National Development Framework

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 the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ produced the first version of the consultation document for its 20-year National Development Framework (NDF). Those of a masochistic bent may read it here.

Should you wish to make your feelings known, then the response form is here.

(Unless otherwise attributed, all images are from the National Development Framework and belong, presumably, to the ‘Welsh Government’.)

The front cover might be a sensible, if unoriginal, place to start.

There we see the Sail Bridge over the Tawe with, on the left, the University of Wales Trinity St David’s new campus. Behind the buildings in the middle distance there’s the Prince of Wales Dock; this is now an area of flats, offices, hotels, restaurants and bars.

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Almost all these were drawn to the area on the promise that the Prince of Wales Dock would become a marina. But the money allocated for the project was used elsewhere by the ‘Welsh Government’. Which means that the shiny new buildings look out onto an expanse of brackish water.

In the article I’ve just linked to you’ll read the decision being defended by the Cardiff-based South Wales Chamber of Commerce, on the grounds that the marina was not the “right priority” for public money. But the money we’re talking about was raised from the sale of land in the area and ‘ring-fenced’ for the PoW Dock.

That contribution tells us a lot about which areas have benefited from devolution and which areas have lost out. Also, who wields influence in 21st century Wales. I mean, why did WalesOnline ask South Wales Chamber of Commerce for a quote?

The NDF document is so self-congratulatory in parts, and elsewhere full of promises that, on reading it, I was reminded of a child’s letter to Father Christmas. You know the kind of thing, ‘Dear Santa, I have been very good this year and I would like . . .’.

Can’t help wondering if a copy of the NDF was posted to Lapland.

Part 1 is the Introduction, and this is what the NDF has to say of itself:

“The NDF is the highest tier of development plan and is focused on issues and challenges at a national scale. Its strategic nature means it does not allocate development to all parts of Wales, nor does it include policies on all land uses. It is a framework which will be built on by Strategic Development Plans (SDPs) at a regional level and Local Development Plans (LDPs) at local authority level.”

Part 2, ‘Wales – An Overview’, begins with this gem.

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All of which is true, no doubt, but it neglects to mention that the population of Wales is ageing faster than the other countries of these islands, and that life expectancy in Wales is falling faster than the other countries, also that in addition to these factors the main reason our population is ageing at such an alarming rate is because people retire to Wales from England.

The 2011 Census told us that in some areas the majority of those in the 65+ age bracket were born in England. In Conwy, just 37.1% of the over 65s were born in Wales. This movement is encouraged by a number of factors, including a care fees threshold of £50k, compared to £23,250 in England.

And then there’s the added incentive of free prescriptions.

This means that the poorest country in the UK, where the population already contains the highest percentage of elderly people, is actively encouraging yet more elderly people to move to Wales.

Figures supplied by ONS. My table. Click to enlarge

This phenomenon obviously puts a strain on health and associated services, which results in funding being diverted from other budgets, such as education. Perhaps it could even be argued that Welsh kids get an inferior education due to retirees from England.

But of course no Welsh politician or civil servant will dare admit this. Worse, they’ll even try to put a positive gloss on this population movement, as I found when I submitted a Freedom of Information request. Here’s an extract from the response.

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An ageing population is viewed as a problem across the developed world. The prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, recently declared the issue of a falling birthrate and an ageing population to be “a national crisis”.

So across the world it’s a problem or a crisis, but here in Wales an ageing population is “something positive”. I leave it to you to decide whether the ‘Welsh Government’ doesn’t understand the problem or whether it’s just lying.

The National Development Framework says nothing about limiting or mitigating the effects of this damaging influx. Which could be achieved by reducing the care fee allowance to £10,000 for people who have not lived in Wales for ten years prior to applying for care.

Part 3 is a wish list entitled ‘Outcomes’, eleven in all. ‘Outcomes’, that word so beloved of bullshitters and con artists in government, academe, the third sector and elsewhere.

This is virtue signalling on steroids. Anyone reading it should pause and ask, ‘Why should I believe that the same clowns who have run Wales into the ground over the past 20 years will deliver a land of milk and honey in the future?’

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Only intellectually-challenged Labour supporters and desperate Unionists will believe this. Because, believe me, those who wrote it don’t believe it.

Part 4 is headed, ‘Strategic and Spatial Choices: the NDF Spatial Strategy’. It tells us what’s planned to happen and where; this section contains a bit more ‘meat’.

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It begins by telling us that there are three ‘national growth areas’. These are: Cardiff, Newport and the Valleys; Wrexham and Deeside; Swansea Bay and Llanelli.

The first speaks for itself seeing as the ‘Welsh Government’ and others have been pushing the ‘city region’ idea for decades. Our north east is merging into north west England, an arrangement the ‘Welsh Government’ has helped create by prioritising cross-border links and pouring money into Deeside to create jobs for Merseyside and Cheshire. Which leaves the Swansea area as Wales’ only natural and organic conurbation. And, inevitably, the area most neglected by the ‘Welsh Government’.

A word that crops up throughout the document is ‘sustainability’, often coupled with reference to the Well-being of Future Generations Act. This provides more opportunity to list pious hopes, but it also sets out where investors will be allowed to exploit Wales.

The map on page 42 (and below) shows the areas where wind or solar power is to be allowed. With a few district heat networks in the cities and larger towns. Most of Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion seems to be given over to wind and solar farms.

Will there be any room for farming? Click to enlarge

Take out urban areas, national parks, unsuitable terrain, and it seems that most of what remains is to be covered in solar panels and wind turbines.

And then wonder where our ‘National Forest’ will fit in. For on page 35 of the NDF we read, “The Welsh Government has therefore set a target to increase woodland cover in Wales by at least 2,000 hectares per annum from 2020.”

The same page tells us, “Any sites or development proposals, which require planning permission and forming part of this project, should be supported where appropriate.” Which I take to mean a presumption in favour of new woodland. Perhaps refusal of planning permission at local level will be over-ruled by the ‘Welsh Government’ or the new planning inspectorate it has promised.

Is it a coincidence that the area earmarked for the Summit to Sea land-grab north of Aberystwyth is free of wind and solar farms?

I believe that woodland and carbon capture will be the new subsidy/tax break wheeze for investors, multinationals and others. With the scale of the exploitation disguised by ensuring maximum publicity for a few small, locally-owned projects.

I say that because a couple of recent newspaper reports point in that direction. (The image is quite large, so you might prefer it in PDF format.)

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When the UK government puts a monetary value on the carbon-capture qualities of our uplands, and academics urge the planting of trees on grazing land, then we can almost guarantee that various forms of  ‘greenwash’ largesse are not far behind . . . hotly pursued by a slavering horde of shysters.

Part 5. As we saw in Part 4, the National Development Framework breaks colonial Wales down, like Caesar’s Gaul, into three parts. Just to remind you, these are North, Mid and South West, and South East.

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Starting with the north again, we see that in addition to the main growth points of Wrexham and Deeside, the ‘Centres of Regional Growth’ are all on the north coast – Prestatyn, Rhyl, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno, Bangor and Caernarfon.

To see four towns on the Costa Geriatrica that are already over-developed (in the sense that they don’t really serve Wales) marked for further development is absurd. Especially as they’re so close to each other.

The northern hinterland is presumably given over to tourism, tree planting, ‘re-wilding’, etc. But couldn’t Blaenau Ffestiniog, almost slap-bang in the middle of the ‘forgotten zone’, have been made a Centre of Regional Growth instead of Colwyn Bay or Prestatyn?

I’ve added ‘Blaenau Ffestiniog’. Click to enlarge

The emphasis on the coastal strip looks like the A55 commuter corridor, designed to take the housing not wanted by the upmarket towns and villages of Cheshire.

Moving south and west we have the Swansea conurbation as the main growth point complemented by eight Centres of Regional Growth with another example of ‘bunching’. For while I understand the need to do something for Pembroke and Pembroke Dock, do they really need to be treated separately?

I wish defenders of the NDF the best of luck in the Severn Valley explaining to the people of Welshpool why Newtown was chosen and not their town. Newtown that has seen much investment in recent decades from the Mid Wales Development Corporation of the 1960s up to the new by-pass that opened earlier this year.

More surprising though is the choice of Llandrindod. Why not Brecon? Llandrindod could serve as the archetype for ‘sleepy rural town’, enlivened only by the riff-raff dumped there by various agencies.

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Just like the north, the Mid and South West region is to have its own Metro. If these ever materialise then in the north it will result in better links with England, while in Swansea, a new Parkway station at Felindre will mean quicker travel times between the west and Cardiff, and a change of trains to go into Swansea.

Finally, let’s consider the master plan for the south east. Though if the management team in Corruption Bay gets its way then the south east of Wales will soon be Greater Cardiff.

There are fewer Centres of Regional Growth in the south east than in either of the other regions. In the north, there are four CRGs within 22 miles of each other, but just four in the whole of the south east, which has double the population of the north.

Specifically, and seeing as the ‘Welsh Government’ has promised Ebbw Vale so much in the wake of the Circuit of Wales fiasco, I’m surprised that Glyn Ebwy isn’t a CRG.

