Miscellany 25.11.2018

This is another omnibus edition of 3,000+ words. But it’s broken up for you to enjoy in instalments.

So take your time, and savour it properly.

ROCKIN’ TO THE RIGHT

Back in September I put out a tweet linking to this report about yet another planning application for ‘holiday cabins’. I was amazed – nay, shocked and appalled – to get the following response from a Shane Baker of Nebo, just outside Caernarfon.

I’m only just getting over the shock, that’s why it’s taken me so long to write about it.

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Naturally, I got to wondering who Shane Baker is, and why my elegant prose might have annoyed him. And so I went a-Googling. The first thing I learnt, from his Twitter account, is that he is a “Film and TV extra”.

His Facebook page header leaves you in no doubt as to his political sentiments and loyalties which, when added to the recent retweets of support for Tommy Robinson, suggest an English nationalist of the far right, or barging towards that destination.

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The same source provided photos of Shane Baker at work. It seems he likes to dress in leather and romp around with men similarly attired. And there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m sure it’s been legalised.

In fact, it seems to be strictly crowd scenes for Shane Baker. You can almost hear his agent advising him,‘Shane, baby, ya gotta face that would look just great at the back of a crowd!’.

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He should have listened to his agent, but no, for in addition to fancying himself as a medieval mobster, Shane is a vocalist of the Rock ‘n’ Roll genre, with a band called Kabinrock, based in Bath. I’m sure you’ve heard of them, they’ve played all the big venues – Twerton Liberal Club, St Margaret’s Hall (Bradford on Avon), Frys Club (Keynsham).

Here’s a video of Shane performing at a wedding (36 views after 6 years) After watching it you’ll realise why his best option is to lose himself in a crowd.

But enough of his showbiz career, the real question is, why did this latter-day John Bull recently move from his belovéd England to a Welsh-speaking locality? Why did he walk away from both Kabinrock and his other career as a glowering peasant?

Is this yet another example of white flight? Or is it that perverse imperial impulse that propels some English people into Wales despite them being hostile towards just about every manifestation of Welshness?

Or might there be some other reason?

Answers on a post card please. First correct answer pulled from the sack next Friday will receive a video of Shane and Kabinrock performing live at a Tommy Robinson is Innocent (of everything) concert at Scrotum Parva village hall. (Not to be confused with Scrotum Magna.)

‘(SWIVEL) EYES RIGHT!’

I have been informed of a new BritNat political party that might interest Shane Baker, that bargain basement Baldrick. It’s called the Democrats & Veterans Party.

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Though it’s an odd combination, democrats and veterans. And looking at the qualifications demanded, I’m patriotic, I hate the EU, I’m a tidy bloke, and while I don’t ‘love’ our armed forces I have no real problem in that direction.

The problem arises with, “Those that hate this nation or want to split our nation up need not apply”. Because here the DVP believes there is a British nation and confuses this mythic nation with the multi-national UK state. I do not want to split up my Welsh nation but I do want to split up the UK.

Terminology aside, it’s strange how veterans are used to make a claim on our emotions by the extreme right and the UK state, yet that state almost completely ignores veterans once they’ve served their purpose, leaving them to be politically exploited by the far right.

The relationship is almost symbiotic.

Shades of 1920s Germany. With the difference being that a bankrupt Germany lacked the resources to adequately care for millions of WWI veterans, whereas the UK state is more than capable of discharging its duties to a few thousand desperately needing help.

Anyway, a dickey-bird tells me that Wales is fortunate in having a co-ordinator of its very own for this new party, a Stan Robinson, though that name does not yet appear on the DVP website.

I suspect it’s this guy, who certainly fits the bill, having served in the Royal Observer Corps, after which he worked for the Ministry of Defence, and he’s been a poppy seller since 1985. He now claims to be ‘Chairman of the Family Housing Trust’, but Googling that name only brings up Family Housing Association (Wales) Ltd. Based, as is Robinson, in Swansea.

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Robinson doesn’t appear among the trustees or the management of FHA, making me suspect that he’s claiming to be a consultant. I guess it would be the same with the NHS.

This is his Facebook page, where we learn he’s “English to the core”. His counterpart in Scotland, Ian Pritchard, has no stronger connection with Braveheart and the Bruce than that, “he has been living in Scotland for more than 20 years”. Reminding us – as if we need reminding – that these proliferating BritNat parties are fundamentally about England, with just a Celtic tinge.

