The Merriam-Webster definition of Nirvana is, “a place or state of oblivion to care, pain, or external reality”. Oblivion to reality certainly applies to the socialist lunacies besetting Wales.
Who but those oblivious to truth could believe that Wales can save the planet, that decent jobs, infrastructure, education and heath care are for sissies, and that women have penises?
Merriam-Webster also mentions, “alcohol-induced nirvana”. Bloody hell! I’ve been there a few times. Does that make me a Buddhist?
IT ALL BEGAN . . .
. . . with a couple of tweets on Sunday from the BBC. Both linked to this article.
The Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales is worried that not enough candidates from ethnic minorities are standing in next month’s council elections. But WEN is not an organisation dealing with ethnic minorities, so why raise the issue?
Before answering that, let’s take a look at WEN.
WEN is registered as a company limited by guarantee (‘Ltd’ exempt), and a charity. It depends mainly on funding from the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ in the form of an Equality and Inclusion Grant. In 2021 this amounted to £145,000, up from £119,904 in 2020.
There are five employees in 2022 (in addition to the Director), up from four last year. The panel below shows the staff members towards the end of last year (left) compared to the staff members now as shown on the WEN website.
With the Director pulling down £47,677 we can be fairly certain that most of the remaining £109,375 (from a total 2021 income of £157,052) went on the other four salaries. We can also assume that the grant will be increased in 2022 because there’s now another staff member.
And it seems growth doesn’t end there. This advertisement is for a ‘Senior Partnerships Fundraiser’ on a one-year contract at £31,365.
“We particularly welcome Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME), disabled and LGBTQ+ candidates”. Mmm, does that mean straight, White, able-bodied Welsh need not apply?
“Homebased anywhere in the UK”. Does that mean that knowledge of Wales is not required?
“Lived experience of . . . a protected characteristic”. ‘Lived experience’, that phrase so beloved of the Woke. Does WEN – like the ‘Welsh Government’ – accept Stonewall’s interpretation of ‘protected characteristics’, or does it stick to the law?
So, WEN is complaining there aren’t enough ethnic minority council candidates. Horrified that just 1.8% of candidates in 2017 came from ethnic minorities, while the figure quoted for the “ethnically diverse population” of Wales (2021) is 5.2%.
Thankfully this is not a problem at WEN. From a total complement of six, at least three of the staff belong to ethnic minorities. Two seem to be White English. While the sixth is the obligatory token Welsh person.
UPDATE 29.04.2022: I’ve found a petition for: “more Black, Asian, and ethnic minority women, LGBTQ+ women, disabled women, and women with other protected characteristics in . . . a Senedd that is gender balanced and reflective of the whole Welsh population.”
It gained just 199 signatures. Take out WEN staff, their friends, family, and the members of the Splott Intersectional Mud Wrestling Club and this petition does not suggest massive support from the real world.
(Of the 199 votes only 148 came from Wales (74%). The others came from: Nigeria 32, England 10, Netherlands 6, and one each from Scotland, Germany, China. So which WEN staff member has contacts in Nigeria?)
DIVERSITY! WHAT BOLLOCKS IS SPOUTED IN THY NAME!
So who are the six women running Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales? Let’s start at the top, with the director, Catherine Fookes.
Her Linkedin page tells us that she was privately educated in England (Godolphin) before attending Middlesex University where she studied Business (with two years in France). Her Masters in Development Studies was done at Bath, her thesis on Plan International.
Catherine Fookes is the longest serving staff member at WEN, having joined in September 2017. Perhaps her appointment was reward for her valiant efforts to become Labour’s Welsh Assembly Member for Monmouthshire in 2016. Here’s her election leaflet.
Her Twitter account tells she’s standing again for Labour in next month’s council elections. (And she was elected.)
The only other survivor from those named as WEN staff in the accounts signed off in November last year is Megan Evans, the token Welsh presence.
I can’t find much information on Megan Evans, but her profile on the WEN website tells us: “She is passionate about gender equality, intersectional feminism, LGBT rights, and racial justice”. We only need climate hysteria for a Woke nap hand.
Evelyn James, the Diverse5050 Campaign Manager was recruited, presumably, as result of this advertisement:
The Diverse5050 Campaign is an agreement between Labour and Plaid Cymru that certain groups – primarily ethnic and (self-ID) gender – should be over-represented in politics.
The campaign is “run in partnership with our steering group ERS Cymru, Race Council Cymru, and EYST Wales”. These are bodies run by Labour Party cronies, are funded by the ‘Welsh Government’ (though it should be the Labour Party), and have appeared on this blog.
Which leaves Jessica Laimann, Policy and Public Affairs Officer.
She was recruited by WEN last year, and before taking up the post she was “Assistant Democratic Services Officer at Carmarthenshire County Council”.
I almost choked on my laverbread sandwich when my rheumy old eyes alighted upon “Democratic” and “Carmarthenshire County Council” in the same sentence. Somebody must have a sense of humour!
Or else things have really gone to the dogs since Mark James ceased being CEO and de facto council leader.
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW, SAME INTENTION
To understand Diversity Quotas it may be worth considering a couple of references: one from the past; the other bang up to date. And then try to synthesise them.
Writing this I was immediately struck by a parallel from the recent past and across the water. Unlikely as it might at first sound, that example is political gerrymandering in the Six Counties.
In Derry, for example, gerrymandering guaranteed the Protestant-Unionist minority control of the Corporation in a city with a Catholic and Nationalist / Republican majority. (Explained here in a one-minute video.)
Classic gerrymandering along those lines can’t work in Wales because we do not have segregation. Which leaves the Left seeking to limit the number of representatives from the majority population in other ways.
Of course they will deny this. Whining that they simply want “fair representation” for “under-represented” groups, and only “racists” would oppose this innovation.
But it don’t matter how you cut it, the end result will be the same – minorities enjoying representation disproportionate to their numbers in a given council area, or in Wales as a whole.
Coming up to date, and back to the poisoned well of Wokeism from which WEN has clearly drawn too many buckets . . . the demand for quotas also smacks of Critical Race Theory ‘equity’ (not to be confused with equality).
CRT’s ‘equity’ is race-obsessed discrimination that guarantees everybody loses out.
But it still gives the Left power and influence out of all proportion to the support it enjoys among the population at large. Worse, it’s the tail of the extreme Left wagging dogs like Labour, Plaid Cymru, Greens.
But this should not surprise anyone familiar with Welsh politics; for too many of those now involved in politics and public life in Wales have previously worked for ‘charities’ and pressure groups. These outfits get their agenda implemented through influencing politicians – not from selling their programme to the public.
This is one reason Corruption Bay has no register of lobbyists.
Additionally, there are two fundamental flaws in what passes for the reasoning underpinning minority candidate quotas. These fallacies are:
That only a member of an identified minority can represent other members of that minority.
That members of a minority will only accept being represented by someone from their minority.
And if the candidate quotas WEN is calling for are introduced, then how long until the Left demands we introduce a new method for counting the votes? Surely, it will be argued, votes from members of the majority community should count for less than votes from members of “disadvantaged” or “traditionally oppressed” minorities?
That question is not entirely rhetorical. Because that is the direction many on the Left want to take us.
At present, anyone can apply to join a political party and then seek to become a candidate. Political parties are then free to choose their candidates without any outside interference.
This is how it should remain. To deviate from a system that treats all as equal could be the first step on a very slippery slope.
PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
A quirky title, you may think, but it will serve for these three tales that, in their differing ways, offer insights into the damage being inflicted on Wales by the Labour Party.
But I stress that they’re three distinct stories, so you can take them one at a time.
HOUSES OF MULTIPLE OCCUPATION – HOW MANY DOES WALES NEED?
We begin in Port Talbot, where the playful zephyrs carry that heady mix of motorway traffic fumes and steelworks belch. (For as anyone who reads the popular press will know, steelworks always ‘belch’ smoke and fumes.)
(As a matter of interest, Olive Street is not far from Dic Penderyn’s grave.)
On the application document I’ve linked to you’ll see that the applicant is ‘Joe Furneaux’, and the address given is in Upper Killay, where Swansea peters out into Gower. So I got to wondering about ‘Joe Furneaux’.
I couldn’t get very far in my investigations until I realised that his name is actually Jonathan Furneaux. And it soon became obvious why he might wish to generate confusion about his identity, for he has a chequered business record.
Both companies gave their address as 44 St Helens Road, Swansea. You’ll see that the second of them went bust with no less than 11 outstanding charges.
If we look more closely at those charges we see properties in Ferndale, Tylorstown, Penrhiwceiber, Pentre, Ebbw Vale, Abertillery, Nantyglo, Llanhilleth, Aberdare.
(Maybe some readers can give me feedback on these properties, for the addresses are all given in the charges. For example, are they now residential properties?)
Towns that have been abandoned by self-styled ‘Welsh’ Labour. Where the economy is depressed, where people (those who haven’t left) have either given up or got angry, and where we find the lowest house prices on this island. Ideal locales for ‘investors’ to buy properties in which to house ‘problematic’ (for neighbours) – but highly profitable (for them) – tenants.
A scam encouraged because it shows how ‘caring’ we are – ‘Socialism, innit!’ While also exposing Wales’ poverty – which is always blamed on the Tories.
What a way to run a country! But back to ‘Joe’/Jonathan Furneaux.
To confuse the picture, Phoenix Property Acquisitions Limited may have been dissolved in April 2014 but in February 2015, Phoenix Property Acquisitions Ltd was born. This company did nothing – apparently – and was was compulsorily struck off in July 2016. The address used for this brief reincarnation was 39 Park Place in Swansea city centre.
So we see that in addition to the Upper Killay address Furneaux has also used addresses in the city centre. Though both of the earlier companies began life in Hartfield, a village near Tunbridge Wells, which is where I think Furneaux is based.
For I believe he lives in England and uses accommodation addresses in Swansea. I say that because if this (below) is the same man, then his day job may be with Palatine Homes Ltd of Berkshire.
This company specialises in bespoke, upmarket dwellings in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, a world away from the Labour fiefdoms of Swansea, Port Talbot and the Heads of the Valleys.
Furneaux joined Palatine Homes in March 2016. Now that he’s got a few bob together perhaps he’s making a come-back.
(If the Jon Furneaux of Palatine Homes Ltd is not the ‘Joe’/Jonathan Furneaux active around Swansea Bay, then I shall be happy to delete this reference.)
And he’s doing it with a company set up as recently as March this year, Horizon EXP Ltd, with a ‘postbox’ address in Dorset. For this is the company that bought 20 Olive Street, Aberavon for £43,000 in July. Now Furneaux wants to convert this small, mid-terrace house in a residential neighbourhood into a four-bed HMO.
For no better reason than idle curiosity I scrolled down the planning application and was surprised to read (in section 27) that the owner, on 27 June, was a Samuel Hawking. ‘Who he?’ I asked myself, and eventually turned up this website.
So did Hawking get the ball rolling for a HMO and then sell the property, or was the sale of 20 Olive Street provisional on him initiating the process for Furneaux? Given that Hawking might be a relatively large fish in the Swansea Bay property market, I incline towards the second possibility.
Plasmarl, where my father was born and raised, is not one of the more salubrious quarters of the city, having much in common with the post-industrial Valleys’ towns we looked at just now. In earlier times Plasmarl was home to many of those who worked in the valley below.
Plasmarl, where the ‘Golden Boy’ was born and raised. And where I sank many a pint in the Smelters, and the Coopers, and the Imperial, and ‘Y Cwrcyn’. (No one knew why it was called Y Cwrcyn, but as the real name was The Ivorites Arms, and there were other Ivorites not far away, it served a purpose.)
No mean neighbourhood, Plasmarl. But before I get too nostalgic I’m going to end with a few questions:
Why has a man with so many unpaid debts returned to Wales to go into the Houses of Multiple Occupation racket?
Does the company to which he owes so much money know he’s resurfaced?
What’s his relationship with Sam Hawking?
Do the local authorities involved know exactly who they’re dealing with in these applications, and all the possible ramifications?
What rights do locals have when threatened with a HMO near to them?
Do the planning committees so ready to give permission enquire where the residents of these HMOs in Aberavon and Plasmarl (and elsewhere) will come from?
Does the ‘Welsh Government’ have concerns about cheap property in deprived areas being converted into HMOs and hostels to house persons from outside of Wales?
This next story takes us west, west of Llanelli in fact, to Porth Tywyn (in English, Burry Port). A town I know quite well; in fact, I stayed there for a few nights very recently.
This report is different to the topics I usually cover in a number of ways, but it still fits because it’s about the abuse of influence and the misuse of money, with the Labour Party central to the tale. For all those involved are councillors, candidates, members, supporters. Indeed, it’s suggested that the reach of the Labour Party explains how this scandal has festered for so long.
I have been given the full names, and relationships, of those involved, but I’ve decided to use initials. Those involved will recognise themselves, of course, and locals will be able to identify them. While those who don’t know the area can understand the issues raised without having to know the principals’ names.
In a nutshell, a small group, made up it seems of two families, monopolises fund-raising activities in this small town. Money is ostensibly raised for the community, and yet most of it seems to be unaccounted for. And I am talking now of what is said to be hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The points below represent a summary of the information supplied to me in the words of a source. I have made a few additions or clarifications
1) Burry Port Carnival has been around for some 20 years and is driven by S. M. In the early years all money was paid into her personal bank account and no accounts were produced.
