This decision that took most of us by surprise needs to be examined and certain ramifications and possibilities considered. For last week’s decision might have significance beyond a single road project.
When Carwyn Jones was First Minister it was understood that the relief road would go ahead. So for a start, the decision announced last week means that things have changed under his successor, Mark Drakeford.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of last week’s decision is that Mark Drakeford, and the ‘Welsh Government’, have gone against the wishes of their superiors in London. It’s impossible to over-stress that what happened last week was a form of insubordination.
Our Secretary of State, Alun Cairns, that most London-loyal of individuals – and, we now learn, a Boris Johnson supporter – was “hugely disappointed” by the decision. It may have come as a bit of a shock to him, for Cairns knew long ago what the inspector’s recommendation was, and he probably expected the new management team in Cardiff docks to follow Compliant Carwyn’s lead and do as the inspector (and London) recommended.
So maybe any consideration of this shock to the system political boils down to two questions:
Why has Drakeford refused to do London’s bidding in this instance?
Is this a one-off act of rebellion or does it herald a fundamental change of course for ‘Welsh’ Labour?
One possible explanation might lie in the fact that despite all the criticism of London-centricity, and the disproportionate amount of infrastructure spending in London and the south east of England, for two decades Wales has followed exactly the same course.
Because a curious feature of devolution is that those areas that voted against devolution in 1997 have been the areas to benefit most since 1999. Maybe this is related to the phenomenon that has seen successive Labour administrations in Cardiff Bay neglect those areas that vote Labour.
So, to be generous, this decision not to proceed with the M4 relief road might mark the beginning of attempts to ‘rebalance’ the Welsh economy.
Even if I’m being too generous there, on a purely financial level, it would have been difficult to justify expenditure of £1.5 bn (at the very least) in a country of just over 3 million people unless the benefits are widely enjoyed. That would obviously not have been the case with the M4 relief road, and further, expenditure on that project would mean fewer infrastructure projects elsewhere in the country.
It’s even being suggested that areas of England – notably Bristol – would have benefited more from an M4 relief road than areas of Wales just twenty or thirty miles away, such as the Heads of the Valleys.
This is how Alun Davies, AM for Blaenau Gwent, put it in a couple of tweets.
Weighing up cost and benefit, the M4 relief road would have meant the ‘Welsh Government’ borrowing a great deal of money for a project that at best would only benefit one corner of the country, and at worst, might have been of more benefit to adjacent areas of England.
On those grounds alone, no body claiming to be the ‘Welsh Government’, serving the whole of Wales, could have given the go-ahead for the M4 relief road.
But that consideration has never before stopped an administration in Cardiff Bay from pouring investment into the city at the expense of the rest of the country. So there may be other explanations.
THE PLANNING INSPECTORATE FOR ENGLANDANDWALES
Having mentioned the Planning Inspectorate this is a good time to remind you of the malign influence this agency has exerted over Wales.
In this example from March 2014 I wrote about the plan to expand Bodelwyddan and how it linked with the Local Development Plan (LDP) for Denbighshire. In this post we see how the Planning Inspectorate was forcing a Welsh local authority to allow housing greatly in excess of any local need.
And even after census findings made it clear that the county would need less new housing than had previously been anticipated, the Planning Inspector insisted on keeping to the now discredited figures:
“Objects and aspirations” can only mean catering for an influx of new residents from outside of the county, and almost certainly from outside of Wales. Which means that in many cases the LDPs that have been forced on our local authorities by the Planning Inspectorate are ‘local’ only in the sense that they affect areas of Wales.
In Denbighshire, the northern part of the county lies within the A55 corridor, which is being developed as a linear commuter belt for north west England. The ‘Welsh Government’ will never admit this – in fact, it might not even be consulted – but others know, and are planning for it.
What’s being done here could be done without devolution – so what’s the point of having a ‘Welsh Government’ if it doesn’t live up to the name? Is devolution just a chimera, a smokescreen?
Cross-border co-operation is one thing, and desirable, it happens all over the world; but it must be done on a basis of mutual respect with both sides benefiting. The map you see above is Englandandwales in operation. Anyone arguing otherwise would probably describe Tryweryn as a mutually-beneficial project.
Without labouring the point I hope you get the gist – the Planning Inspectorate has done a lot of damage to Wales over the years. Which explains why the agency’s relationship with the ‘Welsh Government’ has always been a source of confusion for Welsh politicians and others.
The truth is that the Planning Inspectorate for Englandandwales has a desk in Cardiff but takes its orders from London, with the ‘Welsh Government’ allowed to pretend it has some control.
The truth is driven home when we see an inspector adjudicating on a Welsh case one week and being in Yorkshire or Devon the following week. (Though of course, never in Scotland.)
It was no surprise then that the Planning Inspectorate wanted the M4 black route. Because that’s what London wanted.
Though if Mark Drakeford can see the problem with the Planning Inspectorate for Englandandwales then he must also be aware that this is only the tip of an iceberg. That ‘iceberg’ being the problem of ‘Welsh’ civil servants relaying orders from London.
PLANNING FOR A WELSH FUTURE?
The fact that the ‘Welsh Government’ went against the recommendation of the Planning Inspectorate, its London masters, and a number of powerful lobby groups (perhaps even . . . whisper it – Deryn!), means that Mark Drakeford has really stuck his scruffy neck out.
Which leads me to suspect, or hope, that this decision might be about more than the explanations we’ve been given on cost and environment damage. There might be things bubbling below the surface that could prove to be more important in the medium term than the M4 decision itself.
First off, I am convinced that the M4 decision links with this announcement from a month ago that Wales will soon have its own planning inspectorate. Let’s look at what the article in The Planner says.
“Currently, the Planning Inspectorate for England and Wales is responsible for making decisions and recommendations on planning-related land issues and appeals. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and the Welsh Government fund it.
Based in Cardiff, the inspectorate’s Wales Division manages casework on planning and related applications and appeals, including developments of national significance. It examines local development plans, which set out land use planning policies and form the basis of local planning decisions, using a team of dedicated Welsh inspectors and administrators.
The new planning inspectorate for Wales is expected to be fully operational by the end of the current assembly term, which is May 2021.”
This move was explained by the ‘Welsh Government’ thus: “planning law and policy has diverged and continues to diverge at an accelerating rate from England”. Which makes a certain sense, but if that’s the real reason then policing, broadcasting and many other powers would also be fully devolved.
Though a cynic might suggest that Drakeford is launching the new agency because he’s burned his bridges with the Planning Inspectorate after giving them two fingers over such a high-profile project as the M4 relief road.
Whatever the reason, I’m hoping Drakeford and his cabinet want a separate Welsh planning inspectorate to do things differently in future and for the right reasons. Otherwise, why set up a new and separate agency?
IN CONCLUSION . . .
Does the dropping of the M4 relief road coupled with the announcement of the new planning inspectorate herald a change of direction for the ‘Welsh Government’?
The cynic in me thinks, ‘Nah, this leopard ain’t gonna change its spots, Jac. After twenty years of screwing up on devolution Labour’s only pretending to do things differently now because it’s slipping in the polls. Any change will be purely cosmetic.’
But then, the optimistic side to my nature (long dormant) asserts itself and says, ‘Wait! Maybe from now on they will put the interests of Wales and Welsh people first. Perhaps they’ll realise that there are communities within twenty miles of Corruption Bay approaching third world standards of deprivation. And that our rural areas need more than zip wires and granny farms.
‘Perhaps it’ll mean no more insane legislation to encourage hippies, ‘rewilders’ and other enviroshysters; no more grants showered on multinationals’ branch factories and con men with ludicrous ‘projects’; no more red carpet treatment for exploitive ‘celebs’ such as Bore Grylls; no more funding and other encouragement for the third sector to import England’s problems so as to maintain thousands of unnecessary jobs with our money.
‘Maybe, at long last, Wales will be treated as a country, in which the interests of those who belong here are considered more important than kudos gained from playing to galleries that only seek to exploit and marginalise us. Perhaps our kids will be given a decent education to prepare them for better jobs than scurrying around an Amazon warehouse or desperately waiting for Easter in the hope of some low-wage tourism job.’
It may be Hallowe’en but you’ll find no ghosties or ghoulies here, just the usual parade of grotesques and exhibitions of idiocy and cupidity that haunt modern Wales. Night and day. All year round.
Seeing as I haven’t put anything out for over a week this is a bumper issue, around 4,000 words, but there’s no single, linking theme other than the sheer fuckedupedness of Wales. I have, as old Nennius said, ‘made a heap of things’. On the plus side, because this is a meal made up of a number of courses, you can take your time.
And if kids come knocking on your door, demanding money with menaces, set the dog on them.
THE OLIVE TRUST
In the previous post, Hate Crime, I told you about the insults aimed at me by Denise Kingsley-Acton, a very strange woman currently domiciled in Kidwelly. A very strange woman indeed. That anyone takes her seriously is difficult to believe, but if they do it may be due to the fact that she has a ‘minder’ in the form of Swansea Labour councillor for 43 years, and now Alderman, Alan Lloyd.
While Lloyd obviously opens doors for Denise Kingsley-Acton, it’s difficult to see what he gets out of it. But being a former Labour councillor we can be sure that he’s not acting as her guide and guarantor for altruistic reasons.
Since posting that piece last week a bit more information has come to light, some of which was added as an update, some of which will be fresh.
You no doubt shared my astonishment that this woman had been given a grant to educate young people about hate crimes. According to her Facebook page she had received a grant from the “Police Commissioner for Dafed (sic) Powys”. So I wrote to the PCC.
The initial response from the office of the PCC said, “The Police and Crime Commissioner has not awarded a grant to the Olive Trust. The grant was awarded from the Safer Dyfed-Powys Diogelach charity, to which the Commissioner is a trustee.”
After a follow-up e-mail I was told, again from the office of the PCC, “The grant was awarded to the Olive Trust as an organisation and it was for £1000.” The wording suggests that we should regard the Olive Trust as something unconnected with Denise Kingsley-Acton, when in fact she is the Olive Trust, and the Olive Trust is her.
