Before you start, let me warn you that this is quite a long piece, it’s long because it deals with the fundamental problems of devolution, and explains why devolution has resulted in Wales becoming poorer.
Though you can console yourselves with the knowledge that unless some bastards really annoy me between now and Hogmanay this will be my last posting of 2017.
Here’s how devolution makes Wales poorer, with a few of the consequences:
- Fundamentally, devolution makes Wales poorer due to the way devolution is funded
- A problem exacerbated by separate legislation and funding allowing England to impose burdens on Wales that would be impossible without devolution
- That said, Wales being poor suits the interests of the Labour Party, which blames others for the state of Wales while exploiting the poverty for electoral gain and to build a crony empire
- As there is no party or alliance of parties capable of breaking Labour’s stranglehold Wales is condemned to ever-worsening poverty
- With devolution being so disastrous for Wales we are left with only two realistic alternatives: independence or being treated more fairly as part of England
I shall deal with all of the above points but not necessarily separately (or even in that order) because of linkages that I hope become clear.
There is no question that Wales is worse off today than when we had the first elections to the Welsh Assembly in May 1999. The evidence is everywhere, and not only is the Wales of 2017 poorer than the Wales of 1999, we are also poorer relative to other parts of the UK than we were in 1999, and falling further behind every year.
It doesn’t really matter which index you use – GVA, GDP, wages, child poverty – the picture painted is the same. (While our GVA may have grown faster than the other countries of the UK in recent years that growth seems to be restricted to Cardiff.)
One of the major reasons for Wales’ relative poverty is the funding arrangement known as the Barnett Formula. This article on the BBC Northern Ireland website explains it in simple terms.
Note that it admits, “The figures vary slightly every year, but in 2012-2013 Northern Ireland got the most – £10,876 per head. Scotland got £10,152 per head and Wales, despite being much poorer, got £9,709.” (My underline.)
So we see that, to begin with, Wales is disadvantaged in the allocation of funding, but it gets worse. For in the article we also read, “Some argue a needs-based system – which would take into account factors such as the age of the population and levels of poverty – would be a fairer formula.”
The importance of the reference to “the age of the population” will be explained in a minute.
Now in any normal country this deteriorating situation might have resulted in a change of government, if not social upheaval, but this is Wales and such things never happen, partly because there’s a scapegoat. For since 2010 there’s been a Conservative government in London, and so for ‘Welsh’ Labour and its little helper it’s all the fault of them wicked Tories.
But Wales had been in decline since the beginning of the devolution era, and from 1999 until 2010 there was a Labour government in London, first led by Tony Blair and then by Gordon Brown. So did Labour and Plaid Cymru blame ‘London’ then? Well, obviously, Labour didn’t, and Plaid’s criticism was usually muted, certainly after the palace coup that removed leader Dafydd Wigley in 2000 (after he’d led his party to its greatest electoral success), and also during the Labour-Plaid coalition of 2007 – 2011.
To reverse this decline would require radical change, but ‘Welsh’ Labour is as afraid of radical change as the stone throwers of Saudi Arabia; for Labour in Wales is a very conservative party. It wants things to stay the same because the status quo serves its interests, with no change countenanced unless it can benefit the party.
The other consideration is that change of a radical nature, i.e. Wales doing things for itself, to benefit itself, might unleash demons that could inflame a hitherto resigned populace with ideas of Welsh competence. Clearly, a dangerous road to take for a party that, when it comes to the relationship with England, may be viewed as the DUP without the bowlers and the sashes.
To understand Plaid Cymru you need to know that Plaid today is a bound-for-oblivion alliance of a socially conservative rural grass-roots with a leadership stratum made up of ‘progressives’ fighting UK-wide or even global battles against the forces of darkness.
While Trump is president, Brexit looms, the globe warms, the right marches in Freedonia, and Wales lacks transgender toilets in every coffee shop, Wales is too small and too poor to interest such ‘progressives’.
I’ve said that Wales will never prosper under devolution, but in the heading to this article I suggest that devolution by its very nature is partly responsible for our decline. So let me explain.
Fundamentally, devolution has made it easier for England to impose financial and other burdens on us that would have been almost impossible prior to 1999. This has inevitably contributed to our decline.
In that article from the BBC Northern Ireland website that I used you read, regarding the Barnett Formula, the suggestion that, “a needs-based system – which would take into account factors such as the age of the population and levels of poverty – would be a fairer formula.”
This would definitely help us in Wales because our population is older than those in the other administrations, and ageing faster. The percentage of our population in the 65+ bracket in 2008 was 21.4%, while in Northern Ireland it was 16.7%, England 19.1%, and Scotland 19.7%.
A major reason for the high proportion of elderly people in the Welsh population is the large numbers of English people retiring to Wales. And this influx inevitably increases the burden on our NHS and other services.
In some areas a majority of the over 65s was born in England. Here’s a table I compiled a while back using figures gleaned from the 2011 census. In 2011 only 68.8% of the 65+ age group in Wales was actually born here.
