentage of Welsh born elderly is the central Valleys and Swansea Bay. Inevitably, the local authorities in this region are also among those with the lowest absolute percentages in the 65+ age bracket.

I often used to wonder about people wanting to spend their later years somewhere other than where they had lived their working lives, their homes. The more I thought about it, and the more I learnt from first-hand experience, the more I realised that there is more than one answer. For a start, it’s worth remembering that many people move prior to their retirement. If you plan to move to Ceredigion when you retire, then it makes sense to spend your final working years there to get acclimatised. Easy enough if you work for an Englandandwales body like the Post Office, or a company with outlets in both England and Wales. For most such organisations have policies of filling vacancies ‘internally’, which means that a vacancy in Aberystwyth or Cardigan could be filled by someone already working for that company or government department somewhere in England. This is frequently what happens; resulting in Welsh people being denied employment, and transfers to Wales creating vacancies in England. Yet another example of the unequal and damaging relationship between Wales and England.

(Of course our enemies – those who argue they want the ‘best for Wales’ and always end up supporting English interests – would tell us it’s a two-way street, Welsh people can move to jobs in England. Of course they can. Just remind yourself of all the government departments headquartered in Wales, all those Welsh supermarket chains with hundreds of outlets in England, those behemoth Welsh banks, global media empires, etc., etc. Back in the real world . . . remember Wales’ population of three million and England’s fifty-three million. And how are Welsh people supposed to get transferred to England if they can’t get recruited in Wales in the first place?)

In addition, many people retire to where they’ve spent regular holidays, especially if they’ve bought a holiday home or a caravan in the area. So tourism plays a massive part in creating the generational imbalance we see in rural and coastal areas. But there are other routes, especially in the older age group, as I learnt from observations made while my late mother was a resident at a local retirement home. New residents, usually women, would regularly turn up, seemingly out of the blue. I’d ask the staff, ‘Where is she from?’ The usual response was, ‘No idea’. So I made further enquiries as to why women with no real connection with an area would suddenly appear in a Welsh retirement home.

The most common reason was that many of these residents, women in their late seventies or eighties, were ‘placed’ there by their families. Let’s say Mrs Blogg of Birmingham had a son in his fifties, due to retire himself in a few years, and planning to move, once retired (or before), to the Meirionnydd coage, place of birthast; well, if mother needed to go into a home then it made sense to put her into a home in Tywyn rather placing her in a Birmingham home and then hoping there was a vacancy for her in Tywyn when he retired.

The simple rule adopted by retirement and nursing homes seems to be, ‘As long as someone is paying the bill, then it doesn’t matter where they come from’. Which I supppose is fair enough, up to a point. But it’s surely short-sighted. Because while the home’s costs may be covered, an elderly person will need attention from many other quarters, so who pays the local doctors’ surgery, the medicines and drugs, the ambulance service, the hospital, etc? Multiply that by tens of thousands, add it to the Welsh elderly, in areas where the undertaker’s hearse – even if horse-drawn – is likely to arrive before the ambulance, and we can see the insanity of allowing into Wales every year thousands of people who have spent their productive years elsewhere.

To put this into some kind of context, a friend of mine in Swansea has taken a few holidays in New Zealand, and would seriously consider moving there but, as he told me recently, at his age (66) he’d need close to a million dollars before he would be allowed in. New Zealand, like many other countries, will not consider non-working immigrants unless these are self-sufficient, with money in the bank, private health care, or other guarantees that they will not be a burden on the country. Here in Wales, we welcome anyone, including those it can be predicted with certainty will be a strain on health and other services.

So why do we allow it? There are three main reasons. First, there are an awful lot of powerful interests making money from people who are close to retirement, or who have retired, moving to Wales. Estate agents, lawyers, house builders, owners of care homes and retirement homes and others. Second, local authorities see this influx as a way of disguising their shortcomings because it maintains or raises population levels. Further, an influx of retired and elderly people does, to some extent, generate its own jobs: hairdressers, taxi drivers, gardeners, etc. All low paid and usually precariously self-employed jobs. Third, we have a ‘Welsh’ Government that is terrified to even debate the subject, for these are English people we’re talking about – what would the Daily Mail say?