2) Members of the community were involved and some became members of the committee but they didn’t last long.
3) More recently, in the past 5 years or so, the committee is made up almost entirely from two families. The M. and F. families. This consists of S.M., her husband, her daughter and her grandchildren. Also A. F. and L. F. It is believed that there is one non-family committee member, D. D., the nephew of Cllr J. J.
4) S. M., A. F. and J. J. are serving Labour Party councillors. L. F. is an active member of the Labour Party and was a failed Labour candidate for a recent Pembrey Ward by-election for the town council.
5) Members of the community are now saying that unless you are a family member and a member of the Labour Party you will not be allowed on the committee. This seems to have some weight as a recent member of the committee, L. M., was ousted as soon as she got elected as an independent town councillor 5 years ago.
6) The committee will state that anyone can apply to join but nobody does because they know that they would not be accepted or, if they are, they won’t last very long. The general view is that this is more like a family business than an inclusive and transparent community organisation.
7) The Carnival Committee not only organise and run the annual carnival but in season, April to October, they run the weekly car boot sale in Burry Port. It has grown to be the largest in mid and west Wales.
8) Some conservative estimates are that the income from the car boot sale alone ranges from £40,000 to £50,00 a year. (Ed: This is explained by over 100 stalls paying £7 for a car, £10 – 12 for a van, £15 for anything bigger. But no receipts are given, just ‘raffle tickets’, which I assume to mean cloakroom tickets.)
9) The annual Carnival has also grown and income from that is not recorded.
10) (Those involved) also run the annual Christmas Carnival, an annual dog show and vintage car show as well as a number of minor events.
11) They do not give receipts to any who enter the events. They do not give receipts to any stall holder, car owner or sponsor. More recently they started issuing a raffle ticket from various different books to car boot pitch holders. (Ed: The ‘raffle tickets’ referred to earlier.) They have been frequently observed collecting money and putting it in their pockets.
12) No one knows how much they collect but they are quick to publicise a handful of very small grants that they give to local groups, (Grants of a few hundred pounds only) They have also funded around a dozen defibrillators in the community at around 1,200 each. No one knows where the rest of the money goes.
13) They do not publish any audited accounts and they do not publish any annual report or minutes of meetings.
14) Any accounts or financial statements they may produce may not be worth very much if they do not issue any receipts to back up their income.
15) In the meantime, the F. family have gone from L. F. being unemployed and A. F. having a small stall in Carmarthen market, to having three shops and three businesses in Burry Port. S. M. and her family have just bought a villa with a swimming pool in Spain.
It would be easy to dismiss this report as an example of small town squabbling. But given the quality of the sources, and the amounts of money involved, I know there’s substance to it.
So I call on those involved to produce what they should have been producing all along – minutes of meetings, correspondence, bank statements, audited accounts, and an explanation for the status of their operations. For nothing seems to be registered with either the Charity Commission or Companies House.
Which inevitably gives rise to suspicions that this is a cash-only operation held together by family loyalties and protected by the power of the Labour Party.
UPDATE 08.11.2019: The local media is taking an interest. Here’s a report from Wales News Online, and earlier today I was contacted by a reporter who seems to work for both the Carmarthen Journal and WalesOnline.
Reading through the WNO report I have to say that those involved don’t do themselves any favours. They admit to giving out cloakroom tickets as receipts, but will give real receipts to “those who request them”!
When the awkward questions about accounts and record-keeping were asked the carnival committee kept referring to paying-in books at the bank! A strange response because these would only tell what was paid in, not what was collected.
When asked about the legal status of this money-making operation WNO was told that the carnival committee is a “constituted forum”. It may be, or that may be an excuse used to justify not being registered with the Charity Commission or Companies House.
I wanted to make that point because in the NorthWalesLive article a spokesman for Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) waffled about, ” . . . deep concerns . . . basic failures . . . unprecedented for a public service” . . . and, in effect, said nothing.
Which chimes with my experience of language activists over half a century in that they’re hot on abstractions and visibility, but unconcerned with employment issues unless it’s them losing out. Jobs for working class Welsh speakers don’t concern them, which tends to betray the ‘look-out-for-number-one’ attitude of too many. This attitude explains the rise of Rhodri Williams.
When I put out that tweet last Monday I had no way of knowing that my argument would be backed up so quickly.
The announcements on trains are given out by the guard. Now, quite obviously, if the guard has no understanding whatever of the Welsh language, then passengers will hear, ‘Clanvervekan’ (Llanfairfechan) and ‘Makynceth’ (Machynlleth). The way to avoid this is obviously to employ local people.
But this is not what happens at the moment. And there are no moves to recruit locals, in fact, things could get a whole lot worse.
For I have it on impeccable authority that Transport for Wales is recruiting thirty new guards for the Central Wales line and the Cambrian Coast line. The recruitment is being carried out in Shrewsbury.
This news has been met with anger by railway employees in the area affected, because it means that there will be no Welsh staff recruited for guards jobs on Welsh railway lines, and that can only result in an inferior service.
(And a more expensive service. For English staff have taxis paid for them to join their Welsh trains. This is happening now!)
So not only will we have to endure more of ‘Clanvervekan’ and ‘Makynceth’ but, being ignorant of the area they won’t know the request stops, or the bus connections, or anything.
Take a look at the map below, the railway lines are in red and the green lines represent TrawsCymru bus services. Just look at the number of request stops between Barmouth and Porthmadog! Imagine the nails-on-blackboard mangling of Morfa Mawddach and Dyffryn Ardudwy; and then, just before Abbaerk, we’ll hear the announcement for Penny Chain.
And yet, it could all be avoided by recruiting Welsh people to work on Welsh railways. Why is that so difficult?
Seeing as “Transport for Wales is a not for profit company, wholly owned by the Welsh Government” I would like the ‘Welsh’ Labour ‘Government’ to tell us why it allows this company to practise recruitment policies that insult our native language, lose us jobs, and provide us with an inferior service.
Or are we supposed to just shrug it off and accept this discrimination as yet another example of ‘Welsh’ Labour betraying the Welsh people?
Picking up on something he may have read by Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine nineteenth-century English scribbler Lord Acton is usually credited with, ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely’.
While I’m sure he was thinking of despots and emperors strutting their stuff in his own time that line can equally apply to the Labour Party in Wales. For too many in Labour regard privilege, patronage, and outright corruption as theirs by right. The prize for coming first.
This belief gives us cronyism, rigged elections, the third sector, self-advancement, local ‘mafias’, unregulated lobbyists, parachuted candidates, the arrogance to argue that black is white . . . in the poorest country in Europe.
The Labour Party benefits itself, but fails the nation. It’s therefore time to bring to an end Labour’s century in the sun. Anyone outside of Labour siding with these gangsters on spurious ideological grounds is no better than Labour.
PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
Here are the updates and the like that I mentioned in the introduction to my previous post on Dawnus, and that I would have given you earlier had it not been for fresh news on Dawnus.
It’s quite a bundle, almost 4,000 words, but broken up for you – as advertisements for pet food are wont to say – into bite-sized chunks. Enjoy!
Forgive me if I get a little nostalgic, perhaps emotional, but I spent two years at Coleg Harlech, two wonderful years; I even managed to fit in the odd lecture. But a lot of time was spent in the Castle Hotel, or the Queens, or the Red Lion, or the St. David’s, where I sank many a ‘sundowner’ while enjoying the view of the golf course and the sea. (Though I detest golf and golfists.)
Yes, many’s the night I spent in the Dai’s getting legless with Dafydd El, holding him back from some impulsive patriotic act that might have jeopardised his career. As Mary Hopkin sang, those were the days. Not that I personally wanted to spend every waking hour in licensed premises, you understand, but I fell in with bad company.
Of course, the pubs were shut on Sunday back then but that’s when we – usually me and Dai Williams, ‘the Beast of Bedwas’, best man at my wedding – used to have some of our most memorable sessions, up in the Castle Hotel run by Ron Hopkins, originally from Aberdâr.
I recall being in the Castle just before the final Sunday Opening vote. Hopkins of course was in favour of opening, and he was arguing with a very left-wing lecturer from the Coleg, an Englishman who intended voting to keep the pubs shut because he believed – correctly – that’s what most locals wanted.
Now Ron had had a few pints that night down the Ship Aground in Talsarnau (another of Ron’s wife’s family’s pubs), and he’d rolled into the Castle well lubricated. Then the argument started. Because this lecturer was a ‘communist’ and in favour of Sunday closing Ron had somehow linked the two to persuade himself that keeping pubs shut on Sunday was a communist conspiracy.
I just leaned on the bar marvelling. Imagining the grizzled old men of the Politburo in Moscow sitting down and saying, ‘Now then, Comrades, the next step in destabilising the West is keeping the pubs shut on Sunday in Merioneth’.
It was one of those insane discussions that take place in Welsh pubs when those participating are opinionated drunks. (I speak as an observer, you understand.)
God bless you, Ron. God bless you, Dai. Thanks for the memories.
Not far from what was the Castle Hotel we encounter the St David’s Hotel, which has lain empty for over a decade. It’s owned by a company based in Gibraltar that probably had no intention of renovating the place, unless someone else was paying. Even then, perhaps, it wouldn’t have been restored, for who knows – like so many such properties in Wales – maybe it was making money just by standing empty.
The hotel is just up the road from the Coleg, which also fell on hard times, was then closed, and finally put up for sale. Now we learn that the Coleg has also been sold, though to someone based rather nearer to Harlech than Gibraltar.
Is he fibbing, or is he one of those wealthy men who buys things on impulse then figures out what to do with them?
Anyway, off I went a-digging. Irvine, or Banks-Irvine, had a company called Anglo-Euro Trade Ltd, originally based in southern England that moved to Talybont (near Bermo), in April 2004, presumably when the man himself moved. It’s stated business, ‘Distilling, rectifying and blending of spirits’. (Not more bloody ‘craft gin’?)
I’m using the past tense because Anglo-Euro Trade Ltd was dissolved in May 2017. From the accounts I’ve looked at it never made enough in any one year to pay for the cat food. But there you go, maybe he didn’t have a cat.
Though a new company was launched 28 January. Apart from the authoritative tones of the man himself the only other voice we hear in the cavernous boardroom of LBI (Wern Fawr) Ltd is that of Tessa Jane Beverly.
The company’s business is, ‘Development of building projects’. Which would suggest that LBI has been set up to carry through whatever plans the eponymous Leslie Banks Irvine has for my alma mater.
And what might those plans be?
Well . . . something I turned up on the Cyngor Gwynedd planning portal might give a clue. Last year Leslie Banks Irvine applied for a change of use for Fairbourne church hall. The application said he wanted to use it to store his – or someone’s – ‘collection of classic motor cars’. The application was refused.
Has this plan now moved up the coast to Harlech?
Of course I have no way of knowing what the plans are for the Coleg, the auditorium and the other buildings, but if I lived in or near Harlech I would be asking Leslie Banks Irvine, and not accepting ‘dunno’ for an answer.
But wherever we live in Wales we should be concerned that another historic and iconic site has been sold off by a public body, to a virtual stranger, probably at a knock-down price, and for an undisclosed purpose.
And there’s a good chance he’s hoping for public funding.
SAVING THE PLANET BY EXPLOITING WALES
Talking of knock-down prices, how about fives acres for £1? Yes, that is five acres of good Welsh land for just 100 pence. For that’s the deal done by the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ for Parc Teifi in Cardigan with a bunch of eco-shysters environmentalists.
The leader of this lucky band, one Alpay Torgut, believes the deal was done because, “The Welsh Government was impressed with our work and achievements over the last ten years, in creating and successfully running our previous community forest garden and the Cardigan Eco shop”.
The previous ‘community forest gardens’ were in England and Llandudoch. For it should go without saying that Alpay Torgut is not from aroun’ by ‘ere. He is another who has realised that everything is greener on this side of the Dyke, especially the politicians and the funders.
He mentions the Cardigan Eco Shop “which has been going for nine years now”. Maybe, but the company Naturewise Eco Shop CIC was only Incorporated in January this year, and probably only done to enable Alpay and his gang to qualify for the goodies. Just more box-ticking.
Upon seeing the photo above I mumbled the appropriate incantations and an apparition appeared, who spake in this wise: “Jac!”, it intoned, “Jac!” (repeating itself), “I have the gift of seeing into the future, mush, and I tell you now, this will soon be a commune. And lo! retrospective planning permission will be granted, and many shekels will be shoved the way of these con artists. Mark my words, son!”
And then, with a drawn out wail, the apparition departed.
The commune foretold – and other examples of encouraged colonisation – will be justified by England’s management team in Cardiff docks as ‘reducing Wales’s carbon footprint’.
I’m still waiting for an explanation as to how we reduce our carbon footprint by, a) encouraging people to move into Wales and then, b) letting them exploit land that had previously been causing Mother Earth no problems whatsoever.
UPDATE 17.04.2019: I have now written to the so-called ‘Welsh Government’ asking for my five acres.
The reason I mention this crew at all is because one of them is boasting that our former First Minister, Labour’s Carwyn Jones, has promised to help them secure a licence to grow hemp (cannabis) and that a big pharmaceutical company may be involved. For not only is it now legal to grow cannabis, but from last November doctors can prescribe cannabis products.