With Robinson being based in Swansea it’s no surprise to learn that a branch was formed in the city in April under the leadership of one Stephen ‘Reeco’ Rees. (Don’t be fooled by the flag, it’s not the one they really care about.) Though Robinson doesn’t appear to be in the photograph, maybe he hadn’t joined at that stage.

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Rees has been involved in the ‘Exploit-veterans-to-promote-the-BritNat- agenda’ for some time, having previously being involved with an outfit called SA1ute (geddit!). In fairness, ‘Reeco’ also rescues old dames with heating problems, (though some of the comments suggest a different narrative).

In the picture accompanying the article about the freezing old woman you’ll see Carl Vickers. His attempt at crowd-funding on behalf of SA1ute should be used to explain how not to go about it.

One who enlisted early in the DVP was James Cole. You may remember the name from an earlier incarnation as a Ukip spokesman. Here he is in a video from 2013 warning that the Welsh will be a minority in their own country “within the next fifteen to twenty years” due to immigration . . . but he’s not talking about English immigration.

Cole reminds us that the picture on the far right is almost a mirror image of the far left, not only in being detached from reality, but also with the constant movement of individuals between groups, and with these groups and parties breaking up and new ones forming all the time.

If the Democrats & Veterans Party is genuine, then rather than attacking the EU, immigrants, Islam, or the SNP, they will target the UK state and the British Crown, both of which are directly culpable for the condition of the ex-service personnel the DVP claims to care so much about.

Failure to do this just makes them right wing extremists exploiting desperate people.

Image courtesy of BBC, click to enlarge

To end on a lighter note, the fuhrer leader of the Democrats & Veterans Party is lantern-jawed John Rees-Evans, who was Ukip candidate for Cardiff South and Penarth in 2015.

After coming fourth in one of the many recent Ukip leadership contests Rees-Evans went off to form a new party called Affinity, which presumably morphed into the DVP.

You may remember that he hit the headlines with the claim that a gay donkey had tried to rape his horse.

Make Britain great again, and safe from gay donkeys – vote DVP!

LAMMAS: TROUBLE IN A FEUDAL PARADISE?

Others living in a world of their own are the hippy aristocracy of Lammas, of whom I have writ more than once. Now news reaches me that all may not be well in this settlement ruled by King Tau-Paul Wimbush and his Queen Hoppi.

To understand the ‘thinking’ behind Lammas and similar projects you must have some understanding of the collective stupidity and gullibility of Labour and Plaid Cymru politicians. For Lammas links with the promotion of One Planet projects which wants us to believe that Wales will reduce her carbon footprint by attracting into the country more wood-burning hippies.

The One Planet bollocks is yet more ‘Welsh’ legislation that is of no benefit whatsoever to Wales or the Welsh, but obviously of benefit to England and sections of the English people. But as I never tire of reminding you, this is how colonialism operates.

My sources tell me worrying tales from Lammas.

The first centres on the 999-year lease under which the peasantry live. (It must be a very healthy lifestyle.) Most wish to be freehold, perhaps in order to sell; others simply want to be independent of the Wimbush monarchy – so these putative republicans have had their water cut off, or life is made difficult for them in other ways.

Among those suffering in this way, I hear, is a Welshman from my neck of the woods, perhaps the only Welshman at Lammas, his Finnish wife and their trilingual children. I feel he should be supported.

Similar things happen to anyone foolish enough to ask to see what it’s claimed are the secret accounts of the company running the show, Lammas Low Impact Initiatives Ltd.

This document I dug out – which might have been superseded – names three individuals as founding members of the company: Paul Wimbush (inevitably), Dr Larch Maxey and Dr Mark Edwards Dyson. Who are these other two?

And if you doubted that the Wimbush dynasty are in it for the money, then there’s King Tau-Paul’s £70 an hour planning consultancy. While Queen Hoppi has her own skin care brand. Other money-making schemes include bed and breakfast, with Tau-Paul also selling plots of land at Lammas and elsewhere, which means acting as an unregistered estate agent.

Then there are the courses, extending to, as one source put it, ” . . . witchcraft and fanny worship courses . . .”

I assure you, in the many articles I’ve written about Lammas I have never mentioned ‘fanny worship courses’. And I have no idea what they involve. I was tempted to ask, but thought better of it.