Here are some figures that might help you appreciate the problem. The 2011 census told us that 18.4% of the population of Wales was over the age of 65. The figure for England was 16.4% . . . and England is much richer. That gap is widening. While the map shows the obvious problem of the ‘Costa Geriatrica’ there are countless other pockets or concentrations of English born Census age groups Gwyneddelderly. In the five south western wards of Gwynedd (roughly Barmouth to Aberdyfi, see table, click to enlarge) the Welsh born account for only 31% of the over 65s! When the native-born account for less than one third of the population then it should be time to admit there is a problem. Across all age groups, the English born account for 20.8% of the population of Wales. Yet in the 50 – 64 age group the percentage rises to 25.7%; while in the 65+ age group it goes up even higher, to 26.5%.

The fact is that despite the political orientation of this blog what I’m discussing here is not really nationalism at all. It’s not even politics. (And it’s certainly not ageism.) This is economics, pure and simple. Perhaps the most intractable economic problem facing advanced societies today is caring for their ageing populations. Therefore, for a poor country with a health service already close to collapse to allow in from outside of that country large numbers of retired and elderly people is economic suicide. If an ageing population is a serious problem for Germany and Japan then here in Wales it’s a disaster waiting to happen. The truth is that our politicians are too fearful of the backlash from England’s political establishment and media to raise the subject; as a result, we are, effectively, being intimidated into accepting a situation that can only result in further impoverishing Wales. Which is, of course, what many wish to see.

Sep 262013
 

More figures have just been released from the 2011 Census by the Office for National Statistics. Here’s a link to the Nomis website from where I extracted the figures I’ve used in my tables. If you get the hang of it you can kind of pick and choose the statistics and combinations, or areas, you want. Anyway, let’s start with the all-Wales figure, showing the age breakdown and the country of birth. Census Age Groups

(I should explain that the ‘Total’ column, one in from the right, includes those born everywhere from Chile to China. The percentage figure in the right-hand column shows the figure for that age group as a percentage of the total population figure. So that the 25 – 34 band makes up 11.7% of the total population of Wales. Clear?)

There are a number of interesting features to be seen here, not least the fact that between the youngest and the oldest age bracket the Welsh born percentage drops by almost twenty percentage points. Which obviously makes monkeys out of those who still deny there’s a problem. Elsewhere, the ‘spike’ in the 16 – 24 sector for English born is accounted for mainly by students, which then explains the subsequent drop in the 25 – 34 segment. Predictably, there is a marked increase in the percentage of English born in the population from the age of 50, which of course is explained by retirees.

More interesting is the 35 – 49 range, where we see an increase of nearly four points on the 25 – 34 group. Interesting because of course these are neither students nor retirees. This increase is partly accounted for by English people moving to Wales to take up employment, and partly by the influx of the benefit-dependent population I have dealt with before.

What these figues show (when compared with previous censuses) is that Wales has an ageing population. This is due to: a) Welsh people living longer and b) English people retiring to Wales. Which might be acceptable . . . were Wales a wealthy country, with a large working age population, a robust and efficient heath service, a reliable ambulance service, etc. WaleGwynedd wardss has none of these things. Yet for unfathomable reasons those who claim to be running this country do nothing to curb the influx of elderly people to a poor country with a health service on the point of collapse.