The word on the street is that there will be no benefit to Wales because the licence will be used to grow pot that will then be transported to England, where it will be processed and where it will provide jobs.
It may even be possible to use the licence in England. Wales and the ever-obliging Carwyn Jones may simply be used to get the necessary authorisation.
If anyone has more information, then please get in touch.
TARDIS IN CYDWELI!
A curious story reaches me from that source of many a strange tale, Cydweli.
You may recall that the town council’s Mynydd-y-Garreg ward saw a by-election in February won by Labour’s Beryl-Ann Williams, an art psychotherapist, our Beryl-Ann. Now there’s another by-election in the same ward and the Labour candidate this time is Arwyn Rhys Williams.
From the form below you’ll see that young Arwyn gives his address as 27 Llys Gwenllian, an unprepossessing property built by Grwp Gwalia, now merged into the Pobl group. (You might remember that it was Gwalia that housed the gang of London paedophiles.)
Also resident in this property is councillor Philip Thompson, who’s a lawyer, and a QC, yet somehow qualifies for social housing . . . but then, he is Labour, and being a party activist puts you at the top of the waiting list with most housing associations.
Others who have given this as their address in recent years are Siôn Davies, who was Labour candidate for Llangyndeyrn, and Lisa Williams who stood for the party in Trimsaran. I’m told there have been others.
So is this a house of multiple occupation, and if so, is it registered as such? If it’s not a HMO then what’s going on? Could it be that Labour candidates are afraid to tell us where they really live?
Getting back to young Arwyn for a minute, something I found on his Facebook page would not have me queuing outside the polling booth at 7am in the pissing rain to vote for him.
But then, in fairness to the boy, those attributes could apply to so many Labour politicians. His political future is assured!
UPDATE 17.04.2019: I’m now being told that Arwyn Rhys Williams is the son of Cydweli mayor Philip Thompson. He uses his mother’s name of Williams.
So if he is now living with his dad then Arwyn needs to update his Facebook profile, which locates him either in Swansea or Tenby. Alternatively, if the FB information is true, then maybe he’s just living at the Cydweli address until the election is over.
It also suggests he’s still in school. He is 18, is he?
I hope I whetted your appetite in the previous post with my promise of updates on the whereabouts of some of those I’ve written about in the not too distant past.
To set the scene . . . a few years back the Labour Party on Swansea council relied heavily on councillors who were no more than students. They knew nothing about my wonderful city and were just making up the numbers for council leader David ‘Il Duce’ Phillips, another stranger to ‘the ugly lovely town’.
One by one they disappeared. California girl Pearleen Sangha went to Cardiff to work as a regional organiser for ‘Welsh’ Labour. In other words, she left a city she didn’t know in order to ‘organise’ a region she knew even less about.
Then she went home to the States to work for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. She was based in the Carolinas, which might have been as alien to her as Swansea. Perhaps she had some interesting encounters with good ol’ boys drinking whiskey and rye . . . and voting Trump.
After a stint back in her home state, working for Mayor Sam Liccardo of San José, she has now returned to these shores as a fully-fledged ‘political consultant’. All set out here in her Linkedin profile.
Then there was John ‘John Boy’ Bayliss, a native of Eastbourne. I understand John is currently working as a press officer for Home Secretary Sajid Javid and LGBT adviser to the Conservative Party. So it could be that John Boy has deserted the bruvvers.
In the collage below you’ll see John Boy luxuriating in the adoration of his canvassers. They too look as if they’ve been recruited from the university.
On the left of the collage you’ll see a bizarre shot of Il Duce in mayoral robes at the foot of the Mansion House stairs, with his eyes shut, and his loyal band behind him. Nothing wrong with a shot like that, when it’s the Kennedy clan on a wide and elegant staircase at Hyannisport . . . but not with that gormless crew bunched up fighting for air.
On the great man’s right hand is his consort Sybil Crouch, another Labour councillor who thought Mumbles was a speech impediment until she washed up in Swansea. Interestingly, Crouch worked at the university.
In the trio on the top right we see, on the left, Nick Bradley, loyal West Bromwich Albion supporter who was given the brief of the Liberty Stadium, the Swans’ home, presumably because somebody thought he might know something about football.
In the middle we see Mitchell ‘Mitch’ Theaker. Gin connoisseur who also took himself off to the Gulf but has now given it all up for life as a globe-trotter. Though the word is that he hopes to return to Swansea and resume his political career.
On the right we see Rene ‘Rocking Rene’ Kinzett, the only Tory in this gay trio, and at one time the youngest of Swansea’s councillors. I predict with certainty that Rene will not be returning to Swansea . . . after he’s released from prison.
I wrote about ‘Rocking Rene’ back in 2013, and someone, in a comment, reminded me that his brother Richard had been sent down for life after attacking an off-duty copper outside the Uplands Tavern while on a visit to Rene. I then received a message from their father, demanding apologies for all sorts of things. I wrote about it here.
I felt sorry for Kinzett senior back then, and I feel even sorrier for him now with two sons banged up. I just hope he has other children to console him.
Just a brief update to Dawnus 3.
There’s no question that French arms manufacturer Thales didn’t stay long at the Stradey Business Park in Llangennech. It left soon after the (official) British withdrawal from Afghanistan, maybe before. So why wasn’t Thales’ departure given the same coverage by the ‘Welsh’ media as its arrival, or indeed any coverage?
The building used by Thales was taken over by Hydro Industries Ltd, as shown in one of the photographs below that I was sent by a local. This explains Carwyn Jones’s visits to the USA in 2013 and 2014 promoting Hydro Industries.
The other photo, from the front gate, leaves no one in any doubt that Robert Lovering’s company European Telecom Solutions has moved in.
(What’s equally clear is that no one cleans the old signage.)
Hydro Industries is ostensibly involved in the harmless and praiseworthy business of bringing clean water to Africa. I suspect it’s involved in rather more than that. And that it wasn’t just the Thales building that it took over.
Hydro replacing Thales explains the sudden attention – and financial input – of the Waterloo Foundation and Diane Marguerite Marie Briere de L’Isle, who is herself French.
The wife and I like to take ourselves off for short breaks exploring this wonderful country of ours. One such trip about three years ago took us to Pembrokeshire and the Cleddau Bridge Hotel, a superb location on the Milford Haven Waterway and ideally located for walking across the bridge to take in the stunning views.
But there you go, these things happen . . . and often in the sequence I’ve listed here!
One of the big issues on the Welsh Twittersphere over the past few days has been the defacing, then the partial demolition, and finally the rebuilding, of the ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn’ mural on the A487 just north of Llanrhystud.
First, on Thursday night, it was vandalised by someone painting over the message, then on Friday night the wall itself was partially demolished. These incidents being the latest in a series of attacks, presumably by those objecting to the message.
The recent incidents are covered pretty well in this BBC Wales report. (From which I’ve used the image below.)
Not only has the wall been rebuilt and the message repainted but a petition has been launched to raise £20,000. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve chipped in with my £20 (plus the charge!) but I’m still not sure what exactly I’m contributing towards.
The petition reads,
This Mural is an important landmark in Welsh history which symbolized the hurt and pain that the drowning of the village of Tryweryn caused in the 1960s
After the mural was desecrated numerous times in the last few years, we want to make sure it’s secure and protected for future generations.
Please donate to our cause!
(The drowned village was actually called Capel Celyn.)
But what does this appeal mean? If it means constantly repainting and rebuilding the memorial (for memorial is what it is) after each act of vandalism, then I shall be very disappointed, because I believe there has to be a permanent solution to ensure no further attacks.
Personally, I wouldn’t object to booby traps, but I suppose some would, so what is to be done? For a start, who owns the land on which the wall stands, and the lay-by in front? Can it be bought? And if so, who would own it on behalf of the nation? It obviously can’t be a single political party or group; ownership and custodianship has to be as broadly based as possible.
But it must also be in Welsh hands, which is why I was appalled to read this suggestion from English Heritage (West) that their mates in The English National Trust be involved.
Why the hell would we need to involve a middle class BritNat outfit? And seeing as this is a national memorial the decision can’t be left entirely to the local community council either, a group that might be influenced by Cadw.
Responses I’ve seen to the recent attacks hint at a divide long evident in the national movement. I’m referring now to those ready to turn the other cheek and keep rebuilding the wall after every attack; and those who want to bring those responsible to book, and ensure it never happens again.
A divide exposed by Tryweryn itself, when some felt that the correct response was to sing hymns in the streets of Liverpool, while others wanted to blow up the dam.
We are entering dangerous times, with a confused and angry neighbour that might fall under the sway of demagogues and rabble-rousers who have some very ugly masters. Those seeking martyrdom might get their wish, but it won’t help Wales one bit.
At the risk of getting a reputation for picking on the Labour Party I conclude with a tale of bruvvers at each others’ throats. This story comes from Flintshire, realm of the late Carl Sargeant.
A name we became familiar with in those dark days was Bernie Attridge, apparently a big (in every sense of the word) mate to Sargeant. In fact, in the aftermath of Sargeant’s death, Attridge got quite emotional at times and made no bones about targeting Carwyn Jones.
But then it seemed that the Sargeant death opened a can of worms. For example, it was suggested that Attridge had hinted that Sargeant could have gone to prison for unspecified crimes. Attridge is alleged to have used the colourful phrase, “I bet he’s shitting bricks“. And this was alleged to have been said before Sargeant’s sacking and suspension in November 2017.
These rumours were known to the denizens of the Connah’s Quay Labour Club, and officials of the party. From reading what was being reported it was clear there were divisions within the local Labour Party. But of course this had nothing to do with ideology, for the Labour Party in the north east is very much like the Labour Party we know in the south, in that it’s an ideology-free gravy train.
The main cleavage seemed to be between the council leader, the appropriately named Aaron Shotton, and his deputy, Attridge, plus of course those who took sides. Things seem to have come to a head in the past couple of weeks, first, with Shotton sacking Attridge, and this closely followed by Shotton’s resignation.
It was even suggested that Shotton had chucked it in due to the fear of Attridge supporters taking to the streets. (Flaming torches and pitchforks optional.)
In the BBC report I’ve just linked to, ‘“Cabinet colleague Carolyn Thomas warned earlier that “hatred and animosity” threatened to split the Labour group’.
While this WalesOnline report tells us that the problem goes back to a secret recording made ten years ago of a conversation between Shotton and Attridge that contains ‘expletives’ and ‘defamatory allegations’.
Then last Thursday a piece appeared in the Wasting Mule which seemed to be answered by another piece on Saturday. See what you make of them.
It’s pretty obvious, even from a distance, that the Labour Party has a very unhappy band of bruvvers in Flintshire. If it comes to all-out war it could get nasty, for the Flintshire Labour Party – and indeed the council – has always contained a number of renowned swordsmen.
What makes it even more awkward for Labour is that Shotton and Attridge both represent the Connah’s Quay Central ward. I bet ward meetings are a bundle of laughs. Happy days!
Another bumper issue, another mixed bag for you to enjoy; bits and pieces from hither and yon, Ynys Môn to New Zealand, and both sides of the Tawe. You can either take them one at a time or you can gorge yourself.
Go on! you know you want to.
SWANSEA, MY SWANSEA!
An old mate back in the city of my dreams, who served for decades as a councillor, once told me a curious tale about Labour councillors having to give up 10% of their allowance (i.e. salary) to the party every month – or else the heavies would be sent round.
He himself learnt this from someone who had broken free from the Labour Party and gone straight.
I’m told this system of ‘dues’ may have been introduced in Swansea a while back, when the boss was that man of destiny, he who enthralled the crowds from the Guildhall balcony – David ‘Il Duce’ Phillips, who I’m sure you’ll all remember.
Now your bog standard Labour councillor in Swansea gets £13,000 a year, but capos and under-bosses get a lot more, while the capo di tutti capi, currently Rob Stewart, is on £53,000.
Then the allowances increase for sitting on various committees, plus there’s travelling allowance, phone bills are paid, etc., etc. The point is that the Labour Party gets a lot of money every year from its own councillors. In Swansea the figure is well over £70,000.
Eventually my mate, Ioan Richard, got in touch with the Wales Audit Office to enquire about this curious method of extortion voluntary donations. The response he received last week said:
“Further to your email of 14 December 2018, I have met with officers of the Council to discuss your concern regarding payments made by Swansea Council to the Labour Party on behalf of some local authority members.
I can confirm that the practice you refer to is a long-standing one. However, Council officers have informed me that having now given due consideration to this matter, it is their intention to end the practice of making payments to the Labour Party (or any other political party) on behalf of local authority members with effect from April 2019.
May I take the time to thank you for taking the time to raise your concern with us.”
A few questions come to mind. Three, I suppose.
Why should officials of the council, employed to serve the city of Swansea in a non-political way, be forced to manage these donations, thereby spending council time doing what is obviously of benefit only to the Labour Party?
If this practice is widespread in Wales then the Labour Party could be getting over one million pounds every year from its councillors. So should the Labour Party be siphoning off money for itself from the public purse?
And if Labour councillors can afford to give up 10% of their allowances then why do we pay them so much?
Another idol of the Jack masses – well, perhaps not – is the MP for Swansea East, Carolyn Harris, of whom I have often written. Harris made the news a few years back when she attacked a co-worker in the constituency office of the then MP for Swansea East Siân James.
