Corruption in the wind?

People contact me regularly asking, ‘Why don’t you write about wind energy, Jac, and about saving the planet, because we’re all doomed, doomed!’ To which I usually respond, ‘Sod off.’ But one recent request to look into wind energy was different, and after an hour or so of digging I realised I just had to write about it.

Essentially, this is the story of three, linked, wind farms, but it’s also a reminder of how easy it is for political decisions in Wales to be controlled by those who care nothing for us or our country. Those I’m talking of see Wales as an exploitable resource, while we can be brushed aside with, ‘What’s it gotta do with you, Taff?’

Few things remind us more forcefully of this state of affairs than decisions concerning ‘the environment’.

Whether it’s allowing hippies to set up camp anywhere they like under the One Planet nonsense, encouraging ‘re-wilders’ to force out Welsh farmers and take over vast swathes of our country, or allowing ugly wind turbines to produce their piddling amounts of electricity . . . but lots of money for those involved.

THREE WIND FARMS

Let’s start with Bryn Blaen wind farm near Llangurig, the village situated where the north-south A470 meets the A44 running down to Aberystwyth. Bryn Blaen was refused planning permission by Powys County Council, but the Planning Inspectorate overturned that decision in August 2016 and allowed the project to go ahead.

So on this one, the developers got their way.

Next stop is Rhoscrowther, near Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire. This was turned down by Pembrokeshire County Council in 2015, the appeal by the developers was rejected by the Planning Inspectorate, but then a High Court judge said that it must be reviewed by a different planning inspector. It was, and in April this year she upheld the decision to refuse planning permission.

This second refusal by the Planning Inspectorate was confirmed by Lesley Griffiths in a letter in May to the applicants’ agents. But the applicants made yet another appeal to the High Court, which in September blocked any further appeal.

That would appear to be the end of the Rhoscrowther wind farm.

The vista that some want to mar with the Hendy wind farm, click to enlarge

Back to Powys, and the Hendy wind farm, near Llandrindod. Planning permission was refused by Powys County Council in April 2017, and that decision was upheld by a planning inspector in May . . . but then, last month, Lesley Griffiths, Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Secretary for the management team in Cardiff docks said that she would ignore the planning inspector’s decision and allow it to go ahead.

Such a move is unusual. The management team can certainly over-rule local authorities – as we’ve seen with the latest developments in the Mumbles Pier project – but to go against the Planning Inspectorate is unusual.

Here’s the letter Lesley Griffiths sent to Keith McKinney of Aaron and Partners LLP, a firm of Chester solicitors acting for the developers. (You’ll note that there appears to have been some uncertainty over the date.)

In point 2 of the letter mention is made of the Developments of National Significance legislation under which the ‘Welsh Ministers’ have authority to rule on electricity generation projects with a maximum installed capacity between 10mw and 50mw. The three projects we’re looking at range from 12.5mw to 17.5mw.

Though according to the capture below from the ‘Welsh Government’s website the decision should be made by the Planning Inspectorate, which is what happened initially with Hendy, before Lesley Griffiths intervened.

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So who’s promoting these schemes, who are ‘the developers’ I’ve referred to?

SLICES OF CAKE FOR EVERYONE!

Each of these projects has its own company: Bryn Blaen Wind Farm Ltd, Rhoscrowther Wind Farm Ltd and Hendy Wind Farm Ltd. But all these companies have the same registered office address, 7a Howick Place, London SW1P 1DZ.

A director of all three companies is Steven John Radford who seems to take another slice of the Welsh wind farm cake through his consultancy, Njord Energy Ltd, which sounds comfortingly Scandinavian. (Though he obviously farmed out some work to Cunnane Town Planning of London and Manchester.)

In September Radford branched out again with Bute Energy Ltd, joining six days after its two founding directors. Bute Energy is in the electricity business, the production, transmission, distribution and trade of electricity to be exact. Will this be electricity generated in Wales?

Also involved somewhere in these projects has been Viento Environmental Ltd, of Shrewsbury, yet another consultancy, this one run by Fran Iribar, whose Linkedin profile mentions the three wind farm sites we’re dealing with here plus a number of others in Wales.

Have you noticed yet? Three projects in Wales – no Welsh involvement whatsoever!

What a system! You don’t need to be a nationalist to see how wrong this is. It’s basic economics.

Whatever their roles, Aaron and Partners of Chester, Viento of Shrewsbury, Njord and the rest, are all bit-part players, with everything being directed from London by the U and I Group plc. Which was quick to celebrate Lesley Griffiths’ intervention in the Hendy project.

A curious beast, U and I. It was known as Development Securities plc until 5 November 2015. And on the very same day a previous incarnation of the U and I Group Ltd changed its name to Development Securities Ltd.

We often come across shape-shifting and Lazarus-like resurrections on this blog. Think Paul and Rowena Williams, of Weep for Wales fame, with their Rural Retreats & Leisure Ltd and Rural Retreats & Leisure UK Ltd (which even confused an Employment Tribunal!); and recently, in Wilmslow-sur-Mer, we sobbed for Natural Retreats UK Ltd . . . only for it to be brought back to us by resurrectionists from ‘Ol’ Virginny’, who just happen to be closely linked with those behind the expired company.

Offshore companies are also favoured by Marcus Owen Shepherd, Matthew Simon Weiner and Richard Upton, prominent figures in this deliberately confusing tangle of companies, but they’re not really offshore at all. Certainly that was the decision arrived at last year by HMRC which concluded that Development Securities (No 9) was trying to pull a fast one.

I’m sure you’re as shocked as I was to learn that there might be something underhand, dishonest even, about tax havens and offshore hideaways. Whatever next!

Not only that, but U and I’s Welsh assets are already sold or up for sale. The panel below comes from the latest accounts (for y/e 28.02.2018) of the group received by Companies House 01.08.2018. It suggests that the Bryn Blaen wind farm has either been sold or is about to be sold, giving the group a profit of £6 – 8 million.

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Perhaps more significantly, U and I is also confident of raising £10 -12 million from Hendy and Rhoscrowther. We now know that Hendy seems to be in the bag, but are they still holding out hopes for Rhoscrowther? Either way, how could they be so confident months ago? Did they know something we didn’t or was it just blind optimism linked to share prices?

MYSTERY WOMAN

Back in 2017, on April 27 to be exact, there was a curious scene played out at a meeting of Powys County Council’s planning committee. At a point in the meeting after the committee had refused planning permission for Hendy and was about to discuss further conditions for Bryn Blaen, a woman who had been sitting with the developers tried to hand a note to one of the committee members.

The woman had to be forcefully ushered away. She was recognised as a lobbyist, working for Invicta Public Affairs, a company based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The company is run by Mark Cummings, who boasts, “We specialise in advising private businesses how best to promote their commercial interests by overcoming barriers to enterprise caused by the UK national and devolved policy and regulatory framework.”

Cummings seems to operate in Wales through Invicta Public Affairs (Wales) Ltd, which has never been anything more than a name, with a Newcastle address, but clearly it has employees in Wales. So who was the mystery woman?

It was Anna McMorrin, who had been recruited by Invicta in October 2016 for no reason other than she was a Labour Party insider, having joined the party when she was a student, and as a result of her subsequent career she knew exactly who to approach to get things done.

As her Wikipedia entry tells us, “After graduating, McMorrin worked in public relations and communications. After working as a part-time communications officer for the Labour Party between 1996-1997, she worked for public affairs consultancy Hill and Knowlton. In 2006, McMorrin became Campaigns and Communications Director for Friends of the Earth Cymru. In 2008, she joined the Welsh Government as an appointed Specialist Advisor, working with Ministers including Jane Hutt AM, John Griffiths AM and Alun Davies AM.”

While she was working for Alun Davies they began an affair which resulted in both leaving their long-term partners. They now live together.

In the general election of June 2017 Anna McMorrin was elected Labour MP for Cardiff North.

ANALYSIS

U and I and/or Development Securities planned three wind farms of a size so that even if the local planning committees voted against them then their bacon could be saved by the Planning Inspectorate or, as a last resort, the ‘Welsh Government’.

To help them carry through this plan they employed Mark Cummings, useful for his expertise in dealing with devolved administrations. Cummings then needed someone who was a Labour insider, so he recruited Anna McMorrin.

No doubt, the developers had hoped to get planning permission for all three developments, netting them as much as £20 million. Being more realistic, they were probably prepared to settle for two out of three. But the High Court going against them on Rhoscrowther in September meant they were left with just Bryn Blaen, and so they were only going to make a small profit.

The High Court couldn’t be challenged over Rhoscrowther so pressure was applied to Lesley Griffiths to overturn the Hendy decision. And she came good.

Who applied the pressure to Lesley Griffiths? Well, Anna McMorrin fits the identikit picture issued.

Another reason I suspect Lesley Griffiths hadn’t planned on making the Hendy intervention is because the Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Secretary couldn’t even come up with a plausible reason for her action.

We’ve just read that she argued the Hendy wind farm was in the ‘national interest’, but in point 4 of that letter to Aaron and Partners of Chester she also quoted from the Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 which, ” . . . requires the Welsh Ministers, as a public body, to ensure the development and use of land contributes towards improving the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales”.

I have a question for you, Lesley Griffiths.

Will you please explain how Wales benefits from being exploited by London property developers and their assorted hangers-on all over England?

There is no Welsh benefit whatsoever from the Hendy wind farm, or the other two; Wales already produces more electricity than we need, so I can only assume that Lesley Griffiths is acting in the ‘national interest’ of some other country.

Which makes her clumsy and questionable behaviour another example of London’s management team in Cardiff making sure that Wales does what it’s supposed to do – serve the interests of England.

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The truth is that Lesley Griffiths made an indefensible decision under undue and possibly illegal pressure. If I’m wrong, let her justify overturning the planning inspector’s decision on Hendy wind farm.

With her earlier support for those seeking to dispossess Welsh farmers, dealt with here in The Welsh Clearances, and now with this decision to further serve alien interests, Lesley Griffiths has, in just over a month, proven herself to be the enemy of Wales and its people.

There should be no way for this wretched and duplicitous woman to hold any position, even in a body as discredited as that which masquerades as the Government of Wales.

The Labour Party and its various appendages are a poison corrupting Welsh public and political life. There is no hope for honesty and openness, progress and prosperity, until this poison is drawn and Wales is made healthy.

♦ end ♦

UPDATE 19:50: I am indebted to Karen Roden for her comment to my Facebook page telling me that Lesley Griffiths did something very similar earlier in the year with her decision to over-rule a planning inspector who had supported Denbighshire County Council’s refusal of Pant y Maen wind farm on the Denbigh Moors.

This development was promoted by Pant y Maen Wind Ltd of Oxfordshire. Though this company seems to have been controlled by Brenig Wind Ltd, a company run by Chinese citizens giving an address in France. The accounts are overdue at Companies House and I suspect we shall hear no more of Brenig Wind.

Though victory was claimed by Natural Power, which has an office in Aberystwyth. Note that the report I’ve linked to thinks that Lesley Griffiths is part of the UK Government!

In April, soon after Lesley Griffiths gave consent for Pant y Maen wind farm, control passed via a couple of LLPs to Guy and Julia Hands, residents of Guernsey.

Once again, no Welsh involvement, and I guarantee that those I’ve mentioned don’t give a toss about the environment – it’s all about the money. So we despoil our country, inflate our electricity bills, to enrich bastards like these.

Is Lesley Griffiths too stupid to understand how she’s being used?

 

Housing in Colonial Wales: The Sun King teams up with The Godfather

Let’s begin by setting out my stall: Housing in Wales is dysfunctional, inefficient, corrupt, wasteful of public funding, damaging to Welsh community life, and undermines Welsh nationhood.

It’s a great system . . . but not for the Welsh.

LE ROI SOLEIL

In an earlier post (scroll down to the section ‘Who will buy . . . ‘), we met Dr Glen Peters. An interesting character, Glen.

Before moving to Wales he was a senior partner in PwC, one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms, those pillars of the City of London that give glowing reports of financial health to firms about to head up Shit Creek and when they’re not doing that they’re extolling the probity of corrupt third world regimes.

