Mar 182018
 

UNCRITICAL PUBLICITY

Over recent years, at the prompting of political friends of the homelessness industry, both BBC Wales and the print media have given television series and pages of newsprint so that the countless competing and duplicating businesses in the sector can promote themselves and their ‘mission’.

To my knowledge, nothing even vaguely critical of the homelessness racket has been allowed. It’s the sort of publicity other commercial enterprises usually have to pay for.

But this free publicity is not restricted to companies in the homelessness business, it covers all bodies operating in the third sector, to the extent that the third sector has achieved the status of royalty or dead heroes in that it’s beyond criticism.

If nothing else, this exposes yet again the problems caused to Wales and Welsh public life by the incestuous little world we know as the Cardiff Bay Bubble.

We saw it with the death of Carl Sargeant and we see it again in the crucifixion of Neil McEvoy. A politician’s political or personal enemies ask a lobbying outfit to get some friend in the third sector to make a silly claim of harassment, or bullying, or bum-touching.

The victimisation process might even be initiated by the lobbyists themselves. (‘Shame on you!’ I hear.)

Then it’s a case of all girls together and another poor man-beast is brought down.

Another part of the Bay Bubble is the ‘Welsh’ media, which cannot criticise the third sector, stuffed with Labour Party members and supporters, without offending the Labour Party itself. So the third sector gets the kind of kid-glove treatment I’ve just described.

So who loses out? You and me, my friend, and the 99.9% of Wales lying outside of the Cardiff Bay Bubble.

WCVA STEPS IN WITH DIRE WARNINGS

Earlier this month the Wasting Mule ran a big publicity puff and funding appeal (masquerading as a news story) for the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, in which CEO Ruth Marks told us that the “voluntary sector” is worth £1bn but she’s worried about reducing funding. Note the use of the term “voluntary sector”.

click to enlarge, or click here to view as a pdf document

Ms Marks quoted spurious figures which I’ve highlighted. For example, the figure she uses for ‘England’ almost certainly includes UK-wide bodies based in England and even international agencies such as Oxfam and Save the Children.

The only valid comparison would be England-only agencies with Wales-only agencies. Because I know damn well that in England a Tory Government, and Tory-controlled local authorities, do not throw money at the third sector in the manner of Welsh socialist politicians maintaining their system of patronage.

This reluctance to fund the third sector in England explains why so many third sector operatives have flocked to Wales since we’ve had devolution and Labour dishing out the loot.

Another interesting claim is that the third sector accounts for 10% of Welsh employment. Seeing as these jobs are almost entirely reliant on public funding they could be equated to paying benefit. Or, to be more generous, seeing as many third sector activities are ‘outsourced’ transferring from the public sector to the third sector just re-labels existing jobs.

Then again, the “voluntary sector” means unpaid work, so how can it account for 10% of Welsh employment? She must be confused, or perhaps hoping to confuse us.

After studying the third sector in Wales for many years I know there is a deliberate attempt to mislead or deceive in almost everything the third sector says and does. That’s because there’s a lot of money involved and many careers; the third sector is often a stepping stone to a political career, or it provides a nice retirement job after leaving politics.

But to enjoy these benefits you must be in the ‘club’. And membership is restricted to the Labour Party, with Plaid Cymru – in return for political support – allowed to feed off the scraps.

WCVA GETS REALLY DIRE

Just nine days after the Ruth Marks piece in Llais y Sais, the WCVA was back with a full-page article written by Anna Nicholl, Director of Strategy and Sector Development.

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Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing like grabbing the reader’s attention with the first few lines, just think of: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”, or “All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”, and of course, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”.

But when I read, “To my mind, the very fabric of Welsh life depends on the survival of the third sector”, the needle on the old hypocrisy meter went off the dial. While the bollocks detection equipment just blew up from some kind of power surge. (You should have seen the cat move!)

Hypocrisy_meter_tsd

To believe Anna Nicholl, the third sector is all that saves our beloved homeland from the ravages of the Four Horsemen.

Whereas the truth is that many Welsh communities are being damaged by the criminals, addicts, problem families and others imported by many third sector bodies (and here I include housing associations). Because once you’ve found your racket, and got your funding, you need a steady supply of ‘clients’ to keep the funding flowing, and if Wales can’t provide enough ‘clients’ then you have to look elsewhere.

Earlier I wrote, “there is a deliberate attempt to mislead or deceive in almost everything the third sector says and does”. This article by Anna Nicholl proves my point. But for anyone in doubt, let me spell it out.

On the one hand we have the kind of third sector body represented by the WCVA, such as homelessness company Llamau, with its 266 employees, spending over 70% of its £10m+ annual income on salaries, and paying its CEO £80,000+. Llamau is obviously not a voluntary organisation – it is a business.

Worst of all, it is a publicly-funded business competing with too many other, publicly-funded businesses.

By comparison, Mrs Williams (Troedyrhiw) who you encounter on the High Street, and who puts a sticky badge on your chest for dropping a washer or two in her tin (I always carry some), is a volunteer, because she performs this work for nothing.

Which is not to say that the organisation Mrs Williams collects for doesn’t have paid officials higher up its food chain, but these are charities in that they rely on donations from the public – not government funding.

Another kind of voluntary group is that we see in the picture used to illustrate the Anna Nicholl article, a local group trying to improve its neighbourhood, and with groups such as this there is usually no money involved at all!

So why use a picture like that if it’s not an attempt to mislead or deceive those reading the article?

In fact, Ms Nicholl gives the game away with the wording of the caption accompanying her photo: ” . . . the vital third sector, such as voluntary organisations”. But ‘voluntary organisations’ are only a small part of the third sector, and here they’re being used as a fig leaf.

The good news might be that the WCVA realises that the kind of organisations I criticise are now beyond defending, the only hope being to confuse them in the public mind with ‘voluntary organisations’.

AN ATTEMPT AT BALANCE

After reading Anna Nicholl’s deliberate confusion or conflation of voluntary groups with the avaricious money-grabbers the WCVA really represents I was moved to write to the Western Mail. So I sent my e-mail and got a quick response asking for my full address.

So we know they have my letter for publication, will they now have the balls to publish it, unedited? Just in case, here it is.

“It seems that in recent weeks the third sector has felt the need to defend itself. Presumably in an effort to help, the Western Mail ran a big piece on the 8th quoting Ruth Marks, Wales Council for Voluntary Action CEO; and then on the 16th we had a full-page article by Anna Nicholl, Director of Strategy and Sector Development at the WCVA.
 
This later article was accompanied by a big picture of a mother and child picking up litter, as an example of the ‘voluntary groups’ the WCVA claims to represent, and on which “Welsh life depends”, according to Ms Nicholl. The picture was cute, but deliberately misleading.
 
I have criticised the third sector over many years, principally on my blog, ‘Jac o’ the North’, but I have never criticised voluntary groups, nor charities with an obvious purpose such as the RNLI. My criticism has been reserved for what can only be described as self-serving, third sector businesses.
 
Many of which get millions of pounds in public funding every year, with most of the money going in salaries. And a hefty chunk of that salary funding going to the CEO, who is invariably a Labour Party member or supporter, and often from outside of Wales.
 
As if that isn’t bad enough, we have the duplication to consider. In a recent FoI response from the ‘Welsh’ Government I was told that there are 48 bodies in Wales dealing with homelessness. That’s forty-eight in a country of 3 million people.
 
Having identified an ‘issue’ to exploit it then becomes imperative for third sector bodies to have a steady supply of ‘clients’ in order to ensure the continuation of the generous funding. To meet this need often means importing undesirables from outside of Wales.
 
One Cardiff-based housing association is currently wreaking havoc in Lampeter with the drug dealers and others it’s housing in that hitherto peaceful town – and it has applied to Ceredigion council for permission to convert more buildings to one-bed flats in order to bring in more misfits! And remember – this is being paid for from the Welsh public purse!
 
How can we explain this apparent idiocy? The answer lies in the fact that the third sector is, as I’ve suggested, an extension of the Labour Party.
 
On one level, the third sector is pure cronyism in that it provides thousands of jobs for Labour supporters. On another level, the size of the third sector is used to indicate how poor Wales is, and of course it’s always someone else’s fault – so ‘Vote Labour!’
 
Which means that the third sector exploits and entrenches Wales’ poverty for the benefit of those working in it and for the electoral advantage of the Labour Party.
 
If the hundreds of millions of pounds poured into the third sector every year was used to encourage entrepreneurship and invite investment Wales would be much better off, but would also be less likely to vote Labour.
 
All of which means that the unnecessary, crony-filled and duplicating third sector bodies I’m dealing with have nothing in common whatsoever with mothers and children picking up litter in their local park.”

♦ end ♦

UPDATE 20.03.2018: Chwarae teg, the WM published the letter in full today.

Mar 082018
 

OLIVE AND POPEYE

Regular readers will know that before this incarnation of my blog – hosted by the estimable Gwilym ab Ioan – I had a blog with Google that ran for a few years until December 2012. Then it was pulled for no obvious reason, though Google suggested that I was a spammer, which was palpable nonsense.

I always suspected that someone made a complaint. (However difficult that might be to believe!)

Perhaps because, in that last month, I had a quite bitter exchange with a rather odd woman based in Swansea; her name was Denise Acton Kingsley and her hope for riches was called the Olive Trust, a weird outfit dealing in alternative therapies and treatments. Joss sticks and incantations as far as I could make out.

If you really want to, you can get something of the flavour of the exchange from reading I Will Have My Say.

Acton Kingsley was yet another of those oddball, middle class Englishwomen who have flooded into Wales since devolution was introduced. True to form she cwtched up to the Labour Party – in the form of long-serving Swansea councillor Alan Lloyd OBE, Lord Mayor 2009-10, and now Alderman – before whacking in her application for funding.

Again, sticking to the template we see across Wales, she found herself – or hoped to find – an old building and asked the Wales European Funding Office (WEFO) for a cool one million pounds to turn it into a ‘community building’. (Well, it’s a nice round figure.)

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As someone pointed out, ‘community’ and ‘communities’ appears 14 times in the screen grab you see above, and that’s no accident, for these are magic words which initiates know as the keys to untold wealth. Throw in ‘minority’ or ‘minorities’ and you can hit the jackpot.

I’m not sure if this application was successful. I’d like to think it was laughed off, as it should have been, but the WEFO Online site is currently offline, so I can’t check.

Anyway, after I started the new blog I forgot about Denise Acton Kingsley and her Olive Trust until someone referred me to a piece in Llanelli Online telling us she has resurfaced, across the mighty Llwchwr, in Cydweli, but with the ageing Alderman still in tow to open doors for her.

Now, it appears, she is an expert in ‘equality training’, obviously cashing in on the Equality Act 2010.

According to the Llanelli Online article by Alan Evans the “Olive Trust was set up in 2011”. But we know different, don’t we, boys and girls, because the WEFO application was submitted in July 2010.

What’s more, the Olive Trust may go back even further. Checking the Charity Commission website turned up this reference to an Olive Trust based in Gloucestershire until 2005, when it was “Removed – REGISTERED IN ERROR”.

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Given that this outfit was involved with “natural therapies” it’s reasonable to assume that it’s the same Olive Trust that washed up in Swansea and is now plying its dubious trade out of Kidwelly.

The new scam venture is Olive Training 180 (though the name seems to change from page to page on the website). And reading it causes me to worry for the good people of Carmarthenshire. Turning to the ‘About the CEO’ page (which doesn’t give the CEO’s name!) brings up the panel below. How can anyone claiming to be so well educated have written that first line?

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She also writes of “our team” . . . which is presumably her and Alan Lloyd, the latter described in the Llanelli Online piece as the Chair. The gem above says that Olive Training is the “business arm” . . . of the Olive Trust? I ask because the Olive Trust is nowhere mentioned on the website, but is the only entity mentioned in the Llanelli Online report.

But on the plus side, if you go to the ‘Store’ page you can “Ask an equality question” – for £3! Bloody hell! this is money for old rope – I can offer a service like that. I can see the questions now: ‘Dear Jac, Do you think Labour is doing a good job running Wales?’, or, ‘Dear Jac, Do you have views on the third sector in Wales?’.

I have searched and searched, but have been unable to find anything on the Charity Commission website or the Companies House website for the Olive Trust, Olive Training, Olive Training 180, etc., etc. Which suggests to me that this outfit, whatever it might be called, has no official existence.

That being so, and given that Denise Acton Kingsley is clearly lacking in the small, brightly-coloured round things we boys flicked with our thumbs along the gutters of Brynhyfryd and Manselton, I shall certainly revisit the Olive Trust if I hear that any public money has reached the unlikely pairing of Denise and Al.

STAYING IN CARMARTHENSHIRE . . .

As if the Odd Couple weren’t bounty enough for Sir Gâr I hear of more charlatans third sector mentors putting in an appearance, this time we are being saved from the darker angels of our nature by Gerli Orumaa and Rosie Leach.

Now you’re looking blankly at the screen and wondering, ‘Who the f . . . . . ?’ So let me tell you.

Gerli is an Estonian, living in Swansea, and she’s the Regional Coordinator in Central South Wales for the Ethnic Minorities & Youth Support Team Wales (EYST); while Englishwoman Rosie is based in Cardiff and works for the Welsh Refugee Council (which, despite the name, is not a body helping Welsh refugees).

Unusually, perhaps, for a woman in this area of activity, Gerli has three children.

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Gerli Orumaa and Rosie Leach are organising a focus group in The Hub, Llanelli on Monday the 12th. I don’t know much about Orumaa beyond the fact that she’s involved in the ‘diversity’ industry and has some connection with Swansea University.

Rosie Leach on the other hand provides plenty of information in her Linkedin profile and it’s a fascinating read. She was educated at private schools in Somerset before going up to Oxford where she read Philosophy, Politics and Economics, getting a 2:1 in the Oxford degree that runs Britain.

Her first job in Wales seems to have been as an Oral History Researcher at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Corris from December 2012 to March 2014. (Though of course that would not have been local oral history.)

She went back to England before returning to do 4 months as a research assistant at Cardiff University in the early part of 2015, then back to England before flitting in again to do 4 months in 2016 as a researcher at Bangor. This was somehow fitted around a two-year stint as a Money Advice Caseworker with Advice Mid Wales. Since June 2017 she has been Refugee Week Wales Coordinator for the Welsh Refugee Council.

Theatre is obviously Rosie Leach’s ‘thing’, but her background tells us so much about modern Wales.

Here we have yet another highly-educated middle class Englishwoman involving herself with the Labour-controlled third sector (often with a university connection thrown in), which then results in her and others like her touring our land educating us in how to behave towards fellow human beings – as if we Welsh are in dire need of such lecturing! What is the real message here?

And who are the minorities?

In the case of Naz Malik of Awema fame, Rose Mutale Nyoni Merrill of Bawso, and the Board of Community Health Councils, plus various others, the minority benefitting often extends little further than their family and cronies, most of whom seem to be recent arrivals. So they tend to be self-perpetuating and very self-serving minorities.

By comparison, what of the Chinese, who work hard, keep to the law, and rarely if ever trouble the public purse? The same perhaps could be said of Jews, Sikhs, and to some extent Hindus. Which means that the minorities dominating the third sector in Wales are of African and / or Muslim background.

And why, apart from Gerli Orumaa do we see so few European minorities represented in the third sector when we have so many of them in Wales now, especially the Poles? And what of the long-established Italian community of the south – did they ever demand a constant drip-feed of public funding?

And if we’re talking of minorities, what about those areas of Wales where we Welsh are in a minority, such as the coastal strip between Mawddach and Dyfi? I belong to this minority, so can I demand my wodge? Of course not.

Because it’s not really about minorities, or about respect, or dignity; it’s all about serving ‘Welsh’ Labour’s agenda in suggesting that racism is rampant in Wales due – nudge, nudge – to ‘nationalism’.

It a publicly-funded propaganda exercise.

MEANWHILE, ACROSS THE MIGHTY LLWCHWR . . .

News has also reached me concerning Beverly Garside, of whom I wrote last month in ‘Move to Wales – Plenty of funding, no questions asked’. Garside is a former animal rights activist who mixed with some pretty hairy characters before removing herself to Wales and starting a new life . . . in the sector between second and fourth.

My source, reliable thus far, now tells me that it’s all falling apart, writing, “Occupation of The Feelgood Factory, Bryncynon, by the Empower SVS/Garside empire has been terminated as of this coming weekend. Desertion by Staff or the recent exposé(s) may be the reason.”

But it’s what my source says next that really concerns me.

“Empower/Garside however may be seeking forgiveness for Sins past and present – rumour is that it/she has been engaged to overcome the legal problems faced by https://morristontabernacl.org/ following a period of failure to pay minimum wage.
 
£60,000 underpayed (sic) is rumoured to be the claim.
 
Those responsible for management of The Tabernacle are also Trustees of other Charities that receive Council and Government support and funding. The Morriston Tabernacle building itself is Grade 1 listed and has been beautifully (and expensively) restored……with funding from where?
 
It takes dedication in all weathers to hand out Pink flip flops in Wine Street, Swansea on a Saturday night (grant funded?) It takes competence to act as a Manager and/or Trustee and to properly administer public and charity funds.”

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Not only does it concern me, it also confuses me.

Let’s start with Morriston Tabernacle / Tabernacl Treforys “The largest, grandest and most expensive chapel built in Wales”. My source talks of legal problems due to underpaying, presumably of staff, but Morriston Tabernacle is an unlikely rogue employer. Come to that, how many employees would it have?

The source then says that those responsible are also “Trustees of other charities”. But looking at the three charities connected with the chapel – 1116477, 1164521 and 1152614 – I can only find one trustee who is also a trustee of another charity, and that one is very small.

