Easter Miscellany 2016

RCT HOMES

Earlier this month Martin Shipton of the Wasting Mule and WalesOnline had a brief bout of outrage on learning that RCT Homes was advertising for a chief executive at a salary greater than that paid to the UK Prime Minister or Wales’ First Minister. Here’s the advertisement – with a London recruitment agency – that occasioned his momentary unhappiness with the colonial system.

This recruitment follows on from a number of personnel changes at RCT Homes (mentioned in the same article) that are worthy of reporting, not least the departure of Andrew Lycett, the previous chief executive. So let me hand you over to a correspondent who explains the complexities of it all. I have added links and a few comments to help you understand better who’s who and what’s what.

Now read what follows carefully and join up the dots.

“The Wasting Mule tells us that Andrew Lycett left RCT Homes for reasons that were unexplained on the grounds of “confidentiality”. A more typical corporate response to that question is that he “has found career opportunities elsewhere” which led me to investigate.

Lycett submitted his resignation from RCT Homes at the same time as Cllr Kieron Montague (Labour) announced he would step down and not seek re-election. He is Cabinet Member for Tackling Poverty, Engagement & Housing. He also sat on the RCT Homes board, on behalf of RCT council.

Lycett has actually taken up the role of Finance Director with the Jehu Group, a real estate development company, who beside being a major player at the SA1 development in Swansea, but also has expanded to the west, opening a new office in Haverfordwest, under their subsidiary Waterstone Estates.

Montague, meanwhile, has now taken up a role with Cynon Taf Housing Association, who unlike RCT Homes, has a substantial holding of vacant development land.

In a previous post (here, scroll down) you correctly pointed out the outsourcing of estates administration by a number of local authorities to PwC. A partner of PwC, Lynn Pamment, also sat on the board of RCT Homes, alongside Lycett and Montague. She will, of course, be very conversant with the issues which PwC has been required to ‘assist with’, that of, balancing the budget for Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion councils. This includes selling off land for development.

This, of course, is the very footprint that Waterstone Estates has opened an office for in Haverfordwest for. Waterstone Estates is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Jehu Group, which Lycett is now director.”

We are all familiar with the links between the Third Sector and the Labour Party, but now we see a third element become more evident, that of private businesses, which recruit people with local government and Third Sector experience to help ‘smooth the way’ with the acquisition of land, the gaining of planning approval, and of course the clamping of the sweaty paws upon the funding public.

The supplier of the information mentions the RCT Board, and so I took a peek for myself. It hasn’t been updated, so here it is before it’s changed.

kieron-montague-978729428

It’s the usual mixture of Labour time-servers, Third Sector spongers and token residents. But as we were warned just now, there’s also the PwC representative, looking after her company’s best interests. Lynn Pamment is of course one of those selfless English missionaries without whom we Welsh would be running around naked doing unspeakable things to each other and gabbling away incoherently.

Also on the Board is someone I’ve mentioned before, a regular contributor to the Letters page of the Wasting Mule, where he can be relied upon to fly the flag for Queen and Country (his country that is, not ours), Kel Palmer. And talking of flying, his bio describes him as “A former fast jet pilot in the RAF” . . . not to be confused with those slow jet pilots . . . always getting in the bloody way . . . slowing down the bombing runs. It’s a wonder regime change is ever achieved.

This I think is one to watch. Particularly the future careers of Andrew Lycett and Kieron Montague.

[With so many different people sending me stuff I seem to have lost the original e-mail containing the information used above. So will whoever sent it please get in touch to remind me who you are.]

APPRENTICE APPARATCHIKS

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the need to provide apprenticeships, with political parties trying to outdo each other in the number they’d provide if elected, but did you know that the ‘Welsh’ Government has its very own apprenticeship scheme?

I am indebted to another correspondent for drawing this to my attention. Though he’s very concerned by the fact that most of those chosen for these apprenticeships seem to be related to someone already working for Carwyn and his gang.

Which, I suppose is only to be expected. For it seems that these apprenticeships are advertised only on the ‘Welsh’ Government website. Now with the best will in the world, I doubt if many young people visit the site . . . unless advised to do so by family or friends.

Is this how it should be done? Doesn’t it risk getting nepotism a bad name?

WG Apprenticeships

And by the way, Carwyn, I wouldn’t give a job to that shifty-looking little bugger in the middle, the one fiddling with his tie. If he’s going to do Oliver Hardy impersonations he needs to put on about 150lb . . . and also develop a personality.

