In the direct male line my great-grandfather was a David Jones of Meidrim, a small village encountered a few miles after heading north out of Sanclêr to start climbing the ridge after which you drop down into the valley of the Teifi. Young Dai went up to Swansea around 1880 and there met another recent arrival from the west, Madelaine Jones of Cei Newydd; they married and had nine children. It might have been more had Madelaine not been eleven years older than Dai. And of course, for me, growing up in Swansea, Carmarthenshire was just across the Llwchwr. Oft-times as a youth did I stand on the east bank of that mighty stream and gaze longingly over to the land of my ancestors. Well, no, I made that bit up.
I mention this to explain that I have these, and other, connections with Sir Gâr, so I feel entitled to comment on a picture emerging that tells of money being showered around to provide services that are either unneeded (known in Third Sector terminology as ‘Money for old rope’) or else for services that could be provided more efficiently by the public or the private sector (known as ‘Third-rate, Third Sector’).
Lest anyone is in any doubt about exactly what the Third Sector is, let me explain. It is called the ‘Third Sector’ because it is neither the private sector (business / private enterprise), nor is the public sector (government departments, local government, etc). It is, as the name suggests, a third way of doing things, a third option for delivering a service. There has always been a Third Sector of organisations, mainly charities, relying on donations, legacies or whatever to continue with their work. This is fine, and commendable; which of us would refuse to put our hand in our pocket for the NSPCC, RNLI, Barnardo’s, RSPCA, Oxfam, and a host of other bodies that do bloody good work.
Yet in recent decades the Third Sector has grown, and changed in other ways, due partly to government cut-backs on public spending and partly due to a policy of stripping responsibilities from local government. These imperatives have had a number of consequences. Mainly that money being thrown around by central or local government inevitably attracts shysters. While for the public, the result is that the services on which they had previously relied are now of inferior quality and often totally unreliable. There are two other factors involved in Third Sector funding that should worry anyone who sees the dangers in political patronage or wants a secular society. For many of the recipients of public – usually EU – funding have links to the Labour Party; and too many of those being funded to provide services to the vulnerable belong to fundamentalist religious outfits, such as the Towy Community Church; or else are real oddballs who shouldn’t be given a penny, and even without funding, should be warned off any involvement with those who need professional help. (I shall give an example of one these later.)
Apart from my ancestral connection, the reason I’m focusing on Sir Gâr is because it seems to be providing a perfect environment for everything that can go wrong with the Third Sector in Wales to go wrong. Helping to create that environment is a highly dysfunctional council ruled by a vindictive chief executive who, with the help of a few senior officers (plus highly-paid external lawyers) and a clutch of top councillors, has turned the county into a banana republic. As we know, a banana republic encourages all manner of skulduggery. I have written about the county in the recent past, but it’s always worth returning to Sir Gâr.
In my previous post I reported strange goings-on at Llandovery YMCA, after which I was directed to a couple of videos on YouTube. The first of those videos can be found below (or here on YouTube), it gives an idea of what the money is spent on in Sir Gâr. The funding in this video comes from the county’s Rural Development Plan.
The first interviewee is one Tom Duxbury, who teaches “traditional rural skills”. Duxbury is of course English. Next up are Gill Wright and Jane Ryall who run a ‘community company’ offering bunkhouse bed and breakfast. Both are, again, English. The next double act is Jill Tatman (of Llandovery YMCA, mentioned in my previous post) and Lee Mattocks, who have expanded the local YMCA into yet another ‘community enterprise’. I shouldn’t need to tell you that both are English.
In fact, Jill Tatman has done very well out of the public purse. She bought the Grade II listed building known as ‘Windermere House’ on Stone Street in Llandovery . . . and what do think happened then, children? – that’s right! it was refurbished for her using some of the £2.78m allocated to the Llandovery and Llangadog Townscape and Heritage Scheme. Nor must we forget that her little empire is housed in the old YMCA building. The YMCA had pootered along in Llandovery for many years, but then Tatman took over, and began using the good name of the YM to access lots of funding to provide her with a salary and a very, very generous pension pot (even though she’s already well past retirement age!). Her ‘partner in crime’ (figuratively speaking of course), was Mo Sykes, now missing as recent shenanigans at YMCA Wales are
covered up investigated. This is one old bird who knows how to milk the system! I wonder what she did before she decided to bless us with her presence?
This next video (available here on YouTube), features Gill Wright, again, telling us about the wonders of the Llandovery Heritage Centre – Business Hub. Assisted this time by Emily Davies – who is Welsh! So Emily may be working for the funding programme. (Clock Wright’s face when Davies is speaking at 1:48: ‘Look, Hermione – I’m with a native!’) The building is a ‘community venture’, offering copying facilities and laminating machines, “meeting space” and other facilities the good folk of Llanymddyfri cannot do without. At 1:53 the video shows what perhaps we are expected to believe are two young entrepreneurs planning their next venture . . . though the one on the left looks suspiciously like Glyn Jones, a Rural Community Inclusion Development Officer, it may even be the back of Glyn’s head we see at 1:32. All in all the Heritage Centre – Business Hub is quite an impressive set-up, which has obviously cost a few quid . . . yet Wright suggests at 2:46 that the process “may have upset a few local people”; but that’s all behind her now as she looks for more funding, for yet bigger premises, in a town of less than three thousand people!
