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
I suggested in the previous post that something odd may be going on in Pembroke Dock. There is, and I’m now convinced that it’s not restricted to Pembroke Dock; for something very similar seems to be happening across the water, in Country Antrim.
If you haven’t yet read the previous article, then do so now, otherwise you’ll struggle to make sense of this one.
MAGHERAMORNE CEMENT WORKS
In addition to Trevor Iain Walker and his Singaporean associates we also met Alfred William Buller in the previous article. To quickly recap, Alfie, as he is known, lives at Scarva House, County Down, which stages the annual Sham Fight between King James and King William (the latter having stopped at Scarva on his way to the Boyne in 1690).
Buller only entered the narrative tangentially because Walker came to control one of Buller’s many companies (but without becoming a director). This company was Brigstock Campsite Ltd. But now I learn – from Brychan Davies, who comments regularly on this blog – that there is another connection, if not with Walker himself, then certainly with the kind of Singaporean financiers Walker works with or represents.
The connection is found in Magheramorne Park Ltd, a company that bought an old Blue Circle cement works and quarry in County Antrim. You’ll have seen that the company was Incorporated 6 December 2016 and the two directors were Alfred William Buller and Alfred William Buller, who I assume are father and son. (Which is what the birth dates suggest.)
The Bullers were joined as directors 15 September 2017 by Eugene Aw and Yee Hung Lim, both of Singapore. They represent Oddball Ventures Pte Ltd of Singapore. Not only that, but they also came bearing a gift in the form of a loan or mortgage on “the land known as the former Magheramorne cement works”.
This loan or mortgage comes courtesy of GSA Oil Pte Ltd, another Singapore company. One that by happy coincidence shares the 80 Tuas Avenue address with Oddball Ventures. As the name might suggest, the lender is not a bank or lender in the usual sense.
GSA was set up 13 September 2016, Oddball Ventures 14 September 2017, just a day before Aw and Lim joined the Bullers on the board of Magheramorne Park Ltd. Which might suggest that Oddball was set up specifically for this link-up.
Oddball Ventures now exerts ‘significant control’ over Magheramorne Park but the Bullers are still aboard and the younger of them may hold 50% of the shares. (This might be attributable to his father being bankrupt.)
There have been a couple of moves to strike off Magheramorne Park Ltd for not submitting documents to Companies House. The first was discontinued and the second was suspended, but with accounts and confirmation statement overdue we can expect compulsory strike-off action to re-commence shortly.
As we saw earlier in the week, with VR 1844 Ltd the Singapore connection is provided by Trevor Walker and Lai Heng Seto. So we have two sites, one in Ireland and the other in Wales, with a strong Singapore connection.
‘Is that it!’, you’re asking. Well, no. Now I’m going to explain what I think is going on.
THE BIT AT THE END WHERE EVERYBODY GATHERS IN THE DRAWING ROOM
The clue to what’s going on here is the date that Magheramorne Park Ltd was formed – December 2016, six months after the EU referendum and the Leave vote.
But what do the two sites have in common?
Well, both have a great deal of open space – and they’re close to a ferry port. In the case of Magheramorne it’s Larne (though Belfast isn’t that far either) and in the case of the Old Defensible Barracks it’s the Pembroke-Rosslare route.
What’s planned for both sites I suspect is lorry parks. For with the UK about to leave the EU there may need to be lorry parks to check the vehicles and their documentation in the event of no deal, a poor deal, or protracted negotiations.
This article, while focusing on the Humber ports, shows the problem. This article makes clear that the Irish Sea crossings will also be affected.
Cross-border checks on ferry traffic might also explain the Singaporean interest in Plymouth dealt with in the previous piece. For Plymouth is already a ferry port and Singapore is a hub of the Asian ferry business.
I am 90% certain that what is planned for the Old Defensible Barracks in Pembroke Dock – or, more importantly, the land alongside it currently serving as a golf course – is a lorry park where trucks entering and leaving the UK will be checked and have their documentation verified.
The same future I believe is planned for the old cement works at Magheramorne, at Plymouth, and who knows where else? And it’s being done by stealth. With talk in Pembroke Dock and Plymouth of old buildings being turned into luxury flats or tourist attractions.?
It could be that the UK government is using Trevor Iain Walker and his Singapore buddies as cat’s paws, rather than appear heavy-handed by requisitioning these sites.
How much does our Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart, who happens to be the local MP, know about plans for Pembroke Dock? What might his predecessor, Alun Cairns, know? (And are there also plans for Fishguard and Holyhead?)
And what of our wonderful, talented, and respected ‘Welsh Government’, are they being kept in the loop?
Seeing as the land that would probably be needed, the golf course, seems to be owned by Pembrokeshire County Council, have they been consulted? (Or, indeed, the golfists?)
So many questions. I hope to have some answers when I return to this subject. As I undoubtedly will.
♦ end ♦
UPDATE 11.02.2020:The Western Mail ran a full-page spread on the project today. Obviously a regurgitated press hand-out because when the journalist tried to add a personal touch she located the Barracks in Milford Haven not Pembroke Dock.
Also in the news today was more talk of Milford Haven becoming a freeport. I doubt that, if granted, freeport status will be confined to Milford Haven, it will probably cover the whole waterway, and that will of course include Pembroke Dock.
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
Last week’s offering was a bit of a beast at over 3,000 words so I’m slimming down for this week’s post.
After doing a bit of digging the old Jac whiskers are all a-quiver because I suspect something odd may be going on in Pembroke Dock.
FIELD MARSHAL MITTY
You may remember that last year I wrote about Admiral Wing Commander of the SAS Fabian Sean Lucien Faversham-Pullen VC, Croix de Guerre, Iron Cross (1st Class), Purple Heart and the Order of Lenin, who laid out his plans for Fort Hubberstone in Milford Haven. His new company Camp Valour CIC promised to turn the old base into a wonderland for ex-service personnel.
But Hubberstone is not the only fort in the area. The Milford Haven Waterway has a number of old fortifications because they defend one of the finest deep-water anchorages on earth. All redundant because Johnny Frog is not going to be sailing with hostile intent up the Haven, and neither is anybody else.
Unlike medieval castles these fortifications from a later era don’t draw tourists, so they just sit there, attracting dreamers and schemers.
The title document and plan I downloaded last week from the Land Registry website tells us the site is owned by a local couple. So if VR 1844 Ltd has bought the Old Defensible Barracks it hasn’t been registered.
Returning to the Milford Mercury, we are told that, “New owner, VR 1844 LTD, is a mix of history lovers, town planners and property developers who specialize in restoring historic buildings.” On reading that my first thought was, ‘That’s a strange mix’.
The report continued, “VR 1844 Ltd office manager Tanya McDermott said: ‘VR 1844 believe people never truly own a building but are the buildings guardians for a period of time'”. Which also struck me as odd, because in my experience property developers are pretty hot on things like ownership, and profit. They’re certainly not renowned for getting sentimental over buildings.
But there you go, maybe I’m getting old and cynical.
The Mercury describes Tanya McDermott as ‘office manager’, and she’s presumably the wife of one of VR 1844’s directors, Jonathan McDermott. Another director is Emma Jane Morby. McDermott and Morby are also directors of Raglan Gatehouse Developments Ltd, and Raglan 1857 Ltd. Raglan Gatehouse being a similar project to the Old Defensible Barracks in Plymouth.
With Raglan 1857 we find Tanya McDermott listed as secretary.
Jonathan McDermott seems to be respected in his field and I can’t find any other companies where he’s served as a director.
Turning to Emma Morby though we find seven companies in addition to the two Raglan companies and VR 1844 Ltd. These are:
Let’s Shield Ltd, formed 24.10.2018. Since o7.03.2019 majority shareholder has been Joan James who did not become a director.