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You may have noticed a small green belt between Wrexham and Chester, well there’s a much bigger green belt, or ‘wedge’, in the south east. It seems to be a tapering, westward extension of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It takes in the area around the town of Usk, pushes on past Newport, and ends just south of Caerphilly. Presumably this protects Caerphilly Mountain from development? But not, apparently, Gwern y Domen.

I thought there was also a green belt between Cardiff and Newport, but apparently not. So maybe it’s a case of ‘Good-bye Newport – hello Cardiff East!’

The NDF document admits on page 67 that “Prosperity is not uniform across the region.” Wow! what a surprise. The same could be said for the whole bloody country. And we know the problem – the mini-me London that is our capital.

CONCLUSIONS

This uninspiring document was put together by people, many of whom don’t really know Wales, and to compensate for this ignorance they’ve relied too heavily on vested interests, and local big-wigs interested only in their patch.

When suggestions dried up, they adopted a ‘more of the same’ approach. Which probably explains why a passage from the Bible came to mind when I was reading this document: “For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath”.

The National Development Framework is not – and could never be – a document setting out desirable national development over the next 20 years because the contributors were incapable of taking a truly national view.

For example, there has been a campaign running for a few years to re-open the Carmarthen-Aberystwyth railway line. This would provide an environmentally-friendly north-south link, the ‘Welsh Government’ has given £300,000 for a feasibility study, county and town councils support it, so why is there no mention of this project in the National Development Framework?

Why the emphasis on cross-border links in a document supposedly serving Wales?

And if this document is about serving Wales, then why is so much of our country being surrendered to wind farms and solar farms? There is little local benefit, very few jobs, and the argument that these reduce Wales’ carbon footprint is nonsense.

When it comes to wind turbines, we could do more for the environment by not importing these things from the continent, by not letting them trundle through our countryside on huge, smoke-belching trucks, and by not cutting down trees or destroying peat deposits to erect them.

Yet if the environment is the issue, and if the desire is for Wales to play its part, then why is there no support for locally-owned hydro and other schemes? I think that question answers itself – it’s because they’ll be locally owned.

Anyone who says wind farms are good for Wales, or for the environment, is either a liar, a fool, an ‘investor’, a landowner, or a politician spinning a line in ‘greenwash’. Click to enlarge.

The National Development Framework also mentions ‘affordable housing’ more than once, but no definition is offered. If you think it means rented social housing then think again. ‘Affordable housing’ is a ‘flexible’ term that can mean whatever the person using it wants it to mean.

That’s because the housing market itself is rather confusing, what with housing associations building properties for sale and for rent, even ‘fleecehold’ properties. Many Registered Social Landlords have also set up private subsidiaries that are little different to Redrow and Persimmon, and competing unfairly with smaller, local building firms. This sector really does need a shake-up.

If only to cut down on the waste of public funding when social housing providers allocate properties to people with no Welsh connections, and often people that nobody’d want as neighbours.

Insisting that no one could be given a social housing tenancy unless they’d lived in Wales for five years would both save money and improve social cohesion.

In addition to the ignorance and ineptitude at lower levels, the deeper problem is that the National Development Framework is essentially a colonial strategy – ‘Let Wales continue to serve England’s interests, with the local management team providing a smokescreen by virtue signalling to their little hearts’ content.’

Let us hope and pray that the current political and constitutional chaos results in the collapse of the United Kingdom and the emergence of independent and reunited countries in these islands.

All copies of the National Development Framework can then be pulped. Along with the buffoons down Corruption Bay that put their names to this national insult.

♦ end ♦

 

Miscellany 05.08.2019

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

RHIGOS VIEWPOINT/CRAIG Y LLYN CAR PARK

In the previous post, Family silver, I wondered what exactly is planned for the Rhigos area with the arrival of Zip World. A question worth asking after ZW recently took on Greg Evans, a man whose background is in the storage of nuclear waste and offshore wind turbines.

And not just him, for another recent recruit was Giles Alexander Thorley . . . the CEO of the Development Bank of Wales.

I concluded that whatever is planned for Rhigos goes way beyond zip wires.

Suspicions raised by the curious tale of the sale – or non-sale – of the Rhigos Viewpoint, overlooking the area in which Zip World claims it will be operating. Picking up from where we left off in my previous post, here’s an update.

Rhigos Viewpoint looking towards (right centre) Craig y Llyn, a jumping off point for one of the zip wires. Image courtesy of Google. Click to enlarge.

First, a good source, familiar with the workings of the ‘Welsh Government’, suggested that the area was put up for sale to comply with the requirement to advertise public land . . . before claiming there was ‘no interest’ and then handing it over to a favoured party, in this case, probably Zip World.

Going through the motions like that makes sense.

But then, on Friday, someone else got in touch to say that he had seen the advertisement – and made an enquiry. So now it gets interesting.

The reply he received from Natural Resources Wales said, rather curtly: “Thank you for your enquiry. I can advise that Craig y Llyn Carpark (sic) is not for sale.”

So my source wrote back asking why it had appeared on the register of public property for sale. Here’s the second answer he received:

“Please accept my apologies for this area of land appearing on the gov.uk site.

Back in 2014, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) considered selling this area of land along with a number of other sites and they were added to the government register as potential surplus sites that other public bodies could express an interest in before being offered on the open-market.

However, after further consideration NRW decided to retain the land. Unfortunately the government register was not updated. I confirm that NRW currently has no plans to sell this land and the record has now been updated to reflect that the site is to be retained.”

First, note that the link provided by NRW is to a UK Government portal rather than to any specific site for sale of public assets, for which there’s a link in my sidebar.

Then the NRW response says that the land was put up for sale in 2014 so that other ” . . . public bodies could express a interest . . . before being offered on the open-market (sic)”. Clearly suggesting that the Rhigos Viewpoint was advertised internally and then withdrawn without appearing on the public/open market register.

Craig y Llyn and Llyn Fawr from the Rhigos Viewpoint. Click to enlarge

In which case, how did my source – and others – see it on the open register? And why does the register give the date 27/06/2019?

This response from Natural Resources Wales bears the hallmark of someone told to tell porkies but not understanding the full story and only making things worse.

‘Oh, what a tangled web we weave . . .’.

A DOSE OF REALITY

Last Monday saw the release of a new Welsh Political Barometer/YouGov poll which makes for interesting reading for people like me, but depressing reading for many others.

Here are the findings of the poll. The figures in brackets represent the changes from previous WPB/YouGov poll conducted before the EU elections in May.

All parties seemed to take hope from the results except for Labour, obviously. (And perhaps the Greens, but who gives a toss about them.). Though what do the figures really tell us?

For the first time ever, Plaid Cymru leads in the constituency vote for the Assembly . . . without any gain in support! Also, in the regional vote, gaining just one percentage point. For Westminster elections, and despite going up by two points, Plaid Cymru is now in fifth place.

Plaid Cymru spokespersons can crow all they like, but it can’t hide the fact that with the Labour vote in free-fall Plaid Cymru is not gaining by that much. This is worth saying because the assumption always was that as Labour’s century of dominance started coming to an end its ‘socialist’ voters would transfer to Plaid Cymru.

With PM Boris Johnson heading for a No Deal Brexit, the Labour Party in London and Cardiff ‘led’ by men who seem to be more shadow than substance, Welsh voters still find a Liberal Democrat Party led by a woman nobody’s heard of and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party more attractive than Plaid Cymru.

Why is Plaid Cymru so woefully unable to carpe the old diem? For a number of surveys tell of increased support for independence, so why isn’t this reflected in backing for Plaid Cymru?

I don’t understand it. I mean, a party so concerned with transgender ishoos, and then – when it’s not smooching Labour and Deryn – outing misogynists, homophobes and fascists (apparently I’m all three – and more!); surely such a party, especially with its promise to remedy these ills by delivering a Marxist-Leninist-woke-feminist republic, should be at least 20 points ahead in the polls.

I shall have to take me up unto an high place and ponder this conundrum . . . if I can find any space on the moral high ground.

GWYNEDD PLANNERS

You may recall that I have written a few times about how easy it is to run rings around Gwynedd’s planners.

One notable case was Plas Pistyll (of blesséd memory) where, over time, holiday-only replacements for trailer homes metamorphosed – by incremental changes to the original planning permission – into luxury year-round dwellings. And nobody in the planning department noticed!

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Give yourself a treat and read all about it in Wilmslow-sur-Mer.

Another Gwynedd planning disaster was that at Bryn Llys, Nebo, where a bunch of crooks from over the border bought a traditional Welsh dwelling, extended it, extended it again without planning permission, got retrospective planning permission, exceeded that, ended up with an extension three times the size of the original house, then demolished the original building, and put the ‘extension’ on the market for £850,000.

To help you grasp the full horror of this case, here’s a photograph I received recently showing the original Bryn Llys and outbuildings overshadowed by the vile ‘extension’.

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While this saga unfolded neighbours and others kept Gwynedd planners informed and asked for action to be taken. Nothing was done.

Now I hear that Gwynedd’s planners may finally be stirring, with a “pre-trial hearing” of some kind scheduled for 6 September.

But don’t hold your breath, for my belief is that this case has gone too far. There is no way that Cyngor Gwynedd will insist on the demolition of a property up for sale with a price tag of £850,000.