I’m still waiting to hear if the grant offer has been withdrawn.
The latest entry on the Olive Trust Facebook page is shown below.
Denise Kingsley-Acton says I have harassed her “continually for many years”. The truth is that in 2012 I wrote about her attempt to screw £1,000,000 out of the Wales European Funding Office. There was a passing reference in September 2014, before two pieces about her in March this year after someone had drawn my attention to an article in Llanelli Online.
That was it, until the bizarre and slanderous allegations that came out of the blue on October 19. Had I not received those insults it’s unlikely I would have written about her ever again.
But if I learn that the Olive Trust or Denise Kingsley-Acton is trying to rip off the public purse, again; or if she posts slanders about me, again; then I shall write about her, again. And that’s a promise.
Mumbles and its pier is close to my heart. I can remember as a young boy riding the old Mumbles Train that used to clatter along the seafront.
In my early teens I spent many happy hours, whole days even, fishing. We’d usually cycle down, fishing rods strapped to our crossbars, bags on our backs containing tackle, bait, sandwiches (which often got mixed up).
At the pier we’d follow the tide out, which meant, once the two top bars of the safety rail around the eastern ‘well’ on the intermediate level became visible, working our way along, standing on the middle bar and holding tight onto the top one with one hand while holding our rod in the other, with bag on back, until we reached the far side, so that the fast ebbing tide could take our lines. And as the tide ebbed further the death-defying stunt was repeated on the bottom level.
I look back at what we did then and I wonder how we survived. Because anyone falling into the ‘well’ would either have been trapped under the floor and drowned, or else been taken out to sea so fast that they would have been lost unless a nearby boat could have reached them quickly.
From home to pier was a seven-mile ride, which was great on the first leg, partly because we were fresh and partly because it was downhill into town and then flat along the Mumbles Road. Coming home after a day’s fishing the pedals would always be heavier, especially if there were no nice fish to show your mam.
As an older teenager I did the Mumbles Mile on a Saturday night. Often after watching the Swans. We’d come out of the Vetch, have a bite to eat in a little caff we used in Wind Street, wash and brush up in one of those old public conveniences with an attendant, then catch the bus (was it the 77?) to Mumbles – White Rose, Pilot, Prince of Wales, Antelope . . . before walking home, which with diversions and digressions might mean getting home in time for breakfast
But then, I’m sure Mumbles and the pier plays a role in the life of anyone from Swansea and the wider area.
So it’s understandable why there is such interest in the proposed development. Now I shan’t comment on the development itself because it’s complicated – obstruction of views, etc – and I don’t have the space here, but there are a few points worth raising.
Someone we’ve encountered on this blog more than once is Lawrence Bailey, former leader of the local Labour Party, former Lord Mayor, and of course leader of the council. Or, rather, he was fulfilling these roles when he could tear himself away from his real interest of pornography. For which he was awarded the coveted Private Eye Pornographer of the Year award.
He also used to write to the Evening Post as Phyllis Evans of Cwmrhydyceirw, Disgusted of Dunvant, and a host of others who all seemed to support the Labour Party. Fancy! It seems likely that the Beans on Toast was complicit in this deception.
After these unfortunate revelations Bailey resigned from the council and branched out into public relations with a company called Whiterock, which first came to my attention when ‘Stan’ pointed out that this outfit was receiving regular payments from the dike-bashing MP for Swansea East, Carolyn Harris.
(Who, let’s be brutally honest, needs all the image-massaging she can get.)
Bailey seems to have used the Whiterock name for some time before registering it with Companies House in August 2015. Nothing else was ever filed with Companies House and Whiterock-Wales was dissolved in January 2017.
This is something I come across regularly, many different but similar names designed solely to confuse. So tell us, Lawrence, what is the name of your company and is it registered? Nobody’ll care if you’re just a one-man band. We all know you enjoy your own company.
Of course, Bailey’s big attraction for any potential client is that he knows the local Labour Party, he’s another like Lloyd who can open doors. So it should surprise no one to learn that he is representing owners Ameco who are hoping to make many millions of pounds from luxury housing in the vicinity of the pier as the ransom price for renovating the pier itself.
There was a meeting a couple of months back between the developers and the council, or at least, the council leader, Rob Stewart. Someone sent me a link to a secretly-filmed video, which I can no longer find, but fortunately I took a few screen grabs which you can see below.
Stewart is the one in the dark suit and Bailey is the grey-headed geezer.
This is all run-of-the-mill stuff for a Labour council, but now protesters are arguing something very odd may have happened around the time the outline planning application (2010/1451) was received by the council on 17 September, 2010.
This was during a period when the city was enjoying a respite from Labour rule with a Lib Dem-led alliance in charge. Which of course meant that Bailey’s political connections would have counted for naught.
What’s being suggested is that during a process of digitisation in 2010, by the council’s officers, the boundary of the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was moved so that the land on which the housing development is now planned was somehow moved outside the AONB. Here’s a BBC report.
Now if this suggestion is true, then it could scupper the whole development. If the boundary change was deliberate rather than error, then who might be responsible? Names of people – who may or may not be connected with Lawrence y Garreg Wen – carry on zephyrs wafting up from Mumbles.
Anyone with information is welcome to get in touch, with the usual guarantee of anonymity. Either use the contact box in the sidebar or write to email@example.com.
UPDATE 03.11.2018: The whole thing has now been put on hold by the ‘Welsh’ Government. It seems Swansea council has the power to refuse planning permission but it does not have the power to grant planning permission.
UPDATE 07.11.2018: In a strange twist, Swansea council’s planning committee has unanimously voted to approve the scheme. Does this mean that the Labour Party in Swansea is starting to stand up to London’s management team in Cardiff? Does it suggest that opponents of the scheme may not be as representative of the wider public as they might like to believe?
A LITTLE PLACE IN THE WEST
You may recall that the chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, Mark Vincent James, has a keen personal interest in property, with properties of his own in Cardiff Bay. I wrote about this in Baywatch and Baywatch 2.
Now I learn that he is branching out with a company called Cartrefi Croeso Cyfyngedig (CCC, geddit?) This report from 6 June tells us, among other things, that, “The council is the sole shareholder in Cartrefi Croeso, which will have five directors – two council officers, one councillor and two external appointees.”
As I say, that was early June, here we are at the end of October and according to Companies House there are just two directors, both employees of the council, and therefore answerable to Mark James not the elected representatives. But James’s hold over this new company doesn’t end there.
So we now have a company, Cartrefi Croeso Cyf, using public money, run by people answerable only to Mark James, but with no democratic accountability whatsoever. What the hell is the Plaid Cymru-led council doing?
A regular source whose judgement I trust reminds me that Cartrefi Croeso is another arms-length company of the kind that Mark James seems to favour as a way of running and controlling things without having to worry about answering to those who pay his salary. Or anyone else.
Another such company is CWM Environmental Ltd. (Carmarthenshire Waste Management.) Something similar has happened to social care, and leisure services will be next. While looming at Delta Lakes is the Wellness Centre Village, where the lame shall be made to walk, one-eyed Scarlets’ supporters will be blessed with 20/20 vision . . . and some shifty buggers will make a fortune from the public purse thanks to Mark Vincent James.
From the perspective of a man like Mark James setting up private companies run by his placemen offers many advantages. Like some Mafia don he controls things but his underlings take any flak. Being private companies they are not subject to Freedom of Information requests (as they would be as in-house council departments). And of course rules on the use of the Welsh language do not apply.
It is quite amazing how, in a Western democracy, the employee of a public body can take over that body and run it as if it were some private company he had created himself! Which would be bad enough, but neither the elected representatives of those that employ him, nor the superior level of government that should be holding him to account, are prepared to do anything!
But as I keep saying, Wales has more in common with the third world than with Western Europe: Poverty, colonialism, exploitation, colonisation, widespread corruption, no oversight and monitoring of public officials and public bodies, etc., etc.
A FAIT ACCOMPLI
Midnight yesterday was the deadline for submissions in a consultation process launched on July 10 about the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) to farmers. It’s been pretty clear for some time that the whole issue is being controlled from London and that the management team in Cardiff docks is simply doing what it’s told, and saying what it’s told to say.
Though in fairness it was all play-acting, for his masters had decided the outcome long in advance. The showboating and the bluster, the trips to Edinburgh, the ‘strong words’ for Mrs May’s government, were designed to placate a certain audience that in Wales often seems to care more about the EU than it does about Wales.
As a direct consequence of the Labour management team agreeing that the London Government could effectively withdraw BPS we now face the destruction of Welsh upland farming, together with the jobs, plus the language and the culture, farming sustains.
But this has little to do directly with Brexit, for if Carwyn Jones had not surrendered powers to London Welsh farmers could be receiving the same treatment as their Scottish counterparts, who have been guaranteed the continuation of the Basic Payment Scheme.
The sad little mouthpieces of the collaborationist regime in Cardiff docks, are reading from scripts prepared for them by civil servants like those you see above, one of whom has been heard to say that he hates farmers! Making it clear that Welsh farmers are to be forced from their land to make way for more English settlers. I wrote about it in The Welsh Clearances.
I can hear the objections – ‘But you misrepresent the proposals, Jac!’ Do I? Let the readers decide.
Funding is to be withdrawn from farmers and given to environmentalists, ‘re-wilders’ and others without whose help Mother Nature would simply give up and go home. The losers will almost all be Welsh, while the winners will be overwhelmingly English, but we’re expected to believe that this is pure coincidence.
Though it must be said, that over many years there have been some people (especially in Plaid Cymru) who have been very supportive of this replacement population. In fact, some seem to have identified more strongly with incoming ‘environmentalists’ than with their own people.
While Remain fanatics argue that farmers have brought it on themselves by voting for Brexit. Ignoring the fact that this is a decision taken by the London government using Brexit as a pretext.
Wake up! This is undisguised colonialism. Taking land off the natives is what our masters are good at, they’ve been doing it for centuries. That so much Welsh land is still in Welsh hands is an affront to everyone in whose veins runs the blood of pith-helmeted district officers and their crinolined memsahibs.
