Life in the old schemes yet

This is something of a ‘shortie’ because I’ve had things to do and I’ve spent a lot of time in recent days looking for a new theme, an attempt to give a new look to this blog. I’m not happy with this theme – 2016 – but I’ll stick with it until I find summat better.

So if anyone can recommend a clean yet flexible blog theme, offering sidebars and plenty of options, let me know. I don’t mind coughing up a few quid for the right one.

Among a number of problems with this theme – post too narrow, too much space around the header, etc – is that comments don’t show on the home page, and the link to the comments is almost invisible, lying as it does at the bottom of the tags in the left sidebar.

But enough of my trifling problems.

For in this post I bring news that there may yet be life in two projects we assumed were on their way to the knacker’s yard – the motor racing circuit at Ebbw Vale and the Swansea tidal lagoon.

Let’s look at Ebbw Vale first.

IF ONLY FANGIO COULD HAVE LIVED TO SEE THIS!

The original scheme, you will recall, was the brainchild of one Michael Carrick, who ultimately revealed himself to be a bit of a lad.

He achieved this status by running up debts, buying a motor cycle parts firm with grant money he’d received, even paying his gardener from the same source, and by generally exposing himself to be a man with a vision . . . of making himself very rich out of spin and hyperbole.

Image: WalesOnline, click to enlarge

Despite the backing of the equally avaricious Lord Kinnock it was eventually realised that the Circuit of Wales project pushed by Carrick’s Heads of the Valleys Development Company and Aventa Capital Partners Ltd was a pipe-dream that was never going to draw the tifosi to Ebbw Vale. (And to call it a ‘pipe-dream’ is being generous.)

But, wait! is that a highly-tuned engine I hear whining its way towards the Heads of the Valleys, powering a sleek Le Mans-style sports car? Yes, it is, and at the wheel we find Newport-born Roger Maggs, or possibly Mark Rhydderch-Roberts of Crickhowell. ‘Who they?’ you demand. Well read about them for yourself.

Their plan differs in a number of regards from Michael Carrick’s vision. Perhaps most notably in the declaration that they will not be trying to attract high-prestige events; their plan being along the lines of “providing state of the art laboratory and testing facilities for the global automotive industry”.

Which would obviously complement the ‘Welsh Government’s Automotive Technology Park at Rhyd y Blew.

Another major departure from the Carrick vision is that Maggs and Rhydderch-Roberts say they won’t be demanding vast amounts of public funding. Their project is priced at a modest £150m, roughly a third of the estimated cost of the Circuit of Wales, and would not seek “any direct financial support or underwriting from the Welsh Government”.

Though funding would be sought from the £1.2bn City Deal for the Cardiff Capital Region, which is where I fear they might run into difficulties.

To begin with, there are ten local authorities in the Cardiff Capital Region and some may not favour such a development on the northern edge of the region, especially, perhaps, the largest of those local authorities.

For £734m of the City Deal funding has been ring-fenced for electrification of Valleys’ railway lines so as to make it easier for people to travel from dormitory communities into Cardiff to work and spend money. If the developments we’re discussing take off they will be of little or no benefit to Cardiff. Yet whether or not a project benefits Cardiff is often the prime consideration for ‘Welsh Government’ funding decisions and so things may not bode well for the Maggs-Rhydderch-Roberts plan.

On the plus side, with the widening of the Swansea – Hereford A465 proceeding apace Ebbw Vale becomes more reachable from the English Midlands, heart of the automotive industry.

Yes, I know, I’ve just mentioned the Automotive Technology Park at Rhyd y Blew, but don’t get carried away. After building up people’s hopes by supporting the Circuit of Wales, and then pulling the plug, the ‘Welsh Government’ had to offer something to Ebbw Vale. Motivated not by guilt but by the consideration of saving Labour seats.

I wish both projects well. But if they are to truly benefit the Heads of the Valleys region, the most deprived part of a poor country, then we need assurances that local people will be recruited and trained and that as much as possible of the money involved stays in the area.

Let us now take that A465 to the city of my dreams.

WAVING OR DROWNING?

Another ‘character’ who has been entertaining us for a few years now, in many ways a contemporary and rival to Michael Carrick, is Mark Shorrock of a host of companies under the Tidal Lagoon umbrella. His particular vision was for a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay tapping into Neptune’s bounty.

It’s enough to make an old Sea Scout like me nostalgic for the smell of brine and Robert Newton impersonations, ‘Arr, Jac lad’. But enough of that.

This project also went mammaries skyward when the UK government refused to fund it. Though Shorrock, a man with a number of unfulfilled dreams to his name, believed it could still proceed. Like the man who has covered the floor in broken crockery he insists that given one more try he really can do this trick with the tablecloth.

Our Glorious Leader mumbled something about his mob getting involved, but like most of what he says ’twas naught but piss and wind. (As Ms Sturgeon and countless others can testify.)

More plausible perhaps was the salvage attempt mooted by Holistic Capital. And this may, or may not, be the scheme favoured by Swansea council and involves one of the local degree factories. Certainly the council is showing enthusiasm for pushing ahead with the project it has dubbed ‘Tidal Lagoon 2.0’, even setting up a ‘task force’.

The Circuit of Wales would have made Michael Carrick very wealthy (and has certainly enriched him considerably), the Swansea tidal lagoon would have showered even greater wealth on Mark Shorrock and his nearest and dearest. Perhaps especially his wife’s company, Good Energy.

Mark Shorrock, courtesy of WalesOnline, click to enlarge

At one stage, on the understanding that the UK government would fund the lagoon, the Welsh Local Government Association promised to invest in the project. Then there’s possible funding from the Swansea Bay City Region deal. There are also recent reports that private funding is being sought.

Your guess is as good as mine as to the state of play now.

Though I hear that Swansea Labour’s inner circle recently discussed pushing ahead with the lagoon by investing some of the council’s own money in the scheme. Possibly pension funds. How those with money in the pension scheme feel about this has yet to be ascertained.

But I’m sure they have nothing to fear. If this goes ahead it will be an investment made after due deliberation by the finest minds in the Swansea Labour Party – what could possibly go wrong?

Again, joking aside, I wish this project well. As with Ebbw Vale, I hope it takes off and benefits the local community. In fact, I look forward to visiting in a few years and viewing the whole shebang from the new cable car running from Kilvey Hill.

FROM THEM THAT HAVE NOT SHALL BE TAKEN

The uncomfortable fact is that Wales attracts far too many like Carrick and Shorrock for the simple reason that Wales is a colony of England. Let me explain.

As a colony, the last thing either the ‘Welsh Labour Government’ or their masters in London want is to encourage Welsh initiative. With many in Labour it’s due to an atavistic, leftist aversion to ‘capitalism, innit’; while with their London bosses it’s a desire not to give the natives any thoughts about being able to do things for themselves.

The second being classic, ‘You couldn’t manage without us’ colonialism.

On a more prosaic level there is the purely economic consideration. By which I mean, if the UK government gives the the ‘Welsh Government’ a sum of money every year – let’s say £18bn – then the UK administration will want to recoup as much as possible of that funding, or in other ways take advantage of what cannot be sucked back over the border.

This may be achieved by flooding Wales with English retirees, persuading the ‘Welsh Government’ to put up wind turbines to help the UK meet emissions targets, allocate social housing to those who’ve never set foot in Wales, get said ‘Welsh Government’ to accept and fund bankrupt luxury car makers, improve the M4, or direct to Wales con men or dreamers with half-baked schemes that might just work.

The word soon spreads via the Con Man’s Chronicle and other outlets that Wales is a soft touch for funding and lunatic schemes. You want dosh to built a 900 foot helter-skelter atop Cader Idris? – then all you’ve got to do is get your ten-year-old nephew to put together a bisnuz plan, tell Ken Skates it’ll pull in the tourists better than the Flint Sphincter and he’ll embarrass your pockets with big wodges of folding.

And that’s without considering the third sector, where we find thousands upon thousands of self-righteous shysters who’ve moved from England to ‘help’ nobody but themselves – to our money!

Such is life in a colony. Woe to Wales!

♦ end ♦

Corruption in the wind?

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

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

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

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

THREE WIND FARMS

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

So on this one, the developers got their way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLICES OF CAKE FOR EVERYONE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

click to enlarge

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

MYSTERY WOMAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANALYSIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have a question for you, Lesley Griffiths.

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

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

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

click to enlarge

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

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

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

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

♦ end ♦

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

LE ROI SOLEIL

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

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

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

click to enlarge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BURRY PORT

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

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

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

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

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

click to enlarge

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

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

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

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

But Mark James doesn’t control those housing associations.

‘STICK ON A FEW SOLAR PANELS – BINGO!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LABYRINTHINE, CORRUPT, COLONIALIST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♦ end ♦

 

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

It may be Hallowe’en but you’ll find no ghosties or ghoulies here, just the usual parade of grotesques and exhibitions of idiocy and cupidity that haunt modern Wales. Night and day. All year round.

Seeing as I haven’t put anything out for over a week this is a bumper issue, around 4,000 words, but there’s no single, linking theme other than the sheer fuckedupedness of Wales. I have, as old Nennius said, ‘made a heap of things’. On the plus side, because this is a meal made up of a number of courses, you can take your time.

Enjoy.

And if kids come knocking on your door, demanding money with menaces, set the dog on them.

THE OLIVE TRUST

In the previous post, Hate Crime, I told you about the insults aimed at me by Denise Kingsley-Acton, a very strange woman currently domiciled in Kidwelly. A very strange woman indeed. That anyone takes her seriously is difficult to believe, but if they do it may be due to the fact that she has a ‘minder’ in the form of Swansea Labour councillor for 43 years, and now Alderman, Alan Lloyd.

While Lloyd obviously opens doors for Denise Kingsley-Acton, it’s difficult to see what he gets out of it. But being a former Labour councillor we can be sure that he’s not acting as her guide and guarantor for altruistic reasons.

Since posting that piece last week a bit more information has come to light, some of which was added as an update, some of which will be fresh.

You no doubt shared my astonishment that this woman had been given a grant to educate young people about hate crimes. According to her Facebook page she had received a grant from the “Police Commissioner for Dafed (sic) Powys”. So I wrote to the PCC.

The initial response from the office of the PCC said, “The Police and Crime Commissioner has not awarded a grant to the Olive Trust.  The grant was awarded from the Safer Dyfed-Powys Diogelach charity, to which the Commissioner is a trustee.”

After a follow-up e-mail I was told, again from the office of the PCC, “The grant was awarded to the Olive Trust as an organisation and it was for £1000.” The wording suggests that we should regard the Olive Trust as something unconnected with Denise Kingsley-Acton, when in fact she is the Olive Trust, and the Olive Trust is her.

I’m still waiting to hear if the grant offer has been withdrawn.

The latest entry on the Olive Trust Facebook page is shown below.

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Denise Kingsley-Acton says I have harassed her “continually for many years”. The truth is that in 2012 I wrote about her attempt to screw £1,000,000 out of the Wales European Funding Office. There was a passing reference in September 2014, before two pieces about her in March this year after someone had drawn my attention to an article in Llanelli Online.

That was it, until the bizarre and slanderous allegations that came out of the blue on October 19. Had I not received those insults it’s unlikely I would have written about her ever again.

But if I learn that the Olive Trust or Denise Kingsley-Acton is trying to rip off the public purse, again; or if she posts slanders about me, again; then I shall write about her, again. And that’s a promise.

MUMBLES PIER

Mumbles and its pier is close to my heart. I can remember as a young boy riding the old Mumbles Train that used to clatter along the seafront.

In my early teens I spent many happy hours, whole days even, fishing. We’d usually cycle down, fishing rods strapped to our crossbars, bags on our backs containing tackle, bait, sandwiches (which often got mixed up).

At the pier we’d follow the tide out, which meant, once the two top bars of the safety rail around the eastern ‘well’ on the intermediate level became visible, working our way along, standing on the middle bar and holding tight onto the top one with one hand while holding our rod in the other, with bag on back, until we reached the far side, so that the fast ebbing tide could take our lines. And as the tide ebbed further the death-defying stunt was repeated on the bottom level.

I look back at what we did then and I wonder how we survived. Because anyone falling into the ‘well’ would either have been trapped under the floor and drowned, or else been taken out to sea so fast that they would have been lost unless a nearby boat could have reached them quickly.

From home to pier was a seven-mile ride, which was great on the first leg, partly because we were fresh and partly because it was downhill into town and then flat along the Mumbles Road. Coming home after a day’s fishing the pedals would always be heavier, especially if there were no nice fish to show your mam.