The crook who seems to own the property is Jonathan James Duggan (aka Ripley) of West Yorkshire, who lives on the site, with his large family, in a shed he has been ordered to demolish. One way he and his father (currently in prison) make their money is by ordering expensive goods and equipment, not paying for them, then selling on those goods.

This probably explains how Duggan found the money to build Bryn Llys Newydd, for when he appeared in court on a criminal damage charge in September 2016 he claimed to be surviving on state benefits.

He has as one of his sidekicks a would-be rocker and English supremacist from the Bristol area by the name of Shane Baker. There are others in the gang.

In addition to laughing at Cyngor Gwynedd this crew has also intimidated and terrorised neighbours, and caused great damage by trying to steal land, often in attempts to improve the access to Bryn Llys. Done to facilitate whatever plans may be in the pipeline, because there’s quite a bit more land. Glamping and even zip wires have been mooted by Duggan.

Despite the wealth of information and witness testimony North Wales Police seems uninterested in Duggan and his gang at Bryn Llys. Yes, there was a police raid in April last year, but that wasn’t GogPlod.

I look at cases like Bryn Llys (and God knows, I’ve looked at plenty!) where decent people have their lives fucked over by scumbags like this and I think to myself: ‘There’s no point in appealing to any authority because ultimately all authority in Wales answers to London.’ 

Maybe we need something more. Some organisation beleaguered Welsh communities could turn to to run bastards like these out of Wales.

UPDATE 09.08.2019: I have been informed that a new company was formed on 27 June named Bryn Llys Ltd, which you’ll see is in the business of ‘Holiday centres and villages’. The secretary, sole director, and holder of all the shares, is Andrew Battye of Huddersfield, long suspected of being the money behind Bryn Llys.

Maybe the question now should be, where does the money come from? Battye was in business with Duggan Jnr in a company called Bridge Glazing Systems Ltd, which went out of business after a few years and without filing any accounts.

Let us hope that both Cyngor Gwynedd and North Wales Police do their jobs, because what has already been built at Bryn Llys, and what might be planned for Bryn Llys (and perhaps elsewhere), will be funded from criminal activity, and is almost certainly a form of money laundering.

IS THE RIGHT BEING MOBILISED?

There was a rally in Swansea on Saturday ahead of the Swans’ opening match of the season against Hull City. (Won 2 – 1, seeing as you asked.) Or maybe it was two rallies, I’m not sure. Because the WalesOnline report mentioned both the Never Surrender Veterans Group and Million Veteran(s) March.

The first of which ” . . . is a group largely made up of ex-veterans who support servicemen and women”. I’ve never heard of this group so I tried to find out more.

All I could find was a mixed martial arts group in Kansas and another US group helping disabled veterans have specially adapted transport. The Welsh group has a closed Facebook page created four months ago, and that seems to be it.

The Million Veteran March also appears to draw its inspiration from the USA and seems to take its name from another US organisation. Though the name also crops up in recent UK news reports. With quite extensive coverage on a site new to me called Unity News Network.

The organisers and the WO report made great play of the number of bikers attending. To judge by the photographs most if not all of them belong to the Valley Commandos. This club started out as a Cardiff City supporters group so I don’t understand how they’ve drifted into right wing Unionist politics.

Because make no mistake about it, Soldier F, is now a rallying cry, not just for supportive veterans, but also for the usual suspects on the far right. And they were also there on Saturday, Swansea’s gang of Rangers supporters and ‘Loyalists’.

As Fred Astaire sang, ‘There may be trouble ahead . . . ‘ because there could be problems, maybe civil unrest, in the coming year no matter which way things pan out with Brexit. Was what we saw in Swansea on Saturday – with a rally in Brecon to follow – a glimpse of things to come?

The UK leaves the EU on October 31; after which Scotland will be threatening to secede, more and more Welsh people will be questioning the English connection, and God only knows what will be happening over the water.

In a shit-storm like that, overseen by politicians following those titans of statecraft, Micawber and Trump, blind and unquestioning British patriotism will be demanded of us all. Or else!

CLARIFICATION: Let me make clear that this is not a criticism of service personnel past or present voicing sincerely-held concerns or remembering fallen comrades. This is a warning against hangers-on, the far right, Walter Mitty types and unscrupulous politicians.

A MESSAGE FROM UNCLE JAC

Strangely enough, there were no representatives in Swansea of the very vocal element on the fringes of Plaid Cymru that targets ‘fascists’.

No, it wasn’t really surprising because the truth is they only use the ‘fascist!’ smear against those who challenge Plaid Cymru, and more especially the party’s extreme left wing fringe. I’m talking now of Plaid Ifanc, Undod, Undeb Plaid Cymru and a few individuals.

(Defending Neil McEvoy, criticising Deryn, attacking Labour, questioning the role of the third sector, asking who was involved in the Carl Sargeant affair, etc . . . these and other crimes also incur the wrath of those I’m talking about.)

There’s no question that these left wing extremists – no more than a few dozen in total – are trying to influence if not direct the growing independence movement. It became apparent – not long after YesCymru first appeared – with this piece from ‘Sawel ap Harri’ entitled The Marxist case for Welsh independence.

That gem appeared on Nation.Cymru which has more recently given space to a number of similar pieces. We were blest with two on the first day of this month. One was, The independence movement must embody the principles of the nation we want to live in, by Plaid Ifanc; and the other, Why the lack of diversity in the independence movement is a problem, by Leia Fee.

The second of those is a real hoot about ‘intersectionality’, ‘under-represented demographics’ and other terms I’m sure you use every day. Basically, it argued for breaking down the population of Wales into lots of different and competing groups.

The comments to that piece made it clear that most people thought Leia Fee was talking bollocks, and dangerous bollocks at that, at a time when we should all be promoting unity in the push for independence.

Though perhaps the best response came on Twitter.

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But the idiocies come thick and fast, as does the hypocrisy. I’ve recently written about the attacks on me from young Aled Gwyn Williams of Maesteg (and his dog, Teifi). Aled wants the world to know that I’m an absolute brute, guilty of all manner of heinous crimes, including misogyny.

I’m sure my laughter could be heard miles away when someone sent me this recent tweet by Aled Gwyn Williams. (If Teifi’s ears pricked up, son, it was because he heard me.)

I understand some people are looking for examples of misogyny, I submit this example for consideration. Click to enlarge

The left is playing a dangerous and divisive game, perhaps egged on by someone whose absence from the independence marches in Cardiff and Caernarfon has not gone unnoticed.

Calling me a misogynist, or Ein Gwlad ‘fascistic’, and then trying to cause divisions in the independence movement by demanding that everyone be labelled, while insisting they’ll only accept independence on their terms, can only damage what should be a broad-based and inclusive national movement.

Some will dismiss such behaviour as juvenile, others find it suspicious. Worryingly, too many who should know better defend or support it. Either way, this behaviour is serving something other than the cause of Welsh independence.

♦ end ♦

 

Poor old Swansea! victim of devolution and Cardiff-centricity

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

THE TOWN I LOVED SO WELL

As you’re probably aware, I am a native of Swansea; as it says on my Twitter profile, “A Jack by blood, birth, upbringing and inclination”. Despite having spent most of my life away from the city it remains my home town, it’s where my roots lie, and it’s where my heart will ever be. (Cue violins.)

When I was very young Swansea was still pulling itself together after being knocked about by the Luftwaffe, and despite the disastrous rebuilding of the centre we kids accepted it – ‘modern, see’. Of course, our parents and grandparents missed the old town, Ben Evans department store (‘the Harrods of Wales’) and all the rest.

And as Dylan Thomas reminds us in Return Journey, so much else was gone, including the famous Kardomah cafe, where he had ‘argued the toss’ with Vernon Watkins, Dan Jones, Arthur Janes and the rest of the gang.

A view from pre-war Swansea, courtesy of Swansea Recalled, click to enlarge

On the economic front, the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s were pretty good, you could tell the boss to F— Off on Friday and find a fresh job on Monday.

Despite what Turks and other disbelievers might say, we had the best rugby team in Wales; in summer, Glamorgan could pull 20,000 to St Helen’s, and in football, well, most of the 1958 World Cup team came from Swansea, and if Big John hadn’t been hacked out by the Hungarians in the previous game we would have beaten Brazil and won the competition.

Obviously there was some disappointment when in 1955 Cardiff was named capital, but we soon got over it because what did the title mean in practical terms? So we shrugged and continued to enjoy being the pre-eminent sub-species.

But since the 1980s it’s been noticeably downhill for Swansea in just about every conceivable sphere. And devolution has only made things worse.

BALLS, AND PLAYING SILLY BUGGERS

I’ve mentioned St Helen’s Rugby and Cricket Ground (to give it its full name), which opened in 1873 and held Wales’ first-ever home rugby international in 1882. It hosted rugby internationals until 1954. I suppose some might say that Swansea’s decline began when it lost rugby international games to Cardiff. For Swansea’s loss is invariably Cardiff’s gain.

Glamorgan v West Indies at St Helen’s, August 1950. Courtesy of Casgliad y Werin. Click to enlarge.