A course you’ve missed, run by Queen Hoppi herself, was, ‘Upcycle Waistcoats with Wenchwear’. ‘Wenchwear’! If I used the term ‘wench’ the assorted loonies of the left who follow this blog would call me a patriarchal, misogynistic, transphobic, etc., etc., bastard. (Which they do anyway. Bless!)

No, this is no rural idyll of hippies growing organic vegetables and selling them at a street market, this is unadulterated greed.

More mundane concerns are whether the water quality is up to standard, and whether planning permission is being adhered to with new buildings.

On the matter of water quality, it is the responsibility of the county council – in this case, Pembrokeshire – to test the water annually. For some reason Pembrokeshire County Council stopped checking, but resumed doing so this year, after an enquiry from a concerned member of the public.

If we look at planning permission there is no escaping the major project at Lammas, the Earth Centre, for which money is now being raised. Confusion arises because permission was given for a dwelling.

The suspicion is that that’s exactly what it will be – King Tau-Paul and Queen Hoppi’s palace. But it may be easier to crowd-fund a communal building.

But then, lack of water testing, departure from planning consent, is par for the course that has seen officialdom at all levels bend over backwards to help Paul and Hoppi Wimbush prosper in their feudal demesne.

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Above you see a recent picture from a Lammas Facebook page showing planning inspector Andrew Poulter, and his wife, paying a visit just a week or so ago. This is the man who gave Lammas planning permission, and, no, he hasn’t retired, he’s still a planning inspector . . . and might therefore be called on to adjudicate on some future Lammas application.

Isn’t it all so ineffably bourgeois, so frightfully cosy? So . . . Acacia Avenue goes rustic. With nothing to tell you that this is happening in Wales.

UPDATE 29.11.2018: I put out a tweet a few days ago which got an answer from Planning Inspectorate. But Poulter’s Linkedin profile suggests he now works for the ‘Welsh Government’, from where I have heard nothing.

GONE WITH THE WIND

A couple of weeks ago, in Corruption in the Wind?, I looked at three wind farm developments: Bryn Blaen, near Llangurig; Rhoscrowther, near Milford Haven; and Hendy, near Llandrindod. Here are some updates.

First, I’m told that despite having been completed almost a year ago, not a blade has turned at Bryn Blaen. It seems there were problems when attempts were made – involving considerable traffic disruption – to connect the site to the Bryn Titli development just down the A470. Did it blow a fuse?

Another source sent me news of the Hendy site, so recently given the go-ahead by Lesley Griffiths, when she over-ruled her own planning inspector. (All explained in the earlier post.)

This source told me, “The Hendy bunch of crooks are already sneakily getting large machinery onto the proposed site, illegally using access points to and onto the Common land there.”

Perhaps these are some of the  ‘allegations’ the developers refer to in the article below, from Saturday’s Llais y Sais.

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Bottom line: The developers know they can get away with anything because Powys County Council is afraid to act, and that’s because the developers have political support at a higher level.

The priority at Hendy now is to get the turbines hooked up to the grid so they can start raking in the money. Whether the damn things generate any electricity is a matter of no importance to anyone involved in this scam.

What a system!

BIKE PARK WALES

I’ve written before about this venture near Merthyr, which has seen a large tract of publicly-owned land leased to a company called Bike Park Wales, which then threatens locals with on-the-spot fines for ‘trespassing’.

You can catch up with it by reading the original article.

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When this was queried, the first response, either from the departed CEO of Natural Resources Wales, or a ‘Welsh Government’ minister, stated that there were no public rights of way on the land leased to Bike Park Wales.

The kindest thing to say is that this was a mistake. The new CEO of Natural Resources Wales has conceded that public rights of way are involved. So my source has now asked his AM to:

(a) Request Welsh Ministers, as landowner, to write to BPW to immediately remove the £50 fine threat from their terms and conditions.

(b) Request the local authority to erect signage “Llwybr Cyhoeddus/Public Footpath” from start and end points of this public right of way within the lease footprint.

(c) Remind BPW that a temporary closure order need be obtained from the local authority, should this be required for future corporate events using this public right of way.

(d) Not to enter into any further lease arrangements that prevent unfettered public access to the estate owned by the Welsh Government anywhere else in Wales.

Natural Resources Wales has in recent years been out of control, so God only knows how many other such arrangements this dysfunctional body has entered into with our assets.

COLEG HARLECH

A lifetime ago I spent some happy years at Coleg Harlech, and so I repeat verbatim the sad message I received last week.