The ‘Big Four’ will do and say anything for money. Making Peters a man with an interesting past.

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He seems to have arrived in Wales in 2010 and in December of that year he founded Western Solar Ltd.

He also launched himself as the beneficent and culture-loving squire with Menter Rhosygilwen, a charity (No 1139848) which, to judge by its programme, at least recognises it is in Wales. Rhosygilwen being the name of his mansion not far from Cilgerran in north Pembrokeshire; with performances taking place in Neuadd y Dderwen, which looks like a set for Game of Thrones. Neuadd y Dderwen must have cost a few bob.

Being a man who understands money it didn’t take Glen long to realise how easy it is to screw grants out of the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’. For it came to pass that he received £141,000 to turn an old cowshed into a small factory turning out units for eco-friendly homes.

Six such properties were built in the off-the-beaten-track hamlet of Glanrhyd, a development called Pentre Solar. We are told that these were built specifically for the Ateb group (formerly Pembrokeshire Housing) who took all six of them for £900,000. Money it had been loaned by the aforementioned and self-styled ‘Welsh Government’.

But given that there is no worthwhile oversight or monitoring of ‘loans’ it’s unlikely this money will ever be repaid. As far as the ‘Welsh Government’ is concerned, once the money is gone, and the boxes are ticked, that’s the end of it.

Though there are a number of curious features about this deal.

Let’s start with the fact that in a number of places it’s claimed that these eco homes were built for half the price of traditional brick-built homes. For example, in this video, at 0:32, by Peters himself. Yet Ateb paid £900,000 for six properties, £150,000 per home.

To build a traditional 2/3-bedroom, semi-detached house in north Pembrokeshire would cost £90,000 – 120,000. Which means that if Glen Peters is right, and he could build his houses for half that, then he made a very tidy profit when Ateb paid him £150,000 per house.

Something else that troubles me is that housing associations like Ateb already receive millions of pounds every year from various funding streams, so why was it necessary to bung them another £900,000? Because I’m damn sure the Tŷ Solar properties were not bought to meet a pressing local demand out in the middle of nowhere.

Question 1: Can Ateb guarantee that the houses at Glanrhyd, paid for with Welsh public funding, were allocated to Welsh people?

Whatever the answers, a lot of moolah has already gone west and there’s more on the way. Next up is a 15-home ‘garden village’ for Boncath. Why Boncath? Well it might be because that’s where Victoria Beard lives. ‘Who’s she, Jac?’ you demand.

Well, she appeared on the website a few months back (before I wrote my earlier piece), as one of the locals connected with, or employed by, Menter Rhosygilwen. Though I’m told she was actually employed by Pembrokeshire county council before branching out on her own with Foresight She Ltd, yet another ‘consultancy’ that seems to have gone the way of all flesh.

BURRY PORT

Also mentioned in the piece I linked to regarding Boncath is “a 30-unit scheme of affordable homes already lined up for a site in Carmarthenshire on behalf of Carmarthenshire County Council”. To be specific, this development is in Burry Port, to the west of Llanelli.

For some reason Burry Port has been targeted for excessive development in recent years with hundreds of new houses built, almost all of which have been bought by English buyers, mainly retirees or those close to retirement. Yet more housing is planned – and Plaid Cymru welcomes it!

Councillor Alun Lenny is quoted as saying, “There’s 103 first-step homes here, affordable homes, all low cost homes”. Yet the WalesOnline report in which he’s quoted tells us: “There will be eight different house types on the new development, mainly two and three-bedroom homes, as well as some with four bedrooms, with the majority semi-detached.” And goes on to say: “21 of the 103 homes will be offered as affordable housing for sale or rent”.

Four-bedroom houses are not “first-step homes”.

Plaid Cymru really hasn’t got a clue. They don’t even understand what they’re giving planning permission for. No wonder Wales is in the mess it is. Though it would have been nice if the report had told us who plans to build these houses, and how much public funding is involved.

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Question 2: For Plaid Cymru. Can you offer any promises that these “affordable homes” will be bought by local people and can you guarantee that the properties in the social housing “ghetto” (mentioned in the report) will be allocated to local people?

The development with which Glen Peters is involved in Burry Port, the “divided town which didn’t want any more new homes”, is for 32 homes to be built by Cartrefi Croeso Cyf., which we looked at in the previous post. Let’s remind ourselves what we read there.

The managing director of Cartrefi Croeso is Robin Staines, and the sole directors are Jacob Morgan and Sarah Wendy Walters, also employees of Carmarthenshire county council. Which effectively means that this company belongs to Mark Vincent James, the Cardiff Bay property magnate who doubles up as CEO of Cyngor Sir Gâr.

But why would a council with its own housing department need Cartrefi Croeso? I suppose an obvious answer might be that the county can no longer build new council housing. But then, there are any number of housing associations operating in the county – shouldn’t they be filling the gap? The obvious answer to that is, yes they should. And to all intents and purposes they are.

But Mark James doesn’t control those housing associations.

‘STICK ON A FEW SOLAR PANELS – BINGO!’

Even so, let’s not be too hard on Jamesie Boy, because he’s received great encouragement from (the aforementioned and self-styled) ‘Welsh Government’; that shower is providing the funding for what appear to be the retirement properties Cartrefi Croeso plans to build.

Specifically, the funding comes from the Innovative Housing Programme, launched in February 2017. In its first year the IHP was restricted to Registered Social Landlords and councils, but in its second year – beginning April 2018 – it was open to private companies, which explains the involvement of Cartrefi Croeso. For although it’s owned by the council it is a private company and registered as such with Companies House.

Though it seems to have given itself a wide remit, as shown in the panel below, taken from the Companies House entry. The first two categories, 41100 and 41202, obviously cover the Burry Port development, but the other two suggest it might be worth keeping an eye on Cartrefi Croeso.

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Over three years the Innovative Housing Programme budget will shell out £90m.

We’ve come a long way from the £141,000 given to Glen Peters to convert the old cowshed. We’ve considered a lot of Welsh public funding, and you have to ask how much benefit Welsh people and Welsh communities will derive from this expenditure. As I mentioned earlier, the properties being built by Mark James Cartrefi Croeso in Burry Port are almost certainly retirement properties.

Given the excessive housebuilding the town has seen in recent years, and the buyers’ profile, I can’t help wondering if someone, somewhere, has designated Burry Port a retirement settlement. Perhaps the locals should be informed?

Question 3: For Lesley Griffiths. Why is your self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ giving public funding to private companies to build new homes – for which there may be no local demand – when you already fund countless housing associations and there is already a private sector building open market dwellings?

Almost inevitably, there are hidden costs to the Welsh public purse, for in this article from last week’s Tivyside Advertiser Glen Peters tells us that to build his houses, “Welsh tree trunks will arrive at one end and houses will emerge from the other” . . . which will mean paying ‘re-wilders’ and the like to plant more trees.

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As I said earlier, it’s a great system . . . but not for us.

LABYRINTHINE, CORRUPT, COLONIALIST

Looking at the wider picture, housing in Wales is an absolute shambles. I could write a book about it, but it would be too depressing, it would drive me to drink. One example, again from the Wild West, might serve to explain what I mean.

Ateb has a subsidiary named Mill Bay Homes. I’ve written about Mill Bay Homes more than once, and had threats from solicitors for suggesting that everything was not above board. Just type ‘Mill Bay Homes’ into the Search box at the top of the sidebar.

Since then, Mill Bay Homes has gone entirely private, is no longer a Registered Social Landlord, and yet is still somehow part of the Ateb group. But despite being a free-flying bird MBH still owes the parent company £5.5m, secured with a floating charge over everything MBH has.

Much of this five-and-a-half million pounds – and the debt was larger at one time – is public funding given to Ateb, then transferred to Mill Bay Homes for it to build nice properties in Pembrokeshire for investors, retirees, and those seeking a holiday home.

How about that – holiday homes funded from the Welsh public purse!

Even if you’ve never heard of Walter Scott’s Marmion I bet you’ll be familiar with “O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive”. Though I’m not for one minute suggesting that it’s apposite to the relationship between the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’, the Ateb group and Mill Bay Homes.

To explain how convoluted and confusing it can all get when publicly-funded bodies spawn private companies let us hie to Cilgerran, just a short distance from Glen Peter’s sumptuous pad.

There we find properties being built by Mill Bay Homes. Here’s one for sale with John Francis and it offers ‘Shared Ownership’ (actually a shared lease). Ateb, the Registered Social Landlord, is allowed to offer Shared Ownership, but Mill Bay Homes, the private company, is not.

Question 4: I throw this one out for anyone. Seeing as private company, non-RSL, Mill Bay Homes should not be offering buyers ‘Shared Ownership’ why is it allowed to do so?

Maybe I’m wasting my time, for as I say, there is no effective monitoring or oversight of housing associations.

It’s a jungle that gets more impenetrable every year. But that’s how housing associations like it. That’s how the ‘Welsh Government’ likes it. And it’s certainly how those who control devolution in Wales like it. You and I are not supposed to understand . . . or question.

But sod it, because I’m going to end with some questions for the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’:

  • Why do you allow the building of so many houses Wales doesn’t need, at prices most Welsh people can’t afford, and often in places where these properties are not needed?
  • Given the way housing associations operate tens of million of pounds every year is spent housing people with no Welsh connections, so how difficult would it be to insist on a five-year residency qualification for social housing, and then divert the money saved to the NHS and education?
  • Why do you not ban publicly-funded bodies from setting up private subsidiaries that often receive indirect public funding and yet over which you have even less influence than the parent?
  • If you’re serious about encouraging the private sector why threaten it with these private subsidiaries that also have the unfair advantage of insider knowledge?
  • Will you examine the relationship between Ateb and Mill Bay Homes and all similar publicly-funded bodies with private subsidiaries?
  • Can you offer a definition of ‘affordable housing’?
  • Thinking of Burry Port, do you ever consult local people over plans for their community – real locals?
  • Explain how it is in the interests of Wales to attract an elderly population from outside of Wales?
  • Will you revisit the £900,000 given to Ateb to purchase six properties from Western Solar Ltd that – if the builder is correct – cost less than half of that sum to build?
  • Why do we have so many housing associations competing with each other, duplicating each other’s role, and all in receipt of public funding? How much do you estimate could be saved from mergers, simply on chief executives’ salaries?
  • What do you intend doing to help those in the south east currently being outbid in the local property market by commuters from Bristol?
  • Why don’t you relieve local authorities of the hassle by imposing a national 200% council tax on all second homes? And close the loophole.
  • Can you guarantee that there are no properties sold as holiday homes that were built with public funding, or bought using one of the many schemes you offer to help people buy a home?
  • Even though you’ve had twenty years, why have you found it impossible to develop a housing sector attuned to and serving the needs of Welsh people?

♦ end ♦

 

Miscellany 31.10.2018: The Olive Trust, Mumbles Pier, Cartrefi Croeso, Welsh Clearances, The Disaster that is Devolution

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.

Enjoy.

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.

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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 PIER

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.

And yet, if we go to the Whiterock website and scroll down we read ‘© whiterock wales (2018)’, suggesting the company yet breathes – but under what name, and in what form? Is it Whiterock Wales; Whiterock Public Affairs, as on the website; Whiterock-Wales, as with the defunct company on the Companies House website; or Whiterock Consulting as on Bailey’s Linkedin profile.

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.

click to enlarge

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 editor@jacothenorth.net.

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.

This report from 23 October tells us that plans are well advanced for “32 new homes costing £4m” in Burry Port. The report also informs us that the managing director of Cartrefi Croeso is Robin Staines. So who is he? Well, he’s ‘Head of Public Protection, Housing and Care & Support Services, Carmarthenshire County Council‘. Staines is a Cockney, imported by James, and therefore totally loyal to his master.

Cartrefi Croeso’s new retirement housing in Burry Port, with a stout fence to keep out the indigenes, click to enlarge

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.

This is fall-out from the EU (Withdrawal) Bill debate earlier this year. Remember? After first making a bit of a show of standing shoulder to shoulder with Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government Carwyn Jones did what we always knew he’d do – surrender to England.

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.

Some of those directing the Welsh Clearances, click to enlarge

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!)

click to enlarge

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.

click to enlarge

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.

