Family silver

PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR

In this post I want to pull together a number of threads without, I hope, complicating the story too much.

TOWER COLLIERY

Let’s start by going back to this post I wrote last December and scroll down to the section headed ‘The left betrays Wales, again’. What I tried to explain was the recent history of the Tower Colliery site since deep mining finished in January 2008.

I wrote that the closure was followed by a short period of opencast mining, to extract some six million tons of anthracite coal. This began in May 2012 and ended in March 2017, when new environment regulations meant that Aberthaw power station could no longer take Tower’s coal.

From what I can make out, this opencast operation was a partnership between the original Tower Colliery Ltd (Incorporated 28.11.1994), Tower Regeneration Ltd (Inc 20.08.2009), and a company from north east England called Hargreaves Services Plc As explained here.

The open cast site seems to be owned by Tower Regeneration with a loan from Forward Sound Ltd, a company linked to Hargreaves.

Tower Colliery Ltd is ultimately owned by Goitre Tower Anthracite Ltd. The 488 Goitre shareholders are I assume former miners and the relatives of former miners. With the maximum individual holding apparently limited to 8,260 of the 2,164,075 shares.

With open cast mining finished, what is to become of this high and windy, but scenically attractive, area?

The answer would appear to be . . . zip wires!

‘TOP O’ THE WORLD, MAM’

The title of this section is taken from that great film noir, White Heat, and the line spoken by Cody Jarrett, played by James Cagney, before the gas tank on which he’s standing explodes. (Obviously, in the movie, Jarrett says ‘Ma’, not ‘Mam’.)

I use it because Rhigos can give that top of the world feeling. And that’s where we are, on the A4061 that makes its way from the A465 Heads of the Valleys road down into the Rhondda. On the map below you’ll see, marked with a red cross, the Rhigos Viewpoint, a large lay-by giving superb views over the surrounding country.

Image courtesy of Google Earth. Click to enlarge.

Not only that, but in bad weather the Rhigos Viewpoint serves as a temporary depot for Rhondda Cynon Taf gritting lorries, allowing them to travel in both directions and avoid the climb up from their regular depots in the valley below.

Why then was the Viewpoint recently put up for sale?

Click to enlarge

We see that the online sale document is dated 27 June and Lesley Griffiths’ letter to Lee Waters AM is dated 16 July. Between these dates concerned locals noticed the sale, someone living in Llanelli contacted his AM, Lee Waters, who wrote to Ken ‘Flint Ring’ Skates; the civil servants in Cardiff or wherever realised they’d been rumbled, pulled the advert, and Lesley Griffiths replied to Lee Waters denying any sale.

A little episode that does not reflect well on those who manage Wales for their bosses in London. Lesley Griffiths in particular is getting a bit of a reputation for being averse to the truth.

Returning to Rhigos . . . If we look at this image of the viewpoint and lay-by we see, centre right, Craig y Llyn, the jumping-off point for one of the three planned zip wires.

Image Courtesy of Google. Click to enlarge.

Maybe the real question is, if the Rhigos Viewpoint is to be included in the Zip World project, why was it advertised for sale clearly hoping nobody would notice? Was the plan for it to be bought by some intermediary who would then profit from selling it on to Zip World?

But that suggestion hints at corruption – naughty boy, Jac! – and this is Wales, where corruption is unknown.

There is no question in my mind that the sale of the Rhigos Viewpoint links with the promised arrival of Zip World.

And while the plans shown in the WalesOnline report for the car park, toilets and office accommodation clearly refer to the property owned by Tower Colliery (scroll down to the plan), I believe the Zip World project goes way beyond what is owned by the former miners and their families.

UPDATE 02.08.2019: A message reaches me saying that the advertisement was no ‘mistake’ but was in fact the ‘Welsh Government’ covering its arse by meeting its legal requirements. The land can now be handed over – to Zip World? – and the WG can say, ‘We advertised it, but no one was interested’.

ZIP WORLD

As we know, this is the company that runs zip wires at Penrhyn near Bethesda, and Betws-y-Coed, with underground trampolines at Blaenau Ffestiniog.

There were big changes in Zip World companies towards the end of last year affecting Zip World Ltd, Zip World Fforest Ltd, and Zip World Group Holdings Ltd. What is termed “a management buy-out” took place which means that the parent company is now ZWPV Ltd (Inc 24.10.2018).

But it’s not that straightforward, for at the foot of the final page of the most recent accounts we read that, “Due to the shareholdings in place at ZWPV Limited, the directors consider Sean Taylor to be the ultimate controlling partner”. That is, Sean Wallace Taylor.

Click to enlarge

So, if not a one-man band, then the Zip World companies would certainly appear to be under the control of a single individual. And it gets a little more complicated when we look at this new parent company, ZWPV Ltd.

There are six other directors, who all give as their address, ‘Zip World Base Camp, Denbigh Street, Llanrwst, Wales, LL26 0LL’. But for head honcho Taylor, the address given is, ‘8th Floor, One Central Square, Cardiff, United Kingdom, CF10 1FS’.

And among the directors giving the Llanrwst address is Giles Alexander Thorley, who joined the company 21 February 2019. This is odd, because Thorley is CEO of the Development Bank of Wales. So either he’s moonlighting or else he’s there in an official capacity. I hope it’s the latter, which probably means Thorley’s there representing the ‘Welsh Government’.

But let’s return to Taylor’s Cardiff address. Seeing as parent company ZWPV has its address in Llanrwst like everything else and everybody else, why would Taylor’s individual address be in Cardiff?

Or to put it another way, who else might we find on the 8th Floor at One Central Square to explain Taylor using it as his address? Well, the whole floor is the domain of solicitors Blake Morgan, a company that of course has many clients, including the ‘Welsh Government’ and its various agencies.

Which makes a certain sense, and other pieces are falling into place as I write this to support that presumption.

Before moving on to consider what might really be happening up at Rhigos I want to go back to ZWPV. (What does the ‘PV’ stand for?) It was Incorporated 24 October 2018 with Sean Taylor holding the only share. On St David’s Day there was an allotment of over 14 million shares, including 92,500 preference shares.

While under ‘Filing history’, for 12 March, you’ll see ‘Resolutions’, an arrangement entered into with LDC Parallel (Nominees) Ltd, designed to raise money through selling those 92,500 preference shares.

Companies using the term ‘Nominees’ have, or find, investors who remain anonymous.

So if I’m following this thread properly: the main Zip World companies are now huddled under the umbrella of ZWPV Ltd controlled by Sean Wallace Taylor who, through an agreement with LDC Parallel (Nominees) Ltd, is looking to sell shares to investors who will remain anonymous.