CHRISTOPHER MUNDAY, GOAT-TETHERER

A third supplier of information has very interesting things to tell us about Christopher Munday who, you may remember, is the genius who set up the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales which I – in my previous post – likened unto tethering a goat and waiting for the predators to appear.

He writes . . .

“CM is typical of many public sector employees who see their advancement “up the greasy pole” by avoiding decision making and adopting the mantra of “plausible deniabilty” if anything goes wrong.

He joined Welsh Development Agency in the 1980’s having formerly been a “site finder” for a medium sized house building company. He progressed through a number of low and medium grade clerical jobs, as the WDA expanded through the 1990’s, and then became employed in a department seeking to access private sector money to add to the Agency’s budget for property development purposes.

As he had little knowledge of funding (and no knowledge of property development), his approach was to appoint  major firms of accountants to “write reports” as to how private funding might be accessed. It was quickly realised in Cardiff, that operating a large budget for the purposes of employing private sector accountants, made CM a prime target for the KPMGs, PWC, Deloittes of this world in “keeping him sweet”. He attended, for many years, the annual MIPIM property junkets in Cannes, where his time was spent networking (i.e. being entertained) by his accountancy pals.

Once these reports had been completed, at costs between tens of and hundreds of thousands of pounds, these would be “topped and tailed” by CM and subsequently presented to his line managers and, ultimately, ministers as “all his own work”. On two or three occasions the reports suggested “arms-length” initiatives, with a view to private sector organisations participating in the development of offices and factories in Wales. 

In at least one of these initiatives (called WISP) the “partner participant” was a company called Babcock and Brown. By this time WDA had been “absorbed” into the Assembly. The basis of WISP was that the Assembly would take a long lease on an office block before it was built, and the investment would be pre-sold to provide the funds to build it in the first place.

Unfortunately, after a couple of office developments, Babcock and Brown went bust, and the WISP idea terminated.  Babcock and Brown’s contact with CM was Leo Bedford(LB), and LB started up another company out of the ashes of Babcock and Brown, called Amber.

It was, therefore, of little surprise that when the RIFW (a.k.a. JESSICA) initiative was suggested to Welsh Government, CM was put in charge of running it, and (surprise, surprise again) Amber was appointed as Fund Manager. It is not clear who decided Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) should be appointed as Property Advisers, but it is clear that Welsh Government appointed both firms (see attached press release). It is also interesting to note that when the RIFW s**t hit the fan, CM denied flatly that Welsh Government had appointed LSH, and insisted that LSH had been appointed by Amber without his knowledge (!).

I know several people who have worked, and still work with Mr Munday, and it is the case that work colleagues, AMs and Ministers largely regard him as a . . . at which point I have to intervene because it gets rather personal, and I’m down to my last couple of mill. Munday commutes to Cardiff from Wiltshire.

What are we to make of this, boys and girls? Now as you know, Jac is a simple soul, and talk of conferences in the South of France, and big numbers that I can’t get my head around, send me into a tizzy. But if half of what my informant tells us is true, then this man sounds like a complete asshole! But of course he’s an English asshole, so he’s guaranteed an important job in Wales, losing millions and millions from the Welsh public purse.

JAMES BOND COMES TO CARDIFF

The ‘Welsh’ media has gone overboard reporting the fact that Aston Martin is to build a new plant in Sant Tathan, just outside Cardiff. Now me explain this to you.

This has nothing to do with jobs; the number of jobs created is almost irrelevant for those who persuaded the ‘Welsh’ Government to bribe Aston Martin to set up on the outskirts of Cardiff. The motivation, pure and simple, is the promotion of Cardiff.

The Aston Martin plant is just another prestige project to add to the Millennium Stadium, the Millennium Centre, the Swalec Stadium, the National Ice Rink and all the other developments we’ve seen in recent years, including – don’t laugh! – the Assembly building itself. Within a very short time I guarantee we shall be hearing, ‘Cardiff – Home to Aston Martin’.

Many are already asking how much the ‘Welsh’ Government paid Aston Martin to move to the Vale, but nobody’s answering. I am indebted to @tomgallard for letting me publish this letter in which the ‘Welsh’ Government refuses to disclose how much it invested in this wonderful project that will be of benefit to the whole of Wales.

If you think I’m just an embittered old Jack, and that the ‘Welsh’ Governments’s prime consideration was jobs, just ask yourself this – would they have rolled out the red carpet with gold thread for Kia, or Dacia, even if these companies were creating 3,000 jobs? And answer that honestly.

