Finding myself at a loose end I did what I often do to ward off ennui – I delved into StatsWales, a site I recommend to anyone with a strong stomach who is free from high blood pressure or problems with their cholesterol levels.
And here’s a link to the Buyer’s Guide. In a nutshell; you need to come up with 5% deposit, 75% mortgage, and then you apply for a 20% equity loan from Help to Buy – Wales to complete the purchase of a new-build home. It’s basically a programme to stimulate the building industry.
Going through the various tables, and making comparisons, certain anomalies began to appear, anomalies which, when I gave them some thought, were rather worrying, for it was difficult to think of an acceptable or innocent explanation for some of the curious data confronting me.
Diving in . . . why have there been 1,339 completions in Newport (population 151,485, 2017 mid-year estimate) but only 326 in Cardiff (362,756, ditto)? Or why should there have been 768 completions in Flintshire (155,155) but only 205 in neighbouring Wrexham (135,571)? Moving to the south west we see that Carmarthenshire (186,452) completed 645 while in neighbouring Pembrokeshire (124,711) it was just 191, while up the road in Ceredigion (73,076) it was a measly 21!
Moving down the list, a table I found very interesting was the one dealing with house prices, which is worth spending some time on because it raises more questions about the workings of the Help to Buy system. Let me explain what I mean.
Earlier we noted that there were many more properties bought with Help to Buy in Carmarthenshire than in Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion combined. The table suggests that this may be due to most of the properties sold in Carmarthenshire being under £150,000, which would suggest that there the scheme has been used to help first-time buyers, who reassuringly made up 80% of sales, one of the highest percentages in the country. By comparison, the first-time buyer figure for Torfaen was just 59%.
The figures for Merthyr I find very strange. Without wishing to do the area down, I was surprised to see that 68% of the Help to Buy properties there were priced at over £150,000. For Carmarthenshire – where property values are higher than Merthyr – the figure was just 24%. The figure for Swansea is 25%, and for Blaenau Gwent, the other Heads of the Valleys authority, it’s 22%.
So why are people buying such expensive houses in one of the poorest areas of a poor country?
For most areas – even Merthyr – there is a tailing off as we approach the £300,000 limit, which is to be expected. Yet in the following local authority areas the top price bracket shows an increase in completions over the cheaper band preceding it: Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Wrexham, Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff, Torfaen.
For Flintshire, the figures are striking: 99 completions in the £200,001-£225,000 bracket, 105 in the £225,001-£250,000 band, and then a leap to 150 in the top £250,001-£300,000 band. Which means that 89% of the properties bought in Flintshire using Help to Buy were priced at over £150,000.
According to the Land Registry, the average house price in Flintshire in June 2017 was £162,703 (and has since dropped). For Merthyr the figure was £98,172. The figures for all local authority areas are available here, scroll down.
In the hope of pulling everything together I decided to compile a table of my own. (Available here in pdf format.) The columns show, from the left:
The local authority.
The area’s population from the ONS’ mid-year estimate for 2017.
A breakdown of the prices of properties bought with Help to Buy (split into four bands rather than the eight supplied by StatsWales).
The total number of Help to Buy completions.
The number and percentage of first-time buyers.
The average house price for each area in June 2017, supplied by the Land Registry.
The average price paid for a Help to Buy property.
The difference between 6 and 7.
So in addition to the questions already posed, why have there been so many Help to Buy purchases in some areas and so few in others? As mentioned, the most obvious stand-out is Newport, which with 4.8% of the population accounts for 18.7% of the Help to Buy completions.
Could it be that many, or most, of the Help to Buy purchases in Newport are investments in anticipation of the expected influx of Bristol commuters? Come to that, are many of these properties being bought by Bristol buyers thinking ahead? It’s difficult to explain the Newport anomaly without bringing Bristol into the equation.
But whatever the explanation, isn’t Newport taking up a disproportionate amount of the £170m available? Is there no mechanism to ensure that all parts of the country are treated fairly?
As for Flintshire, we can reasonably assume that many of the buyers there will have come from over the border, which points up another serious shortcoming in Help to Buy.
It would be nice to think that this scheme focuses on first-time buyers, local young people buying their first home. We have the excellent example set by the three south western counties but elsewhere the picture is patchy. With 83% of Help to Buy sales in Wrecsam and Cardiff being made to first-time buyers but just 59% in Torfaen, Newport’s hinterland.
Carmarthenshire also deserves praise for the fact that 76% of the properties sold in the county with Help to Buy were priced at £175,000 or under. Which when coupled with an 80% first-time buyer figure suggests that it’s young locals being helped.
You’ll notice that in three local authorities – Vale of Glamorgan, Pembrokeshire, Monmouthshire – the average Help to Buy price is lower than the average sale price for those areas. But Monmouthshire and the Vale have the highest property values in Wales so this is nothing to worry about. While for Pembrokeshire we see that 77% of the Help to Buy properties were £175,000 or less which, when coupled with an 85% first-time buyer rate, suggest that it’s on the same righteous path as next-door Carmarthenshire.
Though I’d like an explanation for why there have been so few Help to Buy sales in Ceredigion. (And I don’t want any Cardi jokes!)
And then there’s Merthyr. I can think of no good reason why most of the properties bought there with Help to Buy were priced over £175,000 when the average house price is £98,172. And why are only 67% of them first-time buyers? Somebody’s taking the piss.
Administered properly Help to Buy could have done a lot of good. If it had been limited to first-time buyers and those who had lived in Wales for a minimum of five years. But because the impetus was to build more houses, and because the more expensive the house the bigger the profit margin, ‘anomalies’ were guaranteed.
When we look at the list of participating builders we see a long list of companies, a list that contains quite a few outfits that I bet have never laid a brick in Wales.
Going back to the ‘Welsh’ Government website, those thinking of using Help to Buy are also advised to find, in addition to a builder and a lender, an approved financial advisor and an accredited conveyancer. Clicking on the links for these brings up the same long list of professionals, and again, many of them are outside of Wales. Bristol and Chester seem popular locations. (List available here in pdf format.)
As I say, properly applied and administered Help to Buy could have helped a lot of our people, and given a boost to Welsh companies, but like most legislation that passes through Cardiff docks and then into the hands of civil servants it is intended that as much as possible of the benefits spread over the border.
And inevitably, there will be some jiggery-pokery, as alliances are forged between builders, solicitors and lenders. Other may be drawn in, such as local government officials and councillors. Also, friends and family of those involved will be ‘helped’ to apply for Help to Buy.
Standing back, looking at the big picture, one thing becomes clear. By and large, the Help to Buy programme seems to have been implemented more sensibly, more fairly, and less wastefully, in those local government areas that are not controlled by the Labour Party.
Seeing as no one knows what kind of Brexit the UK government wants, and because so much of what you’re reading and hearing on the subject is either biased or just ill-informed, it falls upon Uncle Jac to shed a little light on the matter. Because there are implications in Brexit for the unity of the UK, and these are already being addressed with covert strategies that may be reported in the mainstream media but are not identified for what they really are.
To make the best sense of what follows you must understand that the whole debate has moved beyond Brexit to the point where it is now about two unions, the EU and the UK, and also the future of the Conservative and Unionist Party. Not to be outdone the Labour Party is also confused, but there we also find other issues at play.
The overall UK vote was 51.89% Leave to 48.11% Remain. In Wales 52.53% voted Leave. By comparison, Scotland voted 62% for Remain.
Since then, from the UK government, it’s been a revolving stage of pantomime, tub-thumping jingoism, farce, soap opera and slapstick, but now, as the end approaches, things are beginning to take a darker turn.
But before getting to the creepy bits let’s consider where we are with the main UK political parties.
EU membership has been a divisive issue within the Conservative Party for half a century or more. In the hope of settling things prime minister David Cameron announced in February 2016 that there would be a referendum. He also stated that he would be campaigning to stay. When he lost, he resigned.
Since the referendum it has been almost impossible to separate what passes for ‘negotiations’ with the EU from the ongoing civil war within the Conservative Party, with the internecine fighting being a prelude to the inevitable leadership contest.
We’ve now reached the stage where it seems to be the incumbent Theresa May versus Boris Johnson. ‘Bonking Boris’, reviled by ‘progressives’ and opposed by many in his own party. Yet Tories of a more pragmatic bent may see him as a winner.
Not least because Boris Johnson has achieved that priceless political status of being universally recognised by his first name. How many politicians today can say that?
And don’t forget that Johnson was elected mayor of multiracial London in 2008, beating Comrade Livingstone, and increasing his share of the vote in getting re-elected in 2012, again by beating Livingstone. There will be a number in the Conservative Party who’ll see a lesson there for a future tussle with Comrade Corbyn.
At the time of writing this the elite against whom I and many others voted in June 2016 is pushing for a People’s Vote on the “final Brexit deal”. Having lost the vote in 2016 they’re hoping for a re-run and a different result . . . but believe me, it’s got sod all to do with ‘the People’.
The English Labour Party in Wales is generally supportive of this initiative because by and large our MPs and AMs want to remain in the EU. But their leader is proving more cautious, for Jeremy Corbyn seems to understand better than his Wales-based representatives why Labour voters in the post-industrial areas and the lower socio-economic brackets voted for Brexit.
Corbyn is reluctant to further alienate this white working class, and so, sure of the loyalty of his Momentum base, and believing that his ethnic minority and middle class voters have nowhere else to go, he seems to have concluded that the best option is to keep ’em guessing.
Others in Labour are less reticent about speaking out against Brexit and in favour of a second referendum. Here in Wales Labour politicos have reminded us how much money we’ve received from the EU, which doesn’t really help their cause because too much of that money has been frittered away by successive Labour management teams in Cardiff docks with no discernible benefits accruing to the areas in need.
But what the hell! – we’ve got the biggest third sector money can buy.
He’s not alone in seeing the possibility of Brexit breaking the UK apart – it’s one of the reasons I voted for Brexit – but I’m sure he takes the side of his Tory masters and will do his best to maintain the Union. Why change the habit of a lifetime?
But Carwyn’s masters are not blind to the danger either, and are implementing measures to counter the threat, certainly in Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland is, as ever, different.
Without knowing anything about the Flight of the Earls, the Plantation, Partition, or even the Troubles, most people are vaguely aware that the politics of ‘Ulster’ or the Six Counties is dominated by whether this part of Ireland should remain in the United Kingdom or whether it should join the rest of the island.
(Though this does not apply to Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who seems to have imagined a homogeneous population made up of individuals who take a pin into the polling booth.)
As things stand, those wishing to stay part of the UK remain in a majority, but a majority being whittled away year on year by demographic trends. So that by 2030 there will probably be a Catholic majority and a referendum on reunification could choose a united Ireland.
Brexit has added a new ingredient to the mix and might accelerate reunification.
Because the prospect of a ‘hard’ border after the UK exits the EU will not only be bad for business, it also raises fears of a return to violence. This has resulted in a number of people hitherto opposed to a united Ireland prepared to consider that option in order to stay in the EU. And let’s not forget that Northern Ireland voted by 56% to 44% to Remain. The only party pushing a Leave vote was the Democratic Unionist Party, predictably following the BritNat line.
Yet one of the alternatives, that of somehow keeping the Six Counties within the UK and the EU by having the customs border somewhere in the Irish Sea, has Mrs May’s DUP allies shouting ‘No Surrender!’ and strapping on their Lambeg drums.
The other option seems to involve no change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and a ‘soft’ or invisible border, with customs checks carried out by technology that doesn’t exist, or possibly by leprechauns.
The question of whether there should be a united Ireland could of course be resolved with a referendum, allowed for in the Good Friday (or Belfast) Agreement (Schedule 1,2). But the power to call such a vote rests with the Secretary of State. As we’ve seen, at the moment that is Karen Bradley, who thinks people in the Bogside don Orange sashes when the humour is on them.
So we’re in the absurd position of the Secretary of State having the authority to call a referendum , ” . . . if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.” Which, when you consider it, is a very good reason for the British government NOT to call a referendum.
The political situation is further complicated by the fact that the Northern Ireland Assembly collapsed in January 2017 and seems unlikely to get back on its feet any time soon.
There is little the British state can do to influence things in Northern Ireland for a number of reasons: 1/ the Republic’s government keeps a close eye on events; 2/ Ireland is now crucial for the EU because it will soon be a land border; 3/ there’s the interest from the USA, for no American politician can ignore the Catholic Irish-American vote.
And as I’ve suggested, the UK establishment is resigned to losing Northern Ireland in 10 or 20 years time anyway due to ‘the revenge of the cradle’, so the worst Brexit can do is hurry up that process. While never having to deal again with Northern Ireland politicians is a prospect most civil servants welcome.
In Scotland, things are very different.
The 2014 Scottish independence referendum gave the UK establishment one hell of a fright and may only have been won at the last minute by the intervention of senior politicians promising everything short of independence in The Vow. Though Brexit is causing a rethink for the man behind it.
The Scots voting to Remain coupled with the growing prospect of a ‘hard’ Brexit is increasing support for Scottish independence. This has prompted the UK state go on the offensive. It’s worth focusing on two, ongoing elements of this attack.
First there’s the crude and unambivalent ‘Britification’ campaign, most visible in the packaging of Scottish goods with the Union flag. In the image below we see whisky and, even weirder, that quintessentially Scottish delicacy, haggis, branded as ‘British’!
But the alternative name for whisky is Scotch. Can you imagine anyone going into a bar and saying, ‘Give me a large British, barman’? Which might get the response, ‘A large British what, sir?’ As for haggis, branding it with the Union Jack is liable to lose sales because people might think it’s counterfeit, something like Albanian ‘champagne’.
In the main it seems to be the supermarkets at fault rather than the manufacturers, for I’ve read that Lidl and Aldi, the German chains, have stuck with Scottish branding.
I can imagine a meeting deep in the bowels of Whitehall between representatives of the main supermarket chains and high-ranking civil servants to discuss ‘promoting a sense of shared Britishness in these difficult times’, and perhaps achieving the objective without even mentioning Scotland.
(But I warn them now, if they come to put a Union Jack on my laverbread they will have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.)
The other point of attack has been the allegations against Alex Salmond former leader of the Scottish National Party and former Scottish first minister. Let me say that I don’t know whether these allegations are true or not, but the motivation behind them is crystal clear.
I first understood what it was all about watching Newsnight soon after the story broke. It had been broken by the Daily Record, the Scottish version of the Daily Mirror, and therefore the mouthpiece of the Labour Party, once dominant in Scottish politics but now languishing in third place as the Unionist vote coalesces behind the Tories.