TOXIC MUD

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.

M4 MONEY

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.

Make sense of it here if you can.

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’.)

WELSH CLEARANCES

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.

♦ END ♦

 

Weep for Wales 10

When I wrote ‘Weep for Wales’ back on June 13 I never thought it would turn into the blogging equivalent of War and Peace, but here we are at number 10.

And if you want to know how we got here, if you want the full and unexpurgated story, then you’ll have to wade through what has gone before: Weep for Wales, Weep for Wales 2, Weep for Wales 3, Weep for Wales 4, Weep for Wales 5, Weep for Wales 6, Weep for Wales 7, Weep for Wales 8, Weep for Wales 9.

In this latest episode I shall focus on two important matters. First, details of the liquidation of the Williams’ company Leisure & Development Ltd; followed by an Employment Tribunal held last month that saw a former employee of Paul and Rowena Williams given a substantial compensation package.

But first, let’s remind ourselves where we’re at in Gwynedd.

HOLDING OUT ON THE NORTHERN FRONT

In the previous episode I let my imagination run riot and presented you with the image of Paul Williams as Jean Gabin in Le Jour se Lève, holed up in his grubby little room waiting for the cops. But I may have jumped a scene or two because a northern source tells me that the crook may not be finished.

While the purchase of Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch has certainly fallen through the odious couple still has crumbling Plas Glynllifon, not forgetting the Seiont Manor Hotel, where we find faithful family retainer Rikki Reynolds snorting away.

The other Gwynedd property, Fronoleu, near Dolgellau, owned by Rural Retreats & Development Ltd, seems to have been totally abandoned. Certainly the hotel/restaurant is left to rot, but the site includes a seven-bedroom house that is occupied.

The great obstacle to development here is that Fronoleu can only be reached by the single-track lane running between Dolgellau and the Cross Foxes junction of the A487 with the A470. It’s highly unlikely that any traffic-increasing development will be allowed.

Fronoleu, click to enlarge

What my source directs me to on the sprawling Glynllifon estate is land and buildings owned by Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, operating Coleg Glynllifon. Specifically, the old stables, now used as the canteen. I’m assured that Williams is showing interest.

Grŵp Llandrillo Menai has said nothing throughout this saga, but unless there’s a rabbit to pulled from the hat it’s difficult to explain why Paul and Rowena Williams are hanging on at Glynllifon.

Unless it’s because they have nowhere else to go.

‘RANSOM STRIPS’ AND RE-ENTRY PROBLEMS

A feature of Paul and Rowena Williams’ behaviour is the practice of detaching a small section from a larger holding in order to make a separate title. This then compromises the value and desirability of the larger holding without the smaller section. And of course it correspondingly increases the value of that smaller section.

In such situations, the smaller section is usually referred to as a ‘ransom strip’. This situation can often occur quite unintentionally, but in the case of the Williamses it is deliberate.

This charge, 0938 9316 0007, taken out by Rural Retreats & Development Ltd as recently as July, helps explain what I’m talking about. You’ll see that it’s made up mainly of ‘ransom strips’, small pieces of land compromising larger plots.

Let me further explain what I’m talking about with a specific example.

One of Paul and Rowena Williams’ properties is/was the Castle Inn at Wigmore, just over the border in Herefordshire. If you look at this title plan it shows clearly the original boundary, but it’s equally obvious that a chunk has been taken out.

This was done in 2015, that year when new companies were being formed, properties being bought and sold.

The main part of the Castle Inn, title number HE53573, is owned by Leisure & Development Ltd, the company in liquidation. The ‘ransom strip’, title number HE31873, is owned by Rural Retreats & Development Ltd, of Plas Glynllifon, directors Paul and Rowena Williams.

Moving back to Powys and the Knighton Hotel, it might seem difficult if not impossible to own a ‘ransom strip’ affecting a substantial building slap in the middle of town. But they’ve done it.

The hotel comprises both the stone building you see on the left and the half-timbered building on the right.

click to enlarge

Within the Knighton Hotel Paul and Rowena Williams own the ‘Norton Showroom’ on the ground floor at the far right, a flat above, and it’s also believed they have the run of the cellars. The flat is owned in their names and shown in blue in this title plan for the hotel. Here’s the title document for the showroom or shop.

In Presteigne, at the Radnorshire Arms Hotel, the Gruesome Twosome still owns the old garage building and car park directly opposite the hotel. I’m told that there was once a plan for four town houses on this plot.

This town houses plan seems to have been drawn up but never submitted for planning approval. And I’ve heard of other schemes that never took flight. All of which adds to the image of Paul Williams as a bit of a fantasist, or as I described him in the previous post, “a sinister kind of Walter Mitty”.

Radnorshire Arms garage and car park. Courtesy of Google Earth, click to enlarge

If they were to turn the Knighton Hotel shop into a dildo emporium, or allowed Travellers to set up camp in the Radnorshire Arms car park, Paul and Rowena Williams could make their former properties very unattractive to potential buyers.

But just owning these ‘ransom strips’ – coupled with their reputation for deviousness – may be enough to deter many buyers. And as I say, the situation we see today was planned years ago by slicing parts off the original titles, almost anticipating the scenarios I’m describing.

So I suppose that if nobody wanted to buy the properties, then Paul and Rowena Williams, or someone acting for them, might be able to buy them back very cheaply.

I’ve just mentioned Leisure & Development Ltd, the owner of these assorted properties being in receivership, so let’s consider the latest developments.

An administrator was appointed on August 18 and the administrator’s proposals became available on the Companies House website on September 20. These proposals are worth reading because they give quite a full run-down of the situation. Since then the proposals have been approved, though that document was not available on the CH website at the time of writing.

Under Section 2 ‘Events leading up to the administration’, we read that, “The various properties were purchased between July 2015 and February 2016 for a total sum of £11,887,828 (as per documents registered at the Land Registry).” But then we read, for year ending 31 January 2018, the company had fixed assets of £16,894,195 (against £23,119,820 the previous year). While in Appendix C we read that the book value of the freehold properties is £13,908,979.

Let’s look at the 2015 purchases. As we’ve seen, the properties ‘bought’ in 2015 were simply transferred from one Williams vehicle (usually their personal ownership) to another at greatly inflated prices in order to pull down mortgages and loans. For example, the stated purchase price of the Radnorshire Arms Hotel was £3,487,049. It’s worth a third of that on a good day.

Inflated purchase prices were part of the scam, a way of laundering money. But if the properties were bought in 2015 at ludicrously high prices how can their book value today be even higher? Are the administrators afraid to have independent valuations done?

And if the properties were grossly overvalued in 2015 at £11,887,828 where the hell does the fixed assets valuation for 2018 of £16,894,195 come from? (And £23,119,820 the year before!) The answer is, Paul and Rowena Williams’ trusty accountant, John Duggan, a convicted fraudster, who robbed an elderly widow of some £700,000.

In fact, the accounts for Leisure & Development Ltd are worth us dallying awhile. The first submitted accounts are for year ending 31 January 2016 and are the accounts for a dormant company, despite all the ‘purchases’ made in 2015. These accounts were submitted by Debra Oswald, Paul Williams’ sister.

The next accounts, up to 31 January 2017, come from the dancing quill of John Duggan. Now we see a figure of £23,119,820 in fixed assets, and £23,906,551 owed to creditors.

Er, no, they were not ‘purchased’ because Paul and Rowena Williams already owned these properties. click to enlarge

Those creditors reappear in the administrator’s report. First comes NatWest Bank plc, owed £6,202,405. Next in line is Together Commercial Finance (no sum stated). But Paul and Rowena Williams are also hoping for a strip of the carcass with a claim for no less than £11,751,698.

The money owed to Paul and Rowena Williams can only be the money from the ‘sales’ in 2015, when they sold properties to themselves at inflated valuations. Does this really count as an acceptable debt?

Think about it for a minute; what they’re saying, in effect, is: ‘We transferred properties from ourselves to a company we’d formed and of course we didn’t pay anything – it was just a scam to get mortgages and loans – but we’re still hoping someone will view us as legitimate claimants on the assets of our former company’.

This report we’ve looked at from the liquidators, RSM Restructuring Advisory LLP, is misleading as it relies on insane valuations and a fraudster’s figures. This is either a mistake on RSM’s part or else it suits someone’s agenda to accept the Williams narrative and the Duggan figures.

Spaceship Williams should return to Earth when potential buyers are asked to make offers for the various properties. I guarantee no one will offer anything like £3.5m for the Radnorshire Arms, irrespective of whether the McGillycuddy clan is enjoying a hoolie in the car park.

STRAIGHT OUTTA DICKENS

I have commented many times on the contemptuous way in which Paul and Rowena Williams treat those who work for them, and being an absolute bastard is something that also comes easy to their trusted lieutenant, Rikki Reynolds.

And it’s not just those who work for them that suffer; it’s neighbours, suppliers, and just about anybody else they can take advantage of. The Williams pair and Reynolds believe they can do whatever they like, to whoever they like, whenever they like, with no consequences.

They often take a sadistic pleasure in humiliating people.

I think I may have mentioned a kitchen porter at the Seiont Manor Hotel, a man with learning difficulties, who was forced out last year after working there for over 22 years. Now I can give you more details and also tell you how that story developed.

The background is that Rowena Williams intimidated this poor man into accepting a reduction in his weekly hours from 30 to 9 and then dismissed him on August 9 2017. He went to the Citizens Advice Bureau and it all ended up with an Employment Tribunal at Mold on September 5 this year.

Below you’ll see a financial summary of the verdict, and you can read the full document here, with the claimant’s name and the case number redacted.

click to enlarge

As I say, the tribunal took place on September 5, and as you read the Judgment you’ll see that Rural Retreats & Leisure Ltd has 14 days from the ‘calculation day’ of September 7 to pay the stipulated sum. If no payment is made within this period then interest of 8% starts accruing.

You’ll note that no one from the Williams side turned up at Mold County Court, which is how they operate – they ignore letters and demands, they refuse to attend arranged meetings, they find excuses for not having complied with instructions: ‘Oh, we didn’t realise’ . . . ‘Nobody told us’ . . . ‘Obviously a misunderstanding’.

It’s the old tactic of ignoring something long enough in the hope it’ll go away; which it often does when you’re dealing with local authorities and the ‘Welsh’ Government.

You’ll also note that the judgment was made against Rural Retreats & Leisure Ltd, yet this company changed its name on March 17 2015 to Polvellan Manor Ltd. And before becoming Rural Retreats & Leisure Ltd in 2007 it was Mortimers Cross Inn Ltd, formed in 2002, this being the Williams’ original company, and indeed their only company until 2015.

Seeing as this was the company name on the dismissed kitchen porter’s pay slips it means that Paul and Rowena Williams were still using a company name that had been changed over two years earlier. Is this legal?

Paul and Rowena Williams were directors until April 1 2018, when they stepped down, maybe in the hope of escaping the impending employment tribunal. The sole director now is the ever-obliging, convicted fraudster, Keith Partridge, who took over on the same day as Paul and Rowena Williams ceased to be directors.

Whatever the motives for recently putting Partridge in charge, the fact remains that when the offences dealt with by the employment tribunal were committed in 2017 the only directors of Rural Retreats & Leisure Ltd/Polvellan Manor Ltd were Paul and Rowena Williams.

But you still have to wonder why Partridge agreed to let his name be used as skipper of the Titanic when the iceberg was already in sight.

It should go without saying that the former Seiont Manor kitchen porter is not optimistic about getting his money. Which is a sad reflection on the Englandandwales legal system, because I believe the law should provide some guarantee of payment.

UPDATE 08.10.2018: Someone has just pointed out an inconsistency in the Employment Tribunal document. At the head of the document, under ‘Judgment’, it refers to ‘Rural Retreats & Leisure Ltd’, (now Polvellan Manor Ltd) but scroll down, to ‘Notice’, and the company mentioned is ‘Rural Retreats & Leisure Uk (sic) Ltd‘.

click to enlarge

I shouldn’t think that this invalidates the decision. After all they’re both Williams companies, but it does remind us of the danger of dealing with companies with very similar names. And of course, it’s why shysters like Williams have companies with confusingly similar names.