Since losing rugby international matches in 1954 St Helen’s has also lost Glamorgan CCC games to the Sophia Gardens in Cardiff, where crowds are smaller than they were at St Helen’s. So the move would appear to make no economic sense, but that’s to miss the point, for the Swalec Stadium was built so that Cardiff can host England games. Yes, honestly. This of course brings money into the city, but with collateral damage in the loss of our national cricket team.

A loss the political and business leaders of Cardiff consider a price worth paying. Which tells us a number of things, among them that it’s not simply Swansea that loses out to Cardiff’s insatiable greed and self-aggrandisement.

Of course, some of Swansea’s wounds are self-inflicted. The city centre is a disaster area. The planning of traffic movement, one-way systems, pedestrianisation and the rest could have been handed over to a bunch of ten-year-olds forty years ago and today they could be showing their adult children around the city with pride – because they couldn’t have done a worse job than successive city administrations. Administrations that, with all-too-brief interludes, have been Labour.

The most recent such interlude was from 2004 until 2012 when the Liberal Democrat-led Swansea Administration ran the council in coalition with assorted others. In 2004 Plaid Cymru had five councillors, the group led by Darren Price, but refused to join the coalition, deluding itself it held the balance of power and could therefore dictate things. Which didn’t work out, so towards the end Price was having regular and quite open meetings with David ‘Il Duce‘ Phillips, the Labour leader, and ‘Rocking’ Rene Kinzett, local Tory hetman.

This unholy alliance eventually triumphed and Il Duce was restored to power in 2012, carried aloft by a crowd of thousands marching down the Mumbles Road singing the Red Flag interspersed with throaty renditions of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow. (OK, I made that bit up.)

Alas, ‘Rocking’ Rene fell from grace, and his fall was complete when he was caught with child pornography. Il Duce was soon overthrown in a coup and also ended up in court, but for fly-tipping and taking over somebody else’s garage, with the rightful owner describing Phillips as a “nutcase”!

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In the elections of 2008 Plaid Cymru went down to one seat, and since 2012 it has had none. Darren Price crossed over and sold his soul to Beelzebub. (Trans: is a councillor in Carmarthenshire serving His Omnipotence Mark James.) Today Plaid Cymru barely exists in Swansea. Some ‘Party of Wales’, eh?

That said, not all the wounds were self-inflicted, and not when it comes to the state of the city centre. For long before the rise of internet shopping started doing its damage Swansea’s city centre was being undermined by out-of-town shopping, though as I say, this time the council was not entirely to blame.

Certainly not when it came to the Swansea Enterprise Park on the east side of the River Tawe, overlooked by Bonymaen and Llansamlet, the first and largest Enterprise Zone (as it originally was) in the UK, covering some 735 acres. Planned for light manufacturing and warehousing retailing was given the green light by Nicholas Edwards, Secretary of State for Wales under Margaret Thatcher until 1987.

Major stores and other retail outlets locating to the Enterprise Park certainly hurt the city centre, but then, Edwards couldn’t be bothered with that, because he had bigger fish to fry. For Nicholas Edwards was a man with big plans for Cardiff through the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, set up by him to pump public money into land owned by Associated British Ports, of which he just happened to be the leading director.

This, perhaps the biggest single rip-off of public funding in Welsh history, is detailed in Corruption Bay, a document I compiled almost 20 years ago, but the facts, and the interpretations, still hold up.

DEVOLUTION – SHAFTED AGAIN!

Corruption Bay also explains why our Notional Assembly came to be located in Cardiff Bay – for the benefit of Associated British Ports, and as a ‘consolation prize’ for the opera house was that was never built. For among the countless ‘hats’ worn by Nick Edwards were director of the Welsh National Opera and chairman of the Cardiff Bay Opera Trust.

Even though Cardiff Bay eventually won the Assembly Swansea Guildhall was the only site that met the criteria on value for money and availability set out by Secretary of State Ron Davies in the search for a home for the new institution after negotiations over Cardiff City Hall – the assumed location for the Assembly – collapsed. But once again, Swansea was done down by certain influencers in Cardiff. (Explained in Corruption Bay.)

This competition ‘won’ by Swansea seems to have been written out of recent Welsh history; but then, as Churchill said, history is written by the victors, and what passes for the ‘Welsh media’ is the voice of Cardiff. (Fortunately, the subterranean and bomb-proof Jo’tN archives contain a library of newspaper articles from the period.)

After the ‘competition’ was launched, and as the terrifying prospect of the Assembly being housed in Swansea sunk in, the Western Mail and the rest of the ‘Welsh media’ went into hyper-drive, even accusing politicians and civil servants of leaning on Ron Davies to favour Swansea, as this ludicrous article from 3 March 1998 spells out.

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Yes, Rachel Lomax, then top civil servant at the Welsh Office, had been born in Swansea; and yes, there was something odd and unconvincing about her spat with council leader Russell Goodway over leasing Cardiff City Hall; but there was never any danger of the Assembly not being in Cardiff, but it was going to the Bay, for the benefit of Nick Edwards and his mates in Associated British Ports.

Which meant that the real beneficiaries of a National Assembly for Wales were a bunch of Tories who had always opposed devolution. They laughed all the way to their banks. (Which were probably offshore.)

And poor old Swansea got shafted, yet again.

NOTHING CHANGES

In recent years Swansea has received further blows in the form of rail electrification ending at Cardiff thanks to Chris Grayling, the man who never gets anything wrong; and the plug being pulled on the tidal lagoon.

How energetically Swansea’s case was argued by the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ is anyone’s guess. If I had to put money on it, I’d say the response was, ‘OK, fair enough, we’ll pass the message on’.

Even after the disappointment of electrification and the tidal lagoon there were still bright spots in the gloom. Among them, the growing reputation of Swansea University, and its increasingly lucrative spin-offs.

Since 1998, when the Times and Sunday Times started publishing their ‘Good University Guide’, Cardiff University had been top in Wales, but by 2016 things were changing in favour of Swansea University. A change confirmed in the 2019 Guide. (Though for some reason WalesOnline thinks the change happened in 2019!)

But lo! out of a clear blue sky, and just before Christmas, came the bombshell that senior figures at Swansea University had been suspended. Apparently this was connected with the University’s links to the Wellness Village in Llanelli, pet project of His Omnipotence Mark James.

Llanelli’s planned Wellness Village, click to enlarge

Now I won’t deny that the Wellness Village project may be the ultimate vanity project; and maybe the University’s involvement should have appeared more institutional than personal; but at the same time, I can imagine certain interests in Cardiff jumping at the opportunity to take Swansea University down a peg or two. And the ‘Welsh Government’ was only too happy to assist.

Vice-Chancellor Richard Davies has been replaced by Paul Boyle, an uninspiring Englishman who is “looking forward to being back by the sea!” – is he going paddling? No doubt Boyle is under instructions to rein in Swansea’s ambition and not get ideas above his University’s ordained station (below Cardiff in any rankings that matter).

UPDATE 13.03.2019: Just one day after I published this post the Western Mail, which used to be known as Llais y Sais (voice of the English), and could more correctly be re-named Llais Caerdydd (voice of Cardiff), published another piece it hoped would reflect badly on Swansea University. The unmistakeable message in the unattributed article is that these donations are ‘irregular’, perhaps dirty money.

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AND THEN THERE’S THE WELSH RUGBY UNION

It’s difficult to know where to start with this section, because rarely, even in the history of Wales, have so many been pissed off by so few. The few in question belong to the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and something called the Professional Rugby Board. Few would have heard of the PRB until last week.

For it was last week we heard that the WRU intended forcing through a merger of the Ospreys (the West Glamorgan region) and the Scarlets, the Llanelli super club. Not only that, but we also learnt that the WRU had previously tried to force through a ‘merger’ of the Ospreys with Cardiff Blues, another club that rejected regional rugby back in 2003.

No matter on which level we consider this, or from which angle we approach it, these proposed ‘mergers’ are insane. The Ospreys are Wales’s most successful rugby outfit yet the WRU wants to do away with them.

And then, how drunk do you have to be to think that Swansea rugby fans, having seen their team killed off, would travel the 40-odd miles to support Cardiff?

And when it comes to the takeover by Llanelli Scarlets, the WRU’s argument is that the Ospreys are broke while the Scarlets are in rude financial health. Llanelli Scarlets were for a long time kept afloat by the WRU, then Carmarthenshire County Council – Mark James again – took over the life-support system and poured in millions of pounds of council taxpayers’ money.

People in the world of rugby are laughing openly at the Welsh Rugby Union. Click to enlarge

Not only that, but all manner of imaginative special arrangements were dreamed up by Mark James to keep Llanelli Scarlets, and their white elephant stadium, afloat. Because Parc y Scarlets has never been financially viable. Whereas the Ospreys have no such worries because they share the Liberty Stadium with the Swans.

Mark James retires in June, and when he’s gone those who have cowered in his shadow this many a year may grow cojones and start questioning some of his decisions. Not least why Carmarthenshire County Council has written off millions of pounds owed to the people of Carmarthenshire by Llanelli Scarlets. And why revenue was lost in ‘concessions’ and all manner of questionable arrangements.