Then there’s the reference to “Wine Street, Swansea”. While some may be pronounce it like that, it’s in fact spelled Wind (and probably derived from wynd). Though where the hell the pink flip-flops fit I have no idea.

If there is a link between Garside and Morriston Tabernacle, then the question has to be, Who recommended this woman to Tabernacle, and why?

So, Source, please get back with clarification.

♦ end ♦

UPDATE 10.03.2018: Thanks to a phone call out of the blue I may now have made the hitherto unfathomable connection between Garside and Morriston Tabernacle.

The minister at Tabernacle is Reverend Jill Hailey Skeel Harries and she also serves as a trustee on the board of the Union of Welsh Independents, Charity number 248076. More importantly for our purposes, Reverend Harries is also involved with Carmarthenshire Domestic Abuse Services Ltd (previously Carmarthen Women’s Aid) which, as my source suggested, receives “public and charity funding”.

Given that Garside is also involved with domestic abuse, having been a director of Cyfannol Women’s Aid Ltd, of Pontypool, it’s entirely reasonable to assume that if they didn’t already know each other then contact was made through a mutual acquaintance, unless of course Garside has been recruited by the Union of Welsh Independents.

 

Feb 152018
 

 

Some time ago, October 2015, to be exact, I published Bits & Pieces 13.10.2015: Assembly 2016, Reputations, Vattenfall, Cardigan Castle and, almost en passant, I mentioned Empower-Support for the Voluntary Sector, of Cwm Cynon, which I likened to a case of big fleas having little fleas because Empower seems to feed on third sector and other publicly-funded bodies.

Empower SVS is owned and run by  Beverly Elizabeth Garside and I wrote of her, “One mystery though is why, on her Linkedin profile, Bev tells us that she has been director of Empower since January 2001, yet Companies House tells us that Empower was not Incorporated as a company until February 18th 2004.”

I can now explain this confusion, and more, by telling you where Beverly Garside was and what she was doing in the years prior to 2004, but first I want to take a peek at Empower.

EMPOWER SVS

Go to the Empower website and the ‘About Us’ page. On the right you’ll see the staff.

Bev Garside on top and below her we find Owen Davies of whom I know nothing because we are told “Full profile coming soon”. And it’s the same for Pamela Davies below him. For James Davies there is a profile, and it tells us after working in the planning departments of Swansea and RCT councils he spent eight years with Planning Aid Wales before joining Empower in April 2015.

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Next up is the dashing figure of polo player Ashley McMahon, ex-military and still barking commands at that fine body of men the Glamorgan Yeomanry. Ashley is the Marketing and PR Manager.

Next on the totem pole we find young Alex Railton, a Marketing Assistant, for whom Empower couldn’t even be bothered to put up “Full profile coming soon”.

These six I assume are based at or work out of Empower’s office at the Feel Good Factory, Abercynon Road, Ynysboeth.

The others, described as Associates are almost certainly not employees. Liz Tyson is based in Manchester, and her passion would appear to be animal welfare. Ashan Malik is in Bradford. Bryan Collis is in Swansea where his full-time job is with All Wales People First, yet another third sector outfit stuffed with people taking advantage of the public funding bonanza.

The final Associate is Dawn Davies (née Minifey), whose day job is Director of Communities Connected Consultancy Ltd of Bridgend, where we also encounter Bryan Collis again. Though it looks as if Bryan and the others listed are associates. Communities Connected seems to do the same type of work as Empower . . . and no doubt 37 other companies.

Why do I say that? Well, because when Communities Connected was Incorporated with Companies House 14 September 2016 there were two founding directors, Dawn Davies and Paul Stepczak. ‘Who he?’ you cry. Here’s a clue.

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In a previous existence young Paul was “lead cluster officer for Communities First in Glyncoch”. How know I this? From my regular reading of the Church in Wales website, which I recommend unto you all. Stepczak left Communities Connected 12 October 2017, so Dawn Davies is now alone at the helm.

Staying on Empower’s ‘About Us’ page we see, bottom left, a grouping of logos under ‘Our clients’, and an eclectic mix it is, though hardly impressive. For a start, we see Communities First again, that disastrous programme that had its plug pulled last year.

But not before it had consumed £300m of public funding and provided lots of meaningless jobs like ‘lead cluster officer’ in Glyncoch. And of course much of the Communities First funding found its way to consultants and advisors. And while I’m not for one minute suggesting that all those who worked for Communities First were Labour Party supporters, nor that the consultants and advisors were on good terms with the bruvvers, let’s say that Labour Party connections definitely helped when it came to getting your milking pail under this particular cash cow.

Another client that caught my eye was Ambassador Training Wales. As far as I can make out, this Swansea-based outfit trains guides for the tourism industry. I’m not sure what advice Empower provided but Ambassador Training Wales is teetering on the brink and about to be struck off by Companies House.

Then there’s Cynnal Cymru/Sustain Wales, though whether it’s a client is debatable because it seems to be in the same line of work as Empower. Either way, Bev Garside gets a mention under the heading, ‘A story of networking, cars and sustainability‘.

Scroll down to read the fragrant Bev herself say: “The nature of a busy consultancy means I am always on the road; I regularly drive the breadth of England and Wales and accumulate tens of thousands per miles per year.  Whilst I use trains wherever I can, our work often takes us to places that cannot be easily or efficiently reached by public transport.  My new Lexus Hybrid is not only more fuel efficient, which is great for my business, it also produces a third less emissions than my old car.”

The article is dated (à la mode américain) 01.26.2017. So at this time last year Bev Garside, who runs Empower SVS Ltd, was driving around in a brand new Lexus hybrid. Business must have been good because even leasing such a car wouldn’t be cheap

Before examining the business side of Empower I just want to take a wee detour offered by another of Empower’s ‘clients’, useful because it’s all part of a bigger picture. This time it’s Tyddyn Môn.

TYDDYN MÔN

Its website tells us that “Tyddyn Môn was founded by the parents of adults with learning difficulties who wanted a more constructive and rewarding occupation for their sons and daughters.” And the website doesn’t tell us a great deal more than that.

The more I looked into Tyddyn Môn the more obvious it became that despite being located on an island where almost all the native-born speak Welsh the organisation itself is rather, well, unWelsh. Take as an example the highlight of the social calendar, the annual ‘Folk on the Farm Festival’. Here’s the line-up for 2018 – does anyone recognise any Welsh bands there?

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It’s basically a hippyfest, an English hippyfest. So who’s running Tyddyn Môn?

If we go to the Charity Commission website and type in 1072035 we see that the leading light among the trustees appears to be a Mrs Eileen Mildred Clarke, who is also a trustee of a number of other organisations, one of them being Gwasanaeth Adfocatiaeth a Chynghori Gogledd Cymru / North Wales Advice and Advocacy Association.

The Association is also a registered charity, No 1060826, and as the name suggests – and the screen capture below confirms – it covers our six northern local authorities, plus Staffordshire. Staffordshire!

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Why the hell is an English county that doesn’t even border Wales included there? When I see something like that it sets the old Jac antennae all a-quiver. Does anyone have an answer?

Whatever the reason, for year ending 31.03.2017 the Association received £277,939 in grants, mainly from Welsh local authorities (but nothing from Staffordshire) with £294,329 going on wages and running costs. So a rosy future beckons.

Back to Tyddyn Môn, where the Accounts for 2017 tell us the same, depressing story. Total income for year ending 31.03.2017 was £1,594,056, with £1,115,209 coming from Ynys Môn council.

Of that income £1,052,108 went on staff costs. Though, confusingly, page 18 tells us that two trustees were also paid a total of £53,101. Explained thus: “The trustees Mr J.G.P. Webster and Ms T.A. Davies are paid remuneration in relation to the work that they undertake for the Charitable Company as a support worker and housing manager. They are not paid for their posts as trustees”.

Well in that case why not include their salaries with those for the other staff? Though if they are employees why are they allowed to also be trustees?

Maybe I should explain here that the whole point of trustees is to provide oversight of a charity but with the day-to-day running left to the paid staff or volunteers. The two should be entirely separate, and with no payments made to trustees without special dispensation.

In 2016, just prior to the departures of Mrs Olwen Dennis Williams and Mr Huw Elfed Williams, three new trustee-directors were appointed on 9 April. One of them, Michael Ian Hawkes, almost immediately rose to the rank of Chair.

I suspect that Mr Hawkes may have not long moved to the area and so the other trustee-directors of Tyddyn Môn may be unaware of his glittering business career. The pinnacle of which seems to be his ongoing involvement with MHinvent, a company that has flirted with compulsory strike-off more than once and whose latest balance sheet shows liabilities of £2,296,133.

Hawkes has the largest single shareholding by far in MHinvent; hardly surprising seeing as the company seems to be named after him.

Tyddyn Môn may indeed be local to the island, but I suspect that through Mencap and other cross-border agencies connections have been formed which result in an unspecified number of Tyddyn Môn’s residents coming from outside of Wales to take advantage of the council’s generosity.

So if the council is minded to take a greater interest in Tyddyn Môn it might also benefit the island by refusing entry visas to the rag-bag collection of pony-tails lined up to wail at the Folk on the Farm Festival.

That’s the end of the digression; now it’s back to Beverly Garside and Empower SVS.

EMPOWER-SUPPORT FOR THE VOLUNTARY SECTOR LTD

The first problem I encountered when making enquiries into Empower on the Companies House website was the latest set of Accounts, or rather, what passes for the Accounts, for it’s no more than an abbreviated and unaudited balance sheet.

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Surely these Accounts – showing a deficit of £3,573 – aren’t for a company with five or six employees on the books, with consultants to boot, and where the owner of the company “drives the breadth of England and Wales” every year in a hybrid Lexus?

What’s going on? Where’s the money stashed?

I’m not sure, but a clue might be provided by something I stumbled on, for there’s another entry on the Companies House website for Empower Support for the Voluntary Sector a slight variation on the name of the original company. Yet it is the same company because it quotes the same number, 05048133.

What’s different is that this entry tells us that Empower is a Designated Member for CJF Recruitment LLP set up 21 May 2016. So what can Companies House tell us about CJF Recruitment LLP?

CJF has three Designated Members: Matthew John Bates of Ystrad Mynach, Jane Thomas of Llanbradach and of course Empower Support for the Voluntary Sector.

I’m not quite sure how to explain this, being unfamiliar with LLPs and their operation. I know that they are partnerships and appeal to solicitors, accountants and the like, but it’s difficult to see the advantage of a LLP over a normal company in the case of CJF.

And what do the initials stand for, certainly not the names of the partners?

But we still don’t have the answer to where the money is to run the Empower company, which seems to survive on fresh air.

As an introduction to where I’m taking you next I might as well tell you that Beverly Garside is also a director of the Captive Animals’ Protection Trust, which has its correspondence address at her home.

UPDATE 15.02.2018: As I said earlier, Empower is based in the Feel Good Factory in Ynysboeth. What I didn’t realise then was that this building – formerly All Saints Church – is shared with other users. Principally Bryncynon Community Revival Strategy Ltd.

On page 5 of the Accounts for y/e 31.03.2017 for this charity (no 1067535), and company, we learn that :-

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The Accounts also tell us, towards the top of page 4, “Trustees are elected from Bryncynon and its surrounding areas”. Which is as it should be. However, of the five current charity trustees / company directors one lives in Brackla, one lives in Llandaff, one in Whitchurch, one in Mitchel Troy, with just one from the local area.

But no doubt they have strong Labour Party connections to make up for their ignorance of Cwm Cynon.

THE MISSING YEARS

As I noted in the 2015 mention of Garside and Empower, “Bev tells us that she has been director of Empower since January 2001, yet Companies House tells us that Empower was not Incorporated as a company until February 18th 2004”. So how do we account for the missing years?

This link will take you to a story from The Courier (Kent/Sussex) some time in 2002. Read it carefully. Bev Garside was clearly mixed up with hunt saboteurs and animal rights activists. Her co-accused in the case I’ve linked to, Gavin Medd-Hall, was jailed for eight years in January 2009 for a different but related offence.

I don’t know the outcome of the trial in Maidstone Crown Court in 2002 because there’s no longer anything available online. But we now know where Beverly Garside was and what she was up to before the founding of Empower-Support for the Voluntary Sector in February 2004.

And her involvement with animal rights activism explains her need to claim that Empower started in 2001.

I had to think long and hard before writing this piece, in fact, it caused me more soul-searching than anything else I’ve written on this blog for a number of reasons.

To begin with, I’m an animal lover myself, I would have closed down that animal concentration camp in Borth even before the two lynx were killed. And then there’s the thought that writing this piece might give pleasure to Garside’s old foes, the twats in pink, which is not something that would please me.

That said, there are bigger issues illustrated by this case, important Welsh issues.

THE WILD WEST

In the case of Empower, we have a company that may not receive public funding itself, but lives off the recipients of public funding. And yet, at the end of the day, what do all the advisors, the empowerers, the enablers, the developers of communities, the consultants like Empower, contribute to the wealth of Wales?

Very little, especially when weighed against the amount of public funding consumed and the percentage of it that might as well be poured straight down the drain. (Just think Communities First.) The only thing this money does is create unsustainable jobs and a small amount of spending power. But this system that keeps Wales poor gives politicians the power of patronage.

So blatant is this system, and so well known, that it attracts shysters from outside of Wales looking for easy money that is not available elsewhere. It seems that every village and valley now has some old harridan behaving like a 19th century memsahib or else it’s a glottaly-afflicted young harpy so sharp she’s in danger of cutting herself.

If it’s not those running the third sector then it’s those they inflict on us; that’s because there aren’t enough Welsh to keep the funding flowing and so whole battalions of the decrepit, the deranged, the delinquent and the dependent are marched over the border.

And it’s not just our cities and larger towns that see these problems, for there isn’t a country town in Wales today unaffected by the trafficking of criminals, misfits and white trash by third sector agencies and housing associations.

It would be easy to describe these as misguided do-gooders, but they do no good at all, not for Wales anyway. They use Welsh public funding to make Wales more dangerous for us and our children. What special kind of national lunacy is this?

Then there are those who obviously see Wales as a bolt-hole or a wilderness into which they can disappear and not be recognised. This is how Mark Bridger, the murderer of five-year-old April Jones of Machynlleth came here, packed off by his family when he became too much trouble.

And who can forget the whole gang of satanic paedophiles relocated from London to Kidwelly. Yes, Kidwelly! Who the hell thought that was a good idea? Have our politicians ever asked for answers?

I’m not comparing Beverly Garside to Mark Bridger or the Kidwelly child rapists but it looks very much as if she also ran away to Wales. Maybe it’s time she practised a little honesty. Accounts for her company would be a good place to start.

The whole system is broken. We are told we need the third sector because Wales is poor . . . but the third sector thrives on poverty and makes us poorer . . . worsening poverty is then used to justify a bigger third sector . . . which makes us even poorer . . .

There is only one way out of this downward spiral – independence.

♦ end ♦

 

Jan 242018
 

Most of you will be aware that after a protracted and amateurish ‘process’ Plaid Cymru has now expelled Neil McEvoy from its Assembly group. This will have surprised absolutely no one. But what is it all about, what’s the real story?

From speaking with Neil McEvoy and others, and from my own research, this is my interpretation of an affair that reflects badly on devolution, also on Plaid Cymru, the Labour Party, and the third sector, while telling us much about the anti-democratic manoeuvrings and poisonous environment of Cardiff Bay.

The biggest problem I found in researching this piece – something I’ve been doing, off and on, for months – was not the scarcity of evidence but the overwhelming amount of it. Which meant that I had to stick to the straight and narrow without being detoured by personal animosities and other distractions.

IN THE BEGINNING

I don’t think we need to go back any further than November 2011 to find the time when Neil McEvoy made himself a host of powerful enemies, people who have pursued him ever since, and would now appear to have him down . . . though I wouldn’t bet on it.

What he did with a Facebook post and tweet about men being denied access to their children, and his criticism of Welsh Women’s Aid – run then by Labour’s Paula Hardy and today still packed with party members including the former MP for Swansea East, Siân James – was to threaten a system that relied on unquestioning acceptance of certain dicta, in this case – ‘All men are bastards, and all women are victims’.

This particular dictum wrings an unquestioning acceptance out of politicians and others which is then used to cultivate an ever-growing number of third sector bodies – as new ‘niches’ are found to exploit – with hundreds of crony jobs and all paid for from the public purse. And who would dare argue – for aren’t they ‘helping vulnerable women’.

Though it’s worth remembering that McEvoy was not without support from the very same quarter where most wanted him lynched, as this piece reminds us. It’s about Erin Pizzey, who had founded the UK’s first women’s refuge in London, in 1971.

This woman has been a doyenne of the women’s rights movement since the term ‘battered wives’ was coined and has expressed strong views on the narrow interpretation that only women can be victims of domestic violence. She has also been very critical of what she terms ‘aggressive feminism’.

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Predictably, this has made Pizzey unpopular with those who use their gender as a weapon in securing personal advancement, often in the absence of ability or qualifications. And especially with those who view someone else’s domestic abuse as a good career move for them.

Following the self-interested attacks from various third sector bodies back in 2011 the Labour Party predictably came down on a Plaid Cymru politician. But it didn’t end there, because McEvoy was suspended by his own party.

Here we see the first inkling of something beneath the surface suggesting that the political differences we are asked to believe in, the Punch and Judy shows of electioneering and political debate, may be just a sham.

THE POLITICS OF IT 1

Neil McEvoy was first elected as a Labour councillor for the Riverside ward on Cardiff city council in 1999, becoming vice-chair of the Labour group. In 2003 he left to join Plaid Cymru and lost his seat in the 2004 elections.

In 2008 he was back on the council, representing the Fairwater ward. With Plaid now running the council in coalition with the Lib Dems he served as deputy council leader from 2008 – 2012. Although Labour returned to power in 2012 McEvoy retained his Fairwater seat, coming top out of 13 candidates with 16% of the total vote.

