Feb 292016
 

I’m off to Swansea this weekend, treating myself and the wife to a wee break. (Well, actually, the wife’s paying for the hotel.) I shall visit relatives and friends and go watch the Swans playing Norwich (son’s treating me!). So it will be at least a week until I put up my next post.

In the meantime, enjoy these tit-bits from hither and yon and have a good St. David’s Day. I might pop over to Wrecsam for the parade there, or maybe down to Aber’.

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DAWN BOWDEN AM?

Some of you will know by now that Dawn Bowden has been selected as the Labour Party candidate for Merthyr and Rhymni in May’s Assembly elections. If you haven’t heard – and even if you have – you’re probably wondering who the hell she is.

Around this time last year I also got to wondering, because I was told that she’d Dawn Bowden 3been promised a place in the Assembly, and although the seats suggested were Islwyn and Caerffili, my source was adamant that her elevation would be stitched up with a women-only shortlist. This prompted me to make enquires, resulting in a mention for Ms Bowden in my post ‘Welsh’ Labour And A Milking System Unknown To Farmers. And lo! it came to pass . . .

On the right you’ll see two screen-captured Twitter profiles for Ms Bowden, the ‘Before’ image taken at around 19:30 on Saturday, the ‘After’ around 00:30 on Sunday. (Thanks to ‘S’ for tipping me off.) There are significant changes in the second profile.

First, the reference to loving the unions is gone. Second, she has changed out of the Brizzle City shirt – a dead giveaway for her origins. Third, she is no longer a socialist. (Rhodri Morgan’s ‘clear red water’ seems to be flowing the other way at the moment.) Fourth, she has removed the reference to @Carrageryr, aka Martin Eaglestone, her current beau and another Labour insider. Gone with the reference to Eaglestone is the mention of being step-mother to his children by an earlier wife in Gwynedd. (Or at least I assumed they were his.)

The new profile was obviously put up in a hurry; such a hurry that she couldn’t tell us the full title of her job with UNISON or even get the spelling right for the party she represents. Maybe the champagne had gone to her head. No doubt everything has been put right by now.

Dawn Bowden is obviously a Labour loyalist first and foremost, knowing little about Wales, and even less about Merthyr. Just another Labourite on the make who’s come through the system of Unions and Third Sector, the kind of woman who’s always banging on about ‘the people’ but rarely gets to meet them because she lives in a Labour cocoon where she only mixes with her own kind.

Her success in Merthyr came about because the sitting AM, Huw Lewis, surprised quite a few people last month by suddenly announcing he was standing down. I won’t go into the reasons for this decision, suffice to say that they are of a delicate and intimate nature, the kind of messy personal relationships of which Ms Bowden and Martin Eaglestone have experience.

The other two women on the Merthyr and Rhymni shortlist were Carol Estebanez, who is also from that magic land, ‘Away’, and also helps prop up a ‘Welsh’ Labour Party having serious problems finding Welsh candidates of any quality; and then there was Anna McMorrin, who worked as an advisor to the dickheads down Cardiff docks and who is / was having an affair with Alun Davies AM former Natural Resources Minister.

The decision to impose an all-women shortlist in order to guarantee Ms Bowden her promised seat did not go down well with the bruvvers in Merthyr. Misogynists almost to a man who see La Bowden as the beginning of the end, for not only do the long shadows of council merger creep ever closer, but in the distance can be heard the heavy tread of the Westminster executioner coming to take an axe to the Merthyr constituency.

There’s nothing here to surprise anyone who knows how the Labour Party operates in Wales, but I still have three questions:

1/ Is ‘Welsh’ Labour now an official branch of UNISON?

2/ How much of the donkey vote will turn out for this latest parachutist?

3/ Will the Merthyr bruvvers – and, indeed, the disgruntled local sissters – canvass for Dawn Bowden?

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OXBRIDGE AND THE WELSH CRINGE

The aforementioned Huw Lewis is still the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Education Minister, and something (else) that causes him sleepless nights is the fact that so few of us aspire to Oxford and Cambridge universities. To listen to him and others who talk through their back heads the Welsh education system should be geared to getting as many as possible of our young people to Oxbridge.

So I was intrigued to see this item on the BBC website by Gareth Jones, a producer with BBC Wales, talking about the Oxbridge ‘success’ rate of his old school in Swansea, Olchfa Comprehensive. Though what I found most interesting, and disturbing, was that hardly any of those who went from Olchfa to Oxford and Cambridge returned to Wales.