“Jac, I don’t know if you’re aware that the college buildings have recently been put up for sale by Adult Learning Wales. It’s a sad end for the college that for many was the gateway to a better life.

I was a student there between 1984 and 86, and gained an awful lot form my experience. I believe the fundamental ‘last straw’ was the change in government thinking on HE and the rise of FE university access courses that were deemed to offer the same the CH offered. The truth of course is something different.

I know that the college was ‘re-branded’ from HE to FE, though of course the academic standard at CH was always, in the two year Diploma days at least a demanding second year undergraduate standard. That of course changed in the mid 90s, and CH soldiered on, until the merger in 2001 with WEA (N) when things started to unravel badly.

The rest is history, but it puzzles me why nothing was done by those in Cardiff Bay about the colleges plight. It was a unique Welsh institution, which although internationalist in outlook, was at its core essentials an institution with its focus very much on Wales. indeed, the course of study I followed there was entirely focused on Wales.

To be quite honest, I’m just gob-smacked that the financial and managerial incompetence of Coleg Harlech WEA (N) went unchallenged.

And recently we read of another case of apparent incompetence and mismanagement at Theatr Ardudwy, where there was a hole in the roof that compromised health and safety with a repair bill of £150k – a hole like that doesn’t appear overnight, and it would have been known about prior to the installation of state of the art digital projection and sound equipment.

In neglecting to mend the hole in the roof put not only the audiences in danger, but also an investment that, if used properly, could have generated much needed income for a badly needed community and regional resource.

I don’t suspect corruption in either the case of the college, or the theatre, but it’s hard to avoid thinking that there was an amazing level of incompetence at play or a suspicion that all this might have been planned, as over time the college was stripping itself of the very assets it needed to survive as a viable entity.

I don’t know if you would be interested in doing what you do best and dig up the dirty on all the tribulations affecting the college. It’s almost tragic that we, as a nation, are losing what was a very special national institution, and I think it’s a story that should be told.”

There was indeed something uniquely Welsh about Coleg Harlech, so is there anyone out there who can fill in the details?

CAROLYN HARRIS MP AND SOUTH WALES POLICE

Carolyn Harris is the Labour MP for Swansea East, who has been involved in the worthy cause of reducing the damage done by Fixed Odd Betting Terminals, for which I congratulate her.

But like all of us – even me! – she is not without fault.

Many of you will be aware of the saga involving the assault on co-worker Jenny Lee Clarke for being a lesbian, widely reported in the London prints. Almost certainly in retaliation for this embarrassment Harris, by now an MP, accused the assault victim of theft.

Carolyn Harris MP (left) and Jenny Lee Clarke, click to enlarge

This was resolved in a court case in July when Ms Clarke was found not guilty of the alleged theft and Harris, now shadow spokesperson on equalities, came under fire for her homophobia.

Throughout this saga Ms Clarke has been trying to get South Wales Police to charge Carolyn Harris with assault. The response has been prevarication and obstruction. Insult was added to injury when, on Friday, November 16, BBC News reported that the assault allegation against Carolyn Harris had been ‘dropped’.

When Ms Clarke complained to the BBC she was told that this was what the police had told them . . . but of course the police denied this.

As I’ve explained to Jenny, the police have lost one case when she was acquitted of theft, which means that to charge Carolyn Harris with assault, and risk getting a conviction, would further expose the cock-up they’ve made of the whole affair. A cock-up exemplified by somehow ‘losing’ the only eye witness statement to the assault.

I find it so sad that I have to write in such a vein. People might think I’m a cynical old bastard, and that would never do. Would it?

Unless I receive earth-shattering intelligence that I must immediately impart to an unsuspecting world the next post will be Weep for Wales 11.

So if anyone has more news on Paul and Rowena Williams – get in touch!

♦ end ♦

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Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd: An Open Letter to Carwyn Jones

October 17th 2016

First Minister,

You may have read my previous post, ‘Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd‘. If not, then I suggest you read it, if only to help you understand what follows.

Your government gives a great deal of public money to housing associations. These bodies are largely unregulated and, as a consequence, a law unto themselves. (One reason so many of them run into ‘difficulties’.) For example, Pembrokeshire Housing – a body that receives a great deal of money from the public purse – funds its subsidiary Mill Bay Homes in the building of private houses for sale.  

The emergence of this particular scandal is due entirely to dedicated individuals rather than to the media, politicians, or those answerable to you who claim to be overseeing the Registered Social Landlords you so lavishly fund.