That is the national picture. Locally, or in my locality, the figures are even more depressing. Here’s a table showing the same breakdown used in the previous table for the five south western wards of Gwynedd. (Anyone in any doubt of where we are should click to enlarge the map.) Census age groups GwyneddAgain we see that in the 0 – 15 age bracket the Welsh born element is well over 80%, but by the time we reach 65+ the Welsh percentage has fallen to 31.6%! What the hell has happened? Well, the giveaway is the fact that in the 65+ age bracket the Welsh born (and in this age group they are far more likely to be Welsh and Welsh speaking) are outnumbered more than two to one by the English born. The Welsh born are in a majority up until the 25 – 34 segment then, due to the factors mentioned earlier – always more pronounced in rural and coastal areas – the Welsh born percentage drops to 40% in the 35 – 49 bracket. And of course, in a rural area like this you can throw into the mix the emigration of the educated and / or ambitious Welsh. The picture is very much the same in other rural and coastal areas.

No doubt others would interpret these figures differently. Those working for Age Concern and similar bodies, or the anti-Welsh bigots who haunt the internet and social networking sites, could all risk a scorched arse by putting a positive gloss on a draining influx that turns us into a minority in our own country, and county. For even though I’m not native to Meirionnydd I now belong to the Welsh born minority in this part of Gwynedd. Down to 43.9% and dwindling.

It would be nice to report that politicians are aware of the problems faced by areas like this and are doing something to help. But no. Tywyn’s largest employer, Halo Foods, was recently given £365,000 by the ‘Welsh’ Government to move to Newport, Gwent. There is today no economic strategy for vast swathes of Wales . . . nothing beyond wind turbines, tourism and granny farming. If you’re Welsh, and young, the message is simple – ‘Get out, there’s nothing for you here. This is no longer your country’. Unless, of course, you want to be part of that great local growth industry – wiping wrinkly English bottoms.

Jul 222013
 

There has been a lot of discussion on Twitter and elsewhere in recent days of a video discovered on YouTube that advises Londoners to leave the Great Wen for other cities and areas under the ‘Out of London‘ scheme. The video itself focused on a man who had used the programme to move to Swansea. So view the film first and then I shall look at a few of the issues raised by this and other recent cases that have come to my attention.

Update 19:20: Credit where it’s due. I now learn that the video was discovered by the Welsh National Rights Movement and brought to the attention of a wider audience following the launch meeting of the Swansea-Llanelli branch in Gorseinon on Saturday afternoon.

The first thing to notice is I suppose that this man almost certainly does not work. If you think about it, few people are going to give up a job in London to move to Swansea or anywhere else. Which means that this scheme is aimed at the unemployed (and the unemployable), the long-term sick and disabled, and other ‘non-productive’ elements of society. Amongst these will be many criminals and other undesirables. Just as well that the video was presented by a pleasant young lady of mixed race, rather than a white man, or else more people might see this project for what it is – social engineering.

That being so, where is the benefit to Wales in encouraging people like this to move here? Obviously they will not be contributing anything in taxes, their spending power will be limited, they will become a burden on an NHS service that in Wales is already close to complete collapse. Accepting people like this is therefore insane. Though note that the man used as the example in the video seems acceptable enough . . . but of course those who made the video wouldn’t show a problem family, or an ex-con.

The problem here, I suspect, is that the London boroughs involved in this project are linked with housing associations in Wales. Swansea has more than its fair share of growth-obsessed housing bodies run by greedy and irresponsible people with no regard for the communities in which they are based. I am in no doubt that these housing associations get paid a nice bonus for taking in Londoners – and others – who, due to the problems I’ve just mentioned, then become a liability for someone else. Basically, Wales.

At its worst, this social engineering project, this population transfer, can result in the kinds of tragedy I highlighted in my recent post, Neighbours From Hell.

You will note that the video also says that moves can be arranged through private landlords. This is important in areas where there may be responsible social housing providers or a lack of social housing provision. Something brought home to me a week or so ago in a post on Oggy Bloggy Ogwr. This particular post dealt with demographic and other changes observable in Bridgend county from the 2011 Census findings.

Nantymoel is a former mining community in the north of the county, and one of the poorest wards. Yet the 2011 Census showed a sharp rise in the percentages of both the English-born and English-identifying elements of Nantymoel’s population. Clearly, there has been an influx of English people . . . into an area with little work. Also, with very few social housing units. But cheap house prices. Other figures, such as the higher than average percentage of households with dependent children and lone parent households, suggest that the ward has seen an influx of a mostly young population from outside of Wales into private rented accommodation. Property that may even have been bought by London boroughs or English social housing providers.