THE DISASTER OF DEVOLUTION
Reading this blog can I’m told be both entertaining and informative, but often depressing. (It’s the same writing it, but I take my ‘medicine’.) While things at the moment may look more depressing than usual I’m strangely – perhaps perversely – encouraged by recent developments.
First, the crushing defeat dished out to Leanne Wood in the Plaid Cymru leadership election made her acolytes realise how little support there is for niche politics. And if there is little support within Plaid Cymru for such nonsense then there’s even less support in the wider population. But then, when you debate issues in echo chambers you can persuade yourself that everybody is discussing what you and a tiny group of friends think is important.
That said, I can’t see Plaid Cymru getting its act together over the longer term. It will fall back into its old ways, because despite being a minority, the niche left knows how to inveigle itself into positions of influence and authority, and to intimidate others into silence. The ‘nationalists’ will have to reach some compromise with LW’s supporters.
Which means that eventually, a new party will be needed to prioritise the needs and interests of Welsh people while working towards the independent state that alone can permanently safeguard those needs and interests. Ein Gwlad already exists, and will grow into that role.
Looking at the wider picture it should now be obvious that devolution is a sham. But worse than being a sham, devolution, and the existence of a ‘Welsh’ Government, allows the UK government to get away with things that might have been very difficult without devolution.
Let’s take a few very recent examples to explain what I mean.
THE FLINT RING
This ‘initiative’ came from Cadw, which is just English Heritage West, ensuring a ‘safe’ and acceptable interpretation of Welsh history. That being so, we can be sure that the Flint Ring idea originated over the border.
To give an example of how Cadw operates I’ll go back a couple of years to something I found on its website. Cadw was promoting, “It’s 1295 and peace reigns in Caernarfon”, before going on to paint a picture of English soldiers flirting with Welsh maids. (Yes, honestly!)
The truth is of course that in 1294/5 Wales was in rebellion, and Caernarfon Castle was taken by Madog ap Llywelyn’s men. Any English soldiers still in the castle would either have been lying dead somewhere or, if they were lucky, languishing in the dungeons.
After I put out a tweet Cadw immediately took the page down. But why did the body entrusted with interpreting and presenting Welsh history get it so wrong, giving out a picture of Welsh and English living happily together in conquered Wales, us Welsh not at all resentful?
Shit! I’ve just answered my own question.
Interpreting a colonial people’s history is fundamental to maintaining a hold over that people. This is Cadw’s role in Wales. (And of course, ensuring that no Welsh are employed at our castles and other monuments.)
Far easier to do this with a Welsh name and the pretence that Cadw is an agency of a ‘Welsh’ Government.
PRINCE OF WALES BRIDGE
Yes, I know, this was announced by Alun Cairns, Conservative Secretary of State for Wales, but Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones was involved from very early on, and to a considerable degree Jones’s approval was used to justify the whole thing. A kind of joint enterprise, sharing the blame.
Had the naming been imposed directly from London there would have been far more opposition, maybe even from within the Labour Party. Devolution served to confuse what was a clear, colonialist imposition.
This was another clear, colonialist imposition. But because the ‘Welsh’ Government, and Natural Resources Wales were so co-operative, and so devious about their involvement, it served to confuse the picture. It left those objecting uncertain who to blame.
Which, again, could not have happened without the ‘shield’ of devolution.
The ‘M4 improvements’ is a long-running saga.
‘Business’ believes that the M4 must be upgraded to do away with bottlenecks and speed up travel between England and Cardiff. Most politicians seem to agree.
Late in 2013 the UK/English government gave the ‘Welsh’ government power to borrow up to £1bn to spend on the M4. On Monday we learnt from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there was now an extra £300m available, but only if it is spent on the M4.
Huffing and puffing, millionaire socialist contender for the purely figurehead positions of leader of the English Labour Party in Wales and First Minister, Mark Drakefraud, insisted it was up to AMs how the money was spent.
Small but perfectly formed SoS Alun Cairns retorted by saying that the ‘Welsh’ Government had asked for the money specifically for the M4. ‘Liar’ liar, pants on fire!’ shouted Drakefraud, at which point the exchange got too highbrow for this simple old Swansea Jack.
The bottom line is that improving the M4 will help England far more than Wales because improving communications to peripheral regions invariably works against those peripheral regions. It means what makes them attractive can be reached easier and what makes such regions valuable can shipped out faster.
If the M4 ‘improvements’ go ahead jobs will be lost because it will be easier to serve ‘South Wales’ from depots and offices in England, but Wales’s cheaper homes will be brought within reach of more English commuters to Bristol and the Thames Valley.
What the A55 has done for the north on a bigger scale.
How much easier it is to perpetrate this con with the help of a ‘Welsh’ Government that can’t see beyond Cardiff – and then get the silly buggers to put the whole country in debt to pay for it! Self-financing colonialism.
Just imagine no devolution, and the UK government saying it wanted to upgrade the M4 but that Welsh local authorities were going to pay for it.
UPDATE: On the very day this post appeared this letter was published in the Western Mail. I have no idea who David Gwyn Watts of Milford Haven is, but he’s right. (Though I think the Letters Editor went a bit overboard with ‘doom’.)
As you’ve read above, Welsh farmers will be forced from their land in a policy worthy of comparison with Clearances or ethnic cleansing. The orders come from London. Civil servants answering to London will implement the strategy in Wales. And Welsh politicians will pretend it’s their policy out of a combination of vanity, congenital deviousness, and contempt for those who’ll suffer.
If a government minister had stood up in the House of Commons and said, ‘Her Majesty’s Government plans to clear Welsh farmers from their ancestral land and replace them with English environmentalists, ‘re-wilders’ and the like’, there would have been uproar in Wales. There would have been demonstrations, riots even.
But no, get some stupid woman in Cardiff to pretend it’s a decision of her ‘government’ and it confuses the natives. Use devolution as a ‘screen’ and as with the Flint Ring, and The PoW Bridge, and the toxic mud, and the M4 money, and a host of other damaging schemes, we won’t know who’s really to blame, and who we should be attacking.
This confusion can only arise because of devolution. And because of the way London uses devolution, and because of the way our politicians allow devolution to be used. Strip away devolution and we’ll see colonialism for what it really is.
Forget the comforting bollocks about devolution being a ‘badge of nationhood’. Welsh nationhood is being destroyed behind the façade of devolution. Devolution is a Trojan horse.
I predict with certainty that if there is another Tryweryn or another Investiture, it will be presented as a decision of our wonderful ‘Welsh’ Government, and because of that, it will be accepted by more Welsh people than if it had come in the form of a diktat from London.
If we had a vote to abolish the Assembly, I would vote to abolish. And I wouldn’t need to think twice about it.
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 on 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 in 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 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.
I’ve neglected you in recent weeks, relying on two excellent guest posts from Brychan Davies and Aled Gwyn Jôb. But now I’m back. With a vengeance!
Though this offering is long, over 3,000 words, it’s made up of six different items, so you can take them one at a time if you like.
THE BEAST FROM THE EAST
You may beware – then again, you might have better things to do – that there is currently an election under way for a deputy leader in the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party. The two candidates are Julie Morgan, widow of Rhodri, while in the other corner we see the MP for Swansea East, Carolyn Harris.
I am no longer au fait with how things are done in bruvverdom but as a reactionary I’m delighted to see old traditions maintained with local commissar for the trade union Unite, Andy Richards, deciding on their behalf that its members all supported Harris. Unfortunately for him, it turned out that quite a number of his members preferred Mrs Morgan. And they said so publicly, in a video supporting Mrs Morgan.
This infuriated Comrade Richards to such an extent that the revisionists were put on the slow train for Siberia suspended. But word came there from above over-ruling the local commissar, from the office of Unite supremo McCluskey, Friend of the People, Hero of the Revolution, recipient of the Order of Jeremy and countless other commendations.
And so it came to pass that the train was stopped at Severn Junction and the suspended officials escorted off to be reunited with their loved ones, and reinstated into the bruvverhood, Zils and dachas restored.
During the festivities attending their restoration to the fold (held on the sunlit uplands), a friend of the previously suspended officials said: “I’m pleased the Unite team nationally have shown leadership on this issue, which unfortunately has been so lacking in Wales”.
So there you have it. It seems that in trade unions the old ways of doing things still obtain in the more backward oblasts. Thankfully, at ‘national’ level we find a leadership more attuned to the new-fangled Glasnost.
This case has dragged on for over two years and taken its toll on Ms Lee, especially since South Wales Police told her at one stage the case was being dropped!
I don’t know about you, but thinking of the countless expenses scandals, I find it rather grotesque that an MP should accuse anyone of paying themselves too much. This could bring irony into disrepute.
CYMDEITHAS CAER LAS
I know, I know . . . you’re thinking, “Who or what is Cymdeithas Caer Las?”, as well you might, because Caer Las is one of those organisations that prefers to keep a low profile. Explained by the fact that it’s in the business of running ‘hostels’ and in other ways housing those “suffering exclusion” – code for ex-cons and others that most people don’t want living anywhere near them.
Despite being based in the centre of Swansea Caer Las has always been very busy across the mighty torrent to the west. To the extent that a few years back people started calling Llanelli ‘Little Beirut‘ due to the problems caused by undesirables turning up in certain areas of the town. The worst affected areas seemed to around the railway station and down to Seaside, an area of small terraced houses, which of course are cheap to buy.
A third sector outfit that received over three million pounds last year, the great bulk of it from the ‘Welsh’ Government, and where roughly 70% of that income went on salaries. An organisation that, to keep the funding flowing, brings in clients from over the border.
The ‘Welsh’ third sector in microcosm.
I don’t know who the poor sod who died was, but he has my sympathy. The system will now go through its motions, an investigation will be followed by a quick inquest and perhaps a pauper’s grave.
There are plenty more where he came from to keep Caer Las and countless other third sector businesses thriving.
WALES AND WEST HOUSING IN CEREDIGION
First the good news. Ceredigion planning committee refused the application by Wales and West Housing to build on the Ffynnonbedr school site in Lampeter. Given the problems ‘Welsh’ Labour’s favourite housing association has already caused in the town with its other properties it would have been perverse of the councillors to have allowed this anti-social housing scheme.