Olchfa

And yet, this is how it must be in a colonial relationship. Wealth gravitates to the centre, where power and influence is also concentrated. The peripheries provide raw materials and manpower, holiday destinations and other benefits for the centre. This is how it was in Rome and every empire since.

Which means that Huw Lewis and all the other cringers, all those desperate to show ‘our English friends’ that we’re (almost) as good as them, want us to pay for our brightest and best to leave Wales and never return – and we are expected to be ever so grateful! This, remember, is ‘the Welsh Government’.

Here’s a better suggestion, Lewis . . . Why don’t you and your half-wit, forelock-tugging colleagues try to shake off your inferiority complex and start putting Welsh interests first. And to give you a clue where to start, subsidising a brain drain does not serve the Welsh national interest.

And if you aren’t serving the Welsh national interest then you really have no right to call yourselves ‘the Welsh Government’.

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TOURISM PAYING ITS WAY

Regular readers will know that I have firm views on tourism in Wales. Basically, I believe that it is a colonialist activity from which few Welsh people benefit, and that it is also destroying Welsh identity. In fact, from a patriotic perspective, I see nothing to be said in favour of the tourism Wales suffers today.

This unregulated and destructive ‘industry’ is doing irreparable harm to our homeland. Just look at the photograph below showing hordes of tourists swarming up to the summit of Snowdon, having been brought up almost all the way by the vile little train. Shouldn’t we be treating our beauty spots and our iconic mountains with more respect? Perhaps we would, but of course we Welsh have no control over the tourism ravaging our country.

Snowdon tourists

In Italy they do things better. With tourism taxes in various locations that suffer from too many gawpers and clickers. The latest moves are to limit the numbers of visitors to the Cinque Terre area. And as the article I’ve linked to tells us, big cruise liners are now banned from the Venice lagoon.

Elsewhere, in Italy and other countries, tourists are expected to put money into the public purse, not just the pockets of those taking the tourists’ money, who may be foreign companies or individuals from outside the country. The article I used tells us that such economic pragmatism is not limited to Italy, for “Bhutan doesn’t limit its number of tourists, but it does force them – through package tours – to spend $250 a day in high season ($200 in low), which apparently funds education, healthcare and so on.”

Here in Wales, when the subject of a tourist tax was mentioned last year, a spokesman for the industry was quite receptive to the idea – “providing the cash raised was ploughed back into the sector”. Er, no.

Wales has a problem with tourism. We have too much of it causing too much damage and bringing too few benefits to Welsh people and Welsh communities. So let’s tax tourism, thereby reducing the unmanageable numbers, and invest the money raised in those areas suffering the worst.

One way of using this income would be to help young locals buy homes in areas where tourism, and the resultant irruption of good-lifers and retirees, has priced them out of the property market. But it would be insane to ‘invest’ the money raised from tourism to encourage more tourism!

Of course the argument usually employed against a tourism tax is the same one used against raising council tax on holiday homes, which is that such measures would reduce the numbers of tourists coming from England.

I have given this argument a great deal of thought. It has caused me many a sleepless night. But for the life of me, I don’t get it. Because from where I’m sitting, Welsh people and Welsh communities seeing financial and other benefits from fewer tourists is a win-win situation.

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 IS ‘WELLNESS’ A SYNONYM FOR PRIVATE HEALTH CARE?

Those of you lucky enough to live in James-shire, the entertainment capital of Wales, may already be aware of the goodies coming your way in the very vague form of the Wellness village, or the Wellness centre, planned for Delta Lakes in Llanelli. I say ‘very vague’ because even if you are aware of it, I guarantee you don’t know who’s involved and what it’s all about.

Meryl

MERYL GRAVELL

There are so many interlinking and overlapping organisations involved with this project that I shall not attempt to list them, let alone guess at how they might be connected. Instead, I refer you to a piece that appeared on the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board website in December 2015, and this article from last week’s Llanelli Herald which quotes the one and only Meryl Gravell, Mark James’ plenipotentiary extraordinary to us mere mortals.

If I was cynical (and I thank God I’m not!) I might suggest that what’s happening is this: The leisure centre is being demolished and a new one built; but to get as much lolly as possible bells and whistles are being added in order to promote the project as a ‘Wellness Centre’ incorporating a health centre, a hotel and conference centre, facilities for various ‘therapies’, etc.