As an older teenager I did the Mumbles Mile on a Saturday night. Often after watching the Swans. We’d come out of the Vetch, have a bite to eat in a little caff we used in Wind Street, wash and brush up in one of those old public conveniences with an attendant, then catch the bus (was it the 77?) to Mumbles – White Rose, Pilot, Prince of Wales, Antelope . . . before walking home, which with diversions and digressions might mean getting home in time for breakfast

But then, I’m sure Mumbles and the pier plays a role in the life of anyone from Swansea and the wider area.

So it’s understandable why there is such interest in the proposed development. Now I shan’t comment on the development itself because it’s complicated – obstruction of views, etc – and I don’t have the space here, but there are a few points worth raising.

Someone we’ve encountered on this blog more than once is Lawrence Bailey, former leader of the local Labour Party, former Lord Mayor, and of course leader of the council. Or, rather, he was fulfilling these roles when he could tear himself away from his real interest of pornography. For which he was awarded the coveted Private Eye Pornographer of the Year award.

He also used to write to the Evening Post as Phyllis Evans of Cwmrhydyceirw, Disgusted of Dunvant, and a host of others who all seemed to support the Labour Party. Fancy! It seems likely that the Beans on Toast was complicit in this deception.

After these unfortunate revelations Bailey resigned from the council and branched out into public relations with a company called Whiterock, which first came to my attention when ‘Stan’ pointed out that this outfit was receiving regular payments from the dike-bashing MP for Swansea East, Carolyn Harris.

(Who, let’s be brutally honest, needs all the image-massaging she can get.)

Bailey seems to have used the Whiterock name for some time before registering it with Companies House in August 2015. Nothing else was ever filed with Companies House and Whiterock-Wales was dissolved in January 2017.

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

This is something I come across regularly, many different but similar names designed solely to confuse. So tell us, Lawrence, what is the name of your company and is it registered? Nobody’ll care if you’re just a one-man band. We all know you enjoy your own company.

Of course, Bailey’s big attraction for any potential client is that he knows the local Labour Party, he’s another like Lloyd who can open doors. So it should surprise no one to learn that he is representing owners Ameco who are hoping to make many millions of pounds from luxury housing in the vicinity of the pier as the ransom price for renovating the pier itself.

There was a meeting a couple of months back between the developers and the council, or at least, the council leader, Rob Stewart. Someone sent me a link to a secretly-filmed video, which I can no longer find, but fortunately I took a few screen grabs which you can see below.

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Stewart is the one in the dark suit and Bailey is the grey-headed geezer.

This is all run-of-the-mill stuff for a Labour council, but now protesters are arguing something very odd may have happened around the time the outline planning application (2010/1451) was received by the council on 17 September, 2010.

This was during a period when the city was enjoying a respite from Labour rule with a Lib Dem-led alliance in charge. Which of course meant that Bailey’s political connections would have counted for naught.

What’s being suggested is that during a process of digitisation in 2010, by the council’s officers, the boundary of the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was moved so that the land on which the housing development is now planned was somehow moved outside the AONB. Here’s a BBC report.

Now if this suggestion is true, then it could scupper the whole development. If the boundary change was deliberate rather than error, then who might be responsible? Names of people – who may or may not be connected with Lawrence y Garreg Wen – carry on zephyrs wafting up from Mumbles.

Anyone with information is welcome to get in touch, with the usual guarantee of anonymity. Either use the contact box in the sidebar or write to editor@jacothenorth.net.

UPDATE 03.11.2018: The whole thing has now been put on hold by the ‘Welsh’ Government. It seems Swansea council has the power to refuse planning permission but it does not have the power to grant planning permission.

UPDATE 07.11.2018: In a strange twist, Swansea council’s planning committee has unanimously voted to approve the scheme. Does this mean that the Labour Party in Swansea is starting to stand up to London’s management team in Cardiff? Does it suggest that opponents of the scheme may not be as representative of the wider public as they might like to believe?

A LITTLE PLACE IN THE WEST

You may recall that the chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, Mark Vincent James, has a keen personal interest in property, with properties of his own in Cardiff Bay. I wrote about this in Baywatch and Baywatch 2.

Now I learn that he is branching out with a company called Cartrefi Croeso Cyfyngedig (CCC, geddit?) This report from 6 June tells us, among other things, that, “The council is the sole shareholder in Cartrefi Croeso, which will have five directors – two council officers, one councillor and two external appointees.”

As I say, that was early June, here we are at the end of October and according to Companies House there are just two directors, both employees of the council, and therefore answerable to Mark James not the elected representatives. But James’s hold over this new company doesn’t end there.

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

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

So we now have a company, Cartrefi Croeso Cyf, using public money, run by people answerable only to Mark James, but with no democratic accountability whatsoever. What the hell is the Plaid Cymru-led council doing?

A regular source whose judgement I trust reminds me that Cartrefi Croeso is another arms-length company of the kind that Mark James seems to favour as a way of running and controlling things without having to worry about answering to those who pay his salary. Or anyone else.

Another such company is CWM Environmental Ltd. (Carmarthenshire Waste Management.) Something similar has happened to social care, and leisure services will be next. While looming at Delta Lakes is the Wellness Centre Village, where the lame shall be made to walk, one-eyed Scarlets’ supporters will be blessed with 20/20 vision . . . and some shifty buggers will make a fortune from the public purse thanks to Mark Vincent James.

From the perspective of a man like Mark James setting up private companies run by his placemen offers many advantages. Like some Mafia don he controls things but his underlings take any flak. Being private companies they are not subject to Freedom of Information requests (as they would be as in-house council departments). And of course rules on the use of the Welsh language do not apply.

It is quite amazing how, in a Western democracy, the employee of a public body can take over that body and run it as if it were some private company he had created himself! Which would be bad enough, but neither the elected representatives of those that employ him, nor the superior level of government that should be holding him to account, are prepared to do anything!

But as I keep saying, Wales has more in common with the third world than with Western Europe: Poverty, colonialism, exploitation, colonisation, widespread corruption, no oversight and monitoring of public officials and public bodies, etc., etc.

A FAIT ACCOMPLI

Midnight yesterday was the deadline for submissions in a consultation process launched on July 10 about the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) to farmers. It’s been pretty clear for some time that the whole  issue is being controlled from London and that the management team in Cardiff docks is simply doing what it’s told, and saying what it’s told to say.

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

Though in fairness it was all play-acting, for his masters had decided the outcome long in advance. The showboating and the bluster, the trips to Edinburgh, the ‘strong words’ for Mrs May’s government, were designed to placate a certain audience that in Wales often seems to care more about the EU than it does about Wales.

As a direct consequence of the Labour management team agreeing that the London Government could effectively withdraw BPS we now face the destruction of Welsh upland farming, together with the jobs, plus the language and the culture, farming sustains.

But this has little to do directly with Brexit, for if Carwyn Jones had not surrendered powers to London Welsh farmers could be receiving the same treatment as their Scottish counterparts, who have been guaranteed the continuation of the Basic Payment Scheme.

Some of those directing the Welsh Clearances, click to enlarge

The sad little mouthpieces of the collaborationist regime in Cardiff docks, are reading from scripts prepared for them by civil servants like those you see above, one of whom has been heard to say that he hates farmers! Making it clear that Welsh farmers are to be forced from their land to make way for more English settlers. I wrote about it in The Welsh Clearances.

I can hear the objections – ‘But you misrepresent the proposals, Jac!’ Do I? Let the readers decide.

Funding is to be withdrawn from farmers and given to environmentalists, ‘re-wilders’ and others without whose help Mother Nature would simply give up and go home. The losers will almost all be Welsh, while the winners will be overwhelmingly English, but we’re expected to believe that this is pure coincidence.

Though it must be said, that over many years there have been some people (especially in Plaid Cymru) who have been very supportive of this replacement population. In fact, some seem to have identified more strongly with incoming ‘environmentalists’ than with their own people.

While Remain fanatics argue that farmers have brought it on themselves by voting for Brexit. Ignoring the fact that this is a decision taken by the London government using Brexit as a pretext.

Wake up! This is undisguised colonialism. Taking land off the natives is what our masters are good at, they’ve been doing it for centuries. That so much Welsh land is still in Welsh hands is an affront to everyone in whose veins runs the blood of pith-helmeted district officers and their crinolined memsahibs.

THE DISASTER OF DEVOLUTION

Reading this blog can I’m told be both entertaining and informative, but often depressing. (It’s the same writing it, but I take my ‘medicine’.) While things at the moment may look more depressing than usual I’m strangely – perhaps perversely – encouraged by recent developments.

First, the crushing defeat dished out to Leanne Wood in the Plaid Cymru leadership election made her acolytes realise how little support there is for niche politics. And if there is little support within Plaid Cymru for such nonsense then there’s even less support in the wider population. But then, when you debate issues in echo chambers you can persuade yourself that everybody is discussing what you and a tiny group of friends think is important.

That said, I can’t see Plaid Cymru getting its act together over the longer term. It will fall back into its old ways, because despite being a minority, the niche left knows how to inveigle itself into positions of influence and authority, and to intimidate others into silence. The ‘nationalists’ will have to reach some compromise with LW’s supporters.

Which means that eventually, a new party will be needed to prioritise the needs and interests of Welsh people while working towards the independent state that alone can permanently safeguard those needs and interests. Ein Gwlad already exists, and will grow into that role.

Looking at the wider picture it should now be obvious that devolution is a sham. But worse than being a sham, devolution, and the existence of a ‘Welsh’ Government, allows the UK government to get away with things that might have been very difficult without devolution.

Let’s take a few very recent examples to explain what I mean.

THE FLINT RING

This ‘initiative’ came from Cadw, which is just English Heritage West, ensuring a ‘safe’ and acceptable interpretation of Welsh history. That being so, we can be sure that the Flint Ring idea originated over the border.

To give an example of how Cadw operates I’ll go back a couple of years to something I found on its website. Cadw was promoting, “It’s 1295 and peace reigns in Caernarfon”, before going on to paint a picture of English soldiers flirting with Welsh maids. (Yes, honestly!)

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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.

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Had the naming been imposed directly from London there would have been far more opposition, maybe even from within the Labour Party. Devolution served to confuse what was a clear, colonialist imposition.

TOXIC MUD

This was another clear, colonialist imposition. But because the ‘Welsh’ Government, and Natural Resources Wales were so co-operative, and so devious about their involvement, it served to confuse the picture. It left those objecting uncertain who to blame.

Which, again, could not have happened without the ‘shield’ of devolution.

M4 MONEY

The ‘M4 improvements’ is a long-running saga.

‘Business’ believes that the M4 must be upgraded to do away with bottlenecks and speed up travel between England and Cardiff. Most politicians seem to agree.

Late in 2013 the UK/English government gave the ‘Welsh’ government power to borrow up to £1bn to spend on the M4. On Monday we learnt from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there was now an extra £300m available, but only if it is spent on the M4.

Huffing and puffing, millionaire socialist contender for the purely figurehead positions of leader of the English Labour Party in Wales and First Minister, Mark Drakefraud, insisted it was up to AMs how the money was spent.

Small but perfectly formed SoS Alun Cairns retorted by saying that the ‘Welsh’ Government had asked for the money specifically for the M4. ‘Liar’ liar, pants on fire!’ shouted Drakefraud, at which point the exchange got too highbrow for this simple old Swansea Jack.

Make sense of it here if you can.

The bottom line is that improving the M4 will help England far more than Wales because improving communications to peripheral regions invariably works against those peripheral regions. It means what makes them attractive can be reached easier and what makes such regions valuable can shipped out faster.

If the M4 ‘improvements’ go ahead jobs will be lost because it will be easier to serve ‘South Wales’ from depots and offices in England, but Wales’s cheaper homes will be brought within reach of more English commuters to Bristol and the Thames Valley.

What the A55 has done for the north on a bigger scale.

How much easier it is to perpetrate this con with the help of a ‘Welsh’ Government that can’t see beyond Cardiff – and then get the silly buggers to put the whole country in debt to pay for it! Self-financing colonialism.

Just imagine no devolution, and the UK government saying it wanted to upgrade the M4 but that Welsh local authorities were going to pay for it.

UPDATE: On the very day this post appeared this letter was published in the Western Mail. I have no idea who David Gwyn Watts of Milford Haven is, but he’s right. (Though I think the Letters Editor went a bit overboard with ‘doom’.)

WELSH CLEARANCES

As you’ve read above, Welsh farmers will be forced from their land in a policy worthy of comparison with Clearances or ethnic cleansing. The orders come from London. Civil servants answering to London will implement the strategy in Wales. And Welsh politicians will pretend it’s their policy out of a combination of vanity, congenital deviousness, and contempt for those who’ll suffer.

If a government minister had stood up in the House of Commons and said, ‘Her Majesty’s Government plans to clear Welsh farmers from their ancestral land and replace them with English environmentalists, ‘re-wilders’ and the like’, there would have been uproar in Wales. There would have been demonstrations, riots even.

