I’M IN SEMI-RETIREMENT AND THIS BLOG IS WINDING DOWN. I INTEND CALLING IT A DAY SOON AFTER THIS YEAR’S SENEDD ELECTIONS. POSTINGS WILL NOW BE LESS FREQUENT AND I WILL NOT UNDERTAKE ANY MAJOR NEW INVESTIGATIONS. DIOLCH YN FAWR.
I’m using this, another of my infrequent, pre-retirement postings, to put out a letter I sent to the Western Mail that that organ clearly has no intention of publishing. Probably because it’s critical of the Labour Party and Labour’s crony state in Wales.
Late last year it became known that social housing providers had been levying unlawful charges on certain tenants. A curious business in which the Senedd’s lawyers had to explain the law to ‘Welsh Government’ lawyers!
After being informed, the ‘Welsh Government’ hurriedly introduced backdated legislation, which of course covered the collective arse of Labour’s cronies in housing associations and the third sector.
Perhaps more importantly, the legislation avoided having to make refunds to the tenants. And all because somebody in Corruption Bay cocked-up. Given the way this country is run the person responsible will probably be promoted.
Last week, I wrote a letter to the Wasting Mule trying to explain the mess housing is in. Given the matters it addresses – and no matter what the Western Mail may think – I believe the contents of this letter merit an audience.
Here is that letter:
The remarkable case of the Senedd’s lawyers suggesting the Welsh Government’s lawyers have got it wrong over allowing landlords of rented properties to levy service charges brings into focus the status of Registered Social Landlords or housing associations.
For many years RSLs were classed as Provident and Industrial Societies, regulated by the Financial Services Authority. Most in Wales held housing stock that had been transferred from local authorities and received further funding from the Welsh Government to improve those properties and build new.
But in October 2015, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) dropped a bombshell by announcing that RSLs in England would be reclassified from Private Non-Financial Corporations to Public Non-Financial Corporations.
Further announcements were made relating to the devolved authorities.
Which meant that what had always been treated as public bodies would now officially become public bodies. And this threw up problems.
Not least that the debts of Registered Social Landlords would transfer to the UK public sector net debt.
To avoid this unwanted outcome RSLs were privatised. The legislation for Wales was passed in May 2018 and accepted by the ONS a month later.
This privatisation saw Welsh housing associations form subsidiaries, often unregistered and unregulated, which are now building private properties all over the country, many marketed as ‘affordable’ in an attempt to maintain the pretence of being social housing providers.
‘Affordability’ is determined by the price of other properties in the area. In Abersoch, for example, an ‘affordable’ property would be in the region of £330,000. Affordable to the Cheshire Set, maybe, but not to locals.
Privatisation and the rush into private housing means that most housing associations no longer have an interest in building affordable rented housing. This explains why an increasing number of local authorities have started building council houses again.
And yet, despite now being privatised, and being major players in the private housing market (at the expense of social housing), housing associations are still being funded by the Welsh Government.
With much of this funding reaching subsidiaries who use it to build the unaffordable ‘affordable’ housing. Justified by arguing that the profits from the private sales will go back to the parent RSL to build social housing!
Er, why can’t the parent RSL just keep ALL the money and build social housing?
From figures I’ve received from the Welsh Government, the total amount given to RSLs between 2010 and 2020 was in excess of £1.3bn, with the annual amounts increasing since they were privatised in 2018.
Clearly, the Welsh Government still regards housing associations as public bodies. This explains both the continued funding and the current attempt to legislate in favour of these officially privatised companies.
It also tells us that the housing sector is a shambles, and sorting it out should be a priority for the administration that comes in after May’s Senedd elections.
Which could start by clarifying the status of our housing associations, their rapidly multiplying subsidiaries, and the relationship of both with the Welsh Government.
Specific attention should be paid to Welsh Government funding given to RSLs being diverted to subsidiaries for open market housing.
PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
HOUSE OF THE RISING SON
In an earlier post of assorted items one dealt with the Labour Party in Cydweli. We looked at the party’s safe house in Llys Gwenllian, the abode of the current mayor, Phil Thompson, and – apparently – a number of others who’ve stood for the party in recent elections.
I asked if this was a house of multiple occupation seeing as it has also been given as his address by Arwyn Rhys Williams, a candidate in a recent town council by-election. Though now I learn that young Arwyn is the fruit of Thompson’s loins, but uses his mother’s name.
Despite the claimed address in Cydweli Arwyn’s Facebook page seems to locate him either in Swansea or Tenby. Maybe he should update it.
Something of which I wasn’t aware when I wrote my earlier piece was that when Arwyn’s dad stood for the county council in 2017 his proposer was a Lois Poynting. Who is, as we learn from her Linkedin profile (here in pdf format), one of those ‘butterflies’ that have blown into Wales to flit between the public and third sectors.