Which means that of those seven companies the only one still breathing with which Emma Morby is involved is Goa Group Ltd, but as I suggest, it’s near the door. I don’t wish to be harsh on Ms Morby, but that’s not a record that fills me with confidence.
THE RICHES OF THE ORIENT
If we go back to the Companies House entry for VR 1844 Ltd and check under the ‘People’ tab, we find, in addition to McDermott and Morby, Lai Heng Seto and Trevor Iain Walker listed as directors. Both are residents of Singapore.
VR 1844 Ltd started life on 14 August 2018 as Muniment Yorkshire Ltd, before becoming Walker Property Developments Ltd in July 2019, and adopting the current name on 2 October. The final change coinciding with the arrival of McDermott and Morby on 23 October last year.
And if you think that Emma Morby has been involved in a few companies in recent years, then Trev’s record will make you see how a real property hot-shot operates.
For after doing some digging I have found no fewer than 28 companies with which Trevor Iain Walker has been involved, and from what I can see, they’re all property companies. Here’s a list of them in PDF format, so click on the links to get the details.
What I find surprising about Trevor Walker’s business record is that the earliest entry I can find for him with Companies House is April 2014, when he was approaching his 52nd birthday.
What had he been doing before April 2014?
You’ll see that his early companies all carried the ‘Muniment’ name. (Muniment being a document or title deed proving claim to land or privilege.) Then there’s a two-year gap from December 2014 to December 2016, before Trev comes roaring back with two companies launched on the same day.
Also note that he was not in at the start with the first company, Muniment Ltd. This was Incorporated 12 September 2013, but as we’ve seen, Walker didn’t join until 8 April 2014. His seat was kept warm for him by Lai Heng Seto, who left on the day he arrived.
Ms Seto, you will remember, is also a director of the Pembroke Dock company.
The companies listed on the PDF document I’ve linked to are all companies of which Walker is or has been a director, with one exception, and that exception is Brigstock Campsite Ltd, a company registered in Northern Ireland. It is included because even though Walker was never a director he did control the company through Muniment Ltd owning most of the shares.
In the absence of Trevor Walker and Lai Heng Seto, Singapore was represented by Jody Cheoy Tho Eu and Lee Hung Lim. But it’s the other director I’d like to introduce, Alfred William Buller.
When he’s not fighting popery and a united Ireland, Alfie (as he is known) is a horse breeder and a businessman. In fact, he’s been a director of almost 200 companies. But he may also be bankrupt, which might put a question mark over his involvement in any company.
Going back to Trevor Walker and looking through his companies’ accounts a few things struck me. Let’s go to the oldest company in the portfolio, Muniment Ltd (current directors: Trevor Iain Walker and Lai Heng Seto), and open the latest accounts.
There you’ll see ‘Fixed assets’ and ‘Current assets’ totalling £9,652,355, which looks impressive, until you work out that 87% of that figure is accounted for by ‘Debtors’ (that is, money owed to the company).
Then, under ‘Creditors’ (money owed by the company), we see the figure £9,409,539.
Take one from the other and we arrive at the ‘Net assets’ figure of £242,816.
Go to the accounts for the previous year, 2017, where we learn that more than six million pounds has been taken out by Walker and Seto. Ms Seto is not mentioned by name in the 2018 accounts, so is the £3,578,457 she owes included in the Debtors column?
Will Ms Seto the director be asking Ms Seto the loanee to return the money she so generously granted herself? The same question could be posed to Trevor Walker. But then, when it’s your company, with no other shareholders, you can do what you like. Though to see amounts like that being taken out is unusual.
It makes me wonder where the money originates. Does it come from Singapore, go through the system, and then back to Singapore via Walker and Seto?
It’s worth mentioning that although I’m referring to ‘accounts’, none of these documents are audited, they’re just unverified ‘financial statements’ submitted to Companies House by the directors. In other words, those who are giving themselves millions of pounds.
One of the many failings of the regulatory system in the UK is that a company handling millions of pounds can submit back-of-an-envelope accounts. Or it can be done online. This may, as claimed, ‘remove red tape’, but it also makes it easier for those so inclined to be naughty.
(N.B. I’m not suggesting criminal behaviour by any of those discussed here.)
A WORD TO THE WISE
As with the case I dealt with last week, Anglesey County Council and the Shire Hall in Llangefni, I’m sure Pembrokeshire County Council would like to see the Old Defensible Barracks taken over and developed into an asset for the town.
But Wales sees rather too many ‘developers’ with over-ambitious or downright dishonest schemes. So before Pembrokeshire County Council, the ‘Welsh Government’, or Cadw goes overboard with red carpets and grant funding, I suggest they make a few enquiries.
Establish who actually owns the Old Defensible Barracks.
Investigate the business credentials of whoever you deal with and be sure where their money comes from. (Also, where it goes.)
Only if these enquiries return satisfactory results should you proceed with any project for the Old Defensible Barracks.
I’m only just getting over the shock, that’s why it’s taken me so long to write about it.
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.
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!’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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!
In my previous post, Anti-Welsh Housing Associations, I told you about Wales & West Housing’s irresponsible behaviour in Lampeter, part of a more widespread problem of housing associations chasing the money by housing criminals, which is much more lucrative than putting roofs over the heads of locals.
Of course they argue that there’s a dreadful shortage of accommodation for ‘vulnerable’ people, and of course they’re right – England doesn’t have enough accommodation. Which is why Wales, through its housing associations and other third sector bodies, is currently taking in so many problems.
And yet, while housing associations and others receive premium payments from whoever supplied their new tenants, plus housing benefit and other goodies, there is an obvious downside.
I’m referring to the effect on formerly peaceful communities caused by the arrival of undesirables. But there’s also the extra work for the police and associated agencies. Though perhaps the biggest burden falls on the NHS and associated services, for most of those being moved to Wales by the route described will have ‘issues’ needing expensive treatment.
So while taking on these problems is good business for housing associations and others, the wider implications, and costs, for the country as a whole, more than outweigh the financial benefits accruing to the landlords. Which makes this behaviour selfish, short-sighted and socially irresponsible.
It can fairly be described as anti-social housing.
And of course it raises the question of why the ‘Welsh’ Government allows these bodies, all of which are in receipt of public funding, to behave in this manner.
But the problem isn’t confined to housing associations.
I have written many times about the overlapping, interweaving and competing homelessness organisations. I thought I knew most of them but someone just brought a new one to my attention. It’s called Emmaus UK and the business model centres on charity shops and workshops for the homeless.
Which means that the Emmaus model should be self-financing. Which is what Emmaus claims.
Its Welsh presence – at the moment, anyway – seems limited to Bridgend, where it appears to have started in 2011. The screen capture below is taken from the Charity Commission website, and it tells us that in 5 years the income has rocketed from £53,728 to £1,570,327. (Private companies would love to see growth like that!)
But why does a “self-supporting” organisation require any public funding? Especially as we can see it’s not needed, for despite having an income of £1,570,237 it only spent £886,832, which leaves a profit balance of £683,405.
Does Wales have no better use for that £500,000?
Apart from the Emmaus presence in Bridgend the Charity Commission website offers dozens of options for Emmaus operations in every corner of England. Curious to see how much funding these English operations get I checked out a few.
I looked at Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol and Tyneside, four major English cities/conurbations, where the problems of homelessness must be far greater than in Bridgend and Porthcawl. What I found surprised me. Emmaus in these areas operates with a third or less of the annual income of Emmaus in Bridgend – and there’s no public funding at all!
Moving north of the border, the income for Emmaus in Glasgow, where the charity has two shops, a workshop and a warehouse, was only £572,264 in 2016. So why does the Bridgend operation get so much money?
Another telling fact is that Emmaus spends twice as much per ‘companion’ in Bridgend as it does in England. Is Emmaus in Bridgend providing luxury accommodation? Or paying £25 an hour? Is the Welsh operation just inefficient? Or is public money so easy to come by in Wales that it’s being squandered?