She made it into the public prints more recently when the ‘I’ll-get-you-you-cow!’ accusation of theft she had laid against her victim fell apart at Newport Crown Court.
Harris may have her own constituency party tied down but in the neighbouring constituency of Swansea West there was a less than comradely motion discussed recently. It came in three parts.
The first part noted that the evidence given at the Newport trial raised questions about Harris’s fitness to hold the position of Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour.
The second part urged support for the elected members of Labour’s Welsh Executive Committee (WEC) who have asked what processes were used by the party to address concerns about Harris.
The third part asked the Swansea West Constituency Labour Party (CLP) to refrain from inviting Carolyn Harris to CLP events until the WEC members had satisfactory explanations.
The first two parts were carried. The third removed by amendment.
On we go to Gower, Swansea’s third constituency, wherein dwells Ioan Richard. His local MP is former rugby international Tonia Antoniazzi.
Now Ioan is the kind of bloke who asks awkward questions, and challenges conventional wisdom, a species with which I identify but one far too rare in Wales. Inevitably, he has asked awkward questions of Ms Antoniazzi – who has blocked him and now ignores him entirely.
I know ‘Welsh’ Labour is very tribal, and sensitive to criticism, but someone should tell Antoniazzi that she represents not just those giving her a clear run to the line but also those wanting to tackle her.
WELSH NOT 2019
A story that recently made the news was of care home staff in Ystradgynlais being told by their employer not to speak Welshamong themselves. That’s because their employer thought ‘it was “unacceptable” for clients to overhear staff speaking in a language they do not understand’.
Now this is Ystradgynlais, or more specifically, Cwm-twrch Isaf, at the top of the Swansea Valley, where almost everyone other than recent arrivals to the area speaks or understands Welsh. So if the residents at the Isfryn care home, owned by the Accomplish Group of Birmingham (formerly Tracs Ltd), are unfamiliar with the Welsh language then they’re obviously not from the area, so where are they from?
There seems to be no leasehold arrangement registered with the Land Registry so I can only assume that Accomplish rents Isfryn from Link Administration Holdings or else manages Isfryn for the Australian company. (If anyone out there is aware of the exact relationship, please get in touch.)
You’ll have noticed that on the title document the property is known as Glynderwen, but I suppose the name changed to Isfryn because there’s another Glynderwen down the valley in Clydach. This would have posed no problem in days gone by, but the Clydach Glynderwen is also a ‘home’ of some kind run by Aston Care Ltd of Reading.
As I said in a recent post: “In our rural areas, and increasingly in our post-industrial areas, (our) poverty is made worse year on year by England shipping in its problem cases via a host of organisations you’ve never heard of.”
To facilitate this social cleansing substantial properties can be snapped up in the Swansea Valley for a third of what they’d cost in the Thames Valley. Properties ideal for small care homes.
Which explains why we have Australian companies, English companies, English care home residents, with Welsh involvement limited to minimum-wage jobs in which staff are banned from speaking Welsh.
And, almost certainly, there’s Welsh public money involved somewhere.
This is how a collaborationist form of socialism manages a colony. It can delude itself that by facilitating such a situation it is both ‘caring’ and creating jobs. This mindset is not limited to the Labour Party.
I wish to God we had politicians asking the right questions about places like Isfryn. Questions such as . . .
Where are the residents from?
Who’s paying for their care?
If they’re from outside of Wales (and being unfamiliar with the Welsh language suggests they are) then is their home local authority making a contribution to the Welsh NHS?
Why are we allowing or encouraging such places to be set up in Wales?
In 2019 who the fuck has the right to tell Welsh people they mustn’t speak Welsh?
In a nutshell, a company called Camp Valour CIC says it wants to take over 19th century Fort Hubberston in Milford Haven and use it as a rehabilitation centre for ex-service personnel.
The problem is that Camp Valour has been making ludicrous claims and telling outright lies. Many of these lies concern Major Fabian Sean Lucien Faversham-Pullen, who I – in my ignorance – had assumed was Sean Keven Patrick Pullen, director of failed company Baron Security (UK) Ltd, based in the same building at Hawarden airport as Camp Valour, but no – they’re twins!
That they’re never seen in the same room together is due to the fact that Keven drifted off to Gibraltar at the same time as Lucian appeared on the scene. But it had nothing – absolutely nothing! – to do with Keven deciding to call himself Fabian.
Or at least, that’s the story according to Camp Valour’s Chief Operations Officer, Nicola – ‘Don’t tell him, Pike!’ – Wilcox.
The Major’s military credentials were also called into question, but Nicola explained that his army record couldn’t be checked because he had served under his mother’s name. (Which would have made him the only Cynthia in the Parachute Regiment!) But is that legal? We’re dealing with the British army not the French Foreign Legion.
But now, the major, a hardened 25-year veteran, who (we were told) saw many conflicts, has taken offence at a few reasonable questions and gone into hiding, to be replaced by someone as yet unnamed. Perhaps it’ll be Sebastian, the third of the Pullen triplets, just returned from Syria where he led an all-female unit of Kurdish fighters against ISIS.
As a spokesperson Nicola does a wonderful job, making everything so clear. For after Ms Wilcox’ ‘clarification’ I am more convinced than ever that we are dealing with shameless shysters of the Walter Mitty variety.
Oh, yes, and I can look forward to another solicitor’s letter to add to my collection . . . if we are to believe Nicola Wilcox. Would you?
As might be expected, the Camp Valour gang has attracted considerable attention in Pembrokeshire. This is what the Western Telegraph had to say (with some interesting comments). While below you can read the report from the Pembrokeshire Herald.
Pembrokeshire councillor Mike Stoddart was also on good form on his ‘Old Grumpy’ blog.
Someone who knows of such things has told me that the SAS is always referred to as ‘The 22nd Special Air Service Regiment’, and presenting an SAS beret to someone who hadn’t earned it is never done.
Something that obviously puzzled me was the name change to Faversham-Pullen. A common reason is marriage, so had he married a Miss Faversham? I could find no evidence for that, so why Faversham?
Something I turned up made me pause, and wonder if it offers a clue. Read it for yourself. Chronologically, the fit is perfect, but I’m not sure what to make of it.
Naturally I checked with various bodies to see if the gang had secured any moolah.
The county council only became aware of the project from a media report! Though it did receive a copy of the business plan – from Milford Haven town council. This plan mentioned Armed Forces Community Covenant funding; on reading this, Dan Shaw, the council’s Liaison Officer for the Armed Forces, contacted Nicola Wilcox, only to be told that this was a ‘mistake’ and that this funding was not being applied for.
Just another lie that was put in the business plan to impress people, and withdrawn when queried. I cannot see the ‘Major’ and his gang applying for such funding because too many awkward questions would be asked.
I have submitted an FoI to the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ and await a reply.
Fort Hubberston is owned by the Port of Milford Haven, so I also wrote to that body. In response I was sent a brief statement issued on February 20th by Claire Stowell, Director of Property, which read: “The Port of Milford Haven has a short term agreement with Camp Valour which allows them to develop full proposals for Hubberston Fort. We will review those arrangements with Camp Valour in due course.”
I have to confess that I cannot get out of my head a suspicion that the copyright for the Fort Hubberston plan may not belong entirely to Phipps and Pullen. For I note some interesting characters among the senior management at PMH, with backgrounds in business and property development.
If I’m right, then this might explain the confusing entry on the Companies House website, where Camp Valour’s ‘nature of business’ reads, “Recreational vehicle parks, trailer parks and camping grounds”.
Somebody may have slipped up and told the truth, for once.
STOP PRESS! A ‘solicitor’s letter’ arrived just before I put out this post. It was signed ‘Alex McCready’, and there is indeed a lawyer of that name, but I’m not convinced she sent this.
To begin with, it came as a personal e-mail, not an e-mail with an attached letter. There was no company logo or contact details and it came from a Yahoo address! There were spelling mistakes and incorrect use or absence of the possessive apostrophe. Finally, I know from experience how solicitors write letters of this kind.
I shall of course be bringing this desperate attempt to silence me to the attention of the real Alex McCready.
UPDATE 10:35: I have now spoken with Alex McCready and confirmed that she did not send the e-mail. At her request the content of the e-mail is no longer available, Ms McCready will be making her own enquiries into what I interpret to be an assault on her reputation.
EMRYS IS ON HIS WAY!
I was in Carmarthen not so long ago to meet a fascinating guy from Swansea (but, then, aren’t all Jacks fascinating?). We talked of this and that, that and this, and he told me of a Welsh exile in New Zealand who had created Emrys the dragon, who will soon be on his way to Wales.
I have paraphrased the information I’ve subsequently been sent.
‘Artist Julia O’Sullivan is from Caehopkin in the Swansea Valley but has lived in Te Aroha, New Zealand for 12 years.
Emrys was inspired by the Huw Edwards’ BBC series, ‘The Story of Wales’. Emrys honours many Welsh people and includes 960 hand-beaten and enamelled copper scales. Some 750 of them etched with the names of Welsh celebrities.
Emrys is made of metals significant in Welsh history, stands on a Welsh slate base in the shape of Wales, with the legs representing pit-head winding gear. Emrys also contains 29 oil paintings, each telling a story – among them the Rebecca Riots, Aberfan, the Mabinogion, Hywel Dda and Owain Glyndŵr.
Emrys is 2.8m high by 3m wide, weighs 200kg and took 22 months to complete.
A special container has been being built and transportation home has now been arranged. Emrys will depart with a youth choir singing the traditional Maori farewell ‘Po Atarau’. A grand welcome awaits both Emrys and Julia on their arrival in Swansea.’
Emrys will be en route to Swansea in just over a week, and when he arrives he will take up the offer of temporary accommodation at the university. (Let’s hope he doesn’t get involved with the Wellness Village or he’ll be helping Plod with their enquiries and then it’ll be the next boat back.)
Emrys is seeking a permanent home in Wales, so we’re open to suggestions. No post cards this time, let’s have comments to the blog or responses on social media.
MORE LABOUR-STYLE ‘DEMOCRACY’
As you probably know, Plaid Cymru beat Labour to win the Ely by-election in Cardiff last Thursday. But because Neil McEvoy was highly influential in the campaign the militant feminist and niche politics elements in the party have had trouble bringing themselves to congratulate new councillor Andrea Gibson.
The best that could be extracted from an eco-friendly, gender-fluid Plaid spokesperson wearing a T-shirt reading ‘Save Socialist Venezuela From Capitalist Foreign Aid’ was, ‘Ely! Ely! Isn’t that in Cambridgeshire?’ When it was pointed out that there was a Cardiff neighbourhood of the same name, the spokesperson admitted ‘We really aren’t interested in such places’.
Further west there was better news for Labour in an election that got less publicity than the Ely contest. This was the by-election in the Mynyddygarreg ward of Cydweli town council. Though I did mention Labour candidate Beryl Williams in a recent post.
And Beryl won, but what was so curious and disturbing about the result was that of the 330 votes ‘cast’ 220 were postal or proxy votes. Beryl got 191 votes to her Independent rival’s 139 and the great majority of her votes were proxy and postal votes.
For I’m told that Beryl, following her defeat in a by-election last year, was well prepared this time, and stalked the ward armed with sheaves of postal vote registration forms, which of course she is perfectly entitled to fill in for elderly and other voters to sign.
And let’s not forget those – and to quote from Beryl’s own election material – who are helping turn Cydweli into “an autism and dementia friendly town”. Achieved by the third sector importing people with autism, dementia and other conditions who are then accommodated by housing associations.
So Beryl was elected thanks to Labour’s control of the third sector and care homes and the kind of extra burden being laid on Wales that we saw at Isfryn in Cwm-twrch Isaf.
I do hope that ‘Welsh’ Labour hasn’t adopted the old Ulster Unionist tactic of personation that exhorted supporters to ‘Vote early, vote often!’ Or perhaps in this case, ‘Don’t bother voting – I’ll do it for you!’
You’ll have read that the company involved is called Anglesey Homes, so I went to the Companies House website to check. First I found an Anglesey Homes Limited which went belly-up in January 2017. But there’s also an Anglesey Homes Ltd, which was Incorporated 16 November 2018.
Someone has been clever and re-used the name. Perfectly legal because the old company was ‘Limited’ and the new one is ‘Ltd’.
Anglesey Homes Ltd has a website that gives information on its projects but nothing about who runs the company, no company number, and not even a postal address. Companies House tells us that Anglesey Homes Ltd is based at Chester Business Park and shares an address with a number of other companies, with the sole director being Emma Elizabeth Scott.
So who is Emma Elizabeth Scott, this major player in the Ynys Môn holiday homes market? She was born in July 1969 and has in the past three years formed a number of companies. Here’s a list I’ve compiled, though it might be incomplete:
At first sight it would appear that we have here a woman in her late forties who suddenly throws herself into a business career with 12 new companies. And she’s the sole director of most of them.
And because they are all so new there’s little or no paperwork to see. This is certainly the case with Anglesey Homes Ltd, the company that claims to be behind the holiday homes at Rhosneigr.
Far more likely is that Emma Elizabeth Scott is fronting for someone. The county council – and indeed anyone else – is therefore entitled to ask Ms Scott who she’s fronting for, and why that person/those persons wish to remain in the shadows.
We are also entitled to ask Ms Scott where the money is coming from.
For as I have made clear on this blog, and explained with examples, a great deal of dirty money from northern England is being ‘washed’ in the property market and the tourism rackets of northern Wales.