Now it emerges that housing associations funded by your government are leasing – perhaps also renting – property from Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, a company that is registered in a tax haven to hide the identity of those behind it, also to escape UK regulations and of course to avoid paying UK tax.

On Sunday, the Guardian told us that Arron Banks, funder of Ukip, friend of Nigel Farage and financial backer of his recent Leave.EU campaign, also makes use of Gibraltar. (Read it here.) When I read the story bells rang because details of Banks’ Gibraltar connection seemed familiar to me.

That’s because both Link Holdings and Arron Banks use Parliament Lane Nominees as directors, and both also use STM Fidecs Management Ltd as secretaries. (Check Link Holdings’ company profile from Companies House in Gibraltar to confirm this.)

Coincidence? Probably, but the Guardian article raises the possibility that Welsh housing associations, funded and supposedly regulated by the Welsh Government, could be leasing properties from Arron Banks.

Despite the blog post I refer you to focusing on Swansea this problem is not confined to that city, or to Link Holdings. To begin with, Link Holdings owns property across southern Wales, so it’s reasonable to assume that RSLs in other areas have an arrangement with Link. Then, knowing that Link is one of many offshore companies owning property in Wales makes it equally reasonable to assume that housing associations have dealings with companies other than Link. (Read this.)

It doesn’t matter which possibility we consider, neither does your government or the housing associations involved any favours. Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd could be owned by Arron Banks, or it could be owned by the Mafia, the Moonies, or money-launderers, we just don’t know.

Successive Labour administrations in the Assembly have told us they believe in ‘openness’, they’ve also reminded us how responsible they are in their handling of the public purse. You now have an opportunity to prove that these claims are more than empty rhetoric.

Unless, that is, you see nothing wrong with housing associations passing on public funding to property companies registered in tax havens. But I find that difficult to believe.

I also believe that no right-thinking Welsh politician would sanction what I have explained here, so we are entitled to know who is behind Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd. We are also entitled to know if you and the housing associations involved are unable to identify who is behind this company.

Someone also needs to explain why the Welsh Government allowed publicly-funded bodies to do business with companies registered in tax havens. Before, finally, promising that such behaviour will be brought to an end.

It’s clear from the Link Holdings case, from what’s happening in Pembrokeshire, and from other evidence, that the social housing sector is in one hell of a mess. A well-funded but almost completely unregulated mess.

The answer to this problem lies in genuine reform, not in encouraging housing associations run by Labour Party members to take over faltering RSLs in order to increase Labour’s stranglehold on Welsh public life. (I am of course referring here to the recent Wales and West takeover of Cantref.)

Let me conclude by suggesting that you, First Minister, practise what your party preaches about openness and concern for the public purse by making sure that no more of our money reaches secretive companies registered in Gibraltar or any other tax haven.

END

UPDATE 18.10.2016: I have now decided to write directly to the First Minister. Here’s my letter.

Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd

Regular readers of Private Eye – and perhaps those who abjure Lord Gnome’s organ – will know there is now a database available that tries to list all property in Wales and England owned by overseas registered companies. You can browse it here.

Naturally, my interest was in Wales, and so I extracted the Welsh properties from the database and these can be viewed here, grouped by local authority, and then, within each LA area, ownership is shown alphabetically.

It soon becomes clear that different companies can be found operating in different areas, some in more than one area; but one particular company stood out for the sheer number of properties it owns.

I’m referring of course to the company of the title, Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd. Here’s a list of Link’s properties, again, grouped by local authority, and in date order with the most recent purchases at the top. Though you’ll see that Link also owns a few houses (and a garage!) in Colchester, Essex, which seem to be the only properties the company owns outside of Wales. I’d love to know the explanation for the Essex outlier.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the Link properties is that a great majority of the title documents, almost all, in fact, bear the same date, July 24, 2006. There are so many titles bearing this date that I think it must signify the transfer of a large property portfolio to Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd on that date. Which raises the question, whose portfolio was it before Link bought it? Alternatively, it could just be a change of name. In which case, what was the previous name of Link?

Although my interest was aroused by reading the articles in Private Eye and checking out the map, what really kick-started this investigation was someone in Swansea contacting me through Facebook to say that a number of the properties listed for Link in fact belonged to a housing association, which I thought was odd.