Which could result in some poor bugger struggling down there with a bad back, going through the wrong door and finding himself confronted by a Siberian shaman; or perhaps getting legless with a bunch of middle managers down for a conference.

And if I wanted to be really, really cynical I might wonder who is involved in this project that isn’t among the many bodies named. For even the most trusting soul might have his or her suspicions raised by this document on South Llanelli, adopted by Carmarthenshire County Council in December 2014, which has this to say of Delta Lakes (on page 25): “Other related uses (eg healthcare /service sector – social and/or private health care) may also be considered appropriate”.

“Private health care”! Can we hypothesise that the undisclosed ‘partners’ in this project might be private health care providers? Though let me say that I have no objection in principle to private health care. Who can possibly object as long as such companies build hospitals and other health facilities using money provided by investors, banks, and those subscribing to private health care schemes?

But this is Wales and, more importantly, Carmarthenshire, so there must be a possibility that a company providing private health care has been wooed to Delta Lakes with the promise of spanking new facilities funded with public money, sixty million pounds of it.

And this being Wales it will also be trumpeted as a great coup that BUPA or Spire has chosen to ‘invest’ in Llanelli and Carmarthenshire. The massive investment from the public purse that underpins and explains this ‘coup’ will of course be downplayed if not excised entirely from the hyperbolic narrative.

So I suggest that instead of trying to confuse the public, those behind this project explain it better, and give us the names of all the ‘partners’. If only to allay the suspicions many hold.

Because Carmarthenshire in recent years has seen too many projects pushed through in secret. Loans have been made (and lost), and planning permission has been granted, on a nod and a wink. Small wonder that some ask if backhanders might explain this curious methodology.

And seeing as this Delta Lakes project – whatever it is – has the enthusiastic support of Mark James and Meryl Gravell we’re also entitled to ask if the council’s favourite business adviser, Robin Cammish, is involved.

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A LITTLE HOME IN THE WEST – RENTED FROM AN ‘INVESTOR’?

I like a man who can’t be fobbed of with flim-flam and bullshit, and one such man is regular correspondent Wynne Jones down in Cardigan. Not only is Wynne alert to flim-flam but he’s also very well organised, knowing what questions to ask and to whom they should be directed.

Not so long ago, after receiving information from Wynne, I wrote about Pembrokeshire Housing and its subsidiary Mill Bay Homes, first in Social Housing, Time to End This Lunacy (December 14), and then with Mill Bay Homes, Tai Ceredigion, Answers Needed (January 03).

To briefly explain, Pembrokeshire Housing is a publicly-funded – £27m since 2008 in Social Housing Grant alone – housing association or Registered Social Landlord (RSL). Mill Bay Homes, a ‘subsidiary’ of Pembrokeshire Housing builds and sells properties on the open market, with the money made from this activity going to the parent company for it to invest in more units of social housing . . . or at least, that’s the theory.

But as Wynne found out in a recent reply from Helga Warren, Head of Housing Funding for the ‘Welsh’ Government, Pembrokeshire Housing has yet to see a penny of the money Mill Bay Homes has made from five private developments! Admitted in the extract below, taken from a larger document (click to enlarge).

Wynne Jones Helga Warren

 

 

 

As I mentioned in my earlier posts, Mill Bay Homes advertises its properties as ideal investments for Buy-to-let landlords. Some reading this might think it odd for the subsidiary of a publicly-funded RSL to be encouraging such activity, I certainly think there’s something not right here.

Especially when we realise that Mill Bay Homes also administers the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Help to Buy – Cymru scheme, intended to help people, presumably young people, buy their first new home. Inevitably, Wynne and I wondered if ‘investors’ had been allowed to avail themselves of the Help to Buy scheme.

Ms Warren came to the rescue with this assurance: “Help to Buy is operated by Help to Buy (Wales) Ltd. They carry out extensive checks on behalf of Welsh Government as part of the affordability calculations for any potential buyer. As part of this assessment customers are advised that buy-to-let investments are strictly prohibited under the scheme. Scheme documentation clearly indicates that any fraudulent application for Help to Buy (Wales) assistance could be liable to criminal prosecution. Any fraudulent claims uncovered as part of our monitoring and governance arrangements, will always require immediate repayment of the shared equity loan assistance”.