Lois probably arrived in Wales when her husband took up employment with Calsonic in Llanelli and seems to be based in Cydweli. (Ignore ‘Swansea’ on the Linkedin profile as Linkedin seems to locate everyone to the nearest city.)
That Linkedin profile also tells us that up to November 2017 Lois worked for Shared Lives Plus, an Englandandwales organisation with its headquarters in Liverpool.
Shared Lives Plus brings people with ‘difficulties’ – and this includes youngsters leaving care – into Wales to live with ‘carers’ who may also have moved from England. These new ‘families’ often live in housing association properties.
This is what Labour candidate Beryl-Ann Williams was alluding to in her election material when she talked of turning Cydweli into “an autism and dementia friendly town”. (But of course it goes beyond autism and dementia.)
This clear reference to the work of Lois Poynting and Shared Lives Plus also highlights again the strong and mutually-beneficial relationship between the Labour Party and the third sector.
A relationship that, on the personal level, has many times become sexual.
Though what I find odd about this Shared Lives Plus project across southern Wales (which then follows the M4 to the source of many of its clients) is the low key approach. I put that down to two things: one, a certain reluctance to inform the public; two, the project has all the money it needs.
Because in different circumstances the third sector is adept at using the media to publicise various causes and then exploiting that publicity to screw money out of the ‘Welsh Government’.
Here are a couple of examples.
VISIBILITY IS EVERYTHING
A few weeks ago Swansea Women’s Aid criticised a police crackdown on prostitution in the city. In fairness, Plod wasn’t dragging the girls off to the cells but offering support, a way out.
Yet it appeared from the criticism of the police action that Women’s Aid wanted the prostitutes out on the streets, in full public view.
And this is certainly the case with the homeless, who are blessed with dozens of organisations to exploit help them, using a fraction of the hundreds of millions of pounds these organisations receive from the ‘Welsh Government’.
In Cardiff, the city council has been trying to assuage public anger over the centre of the city having so many homeless people and beggars. These don’t just sit in doorways but live in tents they’ve been given by well-meaning but misguided charities and other groups.
A few weeks back the article below appeared in Llais y Sais. It tells that in the past three years 144 people have been given one-way tickets home from Cardiff. Some to eastern Europe, one to Bermuda. (Someone left Bermuda to live on the streets of Cardiff!)
This policy – entirely voluntary – clearly angered Shelter Cymru, one of the major players in the homeless racket. The extract below is a statement by Shelter Cymru taken from the article above.
Let me translate: ‘The pressure we in the homeless sector have brought to bear on the ‘Welsh Government’ has resulted in legislation ensuring that all those we can attract to Wales must be looked after. This system also results in us receiving tens of millions of pounds every year, at least 80% of which goes on salaries, pensions, new cars and jollies to conferences and the like’.
The homelessness debate has raged on. Just last week, former Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood was persuaded by her friends at the Wallich – another major player in the homeless racket – to speak in the Assembly.
Is this venerable legislation really being enforced by our constabularies (perhaps with mutton-chop side-whiskers complementing stovepipe hats?). Well, actually, no. It looks as if the saintly Leanne was misinformed by the sisters-in-greed at the Wallich.
Proven by the information (above) received by a source in response to Freedom of Information requests to our four police forces. Of course, it could be that our police have developed a sudden fondness for this antediluvian legislation in the past few months, with this not being shown in the FoI responses, but I doubt it.
It’s just the third sector doing what it does best – exaggerating a problem, or importing it, or telling lies to keep the moolah flowing.
Homelessness made the news again on Monday when the BBC reported on a scheme from Finland called Housing First that is being introduced by the ‘Welsh Government’.
An interesting read with – I am informed – a number of important omissions.
One being that Derek ‘Del’ Clarke, quoted and pictured in the story, is a native of Dublin, in Ireland. He was offered a ticket home and a flat was guaranteed by Dublin City Council. He chose to stay on the streets of Cardiff. (One-way tickets is also how the Housing First scheme operates in Finland.)
Homelessness is an undoubted problem, an indictment of any society, but no one should be allowed to make an industry out of it, with hundreds of careers sustained by the public purse.
Yet that is exactly what has happened in Wales.
LOIS GOES WEST
We left Lois Poynting in Cydweli, arranging transfers of people with ‘issues’ into Wales, thereby increasing the burden on our NHS and other services. Now she’s working in Pembrokeshire, and doing very similar work.
If we turn again to her Linkedin profile we read . . .
So what can we learn about Futureworks and Rehab JobFit? There is only a skeletal website for the second of them, perhaps because there is no Rehab JobFit company as such, just a Limited Liability Partnership, that most dubious and opaque of set-ups. Another possibility might be that bad publicity has forced it to either pull out or change its name.