These first two videos share a few features worthy of comment. First – and believe me, for I know of what I speak – one of the keys to unlocking grant funding is to argue that you’re providing a service or facilities for the public at large, the correct button to push being ‘community’. Second, Wright and Tatman are both past retirement age. Without I hope sounding ageist – being a pensioner myself – shouldn’t this funding be better directed than by supplementing the pensions of a couple of memsahibs? Though I suppose this might explain the presence of younger ‘assistants’.
The third video – in which we see Glyn Jones playing himself – tells of the work being done by the Llandovery Job Club. (Available here on YouTube.) In addition to Glyn we shall meet a couple of other people we’ve met already. At 1:27 it’s Jill Tatman, and at 3:47 Lee Mattocks. Then at 4:40 we meet a new face in Dan Morin who, with his wife, “left London about a year ago”. At 5:24 we meet Mrs Alannah Morin who tells us they “wanted to leave London because we were tired of the rat race”. This is the sort of thing one hears from City brokers buying million pound properties on the Pembrokeshire coast . . . but one is unlikely to find such people in the local job club. So why did a black couple from London move to a small Welsh town with no job waiting for them? I can’t help thinking there’s a story here we aren’t being told.
It is obvious that what we have here is an over-generous and misdirected funding programme simply throwing money around willy-nilly. Money is being used to provide ‘facilities’ for communities that were blissfully unaware of their deprivation until the people you’ve seen in these videos sniffed out the oodles of funding on offer. Interestingly, the ‘facilities’ are run by English people, used by English people . . . with Welsh involvement limited to providing the funding.
Something I found significant was the use of the Welsh language to disguise what is really happening. Not a lot different to bilingual signage in Tesco Porthmadog to hide the fact that the staff employed in the store are overwhelmingly English. Or the Planning Inspectorate having a Welsh language version of its website. We see it everywhere: the cosmetic ‘victories’ of language campaigners bring us to the point where the Welsh language is used to deflect criticism from programmes that will destroy it. How weird is that?
What we’ve seen here is not unique to Sir Gâr, it’s happening all over Wales. Money is being squandered on unnecessary projects, given to amateurs whose only real talents are the ability to complete an application form and know what ‘buttons’ need to be pressed to access the funding. There are Welsh kids growing in some areas who think that only the English are allowed to run certain things. This is not by accident.
Staying in Sir Gâr, I’m now going to look at (takes deep breath) Ymddiriedolaeth Atgyfnerthu Treftadaeth Sir Gâr. In translation, and general usage, Carmarthenshire Heritage Regeneration Trust; but the official name, with both Companies House and the Charity Commission is the Welsh name. Which might make it difficult for anyone unfamiliar with the Welsh name to track down details. Perhaps another example of the Welsh language being used insincerely, to deflect criticism and deter investigation. (On the right you’ll find the front pages from both Companies House and the Charity Commission. Click to enlarge.)
For the sake of brevity I shall henceforth refer to CHRT, which is classified, by Companies House, as a private company limited by guarantee with no share capital and exempt from using ‘Ltd’. There are three curious features that (with the invaluable help of BD) I have explored and would now like to bring to your attention.
First, in addition to the company and the charity there is a third entity, CHRT Ventures Ltd, Company Number 06820763, Incorporated on February 16th 2009, which is also a private company limited by guarantee with no share capital. As for what it does, the Companies House website can only say, “Other information service activities not elsewhere classified”, which could mean just about anything, though it would appear to be a trading arm of the Trust, a regular enough arrangement, but it appears not to fulfil that role too well. For the most recent figures I can find, for the year ended March 31, 2013, show that CHRT Ventures Ltd had assets of £13,985 but liabilities of £37,311.
The next curiosity is the salary arrangements of the CEO, Claire Deacon, whose Linkedin front page can be found on the left (click to enlarge). I say that because Ms Deacon has been employed by CRHT as a consultant while also employed as CEO. On page 29 of the most recent accounts (click here) we are told that, “During the year, Ymddiriedolaeth Atgyfnerthu Treftadaeath Sir Gar (CHRT) employed the services of Ms Claire Deacon, CEO, a historic building consultant. The total expenses paid by CHRT for consultancy was £59,159 (2012: £41,873). At the year end, CHRT owed Ms Claire Deacon £9,436 (2012: £3,386). This balance is included in trade creditors”. This probably explains why employees’ remunerations in 2012 amounted to £175,355, but fell to £152,117 in 2013 for the same number of staff. Yet Ms Deacon was paid considerably more in consultancy fees than the £23,238 ‘saving’ in salaries between the figures for 2012 and 2013.