I began this section by saying that Emmaus was new to me, despite being familiar with many organisations claiming to be helping the homeless in Wales. As I don’t know how many there are I have submitted a FoI to the ‘Welsh’ Government. They must know how many homelessness organisations they’re funding . . . surely?
P.S. I know there are different criteria for assessing homelessness, and those ‘threatened with homelessness’, though I don’t like that second category because – rather like ‘jobs secured’ (as opposed to ‘jobs created’) – it’s open to misuse. Even so, I went the StatsWales website and checked the figures for rough sleepers.
You’ll see that the most recent figure for Bridgend tells us that the estimated number (right hand column) of rough sleepers is 10, with nary a single emergency bed. Whereas in Ceredigion there are no less than 30 emergency beds for an estimated 6 rough sleepers.
I suggest both figures tell us a lot about what really goes on in the ‘Welsh’ homelessness racket.
UPDATE 13.11.2017 – PARTNERSHIP?
It’s become clear to me over the years that there is some kind of co-operation between the ‘Welsh’ Government – or rather, the civil servants who operate in its name – and the various Lottery funds. Emmaus South Wales provides another example.
If we go to the Companies House entry we find under the ‘Charges’ tab two listings, both concern ‘Land and buildings at Nant Lais, Heol y Nant, Bridgend’. I should explain that Charges usually means mortgages, loans, or other forms of indebtedness. If you see too many marked ‘Outstanding’ it can be a cause for concern.
On the Emmaus entry we find one charge with the number 0718 8459 0001 for a mortgage entered into between The Welsh Ministers, as the ‘Mortgagee’ and Emmaus South Wales as the ‘Mortgagor’. This agreement is dated 7 August 2015.
The other Charge, number 0718 8459 0002, is between Emmaus, the ‘Grant Holder’ and the Big Lottery Fund as ‘The Fund’. This is not a mortgage but a grant of £425,000. (See below.) So why is it treated as something other than a straight gift? Because it comes with certain conditions; for example, if Emmaus turns the building into a massage parlour, or flogs it off to some Russians looking for indoor growing facilities, then the grant is forfeit. This agreement is also dated 7 August 2015.
In a sense, they complement or cancel each other.
Here’s a scenario. The ‘Welsh’ Government wants to give this property to Emmaus but fears some malcontent finding out and kicking up a fuss, so they contact the Big Lottery Fund – ‘Oh, look, we’ve got this very worthy cause looking for money to buy something from us, so we’d like you to oblige with a grant’.
Maybe it’s done some other way, but I am in no doubt that there is a well-used system for the various Lottery funds to give money to projects recommended by the ‘Welsh’ Government. The ‘worthy cause’ gets what it wants, the ‘Welsh’ Government can appear prudent with public money, while from the Lottery’s standpoint, if things go tits up, they can say, ‘Ah! but the Welsh Government recommended these people’.
Everybody’s back is covered. Everybody’s a winner!
Except perhaps those communities, and those projects, that aren’t so well connected. Those worthy causes that spend months or years building up support, preparing their bid, only to be beaten by insider dealing such as I’m suggesting in Bridgend. Which of course, just happens to be Carwyn Jones’s constituency.
And if I’m right, then in their very short time in Wales Emmaus has received over one million pounds thanks to the ‘Welsh’ Government.
THE PUBLICLY-FUNDED PRIVATE SECTOR
Another net importer of criminals, paedophiles and others, plus many homeless, is of course the private rented sector – just think Rhyl! – where we find the same ugly combination of self-interest and lack of concern for the consequences of pursuing that self-interest.
A recent news item re-awakened my interest in events in Pembrokeshire. On the evening of November 7 there was a disturbance at a block of flats in Meyrick Street, Pembroke Dock, and it was reported that armed police officers had attended. The flats are in the former Coronation School.
I got to wondering who owns these flats, and so I went to the Land Registry website where I was presented with what appeared to be a long list of individual titles, and although I didn’t count them I assumed it was one for each flat.
I chose two at random, Flat 10 and Flat 31, which was unnecessary because they both have the same title number CYM402081. Why so many different entries for the same title number? Was the intention to sell off the flats individually?
Both title documents say the building was bought by Cathal Eamonn McCosker for £200,000 with money that seems to have been borrowed from Barclays Bank. But others now having a claim on the property are Alexander and Rose Russell of Swindon and Pembrokeshire County Council.
It would appear that in order to meet his obligations Mr McCosker has tried to sell the building. First, at auction on Thursday 27 April 2017 with a guide price of £1.3m. This obviously failed because it was marked “withdrawn by agent”, and then put up for auction again on 08 June 2017 with the guide price now reduced to £975,000. But as we know from the Land Registry, it is still owned by Mr McCosker and his creditors.
With Cathal Eamonn McCosker we have one of the more intriguing stories to emerge from Pembrokeshire in recent times. Despite the widespread assumption that he’s Irish, on the Companies House website he describes himself as British, and gives an address in Oxford.
So what’s the story?
Basically, McCosker stands accused of receiving funding for projects in Pembroke Dock for work that was never done. This scam may have been conducted with the connivance of senior council officials and even a councillor or two. If they weren’t in on the scam then they’re now trying to draw a veil over the whole affair in the hope of saving face.
A number of people have followed the case over the years, including two councillor-bloggers. A good start would be with Councillor Jacob Williams’ Trumped-up charges – Part 4. While another excellent source is Councillor Mike Stoddart, and his Strange business.
I believe I’m right in saying that the Woodward and Bernstein of the Kremlin on the Cleddau actually unearthed the McCosker scandal.
McCosker was quoted as receiving £236,834 in housing benefits for his Pembrokeshire properties, with a further £35,248 paid through his E-Lettings company, which he used for the Coronation School flats. A local journalist tells me that this money was being paid into a bank account in the Irish Republic, which raises questions about taxation.
The Coronation School seems to target young people leaving care, many from ‘away’; vulnerable, mainly uneducated young people, many of them with ‘issues’. Conditions in the old school building are said to be primitive, which if true will of course qualify the tenants for social housing.
In an earlier post I referred to a system of human trafficking in Wales, a system run by selfish and unscrupulous individuals and organisations that brings into our country people needing expensive help or simply criminals and undesirables that no one else wants.
Which would be bad enough in itself, but we are paying for this. The public money of a poor country is being spent on problems that should not be ours. We are effectively paying to make our communities, like Lampeter and Pembroke Dock, less happy, less safe, and all done in order that Wales & West Housing can expand, or Cathal Eamonn McCosker can get even richer.
This system of bringing another country’s problems into Wales exposes a number of issues.
First, it tells us that we have a third sector that has become bloated due to over-feeding, and because of its size it now wields a malevolent influence on the ‘Welsh’ Government and the civil servants who actually run Wales. This influence damages other sectors that we should be encouraging . . . you know, things like real businesses, that might create real jobs, and increase Wales’ wealth . . . without wrecking Welsh communities
‘Nah, we don’t want none of that nasty prosperity round by ‘ere’.
But then there’s the issue of corruption in Welsh public life, at all levels. Who in their right mind believes it’s a good idea to give hundreds of thousands of pounds to Emmaus, a supposedly self-sufficient organisation?
And why is the investigation into the corruption centred on Cathal Eamonn McCosker stalled? Is it because too many people at both Pembrokeshire County Council and the ‘Welsh’ Government are involved? For the money used to enrich McCosker was EU funding, administered by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO).
While writing this I’ve been drawn to three recent posts about Carmarthenshire. The first, was by Siân Caiach, then there was the latest from Jacqui Thompson, and finally, another gem from my favourite blogger, Y Cneifiwr. They all prompt the same question – what other democracy would allow Mark Vincent James (OBE) to ruin so many lives and run Carmarthenshire County Council like a medieval barony?