Click to enlarge

There are a number of other companies bearing the ‘LDC Parallel’ name, numbered I to VIII, with all but the last of them based in Aberdeen.

Finally, we learnt earlier this month of another interesting figure who has joined the Zip World board. This being Greg Evans, who, as this blurb tells us, is . . .

“A former US Navy Petty Officer and Centrica Energy Director of Nuclear and Renewables, he is recognised as a thorough leader in safety leadership in both nuclear and renewable power generation.

His work in renewables saw him leading major infrastructure project (sic), including the design, development and commissioning phases of the £1.2 billion Lincs Wind Farm.”

Intriguing. Though like me, I’m sure you’re wondering why a man with a background in nuclear and renewable energy has joined a tourist operation like Zip World.

I think the answer lies in: ” . . . to strengthen the management team and take the business to the next level”. With the emphasis on ‘next level’. Which might be another way of saying diversification.

One disturbing possibility pulls together Evans’ background in the nuclear industry and the fact that Zip World uses quarries and mines. Could this be about the storage of nuclear waste?

HOW MIGHT IT ALL FIT TOGETHER?

OK, so what’s the big picture?

A company that has been well favoured by the ‘Welsh Government’ in its northern ventures has decided to move south. Details were announced in February this year and probably accounts for the reorganisation in the Zip World group.

Also, in October last year, both Zip World Ltd and Zip World Fforest Ltd cleared charges with Finance Wales Investments (10) Ltd. Seeing as Giles Alexander Thorley, CEO of the Development Bank of Wales, is also a director of FWI (10) Ltd, maybe these charges had to be cleared before he could join the revamped set-up in February this year.

Though note also the involvement of Blake Morgan.

Click to enlarge

Let’s take another look at the layout of the land at Rhigos. It will help explain what I believe is planned.

The picture below is taken from the Viewpoint looking looking west. It shows the ridge of Craig y Llyn, from where one of the zip wires will start, and below it lies the lake to which the name refers, Llyn Fawr. (There’s a Llyn Fach further over.)

You’ll notice that one side of the lake is straight, and that’s because it’s a reservoir, as is Llyn Fach, they both supplied Tower Colliery.

Click to enlarge

It’s time now to introduce someone you’re probably familiar with. Someone else who can be found on the eighth floor with Blake Morgan.

I’m referring to Shire Oak International Ltd (SHI). And whaddya know – one of the two directors of SHI is Mark Shorrock, who was of course the mastermind behind the proposed Swansea tidal lagoon, rejected by the UK government last June.

So is he involved at Rhigos, has Sharrock’s gaze been distracted from Mumbles? Of course, sharing the Cardiff address with Sean Taylor of Zip World could be pure coincidence, but I think not.

For while we all associate Mark Shorrock with tidal lagoons, he is a man with fingers in many pies. There’s quarries, for a start, such as Dean Quarry in Cornwall, from where he hoped to get the stone for the Swansea lagoon wall.

Another ‘pie’ is renewable energy; solar, wind and pumped storage. And companies such as Shire Oak Pumped Storage (Llanddulas) Ltd, which was struck off in April. This is a fate that befalls many of Shorrock’s companies. The boy’s had some bad luck.

Which may be why the ‘Welsh Government’, in the form of Carwyn Jones (remember him?), promised to chip in with £200m when the UK government shafted his plans for Swansea Bay.

Not only that, but he got quite comfy down in the City of my Dreams, and was well regarded by Swansea University. Where the Uni had the third floor of the Civic Centre on Oystermouth Road all to themselves, for their Centre for Regional Innovation, under recently departed Marc Clement.

A local source tells me that at one time there were no fewer than seven Shorrock companies on the third floor. Though getting information on them from either the council or the university proved futile, they always had an excuse.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR RHIGOS?

Whether Shorrock has teamed up with Zip World or not at Rhigos I’m certain that the ‘Welsh Government’ is involved because, through Natural Resources Wales, it owns so much of the land up there; including the two lakes, the escarpment and the forests.

But even if Shorrock is not involved, if his being at the same Cardiff address as Sean Wallace Taylor is pure coincidence, then whatever is planned for Rhigos still goes way beyond zip wires.

The clues are there:

  • There’s the reorganisation of the Zip World group towards the end of last year.
  • Then the new company linked up with LDC Parallel (Nominees) Ltd to find secret investors.
  • We have the CEO of the Development Bank of Wales becoming a director of the new Zip World parent company. (To look after ‘Welsh Government’ interests, in the form of land and assets to be handed over?)
  • Then there’s the curious aborted sale of a prime piece of property in the form of the Rhigos Viewpoint that saw a ‘Welsh Government’ Minister misleading us.
  • Finally, a new director joins Zip World very recently who has no experience in tourism, but whose field of expertise is nuclear and renewable energy.

To understand what I think is happening at Rhigos you have to remember that the ‘Welsh Government’ has massive assets in publicly-owned land, much of it held by Natural Resources Wales, which of course took over Forestry Commission land. Forestry managed by NRW accounts for 6% of the total area of Wales.

There is pressure from various quarters to ‘monetise’ these assets, and if that can be done behind a green smokescreen then so much the better. We see it all over Wales in forests where thousands of trees have been felled to make way for wind turbines and the roads serving them. More damage is done in building, transporting and erecting wind turbines than they ever recoup in their short working lives.

From Natural Resources Wales website. Click to enlarge

The high ground at Rhigos provides the perfect opportunity to ‘monetise’ some NRW assets. There may indeed be zip wires, but they won’t come alone. There will be cabins, maybe a hotel and other facilities, perhaps wind turbines and some scheme involving Llyn Fawr and Llyn Fach. Perhaps even the storage of nuclear waste.

With the package dressed up as an ‘adventure resort’ such as Gavin Woodhouse promised for the nearby Afan Valley. For, remember, with the M4 and the Heads of the Valleys road providing access, plus almost two million people within 40 miles of Rhigos, there is a much bigger customer potential than for any venture in the north.

Whatever is planned for Rhigos, the ‘Welsh Government’ should pause and ask itself what it’s getting involved in, and with whom. For example, is there any concern over ZWPV’s anonymous backers?

If Shorrock’s involved, then is he being thrown a bone for losing out on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon? And if so, do we owe him anything?

And if we’re going to give honesty a romp in the summer sunshine, then maybe we can also have explained to us the relationship between the ‘Welsh Government’ and its assorted agencies on the one hand, and certain favoured Cardiff legal firms and people like Sean Wallace Taylor and Mark Christopher Shorrock on the other?