But no, get some stupid woman in Cardiff to pretend it’s a decision of her ‘government’ and it confuses the natives. Use devolution as a ‘screen’ and as with the Flint Ring, and The PoW Bridge, and the toxic mud, and the M4 money, and a host of other damaging schemes, we won’t know who’s really to blame, and who we should be attacking.

This confusion can only arise because of devolution. And because of the way London uses devolution, and because of the way our politicians allow devolution to be used. Strip away devolution and we’ll see colonialism for what it really is.

Forget the comforting bollocks about devolution being a ‘badge of nationhood’. Welsh nationhood is being destroyed behind the façade of devolution. Devolution is a Trojan horse.

I predict with certainty that if there is another Tryweryn or another Investiture, it will be presented as a decision of our wonderful ‘Welsh’ Government, and because of that, it will be accepted by more Welsh people than if it had come in the form of a diktat from London.

If we had a vote to abolish the Assembly, I would vote to abolish. And I wouldn’t need to think twice about it.

♦ END ♦

 

Hate Crime

Back in March I became re-acquainted with someone I’d written about towards the end of 2012, just before Google took down my old blog. At the time I wondered if there was a connection, seeing as the woman I’d written about struck me as both unwell and vindictive.

After that unpleasantness I removed one post but left this one up. (I’m afraid the comments were lost when Google pulled the plug on my old blog.)

I forgot about the Olive Trust and Denise Kingsley Acton until earlier this year when someone referred me to a piece in Llanelli Online (since removed) which prompted me to write Third Sector Nightmare followed up with Networks.

In these posts I told you that after her £1,000,000 application to the Wales European Funding Office (WEFO) in 2010 for a ‘community building’ in Swansea, Denise Kingsley Acton moved west into Carmarthenshire, from where she was again dreaming up schemes to help her get her hands on public funding.

That, as far as I was concerned, was that . . . until last Friday. When I received the most bizarre and worrying comments to my blog. In three attempts the writer managed to accuse me of being a ‘pedophile’ (sic) with mental health problems for which I have been “treated 21 times”; I also suffer unfortunate accidents in the trousers department, but help was at hand, apparently, for “we helped mop yourself up”. Who’s ‘we’?

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It was all so familiar because similar things had been said on the old Olive Trust website back in 2012, but then they came from ‘Jackie – volunteer at the Trust’ and  ‘Sally Ann Webster’.

The ‘Rocco’ mentioned in the comments above is actually Rocio Cifuentes, the daughter of Chileans who fled their homeland when Pinochet took power and settled in nicely with the Labour Party in Swansea, a relationship that has resulted in Rocio recently becoming CEO of the charity Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team Wales (EYST).

Despite being a registered charity, on the Home page of the website the charity number was almost invisible. (You can just about make something out on the left.) Surely this can’t be a third sector body making it difficult for us to check on how much of our money it has received, and how that money has been spent? Maybe the shyness has something to do with income more than doubling from 2016 to 2017. Here are the latest accounts.

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The increase in funding inevitably leads to EYST recruiting new staff. On the very day I posted this article Rocio and her gang were advertising for a Resilience Project Co-ordinator (don’t ask me) at a salary of £30,000. We can be reasonably certain that this post will be filled by someone from outside of Wales.

Sticking with cross-border movements, the Charity Commission site tells us that EYST – supported almost entirely with Welsh funding – operates “Throughout England and Wales”. Shome mishtake shurely?

As you’ll have guessed, we have now gone through the wormhole into that parallel dimension known as the third sector. That make-believe world where the only constants are that lots and lots of Welsh money is wasted, with very little Welsh involvement, and for pitifully little Welsh benefit.

But what the hell – Wales is rich, we can afford it!

After receiving the odious comments from Denise Kingsley Acton, or Acton Kingsley, I wondered what she might be getting up to when she wasn’t slandering me. First, I checked the Olive Trust Facebook page where I read to my horror that (she claims) the Dyfed Powys Police Crime Commissioner has awarded her a grant!

What’s more, she is to be allowed into colleges (and schools?) to teach kids about hate crimes – this woman who goes online calling me a paedophile, who can make sick jokes about mental health and incontinence! Though I suppose it could be argued that she’s ideally suited, for she knows of what she speaks.

UPDATE 11:45: A speedy response from the Dyfed Powys PCC’s office tells me that the grant came not from the PCC directly but from Safer Dyfed-Powys Diogel and it was for £1,000. Here are the details. And it’s nice to know that Labour stalwart Alan Lloyd is still involved.

In addition to support from the Labour Party Denise now claims to have backing from Plaid Cymru as well, in the form of Councillor Gilasbey. And there are clearly plans to expand, for “a new office in Llanelli” is mentioned.

And if you know a dancer who can cook curry while doing make-up and yoga, then get in touch with Denise at once. In fact, “anything in the Diversity/Ethnic field” is welcomed. Does laverbread count as ‘ethnic’?

Though isn’t ‘ethnic’ an insulting term? I would have hesitated to use it in that context. Doesn’t it suggest that anything and everything non-white, non-European, from Japan to Jamaica, can be lumped together as ‘ethnic’? Perhaps the modern equivalent of the Classical ‘barbarian’?

But Denise’s ambitions go way beyond an office in downtown Sosban and multi-tasking ‘ethnics’. For her Twitter account tells us . . .

click to enlarge

So what’s this about? Well, if you click on the image in Twitter you are transported to a French crowd-funding site. It seems she’s trying to raise one million pounds (sounds familiar), ” . . . to create an amazing community farm that is dedicated to the environment, growing organic produce, having a farm shop, Shetland pony rides, cafe and a place where people can go glamping, have a family day out or for inner city schools to visit, meet the animals and have a taste of home-grown fruit and vegetables. We will also have a community of artisans selling produce and back to old-fashioned community ideals, where crafts people sell, jams, pottery, woollens . . . “.

It’s all there, folks, almost every ‘button’ that needs to be pressed to open the public funding treasure chest – ‘community’, ‘environment’, ‘organic’, ‘glamping’, ‘inner city’, ‘home-grown’, ‘community’ (again), ‘artisans’, ‘old-fashioned’, ‘community’ (again!), ‘crafts people’, ‘pottery’.

All so reminiscent of the ‘community building’ she asked WEFO to fund in Swansea, but now moved across the Loughor and plonked on a farm.

Though can’t you just visualise it? Jez and Poppy breaking off from making their organic radish and magic mushroom piccalilli to take kids from Townhill or Ely on Shetland pony rides before ensuring the little darlings are tucked up safely in their eco-friendly glamps. Bucolic bliss!

Alternatively, this is the most vacuous bollocks. A hotchpotch of just about everything someone thinks might work – not as a commercial venture, or as a service to the community, but as a way of screwing money out of the public purse. The give-away is that Denise Kingsley Acton actually describes the project as a “money pot”.

Though thus far, the crowd-funding venture on Leetchi has raised . . . with 11 days left . . . give or take a pound or two . . . and to the nearest penny . . . Nul points! For which we should all be grateful.

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As it happens, there is a Salt Rock Farm for sale in Penbre. Asking price £695,000. Though Zoopla suggests a value of £426,000. Either way, it’s a lot less than the one million pounds Denise is so fixated on.

Though you have to wonder why, in the midst of acrimonious Brexit negotiations, anyone would think it a good idea to use a French crowd-funding site to raise the money. The French obviously aren’t giving anything, and by involving Johnny Frog she’s bound to upset the Kippers on her doorstep.

Kippers such as Gary Beer, whose wife Michelle was one of only two to like Denise’s FB posting about the PCC giving her a grant and inviting her to prey on impressionable young minds. The other being Jane Gwynn, of Lottery-funded Create Me Happy. With funding also coming from the county council and other sources.

All aboard! Ker-ching!

I’ve had my fill of Denise Kingsley Acton and the thousands like her who have flooded into Wales since the advent of devolution – with no purpose other than to screw the public purse.

It’s why the third sector is so big and so rich, and why Wales is so poor. The money wasted on the third sector should have been used to make Wales more prosperous, thereby removing the justification for such a bloated third sector; but that would not have served the interests of the English Labour Party in Wales :- ‘Keep Wales poor – blame Tories – pile up votes’.

Returning to Denise Kingsley Acton, I now address anyone close to her and I have this to say: On this blog I argue my case vigorously, using what I hope are reasoned and researched arguments, and I often employ colourful language, but rarely if ever do I make it personal. And never have I resorted to the level of filth that Denise Kingsley Acton posted on this blog last Friday.

If she needs help, then make sure she gets it. I want no further contact from her. Nor do I want to hear that she has been repeating elsewhere the slanders for which I have now reported her to Dyfed Powys Police.

♦ end ♦

 

The Welsh Clearances

It’s generally agreed that Welsh farming is in for a hard time after Brexit, though there seems to be some confusion as to why this should be so. So let me explain. It has nothing to do with Brexit itself, or the EU, it’s merely certain elements in the ruling apparatus using Brexit as an excuse to undermine Welsh farming.

First, understand that Wales is managed by a Labour Party in Cardiff that is hostile to the farming industry, and at best ambivalent towards rural areas in general. The only element of the Labour Party that gives much thought to the countryside is that represented by Jane Davidson, Minister for Sustainability and Rural Development in the Labour-Plaid Cymru management team 2007 – 2011.

Davidson now lives on a smallholding in the south west and is Associate Pro Vice Chancellor for External Stakeholder Development and Engagement and Director of INSPIRE at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. Her engagement with rural Wales extends no further than making it more attractive to good-lifers like herself.

These good-lifers, conservationists and others, have always had powerful friends, but Brexit is encouraging those friends to be bolder.

For as the Daily Post put it in a recent article: “Brexit is seen by many conservationists as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to boost wildlife habitats using cash currently allocated to farming and food production”.

But how would this be done, what are the nuts and bolts?

THE DEFRA EMPIRE

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is essentially an England-only agency, but as the GOV.UK website tells us, “Although Defra only works directly in England, it works closely with the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and generally leads on negotiations in the EU and internationally.”

So how ‘closely’ might Defra be working with the administration in Wales?

From information received it seems to me that the influence of Defra in Wales goes well beyond working closely with the ‘Welsh’ Government. Let’s look at a few individuals prominent in the running of Welsh agriculture and food production.

And let’s start with Andrew Slade. I was hoping to get information from the ‘Welsh’ Government’s own website, but it came up blank.

Fortunately, I was able to find something on WalesOnline which tells us that Andrew Slade came to Wales in 2013 as Director General for Agriculture, Food and Marine. In November 2017 he was promoted to Director General, Economy, Skills and Natural Resources.

Soon after arriving he was busy taking EU money off farmers and transferring it to ‘Rural Development Projects’. Or to put it another way, taking money from Welsh farmers to give to a rag-bag of hippies, good-lifers and other non-indigenous grant-grabbers.

Here, in January 2014, we see him sitting alongside Alun Davies, then Minister for Natural Resources and Food, making sure Davies doesn’t fluff the lines that have been written for him. I wrote about it here.

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In this video from February 2018 we see Slade addressing some NFU gathering. He says that following his elevation he has been succeeded in his old job by Tim Render. So who’s he? Well, this video from 2016 tells us that Render was then Deputy Director at the Great British Food Unit of Defra.

Render did indeed take up a new post with the ‘Welsh’ Government in January 2018, but if his Linkedin profile is to be believed then he commutes to Cardiff from London.

It would appear that the top jobs in Welsh agriculture and food are reserved for Defra men. And I have no doubt that they are in Wales implementing Defra policy, which will not serve Welsh interests. And while there may have been the charade of a recruitment process, they were not recruited by Carwyn and his gang, they were put in place by London.

There are a couple of others worth mentioning in this context. First up is Andy Fraser, who is something of a Renaissance Man, being both Head of Fisheries and Head of Tax Strategy. So if a way can be found to make fish pay tax we could be rolling in it.

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It should go without saying that Andy also has a Defra background. Which probably explains why his former employer, and of course the former employer of Andrew Slade and Tim Render, was able to acquire the food hall at the Royal Welsh Show for its Rule Britannia extravaganza in July.

Another I’m told might be worth watching is Keith Smyton, who came from the Six Counties and is now Head of the Food Division. The accent confirms he is an Ulsterman, and I’d bet on him being from the sash and bowler tradition, and therefore as determined to stick union jacks on everything as the others we’ve met.

UPDATE 22.10.2018: Another to add is Peter McDonald, who since June 2017 has been Deputy Director – Land, Nature & Forestry / Land Management Reform Unit (with the element following the forward slash added in January).  But you’ll see on his Linkedin profile that he is also Deputy Director, Energy, Environment and Transport Tax at the Treasury. In fact his background is with the Treasury.