Aston Martin Logo 1

And if you believe that employment / investment was the prime consideration, and that’s why the ‘Welsh’ Government was prepared to break the bank to get Aston Martin to Wales, then why weren’t the jobs directed to an area where they are much more needed than the Vale of Glamorgan, where I guarantee residents will soon be opposing all the disruption the Aston Martin development threatens?

Oh, and one final thing. Scroll down on the letter to Tom Gallard and see who signed it. Yes, that’s the same Christopher Munday we discussed just now. Whenever there’s Welsh public funding to be wasted, Munday’s yer man! 

P.S. Another factor worth considering is that this rush of automotive good news – Aston Martin to the Vale of Glamorgan, TVR to Ebbw Vale – comes just ahead of the Assembly elections on May 9. The Labour Party must be calculating that news like this is worth a few thousand votes, maybe saving the party a couple of seats. Very important when we remember that Labour currently holds 30 out of the 60 seats and is predicted to lose anything up to 5 of them.

 *

What we see in these examples, and in other cases I’ve highlighted over the years, is utter contempt for the democratic process and the public purse – which works to the detriment of us all. Basically, it’s, ‘Sod off! we don’t have to tell you anything’.

When RCT Homes was questioned by Martin Shipton about the £150,000 salary for its chief executive he could only tell us, “A spokeswoman for RCT Homes said the body would not be offering a comment.”

And when Andrew Lycett left RCT Homes to take up his post with real estate company the Jehu Group, the reasons for his leaving were unexplained on grounds of “confidentially”. This, remember, is a Registered Social Landlord getting large dollops of funding from the public purse.

The ‘Welsh’ Government apprenticeships are obviously aimed squarely at those in the know. Otherwise they’d be advertised properly so that everybody’d have a chance.

The RIFW scandal for which Christopher Munday is so culpable is still shrouded in mystery because so much information is being withheld and so many lies are being told.

Finally, we have the countless millions lobbed Aston Martin’s way to get another blue chip company to Cardiff. Yet we cannot be told how much because this information is – so someone at the ‘Welsh’ Government argues – “exempt from disclosure”. Is that really true?

And all this is happening in a system that prides itself on ‘openness’, focussed on a building made of glass, so that we, the people, can see what they’re up to. What a load of deceitful symbolism and absolute bollocks!

(Calm down, Jones.)

Now a compete change of subject, but another indictment of how Wales is run, and the priorities of those who run our county and our cities.

BEDD GWYROSYDD
Bedd Gwyrosydd
Feel free to use this photograph

When I was a boy, I used to catch the school bus at Brynhyfryd Square, which would then make the long haul up Llangyfelach Road, past the ‘Public Hall’ and its bust of Daniel James, before the turning left and along Heol Gwyrosydd to Penlan School.

Of course I knew the hymn Calon Lân, and I knew that the words had been written by local man Daniel James. (Bit of a hero of my mamgu!) Which was just as well, because I wasn’t going to learn things like that in Penlan School, or any school in Swansea. Trigonometry, Latin, and the history of British imperialism would stand me in much better stead for the world that awaited me.

These memories came back when I opened an e-mail and saw a photo that someone had sent with it. The photograph was taken the day after Palm Sunday, and it shows Daniel James’ sorry-looking grave in Mynyddbach cemetery. The person who sent me the photograph said he had to avoid huge Victorian headstones leaning at dangerous angles to reach the grave, and that a machete would have helped to get through the undergrowth.

Doesn’t the man who wrote perhaps our most famous hymn deserve better than this? If I was talking here about some monument to our subjugation, or a reminder of our colonialist exploitation, or some house where Nelson had enjoyed Lady Hamilton, then Cadw, or the National Trust, or some other bunch of colonialist grant-grabbers would demand a few million to ‘maintain it for the nation’. (And we know which nation.)

If you feel as I do, that Daniel James deserves to be remembered better than this, then write to somebody; Swansea council, the ‘Welsh’ Government, anybody. Send a letter or e-mail to your local paper, or the Daily Post, the Western Mail.

Because how much would it cost to maintain this grave with the dignity it merits? Less than a set of tyres on an Aston Martin. Probably less than Christopher Munday earns in a week. One per cent of what the chief executive of RCT Homes will be paid in a year. Wake up people! let’s start getting our priorities straight. Let’s start remembering who we are.