While we can see the advantages in this scheme for London and other parts of England, let’s not blind ourselves to the reality that too many Welsh politicians, at both local and national level, will also support this kind of influx. For a falling population is always interpreted as a sign of political failure – as we have recently seen in Detroit – so anything that can keep up the numbers in places such as Nantymoel will be welcomed.

Something else that struck me in the video was the section showing the collaborating areas outside of Out of LondonLondon. These are listed on the right of the ‘still’ I grabbed. (Click to enlarge.) While English counties, towns andOut of London 2 cities are listed individually, for us there is just ‘Wales’. Yet the leaflet ‘Out of London’ shows Swansea and Cardiff. (Click to enlarge.) So what is the real picture; is it just our two major cities or does the scheme operate across Wales? Note also that the leaflet suggests the areas to which Londoners are being moved have a surplus of social housing. I don’t know the situation in Cardiff but there’s certainly no surplus in Swansea. If there was, why are Coastal Housing, Grwp Gwalia and the rest throwing up new properties everywhere? Or is this specifically to meet demand from London and other parts of England?

Finally – and I’m sure you’ve noticed! – this scheme for London boroughs to get shot of what they consider to be the undesirable and economically unviable does not extend to Scotland. Why? Is it due to legislation in Scotland that insists on housing providers meeting local need, not engaging in schemes profitable for them but adding an extra burden on services already buckling under the strain? If so, then we need such legislation in Wales.

P.S. This post is in a sense an update on a post from last November, The London Clearances. There I linked to a story in the Guardian, which specifically mentioned Merthyr Tydfil as one of the places where “London councils have acquired rental properties”. Note also that while last November’s Guardian story dealt with ‘homeless families’, the more recent video appeals to anyone “registered for social housing in any London borough”. That’s the new capped welfare legislation kicking in.

Regrettably there are no comments with this earlier post. This is due to Google Blogger killing my previous blog, and although I was able to salvage the posts themselves they came without the comments. That’s Google for you.

Jun 272013
 

A comment to my previous post put me to wondering if it might be possible to go back to earlier censuses (censi?) to make some comparisons with the findings from 2011. So I sent off an e-mail to the Office for National Statistics asking if the figures I needed were available. Within a few hours I was telephoned by a lady from the ONS who gave me the information! For further figures I requested she suggested I contact Nomis (which appears to be a related body). I sent off another e-mail and again, within hours, a lady from Nomis rang me and talked me through the Nomis website to the information I wanted! Just ask yourself – would I have got service like that from any department of the ‘Welsh’ Government? (Don’t misinterpret this as an argument for maintaining the Union, it’s an argument for a real Welsh Government, and a real Welsh civil service.)

What I was looking for were the figures, going back to 1981, showing country of birth, or the respective percentages for the Welsh born and English born components in the population, and how these have changed over the past 30 years. I also decided to throw in the total population change over the same period to give Country of Birthsome context and a point of comparison for different areas. Click on the table to view it better, or click here for a PDF version.

The headline figures are as follows: Between 1981 and 2011 the Welsh born element of our population fell from 79.5 to 72.7, that is, 6.8 percentage points. In the same period the English born percentage rose from 17.0 to 20.8, an increase of 3.8 percentage points. In the same period the population of Wales rose from 2,716,828 to 3,063,456, an increase of 346,628 or, in percentage terms, 12.8. That may be the national picture but, as ever, it encompasses some fascinating local and regional figures, and quite a few that should cause concern. Let’s start with our capital city.

CARDIFF  In the thirty years covered by the table, the population of Cardiff soared by 75,162 to 346,090. That’s an increase more than the total population of Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil or Anglesey. The Welsh born component dropped in the same period from 81.1% to just 68.7%, though the English born element rose by only 4.6%.  Telling us that Cardiff is now becoming a real European capital: sucking in investment and talent from the rest of the country while also attracting people from around the world. With the higher education racket making a major contribution.