The Daily Post has now caught up with the story.

WHERE WE ARE TODAY

The current situation can be summed up as follows:

  • Paul and Rowena Williams are holed up at Plas Glynllifon, a massive pile they have estimated will cost £20m to refurbish.
  • Apart from Plas Glynllifon they have no (known) assets other than assorted ‘ransom strips’, abandoned Fronoleu, and the Seiont Manor Hotel, with the latter being run into the ground by drug-dependent Rikki Reynolds (who is indulged because he knows where the bodies are buried).
  • Debts are piling up, and money is running short, which is why they were unable to complete the purchase of Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch.
  • On top of all their other problems they now have the mounting debt of the Industrial Tribunal.
  • The Police are investigating.
  • And now I hear that HMRC is also taking an interest.

In last week’s post, Plaid Cymru’s enemy within, in speaking of Anne Greagsby, I wrote, “I can’t say I know Anne Greagsby, I’ve met her just once . . . she was in good company, which I’m old-fashioned enough to believe is a useful indicator of a person’s character.”

That holds true for everyone, and when we look at Paul and Rowena Williams, who do we find them associating with? Well, there’s Rikki Reynolds, and I have been told stories about this bastard that I would love to tell, but in doing so I might compromise a source. I just wish I was free to tell you about the gardener.

Paul and Rowena Williams’ accountant is convicted fraudster John Duggan. Long-time associate and business partner, the man who supposedly bought now liquidated Leisure & Development Ltd, and who has also agreed to be sole director of Polvellan Manor Ltd is Keith Partridge, another convicted fraudster.

Down in Cornwall, running the Waves Bar for them, we found Stuart Paul Cooper – yet another fraudster! And who is the mysterious Michael Jones, sole director of Rural Retreats & Leisure UK Ltd? I’m prepared to bet that he has an interesting biography. Then we have Paul Williams’ sister, Debra Oswald, and his parents with their iffy hotel business in India.

Finally, there is Dudley James Cross, whose Linkedin profile says he works for property company Lambert Smith Hampton, but he’s been an associate of Paul Williams since at least 2008, he was even showing people around Plas Glynllifon on the Open Days in June, and he has served as a director of the company now in liquidation, Leisure & Development Ltd. It is widely believed that he had a hand in the absurd valuations of the properties Paul and Rowena Williams ‘sold’ to themselves in 2015.

These are not business people who’ve taken ‘short cuts’ or made the odd mistake; these are not honest folk who fell in with rogues – these are crooks, pure and simple. They should be behind bars.

♦ end ♦

 

Help to Buy – Wales

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.

Once there, and presented with a choice of options, I first went for ‘Housing’ and then the sub-heading ‘Help to Buy’. Then I was presented with a number of tables giving facts and figures for this scheme. For those unfamiliar with Help to Buy – Wales here’s a link to the ‘Welsh’ Government’s sooper-dooper new-style website where all is explained.

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.

click to enlarge

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.

So let’s go through some of the figures provided and start with the headline figure that tells us 7,402 Help to Buy purchases have been completed.

The next table ‘Help to Buy – Wales completed purchases by local authority and date’ gives us a breakdown by local authority for that 7,402 figure, and it’s now that the anomalies begin to emerge. (You’ll need to click on the ‘Full Screen’ icon at the top of the page to view the full table.)

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.

click to enlarge

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:

  1. The local authority.
  2. The area’s population from the ONS’ mid-year estimate for 2017.
  3. A breakdown of the prices of properties bought with Help to Buy (split into four bands rather than the eight supplied by StatsWales).
  4. The total number of Help to Buy completions.
  5. The number and percentage of first-time buyers.
  6. The average house price for each area in June 2017, supplied by the Land Registry.
  7. The average price paid for a Help to Buy property.
  8. The difference between 6 and 7.
click to enlarge

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!)

click to enlarge

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.

So you have to wonder who was responsible for putting this programme in place, and vetting the various participants. For when we look at the participating lenders we find the Darlington Building Society, with just four branches, all in North Yorkshire. Or the Chorley Building Society, with three branches, all in Lancashire.

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.

click to enlarge

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.

Make of that what you will.

♦ end ♦

 

Weep for Wales 9

It’s been a while since I wrote the previous instalment in this saga, August 6th to be precise, and even though I have no earth-shattering revelations for you, it’s clear that we are moving towards a conclusion.

But for newcomers – or even even regulars who may have forgotten how we got to where we are – here are links to the previous instalments: Weep for Wales, Weep for Wales 2, Weep for Wales 3, Weep for Wales 4, Weep for Wales 5, Weep for Wales 6, Weep for Wales 7, Weep for Wales 8.

In addition to this latest post being an update on the saga, I shall also use it to give some thought to what this incredible story tells us about the state of modern Wales. Basically, how the hell did Paul and Rowena Williams and their associates get away with so much for so long?

Because irrespective of what now happens to those you’ve been reading about over the past few months there are others who have questions to answer, and I might as well do the asking, because nobody else will.

WHY DID THEY GET A FREE RIDE?

The Daily Post‘s involvement in this saga is quite extraordinary in its willingness to publish any old nonsense. I have drawn up a list of the DP’s articles on Plas Glynllifon and the other Gwynedd properties since Paul and Rowena Williams first became involved.

Starting with this article on 10 June 2016 telling us that the mystery owner of Plas Glynllifon – speaking through property company Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) – said that the renovation would take three years, and would cost an estimated £5m.

The next article was just a few days later on 14 June 2016, and this time we were told that the old pile was to be transformed into a luxury hotel and spa with the project managed by LSH.

Just a day later, 15 June 2016, there was another report, but it was little different to the one the previous day.

The new year brought this piece on 22 February 2017 in which the Daily Post was graciously granted access, to be told by Rowena Williams, “We hope that the project will hold dear to the Prince of Wales, who enjoyed his investiture ball here and also takes a very keen interest in our heritage and historic properties such as Glynllifon. We hope that he will be an asset to the project.”

We were not informed if Carlo had been asked to cough up a few quid towards the “£5.5 to £6.5” needed for the restoration. Maybe it wasn’t needed, for a finance package had been agreed with “Together in Manchester”. And Team Williams was also “in talks with the Welsh Government about grant support”.

click to enlarge

On 23 May 2017 we learnt that the owners of Plas Glynllifon had enlisted the help of Lord Newborough (whose family pile Plas Glynllifon had once been), and also helping Paul Williams were “Bangor University, the Institute for the Study of Welsh Estates (at Bangor Uni), Gwynedd Archives, and other bodies”. The more the merrier!

On 28 May 2017 the Daily Post invited us to take a look inside Plas Glynllifon. The accompanying film has Rowena Williams telling us that ” . . . outside, in the exterior, we’ve got lots of, um, plans going ahead with, um, with flower and fauna . . . “, to a backdrop of nineteenth century kitsch meets suburban Wolverhampton.

There was now a gap until 26 November 2017, and an article headlined, Take a look at stunning £16m transformation of historic mansion into five star hotel”, which was a bit naughty, because Paul and Rowena Williams have not spent anything approaching £16m at Glynllifon. There was no explanation for how the cost of renovating Plas Glynllifon had increased from £5.5m-£6.5m in May to £16m in November. Brexit, I suppose.

There was yet another video, this one without the Gruesome Twosome but with weird musical accompaniment. Then there were photos, of, er, scaffolding; while inside the building, we saw a bath, an organ, statues and a four-poster bed. This article, like previous ones, drew a number of positive comments, including one from ‘MarkoMarko’, who I suspect may not be local, and may even have been an employee of the Williams gang.

click to enlarge

The final plug report of the year was on 4 December 2017. Now the focus switched to the Seiont Manor Hotel , lined up for a £5m expansion. This would involve, ” . . . extending the restaurant with the provision of a new lake view terrace, expansion of the existing leisure facilities to improve the changing and spa facilities and add treatment rooms, a purpose built lake side function suite with bedrooms above and luxury lodges in the grounds”.

The first article in the new year appeared on 7 February 2018 and the focus switched again, this time to a snowy Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch, which we were told Paul and Rowena Williams were buying. The obligatory video introduced ageing juvenile lead Rikki Reynolds, general manager of the Seiont Manor Hotel.

This new project included, “a 100 bedroom hotel with a pool, spa, restaurants and bars”. There was to be a seafood restaurant, and holiday cottages, with the Daily Post adding, “They (Paul and Rowena Williams) said the residential parts of the project will help with funding for other parts of this 240 job scheme and the ongoing restoration at Glynllifon and expansion of Seiont Manor in Llanrug, which they also own.”

Two hundred and forty jobs! This is bullshit piled so high that it must have blocked out the sun. But by this stage if Paul Williams had said he was Jesus Christ come to give us all another chance the Daily Post would have reported it without question . . . and of course with a video.

Just three days later, on 10 February 2018, the Daily Post returned to Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch, for which, we were told, “project proposals have come and gone”; but things were to be different this time with Paul and Rowena Williams and the boy wonder. Maybe, but the video was the same one we’d seen three days earlier. We also heard of a new player in “Developer Plas Glynllifon Group”, of which no one has seen hide nor hair since.

On 27 April 2018 a fire was reported at Plas Tŷ Coch. ‘Disgraceful’ behaviour according to Paul Williams (a man who knows a thing or two about disgraceful behaviour). The Daily Post took the opportunity to remind us that Plas Tŷ Coch would be restored (sic) into luxury period apartments with low density housing in the grounds of the mansion and the restoration of walled and formal gardens.

I’m losing track now of how many apartments, houses, lodges, are involved with the Williams’ properties. Add them to the hotels, restaurants, pools, spas, bars and God knows what else and it’s getting bloody crowded!

Did it never occur to anyone that this bloke might be a sinister kind of Walter Mitty?

On to 11 May 2018 when we were told that Paul and Rowena Williams intended to part-fund their ambitions in the north through the sale of those properties they owned in Powys and over the border. This was the £10m ‘sale’ to convicted fraudster Keith Partridge, which was about as convincing as a ‘Welsh Labour’ Party manifesto.

The cost of renovating Plas Glynllifon was now £20m, up from £5.5m to £6.5m a year earlier. Inflation on this scale is no problem if you’re fluent in bollocks, pluck figures out of thin air, and are trying to wangle grants . . .

We only had to wait one day, to 12 May 2018, for the next intriguing episode headed, “Take a look inside stunning Plas Glynllifon as restoration continues”. And we were treated to yet another video and more photos of scaffolding and further examples of Victorian interiors at their worst.

Giving us an effect that is quite overwrought and claustrophobic. I can only assume that this bedroom would be the Edgar Allan Poe Suite. Who’s that in the mirror!

Courtesy of Daily Post, click to enlarge (if you dare!)

The Daily Post went for its hat-trick with three consecutive days’ coverage on 13 May 2018, with the emphasis now shifting to the parkland and pleasure gardens around Plas Glynllifon. For the headline told us “Mansion owners in ‘advanced talks’ to take ownership of Parc Glynllifon country park”.

If this carried on it was only a matter of time before Paul Williams approached Cyngor Gwynedd with an offer they couldn’t refuse to buy the whole bloody county.

The long-awaited news of open days at Plas Glynllifon was brought to us on 6 June 2018. There was yet another video, this one confirming that a number of deliveries had been received from the local garden centre, with photos of the happy couple, scaffolding, and the Edgar Allan Poe Suite.

Weep for Wales appeared 8 June 2018.

The cobwebs were blown away when, on 9 June 2018, we were back to the bracing air of Plas Brereton on the Menai Strait, and among fresh proposals for the site was a fishing village! So if we add that to the apartments, houses, lodges and hotels, how much accommodation does that give us? How much extra accommodation does the Caernarfon area need?

We made another slight detour on 16 June 2018 as Paul Williams’ house-trained “expert in land and heritage conservation”, dragged up specially from Cornwall, tut-tutted about the state of Parc Glynllifon and suggested that it was in such a mess it should be handed over to Paul Williams at a knock-down price.

Of the accompanying photos two were of scaffolding. (They can grow on you!)

Weep for Wales 2 appeared 19 June 2018.