I’m not suggesting that Anglesey Homes Ltd is using dirty money, but it’s always nice to be sure.
It’s always nice to meet up with old friends, and here are updates on three characters I’ve written about before, though I suppose it’s stretching it a bit to call them friends. And it also gives me the opportunity to introduce a couple of new faces.
This trip down Memory Lane will take us from Cardigan to Caernarfon and from the Afan Valley up to the Conwy Valley. (But if you want to stop somewhere for a cup of tea and a Welsh cake, that’s OK with me.)
What they have in common is that they have come to live among us and milk the public purse invest in our lovely homeland. We shall meet grant-grabbers and outright crooks all adding to the woof and weave of contemporary Welsh life.
This is another big piece but you don’t have to be greedy because it’s broken up into three distinct parts topped and tailed with this introduction and the conclusion.
GAVIN ‘WYNNBORN’ WOODHOUSE
Gavin Lee Woodhouse first intruded into the collective Welsh consciousness when, through his company MBI Hotels Ltd, he bought Plas Glynllifon near Caernarfon and tried to re-brand it ‘Wynnborn’. (Plas Glynllifon has been spectacularly unlucky in its recent owners, with the latest being Paul and Rowena Williams. Though they might by now have sold out to Myles Cunliffe. Explained in Weep for Wales 11.)
I didn’t write about Woodhouse at the time, but my interest was aroused when I learnt that together with Bore Grylls he was planning a big development behind Port Talbot. I first wrote about it in English tourism in the colony of Wales in April 2017, and followed it up in July with Colonial investments.
As time went on I began to suspect that Woodhouse was being edged out of the project, or being asked to take a back seat, because the front man soon became Peter Moore, “the man who brought Center Parcs to the UK”.
Maybe it was realised that Woodhouse, with the ‘Wynnborn’ albatross around his neck, his ‘chequered’ business record, and his tendency to come across as a bit of a wide boy, might not be viewed as a suitable recipient of Welsh public funding.
But you can’t keep him down. Soon after walking away from ‘Wynnborn’ Woodhouse bought Caer Rhun Hall early in 2016. And he was rewarded last year with a £500,000 wodge from the ‘Welsh Government’. Though a number of people are asking how this was justified, seeing as Woodhouse doesn’t own the hotel in the conventional sense. Let me explain.
This business model was looked at by West Wales News Review in October 2017, for Woodhouse – through a worryingly large portfolio of companies – owns a number of hotels in Wales from Tenby to Llandudno.
Either way, I believe that no one starts and closes so many companies in just seven years unless it’s done to confuse people, and to hamper investigation.
In order to maximise his profits Woodhouse also wants to put overpriced sheds in the Caer Rhun gardens and call them ‘villas’. Though locals can’t understand why these nine ‘villas’ are being advertised for sale – they may even have been sold ‘off plan’ – when planning permission was refused on the 11th of January.
And yet, due to the plethora of companies it’s difficult to know which company is involved in which project. To avoid too much confusion let’s just stick with Caer Rhun.
But if we go to this page for Caer Rhun Hall we see it linked with ‘Whisper Hotels’. There is a website for Whisper, but nothing registered with Companies House, so presumably it’s a marketing name, in which case I would expect the website to give the name of the controlling company. Of course it doesn’t.
Maybe Caer Rhun is owned by Woodhouse’s Giant Hospitality Ltd (formerly MBI Hotels Ltd). A company with net liabilities of £265,135 and Woodhouse as sole director. I make this suggestion because until last month Giant Hospitality was based at Caer Rhun before moving to West Yorkshire.
Another point of interest is Woodhouse’s funding. For the many charges against his companies are not with banks that you would recognise . . . or come to that, with any bank.
Woodhouse’s money comes from interesting sources like Fiduciam Nominees Ltd, Assetz Capital Trust Company Ltd and Mysing Capital Ltd.
Fiduciam Nominees of London seems to have little in the way of money, but has 516,000 issued shares, while on its Companies House entry its business is described as “financial intermediation“. Its directors are French, Dutch, Belgian and New Zealand. So your guess is as good as mine as to where the money really comes from.
Turning to Manchester-based Assetz Capital Trust Company Ltd, the latest (unaudited) financial statement declares no assets whatsoever. But as I say, it’s a trust, one of the shadiest of all financial vehicles.
Unusually, perhaps, Mysing Capital Ltdappears to be a thing of substance. It’s one of a stable of companies using the Mysing name based in Woodhouse’s home patch of West Yorkshire. The latest accounts give total net assets of almost £1.5m . . . that is if you believe ‘unaudited abridged accounts’, the kind of ‘You can trust us, Guv’ submissions favoured by so many of those we meet on this blog.
Gavin Lee Woodhouse is a spiv, a man prepared to cut corners; he’s borrowing money from companies that are nothing more than middle men for ‘investors’ – yet the ‘Welsh Government’ is more than happy to fund this man!
JAMES ‘FFOREST’ LYNCH
Now let’s go back a little further, to July 2015, and Cardigan Castle – Ready to Fall? This was the first in a series of articles on the £12m renovation of the castle, a project that failed to enthuse many locals, who felt that its significance in Welsh history was being downplayed in order to promote the castle as a conference centre, wedding venue, and glorified B & B.
It was further suspected that the wrong direction had been taken due to the project being controlled by four women who seemed impervious to criticism and deaf to advice. These were dealt with in Gang of Four + One. The leader of the group was unquestionably local matriarch Jann Tucker of Aberporth.
Tangentially I mentioned James Lynch, who is married to Tucker’s daughter, Siân. Satisfied that he had no part in what was happening at the castle I took him off the hook and let him swim away. But now people tell me that he has become something of a predator himself in the pond that is Aberteifi.
For Lynch seems to be branching out hither and yon, being photographed in the company of peers of the realm, which means we can guarantee that grants will follow. These will be in addition to the considerable amounts of lucre he’s already received from our wonderful ‘Welsh Government’.
And in this recent spurt of expansionism Oor Jimmie has pissed off a great number of people. (Did I not mention that Lynch is one of our northern cousins?)
Before dealing with his current and proposed ventures – and almost as many companies as ‘Wynnborn’ Woodhouse – let us consider James Lynch’s business background. I warn you, this gets complicated; but as ever, Jac has tried to make things clearer. For I have drawn up a document listing all of Lynch’s companies . . . or at least, all those I can find.
Now I’d better explain the document so that you can make sense of it. It’s here in pdf format. Maybe it would be best for you to open it in another window for easy reference.
You’ll see that there are seven column headings. Most are self-explanatory, ‘Inc’d’ means Incorporated; that is, the date the company was formed. Each company name forms a link, click to open an entry with Companies House or Company Check.
The final column, ‘Financial Health’, also contains a number of links, usually where there are outstanding charges. Where you read ‘N/A’, this refers to companies that Lynch left before they went tits up, or they may still be trading. So neither blame nor credit can be apportioned.
You will also see that some entries are shaded in yellow and others in violet, so let me explain this shading.
I assume that Lynch met Ms Tucker when both were in London, where they married and begat four sons. While there Lynch joined a number of companies where the common denominator seems to have been Ellis Elias, who I originally assumed to be Welsh. But on noticing a mention of Golders Green and a loan from an Israeli bank, I now believe that Elias is Jewish. The companies run by Elias, and an assortment of others, are shaded in yellow. Lynch’s involvement with them seems to have ended in 2003.
The companies that are unshaded – or in white – are usually Lynch companies. As are those in violet, but with this important distinction. The companies in violet have all received loans / debentures from Finance Wales. (Finance Wales has been renamed Development Bank of Wales.) In fact, in some cases it could be this funding that is keeping the companies afloat. These loans / debentures were all signed off by Val Thomas and all delivered on 2 April 2015.
Take the ‘Welsh Government’s Finance Wales out of the equation and Jimmy’s business record is anything but inspiring. Most of his non-FW companies – those unshaded – are dissolved, some with outstanding debts.
Or else, as you see under the ‘Financial Health’ column, the situation is ‘Unknown’, because I can find nothing on the Companies House website and I’m not prepared to pay Company Check for documents that may reveal little.
Then look at the four ‘Loft’ companies Incorporated 26.05.1999 – how do we explain that? Is he trying to confuse people, just like Woodhouse?
Another company that caught my eye was Beachbay Ltd. What I find odd is that Jimbo already had a number of charges against this venture before Finance Wales got involved. What’s more, we’re dealing with a property in London, which Lynch was presumably buying through those mortgages and loans.
My view is that Finance Wales should have rejected any application from Beachbay Ltd, a London-based company operating property in London. And even though the office address has now – belatedly – moved to Cardigan the business is still in London.
I’m sure someone will make an enquiry about this. It might even be me! (Done!)
But how do we explain Finance Wales’s generosity? Well, it occurs to me that in controlling the regeneration of the castle Jann Tucker would have made many useful contacts in Cardiff. And so I suspect she helped facilitate the largesse bestowed on James Lynch, especially as her daughter is a director of most of the companies involved.
But what’s Jimmie been up to of late? Well we saw the photograph above of him with a veteran revolutionary who’s been valiantly fighting the system from within for nigh on fifty years. And to his credit, El Dafydd has taken the fight into the enemy citadel, where many close their eyes to avoid witnessing the carnage.
(Though nowadays he seems to be little more than Kenny Skates’ gofer.)
That photograph suggests tourism. But rather than re-purposing the places of worship mentioned in that article I linked to, and this one, the issue causing concern for a number of people in the Cardigan area is glamping. For Jimmie wants to erect glamping pods . . . in fact, he has already put up some without planning permission.
Though the situation now appears to have been ‘regularised’, with permission granted, but with a number of conditions. Planning enforcement officers are still investigating the ones put up without permission!
In the piece I linked to from December you’ll read “Mr Lynch said he now employed around 50 people, most of them local young people”. While in the headline you saw the name ‘Pizzatipi’, so let’s pull these threads together and see what we get.
Pizzatipi is a pretentious fast food joint and bar by the Teifi in the middle of the town run by Lynch’s sons . . . though it’s closed until Easter (suggesting locals don’t use it). Maybe somebody should have asked Lynch how many “local young people” are employed now, in December and January.
For of course Lynch is a tourism operator, and he may indeed provide dozens of jobs for young people . . . in the summer. Some of these youngsters will be local, others will be on a working holiday. Few will be paid above the minimum wage.
The word on the street is that Lynch has now bought the local mart grounds. He has no interest in livestock so speculation is rife as to his plans for the site. There is also speculation about where he’s getting the money from.
Whatever the exact source I suspect it will have ‘Welsh Government’ stamped on it.
A suspicion heightened by this truly ludicrous Visit Wales publication that has Lynch listed among “Heroic trailblazers: real-life legends of Wales”. In truth, he is a man with a mountain of debts, a trail of failed companies . . . but an influential mother-in-law.
We are entitled to ask the ‘Welsh Government’ why it is putting so much of our money into Lynch’s companies, and the companies of others like him, to build up property portfolios for themselves, but to create only low wage, no skill, seasonal jobs.
Does anyone seriously believe that ventures like Pizzatipi (closed ’til Easter), glamping, and all the other nonsense we’ve looked at will give us a healthy, balanced economy that can provide well-paid jobs for our people, allowing them to remain in their communities and compete in their local property markets?
As ever, answers on a post card, please.
UPDATE 30.01.2019: I am indebted to a source for drawing to my attention to yet another of James Lynch’s projects, this one is on the Cardigan quayside. It involves, “Refurbishment, extension and change of use of warehouse, to include mixed-use development comprising of events space (sui generis), enterprise zones providing mixed use at ground floor and hostel and spa treatment room at first floor (sui generis).”
All details may be obtained by visiting the council planning portal, and then scrolling down. In addition to just about everyone within earshot of the proposed ‘events space’ the town council is also objecting, and even Natural Resources Wales has “significant concerns”.
It seems Jimbo is trying to branch out in all directions at once. Maybe the word I’m looking for is ‘overreach’.
Irrespective of how that works out push on with your plan.
If planning permission refused, insist on retrospective permission.
Count on council caving in on the grounds of being unable to justify spending public money in pursuing a legal case against you.
You get what you want.
The only way to ensure that Lynch and others can’t get away with it is to make a few, well-publicised examples of pulling down anything put up without authorisation – and making the guilty party pay.
The message would soon sink in.
SHANE BAKER, ‘THE BARGAIN BASEMENT BALDRICK OF NEBO’ AND HIS FRIEND JONATHAN JAMES DUGGAN
We first encountered James Lynch in 2015 and Gavin Woodhouse in 2017, now we’re going to catch up with someone we met much more recently. I’m referring to Shane Baker, who topped the bill in Miscellany 25.11.2018. The first time he’s topped the bill since his gig at Twerton Liberal Club. (You missed it!)
Shane describes himself as a film extra and his social media output makes it clear that he sits on the political far right, where the sun always shines and the favourite mobile ring tone is God Save the Queen.
It would be easy to laugh at Shane Baker, Tommy Robinson’s rocking acolyte, but he mixes with people who treat others with contempt, break the law without a second thought, and flout planning regulations with impunity.
How they met up remains a mystery but Baker seems to act as general fixer for Jonathan James Duggan, formerly of West Yorkshire. In fact, so close are they, that I hear Duggan sometimes uses Baker’s name. Why would he do that, boys and girls?
