Media Lies and Propaganda

Two weeks ago, soon after it was suggested that Cyngor Gwynedd shoCambrian News letters 1uld consider raising council tax on holiday homes to 200%, two letters appeared in the Meirionnydd edition of the Cambrian News. (Owned by the Trinity Mirror Group.) They can be found on the right, just click to enlarge.

I responded (as did someone else) and my letter was published last week. It’s the one on the left, again, click to enlarge.

Cambrian News letters 2This week’s issue carried a third letter on the subject, which can be found on the right. (You know what to do.) In the final paragraph, writer Stephen Smith calls my letter “frightening”Cambrian News letters 3, and links me with the burning of second homes! Yet I only mentioned this in order to ridicule the writer of an earlier letter for predicting “property burning starting again”! Either Stephen Smith hasn’t read the earlier letters properly or else he’s deliberately misinterpreting what was said, and by whom. I’m amazed the Cambrian News didn’t delete this grossly offensive final paragraph. It is defamatory and without foundation.

Then there’s the addresses. In publishing my letter the Cambrian News gave my full address minus only the house number. In a street of just twelve houses mine would not be difficult to find. Yet the address for one of the letters published a week earlier, from ‘Pat Beaumont’, is no more specific than ‘Shropshire’. While the letter from Stephen Smith used the address of a caravan site! Why publish a letter from what is clearly not the writer’s permanent address? (Sunbeach Holiday Park in Llwyngwril is owned by Allens Caravans of Warwickshire.)

My initial reaction was to wonder if there really is a Stephen Smith. (There is.) Worth asking because the Cambrian News has ‘form’ when it comes to printing phoney letters. It goes without saying that these are always anti-Welsh or anti-nationalist. The most notorious example in my experience happened about 15 or so years ago. (Regrettably, I have lost the documentation, unless my wife has put it ‘safe’.) A letter was published purporting to have been written by a Jew, who had suffered in the Holocaust, and now lived in ‘Upper State New York’. The writer claimed to have been to the National Eisteddfod and been horrified at what he found. The young people there reminded him of the Hitler Youth!

The letter was riddled with absurdities and inconsistencies. Not least ‘Upper State New York’. For as most of you will know, the term Americans use is ‘Upstate New York’, but that’s not an acceptable mailing address. So I wrote to the editor asking why she hadn’t picked up on the glaring errors that were so obvious to me. The response I got made me suspect that the local editor wasn’t overly concerned with the almost laughable errors. Which then raised uncomfortable questions: Does she agree with the sentiments expressed? Was the letter cooked up in the offices of the Cambrian News?

To cut a long story short, I wrote to the name and address given, making sure to put my return address on the back of my envelope. A couple of weeks later my letter was returned by the US postal authorities with ‘no such address’ written across it . . . and accompanied by two other letters sent from Wales to the same address. One was from a woman prominent at the time in Cymdeithas yr Iaith (can’t recall her name), and the other was from the now deceased wife of prolific letter-writer Trefor Davies of Penrhyndeudraeth. I returned both letters to their writers, and had a nice phone call from Mrs Davies in thanks.

However one cuts this story it is a damning indictment of the Cambrian News. For even if that letter had been genuine, the writer who and what he said he was, the content was such utter, insulting bollocks that the letter should have been immediately binned. It was telling thousands of readers of the Cambrian News that their children and grandchildren were no better than Nazis; that our National Eisteddfod is not a lot different to a Nuremberg Rally; and that Welsh culture is racist and fascistic.

So where does this take us with the debate on council tax for second homes? We are already – in Gwynedd, anyway – having a debate over raising council tax on holiday homes. With power over stamp duty now transferred to the ‘Welsh’ Government it won’t be long before a debate opens on how best to use this new power. Yet there are those who would like to strangle such debates in their infancy by, for example, raising the spectre of an arson campaign. That’s because those I speak of want Wales to remain a colony of England. It would be sad if our media were to collaborate with this agenda. But not surprising.

P.S. If Stephen Smith, of Sunbeach Holiday Park, reads this, then I would like an apology, Mr Smith, for deliberately and provocatively linking my name – in one, unpunctuated sentence – with criminal offences.

UPDATE 16.11.13: I rang the Cambrian News on Friday morning and spoke with the editor. She saw nothing wrong with the final paragraph of Stephen Smith’s letter. Our conversation was brief because she had to go somewhere. Below you’ll find my letter in response to Smith. I shall report later if it was published, and published unedited.