But anyone, in the Welsh Rugby Union, or anywhere else, who thinks that Llanelli Scarlets is a financial success story must be relying on the kind of accountants who appear on this blog . . . and often appear before a judge and jury.

Looking east, the WRU owns Newport Dragons, the least successful of our four ‘regions’. Newport is the same distance from Cardiff as Llanelli is from Swansea, so why not merge Cardiff and Newport into a South East region, and have them play at a new stadium to be built in Pontypridd or Pontypool? For neither Cardiff nor Newport has made any serious attempt to engage with their Valleys’ hinterlands. Making a mockery of ‘regional rugby’.

Another aspect is that these absurd mergers were proposed because the WRU wants a new region in the north. Back in 2003, when regional rugby was being discussed, David Moffett, then group CEO of the Welsh Rugby Union, proposed four regions: North, West (Llanelli, Swansea, Neath and others playing in Swansea), South (Cardiff, Pontypridd, Bridgend and the Central Valleys), and East (Gwent).

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Llanelli, Cardiff and Newport refused to become regions but called themselves regions anyway, and the WRU caved in. Swansea and Neath merged to form the Ospreys, a genuine region, and they are now being rewarded with oblivion.

Whatever the WRU’s grand plan may have been – and I’m being generous in assuming there is, or was, a coherent plan – viewed from Swansea this looks like just another Cardiff-based organisation doing Swansea down.

And if the WRU has its way and destroys the Ospreys then a new rugby entity will almost certainly emerge in Swansea and may have no alternative but to affiliate to the English Rugby Football Union. Is that really what those clowns in the WRU and the PRB want?

MAKING SENSE OF IT

Sticking with the Welsh Rugby Union for a minute, nothing surprises me when it comes to that BritNat-Masonic outfit, forever fawning over English royals, with its ludicrous feathers badge. Other countries have emblems representing the country and its people, Wales has one representing an individual claiming to be ‘Prince of Wales’ who has as much claim to the title as my cat.

Looking back to 1955 and the announcement that Cardiff was the official capital of Wales, maybe the rot set in for Swansea then, for it was obvious that, being more convenient for England, all manner of agencies would base themselves in Cardiff. Since then it’s been a drip-drip effect.

Devolution should have ‘evened things out’, but instead it’s made them worse, and not just for Swansea but for every part of Wales other than Cardiff. It used to be said – I heard it back in the 1970s – that devolution would simply give us ‘Glamorgan County Council on stilts’. Devolution has actually given us Cardiff City Council on steroids.

The reason devolution has failed ninety per cent of Wales economically is that concentrating everything in Cardiff has made it easier for bodies concerned only with Cardiff to influence decisions for Wales. For example, I guarantee that the denizens of the Cardiff and County Club have more influence on the economic life of Swansea than Swansea council and all the politicians the Swansea region sends to Cardiff Bay and Westminster combined. And that influence is malign.

And Swansea has no independent voice to speak up for her. The Evening Post, once Wales’s biggest selling daily ‘paper (it may still be), is now printed in England and censored in Cardiff, and losing readers fast; partly because it refuses to criticise the Labour Party, whether in County Hall or Cardiff Bay.

And all the while, thanks to this combination of Labour ineptitude, the lack of an effective media, and Cardiff pushing to become a major provincial city on a par with Bristol or Leeds, Swansea and the rest of the country must pay the price.

Poor old Swansea!

♦ end ♦

UPDATE 15.03.2019: From today’s Western Mail. BBC Radio Wales is dropping Mal Pope of Swansea from its schedules and it looks as if it’s also closing the historic Alexandra Road studios from where Dylan Thomas broadcast.

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Local Government Reorganisation, Again!

INTRODUCTION

I’m old enough to remember the term ‘Wales and Monmouthshire’ being used, which gave us the thirteen old counties, and then there were the four county boroughs (Swansea, Cardiff, Newport and Merthyr).

This system was swept away by the Local Government Act 1972 which in 1974 gave us a two-tier system of local government, made up of eight counties, thirty-seven districts, and, if I counted them all, 43,736 councillors. It was probably the most absurd system of local government ever devised by man.

Mrs Jones would go her district council office with a query or a complaint only to be told that the issue vexing her was a matter for the county council. (And vice versa.) To further confuse us I seem to recall that responsibilities were often shared or split. Didn’t district councils collect the rubbish but counties dispose of it?

The obvious thing to have done, of course, would have been to do away with the districts leaving us with eight good-sized unitary authorities. But no, this is Wales, and other factors influenced decisions. Such as lowering the minimum population level to 60,000 so that Merthyr could be one of the new unitary authorities.

Quite obviously, twenty-two local authorities – and Powys having more councillors than New York City – is no real improvement on the two-tier system in a country of just over three million people.

The two local government reorganisations introduced in 1974 and 1996 were the work of the UK government and the Boundary Commission with considerable input from political parties and others. But now the power lies with the ‘Welsh’ Government.

For this is the age of devolution; Wales is a land of milk and honey, where lambs frolic under the planet-saving wind turbines (watered daily by the local hippies). Freed from the tyranny of labour by the introduction of AI we fly from Cardiff airport to our villas in the sun – even those from the north can reach Cardiff International in two or three hours on the new motorways and train lines that traverse the land. Students from Vladivostok and Valparaiso fight to get into the Assembly in order to see and hear for themselves our leaders, men and women globally renowned for their wisdom and their probity. Poverty is forever banished, everyone has a nice home and a new electric car or three . . . and I really must lay off the Malbec.

Back to reality. For a few years now the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government down in Corruption Bay, that monument to the late Nicholas Edwards, has toyed with the idea of yet another round of local government reorganisation. The subject seems to surface from time to time, often when Labour needs a distraction, or wants to be seen as ‘visionary’.

Earlier this month the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Local Government Secretary Alun Davies resurrected the suggestion to trim down our twenty-two local authorities to just ten with the publication of a Green Paper. So let’s examine the proposal in a little more detail.

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NORTH, MID AND WEST

In the previous, two-tier system, the north had two counties, Clwyd in the east and Gwynedd in the west. In the map above you’ll see three counties mooted for any future reorganisation. But why?

I suggest that the answer lies with the Labour Party itself. Lump together Flintshire and Wrexham and you create a council that might just have a Labour majority, or certainly a council that could be run by Labour in coalition with Plaid Cymru and/or assorted Independents. (There being no less than three different Independent groups on Flintshire council!)

But add Denbighshire to the mix, where Labour currently has 13 (out of 47) councillors, and a resurrected Clwyd would be much less likely to be a Labour fiefdom. Which makes the union of Flintshire and Wrexham far more acceptable to the bruvvers.

This would leave the combined Denbighshire and Conwy with the burden of almost the whole of the north coast and its problems, ranging from the importation of criminals and assorted deadbeats into Rhyl and other towns to the granny trafficking that gives this littoral its nickname of the Costa Geriatrica.

Gwynedd and Ynys Môn is a natural unit in every way and of little interest to the Labour Party. Though in the former Gwynedd these two were joined with Conwy.

Moving south, to other areas where Labour has little chance of success (and consequently little interest), we see that the ‘Welsh’ Government has no wish to change the status quo or the status quo ante, with Powys left untouched and Dyfed reborn.

THE STEAMY SOUTH

Now we move into the south, where Labour most definitely does have an interest in the new boundaries.

First, Swansea Bay, where my understanding is that Swansea and Neath Port Talbot councils have already agreed in principle to merge, thereby formalising what is happening on the ground, with Amazon’s ‘Swansea’ distribution depot and Swansea University’s new Bay Campus both in Neath Port Talbot.

Aerial photo (courtesy of Swansea University) from 2013 showing the old, Mumbles Road, campus, top star; and the yet to be built Bay Campus, lower star. Also shown: River Neath, M4, Port Talbot to the left, Swansea to the right. Click to enlarge.

Next, it’s suggested that Bridgend links up with Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr. Which makes a certain sense in that they are three staunchly Labour areas covering the central valleys and approximate to the old Mid Glamorgan. Things get more complicated, and contentious, as we move east.

Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan comprised the county of South Glamorgan under the two-tier system, and it’s proposed to bring this back. This respect for history must be the reason for the proposal, and not the fact that the Vale is (with the help of an Independent) a Tory-run authority, with Labour holding just 14 of the 47 council seats.

Merged with more populous, and Labour voting, Cardiff, the proposed new authority would almost certainly have a Labour majority.

GWENT

Moving yet further east, things get really, really complicated.

Under the two-tier system Gwent was one of the eight counties, now it’s proposed to link Newport with Caerphilly, while Monmouthshire merges with Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent. The first we can almost overlook, seeing as it brings together two Labour areas, but the second is gerrymandering on a scale that old-style Ulster Unionists would applaud.

Monmouthshire council today is Conservative run, with the party holding 25 of the council’s 43 seats. At Westminster level Monmouthshire is represented by David Davies MP, and at Welsh Assembly level the AM is fellow-Tory Nick Ramsay.

Next door we find one of the poorest areas in Europe, an area that the twenty-first century – maybe also the twentieth – seems to have passed by. Blaenau Gwent should be held up as an example to the rest of the world of how not to handle the decline of traditional industries.