Perhaps because he’s a crook, and the son of a crook. For Jonathan James Duggan (aka Ripley) is the son of John/Jonathan Joseph Duggan. Duggan père was sent down in 2005 for six years, and described in this report as a “professional fraudster”.
Duggan senior made the news last year when he was arrested in Benllech, taken back to Yorkshire and banged up again.
After his father was imprisoned in 2005 young Duggan took over the family business of ordering goods, selling them off, not paying the original supplier, then liquidating the company involved.
By now, the Huddersfield area in which the Duggans had operated must have become unwelcoming because by 2012 or 2013 we find Duggan junior in Nebo. At Bryn Llys, an unprepossessing property . . . for which there were soon big plans.
These can be seen below. As might be expected, Duggan had no intention of keeping to the planning application that had been approved.
The new property that has been built is now advertised as Snowdon Summit View. When there are guests Duggan moves his wife Emma and seven children into a nearby shed . . . and I mean, shed, with no windows. I’m told the local fire service came to inspect it – and did no more than install fire alarms for free!
I’m also told that Duggan’s wife uses a number of names other than Duggan.
Fire alarms were not all Duggan got for free. For I’m also told that Nest Cymru installed 35 radiators and a biomass system in the new house. Though someone else tells me there’s an issue with water pressure that means the advertised baths and laundry facilities are very much luck of the draw.
To take you further in this story it’s best that you have an idea of the lie of the land. So I’ve put together a few maps that will help you locate Bryn Llys.
The map at the top shows the location of the village of Nebo, which is just off the A487 running from Porthmadog to Caernarfon. The map in the centre shows the village and the narrow roads running to and from it, with Bryn Llys the scorched earth in the centre. At the bottom you see a close-up of Bryn Llys.
It didn’t always look like this. But Duggan has cleared away hedges, walls and other features to leave a wasteland with – I’m told – topsoil buried under hardcore! Why would he do this?
Possibly because Duggan plans a large tourist attraction for Bryn Llys, with holiday accommodation. But as you can see on the map, there is only a narrow track from his property to Ffordd Cors y Llyn, the single-track road running into Nebo (and a dead-end in the other direction). This need for a wider access road explains why he has tried to steal land from neighbours, or to intimidate them into selling land.
This campaign involves threats, forged documents, claiming land that is not his, felling trees and knocking down walls. All because a great deal of money has been spent on a property that is very unlikely to receive planning permission for the kind of project Duggan has in mind, even from Gwynedd’s supine planning department.
There’s a lot more I could have written, but this is enough for now. As yet, I don’t think Jonathan James Duggan has received funding from the ‘Welsh Government’. But it’s only a matter of time.
Oh! before I forget, a mate of Duggan’s who is also interested in land outside of Nebo is Aaron Hill, who owns/owned the old courthouse in Caernarfon and who was – according to WalesOnline – victimised by “anti-English racists”. In reality, Cofis objected to him throwing his weight around.
The first reference I can find for Hill is this from October 2011, related to Plas Gwynfryn at Llanystumdwy, the home of Tory MP Ellis-Nanney. Hill is described as an “expert” on bringing derelict buildings back to life.
In the same year he bought St David’s church in Picton Terrace, Carmarthen for £1 making lots of promises. This report from 2017 suggests his ‘expertise’ had deserted him for nothing was ever done to the building and Hill was off-loading it.
In July 2015 he formed a company called Capel Troedyrhiw Ltd, which had an address in Radyr, Cardiff before transferring to Caernarfon and folding. It never traded and was just a shell company.
I can’t find any other company that Hill has been associated with and so I wonder where his money comes from. All information gratefully received.
We have a ‘Welsh Government’ with no policy for rural areas beyond letting things happen; which means they have no alternative but to welcome and fund the kinds of spivs and crooks you’ve read about here – and then pretend it’s a ‘strategy’.
Because there is such a good welcome I suspect that much of what the ‘Welsh Government’ would have us believe is ‘investment’ is in fact money laundering. With tourism and the buying of hotels and isolated properties seen as an ideal conduit for dirty money.
This takes place to a backdrop of most locals unable to afford a home, and increasingly denied social housing by the practices of housing associations; and so they either leave or struggle on in communities becoming less familiar year on year. Ethnic cleansing the clever way.
Decent jobs are scarce and there is no investment in anything that will benefit Welsh people . . . yet there is unlimited funding for this invading horde of crooks and shysters who are clearly above the law and beyond any restraint.
I’m no longer sure that politics, or political change, will be enough to save Wales from the engineered extinction that is approaching. Maybe something else is needed.
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.
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.
So who’s promoting these schemes, who are ‘the developers’ I’ve referred to?
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.
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.
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 + 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.
Perhaps more significantly, U + 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?
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.
U + 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
It may be Hallowe’en but you’ll find no ghosties or ghoulies here, just the usual parade of grotesques and exhibitions of idiocy and cupidity that haunt modern Wales. Night and day. All year round.
Seeing as I haven’t put anything out for over a week this is a bumper issue, around 4,000 words, but there’s no single, linking theme other than the sheer fuckedupedness of Wales. I have, as old Nennius said, ‘made a heap of things’. On the plus side, because this is a meal made up of a number of courses, you can take your time.
And if kids come knocking on your door, demanding money with menaces, set the dog on them.
THE OLIVE TRUST
In the previous post, Hate Crime, I told you about the insults aimed at me by Denise Kingsley-Acton, a very strange woman currently domiciled in Kidwelly. A very strange woman indeed. That anyone takes her seriously is difficult to believe, but if they do it may be due to the fact that she has a ‘minder’ in the form of Swansea Labour councillor for 43 years, and now Alderman, Alan Lloyd.
While Lloyd obviously opens doors for Denise Kingsley-Acton, it’s difficult to see what he gets out of it. But being a former Labour councillor we can be sure that he’s not acting as her guide and guarantor for altruistic reasons.
Since posting that piece last week a bit more information has come to light, some of which was added as an update, some of which will be fresh.
You no doubt shared my astonishment that this woman had been given a grant to educate young people about hate crimes. According to her Facebook page she had received a grant from the “Police Commissioner for Dafed (sic) Powys”. So I wrote to the PCC.
The initial response from the office of the PCC said, “The Police and Crime Commissioner has not awarded a grant to the Olive Trust. The grant was awarded from the Safer Dyfed-Powys Diogelach charity, to which the Commissioner is a trustee.”
After a follow-up e-mail I was told, again from the office of the PCC, “The grant was awarded to the Olive Trust as an organisation and it was for £1000.” The wording suggests that we should regard the Olive Trust as something unconnected with Denise Kingsley-Acton, when in fact she is the Olive Trust, and the Olive Trust is her.
I’m still waiting to hear if the grant offer has been withdrawn.
The latest entry on the Olive Trust Facebook page is shown below.
Denise Kingsley-Acton says I have harassed her “continually for many years”. The truth is that in 2012 I wrote about her attempt to screw £1,000,000 out of the Wales European Funding Office. There was a passing reference in September 2014, before two pieces about her in March this year after someone had drawn my attention to an article in Llanelli Online.
That was it, until the bizarre and slanderous allegations that came out of the blue on October 19. Had I not received those insults it’s unlikely I would have written about her ever again.
But if I learn that the Olive Trust or Denise Kingsley-Acton is trying to rip off the public purse, again; or if she posts slanders about me, again; then I shall write about her, again. And that’s a promise.
Mumbles and its pier is close to my heart. I can remember as a young boy riding the old Mumbles Train that used to clatter along the seafront.
In my early teens I spent many happy hours, whole days even, fishing. We’d usually cycle down, fishing rods strapped to our crossbars, bags on our backs containing tackle, bait, sandwiches (which often got mixed up).
At the pier we’d follow the tide out, which meant, once the two top bars of the safety rail around the eastern ‘well’ on the intermediate level became visible, working our way along, standing on the middle bar and holding tight onto the top one with one hand while holding our rod in the other, with bag on back, until we reached the far side, so that the fast ebbing tide could take our lines. And as the tide ebbed further the death-defying stunt was repeated on the bottom level.
I look back at what we did then and I wonder how we survived. Because anyone falling into the ‘well’ would either have been trapped under the floor and drowned, or else been taken out to sea so fast that they would have been lost unless a nearby boat could have reached them quickly.
From home to pier was a seven-mile ride, which was great on the first leg, partly because we were fresh and partly because it was downhill into town and then flat along the Mumbles Road. Coming home after a day’s fishing the pedals would always be heavier, especially if there were no nice fish to show your mam.
As an older teenager I did the Mumbles Mile on a Saturday night. Often after watching the Swans. We’d come out of the Vetch, have a bite to eat in a little caff we used in Wind Street, wash and brush up in one of those old public conveniences with an attendant, then catch the bus (was it the 77?) to Mumbles – White Rose, Pilot, Prince of Wales, Antelope . . . before walking home, which with diversions and digressions might mean getting home in time for breakfast
But then, I’m sure Mumbles and the pier plays a role in the life of anyone from Swansea and the wider area.
So it’s understandable why there is such interest in the proposed development. Now I shan’t comment on the development itself because it’s complicated – obstruction of views, etc – and I don’t have the space here, but there are a few points worth raising.
Someone we’ve encountered on this blog more than once is Lawrence Bailey, former leader of the local Labour Party, former Lord Mayor, and of course leader of the council. Or, rather, he was fulfilling these roles when he could tear himself away from his real interest of pornography. For which he was awarded the coveted Private Eye Pornographer of the Year award.
He also used to write to the Evening Post as Phyllis Evans of Cwmrhydyceirw, Disgusted of Dunvant, and a host of others who all seemed to support the Labour Party. Fancy! It seems likely that the Beans on Toast was complicit in this deception.
After these unfortunate revelations Bailey resigned from the council and branched out into public relations with a company called Whiterock, which first came to my attention when ‘Stan’ pointed out that this outfit was receiving regular payments from the dike-bashing MP for Swansea East, Carolyn Harris.
(Who, let’s be brutally honest, needs all the image-massaging she can get.)
Bailey seems to have used the Whiterock name for some time before registering it with Companies House in August 2015. Nothing else was ever filed with Companies House and Whiterock-Wales was dissolved in January 2017.
This is something I come across regularly, many different but similar names designed solely to confuse. So tell us, Lawrence, what is the name of your company and is it registered? Nobody’ll care if you’re just a one-man band. We all know you enjoy your own company.
Of course, Bailey’s big attraction for any potential client is that he knows the local Labour Party, he’s another like Lloyd who can open doors. So it should surprise no one to learn that he is representing owners Ameco who are hoping to make many millions of pounds from luxury housing in the vicinity of the pier as the ransom price for renovating the pier itself.
There was a meeting a couple of months back between the developers and the council, or at least, the council leader, Rob Stewart. Someone sent me a link to a secretly-filmed video, which I can no longer find, but fortunately I took a few screen grabs which you can see below.
Stewart is the one in the dark suit and Bailey is the grey-headed geezer.
This is all run-of-the-mill stuff for a Labour council, but now protesters are arguing something very odd may have happened around the time the outline planning application (2010/1451) was received by the council on 17 September, 2010.
This was during a period when the city was enjoying a respite from Labour rule with a Lib Dem-led alliance in charge. Which of course meant that Bailey’s political connections would have counted for naught.
What’s being suggested is that during a process of digitisation in 2010, by the council’s officers, the boundary of the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was moved so that the land on which the housing development is now planned was somehow moved outside the AONB. Here’s a BBC report.
Now if this suggestion is true, then it could scupper the whole development. If the boundary change was deliberate rather than error, then who might be responsible? Names of people – who may or may not be connected with Lawrence y Garreg Wen – carry on zephyrs wafting up from Mumbles.
Anyone with information is welcome to get in touch, with the usual guarantee of anonymity. Either use the contact box in the sidebar or write to email@example.com.
UPDATE 03.11.2018: The whole thing has now been put on hold by the ‘Welsh’ Government. It seems Swansea council has the power to refuse planning permission but it does not have the power to grant planning permission.
UPDATE 07.11.2018: In a strange twist, Swansea council’s planning committee has unanimously voted to approve the scheme. Does this mean that the Labour Party in Swansea is starting to stand up to London’s management team in Cardiff? Does it suggest that opponents of the scheme may not be as representative of the wider public as they might like to believe?
A LITTLE PLACE IN THE WEST
You may recall that the chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, Mark Vincent James, has a keen personal interest in property, with properties of his own in Cardiff Bay. I wrote about this in Baywatch and Baywatch 2.
Now I learn that he is branching out with a company called Cartrefi Croeso Cyfyngedig (CCC, geddit?) This report from 6 June tells us, among other things, that, “The council is the sole shareholder in Cartrefi Croeso, which will have five directors – two council officers, one councillor and two external appointees.”
As I say, that was early June, here we are at the end of October and according to Companies House there are just two directors, both employees of the council, and therefore answerable to Mark James not the elected representatives. But James’s hold over this new company doesn’t end there.
So we now have a company, Cartrefi Croeso Cyf, using public money, run by people answerable only to Mark James, but with no democratic accountability whatsoever. What the hell is the Plaid Cymru-led council doing?
A regular source whose judgement I trust reminds me that Cartrefi Croeso is another arms-length company of the kind that Mark James seems to favour as a way of running and controlling things without having to worry about answering to those who pay his salary. Or anyone else.