Neil McEvoy entered the Assembly in 2016 by the regional route, becoming an AM for South Wales Central. Although the regional vote is difficult to interpret, few doubt that Plaid’s good showing was due to McEvoy being on the regional list.

(In the first round of voting for the South Wales Central list he actually beat party leader Leanne Wood.)

At the same election he also stood for the Cardiff West constituency, where he increased the Plaid vote by 11.9% and slashed the Labour majority.

Roll on to 2017 and in defending his Fairwater seat Neil McEvoy took Plaid Cymru to previously unscaled heights and a humiliating defeat for Labour. He upped his percentage of the vote to 20%, with the leading Labour candidate trailing way behind on 9%.

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What makes this result so impressive is that just before the council elections – in March, in fact – a Cardiff Council (i.e. Labour) tribunal found that a throwaway remark McEvoy had made to a council official amounted to ‘bullying’.

Plaid Cymru joined in by suspending him from the Plaid Cymru Assembly group. Plaid chairman Alun Ffred Jones, thought that the ludicrous charge was “serious because it involves bullying”. (Alun Ffred is one of those men so devoid of animation that watching him I think back to the old Soviet Union and the undead politburo members atop Lenin’s tomb. A fur hat and a few snowflakes would complete that rather unsettling image.)

The timing and co-ordination of these attacks was of course coincidental.

THE POLITICS OF IT 2

Were he or she reading this then I’m sure that the foreign correspondent of Maritza Plovdiv would be thinking (in Bulgarian) ‘Wow! at last Plaid Cymru has a politician who can stick it to the Labour Party, take them on and beat them on their own turf. Let the good times roll!’

In truth, since Neil McEvoy arrived in the Assembly, Plaid Cymru’s faint-hearts have behaved as if they’d been handed a bomb. For a number of reasons.

To begin with, I don’t think they understand McEvoy. For while Plaid may have many members in Cardiff nowadays, and there may be a thriving Welsh language scene in the city, this is largely due to the population movement that has enfeebled our rural areas.

But Neil McEvoy didn’t move down from Pwllheli or up from Crymych, he’s Kerdiff through and through, with his Irish/Yemeni/English/Welsh background. And this is his strength, for he appeals to Cardiff voters who might not engage with Carys or Rhodri.

Nor did he come to Plaid by any of the usual routes. By which I mean, he certainly hasn’t come from the language movement, he isn’t an environmentalist or a hard leftie infiltrator, nor is he a professional politician who started out as a party worker or spad, and he certainly didn’t emerge from the third sector.

So in many ways, Neil McEvoy is a one-off, an enigma; and for all their talk of ‘the people’, when presented with a genuine man of the people Plaid Cymru’s upper echelons are horrified.

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That’s because Neil McEvoy – like most of us reading this – realises that the real enemy in Wales is the Labour Party, not the Conservatives. And so he attacks the Labour Party and its corrupt system again and again. This is why Plaid Cymru is on the verge of expelling him from the party.

It is no exaggeration to make a comparison with the palace coup against Dafydd Wigley in 2000, for once again Plaid Cymru is thinking of getting rid of its most popular politician and its greatest electoral asset.

And once again, the move may be prompted by influences external to the party.

ALL PROGRESSIVES TOGETHER

In the collective mindset of the Plaid Cymru leadership and hierarchy being ‘progressive’ – and/or being viewed by others as ‘progressive’ – is more important than doing what’s best for Wales. Posturing.

Giving the finger to the US president, saving the planet, arguing that only fascists and racists want us to leave the EU, supporting every -ism that rolls off the left-liberal production line, and getting good coverage in the Guardian, are much more important than serving Wales.

Despite professing love for, and faith in, ‘the people’, progressives don’t really trust hoi polloi to do what’s best (especially since Brexit, Trump, and a host of other recent disappointments). Far better that a progressive elite should run things in the best interests of the untutored mob.

This has given Wales the kind of paternalistic statism we have always known from Labour, with Plaid Cymru latching on to Labour’s coat-tails in recent decades. Industry and commerce are inimical to this model because companies and even individual entrepreneurs cannot be easily controlled, and so both Labour and Plaid Cymru – despite regular protestations to the contrary – are anti-business.

There was a time when Labour could exercise this control through the workforces of major industries and trade unions, but with the passing of the traditional working class it has tried to maintain its hold by breaking society down into ethnic, sexual and other ‘deprived’ or ‘oppressed’ groups – all of which must be defended!

This helps explain the rise of the third sector which, especially in Wales, now fills the role vacated by the trade unions as Labour support troops. Plaid Cymru dutifully goes along with this . . . on condition that enough of its people get a slice of the third sector pie.

It’s no surprise then that one of the complainants against Neil McEvoy is Frances Beecher of homelessness company Llamau (of which I have writ many times). Her complaints are laughable, and tell us how contrived this witch-hunt is, and who’s behind it.

FRANCES BEECHER, Courtesy of WalesOnline, click to enlarge

For example, “he was ‘bullish, difficult and aggressive’ at the charity’s public election hustings in May 20”, we are told. Er, so a politician spoke up at a public meeting! God Almighty – let’s get the bastard!

This ‘social worker politics’ ensures that Wales remains poor, for which Labour and Plaid Cymru blame the Tories (even when they aren’t in power), and the poverty allows the Tories to point to Wales and use it as a warning of what happens if you vote Labour.

So everybody wins – except Wales.

Let’s also remember that relying on more money from the UK government proves that Plaid Cymru doesn’t want independence. Dependent devolution with few responsibilities and plenty of perks is far more amenable.

‘STRONG WOMEN’

Of all the -isms Plaid Cymru has adopted over recent decades none is currently more pernicious and self-harming than the aggressive and intolerant form of feminism now stalking Cardiff Bay.

It manifests itself in a number of ways, and it transcends party boundaries to the advantage of Labour.

In November 2015 I wrote this mixed-bag post, and you should scroll down to the section ‘Sophie Howe, more Labour cronyism’. Howe, a Labour time-server, had been deputy PCC for South Wales to Alun Michael, the former Labour MP, then a new post was created for her, that of Future Generations Commissioner.

This new post linked with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, legislation tied in with the OnePlanet nonsense that opened rural Wales up to hippy lebensraum. Because it involved hippies, and offered no benefits whatsoever to Welsh people, it was supported enthusiastically by Plaid Cymru.

Neil McEvoy (who I referred to in the piece as “a rising star within Plaid Cymru”), criticised the appointment for what it was – Labour cronyism. Others in Plaid Cymru saw it differently, like then AM Jocelyn Davies.

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It was the Jocelyn Davies view that prevailed in Plaid Cymru and provided me with an insight into certain attitudes that allowed gender and perceptions of solidarity to over-ride the political differences most of us imagined existed. The political differences we were asked to vote for at election times.

With the death of Carl Sargeant and other recent developments we now know that things are even worse than justifying political cronyism for no better reason than that the appointee is “a strong woman”.

The agenda takes many forms. For example, there is currently a petition calling for Neil McEvoy not to be reinstated to the Plaid Cymru Assembly group. It is addressed to party leader Leanne Wood, but is it her decision alone?

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Even though it claims to be the work of ‘Concerned Welsh Women’ it’s pulling in signatures from around the world, so obviously the petition has been widely publicised in feminist circles and the Labour Party.

The word on the street is that this petition was started by another ‘strong woman’, in the form of Helen Mary Jones, sometime AM for Llanelli. She of course denies it. Though I find it interesting how many times her rebuttal reduces the whole business to a men versus women issue.

At one point she refers to Neil McEvoy as “Neil McAvoy”. Being unable to even get his name right might suggest he’s almost incidental to something bigger.

Whether Helen Mary Jones did start the petition or not she told a friend of mine once, “I have more friends in the Labour Party than in Plaid Cymru”. Make of that what you will.

Helen Mary Jones was AM for Llanelli. The seat where the great rugby coach Carwyn James once stood, and where Plaid Cymru had one of its strongest branches . . . until the general election of 2017, when the candidate selected by the local party was turfed out to make way for a woman candidate imposed by Cardiff HQ.

The imposed candidate lost, the local branch imploded, and Plaid Cymru is withering away in Llanelli.

UPDATE 25.01.2018: It seems that the petition has been taken down.

LOBBYISTS

The late Carl Sargeant complained about being bullied from within the office of Labour leader and First Minister Carwyn Jones in 2014. The finger points at former television journalist Jo Kiernan, who left at the end of 2015. This report of her departure makes it clear she was loathed by many people even in her own party.

When she left the office of the First Minister Jo Kiernan went to lobbying firm Deryn, from where the bullying and undermining of Carl Sargeant continued. The ‘Welsh’ media is reluctant to say this, so let us be thankful for Guido Fawkes. Jo Kiernan also served as a consultant to Llamau.

Though whether the continued bullying came from Kiernan alone will perhaps be established in coming months. It may be significant that Jo Kiernan’s Twitter account went silent around the time of Carl Sargeant’s death, but the tweets preserved suggest she too is ‘a strong woman’.

If we look to the six leading players at Deryn we see four with Labour backgrounds, Cathy Owens, Huw Roberts, Jo Kiernan and Vicki Evans, and two from Plaid Cymru, Nerys Evans and Elin Llŷr.

Courtesy of WalesOnline, click to enlarge

In July 2016 Neil McEvoy drew attention to what he, and many others, considered to be a conflict of interest involving Nerys Evans. He also called for a register of lobbyists. Which would have seen his card marked, yet again.

Early in 2017 Neil McEvoy further endeared himself to Deryn by revealing that Ofcom’s Welsh operation had awarded a contract to Deryn without any tendering process, and this looked bad seeing as two Deryn directors – Nerys Evans and Huw Roberts – sat on the Ofcom Wales board.

The Ofcom contract with Deryn was terminated in August.

These third world shenanigans feed into the continuum, Labour/Plaid Cymru-lobbyists-third sector. With people, overwhelmingly women, floating between the different parts as if they were one. Though of course the continuum is restricted to Labour and Plaid Cymru personnel.

Which inevitably results in political differences blurring, or disappearing altogether. The priorities are influencing political decisions (often for personal gain) and milking the public purse. And God help anybody, like Neil McEvoy, who becomes aware of this corruption and starts blowing the whistle.

This explains why Plaid Cymru is so anaemic, so reluctant to confront Labour. It could even be that through channels like Deryn Labour is to some extent controlling Plaid Cymru. Certainly Nerys Evans is a very close friend of Leanne Wood.

One thing’s for sure, when it comes to election times, and we are asked to choose between Labour and Plaid Cymru, there is no choice, they’re one and the same; combining to keep Wales poor so they get votes by blaming the Tories while their friends in the third sector feather their nests from exploiting our deprivation. (And, where necessary, importing more!)

Neil McEvoy knows this. Neil McEvoy wants to expose this. And it’s the reason Neil McEvoy is now being targeted: Discredit the messenger and hope that the message dies with his political career. But it won’t work. Too many people are waking up to the incestuous relationships and the wider corruption down Cardiff Bay.

Neil McEvoy will emerge from this stronger and more popular, but the careers of many of his detractors will suffer, and I’ll enjoy writing about it. Because you’ve brought it on yourselves!

♦ end ♦

 

Nov 122017
 

THE PUBLICLY-FUNDED THIRD SECTOR

HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS

In my previous post, Anti-Welsh Housing Associations, I told you about Wales & West Housing’s irresponsible behaviour in Lampeter, part of a more widespread problem of housing associations chasing the money by housing criminals, which is much more lucrative than putting roofs over the heads of locals.

Of course they argue that there’s a dreadful shortage of accommodation for ‘vulnerable’ people, and of course they’re right – England doesn’t have enough accommodation. Which is why Wales, through its housing associations and other third sector bodies, is currently taking in so many problems.

And yet, while housing associations and others receive premium payments from whoever supplied their new tenants, plus housing benefit and other goodies, there is an obvious downside.

I’m referring to the effect on formerly peaceful communities caused by the arrival of undesirables. But there’s also the extra work for the police and associated agencies. Though perhaps the biggest burden falls on the NHS and associated services, for most of those being moved to Wales by the route described will have ‘issues’ needing expensive treatment.

So while taking on these problems is good business for housing associations and others, the wider implications, and costs, for the country as a whole, more than outweigh the financial benefits accruing to the landlords. Which makes this behaviour selfish, short-sighted and socially irresponsible.

It can fairly be described as anti-social housing.

And of course it raises the question of why the ‘Welsh’ Government allows these bodies, all of which are in receipt of public funding, to behave in this manner.

But the problem isn’t confined to housing associations.

HOMELESSNESS

I have written many times about the overlapping, interweaving and competing homelessness organisations. I thought I knew most of them but someone just brought a new one to my attention. It’s called Emmaus UK and the business model centres on charity shops and workshops for the homeless.

Which means that the Emmaus model should be self-financing. Which is what Emmaus claims.

Its Welsh presence – at the moment, anyway – seems limited to Bridgend, where it appears to have started in 2011. The screen capture below is taken from the Charity Commission website, and it tells us that in 5 years the income has rocketed from £53,728 to £1,570,327. (Private companies would love to see growth like that!)

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When we look more closely at the accounts for the year ended 30 June 2016 we see that the biggest source of income is the ‘Welsh’ Government with a gift of £300,000, up from £200,000 the year before.

But why does a “self-supporting” organisation require any public funding? Especially as we can see it’s not needed, for despite having an income of £1,570,237 it only spent £886,832, which leaves a profit balance of £683,405.

Does Wales have no better use for that £500,000?

Apart from the Emmaus presence in Bridgend the Charity Commission website offers dozens of options for Emmaus operations in every corner of England. Curious to see how much funding these English operations get I checked out a few.

I looked at Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol and Tyneside, four major English cities/conurbations, where the problems of homelessness must be far greater than in Bridgend and Porthcawl. What I found surprised me. Emmaus in these areas operates with a third or less of the annual income of Emmaus in Bridgend – and there’s no public funding at all!

Moving north of the border, the income for Emmaus in Glasgow, where the charity has two shops, a workshop and a warehouse, was only £572,264 in 2016. So why does the Bridgend operation get so much money?

Another telling fact is that Emmaus spends twice as much per ‘companion’ in Bridgend as it does in England. Is Emmaus in Bridgend providing luxury accommodation? Or paying £25 an hour? Is the Welsh operation just inefficient? Or is public money so easy to come by in Wales that it’s being squandered?

Finally, the Emmaus UK housing unit in Bridgend was built on land provided by Valleys to Coast Housing Association. So not only is Emmaus UK receiving Welsh public funding, it also looks as if it was gifted publicly-owned land.

I began this section by saying that Emmaus was new to me, despite being familiar with many organisations claiming to be helping the homeless in Wales. As I don’t know how many there are I have submitted a FoI to the ‘Welsh’ Government. They must know how many homelessness organisations they’re funding . . . surely?

P.S. I know there are different criteria for assessing homelessness, and those ‘threatened with homelessness’, though I don’t like that second category because – rather like ‘jobs secured’ (as opposed to ‘jobs created’) – it’s open to misuse. Even so, I went the StatsWales website and checked the figures for rough sleepers.

You’ll see that the most recent figure for Bridgend tells us that the estimated number (right hand column) of rough sleepers is 10, with nary a single emergency bed. Whereas in Ceredigion there are no less than 30 emergency beds for an estimated 6 rough sleepers.

I suggest both figures tell us a lot about what really goes on in the ‘Welsh’ homelessness racket.

UPDATE 13.11.2017 – PARTNERSHIP?

It’s become clear to me over the years that there is some kind of co-operation between the ‘Welsh’ Government – or rather, the civil servants who operate in its name – and the various Lottery funds. Emmaus South Wales provides another example.

If we go to the Companies House entry we find under the ‘Charges’ tab two listings, both concern ‘Land and buildings at Nant Lais, Heol y Nant, Bridgend’. I should explain that Charges usually means mortgages, loans, or other forms of indebtedness. If you see too many marked ‘Outstanding’ it can be a cause for concern.

On the Emmaus entry we find one charge with the number 0718 8459 0001 for a mortgage entered into between The Welsh Ministers, as the ‘Mortgagee’ and Emmaus South Wales as the ‘Mortgagor’. This agreement is dated 7 August 2015.

The other Charge, number 0718 8459 0002, is between Emmaus, the ‘Grant Holder’ and the Big Lottery Fund as ‘The Fund’. This is not a mortgage but a grant of £425,000. (See below.) So why is it treated as something other than a straight gift? Because it comes with certain conditions; for example, if Emmaus turns the building into a massage parlour, or flogs it off to some Russians looking for indoor growing facilities, then the grant is forfeit. This agreement is also dated 7 August 2015.

In a sense, they complement or cancel each other.

From the Big Lottery Fund website. Click to enlarge

Here’s a scenario. The ‘Welsh’ Government wants to give this property to Emmaus but fears some malcontent finding out and kicking up a fuss, so they contact the Big Lottery Fund – ‘Oh, look, we’ve got this very worthy cause looking for money to buy something from us, so we’d like you to oblige with a grant’.

Maybe it’s done some other way, but I am in no doubt that there is a well-used system for the various Lottery funds to give money to projects recommended by the ‘Welsh’ Government. The ‘worthy cause’ gets what it wants, the ‘Welsh’ Government can appear prudent with public money, while from the Lottery’s standpoint, if things go tits up, they can say, ‘Ah! but the Welsh Government recommended these people’.

Everybody’s back is covered. Everybody’s a winner!

Except perhaps those communities, and those projects, that aren’t so well connected. Those worthy causes that spend months or years building up support, preparing their bid, only to be beaten by insider dealing such as I’m suggesting in Bridgend. Which of course, just happens to be Carwyn Jones’s constituency.