SWANSEA / NEWPORT  Something similar, though less damaging to the rest of Wales, seems to be happening in Swansea, and indeed, Newport. In Swansea, the Welsh born figure is down 7.8% in thirty years with the English up 3.2%, against a total increase of 17,953. For Newport it’s -2.2 and -2.5 with an increase of 13,935. Yes, that’s two minuses. It would appear that both Swansea and Newport, but more so Newport, are attracting people from outside the UK. Next door to Newport, in Torfaen, the Welsh born figure has actually risen by 0.1% and the English element is down 0.6%. Returning to Swansea Bay, there’s little change to report from Neath Port Talbot. While Bridgend seems to prosper still, with a population increase of 15,387 (12.4%) with the Welsh born element dropping by 2.8% and the English rising by only 1.1%.

VALLEYS  While Torfaen and Caerphilly both saw population increases the three Heads of the Valleys authorities – RCT, Merthyr, Blaenau Gwent – all saw population falls. The biggest fall was in the last of those. In the thirty years covered by the table this area saw its population decline from 75,237 to 68,814. Curiously, though, the same period saw the Welsh born element decline by 3.1% and the English born element increase by 1.6%. Which is weird. If there’s no work in Blaenau Gwent, and Welsh people are leaving, why is the English element increasing? I can only think that, in a desperate attempt to keep up the numbers, the ‘Welsh’ Government, using its proxies in housing associations and other agencies, is bringing in a benefit-dependent population from England. As is suggested here.

NORTH EAST  Even allowing for the fact that many locals are born in Chester, the 2011 figure for Flintshire of just 50.% Welsh born is very depressing. Wrexham is more encouraging, but even here the percentage of Welsh by birth has now slipped below 70%. Denbighshire presents something of an anomaly, with both Welsh born and English born percentages down between ’81 and 2011. Again we can infer movement into the area from places other than England. As is the case with Conwy, which I’ll include in this section because of Llandudno and the coastal strip. Incidentally, Conwy has a higher percentage of Scots and Irish in the population than can be found Cardiff. (Not a lot of people know that!) In this region the spread of the Manchester-Merseyside commuter belt is also a growing problem.

RURAL AREAS  In this category we need to consider Pembrokeshire, Monmouthshire and Powys. The first has seen a population increase of 18,688 (+18%). With the oil refineries gone and little alternative work, this increase is down almost entirely to people moving in to the county. Shown in the country of birth figures. Monmouthshire has seen a population growth that, in percentage terms (+26.2%) is not far behind Cardiff, but with little change in the percentages for where born. Which can not be said for Powys.

Here, in the most rural county in Wales, the population between 1981 and 2011 jumped from 109,903 to 132,976, and the percentage of Welsh born within that population dropped from 67.8% to just 49.8%. The same caveat of over-the-border births applies here as applies to Flintshire, but the situation was the same in the past. There is no question that Powys is being systematically colonised. Aided by (the legacy of) the Development Board for Rural Wales, an Independent (i.e. disproportionately landowner) council, and officers desperate to boost the population in the hope of guaranteeing the council’s survival in any local government reorganisation. I would have thought that the survival of Welsh identity is far more important.

Y FRO GYMRAEG If some of the news thus far has been bad, then it’s about to get a whole lot worse. But let’s start with Anglesey. Not a great deal of change on the island in the percentages or the population level. Partly a reflection on the economic condition. Gwynedd, however, gives cause for concern. Between 1981 and 2011 the Welsh born percentage of Gwynedd’s population fell by 10.3%, against a total population growth of 12,603 or 17%. This can be partly explained by the growth in Bangor university but more generally by the attraction of Gwynedd to retirees and downsizers.