How do it all fit together, innit?

To conclude; my reading of the Rhigos situation is that deals are being struck in the background, with our assets; and this will result in some people making a lot of money, yet once again, we, the Welsh people, will lose out.

But this is unavoidable in a colonialist environment when the local political class can be dictated to by their colonial masters and also wound around the fingers of the money men.

An independent Wales run by such people – or those hoping to replace them – would see us receiving food parcels from Venezuela. And they’d probably celebrate such shows of ‘solidarity’.

♦ end ♦

 

Pot Pourri 12.12.2018

As you can see, this is another big one. But it’s made up of five separate reports: Hendy wind farm, recent events in Swansea and Llanelli which may – or may not – be linked, the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre, the redevelopment of the Tower opencast site, and finally, the leadership election in a non-existent political party.

So you can either make yourself a panad, settle down and go through the lot in one go. Alternatively, you can take them one at a time. The choice is yours.

Unless something big crops up this might be my last posting until 2019. If that’s how it turns out, then . . .

HENDY WIND FARM: WHO GAVE THE WORD? WHEN? WHY?

A few weeks ago, in Corruption in the Wind, I looked at three wind farms: Bryn Blaen, near Llangurig; Rhoscrowther, near Milford Haven; and Hendy, near Crossgates. All being promoted by the same property company. 

Hendy wind farm merits another visit.

You’ll recall that Hendy was refused planning permission by Powys County Council and this decision was upheld by a planning inspector in May this year. But then, in late October, Lesley Griffiths, Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Secretary for the management team in Cardiff docks, said that she would over-rule the planning inspector’s decision and allow Hendy to proceed.

The landscape to be desecrated by Hendy wind farm, click to enlarge

In the earlier piece I argued that what triggered the change of heart over Hendy was the High Court decision in September to finally put a stop to the Rhoscrowther project on the Milford Haven Waterway.

Prior to that High Court decision the developers had Bryn Blaen in the bag, were hopeful of getting Rhoscrowther, and were probably resigned to writing off Hendy, taking the view that two out of three ain’t that bad. But once Rhoscrowther was lost they were down to one out of three – they had to have Hendy.

Here’s the sequence of events leading to where we are at present.

The Construction Environmental Management Plan we encountered in the bullet points above should have been produced before work started, but in the case of Hendy it’s dated November 19, six weeks after on-site work started. 

The more I think about it, the more I believe there’s only one way to explain the panicky happenings at Hendy.

The decision to allow the Hendy wind farm was taken in London after approaches by the developers following the Rhoscrowther decision. (For despite the Planning Inspectorate having a desk in Cardiff it answers to the Department for Communities and Local Government in London.)

A political decision taken in London was passed to the Planning Inspectorate and only belatedly relayed to Lesley Griffiths when someone remembered about devolution. (Further proof that what masquerades as the ‘Welsh Government’ is just London’s management team in Wales.)

Worth mentioning may be that the landowner at Hendy is Sir Robert John Green-Price 5th Bt. It’s reasonable to assume that Sandhurst-educated Sir Robert has influential friends. It’s equally reasonable to assume that the developers, Marcus Owen Shepherd, Matthew Simon Weiner and Richard Upton, also ‘know people’.

Last week the developers were pile-driving at the source of the Edw, a Special Area of Conservation. All being done in the name of ‘conservation’ and ‘the environment’. The Edw runs south to join the Wye at Aberedw.

Pile-driving in an SAC at the source of the Edw, click to enlarge

Where, last Sunday, a day after the Cilmeri commemoration, people remembered a hero who may have been betrayed. How fitting that they should gather at Aberedw, by a river being polluted by modern invaders assisted by today’s traitors.

TIDAL LAGOON PUTTING WIND UP WIND FARMERS?

One of the more interesting schemes promoted in Wales in recent years was the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon. It eventually failed because the UK government refused to support it.

Yet it had a great deal of backing from people who pointed out that the electricity generated by the Swansea lagoon, a relatively small prototype, was bound to be expensive, but the possibilities of tidal power are immense and larger lagoons would be cheaper all round. For one thing tides, unlike wind, are entirely predictable and therefore reliable.

Not far away from the proposed tidal lagoon we saw one of the more extravagant schemes mooted in recent years in the £225m Wellness Village in Llanelli’s Delta swamp, being promoted chiefly by Carmarthenshire chief executive Mark James and Swansea academic Marc Clement, the latter a Turk by birth.

click to enlarge

This project was to be part-funded from the £1.3bn Swansea Bay city deal.

Clement and a few other senior academics in Swansea, including the vice-chancellor, were recently suspended and it was generally agreed that this was somehow connected with the Wellness Village, certainly Clement was connected. Though no Llanelli connection could be established for vice-chancellor Richard B Davies or the other two, unnamed, persons who were suspended.

It was no surprise then that following the Swansea suspensions the Wellness Village seemed to get poorly. Within a very short time the infection spread and now a review has been ordered of the whole city region deal.

But why should the London government suddenly be so concerned about doings in south west Wales?

I’ve been giving this matter some thought, and here’s what I think.

Just a few miles from Swansea Bay lies Mynydd y Gwair, on the northern outskirts of the city. This was an area of wild and unspoilt upland . . . until fat grants were introduced for wind turbines.

Then the owner of Mynydd y Gwair, the Beaufort Estate (Prop. Duke of Beaufort), decided it could make millions by covering this beautiful area with ugly, useless, bird-killing wind turbines. This is the same Beaufort Estate that ten years ago charged the city council £280,000 to put a footbridge over the Tawe near the Liberty Stadium.

click to enlarge

Beaufort and his ilk are descended from medieval robber barons, and they still know how to extract money from the rest of us.

It’s the same across this island. In Scotland the descendants of the Parcel of Rogues and assorted foreign landowners are minting it with wind turbines; while in England it’s a similar story, with former PM David Cameron’s father-in-law among those raking it in.

And linked with them are the property men and experts who will do all the dirty work, and reap their own rewards, those we see behind the Hendy wind farm.

And so there must be a possibility that the UK government is ‘reviewing’ the Swansea Bay city deal because Swansea council is threatening to resurrect the tidal lagoon, for that might be disastrous for the wind farmers who are so close to the Tory party, and in many instances, fund it.

‘But, Jac, what about the suspensions at Swansea University and the Wellness Village?’

The Wellness Village was up Shit Creek anyway, no private money was going to appear. It has simply been written off early before any more public money is wasted. As for the suspensions, the Wellness Village might have been a useful distraction.