He’s obviously a money man, and I’m told his sympathies lie with conservationists and re-wilders, not farmers.

Put together it makes a nonsense of the idea that agriculture is a devolved matter. And it’s the same across the senior ranks of the civil service in Wales. Which is as it should be, for it’s a colonial civil service.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again – Wales is run by civil servants answering to London and pursuing a BritNat agenda at the expense of Wales. The politicians in Cardiff docks are no more than collaborators, helping disguise where power really lies. 

SUMMIT TO SEA

I’ve also mentioned this project before, in the Green Menace. Now they’ve started recruiting staff. Here’s an advert from the Guardian, and here’s another from the Rewilding Britain site.

Did you spot the difference? The Guardian advert reads, “Ability to communicate in Welsh is highly desirable”. On the Rewilding Britain site (more likely to be read by potential applicants), it asks only for, “Good understanding of and demonstrable enthusiasm for the local Welsh culture and language”.

I think we can take it as read that the successful applicant will not be Welsh speaking, or even Welsh. (Though I couldn’t help wondering what might qualify as “demonstrable enthusiasm”. What a strange term!)

Natalie Buttriss, new Director of Wales at the Woodland Trust, presenting a petition for more trees to a member of England’s Cardiff Bay management team. How many signatures were collected against the Flint Sphincter and Geiger Bay? Did those petitions get this kind of reception?

The Rewilding Britain website tells us that its partner in Summit to Sea is The Woodland Trust. And it was Natalie Buttriss, the Trust’s Director of Wales, who spoke about the project on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Farming Today’ programme last Wednesday.

 

“Farming is subsidised” . . . says a woman whose own project has just been given £3.4m of someone else’s money! And, then, chillingly, she adds, “The policy landscape is changing”, before making it clear that her project enjoys the full support of the Cardiff management team.

Natalie Buttriss’s contempt for farmers came through strongly. Her memsahib attitude could be paraphrased: ‘The farmers will not see a penny of our funding . . . we have the whip hand . . . we’ve got political backing . . . there is nothing the farmers can do to stop us . . . we’ll squeeze them out . . . ‘

For a woman representing a project that claims it wants to work with landowners and farmers I suggest that the arrogant Natalie Buttriss has, with that interview, seriously damaged the chances of co-operation.

The area involved is huge. On the coast it runs from Aberdyfi to Aberystwyth, and then inland, following the A44 up to Llangurig (though deviating south to Cwmystwth) and then on to Llanidloes, after which it’s the minor road up to Llanbrynmair, and Glantwymyn, before heading down the Dyfi valley to Aberdyfi.

In all, 10,000 hectares of land and 28,400 hectares of sea, according to the Summit to Sea page on the Rewilding Britain website. But the very poor map used on the site seems to suggest the figures may be the other way around, unless the blue (Project area) line has not been extended into Cardigan Bay.

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Clearly, this not uninhabited territory that the re-wilders can just take over, so how will they co-exist with farmers and others? Well, if we go back to the revelatory Radio 4 interview given by Ms Buttriss it would appear that those living there now can either like it or lump it.

One thing I predict with certainty, Natalie Buttriss and her gang, and lots of others like them, are queuing up, confident that a great deal of Welsh land will become available in the coming years as farmers are forced out of business.

It’s spelled out in this Daily Post article. Where Plaid Cymru AM Siân Gwenllian is quoted as saying:

“Many farmers will be denied the necessary support due to the new eligibility criteria, meaning they will lose out on help which has served as a backbone to the viability of their business. The proposed payment regime will have two elements – one offering 40% investment grants, the other paying for ‘Public Goods’ such as habitat management and tree planting.

Unlike the EU , which is beefing up its Active Farmer rule to ensure money stays in rural areas, Wales is proposing an ‘open to all’ policy in which applicants could include banks and pension funds, 

The EU, as in Scotland and Northern Ireland, is also ring-fencing farm funding to safeguard against economic instability following Brexit, she added. The Welsh Government is going in precisely the opposite direction – destabilising one of our key industries,”

You have to ask yourself why the “Welsh Government” (sic) is going in “precisely the opposite direction” to the EU, Scotland and Northern Ireland? This is clearly ‘the changing policy landscape’ referred to by Natalie Buttriss of the Woodland Trust in her radio interview. And it’s what makes Wales so attractive to her and other parasites.

UPDATE 07.11.2018: There was an excellent piece in yesterday’s Llais y Sais by Farmers Union of Wales president Glyn Roberts. While today the ‘re-wilders’ have responded in a more conciliatory tone than that adopted in the past by the likes of George Monbiot and Natalie Buttriss.

Could it be that the ‘environmentalists’ have belatedly realised that they were coming across as the arrogant colonialists they are?

Summit to Sea is a project hatched up by rootless yet well connected schemers to displace Welsh farmers from the land their families may have farmed for centuries. It’s old-fashioned colonialism and dispossession repackaged as ‘conservation’ for a twenty-first century audience.

And Summit to Sea is just the start. The beginning of the Welsh Clearances.

♦ end ♦

 

Plaid Cymru’s enemy within

THE PERSECUTION OF ANNE GREAGSBY

On September 22 Anne Greagsby appeared before a Plaid Cymru disciplinary panel charged with transphobia and abusive language against certain ‘trans’ people. The accusations were made by various Plaid members and officials including Mari Arthur, Mabli Jones and Emyr Gruffydd.

Mabli Jones had until quite recently worked for or with Stonewall.

The decision was handed down three days later. Anne Greagsby has now been ‘excluded’ from Plaid Cymru for twelve months. The panel consisted of Gwerfyl Jones (chair), Siân Thomas (Carmarthen), Alun Cox (Rhondda).

I can’t say I know Anne Greagsby, I’ve met her just once, in a Bala cafe after the 2015 Tryweryn commemoration. She seemed a sensible woman with her heart, and head, in the right place. And she was in good company, which I’m old-fashioned enough to believe is a useful indicator of a person’s character.

Anne Greagsby (click to enlarge)

We follow each other on social media and that’s about the extent of any connection or relationship between me and Anne Greagsby.

I would have liked to have provided a link to a news report of the panel’s decision, but I could find none. Type ‘Anne Greagsby’ into the BBC website and the most recent mention is from October 2008. There is nothing whatsoever on the ITV website. Using Google I did find a pressreader reference to the case in the Western Mail, but when I clicked on it I was greeted with a 404 message – the story was unavailable. Fortunately I scanned the story that appeared in the Mule and you can read it here.

Other than that, all I can offer is this from Mumsnet, written after the decision but apparently ignorant of the outcome. The only coverage I can find of the panel’s decision comes from the Penarth Daily News. And then there’s this letter from today’s Western Mail.

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Anne Greagsby and I have friends in common, and we also share critics, among them Martyn Shrewsbury, who was mentioned in last week’s Carmarthenshire Herald, where ‘Cadno’ considered the Plaid Cymru leadership election. And wrote:

“At this point Cadno would like to introduce you to Martyn Shrewsbury. A former leader of the Green Party in Wales, a convicted fraudster, Jungian psychotherapist, and enthusiastic user of fake media accounts, and publisher of a fascinating blog called ‘All too human‘.

Martyn Shrewsbury claims on his website for his psychotherapy business ‘He is laid back, relaxed and non-judgemental. Nothing shocks him and he is able to work with people from all backgrounds and identities’.

To which Cadno can say, readers, have a gander at his blog and judge for yourself. To Cadno it appears to be the random and occasionally nonsensical ramblings of someone deep into the port after midnight and who has so many chips on their shoulders that they most probably have shares in Albert Bartlett’s Rooster Potatoes.

Martyn Shrewsbury is a member of Momentum and a member of the Labour Party.

He backs Leanne Wood.

There’s your problem right there. Labour and Green activist backs leader of a party he opposes and which he opposes whether or not Ms Wood is the leader.

Mr Shrewsbury is an archetypal Leanne Wood booster. People who don’t and won’t vote Plaid support Leanne Wood to be the leader of a party whose membership, policies, and history they hold in contempt.

If you were as cracked a conspiracy theorist as Martyn Shrewsbury appears – and it seems he has been chatting with other cracked conspiracy theorists in Carmarthenshire – you might even wonder whether his support for Leanne Wood was some sort of black propaganda of the sort used by the SOE in the Second World War: a pretence at supporting Ms Wood in order to repel possible real voters for her.

With friends like these, readers, Leanne Wood does not lack for enemies.”

The reason I’ve quoted ‘Cadno’ is because Martyn Shrewsbury has attacked Anne Greagsby many times. He also attacks me regularly on his blog. He supported Leanne Wood and others you are about to meet, people in unofficial cross-party campaigns on niche issues that badly damaged Plaid Cymru, and contributed to Leanne Woods’ humiliation in last week’s leadership election.

Shrewsbury is an example of the bullies and trolls condemned in this article from today’s Times.

Martyn Shrewsbury, picture courtesy of WalesOnline, click to enlarge

For we are entering the bizarre world of genitocentric politics and Scrabble dream answer acronyms, where you become transphobic for refusing to accept that ‘Felicity’, that big bearded bloke in a frock, scratching his balls, is a woman.

In some ways, I suppose, the persecution of Anne Greagsby may be viewed as the final writhings of the niche and nasty politics introduced into Plaid Cymru by Leanne Wood, which in turn attracted the unbalanced and the obsessive to the point where this vociferous, bullying element was able to dominate a party to which it has little or no commitment.

For the truth was exposed last Friday morning. The heavy defeat suffered by Leanne Wood was also a rejection of the intolerance goose-stepping behind the ‘progressive’ banner. And the defeat would have been even heavier were it not for those who have left the party or been expelled since Leanne Wood and her acolytes took hold.

Y MAB DAROGAN?

But surely, things will get better with the election of Adam Price.

Adam Price is gay, and that’s not an issue for anyone except a diminishing minority of right wing bigots and religious fanatics. So can Plaid Cymru members and supporters hope that Adam Price will reclaim Plaid Cymru for Wales, and focus on those issues that matter to most people?

Well, maybe, maybe not.

Take this article from the Plaid Cymru website, headed, ‘”Wales can not be free until our LGBT citizens are free’ says Adam Price.” I accept that Adam Price probably didn’t write the headline, so let’s read the article in order to learn what he did say.

What we find is, “There has been a significant rise in transphobia and smear campaigns directed towards the trans community in the media. Trans women in Wales in particular face significant challenges including increased vulnerability to hate crime, violence and abuse.”

I suppose it all hinges on what Adam Price means by “trans women”. If he means men who have undergone the surgery to physically resemble women then I’m sure most people would agree that these should not be anyone’s targets. But if he’s referring to people like ‘Felicity’, so-called ‘chicks with dicks’, then he can expect opposition.

Adam Price, image courtesy of PA Images via PoliticsHome.com (click to enlarge)

Because I agree with Anne Greagsby that a man in possession of male genitalia cannot ever, and must never, be regarded as a woman except in the most superficial way.

But Adam Price also talked of ‘freedom’, that most emotive of words. At a rally protesting against some obscure piece of local government legislation he said, “I do not believe that Wales can ever truly be free until our LGBT citizens are also free.” 

The only way I can interpret that is that Adam Price believes the LGBT citizens of Wales or the UK are unfree. Are there gay people in prison simply for being gay? Are there discriminatory laws against gay people on the statute book?

Freedom is a very big word, and to misuse it in such a context is disgraceful. For it trivialises and debases genuine oppression and lack of freedom.

If Adam Price meant to say, ‘We haven’t yet got everything we want’, then he should have said that, but this is not an issue about freedom, or the lack of it. And it has no impact whatsoever on whether or not Wales becomes independent.

In the same speech Adam Price also said,“I am proud of Plaid Cymru’s record in championing LGBT rights and will continue to represent the LGBT community in Wales and campaign for education and tolerance. Mine and Plaid Cymru’s vision is of a Wales free from homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.”

‘Transphobia’ of course is what Anne Greagsby was accused of. So does Plaid Cymru’s new leader support the extremists who have persecuted Anne Greagsby and so many others?

THE NETWORK

Over the years I’ve commented on the connections between Plaid Cymru and the English Labour Party in Wales. These linkages go beyond activists in two socialist parties moaning about the Tories, they extend into the social and other spheres.

The Deryn connection would be one example, in which a lobbying group containing former activists of both Labour and Plaid Cymru seem to enjoy better access to certain AMs than any of those these tribunes are supposed to represent.

It was Deryn that persuaded Plaid Cymru to take the self-damaging step of expelling Neil McEvoy AM. One day – if Labour suffers a fit of openness – we might know how deeply involved Deryn was with the sacking (and subsequent suicide) of Labour minister Carl Sargeant.