Weep for Wales 3 appeared 29 June 2018.

Weep for Wales 4 appeared 3 July 2018.

Weep for Wales 5 appeared 8 July 2018.

Maybe my blog was being read at the Daily Post, for the uncritical plugs stopped and the first cloud appeared in the Williams firmament with the report of 11 July 2018 headlined, “Welsh Government considering whether grant funding to mansion developers can be recouped after hotels close”, a reference to the closure of the Radnorshire Arms Hotel In Presteigne and the Knighton Hotel in the town of that name.

For all I know there might have been other articles that I’ve missed, but the 18 I’ve listed here tell an alarming tale of a gang of shysters given free access to an important source of local news. For they were allowed to say anything they wanted with nary an awkward question, let alone any journalistic digging to find out who they really were.

And it wasn’t just the Daily Post that was guilty of unquestioning plugs. There was Business News Wales on 8 March 2017. BBC Wales 27 June 2018. The Caterer 29 June 2018. The Daily Mail 1 July 2018, etc., etc.

But as the local ‘paper the Daily Post is more guilty than others of not doing its homework on these crooks. Indeed, the other news outlets may have been attracted to Glynllifon by the endless plugs they saw in the Daily Post. Seeing as they got it so wrong with Paul and Rowena Williams we have to ask if the Daily Post will identify the next shysters arriving on its patch, or will it be more free and uncritical publicity.

Because I can predict with certainty that the easy ride Paul and Rowena Williams received from the local media, the council and others, will encourage other crooks to chance their arm in Gwynedd.

Of course, I tried to post comments to the endless ‘Aren’t they wonderful!’ stories about Paul and Rowena Williams; trying to warn people, but I’m blocked from the Daily Post and WalesOnline websites.

The question for newspapers and other media outlets before repeating press releases, or running encomiums, must always be – ‘What do we really know about these people?’ And if the answer is ‘Nothing’, or ‘Very little’, then start digging!

THE FAT LADY IS WAITING IN THE WINGS

In the previous episode I told you that Leisure & Development Ltd was in the hands of receivers and the establishments involved locked, with CCTV installed. Since then I’ve heard that Paul Williams was still getting access to some of the buildings, for example, to the Knighton Hotel, either from the flat or ground floor showroom he still owns.

The latest information I have says that an offer has been made for the Radnorshire Arms by some local nobs who hope to start refurbishment work early next year. There is also interest in the Knighton Hotel and the properties in England and Cornwall, all of which might be offered for sale very soon.

In Gwynedd, things are also moving to a conclusion. For example, in the extracts you’ve just read from the Daily Post you’ll see that Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch crop up quite regularly, with ludicrous plans for fishing villages and God knows what else – but Paul and Rowena Williams never owned these properties!

They seem to have put down a deposit but never got around to paying off the balance. The deadline to complete the sale passed on Tuesday 18 September, and so, on the reasonable assumption that the balance was not paid, Paul and Rowena Williams are now left with Plas Glynllifon and the Seiont Manor Hotel, the latter run for them by drug-dependent Rikki Reynolds.

click to enlarge

The Daily Post couldn’t forget old habits and tried to put a positive spin on the story, as if the deal would be finalised . . . as if non-completion was a mere oversight . . . nothing to do with the money having dried up . . . the other properties being in the hands of liquidators . . . everything falling apart . . .

STOP PRESS: But, finally, on Wednesday 19 September the Daily Post was forced to submit to reality and admit that the deal had fallen through.

I now visualise Paul Williams holed up in Plas Glynllifon, something like Jean Gabin in Le Jour se Lève, chain-smoking Gauloises and ready to shoot it out with the flics receivers. (God! I must lay off the Malbec!)

click to enlarge

But enough of 1930s French movies and the Daily Post, what about other individuals and agencies we’ve encountered in this saga, how do their roles stand up to scrutiny?

UPDATE 21.09.2018: Today the Daily Post reported that Dyfed Powys Police had met with Powys County Council trading standards officers last week to discuss the now closed Powys hotels owned by Paul and Rowena Williams.

Paul Williams was quoted as saying, “We are unaware of any meeting allegedly held between the local authority and the police in Powys. However, we are pleased to hear that they are looking into matters as this will without doubt vindicate Rowena and I.”

The Daily Post‘s reporting was again abysmal. Just two days ago, Owen Hughes, the DP’s Business Correspondent – who has written all the puffs for Paul and Rowena Williams – told us that the deal to buy Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch had fallen through, but today he wants us to believe that they’ve “agreed the purchase” of these properties.

Can’t he remember what he’s written . . . or did somebody else write it?

Not only that, but he sticks to the Williams story about these Powys properties having been sold to convicted fraudster Keith Partridge, when everyone else knows this was just a ploy allowing them to slip away and lay the blame on somebody else.

UPDATE 22.09.2018: Daily Post reports statement from Paul Williams.

SUPPORTING CAST

Plas Glynllifon is a Grade 1 listed building. The Radnorshire Arms in Presteigne and the Knighton Hotel are both Grade II listed buildings. (Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch are also listed.) Which means that they come under the watchful eye of Cadw, or English Heritage (West) as it is more honestly known.

Cadw/EH(W) awards grants to those owning listed properties, and so, given Paul and Rowena Williams’ talent for sniffing out easy money, it would be reasonable to assume that they applied to Cadw/EH(W) for funding. And this is what I’m told happened. I’m further told that grant funding was given.

More specifically, large amounts were given to the Powys properties, enough for Williams to claim that grants had paid for the Knighton Hotel. While in Gwynedd, it’s reported that there was a dispute between Paul and Rowena Williams and Cadw/EH(W) over a grant given to Plas Glynllifon which appeared to have been diverted to the Seiont Manor Hotel.

In the hope of getting the facts I submitted a FoI request to Cadw/EH(W), but if the reply I received is to be believed then the Williams gang haven’t received a penny. Read it for yourself.

Which means that either my informants are mistaken, or else – and I hate to even consider this possibility! – Cadw/EH(W) is telling old Jac porkies!

With Paul and Rowena Williams’ empire now reduced to Plas Glynllifon and Seiont Manor it’s worth asking what roles have been played by the local council and Grŵp Llandrillo Menai which runs the adjoining Glynllifon Agricultural College.

Cyngor Gwynedd has remained tight-lipped, saying only that Plas Glynllifon is privately owned and has nothing to do with the council. Which I suppose is fair enough up to a point, but the council must have concerns when such a prominent local building is constantly changing hands between dreamers and crooks.

Grŵp Llandrillo Menai has said even less, which for me is more worrying, Because if we go back to 13 May the Daily Post was headlining a story “Mansion owners in ‘advanced talks’ to take ownership of Parc Glynllifon country park”. And the report went on, ” . . . discussions are underway with Gwynedd council and Grŵp Llandrillo Menai over taking control of parts of the vast estate grounds surrounding the mansion”.

Courtesy of Daily Post, click to enlarge

So how far did these talks progress? Were they concluded with an agreement to hand over land to Paul and Rowena Williams? In light of recent developments, how difficult would it be for Cyngor Gwynedd and Grŵp Llandrillo Menai to issue a statement assuring us that no deal was done? I suggest they owe it to us.

A name that has cropped up throughout this case is that of property company Lambert Smith Hampton, and in particular Dudley James Cross, who often seemed to act as a personal advisor to Paul and Rowena Williams, or perhaps even a partner, for at one time he was a director of Leisure & Development Ltd, the company that was ‘sold’ on 1 February to Keith Partridge, but then went tits up.

click to large

You’ll notice that on his Linkedin profile Cross is Regional Head of LSH based in Northampton, but when he was director of Leisure & Development Ltd he was apparently resident in Wales, with his address given as Plas Glynllifon.

So what sort of a company is Lambert Smith Hampton that it gets involved with crooks like Williams and Partridge? Where is Cross now? Is his role in all this being investigated?

A LAND READY FOR THE TAKING

The deeper I dig and the more I learn about how modern Wales is run the more I realise how easy it is for crooks like Paul Williams to come waltzing in demanding this that and t’other. And demand that we pay for it!

Just recently I wrote about the new village of very expensive properties being built not far from Plas Glynllifon, apparently with the blessing and full co-operation of Cyngor Gwynedd.

Just a few miles away, at Nebo, a gang set up in a farm, and a benefit claimant threw up a seven-bedroom mansion! The police eventually raided the place. I understand this is another case from which Gwynedd’s planning department does not emerge with any credit.

All this is happening in Gwynedd, which many outside the area think of as some impregnable fortress of Welshness. The truth is its walls have been breached, and from the inside.

And yet, perversely, when I see how easy it is for people who are obviously greedy and corrupt, but none too bright, to get away with all this, then in a curious way it gives me hope.

For I see that the political machinery is old and broken, with few taking any interest in its running; the social structures that once seemed so permanent are in a state of flux; people are discontented and looking for something new; while the traditional media is discredited and dying before our eyes.

We are at a stage in the history of Wales where enough determined people, with the right message, can generate enough enthusiasm and public support to direct the political and social agenda.

Carpe Diem!

♦ end ♦

 

The Privatisation of Welsh Housing Associations

THE GREAT MYSTERY OF HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS

I have written about housing associations dozens of times. One of the many things that intrigued me was their legal status – were they public bodies or private companies? For on the one hand they enjoyed the benefit of public funding (and lots of it), yet were exempt from public scrutiny and Freedom of Information legislation, just like private companies.

From my inquiries into housing associations I concluded that they enjoyed the best of both worlds.

But this idyll was threatened in late 2015 when the Office for National Statistics surprised us all by deciding that – by falling into line with EU accounting rules – Registered Social Landlords (the more official name for housing associations) in England should be reclassified from Private Non-Financial Corporations to Public Non-Financial Corporations. (Wales and Scotland would also be affected.)

This certainly surprised me, and the revelation that housing associations were regarded as private companies also surprised those who had innocently assumed that publicly-funded providers of social housing, owning for the most part stock they had inherited from local authorities, were already public bodies.

From the Guardian, October 2015, click to enlarge

In addition to surprising some, the change also annoyed a number of people, not least the man in No 11 Downing Street, because it meant that £60bn of housing association debt would be added to the UK’s public indebtedness. Within the sector there were concerns that reclassification would mean, among other things, that housing associations would now be open to public scrutiny.

But if nothing else, this move by the ONS clarified the status of these mysterious bodies. They had been private, the ONS wanted to make them public, and now the race was on to find a way of reversing the ONS decision.

England led the way and in November 2017 the ONS announced that once the new measures had passed into law housing associations would be reclassified once again as private bodies. Wales followed suit in June this year with the Regulation of Registered Social Landlords (Wales) Act 2018. Despite the title, the purpose of this legislation is in fact to deregulate housing associations so that there is no possibility of them being considered public bodies.

ALL CHANGE

Before delving into the Act, let me make a few things clear. It would be easy to think that if housing associations were private bodies that were briefly deemed to be public bodies by the ONS and are now reclassified as private, then surely we’re back where we started? Er, no . . . there have been many changes, significant and worrying changes.

These are encapsulated in ‘About the Bill’ in the ‘Overview’ introduction to the legislation, where it says:

click to enlarge

It tells us clearly that to satisfy the Office for National Statistics “The purpose of the Bill is to amend or remove those powers which are deemed by the Office for National Statistics (“ONS”) to demonstrate central and local government control over Registered Social Landlords (RSLs).”

For those who find it difficult to wade through the full legislation (which I guess is some 99% of us) here’s a more manageable ‘Guide’ in which I’ve highlighted certain sections that I shall now focus on in order to discuss what I consider to be a very worrying direction of travel.

Let’s turn to the highlighted document.

Paragraphs 13, 15, 18 and 20 all list circumstances or situations in which housing associations no longer need the consent of ‘Welsh Ministers’. This is not a reference to a conclave of Nonconformist preachers but to the clowns down Cardiff docks who want us to think of them as the ‘Welsh Government’. (In reality they are just England’s management team in Wales.)

In practice, it means that a Registered Social Landlord in Wales is now free to make any change it likes to its rules, merge with another company, transfer its “engagements” (assets?) to another company, or go into liquidation, all without needing the approval of the ‘Welsh Ministers’.