It doesn’t have to be like this. But everything you see around you is part of the problem, and so can never be part of the solution. Radical change is needed. Wales will soon be offered the hope of change. Be ready!
A few years ago we learnt of the shocking case of the Satanist paedophiles relocated from London to Kidwelly and housed by Grwp Gwalia of Swansea (since merged with Seren to create Pobl). Their trial even made London prints such as the Daily Mail and Guardian.
In addition to being a sick and dangerous pervert, the leader of the gang, Colin Batley, was also an English patriot, with the Cross of St George flying from the flagpole on his front lawn. He was also described as a swaggering bully, often accompanied by his two rottweilers.
In the Daily Mail piece, one ‘local’ is quoted: “Nobody understands how so many of them could come down and all end up living in one place in the town”. Anyone who knows anything about social housing in Wales could have explained it to him.
As if to prove that lightning does strike twice, and yea! thrice . . . two more individuals with an unhealthy interest in children have recently been unearthed in Kidwelly.
The first was 71-year-old retired probation officer, Michael Nathan Cohen, who moved with his wife from Manchester some ten years ago. Though this WalesOnline report from early July prefers to describe him, both in the headline and the first line of the report, as a “Kidwelly man”.
Around the same time we heard about the case of 61-year-old retired civil servant Vincent Barbary – who has since been moved to Abertillery!
You’ll note that both men had pornographic images on their computers, and both were caught when police went to their houses, presumably acting on information received. Where did that information come from?
It would appear to be pure coincidence that these people from different backgrounds and locations – London, Manchester, Leicester – ended up in the same town of some 3,500 people. Though it does make you wonder if there might be some other factor at work.
CARMARTHENSHIRE, FALSE ALLEGATIONS
We now move down the road a bit from Kidwelly to Burry Port, to look at a very troubling case. This Llanelli Herald report from May 2015 will give you the background.
In a nutshell, some seven years ago Carina Burn, a 19-year-old autistic woman with communication difficulties, was locked away in a secure unit for six months because a carer alleged that she was being sexually abused – even prostituted! – by her parents Robin and Julia.
Two weeks after she was taken from her parents six police officers in plain clothes descended on the family home; it was searched, the computers were seized, and the parents arrested. Read more details here in this Daily Express account of the story.
Those responsible for inflicting this trauma were employed by Perthyn, a care company based in Swansea, which does work for a number of local authorities in both Wales and England.
Carina is now back with her parents and £30,000 in compensation has been paid; £26,000 from Carmarthenshire County Council, £1,000 from Dyfed Powys Police, and £3,000 from Dr Rowan Wilson, a man with no experience in the field who was called in by CCC to defend the original decision.
There is a strong suspicion that the case began when the parents decided to end the arrangement with Perthyn due to their fears that money being given for their daughter’s lunch was being pocketed. The very day that Perthyn was told the arrangement was ending the carers persuaded Mrs Burn to let them take her daughter swimming one last time. Carina did not come home.
Naturally, the parents want a full investigation into this case so I’d better not name the carer involved, the one who claimed that Carina was making the allegations, nor her supervisor, though I have both names. I am, however, prepared to name Trevor Stainsby, the local area manager for Perthyn, because what happened to him was quite remarkable.
Once the police dropped the case against the parents, and the focus shifted to Carmarthenshire County Council, who had employed Perthyn, Stainsby was recruited by the Council! Was this because Vinny, the Cardiff Bay property whizz, recognised Trev’s potential, or because he hoped to buy his silence? All might be revealed in the inquiry the ‘Welsh’ Government can no longer dodge.
The pressure might increase when the ITV Wales interview done with Robin and Julia Burn today is televised. Unless of course ITV was there on a fact-finding mission for someone else. These things happen.
In January 2016 I wrote The ‘Care’ Racket in Wales in which I looked at organisations operating under that generic label in the Wild West. It might be worth you reading that minor masterpiece of the blogger’s art before you push on with this update. But if you’re too bloody lazy! . . .
At various times the south west was blessed with (takes deep breath) The Ceredigion Care Society, The Dyfed Care Society, The Carmarthen Care Society, The Pembrokeshire Care Society.
All shared the same espoused objective: “1. The relief of poverty, the relief of sickness and the advancement of education and training amongst: A) Persons who have suffered a legal restriction on their liberty in the community, or any penal establishment or institution B) The families and descendants of such persons described in A) above C) Persons in need, hardship or distress.
In other words, they helped ex-cons. As I said in that original ” . . . of whom there must be hundreds every year returning to the mean streets and gang life of Ystrad Meurig, Marloes and Ponterwyd.” My way of saying that we can with some certainty conclude that most of those helped came from outside of Dyfed, and outside of Wales.
The Ceredigion Care Society has now changed its name to Cymdeithas Gofal / The Care Society, it has moved to a new address at 21 Terrace Road Aberystwyth, it serves Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Powys (though only Ceredigion funds CG), and it no longer claims to be helping ex-cons.
For “Persons who have suffered a legal restriction on their liberty in the community, or any penal establishment or institution” has now been replaced with what you see below.
Which is not to say that Cymdeithas Gofal doesn’t still help those who’ve been in trouble with the law, because one focus is on young tearaways leaving secure units. For “It is recognised that wherever possible the best place for a child is within her/his own family.” This explains young criminals turning up out of the blue at the Young Persons Project in Cardigan, often with their problem family in tow.
And keeping with the housing side of the business, we see that Cymdeithas Gofal has its own Estates and Lettings department. So let’s say you’ve got a few bedsits in Aber’, you can get in touch with CG and – bingo! – they’ll find you tenants and look after your property for you!
Couple that side of the business with the fact that one of the company’s income streams is administering the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Bond Scheme (£42,707 y/e 31.03.2016), and you have to wonder whether, in a town like Aberystwyth, with so many properties for rent, so many Houses of Multiple Occupation, providing a regular supply of tenants for local landlords isn’t the real purpose of Cymdeithas Gofal. That’s certainly a purpose it fulfils.
The services Cymdeithas Gofal provides, and the public funding it swallows up, are certainly not justified by the needs of the population indigenous to the area it covers. Looks to me like a nice little racket. Which might not bother me if I wasn’t paying for it. So are you.
PEMBROKESHIRE CARE SOCIETY
Now I bet the heading confused you. You’re asking, ‘Hang on, if Cymdeithas Gofal covers the south west and Powys, how can there also be a Pembrokeshire Care Society?’ Well, let Jac explain.
What’s more, it’s doing pretty well, because the accounts for y/e 31.03.2016 tell us that the Pembrokeshire Care Society was sitting on reserves of £756,542, and that hoard was made up almost entirely of “cash at bank and in hand” most of it “unrestricted funds”, which means it was not given for a specific purpose and so can be used for just about anything.
Will funders, such as the ‘Welsh’ Government, now be asking for any of their funding to be returned? For it’s clearly not needed.
The bigger question is why public funding is being given to organisations like Cymdeithas Gofal and Pembrokeshire Care to bring people into the area, often undesirables, for no better reason than to provide tenants for local landlords, while also running lettings agencies of their own on the side?
Seren Bernard was 14 when her body was found, near Milford Haven, in April 2012. This is one of the few facts we can be sure of in this case. Another is that she was living with foster parents and under the care of Pembrokeshire County Council.
A serious case review undertaken in 2013 concluded that Seren’s death “might not have been preventable”. Though at that review Seren’s mother, Sarah Pollock, insisted that the agencies involved had “willingly and knowingly exposed Seren to harm”.
At the inquest in June 2015, despite highlighting a number of cock-ups on the part of the Pembrokeshire authorities, the coroner had little alternative but to return a verdict of suicide. As a comment to the Western Telegraph from ‘Deryn Bawddwr’ put it, “The teflon coated PCC get away with it again”.