These connections made it almost inevitable that the vilification of Anne Greagsby would extend beyond Plaid Cymru. One Labourite who got involved with what was clearly an internal Plaid Cymru disciplinary procedure was Lu Thomas who tweets as @lu_luthomas.

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Like most zealots Lu Thomas paints the blackest possible picture of those who oppose her. Writing on the Pride Cymru website Lu Thomas has this to say:

“They believe that providing gender neutral toilets or allowing our trans kids to use the facilities that reflect their true selves will mean that our girls are going to be the victims of sexual assaults.  

They believe that trans people are perverts, mentally unstable sexual predators that are only transitioning to attack women in women-only spaces.  

They do not accept that trans women are women.  They wish to exclude. To ridicule, to diminish and to deny trans people’s rights to exist.”

“They!” “They!!” “They!!!”

And note the build-up to the climactic suggestion of what I can only assume to be extermination, maybe gas chambers! How OTT can one go?

Yet I – Jac the ‘broflake’ (© M Shrewsbury), gammon, transphobe, etc., etc – don’t subscribe to any of the beliefs or attitudes listed by Lu Thomas. If a man wants to live his life as a woman, that’s fine by me. But he cannot be legally and in other ways regarded as a woman while he remains in possession of male genitalia.

That’s it. That’s the bottom line.

I don’t know Lu Thomas, I don’t even know whether Lu Thomas is a man or a woman, and I don’t care. But what I might care about if I was a member of Plaid Cymru is how Labour Party supporters and officials are able to exert influence in Plaid Cymru through niche politics and other openings.

Linkages that only work one way. I say that because you can be sure as hell that the obsessives don’t exert the same influence within the Labour Party. Nor have they diverted the Labour Party from its core policies and its raison d’être to anything like the same degree.

The test for Adam Price now is how he deals with the genitocentric fanatics and the hard left that kept Leanne Wood in power. If these continue to wield influence within the party, then Adam Price will have failed those who voted for him, and for a return to nationalist rather than niche politics.

♦ end ♦

P.S. Soon after I put out this post someone linked me with this WalesOnline report mentioning Lu Thomas. She and her wife Charlie, plus their twins, live in a nice family home worth over half a million quid, yet somehow they manage to rent it out on AirBnB for £500 a night.

Where do they live when they rent it out? Never mind, Lu is described as a “public policy consultant”; in other words, someone minting it from exploiting their political connections. The parasite class of Cardiff Bay.

UPDATE 03.10.2018: WalesOnline described Louise Thomas as a ‘public policy consultant’, which I guess refers to the company she runs with another Labour time-server, and mayor of Penarth, Jon Luxton, called Cognition Training Ltd. Alas, they have had to ask Companies House to strike the company off due to its debts.

Makes you wonder, don’t it. Even with all their Labour and third sector connections these two can’t keep a little company afloat, yet they expect us to believe that their party can run our country.

But don’t you worry, because just like the businessmen they revile, closing down one company offers the opportunity to start up another with a very similar name, Cognition Associates Ltd. The website is under construction and they haven’t yet got around to registering with Companies House.

Help to Buy – Wales

Finding myself at a loose end I did what I often do to ward off ennui – I delved into StatsWales, a site I recommend to anyone with a strong stomach who is free from high blood pressure or problems with their cholesterol levels.

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

And here’s a link to the Buyer’s Guide. In a nutshell; you need to come up with 5% deposit, 75% mortgage, and then you apply for a 20% equity loan from Help to Buy – Wales to complete the purchase of a new-build home. It’s basically a programme to stimulate the building industry.

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Going through the various tables, and making comparisons, certain anomalies began to appear, anomalies which, when I gave them some thought, were rather worrying, for it was difficult to think of an acceptable or innocent explanation for some of the curious data confronting me.

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

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

Diving in . . . why have there been 1,339 completions in Newport (population 151,485, 2017 mid-year estimate) but only 326 in Cardiff (362,756, ditto)? Or why should there have been 768 completions in Flintshire (155,155) but only 205 in neighbouring Wrexham (135,571)? Moving to the south west we see that Carmarthenshire (186,452) completed 645 while in neighbouring Pembrokeshire (124,711) it was just 191, while up the road in Ceredigion (73,076) it was a measly 21!

Moving down the list, a table I found very interesting was the one dealing with house prices, which is worth spending some time on because it raises more questions about the workings of the Help to Buy system. Let me explain what I mean.

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Earlier we noted that there were many more properties bought with Help to Buy in Carmarthenshire than in Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion combined. The table suggests that this may be due to most of the properties sold in Carmarthenshire being under £150,000, which would suggest that there the scheme has been used to help first-time buyers, who reassuringly made up 80% of sales, one of the highest percentages in the country. By comparison, the first-time buyer figure for Torfaen was just 59%.

The figures for Merthyr I find very strange. Without wishing to do the area down, I was surprised to see that 68% of the Help to Buy properties there were priced at over £150,000. For Carmarthenshire – where property values are higher than Merthyr – the figure was just 24%. The figure for Swansea is 25%, and for Blaenau Gwent, the other Heads of the Valleys authority, it’s 22%.

So why are people buying such expensive houses in one of the poorest areas of a poor country?

For most areas – even Merthyr – there is a tailing off as we approach the £300,000 limit, which is to be expected. Yet in the following local authority areas the top price bracket shows an increase in completions over the cheaper band preceding it: Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Wrexham, Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff, Torfaen.

For Flintshire, the figures are striking: 99 completions in the £200,001-£225,000 bracket, 105 in the £225,001-£250,000 band, and then a leap to 150 in the top £250,001-£300,000 band. Which means that 89% of the properties bought in Flintshire using Help to Buy were priced at over £150,000.

According to the Land Registry, the average house price in Flintshire in June 2017 was £162,703 (and has since dropped). For Merthyr the figure was £98,172. The figures for all local authority areas are available here, scroll down.

In the hope of pulling everything together I decided to compile a table of my own. (Available here in pdf format.) The columns show, from the left:

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

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And then there’s Merthyr. I can think of no good reason why most of the properties bought there with Help to Buy were priced over £175,000 when the average house price is £98,172. And why are only 67% of them first-time buyers? Somebody’s taking the piss.

Administered properly Help to Buy could have done a lot of good. If it had been limited to first-time buyers and those who had lived in Wales for a minimum of five years. But because the impetus was to build more houses, and because the more expensive the house the bigger the profit margin, ‘anomalies’ were guaranteed.

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

When we look at the list of participating builders we see a long list of companies, a list that contains quite a few outfits that I bet have never laid a brick in Wales.

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Going back to the ‘Welsh’ Government website, those thinking of using Help to Buy are also advised to find, in addition to a builder and a lender, an approved financial advisor and an accredited conveyancer. Clicking on the links for these brings up the same long list of professionals, and again, many of them are outside of Wales. Bristol and Chester seem popular locations. (List available here in pdf format.)

As I say, properly applied and administered Help to Buy could have helped a lot of our people, and given a boost to Welsh companies, but like most legislation that passes through Cardiff docks and then into the hands of civil servants it is intended that as much as possible of the benefits spread over the border.

And inevitably, there will be some jiggery-pokery, as alliances are forged between builders, solicitors and lenders. Other may be drawn in, such as local government officials and councillors. Also, friends and family of those involved will be ‘helped’ to apply for Help to Buy.

Standing back, looking at the big picture, one thing becomes clear. By and large, the Help to Buy programme seems to have been implemented more sensibly, more fairly, and less wastefully, in those local government areas that are not controlled by the Labour Party.

Make of that what you will.

♦ end ♦

 

Carry On Brexiting

Seeing as no one knows what kind of Brexit the UK government wants, and because so much of what you’re reading and hearing on the subject is either biased or just ill-informed, it falls upon Uncle Jac to shed a little light on the matter. Because there are implications in Brexit for the unity of the UK, and these are already being addressed with covert strategies that may be reported in the mainstream media but are not identified for what they really are.

To make the best sense of what follows you must understand that the whole debate has moved beyond Brexit to the point where it is now about two unions, the EU and the UK, and also the future of the Conservative and Unionist Party. Not to be outdone the Labour Party is also confused, but there we also find other issues at play.

BREXIT AND THE MAIN POLITICAL PARTIES

The EU referendum was held on June 23, 2016. For a number of reasons I voted to leave. Explained here in EU Referendum: Why I Want OUT! with my celebratory thoughts contained in Brexit, Wexit: Things Can Only Get Better!

The overall UK vote was 51.89% Leave to 48.11% Remain. In Wales 52.53% voted Leave. By comparison, Scotland voted 62% for Remain.

Since then, from the UK government, it’s been a revolving stage of pantomime, tub-thumping jingoism, farce, soap opera and slapstick, but now, as the end approaches, things are beginning to take a darker turn.

But before getting to the creepy bits let’s consider where we are with the main UK political parties.

EU membership has been a divisive issue within the Conservative Party for half a century or more. In the hope of settling things prime minister David Cameron announced in February 2016 that there would be a referendum. He also stated that he would be campaigning to stay. When he lost, he resigned.

Since the referendum it has been almost impossible to separate what passes for ‘negotiations’ with the EU from the ongoing civil war within the Conservative Party, with the internecine fighting being a prelude to the inevitable leadership contest.

We’ve now reached the stage where it seems to be the incumbent Theresa May versus Boris Johnson. ‘Bonking Boris’, reviled by ‘progressives’ and opposed by many in his own party. Yet Tories of a more pragmatic bent may see him as a winner.

Not least because Boris Johnson has achieved that priceless political status of being universally recognised by his first name. How many politicians today can say that?

And don’t forget that Johnson was elected mayor of multiracial London in 2008, beating Comrade Livingstone, and increasing his share of the vote in getting re-elected in 2012, again by beating Livingstone. There will be a number in the Conservative Party who’ll see a lesson there for a future tussle with Comrade Corbyn.

At the time of writing this the elite against whom I and many others voted in June 2016 is pushing for a People’s Vote on the “final Brexit deal”. Having lost the vote in 2016 they’re hoping for a re-run and a different result . . . but believe me, it’s got sod all to do with ‘the People’.

If that headgear is compulsory then this campaign is doomed (click to enlarge)

The English Labour Party in Wales is generally supportive of this initiative because by and large our MPs and AMs want to remain in the EU. But their leader is proving more cautious, for Jeremy Corbyn seems to understand better than his Wales-based representatives why Labour voters in the post-industrial areas and the lower socio-economic brackets voted for Brexit.

Corbyn is reluctant to further alienate this white working class, and so, sure of the loyalty of his Momentum base, and believing that his ethnic minority and middle class voters have nowhere else to go, he seems to have concluded that the best option is to keep ’em guessing.

Others in Labour are less reticent about speaking out against Brexit and in favour of a second referendum. Here in Wales Labour politicos have reminded us how much money we’ve received from the EU, which doesn’t really help their cause because too much of that money has been frittered away by successive Labour management teams in Cardiff docks with no discernible benefits accruing to the areas in need.

But what the hell! – we’ve got the biggest third sector money can buy.

Carwyn Jones however is now prepared to articulate a possibility that others would rather leave unsaid. Laid out in a Times article on Monday headlined, “Brexit, handled badly, contains the seeds of the UK’s own destruction”. This article was a trailer for a speech Jones gave to the Institute for Government.

He’s not alone in seeing the possibility of Brexit breaking the UK apart – it’s one of the reasons I voted for Brexit – but I’m sure he takes the side of his Tory masters and will do his best to maintain the Union. Why change the habit of a lifetime?

But Carwyn’s masters are not blind to the danger either, and are implementing measures to counter the threat, certainly in Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland is, as ever, different.

IRELAND

Without knowing anything about the Flight of the Earls, the Plantation, Partition, or even the Troubles, most people are vaguely aware that the politics of ‘Ulster’ or the Six Counties is dominated by whether this part of Ireland should remain in the United Kingdom or whether it should join the rest of the island.

(Though this does not apply to Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who seems to have imagined a homogeneous population made up of individuals who take a pin into the polling booth.)

As things stand, those wishing to stay part of the UK remain in a majority, but a majority being whittled away year on year by demographic trends. So that by 2030 there will probably be a Catholic majority and a referendum on reunification could choose a united Ireland.

Brexit has added a new ingredient to the mix and might accelerate reunification.

Because the prospect of a ‘hard’ border after the UK exits the EU will not only be bad for business, it also raises fears of a return to violence. This has resulted in a number of people hitherto opposed to a united Ireland prepared to consider that option in order to stay in the EU. And let’s not forget that Northern Ireland voted by 56% to 44% to Remain. The only party pushing a Leave vote was the Democratic Unionist Party, predictably following the BritNat line.