For whereas in well-run countries the post-industrial era means metal-bashing and extractive industries being replaced by clean, new industries, in Blaenau Gwent it just means neglect and decline. But, God bless ’em, for after a brief flirtation with the People’s Voice, Blaenau Gwent is back to blaming the Tories for its deprivation.

Perhaps I’m wrong, so let’s hear Alun Davies – the AM for Blaenau Gwent – argue that this proposed merger of Monmouthshire with Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent is not a kick in the plums for Dai Davies, nor an act of socialist vindictiveness against wealthier neighbours.

CONCLUSION

Within days of Alun Davies bringing out his Green Paper it came under attack from a very predictable quarter – the Welsh Local Government Association.

Despite all the flim-flam from the WLGA about ‘services’, and the ‘public interest’, and worries about ‘who’s gonna feed the gondolas?’, the real objections to local government reform from this Labour-controlled group are pretty selfish, and no different to the objections to earlier council reorganisations.

If you’re a council leader who’s schemed and back-stabbed his/her way to the top then you won’t take kindly to a plan to dismember your little empire or have it taken over by someone else’s empire. (The big fish in little pools syndrome.) Something similar goes for ambitious younger councillors with dreams of making it to the top.

And even if you have no ambitions beyond turning up now and again, snoozing on the comfy benches in the centrally-heated chamber, and picking up your allowance, you will still be alarmed because mergers must mean fewer councillors.

Which leaves Wales in a dangerous place.

For just about everyone accepts that we need fewer councils. But if the debate is restricted to the ‘Welsh’ Government on the one hand and the Labour-led WLGA representing the councils on the other then party unity will be the priority rather than the public or national interest.

This would be a disaster.

The ‘Welsh’ Government must be firm and force through reorganisation, and it must also fund reorganisation. The money needed to implement the changes will soon be recouped from the savings made in having many fewer councils.

And rather than go for crudely political and frankly illogical mergers why not just revert to the eight counties we knew up until 1996 and with which many of us are still familiar?

To avoid local government reorganisation becoming an internal Labour Party matter I encourage those reading this to make your opinions known; with letters to your local ‘paper, to your AM, your MP, and also make your local councillors realise that you want fewer councils and councillors even it means them losing out.

♦ end ♦

Devolution as Prozac

But first . . .

A LESSON FROM HISTORY

Following victories over the Persians at Salamis (480 BC) and Plataea (479 BC), and with mainland Greece liberated, the Spartans withdrew from their leadership of the wartime alliance. Athens seized the opportunity and in 478 BC created the Delian League.

Athenian greed and heavy-handedness soon made the other city-states realise that what they’d thought was an alliance of equals was nothing of the kind. Everything now flowed to Athens and the other city-states were little more than colonies. The League’s treasury was used to enhance and glorify Athens, funding prestige projects such as the Parthenon.

Courtesy of Ancient History Encyclopedia

Eventually, the other city-states could take no more and rebelled. They appealed to Sparta for help and so began the Peloponnesian War, which ran, in three phases, from 431 BC to 404 BC. At the end of the war Athens was defeated and ruined, Thebes and Corinth even wanted to destroy the city and enslave its citizens, but Sparta said no.

The Peloponnesian War was bloody and destructive. Due to Athenian selfishness the other Greek states were even prepared to seek Persian help in bringing her down and ending the golden age of Greece.

Two news items this week have reminded me of Athens and the Delian League.

BACK TO THE 1960s

The first was that the ‘Welsh’ Government will not back the Circuit of Wales in Ebbw Vale. This is something most of us knew weeks ago, it’s why announcing the decision was postponed until after the general election.

But don’t worry! Economy and Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates, softened the blow with: “The Welsh Government is therefore today committing to building a new automotive technology business park in Ebbw Vale, with funding of £100million over 10 years, with the potential to support 1,500 new FTE jobs. We will begin this work with the delivery of 40,000 sq ft of manufacturing space on land currently in public ownership.”

So the ‘Welsh’ Government kills off the Circuit of Wales yet still plans to build an ‘automotive technology park’ in Ebbw Vale. Apart from Ferrari’s Cafe what links does Ebbw Vale now have with the automotive industry? Or to put it another way, after 18 years of devolution and ‘Welsh’ Labour rule we’ve gone back to the 1960s with depressed areas offered nothing better than industrial parks. God Almighty!

But this saga may not be finished, for what if the scheme’s backers are able to find full private funding for the venture, will the ‘Welsh’ Government then support the Circuit of Wales or continue to be obstructive? I know where my money would go.

Let’s be absolutely clear: The Circuit of Wales was not supported by the ‘Welsh’ Government because Ebbw Vale is too far from Cardiff and the project didn’t offer enough benefits to Cardiff.

MAJOR TRAUMA

The nearest major trauma centres to Wales are in Liverpool, Stoke, Birmingham and Bristol. Some time ago the decision was taken that south Wales should have its own trauma centre. The two candidate sites were Morriston Hospital in Swansea and the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

On Wednesday we learnt that some anonymous panel had recommended that the MTC  should be located in Cardiff . . . despite Cardiff being so near to the existing centre in Bristol.

The centres in England are located where they are for the very good reason that patients suffering serious injury or sudden and serious debilitation benefit greatly from being treated within the first hour; in fact, it’s a matter of life or death. This period is referred to as the ‘golden hour’.

The maps (kindly supplied by BBC Wales) below show the ‘golden hour’ distances from those Major Trauma Centres closest to Wales together with the predicted ‘golden hour’ ranges for MTCs located in Cardiff and Swansea.

The first map, for existing MTCs, tells us that Cardiff and Newport are already within the ‘golden hour’ for the Bristol MTC, while anywhere west of Bridgend is not covered.

Turning to the second map, the Cardiff option, we see a slight improvement, in that Swansea Bay is now covered by the ‘golden hour’, but not western Gower, nor, I suspect, Llanelli. What’s more, rather than complementing the Bristol MTC to form a network of coverage – as we see in England – a Cardiff MTC would almost be in competition with Bristol. The overlap is huge.

The Swansea option, however, provides a real improvement, with the ‘golden hour’ now extending deep into Pembrokeshire and reaching the Cardigan Bay coastline. The ranges of the Swansea and Bristol MTCs overlap around Cardiff and Newport, but they don’t duplicate each other to anything like the same extent as the Cardiff option. Swansea and Bristol would complement each other perfectly.

Of course it’s being argued that, ‘Cardiff has this, and Cardiff has that’, to justify a MTC, but anything can be built or transferred. What cannot be changed is geography, and the critical and determining criterion for locating the Major Trauma Centre should be saving lives in the ‘golden hour’. You cannot emphasise the golden hour all the way through the process and then ignore it in order to locate the MTC in Cardiff.

To put a large area of the south west outside the ‘golden hour’ through handing Cardiff yet another prestige project – for that’s how it’s viewed in Cardiff – will be a difficult decision for politicians to defend.

The role of the ‘Welsh’ media in this debate has been somewhat bizarre, though predictable. On Wednesday WalesOnline ran this story. Putting the case for Swansea was Rob Stewart, leader of Swansea council. (Though the story was quickly updated and for some reason Stewart was replaced with Clive Lloyd, his deputy!)

Putting the case for Cardiff – which is what I assume he was doing – was a ‘speed flyer’ named Niall McCann. (Though by the time the story appeared this morning in Llais y Sais McCann’s contribution had disappeared.)

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McCann had shattered his spine speed flying off Pen y Fan and it had been put together by the University Hospital of Wales. McCann opined, “I’m 100% on board with anything that will improve the NHS services on offer. We are a capital city and we should be leading the way in Wales.”

So in the expert opinion of Niall McCann of Cardiff the new MTC should be in Cardiff, ‘Cos Cardiff’s the capital, innit?’ For reasons best known to itself WalesOnline even included in the article a video of McCann speed flying to remind us of the unnecessary risks he takes.

Perhaps the message we were expected to glean from this article was that having injured himself on the Beacons McCann would have been dead or crippled ere the donkey carrying him could have reached an MTC based at Morriston Hospital. If not, then I have no idea what purpose Trinity Mirror thought it was serving by including McCann’s cameo.

Then on Thursday, the BBC rubbed it in with a story headlined “Swansea ’10 to 15 years behind Cardiff’, think tank says”. Obviously unsuited to have a Major Trauma Centre.

TIME TO RETRACE OUR STEPS

But the problems of Wales today go beyond putting all the nation’s eggs in the Cardiff basket, they reach into every corner of our national life. Just look around you and ask what 18 years of devolution have achieved. Go on, and be honest!

Wales is poorer relative to other parts of the state, and other parts of Europe, than she was before we voted for devolution. Outside of Cardiff our urban and post-industrial areas are suffering managed decline, while our rural and coastal areas serve as recreation and retirement areas for England, with the Welsh population, and their identity, marginalised in both situations.

We have a self-styled Labour ‘Government’ in Cardiff docks that refuses to use even the limited powers it has for fear of upsetting anyone in London – including its own MPs and peers! Competing with Labour we have a Conservative Party currently in league with the Orange Order and the UDA, and a ‘national party’ that is, as Martin Shipton described it this morning, “a pressure group”. (And it’s not often I agree with Shippo!) Though it’s questionable whether Plaid Cymru really is challenging Labour.