In Conwy only 37.1% of the over 65s were born in Wales. That’s a staggering statistic.
This should be a cause for concern, because every western country worries about the ‘ticking timebomb’ of an ageing population, but don’t worry, because in Wales a rapidly ageing population is seen as a positive.
A letter I received from the Office of the First Minister assured me, “There are almost 800,000 people aged 60 and over in Wales, over a quarter of the population, and, in the next twenty years, this is expected to exceed one million people. The fact that Wales is a nation of older people should be seen as something positive”.
So there you have it, here in Wales we’ve found the right wire to snip in order to de-activate the demographic time-bomb. So why aren’t economists, health professionals and others flocking here from around the world to learn from us? Because it’s all bullshit, that’s why.
And there’s another reason for lying, because to prop up the NHS and related services education and all sorts of other budgets have to be raided. One organisation suffering badly is Natural Resources Wales, which looks after our forests, rivers and other assets.
From £139m in 2013/2014 the ‘Welsh’ Government grant to NRW will fall to £65m in 2019/20. Falling by more than half in six years, in a country supposedly dedicated to protecting the natural environment (if only to attract tourists).
Of course people were retiring to Wales long before we had devolution, but if health services were not devolved then we would almost certainly have seen an increase in funding, but with devolution and the block grant the attitude is, ‘You’ve had your money, it’s up to you how you allocate it’.
This is just one of the ways in which devolution allows England to dump on Wales, but there are many others, which I shall deal with soon.
THE POLITICAL CLASS
As we’ve seen, Labour blames the Conservative government in London for all our ills, and conveniently ignores the fact that it was in power in the UK until 2010 and could have reformed the Barnett Formula. But Labour prefers to exploit Welsh poverty by blaming the Tories for causing it in order to maintain Labour’s hold on Wales.
Plaid Cymru’s position is marginally less discreditable, but in attacking them wicked Tories up in London too many in Plaid tend to forget who runs the administration nearer home. For them, perceptions of ideological solidarity with Labour blur the reality.
Giving us two parties for which what’s best for Wales will always take second place to (for Labour) hanging onto power, and (for Plaid) being a peripheral part of some UK leftist-‘progressive’ front.
On the other side, the Tories turn up to slag off the left and carry tales to their bosses in London for them to use in order to warn English voters of the perils of voting Labour. Former prime minister David Cameron even described the Wales-England border as the “line between life and death” due to the state of the NHS in Wales.
But Cameron was right, the Welsh NHS is crumbling, and it’s partly due to the influx of elderly English, most of them Tory voters, but he’s not going to admit that, is he?
So we see that the Tories also exploit Wales’ poverty for electoral gain. Great system, eh! – ‘Let’s keep Wales poor so both the main English parties can use it to their advantage’.
We’ve seen that Labour’s response to Wales’ plight is not to reform the Barnett Formula, not to fight the invasion of the blue rinses, not to stand up for Wales in any way. So how does Labour respond?
Well, in addition to blaming everything on them wicked Tories, Labour sets up one organisation after another to ‘combat poverty’, or ‘deprivation’, or ‘discrimination’, or homelessness, or whatever else third sector shysters can persuade civil servants and politicians needs to be combated.
For Labour, the advantage is that those who make up the third sector tend to be on the luvvie left, which makes them natural Labour sympathisers; while the bloated third sector these parasites create also provides opportunities for ‘Welsh’ Labour to practice the patronage and cronyism for which it is rightly famed. Which gives Wales a third sector providing sinecures for both those who could smell the money from afar and failed local politicians and loyal hangers-on.
Labour also responds with gimmicks, especially gimmicks designed to gain favourable reporting in the friendly English media. One that made big news was of course free prescriptions back in 2007. Scotland and Northern Ireland followed suit . . . but not England, where the charge is now £8.60 per item.
Inevitably, this has resulted in a movement of people from England to Wales to take advantage of our generosity, people with long-term medical conditions, which further increase the burden on our NHS. Something that, again, would have been impossible without devolution.
But to talk of such things would make us ‘uncaring’, or ‘selfish’, heinous crimes in a country as rich as Wales.
THE POVERTY SECTOR
I’ve written many times about Registered Social Landlords, more usually known as housing associations, and so I don’t propose to go into any great depth here, suffice it to say that we have a system of social housing so mismanaged and damaging to Welsh interests that it could only have been developed with objectives other than providing good rented accommodation for Welsh people.
For a start, our social housing is – despite ‘devolution’ – part of an Englandandwales system that, through the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, awards priority status to English criminals, drug addicts, problems families and others. To the extent that social housing, especially in some rural towns, is now often referred to as ‘anti-social housing’ due to the problems it imports.
To make matters worse, there is now an ‘arms race’ under way as it becomes obvious that we have too many social housing providers and the number must be reduced. So all manner of ill-considered and irresponsible ‘agreements’ are being entered into with probation companies and other English or cross-border agencies.