Paragraphs 33 and 34 however gives the ‘Welsh Ministers’ power to both remove and appoint officers of RSLs, even if that housing association is a company. Which strikes me as a little odd, and would appear to contradict the expressed objective of removing the powers of local and central government.

As do paragraphs 40, 42 and 43 which also give or retain powers for the ‘Welsh Ministers’. These include the right to compel a RSL “to transfer management functions to a person specified by them (the ‘Welsh Ministers’)”. They can also appoint a manager and forcibly amalgamate RSLs.

Further paragraphs are in the same vein until we come to 61, which is worth thinking about, for it gives the ‘Welsh Ministers’ the power to show favouritism to certain housing associations at the expense of others.

Paragraph 63 suggests that housing associations are now free to hide “disposal proceeds” in the accounts, proceeds that will almost certainly have been paid for out of public funds. What’s more, ‘Welsh Ministers’ have no say in how the money – public money – is to be used.

click to enlarge

Paragraphs 64, 71, 73 and 78 reiterate that local authorities – that is, the democratically elected bodies serving the areas in which housing associations operate – no longer have any influence in the running of RSLs.

WHAT WILL IT MEAN IN PRACTICE?

In a nutshell, Serendipity presented the ‘Welsh’ Government with an opportunity to extend its power in areas where the Labour Party is as popular as Boris Johnson at a Remoaner Wail-in and Carwyn and his gang grabbed the chance with both hands.

Or to look at it from another angle, an allegedly socialist political party has no qualms about privatising bodies holding and managing public assets.

Let’s deal with the power grab first. Despite being the party with the most MPs and AMs, and the party of power in Cardiff docks, Labour controls just twelve of Wales’ twenty-two local authorities. And none in the south west, the north west or the centre.

As I’ve explained on this blog a number of times, Labour overcomes its lack of representation – and consequently influence – through the power of patronage and funding. The third sector being a prime example, controlled via public funding dished out by the Labour management team in Cardiff docks the third sector is stuffed with Labour’s cronies and operates across the country. Whether it’s the Citizens Advice Bureau in Gwynedd or one of the countless ‘homelessness’ charities fighting over rough sleepers Labour uses the third sector to give it influence in areas where it has little electoral support.

The same can be said of housing associations. There are certain RSLs aligned with Labour and these are rewarded with extra funding and encouragement to take over housing associations that are not run by Labour Party supporters. One example I’ve dealt with a number of times was the takeover of Cantref, based in Castell Newydd Emlyn, by Wales and West Housing of Cardiff, run by the wife of a Cardiff Labour councillor. (A woman who insists on appearing in almost every photograph.)

One curb on the excesses of such Labour shenanigans was the involvement of local, non-Labour councillors, in the running of housing associations operating on their patch. But as we’ve seen, the new Act removes that involvement.

click to enlarge

But the Act entrenches the power of the ‘Welsh’ Government to interfere of behalf of Labour-connected RSLs. For example, it’s no secret that Wales and West wants to take over Tai Ceredigion. The minister responsible could remove Tai Ceredigion’s CEO, replace him with a Labour stooge, who could then announce that the best option for Tai Ceredigion would be a merger with Wales and West Housing.

I’ve focused on Wales and West but I could have mentioned any number of other housing associations that are obviously Labour in their political orientation but tend to operate in one area, unlike Wales and West, which has a national reach, active in 15 of our 22 local authority areas.

GYPSY JAC GAZES INTO HIS CRYSTAL BALL

With housing associations deregulated, local authority influence removed, and the Labour Party able to control the whole shooting match, Wales could be facing a bleak future.

Let’s take Gwynedd, an area where Labour’s support is largely limited to academics and students around the alien university in Bangor. In the near future Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd (which inherited Gwynedd’s social housing stock) could be taken over by Labour Party appointees, who then sign contracts with English local authorities and RSLs to help them bring down their waiting lists for social housing. Something the new legislation allows RSLs to do.

So Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd goes on a building spree with borrowed money.

But it eventually becomes clear that Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd has bitten off more than it can chew and it goes into voluntary liquidation owing millions of pounds to lenders. So who is now responsible for that debt? Is it the ‘Welsh’ Government – in other words, you and me?

One of the objections to the reclassification as public bodies was that such a move would restrict housing associations’ ability to borrow money. Though Welsh RSLs have in the past borrowed very little from commercial lenders – that wasn’t repaid by the ‘Welsh’ Government – because they don’t need to. They have the guaranteed income from their housing stock, a stock that in most cases was paid for out of public funds, and as we know, this income is supplemented by handouts from the ‘Welsh’ Government.

So what becomes of these handouts now? Will deregulated private housing associations still receive public funding every year?

Will this and other grants still be paid to our now privatised housing associations, or is it time for another update? (Click to enlarge.)

Another consideration might be that Welsh RSLs are also free to enter into agreements with those London boroughs currently engaged in social cleansing. Which could mean that a Welsh RSL in receipt of your money would be helping move people from London to Wales.

The new Act also allows RSLs to dispose of their ‘engagements’ and land assets. So what redress is there if, for example, Mid Wales Housing sells off land or property to RSLs based in the English West Midlands and these bodies then move many of their less ‘sociable’ tenants into places like Meifod and Llanwrtyd?

Clearly, the temptation is now there for Welsh RSLs to borrow unwisely and to over-extend themselves, which may well serve a certain agenda.

I say that because most people agree that we have too many housing associations. There are ten operating in Neath Port Talbot, six in Conwy, and no less than fifteen in Cardiff.

Obviously, the total number must be reduced, and the new Act makes it easier to undermine RSLs not favoured by Labour – as was done with Cantref – and to force through mergers. Which is what I predict will happen in the coming years, and it will be justified in the name of ‘rationalisation’.

What will be glossed over is the fact that the only housing associations left standing at the end of this process will be those run by Labour Party members and supporters. For make no mistake, the Regulation of Registered Social Landlords (Wales) Act 2018 gives the Labour Party more opportunities to extend its malign influence through giving its hangers-on preferential treatment.

But this is how a one-party state operates – supporters are rewarded and non-supporters compromised or intimidated.

LABOUR’S NUCLEAR OPTION

But the starkest and most dangerous reminder of the one-party state could, paradoxically, come when most people think the power of the Labour Party in Wales has finally been broken. A case of the cornered beast.

I can see a situation, maybe as early as the Assembly elections of 2021, that sees Labour without a majority and unable to cobble together a coalition. The ‘Welsh’ Labour Party will then be in opposition down Cardiff docks.

It is at this point that all the scheming and placements, all the bribes and sinecures, bear fruit, and all the favours will be called in. For it will be when Labour is in opposition that we see the benefit of having a bloated third sector, of filling housing associations with its people, of generally building up a network of supporters and funding recipients, everyone from Mrs Tiggy-Winkle’s Hedgehog Rescue Service to Côr Meibion Cwmscwt.

For I predict with absolute certainty that when Labour loses control of the Assembly it will not accept defeat gracefully. The party will begin a campaign of guerilla warfare to undermine the new administration. Wrecking Wales will be acceptable collateral damage, because the party comes first.

Labour’s foot-soldiers in this dirty war will be its supporters in the sectors and networks the party has carefully built up over the past twenty years, including the deregulated RSLs, and these will be backed by a media that is either Labour-leaning or else a BritNat propaganda outlet for which Labour – as a Unionist party – is far more acceptable than what may have replaced Labour.

Making it easier for Wales to be made ungovernable through vindictive factionalism could be an important consequence of the Regulation of Registered Social Landlords (Wales) Act 2018.

♦ end ♦

 

Shorts 16.07.2018 (Well it is summer!)

I’m taking a wee break from the Williams-Partridge gang, but I shall return to them, you can count on it. Weep for Wales 6 is already forming itself in the old Jac noggin.

But as the Walrus said, The time has come to talk of many things . . . but we shall not stray far from my favoured themes of shysters and charlatans, colonialists and their facilitators.

THE GREEN, GREEN PARTY OF HOME (WHICH IS NOT WALES)

There is in Wales a political grouping calling itself the Wales Green Party. Over the years many people – myself included – have pointed out that despite the name it has no legal existence, being merely part of The Green Party (of England). Scotland has a separate party.

Those of a masochistic bent may choose to read some of my previous offerings on the subject: Plaid Cymru and the Green Party of EnglandandWales, More on the Green Party of EnglandandWales, Green Party of EnglandandWales, Wales Region AGM 2015.

This question of whether there is or should be a separate Welsh party has bedevilled the Greens in Wales for some years and so it was recently decided to lance the boil by having a vote on whether to become wholly independent or remain part of the Green Party (of England).

The result is in and 64.8% voted to remain part of the Green Party (of England), though the party leader in Wales, Grenville Ham, favoured treating Wales with respect by forming a separate party.

This result does not surprise me. The Greens I’ve met in my area, and others I know of who’ve moved to rural parts of Wales, tend to offer a ‘We know best’ kind of ‘enlightened’ colonialism. No less offensive when delivered by some malodorous little twat with a 2:2 in mycology than when it’s barked by the District Officer wearing shorts with a razor-sharp crease.

What I’m saying is that, in Wales, most Greens are English arrivals (many of them just passing through). This explains why – unlike Scotland – we do not have a separate and native Green Party. This also explains the vote I’ve just reported.

Greens in Wales must now stop the pretence that there is a Wales Green Party. There is not. What we have in Wales is the regional branch of The Green Party of England. Calling it the Green Party of England and Wales is no improvement, especially when we remember the position in Scotland.

Those who want a Welsh Green Party, those who wish to prioritise the Welsh national interest, had better do some hard thinking. A new, genuinely Welsh Green party could resonate with Welsh voters far better than the Green Party of England has done hitherto.

It could hardly do any worse.

WHO WILL BUY MY LOVELY HOUSES? – THE ‘WELSH’ GOVERNMENT OF COURSE!

And so to Pembrokeshire, which attracts a disproportionate number of those malodorous little gits with a 2:2 in mycology. But on a higher plane, far removed from the darkness and the copious amounts of shit, we enter the realm of Sol Invictus.

And it’s there, basking in the wealth he bestows, that we find Dr Glen Peters. Formerly of bean-counters PwC but now ensconced at Rhos y Gilwen mansion near Cilgerran, where he brings culture to this benighted corner of Wales through Menter Rhosygilwen. You can even get married there.

Courtesy of Linkedin, click to enlarge

But his real interest is making money through his company Western Solar Ltd. There is a solar farm on his land and when he’s not harvesting all that lovely sunshine on his estate he’s building houses . . . to harvest more life-giving sunshine. His footnote in history being assured with Pentre Solar, an ambitious scheme at Glanrhyd.

But ere it started, the ‘Welsh’ Government bunged Peters £141,000 for a factory in which to manufacture sections for the houses. Since then, the ‘Welsh’ Government has loaned the Ateb Group, formerly Pembrokeshire Housing, £900,000 to buy the six houses from Peters.

Yet according to this account in the Guardian, just four of the properties, ‘have “affordable” rents and are being offered to people on Pembrokeshire county council’s housing register who have lived in the area for five years’.

So how many of these houses are for social housing, six or four?

Either way, Glen Peters has made a tidy wodge from the ‘Welsh’ Government and a factory paid for out of public funds has been added to his property portfolio. Yet his Linkedin profile boasts that he has been “Eco Entrepreneur of the Year”.

An entrepreneur (for which there is no word in Welsh, incidentally) is someone who takes risks with his own money. How the hell can anyone be an entrepreneur when he’s feather-bedded by the public purse?

The Solar Village website makes a big thing of “employing locals”, yet closer inspection reveals that these people are ‘local’ only in the sense that they’ve moved to Wales. Just like so many other schemes in the Welsh countryside, especially where environmentalism is concerned, we see Welsh public money funding social engineering.

As for Glanrhyd, it’s a hamlet on a B road some five kilometres from Cardigan. I’m not sure how good the public transport links are, but even if they’re good Ateb might have had trouble finding tenants. Seeing as the houses are now occupied I’d like to know who lives in them, how many are social tenants, and how local those people are to the area.