Then, last month, came the kerfuffle in Monkton, over the paedophile that locals believed had moved (or been moved) to the area. After the riotous night the protesters met outside the council offices in Pembroke Dock on July 13th, as reported here by the Pembrokeshire Telegraph.
(It may be worth pointing out that the council, the police, and just about every arm of officialdom, is staying schtum on the details of the Monkton affair. Refusing to even say who owns the property in question.)
Among those in the gathering outside the council offices was Seren Bernard’s mother. She spoke with Herald TV, watch her (4:32). Here’s a written account of what she said.
The allegation is that Seren Bernard was drugged and raped by a group of men, they may have been local, they may have come down from Swansea. What’s more, the solicitor acting for Mrs Pollock has names said to be the men responsible, names giver by Seren herself. The police also have these names.
Now if this is true then it could explain Seren’s suicide, and her strange, uncharacteristic behaviour in the period leading up to her suicide, behaviour which Pembrokeshire council and its agencies were so keen to stress in seeking to exonerate themselves. It may also explain why Sarah Pollock was never given the full report of the serious case review in 2013.
As a man with grand-daughters I find this case harrowing. It seems clear to me that the truth is being withheld, and the reason for that may lie in the names on the list of alleged rapists. Are there prominent men named, and is that why justice is being denied (as in the never-ending ‘North Wales child abuse’ saga)?
I would love to see that list, and make my own enquiries.
We clearly have a dysfunctional system of ‘care’ in Wales, exposed by what we see happening in the south west.
On the one hand, we have ‘care’ agencies such as Cymdeithas Gofal and Pembrokeshire Care receiving millions of pounds in public funding yet they seem to do little more than deliver up tenants – complete with bonds! – to local landlords, private and social. Also bringing in young tearaways plus paedophiles and other criminals.
On the other hand, we have the true care system, that which betrayed both Carina Burn and Seren Bernard. Not only that, but once the mistakes were exposed the machinery of cover-up swung into action. We saw it in Carmarthenshire with the council recruiting Trevor Stainsby of Perthyn, and in Pembrokeshire with the council preferring to blame a ‘suicidal’ child rather than wonder what drove her to suicide.
Now here’s a revolutionary suggestion. Why not ditch the landlords’ friends, Cymdeithas Gofal and Pembrokeshire Care, and give the money to real care bodies, so that they can train staff and avoid another disaster such as befell the Burn family. Also use it to ensure that if there’s another Seren Bernard, that she’s helped rather than abandoned.
The system as it stands is indefensible, but it is being robustly defended: by the ‘Welsh’ Government – because it can’t admit that it’s pouring money down so many drains; by local authorities and their agencies – that can’t afford to admit the mistakes they’ve made; and by others making too much money out of this insane, corrupt system of public funding
For more money withdraw the blank cheque the ‘Welsh’ Government gives to housing associations, organisations deeply involved in the racket. Housing associations that in rural areas are building more homes than are needed locally and also building properties for sale on the open market – even advertising for ‘investors’!
While I was away I picked up a copy of the Evening Post, a Swansea institution that has gone downhill in recent years. The ‘paper I knew long ago used to bring out its first edition around midday, with further editions up to and including the ‘Final’ or ‘Late Night Final’. You knew which edition it was by the number of windows filled in on the Mumbles lighthouse image at the top right of the front page. One window filled for the first edition . . .
Then of course there was the Sporting Post on Saturday night, with young boys racing from pub to pub to sell their allotted copies. In competition with them were the ladies of the Sally Ann with bundles of War Cry, and occasionally, yours truly with a band of Plaidistas, offloading Welsh Nation. The competition was fierce! (Though unlike the paper-sellers and the bonneted ladies I could – and did – partake of liquid refreshment to keep me going.)
In those days, long before the internet, before pubs had wall to wall television, but after bookies became legal in 1960, the pubs downtown seemed to be filled in the afternoons with men reading newspapers, men of studious mien, a pencil in one hand and often a half-smoked fag behind an ear. The real professionals had a fag behind one ear and a spare pencil behind the other.
I am of course referring now to aficionados of the turf, the sport of kings . . . and of layabouts dreaming of easy money. For members of the latter group to know which nag had won the 2:30 at Doncaster required the ‘Stop Press’ entry on latest edition of the Post, and it was quite common to see breathless groups of men waiting at the Post‘s various delivery points in anticipation of sudden wealth. All gone.
In recent years, printing was moved out of the city, the Evening Post became a morning paper, and what had once been the Welsh daily with the largest circulation lost its crown to the Daily Post. Then, in what might prove to be the coup de grace the Post was taken over by Trinity Mirror, and is now controlled from Cardiff, its online presence merged with Llais y Sais and the Echo in WalesOnline.
If further proof was needed of the Post‘s downward slide it came when I saw that Julian Ruck now has a weekly column. Here’s his effort from the 7th. (Click to enlarge.)
Before considering what he wrote let’s look at how he’s described by the Post: “Julian Ruck is a novelist, broadcaster, political commentator and guest public speaker”.
His ‘novels’ are excruciating pot-boilers that he publishes himself but nobody buys. “Broadcaster”? Mmm, has anyone seen or heard him ‘broadcast’ – or have I been lucky? “Political Commentator”; well, I’m a political commentator, everyone who expresses a political opinion is a political commentator, the term means nothing. “Guest public speaker” is a curious phrase, why not just ‘public speaker’? I suppose it’s trying to say that he gets invited to places. (Twice?)
As for what he has to say, well, here’s a sample, “Dear me, this Welsh bit is getting a bit tedious isn’t it?” The senior language of this island, the language spoken in London when the English were still Germans, is reduced to “this Welsh bit”. What a twat!
Later he describes Welsh as “a foreign tongue”, which is not only offensive but also inaccurate. Because you see, Ruck, it wouldn’t matter if no one spoke Welsh – it would still be the national language of Wales. That’s because it is unique to Wales, it is the ancestral language of the Welsh, and for most of our history it defined Welsh nationality. English may now be the majority language of Wales, but it can never be the national language.
It would be easy to dismiss Ruck as a pompous little prick, a snob, but I feel rather sorry for him. He’s bitter because he’s been denied the success he feels he deserves. His search for a scapegoat has led him to a conspiracy of Welsh speakers who produce dastardly schemes to deny us the wit and wisdom of Julian Ruck. This leads to him hating the Welsh language itself and all those who speak it . . . maybe he thinks all Welsh speakers are in on the conspiracy.
Face it, Ruck, you’re a crap writer and a mercenary bigot, an opinionated nobody. But to give your attacks some credibility you have to be bigged up into a popular writer, someone whose opinion matters.
Though it says a lot about modern Wales that it’s the Labour-supporting, Welsh-hating, Trinity Mirror Group that provides you with a platform for your BritNat bigotry.
P.S. I’m informed that Ruck’s latest column, on the 14th, was used to attack Welsh language education. Why does anyone buy a rag from Trinity Mirror?
Now let’s turn to others who share Ruck’s attitude to the Welsh language, I’m talking now of those connected with Tales With a Twist.
Thanks to the Electoral Commission I now know that distributing election material lacking an imprint is not an offence; the offence lies in publishing and printing election material without an imprint. But of course, without an imprint, it’s very, very difficult to prove who wrote and printed the document being distributed. Something of a Catch-22 situation.
Which is why I asked the Electoral Commission to give me examples of successful prosecutions for not having an imprint. The response was: ” . . . where the material is a newspaper advertisement we can contact the newspaper for the details of the person who placed the advertisement.” Obviously, but with the best will in the world, someone would have to be really, really stupid to put election material that lacked an imprint in a newspaper advertisement. And would a newspaper accept such an advertisement, knowing that it broke the law?