And if I’m right, then in their very short time in Wales Emmaus has received over one million pounds thanks to the ‘Welsh’ Government.

THE PUBLICLY-FUNDED PRIVATE SECTOR

Another net importer of criminals, paedophiles and others, plus many homeless, is of course the private rented sector – just think Rhyl! – where we find the same ugly combination of self-interest and lack of concern for the consequences of pursuing that self-interest.

A recent news item re-awakened my interest in events in Pembrokeshire. On the evening of November 7 there was a disturbance at a block of flats in Meyrick Street, Pembroke Dock, and it was reported that armed police officers had attended. The flats are in the former Coronation School.

I got to wondering who owns these flats, and so I went to the Land Registry website where I was presented with what appeared to be a long list of individual titles, and although I didn’t count them I assumed it was one for each flat.

I chose two at random, Flat 10 and Flat 31, which was unnecessary because they both have the same title number CYM402081. Why so many different entries for the same title number? Was the intention to sell off the flats individually?

Both title documents say the building was bought by Cathal Eamonn McCosker for £200,000 with money that seems to have been borrowed from Barclays Bank. But others now having a claim on the property are Alexander and Rose Russell of Swindon and Pembrokeshire County Council.

It would appear that in order to meet his obligations Mr McCosker has tried to sell the building. First, at auction on Thursday 27 April 2017 with a guide price of £1.3m. This obviously failed because it was marked “withdrawn by agent”, and then put up for auction again on 08 June 2017 with the guide price now reduced to £975,000. But as we know from the Land Registry, it is still owned by Mr McCosker and his creditors.

With Cathal Eamonn McCosker we have one of the more intriguing stories to emerge from Pembrokeshire in recent times. Despite the widespread assumption that he’s Irish, on the Companies House website he describes himself as British, and gives an address in Oxford.

So what’s the story?

Basically, McCosker stands accused of receiving funding for projects in Pembroke Dock for work that was never done. This scam may have been conducted with the connivance of senior council officials and even a councillor or two. If they weren’t in on the scam then they’re now trying to draw a veil over the whole affair in the hope of saving face.

A number of people have followed the case over the years, including two councillor-bloggers. A good start would be with Councillor Jacob Williams’ Trumped-up charges – Part 4. While another excellent source is Councillor Mike Stoddart, and his Strange business.

I believe I’m right in saying that the Woodward and Bernstein of the Kremlin on the Cleddau actually unearthed the McCosker scandal.

McCosker has appeared on this blog after he cropped up a couple of years ago in a newspaper story about the vast amounts of money being paid in housing benefit to private landlords. I wrote about it in To Those That Have Shall Be Given – Housing Benefit!

McCosker was quoted as receiving £236,834 in housing benefits for his Pembrokeshire properties, with a further £35,248 paid through his E-Lettings company, which he used for the Coronation School flats. A local journalist tells me that this money was being paid into a bank account in the Irish Republic, which raises questions about taxation.

The Coronation School seems to target young people leaving care, many from ‘away’; vulnerable, mainly uneducated young people, many of them with ‘issues’. Conditions in the old school building are said to be primitive, which if true will of course qualify the tenants for social housing.

CONCLUSION

In an earlier post I referred to a system of human trafficking in Wales, a system run by selfish and unscrupulous individuals and organisations that brings into our country people needing expensive help or simply criminals and undesirables that no one else wants.

Which would be bad enough in itself, but we are paying for this. The public money of a poor country is being spent on problems that should not be ours. We are effectively paying to make our communities, like Lampeter and Pembroke Dock, less happy, less safe, and all done in order that Wales & West Housing can expand, or Cathal Eamonn McCosker can get even richer.

This system of bringing another country’s problems into Wales exposes a number of issues.

First, it tells us that we have a third sector that has become bloated due to over-feeding, and because of its size it now wields a malevolent influence on the ‘Welsh’ Government and the civil servants who actually run Wales. This influence damages other sectors that we should be encouraging . . . you know, things like real businesses, that might create real jobs, and increase Wales’ wealth . . . without wrecking Welsh communities

‘Nah, we don’t want none of that nasty prosperity round by ‘ere’.

But then there’s the issue of corruption in Welsh public life, at all levels. Who in their right mind believes it’s a good idea to give hundreds of thousands of pounds to Emmaus, a supposedly self-sufficient organisation?

And why is the investigation into the corruption centred on Cathal Eamonn McCosker stalled? Is it because too many people at both Pembrokeshire County Council and the ‘Welsh’ Government are involved? For the money used to enrich McCosker was EU funding, administered by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO).

While writing this I’ve been drawn to three recent posts about Carmarthenshire. The first, was by Siân Caiach, then there was the latest from Jacqui Thompson, and finally, another gem from my favourite blogger, Y Cneifiwr. They all prompt the same question – what other democracy would allow Mark Vincent James (OBE) to ruin so many lives and run Carmarthenshire County Council like a medieval barony?

It doesn’t have to be like this. But everything you see around you is part of the problem, and so can never be part of the solution. Radical change is needed. Wales will soon be offered the hope of change. Be ready!

♦ end ♦

 

Aug 282017
 

PEMBROKESHIRE CARE AND CYMDEITHAS GOFAL

Human trafficking is a term we’ve become increasingly familiar with in recent years, it’s a clandestine and largely illegal activity that reduces human beings to transferable commodities, to be moved around and exploited for the financial benefit of some third party.

Many people will be surprised therefore to learn that this practice is widespread here in Wales – and it’s funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government.

In January 2016 I wrote The ‘Care’ Racket in Wales, and earlier this month, Care in the South West (or the lack thereof); in both I looked at Pembrokeshire Care and Cymdeithas Gofal / the Care Society which operates in Ceredigion. Both help the homeless, and those with ‘issues’, such as drug addicts and those recently released from prison. (Or, to lapse into the jargon, ‘the secure estate’).

The England flag being larger is a simple mistake to make, as is the misspelling of Agorwch

Though in the more recent post I’d neglected to mention that the Care Society is itself a landlord with three properties in Aberystwyth. Which made me wonder – seeing as it administers the ‘Welsh’ Government’s tenant bond scheme – if it pays itself a bond for those it houses in its own properties?

Both societies also operate as lettings agencies. In Pembrokeshire we have Pathway Lettings and in Ceredigion Cymdeithas Gofal has its Estates and Lettings agency. Letting agencies always charge a commission.

From the Pathway Lettings website it looks like a £50 up-front administrative charge for tenants, the landlords pay £50 for an Introductory Service’, a ‘Let Only’ service costs £150, then there’s another £150 for the ‘Managed Property Service Charge’, plus ‘10% (negotiable) of monthly rental income’. And there are further charges! (read them all here).

Cymdeithas Gofal’s Estates and Lettings is more coy in that it doesn’t give the figures on its website, but there’s no reason to suspect that it operates a lot different to its Pembrokeshire counterpart.

So we have two letting agencies with a ready supply of customers thanks to their parent bodies, which also administer the ‘Welsh’ Government’s tenant bond scheme (to themselves?), and act as unfair competition to private letting agencies and estate agencies that don’t have access to the public purse.

Cymdeithas Gofal also hopes to be soon offering mortgage and insurance services!

Which sums up the ‘Welsh’ Government’s attitude to what it likes to pretend is business. In truth, it’s the anti-business attitude of ‘Welsh’ Labour and Plaid Cymru.

In case anyone thinks I’m making a big deal out of nothing here, let me conclude this section by telling you that the amount received by Pembrokeshire Care under the tenant bond scheme totalled £575,922.16 for the three financial years ending 31.03.2016.

And that is just part of its income; an income that allows it to sit on reserves of £756,542, with that hoard made up almost entirely of “cash at bank and in hand” most of it “unrestricted funds”, which means it was not given for a specific purpose and so can be used for just about anything. All figures available here in the latest accounts.

With a further £120,000 set aside for “Senior Management Succession Planning”. Isn’t that comforting?

ENTER GRWP GWALIA AND THE MONEYBAGS WALLICH

Anyway, the reason I’m returning to this subject is that both Pembrokeshire Care and Cymdeithas Gofal have competition, particularly the Ceredigion outfit. It began when someone referred me to a poster on the board in the Quarry Cafe in Machynlleth.

Now this is not an establishment I frequent when I’m in our ancient capital, due to its connection with the Centre for Alternative Technology in Corris, but last week the wife wanted to visit the town’s weekly street market and that’s how I found myself pushing past hippies, knocking over skinny lattes, and ignoring the ‘ . . . last time I was in Kathmandu’ conversations, to take the photo you see below.

click to enlarge

It looks innocent enough, until you know a little more about the two bodies involved. Grwp Gwalia is a housing association based in Swansea and is now part of the Pobl Group.

If the name rings a bell it might be because this is the housing association that was happy to take on the gang of Satanic paedophiles from London and inflict them on Kidwelly.

Though nowadays, it seems that Grwp Gwalia is concentrating on students! But should a publicly-funded housing association be in this neck of the property jungle?

Anyway, moving on.

I hadn’t realised until a short while ago that Grwp Gwalia has an office in Newtown, which is where Mid Wales Housing is based. So for a minute I wondered if the move into Powys was the first stage in a takeover bid for MWH? Well, perhaps not, because this page on the Gwalia website suggests that it has found a ‘niche’ to exploit, primarily homelessness and mental health.

Grwp Gwalia’s Newtown operation

So where does ‘The Wallich’ fit into the picture? I suppose many of you may even be wondering, ‘What is “The Wallich”?’ The Wallich is an all-Wales agency, and the trading name of the Wallich Clifford Community, which caters for the homeless and those with other – often associated – ‘issues’.

As I say, The Wallich operates across Wales, with a major presence in Swansea and Cardiff, but is also busy in Wrecsam and Rhyl (I bet that mention of Rhyl surprised you!). A quick perusal of the latest accounts (up to 31.03.2016) tells us that The Wallich is a multi-million-pound operation.

In year ending 31.03.2016 The Wallich had a total income of more than ten million pounds, six and a half million of which came from the ‘Welsh’ Government and assorted local authorities, with a further three and a half million coming from “rent and service charges”. Which contributed towards total assets of nine and a half million pounds, most of it in “tangible fixed assets” i.e. property; these figures include over one million pounds invested and £2.8 million in “cash at bank and in hand”.

The Wallich is clearly awash with cash and assets despite two-thirds of its income going on salaries and pensions. There is a strong case to be made for saving the public purse a few million pound every year by cutting back on The Wallich’s funding.

THE WALLICH IN ABERYSTWYTH

And now Grwp Gwalia and the Wallich are spreading their wings in Machynlleth. From their perspective I suppose it makes sense in that it gives them a footprint in a new area, though how much call there is in Machynlleth for the ‘services’ they provide is another matter.

As I did my checking on The Wallich I began to suspect that the operation planned for Machynlleth might be no more than an outlier for The Wallich’s operations in Aberystwyth, just 18 miles away.

For there, in Aber’, and nearby Borth, we find that The Wallich has no less than four properties:

  1. First, in 9 Corporation Street, catering for for “individuals with a range of complex support needs including needs around offending behaviour, being a prison leaver, mental health issues, substance misuse issues, physical health needs, housing needs or a mixture of these”.
  2. A few doors away, No 13 provides “temporary accommodation for single homeless people who need low level support, or for individuals ready to move-on from projects where they have received a higher level of support and wish to increase their independence.” Perhaps people move from No 9 to No 13.
  3. On No 14 Queens Road we have ‘Tŷ Nesaf’, “The project aims to work with the residents to support them to reduce the various harms they have in their lives e.g. homelessness, substance misuse issues, mental health issues and repeat offending. The project also aims to reduce the level of negative impact these individuals may have on the community in general.”
  4. Finally, just out of town, in Borth, we have the ‘Families Temporary Accommodation Project’, and the blurb tells us: “We support residents to increase their control, understanding and involvement around the issues they have identified as needing assistance with, in order to prevent further homelessness.”

COMPETITION OR CO-OPERATION?

So now we know that Aberystwyth, the Queen of Cardigan Bay (or is that Aberteifi?) is blessed with not only Cymdeithas Gofal, providing accommodation for the homeless, those recently released from ‘the secure estate’, alcohol and substance abusers, and others, but that the town is doubly blessed in having The Wallich in the same line of business.

Together they provide many dozens of rooms for their clients, who are then passed on to private landlords and social housing providers with the tenant bond supplied by the ‘Welsh’ Government. A conveyor belt of problems.

from the Cymdeithas Gofal website

Realising how well supplied Aberystwyth is with facilities for those experiencing difficulties (invariably of their own making) some of you may be saying to yourself, ‘I didn’t realise Aberystwyth was so big’. Well, it’s not. It’s roughly the same size as Tredegar.

Yet despite being a post-industrial town, and among the poorest in Europe, Tredegar seems to suffer little from homelessness, certainly it doesn’t have the veritable industry we find in Aberystwyth. So why does relatively prosperous Aberystwyth – apparently – have such a homelessness crisis?

The answer is obvious – the ‘homelessness problem’ in Ceredigion (and Pembrokeshire) is largely imported from over the border. But who cares, everybody’s dipping their beak – from the 262 staff of The Wallich to the private landlords of Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. Plus the ‘Welsh’ Government can tick a few more boxes to claim it’s doing a wonderful job.

(The influence of private landlords, coupled with the proliferation of houses of multiple occupation – and the scarcity of both in Valleys towns – may go a long way to explaining the thriving ‘homelessness’ business in Aberystwyth.)

To answer the heading of this section, I found no evidence of co-operation. Typing ‘Cymdeithas Gofal’ or ‘Care Society’ into the Gwalia Search box turns up nothing. Type ‘Wallich’ into the Cymdeithas Gofal Search box and it comes up as one of many external links.

Which means that greedy Third Sector bodies are now in competition to import England’s problems into a small Welsh town – and you pay for it. You contribute to making Wales perhaps the only county on Earth with a state-funded system of human trafficking.

If the ‘Welsh’ Government has decided that Wales is to become the dumping ground for England’s decrepit, dysfunctional and delinquent – and to judge by the funding provided, this must be the case – then let Carwyn and his gang have the honesty to say so.

♦ end ♦

Jan 232017
 

If you read this blog regularly you’ll know about the takeover of Cantref, a housing association based in Newcastle Emlyn, by Wales and West Housing of Cardiff, a company with strong links to the Labour Party. For those catching up, I advise starting with the post Cantref: ‘Welsh’ Labour Takeover Challenged? To give some chronological marker, the takeover was officially registered with the Financial Conduct Authority 19 September 2016.

Even before the takeover I was receiving information from a person or persons I must assume were ‘in the know’. This information came by a number of routes, and was of varying degrees of confidentiality; what came as comments to this blog I can use in full, but information received by more discreet routes will require more circumspect treatment.

Let’s start with a comment from July 2015. Two points from it are worth noting. First, I believe the “something else going on” is a reference to the increasing suspicion that Cantref was about to be sold down the river. Second, the reference to “David Hedges of Cyngor Da” (Good Counsel/Advice) was a little confusing at the time because Hedges is a consultant and Cyngor Da is his company, yet he’s described as one of Cantref’s directors.

I shall return to our Dai, son of Glamorgan cricketer the late Bernard Hedges, later.

As we now know, Cantref was indeed sold down the river, taken over by Wales and West Housing of Cardiff, ‘Welsh’ Labour’s favourite housing association. (Though the ‘Association’ bit was dropped from the name in 2012, now it’s just Wales and West Housing.)

As the takeover was going through I was being told about Wales and West “surveyors” evaluating Cantref’s stock and joking about taking down opposition party – mainly Plaid Cymru – placards and posters from WWH properties in the Cardiff West constituency during last year’s Assembly election campaign. There was no attempt to hide the fact that Wales and West Housing is ‘Welsh’ Labour by another name.

Something else I was hearing through other channels – though I confess I paid little attention at the time – was that Wales and West is linked somehow with the Mid Wales Housing Association. Now MWH inherited much of its stock, either directly or indirectly, from the Development Board for Rural Wales, that agency set up to ‘repopulate’ the five counties of central Wales. Part of the DBRW strategy included building homes for ‘key workers’, which in practice meant housing the complete workforces of relocating English companies or factories.

As I say, I should have paid more attention to this Mid Wales Housing reference if only because something interesting had emerged a few years earlier.

The nub of the story I’m referring to can be found in this news item from 2012 which tells that the Development Board for Rural Wales borrowed money at 14% interest over 50 years to build those ‘key worker’ houses, and when the DBRW (together with the Land Authority for Wales) was merged with the Welsh Development Agency in October 1998 that debt was transferred to the ‘Welsh’ Government.

Which if you think about it was odd . . . if not impossible.

Because the devolution referendum was held on September 18th 1997 and the first Assembly elections on May 6th 1999. Which means that when this transfer was effected in 1998 there was a devolutionary void. The transfer was therefore accomplished by Westminster, and this saw our incoming AMs confronted with a fait accompli. (Makes you wonder what else might have been dumped on our Assembly before it came into existence.)

In addition to the news story there was an interesting discussion on the blog of Montgomeryshire Tory MP Glyn Davies. Davies was the last chief executive of the DBRW.

Now we hear of deals being struck between Mid Wales Housing, Wales and West Housing and an unnamed English housing association to bring in tenants to Llandrindod. The ‘Paul Diggery’ referred to is Paul Diggory, currently chair of the Chartered Institute of Housing in Wales, and before that, for over 15 years, chief executive of North Wales Housing.

The ‘Ann Hinchy’ mentioned is Anne Hinchey, chief executive of Wales and West Housing, wife of Graham Hinchey, Labour councillor for the Heath ward in Cardiff.

Naturally, I tried to make enquiries about WWH developments in Llandrindod. Turning to Google I came up with this . . . but the link is broken. I was unable to find anything for Llandrindod on the Wales and West website, either.