UPDATE 28.03.2016: Good News! A mystery benefactor has appeared to help with the restoration of the Gwyrosydd headstone.

 

34 thoughts on “Easter Miscellany 2016

  1. Y Cneifiwr

    The decision by the government not to disclose how much public money is being given to Aston Martin is, as you say, a little worrying. Carwyn and Co took exactly the same line shortly afterwards when they announced the deal to start building TVRs in Ebbw Vale. In both cases we are probably talking about a package of grants, loans and concessions.

    Neither TVR nor Aston Martin is a public company, and so there will be no detailed published accounts that might shed light on this.

    Under FOIA public bodies can hide behind commercial confidentiality, but details of grant amounts and even government loans are quite often published. In other words, the decision whether to disclose or not seems to be arbitrary. Usually the government or other bodies handing out grants, such as councils, are keen to be let it known what they have given a firm….”Cllr J Bloggs unveils £1m deal in jobs boost for cat hydrotherapy centre”. That sort of thing.

    It may be the case here that it was Aston Martin and TVR that came over all shy, and possibly with good reason. Far from being a blue chip company, Aston Martin has a chequered financial history, and TVR is really just a brand name with an even more chequered history. Neither are the sort of investments you would want to see your pension fund make.

    I would not normally link to the Torygraph, but here is some food for thought:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/engineering/11935949/Aston-Martin-to-cut-jobs-as-losses-accelerate.html

    Having said that, Cardiff Bay is not always keen to talk money, even when the stuff is just passing from one public body to another. A few years back they came over all coy when doing a deal to offload the disastrous Technium venture onto Carmarthenshire County Council, which a few weeks later boasted that it had turned the place round and filled it with tenants from floor to ceiling. A quick glance at the Technium (rebranded as The Beacon) website showed the place was still advertising units for rent, and a phone call on behalf of a budding hamster microchipping entrepreneur nearly landed me with some very reasonable but unwanted office space in Llanelli.

    1. A company in financial difficulties like Aston Martin is unlikely to move unless there’s a financial incentive.

      Though I’ve always had trouble ‘placing’ Aston Martin in the market, by which I mean, if you want a classy sports car then you buy Italian or German, which will give more performance, better reliability, and increased cachet. And if you want ‘grunt’ from a barely controlled V8 then you go for a US ‘muscle car’ at half the price of an AM. Even these come with a certain mystique from all the Mustangs, Thunderbirds, Vipers, etc., we’ve seen in the movies. Who doesn’t want to drive Bullitt’s car?

      So where is Aston Martin’s niche? Who are its buyers? My guess is that it sells a lot on British patriotism, many cars to the self-made man with a limited educational background, the kind of guy who covers his Tudor mansion in England flags when his team reaches the World Cup. And even though he knows he’s lying he tells everybody that his Aston Martin is the best car in the world, a product of British / English engineering genius. And of course, James Bond helps in that deception.

      Believe me, there are such people. In my area we get regular visits from some club based in the English Midlands who drive modified Land Rovers in slow convoys along the highway before venturing off into the hills for what they like to believe is real macho off-roading. Their vehicles have got all the modifications including huge wheels and front-mounted winches that look as if they could lift the Titanic.

      Listen to these sad buggers talk and they genuinely believe that the Land Rover is the best car ever made. (Or at least, that’s what they say.) I think to myself, ‘You sad gits. Land Rovers are ugly, primitive, unreliable, uncomfortable, and they lasted for so long only because there was no competition. Once the Japanese starting exporting their pickups the days of the Land Rover were numbered’. They’re also derivative, not being a great British invention at all, but copied from the US WWII Jeep.

      But I digress. We can be sure that the ‘Welsh’ Government bunged Aston Martin a hefty wad, and the truth will come out, if only because there are people over the border unhappy with this ‘English icon’ relocating to Wales. Questions will be asked, and Carwyn and the Goat-tetherer will need to come up with answers.

      P.S. Nice to see you blogging again.

  2. The Earthshaker

    Off topic but related to the issues of one party dominance in Wales and the lack of progress for Plaid Cymru that gives rise to the never ending corruption your exposing, I came across this blog post from a very pro-Labour historian Dr Daryl Leeworthy about Wales and the Irish rebellion that’s worth sharing. As with all Labour historians Dr Leeworthy appears extremely hostile to anything welsh nationalist from reading his Twitter account so be warned.

