As regular visitors to this blog will know, I am very critical of Welsh housing associations. They are no longer serving an indigenous demand but are instead importing the flotsam and jetsam of England’s cities and towns. This results in Welsh towns and villages becoming unwilling hosts to an often undesirable element with no good reason to be in Wales.
In order to make my concerns known – and also in the hope of getting more information – I have been in touch with our political representatives and I have also written letters to newspapers. One such letter, to the Western Mail, was passed on to Nick Bennett, chief executive of Community Housing Cymru, because the Letters Editor felt that it contained “serious allegations”. Bennett then e-mailed his reply directly to me. (“Sent using BlackBerry”, natch.) A way of doing things I had never before encountered. Anyway, without going into every example of dissimulation I shall extract a few of Nick Bennett’s answers for closer analysis.
In response to the fundamental criticism of importing its tenants from England Bennett wrote: ” . . . this is a perennial chestnut. It was once raised by Neath Port Talbot and all the Associations analysed all lettings during the year and found no-one who had come from England. Usually what has happened is locals have returned home, or someone has moved into the private rented sector, lived there for a few years and then got on the waiting list.”
What absolute bollocks! “No-one who had come from England”. This is insulting to the people of Neath and Port Talbot, telling them that people they’ve never seen before the housing association(s) imported them have either been there all the time or else were born there. They obviously weren’t looking properly!
Referring to the area around Swansea’s High Street railway station, which I had referred to as ‘Skid Row’, due to the drunks, drug addicts, prostitutes and beggars to be found there, Nick Bennett was equally categorical: ” . . . we are not aware that any of them are Housing Association tenants”. Has Nick Bennett been to Swansea and demanded the address of every toe-rag infesting the High Street area? Of course not.
To believe Nick Bennett Welsh housing associations do not house people from England nor do they provide accommodation for anyone other than teetotal clergymen and school ma’ams. Faced with any criticism his reaction is flat and foolish denial. He does himself no favours. Fortunately, when he strayed from flat denial he rather gave himself away, with the following statement: “There are over 2 million people on waiting lists for social housing”.
When I first read that I thought, ‘Good God, just about everybody in Wales is on the waiting list – what’s going on?’ Then of course I realised that this figure was for ‘Englandandwales’. But what concern should England’s waiting list be for the chief executive of Social Housing Cymru? The obvious answer is none. But this slip confirms for me that our housing associations are locked into an England and Wales framework. (For I guarantee that Scotland and Northern Ireland are excluded.)
From this conclusion we can logically assume that our housing associations have links with English bodies that would like to ‘relocate’ some of their clients. In serving England so well our housing associations are not only blighting Welsh communities and engaging in social engineering they are also spending large sums of money that should be used where it is more needed.
The time has now come for the Welsh Assembly Government to use its newly acquired powers over housing in Wales to deal with our errant housing associations and to come up with a system that serves us rather than our neighbour. And before they start, a word of advice: spend some Objective One funding on a salt mine before talking with Nick Bennett.