‘Ah, but we’ve got devolution now, it’s something to build on’, I hear, from those who are in reality satisfied with this simulacrum of self-government, where free suppositories or some such nonsense qualify as radical initiatives. So who’s going to do the ‘building’? We know it won’t be Labour. It will never be the Conservative and Unionist Party. And there’s not a hope in hell of it being the pressure group.

Devolution has delivered a comfortable and undemanding level for ambitious councillors. To serve these politicians we now have a burgeoning and expensive bureaucracy. Because the party in control is Labour devolution has resulted in a vast and corrupt Third Sector sucking up billions of pounds to keep otherwise unemployable Labour supporters in jobs.

Yet we have no media to hold this juggernaut to account. (Though it’s debatable which is worse – the absence of a Welsh media or the constant bigotry exposed in the English media.) There is no real oversight or control of expenditure, and no justice for anyone wronged by this system. Yet if you investigate ‘devolution’ in any depth you soon realise what a sham it is.

For example, the ‘Welsh’ Government pretends it has its own Planning Inspectorate. The truth is that the Planning Inspectorate for Englandandwales answers to the Department for Communities and Local Government in London, it merely has a branch office in Cardiff. Which means that the Local Development Plans for Welsh local authorities are determined in London . . . and the ‘Welsh’ Government goes along with the charade!

P.S. Soon after publishing this post my attention was drawn to a perfect example of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s relationship with the Planning Inspectorate. This development at Llay is part of a wider strategy to turn our north east into commuter territory for north west England. And Carwyn Jones knows it.

The ‘Welsh’ Government and the whole apparatus of devolution soaks up money that could be better spent in Wales, and might be better spent if the useless edifice was swept away. Which is why I plan to start a petition to the UK Parliament asking for a referendum to be held to determine whether we should keep the Welsh Assembly and all that goes with it. (This will be done once a new Petitions Committee is formed.)

Yes, I know such a petition will attract Kippers and other BritNats, but I don’t care, there are bigger issues at stake. On almost every issue that matters we are still ruled from London anyway – so what do we stand to lose? Devolution is used to hide this fact, and to make us believe that we control our own affairs. It acts like some national dose of Prozac.

When you’ve taken a wrong turning you have two choices: either plod on until you fall off a cliff or sink in a bog, or else admit you made a mistake, retrace your steps, and next time make sure you know where you want to go.

Devolution was a wrong turning.

♦ end ♦

Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon 2: Sharks Circling?

After my previous post, Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, I have been giving more thought to the subject, and doing a little digging; which has led to a disturbing possibility presenting itself. By which I mean that someone, perhaps even someone local to Swansea Bay, is trying to sabotage this project for their own selfish reasons.

Treading carefully, I have decided to present this post as a combination of incontestable facts, presented as FACT: and limited to the paragraph in bold type following, interspersed with paragraphs containing deductions, assumptions or informed guesswork, before concluding with a reasonable hypothesis extrapolated from what has gone before.

*

FACT: The past week or so has seen a number of stories in the media unfavourable to the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project. The first appeared in The Telegraph on February 15th, written by Energy Editor, Emily Gosden, and repeated in the Western Mail and WalesOnline on February 17th, about Cornish villagers up in arms over plans to quarry granite for shipping to Swansea Bay. Ms Gosden was at it again on February 21st, attacking on another front with this report arguing that the electricity generated by the tidal lagoon would be hideously expensive. This piece used as its source a submission produced by Citizens Advice.

So we see negative attention suddenly being paid to the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon. The really damaging attack of course came from Citizens Advice.

FACT: Those familiar with recent goings-on in Wales will recall that there was a plan to throw a massive barrage across the Severn Sea from Penarth to Weston-super-Mare. The company behind this project is, or was (it may be in liquidation), Hafren Power. A number of its leading figures left, the former chief executive to form Severn Tidal Energy.

Hain Spanglefish
CLICK TO ENLARGE

FACT: The leading political backer of the Severn Barrage project was, and remains, Peter Hain, Labour MP for Neath. In fact, Hain resigned from the shadow cabinet in May 2012 to concentrate on promoting the project. In June 2013 the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee killed off the barrage proposal with a very critical report. Mr Hain attributed the rejection of his project to the influence of Bristol Port, one of whose owners, David Ord, was a substantial donor to the Conservative Party.

The Spanglefish website devoted to Peter Hain (from which the panel above is extracted) suggests that Hain hopes to resurrect the barrage project when there is a Labour government in Westminster. There is of course a general election in May. The website also suggests that ‘Welsh’ Labour is backing the barrage project.

FACT: In a WalesOnline article from September 2013, linked to above, and again here, “Mr Hain said that while he was convinced the project has no future at present, he hoped it could be resurrected under a future Labour Government.” While this article, from just last month, reported, “He (Hain) remains hopeful that the stalled Severn Barrage project, potentially creating tens of thousands of jobs, could be resurrected”.

Haywod Linkedin
LINKEDIN PROFILE (Click to enlarge)

FACT: The CEO of Citizens Advice is Gillian Guy, who is also chair of the Audit Committee of the National Audit Office.

FACT: Dr Elizabeth Haywood, aka Mrs Peter Hain, and another backer of the barrage project, was on the Remuneration Committee of the Wales Audit Office from July 2011 to March 2014. Since January of this year she has had a personal interest in electricity matters by becoming a non-executive director of Scottish Power Energy Networks Holdings Ltd.

Severn barrage
THE ONCE AND FUTURE SEVERN BARRAGE?

Given that the Wales Audit Office is probably no more independent of the National Audit Office in London than the ‘Welsh’ Government is of Westminster it is entirely reasonable to assume that Dr Haywood of Hafren Power and Gillian Guy of Citizens Advice are known to each other. And would be known to each other even if I’m being unduly cynical about the relationship between the two bodies. (For cynicism is not in my nature!)

FACT: Peter Hain and Elizabeth Haywood are both committed to the Severn barrage project. Additionally, Peter Hain has publicly voiced his opposition to the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon.

If the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon goes ahead, and is successful, others will be built. This will almost certainly be the final nail in the coffin of any Severn barrage, or any other major tidal barrage anywhere under the jurisdiction of the Westminster government. It seems to be a case of either / or but not both.

*

The Severn Barrage project never went away, it has been lying dormant (much like the company behind it, Hafren Power). A cynic – something I’ve already made clear (if only parenthetically), I am not – might interpret the above information thus:

There are two very good reasons for supporters of the Severn Barrage to attack the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project at this time. First, they are hoping for a Labour victory on May 7th, so in anticipation of that, now is a good time to ‘resurrect’ their project, as has always been the intention. Further, the rival tidal lagoon project is currently at the critical stage of waiting for the Planning Inspectorate to recommend acceptance or refusal to the UK government, after which there is a further three-month period during which the UK government must say yea or nay. So why not kill two birds with one stone by trying to influence the decisions of the Planning Inspectorate and the outgoing UK government, while also reminding a Labour government-in-waiting of the economic bounty that could be lavished by a Severn barrage? And doesn’t it tie in well with all the recent talk of a Cardiff – Bristol city region (with poor old Newport as the spread in the sandwich).

Hain barrage
HAIN QUOTED IN ARTICLE (BY MARTIN SHIPTON) IN WALESONLINE JANUARY 21, 2015

The barrage is said to have, or possibly had, powerful supporters, among them, Tony Blair, Rhodri Morgan and the Notional Assembly. And of course, the Western Mail / WalesOnline, which will support anything that has Labour backing. Making this the ideal time for ‘Welsh’ Labour to clear up the confusion over whether a motion supporting the barrage was passed in the 2014 conference, as is suggested by the Peter Hain tweet below from March 29, 2014. (For some reason I’m blocked from Hain’s Twitter account!) The current briefing against the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon also provides ‘Welsh’ Labour with an opportunity to make clear its position on the project. The same opportunity naturally extends to the Labour MPs and AMs around Swansea Bay . . . though of course we already know where Peter Hain stands.

Hain Labour tweet
PETER HAIN TWEET FROM MARCH 29, 2014. (SUPPLIED BY ‘STAN’)

FACT: Peter Hain and Elizabeth Haywood obviously have considerable experience and contacts in business and politics; in addition, they have a company, Haywood Hain LLP, that specialises in ‘Media and Political Communications’.

I fear there may be more to the recent attacks on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project than concern for the tranquility of a Cornish village, or a commendable regard for electricity consumers being ripped off. Big money is at stake, and – speaking for our hypothetical cynic – it could be that certain persons of influence are trying to kill off a very worthwhile and beneficial project for the Swansea Bay region.

Any further information to admin@jacothenorth.net

UPDATE 26.02.2015: As predicted above, Peter Hain has used the report produced by his wife’s former colleague to rubbish the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon and promote the Lazarus Severn barrage in this piece. I know none of us think much of Llais y Sais, but does it have to be so predictably obsequious and revolting!