The properties my source was referring to are in Penmaen Terrace in Mount Pleasant, three- or four-storey houses, once homes to the local bourgeoisie now broken up into self-contained flats of the kind popular with students. (The picture below shows the kind of properties I’m talking about, though not necessarily the one I shall now focus on.)

penmaen-terrace

My informant referred me to No 5, which she assured me was rented out by the Coastal Housing Group. Nearby properties were also said to be rented out by Coastal. The obvious thing to do was check with the Land Registry, where the mystery was cleared up . . . sort of.

Yes, 5 Penmaen Terrace is owned by Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, but there is a leasehold agreement with Coastal. The details can be found here in the freehold title document, and here in the leasehold title document.

Though remember that Coastal is a relatively new organisation, registered on April 1, 2008 and formed through the merger of Cymdeithas Tai Dewi Sant (1991) and the Swansea Housing Association (1978). Which means that although Coastal is named as the registered owner and proprietor (of the lease) on 04.02.1983 this must have been the Swansea Housing Association.

The two ‘Restrictions’ dated 23.04.2008 would appear to be some kind of recognition that the merger and reorganisation had taken place.

Scrolling to the end of the leasehold document, under the ‘Charges’ (loan, mortgages, etc.) heading brings us to this entry: “(04.02.1983) Proprietor: The Housing Corporation of 149 Tottenham Court, Road, London W1T 7BN.” This quango was the body that oversaw and funded housing associations between 1964 and 2008. I assume it ceased to have any authority in Wales after devolution.

An assumption that seems to be confirmed by a later entry reading: “(12.10.2000) A Deed dated 4 October 2000 made between (1) National Westminster Bank Plc (2) The National Assembly For Wales and (3) Swansea Housing Association Limited relates to priorities as between the Charges dated 12 January 1983 and 4 October 2000 referred to above as therein mentioned.”

In order to find out exactly what this meant, I contacted the ‘Welsh’ Government with a FoI. I submitted the request on Sunday, October 2, which meant that no one would have read it until Monday, then I had a phone call on the Tuesday from a Regulation Manager at the Housing Directorate! Here’s a section from the written reply that arrived a couple of days later.

link-5-penmaen-terrace-welsh-gov-deed

The answer to my question, ‘How much did the ‘Welsh’ Government chip in?’ would appear to be that the ‘Welsh’ Government put in no money but instead acts as some kind of guarantor for housing associations taking out or revising loans.

Having satisfied myself as to who owns and who leases 5 Penmaen Terrace I decided to look at another property in Swansea owned by Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, one mentioned in the freehold of 5 Penmaen Terrace, where it says, almost at the end, “(24.07.2006) Registered Charge dated 29 June 2006 affecting also other titles. NOTE: Charge reference WA99891”.

WA99891 takes us to a part of town with which I am more familiar, for this title number refers to the freehold of 379 Neath Road in Plasmarl, the neighbourhood where my father was born and raised. Once a busy road, in fact, the main road from town to Morriston, it has become something of a backwater due to the new road that now runs past the Liberty Stadium and on up to the M4.

The property on Neath Road is a just a terraced house but, again, it’s owned by Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, though unlike the one in Penmaen Terrace it belongs to those properties bought, or registered, after 24.07.2006. To be exact, 06.10.2006. Another difference is that the lessee in this instance is the Family Housing Association Wales Ltd. And the money to fund the lease came from Orchardbrook Ltd.

family-housing-association

I couldn’t get a great deal of information on Orchardbrook, for one thing, it doesn’t seem to have a website, but I did turn up minutes from a 2009 meeting of the York Housing Association, which say, “The Chair explained that Orchardbrook (a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland) took over all Housing Associations loans and the interest rate specified was high.” Suggesting that when the Housing Corporation was wound up in 2008 its assets, in the form of loans made to housing associations, were sold off.

So the Charge entered against the leasehold title of the Neath Road property in 2014 probably means that Orchardbrook ‘revised’ the terms of the loan it had inherited from the Housing Corporation.

We don’t want to get bogged down in the minutiae of Land Registry documents so to explain a little more I’ll use the Zoopla website. Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd owns hundreds of properties in Swansea and many more across the south (but none west of Llanelli).

For example, Link owns many properties on relatively new developments in the Llansamlet area, in Brynteg, Ryw Blodyn, Lon Brynawel and Clos Eileen Chilcott and other streets. Using the data I’d compiled and cross-referencing with Zoopla and other property websites we find that most of these properties are leasehold.

link-clos-eileen-chilcott

Obviously I can’t check all Link’s properties, there are just too many, but I suspect the same picture will be found elsewhere: older properties – especially large ones and Houses of Multiple Occupation like those in Penmaen Terrace – are leased or rented to housing associations, with newer properties – bought as buy-to-lets – are privately leased or rented. Though I’m not ruling out that newer properties might also be leased or rented to RSLs.