So what ‘Jonny English’ seems to be saying is that Wales and West Housing, with its HQ in Cardiff, its new western office (the former Cantref office) in Castell Newydd Emlyn, it’s northern base on Deeside, is now trying to get a footprint in the middle by linking up with Mid Wales Housing and some English housing association.

Entirely predictable, because when we look at who’s running MWH we see the usual English mediocrities staring back at us from the Executive Group page. Without whom we’d still be living in caves.

I’m sure ‘Jonny English’ will read this, as will others with information, so please let me have more details, most importantly, the name of the English housing association involved in this scheme. I’d also appreciate clarification on the relationship between WWH, MWH and the English outfit (the one from England).

Let us return now to David Hedges. After being at Cantref when the transfer to Wales and West was arranged, the word on the street is that he’s now ensconced at Pembrokeshire Housing! What can it mean?

Again, for newcomers, or those with short memories, Pembrokeshire Housing is a body I have written about many, many times. Not just the parent body but also its bonny offspring Mill Bay Homes. I suggest you start here with Mill Bay Homes and Pembrokeshire Housing and then Mill Bay Homes and Pembrokeshire Housing 2.

The set-up is as follows. (And here I have to be careful cos writing about this lot has resulted in Jac getting solicitor’s letters.) Pembrokeshire Housing appears to be a normal housing association, grabbing its whack from the Welsh public purse to build social housing, much of which is allocated to persons and families having no previous connection with the area, or indeed with Wales.

Back around 2011 someone came up with the wheeze of using the dormant Pembrokeshire Housing Two Thousand Ltd to build properties and sell them on the open market. The name was soon changed to Mill Bay Homes. Now, after £7m+ has been transferred from parent to subsidiary, and houses built for retirees, investors, and friends of the MBH management, it seems that questions are – belatedly – being asked about this highly unusual arrangement.

This might explain the recent ‘retirement’ of Peter Maggs, Pembrokeshire Housing’s chief executive, and the arrival of David Hedges as – so ‘Dai the Post’ tells us – interim housing director.

Even allowing for the fact that within the social housing racket field in Wales there are bound to be connections and linkages, there seem to be far too many between Cantref, Pembrokeshire Housing, Wales and West and Campbell Tickell, of whom more in a moment.

As I said at the outset, David Hedges appeared in Cantref just before it was handed over to Wales and West Housing, like some harbinger of doom. Now we hear that he’s involved with Pembrokeshire Housing, and we’re also told that Wales and West is again manoeuvring into position to pounce. Interestingly, if we consult David Hedges’ Linkedin profile we see that he has worked for Wales and West. (If you can’t access the Linkedin profile click here for a downloaded version.)

UPDATE 26.01.2017: An anonymous source tells me that Dai Hedges is more of a fire-fighter than an assassin, sent in when things are going pear-shaped. Which may be true, but won’t be much consolation to those at Pembrokeshire Housing.

I’m reasonably certain that Jonny English is somewhere in the north, while Dai the Post is probably in the south west, so it’s interesting that both mention Campbell Tickell; which gives me the opportunity to explain for late arrivals where this management consultancy fits into the big picture.

Campbell Tickell is the company of Greg Campbell and James Tickell, both Labour Party supporters. And as his Linkedin profile tells us, Campbell has even worked for the party. Also note the reference to Common Purpose, that shadowy, some say sinister, Labour-leaning, globalist organisation for professionals in public life.

In addition to being rather suspect in its motivation and workings Common Purpose has a distinctly contemptuous attitude towards Wales. Check out this list of CP’s programmes for 2017. Scotland and Northern Ireland are covered, as are the regions of England (even individual cities in Scotland and England), but Wales might as well not exist. Search for ‘Wales’ on the Common Purpose website and you’ll turn up this little story about Chinese students on a flying visit to the Assembly in December 2015, nothing more.

Here we have a network that results in English appointees to many Welsh jobs. On the ground, it operates thus. ‘Welsh’ Labour helps its very own housing association to expand within Wales to the point where – already the largest – Wales and West Housing becomes dominant. (What’s the next stage?) To avoid accusations of cronyism it passes the recruitment process to Campbell Tickell, a Labour-supporting Common Purpose recruitment agency.

This procedure is not confined to housing associations, it can be found across public life in Wales, to the extent that I sometimes wonder if devolution is nothing but a scam to create a few thousand jobs for our neighbours in the £50,000+ salary bracket. Worth asking because devolution is achieving sod all for us Welsh.

This system satisfies two vaguely linked agendas.

On the one hand, it helps the Labour Party compensate for its declining electoral support by spreading the party’s influence, via Wales and West Housing and other agencies, into areas where many would rather Glasgow kiss a rough stone wall than vote Labour. Areas such as Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Powys.

But the system also serves the agenda of civil servants in Cardiff and elsewhere, who answer to mandarins in London, and whose overarching ambition is to keep a check on – even roll back – devolution. One of the best ways of achieving this to ensure that as few Welsh people as possible fill positions of authority. This creates the impression that we Welsh can do nothing for ourselves and also comes in useful when ‘consultations’ are undertaken to determine future policy direction.

All of which brings us back to my post earlier this month Housing Associations: Secret or Public?, in which I explained why Labour politicians and civil servants wish to maintain the secretive status of our public funds-guzzling housing associations. I suggest you read it.

And if you have a beef with a housing association then there’s no point in appealing to Nick Bennett, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. Bennett was CEO of Community Housing Cymru, the umbrella organisation for housing associations, from July 2006 until July 2014. Bennett is also close to ‘Welsh’ Labour, having been in business with a former Labour minister.

HE’S NOT AND HE IS (if you want to watch the video click here)

To take the explanation a stage further, we have a system of social housing, increasingly controlled at national level and managed at local level by people who know nothing about Wales and without any concern for – or even contemptuous of – Welsh identity, using vast sums of Welsh public funding, and regularly housing people with no connection to Wales. Because of course social housing in Wales is locked into an Englandandwales system. I have that on impeccable authority.

Back in early December 2010 I wrote a reader’s letter to the Wasting Mule seeking answers from Nick Bennett to a number of points. Instead of publishing it the Letters Editor passed my questions on to Bennett who then e-mailed me directly, saying: “Strong local connection cannot be the only acceptable qualification for social housing in Wales. Social housing is a scarce resource for homeless people and those on low incomes who can’t access housing in the private sector. There are over 2 million people on waiting lists for social housing”.

Wales is the most corrupt country in Europe because it suits so many to have it that way. This corruption helps the Labour Party in Wales maintain power and influence despite declining support at the ballot box. Facilitated by Common Purpose and other bodies, this corruption discredits devolution and thereby strengthens England’s hold on Wales to the point where assimilation will have been achieved before most of us realise it.

If I was working for Pembrokeshire Housing I’d be getting worried now, because the vultures are circling – they may already have landed! And yet, just like Cantref, you brought it on yourselves, in your case with the insane decision to fund a private house builder subsidiary. And what will happen to Mill Bay Homes when Wales and West Housing takes over?

To understand how this system of colonialist corruption operates you have to recognise and understand the linkages, how they influence and contaminate public life in Wales. Social housing is the perfect example because it brings together so many threads. And it explains why the ‘Welsh’ Government and the civil servants who ‘advise’ it want to save housing associations from public scrutiny.

But don’t think for one minute that the corruption is confined to our housing associations. Corruption is endemic in Welsh public life – because it’s encouraged.

♦ end ♦

Jan 022017
 

It’s difficult to know where to start with this rather complex story. Maybe we should go back to 2008 and the Welsh Housing Quality Standard, presented as an attempt to improve the standard of social housing. The WHQS was in fact nothing more than the Decent Homes Standard that operated in England. Another example of ‘Welsh’ legislation being just renamed and repackaged English legislation. Though in this instance, there was one very important difference, to be found in this National Assembly document, which says . . .

If the ‘Welsh’ Government can fund housing associations and also fund councils that retain their housing stock, then surely it can find the money for ALMOs? To argue otherwise doesn’t make sense. Limiting the choice to those options might make sense though to those in the social housing sector who saw WHQS as a weapon that could be used to get local authorities to hand over their housing stock. But do housing associations really exert such influence?

Well, consider this. The umbrella body for housing associations in Wales is Community Housing Cymru (CHC). From July 2006 until July 2014 the group chief executive of CHC was Nick Bennett. Prior to that he’d been a Spad for a few years until October 2002 and in between he’d been a director of Cwmni Cyfathrebu Bute Communications. Another director of this long-defunct company was Alun Davies, who had not long before switched his political allegiance from Plaid Cymru to Labour, and would be elected as a regional AM in 2007.

So Nick Bennett was in business with a rising star in the Labour Party – who’d already stood for the party in Ceredigion in the 2005 UK election – and this would have done him no harm when he applied for the post of group chief executive of Community Housing Cymru in 2006. Bennett’s strong links with ‘Welsh’ Labour also explain why he got the job of Public Service Ombudsman for Wales in July 2014.

In addition, many housing associations, particularly in the south, are stuffed with Labour Party members and supporters, and the party goes out of its way to help these associations. A recent example would be the takeover of Cantref by Wales and West. I’ve written about this disgraceful episode a few times, my posts can be traced back from Cantref: ‘Welsh’ Labour Takeover Challenged?

Cantref is a housing association based in Newcastle Emlyn, operating in a bilingual area with bilingual staff. It hit a rocky patch and a scavenger soon appeared in the form of Wales and West Housing, whose chief executive is Anne Hinchey, wife of Cardiff Labour councillor Graham Hinchey. Business is now conducted in English only and ‘Welsh’ Labour has an important beachhead in an area where it has very little electoral support.

The latest example of the influence housing associations exert over the Labour Party and its ‘Welsh’ Government comes with the news that, “In September (2016), the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced housing associations should be considered part of the public, not private, sector. But the Welsh Government promised to take “whatever steps are necessary” to reverse the change, following concerns.”

The key to understanding what’s going on here is, firstly, that these “concerns” come from housing associations and their umbrella organisation Community Housing Cymru. I am not aware of anyone – other than CHC’s fifth column inside the ‘Welsh’ Government – who believes that housing associations becoming public bodies is a bad thing.

The reason given for opposing the ONS initiative is, “Community Housing Cymru (CHC) said it could affect their (housing associations) ability to borrow money and to build new homes.”

Let us look at the first of those claims that, if reclassified as public bodies, housing associations would find it more difficult to raise private funding. Which suggests that housing associations are now borrowing considerable sums from banks and other financial institutions. But are they? In my investigations into housing associations I have found little evidence that they rely on commercial loans. So where does housing associations’ income come from?

The largest and most obvious source of income is rents from their housing stock, most of which they inherited from local authorities. Yes, these properties have to be maintained and improved, up to Welsh Housing Quality Standard, but as we’ll see below, the ‘Welsh’ Government – i.e. you and me – pays for it all! And there are other funding streams, as I explained in Housing Associations – The Great Deception. (Nov 17, 2015.)

As I said back then, “One of the facts unearthed is something called Dowry Gap funding, paid to certain housing associations for them to use in upgrading the housing stock they’ve inherited from councils under voluntary transfer (i.e. through a vote by tenants). This funding is currently being paid to ten housing associations and in 2015 – 16 the total cost will be £43.8m. Tai Ceredigion Cyf’s ‘Dowry’ will be paid at the rate of £1.6m a year for 30 years. If this 30-year term applies to the other, larger housing associations, then the total cost will be £1.3bn.

This Dowry Gap funding seems to complement the Welsh Housing Quality Standard legislation, which demanded that all RSL properties be up to WHQS standard by 2012. This deadline – and its funding of £108m a year – has now been extended to 2020. Introduced in 2004 and running to 2020, £108m a year totals up to £1.7bn.

Adding the two we get a total figure of £3bn for ‘improvements’. Seeing as Wales has 143,790 RSL properties, this works out at almost £21,000 per property! (Is this right? Will somebody please check the figures.) That is a lot of moolah for windows and doors, especially when we accept that many of the dwellings inherited from local authorities were in good condition, certainly not needing ‘refurbishment’ to the tune of 21 grand per property.”

Another lucrative source of ‘Welsh’ Government funding for housing associations is the Social Housing Grant. The latest figures I have tell us that between 2008 and November 2015 £771,708,622.59 was paid in Social Housing Grant.

We are talking billions of pounds of public funding going into social housing. Perhaps four billion pounds by 2020.

The second part of housing associations’ objections to becoming public bodies is that they claim it could affect their ability “to build new homes”. Why? They’d still have the income from their rents, and they’d still receive public funding. This claim is just baseless scaremongering done to hide the real objections those running our housing associations have to them becoming public bodies.

As things stand, housing associations, or Registered Social Landlords as they’re also known, have the best of all possible worlds. They operate as private companies, but with massive advantages over what we would normally consider to be private companies.

To begin with, most of them inherited their housing stock for nothing when council tenants were given a vote (often after receiving misleading information). Then, as I’ve just explained, they receive staggering amounts of money from the public purse, despite, with their assets, being able to raise private funding just like other businesses. Being registered as Industrial and Provident Societies with the toothless Financial Conduct Authority means that they are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act – yes, despite all that public funding! Finally, oversight and monitoring by the ‘Welsh’ Government is non-existent.

This last fact explains how we can have a situation in which a publicly-funded RSL like Pembrokeshire Housing can set up and fund a subsidiary, Mill Bay Homes, for it to build and sell homes on the open market to retirees and investors (with of course Mill Bay Homes having an unfair advantage over independent house builders in the county).

When Pembrokeshire Housing will get back the millions of pounds it is has ‘loaned’ to Mill Bay Homes is anyone’s guess . . . but why should you worry when nobody in the ‘Welsh’ Government seems in the least concerned by this bizarre arrangement. I have written about Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes many times. Work back from Welsh Social Housing, A Broken System (Oct 23, 2016) to Mill Bay Homes and Pembrokeshire Housing 2 (June 14, 2016).

Those of you who enjoy a good read should settle down with this report into the workings of the Pembrokeshire Housing Group compiled by a concerned member of the public. (No, not me.) It has been circulated to interested parties, too many of whom seem to believe that if they whistle and look elsewhere the embarrassment will disappear.

But there are so many other problems with housing associations.

The most recent stock transfer seems to have been in Gwynedd, in 2010, when the council transferred its housing stock to Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd (CCG). Among the first things CCG did was to hand over the maintenance contract for its properties to English company Lovell, which then brought in sub-contractors from north west England. I saw this first-hand in my village, and wrote about it in The Impoverishment of Wales (Aug 26, 2014).

Another issue I recently unearthed was that of housing associations leasing properties from shady offshore companies, the biggest of which is called Link holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd. I wrote about it in a piece entitled, unsurprisingly, Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd (Oct 10, 2016). Equally unsurprising is that the ‘Welsh’ Government’s civil servants don’t want to talk about this scandal, ‘All a long time ago . . . leases taken out by previous incarnations . . . stop bothering us’. But nothing changes the fact that Welsh housing associations in 2017 are putting a lot of public money into companies hiding in tax havens. Should public money be used in this way?

A long-standing problem with housing associations, perhaps more visible in rural areas, is that in order to appear busy, to pretend there’s a demand in order to keep the funding coming, they will often bring into Wales misfits and petty criminals. This was certainly an issue with Cantref. Note the reference in the information below to “young tenants from the hostel”. I’m told that Cantref brings in from England young tearaways and within a very short time extended families of scruffs and roughs are wandering Aberteifi. Other housing associations do the same, because it pays well.

One of the worst cases in recent years was the gang of paedophiles and rapists housed in Kidwelly by Grwp Gwalia. I wonder how much Grwp Gwalia was paid to inflict these creatures on a small Welsh town? Were those responsible ever reprimanded or sacked? Did Grwp Gwalia compensate the victims?

It was in attempting to get information on this case that I realised housing associations are not bound by the Freedom of Information Act. Because when I asked for details a door was slammed in my face . . . a heavy and expensive door paid for with public money.

Finally, before leaving this section, let’s ask ourselves exactly who is complaining about the ONS proposal to make housing associations open and honest public bodies? Well we can be sure that the minions employed by our RSLs don’t have a direct line to Stuart Ropke, Nick Bennett’s successor as Group Chief Executive at Community Housing Cymru. The opposition is coming from much further up the food chain.

From people like the £150,000 a year chief executive of RCT Homes. After that bit of bad publicity RCT Homes rebranded itself as Trivallis. Most people in the Central Valleys are still trying to figure out what Trivallis means, and how much it cost to change everything. But, hey, it’s only public money, and there’s plenty more where that came from.

With social housing we have bodies operating in a Twilight Zone that allows them to pretend they’re private companies, free from bothersome FoI requests and any worthwhile official scrutiny, yet enjoying assets they did nothing to build up while having their finances constantly topped up by the public purse. With overpaid CEOs pretending they’re part of the business community.

Registered Social Landlords are part of the Third Sector, that monkey that we must shake from our backs if we are to build up a healthy economy and a prosperous country. Wales is over-dependent on hand-outs, but instead of using even that funding wisely, far too much of it is passed on in further hand-outs. This is trickle-down economics Welsh style.

The fundamental problem with the Third Sector in Wales is not that it exists – for there will always be shysters looking for some ’cause’ to exploit in their own interest – but that it is so interwoven with the ‘Labour movement’; which in itself might not be a problem were it not for the fact that ‘Welsh’ Labour is the recipient and distributor of the handouts.

We should be thankful to the Office for National Statistics for giving us this chance to clean up the expensive mess that is social housing in Wales. We should grasp this opportunity with both hands and make our housing associations public bodies, open to public scrutiny.

The worst possible outcome would be for the ‘Welsh’ Government to be swayed by individuals like Nick Bennett, Stuart Ropke, the £150,000 a year CEO of Trivallis, and too many others with a vested interest in maintaining the indefensible status quo.