The border as it used to be . . . . and might be again? (Click to enlarge)

Yet one of the alternatives, that of somehow keeping the Six Counties within the UK and the EU by having the customs border somewhere in the Irish Sea, has Mrs May’s DUP allies shouting ‘No Surrender!’ and strapping on their Lambeg drums.

The other option seems to involve no change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and a ‘soft’ or invisible border, with customs checks carried out by technology that doesn’t exist, or possibly by leprechauns.

The question of whether there should be a united Ireland could of course be resolved with a referendum, allowed for in the Good Friday (or Belfast) Agreement (Schedule 1,2). But the power to call such a vote rests with the Secretary of State. As we’ve seen, at the moment that is Karen Bradley, who thinks people in the Bogside don Orange sashes when the humour is on them.

So we’re in the absurd position of the Secretary of State having the authority to call a referendum , ” . . . if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.” Which, when you consider it, is a very good reason for the British government NOT to call a referendum.

The political situation is further complicated by the fact that the Northern Ireland Assembly collapsed in January 2017 and seems unlikely to get back on its feet any time soon.

There is little the British state can do to influence things in Northern Ireland for a number of reasons: 1/ the Republic’s government keeps a close eye on events; 2/ Ireland is now crucial for the EU because it will soon be a land border; 3/ there’s the interest from the USA, for no American politician can ignore the Catholic Irish-American vote.

And as I’ve suggested, the UK establishment is resigned to losing Northern Ireland in 10 or 20 years time anyway due to ‘the revenge of the cradle’, so the worst Brexit can do is hurry up that process. While never having to deal again with Northern Ireland politicians is a prospect most civil servants welcome.

SCOTLAND

In Scotland, things are very different.

The 2014 Scottish independence referendum gave the UK establishment one hell of a fright and may only have been won at the last minute by the intervention of senior politicians promising everything short of independence in The Vow. Though Brexit is causing a rethink for the man behind it.

The Scots voting to Remain coupled with the growing prospect of a ‘hard’ Brexit is increasing support for Scottish independence. This has prompted the UK state go on the offensive. It’s worth focusing on two, ongoing elements of this attack.

First there’s the crude and unambivalent ‘Britification’ campaign, most visible in the packaging of Scottish goods with the Union flag. In the image below we see whisky and, even weirder, that quintessentially Scottish delicacy, haggis, branded as ‘British’!

But the alternative name for whisky is Scotch. Can you imagine anyone going into a bar and saying, ‘Give me a large British, barman’? Which might get the response, ‘A large British what, sir?’ As for haggis, branding it with the Union Jack is liable to lose sales because people might think it’s counterfeit, something like Albanian ‘champagne’.

click to enlarge

In the main it seems to be the supermarkets at fault rather than the manufacturers, for I’ve read that Lidl and Aldi, the German chains, have stuck with Scottish branding.

I can imagine a meeting deep in the bowels of Whitehall between representatives of the main supermarket chains and high-ranking civil servants to discuss ‘promoting a sense of shared Britishness in these difficult times’, and perhaps achieving the objective without even mentioning Scotland.

(But I warn them now, if they come to put a Union Jack on my laverbread they will have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.)

The other point of attack has been the allegations against Alex Salmond former leader of the Scottish National Party and former Scottish first minister. Let me say that I don’t know whether these allegations are true or not, but the motivation behind them is crystal clear.

I first understood what it was all about watching Newsnight soon after the story broke. It had been broken by the Daily Record, the Scottish version of the Daily Mirror, and therefore the mouthpiece of the Labour Party, once dominant in Scottish politics but now languishing in third place as the Unionist vote coalesces behind the Tories.

The assistant editor responsible was a cocky Ulsterman named David Clegg, and without knowing his background I would hazard a guess that he has never voted for Sinn Féin. He was positively bouncing at being interviewed over his ‘scoop’ . . . and then something rather strange happened – he kept talking about Nicola Sturgeon, Salmond’s successor in both positions!

The light bulb flashed above the old Jac noggin, I took a sip of Malbec and nodded sagely.

And so it came to pass that where there had been unity of purpose in a political party determined to achieve Scottish independence, now they were at each other’s throats! Or at least, that’s what newspapers were reporting. And desperately hoping that the Scottish public would believe it.

click to enlarge

What we see in Scotland suggests that secret polling has confirmed the British government’s worst fears – the Brexit cock-up has created a majority for independence.

Added to the blatant BritNat bias the BBC in Scotland has exhibited for some years we now have government-controlled newspapers in a constituent part of a democracy. Were this happening anywhere else it would be reported, and condemned . . . by the very media outlets that have so readily submitted to government control.

What absolute hypocrites!

WALES

Here in Wales the Britification campaign has been less obvious and offensive, partly because we have less indigenous produce to be plastered with Union Jacks, due in large part to the unwritten rule that says any successful Welsh company is only allowed to reach a certain size before being taken over by an English rival.

That said, the campaign has taken other forms, two examples will suffice to explain what I mean.

To begin with, early last year that most colonialist of ‘Welsh’ organisations, Cadw, announced that there was to be a ring of steel erected near Flint castle to celebrate the 2017 Year of Legends, one of the regular, tiresome, and often insulting tourism marketing ploys.

Ring of Steel is an obvious reference to the castles built by Edward I to encircle Gwynedd and subjugate its inhabitants. Cadw knew this. The proposed structure was soon dubbed ‘The Anus of the North’, an epithet that then seemed to transfer to Ken Skates, the hapless minister for culture or some such in England’s Cardiff management team.

click to enlarge

After a public outcry, political opposition, and a petition that attracted 10,000 signatures in a matter of days, this squalid and deliberate attempt to celebrate English conquest was dropped.

But then came the renaming of the Second Severn Crossing as the Prince of Wales Bridge. Again, this was widely opposed, with little support from within Wales, but it went ahead in a secret ceremony.

The renaming idea is attributed to Alun Cairns, the oleaginous Secretary of State for Severnside, but I’m not so sure. I believe the idea came from the same source as the ‘request’ for supermarkets to smother Scottish produce under the Union Jack. Cairns was only too happy to oblige.

Alun ‘Tippy-toes’ Cairns is now one of the most ridiculed and reviled politicians in Welsh political history, even more so than some of his predecessors such John Redwood; for while we expected no better from them, Welsh-speaking Cairns is viewed as a turncoat.

Having mentioned Severnside, the renaming of the bridge and the removal of the tolls will begin what we are asked to welcome as the great property bonanza in the south east. In practice, no bridge tolls and cheaper property prices on the Welsh side of the bridge will encourage a population movement into Wales.

Replicating what we see in the north as commuters from Manchester and Merseyside are guided away from exclusive communities in Cheshire into the commuter communities planned for the A55 corridor.

Maybe we should now add Gwent to this map (click to enlarge)

These machinations on the part of the UK state, coupled with the cowardice and incompetence of the English Labour Party in Wales has predictably resulted in a reaction.

In the past couple of years we’ve seen the emergence and growth of YesCymru, the launch of new party Ein Gwlad, and the realisation within Plaid Cymru that a hard left party obsessing over issues that mean nothing to 99% of the Welsh population is going nowhere.

There can no longer be any doubt that there is a Britification agenda operating in Scotland and Wales. Because the BritNats driving the Brexit process are awake to the fact that if they win they risk the Union. More moderate elements can also see the risk to the Union and even though they might oppose Brexit they have little alternative but to join in the Britification offensive.

Yet Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and the rest must push ahead because their political reputations and their places in history are now tied up with Brexit. They cannot afford to fail. If they succeed, they know it will be easy to use the rallying-call of ‘Save the Union’ to reunite the Conservative Party, and leave the other parties no alternative but to fall into line.

The real worry is that the Britification and dirty tricks we’ve seen so far in Scotland and Wales could be nothing compared to what we might experience after the Brexit shit hits the fan.

♦ end ♦

Wilmslow-sur-Mer

INTRODUCTION

I remember, back in the 1960s, when I was a wild young thing, visiting Owain Williams (of Tryweryn fame) on his farm, Gwynus, and then heading down for a drink at the local hostelry, the Plas Pistyll Hotel. I remember it well because ‘G–‘ and I picked up a couple of girls from Birmingham and took them up the mountain to enjoy the view. (Who says we don’t welcome tourists?)

Ah! happy days.

Plas Pistyll, click to enlarge

The old pile, with its uninterrupted views of the sea, fell on hard times and was eventually abandoned to the elements. But even if it was no longer viable as a hotel, the location alone dictated that somebody would some day come along with a plan for the site.

And so it was. . . .

THE PLANNING APPLICATIONS

Let me start by explaining that I have drawn together all the planning references I can find relating to both Plas Pistyll and neighbouring Pistyll farm and caravan site, I’ve done this because as early as 2008 they had become one and the same project.

Here’s the link to the pdf version. Click on the planning reference number in the left-hand column to be taken to the Gwynedd planning site.

Below you’ll see a montage created for Natural Retreats by the Ark Company Landscape Architects of Middlesex, and although things have moved on the image gives the layout of the site.

click to enlarge

The obvious place to start is with the three earliest applications, which tell us that both the farm and the Plas are owned by Sustainable Leisure, a company I couldn’t find on the Companies House website.

Even so, I know that the properties were owned by a Bill Gleave of Greater Manchester. I know because by August 2009 he had hit the rocks owing local businesses money. You’ll note that in the Daily Post report I’ve just linked to the Pistyll site is called ‘Nature’s Point’ (A name I’m sure I recall from the Mabinogion.)

This catastrophe was confirmed when the Bolton News reported that Gleave company BGH had gone tits up, with Sustainable Leisure following.

It all went quiet for almost three years until, in August 2011, there was an application from new player Natural Retreats to demolish Plas Pistyll and replace it with 20 self-catering holiday units. These to be complemented with “16 self catering holiday units in lieu of the existing static caravan site” at the farm.

Plas Pistyll had been bought in April 2010 for £85,000 by Natural Land 3 Ltd, though a loan was taken out towards the end of 2014 with HSBC. (There will be more on the array of linked companies later.)

To begin with, I had the same problem with Natural Retreats as I had with Sustainable Leisure – I couldn’t find it on the Companies House website. But I found a Natural Retreats website and eventually unearthed Natural Retreats UK Ltd, which changed its name to The UK Great Travel Company Ltd 25 October 2017.

Permission was given in August 2012 to demolish Plas Pistyll with the condition that the same individual or family could not live in the new holiday units for more than three months in a year. Natural Retreats appealed against this decision and the appeal was allowed permitting unrestricted holiday use for the whole site.

I understand that the last time the planning committee met was to discuss C11/0661/43/LL, thereafter everything was delegated to planning officers. Some very important decisions were made that many feel should have been referred back to the committee, not least the decision to allow unrestricted holiday use.

click to enlarge

Having got the big prize Natural Retreats – usually operating now as Natural Land & Sea – chipped away over the next few years at more of the planning conditions imposed by Gwynedd’s planning committee, to the point where few remained.

For Gwynedd’s planning department seemed to bend over backwards to oblige: “. . . deletion of Conditions 8, 9, 10 (Code for Sustainable Homes) . . . vary the materials proposed for the external wall of the units on the farm site . . . Discharge conditions 20 (slate), 22 (stone) and 24 (external finishes) . . .  Discharge condition 2 (agree stone) on planning permission . . . “

Instead of stone and slate cottages in keeping with vernacular styles (including Pistyll farm), using local materials and labour, what are being thrown up now on the Plas Pistyll site are prefabricated units brought in from God knows where – Estonia being one suggestion – with no local benefits whatsoever.

And again, predictably, searching the Companies House website turned up nothing for Natural Land & Sea. Either there is no such company, or it’s registered outside the UK, or it’s the trading name of another entity (in which case we should know the name of that entity). But Cyngor Gwynedd and its planners don’t seem to know or care who they’re dealing with.

It should be standard practice for any elected or public body dealing with a commercial entity to insist on that entity identifying itself with a Companies House, Charity Commission, FSA, etc number or some other form of identification, or else explain why it cannot meet this requirement.

Relevant digression: I’ve been helping a neighbour who’s lived the village all his life renew his blue parking badge, but he still had to provide his birth certificate and other proof of identity. If he’d rocked up claiming to represent Intergalactic Con Men Inc, and wanting to build 5,000 holiday apartments in tower blocks around Llyn Tegid I suppose Cyngor Gwynedd would have rolled out the red carpet, like they’ve done for Paul Williams, Natural Retreats, and God knows how many others.

I’ve told you that Natural Retreats UK Ltd renamed itself The UK Great Travel Company Ltd on 25 October 2017. On that very same day a company was born named NRML Technology Ltd. The sole director was soon joined by another gentleman from Bobby Lee’s home state of Virginia and in June the company name was changed to Natural Retreats UK Ltd.