The three partners in the LLP are Interserve Service Futures Ltd of Reading, TGB Learning Ltd of Birmingham, and The Rehab Group, of Dublin. All are interlinked and may be based in Dublin for tax purposes. Strange that this should be allowed by the UK Government for which Rehab JobFit has done so much work.
Let’s now return to the Pembrokeshire County Council website; you should start with ‘Apprenticeships and Training‘ and keep turning the pages. What we read there seems innocuous enough – training youngsters, giving them skills, etc.
If that’s all it is/was, why does it have to involve a company based in England, or Ireland, with ‘Rehab’ in its name, which of course is short for rehabilitation? The suggestion made to me is that young tearaways are brought into Pembrokeshire (and Ceredigion) for ‘rehabilitation’. (Often their families are similarly relocated.)
And this may be what’s explained under ‘Background‘ where we read: ‘Community Task Force on behalf of Groundwork UK – services for young people (18-24 years) who have been unemployed 9 months or longer. Young people developed work related skills through community projects either in the third sector or in-house.’
So who are Groundwork UK, and how do they fit into the picture? And why is the Pembrokeshire council website referencing Groundwork UK when we have Groundwork Wales? In fact, we have a Groundwork Wales and a Groundwork North Wales!
The Charity Commission provides the information in the panel below. Note that Groundwork Wales operates ‘throughout Wales’, but Groundwork North Wales operates ‘throughout England and Wales’. How do we explain this?
Is it the old story of northern Wales being treated as an extension of north west England? And might this cross-border activity explain what is clearly a reference to rehabilitation in the panel above where we read of people changing ‘their own lives for the better’.
This is a relationship that should have been brought to an end by devolution, but if anything, devolution has made it worse. Perhaps because we’ve had twenty years of a Labour government in Cardiff so desperate not to be perceived as ‘nationalist’ that it encourages England to walk all over us. And then dresses up this cowardice as Wales being ‘welcoming’.
Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe there’s some other explanation as to why Groundwork North Wales, covering just a third of the country, has much more money than Groundwork Wales. There may also be a simple explanation for why it operates ‘throughout England and Wales‘.
Perhaps doubling up as ‘Supply Chain Manager – S Wales’.
Poynting and Owens seem to be ships that passed in the night.
With Rehab JobFit, Futureworks, Work Programme, Groundwork and the rest we are in the netherworld where UK Government programmes and private probation companies link with community work orders handed down by local courts to allow more serious offenders – from ‘away’ – to be slipped into the system.
Where the murk also helps obscure individuals moving between the public, the private, and the third sectors, but often doing very similar work. For example, before Lois Poynting was putting up the Welcome signs in Cydweli for Shared Lives Plus she worked for (takes deep breath) Mid and West Wales Health & Social Care Regional Collaborative (MWWHACRC).
This outfit has no online presence of its own, it just crops up in assorted references. Though I was directed to this document which has Lois Poynting signing, on behalf of MWWHACRC, a deal for services to be provided by Capita, one of the UK Government’s favourite ‘delivery agencies’.
(Though Capita’s record is so abysmal that it appears regularly in Private Eye as ‘Crapita’.)
The document to which I’ve linked appears to show a Welsh health agency outsourcing to a private company. Is this the privatisation of Nye Bevan’s National Health Service so dreaded by the bruvvers? Do they even know?
But then, what exactly is the Mid and West Wales Health & Social Care Regional Collaborative? Is it third sector? Is it private sector? Is it part of the Wales NHS? To whom is it answerable?
Answers on the usual dog-eared postcard, please.
UPDATE 17.05.2019: If we look at Gill Owens’ Linkedin Profile we see that she gives her primary occupation as ‘Property Developer and investor at St Michaels Property Development & Investments Ltd’, of Ystrad Mynach.
Yet Companies House tells us that this company has not filed accounts since May 2018 (up to 31.08.2017) and they were for a dormant company with an address in Kent. From the same source we learn that three charges have been taken out in March 2018 and January 2019 for two properties in Leigh, near Wigan.
THE MONSTER IN OUR MIDST
I’ve studied the operations of the third sector for a number of years, and certain things have become clear.
A fundamental problem is that too many ‘Welsh’ third sector bodies do not limit themselves to Welsh needs or interests because by importing many of their clients they can expand their operation thereby boosting their funding and salaries.
This constant importation of clients both distorts the picture for Wales and also means that no problem is ever adequately dealt with because to do so would put many people out of a job.
Third sector operators get away with this deceit because they are shrewd and devious, able to run rings around our politicians at both Assembly and council level.
Third sector operators like to present themselves as principled and moral, but when push comes to shove, and if there’s money to be made, or personal advancement to be secured, they’ll sup with the devil.