The assistant editor responsible was a cocky Ulsterman named David Clegg, and without knowing his background I would hazard a guess that he has never voted for Sinn Féin. He was positively bouncing at being interviewed over his ‘scoop’ . . . and then something rather strange happened – he kept talking about Nicola Sturgeon, Salmond’s successor in both positions!
The light bulb flashed above the old Jac noggin, I took a sip of Malbec and nodded sagely.
And so it came to pass that where there had been unity of purpose in a political party determined to achieve Scottish independence, now they were at each other’s throats! Or at least, that’s what newspapers were reporting. And desperately hoping that the Scottish public would believe it.
What we see in Scotland suggests that secret polling has confirmed the British government’s worst fears – the Brexit cock-up has created a majority for independence.
Added to the blatant BritNat bias the BBC in Scotland has exhibited for some years we now have government-controlled newspapers in a constituent part of a democracy. Were this happening anywhere else it would be reported, and condemned . . . by the very media outlets that have so readily submitted to government control.
What absolute hypocrites!
Here in Wales the Britification campaign has been less obvious and offensive, partly because we have less indigenous produce to be plastered with Union Jacks, due in large part to the unwritten rule that says any successful Welsh company is only allowed to reach a certain size before being taken over by an English rival.
That said, the campaign has taken other forms, two examples will suffice to explain what I mean.
To begin with, early last year that most colonialist of ‘Welsh’ organisations, Cadw, announced that there was to be a ring of steel erected near Flint castle to celebrate the 2017 Year of Legends, one of the regular, tiresome, and often insulting tourism marketing ploys.
Ring of Steel is an obvious reference to the castles built by Edward I to encircle Gwynedd and subjugate its inhabitants. Cadw knew this. The proposed structure was soon dubbed ‘The Anus of the North’, an epithet that then seemed to transfer to Ken Skates, the hapless minister for culture or some such in England’s Cardiff management team.
After a public outcry, political opposition, and a petition that attracted 10,000 signatures in a matter of days, this squalid and deliberate attempt to celebrate English conquest was dropped.
But then came the renaming of the Second Severn Crossing as the Prince of Wales Bridge. Again, this was widely opposed, with little support from within Wales, but it went ahead in a secret ceremony.
The renaming idea is attributed to Alun Cairns, the oleaginous Secretary of State for Severnside, but I’m not so sure. I believe the idea came from the same source as the ‘request’ for supermarkets to smother Scottish produce under the Union Jack. Cairns was only too happy to oblige.
Alun ‘Tippy-toes’ Cairns is now one of the most ridiculed and reviled politicians in Welsh political history, even more so than some of his predecessors such John Redwood; for while we expected no better from them, Welsh-speaking Cairns is viewed as a turncoat.
Having mentioned Severnside, the renaming of the bridge and the removal of the tolls will begin what we are asked to welcome as the great property bonanza in the south east. In practice, no bridge tolls and cheaper property prices on the Welsh side of the bridge will encourage a population movement into Wales.
Replicating what we see in the north as commuters from Manchester and Merseyside are guided away from exclusive communities in Cheshire into the commuter communities planned for the A55 corridor.
These machinations on the part of the UK state, coupled with the cowardice and incompetence of the English Labour Party in Wales has predictably resulted in a reaction.
In the past couple of years we’ve seen the emergence and growth of YesCymru, the launch of new party Ein Gwlad, and the realisation within Plaid Cymru that a hard left party obsessing over issues that mean nothing to 99% of the Welsh population is going nowhere.
There can no longer be any doubt that there is a Britification agenda operating in Scotland and Wales. Because the BritNats driving the Brexit process are awake to the fact that if they win they risk the Union. More moderate elements can also see the risk to the Union and even though they might oppose Brexit they have little alternative but to join in the Britification offensive.
Yet Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and the rest must push ahead because their political reputations and their places in history are now tied up with Brexit. They cannot afford to fail. If they succeed, they know it will be easy to use the rallying-call of ‘Save the Union’ to reunite the Conservative Party, and leave the other parties no alternative but to fall into line.
The real worry is that the Britification and dirty tricks we’ve seen so far in Scotland and Wales could be nothing compared to what we might experience after the Brexit shit hits the fan.
I remember, back in the 1960s, when I was a wild young thing, visiting Owain Williams (of Tryweryn fame) on his farm, Gwynus, and then heading down for a drink at the local hostelry, the Plas Pistyll Hotel. I remember it well because ‘G–‘ and I picked up a couple of girls from Birmingham and took them up the mountain to enjoy the view. (Who says we don’t welcome tourists?)
Ah! happy days.
The old pile, with its uninterrupted views of the sea, fell on hard times and was eventually abandoned to the elements. But even if it was no longer viable as a hotel, the location alone dictated that somebody would some day come along with a plan for the site.
And so it was. . . .
THE PLANNING APPLICATIONS
Let me start by explaining that I have drawn together all the planning references I can find relating to both Plas Pistyll and neighbouring Pistyll farm and caravan site, I’ve done this because as early as 2008 they had become one and the same project.
Here’s the link to the pdf version. Click on the planning reference number in the left-hand column to be taken to the Gwynedd planning site.
Below you’ll see a montage created for Natural Retreats by the Ark Company Landscape Architects of Middlesex, and although things have moved on the image gives the layout of the site.
The obvious place to start is with the three earliest applications, which tell us that both the farm and the Plas are owned by Sustainable Leisure, a company I couldn’t find on the Companies House website.
Even so, I know that the properties were owned by a Bill Gleave of Greater Manchester. I know because by August 2009 he had hit the rocks owing local businesses money. You’ll note that in the Daily Post report I’ve just linked to the Pistyll site is called ‘Nature’s Point’ (A name I’m sure I recall from the Mabinogion.)
This catastrophe was confirmed when the Bolton News reported that Gleave company BGH had gone tits up, with Sustainable Leisure following.
It all went quiet for almost three years until, in August 2011, there was an application from new player Natural Retreats to demolish Plas Pistyll and replace it with 20 self-catering holiday units. These to be complemented with “16 self catering holiday units in lieu of the existing static caravan site” at the farm.
To begin with, I had the same problem with Natural Retreats as I had with Sustainable Leisure – I couldn’t find it on the Companies House website. But I found a Natural Retreats website and eventually unearthed Natural Retreats UK Ltd, which changed its name to The UK Great Travel Company Ltd 25 October 2017.
Permission was given in August 2012 to demolish Plas Pistyll with the condition that the same individual or family could not live in the new holiday units for more than three months in a year. Natural Retreats appealed against this decision and the appeal was allowed permitting unrestricted holiday use for the whole site.
I understand that the last time the planning committee met was to discuss C11/0661/43/LL, thereafter everything was delegated to planning officers. Some very important decisions were made that many feel should have been referred back to the committee, not least the decision to allow unrestricted holiday use.
Having got the big prize Natural Retreats – usually operating now as Natural Land & Sea – chipped away over the next few years at more of the planning conditions imposed by Gwynedd’s planning committee, to the point where few remained.
For Gwynedd’s planning department seemed to bend over backwards to oblige: “. . . deletion of Conditions 8, 9, 10 (Code for Sustainable Homes) . . . vary the materials proposed for the external wall of the units on the farm site . . . Discharge conditions 20 (slate), 22 (stone) and 24 (external finishes) . . . Discharge condition 2 (agree stone) on planning permission . . . “
Instead of stone and slate cottages in keeping with vernacular styles (including Pistyll farm), using local materials and labour, what are being thrown up now on the Plas Pistyll site are prefabricated units brought in from God knows where – Estonia being one suggestion – with no local benefits whatsoever.
And again, predictably, searching the Companies House website turned up nothing for Natural Land & Sea. Either there is no such company, or it’s registered outside the UK, or it’s the trading name of another entity (in which case we should know the name of that entity). But Cyngor Gwynedd and its planners don’t seem to know or care who they’re dealing with.
It should be standard practice for any elected or public body dealing with a commercial entity to insist on that entity identifying itself with a Companies House, Charity Commission, FSA, etc number or some other form of identification, or else explain why it cannot meet this requirement.
Relevant digression: I’ve been helping a neighbour who’s lived the village all his life renew his blue parking badge, but he still had to provide his birth certificate and other proof of identity. If he’d rocked up claiming to represent Intergalactic Con Men Inc, and wanting to build 5,000 holiday apartments in tower blocks around Llyn Tegid I suppose Cyngor Gwynedd would have rolled out the red carpet, like they’ve done for Paul Williams, Natural Retreats, and God knows how many others.
I’ve told you that Natural Retreats UK Ltd renamed itself The UK Great Travel Company Ltd on 25 October 2017. On that very same day a company was born named NRML Technology Ltd. The sole director was soon joined by another gentleman from Bobby Lee’s home state of Virginia and in June the company name was changed to Natural Retreats UK Ltd.
Why would Natural Retreats UK Ltd be resurrected under American ownership? We shall consider this in just a minute.
Before that, let’s take a closer look at who’s behind this disaster at Pistyll, on the very site where a young Jac downed pints and chatted up young ladies. (Though I use the most generous application of that epithet.) As we’ve seen, there can easily be confusion about the name of the company involved. Hardly surprising when you read on.
There may be other companies for all I know but the people involved with almost all of those I’ve listed are: Matt Spence, Anthony Wild and Ewan Kearney.
The founder and driving force is Matt Spence, who was born on a Yorkshire sheep farm where – he tells us – it was a struggle to survive, so he and his brothers looked for alternative ways to make money. Spence hit on the idea of high quality accommodation in national parks and other areas of great natural beauty.
A noble ambition that he’s partly met in finding the right locations. But in reality Spence’s business is raising money in the form of investments – the minimum seems to have been £50,000 to join NR Investors LP (check out the document for 16.01.2008) – and whether all the money raised goes on lodges and chalets is a moot point, for he and his associates have their fingers in so many pies.
But whatever the company or partnership the bottom line remains making as much money as possible. And this often seems to mean cutting corners, for I’ve heard from a number of quarters that the ‘Natural’ empire is not always a good neighbour, or employer. Here are reports from the Cairngorms, and Yorkshire.
There are even suggestions that the empire may not be in the best of financial health. But with so many interlinked commercial and financial entities constantly changing addresses and names it’s not easy for anyone to keep track.
I earlier alluded to an intervention from the Commonwealth of Virginia, so maybe it’s time to expand on what I’m sure you found to be a tantalising reference.
Spence is something of an evangelist and so we should not be surprised to learn that he spread the ‘Natural’ gospel to the USA, where they have a hell of a lot more open spaces than us. This bore fruit in Natural Retreats USA. And yet . . .
Those who have raised Natural Retreats UK Ltd from the dead appear to have no connection with Natural Retreats USA. And yet, under its original name of NRML Technology Ltd the company was formed by a Christopher Holden who gave his correspondence address as, ‘Natural Retreats, 675 Peter Jefferson Parkway, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, 22911’.
Holden works with venture capitalists and investors, Court Square Ventures of Charlottesville, which has no obvious connection with Natural Retreats USA, it’s certainly not listed among CSV’s clients. He was later joined as a director by Douglas Burns. On the CSV website Holden is described as a ‘General Partner’, whereas Burns is ‘Principal & CFO’.
Unless they plucked the Natural Retreats UK Ltd name out of thin air, and found Manchester by sticking a pin in a map, there has to be a connection between Court Square Ventures and Matt Spence and his associates.
But it still doesn’t make sense.
Because if we read the CSV website, and the biographies of the partners, then we see that their backgrounds are in media, technology, communications and the like – not a sasquatch-terrorised log cabin to be seen!
And yet, Court Square Ventures is an investment company, so it’s reasonable to suggest that the boys from Charlottesville come bearing greenbacks, which inclines me towards three options:
They have come to get a slice of the action, at Pistyll and elsewhere, perhaps by investing in one or more of Spence’s many financial vehicles.
They have come to help Spence out of a financial hole.
They have come to take over.
And if you think about, it could be a bit of all three; or maybe options 1 and 2 culminating in option 3.
In the hope of clarifying the situation I e-mailed Natural Retreats USA on Friday with, “There are companies of the same name operating in the UK, in Wales, Scotland and England. I see that Christopher Holden is a director of Natural Retreats UK Ltd. What exactly is the connection or relationship between the US and UK companies?”
The reply said, “Thank you for your inquiry into Natural Retreats. I would be happy to offer some more information as to how the different companies are related. You may also view our website for further clarification: https://www.naturalretreats.com/about
Natural Retreats was originally founded in the UK by Matthew Spence, and started with a few luxury lodges in the Yorkshire Dales. Over time, Natural Retreats grew to include destinations in the Eastern and Western United States as well. At this time, the US and UK now operate separately; they only share the name of Natural Retreats. The US main office is located in Charlottesville, VA and the Western Support Office is located in Park City, UT.
If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. Thank you, again, for your inquiry; we hope you will stay with us at one of our luxury retreats in the near future!”
To which I responded with, “I am grateful for your speedy response. As I mentioned in my original query, I was a little confused seeing Christopher Holden of Charlottesville, Virginia listed as a director of Natural Retreats UK Ltd (Co No 11031026). A company formed in October 2017. This would appear to be a UK presence for the US operation, or is there some other interpretation?”
At this point the line went dead!
So we are no nearer to knowing why venture capitalists from Virginia with no obvious expertise in tourism have set up in Manchester using a company name previously used by those building at Plas Pistyll. But it’s surely no coincidence that Rural Retreats USA’s eastern office is in Charlottesville. Which throws up other questions.
I’ll ask again, does Cyngor Gwynedd and its planners really know who they’re dealing with? Not just because of the find-me-if-you-can company names but also because Spence specialises in getting others to invest in his plans, and even though I’m sure he scrupulously screens each and every investor, the fact remains that the money to develop Plas Pistyll could be coming from anywhere.
Court Square Ventures is another company that invests money for third parties.
The properties at Pistyll are now being advertised on Rightmove and other sites. So let’s consider what we’re dealing with, and its implications.
For a start, I note that these properties are being sold leasehold. Yet England’s management team down in Cardiff docks – those clowns that hope to be mistaken for a ‘Welsh Government’ – has turned against leasehold, except, apparently, when it’s used by RSLs or, more secretively, by unregistered private subsidiaries of publicly-funded RSLs. And of course by the likes of the ‘Natural’ empire.