Read it carefully. There is ‘advice’, there is ‘documentation’, but there seem to be no real checks. As things stand, someone from outside of Wales could buy a new property from Mill Bay Homes, taking advantage of the Help to Buy – Wales scheme, and use it as a holiday home – because nobody is checking. It is a system yelling to be abused.

But even this is only part of the much wider problem we have with housing associations, which in Wales have received, since 2008, close on £800m in Social Housing Grant alone. Then there’s Dowry Gap funding projected to cost £1.3bn and Welsh Quality Housing Standard funding of an estimated £1.7bn. Finally, there’s the Housing Finance Grant totalling £120m.

These are huge amounts of money in a poor country like Wales, so surely the ‘Welsh’ Government insists on every penny being accounted for . . . umm, no. The ‘Welsh’ Government dishes out the cash and seems to say something along the lines of, ‘If you get a chance, you might want to send in a report telling us how you’ve spent the money. No need for any nonsense like differentiating capital from revenue, or explaining where the money’s actually gone, all we need is good news to use as propaganda and to justify us giving you the money in the first place’.

There is no official oversight or monitoring. Housing associations regulate themselves. No one in the ‘Welsh’ Government seems to give a damn as to whether or not billions of pounds of public funding are being properly spent.

Keep up the good work, Wynne.

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‘EVERYTHING MUST GO’ SAYS CYNGOR CEREDIGION PwC 

Someone else with whom I’m in contact down west tells me of a curious partnership that has developed between Cyngor Ceredigion and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC). It seems the council has retained bean-counters PwC to identify areas where cuts can be made – for a fee of 16% of identified savings.

And as in neighbouring Carmarthenshire, openness and telling the public what you’re doing in their name comes very low down on the list of priorities, with things being stitched up at private meetings.

Though this report from the ‘Nazis’ Cambrian News is able to tell us that by late January the council had already paid PwC £963,630. If my maths is up to it, this must mean savings already of over £6m. (And this must be delicate or even dangerous work, because it looks as if the reporters need to use pseudonyms.)

When you come to think about it, it’s a bloody strange system. This company is paid by cuts it identifies. So let’s say Ceredigion spends £100m a year on education, PwC could argue that, ‘The little buggers have all got iPads and smart phones nowadays – let them get their education from Google and Wikipedia‘, and make themselves a quick £16m! I could do that!

Then again, maybe there’s a simple explanation for it all.

Cuts have been forced on our local authorities by the Labour regime in Cardiff docks, and every time cuts are announced rural – i.e. non-Labour – councils take the hit, with Labour-voting councils being protected from the worst.

Now it just so happens that PwC is a major donor to the Labour Party. This article from the Guardian (12.11.2014) explains that Labour received £600,000 of advice from PwC on forming its tax policies – from a company that specialises in tax avoidance schemes. This article from the New Statesman (19.02.2015) tells us that, apart from trade unions, PwC is Labour’s biggest donor.

Ceredigion PwC

I was surprised to find no mention of Ceredigion on the PwC website

As we all know, few individuals and no companies give large sums of money to a political party without expecting something in return. I guarantee that PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP is no exception.

Can’t you just imagine the phone call from London to Cardiff: ‘Listen now, Carwell, PwC have been very generous to the party, so we’d like you to put some business their way, some out-of-way place where nobody’ll ask too many question. Got that?

Though that still might not explain why a non-Labour authority would agree to go along with this lunacy, so maybe the responsibility lies within Ceredigion. Can you help?

                                             ———————————————————————

Of course, none of our local authorities would need to cut services if the ‘Welsh’ Government wasn’t so profligate with it’s meagre resources; especially with the funding it showers on housing associations and the Third Sector, money that the ‘Welsh Government loses all interest in once it’s been handed over.

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Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus / Happy St. David’s Day

 

  25 Responses to “Shorts & Updates for St. David’s Day”

  1.  

    Nail on the head mate, the true face of Labour in Wales in all its glory. Nepotism, Trade Union stitch ups, rule changes to disallow better women candidates standing and a candidate parachuted into a safe seat, but guaranteed to win because voters mistake them for socialists and the only serious opposition is UKIP.

    Dawn’s a very lucky girl, no connection with the area but guaranteed a job as our AM until she retires all while taking home a minimum of £54,000 a year, more twice the average local salary. She’ll also get two taxpayer funded pensions from the Welsh Assembly and Unison when she retires on top of all that. Contrast that with the majority of people she’ll represent who are fortunate to have full time jobs and will only get a State Pension and even that’s reliant on them reaching the ever increasing retirement age.