Put the Wellness Village to one side and remember that the university is also heavily involved with Tidal Lagoon Mk II. It was the university that commissioned the recent report – on behalf of the Swansea Bay City Region – into reviving the barrage project.

Then look at the plan. Swansea University’s new Bay Campus is at the eastern landfall of the proposed lagoon. Students would have fought to get into a university with its own private beach which also overlooked a ground-breaking tidal lagoon offering many recreational facilities.

click to enlarge

But as I say, a revived Swansea tidal lagoon might be bad news for those behind Hendy wind farm, and for Lord Beaufort, also for the repackaged Parcel of Rogues, and of course for Sam Cam’s daddy.

We may need to look no further to explain the UK government’s decision to ‘review’ the Swansea Bay city deal.

BODNANT WELSH FOOD CENTRE

Another recent business failure was the collapse of the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre in Dyffryn Conwy. Though it now looks as though it has been saved by local teacake tycoon Richard Reynolds (who I’m sure is no relation to Rikki Reynolds of Weep for Wales notoriety).

In all the excitement too many have neglected to ask the basic questions about Bodnant, such as: Who’s calling the shots? Why was a grant of £6.5m made? Should that money have been allocated? Was the money used well? Why did Bodnant Food Centre collapse? What happens now?

The first thing to explain – and this is fundamental to understanding the bigger picture – is that the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre, opened in 2012 by Charles Windsor, is part of the Bodnant Estate, run by The Hon Michael Duncan McLaren QC, educated at Eton and Cambridge.

Michael McLaren’s father was the third Baron Aberconway, but this son has not succeeded to the title because he’s trumped by an older half-brother, Henry Charles McLaren, from his father’s first marriage (though there may be a dispute over entitlement).

Bodnant Estate, click to enlarge

You won’t find Bodnant Welsh Food Centre on the Companies House website because it trades as Furnace Farm Ltd, and this company was Incorporated with Companies House 20 October 2005. Furnace Farm is where we find the venture that received the £6.5m grant, but this is little more than a fancy shop selling overpriced food. 

For as a source put it to me: Dry home cured bacon for sale at £23/kg, yet both butchers at Llanrwst, some four miles away, were selling at £7.55/kg! Both butchers from known local sources!!”

Maybe at this point I should explain that despite not having succeeded to the title, Michael McLaren owns the whole shooting match, for in this document (page 5), the financial statement for year ending 31.01.2013, we read, “The company (Furnace Farm Ltd) entered into transactions with the Bodnant Estate which is owned by The Hon Michael McLaren”.

In addition to the Bodnant Estate and the Welsh Food Centre we have of course the well-known Bodnant Garden, owned by the National Trust but run by Michael McLaren as if he owns it. Then there’s Bodnant Garden Nursery Ltd, a private company with directors Michael McLaren, his wife Caroline, his mother, Lady Aberconwy, and Brian Eric Alcock.

The McLarens have three children: Angus John Melville, Iona Ann Mariel and Hamish Charles Duncan. Nice to see our Welsh aristocracy keeping with those names that resonate through our history.

Alcock’s background is in furniture, in north west England, with a previous directorship in Malbry Furniture (Sales) Ltd (wound up in May 1992), then Burford House Furniture Ltd (dissolved in August 2013).

So how did Alcock, with his IKEA-rivalling career in furniture, get involved with Michael McLaren in Bodnant Garden Nursery Ltd?

The other company in the family group is Bodnant Joinery Ltd, directors Michael and Caroline McLaren.

Giving us a number of interlinked enterprises on the Bodnant Estate, and all of them controlled by The Hon Michael McLaren QC. Invariably, with such an arrangement, there will be trading and lending between the different entities.

For example, that document I linked to earlier tells us that by January 2013 Furnace Farm Ltd owed Michael McLaren £4,969,122. By 31.01.2014 it’s up to £5,997,109. On 31.01.2015 it’s down a little to £5,862,901. A year later there is no specific mention of McLaren but the amount owed to all creditors has increased from £6,804,203 in 2015 to £7,921,963. By 2017 the figure is up to £8,981,591.

In that final financial statement we are also told that Furnace Farm Ltd lost before tax £1,497,444, up from £1,088,324 the previous year.

Just as well the company had a grant of £6.5m.

The problem with assessing how the grant was spent is that Furnace Farm Ltd is much more than just The Welsh Food Centre. For it also includes accommodation, at the farmhouse. In fact, the Estate offers plenty of accommodation.

And let’s not forget the National Beekeeping Centre of Wales.

To complicate the picture further, when I went to the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) website I could find nothing for either Furnace Farm Ltd or Bodnant Welsh Food Centre.

So eventually I telephoned WEFO, and I was surprised to learn that the name of the project was in fact the Centre of Excellence for Welsh Food, a name I have not seen used.(But I am only too familiar with this practice for making it difficult to make enquiries.) Here are the details

So the question becomes – on what was the £6,444,107 spent? And after going back to WEFO I was told that, “Furnace Farm Ltd received funding of £237,032 from the Processing and Marketing Grant scheme . . . enabled the company to erect a new bespoke building complex . . . “.

So that’s £6,681,139, and counting?

The document I’ve linked to reads: “Centre of Excellence for Welsh Food The adaptation of abandoned farm buildings for economic use . . . 5 minutes from the A55 . . . private investor is providing 50% of the costs . . . project aims to create a retail outlet for local products, catering facilities for innovation with local food and a culinary school.”

Bodnant Welsh Food Centre, image courtesy of Business Leader, click to enlarge

The mention of “abandoned farm buildings” being adapted “for economic use” may refer to the farmhouse I mentioned earlier, now being used as a holiday let, rather than having anything to do with food excellence.

The latest update tells us that the new owner of the food centre, who plans to re-open on February 1st, and is said to be leasing the buildings from the McLarens, told the Daily Post: “It (Bodnant Welsh Food Centre) has been poorly run and we want to bring it back to what it was . . . with genuine authentic local produce in the shop . . . We can’t get away with charging a premium for something you can pick up in the supermarket.”

How very true. But then, if civil servants and/or politicians want to give someone millions of pounds to spend on property he already owns, then whether a retail outlet succeeds or not may be of little consequence in the bigger scheme of things.

The big question for me is: Why did anyone think it was a good use of EU funding to give millions of pounds to a wealthy aristocrat to open a London-prices shop in the Conwy Valley, especially as such funding was not supposed to be given for retail purposes?

And what guarantees do we have that such ‘misjudgements’ will never occur again?