Which leaves the big question – what exactly is Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, and who’s behind it? Against my better judgement – knowing I wasn’t going to learn much – I shelled out £15 for a company profile from Companies House in Gibraltar.

While the big question – ‘Who owns Link?’ – goes unanswered, the profile does advance our knowledge in other areas. It tells us, for example, that Link was incorporated in Gibraltar on September 11, 2003.

Digging around in the FCA website turned this up, which tells us that on 24.02.2006 Cymru Investments Ltd of Jersey changed its name to or merged with Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd. This might explain the rush of registrations with the Land Registry a few months later, for this could be the Cymru Investments portfolio being registered under the new name.

link-fca-info-name-change

Though given that Link was Incorporated in Gibraltar in September 2003 what was it doing in the intervening period?

You’ll also see that the name Cymru Investments Ltd had only been used for a year or so, so was there a previous name? Yes there was, as this document from the Jersey Financial Services Commission tells us. From 10.09.1991 to 15.02.2003 Cymru Investments was known as Rastlebeg Investments (Jersey) Ltd, and before that, from 14.03.1974, the company went by the name of Gwalia Investments Ltd.

Something you may have picked up on is that there’s a gap of 23 months between Jersey saying the name Rastlebeg ceased to be used (15.02.2003) and the FCA telling us that the name Cymru investments was adopted (08.01.2005). Is this a typo, or was another name used in this period?

link-jfsc-name-change

In the hope of getting to the bottom of things I decided to buy the original registration document for Gwalia Investments Ltd from 14.03.1974 from the Jersey Financial Services Commission. Here it is. You’ll see that despite what we’re being told, the company was originally registered as Castlebeg Investments (Jersey) Ltd not Gwalia Investments Ltd. Yes, that’s Castlebeg not Rastlebeg – another typo? Well, no.

Because further Googling turned up this entry (below) from Hansard. Castlebeg and Rastlebeg are one and the same, so why the different spellings, was the name changed in an attempt to confuse, or is it a repeated typo?

link-castlebeg-hansard

Here’s a link to another Commons exchange from 1986 concerning Castlebeg Investments (Jersey) Ltd. The company was clearly behaving in improper and even underhand ways. There seems to have been some reluctance on the part of the then Conservative government to introduce leasehold reform. The kind of reforms recommended in the Nugee Report.

Having started the previous section by saying I didn’t want to get bogged down in the minutiae of Land Registry documents I’m now in danger of getting us bogged down in information from other sources, so I’ll just refer to a few more scraps of information before trying to pull the various threads together.

This first document, from the FCA, is the one that confirms Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd as the successor to Cymru Investments Ltd of Jersey (see panel above), but there are tabs on it we have yet to explore. If we click on the ‘Principals’ tab we bring up the name of Brian D Thomas Insurance Services Ltd of Swansea. Here’s the Companies House entry.

This company goes back to May 1977 and was chugging along quite comfortably, with total assets less current liabilities of £399,517 at year end 31.03.2005. But then, this thoroughly Swansea company, soon after it gets involved with Link Holdings, is taken over by the Jelf Group of Bristol, undergoes a few name changes, is moved to Bristol, goes dormant, and is finally put out of its misery by being dissolved 07.09.2010.

Interestingly, one of the many names Brian D Thomas briefly traded as in this period was Gwalia Insurance Services. It’s strange how the name Gwalia keeps cropping up, and those of you familiar with the social housing scene will know that there’s a Gwalia Housing Group in Swansea, which recently merged with the Seren Group to create Pobl. Is there a connection?

link-brian-d-thomas-fca-gwalia

You will have noticed that the Principal Place of Business given on the FCA document for Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd is, ‘Cymru Investments Ltd., Po Box 232, Jersey, Channel Islands JE4 8SF‘.

At that same address we find Cymru Management Ltd, Company Number 91117, Registered 06.09.2005. The date of Registration fits perfectly with all the moving and shaking going on, and Link Holdings in the wings waiting to take over. The Annual Return for 2016 informs us that Cymru Management has just two £1 shares issued to Mrs Deanne Mary Pascoe.