But as is so often the case, planning officers wanted to rush ahead, citing a (non-existent) local demand for one-bed flats. Over years of studying local government it’s become clear to me that too many senior officers in our local authorities are strangers to Wales and unsympathetic to Welsh priorities. This is a problem that must be remedied with the next local government reorganisation.
Though in this case the officer involved, Keith Davies, is Welsh, but seems to operate as an employee of Wales and West rather than Cyngor Ceredigion. Maybe it comes down to politics.
The result was that the council was pushed into the arms of Wales and West, who promised to replace Bodlondeb with a new development on the Plas Morolwg site. The understanding being that the new Plas Morolwg facility would provide a dementia unit to replace the one lost at Bodlondeb.
But I learn there will be no dementia wing at Plas Morolwg. The new development looks increasingly like a purely commercial venture, perhaps like the Pobl Group’s Cwm Aur retirement flats near Llanybydder, which were advertised on Right Move. (So obviously no local connection required.)
And let’s not forget that we’re talking big bucks here. A similar extra care scheme opened by Wales and West last year in Newtown, Powys received a £4m Social Housing Grant from the ‘Welsh’ Government. Though note that the caption below also tells us, “Wales and West funded the remainder with £3.5m”. Wasn’t that generous of them?
No, not really. Not when we remember that everything housing associations own today has been given to them. From the housing stock they took over from councils and other bodies to the never-ending grants; yet they behave – and expect to be treated! – as if they’re independent and self-supporting businesses!
And with housing associations building retirement homes and other facilities it reminds us that it’s not just the social housing role that they’ve usurped from local councils. But are they qualified to run care facilities? In the case of the Newtown scheme care is provided by Wales and West’s very own Castell Care and Support which comes under the umbrella of Castell Ventures.
Housing associations and other third sector bodies are increasingly taking over the running of Wales. They own property paid for from the public purse, they receive vast sums every year from the ‘Welsh’ Government, yet unlike local authorities there is no democratic accountability. We can’t even submit a Freedom of Information request because they’re exempt from FoI legislation.
But sod that, all that matters is that they’re accountable to the Labour Party and stuffed with Labour cronies.
Before ending this section let’s just return to Plas Morolwg for a minute. And talking of money, let’s remember that Wales and West got a Social Housing Grant of £1.6m to buy the site – which it already owned! Though according to council leader Ellen ap Gwynn the money is being given for “enabling works”, whatever the hell that means.
Though to judge by reactions from her and council officers when a councillor raised the issue at a cabinet meeting the £1.6m is probably supposed to be a secret.
Now that Labour’s Wales and West Housing has reneged on providing dementia care at Plas Morolwg I predict that the local Momentum crowd led by wannabe politician Dinah Mulholland will take to the streets again to attack the council for letting down vulnerable people.
UPDATE: Right on cue, to increase my worries about housing associations taking on roles for which they are not suited, an article appeared in Llais y Sais today, written by Jas Bains, chief executive of Hafod. Jas has been in Wales for almost a year, so he knows exactly what Wales needs.
Jas writes, “Our plan is to take this a step further, using this opportunity of transformational change to fully integrate housing provision into the new health and care models, based on neighbourhoods and communities”.
But where is the political or legal authority for unaccountable bodies entrusted with the provision of social housing to take over social care and health provision? Where is the expertise? Does ‘Welsh’ Labour plan to use its housing associations to retain power in a country where its moral authority is ebbing away?
WALES FOR A UNITED KINGDOM
Someone contacted me anonymously last week suggesting that Wales for a United Kingdom may be run by a couple of men who own an online gift business with an address in Brecon’s West End. I was unable to establish a firm connection, so if you have any further information please get back in touch.
As might be expected, I made a few enquiries. First off, the Twitter account – from which I’m blocked! Can you believe that? (I can only assume they’ve got me mixed up with some other Jac o’ the North.) There’s an easy way around being blocked, so I went through the timeline.
Here’s an example of what I found.
All in all, it’s rather a sad little site, almost patronising; promoting a ‘Cute little Wales’ kind of Welshness that suggests those behind it aren’t Welsh at all. It should also go without saying that those behind Wales for a United Kingdom are opposed to devolution, perhaps because they think the natives aren’t ready to run their own affairs. Such things being best left to the Great White Mother and her people.
It’s also a site to which the military – especially the RAF – seems to be very important. What is it with these BritNats; their ‘Britishness’, their patriotism, seems to be fixated on the military and the monarchy? It’s all about belting out GSTQ and then giving Johnny Foreigner a damn good kicking.
I look forward to seeing England football fans trying that behaviour in Russia this summer during the World Cup.
Do the English have nothing else to be proud of? Or do BritNats suffer from an imperial hangover? A question worth asking because there seem to be quite a few of them about, so be on your guard, and report any sightings to Jac.
UPDATE: My source came back to confirm that the person behind Wales for a United Kingdom is Adam Jon Brown of Brecon. He and his partner Raymond Michael Parkinson started Bluebellsgifts Ltd last August.
Coincidentally, Brown’s identity was confirmed by another source via Facebook who added that Adam Jon Brown might work for Kentucky Fried Chicken. He certainly had worked for the Colonel in the recent past.
It was bad enough, if predictable, that the suggestion should come from a Conservative politician, but the dire state of this nation was further exposed when we learnt that the ‘Welsh’ Government had been consulted, and either agreed that it was a splendid idea or just went along with it.
Predictably, a BritNat twat writing for an English newspaper waded in to the hitherto internal debate. The twat in question being Rod Liddle of the Sunday Times. Complaints were made to IPSO, the so-called ‘press watchdog’, but because we Welsh don’t kill people, plant bombs, or riot, it was rejected.
Perhaps emboldened by the current ‘Let’s put the buggers in their place’ campaign, that began its recent cycle with the Flint Ring of Steel, some silly sod then suggested that what Wales really needs is not jobs, or a decent health service, or a better transport infrastructure, but a royal palace. (C’mon, be honest, after a few jars you’ve often thought the same thing.)
The ‘Welsh’ media duly reported it in the forensic manner we have come to expect, “Wales would benefit by creating a royal palace” reads the headline in the article by Martin Shipton, focusing on the vague suggestion that such a palace might generate tourism income, and the great man himself listed the benefits with bullet points.
The real reason, and the true thinking behind it, was blatantly political, and equally blatantly BritNat.
We have to push on to the halfway point to read: “In an era when the UK appears to be becoming increasingly fragmented, it (the proposed palace) could act as a focus by binding the Welsh nation into the union with the other nations in the British Isles”.
Stripped of all the bollocks about economic benefits, and international recognition, this is just another piece of very unsubtle BritNat poking, to see if we’re still awake, and reacting. Let’s confirm that we’re awake and alert by telling anyone supporting this idea to fuck right off.
THE 2017 ELECTION IN GOWER
For those unfamiliar with the locale, Gower is the third Swansea constituency, taking in Mumbles, the peninsula that gives the constituency its name, and then running north to the former industrial towns on the city’s western and northern peripheries such as Gowerton and Gorseinon.
Until the May 2015 general election Gower had always returned a Labour MP, but then the unthinkable happened, Port Eynon-born former Met police officer, Swansea councillor and then AM, Byron Davies won the seat by just 27 votes. This was not well received by the bruvvers, and plans were hatched to regain the seat, by hook or by crook.
The campaign in Gower was febrile, with Labour shipping canvassers in from England to its number one target seat. We also saw the darker side of Labour behaviour with an orchestrated and coordinated campaign of lies against the sitting MP, even death threats. Now those responsible are being identified.
His Linkedin profile tells us that he’s a ‘freelance filmmaker’ (sic), while also being a youth and community worker at the Red Cafe in Mumbles, and he’s also involved with the Down to Earth project. To judge from the photographs provided, these enterprises don’t do much for the indigenous population. Typical third sector.
Now I don’t wish to be unkind, but one thing that pisses me off with socialists, especially those with pretensions to intellectual status, is their air of moral and intellectual superiority. I’m talking now about the looking-down-the-nose attitude which dismisses anyone who disagrees with them as both stupid and evil.
This imagined superiority, coupled with delusions of being on some kind of crusade (a word used surprisingly often by Labour politicians), convinces many of those I’m describing that any tactics are justifiable.
But when these secular sentiments of superiority are intermingled with religious fervour in the service of Labour we reach unprecedented heights of self-righteous certainty, and this is where we find the likes of Dan Evans.
But he was not alone. Byron Davies says he has a list of six people guilty of slandering him, and even spreading unfounded rumours about his wife.
I’m told that a centre for this dirty campaign was Penclawdd rugby club. Some might think this an unlikely setting for such skulduggery, but Tonia Antoniazzi was an international rugby player. I’m also told that in the clubhouse may be found some of the most vicious and vindictive Labour types, one guy in particular.
But what should happen now?
As Theresa May said in parliament yesterday, Byron Davies lost his seat due to a social media campaign of lies waged against him by Labour Party supporters. More specifically, supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. In other words, the same evil schemers of Momentum we met earlier in Ceredigion.
I believe that Tonia Antoniazzi should stand down and there should be a by-election in Gower. But she won’t do that. A woman who couldn’t get elected onto her local town council a few years back, and only became an MP last year thanks to the most evil campaign seen in Wales for many years, will not risk losing her cushy number with a fair election.
And what of Dan Evans? Given that he does a lot of work for the Labour Party will they tell him there’ll be no work in future? And on the assumption he’s also a member, will he be expelled from the party?
Then there’s the question of whether the campaign was organised on a purely local level by people like Dan Evans or whether it was run from higher up the Labour food chain. For as I’ve said, this was Labour’s number one target seat in 2017, not just in Wales, but across the island.
Will the Labour Party now investigate whether any other of its members and supporters was involved in the campaign against Byron Davies? If it wasn’t done by the Labour Party (as we like to think of it), then there must be a very good chance of it having been organised within the ranks of Momentum.
Either way it is becoming clearer by the day that despite the self-delusional images of crusades, its members’ laughable belief in moral and intellectual superiority, the Labour Party is morally bankrupt and intellectually corrupt.