THE LEFT BETRAYS WALES, AGAIN

This is another little tale that gets rather complicated, so let me set the scene with some background information. (Sorry, no music.)

You’ll recall that in December 1994, under threat of closure, Tower Colliery at Hirwaun was bought out by its miners under the leadership of Tyrone O’Sullivan. This made them mine-owners but paradoxically they also became deities in the socialist pantheon.

Tower Colliery was worked until it became uneconomic and closed in January 2008. What is less well known is that following the closure there was a period of opencast mining in the area.

This explains the formation of Tower Newco Ltd which soon changed its name to Tower Regeneration Ltd, a company dedicated to, “Open cast coal working” and “Development of building projects”. The second of those presumably following the ensuing clean-up operations.

Opencast mining began in May 2012, and if it hasn’t already ended, it is scheduled to end this month.

At its birth, Tower Newco Ltd had a single director named on the Certificate of Incorporation, a Kevin Dougan, of Durham. He was soon joined by others including O’Sullivan and also by Ian Anthony Charles Parkin, another businessman from north east England.

If we turn to the Tower Regeneration website, and scroll down to the bottom we find a link to a company called Hargreaves. It’s no surprise to learn that Hargreaves Services plc is also based in Durham, and among its directors we find Kevin James Stewart Dougan.

Almost immediately it was set up Tower Regeneration Ltd took out a loan with Forward Sound Ltd, of Durham, a company that had been set up less than a year before Tower Regeneration. In fact, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that Forward Sound was set up specifically to capitalise on the Tower opencast project.

click to enlarge

Why the strong Durham connection? Well, on a practical level it was a coal-mining area, but on the emotional plane Durham to the bruvvers means the annual Miners’ Gala; it conjures up images of comradely solidarity, fluttering banners and fiery speeches.

On 1 December 2017 the ubiquitous Dougan ceased to be a director at Hargreaves Services, Tower Regeneration, and Forward Sound, but rejoined Tower Regeneration the very next day . . . though Companies House wasn’t notified until 27 April this year!

So from the outset, the Tower opencast and regeneration project has been funded and controlled by English interests. And now they’re lining up to get their hands on the money available for ‘restoration’ work. And we are talking many millions of pounds here.

And as might be expected, the English Labour Party in Wales is eager to play its allotted role in short-changing Wales, again.

It seems that the prettying up is to be done by The Land Restoration Trust, which is both a charity (No 1138337) and a company, though for some reason, on its website it’s called The Land Trust. Its headquarters are in Warrington and it specialises in “open space for community benefit”, much of that open space seems to be reclaimed industrial land, especially in former coalfields.

The Land Restoration Trust was set up by the Coalfields and Joint Ventures Division of the now defunct English Partnerships, “the national regeneration agency for England”, which was succeeded in December 2008 by the Homes and Communities Agency, since re-named Homes England.

Clearly the Land Restoration Trust is an England-only body. Though the website has pages for Scotland and Wales both read: “We currently do not manage any sites in (Scotland/Wales) although we are working hard to do so. If you would like discuss any potential opportunities please contact our Business Development team.”

Despite having no sites in Wales Alison Whitehead, described as ‘Development Manager’, enjoys visiting sites in Wales! But then, Alison, as her Linkedin profile tells us, was ‘Development Manager for North of England and North Wales’.

On 31 January 2018 a reception was held for the ‘Land Trust’ at the Senedd. It was hosted by Vikki Howells the Labour AM for Cynon Valley. Here’s the report from the Land Restoration Trust website.

And below you’ll see what Howells put out on Facebook the following day. Note that she mentions “ownership and management options”. In fact, it had already been decided behind the scenes, and years ago, making the Senedd reception no more than a PR exercise.

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Vikki Howells is involved for no better reason than she’s the local AM, having been elected in 2016 because she was the donkey with the red rosette. Does she really understand what’s gone on at Tower and who owns what?

Though if Ms Howells was so keen to inform the Cynon Valley public then she should have explained why her administration has abrogated its responsibilities and rolled back devolution. And also explained why the profits from developing this local site will be leaving Wales.

The Tower opencast operation didn’t last for much more than six years, it employed few, and when repayment of loans, leasing and hiring are taken into account, it wasn’t that profitable, certainly not for Tower. The big beneficiary appears to have been Hargreaves Surface Mining Ltd, renamed Hargreaves Land Ltd in June 2018.

(It should go without saying that Kevin James Stewart Dougan ceased to be a director of Hargreaves Land on 1 December 2017. What is the significance of that date?)

Hargreaves Surface Mining was set up in October 2011, just before opencast mining began at Tower. The timing is no coincidence. Hargreaves Surface Mining Ltd joined a host of new companies that had been created in north east England to make big bucks out of a mining operation in Wales.

An operation that put little money into the local economy but enriched strangers. It also served the purpose of being the necessary precursor to the second stage of the project that will inherit a large tract of land together with millions of pounds to landscape and redevelop it.

Who knows what will be done on the old Tower opencast site. Housing? A leisure resort such as we see not far away in the Afan Valley? One thing I predict with certainty – as with the opencast site, the profits will leave Wales.

Vikki Howells seems to envision the development at Tower linking with the Rhondda Tunnel . . . owned by Highways England!

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Or maybe it’ll be more wind turbines, for while they generate little or no electricity they certainly produce massive incomes for those who operate them, and the landowners involved. 

It’s difficult to believe that all this is happening after twenty years of devolution. But as I’ve argued many times, devolution is a sham, a façade; and behind that façade Wales is being ripped off and inexorably assimilated into England.

This assimilation along with the exploitation we see at Hendy and Mynydd y Gwair, Bodnant and Tower, is being facilitated by socialists, and the Labour Party, doing what they always do – selling Wales down the river.

GREEN PARTY OF ENGLANDANDWALES

Earlier this year members of the self-styled ‘Wales Green Party’ voted against becoming a Wales Green Party, choosing to remain part of the Green Party of Englandandwales and calling themselves The Green Party in Wales. Whereupon the party ‘leader’ defected to Plaid Cymru.

The confusion that resulted may be reflected in the fact that the party website seems to have been abandoned, with nothing posted since 10 July.

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Yet despite all the recent tribulations this Green Party of England in Wales is currently holding a leadership election. Yes, that’s a leadership contest to a non-existent party! Among those standing is Anthony Slaughter.

So who is he? Well, it should go without saying that he’s not Welsh. He lives in Penarth and seems to have a high regard for himself, adopting that tone of moral and intellectual superiority that so endears the Greens to me.