Is this standard practice, that a CEO can boost his or her income by also acting as a consultant to the organisation that employs her? How is it done? Did Ms Deacon say, ‘If you want me to do this work, then you’ll jolly well have to employ me as a consultant – and that will cost you a lot more than my CEO’s salary’. But if a consultant was needed – and seeing as we are dealing here with public funding – was the opportunity advertised, put out to tender, or was it all stitched up in-house? I really would like to know how these things are done.
The third and final curiosity will be found if you look at the Charity Commission website image, where you’ll see that under ‘Where it Operates’, it says, ‘Throughout Wales’, which sounds a bit ambitious for a relatively small local charity in Sir Gâr. Or perhaps not. For if we return to the latest accounts, and go to page 5, you will find this under the heading, ‘YMCA, Merthyr Tydfil’ “This project has continued to develop with funds being secured for project development and the purchase of the building, a price having been agreed with the owner. The Trust is working closely with the Local Authority and other key funding partners including HLF (Heritage Lottery Fund) and Welsh Assembly Government. It is proposed that the purchase will proceed once key triggers have been secured, these including confirmation of offers of funding from Heritage Lottery Fund and the local Merthyr Tydfil Townscape Heritage Initiative for the first phase of works and a business plan”. Note how everything seems to be planned out without funding confirmed. Is this a tactic to pressure the funders? Anyway, why is the Carmarthenshire Heritage Regeneration Trust buying the YMCA building in Merthyr?
The suggestion made in the report I just linked to is that the building will be used as a “teaching facility with some office space available”. (Yet more ‘community’ flim-flam.) A project that Ms Deacon estimates will cost £5m. Clearly, CHRT is branching out, in more ways than one. More millions of public funding will be spent to . . . well, to do what, exactly? Given what I’ve set out here, and hundreds of other examples I could have used from across Wales, we be can be reasonably certain that few benefits will accrue to the local people. The beneficiaries of al this funding will be Claire Deacon – who might even act as her own consultant on the project! – plus more shysters like those we met in Llanymddyfri.
And once again, there is a YMCA building involved. I have heard many strange things lately about YMCA Wales and its relationship with local branches, how the latter have been taken over, exploited, even wrecked. There is a post here, which I hope will be written by someone who understands the picture far better than I.
Wales is the poorest country in western Europe (possibly all of Europe). Because of our poverty we qualify for large amounts of funding to relieve that poverty and the associated deprivation. But instead of using the money for the purposes for which it has been given, the civil servants who run Wales on behalf of London, and their soul-mates at a more local level, have dreamt up cunning plans to kill a number of feathered creatures with but one projectile.
By diverting funding to the likes of the grant-grabbers dealt with here those disbursing the money can claim that services and facilities previously provided by your local authority and other agencies are still there, but now provided by the likes of Gill Wright and Jill Tatman, so nothing’s really changed. If your local library’s been closed down and you can’t access a computer, don’t worry, go along to the local ‘business hub’ and put up with the whinnying of those you’ll find there. But you’ll be expected to forget that the library would also have had books, and employed locals. Need a nursery school? Don’t worry! Drop little Harry into the local Pentevangelic church. When you pick him up he’ll be folding Ukip leaflets and damning ‘sodomites’.
In my opening paragraph I promised to introduce you to a real oddball, so welcome to the Olive Trust (or ‘Creoso’, as the website puts it), based in Swansea but also, apparently, operating in Carmarthenshire, and with strong Labour connections. The woman running this scam is Denise Kingsley-Acton . . . did I hear someone ask if she’s English? (As a matter of fact she is.) I had a little spat with this woman towards the end of 2012, she claimed she’d reported me to the police (a bit like WalesEye), that she’d worked for MI5, all sorts of nonsense. The woman is clearly in need of help herself, but that didn’t stop the Wales European Funding Office (WEFO) considering an application from her in 2010 for a cool one million pounds. (See right, click to enlarge.) Of its type, this is a gem, I urge you to read it. The money was to be used, predictably, “to regenerate a building for community use”.
So if you’re thinking of getting in on this racket yourself, then here’s the secret: find an old building, get a grant to buy it, then apply for other grants to turn it into a ‘community’ building. Nobody will worry if the scheme fails, for this is just an exercise in giving out money and ticking the right boxes on forms nobody will really check. Plus, failed schemes are black marks against those who gave out the funding – politicians and bureaucrats – so everyone has a vested interest in pretending that these projects all deliver. And of course, you and your little clique will rake it in.
If the assorted funding programmes continue in this way then, in a few years time, every village and small town in Wales will have three or four buildings ‘regenerated for community use’, or some other ‘facility’ that isn’t really needed. They’ll all be run by English people, for the benefit of other English people, and hundreds of millions of EU funding will have been used to subsidise the colonisation of Wales.