Worth asking because the Ateb Group is a curious beast, a Community Benefit Society that includes Mill Bay Homes Ltd. I don’t understand how a private company can shelter under the umbrella of a Community Benefit Society; but then, all sorts of things are permitted, or overlooked, in the strange world of Welsh housing associations.

For example, Mill Bay Homes is no longer a Registered Social Landlord, which is hardly surprising seeing as it builds and sells property on the open market like Wimpey and Redrow; but it has over the years borrowed millions from its publicly-funded parent company Pembrokeshire Housing which now – re-branded Ateb – is buying properties from Mill Bay!

It’s all very complicated. Deliberately so.

Does that bank of solar panels feed into the grid when demand is low? If so, who gets the money? Picture courtesy of WalesOnline. Click to enlarge

Western Solar Power has plans for more villages. Another project lined up is for Coastal Housing in sun-blest Ammanford. Where no doubt the public purse will further enrich Glen Peters and Coastal Housing will have properties that attract positive publicity in obscure publications, but they’ll be expensive to build and might not serve the purpose used to justify the public funding – affordable homes for local people.

Glen Peters is obviously on a good thing. All he has to do is keep pressing the right buttons and the money pours into his bank account. But I can’t help thinking that social housing could be delivered a lot cheaper, in places locals want to live, which is why I’m sceptical of Pentre Solar and similar projects.

Bottom line is, it might be acceptable for Glen Peters to enrich himself playing the enlightened squire, and employing his cronies – but not with our money!

BERYL’S IN PERIL!

No doubt you’re all aware that there’s a by-election campaign under way in Cydweli’s Mynydd-y-Garreg ward. In fact, there are only two wards in Cydweli; Mynydd-y-Garreg and Castle, which might make life easy for some, but for your average punter, having eight or nine community councillors for his or her ward must cause confusion.

The council is Labour controlled, with a few Independents, one Tory, one Plaid Cymru, and Ukip represented by Gary Beer of Swansea Quality Lettings Ltd. (That has a certain ring to it, no?)

Standing for Labour in Mynydd-y-Garreg is Beryl-Ann Williams. I’m told her election literature is in English only, a great disappointment to see this on the home turf of the late Ray Gravell, where 62% of the working age population speaks Welsh . . . but only 21% of retired people. Now I wonder why that is?

Beryl-Ann works in the third sector as an ‘art psychotherapist’. (No, honestly, I did not just make that up.) This psychotherapisting may be done at the Kidwelly Community Hub, which seems to serve as a publicly-funded but unofficial Labour Party clubhouse.

Beryl-Ann Williams, Lee Waters AM on the left and Nia Griffith MP on the right, with mayor Phil Thompson behind the MP.

This being the Llanelli constituency, where Plaid Cymru has self-destructed, and Tories have never been thick on the ground, her sole opponent is Independent Ronald Carl Peters-Bond, whose literature is bilingual and has a powerful message:

“Kidwelly Town Council’s focus has been on building a new office costing over £500,000, the overspend on which has now left it in serious financial difficulties. We need to stop the rot.” and “Currently over 80% of the tax you pay to Kidwelly Town Council goes on administration and keeping that shiny building.”

Can you believe that a Labour administration would waste money on such things? And overspend?

I look forward to hearing from distant Cydweli that Grav’s old stomping-ground has rejected a Labour/third sector blagger who seems to have no love for Wales and her heritage.

‘I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT IT . . . MUST BE SOMEBODY ELSE’S GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBLE’

Back in May I wrote about BikePark Wales, yet another example of Welsh assets being handed over to a bunch of strangers in order that they can enrich themselves. In this particular case it was Natural Resources Wales leasing a large area of forested land near Merthyr Tudful to a company with the absurd name of Beic Parcio Cymru Ltd operating as BikePark Wales.

Something that particularly worried me was the fact that this company felt it had the power to fine locals found on the land it was leasing, and that these fines could be collected on the spot by ‘marshalls’ (sic).

click to enlarge

A regular reader of this blog tried to get a number of politicians interested in this surely unacceptable behaviour; Labour and Plaid Cymru couldn’t be bothered and the only politician who came through was Mostyn Neil Hamilton, the Ukip AM for the Mid and West Wales Region.

Last week, in Plenary at the Assembly, Hamilton raised the issue with first minister Carwyn Jones, who professed complete ignorance. (Available here at 22:05.) Now put aside any antipathy you may have towards Ukip, or Hamilton, and consider the issue on its merits. And think about Carwyn Jones’ response.

In that irritating I’m-a-tidy-bloke-but-cleverer-than-you manner Carwyn Jones tried to laugh it off and almost seemed to suggest that Hamilton was making it up. But if what Jones said was right, then BikePark Wales is acting illegally. That being so, then surely something has now been done about it?

No. I’ve just checked the BikePark Wales website and it reads the same as it did before. Which suggests that Carwyn Jones and his management team really doesn’t care about such colonialist arrogance.

When strangers take over a country, exploit it for their own ends, when the indigenous population is elbowed aside, and when a collaborationist administration encourages and funds such behaviour, then that, my friend, can not be dressed up as ‘investment’, or disguised as an ‘economic strategy’.

It is colonialism; and to deny it is no different to the Green Party (of England) refusing to accept that Wales is a country in its own right, just an economically underdeveloped region of England or Britain.

By any criteria you care to apply Wales is a colony. What are you going to do about it?

♦ end ♦

 

Snippets and Updates 19.04.2018

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.

Enjoy!

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.

Courtesy of Wales Online, click to enlarge

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.

Even though she’s fighting for the Labour deputy leadership Harris has not neglected her long-standing vendetta against “dyke shoes”-wearing former colleague Jenny Lee Clarke, who will stand trial in June, in Newport, on the contrived charge of theft by the curious route of having paid herself too much.

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.

From the Caer Las website, click to enlarge

Here we find George Street where, after a fire last week, a body was found. The news media soon lost interest in the story but I got to wondering who might own the property, so I went to the Land Registry website. Sure enough, the house is owned by Cymdeithas Caer Las.

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.

Moving up the A487 to Aberystwyth there is more news on the Plas Morolwg site above the harbour, a project you read about not so long ago in Who Needs Democracy? and Wales and West Housing, the scandal continues.

You’ll recall that the local branch of the Labour Party, now controlled by a Momentum crowd, none of whom seems to have been born anywhere near Ceredigion, took advantage of the closure of the Bodlondeb special needs home in the town to attack the Plaid-led council.

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?

Courtesy of Wales and West Housing, click to enlarge

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.

Perhaps Owen Jones will pay another visit. (Maybe I’ll get him in a selfie! Or a head-lock!)

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.

click to enlarge

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.

click to enlarge

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.

CHARLES WINDSOR

Unless you’ve been stuck somewhere for a few weeks without contact with the outside world you’ll know about Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns’ plan to name the Second Severn Crossing the Prince of Wales Bridge. At the time of writing, the petition opposing this odious piece of arse-licking had passed 37,000 signatures.

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.

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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.

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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.

On Tuesday an apology was issued on Twitter by Dan Evans. He “also made a substantial contribution to a charity chosen by the former MP“. So who is Dan Evans?

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.

Evans’ earlier employment suggests happy-clappy do-gooding.

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?

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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.

For the good of Wales.

♦ end ♦

 

 

Cymraeg needs power in the West – Arfor can deliver it

A guest post by Aled Gwyn Jôb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♦ end ♦

Jac chips in . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Local Government Reorganisation, Again!

INTRODUCTION

I’m old enough to remember the term ‘Wales and Monmouthshire’ being used, which gave us the thirteen old counties, and then there were the four county boroughs (Swansea, Cardiff, Newport and Merthyr).

This system was swept away by the Local Government Act 1972 which in 1974 gave us a two-tier system of local government, made up of eight counties, thirty-seven districts, and, if I counted them all, 43,736 councillors. It was probably the most absurd system of local government ever devised by man.

Mrs Jones would go her district council office with a query or a complaint only to be told that the issue vexing her was a matter for the county council. (And vice versa.) To further confuse us I seem to recall that responsibilities were often shared or split. Didn’t district councils collect the rubbish but counties dispose of it?

The obvious thing to have done, of course, would have been to do away with the districts leaving us with eight good-sized unitary authorities. But no, this is Wales, and other factors influenced decisions. Such as lowering the minimum population level to 60,000 so that Merthyr could be one of the new unitary authorities.

Quite obviously, twenty-two local authorities – and Powys having more councillors than New York City – is no real improvement on the two-tier system in a country of just over three million people.

The two local government reorganisations introduced in 1974 and 1996 were the work of the UK government and the Boundary Commission with considerable input from political parties and others. But now the power lies with the ‘Welsh’ Government.

For this is the age of devolution; Wales is a land of milk and honey, where lambs frolic under the planet-saving wind turbines (watered daily by the local hippies). Freed from the tyranny of labour by the introduction of AI we fly from Cardiff airport to our villas in the sun – even those from the north can reach Cardiff International in two or three hours on the new motorways and train lines that traverse the land. Students from Vladivostok and Valparaiso fight to get into the Assembly in order to see and hear for themselves our leaders, men and women globally renowned for their wisdom and their probity. Poverty is forever banished, everyone has a nice home and a new electric car or three . . . and I really must lay off the Malbec.

Back to reality. For a few years now the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government down in Corruption Bay, that monument to the late Nicholas Edwards, has toyed with the idea of yet another round of local government reorganisation. The subject seems to surface from time to time, often when Labour needs a distraction, or wants to be seen as ‘visionary’.

Earlier this month the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Local Government Secretary Alun Davies resurrected the suggestion to trim down our twenty-two local authorities to just ten with the publication of a Green Paper. So let’s examine the proposal in a little more detail.

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NORTH, MID AND WEST

In the previous, two-tier system, the north had two counties, Clwyd in the east and Gwynedd in the west. In the map above you’ll see three counties mooted for any future reorganisation. But why?

I suggest that the answer lies with the Labour Party itself. Lump together Flintshire and Wrexham and you create a council that might just have a Labour majority, or certainly a council that could be run by Labour in coalition with Plaid Cymru and/or assorted Independents. (There being no less than three different Independent groups on Flintshire council!)

But add Denbighshire to the mix, where Labour currently has 13 (out of 47) councillors, and a resurrected Clwyd would be much less likely to be a Labour fiefdom. Which makes the union of Flintshire and Wrexham far more acceptable to the bruvvers.

This would leave the combined Denbighshire and Conwy with the burden of almost the whole of the north coast and its problems, ranging from the importation of criminals and assorted deadbeats into Rhyl and other towns to the granny trafficking that gives this littoral its nickname of the Costa Geriatrica.

Gwynedd and Ynys Môn is a natural unit in every way and of little interest to the Labour Party. Though in the former Gwynedd these two were joined with Conwy.

Moving south, to other areas where Labour has little chance of success (and consequently little interest), we see that the ‘Welsh’ Government has no wish to change the status quo or the status quo ante, with Powys left untouched and Dyfed reborn.

THE STEAMY SOUTH

Now we move into the south, where Labour most definitely does have an interest in the new boundaries.

First, Swansea Bay, where my understanding is that Swansea and Neath Port Talbot councils have already agreed in principle to merge, thereby formalising what is happening on the ground, with Amazon’s ‘Swansea’ distribution depot and Swansea University’s new Bay Campus both in Neath Port Talbot.

Aerial photo (courtesy of Swansea University) from 2013 showing the old, Mumbles Road, campus, top star; and the yet to be built Bay Campus, lower star. Also shown: River Neath, M4, Port Talbot to the left, Swansea to the right. Click to enlarge.

Next, it’s suggested that Bridgend links up with Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr. Which makes a certain sense in that they are three staunchly Labour areas covering the central valleys and approximate to the old Mid Glamorgan. Things get more complicated, and contentious, as we move east.

Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan comprised the county of South Glamorgan under the two-tier system, and it’s proposed to bring this back. This respect for history must be the reason for the proposal, and not the fact that the Vale is (with the help of an Independent) a Tory-run authority, with Labour holding just 14 of the 47 council seats.

Merged with more populous, and Labour voting, Cardiff, the proposed new authority would almost certainly have a Labour majority.