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And he spreads his talents wide, for when he’s not saving the planet he’s up in London demanding something called A People’s Vote, supporting the Stansted 15, and arguing for 20 mph speed limits. Sainthood can’t be far away.

But being a Green he’s probably a practising pagan. (Or am I thinking, vegan?)

Obviously there’s no such thing as the Wales Green Party, but then, there’s no such thing as the Welsh Labour Party either, it’s just a label, there’s nothing registered with the Electoral Commission. 

So maybe the Greens take their lead from the Labour Party, because they often seem close, almost as if the Greens are the idealistic younger relative indulged by the more staid Labour Party. 

And the closeness isn’t confined to the Greens, it seems to extend to the environmentalist movement as a whole, maybe it’s something to do with the self-absorbed regarding themselves as ‘progressive’

This perhaps explains why public money was recently spent on foot massage by the Future Generations Commissioner, that very close friend of the late Carl Sargeant.

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But it’s not just Labour that likes to cwtch up to those who think that the examples of Hendy and Mynydd y Gwair should be replicated on every pristine landscape in Wales. Who believe that carving up the countryside to lay thousands of tons of concrete is good environmental practice.

I mentioned that Slaughter, the would-be leader of the non-existent party, lives in Penarth. Where I’m told certain Plaidistas – the names Clubb and Wilton were mentioned – have been keen to do electoral deals with these Wales-rejecting colonialists.

But then, nothing surprises me any more, whether it’s the Greens, Plaid Cymru, or the Labour Party. They all pursue their own agendas, driven by narrow ideology and trapped within dogmas, rather than pragmatically promoting what’s best for the Welsh people.

That’s why they’ve failed us, and that’s why time is running out for all of them.

end ♦

 

News Round-up 29.05.2018

This is a bumper edition, some 3,600 words, enough to keep you going for a week. It comprises six different reports so you don’t need to gorge and make yourself ill, you can take it one piece at a time. Enjoy!

MRS AND MR MERRILL

Rose Mutale Merrill (née Nyoni), doyenne of the race relations industry in Wales, head of Bawso, and involved with so many other organisations, a Labour Party insider and enforcer, has figured on this blog many times. News now reaches me of yet another string to her bow.

For it is alleged that she has built up quite a property empire in some desirable locations in and around Cardiff. One such property being 6 Mitre Place, in Llandaf, quite close to the cathedral. This cost her £223,600 in May, 2005.

This was before her marriage to Travers Merrill in or around October 2008, he of Rhondda Life fame. ‘Rhondda Life?’ Well, yes, it was a venture which, according to this report, seems to have targeted the gourmet tourists with which the Rhondda Fach is inundated.

Or, to put a less generous interpretation on it, it was yet another non-starter claiming hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money in an attempt to be seen to be doing something in a Labour heartland and, more importantly, providing cushy numbers for Labour Party time-servers.

Travers Merrill was chief executive of Rhondda Life, though when the inevitable collapse came about, Shippo of Llais y Sais was considerate enough to see that Merrill’s name did not appear.

Looking through the papers filed with Companies House I see that after the liquidators – based in Leicester! – had taken their pound of flesh Rhondda Life seems to have been left with 43 pence in the kitty. Another great success for the Poverty Party.

This is what happens when socialists are allowed anywhere near public money (click to enlarge)

But let us hie again to leafy Llandaf.

What I found strange about the title document for 6 Mitre Place was that even though the property was bought before the nuptials in the autumn of 2008 the title document has been amended to show Mutale’s married name, but the erstwhile Raymond Blanc of Ferndale is not mentioned. Which suggests that she is the sole owner.

Not content with just one property she then purchased another not far away, opposite Llandough Hospital. And there have been other purchases since to give Rose Mutale Nyoni-Merrill what I’m told now amounts to quite a property portfolio.

My informant – who I’m sure is mistaken – suggests that there might have been ‘confusion’ in the purchase of 6 Mitre Place, confusion as to the source of the deposit for the property. Perhaps money got mixed up somehow. But as I say, my informant is almost certainly wrong.

Before bidding this formidable woman farewell, another informant tells me that Mrs Nyoni-Merrill is/was lined up – certainly, shortlisted – for the job of Older People’s Commissioner. Can this be true?

Y WLADFA

In 1968 our national rugby team made its first trip to Argentina. As might be expected, contact was made with the descendants of the Welsh settlers in Patagonia. The BBC’s Onllwyn Brace – former rugby international himself – made a wonderful film of Alun Williams and others on that trip south.

Here’s a link to that 40 minute film (in Welsh). I urge you to find time to watch it. (Though the beginning could have benefited from editing.)

The Welsh Rugby Union has arranged another trip to Argentina for next month, playing two tests against Los Pumas. Given that this will be the fiftieth anniversary of that first tour, our cousins in Patagonia anticipated a visit, hoping that one of the test matches might be played in Trelew, or Puerto/Porth Madryn as on the last tour in 2006.

But it seems the WRU attaches no great importance to the Patagonia connection, or the Welsh language. As I discovered when our Patagonia correspondent supplied me with the information below.

Still from film of 1968 visit to Patagonia (click to enlarge)

Let me start by emphasising that the host country chooses venues for test matches involving touring teams, and for this tour Unión Argentina de Rugby (UAR) eventually gave the tests to the cities of San Juan and Santa Fe, both west of Buenos Aires and well over a thousand kilometres north of the Welsh settlements.

And even after the decision of the host country the venues still have to be confirmed by World Rugby.

When it became clear that no test match would be played in Patagonia the emphasis shifted to laying on entertainment and sight-seeing tours for WRU representatives, especially players, and of course fans, in order to raise money for the local Welsh schools. But for this to happen, the tour operators, responsible for arranging the fans’ itineraries, would need to play ball.

My source’s first contact with the WRU was a phone call on 27 September from chairman Gareth Davies (following a number of telephone calls to him and his secretary). Davies passed the job on to Mark Killingley, Head of Digital and Communications. Killingley appears to be an internet/PR expert who joined the Welsh Rugby Union in 2016 from its English counterpart the RFU

Following that telephone conversation my contact sent an e-mail reiterating the hope that the Welsh Rugby Union would – irrespective of where the test matches were held – show support for the Welsh language in Patagonia, specifically for the schools.

“As I explained on the phone, we would like to organise a series of events for both the fans and the WRU, with all money raised being used by the 3 Welsh language schools in Patagonia for the benefit of Welsh language teaching. To have the best chance of getting the UK Rugby tour companies on board, we would like to make an announcement as soon as possible. And, in order to get the best response from the Rugby Tour companies, we would like to have the open support of the Welsh Rugby Union.”