Then again, just imagine Matt Spence and his gang turning up and saying, ‘Oi, Taff, we want to build a new holiday village overlooking the sea. We ain’t gonna use local materials, suppliers or labour. Then we are gonna give it some idiotic English name and there’s fuck all you can do about it’.
There would have been an outcry, even Plaid Cymru might have been roused to mumble something.
But that is exactly what has been achieved incrementally!
This development at Pistyll is only a few miles from Plas Glynllifon where dwells our old friend Paul Williams of Weep for Wales fame. Yet Plas Pistyll and Plas Glynllifon represent for the ‘Welsh’ Government ‘high end’ tourism, which must be unquestioningly encouraged.
For it is all set out in TAN 13: Tourism (1997) . . . which observant readers will have noted was two years before the Assembly first sat. That’s really thinking ahead!
Yet from what I can see, ‘high end’ tourism only attracts the smarter shysters and the outright crooks. Though if we are to attract high end tourism then what is being done to phase out the barrel-scraping tourism represented by mile after mile of ugly coastal caravan parks that can only deter the high rollers?
Because we are expected to believe that in a tiny country like Wales we can have all kinds of tourism and unlimited numbers of tourists without causing catastrophic cultural and environmental damage.
This is because it’s what England wants, due to the fact that a) money spent in Wales will make its way back to England, and b) tourism and the population influx it encourages makes Wales less of a ‘worry’.
As for the aforementioned clowns down Geiger Bay, well they’ll always do what London tells them, and some of them are even stupid enough to believe that a healthy economy can be based on tourism. Not forgetting that many in the Labour Party would be happy to see the death of Welsh identity.
I have written a number of times about One Planet Developments in Wales, and of those taking advantage of this idiocy . . . and of us. (OPD itself will be explained in a mo.)
It would be easy to apply the generic term ‘hippies’ to those I’m going to write about, but this doesn’t convey the full picture, because those we’re dealing with are not all laid-back types, with no interest in material possessions.
No, those I’m going to write about are most definitely interested in owning things, especially that for which we humans have fought and killed each other for millennia – land.
Warning: This is a lengthy read (3200+ words) so make yourself a cuppa or pour yourself a glass and settle down to enjoy it.
ONE PLANET DEVELOPMENTS EXPLAINED
As far as I can make out OPD was announced to an unsuspecting nation in May 2009, with the document One Wales: One Planet. This document gave retrospective planning permission to a number of illegal settlements and dwellings. The use of that cardinal number was fitting seeing as Wales was then managed on behalf of London by the One Wales coalition between Labour and Plaid Cymru.
I have grabbed the illustration below from said document and added names.
‘One Wales: One Planet’ was supplemented in July 2010 with ‘Technical Advice Note (TAN) 6 Planning for Sustainable Rural Communities’. This contains gems such as, “Many economic activities can be sustainably located on farms”. Er, yes, it’s called farming, it’s been going on for thousands of years.
TAN 6 gives the impression that despite it being about the countryside it was written by people who know nothing about real farming. The sentence I’ve quoted suggests that whoever wrote it believes that sheep farmers do nothing but farm sheep, filling their many periods of inactivity by perhaps flying off to the Dalmatian Coast.
Which in a sense makes sense. Because although OPD, TAN 6 and lots of other guff is ostensibly about the rural areas of Wales, it’s not about the Wales we’ve grown up in, it’s about a Welsh countryside of the future, socially engineered to be inhabited by different people. And in some parts, uninhabited.
The agreement between Labour and Plaid Cymru in 2007 is set out in the ‘One Wales‘ document, subtitled, ‘A progressive agenda for the government of Wales’. Section 8 (page 30) deals with ‘A Sustainable Environment’ and begins, “Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity”.
Which suggests that for whoever wrote that, war, poverty, starvation, displacement, oppression, exploitation and all the other very real tragedies facing the human race in 2007 were nothing when compared to what might affect us at some time in the future. Making it pretty clear about the interests and motives of the author.
Whoever penned that is eager to employ a hypothetical future catastrophe in order to advance a narrow and self-serving viewpoint that will work to the advantage of those with whom he or she identifies. In other words, bouncing the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition into giving special treatment to those claiming to be saving the planet by moving to Wales.
Further on in Section 8 we read, “We will establish a Climate Change Commission for Wales, which will be chaired by the Minister for Sustainability and Rural Development.” So who was that?
In the picture above you will see, seated on the left, Jane Davidson, she was the Minister for Sustainability and Rural Development in the 2007 – 2011 coalition government.
Though information on the Climate Change Commission for Wales is sparse. It seems to have been set up in 2007 yet for some reason its first annual report didn’t appear until January 2012. Typing the name into the search box of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s website brings up very little, certainly no later annual report.
But who is Jane Davidson?
Given that she cares so frightfully for rural Wales it should go without saying that she is English and middle class, born in Birmingham and educated at what was then Malvern Girls’ College but appears to have since merged with St James’s School to give us Malvern St James Girls’ School.
What else do we know about Jane Davidson?
After Birmingham University she came to Aberystwyth, perhaps to do some post-graduate qualification, but she certainly taught for a few years (1981 – 1984), became development officer for the Youth Hostels Association (1984 – 1987), and by 1987 was a Cardiff councillor, and known as ‘Lady Jane’.
Her political career really took off when she became a researcher for Rhodri Morgan, the MP for Cardiff West in 1991. For some reason she didn’t stand in the council elections of 1995 and ceased to be Rhodri Morgan’s researcher in 1995/6. Giving us a lacuna between 1995/6 and 1999 when she was elected to the new Welsh Assembly, so if anyone can fill it I’d be most grateful.
(For many of those I write about gaps in the CV are often explained by being banged up, but in the case of Jane Davidson I’m sure she was doing something worthy like smuggling prayer wheels made from recycled wood into Tibet.)
As I’ve said, she was elected to the Assembly in May 1999 after being foisted on the bruvvers of Pontypridd and the constituency responded by unenthusiastically electing her with a majority of just 1,575 votes. She was soon made deputy speaker by the unloved and soon departed first minister Alun Michael, a man she is said to have known rather well.
On taking up her post in 2007 she resigned as Welsh vice-president of the Ramblers Association, but became president immediately on leaving office in 2011. We are expected to believe that she had no contact whatsoever with the Ramblers between 2007 and 2011 despite helping push through the Wales Coastal Path, which has caused such disruption, misery and expense for so many Welsh farmers and landowners.
But then, these – like the electors of Ponty – were never people Lady Jane cared about.
According to her Wikipedia entry, which I assume Jane Davidson edited, we read, ” . . . she was responsible for the Welsh Government agreeing to make sustainable development its central organising principle“.
There were no more pressing matters to deal with? Or had devolution now been subverted to a single issue – saving the planet? And were we supposed to believe that a tiny country like Wales could make a difference? This suggests to me that it was the obsessive Davidson who also wrote, in the ‘One Wales’ document, that “Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity”.
Does this myopia explain Wales being the poorest country in Europe? Did Jane Davidson and a few other English environmentalists con our gullible and deferential politicos into opening Wales up for them and their friends to act out their crackpot ideas?
The answer would appear to be yes, for it doesn’t end with OPD and Jane Davidson, perhaps because the English Labour Party in Wales has never been short of gullible and deferential clowns.
Following on from OPD and TAN 6 we saw, in January 2014, Alun Davies, Minister for Natural Resources and Food, announce that 15% of EU Common Agricultural Policy funding was to be transferred from Pillar 1 (farmers) to Pillar 2 (‘rural development projects’).
Another body feeding ‘advice’ to the ‘Welsh’ Government was the Wales Rural Observatory at Aberystwyth University. Made up of academics who knew nothing about Wales until they moved here they were highly qualified to offer such advice. The WRO went out of business 31 March 2014. (I do hope it was something I wrote.)
Independently, we saw a number of organisations like the Agroecology Land Trust spring up, which has blessed us with Red Pig Farm.
Apart from providing yet more jobs for Labour cronies the Future Generations department seeks to brainwash Welsh schoolchildren into accepting that developments like Lammas, complete with its pagan temple, represent the future Wales they should support and aspire to.
We have now reached the point where the One Planet insanity is being lauded outside Wales and promoted as “a ground-breaking Welsh government scheme under which people get to circumvent tight planning rules so long as they build an eco-home in the countryside and go back to working the land on which it sits”.
You can see that the headline reads – ‘Want to save the planet? Move to Wales’. Which exposes the absurdity of the whole idea, because if Wales was populated entirely with hippy ‘farmers’ they’d merely have transferred their footprint from somewhere else, and collectively they wouldn’t cancel out the effect on the environment of a single coal-fired power station in China.
But never mind the facts, for Lady Jane and her friends such publicity must represent victory.
Everything Jane Davidson has done in the field of environmentalism has been done to promote the interests of others like her, those who see Wales as a country of great potential, for them . . . and at our expense. For I cannot think of a single policy or initiative that she and her kind have been involved with that set out to improve the lives of Welsh people.
The footprint these people are really trying to reduce is our footprint, our footprint in our country.
Some of you may be asking why the Labour Party and Plaid Cymru are so supportive of this nonsense.
You have to remember that the Labour Party has little support in rural areas and so inflicting self-idealising ‘peasant farmers’ on areas that don’t vote Labour may be seen as a form of revenge. Certainly Labour has nothing to lose electorally. And then there’s the good publicity gained outside Wales from those who don’t know the truth.
And as the bruvvers have all read their socialist theories and studied the Russian Revolution maybe they view Welsh farmers as kulaks who must be destroyed in order for the peasants – in the form of eco-settlers – to take over. (And those of us of a certain age remember how successful Soviet agriculture was in putting food on Russian tables!)
But why would Plaid Cymru work against the interests and wishes of their core voters in Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire? The answer seems to be that Plaid Cymru politicians have either been blackmailed with charges of ‘racism’ or else they’ve fallen for the Green invaders’ self-serving bullshit, and this pre-dates One Planet and One Wales.
Cynog Dafis, the former MP for Ceredigion from 1992 until 2000 and AM for the Mid and West Wales regional seat from 1999 until 2003, was an early supporter of the eco-influx, in fact, he stood for Westminster in 1992 as a Plaid-Green candidate.
Others have been involved with that spiritual home of eco-living the Centre for Alternative Technology in Corris. Among them my Lord Elis Thomas, who was a trustee or some such, as was Ellen ap Gwynn, currently Plaid leader in Ceredigion.
CAT has been in Corris for over 25 years and has drawn a few hundred hippies into the area. To the extent that on still autumn evenings there’s more incense and smoke (from wood-burning stoves and spliffs) hanging over Corris than you’ll find in an Orthodox cathedral at Easter.
Much of what I’ve written thus far might be gleaned from previous scribblings; what I’ve tried to do here is give the timetable for a whole strategy that has resulted in the ‘Welcome’ sign being put up to encourage many odd and not a few undesirable persons into our rural areas.
A strategy that increases Wales’s carbon footprint and therefore exposes that in reality it’s simply a type of colonisation. Supposedly more acceptable because it’s done in the cause of saving the planet.
And you mustn’t think that the problem is confined to the west, for since making contacts in Powys over the Paul and Rowena Williams case I learn of a OPD project at Twiscob Top, near Presteigne involving Paul and Kate Hooper, who had previously tried to inflict themselves on Carmarthenshire, insisting that they be allowed a dwelling near their charcoal business.
Powys planners seem reluctant to do their job partly because the Hoopers are using OPD and partly because of the expense involved in standing up to these bullies and their ‘Welsh’ Government backers. Which probably explains why they think they’ve won.
Now it’s time to move on to a related subject that shares many of the attitudes we’ve already encountered: the sense of entitlement, the belief that Wales would be better without the Welsh.
I’ve mentioned Corris and the Centre for Alternative Technology but the charlatans of environmentalism are not confined to this small area off the A487. They seem to have spread like a plague over the Dyfi valley area. In no small part due to the influence of notorious enviro-propagandist George Monbiot, who lived in the area for a while.
Monbiot’s pet hate is sheep. Those evil, woolly bastards wandering the hills planning human downfall. This article last year in the Grauniad tells us that while cruelty and lack of calories are the ostensible reasons for defending ourselves from the threat, the true motives become clear when we read: ” they (sheep) occupy around 4m hectares of the uplands”. And we are not talking Swansea Uplands here.
But the sheep-free uplands would not be left for Mother Nature to reclaim over time, oh no, they would need to be managed . . . by people . . . well, by people very much like Monbiot, and others we’ve encountered. In other words, we are talking now of engineered re-wilding.
One shadowy re-wilding project about which I and others are having difficulty getting information is ‘Summit to Shore’, covering 10,000 hectares and 20 sq km of sea from “the Pumlumon uplands down to Cantref (sic) Gwaelod”.
Heavily involved, maybe managing the show, is the laughably dysfunctional (or seriously corrupt) Natural Resources Wales where, among other board members, we find Dr Elizabeth Haywood, whose mini bio didn’t allow space to inform us that she is the wife of Peter Hain.
NRW’s master of ceremonies in Summit to Shore is Andy Middleton, “social entrepreneur . . . environmental innovator” and someone who – it is alleged – believes murderers and rapists should be forgiven for acting out crimes motivated by subconscious thoughts.
But the driving force will be Rewilding Britain, an organisation with which George Monbiot is linked, and some of the funding will come from hedge fund managers Artemis. There are other organisations involved – all based outside Wales or else Welsh-based white flight outfits – but no farming unions and no body representing commercial fishermen. In other words – no locals.
What better illustration could there be of the way the Labour Party operates through nepotism and corruption, facilitating the colonialist agenda and treating us Welsh with contempt? Though in fairness, it could be said that Labour has done its bit for re-wilding by reintroducing a species we thought we’d lost – the quango.
The re-wilding may have already started for in the area we’re dealing with Cambrian Wildwood has brought in some alien Konik horses to its land at Bwlch Carog, near Machynlleth. This report from BBC Wales tells us that, “The horses, from a herd in Kent, are descendants of the now extinct European horse, the Tarpan”.
These Konik horses are certainly from Kent, but the donkeys giving rides at Aberdyfi may have a stronger claim to be descended from the Tarpan. Though you have to ask why anyone supposedly concerned with authenticity and restoring land to a previous condition would import a Polish breed – via Holland and England – when we have horses of our own from Gower to the Carneddau.
Is this yet another example of environmentalists’ antipathy to all things Welsh – except our land?