Another such company is CWM Environmental Ltd. (Carmarthenshire Waste Management.) Something similar has happened to social care, and leisure services will be next. While looming at Delta Lakes is the Wellness Centre Village, where the lame shall be made to walk, one-eyed Scarlets’ supporters will be blessed with 20/20 vision . . . and some shifty buggers will make a fortune from the public purse thanks to Mark Vincent James.
From the perspective of a man like Mark James setting up private companies run by his placemen offers many advantages. Like some Mafia don he controls things but his underlings take any flak. Being private companies they are not subject to Freedom of Information requests (as they would be as in-house council departments). And of course rules on the use of the Welsh language do not apply.
It is quite amazing how, in a Western democracy, the employee of a public body can take over that body and run it as if it were some private company he had created himself! Which would be bad enough, but neither the elected representatives of those that employ him, nor the superior level of government that should be holding him to account, are prepared to do anything!
But as I keep saying, Wales has more in common with the third world than with Western Europe: Poverty, colonialism, exploitation, colonisation, widespread corruption, no oversight and monitoring of public officials and public bodies, etc., etc.
A FAIT ACCOMPLI
Midnight yesterday was the deadline for submissions in a consultation process launched on July 10 about the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) to farmers. It’s been pretty clear for some time that the whole issue is being controlled from London and that the management team in Cardiff docks is simply doing what it’s told, and saying what it’s told to say.
Though in fairness it was all play-acting, for his masters had decided the outcome long in advance. The showboating and the bluster, the trips to Edinburgh, the ‘strong words’ for Mrs May’s government, were designed to placate a certain audience that in Wales often seems to care more about the EU than it does about Wales.
As a direct consequence of the Labour management team agreeing that the London Government could effectively withdraw BPS we now face the destruction of Welsh upland farming, together with the jobs, plus the language and the culture, farming sustains.
But this has little to do directly with Brexit, for if Carwyn Jones had not surrendered powers to London Welsh farmers could be receiving the same treatment as their Scottish counterparts, who have been guaranteed the continuation of the Basic Payment Scheme.
The sad little mouthpieces of the collaborationist regime in Cardiff docks, are reading from scripts prepared for them by civil servants like those you see above, one of whom has been heard to say that he hates farmers! Making it clear that Welsh farmers are to be forced from their land to make way for more English settlers. I wrote about it in The Welsh Clearances.
I can hear the objections – ‘But you misrepresent the proposals, Jac!’ Do I? Let the readers decide.
Funding is to be withdrawn from farmers and given to environmentalists, ‘re-wilders’ and others without whose help Mother Nature would simply give up and go home. The losers will almost all be Welsh, while the winners will be overwhelmingly English, but we’re expected to believe that this is pure coincidence.
Though it must be said, that over many years there have been some people (especially in Plaid Cymru) who have been very supportive of this replacement population. In fact, some seem to have identified more strongly with incoming ‘environmentalists’ than with their own people.
While Remain fanatics argue that farmers have brought it on themselves by voting for Brexit. Ignoring the fact that this is a decision taken by the London government using Brexit as a pretext.
Wake up! This is undisguised colonialism. Taking land off the natives is what our masters are good at, they’ve been doing it for centuries. That so much Welsh land is still in Welsh hands is an affront to everyone in whose veins runs the blood of pith-helmeted district officers and their crinolined memsahibs.
THE DISASTER OF DEVOLUTION
Reading this blog can I’m told be both entertaining and informative, but often depressing. (It’s the same writing it, but I take my ‘medicine’.) While things at the moment may look more depressing than usual I’m strangely – perhaps perversely – encouraged by recent developments.
First, the crushing defeat dished out to Leanne Wood in the Plaid Cymru leadership election made her acolytes realise how little support there is for niche politics. And if there is little support within Plaid Cymru for such nonsense then there’s even less support in the wider population. But then, when you debate issues in echo chambers you can persuade yourself that everybody is discussing what you and a tiny group of friends think is important.
That said, I can’t see Plaid Cymru getting its act together over the longer term. It will fall back into its old ways, because despite being a minority, the niche left knows how to inveigle itself into positions of influence and authority, and to intimidate others into silence. The ‘nationalists’ will have to reach some compromise with LW’s supporters.
Which means that eventually, a new party will be needed to prioritise the needs and interests of Welsh people while working towards the independent state that alone can permanently safeguard those needs and interests. Ein Gwlad already exists, and will grow into that role.
Looking at the wider picture it should now be obvious that devolution is a sham. But worse than being a sham, devolution, and the existence of a ‘Welsh’ Government, allows the UK government to get away with things that might have been very difficult without devolution.
Let’s take a few very recent examples to explain what I mean.
THE FLINT RING
This ‘initiative’ came from Cadw, which is just English Heritage West, ensuring a ‘safe’ and acceptable interpretation of Welsh history. That being so, we can be sure that the Flint Ring idea originated over the border.
To give an example of how Cadw operates I’ll go back a couple of years to something I found on its website. Cadw was promoting, “It’s 1295 and peace reigns in Caernarfon”, before going on to paint a picture of English soldiers flirting with Welsh maids. (Yes, honestly!)
The truth is of course that in 1294/5 Wales was in rebellion, and Caernarfon Castle was taken by Madog ap Llywelyn’s men. Any English soldiers still in the castle would either have been lying dead somewhere or, if they were lucky, languishing in the dungeons.
After I put out a tweet Cadw immediately took the page down. But why did the body entrusted with interpreting and presenting Welsh history get it so wrong, giving out a picture of Welsh and English living happily together in conquered Wales, us Welsh not at all resentful?
Shit! I’ve just answered my own question.
Interpreting a colonial people’s history is fundamental to maintaining a hold over that people. This is Cadw’s role in Wales. (And of course, ensuring that no Welsh are employed at our castles and other monuments.)
Far easier to do this with a Welsh name and the pretence that Cadw is an agency of a ‘Welsh’ Government.
PRINCE OF WALES BRIDGE
Yes, I know, this was announced by Alun Cairns, Conservative Secretary of State for Wales, but Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones was involved from very early on, and to a considerable degree Jones’s approval was used to justify the whole thing. A kind of joint enterprise, sharing the blame.
Had the naming been imposed directly from London there would have been far more opposition, maybe even from within the Labour Party. Devolution served to confuse what was a clear, colonialist imposition.
This was another clear, colonialist imposition. But because the ‘Welsh’ Government, and Natural Resources Wales were so co-operative, and so devious about their involvement, it served to confuse the picture. It left those objecting uncertain who to blame.
Which, again, could not have happened without the ‘shield’ of devolution.
The ‘M4 improvements’ is a long-running saga.
‘Business’ believes that the M4 must be upgraded to do away with bottlenecks and speed up travel between England and Cardiff. Most politicians seem to agree.
Late in 2013 the UK/English government gave the ‘Welsh’ government power to borrow up to £1bn to spend on the M4. On Monday we learnt from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there was now an extra £300m available, but only if it is spent on the M4.
Huffing and puffing, millionaire socialist contender for the purely figurehead positions of leader of the English Labour Party in Wales and First Minister, Mark Drakefraud, insisted it was up to AMs how the money was spent.
Small but perfectly formed SoS Alun Cairns retorted by saying that the ‘Welsh’ Government had asked for the money specifically for the M4. ‘Liar’ liar, pants on fire!’ shouted Drakefraud, at which point the exchange got too highbrow for this simple old Swansea Jack.
The bottom line is that improving the M4 will help England far more than Wales because improving communications to peripheral regions invariably works against those peripheral regions. It means what makes them attractive can be reached easier and what makes such regions valuable can shipped out faster.
If the M4 ‘improvements’ go ahead jobs will be lost because it will be easier to serve ‘South Wales’ from depots and offices in England, but Wales’s cheaper homes will be brought within reach of more English commuters to Bristol and the Thames Valley.
What the A55 has done for the north on a bigger scale.
How much easier it is to perpetrate this con with the help of a ‘Welsh’ Government that can’t see beyond Cardiff – and then get the silly buggers to put the whole country in debt to pay for it! Self-financing colonialism.
Just imagine no devolution, and the UK government saying it wanted to upgrade the M4 but that Welsh local authorities were going to pay for it.
UPDATE: On the very day this post appeared this letter was published in the Western Mail. I have no idea who David Gwyn Watts of Milford Haven is, but he’s right. (Though I think the Letters Editor went a bit overboard with ‘doom’.)
As you’ve read above, Welsh farmers will be forced from their land in a policy worthy of comparison with Clearances or ethnic cleansing. The orders come from London. Civil servants answering to London will implement the strategy in Wales. And Welsh politicians will pretend it’s their policy out of a combination of vanity, congenital deviousness, and contempt for those who’ll suffer.
If a government minister had stood up in the House of Commons and said, ‘Her Majesty’s Government plans to clear Welsh farmers from their ancestral land and replace them with English environmentalists, ‘re-wilders’ and the like’, there would have been uproar in Wales. There would have been demonstrations, riots even.
But no, get some stupid woman in Cardiff to pretend it’s a decision of her ‘government’ and it confuses the natives. Use devolution as a ‘screen’ and as with the Flint Ring, and The PoW Bridge, and the toxic mud, and the M4 money, and a host of other damaging schemes, we won’t know who’s really to blame, and who we should be attacking.
This confusion can only arise because of devolution. And because of the way London uses devolution, and because of the way our politicians allow devolution to be used. Strip away devolution and we’ll see colonialism for what it really is.
Forget the comforting bollocks about devolution being a ‘badge of nationhood’. Welsh nationhood is being destroyed behind the façade of devolution. Devolution is a Trojan horse.
I predict with certainty that if there is another Tryweryn or another Investiture, it will be presented as a decision of our wonderful ‘Welsh’ Government, and because of that, it will be accepted by more Welsh people than if it had come in the form of a diktat from London.
If we had a vote to abolish the Assembly, I would vote to abolish. And I wouldn’t need to think twice about it.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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 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).
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.
Finding myself at a loose end I did what I often do to ward off ennui – I delved into StatsWales, a site I recommend to anyone with a strong stomach who is free from high blood pressure or problems with their cholesterol levels.
And here’s a link to the Buyer’s Guide. In a nutshell; you need to come up with 5% deposit, 75% mortgage, and then you apply for a 20% equity loan from Help to Buy – Wales to complete the purchase of a new-build home. It’s basically a programme to stimulate the building industry.
Going through the various tables, and making comparisons, certain anomalies began to appear, anomalies which, when I gave them some thought, were rather worrying, for it was difficult to think of an acceptable or innocent explanation for some of the curious data confronting me.
Diving in . . . why have there been 1,339 completions in Newport (population 151,485, 2017 mid-year estimate) but only 326 in Cardiff (362,756, ditto)? Or why should there have been 768 completions in Flintshire (155,155) but only 205 in neighbouring Wrexham (135,571)? Moving to the south west we see that Carmarthenshire (186,452) completed 645 while in neighbouring Pembrokeshire (124,711) it was just 191, while up the road in Ceredigion (73,076) it was a measly 21!
Moving down the list, a table I found very interesting was the one dealing with house prices, which is worth spending some time on because it raises more questions about the workings of the Help to Buy system. Let me explain what I mean.
Earlier we noted that there were many more properties bought with Help to Buy in Carmarthenshire than in Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion combined. The table suggests that this may be due to most of the properties sold in Carmarthenshire being under £150,000, which would suggest that there the scheme has been used to help first-time buyers, who reassuringly made up 80% of sales, one of the highest percentages in the country. By comparison, the first-time buyer figure for Torfaen was just 59%.
The figures for Merthyr I find very strange. Without wishing to do the area down, I was surprised to see that 68% of the Help to Buy properties there were priced at over £150,000. For Carmarthenshire – where property values are higher than Merthyr – the figure was just 24%. The figure for Swansea is 25%, and for Blaenau Gwent, the other Heads of the Valleys authority, it’s 22%.
So why are people buying such expensive houses in one of the poorest areas of a poor country?
For most areas – even Merthyr – there is a tailing off as we approach the £300,000 limit, which is to be expected. Yet in the following local authority areas the top price bracket shows an increase in completions over the cheaper band preceding it: Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Wrexham, Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff, Torfaen.
For Flintshire, the figures are striking: 99 completions in the £200,001-£225,000 bracket, 105 in the £225,001-£250,000 band, and then a leap to 150 in the top £250,001-£300,000 band. Which means that 89% of the properties bought in Flintshire using Help to Buy were priced at over £150,000.
According to the Land Registry, the average house price in Flintshire in June 2017 was £162,703 (and has since dropped). For Merthyr the figure was £98,172. The figures for all local authority areas are available here, scroll down.
In the hope of pulling everything together I decided to compile a table of my own. (Available here in pdf format.) The columns show, from the left:
The local authority.
The area’s population from the ONS’ mid-year estimate for 2017.
A breakdown of the prices of properties bought with Help to Buy (split into four bands rather than the eight supplied by StatsWales).
The total number of Help to Buy completions.
The number and percentage of first-time buyers.
The average house price for each area in June 2017, supplied by the Land Registry.
The average price paid for a Help to Buy property.
The difference between 6 and 7.
So in addition to the questions already posed, why have there been so many Help to Buy purchases in some areas and so few in others? As mentioned, the most obvious stand-out is Newport, which with 4.8% of the population accounts for 18.7% of the Help to Buy completions.