The Labour Party today represents nothing but itself. It clings to power for no better reason than that power provides a whole structure of patronage through which it can control Welsh public life and then use that control to hang on to power.
And because this is how Labour operates the party attracts people seeking personal advancement, who could just as easily join Zanu-PF if that lot was running Wales. When you have these in the same party as the intellectually and morally pretentious then you have a Hyde and Hyde party.
Because just like some monster from a horror movie ‘Welsh’ Labour corrupts everything it comes into contact with. So there must be no more compromises or co-operation; when confronted with evil like this there can only be one response. The Labour Party must be destroyed.
‘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.
Bad enough, but by following links and making connections, it becomes clear how these hippy settlements link with other colonial operations in ripping off the Welsh public purse and arrogantly claiming to have the answers to ‘problems’ the inhabitants of the Welsh countryside didn’t realise existed.
Let’s stick with Lammas for a minute. Which we see here described as an “off-grid ecovillage”.
Something repeated on the Lammas website, where we read: “Electrical power is generated from a series of micro photovoltaic installations along with a 27kW hydro generator. Heating power is supplied from timber (either waste timber from our woodland management or from short-rotation-coppice biomass plantations). Domestic water comes from a private spring and other water needs are predominantly met from harvesting rainwater.”
So it’s off-grid in terms of its electrical supply, and self-sufficient in water, apparently. Though I’m a little confused by the wording, which reads, “Domestic water comes from a private spring and other water needs are predominantly met from harvesting rainwater.” ‘Predominantly’ is not exclusively, and suggests the spring and harvested rainwater are supplemented in some way.
Is water toted from a nearby stream or is there a mains water supply to Lammas?
Worth asking because reports on the recent fire mention a ‘junction box’. Again, this could be explained by the solar, hydro or biomass power, but it also raises the prospect of a mains electricity supply.
Note that the account I’ve linked to in the Telegraph quotes Jasmine Dale, who lived in the house, saying, ” . . . we know the feeling, our first home burnt down . . . “. We also read, ” . . . there have been three similar incidents in Pembrokeshire in the last year.” Bloody hell!
What do these fires have in common, could it be something to do with the way certain buildings are constructed? I ask because someone drew my attention to a Facebook exchange on the subject of the Lammas fire.
Hoppi Wimbush is the wife of Paul, and with her husband is one of the founders of Lammas/Tir y Gafel. What she has to say is very interesting. “The corridors acted like a chimney” suggests that there were no internal doors, certainly no fire doors. All accounts I’ve read suggest that the fire took hold very quickly and burned fiercely. So, again, what might have caused that?
The answer may come, unintentionally, from Rachel Shiamh, who says in the Facebook conversation, “As we all know, straw bale buildings are not a high fire risk . . . “. Now I know that we are dealing here with people who prefer an alternative lifestyle, but this woman also demands an alternative reality, because straw bales are inherently flammable, and to pretend otherwise is insane!
UPDATE 09.01.2018: Just days after the Lammas fire the English Planning Inspectorate overruled Pembrokeshire county council to give planning permission to another ‘low impact smallholding’ in the county. Significantly, the inspector used both pieces of legislation I mentioned above to justify her decision.
UPDATE 16.01.2018: If you’re tempted to visit Lammas – for God’s sake don’t eat there!
You’ll have read that Rachel Shiamh thanks David Thorpe, so who might he be? To begin with, we see that he’s another denizen of Alternative Reality who also believes that strawbale buildings are just fine.
In the immediate future, this recent tweet suggests that someone plans an ecovillage, another Lammas, in the Tywi valley.
Regular readers may be struck by the venue for this meeting last Sunday about a new ecovillage, for it’s at the former YMCA building in Llandovery run by Jill Tatman, which has been told by the YMCA organisation to stop using the YMCA label. I wrote about it a couple of months back, scroll down to the section Llandovery YMCA.
So where might this new ecovillage be located?
I suspect that it’s at Coed Tal-y-Lan aka Red Pig Farm. And if that sounds familiar then it’s because I also wrote about the place and those involved back in September 2016, in The Green Smokescreen, which I urge you to read, in order to understand the kind of people we’re dealing with. Not just the shyster-hippies but the politicians, in Labour and Plaid Cymru, who back them.
The Black Mountain Food Hub had a Twitter account that seemed to think Wales is in England. Quaint!
As you might expect, I went to the Land Registry website for the details on Red Pig Farm or Coed Tal-y-Lan, but what came up for that post code was ‘Pentre Bach’, so I took a chance and bought it.
The title document then confuses the issue a little further by giving the name of the property as Tan-Y-Lan Woodlands, which is obviously a part-Anglicisation of Coed Tan-y-Lan, and is owned by Christopher John Cooper of Ammanford. And although I was able to download the title document from the Land Registry website, there was no outline plan to accompany it, as is normally the case.
So who is Christopher John Cooper? And is Red Pig Farm on his property, perhaps formerly known as Pentre Bach? If Red Pig Farm is not on the land owned by Cooper then why isn’t it registered separately with the Land Registry?
The picture is further complicated by 192.com which suggests that also based at Red Pig Farm are S E & E O Williams, who appear to be genuine Welsh farmers.
In a final attempt to make some sense of what the place is called and who might own it, I went to the Companies House entry for Red Pig Farm Ltd . . . though the company changed its name in December to Coed Talylan Ltd. The company had been known as Red Pig Farm Ltd since June 2016, before which it was Agroecology Land Initiative Ltd.
There have also been a few changes of address since Incorporation in February 2015, with the first registered address being in Stroud, Gloucestershire. In June 2015 the address changed to Werndolau Farm, Golden Grove, Carmarthen SA32 8NE (which seems to be linked to Red Pig Farm via the Black Mountain Food Hub). In May 2016 the address was settled as Red Pig Farm.
So who owns what and how are they connected? And how many different names are there for this property? Answers on a postcard, please . . .
MORE ALTERNATIVE REALITY
Ecovillages and all the other elements of this strategy are being encouraged, so we are told by the ‘Welsh’ Government and those involved, to do something about global warming, and who can argue with that? So let’s give it some thought.
Let’s focus on 76 acres of unused land in north Pembrokeshire, land that has no carbon footprint. Then a bunch of people move in from England. They clear that land, cut down trees, burn wood to create smoke, produce human and animal waste including methane, and create a substantial carbon footprint where there was none before.
Clearly, Lammas and other communities, like the one planned for Red Pig Farm, because they develop unused land and are populated exclusively by incomers, increase Wales’ carbon footprint. Which means that the fundamental premiss of the whole strategy is – as we environmentalists are wont to say after a glass or five of Malbec – utter bollocks.
The counter-argument might be that this encouraged degradation is a price worth paying for the educational role played by places like Lammas in helping Wales become more environmentally friendly. But there is little if any interaction with the indigenous population to facilitate an educational role.
We know this because the only people who attend the courses run by Lammas, or volunteer to work on these ecovillages and similar schemes, are people just like those running them – members of the English middle class hoping to find their own bit of land in Wales and move in . . . to build more fire-traps like those at Lammas.
By moving to Wales those involved with Lammas, Red Pig Farm and similar ventures increase Wales’ carbon footprint but of course they reduce England’s; so is our ‘Welsh’ Government legislating to make England a greener and pleasanter land by attracting these people to Wales?
In the year just past, and indeed over many years, people have accused me of being negative, and challenging me to come up with solutions rather than just banging on about how awful the situation is in Wales.
Well, to begin with, I defy anyone to look around Wales today and be positive. Our country is in one hell of a mess. The only people I can think of who might try to put a gloss on the situation are apologists for ‘Welsh’ Labour down in Cardiff docks and apologists for the Tory regime in Westminster.
Not forgetting of course those parasites who see Welsh deprivation as an opportunity for them to milk the public purse in order to enrich and promote themselves by building up third sector businesses. More on them later.
And with so many politicians, civil servants and others claiming to be dedicated to making things better in Wales why look to poor old Jac to come up with the answers?
I have even been accused of nihilism! For those unsure what I’m talking about, nihilism is the belief that all existing political and social structures must be destroyed in order to build something better. At its most extreme it can be the belief that existence itself is pointless. A more moderate form might be extreme cynicism or scepticism, to which I would plead guilty
In 19th century Russia Nihilism took a political form, and on this blog I have confessed a sneaking regard for Sergey Gennadiyevich Nechayev but I myself have never preached nihilism. What I have argued is that others are taking us in a direction that might engender nihilistic thoughts and if so then we should be ready to exploit the opportunities this will offer.
By way of example, if Brexit leads to the disaster many are predicting, and we are reduced to eating our domestic pets then, rather than bemoaning our luck and damning those who voted for Brexit, those of us who prioritise the interests of Wales should be ready to view the demise of Fido and Tiddles as opportunities rather than tragedies.
Of course a decline in living standards resulting from Brexit will cause our two BritLeft parties to attack the Tories in a UK-focused debate, in which they will argue that they’re ‘doing it for Wales’.
Bollocks! they’ll just be engaging in a bit of Tory-bashing. What Welsh nationalists should do is exploit the confusion to argue that this latest debacle just reminds us that the Union and devolution do not serve Wales, therefore independence is the only sensible option.
That is what I have said, and what I believe; and while it argues for escaping the British system it does not advocate destroying it, therefore I don’t regard anything I’ve written as being nihilistic. It is nothing more or less than being prepared to take advantage of a dire situation that might arise.
A QUICK COMPARISON BETWEEN MONACO AND WALES
Whimsical? Have I been overdoing it on the Argie red? Possibly, but indulge me all the same.
One guaranteed objection will be that Monaco is not a ‘real country’, Well, it’s a principality, and hasn’t Lord Elis Thomas just reminded us that Wales too is a principality. But Monaco is a member of the UN, with many other powers and representations we associate with ‘real countries’, so while it may not have a national rugby team Monaco is in many ways much more of a country than Wales.
Here’s a helpful table I’ve drawn up to explain some of the differences.