All of which results in Wales being burdened with a monster that must be constantly fed in order to sustain thousands of unnecessary jobs sucking up an ever greater proportion of the Welsh public purse.
This monster dictates that the homeless and prostitutes must be left on the streets for all to see; with drug addicts and delinquents perceived as business assets.
The third sector’s most significant contribution to Wales is to make a poor country poorer. How much longer do we tolerate this exploitation?
Another bumper issue, another mixed bag for you to enjoy; bits and pieces from hither and yon, Ynys Môn to New Zealand, and both sides of the Tawe. You can either take them one at a time or you can gorge yourself.
Go on! you know you want to.
SWANSEA, MY SWANSEA!
An old mate back in the city of my dreams, who served for decades as a councillor, once told me a curious tale about Labour councillors having to give up 10% of their allowance (i.e. salary) to the party every month – or else the heavies would be sent round.
He himself learnt this from someone who had broken free from the Labour Party and gone straight.
I’m told this system of ‘dues’ may have been introduced in Swansea a while back, when the boss was that man of destiny, he who enthralled the crowds from the Guildhall balcony – David ‘Il Duce’ Phillips, who I’m sure you’ll all remember.
Now your bog standard Labour councillor in Swansea gets £13,000 a year, but capos and under-bosses get a lot more, while the capo di tutti capi, currently Rob Stewart, is on £53,000.
Then the allowances increase for sitting on various committees, plus there’s travelling allowance, phone bills are paid, etc., etc. The point is that the Labour Party gets a lot of money every year from its own councillors. In Swansea the figure is well over £70,000.
Eventually my mate, Ioan Richard, got in touch with the Wales Audit Office to enquire about this curious method of extortion voluntary donations. The response he received last week said:
“Further to your email of 14 December 2018, I have met with officers of the Council to discuss your concern regarding payments made by Swansea Council to the Labour Party on behalf of some local authority members.
I can confirm that the practice you refer to is a long-standing one. However, Council officers have informed me that having now given due consideration to this matter, it is their intention to end the practice of making payments to the Labour Party (or any other political party) on behalf of local authority members with effect from April 2019.
May I take the time to thank you for taking the time to raise your concern with us.”
A few questions come to mind. Three, I suppose.
Why should officials of the council, employed to serve the city of Swansea in a non-political way, be forced to manage these donations, thereby spending council time doing what is obviously of benefit only to the Labour Party?
If this practice is widespread in Wales then the Labour Party could be getting over one million pounds every year from its councillors. So should the Labour Party be siphoning off money for itself from the public purse?
And if Labour councillors can afford to give up 10% of their allowances then why do we pay them so much?
Another idol of the Jack masses – well, perhaps not – is the MP for Swansea East, Carolyn Harris, of whom I have often written. Harris made the news a few years back when she attacked a co-worker in the constituency office of the then MP for Swansea East Siân James.
She made it into the public prints more recently when the ‘I’ll-get-you-you-cow!’ accusation of theft she had laid against her victim fell apart at Newport Crown Court.
Harris may have her own constituency party tied down but in the neighbouring constituency of Swansea West there was a less than comradely motion discussed recently. It came in three parts.
The first part noted that the evidence given at the Newport trial raised questions about Harris’s fitness to hold the position of Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour.
The second part urged support for the elected members of Labour’s Welsh Executive Committee (WEC) who have asked what processes were used by the party to address concerns about Harris.
The third part asked the Swansea West Constituency Labour Party (CLP) to refrain from inviting Carolyn Harris to CLP events until the WEC members had satisfactory explanations.
The first two parts were carried. The third removed by amendment.
On we go to Gower, Swansea’s third constituency, wherein dwells Ioan Richard. His local MP is former rugby international Tonia Antoniazzi.
Now Ioan is the kind of bloke who asks awkward questions, and challenges conventional wisdom, a species with which I identify but one far too rare in Wales. Inevitably, he has asked awkward questions of Ms Antoniazzi – who has blocked him and now ignores him entirely.
I know ‘Welsh’ Labour is very tribal, and sensitive to criticism, but someone should tell Antoniazzi that she represents not just those giving her a clear run to the line but also those wanting to tackle her.
WELSH NOT 2019
A story that recently made the news was of care home staff in Ystradgynlais being told by their employer not to speak Welshamong themselves. That’s because their employer thought ‘it was “unacceptable” for clients to overhear staff speaking in a language they do not understand’.
Now this is Ystradgynlais, or more specifically, Cwm-twrch Isaf, at the top of the Swansea Valley, where almost everyone other than recent arrivals to the area speaks or understands Welsh. So if the residents at the Isfryn care home, owned by the Accomplish Group of Birmingham (formerly Tracs Ltd), are unfamiliar with the Welsh language then they’re obviously not from the area, so where are they from?