Oh, yes, you’ll never guess who I found when I looked at the ‘Who we are’ page on the Cambrian Wildwood website – there, smiling back at me were George Monbiot and Lady Jane Davidson!
One thing I’ve learnt about environmentalists and re-wilders is that they have trouble with the truth; it’s not just equines, it’s also felines, specifically lynx.
A statement was recently put out by the Lynx Trust UK saying that it had obtained permission from all relevant landowners to release lynx into the Kielder Forest area of north east England. This was a lie, and was quickly countered by the National Sheep Association.
Something I noticed on the Lynx Trust UK website was, “We will work closely with local communities, stakeholders and the general public”, which I’ve read over and over on re-wilding and environmentalist websites, but it’s a lie. The Green invaders prefer to operate secretively through bodies like Natural Resources Wales, get the backing of individuals like Jane Davidson, and then present their plan as a fait accompli to local people and their elected representatives.
We are dealing here with an insidious form of takeover. No longer are greens and environmentalists looking for abandoned smallholdings, they now want to take over large swathes of our country. In this they are helped by the ‘Welsh’ Government and those the Labour Party has placed in strategic bodies to do its bidding.
Yet if those clowns down Cardiff docks were serious about protecting our environment and reducing Wales’s carbon footprint then it could be done quite easily by reducing tourist numbers, especially to seasonally swamped western areas. Further benefits could be obtained by re-instating a west coast railway and feeder lines to reduce road traffic.
But it’s never been about the environment. The English Labour Party in Wales has allowed itself to be hoodwinked by a bunch of well-heeled shysters and obsessives who want control of those parts of Wales that have rejected Labour, and Labour is quite happy to oblige.
THE GREEN PARTY
You may have noticed that I’ve written this without once mentioning the Green Party of England in Wales. What’s that, you thought there was a Wales Green Party? No, no, they voted on it a few weeks back and Green Party members in Wales voted by a substantial majority to remain part of the Green Party of England, rather than become a separate party, as is the case in Scotland.
That tells you a lot about Greens and environmentalists, off-grid dwellers, planet savers and re-wilders, and it betrays their thoroughly colonialist attitude towards us and our country.
Pure, unadulterated colonialism. Encouraged by leftist political parties.
♦ end ♦
P.S. Maybe I should have been more specific with Lady Jane’s role at Lampeter.
She is, in full, ‘Associate Pro Vice Chancellor for External Stakeholder Development and Engagement and Director of INSPIRE at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’. (Try saying that after three bottles of Malbec!) INSPIRE is the Institute of Sustainable Practice, Innovation and Resource Effectiveness.
Also at INSPIRE we find Andy Middleton of Natural Resources Wales. And Peter Davies, who “was previously Wales’ Commissioner for Sustainable Futures and provided advice to the Welsh Government”. Not forgetting Anna Jones, who “is currently involved with the voluntary rollout of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act”.
Isn’t it all so cosy, everybody knowing everybody else, and almost everything traceable back to the ‘Welsh’ Government. Or is the word I’m looking for ‘incestuous’?
I have written about housing associations dozens of times. One of the many things that intrigued me was their legal status – were they public bodies or private companies? For on the one hand they enjoyed the benefit of public funding (and lots of it), yet were exempt from public scrutiny and Freedom of Information legislation, just like private companies.
From my inquiries into housing associations I concluded that they enjoyed the best of both worlds.
This certainly surprised me, and the revelation that housing associations were regarded as private companies also surprised those who had innocently assumed that publicly-funded providers of social housing, owning for the most part stock they had inherited from local authorities, were already public bodies.
In addition to surprising some, the change also annoyed a number of people, not least the man in No 11 Downing Street, because it meant that £60bn of housing association debt would be added to the UK’s public indebtedness. Within the sector there were concerns that reclassification would mean, among other things, that housing associations would now be open to public scrutiny.
But if nothing else, this move by the ONS clarified the status of these mysterious bodies. They had been private, the ONS wanted to make them public, and now the race was on to find a way of reversing the ONS decision.
England led the way and in November 2017 the ONS announced that once the new measures had passed into law housing associations would be reclassified once again as private bodies. Wales followed suit in June this year with the Regulation of Registered Social Landlords (Wales) Act 2018. Despite the title, the purpose of this legislation is in fact to deregulate housing associations so that there is no possibility of them being considered public bodies.
Before delving into the Act, let me make a few things clear. It would be easy to think that if housing associations were private bodies that were briefly deemed to be public bodies by the ONS and are now reclassified as private, then surely we’re back where we started? Er, no . . . there have been many changes, significant and worrying changes.
These are encapsulated in ‘About the Bill’ in the ‘Overview’ introduction to the legislation, where it says:
It tells us clearly that to satisfy the Office for National Statistics “The purpose of the Bill is to amend or remove those powers which are deemed by the Office for National Statistics (“ONS”) to demonstrate central and local government control over Registered Social Landlords (RSLs).”
For those who find it difficult to wade through the full legislation (which I guess is some 99% of us) here’s a more manageable ‘Guide’ in which I’ve highlighted certain sections that I shall now focus on in order to discuss what I consider to be a very worrying direction of travel.
Let’s turn to the highlighted document.
Paragraphs 13, 15, 18 and 20 all list circumstances or situations in which housing associations no longer need the consent of ‘Welsh Ministers’. This is not a reference to a conclave of Nonconformist preachers but to the clowns down Cardiff docks who want us to think of them as the ‘Welsh Government’. (In reality they are just England’s management team in Wales.)
In practice, it means that a Registered Social Landlord in Wales is now free to make any change it likes to its rules, merge with another company, transfer its “engagements” (assets?) to another company, or go into liquidation, all without needing the approval of the ‘Welsh Ministers’.
Paragraphs 33 and 34 however gives the ‘Welsh Ministers’ power to both remove and appoint officers of RSLs, even if that housing association is a company. Which strikes me as a little odd, and would appear to contradict the expressed objective of removing the powers of local and central government.
As do paragraphs 40, 42 and 43 which also give or retain powers for the ‘Welsh Ministers’. These include the right to compel a RSL “to transfer management functions to a person specified by them (the ‘Welsh Ministers’)”. They can also appoint a manager and forcibly amalgamate RSLs.
Further paragraphs are in the same vein until we come to 61, which is worth thinking about, for it gives the ‘Welsh Ministers’ the power to show favouritism to certain housing associations at the expense of others.
Paragraph 63 suggests that housing associations are now free to hide “disposal proceeds” in the accounts, proceeds that will almost certainly have been paid for out of public funds. What’s more, ‘Welsh Ministers’ have no say in how the money – public money – is to be used.
Paragraphs 64, 71, 73 and 78 reiterate that local authorities – that is, the democratically elected bodies serving the areas in which housing associations operate – no longer have any influence in the running of RSLs.
WHAT WILL IT MEAN IN PRACTICE?
In a nutshell, Serendipity presented the ‘Welsh’ Government with an opportunity to extend its power in areas where the Labour Party is as popular as Boris Johnson at a Remoaner Wail-in and Carwyn and his gang grabbed the chance with both hands.
Or to look at it from another angle, an allegedly socialist political party has no qualms about privatising bodies holding and managing public assets.
Let’s deal with the power grab first. Despite being the party with the most MPs and AMs, and the party of power in Cardiff docks, Labour controls just twelve of Wales’ twenty-two local authorities. And none in the south west, the north west or the centre.
As I’ve explained on this blog a number of times, Labour overcomes its lack of representation – and consequently influence – through the power of patronage and funding. The third sector being a prime example, controlled via public funding dished out by the Labour management team in Cardiff docks the third sector is stuffed with Labour’s cronies and operates across the country. Whether it’s the Citizens Advice Bureau in Gwynedd or one of the countless ‘homelessness’ charities fighting over rough sleepers Labour uses the third sector to give it influence in areas where it has little electoral support.
The same can be said of housing associations. There are certain RSLs aligned with Labour and these are rewarded with extra funding and encouragement to take over housing associations that are not run by Labour Party supporters. One example I’ve dealt with a number of times was the takeover of Cantref, based in Castell Newydd Emlyn, by Wales and West Housing of Cardiff, run by the wife of a Cardiff Labour councillor. (A woman who insists on appearing in almost every photograph.)
One curb on the excesses of such Labour shenanigans was the involvement of local, non-Labour councillors, in the running of housing associations operating on their patch. But as we’ve seen, the new Act removes that involvement.
But the Act entrenches the power of the ‘Welsh’ Government to interfere of behalf of Labour-connected RSLs. For example, it’s no secret that Wales and West wants to take over Tai Ceredigion. The minister responsible could remove Tai Ceredigion’s CEO, replace him with a Labour stooge, who could then announce that the best option for Tai Ceredigion would be a merger with Wales and West Housing.
I’ve focused on Wales and West but I could have mentioned any number of other housing associations that are obviously Labour in their political orientation but tend to operate in one area, unlike Wales and West, which has a national reach, active in 15 of our 22 local authority areas.
GYPSY JAC GAZES INTO HIS CRYSTAL BALL
With housing associations deregulated, local authority influence removed, and the Labour Party able to control the whole shooting match, Wales could be facing a bleak future.
Let’s take Gwynedd, an area where Labour’s support is largely limited to academics and students around the alien university in Bangor. In the near future Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd (which inherited Gwynedd’s social housing stock) could be taken over by Labour Party appointees, who then sign contracts with English local authorities and RSLs to help them bring down their waiting lists for social housing. Something the new legislation allows RSLs to do.
So Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd goes on a building spree with borrowed money.
But it eventually becomes clear that Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd has bitten off more than it can chew and it goes into voluntary liquidation owing millions of pounds to lenders. So who is now responsible for that debt? Is it the ‘Welsh’ Government – in other words, you and me?
One of the objections to the reclassification as public bodies was that such a move would restrict housing associations’ ability to borrow money. Though Welsh RSLs have in the past borrowed very little from commercial lenders – that wasn’t repaid by the ‘Welsh’ Government – because they don’t need to. They have the guaranteed income from their housing stock, a stock that in most cases was paid for out of public funds, and as we know, this income is supplemented by handouts from the ‘Welsh’ Government.
So what becomes of these handouts now? Will deregulated private housing associations still receive public funding every year?
Another consideration might be that Welsh RSLs are also free to enter into agreements with those London boroughs currently engaged in social cleansing. Which could mean that a Welsh RSL in receipt of your money would be helping move people from London to Wales.
The new Act also allows RSLs to dispose of their ‘engagements’ and land assets. So what redress is there if, for example, Mid Wales Housing sells off land or property to RSLs based in the English West Midlands and these bodies then move many of their less ‘sociable’ tenants into places like Meifod and Llanwrtyd?
Clearly, the temptation is now there for Welsh RSLs to borrow unwisely and to over-extend themselves, which may well serve a certain agenda.
I say that because most people agree that we have too many housing associations. There are ten operating in Neath Port Talbot, six in Conwy, and no less than fifteen in Cardiff.
Obviously, the total number must be reduced, and the new Act makes it easier to undermine RSLs not favoured by Labour – as was done with Cantref – and to force through mergers. Which is what I predict will happen in the coming years, and it will be justified in the name of ‘rationalisation’.
What will be glossed over is the fact that the only housing associations left standing at the end of this process will be those run by Labour Party members and supporters. For make no mistake, the Regulation of Registered Social Landlords (Wales) Act 2018 gives the Labour Party more opportunities to extend its malign influence through giving its hangers-on preferential treatment.
But this is how a one-party state operates – supporters are rewarded and non-supporters compromised or intimidated.
LABOUR’S NUCLEAR OPTION
But the starkest and most dangerous reminder of the one-party state could, paradoxically, come when most people think the power of the Labour Party in Wales has finally been broken. A case of the cornered beast.
I can see a situation, maybe as early as the Assembly elections of 2021, that sees Labour without a majority and unable to cobble together a coalition. The ‘Welsh’ Labour Party will then be in opposition down Cardiff docks.
It is at this point that all the scheming and placements, all the bribes and sinecures, bear fruit, and all the favours will be called in. For it will be when Labour is in opposition that we see the benefit of having a bloated third sector, of filling housing associations with its people, of generally building up a network of supporters and funding recipients, everyone from Mrs Tiggy-Winkle’s Hedgehog Rescue Service to Côr Meibion Cwmscwt.
For I predict with absolute certainty that when Labour loses control of the Assembly it will not accept defeat gracefully. The party will begin a campaign of guerilla warfare to undermine the new administration. Wrecking Wales will be acceptable collateral damage, because the party comes first.
Labour’s foot-soldiers in this dirty war will be its supporters in the sectors and networks the party has carefully built up over the past twenty years, including the deregulated RSLs, and these will be backed by a media that is either Labour-leaning or else a BritNat propaganda outlet for which Labour – as a Unionist party – is far more acceptable than what may have replaced Labour.
Making it easier for Wales to be made ungovernable through vindictive factionalism could be an important consequence of the Regulation of Registered Social Landlords (Wales) Act 2018.
I had planned a fuller article before I take myself off for a few days, but what with grandchildren staying over the weekend, and the football season now underway, I’ve had less time available than I’d hoped, and so I offer instead this little piece in which I consider one of the absurdities of twentieth century Wales.
One of many absurdities of course.
Let’s begin by establishing our parameters.
Most people on the left would argue that colonialism is an unequal relationship between European, Christian or white peoples on the one hand, and other races or cultures on the other, and that support for colonialism exposes a rightist – even racist – outlook. I say no; any relationship in which one country or people is ruled and exploited by another country or people qualifies as colonialism.
For this leftist interpretation often ignores white on white colonialism, and almost always ignores non-white on white colonialism, such as Turkish rule over large areas of Christian Europe from the sixteenth century up until the twentieth.
Cultural Marxism, that creature of the 1960s, is the leftist control of discourse and dialogue to the extent that certain subjects become taboo, certain words are forbidden, and freedom of expression is curtained to the advantage of the left. Often known as political correctness it is a form of censorship. It is dictatorial.
In normal circumstances, and for fairly obvious reasons, colonialism and cultural Marxism find themselves on opposing sides. Yet in Wales they are allies.
That’s because Wales is ruled by England in the interests of England. Anyone who believes otherwise, anyone who thinks we have a devolved form of government acting in the interests of Wales, is a fool. Wales is poorer, less healthy, and our children less well educated, than before devolution. (If those don’t fit, then choose your own criteria.)
Devolution has been an unmitigated disaster for the Welsh people. And for the essential Welshness of Wales.