    This article the second in a two part series is interesting, but also tough reading as it portrays us Welsh as spineless weaklings who wont fight for themselves (sounds familiar) and then goes on to lay out the facts about the Labour Party in the south Wales coalfields not getting real traction until the Irish Diaspora saw it as a useful mechanism to build the Irish Free State, he goes on the say the Irish also co-opted the Miners Federation and the Communist Party leaving very little space for any Welsh political debate never mind nationalism.

    In short the Labour Party was willing to absorb Irish Nationalism to grow the party in Wales, truly a party of Plant Mari’s. https://historyonthedole.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/wales-and-the-irish-revolution-part-two/

      1. The Earthshaker

        Excellent post and thanks for letting me add the link, I hope both shake a few of our fellow welsh out of their slumber especially today when the celebrations/commemorations in Dublin are such a vivid reminder of what a small Celtic country can achieve if only they have the courage to believe things can change and act accordingly.

        Back to the post, does anyone know if Christopher Munday is any relation to Professor Max Munday of Cardiff University?

        Keep up the excellent work

        1. You raise a very interesting possibility with the mention of Max Munday, of Cardiff Business School, who would almost certainly know the big shots in the local business community. If he and Chris Munday of the ‘Welsh’ Government are brothers then I’m sure they could make a good team.

          Here’s something I’ve knocked up. Does anyone see a fraternal likeness? https://jacothenorth.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Munday-brothers.png

          Though Max Munday’s Linkedin page says he lives in Swansea, which might make sense, because I remember the name Munday from my youth. There was a firm, Munday’s Wine Merchants, in the building where we now have the No Sign Bar. Maybe he’s of that family. If so, then he’s unlikely to be related to Christopher Munday.

          Though I still think it’s worth checking out, because these two men’s areas of interest and expertise (I use the term tongue in cheek with regard to C Munday) definitely overlap, and they will share acquaintances, including perhaps those prominent in the RIFW scandal and other suspect deals.

          Perhaps I should ask Max Munday direct, because I can’t believe that anybody would turn down the opportunity of disassociating himself from Chris Munday.

          1. Stan

            I don’t know how your research on any blood connection between Chris and Max is going but I certainly see similarities in the two images of the men you have published. Both are of medium to large build, both have slightly receding hairlines yet a reasonable head of similarly coloured (though silvery-grey, very common) hair. But the ear shapes and size look similar and jawlines too. And I reckon the nose shape is similar. I’m now going to look a right plonker when you establish they are as distantly related as a fish to a bird.

  3. dafis

    I admit to knowing nothing of Dr Leeworthy, but that article was written with the usual pseudo academic tone of Labour apologists/propogandists. It gives ample evidence that Labour in Wales has always found it easy to associate with the “struggle”, armed or otherwise, outside of Wales, although history also teaches us that such support is built on shifting sands, especially when it comes to dear old Ireland ! Try fitting Callaghan’s behaviours in late 60’s with any kind of empathy with the Irish “cause” – no chance ! By then Labour’s “thought leaders” had moved onto to more fashionable wars of liberation and class struggles as far removed as possible from home turf, while its real leaders were well and truly embedded into the British establishment.

    And so it is today, with what remains of Labour’s left wing rolling around in some sort of ideological trance with little or no coherence, while the mainstream competes with Cameron’s Tories to see who can put the best face on unbridled greed and self justifying bullshit.

    Anyway this focus on 1916 is a touch irritating especially as the Irish rebellion was a big bloody failure in terms of its original aims and aspirations. The pragmatic outcomes were eventually O.K but only when migrating from Free State to Republic, all of which might have been secured within a similar timescale without the pain of Rebellion and (a more costly) Civil War. The Irish economy has only really flourished ( briefly ) since joining the EEC, though its future within this bloated EU is a matter for speculation. Irish culture flourishes although much of it continues to be expressed through the Anglo American idiom rather than the native , and the use of Irish as a working language is marginal to say the least. As a model for Wales it holds very little relevance, other than as part of a comparative exercise to identify defects in both countries and develop ways and means of making sure those errors are not repeated as we go forward.

    1. The Earthshaker

      Good points, the article’s interesting because it shows unintentionally I suspect that Labour is the true alien/other party to Wales, something it’s always accused Plaid Cymru off but I doubt anyone in Plaid Cymru would have the guts to start pointing that out.

      And that fits in to the pattern of Labour always supporting the ‘struggles’ of others but not us Welsh, there’s a line in the rewritten pro Welsh version of Taffy was a Welshmen that always stands out for me, it goes ‘Taffy fought for every cause accept his bloody own’ because it still rings true today.