Though one possibility intrigues me. What if I was to write and run off a few hundred copies of a leaflet ahead of the next general election, a leaflet claiming that the local Labour candidate attends the same Penrhyndeudraeth coven as the Conservative candidate, where they romp around bollock naked, beating each other with riding crops – but the leaflets never left my house.
According to the Electoral Commission I would have committed an offence, even though no one would read what I’d written. Which is absurd, because what I’d written and printed could only influence electors if it was distributed, yet distributing unattributed election material is not an offence. Am I alone in thinking that the law has got this the wrong way round?
Anyway, things are moving, slowly. North Wales Police seem to be interested. I now have copies of issues 1 and 2 of Tales With a Twist, proving that we are dealing with a campaign rather than a one-off, and even though Councillor Louise Hughes has denied distributing the leaflets I have statements that a) confirm she was distributing them in Trawsfynydd on April 28, and b) that she gave copies to Steven Churchman, the Lib Dem councillor. Other statements are promised.
As for who printed the leaflets, well we all know who that was. What’s more, when I spoke with the DC in Caernarfon on Thursday afternoon we discussed the printer and yet neither of us needed to mention his name. He is – to quote Donald Rumsfeld – a known known.
I have a feeling this may not be over.
PLAID CYMRU & THE SNP
Many of you reading this may get a warm glow from watching Leanne Wood hugging Nicola Sturgeon, but how realistic is it to compare Plaid Cymru with the Scottish National Party? I got to wondering how their results since the first elections to the devolved bodies in 1999 compared.
In 1999 Plaid did marginally better than the SNP; point three of a percentage point lower in the constituency vote but over three percentage points higher in the regional/list vote. A good showing.
In 2003 both parties lost support. Plaid Cymru’s performance can be largely attributed to the palace coup that removed Dafydd Wigley, Plaid’s most popular ever leader. The fall in support for the SNP is due to a number of factors, certainly a change of leader also played a part, though most would agree that John Swinney was a more inspiring replacement for Alex Salmond than Ieuan Wyn Jones was for Dafydd Wigley.
The picture in Scotland was further complicated by what could be explained, perhaps paradoxically, as a falling off in support for the SNP, but the electorate still returned more MSPs in favour of independence.
For while the SNP lost 8 seats in 2003 the Scottish Greens gained 6 seats and Tommy Sheridan’s Scottish Socialists increased their tally by 5. Which meant that there were 40 MSPs (out of 129) supporting independence after the 2003 election against 37 in 1999.
When we move on to 2007 we see the gulf opening. Plaid Cymru improves marginally on 2003 but nothing like the increase that was expected with an unpopular Labour government in Westminster, whereas the SNP’s support increased by almost 50% to make it the largest party.
The election of 2011 is remarkable in that, in Wales, with the Tories now in power in London, many Welsh voters were persuaded to ‘send a message to Lundun, innit’ by voting Labour. By comparison, in Scotland, a Tory government in London did nothing for Labour as the SNP romped home with a majority of the seats.
Most recently, in 2016, the SNP may have lost six seats (and its majority) but in terms of votes there was a fall of only 2.3% in the regional share but an increase of 1.1% in the constituency vote. Add in the two Scottish Green representatives and there is still a pro-independence majority of 65 MSPs in Holyrood.
Here in Wales, Plaid Cymru may have improved on its dismal performance in 2011 (if it hadn’t, then it might have been time to call it a day), partly due to having a new leader in Leanne Wood, but still got less than half the SNP’s share of the vote, leaving the 1999 result looking like a lost golden age.
In Scotland, the issue for a decade or more, and the issue still dominating political debate, is independence. Here in Wales we have a ‘national’ party that would prefer not to debate independence (or colonisation, or exploitation, or anything that might upset or annoy anyone), a party that is bumping along the bottom and going nowhere.
You know my view, I gave up on Plaid Cymru years ago. With Wales falling apart around us, suffering attacks from all quarters, how much longer can you continue supporting a party going nowhere, a party that will sabotage itself if there’s any possibility of success? (Believe me, it will!)
(You’ll notice that I’ve spared Plaid Cymru’s embarrassment by sticking with the devolved vote, not comparing the relative showings for Westminster elections, in which Plaid does even worse.)
In the interests of clarity this whole section was re-written 17.07.2017
WHAT WE KNOW
There were unpleasant scenes in Monkton, Pembrokeshire, on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning last week when a crowd gathered to protest about a paedophile the crowd believed was living at Gwilliam Court. As is invariably the case in such incidents the crowd included some seeking an excuse for trouble, these being responsible for allegedly setting bins on fire, letting down the tyres on police vehicles and other mischief.
Despite the behaviour of these idiots there was a genuine cause for concern, for the woman allegedly living in Gwilliam Court was identified (though not named) by both the Sun and the Daily Mail as Amber Roderick. Her record would cause any parent to worry about her presence on their estate. And yet there are so many questions about the whole business.
On the assumption that we are dealing with Roderick let’s look at her most recent conviction, at Reading Crown Court in January 2012. As the Crown Prosecution Service summary tells us, she was jailed for a minimum of four years and placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register. This NACRO document tells us that anyone imprisoned for 30 months or more stays on the register “indefinitely”.
It became clear from police and council statements that if it was Roderick – now going by the name of Bridget McGinley – then she was not the tenant of the property in Monkton, the tenant being a man with whom she was co-habiting.
But then, to confuse matters, in this report from the Pembrokeshire Herald Superintendent Ian John of Dyfed Powys Police, says, “The two residents of that flat, as it stands, neither of those two people, were actually currently on the sex offender’s register. The facts are, they were not on the sex offender’s register. It would be inappropriate for me to go into specific detail, but what I will say, the lady who moved in with the gentleman who is the tenant of the flat, was not required to record her movements, as she would have been if she was on the sex offenders register.”
Superintendent John’s convoluted statement suggests three options. 1/ Somebody made a terrible mistake, stirring up a mob when it was not Amber Roderick/Bridget McGinley in that flat, 2/ If it was her, then she has somehow been taken off the Sex Offenders’ Register, 3/ Superintendent John is mistaken.
Also quoted in the Pembrokeshire Herald report is ‘Annalee’ who seems to suggest that in Wales offenders remain on the Sex Offenders Register for only five years, with the clear implication that in Scotland and England the period is longer. Is this true?
Well, after consulting the NACRO document again I believe that in the case that ‘Annalee’ refers to, the age of the offender, and the sentence handed down, meant that he stayed on the register for only five years. And it would have been the same in England. (I can’t speak for Scotland.)
Something else that struck people about the Herald report was local councillor Pearl Llewellyn saying, “I was told by Pembrokeshire County Council not to get involved or to come to these meetings, but I have, because my daughter lived in Monkton.” But she’s the elected representative of these people! Why would the council – and what does she mean by “the council”? – tell her not to get involved?
There are obviously questions to answer, not least – who owns the property in question; is it Pembrokeshire County Council or Pembrokeshire Housing Association? Or is it perhaps a third party, a private landlord, or even an offshore entity leasing property to social landlords, such as I exposed in Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd?
Someone with whom I’m in contact is having great difficulty getting an answer to that simple question from Pembrokeshire County Council.
In the original version of this section I quoted the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 70 (1) (j) which says that sex offenders and others coming out of prison get preferential treatment in the allocation of social housing.
I was pulled up and pointed to the preamble reading, “a person who has a local connection with the area of the local housing authority . . . “. This is not worth the paper it’s printed on. After years of studying the operations of social landlords I know that no ‘local connection’ is needed to be housed by social landlords in Wales.
If the Llansiadwel Housing Association is offered two or three times the normal rate to house a paedophile from Newcastle who’s never set foot in Wales they’ll jump at it.