Also, in this era of ‘consolidation’, we see Labour blatantly backing housing associations controlled by its supporters – RSLs such as Wales & West, Pobl Group – to expand and take over housing bodies concerned with providing a decent service rather than with spreading ‘Welsh’ Labour influence.
Closely linked with social housing is the ‘homelessness’ racket, that ships in homeless people from England and elsewhere in order to increase the problem of ‘Welsh’ homelessness and guarantee funding increases for third sector bodies, due to another ‘arms race’ under way here.
A letter I recently received from the ‘Welsh’ Government told me there are 48 homelessness agencies operating in Wales and being funded by the WG (though the figure given for the amount of funding involved was wildly – and I hope not deliberately – misleading). This is obviously a ludicrous and unsustainable number and so I can guarantee a cull.
To give specific examples we’ll go to the website of the Wallich, one of the big boys in the homelessness industry with an income for year ended 31 March 2017 of almost £13m, £7.8m of which went on salaries, but still left £2.8m for investments, £938,478 of it in ‘overseas equities’. (Read the accounts for yourselves.)
Here are some Wallich case studies: First, Anthony, who (we are asked to believe) got on the wrong train in Devon and arrived in Cardiff. Then there’s Peter, who (of his own volition, honest) moved from Birmingham to Swansea. Finally, there’s Kerry, a victim of domestic violence with a drink problem herself who made the move from Northern Ireland to Wales, presumably because there were no nearer refuges.
Another major player in the homelessness business is Llamau which is currently reminding us that if you want to stay afloat in a cut-throat market then you’ve got to be innovative, find yourself a niche, get celebs on board. Which is what they believe they’ve done by focusing on homelessness among young people. (Apparently the other 47 homelessness outfits are turning youngsters away!)
And of course, you’ve also got to use the media, something the third sector is very good at, with newspaper articles and a television series. Until quite recently the chair of the Llamau board was Angela Gascoigne, who represents the trans-Severn future planned for our south east.
She has strong links with housing and ex-offender bodies in England, she’s also on the board of the Wales Probation Trust (part of an Englandandwales set-up), and here we find her with Llamau, a body that has suddenly discovered there’s money to be made from housing homeless youngsters.
I assure you, Gasgoigne’s CV dovetailing so perfectly with Llamau’s latest
scam scheme is not accidental, for Gascoigne’s English connections provide many of Llamau’s clients.
Another lesson from Llamau is that if you want to rip off the Welsh public purse, but throw the locals off the scent, choose a Welsh name you can’t properly pronounce while stuffing the board and senior management with your English friends.
There are just too many other examples of how Wales is put upon, how our funding is stolen, for me to deal with them all, but here’s one final example that would be impossible to inflict on Wales without devolution.
I’ve told you that the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 guarantees homeless people and others with no Welsh connections priority treatment, and this explains both the funding wasted by housing associations and the plethora of homelessness organisations currently plaguing Wales. If they don’t ship them in themselves then both encourage homeless people and others to turn up in Wales and demand to be housed.
But in some areas the legislation is so specific that it’s quite striking. For example, if we go to 70 (1) (i) we read that Wales must also give priority to homeless ex-service personnel, but why doesn’t the comparable English legislation make the same demands of English social housing providers? Don’t you find that odd?
One doesn’t need to be ‘uncaring’, or even ‘callous’, to realise that homeless ex-service personnel in England are now being directed to Wales. And that 70 (1) (i) was a deliberate insertion into what is supposed to be Welsh legislation . . . which means it couldn’t have been done without devolution.
And it will of course cost the Welsh public purse a great deal of money. So how the hell did this little sub-clause appear in ‘Welsh’ legislation?
I hope I’ve lived up to the promise I made in the Introduction and explained why devolution has been disastrous for Wales, and why things can only get worse.
Only a liar or a fool will argue that devolution delivers for Wales and that we should stick with it, ‘make it work’. It is designed not to work . . . not for Wales, anyway. It’s clear that ‘Welsh’ devolution works better for England than it does for Wales. Labour and its third sector guarantee that.
Which is why I say in the Introduction that if we want to avoid Wales becoming a third world country for our people then we have only two alternatives: either we choose to officially and constitutionally become a part of England, or we push for independence.
If you agree with me that independence is the only acceptable route for anyone who truly cares about Wales, anyone with an ounce of patriotism, then you must also accept that no political party we have today is capable of delivering independence. It’s questionable if any of the parties we know today even wants independence.
Fortunately a new party was recently formed that will argue for Welsh interests to be given priority, for Welsh needs to be met, for Wales to aspire to prosperity and independence rather than virtue signalling poverty.
This new party is Wales’ only hope; perhaps our last hope. The choice is yours, but I urge you to get involved and play your part. Start now by clicking here to register your interest.
Unless of course you’re content with Wales remaining Labour’s poverty-stricken fiefdom and England’s dumped-on colony, where the only growth industry is the third sector, which maintains Labour’s control and facilitates England’s exploitation.
Personally, I think our people deserve better. And I know we can do better – if we give ourselves the chance.
♦ end ♦