  4. Brychan

    Maerdy has been selected for a ‘Dark Sky Planetarium”. It is currently fishing for grant funding for this ‘tourism’ project. Strange, you may think, that a populated village in the valleys is chosen for “Dark Sky” over deepest Powys.

    However, the site has the advantage of the village having the highest number of domestic electricity disconnections in the UK, with many households plunged into night-time darkness through fuel poverty. This is despite the surrounding mountainside being planted with wind turbines.

    As a BBC report tells us the ‘Dark Sky’ project would be of “national significance. As well as a 350-seat auditorium, there would be an education centre, with simulators of the Mars rover, and a cafe.” Further comment “This is an aspiration project, however the use of the former colliery site for leisure and tourism activities has always been something that local residents have recognised as a potential opportunity.” says Cllr Montague.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-35111733

    What he fails to mention is that since the colliery closed the site had been in receipt of a £25million grant for a rubber gasket factory promising hundreds of jobs. That failed, even though it boasted Aston Martin as a customer. The factory relocated down the valley, and it employs less than a quarter of the predicted jobs doing gaskets for arosol cans. The Maerdy site was levelled and abandoned. This is also why the site is ideal for a ‘Dark Sky Planetarium”. It resembles the surface of Mars.

    1. I think you’ve mentioned this before, but I was unable to use it. This ‘Dark Sky’ project, who would run it? How would it be constituted? Who’s funding it?

      1. dafis

        probably the dark arts department of the Welsh Assembly – must exist somewhere in the bowels of that organisation ! It will get wheeled out frequently over next few weeks as assorted talking heads try to convince us they are doing their utmost to save Port Talbot Steelworks, when they should have seen this particular torpedo travelling our way 5 -10 years ago.
        When aluminium extrusion and other industries like electronic assembly started shunting off to China ( early 00’s ? ) it was evident that we ( Wales/UK/EU ) needed to switch focus to those industries adding value to the basic commodity material, reducing our reliance on those commodities as means of employment and switching skills to the “downstream” value adding activity.

        A smaller scale presence could have been retained in Steel production ( such as Alpha, now Liberty in Newport ) Throughout EU and other parts of E.Europe big steel co’s like Arcelor Mittal have already shrunk back dramatically and it is fair to conclude that the debate over the steel industry is not about intervention but about the lack of any coherent policy that addresses the need to shift forwards with the frontiers of innovation. Instead too much money has been invested in static replacement technology and shifts into things like financial services ( a real misnomer if there ever was one !). Now there are examples of successes in harnessing change and no doubt governments in Wales, UK, &EU will use those to claim they have tried. However they have often gone after the projects that gave the easy soundbites, the overnight success story that ended up in ashes hoping that the public would keep swallowing the bullshit. And up to a point, they have swallowed. Which leads me back to that department of Dark Arts – it’s alive and well and living somewhere in Cardiff !

      2. Brychan

        It has nothing to do with economic regeneration of the valleys. It’s a speculative funding grab by second tier scientific academics from Swansea University to get some cash out of the Science and Technology Facilities Council. The Westminster Government established the STFC in 2007 to curb the boffin drain from the United Kingdom “going swiss” where the top scientists were being farmed away to the European Space Agency and CERN. It has a budget of £500million pa, and is based in Swindon. Major players are the University of Kent who has it’s own space programme, Cambridge Uni’s who have it’s own innovation centre, and Birmingham who do material science (superconductors). STFC is funded by Westminster under the Department of Business Innovation and Skills. It has physical establishment at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Daresbury Laboratory, Chilbolton Observatory and the UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh. It has no footprint in Wales. Evans the Atom of CERN (Aberdare) was not repatriated and remains having “gone Swiss”, and all Swansea University could come up with is a proposed meeting room and café in Maerdy. Members of STFC are paid a quarter of a million pounds each per year, more than the whole salary bill of Ferndale comp. That briefly explains it.

        1. I am flabbergasted. Never has my flabber been so gasted. Are you telling us that academics from Swansea Uni are cynically trying to milk the public purse with this scam project in Maerdy?

          Where does Allan Trow figure in all this?

          1. dafis

            Swansea Uni have long since mastered the arts of sucking out the contents of the public purse. Andrew Davies was rewarded with a cushy number at the Uni by Richard Davies as a recognition of his assistance while a minister at Cardiff Bay. And so it goes on …….