    You asked why UKIP is popular in the Valleys; this type of shameless stitch up with no consequences for Labour is certainly a reason. What I wouldn’t give for a decent Independent candidate to vote and campaign for in May.

    Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus / Happy St. David’s Day to you all!

  2.  

    Is Bowden the latest brick in the wall?Huw Irranca Davies(a rising star in WM) parachuted into the assembly to obviously take the leadership off Carwyn Jones,who’s upsetting his London bosses too often.The lab. policy seems to be to fill all Welsh seats with yes-men(women) ,this applies to assembly and W.M. seats.If they are not English,they must at least act as though they are-just look at Doughty et al.I am seriously worried for the future of Cymru.Thanks again Jac, for you insightful informative writings-Diolch Yn fawr

    •  

      I wouldn’t worry so much about Cymru as about Labour, a party in decline, devoid of ideas, and finding it increasingly difficult to find good, local candidates. That is good news for Cymru.

  3.  

    Got a vote in Merthyr? Vote for Brian Thomas, Plaid Cymru,who is a pro-independence nationalist.

    •  

      Problem is that you and I don’t have votes in Merthyr, and too many of those who do will vote Labour. But as I’ve said elsewhere, Labour is in decline.

    •  

      If I lived in Merthyr I would without a doubt

  4.  

    Thanks Jac. We are working well as a team here.

  5.  

    To Rhymney Lad , didn’t Jeff Edwards stand as an independent against Lewis, and Jeff still lives in Aberfan.

  6.  

    Ms Bowden has the appearance of a parachuted candidate, sadly she might still win that seat because there are still way too many people who vote Labour out of a perverse sense of loyalty – “they safeguard our benefits and health service, see”. – while the community rots away slowly.

    As for Oxbridge, well they churn out top class tossers with well developed verbal fluency, able to present well but underneath all that floss ? nothing worth bothering with. Sadly Lewis is just admitting that it’s still all about being well connected, and he should have had the cojones to tackle that – an inferiority complex hasn’t done him any good, has it ? Going forward Wales need to reclaim its universities which are currently serving the Anglo/ globalist agenda, especially in the western locations by changing the character of places like Bangor, Aber, Lampeter, Carmarthen and possibly Swansea. Cardiff is already a “goner”, so far up its own arse with its obsession with Russell Group and “international standing”, mostly self serving posturing by overpaid senior execs. Cardiff Met and USW are running along the same “market-led” path and may also end up doing anything but what they were originally intended to do.

    As for tourism, I don’t think we can sort out its place in our priorities unless we can create alternative industries. As a starting point no mealy mouthed tourism-related objection should be allowed to inhibit properly designed industrial/ commercial development. And I DON’T mean wind farms all over the bloody place, but if people like Clive Hughes comes up with viable propositions then give them the go-ahead instead of letting vested interests get in the way.

    And now on to “wellness”, well that old buffalo Ms Gravell looks good on whatever she’s taking. It’s probably the whiff of a swellen wallet as her “interests” flourish without any inhibitions about deploying the public purse for the “greater good”.

    That housing association you touch on looks like its sailing close to the wind, but there again they know that there is no mandate other than don’t get caught ! Their neighbours at Newcastle Emlyn seem to have stepped through a few rotten boards – Chief Exec on “leave”, newly recruited Director already buggered off back to the legal profession, Consultants doing “review” and Assembly watching with interest. Perhaps the Assembly should have watched sooner and things would not have degenerated to such a state.

    And finally, Ceredigion, bless them. Major area of support for EU, some cynics say it’s because farmers do so well out of CAP, and Council gets lots of dosh from various EU pots either direct or via the Bay. Well, they need it if they are so hell bent on pissing it away on PWC, Profligate Waste Corporation, bunch of puffed up auditors who have a track record of not even doing that correctly. Whose idea was it to even let these bastards in for that preliminary chat ? or was the high command at the County Hall short of a nice lunch date that day and went along for the ride. Some ride, classic case of paying a fortune for a load of old horseshit that they could have got at a reasonable price from local Cob breeders.

    Enough now I’m beginning to feel a bout of nastiness coming on so I’ll buzz off to Guido and bait some Anglos to drain some pressure !!. Have a nice break Jac, and hope the Swans have a run of good results over next few weeks to keep your happiness store topped up.