Contact was also made with Gullivers Sports Travel of Gloucester, the Welsh Rugby Union’s official travel agents. Because of course the WRU had said they wouldn’t do anything that conflicted with what Gullivers was arranging.

The representative at Gullivers that my source met – after travelling to England on other business – had never heard of the Welsh colony in Patagonia and showed no interest in learning. Gullivers would only go to Patagonia if the UAR held one of the games down there.

More bad news came with BBC Wales’ refusal to allow sales of the 1968 film I’ve linked to above, despite Cardiff University having prepared a transcript of the film to enable subtitles.

Even after the UAR announced the venues the Welsh community was still optimistic of getting fans to visit and were working flat out. As my source put it in another e-mail to Killingley, “We have a meeting of the Welsh schools in Patagonia this weekend, and I will travel to Trelew next Wednesday (600km!!), to try and finalise at least a programme for the fans.”

Making clear that the only thing being asked of the Welsh Rugby Union was an expression of support for what hard-working and dedicated people were doing down in Patagonia in the hope that tour operators would make it easier for fans to get down there.

E-mails continued to fly between Wales and Provincia Chubut in the desperate hope that the WRU might be persuaded do something – anything! – to recognise the Welsh colony in Patagonia and show support for it, for the Welsh language, and the schools helping keep it alive.

But it soon became clear to my correspondent that this was a forlorn hope.

The WRU made it clear that no players would be coming to Patagonia – ‘But we can send our CEO’.

‘No, I think people down here want to meet the players, but if they can’t come then how about donating some items that could be raffled to raise money for the Welsh schools?’

‘Oh, no, we couldn’t do that without a recognised charity being involved’.

‘For God’s sake these schools are recognised by the Argentina Ministry of Education – and we had to fight to get that recognition for Welsh language schools’.

On March 27, in what was close to the final communication, the Welsh Rugby Union was told:

“Throughout my communication with the WRU, we have tried to make a number of suggestions about how the WRU could help the survival of the Welsh language in Patagonia and each suggestion has met with resistance or rejection and never with any suggestion about how the WRU could help.

The WRU is obviously not willing to assist official representatives of the Welsh communities in Patagonia, who are asking for a simple endorsement of fund-raising initiatives which should align with the broad interest of a very public Welsh organisation. We have pointed out to you that this tour occurs 50 years after the first tour, where the WRU and the BBC went to great lengths to publicise the Welsh communities in Patagonia. You wear your commitment to the Welsh language very openly on your sleeves.”

As things stand, our cousins will next month be laying on events and food, entertainment and sight-seeing trips in the hope that fans will somehow make their way south from the northern cities. And it’s being done without any support whatsoever from the self-styled Welsh Rugby Union. Though in fairness, maybe Gullivers Sports Travel has now got the message, though it might have been garbled in transmission.

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With its three feathers badge and its constant fawning over the English royals the Welsh Rugby Union is a national disgrace. Nothing exposes its ambivalent Welshness more than its attitude to the language, both at home and overseas.

Thank God we’ve got a national football team with a governing body far more supportive than the WRU of the language, perhaps even some of our footballers display a little more pride in their roots than many of our rugby players. For example, it was great to see Gareth Bale leave the field in Kiev on Saturday, after scoring his wonder goal, with the national flag draped over his shoulders.

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Which seems to be part of a pattern.

For I’ve noticed in fifty years and more of following Welsh sport that our football fans seem to be increasingly dedicated to the team, and to Wales; whereas the death of heavy industry in the south seems to have robbed rugby of its traditional support base, for which spangly cowboy hats, inflatable daffodils and an endless supply of expensive beer are no real substitute.

But then, it’s all money.

DELTA WELLBEING LTD

Readers of this blog, and indeed other blogs, especially those focusing on Sir Gâr, will be alert to any mention of Wellbeing, the catchword for the private healthcare development, shopping mall, leisure centre, 86-lane bowling alley, and home for the Welsh space programme, planned for Delta Lakes in Llanelli. Something of which we first became aware with the publication of this document (page 25, section 5.4).

The grand venture originally involved a company known as Kent Neurosciences Ltd, now, alas, dissolved. Among the directors of this enterprise we find a Professor Robert Marc Clement, a Turk by birth now expanding young minds at Swansea University.

Which is convenient, for Swansea University is a partner in the Delta Lakes project.

I have written nothing about Clement myself but he appears regularly on The Eye, a blog written by one of my biggest fans, Phil Parry, who is forever quoting me, updating his biography, and using my photos without permission. (You rascal, you!)

Kent Neurosciences’ place at Delta Lakes may now have been taken by Delta Wellbeing Ltd, Incorporated as recently as January this year with a single one pound share. The company was formed by a Russell Holmes Thompson from what I believe to be his home address in Wolverhampton.

So why would someone form a company in Wolverhampton that is obviously linked to Delta Lakes in Llanelli? Come to that, who is Russell Holmes Thompson? Well, he seems to have been involved in many companies over the years, a number of which are in the health and care sector.

He must have been previously known to Carmarthenshire County Council because on February 4 he ceased to be “a person with significant control” and a day later he was joined as director by Mrs Samantha Watkins, an employee of the council. On the same day the company’s address moved from Wolverhampton to the Dafen Industrial Estate in Llanelli.

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Then, mysteriously, Watkins ceased to be a director on the 8th, but returned on March 20 accompanied by Owen William Bowen, possibly another council employee. So it was no surprise to see on March 23 Carmarthenshire Council listed as “a person with significant control”.

Which means that between February 8 and March 20 Thompson was officially the sole director despite having officially relinquished “significant control”. Odd, that.

As we know, Carmarthenshire County Council is simply Mark Vincent James, its chief executive (and Cardiff Bay property tycoon), by another name. And Delta Lakes is his gift to posterity, his lasting legacy for the grateful citizenry of Carmarthenshire, and nothing must be allowed to interfere with this vision.

So let’s keep an eye on Delta Wellbeing Ltd and the Delta Lakes project generally. Keep tabs on how much of the county’s money is used on this project, what other partners emerge, how much of the Swansea Bay City Deal money is diverted, what role is found for Marc Clement, how many new homes will be needed to help fund it, etc.

This could run and run!

CASTING A LONG SHADOW

The tragic death of Carl Sargeant AM last November lifted the lid a little on the links between politicians, their advisers, PR outfits, third sector parasites and other denizens of that cess-pit known as Cardiff Bay.

Fresh information reaches me that makes the whole business look even more distasteful.