            They are not alone in this. All the Unis are at it to varying degrees yet continue to bleat for more and are publicly against Brexit because an easy source of funds could go back up its own spout !

            1. Neil Singleton

              Andrew Davies, when Economics Minister, simply picked the phone up one day to the WDA’s Penllergaer Office and instructed them to spend several millions out of their budget on the first Life Science Centre, notwithstanding that the budget had been allocated to other job creating projects. “Don’t care” was AD’s response….”make the cheque payable to Swansea Uni.”
              It is also worth remembering that the (very) ill-fated Technium project was an AD/WDA/Swansea University Project, with the Uni sucking in millions of EU cash for “managing” the completed buildings. As soon as the EU cash ran out (after 3 years) the Uni bailed out.

            2. Brychan

              Dafis. This has nothing to do with EU funding. It’s £0.5billion direct from Westminster seeking to ‘Britishize’ the scientific and innovation investments. It was established by the last Labour Government in Westminster as part of the ‘Britishness’ agenda. Unlike other streams of the Westminster budget has not been cut by subsequent Tory administrations. It was used as an anti-Scottish Independence fear trowel as the ‘National’ observatory is in Edinburgh.

              Correction. I wrongly stated that there is no ‘Dark Sky’ observatory in deepest Powys. There is. The Dark Sky Observatory project in England (includes mapping) is run by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England. It lists a site in the Elan Valley. This is of course in Wales, but comprises of a telescope in the attic of a building owned by Severn Trent Water. It provides ‘discovery’ outings for schoolchildren from Warwickshire. Wales has to build and fund it’s own real estate, and have had to choose the bright lights of Rhondda Fach.

              Allan Trow. He is a freelance ‘educational facilitator’ from Cardiff who’s main income stream is doing websites and media for the education sector. He also runs school trips and invoices primary schools for them. Whilst he’s the ‘front man’ for publicity and might facilitate the likes of Cllr Montague with beer tokens, he’s not the real backer of projects and is a ‘hanger-on’ in the funding stream.

              Swansea Uni. The main expenditure of STFC goes on dodgy space vehicles like Beagle II. This was a ‘Brit in a Shed’ stunt run by a west county worzal with sideburns, based around the Swindon HQ. The Dyson spin off technology academies in Bristol failed to materialise. As far as I can see the only successes of the STFC has been the Cambridge Cluster and the Kent Mars lander. The volume of cash swallowed by Swansea Uni and what they have done with it is best obtained by a FoI request on STFC as it is a wholly British publicly Funded organisation. I suspect it paid for the expensive glass fronted new buildings on the old carbonblack site just off Fabian Way.

              Just sayin.

            3. One to watch with this Maerdy planetarium wheeze is Shannon Susan Robinson, who is 59 years of age this month and may live in Brynmawr. She has been involved in many such scams schemes over the years and seems to be the one involved in Maerdy who will know which buttons to press to release the loot.

              Here are some of the projects and companies she’s been involved with over the past 20 years. This list is almost certainly incomplete. Dowlais Enterprise Initiative Ltd; Fair Play (Workforce) Ltd, Cardiff; Arts Factory Ltd, Ferndale; Arts Factory Trust; Coedcae Community Project, Nantyglo; Caerphilly County Borough CAB; Homemakers Community Recycling, Abergavenny; Dark Sky Wales Education Services Ltd; Creative Regeneration, Brynmawr; Community Enterprise Wales Ltd, Cardiff; Shannon Robinson Associates Ltd, Cardiff; Social Enterprise Coalition Cymru Ltd, Cardiff;

              This woman looks like a pro in this field.

              In the article Dafis linked to there’s a wonderful quote by the head of the local school, who had obviously been primed to laud the planned planetarium but got it hysterically wrong.

              Maerdy Planetarium

              She believes that studying the heavens and contemplating the birth of the universe is not “harking back”. And also believes that a planetarium would not be “shoe-horned” in . . . presumably it will just grow organically, but of course with plenty of ‘fertiliser’ in the form of public funding.

              This woman is an idiot, yet she’s allowed to teach children!

            4. Brychan

              I notice that Dr Linda Evans (Faculty of Life Sciences, USW) and Dr Paul Roche (Cardiff School of Physics and Astronomy) resigned as directors of Dark Sky Wales Education Services Limited in 2013. This was the same year Ms Shannon Susan Robinson was appointed. Looks to me the academics bailed out just when the third sector parasite arrived. Or possibly the do-good for poor-people public relations wash was no longer needed once the research cash was banked. Looks like the patient is dying. Someone call a doctor.