There seems to be no leasehold arrangement registered with the Land Registry so I can only assume that Accomplish rents Isfryn from Link Administration Holdings or else manages Isfryn for the Australian company. (If anyone out there is aware of the exact relationship, please get in touch.)
You’ll have noticed that on the title document the property is known as Glynderwen, but I suppose the name changed to Isfryn because there’s another Glynderwen down the valley in Clydach. This would have posed no problem in days gone by, but the Clydach Glynderwen is also a ‘home’ of some kind run by Aston Care Ltd of Reading.
As I said in a recent post: “In our rural areas, and increasingly in our post-industrial areas, (our) poverty is made worse year on year by England shipping in its problem cases via a host of organisations you’ve never heard of.”
To facilitate this social cleansing substantial properties can be snapped up in the Swansea Valley for a third of what they’d cost in the Thames Valley. Properties ideal for small care homes.
Which explains why we have Australian companies, English companies, English care home residents, with Welsh involvement limited to minimum-wage jobs in which staff are banned from speaking Welsh.
And, almost certainly, there’s Welsh public money involved somewhere.
This is how a collaborationist form of socialism manages a colony. It can delude itself that by facilitating such a situation it is both ‘caring’ and creating jobs. This mindset is not limited to the Labour Party.
I wish to God we had politicians asking the right questions about places like Isfryn. Questions such as . . .
Where are the residents from?
Who’s paying for their care?
If they’re from outside of Wales (and being unfamiliar with the Welsh language suggests they are) then is their home local authority making a contribution to the Welsh NHS?
Why are we allowing or encouraging such places to be set up in Wales?
In 2019 who the fuck has the right to tell Welsh people they mustn’t speak Welsh?
In a nutshell, a company called Camp Valour CIC says it wants to take over 19th century Fort Hubberston in Milford Haven and use it as a rehabilitation centre for ex-service personnel.
The problem is that Camp Valour has been making ludicrous claims and telling outright lies. Many of these lies concern Major Fabian Sean Lucien Faversham-Pullen, who I – in my ignorance – had assumed was Sean Keven Patrick Pullen, director of failed company Baron Security (UK) Ltd, based in the same building at Hawarden airport as Camp Valour, but no – they’re twins!
That they’re never seen in the same room together is due to the fact that Keven drifted off to Gibraltar at the same time as Lucian appeared on the scene. But it had nothing – absolutely nothing! – to do with Keven deciding to call himself Fabian.
Or at least, that’s the story according to Camp Valour’s Chief Operations Officer, Nicola – ‘Don’t tell him, Pike!’ – Wilcox.
The Major’s military credentials were also called into question, but Nicola explained that his army record couldn’t be checked because he had served under his mother’s name. (Which would have made him the only Cynthia in the Parachute Regiment!) But is that legal? We’re dealing with the British army not the French Foreign Legion.
But now, the major, a hardened 25-year veteran, who (we were told) saw many conflicts, has taken offence at a few reasonable questions and gone into hiding, to be replaced by someone as yet unnamed. Perhaps it’ll be Sebastian, the third of the Pullen triplets, just returned from Syria where he led an all-female unit of Kurdish fighters against ISIS.
As a spokesperson Nicola does a wonderful job, making everything so clear. For after Ms Wilcox’ ‘clarification’ I am more convinced than ever that we are dealing with shameless shysters of the Walter Mitty variety.
Oh, yes, and I can look forward to another solicitor’s letter to add to my collection . . . if we are to believe Nicola Wilcox. Would you?
As might be expected, the Camp Valour gang has attracted considerable attention in Pembrokeshire. This is what the Western Telegraph had to say (with some interesting comments). While below you can read the report from the Pembrokeshire Herald.
Pembrokeshire councillor Mike Stoddart was also on good form on his ‘Old Grumpy’ blog.
Someone who knows of such things has told me that the SAS is always referred to as ‘The 22nd Special Air Service Regiment’, and presenting an SAS beret to someone who hadn’t earned it is never done.
Something that obviously puzzled me was the name change to Faversham-Pullen. A common reason is marriage, so had he married a Miss Faversham? I could find no evidence for that, so why Faversham?
Something I turned up made me pause, and wonder if it offers a clue. Read it for yourself. Chronologically, the fit is perfect, but I’m not sure what to make of it.
Naturally I checked with various bodies to see if the gang had secured any moolah.
The county council only became aware of the project from a media report! Though it did receive a copy of the business plan – from Milford Haven town council. This plan mentioned Armed Forces Community Covenant funding; on reading this, Dan Shaw, the council’s Liaison Officer for the Armed Forces, contacted Nicola Wilcox, only to be told that this was a ‘mistake’ and that this funding was not being applied for.
Just another lie that was put in the business plan to impress people, and withdrawn when queried. I cannot see the ‘Major’ and his gang applying for such funding because too many awkward questions would be asked.