With eighty times Monaco’s population Wales’ Gross Domestic Product is just ten times that of Monaco. It will be argued that this too is not a valid comparison because Monaco is the playground of millionaires, a place of extravagant wealth and tax-avoiders, and as such a hell on earth to be reviled by those preferring to cherish and exploit poverty. (And God knows we have too many of those in Wales!)
And yet, being the contrarian I am, I shall make a few comparisons.
Over the years I have pointed out the insanity of encouraging elderly English people to move to Wales because of the obvious damage this influx causes to our NHS and associated services, and yet, we see that the percentage of the population over the age of 65 is much higher in Monaco than in Wales, but Monaco is infinitely more prosperous than Wales. So why is this?
Now we encounter two major differences between Wales and Monaco. First, I would bet my house that the elderly in Monaco are healthier than the elderly in Wales, for no better reason than rich people are always healthier than poor people. (And of course the climate also helps.)
Second, as this article from Pacific Prime tells us, “Foreign nationals immigrating to Monaco without employment must have full private health insurance. Proof of such cover will be needed to be granted a residency permit by the Monegasque authorities”. Monaco is not alone is demanding private health cover for elderly and sick people wanting to settle.
Rich people create jobs. Tens of thousands of people commute every day from France and Italy to jobs in Monaco. That’s in addition to the jobs done by native Monegasques (whose language is now being taught in schools).
Far from being a capitalist hell Monaco is a small principality made up of the comfortably off, the wealthy and the super-rich.
Tourism is another area in which it’s worth making a comparison. Monaco relies to a greater extent on tourism than Wales, but whereas in Monaco it’s Russian oligarchs or Saudi princes dropping a few million at roulette before roaring off in gold-plated Lambos, here it’s endless rows of ugly caravans stuffed with people determined to spend as little as possible in ‘Woiles’ before heading back to Brum in the people carrier.
But the real difference, which goes a long way to explaining why one is rich and the other is poor, is the mentality prevailing among those running these vastly different principalities.
As we’ve seen, Monaco is welcoming, as long as you can afford the most expensive real estate on earth – where a one-bed apartment sells for $8.1m (but with much of the cheaper housing reserved for locals) – and as long as you also have private health care. Otherwise, it’s a case of, ‘Sling yer hook, matey!’ (or however that may be rendered in French or Monegasque).
By comparison, Wales is a poor country, with many of our own problems contributing to that poverty, and yet the ‘Welsh’ Government through its third sector is making Wales poorer by importing more of the problems that impoverish us.
Monaco attracts millionaires who make the place richer while Wales scours England for deadbeats to make us poorer.
The real worry is that there are too many who prefer to see Wales poor.
SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR OUR POLITICIANS FOR 2018 AND BEYOND
First, realise that poverty is not a virtue to be celebrated and exploited. Poverty is a national insult to be done away with, and the surest way of doing that is by putting Welsh interests first and building a real economy.
Second, understand that a real economy is not built on a corrupt and overblown third sector, or a ‘tourism industry’ that is just a low skill, low pay, low value activity, overseen by a whoremonger ‘government’ selling us and our homeland off in some demeaning Dutch auction.
Wales needs a diversified and indigenous economy built on twenty-first century industries, as the response below to a recent tweet of mine tells us. (STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.) This is the only remedy to the poverty and deprivation we see in so many parts of our homeland.
While that should be the medium-term ambition, there are still measures that Carwyn (if he survives) and his assemblage of buffoons could be implementing in the short term.
There’s an old saying to encourage young entrepreneurs, ‘Nobody ever got rich working for somebody else’. The same applies to countries. So instead of managing Wales on behalf of England, why doesn’t the ‘Welsh’ Government try something different – like governing Wales for the benefit of us Welsh?
1/ Thousands of cost-free jobs could be guaranteed by introducing local recruitment legislation. By which I mean insisting that local people fill the vacancies in their areas. At present, all manner of organisations import staff from outside Wales. This costs our people jobs, therefore it must end.
The excuse often used to justify this practice is that it’s ‘difficult to find local people with the training or expertise needed’. So let’s identify these skills shortages and give local people the skills needed. (Unless of course some other agenda is being served by such practices.)
2/ Next, why don’t we take the countless millions of pounds currently wasted on the third sector, which spends that money importing criminals, drug addicts, problem families, the homeless and others from England, and use that money to encourage indigenous SMEs.
3/ Our shambolic social housing system squanders tens of millions every year on housing that Wales doesn’t need because housing associations operate in an Englandandwales framework and are linked into chains that include probation companies and others. Introduce a five-year residency (in Wales) qualification for social housing and use the money saved on infrastructure projects.
4/ Instead of surrendering the northern part of our country to the Mersey Dee Alliance why not have a northern city region based on Wrecsam. Improve communications to the town and thereby ensure that more Welsh money stays in Wales.
5/ Why not a national planning presumption against properties that target retirees from England? Those being built by housing associations, with public money, could be stopped almost immediately.
The money saved here, and in our NHS, could be used to better educate our kids – as Ireland and other countries have done – because you can’t build a twenty-first century economy with a twentieth-century education system.
6/ Buy a tidy map and realise that Wales extends beyond Cardiff.
All the above ideas could be implemented quite easily and would be of immense benefit to Wales without disadvantaging or discriminating against anyone now living here. But there are too many who want to keep Wales poor.
These include those who can capitalise electorally on our poverty and deprivation (by blaming someone else), and those who can use them to build up third sector bodies providing publicly-funded jobs for them and their cronies.
Selfish and venal though they may be, those motivations are easy to understand because of that. More worrying are those – and Plaid Cymru seems to have rather too many of them – who wallow sentimentally in poverty as if it was part of our heritage. For others it brings some kind of spiritual uplift, as if poverty is the rock-strewn path to the moral high ground. (First left after the sunlit uplands of socialism.)
(Of course, when I say ‘wallow’, you have to understand that it’s always others who actually do the wallowing.)
So here’s a message for our people: Socialism is a doctrine that thrives on human misery, exploitation, oppression . . . but realises it’s better to exploit these ills than remedy them. Nowhere exemplifies this better than Wales, so wise up and stop voting for those with vested interests in keeping Wales poor.
I apologise for this post being a bit long, over 3,000 words; but it’s in four separate and distinct parts, plus a Conclusion. So you can enjoy it one section at a time.
THE ‘BEDSIT BARON’ OF PEMBROKE DOCK
Pembroke Dock is one of those towns that most people drive past or don’t visit. I suppose if Pembroke, a mile or two inland, had grown as some had hoped, then the Dock might have played Piraeus to Pembroke’s Athens, but fate decreed otherwise.
Even so, Pembroke Dock does make the news, but usually for the wrong reasons. For it is a town in decline, having more in common with Valleys communities than with other Pembrokeshire settlements like Narberth or St David’s.
This decline should have been evident to anyone who read my recent piece Publicly-funded Poverty (under the section heading, ‘The Publicly-funded Private Sector’), where I discussed the fate of the old Coronation School.
You won’t be surprised to learn that this building made the news again last week, as the report below from the Pembrokeshire Herald tells us.
It would be bad enough if this report about properties owned by that ‘Baron of the Bedsits’, Cathal McCosker, was simply reporting dumped garbage attracting rats, but we have to remember that McCosker received hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money to ‘renovate’ these properties. And he’s received hundreds of thousands more in housing benefit.
Money that many people want to see accounted for. All the while the ‘Welsh’ Government does nothing, in order to protect its European funding office (WEFO) from the scrutiny that would expose it as one of those around whom Mr McCosker danced rings, unless of course there was complicity.
Not only does McCosker make a fortune from renting properties that were, basically, given to him (with money on top), he further increases his income from those properties by acting as his own letting agent through his company e-Lettings.
That we know so much about McCosker and the manifest ‘failings’ at both county and national level is due in no small part to two blogging councillors; Jacob Williams and Mike Stoddart, the latter blogging as ‘Old Grumpy‘.
In a recent post, ‘Unknown quantities’, Stoddart dealt with data and statistics telling us that almost everyone housed by Pembrokeshire council was ‘local’. Though I’m not sure if the table below applies only to council lettings or also to those of housing associations.
Given the numbers I would guess the figures represent the ‘shared register’.
Either way, the table gives us an insight into the connection between the likes of Cathal McCosker and social housing providers (because of course the figures for ‘no local connection’ are nonsense). This link is found across Wales with private landlords great and small enjoying close working relationships with council housing departments and housing associations.
This is how it works, and how it benefits everyone . . . except of course, you and me.
If a tenant can stick it out in some grotty flat or bedsit, with drunks,paedophiles, thugs, people threatening to jump out of windows, and gets on nodding terms with the local rodent population, then after a year – and perhaps the wave of a wand – he or she is transmogrified into a ‘local’, and because they are locals in unsuitable accommodation they simultaneously soar to the top of the list for nice new social housing.
This system ensures a steady supply of tenants from outside of Wales for unscrupulous private landlords like Cathal McCosker. Some will find their own way but most are directed to places like Coronation School through many private landlords having a relationship with social services departments, probation companies and other agencies in England.
This system also guarantees a steady supply of tenants for housing associations and councils (though few councils have social housing responsibilities any longer). This is important, because with the ever-present threat of being gobbled up by a predator, or the risk of public funding being cut, housing associations like to be seen to be busy, and if this can be achieved by housing the former tenants of Cathal McCosker and hundreds like him, then so be it.
Just think about that for a minute. Or better still, think what the response might be if you tried to explain this system to someone who doesn’t know Wales.
‘So let me get this straight: you pay private landlords huge sums to bring in problem tenants from England, people that you know in advance will cost you more money by being a burden on your police forces, your health service and other facilities; then you spend yet more money buying or building social housing for these people – are you insane! Do you have money to burn?’
The only people who speak in defence of this system are those who prosper from it and those who view social housing as another tool to be used in colonising and Anglicising Wales.
A five-year residency qualification for social housing must be introduced.
We also need legislation to ensure that some scrubber from Wolverhampton who’s made herself and her kids homeless does not become a priority case for Welsh social housing, as happens now . . . all too often.
Both measures would go a long way to restoring peace to our communities and also save Wales a lot of money.