Why would Natural Retreats UK Ltd be resurrected under American ownership? We shall consider this in just a minute.

THE APPLICANT

Before that, let’s take a closer look at who’s behind this disaster at Pistyll, on the very site where a young Jac downed pints and chatted up young ladies. (Though I use the most generous application of that epithet.) As we’ve seen, there can easily be confusion about the name of the company involved. Hardly surprising when you read on.

For at the same address in Wilmslow, in Cheshire’s Golden Triangle, where footballers, soap stars and successful criminals from Manchester and Merseyside choose to live, we also find: NR Partners No. 2 Limited Partnership (Natural Retreats Limited Partnership until 20 June), NR Investors LPNatural Retreats Pension LLP, Project Natural Retreats Ltd, Natural Assets Investments Ltd, Natural Land 1 LLP, Natural Land 3 Ltd, Natural Land 3 Management Ltd, NL 3 Cottages Management Ltd,

That’s not all. There are yet other companies at the same address that do not carry the ‘Natural’ tag but are run by the same people. These are: Dol Park Ltd (Dissolved 31.07.2018), JOG 3 LLP, JOG Highlands LLP, John o’ Groats Highlands Ltd, K2 Equity Partners LLP, Mini Gems Ltd (Dissolved 31.07.2018), N A Lews Castle Ltd (Formerly Snowdonia Land Ltd, ), North York Moors Ltd, Pentire Fistral Beach Ltd (Dissolved 31.07.2018), Worldwide Private Residences LP.

There may be other companies for all I know but the people involved with almost all of those I’ve listed are: Matt Spence, Anthony Wild and Ewan Kearney.

click to enlarge

The founder and driving force is Matt Spence, who was born on a Yorkshire sheep farm where – he tells us – it was a struggle to survive, so he and his brothers looked for alternative ways to make money. Spence hit on the idea of high quality accommodation in national parks and other areas of great natural beauty.

A noble ambition that he’s partly met in finding the right locations. But in reality Spence’s business is raising money in the form of investments – the minimum seems to have been £50,000 to join NR Investors LP (check out the document for 16.01.2008) – and whether all the money raised goes on lodges and chalets is a moot point, for he and his associates have their fingers in so many pies.

But whatever the company or partnership the bottom line remains making as much money as possible. And this often seems to mean cutting corners, for I’ve heard from a number of quarters that the ‘Natural’ empire is not always a good neighbour, or employer. Here are reports from the Cairngorms, and Yorkshire.

There are even suggestions that the empire may not be in the best of financial health. But with so many interlinked commercial and financial entities constantly changing addresses and names it’s not easy for anyone to keep track.

I earlier alluded to an intervention from the Commonwealth of Virginia, so maybe it’s time to expand on what I’m sure you found to be a tantalising reference.

Spence is something of an evangelist and so we should not be surprised to learn that he spread the ‘Natural’ gospel to the USA, where they have a hell of a lot more open spaces than us. This bore fruit in Natural Retreats USA. And yet . . .

Those who have raised Natural Retreats UK Ltd from the dead appear to have no connection with Natural Retreats USA. And yet, under its original name of NRML Technology Ltd the company was formed by a Christopher Holden who gave his correspondence address as, ‘Natural Retreats, 675 Peter Jefferson Parkway, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, 22911’.

Holden works with venture capitalists and investors, Court Square Ventures of Charlottesville, which has no obvious connection with Natural Retreats USA, it’s certainly not listed among CSV’s clients. He was later joined as a director by Douglas Burns. On the CSV website Holden is described as a ‘General Partner’, whereas Burns is ‘Principal & CFO’.

click to enlarge

Unless they plucked the Natural Retreats UK Ltd name out of thin air, and found Manchester by sticking a pin in a map, there has to be a connection between Court Square Ventures and Matt Spence and his associates.

But it still doesn’t make sense.

Because if we read the CSV website, and the biographies of the partners, then we see that their backgrounds are in media, technology, communications and the like – not a sasquatch-terrorised log cabin to be seen!

And yet, Court Square Ventures is an investment company, so it’s reasonable to suggest that the boys from Charlottesville come bearing greenbacks, which inclines me towards three options:

  1. They have come to get a slice of the action, at Pistyll and elsewhere, perhaps by investing in one or more of Spence’s many financial vehicles.
  2. They have come to help Spence out of a financial hole.
  3. They have come to take over.

And if you think about, it could be a bit of all three; or maybe options 1 and 2 culminating in option 3.

In the hope of clarifying the situation I e-mailed Natural Retreats USA on Friday with, “There are companies of the same name operating in the UK, in Wales, Scotland and England. I see that Christopher Holden is a director of Natural Retreats UK Ltd. What exactly is the connection or relationship between the US and UK companies?”

The reply said, “Thank you for your inquiry into Natural Retreats. I would be happy to offer some more information as to how the different companies are related. You may also view our website for further clarification: https://www.naturalretreats.com/about

Natural Retreats was originally founded in the UK by Matthew Spence, and started with a few luxury lodges in the Yorkshire Dales. Over time, Natural Retreats grew to include destinations in the Eastern and Western United States as well. At this time, the US and UK now operate separately; they only share the name of Natural Retreats. The US main office is located in Charlottesville, VA and the Western Support Office is located in Park City, UT. 

If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. Thank you, again, for your inquiry; we hope you will stay with us at one of our luxury retreats in the near future!”

To which I responded with, “I am grateful for your speedy response.
 
As I mentioned in my original query, I was a little confused seeing Christopher Holden of Charlottesville, Virginia listed as a director of Natural Retreats UK Ltd (Co No 11031026). A company formed in October 2017.
 
This would appear to be a UK presence for the US operation, or is there some other interpretation?”

At this point the line went dead!

So we are no nearer to knowing why venture capitalists from Virginia with no obvious expertise in tourism have set up in Manchester using a company name previously used by those building at Plas Pistyll. But it’s surely no coincidence that Rural Retreats USA’s eastern office is in Charlottesville. Which throws up other questions.

I’ll ask again, does Cyngor Gwynedd and its planners really know who they’re dealing with? Not just because of the find-me-if-you-can company names but also because Spence specialises in getting others to invest in his plans, and even though I’m sure he scrupulously screens each and every investor, the fact remains that the money to develop Plas Pistyll could be coming from anywhere.

Court Square Ventures is another company that invests money for third parties.

And does Cyngor Gwynedd know that Project Natural Retreats Ltd owns Tŷ Mawr at Abergeirw, and not just the house, but also land around it. These title references apply: WA634099, WA894641, WA930505. One to watch I would suggest!

TIME TO DEFEND OURSELVES

The properties at Pistyll are now being advertised on Rightmove and other sites. So let’s consider what we’re dealing with, and its implications.

click to enlarge

For a start, I note that these properties are being sold leasehold. Yet England’s management team down in Cardiff docks – those clowns that hope to be mistaken for a ‘Welsh Government’ – has turned against leasehold, except, apparently, when it’s used by RSLs or, more secretively, by unregistered private subsidiaries of publicly-funded RSLs. And of course by the likes of the ‘Natural’ empire.

Then again, just imagine Matt Spence and his gang turning up and saying, ‘Oi, Taff, we want to build a new holiday village overlooking the sea. We ain’t gonna use local materials, suppliers or labour. Then we are gonna give it some idiotic English name and there’s fuck all you can do about it’.

There would have been an outcry, even Plaid Cymru might have been roused to mumble something.

But that is exactly what has been achieved incrementally!

This development at Pistyll is only a few miles from Plas Glynllifon where dwells our old friend Paul Williams of Weep for Wales fame. Yet Plas Pistyll and Plas Glynllifon represent for the ‘Welsh’ Government ‘high end’ tourism, which must be unquestioningly encouraged.

For it is all set out in TAN 13: Tourism (1997) . . . which observant readers will have noted was two years before the Assembly first sat. That’s really thinking ahead!

Yet from what I can see, ‘high end’ tourism only attracts the smarter shysters and the outright crooks. Though if we are to attract high end tourism then what is being done to phase out the barrel-scraping tourism represented by mile after mile of ugly coastal caravan parks that can only deter the high rollers?

Nothing.

Because we are expected to believe that in a tiny country like Wales we can have all kinds of tourism and unlimited numbers of tourists without causing catastrophic cultural and environmental damage.

This is because it’s what England wants, due to the fact that a) money spent in Wales will make its way back to England, and b) tourism and the population influx it encourages makes Wales less of a ‘worry’.

As for the aforementioned clowns down Geiger Bay, well they’ll always do what London tells them, and some of them are even stupid enough to believe that a healthy economy can be based on tourism. Not forgetting that many in the Labour Party would be happy to see the death of Welsh identity.

‘As long as we got a rugby team, innit!’

♦ end ♦

 

The Green Menace

I have written a number of times about One Planet Developments in Wales, and of those taking advantage of this idiocy . . . and of us. (OPD itself will be explained in a mo.)

It would be easy to apply the generic term ‘hippies’ to those I’m going to write about, but this doesn’t convey the full picture, because those we’re dealing with are not all laid-back types, with no interest in material possessions.

No, those I’m going to write about are most definitely interested in owning things, especially that for which we humans have fought and killed each other for millennia – land.

Warning: This is a lengthy read (3200+ words) so make yourself a cuppa or pour yourself a glass and settle down to enjoy it.

ONE PLANET DEVELOPMENTS EXPLAINED

As far as I can make out OPD was announced to an unsuspecting nation in May 2009, with the document One Wales: One Planet. This document gave retrospective planning permission to a number of illegal settlements and dwellings. The use of that cardinal number was fitting seeing as Wales was then managed on behalf of London by the One Wales coalition between Labour and Plaid Cymru.

I have grabbed the illustration below from said document and added names.

‘One Wales: One Planet’ was supplemented in July 2010 with ‘Technical Advice Note (TAN) 6 Planning for Sustainable Rural Communities’. This contains gems such as, “Many economic activities can be sustainably located on farms”. Er, yes, it’s called farming, it’s been going on for thousands of years.

TAN 6 gives the impression that despite it being about the countryside it was written by people who know nothing about real farming. The sentence I’ve quoted suggests that whoever wrote it believes that sheep farmers do nothing but farm sheep, filling their many periods of inactivity by perhaps flying off to the Dalmatian Coast.

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Which in a sense makes sense. Because although OPD, TAN 6 and lots of other guff is ostensibly about the rural areas of Wales, it’s not about the Wales we’ve grown up in, it’s about a Welsh countryside of the future, socially engineered to be inhabited by different people. And in some parts, uninhabited.

The agreement between Labour and Plaid Cymru in 2007 is set out in the ‘One Wales‘ document, subtitled, ‘A progressive agenda for the government of Wales’. Section 8 (page 30) deals with ‘A Sustainable Environment’ and begins, “Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity”.

Which suggests that for whoever wrote that, war, poverty, starvation, displacement, oppression, exploitation and all the other very real tragedies facing the human race in 2007 were nothing when compared to what might affect us at some time in the future. Making it pretty clear about the interests and motives of the author.

Whoever penned that is eager to employ a hypothetical future catastrophe in order to advance a narrow and self-serving viewpoint that will work to the advantage of those with whom he or she identifies. In other words, bouncing the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition into giving special treatment to those claiming to be saving the planet by moving to Wales.

Further on in Section 8 we read, “We will establish a Climate Change Commission for Wales, which will be chaired by the Minister for Sustainability and Rural Development.” So who was that?

THE DOYENNE

In the picture above you will see, seated on the left, Jane Davidson, she was the Minister for Sustainability and Rural Development in the 2007 – 2011 coalition government.

Though information on the Climate Change Commission for Wales is sparse. It seems to have been set up in 2007 yet for some reason its first annual report didn’t appear until January 2012. Typing the name into the search box of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s website brings up very little, certainly no later annual report.

But who is Jane Davidson?

Given that she cares so frightfully for rural Wales it should go without saying that she is English and middle class, born in Birmingham and educated at what was then Malvern Girls’ College but appears to have since merged with St James’s School to give us Malvern St James Girls’ School.

What else do we know about Jane Davidson?

After Birmingham University she came to Aberystwyth, perhaps to do some post-graduate qualification, but she certainly taught for a few years (1981 – 1984), became development officer for the Youth Hostels Association (1984 – 1987), and by 1987 was a Cardiff councillor, and known as ‘Lady Jane’.

Her political career really took off when she became a researcher for Rhodri Morgan, the MP for Cardiff West in 1991. For some reason she didn’t stand in the council elections of 1995 and ceased to be Rhodri Morgan’s researcher in 1995/6. Giving us a lacuna between 1995/6 and 1999 when she was elected to the new Welsh Assembly, so if anyone can fill it I’d be most grateful.