To maintain that status quo would be to pander to a selfish, sectional interest against the national interest. Of which we have seen far too much since 1999.

♦ end ♦

P.S. Here is my submission to the Public Accounts Committee for its Inquiry into the Regulatory Oversight of Housing Associations.

Nov 052016
 

IN THE BEGINNING . . . 

Once upon a time there was an obscure little charity in Barry called the John Rowley Trust, formed in 1986, which ran a hostel for homeless young people.

But then, in May 1999, came the first elections to the National Assembly for Wales. Someone said, ‘Ah, a new source of funding – time to get organised!’ What’s more, because Plaid Cymru did so well in those first elections, they thought they saw the future, and said, ‘Let’s give our revamped organisation a Welsh name’.

And so, at an Extra-ordinary meeting of the John Rowley Trust on July 12, 1999, Llamau Ltd was born, and a few new directors appointed. (Though there was obviously some confusion about the name chosen because the document submitted to Companies House says that the new name is ‘Llaman’.)

Though Llamau’s commitment to the Welsh language is questionable, seeing as there is no Welsh version of the website, nor indeed any Welsh at all to be found on it. Clearly the ‘commitment’ extends no further than the name.

ENTER FRANCES BEECHER

In October 2000 Frances Beecher was appointed CEO, and boy! did things then take off. Ms Beecher is also a Fellow and a Trustee of the Labour-supporting Institute for Welsh Affairs, where her bio (scroll down) tells us that, “Frances steered the organisation (Llamau) through an extensive development programme from 28 staff to approx. 350 staff.”

Ms Beecher was next appointed to the board of Llamau Ltd, as secretary, on February 10, 2005. There is also the charity Llamau. As is normal practice the directors of the company also serve as trustees of the charity, with two exceptions. Frances Beecher, as an employee and a director, is not a trustee. And even though Stuart Duffin is listed on the Llamau website as Vice Chair (under Trustees) he does not appear on the Charity Commission page as a trustee, nor on the Companies House website as a director. Which I find odd.

The ‘Governing document’ is the Memorandum and Articles of Association which sets out what the company is allowed to do and how it operates, a copy must be filed with Companies House. You can see that a number of changes are mentioned, but we only need to concern ourselves with the most recent.

llamau-governing-document

Let’s start with the last but one amendment. This is dated St David’s Day 2012 and was agreed at a General Meeting of the company held on February 25. It says, “3 The Company’s objects are – To promote the welfare and well being of people in need in the South Wales area, etc., etc.” Which is what we should expect.

But if we go to the amendment of roughly a year later, following another General Meeting, this one held on January 26, 2013, we read, “That the Memorandum of Association of the Company be altered by deleting paragraph 3 in its entirety and inserting the following – 3 The Company’s objects are to promote the welfare and well being of people in need in the United Kingdom, etc., etc”. 

So in the space of less than a year this hitherto insignificant outfit, once an unknown charity in Barry, has taken on a UK-wide role. Given what it does, and that Llamau operates only in Wales, the fact that it benefits people from across the United Kingdom suggests only one thing – that people from outside of Wales benefit from Llamau’s services by moving to Wales.

But even “across the United Kingdom” is misleading because Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own judicial systems, so it should read ‘England and Wales’.

ALSO INVOLVED . . . 

The Chair of the Trustees at Llamau the charity, and of course a director of the company Llamau Ltd, is Angela Mary Gascoigne; a busy woman with an interesting background.

From 24.09.1998 until 27.09.2001 she was a director at Community Housing Cymru. There then seems to be a gap – or at least I’ve found nothing – until some time in 2008 when she turns up as managing director of the Somer Housing Group in Somerset, which has since changed its name to the Curo Group (Albion) Ltd.

llamau-angela-gascoigne

The name change may have come about in response to a less than favourable report on Ms Gascoigne’s running of the Somer Housing Group.

Obviously cue to exit stage left, so in November 2011 we find Ms Gascoigne joining the ‘Wales’ Probation Service, which has since split, in 2014, into the Wales Community Rehabilitation Company and the National Probation Service which, as the Justice website tells us, ” . . . is a statutory criminal justice service that supervises high-risk offenders released into the community in England and Wales”. So it’s an Englandandwales body.

UPDATE 12.11.2016: Here’s an example of the kind ‘high-risk offender released into the community’ . . . to kill an innocent teenager. The family of the murdered youth is now planning legal action against the Wales Community Rehabilitation Company.

llamau-national-probation-service

It would appear that Angela Mary Gascoigne was still connected with the National Probation Service for Englandandwales when she joined Clean Slate Training & Employment Ltd of Bath as a non-executive director on July 1, 2013. Its website tells us, “Clean Slate Training & Employment was set up in 2006 as a social enterprise creating and supporting paid work opportunities for people facing barriers to the labour market”. Ms Gascoigne left Clean Slate on July 4, 2016.

While a director with Clean Slate Angela Gascoigne also took up a directorship, on November 11, 2013, with Sedgemoor Housing Management Services Ltd, of Bridgewater, Somerset. She was appointed secretary on January 2, 2014. This company might be the trading arm – it’s certainly a subsidiary – of SHAL Housing, an Industrial and Provident Society. She is still director and secretary of SHMS Ltd.

From reading both websites and picking up information from elsewhere it’s clear that SHMS Ltd and SHAL Housing have links with London and help relocate people from the Great Wen to the west of England.

Finally, Ms Gascoigne joined Victim Support Cymru on January 14, 2014, and is still there. Though what she does is a mystery, seeing as Victim Support Cymru is listed as a dormant company by Companies House. In fact, the last accounts filed for Victim Support Wales (as it then was) were for year ended 31.03.2006.

From this website it’s clear that Victim Support is yet another Englandandwales body. The Javed Khan referred to was chief executive of Victim Support before moving on to Barnardo’s. Prior to the change shown in the panel, dated October 30, 2013, the Trustees of Victim Support Cymru were, with the approval of “the National Charity”, free to appoint “a Chairman, Treasurer and other honorary officers from among their number”.

llamau-victim-support-memorandum

Can we conclude that this change in October 2013 to the way Victim Support is run explains Angela Mary Gascoigne’s appointment in January 2014, was it made by ‘The National Charity’ in London? But why bother? The company has been dormant for 10 years, there is no charity called Victim Support Cymru, and it doesn’t seem to exist in any other form either. Victim Support Cymru seems to be as imaginary as the ‘Wales Probation Service’.

NUMBER CRUNCHING

Time to lift the lid on Llamau’s finances. Here are the most recent accounts available on the Companies House website, for year ending 31.03.2015. The accounts for 2016 should be available soon.

Before going to the figures, let’s look at some other information found in the accounts. Turning to page 6 (numbered at top of page), the use of ‘principal’ in the first paragraph may be significant.

Page 9 is interesting with its reference to the “Young Persons Resettlement Broker Project for North and Southern Wales”. (Why not just say ‘Wales’?) More information can be found on the website under Llamau’s Resettlement Project.

The ‘Brokers’ are, for the north, Dr Kathy Hampson, and the south, Tracey Kinsey. Dr Hampson’s Linkedin profile tells us that the project is really run by the Youth Justice Board, yet another Englandandwales outfit. I can find little information on Tracey Kinsey beyond the fact that at some time previously she was Family Mediation Manager for Llamau. Though her real claim to fame may be as the Chair of the Chepstow-Corneilles Twinning Committee.

The first paragraph on page 10, particularly the bracketed section referring to “company law”, again calls into question the status of the ethereal Irishman, Stuart Duffin.

Turning to the figures, Ms Gascoigne is forced to admit that Llamau is living a hand-to-mouth existence, with no reserves whatsoever. Hardly surprising with total resources expended in 2015 of £10,997,104 (an increase of £1,217,973 on 2014) against income of £10,837,897 (an increase of just £886,155 on 2014).

llamau-salaries

The largest component of the expenditure, is staff salaries. Staff costs (wages, pensions and social security payments) total £7,585,065. And that doesn’t take into account staff training (£111,703), travel and subsistence (£178,418), etc., etc. But then, we must remember that CEO Frances Beecher “steered the organisation through an extensive development programme from 28 staff to approx. 350 staff”. That don’t come cheap.

UPDATE 06.11.206: When writing this I neglected to consult the Transparent Wales website. Having now done so I find in the funding for Llamau a number of payments of the type ‘Current grants to private sector’, and these total £1,116,420. Private sector!

THE TROJAN HORSE THAT IS THE THIRD SECTOR

To recap, with the advent of devolution someone saw the opportunity to turn a small Barry charity into a major player in the Third Sector, and this is what happened.

But then, just short of four years ago, Llamau spread its wings to become a ‘UK’ – in reality, Englandandwales – organisation. This seems to have happened soon after lead player Angela Mary Gascoigne, a woman with feet on both sides of the Severn, got involved with the Probation Service and other elements of the judicial system.

Giving us an organisation based in Wales, largely funded from within Wales, but run in the main by people from outside Wales and serving England’s interests by rehousing young tearaways and those released from the ‘secure estate’. Making Llamau little more than an agency of the Englandandwales judicial system.

To achieve this position, agencies that previously had a modicum of Welshness and independence, such as the Probation Service and Women’s Aid have been absorbed into an Englandandwales framework.

Another example is of course Victim Support, where successive amendments to the Memorandum have exposed the increasing hold of the ‘national body’ over its Welsh outpost. As I’ve pointed out, Victim Support Cymru is registered with Companies House as a dormant company. It still has a skeletal presence with the Charities Commission that tells us it operates ‘Throughout Wales’, though when it comes to the ‘Area of benefit’ box it says:

llamau-victim-support-cymru

Don’t be surprised, for it’s how the Third Sector operates. The era of devolution and easy money has attracted all manner of shysters across the border with no commitment to Wales, they’ve come either to take over existing Welsh organisations or else to set up new ones in order to tackle ‘ishoos’ of which we were blissfully unaware ere the arrival of said shysters.

What were once separate Welsh bodies, serving Wales, are now locked into Englandandwales frameworks. This explains how undesirables and all manner of criminals appear out of the blue to occupy – and very often wreck – Welsh social housing.

I could set up an outfit tomorrow claiming to help distressed caber tossers and start milking the system. And if anyone said, ‘But, Jac, there are no distressed caber tossers in Wales’ I’d just pop up to Scotland and find some. Because that’s how the Third Sector in Wales operates – demand money to tackle fictitious ‘problems’ or else import problems that aren’t ours.

DEVOCOLONIALISM

Last month I coined the term devocolonialism to explain this system we now live under. This post gives me an opportunity to expand on what I said in that tweet.

devocolonialism-tweet

We have an Assembly down in Cardiff docks, and within it a group of Labour Party deadbeats desperately hoping to be mistaken for a government. They are a joke, they and the whole apparatus of devolution is a sham, proven by the fact that no one outside of Wales – and certainly not ‘Welsh’ Labour MPs – takes devolution seriously, so why should you?

The Assembly’s powers have been restricted by Government of Wales Acts ensuring that the Assembly can never operate in the best interests of the Welsh people. All we get is ‘Welsh’ Laws that are English legislation with ‘(Wales)’ added, and civil servants answering to London acting as ‘advisers’ to this self-deluding ‘government’.

Yet all the time, while it’s hoped we are focused on those slobbering grotesques in Cardiff, behind our backs, in a hundred and one ways that our thoroughly useless media will never report, Welsh identity is being crushed, and we become strangers in our own country as Wales merges into England.

Devolution is nothing but a comfort blanket against the encroaching darkness of assimilation. And if devolution is the comfort blanket then the comforter itself, designed to make you forget your fears and nod off, is the belief that a few more Plaid Cymru AMs can improve things.

Take my word for it, there is no political solution to the problems confronting the Welsh nation.

~ ♦ ~ end ~ ♦ ~

Nov 172015
 

REMEMBERING BUDDY HOLLY

Back in January I posted a piece, Let’s Be Honest About Housing Associations, that began in nostalgic-humorous mood before going on to make more serious points about the provision of rented accommodation. The fundamental point I tried to make was that up until about a century ago rented accommodation was provided by the private sector, employers, charities and other bodies, not by local authorities or any other social housing provider. I asked, in view of changes taking place in the housing market, whether we could now be moving back towards that situation, how it might be done, and what benefits it might offer.

In my January piece I made a number of points about the changing nature of housing provision in Wales and, especially, how the proportion of people living in the private rented sector (PRS) was growing, almost unnoticed and, certainly in Wales, unplanned. I used the table below to show the dwelling stock percentages in the four categories: local authority, registered social landlord (RSL), owner-occupier and PRS.

Houses by tenure

I am now able to follow up that January piece thanks to a regular source who has drawn my attention to a recently published report examining the advantages of giving a greater role to the PRS in the provision of social and rented housing. The report is produced by the Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW) and is entitled The Potential Role of the Private Rented Sector in Wales. I advise you to open the report in another window or browser in order to follow the points I shall pick up on later in this article. But before that, let’s take a fresh look at the RSL sector, using information not previously available to me.

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WAY OUT WEST

For much of this new information I am indebted to another contact who has looked into the workings of the RSL sector in Ceredigion, an investigation that has unearthed a number of disturbing issues, prompting him to submit important questions to the ‘Welsh’ Government. Unsurprisingly, the civil servants acting as the ‘Welsh’ Government refuse to answer his questions, so he has now taken the matter to the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales.

Alas, the PSOW is Nick Bennett, former head of Community Housing Cymru, the umbrella body for housing associations, so I have warned my contact not to expect any help from that quarter. (Bennett’s appointment was a pre-Sophie Howe illustration of how incestuous and corrupt public life is in modern Wales.)

One of the facts unearthed is something called Dowry Gap funding, paid to certain housing associations for them to use in upgrading the housing stock they’ve inherited from councils under voluntary transfer (i.e. through a vote by tenants). This funding is currently being paid to ten housing associations and in 2015 – 16 the total cost will be £43.8m. Tai Ceredigion Cyf’s ‘Dowry’ will be paid at the rate of £1.6m a year for 30 years. If this 30-year term applies to the other, larger housing associations, then the total cost will be £1.3bn.

This Dowry Gap funding seems to complement the Welsh Housing Quality Standard legislation, which demanded that all RSL properties be up to WHQS standard by 2012. This deadline – and its funding of £108m a year – has now been extended to 2020. Introduced in 2004 and running to 2020, £108m a year totals up to £1.7bn.

Adding the two we get a total figure of £3bn for ‘improvements’. Seeing as Wales has 143,790 RSL properties, this works out at almost £21,000 per property! (Is this right? Will somebody please check the figures.) That is a lot of moolah for windows and doors, especially when we accept that many of the dwellings inherited from local authorities were in good condition, certainly not needing ‘refurbishment’ to the tune of 21 grand per property.

Then there seem to be two funding streams for capital projects, i.e. new-build housing, the Social Housing Grant and the Housing Finance Grant. I knew about the first, and I submitted an FoI last year to the ‘Welsh’ Government asking how much had been dished out under the SHG. I used the answers to compile the table below (click to enlarge). It shows that the figure for the six years 2008 – 2013 is £692.5m. (The explanation for the declining amount paid out in SHG can be found below in other, newer funding streams.)

Social Housing Grant 1

But at that stage I knew little about the Housing Finance Grant. Now I know a little more.

Even though I’m a regular and consistent critic of housing associations one feature of their operations that I have always regarded as commendable is that they raise funding from banks and other commercial lenders. Which means they are not entirely reliant on the public purse. Well, that’s what I thought; the reality is very different, as I learnt from my enquiries into the Housing Finance Grant.

The system works thus: Yes, housing associations find commercial lenders prepared to give them large loans – but then the ‘Welsh’ Government – i.e. you and me! – repay those loans over 30 years to the lenders, M&G Investments and Affordable Housing Finance, the latter being funding guaranteed by the UK Department for Communities and Local Government.

(And as the DCLG website puts it, “Borrowers will need to be Registered Providers (or equivalent in the devolved administrations) and classified to the private sector”. Which suggests that housing associations are not public bodies. Or maybe they are, in which case why is a Conservative government putting so much money into public bodies in order for them to build up valuable assets . . . unless they are being fattened up for full privatisation?)

Housing Finance Grant clip

The system of repaying lenders also applies to the ‘Dowry Gap’; housing associations take out loans, paid in lump sums, and the ‘Welsh’ Government repays those loans over 30 years. This explains why Tai Ceredigion has now completed its programme of upgrading its properties but will continue to receive the ‘Dowry Gap’ funding every year. The money is repaying Tai Ceredigion’s loan, which seems to be itemised in the latest financial statement at £23m.

It is even suggested that ‘Dowry Gap’ and WHQS funding is being used – improperly – for capital projects, but financial oversight of housing associations by the ‘Welsh’ Government is so lax that there’s no way of proving or disproving this claim.

All of which means that housing associations, despite the flim-flam about ‘new ways of doing things’ are old-fashioned Statist creations, entirely dependent on the public purse, which explains why they are favourites of the anti-business parties, Labour and Plaid Cymru.

Their only assets, their only other source of income, is of course their housing stock – either inherited from local authorities or built with public funding. So, again, at no cost to them. It’s a ‘new way of doing things’ only in the sense that it’s more opaque than straightforward dollops of public funding.

Seeing as housing associations are entirely dependent on the public purse it’s worth asking, again, why they are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act? Maybe the duplicitous and very expensive way they’re funded provides the answer.

Another point, one that I have raised before – dealt with in my January post, and also here – is the scandalous amount of this public funding that our ‘Welsh’ housing associations spend over the border. In the case of Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd it was the insanity of giving its total maintenance contract to English firm Lovell which, from its Cheshire base, recruited its sub-contractors exclusively from north west England.