Another subject I’ve covered more than once is Llandovery YMCA, or whatever it intends calling itself now that the YMCA has told it to stop using the label.
Until quite recently there was an organisation known as YMCA Wales run, it would appear, by a woman from Northern Ireland called Mo Sykes. In 2012 or 2013 (perhaps earlier) YMCA Wales began dealing with an English charity for the homeless known as Green Pastures, run by ‘Pastor’ Pete Cunningham.
This may have been an attempt to boost the flagging finances of YMCA Wales, for Mo Sykes is said to have been ruthless in screwing money out of local YMCA operations that often left them without funds. Whatever the money was used for it didn’t save YMCA Wales from administration in 2014, after which it was taken over by YMCA England, with the major asset, the Newgale Outdoor Education Centre in Pembrokeshire, being sold in 2015 for £507,000.
Around the same time it was being reported that Mo Sykes had left in rather a hurry. Which probably explains why her publicly available Linkedin profile goes back no further than 2014.
During her time at the helm of YMCA Wales (or maybe down in the bilges scuppering the ship) Mo Sykes formed a relationship with another recent arrival with a nose for easy money, a certain Gill Tatman of Llandovery YMCA.
More information on Gill Tatman and those grouped around her can be found in videos someone with a sense of humour saw fit to upload onto YouTube. You’ll find them in the posts I’ve linked to above.
By some route Tatman had come into possession of Llandovery YMCA, which had chugged along for years but was now about to take off as a ‘hub’, open to all manner of groups, from the local marrow growers (third Wednesday of every month) to the Teifi Valley branch of the Taliban (every Friday after prayers and the ritual stoning of the smokers outside the Kings Head on the way from the mosque).
Whatever function it may have purported to serve Llandovery YMCA’s real purpose was to provide a salary and a pension for Jill Tatman, and a place where her cronies could delude themselves they were doing something useful; you know, ‘contributing’.
But things started to go wrong last year, and led the National (Englandandwales) Association of YMCAs to remove Llandovery from its list of registered affiliates. This may or may not have been linked to Tatman’s husband being accused of having an unhealthy interest in children.
So it may have been coincidence that around the same time Carmarthenshire County Council removed the building from its list of approved youth clubs. As one former trustee was told, the council is “not supporting any provision within the old YMCA premises”.
And yet . . . Jill Tatman is still allowed to have children on the premises. It seems there’s a loophole she exploits by running an after school club open only two hours a day.
There are always loopholes, as Mr McCosker can testify, but what really surprised me was that Llandovery YMCA’s after school club is approved and advertised by an organisation called Clybiau Plant Cymru (Kids’ Clubs).
Seeing as Tatman’s little empire has been disowned by the YMCA, blacklisted by Carmarthenshire Council, shunned by all except the most desperate local parents, why is the ‘Welsh’ Government giving it a seal of approval through Clybiau Plant Cymru?
UPDATE 02.12.2016: I’m grateful to a source for directing me to this. The photo used is old, the kids are now adults, and they go nowhere near the ‘YMCA’. For those wondering what it’s all about, this is a scheme for Co-op customers to donate money to a favourite local charity (the wife and I give to our village hall).
For a few years recently Swansea council had a bad dose of the Trots, in the form of Anglo-Austrian duo Bob and Uta Clay. Both now departed to pastures new, and unknown. Though given his friendship with Comrade Corbyn it was assumed by many that they were going to work for the great man.
For those seeking more information on this fascinating duo who washed up in Swansea on one tide and were gone with the next, I suggest you type ‘Bob Clay’ into the search box, whereupon you will be presented with a cornucopia of reports of Swansea Labour Party intrigue and dirty doings.
Now I hear from the city of my dreams that in the post-Clay era the Trotskyite banner has been taken up by Louise Gibbard, a Dunvant councillor. It has been unkindly suggested that not only does Gibbard share the politics of the departed Uta but also her hairdresser. (What a cad you are!)
It is further rumoured that the Trots – i.e. Momentum – are building a power base through community councils, school governors’ boards, union branches and anything else they can use ahead of an assault on reactionary and bourgeois elements within the party.
A number of MPs, AMs and councillors in the Swansea area are said to be targeted, with pride of place on Gibbard’s saddle reserved for the head of Swansea West MP Geraint Davies.
The Clays were, if only briefly, councillors for the Llansamlet ward on the east side of the river, across from Morriston, not that they knew anything about the area, its history, or its people. One of those who replaced them in Llansamlet in the May elections was Mo Sykes. Yes, the same Mo Sykes we encountered in Llandovery! Small world, innit!
But never mind her ignorance of the area, all that matters is keeping Labour in power.
Never forget that.
Back in March 2015 the ‘Welsh’ Government passed one of its regular ‘Aren’t we wonderful’ pieces of legislation designed to please Guardian readers and assorted lobbies on the left, while doing little or nothing for Wales.
In the period leading up to the vote in the Cynulliad there were persistent rumours of pressure being applied by Labour Party loyalists on women’s groups that wanted changes to the legislation. It’s covered fairly well in this WalesOnline report.
An ad hoc grouping central to the allegations was the Wales Violence Against Women Action Group, made up of various charities and third sector bodies. Scroll down to the foot of the page I’ve linked to and you’ll see the organisations belonging to WVAWAG.
Among them is, top left, Bawso (formerly, Black Association of Women Step Out). In the accounts for the year covering the run-up to the vote in the Assembly Bawso received close on £1.5m from the ‘Welsh’ Government, with further amounts from various Labour-controlled local authorities taking the figure close to two million pounds.
Total donations – including public funding – came to £2,765,954. Rental income was £429,710, with room hire and bank interest taking us up to a total income for the year of £3,211,182. As is always the case in the third sector, salaries and pensions accounted for over two-thirds of that with £2,113,106
I think not. In Rose Mutale Nyoni-Merrill OBE (yes, inevitably, she has received an ‘honour’) we have a third sector operator of the first order. She came to Wales and soon realised that there was a quick way to easy money – join the Labour Party, form some third sector organisations Wales doesn’t need, and then just keep applying for public funding.
Having sold her soul to the Labour Party she was their creature, to do the party’s bidding. This meant being elevated to posts for which she might not have been qualified or suited, but that didn’t matter, for she wasn’t given these posts to serve the public interest but to serve the Labour Party. A role we know she has fulfilled on many occasions.
The report I’ve linked to above about the Community Health Councils is dated November 26. The following day Mutale Nyoni-Merrill resigned from Welsh Women’s Aid. Or was she pushed? Is she finally becoming too much of an embarrassment?
I think that from Labour’s perspective she is now damaged goods. It will be interesting to see which pasture is found for her retirement.
The irony will not be lost on readers that here we have a woman who has – for public consumption – been a staunch campaigner against bullying; and yet, that’s exactly what she is, a bully! Which is why she fits so perfectly into the culture of ‘Welsh’ Labour.
I recall being told about her back in 2012 by an employee, of how public funds given to Bawso were being spent on private purchases; and how husband, Travers, with no connection to Bawso, would avail himself of that outfit’s publicly-funded equipment and facilities for his own business.
There were even more serious allegations, and names, that I had better not mention . . . yet.
Wales is corrupt, we know that, and the source of the corruption is almost always the local branch of the UK Labour Party.
And it’s not just us that see it. Knowledge of the system has spread well beyond our borders. Just look at those I’ve dealt with here, all of them – McCosker, Tatman, Sykes, Mutale Nyoni, Travers Merrill – came to Wales because they heard there was easy money to be made.
Another example is provided by Llamau (currently receiving a splurge of free publicity in Llais y Sais). From 1999, once it was realised that a pliable and profligate ‘Welsh’ Labour government was in place, third sector shysters flocked to Wales, and among the first were those who took over the obscure John Rowley Trust in Barry and turned it into Llamau.
Llamau now has an annual income of more than ten million pounds, and of course, most of that goes on salaries.
Where it has little political support Labour exercises influence through other agencies reliant on it for funding: higher education establishments, third sector bodies, housing associations (Wales & West being the most blatant), while in Plaid Cymru’s Gwynedd heartland Labour works through bodies such as the Citizens Advice Bureau and funding agency Mantell Gwynedd.
And all done, not for the benefit of Wales, or local communities, but to extend and entrench the power of the Labour Party.
The Wales Council for Voluntary Action – which describes itself as the “portal” to the third sector – serves as a government department in all but name, but it belongs to a political party not the state, and is answerable – as we have seen with Mutale Nyoni-Merrill – to none but that party.
This is how a one-party state operates. And like all dictatorships the economy suffers.
Wales is now burdened with a class of parasites that can influence political decision-making. This means that the third sector dreams up an endless stream of ‘schemes’, ‘projects’ and ‘initiatives’, plus new organisations, that have only one purpose – to feather-bed useless fuckers we wouldn’t miss if they were all abducted tomorrow by aliens.
To keep this parasitical class in the style to which it has become accustomed so that it may serve the political interests of the Labour Party means draining the Welsh public purse.
Which results in them getting richer while Wales gets poorer. This presents another irony, for these bastards, with their countless competing and duplicating organisations are supposed to be alleviating poverty, but they are in fact making Wales poorer!
I leave you with this thought: A more prosperous Wales is possible, but not with an overblown third sector beholden to a political party that relies on poverty and deprivation for its political support.
In my previous post, Anti-Welsh Housing Associations, I told you about Wales & West Housing’s irresponsible behaviour in Lampeter, part of a more widespread problem of housing associations chasing the money by housing criminals, which is much more lucrative than putting roofs over the heads of locals.
Of course they argue that there’s a dreadful shortage of accommodation for ‘vulnerable’ people, and of course they’re right – England doesn’t have enough accommodation. Which is why Wales, through its housing associations and other third sector bodies, is currently taking in so many problems.
And yet, while housing associations and others receive premium payments from whoever supplied their new tenants, plus housing benefit and other goodies, there is an obvious downside.
I’m referring to the effect on formerly peaceful communities caused by the arrival of undesirables. But there’s also the extra work for the police and associated agencies. Though perhaps the biggest burden falls on the NHS and associated services, for most of those being moved to Wales by the route described will have ‘issues’ needing expensive treatment.