Instead of devolution we have a management system. Senior civil servants based in Wales receive policy and other directives from their bosses in London then, in their role as advisors or whatever to the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’, they ensure that these directives become policy initiatives and legislation.
This is made easier because most Welsh people vote for left of centre parties out of self-interest or misplaced patriotism, and these parties are more susceptible to influences from groups and organisations even further to the left that care less about Wales than, paradoxically perhaps, parties of the right which should be more supportive of colonialism.
This helps explain the dominance of cultural Marxism in Welsh public and political life. It is because it fills an ideological vacuum for a whole class of politicians with no ambition beyond getting elected and keeping ‘the other side’ out. And by so doing, by piggy-backing on an ideology-free political class, leftist activists and practitioners of cultural Marxism are able to dominate Welsh political discourse and facilitate colonialism.
Colonialism in Wales is subtle. Apart from the obvious manifestations like dams and reservoirs, colonial exploitation is largely hidden from view.
Yet one of the more obvious shows of colonialism is demographic change. To the extent that it is now quite obvious that Wales, particularly the rural areas (and to some extent the post-industrial areas), are denied an economy that might retain the indigenous population and are instead served up a curious mix of ‘initiatives’ and ‘strategies’ designed solely to attract new residents from outside of Wales.
Take tourism, no longer confined to the rural and coastal areas but now being encouraged in areas like Merthyr and the Afan valley (behind Port Talbot). What virtually all tourism enterprises have in common is that they’re English-owned (but often Welsh funded), with the best jobs going to outsiders while locals pick up the scraps in the form of low wage and seasonal employment.
Tourism in Wales is blatantly colonialist, it rapes and prostitutes our homeland for the benefit of strangers, but the left stays silent.
Then there is the housing market, both private and social. The private sector seeks to build tens of thousands of homes that we do not need and that most of us cannot afford – homes intended for English buyers. This moves us beyond colonialism to colonisation. Which is also what we find in the social housing sector, with housing associations funded with money given to Wales prioritising dysfunctional and often dangerous applicants from outside of Wales.
Again, the left stays silent. Or rather, the left applauds; for importing a problem family from Stoke, or an ex-con from Wolverhampton, shows how ‘caring’ and socialist we are.
One of the causes taken up by cultural Marxism since the 1960s is environmentalism, and this brings me to the most recent, and perhaps the most blatant, form of colonialism we see in Wales today. Indeed, it may be unique to Wales.
I’m referring now to how – so we are told – Wales can save the planet through policies like the One Planet Development.
Which in practice means that in twentieth century Wales we see a return to the crude, almost apartheid, system of pre-Glyndŵr times in which legislators favour those seeking to colonise Wales while discriminating against the indigenous population. But this time it’s being done by a bunch of clowns calling itself the ‘Welsh Government’!
The fundamental idiocy of this policy is that the ‘Welsh’ Government justifies the One Planet nonsense, TAN 6 and other programmes on the grounds that they will reduce Wales’ carbon footprint. But by bringing people into Wales it can only increase Wales’ carbon footprint.
This time the left isn’t just applauding – it’s doing cartwheels!
How do we explain the left in Wales either being silent or supportive when it comes to what is obviously colonialism and colonisation? In a word, because we have no indigenous left in Wales concerned with what’s best for Wales, one divorced from external considerations.
What we have instead is a BritNat-dominated left promoting cultural Marxism from which England and English people benefit, which in turn makes leftism and cultural Marxism in Wales colonialist and self-serving. And its influence is everywhere.
It permeates the political system, the third sector, higher education, and other important elements of Welsh life giving out the same message – ‘To oppose our interpretation of what’s right and what’s wrong; to challenge our application of cultural Marxism, our takeover of your country, makes you an ugly and backward racist’.
And Plaid Cymru has fallen for this! it now takes the side of such people against its own people! Or what were its own people. For Plaid Cymru under Leanne Wood now sees itself as part of something bigger and more important than Wales.
The Anglo-centric or mid-Atlantic left in Wales not only serves its own interests but works against ours. To begin with, and quite obviously, those I’m discussing here do not want an independent Wales. But nor do they want a return to the status quo ante-devolution.
Because devolution serves them perfectly.
For a start, the left in Wales, both English and native, has no idea how to organise a wealth-generating economy, it is ideologically opposed to the capitalist system. Consequently, a system of sham devolution, with the left having a big say in how money handed down from London is disbursed by the ever-accommodating management team in Cardiff suits them perfectly.
Socialism has failed Wales because it sought to ameliorate the effects of capitalism, unwilling to accept that it was in fact confronting colonialism. This was due to socialists viewing Wales and the world through a British and Unionist prism.
This laid the foundations upon which the system we see today was built. A system that keeps Wales poor and underprivileged in order that parasites can demand an ever bigger slice of the cake so that they can help ‘poor Wales’.
The problem facing Wales today is obvious: an entrenched system of colonialism and discrimination reinforced in recent decades – and especially since the advent of devolution – by cultural Marxism and other leftist nonsense that allows parasites to thrive on and further weaken the malnourished body of Wales.
Let’s get rid of it all! Let’s sweep away colonialism and its supporting pillars of cultural Marxism. Let us build an independent and democratic Wales that serves the interests of our people.
Time to take a wee break from the Glynllifon Gang before it does my head in. Yes, I know I have referred to them in the past as the ‘Williams-Partridge Gang’ but I’m coming round to the view that Keith Partridge is a minor player in this particular criminal enterprise.
I now have so much information coming in from so many sources, and so much information is already piled up, that were it not for the help I’m receiving from my friends in Mother Russia I really would be struggling.
благослови вас Бог, владимир владимирович
The Wasting Mule today ran a piece from the Royal Welsh Show on the continuing row over the labelling of Welsh food produce as British rather than as Welsh. Though whoever wrote the headline obviously doesn’t understand the issue.
Pay attention! it’s not about British food being promoted over Welsh products, it’s about Welsh produce losing its Welsh labelling and being branded as British.
Anyway, the Mule sent reporter Laura Clements to Llanelwedd to write a piece about the issue. Laura Clements who is still studying journalism and normally covers the Rhiwbina and Llanishen areas of Cardiff, where farming and food production is big business. Not.
According to her Twitter profile, when she isn’t studying to be a journalist she’s either running or cycling. Or possibly drinking coffee. But there is no mention of farming or food production, let alone the labelling of food produce, anywhere in her interests or her field of knowledge
Which means that a fitness fanatic student journalist, who normally mooches around the mean streets of Rhiwbina and Llanishen, is sent to cover a politically sensitive story related to food. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, the headline for a start. Though I’m not blaming her for that.
Clements’ report, which I’ve produced above, included interviews with three people. So let’s look at what they had to say, and more importantly, who they are.
Laura Clements sets out her stall with the introduction: “On the ground, producers did not seem as concerned about the banding and wanted to concentrate on selling as much produce as possible”.
First up to the podium is Henrietta Hens(c)her representing Llanllyr Source Water in Ceredigion, which produces expensive water, and even more expensive mixers by adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that to the water.
Henrietta was reported as saying: “I think it’s a great shame that the word ‘great’ is being twisted for political means”. By whom she thinks it’s being twisted, she didn’t make clear. She continued, “Whether you voted to leave or remain at the EU referendum, we are still one country”.
I think we can guess what she’s suggesting when we learn that Henrietta is a Tory politician who – as Y Cneifiwr told us – believes Carmarthen East is a one-party state because the natives vote for Plaid Cymru.
Going further down her Linkedin profile we see some fascinating entries taking us back to Stowe School, one of England’s most prestigious and expensive public schools.
Though one entry absent from the profile is the time she spent as General Manager at Foyles of Glasbury, an establishment which had been known for centuries as the Maesllwch Arms Hotel. The dropping of this ancient name caused widespread anger.
Predictably, the ‘Welsh’ Government – in the manly and toothsome form of Ken ‘Flint Ring’ Skates – gave the name-changing owners a grant of £150,000.
At 1:45 in the video Henrietta talks of the nearby Wye, famous for its trout and salmon. Yet a short time after this video was posted on YouTube the hotel was fined for serving up “ordinary fish” as Wye-caught produce. An obvious example of mis-branding.
I am not for one minute suggesting that Henrietta Hens(c)her was responsible for misleading customers over what fish they were paying for, and where it came from, but she was the general manager at around the time the offence took place. And as I say, ‘Foyles’ is a significant omission from her Linkedin CV.
I don’t want to be too hard on Henrietta, some of the stuff I’ve read suggests there may be hope for her, but then, when the bottle’s empty, she comes across as just another middle class English dilettante with fall-back family money of whom we have too many in Wales. From the harridan at Happy Donkey Hill to the hippies being encouraged to build what they like where they like (and sod planning permission!).
The paragraphs in the Wasting Mule report that follow Ms Hens(c)her’s contribution are a little confused, they were obviously not proof-read, so let us press on.
OUR FLAG IS “A BIT OF A PROBLEM”
Castle Dairies seems to be a genuinely Welsh company, based in Caerffili. However, the product development manager, Marcus Beards, who was representing the company at the Show, thinks there is a problem with the Welsh flag.
The report told us that Castle Dairies has undergone a “major re-branding to try to appeal to a wider UK market”. It would be reasonable to conclude that Beards is the architect of this ‘re-branding’ because he was quoted as saying, “We felt the Welsh flag we used on our packaging was a bit of a problem and restricted sales in England”.
So is he saying English people don’t like seeing our flag, or that when they see it on produce it suggests something inferior? Or does it tell us that Beards is a bigot? Which is it, Marcus?
I don’t know the answer even though I have spoken with him today. I telephoned Castle Dairies at 15:48 and asked for Marcus Beards, I was put through, I gave my name, explained I am a blogger, asked why he felt our flag is “a bit of a problem” – and he put the phone down!
I don’t know who Marcus Beards is, he seems to have no internet presence before today, but the accent wasn’t local and so I’d like to know more about him. Someone out there must know.
And maybe Castle Dairies can explain why they employed someone with such a mindset.
MYSTERY ICE CREAM
The third to voice an opinion was “Brian Bowman, owner of Cowpots ice cream, who hadn’t noticed the Defra branding above him”.
“Mr Bowman laughed at the suggestion that the Welsh brand had been lost”, Laura told us, “we’ve got bigger problems than that to sort out in the world”, he added. An odd thing to say, but obviously Brian Bowman of Cowpots ice cream wasn’t at all worried that his Carmarthenshire-produced ice cream was losing its Welsh identity.
So I went to the Companies House website to find out more about the company and those running it. But there’s nothing there. No Cowpots company and no Brian Bowman listed as a director.
Though there’s a website, and there’s a Facebook page, but neither gives much information about the company, certainly no company number.
But I was able to dig up this article from the Western Telegraph back in 2007 which tells us that Brian Bowman, his wife Mary Louise, and two sons Will and Martyn, moved to Wales in 2005 to Penback or Pen-y-back Farm near Whitland.
Bafflingly, something else I dug up on Linkedin mentioned a ‘Tasha Isaac’ as the ‘owner’ of Cowpots ice cream with William Bowman as her ‘partner’. All very strange.
But then – a breakthrough. I found that there is a 32-year-old Kim Natasha Isaac who is a director of West Wales Bacon Supplies Ltd of Cross Hands, also of dormant company Dragon Fine Foods Ltd. If she’s Tasha Isaac, are they now making bacon-flavoured ice cream?
If not, what is the connection?
The title document for Penback Farm suggests that the business had money injected in 2014 from both Lloyds Bank and Carmarthenshire County Council.
This article from the Welsh Country website says that Penback Farm received a grant of £74,804 towards the new ice cream parlour and bistro. But a grant is a grant, there’s no repayment, so it can’t account for the charge on the title document. Did Carmarthenshire County Council also make a loan?
And if so, to whom or to what?
Because I’d like to who or what we’re dealing with in Cowpots ice cream. I’d like the registered name of the company, its company number, its directors, who owns it; and how much it or properties associated with it have received from the public purse.
This was a deplorable piece of journalism, even by the standards of the Wasting Mule. There was no attempt at balance; all three quoted were ambivalent or hostile to branding Welsh produce as Welsh. It’s almost as if someone selected them in advance to promote a certain viewpoint.
I find it significant that those interviewed at Llanelwedd by Laura Clements had all moved to Wales. They have come here looking for a better life, or to make money, but they don’t really care about Wales. They seem quite content to see Wales assimilated into England. In the case of Marcus ‘flag problem’ Beards he’s actively working towards it.
This is nothing more than crude and objectionable colonialism
But this is what we can expect from now on as the Britishness offensive gains momentum and scoundrels of all political colours prove Dr Johnson right. Today some MPs have even suggested updating the 1351 Treason Act, so look forward to ‘traitors’ like me getting banged up.
Here in Wales the process of Britification is well advanced. We’ve had the Mersey-Dee Alliance, the Flint Ring, Severnside, The Prince of Wales Bridge, etc., etc, so putting union flags on cheese is entirely predictable.
All happening to the background drip-drip of names being changed, our language being ridiculed, our devolution settlement being undermined, our existence as a nation and a country being questioned almost daily.
The choice is simple and unavoidable. Accept assimilation or fight for independence.
I’m taking a wee break from the Williams-Partridge gang, but I shall return to them, you can count on it. Weep for Wales 6 is already forming itself in the old Jac noggin.
But as the Walrus said, The time has come to talk of many things . . . but we shall not stray far from my favoured themes of shysters and charlatans, colonialists and their facilitators.
THE GREEN, GREEN PARTY OF HOME (WHICH IS NOT WALES)
There is in Wales a political grouping calling itself the Wales Green Party. Over the years many people – myself included – have pointed out that despite the name it has no legal existence, being merely part of The Green Party (of England). Scotland has a separate party.
This question of whether there is or should be a separate Welsh party has bedevilled the Greens in Wales for some years and so it was recently decided to lance the boil by having a vote on whether to become wholly independent or remain part of the Green Party (of England).
This result does not surprise me. The Greens I’ve met in my area, and others I know of who’ve moved to rural parts of Wales, tend to offer a ‘We know best’ kind of ‘enlightened’ colonialism. No less offensive when delivered by some malodorous little twat with a 2:2 in mycology than when it’s barked by the District Officer wearing shorts with a razor-sharp crease.
What I’m saying is that, in Wales, most Greens are English arrivals (many of them just passing through). This explains why – unlike Scotland – we do not have a separate and native Green Party. This also explains the vote I’ve just reported.