28 thoughts on “Media Lies and Propaganda

  1. Thanks to you both – Red – the bungalows are built to Builders Regs – cavity walls- double glazing and pitched roofs and do fulfill the criteria for a residential dwelling construction wise -I I fully accept in my case to only use it for the purpose it was built- I have always understood that – my fears of increasing the Council Tax have now been reduced. I do declare the income to the Tax people so everything is above board. Thank you both for easing my concerns. I like you object to anybody having a second home to only use for 12 weeks or so a year whilst so many of our young people have to move away from their home town because the y cannot find anywhere to live.

  2. Sorry Jac this is one issue I don’t totally agree with you. Living in Swansea we own a holiday bungalow in Mumbles – the Council has an exclusion rule -forbidding it to be lived in for 2 months per year as the Council do not want them to become Residential dwellings.We let it for self- catering holidays – we pay the full element of the Council Tax for the 10 months we can use it – our roads are unadopted and we have no street lights – It is not a second home to us, but a means of income as we are both pensioners – I would strongly resist the Council Tax being doubled.
    I have been successful in getting a detached holiday bungalow being granted 12 month residential f or an elderly lady who had to vacate for 2 months in the winter – others have not been so successful because they lack amenity space.
    My guests do contribute to the local economy and many of them come from the valleys.
    There will be some exceptions and I think we qualify for greater consideration- we are not preventing people from living in them the Council has included a restrictive covenant in our Title Deeds which prevents it

    1. Jac

      We are talking about two different things here. Holiday homes are not a major issue in Swansea, and they certainly have no cultural or linguistic impact there. Which means that the amount to be gained from increasing council tax would be small and there is no reason to do it anyway. Unlike Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Gwynedd, Ynys Mon and Conwy where 30 or 40% of properties in some communities are holiday homes.

    2. Red ²

      Cherry Hinton: Your purpose-built holiday bungalow was not constructed for permanent residency and there is an entry on the title deeds that prevents it from full residential status. In a property such as the one you own, Local Councils are obliged by Law to keep to what they agreed when the site was developed. I cannot give a 100% guarantee that, IF Swansea Council introduces a higher Council Tax rate for second homes, you would be affected but you have an extremely strong case for exemption if it becomes a reality.

  3. Penygadair

    I find it unbelievable that Steven Smith who has had a caravan at Sunbeach for 40 years, and paid not one penny in local taxation, should protest about Council Tax proposals which will not affect him whatsoever.

    No doubt he arrives with a boot full of food from Birmingham,rather than spend locally and, like others of his ilk, tells us how fortunate we are that he honours us with his presence.

    Hope the Cambrian publishes your latest letter to keep the subject alive.

    1. Jac

      If I was writing another letter I’d make the point that in the space of three weeks we have seen two letters, both from people living in England, raising fears of arson attacks, in order to influence a specifically Welsh debate. What fucking arrogance! Can you imagine the response if Welsh people wrote to English newpspapers trying to influence issues that were purely English matters. They’d be told to fuck off. But if we do that we’re racist.

  4. Brychan

    Regarding one of the letters you highlighted to Cambrian News. I have checked up on Sunbeach Holiday Park in Llwyngwiril and found that it is not some independent locally owned establishment, but a branch of a large chain of the Bill Allen dynasty operated out of Wootton Hall, Henley-in-Arden in Warwickshire. Stephen Smith has signed the letter suggesting he is an all-year resident at Sunbeach, which is of course would be contrary to the existing planning restrictions that apply to the site. I have therefore taken the precaution of highlighting the possibility of this planning abuse to Cyngor Gwynedd directly. A similar abuse was found to be evident at a site in the Conwy council area quite recently resulting in the prosecution and closure of a similar unproductive blot on the Welsh landscape.

  5. Penygadair

    Bit late to this discussion. I’m all in favour of 200% Council Tax on second homes but let’s not forget that many of them are registered as business premises. My understanding is that this requires proof that the property has been let for 70 days in a given year yet we all know of such properties which are occupied by the owner only for no more than three weeks and the odd weekend. The whole system is open to abuse.

    I also have to ask what contribution Steven Smith makes to local taxation. Sunbeach at Llwyngwril is an 11 month site; their website showing that it is closed between 7 Jan and 7 Feb. Hence Mr Smith’s caravan cannot be classed as a permanent dwelling and is exempt from Council Tax. I may be wrong, but that is my interpretation of the rules.