So while taking on these problems is good business for housing associations and others, the wider implications, and costs, for the country as a whole, more than outweigh the financial benefits accruing to the landlords. Which makes this behaviour selfish, short-sighted and socially irresponsible.
It can fairly be described as anti-social housing.
And of course it raises the question of why the ‘Welsh’ Government allows these bodies, all of which are in receipt of public funding, to behave in this manner.
But the problem isn’t confined to housing associations.
I have written many times about the overlapping, interweaving and competing homelessness organisations. I thought I knew most of them but someone just brought a new one to my attention. It’s called Emmaus UK and the business model centres on charity shops and workshops for the homeless.
Which means that the Emmaus model should be self-financing. Which is what Emmaus claims.
Its Welsh presence – at the moment, anyway – seems limited to Bridgend, where it appears to have started in 2011. The screen capture below is taken from the Charity Commission website, and it tells us that in 5 years the income has rocketed from £53,728 to £1,570,327. (Private companies would love to see growth like that!)
But why does a “self-supporting” organisation require any public funding? Especially as we can see it’s not needed, for despite having an income of £1,570,237 it only spent £886,832, which leaves a profit balance of £683,405.
Does Wales have no better use for that £500,000?
Apart from the Emmaus presence in Bridgend the Charity Commission website offers dozens of options for Emmaus operations in every corner of England. Curious to see how much funding these English operations get I checked out a few.
I looked at Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol and Tyneside, four major English cities/conurbations, where the problems of homelessness must be far greater than in Bridgend and Porthcawl. What I found surprised me. Emmaus in these areas operates with a third or less of the annual income of Emmaus in Bridgend – and there’s no public funding at all!
Moving north of the border, the income for Emmaus in Glasgow, where the charity has two shops, a workshop and a warehouse, was only £572,264 in 2016. So why does the Bridgend operation get so much money?
Another telling fact is that Emmaus spends twice as much per ‘companion’ in Bridgend as it does in England. Is Emmaus in Bridgend providing luxury accommodation? Or paying £25 an hour? Is the Welsh operation just inefficient? Or is public money so easy to come by in Wales that it’s being squandered?
I began this section by saying that Emmaus was new to me, despite being familiar with many organisations claiming to be helping the homeless in Wales. As I don’t know how many there are I have submitted a FoI to the ‘Welsh’ Government. They must know how many homelessness organisations they’re funding . . . surely?
P.S. I know there are different criteria for assessing homelessness, and those ‘threatened with homelessness’, though I don’t like that second category because – rather like ‘jobs secured’ (as opposed to ‘jobs created’) – it’s open to misuse. Even so, I went the StatsWales website and checked the figures for rough sleepers.
You’ll see that the most recent figure for Bridgend tells us that the estimated number (right hand column) of rough sleepers is 10, with nary a single emergency bed. Whereas in Ceredigion there are no less than 30 emergency beds for an estimated 6 rough sleepers.
I suggest both figures tell us a lot about what really goes on in the ‘Welsh’ homelessness racket.
UPDATE 13.11.2017 – PARTNERSHIP?
It’s become clear to me over the years that there is some kind of co-operation between the ‘Welsh’ Government – or rather, the civil servants who operate in its name – and the various Lottery funds. Emmaus South Wales provides another example.
If we go to the Companies House entry we find under the ‘Charges’ tab two listings, both concern ‘Land and buildings at Nant Lais, Heol y Nant, Bridgend’. I should explain that Charges usually means mortgages, loans, or other forms of indebtedness. If you see too many marked ‘Outstanding’ it can be a cause for concern.
On the Emmaus entry we find one charge with the number 0718 8459 0001 for a mortgage entered into between The Welsh Ministers, as the ‘Mortgagee’ and Emmaus South Wales as the ‘Mortgagor’. This agreement is dated 7 August 2015.
The other Charge, number 0718 8459 0002, is between Emmaus, the ‘Grant Holder’ and the Big Lottery Fund as ‘The Fund’. This is not a mortgage but a grant of £425,000. (See below.) So why is it treated as something other than a straight gift? Because it comes with certain conditions; for example, if Emmaus turns the building into a massage parlour, or flogs it off to some Russians looking for indoor growing facilities, then the grant is forfeit. This agreement is also dated 7 August 2015.
In a sense, they complement or cancel each other.
Here’s a scenario. The ‘Welsh’ Government wants to give this property to Emmaus but fears some malcontent finding out and kicking up a fuss, so they contact the Big Lottery Fund – ‘Oh, look, we’ve got this very worthy cause looking for money to buy something from us, so we’d like you to oblige with a grant’.
Maybe it’s done some other way, but I am in no doubt that there is a well-used system for the various Lottery funds to give money to projects recommended by the ‘Welsh’ Government. The ‘worthy cause’ gets what it wants, the ‘Welsh’ Government can appear prudent with public money, while from the Lottery’s standpoint, if things go tits up, they can say, ‘Ah! but the Welsh Government recommended these people’.
Everybody’s back is covered. Everybody’s a winner!
Except perhaps those communities, and those projects, that aren’t so well connected. Those worthy causes that spend months or years building up support, preparing their bid, only to be beaten by insider dealing such as I’m suggesting in Bridgend. Which of course, just happens to be Carwyn Jones’s constituency.
And if I’m right, then in their very short time in Wales Emmaus has received over one million pounds thanks to the ‘Welsh’ Government.
THE PUBLICLY-FUNDED PRIVATE SECTOR
Another net importer of criminals, paedophiles and others, plus many homeless, is of course the private rented sector – just think Rhyl! – where we find the same ugly combination of self-interest and lack of concern for the consequences of pursuing that self-interest.
A recent news item re-awakened my interest in events in Pembrokeshire. On the evening of November 7 there was a disturbance at a block of flats in Meyrick Street, Pembroke Dock, and it was reported that armed police officers had attended. The flats are in the former Coronation School.
I got to wondering who owns these flats, and so I went to the Land Registry website where I was presented with what appeared to be a long list of individual titles, and although I didn’t count them I assumed it was one for each flat.
I chose two at random, Flat 10 and Flat 31, which was unnecessary because they both have the same title number CYM402081. Why so many different entries for the same title number? Was the intention to sell off the flats individually?
Both title documents say the building was bought by Cathal Eamonn McCosker for £200,000 with money that seems to have been borrowed from Barclays Bank. But others now having a claim on the property are Alexander and Rose Russell of Swindon and Pembrokeshire County Council.
It would appear that in order to meet his obligations Mr McCosker has tried to sell the building. First, at auction on Thursday 27 April 2017 with a guide price of £1.3m. This obviously failed because it was marked “withdrawn by agent”, and then put up for auction again on 08 June 2017 with the guide price now reduced to £975,000. But as we know from the Land Registry, it is still owned by Mr McCosker and his creditors.
With Cathal Eamonn McCosker we have one of the more intriguing stories to emerge from Pembrokeshire in recent times. Despite the widespread assumption that he’s Irish, on the Companies House website he describes himself as British, and gives an address in Oxford.
So what’s the story?
Basically, McCosker stands accused of receiving funding for projects in Pembroke Dock for work that was never done. This scam may have been conducted with the connivance of senior council officials and even a councillor or two. If they weren’t in on the scam then they’re now trying to draw a veil over the whole affair in the hope of saving face.
A number of people have followed the case over the years, including two councillor-bloggers. A good start would be with Councillor Jacob Williams’ Trumped-up charges – Part 4. While another excellent source is Councillor Mike Stoddart, and his Strange business.
I believe I’m right in saying that the Woodward and Bernstein of the Kremlin on the Cleddau actually unearthed the McCosker scandal.
McCosker was quoted as receiving £236,834 in housing benefits for his Pembrokeshire properties, with a further £35,248 paid through his E-Lettings company, which he used for the Coronation School flats. A local journalist tells me that this money was being paid into a bank account in the Irish Republic, which raises questions about taxation.
The Coronation School seems to target young people leaving care, many from ‘away’; vulnerable, mainly uneducated young people, many of them with ‘issues’. Conditions in the old school building are said to be primitive, which if true will of course qualify the tenants for social housing.
In an earlier post I referred to a system of human trafficking in Wales, a system run by selfish and unscrupulous individuals and organisations that brings into our country people needing expensive help or simply criminals and undesirables that no one else wants.
Which would be bad enough in itself, but we are paying for this. The public money of a poor country is being spent on problems that should not be ours. We are effectively paying to make our communities, like Lampeter and Pembroke Dock, less happy, less safe, and all done in order that Wales & West Housing can expand, or Cathal Eamonn McCosker can get even richer.
This system of bringing another country’s problems into Wales exposes a number of issues.
First, it tells us that we have a third sector that has become bloated due to over-feeding, and because of its size it now wields a malevolent influence on the ‘Welsh’ Government and the civil servants who actually run Wales. This influence damages other sectors that we should be encouraging . . . you know, things like real businesses, that might create real jobs, and increase Wales’ wealth . . . without wrecking Welsh communities
‘Nah, we don’t want none of that nasty prosperity round by ‘ere’.
But then there’s the issue of corruption in Welsh public life, at all levels. Who in their right mind believes it’s a good idea to give hundreds of thousands of pounds to Emmaus, a supposedly self-sufficient organisation?
And why is the investigation into the corruption centred on Cathal Eamonn McCosker stalled? Is it because too many people at both Pembrokeshire County Council and the ‘Welsh’ Government are involved? For the money used to enrich McCosker was EU funding, administered by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO).
While writing this I’ve been drawn to three recent posts about Carmarthenshire. The first, was by Siân Caiach, then there was the latest from Jacqui Thompson, and finally, another gem from my favourite blogger, Y Cneifiwr. They all prompt the same question – what other democracy would allow Mark Vincent James (OBE) to ruin so many lives and run Carmarthenshire County Council like a medieval barony?
It doesn’t have to be like this. But everything you see around you is part of the problem, and so can never be part of the solution. Radical change is needed. Wales will soon be offered the hope of change. Be ready!