Moving south, Carmarthenshire saw an increase in population of 23,276 (14.5%), which is surprising given the loss of jobs in coal, tinplate and other industries in Llanelli and its hinterland during this period. Again, the growth can only be attributed to population movement into the county of a largely non-working population. The real horror story, though, is Ceredigion. Where the Welsh born element has fallen from 72.8% in 1981 to 55.3% in 2011. While, in percentage terms, Ceredigion has seen an even bigger increase in population than Cardiff, from 55,349 to 75,922 (+39.2%). But there has been no gold rush, no economic miracle. The tragedy of Ceredigion is attributable to (again) higher education; (again) the legacy of the DBRW; plus the machinations of former council leader Dai Lloyd Evans and his gang, building expensive houses for local youngsters to buy . . . well, that’s how it was explained at the time.

CONCLUSION  It’s only a matter of time before we Welsh are a minority in our own country . . . or what was our country. In some areas we probably are already a minority. It is not happening by accident. Though it happens partly by doing nothing . . . By which I mean that politicians can neglect scenically attractive areas knowing that there will be no empty houses, no deserted villages, to damn their ineptitude, for there are a million potential buyers in England for every empty Welsh property. It’s a good system, and of course it also weakens a secessionist threat and destroys a ‘divergent’ cultural identity.

What’s happening in Wales though is also due in part to direct intervention from the English Planning Inspectorate and other agents. Were this being done to any other people, they would resist, but we are Welsh. After centuries of having it hammered into us that we are inferior to the English, many of us are now flattered that so many English want to settle among us. This, and more, helps account for the lack of resistance to what is being done to us, and to our country.

But this programme could not operate were it not for the Welsh people who profit by it. The landowners, the builders, the tradesmen, the estate agents, the shopkeepers and countless others. Many of them the kind of people who like to gather convivially and discreetly, to discuss and decide important matters, before letting those matters be aired in what passes for the democratic forum. Many can even persuade themselves they’re doing the right thing for everybody, or ‘the community’, by supporting that new housing development!

And remember! not all those born in Wales are Welsh. As I pointed out in my previous post, even though 72.7% of the population in 2011 was born in Wales only 65.8% identified themselves in any way as Welsh. So minority status will probably come when the Welsh born figure is around 60%. How we face up to this unfolding tragedy will decide what sort of people we are. Whether we are a people deserving of a national future.

P.S. This comes with the usual health warning. If you find that I’ve made a mistake, please let me know and I’ll correct it.

Jun 212013
 

 

A great deal has already been written about the findings of the 2011 Census; some bloggers have dug deep into the data and burned the midnight oil analysing and collating said data. Among those deserving of special mention are Oggy Bloggy Ogwr, Syniadau and Welsh Not British. I’ve even had a go once or twice myself, despite an aversion to numbers and figuring.Welsh born

(Left click on images to enlarge.)

In addition to those on the side of the angels we have also seen desperate attempts to put a positive gloss on some pretty damning and disheartening findings. You know just how desperate, when some are reduced to suggesting that large numbers of elderly English people moving to Wales is to be welcomed. Or that Ceredigion on the point of becoming an English county is somehow compensated for by a couple of Welsh schools in Cardiff, or the Welsh Government being given power over yellow lines.

Over the past few days I’ve done a bit of fresh delving into the findings of the 2011 census, specifically into these two tables: QS203EW Country of Birth and KS202EW National Identity. (Download to open in Excel.) They have provided me with some interesting facts, one of which I have not previously read mentioned anywhere else. In fact, a statistic I find rather disturbing.

Welsh only

Anyway, to begin with, here are three maps showing, by local authority unit, and percentages those, 1/ Welsh born, 2/ Welsh identifying, 3/ Rejecting all Welsh identity. Click to enlarge on all three. Two more things need to be said. Yes, the maps are hand drawn, by me, but they aren’t that bad. (I had thought of blaming the grandchildren, but they would probably have done a better job!) I’ve already confessed to not being enamoured of figures so I ask you to check with the original table if you’re in any doubt about my interpretations. I could have made a mistake (it’s not unknown). I have also tried to present the figures in table form. My attempt can be found below right. (Again, click to enlarge.)