    However rules are made to be broken and some caravan sites turn a blind eye to year round occupation where the tenant ids a local person who cannot obtain alternative proper accomodation

    1. Jac

      Smith makes it clear in his letter that he lives somewhere else (presumably England). So why did the Cambrian News publish a letter with such an address?

        1. Jac

          Yes, I found that. That’s one of the ways I confirmed he was real. But you know me, I’m not too good with Facebook, cant’t even reply to comments. Hate FB, untidy, counter-intuitive, I see no point to it.

    2. Red ²

      Quite. Under current legislation, Steven Smith’s holiday home is exempt from Council Tax because he does not own the land, the park is not designated as residential, and no one is allowed to occupy the property for all the of the year. With many mobile holiday homes there is a clause forbidding sub-lets. If the Council increased the CT to 200%, Mr Smith would still pay nothing.
      What is or isn’t liable for Council Tax is decided by Parliament.

  6. D Morris

    Yo Jac! Who’s this chimp talking on behalf of Swansea in Derry on the BBC 6pm news, a Brum talking about how good the City of Culture would be for your city. Wouldn’t it sound better coming from a Jac?

    1. Jac

      I didn’t see it but my guess would be it’s a councillor named Bradley, who supports WBA. The leader of the council supports Liverpool. Which might explain why such slow progress is being made on increasing capacity at the Liberty, or installing the railway station that was promised when the stadium was built. The Liberty is only 200 yards from the main line . . . but 43 miles from Cardiff, so that guarantees no railweay investment.

    1. Jac

      I think he’s in Brum, he’s just got a ‘van at the site he gave as his address. Which makes me wonder why the Cambrian News accepted a letter from what was clearly not the writer’s home address.

  7. Glen

    More English people demanding open access to Wales rivers and streams, with a Mr. Andy Biddulph of Burton on Trent kindly informing us that – “Henry VIII granted the Welsh the same freedoms, liberties, rights , and privileges as enjoyed in England.” So we should all be damn grateful.

    Scroll down to the comments:-

    1. Jac

      Unbelievable attitudes – ‘we want to trample all over your country, and you will be grateful for it’. Note that of the three letters I used in this post two are English living in England, but they have no hesitation in telling us how we should run our country.

  8. Ceiliog

    What is the current Council Tax charge for second homes in the area?
    Where I live, it’s 50% – A disgrace.

    1. Jac

      That’s probably because the council believes second homes don’t use the services as much as other homes. A blinkered consideration. They must look at the bigger picture. For example, a house inhabited for 10 or 12 weeks a year cannot be putting into the local economy as much as a house lived in for 52 weeks. But there are those who’ll argue that second homes put more into the economy! And they’re allowed to get away with this nonsense.

  9. D Morris

    Whatever few nationalistic principles Plaid Cymru had has been deliberately misplaced, it seems PC will stop at nothing to gain a few votes in Leanne’s/Labours southern valleys.

    Concerning your letter Jac, ignore the criticism, those who attack you are mostly from across the border or controlled from across the border. Their uninvited opinions on Welsh issues are insignificant, we must campaign for what is right no matter how contentious these subjects are.

  10. Llew

    To be fair though that’s just one (seemingly odd) guy from the Greens- Plaid isn’t accountable or responsible for what this guy is saying and to join Plaid you have to support their various aims.

    Not that Plaid or Leanne will ever get a good hearing on here, but there we are.

    Jac I thought your letter to the paper was good. These people are reactionaries and abhor the thought of a level playing field.

  11. El T

    Bit of a tangent but I saw this earlier and thought it might it be of interest…

    “When I first moved to Wales, in the early 1990s, Neil Kinnock was still at the helm of the Labour Party and Labour was very much the party of Wales, whatever Plaid Cymru said. But then Tony Blair came along and destroyed the socialist principles of the Labour Party, as we know now, forever. This has allowed PC to make some headway in attracting support away from Labour – although the majority of Labour supporters are still in denial that Labour have abandoned them to join the neo-liberal caucus.

    I still could not recognise them as ecosocialist comrades though! Welsh independence and promotion of a moribund language remained higher in their perceived priorities than social and environmental justice. That has well and truly changed in March 2012 when Leanne Wood became leader of the Party.”

    – Andy Chyba, Green Party of Englandandwales.

    1. Jac

      God Almighty! The Welsh language throws up “interesting conundrums for environmentalists”, says Chyba. And Plaid Cymru might form some kind of alliance with these buggers! These Greens have always been ready to form an alliance with a Plaid Cymru that didn’t bang on about all that ‘Welsh stuff’. What sort of Plaid Cymru is that?

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