Greens in Wales must now stop the pretence that there is a Wales Green Party. There is not. What we have in Wales is the regional branch of The Green Party of England. Calling it the Green Party of England and Wales is no improvement, especially when we remember the position in Scotland.
Those who want a Welsh Green Party, those who wish to prioritise the Welsh national interest, had better do some hard thinking. A new, genuinely Welsh Green party could resonate with Welsh voters far better than the Green Party of England has done hitherto.
It could hardly do any worse.
WHO WILL BUY MY LOVELY HOUSES? – THE ‘WELSH’ GOVERNMENT OF COURSE!
And so to Pembrokeshire, which attracts a disproportionate number of those malodorous little gits with a 2:2 in mycology. But on a higher plane, far removed from the darkness and the copious amounts of shit, we enter the realm of Sol Invictus.
And it’s there, basking in the wealth he bestows, that we find Dr Glen Peters. Formerly of bean-counters PwC but now ensconced at Rhos y Gilwen mansion near Cilgerran, where he brings culture to this benighted corner of Wales through Menter Rhosygilwen. You can even get married there.
But his real interest is making money through his company Western Solar Ltd. There is a solar farm on his land and when he’s not harvesting all that lovely sunshine on his estate he’s building houses . . . to harvest more life-giving sunshine. His footnote in history being assured with Pentre Solar, an ambitious scheme at Glanrhyd.
But ere it started, the ‘Welsh’ Government bunged Peters £141,000 for a factory in which to manufacture sections for the houses. Since then, the ‘Welsh’ Government has loaned the Ateb Group, formerly Pembrokeshire Housing, £900,000 to buy the six houses from Peters.
Yet according to this account in the Guardian, just four of the properties, ‘have “affordable” rents and are being offered to people on Pembrokeshire county council’s housing register who have lived in the area for five years’.
So how many of these houses are for social housing, six or four?
Either way, Glen Peters has made a tidy wodge from the ‘Welsh’ Government and a factory paid for out of public funds has been added to his property portfolio. Yet his Linkedin profile boasts that he has been “Eco Entrepreneur of the Year”.
An entrepreneur (for which there is no word in Welsh, incidentally) is someone who takes risks with his own money. How the hell can anyone be an entrepreneur when he’s feather-bedded by the public purse?
The Solar Village website makes a big thing of “employing locals”, yet closer inspection reveals that these people are ‘local’ only in the sense that they’ve moved to Wales. Just like so many other schemes in the Welsh countryside, especially where environmentalism is concerned, we see Welsh public money funding social engineering.
As for Glanrhyd, it’s a hamlet on a B road some five kilometres from Cardigan. I’m not sure how good the public transport links are, but even if they’re good Ateb might have had trouble finding tenants. Seeing as the houses are now occupied I’d like to know who lives in them, how many are social tenants, and how local those people are to the area.
Worth asking because the Ateb Group is a curious beast, a Community Benefit Society that includes Mill Bay Homes Ltd. I don’t understand how a private company can shelter under the umbrella of a Community Benefit Society; but then, all sorts of things are permitted, or overlooked, in the strange world of Welsh housing associations.
For example, Mill Bay Homes is no longer a Registered Social Landlord, which is hardly surprising seeing as it builds and sells property on the open market like Wimpey and Redrow; but it has over the years borrowed millions from its publicly-funded parent company Pembrokeshire Housing which now – re-branded Ateb – is buying properties from Mill Bay!
It’s all very complicated. Deliberately so.
Western Solar Power has plans for more villages. Another project lined up is for Coastal Housing in sun-blest Ammanford. Where no doubt the public purse will further enrich Glen Peters and Coastal Housing will have properties that attract positive publicity in obscure publications, but they’ll be expensive to build and might not serve the purpose used to justify the public funding – affordable homes for local people.
Glen Peters is obviously on a good thing. All he has to do is keep pressing the right buttons and the money pours into his bank account. But I can’t help thinking that social housing could be delivered a lot cheaper, in places locals want to live, which is why I’m sceptical of Pentre Solar and similar projects.
Bottom line is, it might be acceptable for Glen Peters to enrich himself playing the enlightened squire, and employing his cronies – but not with our money!
BERYL’S IN PERIL!
No doubt you’re all aware that there’s a by-election campaign under way in Cydweli’s Mynydd-y-Garreg ward. In fact, there are only two wards in Cydweli; Mynydd-y-Garreg and Castle, which might make life easy for some, but for your average punter, having eight or nine community councillors for his or her ward must cause confusion.
Standing for Labour in Mynydd-y-Garreg is Beryl-Ann Williams. I’m told her election literature is in English only, a great disappointment to see this on the home turf of the late Ray Gravell, where 62% of the working age population speaks Welsh . . . but only 21% of retired people. Now I wonder why that is?
Beryl-Ann works in the third sector as an ‘art psychotherapist’. (No, honestly, I did not just make that up.) This psychotherapisting may be done at the Kidwelly Community Hub, which seems to serve as a publicly-funded but unofficial Labour Party clubhouse.
This being the Llanelli constituency, where Plaid Cymru has self-destructed, and Tories have never been thick on the ground, her sole opponent is Independent Ronald Carl Peters-Bond, whose literature is bilingual and has a powerful message:
“Kidwelly Town Council’s focus has been on building a new office costing over £500,000, the overspend on which has now left it in serious financial difficulties. We need to stop the rot.” and “Currently over 80% of the tax you pay to Kidwelly Town Council goes on administration and keeping that shiny building.”
Can you believe that a Labour administration would waste money on such things? And overspend?
I look forward to hearing from distant Cydweli that Grav’s old stomping-ground has rejected a Labour/third sector blagger who seems to have no love for Wales and her heritage.
‘I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT IT . . . MUST BE SOMEBODY ELSE’S GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBLE’
Back in May I wrote about BikePark Wales, yet another example of Welsh assets being handed over to a bunch of strangers in order that they can enrich themselves. In this particular case it was Natural Resources Wales leasing a large area of forested land near Merthyr Tudful to a company with the absurd name of Beic Parcio Cymru Ltd operating as BikePark Wales.
Something that particularly worried me was the fact that this company felt it had the power to fine locals found on the land it was leasing, and that these fines could be collected on the spot by ‘marshalls’ (sic).
A regular reader of this blog tried to get a number of politicians interested in this surely unacceptable behaviour; Labour and Plaid Cymru couldn’t be bothered and the only politician who came through was Mostyn Neil Hamilton, the Ukip AM for the Mid and West Wales Region.
Last week, in Plenary at the Assembly, Hamilton raised the issue with first minister Carwyn Jones, who professed complete ignorance. (Available here at 22:05.) Now put aside any antipathy you may have towards Ukip, or Hamilton, and consider the issue on its merits. And think about Carwyn Jones’ response.
In that irritating I’m-a-tidy-bloke-but-cleverer-than-you manner Carwyn Jones tried to laugh it off and almost seemed to suggest that Hamilton was making it up. But if what Jones said was right, then BikePark Wales is acting illegally. That being so, then surely something has now been done about it?
No. I’ve just checked the BikePark Wales website and it reads the same as it did before. Which suggests that Carwyn Jones and his management team really doesn’t care about such colonialist arrogance.
When strangers take over a country, exploit it for their own ends, when the indigenous population is elbowed aside, and when a collaborationist administration encourages and funds such behaviour, then that, my friend, can not be dressed up as ‘investment’, or disguised as an ‘economic strategy’.
It is colonialism; and to deny it is no different to the Green Party (of England) refusing to accept that Wales is a country in its own right, just an economically underdeveloped region of England or Britain.
By any criteria you care to apply Wales is a colony. What are you going to do about it?
In my previous post I mentioned the Mold Riots of 1869, which resulted in four locals being shot dead by soldiers brought in from Chester, with many more wounded, resulting from unrest at Leeswood Green colliery – situated between Mold and Wrecsam – following the appointment of English manager, John Young, his treatment of the miners and his hostility towards the Welsh language.
Determined to get more information on this episode of Welsh history that has been largely ignored outside of the immediate vicinity, I started trawling the internet. One piece I came across was on the Hiraeth website (a site previously unknown to me), and while the site narrative followed the accepted version there was a curious panel insert offering a very different version.
So curious is it that it deserves to be analysed in some detail.
First off, the writer of the panel, David Rowe, tells us, “There is no evidence that the use of Cymraeg was banned by Young”. (Note the use of the ‘I’m on your side’ ‘Cymraeg’ rather than ‘Welsh’.)
And yet, the novelist Daniel Owen, who lived in Mold at the time, and wrote about the events in Rhys Lewis, was in no doubt that the curtailing or prohibition of the use of Welsh in the mine was one of the causes of the unrest that culminated in the riots.
So do we believe a Welsh speaker, an observant man native to the area, with no political axe to grind, who almost certainly spoke with those involved, and therefore wrote from first-hand knowledge; or do we believe David Rowe, who comes from north east England, as did John Young?
I know who my money’s on.
Rowe continues, “Indeed, during one of the two trials associated with the events, a number of the defendants were provided with a translator as they did not speak English.” He could well be right, but this is a non-sequitur because the trials were not organised by John Young. This contribution has no value beyond establishing that many of those involved spoke little or no English.
Soon after we read, ” . . . it is also perhaps worth noting that very little is said about the injuries suffered by the army and police prior to them opening fire. Two of the eighteen injured police officers, Superintendent Thomas and Sergeant Dew, never returned to work and of the latter it was reported that ‘his helmet was smashed in, a stone was afterwards found inside it’”
This is almost unbelievable. Rowe seems to be arguing that stones thrown at police and soldiers justified those soldiers firing into a crowd containing women and children, and killing two women!
As for Superintendent Thomas and Sergeant Dew not returning to work, was this due to the severity of their injuries, or did they just take early retirement?
Rowe’s interpretation goes on, “The affair was not supported by Mold townspeople and shopkeepers, and the miners took their business to Wrexham.” Here we have something else that needs to be taken with a dollop of Halen Môn. The miners worked at Leeswood, which lies between Mold and Wrecsam, many of them may have lived nearer to Wrecsam than to Mold, and may always have done their shopping in the larger town.
But the intention is clear – ‘These were a few hotheads ostracised by the local community’. A crude smear.
And yet, for the wrong reason, Rowe may be right. For in Rhys Lewis, Daniel Owen has chapel elder Abel Hughes, say, “But these strikes are a very strange thing. They’re things that have come from the English; they don’t belong to us, and I fear that they will do a lot of harm to this country”. (Translation: SM.)
So if the locals of Mold kept their distance from the strikers this could be because they regarded strikes as an unwanted English importation. Which would mean that the strikers were not behaving in an acceptably Welsh way.
David Rowe concludes with a ‘lived happily ever after’ element in the form of, “(Young) went back to Leeswood Green Colliery and one of the original rioters is later described as being his ‘right hand man’.” Perhaps an attempt at bridge-building forced on Young by the mine-owners?
Though seeing as there were hundreds of rioters this doesn’t really say much.
Interestingly, Rowe neglects to address the matter of Young bringing in English miners and giving them the best diggings. This may have been as much a cause of the trouble, perhaps more so, than Young’s hostility to the Welsh language.
Now I’ve been around long enough to recognise a whitewash when I read it, the sanitisation of historical events to suit a political or other agenda, and that’s exactly what we have here.
To paraphrase David Rowe.
John Young was victimised by a small group of nasty, xenophobic Welsh miners. The behaviour of this malign element was countered with the civilising influence of English soldiers who were provoked beyond endurance and were fully justified in firing on a crowd of (allegedly) unarmed people. Following the riots the strikers were again proven to be just a few hotheads representing no one but themselves when they were shunned by the people of Mold.
Rowe strikes me as one of those of whom we have too many in Wales today. They move in and in a very short time have taken over local clubs and associations, setting themselves up as experts on all things Welsh, all things local, and because of our inbuilt timidity resulting from centuries of brainwashing, we allow them to get away with it.
But not on this blog, pal.
Malcolm X once said, “Only a fool would let his enemy educate his children” I think we can add, ‘Only a nation of fools would let its history be interpreted by its enemies’.
HOW A COLONIAL ECONOMY OPERATES
I’m sure many of you have drunk Princes Gate bottled water, I know I have, though I must admit I was never sure where it came from. Now I learn there’s a little place called Princes Gate a couple of miles south east of Narberth in Pembrokeshire, not far from Cold Blow.
And it’s there we find the company run by brothers David and Glyn Jones. It’s in the news because they’ve sold out to Nestlé. Which I find concerning for two reasons.
To begin with, we see an old story retold – Welsh company starts up, grows, becomes profitable and desirable, with the result that it is bought out, usually by a larger English company, and often closed down, with production moved to England.
Though in the case of Princes Gate the new owner is mega multinational Nestlé, and seeing as it bottles local water production certainly can’t be transferred, though the operation might still be closed down if Nestlé felt it had too many producers of bottled water, or if the market took a dip.
Of more concern for many than job losses is Nestlé’s reputation in the field of water extraction, and how its operations impact on neighbours and the wider environment.
Here are two reports on Nestlé operations in the USA; one in California, and one in Michigan. The allegations are that Nestlé pays a pittance for the right to extract water, extracts more than it should, lowers the water table and affects everyone else, and generally puts its own corporate interests above all other considerations.
Nestlé hasn’t bought Princes Gate to lose money, and given the company’s global track record it’s reasonable to assume that it will seek to increase production. Increasing production can only mean extracting more water, and this will inevitably lower the water table and affect the local environment.
Which is what Princes Gate was accused of doing in 2016. Maybe the effect the increased production was having on neighbours they knew and socialised with held Dai and Glyn Jones back from further expansion. It may be why they’re selling up.
Multinational Nestlé with its army of lawyers and ‘experts’ will have no qualms about pissing off the neighbours.
One to watch, methinks.
Arla ‘Welsh’ Cheese
Moving north, another recent story concerned the Arla cheese plant at Llandyrnog, a few miles east of Denbigh. It seems that the Danish company that owns the plant is transferring production to Devon but will still call the product ‘Welsh cheese’.
This, again, is an old refrain, for many of us will remember the closure of creameries in the south west in the 1970s and 1980s, with politicians doing nothing to help as production was, again, transferred to England. Milk from Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire is still heading for the border every day. As one respondent to a tweet I put out said, “You only need to go to Cross Hands (on the A48, just shy of the M4) any day of the week to see tens of articulated tankers filled with Welsh milk destined for dairies in England.”