Now a lot has been made of the number choosing to describe themselves in 2011 as ‘Welsh only’, rejecting other identities including British. Up to a point, I can agree, this is encouraging . . . but only up to a point. I say that because looking at the bigger picture, nationally, or even more so, locally, tends to take the gloss off the fact that the vast majority of our people describe themselves as ‘Welsh only’. For example, in Table 1, there’s the fact that only 49.8% of Powys’s population is Welsh born. Yes, I know it’s a border county, with no major hospital, and many locals are born over the border. But even so . . . And what about Ceredigion? Even allowing for the large numbers of students –No Welsh and even the recent activities of Dai Lloyd Evans’ gang – only 55.3% Welsh born is frightening.

The local authority area with the highest percentage of Welsh born is Blaenau Gwent, with 90.3%. Which looks good . . . but only when compared to the other Welsh local authorities. Blaenau Gwent’s figure is just normal, or even low, when set against roughly comparable English local authorities. For example, 95.2% of Barnsley’s population was born in England; St Helens’ (Merseyside) figure is 95.9%; even the figure for Sunderland, in the Tyne-Wear conurbation, is 94.4%. For a deprived, post-industrial, high unemployment area like Blaenau Gwent, 90.3% born in Wales is, in reality, remarkably low. For despite there being little employment in the area it seems people are still moving – or being moved – in to Blaenau Gwent. Going back to the worrying anomaly I mentioned earlier, it was Blaenau Gwent that first alerted me.

For if we look more closely at the figures for Blaenau Gwent we see that while 90.3% of the population is Welsh born we see the following figures for identification: Welsh only 72.4, Welsh and British 8.2, Welsh Combined – e.g. Welsh-Russian if your Mam is from Omsk (or even Tomsk) – 0.8. If we total up these three it gives us 81.4%. Deduct that from 90.3 and we are left with 8.9% . . . that was born in Wales, lives in Wales, but does not regard itself as being in any way Welsh! Struck by this figure I decided to look at the national picture. I soon Full Tablefound that Blaenau Gwent is not unique.

The national picture tells us that out of a total population of 3,063,456 only 2,226,005 is Welsh born. Of this Welsh-born population 1,761,673 (79.1% of Welsh born) considers itself to be Welsh only. A further 217,880 (9.8%) Welsh and British. With a final 38,128 (1.7%) of ‘combined’ identity. Total up the three designations and deduct them from the total Welsh born and we are left with 208,324 people who were born in Wales, live in Wales, but reject any Welsh identification. How do we explain this?

I can understand someone born to Chinese parents describing themselves as Chinese. This could apply to other non-European groups with a strong sense of cultural or religious identity. But there are relatively few members of such groups in Wales. The vast majority of the non-Welsh in Wales are English. So does this anomaly mean that we have over two hundred thousand people living among us, born in our country, who have chosen to reject any identification with us or our country? If so, what a worryingly colonialist or racist attitude this suggests.

The more I look at the Census 2011 findings the more I see a divided country. Due entirely to Wales being systematically and deliberately colonised. To realise the truth of this one only needs to study the recent activities of the Planning Inspectorate, council chief executives and other senior officers, the Third Sector, assorted civil servants (supposedly answering to the Welsh Government), social housing providers, etc., etc.

A policy of colonisation so pervasive and successful that we might already be living alongside an entrenched and growing colonist population, our own Anglo-Irish or pieds-noirs. While we Welsh become poorer and more marginalised. Leading us to reject in ever increasing numbers any political or national label other than ‘Welsh’. How long will it be before this growing resentment and polarisation finds expression beyond the census form, the Eisteddfod Maes, and the rugby stadium?