I’m sure Tai Ceredigion uses local firms to do its work, but I still question why a firm operating on Cardigan Bay should have external auditors based in Birmingham (Mazars LLP) and internal auditors in Hampshire (TIAA Ltd). Both may have offices in Cardiff, but neither is a Welsh company. There are genuine Welsh companies closer to and even in Ceredigion that could and should be doing this work that is paid for with Welsh public funding.

Tai Ceredigion auditors

‘Welsh’ Government funding should carry the stipulation that as much as possible of that funding remains in Wales. This can only be achieved if the funding reaches genuinely Welsh firms, not outside firms with an office in Wales funnelling profits back to HQ, or those seeking to capitalise on the public funding bonanza with a hastily set up ‘Welsh branch’ that is little more than a post-box and a telephone number.

Of course, it would be easy to argue that none of this really matters because all the funding comes, in one form or another, from London. But only part of the Housing Finance Grant comes directly from London, the rest is raised commercially, and the other funding streams – Social Housing Grant, Welsh Housing Quality Standard and ‘Dowry Gap’ funding – seem to be ‘Welsh’ Government initiatives.

Which is worrying, because it gives us a situation in many parts of Wales, perhaps especially in rural areas, where housing associations are on a treadmill of growth and expansion fuelled by this funding – yet there is often little or no local demand for more social housing.

Housing associations are perhaps the ultimate manifestation of the Third Sector, the shadow world that those buffoons down Cardiff docks want us to believe is an economy, but it’s all smoke and mirrors, all underpinned by public funding. And all unnecessary. As I shall now explain by delving a little more into the Public Policy Institute for Wales report I mentioned earlier.

~~~~~~~~~~

‘THE POTENTIAL OF THE PRIVATE RENTED SECTOR IN WALES’

Before diving into the report it might be worth just pausing to see what kind of an organisation the Institute is. It was formed in January last year to “provide the Welsh Government with authoritative independent analysis and advice.” If you look through the names to be found in ‘The Team’, ‘The Board of Governors’, and the ‘Executive Group’, you get the impression that the PPIW is very much a cross-border outfit, containing – on the Board of Governors – people who know Wales such as Gerry Holtham, along with people, such as Will Hutton, who may be very clever and a Newsnight regular but know little about our country. ‘The Team‘, presumably those running the PPIW day-to-day, is disappointingly top-heavy, to the point of capsizing, with apparatchiks and people from the Third Sector.

The Executive Group “is made up of representatives from the organisations that formed part of the consortium that collaborated in the development of the PPIW”. These are ‘our’ universities (including Liverpool but not Glyndŵr!) and Victoria Winkler of ‘Welsh’ Labour’s very own think-tank, the Bevan Foundation.

The report set out to answer three questions, found below.

PPIW report aims

Some Report Findings

The PPIW report confirms that the PRS is growing in every single local authority area, though predictably, Cardiff, with its vast student population and other young singles, outstrips all other areas. In fact, the report tells us that in Cardiff, “owner occupation has actually fallen compared to renting in both absolute and proportional terms”. Table 6 shows that 22.1% of Cardiff’s dwellings are privately rented. The next highest local authority area is Ceredigion with 17.5%, and then in third place comes Denbighshire with 16.5%.

PRS changes

The figures for both Cardiff and Ceredigion are influenced by the student presence while the ‘Rhyl factor’ explains the Denbighshire figure, correlated in Table 1, which tells us that Sir Dinbych lost 870 private households between 2001 and 2011 while the same period saw an increase of 1,468 in the PRS. Other areas saw a decline in the number of private households but nowhere was the fall as dramatic as in Denbighshire.

Staying with Table 6, in percentage and absolute terms Carmarthenshire saw the highest increase in private households due mainly to the saturation housing strategy devised by the Planning Inspectorate and eagerly implemented by those running the council. The same designed-to-attract-English-buyers process can also be observed at work in Powys. (N.B. A ‘household’ can be a person living alone or a family of 10.)

Table 9 tells us that rents in the PRS are always higher than the RSL sector though this varies from area to area. In Blaenau Gwent the average social rent is £61.68 per week, or 89% of the PRS, whereas in Wrecsam, Swansea and Cardiff the percentage drops to 67%, though the average PRS rent in Wrecsam is lower than the two southern cities.

Poor PRS

Of course there is a downside to this unplanned and largely unchecked growth in the PRS, especially in decaying coastal towns like Rhyl, and areas of our cities taken over by students. That downside is the breakdown of community life and an increase in various forms of criminality and anti-social behaviour.

It could even be argued that there is a case to be made for paying compensation to long-term residents of such neighbourhoods. Compensation to be paid by the ‘Welsh’ Government or the local authority, whoever was responsible for not guarding against such decline or refusing to implement the legislation that could have prevented it.

A Better Way

Happily, the report also makes clear that there are alternatives to endlessly pumping public money into secretive, unaccountable and amateurishly run housing associations, or otherwise allowing the growth of ghettoes of cross-border criminals and misfits housed by slum landlords. To avoid these outcomes the report draws our attention to institutional investment such as pension funds to provide rented and other property, coupled with more imaginative and varied housing options.

In the Appendix the report’s authors look at three examples in the south where the ‘Welsh’ Government is in partnership with the Principality Building Society in a venture called Tai Tirion (or Tirion Group Ltd, Co. No. 08891823) to build over a thousand new homes on brownfield sites in Cardiff, Newport and the Rhondda. Though that said, there is not a lot of progress being made. Not really surprising, seeing as the ‘Welsh’ Government is involved . . .

I say that not out of malice, it’s just the way things are. Institutional investors such as pension funds are viewed with suspicion by Statist ‘Welsh’ Labour. As the report puts it – refer to ‘three questions’ panel above – “the Minister confirmed that the emphasis of the project should be concentrated mainly on (i) and (ii)”.

PRS minister response

To remind you . . . Question iii reads, ‘If the PRS is to be a long term tenure of choice, whether it is likely to be possible to interest institutional money and professional management in the market (i.e. what are the barriers to large scale investment?).’

On reading that you can almost imagine a ‘Welsh’ Labour politician or apparatchik having an involuntary evacuation of the bowels . . . “‘institutional money’! . . . ‘professional management’! . . . people who might understand business! . . . what about our friends in the Third Sector, how are they to sustain their muesli-weaving, skinny latte lifestyles? . . . oh, no, we can’t have that!

So the ‘Welsh’ Government prefers to let the private rental sector grow in a reckless and uncontrolled manner through the activities of Buy to Let ‘investors’ and people who buy dilapidated hotels in Colwyn Bay to house Scouse junkies.

~~~~~~~~~~

CONCLUSION

It is surely obvious that if housing associations are the answer, then the question must have been, ‘What is the most expensive (to the public purse) and least efficient way of delivering rented social housing?’ In the hope of disguising this monumental error we are now encumbered with secretive, unaccountable money pits.

Which would be bad enough if they were at least spending the money on housing Welsh people, but due to the Englandandwales allocation system into which our housing associations are locked a Welsh family is all too likely to discover that the Family from Hell has been given the house next door . . . ‘Hell’ in this case will be Birmingham, or Stoke-on-Trent, or Sheffield, or . . .

Consequently, there is no justification for pouring any more money into housing associations. Especially given that the Conservative government in London is almost certainly planning to do away with them. Or does the ‘Welsh’ Government think this is a devolved matter? Maybe it is, but that won’t count for anything if Westminster forces change through by cutting the block grant. And further undermines the sector with selected benefit cuts.

So my advice to the ‘Welsh’ Government is this: realise that housing associations are an expensive failure. Then, get ahead of the curve by taking control of the social rented sector nationally and looking for the kind of investors mentioned in the Public Policy Institute for Wales report, pension funds and others looking for the kinds of large-scale investments that individual housing associations and single sites cannot provide.

To take advantage of this private funding, and to save the public purse a hell of a lot of money, you, the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’, need to put aside your congenital hostility to business and real money and, for a change, prioritise the best interests of the Welsh people. It’s what you were elected to do – remember?

END

Nov 082015
 

HOOKED ON FUNDING

Drugs is big business, as this recent case reminded us, and drugs generates lots of money for people other than drug dealers. Even the UK government has acknowledged that drug dealers buy cars, houses, boats, bling, foreign holidays, etc., etc. On top of that, the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ keeps cops, lawyers and prisons in business. And as if that wasn’t enough, we then have all those who’ve found jobs ‘helping’ drug addicts.

There must now be thousands of agencies, large and small, operating locally, at Wales level, UK level, which often overlap and duplicate each other’s work and, in total, receive billions of pounds in funding from various sources. The only losers in this situation are of course the drug addicts – but ‘it’s their own fault anyway’. A strange attitude to take towards those who keep this ship afloat.

Of course, the only other blot on this landscape of economic win-win is that those involved in manufacturing, importing and distributing drugs tend to keep their assets offshore, or under granny’s mattress, and therefore pay no tax. But since when have such practices ever troubled UK politicians, of any party?

If you wanted to be utterly cynical, you could argue that there are now so many people dependent on the drugs trade that if the ‘War on Drugs’ was, by some fluke, won, then it might have a seriously detrimental effect on the UK economy.

Drugaid

I am indebted to Brychan for reminding us that among the big players in Wales in the ‘helping drug addicts’ racket is The South Wales Association For Prevention Of Addiction Ltd (Charity No 265008), more usually known as Drugaid. Its four trustees are Professor Neil Frude, Miss Sylvia Diana Scarf, Mr William George David Smith and Mrs Linda Hodgson. As well Prof Frudeas being trustees of the charity these four are also the only directors of the cash-rich Newport-based company of the same name (No 01073381).

Professor Frude appears to be a somewhat unorthodox psychologist and one-time stand-up comedian, who runs the Happiness Consultancy in Berkshire. He is also an external professor at the University of South Wales and has some connection with Cardiff University. Though his main income is said to be from his work for BUPA, which no doubt contributes greatly to Frude’s personal happiness.

Miss Sylvia Diana Scarf is a retired lady of 79, who may live in Newport, or she may live in Oxford. I’m told that she recently got an OBE for her work with the Girl Guides. (When I tried to ‘work’ with Girl Guides during my Sea Scouts days all I ever got was ‘Get lost, you dirty sod’!) Miss Scarf is also said to be ‘big’ in the Anglican Church. When I read that it made me think of John Major’s old ladies cycling to Evensong after a skinfull of warm beer. Ah!

William George David Smith seems to be a chartered accountant in Cardiff and Linda Hodgson may, or may not, live in Porth, in the Rhondda. The contact and director for Drugaid is a Caroline Phipps from God knows where but currently domiciled in Caerffili. All in all, a typical ‘Welsh’ Third Sector outfit, made up of willing locals and those who can sniff out easy money from 500 miles away.

Drugaid first saw the light of day in Cardiff, in 1972, brought into this cruel world by the Reverend Peter Keward, and christened South Wales Action to Prevent Addiction (SWAPA). Since when it seems to have moved to Newport and concentrated its activities in the central and eastern Valleys, even into prosperous Monmouthshire. And despite what the outdated ‘About Us’ page says, Drugaid is also spreading west, yea unto Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion. In fact, the organisation now covers the whole of the south, from the border to the Irish Sea . . . apart from Cardiff and Swansea Bay, perhaps having been warned off the two main cities.

In figures submitted to the Charity Commission Drugaid had income for the year ended March 30, 2014 of £2,727,668 and expenditure of £2,789,439. It had 78 employees and 30 volunteers, so we are dealing here with a sizeable operation, and it’s still growing, currently advertising to fill 8 vacancies. (Here in screen capture.)

What does Drugaid actually do?

This is the tricky bit. Drugaid seems to work with ‘partner’ bodies, these include GPs, health services, various other Third Sector bodies, and the ‘National’ Probation Service (for Englandandwales). The latest available accounts show that these ‘partners’ (excluding local health boards and councils) put £1.74m into the Drugaid pot y/e 31.03.2014, with a further £606,397 coming from our wonderful ‘Welsh’ Government. So where does it go?

Drugaid income

Well, £1.83m went on wages and salaries, then there was ‘Hire of equipment and services’ (£211,870), ‘Motor and mileage costs’ (£88,151), ‘Light and heat’ (£80,287), ‘Telephone’ (£42,249), ‘Other operating leases’ (£162,854), ‘Sundries’ (£160,807), ‘Depreciation’ (£91,902), etc., etc. Apart from ‘Needles’ (£31,949), it’s difficult to identify any direct spending on those the charity is supposed to be helping, but let’s remember, this is a major employer, pushing towards 100 employees. (The two columns show y/e 31.03.2014 on the left, 2013 on the right.)

Drugaid spending

If one wished to be unkind it would easy to dismiss Drugaid as yet another charity where almost all the funding goes on salaries and administrative costs. A grotesquely bloated organisation, currently expanding beyond its ability to cope with this expansion and, as a result, not achieving a lot. Hardly surprising perhaps for a charity overseen by a stand-up comic.

I say that because in searching the Drugaid website I could find nothing boasting of ‘outcomes’, that word so beloved of Third Sector organisations, used in describing successes, numbers of ‘clients’ helped. Then my hopes soared as I saw ‘Drugaid Annual Review‘ . . . but the last one was posted in 2011! How is anyone – funders, for example – supposed to know whether Drugaid is actually doing any good? Or is Drugaid just part of some Third Sector merry-go-round where ‘cases’ get moved on from one agency to another with each agency taking its cut?

Drugaid gobbledegook

Another indicator that all may not be well is something else I found on the website, an invitation to tender, worded thus: “Drugaid is currently reviewing the provision of Supervision to our employees.  Following feedback from staff, a review of our Supervision Policy and research into best practice in Supervision, Drugaid has decided to redefine the supervision that is offered to all staff to provide a more inclusive, productive and efficient means of providing this vital support to all who work for us.”

Oh sorry, the closing date for that tender was 20th of February 2013!!! This is getting worrying. If the website is anything to go by, Drugaid is in one hell of a mess – but remember, this is an organisation that’s still expanding! Here’s a screen capture of the 2013 invitation to tender, because I guarantee it won’t be on the website much longer.

What else do we know?

I’ve already mentioned that in addition to the charity there is also a private company, limited by guarantee, with the same directors as are trustees of the charity. The company has a net worth of £1.1m, and £1.2m in cash.

Having also mentioned the situations currently vacant, it may be worthwhile focusing on one of these, the job in Merthyr catering for veterans. This caught Brychan’s eye due to a difference in legislation between Wales and England. Here in Wales, the Homeless Persons (Priority Need) (Wales) Order 2001 specifies that anyone who finds himself / herself homeless after leaving the armed forces is categorised as a priority for social housing. The Homelessness Act 2002, which applies to England only, allows local authorities there to reject applicants on the grounds of ‘no local connection’.

Given what we already know about the operations of the Third Sector and social housing bodies, and how lax legislation allows – even encourages – the importation of ‘clients’ from England, it demands no great leap of the imagination to envision Drugaid bringing in English ex-service personnel with drugs problems. Does this go some way to account for the recent expansion, both in personnel numbers and geographical reach?

Whatever Drugaid is doing, or supposed to be doing, it doesn’t seem to do it well. Nowhere does it give figures for those it has helped, as a result there seems to be no way whatsoever of gauging its success.  The percentage of its income spent on salaries and administrative charges is ludicrous, and should be unacceptable to its funders. The website, Drugaid’s window to the world, is an absolute shambles, full of gibberish and out-of-date pages. There has been no Yearly Review posted since that for 2011. How the hell can an organisation in such a state be allowed, even encouraged, to expand?

Finally, and being guided by the latest accounts, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that Drugaid is no more than a glorified needle exchange. As such, it does not deserve the excessive funding it receives. It is surely time for partners and funders to review their support for Drugaid.

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NEIL WOOLLARD, ANOTHER UPLANDS COUNCILLOR GONE MISSING?

Following on the recent news of the departure from Swansea of Uplands councillor John Charles ‘John Boy’ Bayliss, which itself followed on the departure last year of his friend Pearleen Sangha, I now hear that another Labour councillor from that ward may have disappeared.Phil Tanner

The name I’m hearing is Neil Woollard, an interesting character, Woollard, for in addition to his day job, and his council work, Neil and some friends are the Rag Foundation, a popular folk ensemble. The group’s repertoire draws heavily on the songs of Gower folk singer Phil Tanner (1862 – 1950), a man whose life covered the ending of south Gower’s ‘island’ status, those centuries when it had more in common with Somerset than with north Gower. I’ve even read somewhere that Woollard is Tanner’s grandson, but to my knowledge Tanner had no children, certainly none are recorded.

What I’m hearing is that Woollard is employed by ‘a company involved with the Swansea tidal lagoon’, yet for some reason this means that he now lives in the Cardiff area. Though this might not be as odd as it sounds, for the company behind the lagoon is based in Gloucester, so maybe he’s chosen to live somewhere roughly half way between Swansea and Gloucester. But I’m only guessing. My source is however adamant that Woollard now lives somewhere in the Cardiff area.

While Woollard’s attendance record at council meetings has not taken the dramatic turn for the worse we saw with Bayliss (and why should it, for Bayliss is further away, in Bristol), there has still been a marked decline. In the period 14.05.2015 – 06.11.2015 his attendance record was 30%, but for the six-month period before that it was 60%.

So the question on Woollard is roughly the same as I asked for Bayliss.Is he still able to properly discharge his duties as councillor for the Uplands ward in Swansea? If not, then there must be a by-election, not another lengthy period – as we saw with Sangha – of the Labour Party staying schtum or, when pressed, maintaining that he’s still, ‘livin’ down by ‘ere, mun’ and that nothing has changed.

Dylan Thomas’s old neighbourhood is now an area of flats and houses of multiple occupation, with a largely transient population of students and drifters, but that is no reason for this transient and footloose lifestyle to extend to the Labour councillors elected to represent the ward.