  7.  

    Informative and entertaining as always, Jac. I share many of Rhymney Lad’s frustrations and don’t even know whether to vote in May 2016. Like Bowden in Merthyr, the Labour candidate in Neath, Jeremy Miles, can bet his house and pension on getting elected and being there as long as he likes. How many other people can say that about their work – that they have security and reward beyond the dreams of the average working man or woman? Yet it has been ordained they are not paid enough – unbelievable!

    To rub salt in the wound allow me to post an extract from an article by our old friend Martin Shipton, who in this case produced something worthy of an investigative journalist. It’s about how, for many AMs, it’s not enough to win the proverbial lottery, but how their family members are brought in on the act too. The Tories and Labour are the chief exponents of this shameless nepotism, just to add to the cronyism that these robbers are guilty of as well.

    “Wales Online 9 June 2014:

    A third of the National Assembly’s 60 AMs, including four Cabinet Ministers, the Opposition leader and the Government Chief Whip, have employed family members during the current Assembly term, we can reveal.

    Yet while members of the newly elected European Parliament have been barred from employing relatives, the Assembly is currently maintaining the line that imposing such a ban would be legally challengeable on the grounds that it would infringe the human rights of politicians’ relatives.

    Cabinet Ministers Alun Davies, John Griffiths, Edwina Hart and Carl Sargeant have all employed family members durimg the Assembly term which began in May 2011, as has Welsh Conservative Opposition leader Andrew RT Davies and Government Chief Whip Janice Gregory.

    Of the 20 AMs who have employed their own relatives, 10 are Labour, nine Conservative and one Plaid Cymru. One third of the 30-strong Labour group employ relatives, while only five of 14-strong Tory group do not.”

  8.  

    What’s actually happened to/with Huw Lewis anyway? A few years back he wanted to be Labour’s local Welsh branch leader with backing from Touhig and Murphy, now he’s packing it in.

  9.  

    As Jac notes, Carmarthenshire has cornered the market in the entertainment market, and the curtain is just going up on a brand new show featuring Meryl’s “wellness village”. The local press was last week awash with some truly bizarre New Age drivel as the PR merchants got to work, with Meryl declaring, “There are five ways to wellness, connecting with others, being physically active, ongoing learning, mindfulness and giving”.

    The press release modestly describes Meryl as being “the driving force in not only developing the wellness village, but in making sure it is delivered…her innovation and commitment to the project is now bearing fruit”.

    When Jane Tremllett, the county council’s Executive Board member for health and an old pal of Meryl’s was asked what a wellness centre was, she wasn’t exactly sure. “I think a lot of it is looking at how we diagnose problems, very much in a very modern way”.

    Whatever it is – a hotel, conference centre, business facilities, Mongolian shamanic therapists and a zumba class or two – Meryl says that it will now cost £100 million (the figure was put at £60 million just before Christmas).

    The whole thing is being run by something called the ARCH Wellness and Wellbeing working group, chaired by Meryl. The working group is a subset of something called ARCH, a group made up of the local health boards, Carmarthenshire county council, etc. That in turn is apparently one of the “streams” which come under the Swansea Bay City Region – deputy chair Meryl Gravell.

    In a separate press release, the City Region has announced that it has submitted a “City Deal” bid to turn Swansea into an “Internet Coast”. Meryl and Co are asking the government and EU for £500 million in cash. The PR notes that the internet has transformed communications. “Now imagine the same principle applied to future energy systems, to health and wellbeing and any number of other sectors”.

    What could be clearer?

    For anyone depressed after Meryl’s recent announcement that she would be standing down as county councillor next year, it seems that she won’t be going anywhere, but is determined to remain in the driving seat of ARCH, the wellbeing stuff and the City Region, where she will be joined by her old friend Edwina Hart.

    Hundreds of millions of pounds being managed by a Russian doll set up of quangos with no democratic accountability or scrutiny, and limitless opportunities for patronage.. What could possibly go wrong?

    •  

      “Russian doll set up” indeed. It makes me wonder it’s made so deliberately complex in order to deter casual investigation and scrutiny.

      In addition to the complexity of the relationships between the bodies we know about there is the added mystery of the unnamed ‘partners’.

      You don’t have to be suspicious to believe that we are not being told everything.