Mrs Pascoe is a woman pushing 80 and a director of GUKL Ltd, which I guess is run by another director, Paul Henry Barron Pascoe, a solicitor, who I take to be her son. The registered office is in London, and yet, if you scroll down on the ‘People’ page you come to a couple of names and addresses from the city of my dreams.

One is Zoe Teresa Brooks of Killay, and the other is James Christopher Coughlan of Llansamlet. Both served as directors for just six weeks, from 15.05.1995 until 30.06.1995. And when appointed Ms Brooks was only 18 years of age! Mr Coughlan is a builder, and had his own firm for a short time. It appears Ms Brooks did not trouble Companies House ever again.

Digging into the history of GUKL tells us that it began life in March 1990 as Cruisebase Plc, but the name was soon changed, in July 1990, to Golfads (UK) Plc, and again in October 2015 to GUKL. Would it be reasonable to assume that the current name means Golfads UK Ltd? And if so, what the hell does such a company have to do with Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd?

It might be worth adding that even though a number of sources suggest Cymru Investments morphed into Link Holdings it still exists in some ethereal form, using the same number, 8431, as this Annual Return for 2016 to the Jersey authorities tells us. Five thousand £1 shares held by Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd.

I feel a bit like old Gildas writing De Excidio, where he talks of having made a ‘heap’ of all he’d found, because I’ve collected a lot of information but I’m still not sure what it tells us. Anyway, let’s try to make sense of it. (And I need your help.)

We know from Hansard, quoting Ron Davies and Nicholas Edwards, that there was a leasehold company operating in the mid-1980s named Castlebeg Investments (Jersey) Ltd. This company was also and variously known as Cymru Investments (Jersey) Ltd and Gwalia Investments (Jersey) Ltd. Though the jury is out as to whether it also called itself Rastlebeg or whether this was a clerical error. As the names suggest, all these companies were based on Jersey in the Channel Islands.

This company leased both to private individuals and bodies such as housing associations. It may or may not have also rented properties. Then, after being Incorporated in Gibraltar 11.09.2003 (but, according to the FCA, still using the Jersey address of Cymru Investments Ltd) Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd took over or became the latest incarnation of Gwalia/Cymru/Castlebeg. Probably confirmed with the splurge of Land Registry registrations of 24.07.2006.

It doesn’t matter how many sidetracks we follow, or from which angle we choose to approach this subject, there always seems to be a path back to Swansea. Whatever we are dealing with has its origins in or close to that city. But what is it? If Link Holdings is now a massive buy-to-let portfolio, then there is one outstanding candidate for the man behind it. I won’t name him, but everything fits.

It could even be that the Link portfolio today is an amalgam of an older leasehold business, Castlebeg, and more recent purchases by another party of newer properties, such as those in Llansamlet and other parts of Swansea which look as if they could have been bought off plan. So please look at the Private Eye map and the data I’ve compiled, what kind of properties does Link own in your area?

And yet . . . I have this nagging worry that some of the properties now owned by Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd may once have belonged to social housing providers. I hope not. Equally, I hope that Link is not a social housing portfolio that has been moved offshore.

link-gibraltar

What we can be sure of is that Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd is registered where it is a) to pay as little tax as possible, b) to escape the UK regulatory system, and c) to hide the identity or identities of whoever owns the company. That in itself arouses suspicion.

More worrying is that Link and other offshore companies own so much property in Wales. But worse, is that housing associations, bodies receiving hundreds of millions of pounds in public funding, are doing business with Link.

My enquiries covered just one local authority area, and I looked into only one (admittedly large) offshore property company. But I doubt if the picture will be very different in other areas and with other companies. So go through the information I’ve linked to, have a look around your area, and send me your feedback.

We are entitled to know how much Welsh public funding ends up with companies registered offshore. The ‘Welsh’ Government also needs to explain why these deals were entered into. Finally, we must have a promise that there will be no more of these deals, and that Welsh public funding will no longer enrich those who view Wales as a country to be exploited.

END

UPDATE 16.10.2016: The online Guardian today carried a piece about Arron Banks, big buddy of Nigel Farage and funder of both Ukip and the Leave.EU campaign. Unsurprisingly, Banks has accounts in many a tax haven, including Gibraltar, where Link Holdings also hides its loot.

But the connection doesn’t end there, for Banks also uses Parliament Lane Nominees Ltd as directors and STM Fidecs Management Ltd as secretaries, just like Link Holdings. (Read Link Holdings’ company profile.) Probably just coincidence, I suppose, but what if . . .