I have submitted an FoI to the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ and await a reply.
Fort Hubberston is owned by the Port of Milford Haven, so I also wrote to that body. In response I was sent a brief statement issued on February 20th by Claire Stowell, Director of Property, which read: “The Port of Milford Haven has a short term agreement with Camp Valour which allows them to develop full proposals for Hubberston Fort. We will review those arrangements with Camp Valour in due course.”
I have to confess that I cannot get out of my head a suspicion that the copyright for the Fort Hubberston plan may not belong entirely to Phipps and Pullen. For I note some interesting characters among the senior management at PMH, with backgrounds in business and property development.
If I’m right, then this might explain the confusing entry on the Companies House website, where Camp Valour’s ‘nature of business’ reads, “Recreational vehicle parks, trailer parks and camping grounds”.
Somebody may have slipped up and told the truth, for once.
STOP PRESS! A ‘solicitor’s letter’ arrived just before I put out this post. It was signed ‘Alex McCready’, and there is indeed a lawyer of that name, but I’m not convinced she sent this.
To begin with, it came as a personal e-mail, not an e-mail with an attached letter. There was no company logo or contact details and it came from a Yahoo address! There were spelling mistakes and incorrect use or absence of the possessive apostrophe. Finally, I know from experience how solicitors write letters of this kind.
I shall of course be bringing this desperate attempt to silence me to the attention of the real Alex McCready.
UPDATE 10:35: I have now spoken with Alex McCready and confirmed that she did not send the e-mail. At her request the content of the e-mail is no longer available, Ms McCready will be making her own enquiries into what I interpret to be an assault on her reputation.
EMRYS IS ON HIS WAY!
I was in Carmarthen not so long ago to meet a fascinating guy from Swansea (but, then, aren’t all Jacks fascinating?). We talked of this and that, that and this, and he told me of a Welsh exile in New Zealand who had created Emrys the dragon, who will soon be on his way to Wales.
I have paraphrased the information I’ve subsequently been sent.
‘Artist Julia O’Sullivan is from Caehopkin in the Swansea Valley but has lived in Te Aroha, New Zealand for 12 years.
Emrys was inspired by the Huw Edwards’ BBC series, ‘The Story of Wales’. Emrys honours many Welsh people and includes 960 hand-beaten and enamelled copper scales. Some 750 of them etched with the names of Welsh celebrities.
Emrys is made of metals significant in Welsh history, stands on a Welsh slate base in the shape of Wales, with the legs representing pit-head winding gear. Emrys also contains 29 oil paintings, each telling a story – among them the Rebecca Riots, Aberfan, the Mabinogion, Hywel Dda and Owain Glyndŵr.
Emrys is 2.8m high by 3m wide, weighs 200kg and took 22 months to complete.
A special container has been being built and transportation home has now been arranged. Emrys will depart with a youth choir singing the traditional Maori farewell ‘Po Atarau’. A grand welcome awaits both Emrys and Julia on their arrival in Swansea.’
Emrys will be en route to Swansea in just over a week, and when he arrives he will take up the offer of temporary accommodation at the university. (Let’s hope he doesn’t get involved with the Wellness Village or he’ll be helping Plod with their enquiries and then it’ll be the next boat back.)
Emrys is seeking a permanent home in Wales, so we’re open to suggestions. No post cards this time, let’s have comments to the blog or responses on social media.
MORE LABOUR-STYLE ‘DEMOCRACY’
As you probably know, Plaid Cymru beat Labour to win the Ely by-election in Cardiff last Thursday. But because Neil McEvoy was highly influential in the campaign the militant feminist and niche politics elements in the party have had trouble bringing themselves to congratulate new councillor Andrea Gibson.
The best that could be extracted from an eco-friendly, gender-fluid Plaid spokesperson wearing a T-shirt reading ‘Save Socialist Venezuela From Capitalist Foreign Aid’ was, ‘Ely! Ely! Isn’t that in Cambridgeshire?’ When it was pointed out that there was a Cardiff neighbourhood of the same name, the spokesperson admitted ‘We really aren’t interested in such places’.
Further west there was better news for Labour in an election that got less publicity than the Ely contest. This was the by-election in the Mynyddygarreg ward of Cydweli town council. Though I did mention Labour candidate Beryl Williams in a recent post.
And Beryl won, but what was so curious and disturbing about the result was that of the 330 votes ‘cast’ 220 were postal or proxy votes. Beryl got 191 votes to her Independent rival’s 139 and the great majority of her votes were proxy and postal votes.
For I’m told that Beryl, following her defeat in a by-election last year, was well prepared this time, and stalked the ward armed with sheaves of postal vote registration forms, which of course she is perfectly entitled to fill in for elderly and other voters to sign.