To understand the truth of what I’m saying you only have to consider the case in Monkton. If it was Roderick/McGinley living there, then it’s reasonable to assume that the tenant was the boyfriend identified in Reading Crown Court as Patrick Maughan and sentenced to six years in prison at the same trial. Both could have been recently released, and neither has a local connection to Pembrokeshire.
As I say, there are just so many questions. The best way to clear things up, to placate the residents of Monkton, and to restore faith in the council, is for both the council and the police to come clean and give the full details of this case.
Also, for social housing providers and other agencies to stop dumping undesirables from England in Wales, no matter what financial and other incentives are offered.
My previous post dealt with offshore property company Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd and housing associations leasing properties from it, though I made passing reference – just a paragraph – to another publicly funded housing association, Pembrokeshire Housing, and Mill Bay Homes, the latter a subsidiary of the former that builds houses to sell to anyone.
This brief mention was enough to send someone scampering to Hugh James, the ‘Welsh’ Government’s favourite legal firm. (Indeed, to judge by the amount of business Carwyn’s civil servants put the way of Hugh James you’d think there were no other lawyers in Wales.) And so on Friday evening I received another threatening letter from Ms Tracey Singlehurst-Ward.
It says: “You are required to remove the statement from the website and any other location (either in hard or soft copy) in which you have published it by no later than 9am on Monday 23 October 2016. (Monday is actually the 24th.) You are also required to confirm in writing by way of undertaking that the allegation will not be repeated.” Read it for yourself.
You will see that the period of grace I am allowed in which to recant left me no opportunity to seek advice from other members of Ms Singlehurst-Ward’s profession. So I have had to rely on my own counsel, which directed me to refuse capitulation but to amend the offending paragraph. If it still offends, anyone, hard luck, because that’s all you’re getting.
In many ways, Mill Bay Homes is a curious beast. To begin with, it is a Registered Social Landlord (No L124) and yet (as far as I can tell), it receives no funding from the ‘Welsh’ Government. But then, this is as it should be, for Mill Bay Homes does not build or rent social housing . . . so why is it a Registered Social Landlord?
The answer is that Mill Bay Homes ‘inherited’ its RSL number when Pembrokeshire Housing 2000 – a craft that never launched – changed its name to Mill Bay Homes in February 2012. After which Mill Bay Homes took off to become one of the leading house builders in the county, using money transferred from Pembrokeshire Housing – which of course does receive public funding.
This paragraph is directed to the ‘Welsh’ Government, more specifically, the Housing Directorate.
‘If Mill Bay Homes applied to become a Registered Social Landlord tomorrow you would, quite correctly, turn down the application for the obvious reason that MBH neither builds nor rents social housing. (This explains why it does not receive Social Housing Grant or other funding.) That being so, why do you allow MBH to retain the RSL number of its predecessor?’
Anomalies abound when we consider the relationship between Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes. We can even add Pembrokeshire County Council to the mix, for both have a close relationship with the local authority. Take, for example, this S106 agreement drawn up just before Christmas last year between MBH and the council.
The agreement deals with “four Social Rented Housing Units” and “two Intermediate Housing Units” in the Newton Heights development totalling some 55 properties at Kilgetty. Later in that document, in Schedule 4, we encounter the paragraph below.
“The RSL” has to be Pembrokeshire Housing, if only because Mill Bay Homes does not receive grant funding (and wouldn’t be buying from itself). Which means that, having transferred millions of pounds to Mill Bay Homes for it to build homes for sale, Pembrokeshire Housing will then use grant funding to buy one (or more?) of those properties.
I can’t help thinking that something ‘clever’ is going on here. Maybe too clever for old Jac. Another one for the Housing Directorate? So let me frame it as a question.
‘Publicly funded Pembrokeshire Housing shuffles money to its subsidiary, Mill Bay Homes. Mill Bay Homes builds private dwellings. Now it appears that Pembrokeshire Housing buys properties from Mill Bay Homes with grant funding.
Why doesn’t Pembrokeshire Housing just build its own social housing with the money it receives from the ‘Welsh’ Government for that express purpose?’
Come to that, how many social housing units could Pembrokeshire Housing have built with the millions it’s passed to Mill Bay Homes? Is there no demand in Pembrokeshire for more social housing? If not, why is Pembrokeshire Housing still receiving grant funding?
Something is not right down west. Money goes into Pembrokeshire Housing from various sources, gets mixed up, and comes out the other end, with over £6m going to MBH (by the end of the financial year 31.03.2015).
Yet we are asked to believe that none of this money comes from grants received from the ‘Welsh’ Government. In other words, it is not public funding. Maybe the source is rents received from PH’s tenants, or money from sales of social housing. But who paid for that housing in the first place?
All of Pembrokeshire Housing’s assets and income ultimately derive from the public purse. That being so, should any of it be used to build open market housing?
As I say above, my mention of Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes was little more than a passing reference in a piece about Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, a company that owns a few thousand properties across southern Wales, from Llanelli eastwards, so let us return to the main dish.
I contacted the Coastal Housing Group in Swansea, one of the housing associations leasing properties from Link Holdings, but the exchange ended with the message below. Clearly, the shutters have gone up.
Looking at this latest threat from Hugh James I can’t help wondering who exactly triggered it. Was it really Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes? If so, then they were a bit slow off the mark, because the post had been up for a week before Ms Singlehurst-Ward swung into action.
Picture it, gentle reader; there I am, blogging merrily away, exposing the scandal that housing associations are dealing with property companies registered in tax havens, and that money is passing from a publicly-funded RSL to its subsidiary, for that subsidiary to build private housing, and wham! – out of a clear blue sky comes another threatening letter from Hugh James, a company that itself has grown fat off the public purse.
An unkind soul might say they’re all in it together, civil servants, RSLs, lawyers, etc, all sucking on the teat of the public purse, so why not watch each other’s backs, hang together lest they hang separately?
Which raises the possibility that certain persons know about the arrangement in Pembrokeshire, and are quite happy to fund it. And perhaps these same people also know that housing associations are dealing with companies hiding in tax havens that could be run by gangsters, and they also support this arrangement.
Because imagine the embarrassment in certain quarters if it became known that homes were being built in Pembrokeshire by a company funded by a housing association that has received tens of millions in grants from the ‘Welsh’ Government, and that some of these properties are sold to English retirees or used as holiday homes. Or that housing associations are officially encouraged to deal with faceless companies in tax havens!
This would explain why such people, instead of responding with, ‘Thank you, Jac, for drawing this to our attention, your OBE is in the pipeline, regularly set the dogs on me!
I have argued for some time that the system of publicly-funded Registered Social Landlords is unsustainable in the long run. We are, effectively, giving public money to what are in many cases unaccountable private companies. As I see it, there are three options:
1/ Cut RSLs adrift and let them support themselves by raising private funding. (After all, they are asset rich.)
2/ Return the role of social housing provision, together with the current stock, to local authorities.
3/ Let the ‘Welsh’ Government take over the social housing stock and set up a national body along the lines of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.
The more I learn of RSLs the more convinced I become that the existing system of social housing provision in Wales is broken. For anyone to pretend otherwise is to be wilfully blind or else defend known practises that would shock and outrage most people if they gained wider publicity than they get from my blog.
Mill Bay Homes justifies its existence by arguing that it builds and sells properties on the open market to raise funds that allow Pembrokeshire Housing to build more social housing. But we only have its word for that because being a ‘subsidiary’ organisation means that no one, certainly not those funding Pembrokeshire Housing – i.e. the ‘Welsh’ Government – will ever make enquiries into the activities of Mill Bay. A worrying phenomenon I have encountered many times before in investigating the Third Sector.