Why is this still happening twenty years into devolution? Even allowing for the fact that the Poverty Party cares nothing for rural areas the other parties could surely be applying pressure? Or, come to that, why can’t our farmers organise themselves, as farmers in Ireland and other countries have done, why rely on foreign companies to come in and rip them off?
Raw materials and unfinished good being taken out of a poor country to be finished and profited from in a controlling richer country is the classic definition of a colonial economy.
One the best illustrations of this comes from pre-independence Cuba where the locals were allowed to grow tobacco which was then shipped to Spain in its raw state to be made into cigars. With the jobs and the profits of course accruing to Spain.
Twenty-first century Wales is catching up fast with nineteenth-century Cuba. What a testament that is to English ownership and ‘Welsh’ Labour management of our country!
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Many observers, of a leftist or ‘progressive’ bent, have enjoyed drawing silly parallels lately. For example, the election of Donald Trump is compared to Hitler taking power in 1933, people refusing to be silenced by political correctness are the harbingers of global fascism, and the rise of anti-establishment movements is the first step on the road to totalitarianism.
All bollocks of course, because if there is any parallel to be drawn with the past, certainly in these offshore islands, then we need to go back a few centuries. I’m thinking of a time when England was trying to take complete control over the other countries with varying degrees of support and opposition coming from within those countries.
If we take Ireland in the medieval period, there was support for the English presence from the ‘Old English’, before their position was usurped (because they remained Catholic) by the Protestant Ascendancy, which in turn was replaced by the Presbyterian Scots, mainly in Ulster but also in the other Provinces.
Today the descendants of those settlers from Lowland Scotland wield great power in the UK government, for the Democratic Unionist Party, founded by the Reverend Doctor Ian Kyle Paisley, is keeping Mrs May’s shower afloat. Another face of Unionism-Loyalism is of course the Orange Order.
Among these Loyalists we find some thuggish elements, as we saw in George Square, Glasgow, the day after the independence referendum in September 2014. What we also saw in George Square that day were plenty of fascist salutes, reminding us of how Loyalism and fascism often merge into the ultimate expression of ‘British values’. Something to which critics of ‘nationalism’ seem blind.
The Orangemen are to hold a big march at the end of this month in Cowdenbeath, Fife, and the guest speaker is Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP. This is unusual for a number of reasons, not least that the Orange Order’s attitude towards women has historically mirrored that of the Freemasons, an organisation with which it has always had strong links – ‘Make the tea, doll’.
There can be no question that inviting the leader of the DUP to Scotland is designed to send a message to the SNP about its thinking on a second independence referendum. It might even be a threat. It would be interesting to know if the UK government had a hand in the invitation.
But it could all be counter-productive when we remember the kind of bigots and outright nutters that inhabit the Unionist-royalist-Loyalist-BritNat-fascist continuum. Fortunately, the latest issue of Private Eye reminds us of some of the stars to be found in the Democratic Unionist Party.
Top of the bill must be the Reverend William ‘Boxcar Willie’ McCrea. As the Eye tells us, “According to official papers released three years ago, after the American air raids on Tripoli in 1986, Boxcar Willie asked the Thatcher government to launch similar missile attacks on the Irish Republic. A memo from an official in the Northern Ireland Office noted: ‘Rev William McCrea urged Libya-style strikes against Dundalk, Drogheda, Crossmaglen and Carrickmore’.”
Which is even more insane than it initially reads – for Crossmaglen and Carrickmore are actually in Northern Ireland; Republican strongholds, admittedly, but still in Northern Ireland. So this lunatic wanted the UK government to bomb parts of the United Kingdom and kill people who were – however reluctantly – British subjects!
And now he’s in the House of Lords. It would be easy to be flippant and say that’s where he belongs, among lots of other old tossers. But he’s there because his party is propping up – and influencing – the UK government. And remember, Boxcar Willie and the DUP represent the acceptable face of Unionism. Just think what the arse-end looks like!
Finally, consider this: there will soon be a Catholic majority in the Six Counties, and this will inevitably be followed by a united Ireland (if Brexit doesn’t do it). As the Unionist-Loyalist Götterdämmerung approaches many of Boxcar Willie’s fervid supporters will be looking for somewhere else to settle. (Unless they decide to go out with an OAS-style bang.)
When that happens I guarantee some will be ‘directed’ to Wales. So maybe you’d better prepare yourself for this sort of thing along Aberystwyth Promenade.
But Carwyn Jones, our beloved and respected First Minister, has reiterated his government’s support for the project with, “The Welsh Government remains committed to the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and we stand ready to provide significant financial backing to help make it a reality”. Can’t say fairer than that!
Though I wonder if he’s not giving himself – or his successor – up as a hostage to fortune. Because if, as expected, the UK government pulls the plug this week on the lagoon project then people in Wales, and especially those around Swansea Bay, will expect Carwyn Jones to come riding to the rescue.
But will that happen? And is there anything he can really do?
Carwyn Jones seems to be offering money, but I’m not sure that’s the sticking point. I believe there’d be no difficulty finding funding for the project – if the UK government agrees to take the power produced, which it seems unwilling to do.
Because the sticking point is the ‘strike price’ asked by those operating the lagoon, which according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is significantly higher than the price agreed for electricity supplied by the Hinckley Point nuclear power station in Somerset.
Yet operators Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP) disagree, saying they had previously asked for a 90-year contract with the UK government with an average strike price of £89.90 per megawatt hour. The new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C in Somerset was given a strike price of £92.50/MWh for 35 years.
It begins to look as if, for whatever reason, the UK government just doesn’t want tidal energy, or maybe it’s tidal energy in Wales it doesn’t want. Either way, it looks as if the project is dead. However . . . if the ‘Welsh’ Government’s money can bring down the strike price it might be difficult for London to remain intransigent.
The announcement later this week will be Mrs May lobbing the ball into Carwyn’s court. It’ll then be up to him how he plays it.
Will it be a thundering cross-court volley leaving Theresa May sprawling? Might it be an elegant backhand drawing oohs and aahs from the sun-drenched crowd? Or will he stumble and smash it into the net, as usual?
Llais y Sais last Saturday published a curious report – presumably written by Martin Shipton – of a speech made to the Welsh Conservative Spring Conference by Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns (below).
It was almost in the form of an apologia, though of course Cairns didn’t write the article himself. The piece was clearly a response to the criticism he’s received over ‘his’ decision to rename the Second Severn Crossing the Prince of Wales Bridge.
In this post I shall examine what he said and then give my interpretations and opinions.
Let’s start with Cairns’ reference to “the important connections Wales has with the Royal Family”. These were helpfully listed in the article: Welsh gold, Felinfoel beer and Pembrokeshire corgis. Let’s take them one by one.
Gold. During the Roman empire there were people across Europe wearing Welsh gold. So all this ‘connection’ tells us is that Wales has gold and people like wearing gold. And if I’m not mistaken, the English royals don’t even pay for theirs.
Beer. So Big Ears likes a drop of Feelingfoul (so we’re told), but then he and the rest of his family pretend to like all sorts of things to please people, that’s their job. And there must be a good geographical spread – Pontefract cakes, Highland whisky, Cornish pasties, etc., etc.
Pembrokeshire corgis. Is this supposed to prove love for Wales, or Pembrokeshire? I used to have Airedales, but I didn’t break into Ilkla Moor baht ‘at at the drop of a flat cap.
Let’s be honest, these are not meaningful ‘connections’, this is clutching at straws. So let’s move on.
The Bridge inevitably figures strongly in his oration, as does his beloved Severnside, which he described as a “cross-border economic region”, and went on to laud:
A financial services sector worth £2.5bn a year.
A creative industry cluster employing 15,000 people, including the BBC drama village in Cardiff Bay and its Natural History Unit in Bristol.
The world’s largest compound semiconductor cluster in Newport working with quantum technology at Bristol University.
Nine universities with nearly 170,000 students, three of which are members of the Russell Group.
The new Qatar Airlines link to Doha which put Cardiff at the heart of this new economic region on the western side of the UK.
Again, desperate stuff, with the claims unclear or impossible to justify.
For example, what does “worth £2.5bn a year” mean? Who calculated that figure?
“Nine universities with nearly 170,000 students” might sound impressive, until you realise that it’s too many of both. Universities are now businesses, turning out too many unemployable young people with degrees nobody wants and debts most of them will never pay off.
But where the wee man went for broke was in having the nerve to mention Cardiff airport after not so long ago prioritising the interests of Bristol airport by refusing to devolve Air Passenger Duty, despite Cardiff Wales airport being in his Vale of Glamorgan constituency!
And as for Qatar Airlines, let’s wait and see what ‘inducements’ were offered by Carwyn Jones and his band of economic whizz-kids. Because some argue that no company using the airport pays its whack, and the ‘Welsh’ Government has to bribe and beg users to come, and then bribe them to stay.
Cairns believes Severnside should be “learning from and achieving the same dynamism as the north Wales/North West axis”. So how’s that working out?
Investment and employment goes to north west England but northern Wales builds thousands of new homes for those wishing to move out of Greater Manchester and Merseyside but who find no welcome in Cheshire communities fearful of over-development resulting in falling property values.
In addition, the decaying towns of the littoral – particularly Rhyl – will continue their decline as more and more of England’s underclass and criminal elements are dumped there
In addition to commuters and degenerates the north can expect the flood of elderly people to continue until our NHS and social services finally collapse under the strain.
The ‘achievements’ of the Mersey-Dee Alliance are nothing to crow about, much less emulate.
Cairns’ ended his speech with: “The socialist and nationalist parochial and protectionist agenda lacks confidence in our people and stifles the innovation and entrepreneurialism they show. Now, more than ever, we must be confident and outward-looking”.
And this remember was said by a representative of a BritNat government withdrawing inelegantly from the EU, deporting people who’ve lived here for decades, and exploring all sorts of measures to stop Johnny Foreigner coming to live here in the first place.
It would be easy to laugh, but it’s too serious for that.
There are countless synonyms for union: association, alliance, harmony, concord are just a few. Whether it’s a plumbing part or marriage, whether we consider the USA or the Farmers Union of Wales, a union brings together two or more parts for the mutual and equal benefit of those entering into or joining the union.
And yet, by any criterion we apply, Wales is worse off than England, and the gap between us widens every year. Significantly, perhaps, Scotland was not a lot better, but in recent years Scotland’s economy, health service and so many other yardsticks used to measure a country’s well-being have improved relative to England, and left Wales lagging further behind.
Which means that if Alun Cairns was defending the Union then he would be fighting to ensure that Llanelli was as prosperous as Weybridge; that Wales did not lose out in spending on railways and other infrastructure; that we received fair payment for the water that is taken, the electricity exported, that Air Passenger Duty is devolved, and many other things.
But he does none of this, he simply defends the inequalities that make a mockery of the term ‘Union’ with insulting nonsense about corgis and beer. Proving that this is no union as that word is globally understood. It is clearly some other form of political arrangement, one that is less than equal, and this explains why Wales is so much poorer than England.
It is often at this point that the cavalry of the Brit left rides over the hill with, ‘Ah, but there are deprived towns and cities in England – have you ever been to Stoke on Trent, or Blackpool? ‘ Er, yes, I have, but so what? These and all the other run-down towns and districts are England’s problem, and can be remedied with better distribution of the wealth England so obviously possesses.
Wales has no such wealth to distribute, and will never be treated as an equal member of a Union. Wales suffers because she is different; we know it and the difference is recognised by the English, and acknowledged in more ways than the casual racism that has become the norm.
Having mentioned the Brit left in Wales, let’s also remember its foundation myth, which relates how Wales came into existence with the Industrial Revolution, emerging from the void. The same Brit left that has collaborated with Alun Cairns and his predecessors to undermine and impoverish Wales for over a century in order to maintain its fiefdom.
There is no measurable or practical difference between the Labour and Conservative parties in Wales, both seek to keep Wales a colony of England. Making this non-Union they both defend nothing less than a crude and increasingly obvious form of internal colonialism from which they benefit so well.
In addition to the managed decline of our post-industrial areas we see social engineering in our rural areas, accompanied by the ridicule of our language, the changing of our place names, adding up to the destruction of our national identity. All done under the guise of tourism and other idiocies that deliver nothing but minority status for us in our own land.
Political debate in Wales must no longer be shaped by the false paradigm of left and right but by whether Wales remains an impoverished and exploited colony of England or whether we make Wales the country she should be, through independence.
To conclude, Alun Cairns is clearly no Unionist, for you cannot defend what does not exist; Cairns is simply putting a gloss on colonialism and exploitation founded in racism. Which makes him nothing more than a willing mouthpiece for his political masters and his social superiors; those whose predecessors – and not so long ago – traded slaves, and sent children down coal mines.
This cannot continue, the Wales we love will not long survive this system of colonialism. But there is hope, for a new force is emerging in Welsh politics. If you want to be part of this fight against colonialism, this drive for independence, then show your support for Ein Gwlad today.
‘Tri chynnig i Gymro’ (Three tries for a Welshman) is a very old and much-loved Welsh saying.
Where Leighton Andrews and Mark Drakeford ultimately feared to tread, the Welsh Government’s own inimitable attack dog, Alun Davies, is now all set to get his teeth into Local Government re-organisation.
But, if this to mean anything other than a tokenistic tinkering with the map of Wales once again, surely the process has to involve meaningful change this time round.
It’s an opportunity to look afresh at what local democracy should actually mean today, and how it can manifest itself anew in different parts of Wales. The long neglected link up between health care and social care should definitely be on the agenda, as well as democratic control of social housing, a sector which has grown exponentially over the past few years with little or no local scrutiny attached to it.
With Cardiff having a disproportionate slice of the political and economic cake, there is also a strong case for the creation of perhaps no more than 6 regional authorities to counter-balance the Cardiff-centricity of modern Wales, and those authorities imbued with real powers. Which could even perhaps include some element of tax-varying powers of their own, as is the case with local authorities in the thriving Basque Country.
It’s also high time for some radical thinking where the Welsh language and local government is concerned.
It presents a golden opportunity to implement the idea proposed by Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru AM – i.e. to create ARFOR, a single authority for the Welsh-speaking areas of Ynys Môn, Gwynedd, Ceredigion, and Caerfyrddin, which would operate through the medium of Welsh.
The much-maligned nationalist thinker, Saunders Lewis predicted that the Welsh language would decline faster with a Welsh Government in situ in Cardiff than it would under Westminster control, unless local government first conducted its work through the medium of Welsh in Y Fro Gymraeg.