I’m told that following Sargeant’s death, Christina Rees, MP for Neath and Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, had to be forced by other Welsh MPs to make a statement of condolence. Because, I’m told, she, or perhaps her political adviser, former Cardiff councillor, Luke Holland, had been briefing against Carl Sargeant, and that the briefings continued against former AM Leighton Andrews, Sargeant’s friend and defender.

There was outrage within the Labour Party over the behaviour of Rees and Holland, which the bruvvers managed to keep within the party (easy given the absence of a Welsh media) but even so, Holland’s position became untenable and he left, or was forced to leave, Ms Rees’ office.

So what did the boy do next?

He did what everybody in his position does – he set up a PR outfit! This one called Cathod Du (Black Cats) Consultancy Ltd, Incorporated November 30. It seems to have no website and no presence beyond the few sparse documents at Companies House, but that may not matter, for it might now have a specific purpose, or a single client.

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I’m told that Holland is a supporter of Vaughan Gething, who a few days ago announced that he was running for Labour leader in the Assembly. And in the best traditions of Welsh politics it is further suggested that Cathod Du may act as a conduit for funding the Gething campaign.

To complicate matters even further, Mark Holland is married to Louise Magee, the general secretary of Plaid Tlodi. Magee was heavily involved in Sargeant’s sacking on November 3. I believe it was she who sent the e-mail informing him of his dismissal.

Then, in a plot twist few writers would dare commit to paper – Magee was appointed by the party to be Jack Sargeant’s agent in his campaign to succeed his father! Understandably, the welcome mat was not rolled out for her on Deeside, so she booked into a hotel outside of the constituency and kept a very low profile.

And to round off this tale of betrayal and incestuous relationships I also hear that soon after being appointed the Poverty Party’s general secretary last April Magee gave hubby Holland the job of being her press officer, without the post being advertised and at a higher salary than other staff.

If so, this isn’t listed on his Linkedin profile, nor can I find information anywhere else, so can anyone confirm this?

I was told long before Carl Sargeant’s death that Vaughan Gething was Carwyn Jones’s chosen successor. Given how instrumental Jones’s staff and former staff were in the campaign against Sergeant, Magee’s role, and how that links with Holland, and how Holland may now be Gething’s bagman, it does make you wonder.

 

AIRBRUSHED HISTORY

One of the few Twitter accounts I follow is the excellent Welsh not British and his On This Day feature, which last week reminded us of the Mold Riots of 1869. Just as well because I’m sure few of us know of this episode.

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Like so many events in our history the Mold Riots have either been corrupted or ignored entirely. And yet, here we have Welsh miners suffering discrimination, being denied work, then arrested, with the episode eventually resulting in soldiers shooting down people in the streets of a Welsh town.

So how come ‘Welsh’ Labour doesn’t commemorate this event?

The simple answer is that any issue that pits Wales against England or Welsh against English must be avoided like the pox in case it encourages nationalist sentiment which might result in more people questioning the benefits to Wales of being in the Union with England.

But equally, taking the side of England or the English would be damaging for the party, so it’s best that certain issues and incidents are ignored entirely.

For when it comes to Wales the Labour Party is primarily a Unionist Party, everything else is secondary. The ‘socialism’ is just sloganising; the ‘concern’ for the downtrodden is nothing more than posturing to justify the maintenance of the party’s third sector auxiliary force; while the hostility to capitalism is an excuse to explain sheer incompetence from arseholes incapable of organising an economy.

Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the Mold Riots. The Poverty Party won’t commemorate the event but those who died and the others who suffered such blatant and racist discrimination should be remembered. They deserve it.

Let’s do it in 2019!

SEND US YOUR SICK AND YOUR ELDERLY, WALES CAN AFFORD IT!

The Conservatives have once again raised the issue of free prescriptions, and once again, they’ve done it without really grasping the problem.

As the article from Llais y Sais tells us, people have been getting Bonjela, Strepsils, and even deodorants on prescription, which is guaranteed to get ‘Apoplectic of Cowbridge’ choking on his single malt but doesn’t amount to much in the greater scheme of things. For the abuse of the free prescription legislation is only the tip of the iceberg.

That’s because free prescriptions attract into Wales large numbers of people who would otherwise be spending a sizeable amount of money every month on prescription charges, for there are no free prescriptions in England. These will be people with serious and long-term conditions.

I see such people every day in Tywyn, and they can be found in every other small town in Wales.

Quite obviously, the demands such people make on the NHS will not be restricted to prescription charges. In fact, prescription charges will be only one small part of the burden imposed by a high dependency group attracted to Wales in the first instance by free prescriptions.

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For they will also require hospital treatment, therapy and carers, there may be a nurse calling regularly. Or perhaps it’s transport, from the Wales Mobility and Driving Assessment Service, funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government. Its headquarters are at Rookwood Hospital in Cardiff but it has a northern office in Rhyl and ‘outreach’ services at Newtown, Oswestry and Pembrokeshire.

All of which adds up to a hell of a lot more in monetary terms than prescription charges.

Of course a high percentage of the people we’re discussing will be middle-aged and elderly, which helps explain why we also read in the article, “The number of ‘drugs for dementia’ items rocketed by 1,473% – up from just over 11,000 in 2002 to nearly 179,000 in 2017”.

An iron law of the relationship between Wales and England says: ‘Anything which makes Wales attractive to English people will result in large numbers of English people moving into Wales’.

It would be nice if this was a booming economy, an abundance of well-paid jobs, and a labour shortage, but it’s not. (Of course, many of the better jobs are reserved for English people, but that’s simply because of our colonial status.)

Apart from that, what attracts people to Wales in 2018 – especially the retired and other non-working groups – is cheap property prices (or easy access to social housing), nice scenery, few ‘ethnic minorities’, and free prescriptions.

Yes, Northern Ireland and Scotland also have free prescriptions, but they do not have large numbers of English people, moving in every year. Those that do move are more likely to be students than retirees.

It’s difficult to understand why the situation we experience today could not have been foreseen, and the problem mitigated with a residency period of say 10 years in Wales before anyone qualified for free prescriptions.

Or maybe it was foreseen.

Because if someone wanted to skew Welsh health and sickness statistics, over-burden our NHS, in order to paint a picture of we Welsh being unable to run our own affairs, then free prescriptions is a bloody good way of doing it.

I leave you with the words of a ‘Welsh’ Government spokesperson: “Free prescriptions were introduced in Wales as a long-term investment to improve people’s health”. The truth is that free prescriptions have made Wales a less healthy country.

♦ end ♦