Dec 112012
 
Most news reports and other commentators seem to be focusing on the decline in the numbers and percentages of those speaking Welsh revealed by the 2011 Census results released today, which is perfectly understandable, because for many ‘The Language’ is their primary concern. Though this approach can deny the observer the fuller picture of the state of Wales today.
To avoid this more narrow interpretation we must accept that the decline in the use of the Welsh language is an effect, not a cause; and the language is doomed to a slow and lingering death until we address the underlying reasons for its decline. These reasons can be found in the other figures released today. But they also have historic causes. (I shall not quote specific figures, that’s been done well enough elsewhere, and they’re all available here.)
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Wales is a rich country with poor people, its natural resources having been exploited over centuries by what was largely English (sometimes Scottish, or even native) capital and entrepreneurs, with few benefits for the great majority of the Welsh beyond low paid and dangerous employment in the extractive or manufacturing processes. With the decline of these industries Wales – after a period of throwing vast sums money at so called ‘inward investment’ – began to sink towards a condition of very low wages and benefit dependency. Throughout history, and across the globe, this situation has resulted in a falling population, as the more ambitious leave to take up work elsewhere.
Yet here in Wales, and despite too many of our brightest and best leaving, we see the glaring anomaly of economic decline go hand in hand with a growing population! This – unless accounted for by a very high birth rate (which does not apply to Wales) – is rare, if not unique, in Western history.
What the hell is going on? People are moving to areas without work! People of working age are moving to areas where they will never work! With sparse and inadequate medical and other facilities large numbers of the elderly and those needing specialist care are moving to Wales! To the extent that today, as shown by the 2011 Census:
  • Wales has a higher percentage (18%) of people over the age of 65 than any region of England.
  • Wales has a higher percentage (23%) of people with a long term health problem or disability than any region of England.
  • Wales has a higher percentage (26%) of people without a recognised qualification than any region of England.
The explanation is quite simple – Wales is undergoing a comprehensive form of social engineering. An English population is being brought in to serve two purposes: a) keep up population levels b) anglicise Wales (and thereby minimise any threat of ‘creeping’ secession). What’s worse, the greater part of this influx – especially to rural areas and former mining communities – belongs to the categories listed above.
So an already poor country of three million people, the greater part of it qualifying for EU structural funding, is willingly allowing, or actively encouraging, the movement into the country every year of thousands of people who will contribute nothing beyond making the statistics read even worse on age balance, economic activity, health and disability. Why? This is economic insanity!
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The Welsh language is an indicator of the general health of the nation. Therefore, to believe that the language can be dealt with solely by fresh legislation, or more schools, divorced from its social and economic context, is self-deluding nonsense. Yet legislation and education are the false idols that have been worshipped for decades by those claiming to have the best interests of the language at heart. This was always the easy way out because it avoided confronting the real problems – a weak economy and English colonisation.
Yet despite this obvious, glaring, problem the Welsh Government supports and encourages those very agencies that bring into Wales more elderly people, more workless undesirables, more people with ‘problems’ needing care. This makes the Welsh Government complicit in the anglicisation and the impoverishment of the country it claims to serve. It also makes that shower down Cardiff docks perhaps the most incompetent administration in history! And while the Labour Party may be in power, the other parties cannot be excused, because they have remained silent and complicit.
I have dealt ad nauseum with these issues and I’m damned if I’m going to waste more time on another long list of what needs to be done. It should be unnecessary, for I get the feeling that an increasing number of people can see what’s wrong in Wales. One doesn’t need to be a nationalist to see the economic problem, and its causes. Tackling the reasons behind economic decline will aid the language.
From now on we need a new approach to how things are done in this country. Welsh people must have priority in housing, employment, education, grant funding and other benefits. No Welsh agency will provide housing, benefits, employment or any other services to any person lacking strong Welsh connections. And if the politicians refuse to legislate then they – along with the media and our other enemies – must be ignored by those who are prepared to defend Wales.
Wales for the Welsh? No, not exclusively so. But we certainly shouldn’t tolerate a ‘Wales’ without the Welsh; nor any corner of Wales without an overwhelming Welsh majority. Yet this is where we are headed unless action is taken soon. And it must be action, for words have clearly failed.