With less than 5 per cent of deliberations at Y Senedd conducted in Welsh (well below the national 21 per cent of Welsh speakers), Saunders Lewis’ prophecy seems to have been borne out.
Every single party at Y Senedd (even UKIP) pledges strong support for Welsh in public: but the harsh truth after 20 years of devolution is that English has become the governing language in our national parliament. With the best will in the world, this is not going to change any time soon.
A cultural and political counterpoint is sorely needed to provide Cymraeg with real status and power- located in those areas where it remains an everyday living language.
Socio-linguists agree that a minority language requires some form of territorial integrity in order to thrive. Increasing use is now being made of environmental metaphors with a minority language imagined as a plant or flower which has to have a secure habitat in order to be able to breathe, grow and flourish.
If we continue with the environmental metaphor, most of us are all aware that Welsh’s natural habitat has been eroding on a frighteningly fast rate over the past two generations.
At the time of the 1961 census there were areas within sight of Stradey Park and Llandudno promenade where over 80% of the population spoke Welsh, and the whole of the west apart from south Pembrokeshire was mainly Welsh speaking.
By the 2011 census however, this former solid bank of Welsh speakers across these western counties had dried up alarmingly with Gwynedd down to 64% of Welsh speakers, Ynys Mon 59%, Ceredigion on 48% and Caerfyrddin down to 44%.
The calamitous retreat of Cymraeg in these heartlands since 1951, has been virtually ignored by all the political parties. Partly of course because of the thorny reality that this decline has been accelerated by an inflow of migration from England- with the vast majority of these incomers not showing any inclination to learn the language of their new country. Not one party, not even Plaid Cymru, has dared to challenge and oppose this hugely destructive process over the years.
But the decline has also been about an exodus of Welsh-speaking people, especially younger people in search of employment opportunities, not available in the traditional Welsh-speaking areas. Cardiff of course has been the main beneficiary of this exodus and although it’s comforting on one level that these people are at least staying in Wales, there can be no denying that this process has denuded their home communities of their vitality, their energy and their creativity.
The habitat needs to be rewilded, and the best way to start is with an idea
ARFOR could operate with say 60 elected councillors( 15 from the 4 areas). The geographic distances between Caergybi on Ynys Môn and Llanelli in Carmarthenshire need not be a problem in an age of fast-developing video conferencing. Its nominal headquarters could be based, say, in Aberystwyth or even Machynlleth, but with specific departments located in all four areas.
Arfor should be able to draw up a strategic trajectory for its territory in terms of economic development, housing, planning, social care and other key sectors such as food and drink, tourism, entrepreneurship and language regeneration.
The overall plans could then be implemented at a more local level by beefing up the role of present day community councils. These could be re-imagined by reviving the old model of the rural/town district councils (with several local community councils coming together to form these new entities) employing staff to discharge the duties delivered downwards by the central Arfor authority.
This would allow both a regional identity and a local identity to co-exist and co-create a better future for the heartlands which have only known decline, despair and disillusionment for the past two generations.
Cyngor Sir Gwynedd has already pioneered the way, having operated successfully through the medium of Welsh since the mid 90ies. Ynys Môn has declared that they are now going to follow its example. Arfor is half way there already.
As to the predictable concerns that Arfor would “divide” Wales, and re-ignite the old arguments aired in the 1970ies about such an idea, I would argue that the Welsh national identity is much more secure today than back then. That identity is secure enough to be able to live with the thought that different parts of Wales should perhaps be able to do things differently.
And there is no need to fret either that such a development would allow the other 5/6 regional authorities to ignore Welsh, because the Welsh Language Standards passed by Y Senedd recently will ensure that a modicum of bilingualism will remain in the others.
Associate membership of Arfor could also be provided over time to other Welsh-speaking areas, e.g Dyffryn Conwy, Parts of Denbighsire, Powys and Pembrokeshire, who wish to be part of the new entity.
Arfor has the potential to do more to develop the Welsh language than almost any other language success gained over the years, even arguably S4C – now a pale shadow of its former self and shorn of the clout it used to have in Welsh-speaking Wales.
It will give Welsh real political and economic clout in its traditional heartlands. It will provide employment opportunties and career structures for Welsh speakers from all over Wales. It will, at a stroke, make learning Welsh a real, economic and social necessity for incomers to these areas. It is quite literally, the golden bullet as far as language regeneration is concerned in Y Fro Gymraeg.
Cultural regeneration in the heartlands will undoubtedly lead to economic regeneration as well. It can be a magnet for Welsh speakers from all over the UK and wider afield. It can prove an inspiration to Welsh learners all over Wales and beyond to see that Welsh can thrive as a living, community language.
As Alun Davies weighs up his options, and perhaps even his legacy as far as the Welsh language is concerned as an enthusiastic learner himself, he might be tempted to bring that famous Bill Clinton slogan to mind, and re-phrase it to say : “It’s the culture, stupid” in seeking to effect change.
♦ end ♦
Jac chips in . . .
As persuasive as Aled’s argument is, I’m not totally convinced. For two main reasons. First, I’m one of those who believes it would divide Wales. Second, I look to Ireland’s Gaeltacht and I see no great success to emulate.
My fears on dividing Wales can be explained with an anecdote. My wife’s eldest brother lives in Crickhowell. About 20 years ago, with the Meibion Glyndŵr campaign still fresh in the memory, we were visiting and I got talking to my brother-in-law’s eldest son.
He brought up the subject of the campaign and made a forceful point that youngsters of his age in that area were experiencing a similar problem from retirees, good-lifers, commuters and others pushing up local property values – but nobody seemed to care about them because they didn’t speak Welsh.
The realisation of Arfor could result in those sentiments I heard in Crickhowell being raised again. And not just by sincere and sympathetic people like my nephew, but by the growing army of anti-Welsh bigots getting bolder by the day.
Which is why if Arfor does became reality I would like to see legislation introduced to protect anglophone Welsh identities in other rural areas. Otherwise Arfor could alienate people from Rhuddlan to Rhossili.
Now let’s turn to the Gaeltacht, as I guarantee many will do! It seems to be widely acknowledged in Ireland that the whole concept has been a failure. Everybody seems to blame everybody else, but the fact remains that the Gaeltacht is largely symbolic and kept afloat by a state reluctant to admit its abject failure.
Maybe a Gaeltacht made up of small, widely separated areas was doomed to fail, and this might be Arfor’s advantage over the Irish model.
But let’s assume that the Arfor project takes off, how is it to be sold to the large, non-Welsh populations in Beddgelert, Betws-y-Coed, Barmouth, Tywyn, Aberdyfi, Borth, New Quay – even Aberystwyth? Will these communities be able to opt out?
Whether these settlements buy in or not to survive Arfor will need positive discrimination in favour of the indigenous population coupled with restrictions on who can move in . . . which would send the English media and its Welsh lapdogs into a feeding frenzy!
As I say, I would prefer to see all-Wales legislation that could protect all areas facing similar problems. A strategy guaranteeing that locals get priority in housing, employment, education, training, grants, and everything else, with nothing forced on these areas unless it is of demonstrable benefit to the local population.
But if we can’t have a national strategy, then I would support Arfor, but my support could never be wholehearted.
I added an update to the previous post about Empower after learning more about this group, and perhaps what struck me most was the fact that despite the latest Accounts telling us (top of page 4) that “Trustees are elected from Bryncynon and its surrounding areas”, only one of the trustees lives anywhere near Bryncynon.
So I took it upon myself to make enquiries into these non-local trustees, assuming that if they’ve been recruited without knowing the area then they must bring some special talent to the venture. The four, all appointed 31.03.2017, are: Elizabeth Claire Bryan of Brackla, Bridgend; Paul Christopher Maliphant of Whitchurch, Cardiff; David Joseph Haines of Llandaff, Cardiff; and Robert Andrew Dickens of Mitchel Troy, Monmouth.
Given that these are all reliant on public funding it would be reasonable to assume that Bryan is a Labour Party member or supporter. But on the Companies House website (and elsewhere) he consistently gives his nationality as ‘Welsh’.
As Labour Party members tend to be Welsh only for the duration of a rugby international this might indicate that Bryan is not a bruvver. Someone out there must know.
Either way, Claire Bryan is a consultant.
Next up we have Paul Christopher Maliphant, whose Linkedin profile would suggest that he’s a geologist . . . ideal then for a community venture like Bryncynon Community Revival Strategy Ltd. But he is also a mentor, approved and recommended by the ‘Welsh’ Government.
Above his photo you’ll see a tab for ‘Mentor profiles’. I urge you to click on it and go through some of the bios. God Almighty! it’s frightening, with a worrying number of them having moved here in their twilight years or else they’re not living in Wales at all.
Moving on, the next trustee is David Joseph Haines. Now Dai has an interesting business background . . . in shipping, which must be useful along the bustling quays and wharfs of Cwm Cynon.
The only company he’s involved with that hasn’t sunk or been scuppered is Bryncynon Community Revival Strategy Ltd itself. Quite what he brings to the party is a mystery to me.
The final non-local is Robert Andrew Dickens whose business interests seem to flit between addresses in Monmouth and Aberthaw. I guess what puts the bread on his table now is Safety Technology Ltd.
Though there are disasters in his past, too. Not least Mainline Safety Ltd, which sank with all hands – and a few creditors – off Liverpool some years ago. Merseyside being where Dickens calls home, Southport to be exact.
Bringing up the rear we have the only local trustee in John Matthews, Earth-botherer, former policeman and now bus driver who’s been in post for over ten years. I suppose they had to keep him on to have one trustee who could pronounce Bryncynon.
The ‘Welsh’ Government has obviously stepped in and appointed these new trustees (and in so doing might have broken the rules), perhaps because the Abercynon venture has relied heavily on Communities First funding and this has now come to an end.
But what has it all achieved?
We have areas across Wales like Abercynon in desperate need of help, but the only response from Cardiff Bay is, ‘OK, we’ll give you money to buy an old chapel – turn it into a cafe, crèche and community building – then we’ll send you up a few mentors, and if things are really bad we’ll chuck in a motivator, too. And then, when this pot of money runs out, we’ll look for another one. Tidy, mun’.
All this system achieves is the normalisation of deprivation and the creation of a dependency culture. For politicians it’s being seen to be doing something. For civil servants it’s a box-ticking exercise. And for the third sector it’s just milking the system.
Something in it for everybody . . . except those it’s supposedly helping.
Regular readers will have heard me mention Wynne Jones of Cardigan. Wynne is a scourge of the third sector and the civil servants with responsibility for the third sector due to his probing questions and his meticulous record-keeping. I bet there are senior civil servants quaking at the mere mention of his name.
So wary have civil servants now become of Wynne that he is receiving letters with neither signature nor name appended, suggesting that some civil servants don’t want to put their name to the answers they’re providing. Why would that be?
And the same thing is happening to me. Here are a couple of samples. The one on the top was received by Wynne last week and the other was sent to me last month.
And it’s getting even more strange now with Wynne because he is being asked to discuss things on the telephone, suggesting that some of the civil servants he’s dealing with don’t want to put anything in writing, whether signed or not.
What a situation! What does it tell us about the way Wales is run?
If you’re reading this, Carwyn (and if you’re still FM), what do you think about civil servants answering letters anonymously? I’m sure there must be a rule that says there should be a name attached.
Because when we take over, how will we know who to put on trial?
USING THE MEDIA
In case you missed it, there was a curious story in the media earlier this week about a man accused of being a paedophile because he stayed in a Cheshire hotel with his fourteen-year-old daughter while visiting his cancer-stricken mother. Here’s the WalesOnline report which also tells us that the man’s wife – and presumably the girl’s mother – suffers from multiple sclerosis.
The family lives in the relatively remote Carmarthenshire village of Rhydcymerau, which may be found on the B4337 between Llanybydder and Llansawel. I assumed they had recently moved to the village. A suspicion borne out by his Linkedin profile and these entries from 192.com.
This coverage, for what was little more than a misunderstanding, is quite incredible. How was it achieved?
If we look at the photograph above we see that the attribution is “Image: Karl Pollard / SWNS.com”. Which would suggest that the image belongs to Pollard and was distributed by South West News Service, an agency dealing in ‘news’ for those who prefer ‘human interest’ stories.
The Twitter feed, with tales of a hairy-chested woman and a foetus flicking a V-sign, tells us that SWNS is to news reporting what The Jeremy Kyle Show is to intellectual discourse, or am I being too harsh? Whether I am or not, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that after the incident at the Travelodge in Macclesfield Pollard went to SWNS with the story and the pictures.
What’s more, he wasn’t slow about it. The WalesOnline report is datelined 10:20 Monday the 19th and says the incident happened “last week”. The Star, Sun, Express and Mirror reports are dated Sunday the 18th.
Perhaps this explains why it has been suggested to me there may be something ‘contrived’ about the whole thing. I’m not sure about that because it wasn’t Pollard who called the police, it was staff at the hotel. But then again, he must have realised that a 46-year-old man sharing a bedroom with a 14-year-old girl is guaranteed to attract suspicion.
But it’s how Pollard responded to a misunderstanding that was soon sorted out that causes me disquiet.
Let’s look at the three most important females in Karl Pollard’s life. His mother is gravely ill with cancer, his wife is suffering from multiple sclerosis, and his 14-year-old daughter was, in Pollard’s own words, “distraught” after being questioned by police, so all three would surely have craved peace and quiet.
But no, Pollard goes chasing global exposure for a simple misunderstanding made by sincere people acting out of the best possible motives.
I can’t help thinking that the media got this story arse-backwards.
As you might imagine, I get a lot of strange messages, from all sorts of people and by a number of different routes. This week has been no different. Here’s one I feel able to share with you.
Let me start by saying that I know nothing of ‘massage’ in the Tonypandy area (or anywhere else, come to that), nor have I been Googling for such services. So it was easy to dismiss this message as some kind of joke. But then I was drawn to the logo, which made me think the source at least might be kosher.
More than that, a pink butterfly with the body made up of a woman in a tight-fitting dress suggested to me that if it exists then the Women’s Business Club is for women, rather than the wimmin I have written about of late. So I Googled Women’s Business Club and sure enough, it is genuine.
This may have started as someone’s idea of a joke but I was very impressed with what I read on the website, consequently – and even though the heels are killing me – I have now joined and I’m looking forward immensely to the next Wonderbra Session.