And let’s not forget those – and to quote from Beryl’s own election material – who are helping turn Cydweli into “an autism and dementia friendly town”. Achieved by the third sector importing people with autism, dementia and other conditions who are then accommodated by housing associations.
So Beryl was elected thanks to Labour’s control of the third sector and care homes and the kind of extra burden being laid on Wales that we saw at Isfryn in Cwm-twrch Isaf.
I do hope that ‘Welsh’ Labour hasn’t adopted the old Ulster Unionist tactic of personation that exhorted supporters to ‘Vote early, vote often!’ Or perhaps in this case, ‘Don’t bother voting – I’ll do it for you!’
You’ll have read that the company involved is called Anglesey Homes, so I went to the Companies House website to check. First I found an Anglesey Homes Limited which went belly-up in January 2017. But there’s also an Anglesey Homes Ltd, which was Incorporated 16 November 2018.
Someone has been clever and re-used the name. Perfectly legal because the old company was ‘Limited’ and the new one is ‘Ltd’.
Anglesey Homes Ltd has a website that gives information on its projects but nothing about who runs the company, no company number, and not even a postal address. Companies House tells us that Anglesey Homes Ltd is based at Chester Business Park and shares an address with a number of other companies, with the sole director being Emma Elizabeth Scott.
So who is Emma Elizabeth Scott, this major player in the Ynys Môn holiday homes market? She was born in July 1969 and has in the past three years formed a number of companies. Here’s a list I’ve compiled, though it might be incomplete:
At first sight it would appear that we have here a woman in her late forties who suddenly throws herself into a business career with 12 new companies. And she’s the sole director of most of them.
And because they are all so new there’s little or no paperwork to see. This is certainly the case with Anglesey Homes Ltd, the company that claims to be behind the holiday homes at Rhosneigr.
Far more likely is that Emma Elizabeth Scott is fronting for someone. The county council – and indeed anyone else – is therefore entitled to ask Ms Scott who she’s fronting for, and why that person/those persons wish to remain in the shadows.
We are also entitled to ask Ms Scott where the money is coming from.
For as I have made clear on this blog, and explained with examples, a great deal of dirty money from northern England is being ‘washed’ in the property market and the tourism rackets of northern Wales.
I’m not suggesting that Anglesey Homes Ltd is using dirty money, but it’s always nice to be sure.
I’ve burdened you with a few heavyweight issues of late and now I’m going to make up for it with this relatively short piece in which I look at tourist tat, give a brief update on the Williams gang and new boy Myles Cunliffe in Weep for Wales 11a, before rounding off with an appeal for a better system than funding organisations that have no intention of ever dealing with the problem they’re paid to deal with.
As you know, every December I haul the old Jones carcass down to Cilmeri where the craic is good in the company of old comrades from the 1960s (though fewer every year), and this in no way detracts from the solemnity of the occasion, or the fiery speeches at the monument.
Among the regulars are some of our Breton cousins, one of them, Gwion, first came to Wales many, many years ago as a student teacher; a nice lad who unfortunately fell in with a bad crowd . . . that included myself. Ah! happy days.
After Cilmeri this year our Breton guests went to a number of castles and historic sites to soak up some history and culture before heading to St Fagan’s. Where they intended spending money on Welsh goods.
Among their purchases was a scarf, a red, Welsh scarf. This was left in the bag until they returned home . . . when the full horror of what had happened was revealed.
You’ll see that not only does this scarf carry the ‘Ich Dien’ logo of Charles Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, but it was made in China! Yet the receipt insists it is a ‘Welsh’ scarf.
After receiving the information and the photographs I got to wondering who could be responsible, who was guilty of perpetrating this deception in our name, so I did some checking.
The receipt mentions ‘NMGW Enterprises Ltd’, but nothing comes up for that name on the Companies House website. Next stop was the website for National Museum Wales where, on the ‘Corporate Partnerships’ page (scroll down), I found this reference to NMGW Enterprises.
A bit more ferreting gave me the name I was looking for – Mentrau Amgueddfeydd ac Orieliau Cenedlaethol Cymru / National Museums & Galleries of Wales Enterprises Ltd. Here’s the Companies House entry.
A number of things concern me, and should concern anyone who cares about Wales.
First off, looking at the directors of NMGW Enterprises, there is a worrying lack of Welsh involvement. (Even the auditors are in Walsall!) Which might explain why tourist tat made in China is being passed off as Welsh and damaging our country’s reputation.
Seeing as NMGW Enterprises is owned by National Museum Wales I suggest that that body either reins in these cowboys or else removes from its website actionable lies about ‘Welsh-made products’. Preferably the former.
And because the ‘Welsh Government’ has ultimate responsibility for our museums and galleries – and may even have appointed the directors of NMGW Enterprises – I also expect to see some action from that quarter.