UPDATE 19:25: I am now informed by one of my alert readers that Woollard is actually working on the proposed Cardiff tidal lagoon, as Head of Local Engagement. The Cardiff Tidal Lagoon bio blurb makes it clear why Woollard was recruited – his contacts within the Labour Party.

Neil Woollard Tidal Lagoon

Strangely, or perhaps not, there is no mention that Woollard is a Swansea councillor. What do the rules say about elected councillors canvassing other councillors, AMs and ministers on behalf of a private company? And how should people back in Swansea feel about one of their councillors working on what could be viewed as a rival project to the Swansea tidal lagoon? Serious questions here for Woollard and Labour.

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SOPHIE HOWE, MORE LABOUR CRONYISM

Earlier this year I wrote about Sophie Howe, the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales. Well now her Labour cronies have given her another well-paid job, this time as Future Generations Commissioner, a flim-flam post created, it would appear, for no better reason than to pander to the Green lobby . . . and of course to create another cushy number for one of the insiderest of Labour insiders.

Howe is the daughter of a Labour councillor, who herself became a councillor at 22, she also worked as a Research / Casework Assistant for both Julie Morgan MP and Sue Essex AM, before moving up to do similar work for Julie Morgan’s husband and First Minister Rhodri Morgan, and then his successor in that post Carwyn Jones, before most recently becoming No 2 to former Labour MP Alun Michael in February 2013, after he became the PCC. She was hoping to find a safe seat for the May General Election, but failed, so this post could be viewed as a consolation prize. But I have no doubt that a safe seat will be found for her before 2020, so no one should expect her to see out the ‘seven-year term’ of this job.

Her father, Peter Howe, followed her into the office of Julie Morgan to, eventually, become office manager. A correspondent insists that Howe was a bully, a failing overlooked by his adoring daughter who was otherwise so interested in protecting women from male bullying. Though in this instance the suggested ‘trigger’ might have been jealousy, as the woman being bullied had been selected to stand for Cardiff City Council . . . whereas Peter Howe had been overlooked.

Sophie Howe

Reactions to the appointment varied. Tory leader Andrew R T Davies did his ‘Confused but Mildly Outraged of Cowbridge’ act while others were less charitable. Among them a rising star within Plaid Cymru, councillor Neil McEvoy. On a lighter note, Llanelli Plaid Cymru councillor Ruth Price made a Sharon Stone comment which unfortunately allowed Howe’s defenders to focus on this merry quip rather than on the appointment itself.

Howe’s boss, PCC Alun Michael, went into full feigned outrage mode and was quoted as saying, ‘There is no place for comments of this sort in a civilised society and it is particularly unacceptable in Wales.” What utter bollocks. A civilised society is judged by far, far more important things than an off-the-cuff remark like this. Among them, openness in public appointments. You sanctimonious little prick!

For her pains Ruth Price also took stick from her own party, including a Twitter DM from Llanelli Assembly candidate Helen Mary Jones. In fact, among Plaid’s big-wigs there seemed to be considerably more support for Sophie Howe than opposition. It even seemed to be decided by an individual’s attitudes to a Plaid coalition with Labour next year. Here’s what Plaid Cymru regional AM Jocelyn Davies tweeted almost as soon as the announcement was made public.

Jocelyn Davies tweet

Well, well, there was me thinking that this Sophie Howe appointment was about Labour cronyism corrupting the public and political life of Wales, a reminder that Wales is a one-party state, but no! – it’s a wimmin issue. And everything’s OK cos our Sophie is “a strong woman”. Is Jocelyn Davies standing again next year?

Using this rationale, perhaps it would have been acceptable for a misogynist communist to have sent Hitler a telegram in 1933, saying, ‘Good to see a strong man in charge, Mein Fuhrer‘ . . . before he was dragged off to the concentration camp.

It’s said that Sophie Howe is a lawyer, if so, she’s never used that training for anything other than political purposes. Every job she’s ever done has either been working directly for the Labour Party, or else was gained through her Labour Party connections. Consequently, there is no way of gauging this woman’s real ability because there has never been any politically impartial assessment. She should never have been appointed Future Generations Commissioner.

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SAM WARBURTON, CAPTAIN CARDIFF

The Rugby World Cup circus has departed, the ball has gone from the castle wall, and despite all the hype and expectation, we didn’t win the bloody thing, again. Yes, I know, we had lots of injuries, and biased refs (no, sorry, that was Scotland), but what struck me was that even when it was all over the ‘Welsh’ media couldn’t stop being . . . well, the Cardiff media.

Soon after the Final final whistle two of Wales’ great rugby pundits weighed in in the Wasting Mule to tell us that Sam Warburton, the Wales captain, is the best player we’ve got, and the only one who’d make it into the World XV to take on the tourists from Mars. First, on October 29th, it was former Wales captain Gwyn Jones, and a few days later, on November 1st, it was the turn of rugby correspondent Andy Howell.

Don’t get me wrong, Sam Warburton is a fine player, it’s just that the Cardiff media is besotted with him. Sometimes it’s possible to pick up the Llais y Sais and find him on the front page, a few of the sports pages, and a couple of inside pages. It’s bizarre, because it’s quite obvious that on the field of play – and I suspect in training and elsewhere – the national team is actually led by Alun Wyn Jones and Dan Biggar. Whereas Warburton, on the field, is almost silent, and certainly no captain. So is it a ceremonial role?

This adoration of Sam Warburton does not extend beyond Wales, or perhaps beyond Cardiff. Shown by another report I picked up around the same time, sandwiched between the two I’ve quoted, this being the six-player shortlist for the Rugby World Player of the Year. Who do we see on the shortlist – Sam Warburton, surely? No, the only Welshman there is Alun Wyn Jones. Suggesting that people outside of Wales have a better perspective on Welsh rugby than many inside Wales.Dan Biggar

This corrupted view of various players’ qualities is due to the fact that the Wasting Mule, and to a lesser degree the BBC and ITV, see a great part of their role in being to promote the city of Cardiff, and anyone or anything that can in turn be used to promote Cardiff. This can not be done with Biggar or Jones because both come from Swansea, which is the worst of all possible alternatives. So it has to be wall-to-wall Warburton.

Of course it was the Welsh Rugby Union not the media that made Warburton captain, and there’s little doubt in my mind that Warburton regarding himself as British rather than Welsh makes him the perfect captain for hard-line Unionists like WRU Chairman David Pickering, for whom Wales flickers into life only on the rugby field. A kind of sporting Brigadoon.

Why Wales coach Warren Gatland falls into line with this nonsense is no great mystery. He knows Alun Wyn will sing the anthem lustily enough for both himself and Warburton, and put himself about for the full 80 minutes; he also knows that Biggar will cajole and inspire his team-mates for as long as he’s left on, so if it keeps the WRU suits and the Cardiff media happy why not play along with the charade of a figurehead captain?

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WHERE WOULD THEY BE WITHOUT US?

Lying in bed the other morning, picking my nose and flicking bogies around the yet-dark room, I got to thinking about devolution, as you do when engaged in activity so conducive to deep, analytical thought.

It occurred to me that devolution, coupled with EU poverty funding, higher education, local government and other fields, have created in Wales tens of thousands of jobs in management roles for English administrators and others of moderate or even dubious ability who would struggle to land jobs offering anything like the same salaries and pension benefits in the private sector.

I’m thinking here of civil servants attached to the ‘Welsh’ Government and its various agencies, so many of the officers in our twenty-two local authorities, those innumerable managers in our seven health boards (plus the hospitals, clinics, centres, etc), housing associations beyond counting, third-rate academics in a higher education sector that ceased serving Welsh needs almost half a century ago, third sector organisations and other bodies too numerous to mention that have either come into existence since devolution or else have set up a ‘Welsh’ presence by transferring in staff.

Looking at it this way, devolution has been of more benefit to perhaps 30,000 members of England’s middle class than it has to 2.5 million Welsh. And most of this generosity is paid for out the Welsh public purse. But hey! that’s how colonialism operates.

Oct 132015
 

REVISED PREDICTION FOR 2016 ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS

A few months ago, in my post Vote Plaid Cymru – Get Labour I made a prediction for the outcome of the 2016 Assembly elections in which I suggested that the likeliest result would be a Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition. For a number of reasons I think it may be wise to revise my prediction.

One major change since I wrote that piece in June has been the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the UK Labour Party. At first I thought this might help the Labour Party in Wales, seeing as it is forever banging on about being more to the left than the UK party, but now I’m not so sure. Because things are starting to get nasty up in Westminster with civil war breaking out among the Labour MPs.

If Corbyn is no longer leader come next May then Labour will be hors de combat, still licking the wounds received in a bloody civil war to remove him and his right-hand man, John McDonnell. If Corbyn is still there then of course the civil war will be ongoing. What will add to the damage is that the conflict will not be confined to the House of Commons, for a few hundred thousand people – overwhelmingly leftists – joined the Labour Party during the election campaign. Attempts to remove their reason for joining Labour will be resisted, by de-selecting MPs and in other ways defending their heroes. The party might even split. However it pans out, a party so hopelessly divided will not be an attractive proposition to the great majority of voters in Wales.

Of course, Carwyn Jones and his gang will try to stay aloof, arguing that it’s, ‘Nothing to do with us, this is all happening up in London / England’, but too many Welsh voters get news from London sources, and what they’ll see is a party tearing itself apart. This is bound to affect their perceptions of what is after all only a branch of the UK Labour Party. Worse, thousands of those new members joined in Wales, so that’s another reason ‘Welsh’ Labour can not escape collateral damage.

Let’s move on to Plaid Cymru.

To begin with, Leanne Wood is not proving to be the inspirational leader many had hoped, her appeal seems limited to elements within the party and then the rag-bag left. She is making little if any impression on those voters Plaid needs if it is to gain seats, and she’s not going down much better with those voters Plaid needs if it’s to hold on to what it’s got. WhenGwynedd SW Wards merged I listen to her all I hear is socialism in Wales, rather than anything specifically Welsh. I think she’d be happier in a Labour Party led by Corbyn than any patriot should be in a party led by her.

An example of putting socialist ideology before Welsh interests is the recent announcement by the party that if it achieved power it would abolish care charges for everyone over the age of 65. This, according to Elin Jones AM, would cost – over two terms of a Plaid Cymru government (don’t laugh!) – £226m. No it wouldn’t, it would cost a hell of a lot more! Let me explain it slowly, so that even a Plaid Cymru politician can understand.

We have a problem in our rural and coastal areas with large numbers of elderly people moving from England, or moving in middle age after taking early retirement. To the point where in south Meirionnydd, where I live, two-thirds of the over 65s were born in England. A similar situation is found in many other areas, with the result that our NHS and social services are already under strain. Consequently, any measures introduced that make Wales more attractive for the elderly than England will unleash an unprecedented spate of granny dumping, and this will cost one hell of a lot more than £226m.

But this hare-brained scheme is so typically Plaid Cymru. Always looking for a pat on the head from the English Left-Green lobby rather than prioritising – or even considering – Welsh interests.

Things are no better at a local level. You may be aware that there was a recent change in Carmarthen’s shire hall. The council has for a number of years been run by the chief executive, Mark James, who regards democracy as a dangerous and unnecessary threat to his rule. The Labour-Independent coalition fronting his dictatorship broke up in May and a new coalition was agreed between the Independent Party and Plaid Cymru.

Great hopes were raised that with Plaid Cymru as the larger party Mark James might be challenged, and there might be an outbreak of democracy in Carmarthenshire, but Plaid has kow-towed to Mark James in the most cowardly manner, and it can’t all be attributed to council leader Emlyn Dole’s barn problems. (Don’t you think Emlyn Dole could pass for the mayor of a small French town? There’s even a passing resemblance to President Hollande.)

For these and other reasons I can’t see Plaid Cymru getting more than 6 seats. And a blood-spattered Labour Party will be lucky to win 20 seats. Then, given that by May 2016 the debate over EU negotiations and the impending referendum will be getting so much news coverage, the beneficiaries of that are bound to be Ukip. So here’s my original prediction from May alongside my updated prediction. Get ready for a Tory-Ukip-Lib Dem coalition!

Prediction

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REPUTATIONS

On Friday night last I had a Twitter exchange with someone who’s hoping to be among the new Assembly intake, an aspiring Conservative politician named Matthew Paul, the candidate for Carmarthen East & Dinefwr. If the name sounds familiar, that may be because Paul stood for the same seat in this year’s Westminster elections, when he came third with some 21% of the vote.

It all began with him responding to a tweet I put out drawing attention to yet more flat pack chalets being ponced up to the status of ‘luxury resort’, and even more strain put on the bullshit generator by claiming that 200 such chalets will bring 200 full-time jobs! As with similar projects I’ve mentioned, the only thing Welsh about the Corran Resort and Spa is its location in Laugharne. Pure coloniotourism. His response was, “And what economic activity do you want in #Laugharne? A steelworks?”

Not knowing who I was dealing with – other than someone ignorant of the parlous state of the European steel industry – I decided to humour him. We exchanged a few quips before I brought up the case of a farm called Faerdre Fach being re-named Happy Donkey Hill. He responded with, “As a matter of taste, I deplore it, but would defend their right to call it whatever they want”. Maybe he thought he was sounding noble by adapting the quote wrongly attributed to Voltaire . . . if so, it didn’t work; it just made him sound like yet another Tory willing to accept the anglicisation of Wales. Or rather, refusing to confront it, choosing to retreat behind sophistry and disingenuous arguments about ‘freedom’.

Donkey Hill

Matthew Paul is a privately educated, Oxford graduate, lawyer. Have you ever wondered why so many lawyers enter politics? It’s said that it’s because of the training they receive in marshalling their arguments and presenting a case, their ability to persuade a jury to believe what they’re saying. Which a cynic might argue is just another way of saying that lawyers are good liars, which then makes them ideal politicians.

It’s always seemed to me that in reputational terms a lawyer becoming a politician is not a lot different to ‘Honest John’ from the ‘pre-loved’ cars lot branching out into double glazing. No sensible individual completely trusts anyone selling second-hand cars or double glazing, so why are we so credulous when it comes to lawyer-politicians?

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VATTENFALL OF MONEY

I am indebted to regular contributor Brychan for bringing to my attention a rare job opportunity in the Heads of the Valleys, one paying £300 a day. Read all about it here.

As you can see, this largesse is connected with the Pen y Cymoedd wind farm, a project being undertaken by Vattenfall, a state-owned Swedish ‘company’ which is putting up lots and lots of wind turbines for no other reason than an altruistic desire to save the planet. And because they are such altruists, and philanthropists to boot, they’re giving the run-down communities in the shadow of Pen y Cymoedd wind farm £1.8m every year ’til a’ the seas gang dry. Now Vattenfall is looking for Board Members to oversee the distribution of the bribe . . . though the Board meetings will be held in Cardiff, so more money will be leaving the Valleys.

You will also note from the link provided that recruitment of these Board Members is not being done by Vattenfall itself, for the job has been contracted out to Empower. When I found the website for ‘Empower-Support for the Voluntary Sector Ltd‘, and saw that it’s address was in the Cynon Valley, and then read Empower’s Facebook page, I got that sinking feeling that comes over me when Bafetimbi Gomis is repeatedly caught offside, or I realise that I’m dealing with the Third Sector. In this instance there was no sign of an offside French striker.

Empower etc is run by a Beverly Elizabeth Garside, a highly qualified woman who turned her back on London to move to Wales. Why? The short answer is that despite the obvious deprivation, there’s a hell of a lot of money sloshing around in the Valleys . . . you just need to know how to get your hands on it. The secret is ‘social enterprises’ and other Third Sector rackets that create jobs for Labour cronies and give civil servants something to lie about on EU questionnaires. Then, feeding on the publicly-funded Third Sector, we have companies like Empower. A case of, ‘Big fleas have little fleas . . .’.

Empower

One mystery though is why, on her Linkedin profile, Bev tells us that she has been director of Empower since January 2001, yet Companies House tells us that Empower was not Incorporated as a company until February 18th 2004. So what form did it take in the intervening three years? Perhaps it too was a sucking-directly-on-the-public-funding-teat Third Sector outfit? Whatever the answer, it’s no coincidence that Bev Garside set up Empower in 2001, the same year the EU Objective One money started flowing into the Valleys. This funding was the honey-pot that encouraged her – and so many like her – to move to Wales.

Although the Empower office is in Mountain Ash, in the heart of the deprived Valleys that give Empower its income, Bev herself chooses to live in the agreeable and prosperous little village of Bwlch, near Talybont-on-Usk. More fitting for a woman who has Common Purpose running through her like ‘Barmouth’ through a stick of rock.

P.S. Vattenfall is Swedish for waterfall, and believed to be a reference to the rate at which money pours into the Swedish State’s coffers from exploiting third world communities like the Heads of the Valleys . . . with the help of economic migrants like Beverly Elizabeth Garside.

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CARDIGAN CASTLE

Late last Saturday night I received a Facebook message telling me that Sue ‘English!‘ Lewis had been made to step down from her post as Facilities Officer or Director at the Castle because it was proving difficult to recruit trustees while she was in place. (Fortunately I was up late on Saturday night doing my bit for the Argentine economy, again.)

This news has yet to be confirmed but I have learnt today that a £40,000 a year vacancy has been advertised at the Castle, and also that Sue ‘English!‘ Lewis is notable by her absence from the old pile. Further, I am told that Equinox, the Castle’s Cardiff PR outfit, has had enough, and refuses to represent Lady Tucker and her gang any longer.

I suspect that changes are now being implemented at the Castle, maybe these changes have been enforced, by funders, or the Charity Commission, and there may be attempts to save face by keeping the news from the baying mob. Which is why I would welcome any further information.