  10.  

    On Price Waterhouse Coopers…

    I just Googled “PriceWaterhouseCooper Council savings”.

    Oh. My. Word…

    Powys, Wrexham, Ceredigion, Merthyr, all handing over huge sums to PWC in order to save money. I’m not saying that there’s malicious operating behind it (though, this is Wales. Maybe I’m being naive), but I never thought that the private sector would make so much money out of government cuts. Then again if you think about the standard of our national politicians and civil services, there’s not that much hope for local goverment to achieve this on their own, is there?

    The problem with asking a private company to find savings is that those savings will be recommended purely on financial grounds, giving you the situation in Ceredigion where Tregaron is now almost an empty shell when it comes to council services. With Tregaron no longer availabel for cuts, the PWC bus has moved on to Llandysul.

    Mind you, as an illustration of what you say about Plaid Cymru, Jac, Tregaron and Llandysul also happen to be the big Plaid strongholds in Ceredigion, or at least, they used to be. Yet the Plaid run council has allowed themselves to be bounced into decimating their own heartland communities. I’ve heard rumour around Tregaron that Plaid “lost” Tregaron in the Euro elections. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear the same for Tregaron *and* Llandysul at the Assembly vote later this year. And if that happens, I can’t see Elin Jones getting back in.

    I think that Plaid have made a huge problem for themselves in Ceredigion *and* Carmarthenshire, and will only survive in Gwynedd because there’s no credible alternative.

    •  

      Well done Bob, you’ve shed light on the nonsense going on in the name of “efficiency” “austerity” blah blah throughout Wales. Not much evidence of politicians taking any of the strain, just us daft service users.

      Will any of this be remembered at election time ? not f***in’ likely ! The same old cliques will prevail with some changing of the guard to allow “rising stars” like the aforementioned Ms Bowden to get a few shifts at the trough, and one is led to believe that Ms Delyth Evans is back in the frame for Assembly service having proved her tip-top scrutiny skills at Cantref Housing Association, which is now subject of assorted enquiries.

      Lovely stuff this governance. Soon all the dough will be ring fenced for A.M and senior lackey salaries, everything else will have been dumped for reasons of efficiency. Helter skelter down a one way street to utter madness.

    •  

      Actually, I think calling in PWC is a sign of lack of governance and ineffective leadership. A failure of authority in the elected chamber.

      Like any organisation who wishes to cut costs, the people best positioned to identify where costs can be reduced is the front-line staff. Particularly as it’s staff costs that are the issue. I’m sure there’ll be manual grades approaching retirement who’d jump at the opportunity to do less hours, or youngsters eager to do a bit of college study (substituting study leave for paid hours is also tax free for those who want to get the qualifications) and of course there are staff who might be thinking of jumping ship for greener pastures anyway, so why not give them the opportunity to do so, or job share. Of course, once such initiatives are introduced ‘manpower planning’ and ‘the decision making point of engagement’ and ‘the professionally qualified authority’ is devolved to lower grades, automated, or shared. Thus allowing senior executives to be culled.

      PWC will no doubt come up with exactly the same suggestions after having banked the fee. Jac, however, has not paid me anything for this insight. It is also likely that PwC recommendations will be sugared for the spivs, and hived off (hidden costs and blind to audit) into the third sector, where no doubt displaced senior executives will find nest.

    •  

      I didn’t know about the other authorities, but I only did a cursory search as I already had the info I needed.

      I haven’t been following Plaid’s performance in Ceredigion too closely, but next door in Carmarthenshire they have disappointed everyone who put faith in them by letting Mark James and Meryl Gravell carry on as if nothing had changed. There will be a political price to pay for this unless Plaid is planning to confront James and Gravell before May.

    •  

      It probably won’t come as too much of a surprise to learn that Price Waterhouse are official sponsors of the Welsh Local Government Association:

      http://www.wlga.gov.uk/sponsors

    •  

      In other words, the Labour Party, again.

  11.  

    M Gravell must have just seen the Swans result judging by that grin on her chops !

    •  

      Not sure about that, but there’s something spooky about that smile. Like something out of a low budget horror flick, the ‘strange’ aunt who goes berserk and butchers everyone at a family gathering.

    •  

      perhaps that’s what she’s got in mind for this wellness joint – Llanelli’s answer to the Bates motel, but she’ll do the business personally rather than have a “Norman” out front !

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