Wales is supposedly going for up-market tourism and yet, at one of our flagship visitor attractions, people are offered rubbish you’d expect to see sold by a spiv down from London to capitalise on a rugby or football international.
WEEP FOR WALES 11a
This section was taken down after I received a hand-delivered letter after dark on the evening of March 26. This was obviously a ‘We know where you live’ kind of letter. After giving the matter further thought Weep for Wales 11a was reinstated on August 19.
Here’s the letter I received.
I don’t have enough material, yet, for Weep for Wales 12 but there is fresh information that needs to be made public. Let’s recap . . .
Weep for Wales 11 appeared on 3 December and I updated it a few times, including just before Christmas after receiving a threatening letter from a solicitor, demanding that I remove everything I’d ever written about Paul and Rowena Williams. (Here’s my response.) I’ve heard nothing more from the solicitor. I’ll return to this intervention later.
On the same day he joined Etaireia Investments Cunliffe also became a director of Etaireia Holdings Ltd, a Scotland-registered company now lined up to be struck off due to both Accounts and Confirmation Statement being overdue with Companies House.
THE FALSE ECONOMY OF THE THIRD SECTOR
One defence of the third sector is that it ‘takes up the slack’ when central, devolved, or local government no longer provides a certain service, and to some extent that’s true.
But there may come a point when it would make more sense to take that responsibility back ‘in-house’, where a service might not only be provided for less in terms of financial outlay but also in a way that made it more transparent in its dealings, and open to public scrutiny.
This thought has occurred to me a number of times recently. And it came back to me yesterday when I read this pitch in the Western Mail for more funding from the CEO of a homelessness business.
Let’s start with the introduction, where it says, “Lindsay Cordery-Bruce, chief executive of Wales’ leading homelessness charity The Wallich, makes an impassioned call to recognise that our current systems of support to tackle the issue of rough sleeping in Wales clearly aren’t working”. And there are good reasons for why they aren’t working, as I shall explain.
After being introduced as CEO of “Wales’ leading homelessness charity” Ms Cordery-Bruce then, and rather confusingly, began her article with: “Across the UK, including in Wales . . . “. Why would the CEO of Wales’ biggest such charity, operating solely in Wales, and writing about homelessness in Wales, have to put her thoughts into a UK framework for a Welsh readership?
It makes no sense unless you appreciate that the Wallich, like most third sector bodies in Wales, operates in an Englandandwales framework, throwing Welsh money at what are often transferred English problems. (Housing associations are particularly guilty in this regard.)
But of course the Wallich is not alone, for as the ‘Welsh Government was only too pleased to tell me, there are no fewer than 48 homelessness charities / businesses operating in Wales.
I’m not for one minute suggesting that they’re all as big as the Wallich, but the Wallich is not without serious rivals. With all of them soaking up vast amounts of public funding. To illustrate my point let me walk you through the latest available accounts for the Wallich. (Keep this pdf file open in a separate window.)
Let’s start on page 8, where we see that the Wallich has £2,778,887 squirrelled away in investments. In addition, page 21 tells us that there is another £3,574,617 in readies. Whence cometh these shekels?
Well, page 29 informs us that in 2018 £7,981,735 came from the ‘Welsh Government’ and local authorities. Another £3,993,798 came from rents. This is clearly no hand-to-mouth charity, this is a serious commercial undertaking, and the commodity bringing in this money is homeless people.
That the Wallich is a big company and a major employer is made clear on page 31, where we learn that £8,019,182 went on staff costs (for 381 employees), of which Ms Cordery-Bruce herself pulled down £100,000+. (Though in the previous year the CEO who preceded Ms C-B seems to have been paid less than £80,000.)
To sum up, we have in Wales a homelessness industry made up of dozens of organisations, all reliant to a greater or lesser degree on public funding, and all with a vested interest in not solving the problem of homelessness because to do so would put them out of a job.
Which also means that if Wales cannot provide enough homeless then they will be brought in from England . . . as will the drug addicts, and the ex-cons, and the paedophiles and the problem families for housing associations and others.
Why does the ‘Welsh Government’ not put a stop to this obvious rip-off? Because there is electoral advantage to be gained from keeping Wales poor, which runs: ‘Look at all the homeless . . . see how poor Wales is? . . . it’s all the fault of them Tories . . . vote Labour!’
We have reached the stage where it would be far cheaper for the ‘Welsh Government’ to take direct responsibility in certain sectors currently exploited by an out-of-control third sector and bring down costs by actually solving the problem rather than by keeping it going for personal gain.
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”.
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.
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!)
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.”
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.)
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.
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”.
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?
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.
Unusually, perhaps, for a woman in this area of activity, Gerli has three children.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
UPDATE 25.01.2018: It seems that the petition has been taken down.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!)
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?
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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”.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.