(For many of those I write about gaps in the CV are often explained by being banged up, but in the case of Jane Davidson I’m sure she was doing something worthy like smuggling prayer wheels made from recycled wood into Tibet.)

“She lives on a smallholding in West Wales”. Living the dream, girl, living the dream.

As I’ve said, she was elected to the Assembly in May 1999 after being foisted on the bruvvers of Pontypridd and the constituency responded by unenthusiastically electing her with a majority of just 1,575 votes. She was soon made deputy speaker by the unloved and soon departed first minister Alun Michael, a man she is said to have known rather well.

Michael, the ultimate Labour Party operator, is now South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner.

On taking up her post in 2007 she resigned as Welsh vice-president of the Ramblers Association, but became president immediately on leaving office in 2011. We are expected to believe that she had no contact whatsoever with the Ramblers between 2007 and 2011 despite helping push through the Wales Coastal Path, which has caused such disruption, misery and expense for so many Welsh farmers and landowners.

But then, these – like the electors of Ponty – were never people Lady Jane cared about.

Predictably, Ms Davidson also became a patron of the One Planet Council.

For her day job Davidson took up a post at the University of Wales Trinity St David Lampeter in January 2012, where she is now Pro Vice-Chancellor for External Engagement and Sustainability.

According to her Wikipedia entry, which I assume Jane Davidson edited, we read, ” . . . she was responsible for the Welsh Government agreeing to make sustainable development its central organising principle.

There were no more pressing matters to deal with? Or had devolution now been subverted to a single issue – saving the planet? And were we supposed to believe that a tiny country like Wales could make a difference? This suggests to me that it was the obsessive Davidson who also wrote, in the ‘One Wales’ document, that “Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity”.

Does this myopia explain Wales being the poorest country in Europe? Did Jane Davidson and a few other English environmentalists con our gullible and deferential politicos into opening Wales up for them and their friends to act out their crackpot ideas?

The answer would appear to be yes, for it doesn’t end with OPD and Jane Davidson, perhaps because the English Labour Party in Wales has never been short of gullible and deferential clowns.

Following on from OPD and TAN 6 we saw, in January 2014, Alun Davies, Minister for Natural Resources and Food, announce that 15% of EU Common Agricultural Policy funding was to be transferred from Pillar 1 (farmers) to Pillar 2 (‘rural development projects’).

Another body feeding ‘advice’ to the ‘Welsh’ Government was the Wales Rural Observatory at Aberystwyth University. Made up of academics who knew nothing about Wales until they moved here they were highly qualified to offer such advice. The WRO went out of business 31 March 2014. (I do hope it was something I wrote.)

Independently, we saw a number of organisations like the Agroecology Land Trust spring up, which has blessed us with Red Pig Farm.

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Then, in 2015, we were presented with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and a Future Generations Commissioner in the form of Labour stalwart Sophie Howe, who had been Alun Michael’s deputy at the PCC office.

Apart from providing yet more jobs for Labour cronies the Future Generations department seeks to brainwash Welsh schoolchildren into accepting that developments like Lammas, complete with its pagan temple, represent the future Wales they should support and aspire to.

We have now reached the point where the One Planet insanity is being lauded outside Wales and promoted as “a ground-breaking Welsh government scheme under which people get to circumvent tight planning rules so long as they build an eco-home in the countryside and go back to working the land on which it sits”.

You can see that the headline reads – ‘Want to save the planet? Move to Wales’. Which exposes the absurdity of the whole idea, because if Wales was populated entirely with hippy ‘farmers’ they’d merely have transferred their footprint from somewhere else, and collectively they wouldn’t cancel out the effect on the environment of a single coal-fired power station in China.

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But never mind the facts, for Lady Jane and her friends such publicity must represent victory.

Everything Jane Davidson has done in the field of environmentalism has been done to promote the interests of others like her, those who see Wales as a country of great potential, for them . . . and at our expense. For I cannot think of a single policy or initiative that she and her kind have been involved with that set out to improve the lives of Welsh people.

The footprint these people are really trying to reduce is our footprint, our footprint in our country.

POLITICAL MOTIVATIONS

Some of you may be asking why the Labour Party and Plaid Cymru are so supportive of this nonsense.

You have to remember that the Labour Party has little support in rural areas and so inflicting self-idealising ‘peasant farmers’ on areas that don’t vote Labour may be seen as a form of revenge. Certainly Labour has nothing to lose electorally. And then there’s the good publicity gained outside Wales from those who don’t know the truth.

And as the bruvvers have all read their socialist theories and studied the Russian Revolution maybe they view Welsh farmers as kulaks who must be destroyed in order for the peasants – in the form of eco-settlers – to take over. (And those of us of a certain age remember how successful Soviet agriculture was in putting food on Russian tables!)

But why would Plaid Cymru work against the interests and wishes of their core voters in Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire? The answer seems to be that Plaid Cymru politicians have either been blackmailed with charges of ‘racism’ or else they’ve fallen for the Green invaders’ self-serving bullshit, and this pre-dates One Planet and One Wales.

Cynog Dafis, the former MP for Ceredigion from 1992 until 2000 and AM for the Mid and West Wales regional seat from 1999 until 2003, was an early supporter of the eco-influx, in fact, he stood for Westminster in 1992 as a Plaid-Green candidate.

Others have been involved with that spiritual home of eco-living the Centre for Alternative Technology in Corris. Among them my Lord Elis Thomas, who was a trustee or some such, as was Ellen ap Gwynn, currently Plaid leader in Ceredigion.

CAT has been in Corris for over 25 years and has drawn a few hundred hippies into the area. To the extent that on still autumn evenings there’s more incense and smoke (from wood-burning stoves and spliffs) hanging over Corris than you’ll find in an Orthodox cathedral at Easter.

Much of what I’ve written thus far might be gleaned from previous scribblings; what I’ve tried to do here is give the timetable for a whole strategy that has resulted in the ‘Welcome’ sign being put up to encourage many odd and not a few undesirable persons into our rural areas.

A strategy that increases Wales’s carbon footprint and therefore exposes that in reality it’s simply a type of colonisation. Supposedly more acceptable because it’s done in the cause of saving the planet.

And you mustn’t think that the problem is confined to the west, for since making contacts in Powys over the Paul and Rowena Williams case I learn of a OPD project at Twiscob Top, near Presteigne involving Paul and Kate Hooper, who had previously tried to inflict themselves on Carmarthenshire, insisting that they be allowed a dwelling near their charcoal business.

Powys planners seem reluctant to do their job partly because the Hoopers are using OPD and partly because of the expense involved in standing up to these bullies and their ‘Welsh’ Government backers. Which probably explains why they think they’ve won.

Now it’s time to move on to a related subject that shares many of the attitudes we’ve already encountered: the sense of entitlement, the belief that Wales would be better without the Welsh.

RE-WILDING

I’ve mentioned Corris and the Centre for Alternative Technology but the charlatans of environmentalism are not confined to this small area off the A487. They seem to have spread like a plague over the Dyfi valley area. In no small part due to the influence of notorious enviro-propagandist George Monbiot, who lived in the area for a while.

Monbiot’s pet hate is sheep. Those evil, woolly bastards wandering the hills planning human downfall. This article last year in the Grauniad tells us that while cruelty and lack of calories are the ostensible reasons for defending ourselves from the threat, the true motives become clear when we read: ” they (sheep) occupy around 4m hectares of the uplands”. And we are not talking Swansea Uplands here.

But the sheep-free uplands would not be left for Mother Nature to reclaim over time, oh no, they would need to be managed . . . by people . . . well, by people very much like Monbiot, and others we’ve encountered. In other words, we are talking now of engineered re-wilding.

One shadowy re-wilding project about which I and others are having difficulty getting information is ‘Summit to Shore’, covering 10,000 hectares and 20 sq km of sea from “the Pumlumon uplands down to Cantref (sic) Gwaelod”.

Heavily involved, maybe managing the show, is the laughably dysfunctional (or seriously corrupt) Natural Resources Wales where, among other board members, we find Dr Elizabeth Haywood, whose mini bio didn’t allow space to inform us that she is the wife of Peter Hain.

NRW’s master of ceremonies in Summit to Shore is Andy Middleton“social entrepreneur . . . environmental innovator” and someone who – it is alleged – believes murderers and rapists should be forgiven for acting out crimes motivated by subconscious thoughts.

But the driving force will be Rewilding Britain, an organisation with which George Monbiot is linked, and some of the funding will come from hedge fund managers Artemis. There are other organisations involved – all based outside Wales or else Welsh-based white flight outfits – but no farming unions and no body representing commercial fishermen. In other words – no locals.

What better illustration could there be of the way the Labour Party operates through nepotism and corruption, facilitating the colonialist agenda and treating us Welsh with contempt? Though in fairness, it could be said that Labour has done its bit for re-wilding by reintroducing a species we thought we’d lost – the quango.

The re-wilding may have already started for in the area we’re dealing with Cambrian Wildwood has brought in some alien Konik horses to its land at Bwlch Carog, near Machynlleth. This report from BBC Wales tells us that, “The horses, from a herd in Kent, are descendants of the now extinct European horse, the Tarpan”.

These Konik horses are certainly from Kent, but the donkeys giving rides at Aberdyfi may have a stronger claim to be descended from the Tarpan. Though you have to ask why anyone supposedly concerned with authenticity and restoring land to a previous condition would import a Polish breed – via Holland and England – when we have horses of our own from Gower to the Carneddau.

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Is this yet another example of environmentalists’ antipathy to all things Welsh – except our land?

Oh, yes, you’ll never guess who I found when I looked at the ‘Who we are’ page on the Cambrian Wildwood website – there, smiling back at me were George Monbiot and Lady Jane Davidson!

One thing I’ve learnt about environmentalists and re-wilders is that they have trouble with the truth; it’s not just equines, it’s also felines, specifically lynx.

A statement was recently put out by the Lynx Trust UK saying that it had obtained permission from all relevant landowners to release lynx into the Kielder Forest area of north east England. This was a lie, and was quickly countered by the National Sheep Association.

Something I noticed on the Lynx Trust UK website was, “We will work closely with local communities, stakeholders and the general public”, which I’ve read over and over on re-wilding and environmentalist websites, but it’s a lie. The Green invaders prefer to operate secretively through bodies like Natural Resources Wales, get the backing of individuals like Jane Davidson, and then present their plan as a fait accompli to local people and their elected representatives.

We are dealing here with an insidious form of takeover. No longer are greens and environmentalists looking for abandoned smallholdings, they now want to take over large swathes of our country. In this they are helped by the ‘Welsh’ Government and those the Labour Party has placed in strategic bodies to do its bidding.

Yet if those clowns down Cardiff docks were serious about protecting our environment and reducing Wales’s carbon footprint then it could be done quite easily by reducing tourist numbers, especially to seasonally swamped western areas. Further benefits could be obtained by re-instating a west coast railway and feeder lines to reduce road traffic.

But it’s never been about the environment. The English Labour Party in Wales has allowed itself to be hoodwinked by a bunch of well-heeled shysters and obsessives who want control of those parts of Wales that have rejected Labour, and Labour is quite happy to oblige.

THE GREEN PARTY

You may have noticed that I’ve written this without once mentioning the Green Party of England in Wales. What’s that, you thought there was a Wales Green Party? No, no, they voted on it a few weeks back and Green Party members in Wales voted by a substantial majority to remain part of the Green Party of England, rather than become a separate party, as is the case in Scotland.

That tells you a lot about Greens and environmentalists, off-grid dwellers, planet savers and re-wilders, and it betrays their thoroughly colonialist attitude towards us and our country.

Pure, unadulterated colonialism. Encouraged by leftist political parties.

♦ end ♦

P.S. Maybe I should have been more specific with Lady Jane’s role at Lampeter.

She is, in full, ‘Associate Pro Vice Chancellor for External Stakeholder Development and Engagement and Director of INSPIRE at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’. (Try saying that after three bottles of Malbec!) INSPIRE is the Institute of Sustainable Practice, Innovation and Resource Effectiveness.

Also at INSPIRE we find Andy Middleton of Natural Resources Wales. And Peter Davies, who “was previously Wales’ Commissioner for Sustainable Futures and provided advice to the Welsh Government”. Not forgetting Anna Jones, who “is currently involved with the voluntary rollout of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act”.

Isn’t it all so cosy, everybody knowing everybody else, and almost everything traceable back to the ‘Welsh’ Government. Or is the word I’m looking for ‘incestuous’?

 

The Privatisation of Welsh Housing Associations

THE GREAT MYSTERY OF HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS

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

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

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

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

From the Guardian, October 2015, click to enlarge

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

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

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

ALL CHANGE

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

GYPSY JAC GAZES INTO HIS CRYSTAL BALL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LABOUR’S NUCLEAR OPTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

♦ end ♦