          1. dafis

            whether one is pro or anti EU – remain or exit, etc etc – is not really the point here, but you seem to miss that. The grim reality is that Uni’s like so many other bodies, public and private sector, seem to secure funding for the most odd projects where there is very little or no evidence of “net gain” mainly due to the fact that there is no rigorous post investment appraisal mechanism despite existence of Audit Office, and public accountability of assorted Assembly, Parliaments and other bodies. Accordingly leaving the EU would remove one big channel of funds, but the Uni’s would probably contrive to locate another source of loot p.d.q – bit like trying to trap a hopping frog.

            1. Daley Gleephart

              Yeah. Without ‘net gain’ there’s nothing worthwhile eh? I mean, what’s the use of anything unless it has a price tag and a buyer?
              I remember some boffin (odd cove in a white coat) kept on and on about microwaves. Ha !! Bloody microwaves so small that nobody can see them – What’s the point of that eh??
              And funders eh? – two a penny on the High Street. That’s the spirit !! Keep on, Vote Tory and Buy Chinese !!!

            2. dafis

              you obviously buy any old bullshit that academics care to trot out. Truly valueable scientific innovation and invention are more likely to be identified and promoted in an environment where there is less clutter and interference from 2nd rate academics pushing pet projects without any serious critical appraisal. In case you haven’t noticed we live in a society where resources are scarce. Now you may wish to exclusively blame overpaid executives and certain politicians for that predicament, but others who have no scruples about shoving their noses into the trough should also be recognised for the damage they do, and many of your dear academics fall neatly into that category.

              As for voting Tory – that’s probably more up your street as you seem wedded to the centralist Anglo Brit supremacist view of life in general.

            3. Boys! Boys! This is getting far too personal and nasty – leave that kind of thing to me. Now shake hands and be friends.

            4. dafis

              Come off it ref, bags of scope for escalation on this one ! Some of these people still reckon that cash grows on trees and you only got to trot out a plausible yarn and you’ll get the grant/ handout/ freebie especially if you play the card carrying Liebor line down the Bay. Similarly in other parts of UK rolling out your Tory connection ( member / Fund raiser ? ) works wonders, or maybe spring the old Masonic ( we only do good ! ) line. You have turned up some beauties in the recent past and all these techniques seem to be active in Wales despite being very old hat.

              It all adds up to a dependency culture combined with a “something for nothing” attitude that prevails among those who have cultivated an outlook of entitlement. This is not about the needy, poor or those on hard times, but about aspirational greed, c***s who see a handout as a short cut up a ladder where they are either too lazy or risk averse to work their way up.

            5. Daley Gleephart

              Sorry, dafis, it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. I’ve put a bag of Boyo’s Enjoyos in the post.

            6. dafis

              save on the stamp, take ’em up the road and give ’em to any old Plaid/Lab/Tory/UKIP Canvasser you happen to bump into ! I’ve left out LibDems cos they are almost extinct and if you find one you can hand him/her/it in to a local South Wales Police station ( if there is one still open round your way )and claim some sort of prize.

  5. Neil Singleton

    Hey Jac, Did you watch BBC Wales “Week in Week Out” programme on the “Circuit of Wales” last week? http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007hj4j
    What a scam. The promoter of this scheme is a real snake oil salesman, and shifty as hell. Welsh Government has already shovelled in a couple of million quid, just to start the ball rolling (some of which this guy has used for landscaping the garden at his country pile). And guess what, the philanthropist civil servant doling out tax payer’s money is none other than Chris Munday, of RIFW fame (or should that be notoriety).

    1. I’ve got mixed feelings about the CoW. When I first heard about it it sounded so implausible – a race circuit in the Heads of the Valleys! – that I was very sceptical, and did a post on it. However . . .

      There may be a chance this can succeed, and if there is a chance, then it must be supported. Yes, I know a few million pound have already been poured in but the Labour Party has wasted far bigger sums that never offered anything like the returns of the CoW.

      What really stood out for me in that programme was the faith that local people have invested, they deserve to see this project supported until it is clear beyond any doubt that it will not go ahead.

      Perhaps what I found really distasteful about this programme was smart-arses from Cardiff undermining this project, perhaps because they feel investment of this size shouldn’t be taking place in Ebbw Vale!

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