GWENT

Moving yet further east, things get really, really complicated.

Under the two-tier system Gwent was one of the eight counties, now it’s proposed to link Newport with Caerphilly, while Monmouthshire merges with Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent. The first we can almost overlook, seeing as it brings together two Labour areas, but the second is gerrymandering on a scale that old-style Ulster Unionists would applaud.

Monmouthshire council today is Conservative run, with the party holding 25 of the council’s 43 seats. At Westminster level Monmouthshire is represented by David Davies MP, and at Welsh Assembly level the AM is fellow-Tory Nick Ramsay.

Next door we find one of the poorest areas in Europe, an area that the twenty-first century – maybe also the twentieth – seems to have passed by. Blaenau Gwent should be held up as an example to the rest of the world of how not to handle the decline of traditional industries.

For whereas in well-run countries the post-industrial era means metal-bashing and extractive industries being replaced by clean, new industries, in Blaenau Gwent it just means neglect and decline. But, God bless ’em, for after a brief flirtation with the People’s Voice, Blaenau Gwent is back to blaming the Tories for its deprivation.

Perhaps I’m wrong, so let’s hear Alun Davies – the AM for Blaenau Gwent – argue that this proposed merger of Monmouthshire with Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent is not a kick in the plums for Dai Davies, nor an act of socialist vindictiveness against wealthier neighbours.

CONCLUSION

Within days of Alun Davies bringing out his Green Paper it came under attack from a very predictable quarter – the Welsh Local Government Association.

Despite all the flim-flam from the WLGA about ‘services’, and the ‘public interest’, and worries about ‘who’s gonna feed the gondolas?’, the real objections to local government reform from this Labour-controlled group are pretty selfish, and no different to the objections to earlier council reorganisations.

If you’re a council leader who’s schemed and back-stabbed his/her way to the top then you won’t take kindly to a plan to dismember your little empire or have it taken over by someone else’s empire. (The big fish in little pools syndrome.) Something similar goes for ambitious younger councillors with dreams of making it to the top.

And even if you have no ambitions beyond turning up now and again, snoozing on the comfy benches in the centrally-heated chamber, and picking up your allowance, you will still be alarmed because mergers must mean fewer councillors.

Which leaves Wales in a dangerous place.

For just about everyone accepts that we need fewer councils. But if the debate is restricted to the ‘Welsh’ Government on the one hand and the Labour-led WLGA representing the councils on the other then party unity will be the priority rather than the public or national interest.

This would be a disaster.

The ‘Welsh’ Government must be firm and force through reorganisation, and it must also fund reorganisation. The money needed to implement the changes will soon be recouped from the savings made in having many fewer councils.

And rather than go for crudely political and frankly illogical mergers why not just revert to the eight counties we knew up until 1996 and with which many of us are still familiar?

To avoid local government reorganisation becoming an internal Labour Party matter I encourage those reading this to make your opinions known; with letters to your local ‘paper, to your AM, your MP, and also make your local councillors realise that you want fewer councils and councillors even it means them losing out.

♦ end ♦

Networks

‘DO YOU WANNA BE IN MY GANG?’

We all belong to some kind of network. It can be as obvious as family or friends, or else it’s neighbours, workmates, political associates, other fans of the teams you support, fellow-worshippers at your chapel or church, even the people you play darts with down the pub. And nowadays we have to include social media.

Yet when we consciously use the word I’m sure many of us think of vaguely sinister organisations such as the Freemasons.

A curious outfit, the Freemasons, forever extolling their links with the Temple of Solomon, the Knights Templar, and the intellectuals and freethinkers of the Renaissance and the French Enlightenment. Yet this brotherhood lost its way and became what we see today – a mutual benefit society.

In fact, the Masons changed from being an organisation of questioning intellectuals to one representing an unquestioning and defensive bourgeoisie linked with the Conservative and Unionist Party, and in Ireland with Unionism and the Orange Order.

Freemasonry became a buttress for a UK establishment feeling threatened by the extending franchise in Britain and ‘Fenianism’ in Ireland. Which is not to say that supporters of other political parties don’t become Masons, but at root, Freemasonry is very much a Queen and Country organisation.

Yet today’s Freemasons maintain the pretence they belong to a rebellious intellectual continuum taking in Michaelangelo and Voltaire. Obvious nonsense.

One of the great bogeymen, and therefore recruiting sergeants, for the Freemasons a century ago was the Labour Party. Labour returned the compliment by trying to copy the reach of Freemasonry by building up its own network.

As with Freemasonry when it moved beyond the esoteric Labour’s expanding network of affiliated and associated bodies attracted individuals seeking personal advancement. This has predictably resulted in corruption.

Nowhere is this corruption more obvious now than in Wales.

THE OLIVE TRUST & THE KIDWELLY HUB

In the previous post we renewed our acquaintance with Denise Kingsley Acton, former Green Party candidate in Watford, proprietrix of the Olive Trust (‘Smells ‘n’ chants ‘r’ us’) who washed up in Wales (as so many like her do), struck up a curious friendship with an elderly Swansea Labour councillor, and then in 2010 applied for £1,000,000 from the Welsh European Funding Office.

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Last week I wrote to WEFO asking if this application had been successful. The answer I received seems very carefully worded. The underlinings are mine.

“Thanks for your email. I’ve discussed with colleagues and as far as we’re aware, the Olive Trust does not appear to have directly received EU funding. For your information, the EU funds pages of the Welsh Government shows a list of all approved project through the current programmes“.

“As far as we’re aware” be buggered! Surely they keep records, they must know!

On the assumption that she did not get her million it could be that Denise Kingsley Acton believes the grass – and perhaps the funders – may be greener in Carmarthenshire, for she is now domiciled in Kidwelly. To be exact, in a detached house on an expensive new development near Mynydd-y-Garreg.

According to 192.com Denise S Kingsley lives with the man to whom I assume she is engaged – for her Facebook page informs us she is betrothed – and a Denise S Acton! Ménage à trois? Of course not – how dare you! – but confusion is bound to result when you use different names; and when she gets married the confusion can only increase.

Kingsley-Acton has recently opined that Kidwelly is badly in need of a community building (the kind of thing she wanted a million quid for in 2010) but hasn’t she heard of ‘The Hub’? It’s all happening in the Kidwelly Community Hub . . . well, maybe not much is happening, but it provides photo opportunities galore for Labour politicians. So it serves its real purpose.

Nia Griffith MP (in paper hat), Cllr Phil Thompson (green pinnie), Barry Lee Waters AM (back row), click to enlarge

The curious thing about the Hub, or to give it its proper name, Ynghyd Community Interest Company is that the Companies House website tells us there are three people with the Right to appoint and remove directorsMrs Nicola Herbertson of Surbiton, Mrs Diana Sylvia Groom, now of Kidwelly but until very recently a psychotherapist in Oxfordshire, and a Mr Steve Jones.

Other directors or former directors are also recent arrivals in Wales. Which makes the claim on the Facebook page that “Kidwelly Community Hub is a venture by Kidwelly people for Kidwelly people” a load of old bollocks, as we students of the third sector are wont to say.

It’s all so reminiscent of another ‘community’ venture in Carmarthenshire, this one at Llandovery. There we find another Englishwoman, Jill Tatman, who has commandeered a building – the former YMCA – then demanded and received funding to pay herself a good salary for running the show, though the YMCA has told her she can no longer use their name.

That’s because there are suspicions that hubby’s interest in the children visiting the building is not entirely innocent. Though she is said to have defended him at a recent trustees meeting by arguing that he had suffered enough for “only rubbing up against the kids”. So that’s all right then.

How many of these fucking memsahibs are there infesting our rural areas? Though some of them are not even living here, they seem to do it by remote control!

Firmly in Kidwelly, we find town and former county councillor Phil Thompson. Thompson is a barrister at law, yet his Declaration of Interests tells us he lives in social housing provided by Pobl (formerly Gwalia). Can’t a lawyer afford to buy a place of his own?

It reminds me of someone else with a very healthy income who lives in social housing, someone who writes regular letters to Llais y Sais. But then, former RAF Group Captain Kel Palmer of Mountain Ash is another Labour Party supporter, formerly involved with the doomed Communities First programme.

Many assume that social housing is for local people who can’t afford to buy a home of their own, which is how it should be, but not how it works in Wales. Well-off people can get social housing – if they’re in the Labour Party.

But then, the social housing system fails Wales in so many ways.

Not far from where Phil Thompson lives in Kidwelly his landlord Gwalia housed a gang of paedophiles brought down from London. Housing associations are bringing untold misery to Welsh communities by importing all manner of criminals, such as we see with Labour-controlled Wales and West in Lampeter.

To the point where what we have in Wales is very often anti-social housing – paid for from the Welsh public purse. How stupid must we be to tolerate this?

UPDATE 15.03.2018: I have now figured out how Mrs Nicola Herbertson of Surbiton got involved with the Kidwelly Hub. A previous director was Jonathan Michael Hobden, along with his wife, Fiona Mary. Here’s his Companies House entry and below is an extract from his Linkedin profile.

You’ll note, first, that he describes himself as a philanthropist! But more importantly, he is Director of Marketing at Hao2.eu aka 3DNovations. Now the CEO and founder of Hao2.eu Ltd is Nicola Herbertson. (There is also a Hao2.eu Foundation registered with the Charity Commission, No 1153397.)

So it would appear that Ynghyd Ltd / Kidwelly Hub is a creation of, and controlled by, a company based in London. Which reminds us yet again what a load of old bollocks is the claim on the Facebook page that,  Kidwelly Community Hub is a venture by Kidwelly people for Kidwelly people”. I doubt if there’s one genuine Kidwelly local involved.

So does the Kidwelly Hub exist for the people of Kidwelly or for the benefit of Hao2.eu and ‘Welsh’ Labour?

K SHARP

Another recent arrival in the area is a company called K Sharp Ltd, and once again we should thank Llanelli Online for bringing us the news.

According to the story, attributed to Iwan Lewis, “K Sharp has spread its footprint by opening a new office in Llanelli, South Wales, whilst keeping an office in Gloucester”. This is clearly a regurgitated press release, for readers of Llanelli Online should not need to be told that their town is in south Wales. (Many would prefer ‘west Wales’.)

Though if we go to the Companies House entry for K Sharp Ltd we see that on 11 January the company changed its address to Suite 2, West End Yard, West End, Llanelli, which suggests a complete move rather than opening a branch office.

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So what do we know about K Sharp Ltd?

Well, the website suggests it’s a company concerned with human behaviour, including, ‘Cultural and Behavioural Analytics’, and that the head honcho is Barry Kirby, assisted by his wife and two other women. Much of their work seems to be police- or defence-related.

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So who is Barry?

Until quite recently Barry was Deputy Leader of the Labour group on Gloucestershire County Council, and a general election candidate to boot, until he threw it in last October. This rupture with the Gloucestershire Labour Party and the move to Llanelli in January (or earlier) are surely connected.

So why was Llanelli Online so late with the news?

Given K Sharp’s line of work is there any link with the Local MP, Nia Griffith, being shadow defence secretary? Or is Barry hoping to cash in on the Coffin partnership’s Wellness extravaganza?

I think we should be told why a company based in Gloucestershire, working with Gloucester University, suddenly ups sticks and moves 110 miles down the M4. Nobody makes a move like this unless there’s some advantage in it for them, so what has K Sharp Ltd been promised, and by whom?

Another mystery is that the Micro-entity accounts available on the Companies House website for K Sharp Ltd deal in peanuts, so where’s the money to run a company like this and pay four people’s salaries?

Looking at the bigger picture, is Labour perhaps fearful of electoral trends elsewhere in the county infecting Sosban and now attempting to strengthen its hold on the constituency? A project greatly helped by Plaid Cymru destroying itself in the area.

But with all the memsahibs, snake oil salesmen/saleswomen, and outright crooks now sucking on the teat of public funding, and with so few of them having true local connections, this ploy could backfire. Because people aren’t that stupid, not even lifelong Labour voters.

But whatever the future holds we can rely on Llanelli Online to bring us all the Labour Party news. It’ll be up to people like me to give you something closer to the truth.

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