Could it be that many, or most, of the Help to Buy purchases in Newport are investments in anticipation of the expected influx of Bristol commuters? Come to that, are many of these properties being bought by Bristol buyers thinking ahead? It’s difficult to explain the Newport anomaly without bringing Bristol into the equation.
But whatever the explanation, isn’t Newport taking up a disproportionate amount of the £170m available? Is there no mechanism to ensure that all parts of the country are treated fairly?
As for Flintshire, we can reasonably assume that many of the buyers there will have come from over the border, which points up another serious shortcoming in Help to Buy.
It would be nice to think that this scheme focuses on first-time buyers, local young people buying their first home. We have the excellent example set by the three south western counties but elsewhere the picture is patchy. With 83% of Help to Buy sales in Wrecsam and Cardiff being made to first-time buyers but just 59% in Torfaen, Newport’s hinterland.
Carmarthenshire also deserves praise for the fact that 76% of the properties sold in the county with Help to Buy were priced at £175,000 or under. Which when coupled with an 80% first-time buyer figure suggests that it’s young locals being helped.
You’ll notice that in three local authorities – Vale of Glamorgan, Pembrokeshire, Monmouthshire – the average Help to Buy price is lower than the average sale price for those areas. But Monmouthshire and the Vale have the highest property values in Wales so this is nothing to worry about. While for Pembrokeshire we see that 77% of the Help to Buy properties were £175,000 or less which, when coupled with an 85% first-time buyer rate, suggest that it’s on the same righteous path as next-door Carmarthenshire.
Though I’d like an explanation for why there have been so few Help to Buy sales in Ceredigion. (And I don’t want any Cardi jokes!)
And then there’s Merthyr. I can think of no good reason why most of the properties bought there with Help to Buy were priced over £175,000 when the average house price is £98,172. And why are only 67% of them first-time buyers? Somebody’s taking the piss.
Administered properly Help to Buy could have done a lot of good. If it had been limited to first-time buyers and those who had lived in Wales for a minimum of five years. But because the impetus was to build more houses, and because the more expensive the house the bigger the profit margin, ‘anomalies’ were guaranteed.
When we look at the list of participating builders we see a long list of companies, a list that contains quite a few outfits that I bet have never laid a brick in Wales.
Going back to the ‘Welsh’ Government website, those thinking of using Help to Buy are also advised to find, in addition to a builder and a lender, an approved financial advisor and an accredited conveyancer. Clicking on the links for these brings up the same long list of professionals, and again, many of them are outside of Wales. Bristol and Chester seem popular locations. (List available here in pdf format.)
As I say, properly applied and administered Help to Buy could have helped a lot of our people, and given a boost to Welsh companies, but like most legislation that passes through Cardiff docks and then into the hands of civil servants it is intended that as much as possible of the benefits spread over the border.
And inevitably, there will be some jiggery-pokery, as alliances are forged between builders, solicitors and lenders. Other may be drawn in, such as local government officials and councillors. Also, friends and family of those involved will be ‘helped’ to apply for Help to Buy.
Standing back, looking at the big picture, one thing becomes clear. By and large, the Help to Buy programme seems to have been implemented more sensibly, more fairly, and less wastefully, in those local government areas that are not controlled by the Labour Party.
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.
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 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”.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!)
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 2018headlined, “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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
I have written about housing associations dozens of times. One of the many things that intrigued me was their legal status – were they public bodies or private companies? For on the one hand they enjoyed the benefit of public funding (and lots of it), yet were exempt from public scrutiny and Freedom of Information legislation, just like private companies.
From my inquiries into housing associations I concluded that they enjoyed the best of both worlds.
This certainly surprised me, and the revelation that housing associations were regarded as private companies also surprised those who had innocently assumed that publicly-funded providers of social housing, owning for the most part stock they had inherited from local authorities, were already public bodies.
In addition to surprising some, the change also annoyed a number of people, not least the man in No 11 Downing Street, because it meant that £60bn of housing association debt would be added to the UK’s public indebtedness. Within the sector there were concerns that reclassification would mean, among other things, that housing associations would now be open to public scrutiny.
But if nothing else, this move by the ONS clarified the status of these mysterious bodies. They had been private, the ONS wanted to make them public, and now the race was on to find a way of reversing the ONS decision.
England led the way and in November 2017 the ONS announced that once the new measures had passed into law housing associations would be reclassified once again as private bodies. Wales followed suit in June this year with the Regulation of Registered Social Landlords (Wales) Act 2018. Despite the title, the purpose of this legislation is in fact to deregulate housing associations so that there is no possibility of them being considered public bodies.
Before delving into the Act, let me make a few things clear. It would be easy to think that if housing associations were private bodies that were briefly deemed to be public bodies by the ONS and are now reclassified as private, then surely we’re back where we started? Er, no . . . there have been many changes, significant and worrying changes.
These are encapsulated in ‘About the Bill’ in the ‘Overview’ introduction to the legislation, where it says:
It tells us clearly that to satisfy the Office for National Statistics “The purpose of the Bill is to amend or remove those powers which are deemed by the Office for National Statistics (“ONS”) to demonstrate central and local government control over Registered Social Landlords (RSLs).”
For those who find it difficult to wade through the full legislation (which I guess is some 99% of us) here’s a more manageable ‘Guide’ in which I’ve highlighted certain sections that I shall now focus on in order to discuss what I consider to be a very worrying direction of travel.
Let’s turn to the highlighted document.
Paragraphs 13, 15, 18 and 20 all list circumstances or situations in which housing associations no longer need the consent of ‘Welsh Ministers’. This is not a reference to a conclave of Nonconformist preachers but to the clowns down Cardiff docks who want us to think of them as the ‘Welsh Government’. (In reality they are just England’s management team in Wales.)
In practice, it means that a Registered Social Landlord in Wales is now free to make any change it likes to its rules, merge with another company, transfer its “engagements” (assets?) to another company, or go into liquidation, all without needing the approval of the ‘Welsh Ministers’.
Paragraphs 33 and 34 however gives the ‘Welsh Ministers’ power to both remove and appoint officers of RSLs, even if that housing association is a company. Which strikes me as a little odd, and would appear to contradict the expressed objective of removing the powers of local and central government.
As do paragraphs 40, 42 and 43 which also give or retain powers for the ‘Welsh Ministers’. These include the right to compel a RSL “to transfer management functions to a person specified by them (the ‘Welsh Ministers’)”. They can also appoint a manager and forcibly amalgamate RSLs.
Further paragraphs are in the same vein until we come to 61, which is worth thinking about, for it gives the ‘Welsh Ministers’ the power to show favouritism to certain housing associations at the expense of others.
Paragraph 63 suggests that housing associations are now free to hide “disposal proceeds” in the accounts, proceeds that will almost certainly have been paid for out of public funds. What’s more, ‘Welsh Ministers’ have no say in how the money – public money – is to be used.
Paragraphs 64, 71, 73 and 78 reiterate that local authorities – that is, the democratically elected bodies serving the areas in which housing associations operate – no longer have any influence in the running of RSLs.
WHAT WILL IT MEAN IN PRACTICE?
In a nutshell, Serendipity presented the ‘Welsh’ Government with an opportunity to extend its power in areas where the Labour Party is as popular as Boris Johnson at a Remoaner Wail-in and Carwyn and his gang grabbed the chance with both hands.
Or to look at it from another angle, an allegedly socialist political party has no qualms about privatising bodies holding and managing public assets.
Let’s deal with the power grab first. Despite being the party with the most MPs and AMs, and the party of power in Cardiff docks, Labour controls just twelve of Wales’ twenty-two local authorities. And none in the south west, the north west or the centre.
As I’ve explained on this blog a number of times, Labour overcomes its lack of representation – and consequently influence – through the power of patronage and funding. The third sector being a prime example, controlled via public funding dished out by the Labour management team in Cardiff docks the third sector is stuffed with Labour’s cronies and operates across the country. Whether it’s the Citizens Advice Bureau in Gwynedd or one of the countless ‘homelessness’ charities fighting over rough sleepers Labour uses the third sector to give it influence in areas where it has little electoral support.
The same can be said of housing associations. There are certain RSLs aligned with Labour and these are rewarded with extra funding and encouragement to take over housing associations that are not run by Labour Party supporters. One example I’ve dealt with a number of times was the takeover of Cantref, based in Castell Newydd Emlyn, by Wales and West Housing of Cardiff, run by the wife of a Cardiff Labour councillor. (A woman who insists on appearing in almost every photograph.)
One curb on the excesses of such Labour shenanigans was the involvement of local, non-Labour councillors, in the running of housing associations operating on their patch. But as we’ve seen, the new Act removes that involvement.
But the Act entrenches the power of the ‘Welsh’ Government to interfere of behalf of Labour-connected RSLs. For example, it’s no secret that Wales and West wants to take over Tai Ceredigion. The minister responsible could remove Tai Ceredigion’s CEO, replace him with a Labour stooge, who could then announce that the best option for Tai Ceredigion would be a merger with Wales and West Housing.
I’ve focused on Wales and West but I could have mentioned any number of other housing associations that are obviously Labour in their political orientation but tend to operate in one area, unlike Wales and West, which has a national reach, active in 15 of our 22 local authority areas.
GYPSY JAC GAZES INTO HIS CRYSTAL BALL
With housing associations deregulated, local authority influence removed, and the Labour Party able to control the whole shooting match, Wales could be facing a bleak future.
Let’s take Gwynedd, an area where Labour’s support is largely limited to academics and students around the alien university in Bangor. In the near future Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd (which inherited Gwynedd’s social housing stock) could be taken over by Labour Party appointees, who then sign contracts with English local authorities and RSLs to help them bring down their waiting lists for social housing. Something the new legislation allows RSLs to do.
So Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd goes on a building spree with borrowed money.
But it eventually becomes clear that Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd has bitten off more than it can chew and it goes into voluntary liquidation owing millions of pounds to lenders. So who is now responsible for that debt? Is it the ‘Welsh’ Government – in other words, you and me?
One of the objections to the reclassification as public bodies was that such a move would restrict housing associations’ ability to borrow money. Though Welsh RSLs have in the past borrowed very little from commercial lenders – that wasn’t repaid by the ‘Welsh’ Government – because they don’t need to. They have the guaranteed income from their housing stock, a stock that in most cases was paid for out of public funds, and as we know, this income is supplemented by handouts from the ‘Welsh’ Government.
So what becomes of these handouts now? Will deregulated private housing associations still receive public funding every year?
Another consideration might be that Welsh RSLs are also free to enter into agreements with those London boroughs currently engaged in social cleansing. Which could mean that a Welsh RSL in receipt of your money would be helping move people from London to Wales.
The new Act also allows RSLs to dispose of their ‘engagements’ and land assets. So what redress is there if, for example, Mid Wales Housing sells off land or property to RSLs based in the English West Midlands and these bodies then move many of their less ‘sociable’ tenants into places like Meifod and Llanwrtyd?
Clearly, the temptation is now there for Welsh RSLs to borrow unwisely and to over-extend themselves, which may well serve a certain agenda.
I say that because most people agree that we have too many housing associations. There are ten operating in Neath Port Talbot, six in Conwy, and no less than fifteen in Cardiff.
Obviously, the total number must be reduced, and the new Act makes it easier to undermine RSLs not favoured by Labour – as was done with Cantref – and to force through mergers. Which is what I predict will happen in the coming years, and it will be justified in the name of ‘rationalisation’.
What will be glossed over is the fact that the only housing associations left standing at the end of this process will be those run by Labour Party members and supporters. For make no mistake, the Regulation of Registered Social Landlords (Wales) Act 2018 gives the Labour Party more opportunities to extend its malign influence through giving its hangers-on preferential treatment.
But this is how a one-party state operates – supporters are rewarded and non-supporters compromised or intimidated.
LABOUR’S NUCLEAR OPTION
But the starkest and most dangerous reminder of the one-party state could, paradoxically, come when most people think the power of the Labour Party in Wales has finally been broken. A case of the cornered beast.
I can see a situation, maybe as early as the Assembly elections of 2021, that sees Labour without a majority and unable to cobble together a coalition. The ‘Welsh’ Labour Party will then be in opposition down Cardiff docks.
It is at this point that all the scheming and placements, all the bribes and sinecures, bear fruit, and all the favours will be called in. For it will be when Labour is in opposition that we see the benefit of having a bloated third sector, of filling housing associations with its people, of generally building up a network of supporters and funding recipients, everyone from Mrs Tiggy-Winkle’s Hedgehog Rescue Service to Côr Meibion Cwmscwt.
For I predict with absolute certainty that when Labour loses control of the Assembly it will not accept defeat gracefully. The party will begin a campaign of guerilla warfare to undermine the new administration. Wrecking Wales will be acceptable collateral damage, because the party comes first.
Labour’s foot-soldiers in this dirty war will be its supporters in the sectors and networks the party has carefully built up over the past twenty years, including the deregulated RSLs, and these will be backed by a media that is either Labour-leaning or else a BritNat propaganda outlet for which Labour – as a Unionist party – is far more acceptable than what may have replaced Labour.
Making it easier for Wales to be made ungovernable through vindictive factionalism could be an important consequence of the Regulation of Registered Social Landlords (Wales) Act 2018.