Another curious feature of Mill Bay Homes mentioned in my earlier post is that it offers buyers assistance under the Help to Buy – Wales scheme while also encouraging the “Investment buyer“. Helping people buy their own home while simultaneously encouraging those who deny people their own home might be regarded as somewhat contradictory aims. And it raises the obvious question – is it the job of publicly-funded housing associations – even via ‘subsidiaries’ – to be encouraging ‘investors’ in rural areas where locals have such difficulty in finding homes?
One specific Mill Bay Homes development looked at was in Cilgerran, north Pembrokeshire. There, according to the planning application form available on the Pembrokeshire council website, Mill Bay wants to build 30 social rented housing units.
Or at least, that’s what the planning application said when I published my original post on December 14th, but, remarkably – and here I am once again indebted to the indefatigable Wynne Jones – this planning application has since been changed. The original version can be found above, the amended version below. The latter now reads 29 open market houses and just one unit of social housing, a two-bedroom house. There is no indication of when or why the change was made. And it must be worth asking if it’s permissible to make such radical changes to a planning application already submitted?
What’s going on here? Was a genuine mistake made with the original application, and is this now being rectified? Or was the change in response to the piece I posted on December 14th? Presumably the change was made by an employee of Pembrokeshire council, but it must have been requested by someone acting for Mill Bay Homes or Pembrokeshire Housing. Again, is this allowed?
Perhaps the most disturbing possibility is that the original planning application, for 30 social housing units, was an attempt to deceive, done in the belief that planning permission would be more likely to be granted for social housing. (See Update below.)
Between April 2008 and November 2015 Pembrokeshire Housing received £27.4m of our money in Social Housing Grant (see table below). Prior to that the SHG seems to have been allocated to local authorities, and between 2000 and 2008 the county of Pembrokeshire received £31.6m. See these figures for yourself (in Excel format) here. You might also find it worthwhile reading Housing Associations – The Great Deception in which I explain that there are other methods of funding social housing.
Another curiosity unearthed by Wynne Jones is to be found in the guide to planning applications issued by Pembrokeshire council. Open the document at section 18, which reads: “Social rented – includes rented housing owned by local authorities and registered social landlords for which guideline target rents are determined through the national rent regime, set out in the ‘Guide to Social Rent Reforms’ published in March 2001. Also includes rented housing owned by other persons and provided under equivalent rental arrangements to the above, as agreed with the local authority or funded with grant from the Housing Corporation, as provided for in the Housing Act 2004.“
The format of this guide seems to be dictated by the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, and appears to have been updated here and there with references to subsequent legislation applying only to Wales. Which makes it a bit of a dog’s dinner. Surely, after 17 years of devolution we should be using specifically Welsh forms? If only to avoid references such as that in section 18 to the Housing Corporation, an England-only body . . . abolished in 2008.
Perhaps of more significance for our enquiry is the section I’ve underlined, in which I interpret “other persons” to mean privately-owned properties used as social housing. So does this explain why Mill Bay Homes, a subsidiary of a Registered Social Landlord, is encouraging investors? Is Mill Bay offering the properties they build to investors with the guarantee that Pembrokeshire Housing will supply the tenants?
There are just so many questions to be answered about the operation of Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes, also other housing associations and their unaccountable subsidiaries, because they take such a huge chunk out of a total Welsh budget of only some £15bn per annum.
Another disturbing case unearthed by Wynne Jones is upstream of Cilgerran, at Cenarth. There, Tai Ceredigion put in a planning application for 15 social housing units at Maes Awmor. There was considerable opposition from those already living in an adjacent private estate on grounds of increased traffic and a belief that locals would be low on Tai Ceredigion’s allocation list.
This latter concern might be explained by looking at the plans and seeing how many of these properties are designed for those with special needs. (Click here and enlarge.) Is there really a demand for so many such properties from within this rural area? Or has Tai Ceredigion done a lucrative deal with an English local authority or some other agency that will pay well to move people to Wales? As I say, such a deal would be lucrative for Tai Ceredigion, but could only put further strain on the Welsh NHS. But maybe I’m being cynical, so let Tai Ceredigion convince us that there is a demand for these properties from within the local population.
Perhaps we should be flattered by how many agencies in England believe in the therapeutic and reforming qualities of Welsh country air. It seems that once relocated to Wales the elderly cease to wrinkle and the obese become obsessive joggers, ‘disaffected’ youngsters join the Boy Scouts and criminals transform into model citizens, drug addicts get their highs from watching Hinterland and former problem families can be seen every Sunday trooping to the Tabernacle of the Happy Clappy Outsourcing Agents for Local Authorities Ltd . . .
Then again, this belief in Welsh country air could be nothing more than cynically dumping your problems on your neighbour. But that would at least be understandable, what is neither understandable nor acceptable, is that there are those within Wales co-operating in this scam – and that they are able to use Welsh public funding to do it!
The latest news from Cenarth (December 14, 2015) is that six of the properties are now to be sold on the open market. But planning permission was granted for 15 social housing units. And Tai Ceredigion is a Registered Social Landlord, it cannot build houses for sale to the highest bidder. What the hell is going on?
Here are some questions for the ‘Welsh’ Government. These questions are not in any way rhetorical, I really would appreciate some answers. Because what’s been reported here, from Duffryn Teifi, is happening all over the country.
We can safely assume that money given to Pembrokeshire Housing to provide social rented accommodation has reached its subsidiary, Mill Bay Homes, so how does the ‘Welsh’ Government feel about public funding being used to build new properties for sale to ‘investors’?
Given that Mill Bay Homes on its website advertises the Help to Buy – Wales scheme and also encourages ‘investors’, what guarantees can the ‘Welsh’ Government give us that no ‘investors’ have secured Help to Buy funding? (To answer this will require a thorough, forensic and, most importantly, independent, investigation into the workings of Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes.)
With its use of terms such as “lifestyle” and “retirement” it would appear that Mill Bay Homes is targeting buyers from outside of Wales. Is the ‘Welsh’ Government comfortable with funding it has provided to Pembrokeshire Housing being used by Mill Bay Homes to further the colonisation and anglicisation of rural Wales?
Turning to the development at Cenarth, many of these properties have wheelchair access and are in other ways adapted for the disabled, adaptations that are expensive to design and construct. So will the ‘Welsh’ Government confirm that these properties are to meet a local demand rather than being the result of a deal or understanding struck between Tai Ceredigion and agencies outside of Wales?
If publicly-funded housing associations are allowed to build open market properties, placing them in direct competition with local companies not enjoying public funding, then, quite clearly, they have an unfair advantage over those local companies. Is this another example of the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party’s hostility to private business, and perhaps, more generally, the countryside?
Finally, how many tens of millions of pounds does the ‘Welsh’ Government estimate could be saved every year by a) reducing the number of housing associations, b) properly monitoring their spending, and c) implementing a three-year local residency rule to qualify for social housing?
UPDATE 7pm, 04.01.2016: Received the message below in a comment. I am now happy to accept that the original Cilgerran planning application was a simple slip of the pen or the cursor on the part of whoever filled in the form. Though if that is what happened, why didn’t the planning application change from 30 social housing units to 30 private dwellings, rather than to 29 private and one social? Something I did not mention in my original post is that Trevor Hopkins Associates is also involved with the Tai Ceredigion project at Cenarth.
I refer to the content posted on your web page/twitter account regarding the Planning Application we submitted on behalf of Mill Bay Homes for 30 dwellings on Land Adjacent Holly Lodge, Cilgerran. The reference to Social Housing on the Planning Form was an error on our part and this has now been corrected to open market dwellings. The modified forms are available to view on the Planning Portal.
I trust you will now update your social media/website accordingly.
Trevor Hopkins Associates.
UPDATE 06.01.2016: Even though planning permission has not yet been granted for the Cilgerran development this sign was erected this morning. Making it look as if Pembrokeshire County Council has already agreed to grant planning permission and has also decided to disregard in advance the objections from local residents that will follow the granting of planning permission. So much for local democracy!