Plaid Cymru’s Fatal Attraction

Plaid Cymru’s relationship with the Green Party has ranged from what appeared to be full coalition through local understandings to what at other times appeared to be no linkage whatsoever. The prime mover of co-operation between the two parties was Cynog Dafis, who was elected as the Plaid-Green MP for Ceredigion in 1992. His majority cynog-caroline-bbcwas 3,193. But the results from neighbouring constituencies made it clear that the Green vote – had the parties stood separately – would have been far less than that majority. To the north, in Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, Bill Pritchard got just 471  votes; whereas to the south, in Carmarthen, the Greens couldn’t even find a candidate! Making it clear who was benefitting from this alliance. Not only did Plaid Cymru not need the Green vote, what this misalliance taught us was that many or most Greens refused to vote for a joint candidate. I shall explain why in a moment.

Now I hear of another local alliance forming, this time in the area that used to be covered by Lliw Valley District Council, those communities to the north and west of what might be termed Swansea ‘proper’: Clydach, Pontarddulais, Gowerton, Gorseinon, Pontardawe, etc. The threat of Underground Coal Gasification in the Burry Inlet or Loughor Estuary has aroused some local residents to voice their protests, but few of these seem to be, well . . . genuinely local. This has somehow got linked with protests against new housing planned for the area.

The flyer below (click to enlarge) was handed out at the recent Pontaddulais Show by local members of Plaid Cymru, advertising a new “coalition of individuals and organisations under the Greenspace Cymru banner”. Ok, so we know Plaid is involved, but who else is part of this ‘coalition’? Greenspace Cymru is said to have a Facebook page but I can’t find it. So let me hazard a guess that the local Plaidistas have jumped into bed with a bunch of English nimbys and a shower of Greens, again. So why am I writing about this obscure local issue? PLliw flyerartly because it’s on my old home patch, but also because it has wider ramifications.

Let’s start with the housing. This not Ceredigion or Denbighshire; few of these homes will be bought by retirees, good-lifers, or commuters to English cities. What’s proposed is just more infilling between Swansea and Llanelli. The majority of these houses will be bought by people already living in the region. That being so, for Plaid Cymru to become part of this ‘alliance’ is weird. Then there’s the gas. With oil supplies finite, the Middle East in constant turmoil, the example of falling gas prices in the USA, and wind power and other ‘green’ energy exposed as a waste of money, shale gas, or whatever you want to call it, is going to happen. I have argued that we should fight to have control of this resource devolved to Cardiff Bay, but if this proves impossible then we have to make the best of it, we must ensure that Wales, and Welsh people, get the maximum benefits.

So why do I hate the Greens? In Scotland there is a genuine Scottish Green Party, and it supports full independence. Here in Wales, we have a rag-bag collection of hippies, good-lifers and other zealots forever dictating to us, thinking they can grant themselves planning permission – even in a National Park. They don’t like to be reminded that they’re in a country other than their own. (This is why so many of them were hostile to the electoral link-up with Plaid Cymru.) Yet for some perverse reason many in Plaid Cymru still view the Greens as kindred spirits. Which often results, as we see today in Lliw Valley, in the party supposedly representing the interests of the Welsh people lining up with Greens who don’t give a damn about us Welsh, and nimbys who want to see zero development in Wales lest it interfere with their comfortable lives. The kind of Fleece Jacket Fascists I dealt with a while back.

Tilting at windmills is all very well in its place – God knows I’ve done enough of it! – but if Plaid Cymru wants to be taken seriously as a political party it should choose its friends more carefully and remember whose interests it’s supposedly serving. Going overboard for wind turbines and other renewables was a mistake. One doesn’t need to be a Mail or Telegraph reader to know they’re expensive and they don’t deliver. That mistake is starting to be remedied. Rhun ap Iorwerth’s support for Wylfa B was another step in the right direction. A further positive is Helen Mary Jones stepping down as party chair. But if Plaid Cymru is going to oppose the new homes that Welsh people need, and the jobs that building them will create; plus cheaper gas prices and the jobs extracting the gas will provide, then the party will take yet another wrong turning.

The Leaving Of London

There has been a lot of discussion on Twitter and elsewhere in recent days of a video discovered on YouTube that advises Londoners to leave the Great Wen for other cities and areas under the ‘Out of London‘ scheme. The video itself focused on a man who had used the programme to move to Swansea. So view the film first and then I shall look at a few of the issues raised by this and other recent cases that have come to my attention.

Update 19:20: Credit where it’s due. I now learn that the video was discovered by the Welsh National Rights Movement and brought to the attention of a wider audience following the launch meeting of the Swansea-Llanelli branch in Gorseinon on Saturday afternoon.

The first thing to notice is I suppose that this man almost certainly does not work. If you think about it, few people are going to give up a job in London to move to Swansea or anywhere else. Which means that this scheme is aimed at the unemployed (and the unemployable), the long-term sick and disabled, and other ‘non-productive’ elements of society. Amongst these will be many criminals and other undesirables. Just as well that the video was presented by a pleasant young lady of mixed race, rather than a white man, or else more people might see this project for what it is – social engineering.

That being so, where is the benefit to Wales in encouraging people like this to move here? Obviously they will not be contributing anything in taxes, their spending power will be limited, they will become a burden on an NHS service that in Wales is already close to complete collapse. Accepting people like this is therefore insane. Though note that the man used as the example in the video seems acceptable enough . . . but of course those who made the video wouldn’t show a problem family, or an ex-con.

The problem here, I suspect, is that the London boroughs involved in this project are linked with housing associations in Wales. Swansea has more than its fair share of growth-obsessed housing bodies run by greedy and irresponsible people with no regard for the communities in which they are based. I am in no doubt that these housing associations get paid a nice bonus for taking in Londoners – and others – who, due to the problems I’ve just mentioned, then become a liability for someone else. Basically, Wales.

At its worst, this social engineering project, this population transfer, can result in the kinds of tragedy I highlighted in my recent post, Neighbours From Hell.

You will note that the video also says that moves can be arranged through private landlords. This is important in areas where there may be responsible social housing providers or a lack of social housing provision. Something brought home to me a week or so ago in a post on Oggy Bloggy Ogwr. This particular post dealt with demographic and other changes observable in Bridgend county from the 2011 Census findings.

Nantymoel is a former mining community in the north of the county, and one of the poorest wards. Yet the 2011 Census showed a sharp rise in the percentages of both the English-born and English-identifying elements of Nantymoel’s population. Clearly, there has been an influx of English people . . . into an area with little work. Also, with very few social housing units. But cheap house prices. Other figures, such as the higher than average percentage of households with dependent children and lone parent households, suggest that the ward has seen an influx of a mostly young population from outside of Wales into private rented accommodation. Property that may even have been bought by London boroughs or English social housing providers.

While we can see the advantages in this scheme for London and other parts of England, let’s not blind ourselves to the reality that too many Welsh politicians, at both local and national level, will also support this kind of influx. For a falling population is always interpreted as a sign of political failure – as we have recently seen in Detroit – so anything that can keep up the numbers in places such as Nantymoel will be welcomed.

Something else that struck me in the video was the section showing the collaborating areas outside of Out of LondonLondon. These are listed on the right of the ‘still’ I grabbed. (Click to enlarge.) While English counties, towns andOut of London 2 cities are listed individually, for us there is just ‘Wales’. Yet the leaflet ‘Out of London’ shows Swansea and Cardiff. (Click to enlarge.) So what is the real picture; is it just our two major cities or does the scheme operate across Wales? Note also that the leaflet suggests the areas to which Londoners are being moved have a surplus of social housing. I don’t know the situation in Cardiff but there’s certainly no surplus in Swansea. If there was, why are Coastal Housing, Grwp Gwalia and the rest throwing up new properties everywhere? Or is this specifically to meet demand from London and other parts of England?

Finally – and I’m sure you’ve noticed! – this scheme for London boroughs to get shot of what they consider to be the undesirable and economically unviable does not extend to Scotland. Why? Is it due to legislation in Scotland that insists on housing providers meeting local need, not engaging in schemes profitable for them but adding an extra burden on services already buckling under the strain? If so, then we need such legislation in Wales.

P.S. This post is in a sense an update on a post from last November, The London Clearances. There I linked to a story in the Guardian, which specifically mentioned Merthyr Tydfil as one of the places where “London councils have acquired rental properties”. Note also that while last November’s Guardian story dealt with ‘homeless families’, the more recent video appeals to anyone “registered for social housing in any London borough”. That’s the new capped welfare legislation kicking in.

Regrettably there are no comments with this earlier post. This is due to Google Blogger killing my previous blog, and although I was able to salvage the posts themselves they came without the comments. That’s Google for you.

Updates and Ramblings

YOUR NON-LOCAL LABOUR PARTY

I have written recently – and at some length – about the changing composition of the Labour Party back in my home town. (See postings for February and March.) No longer do we see dockers, tinplate workers and other toilers selflessly contributing to the running of the ugly lovely town. Instead we see, increasingly, what may be termed ‘professional politicians’.

By which I mean, people who began their political involvement in school; so much so that these activities distracted them from their studies and precluded entry to a good university, which then resulted in them coming to Swansea, where they continued their political activities, even extended them, to also act as gofers for local politicians. The next step then is to branch out on one’s own, either in Swansea local politics or else by starting one’s negotiation of the labyrinthine innards of the Labour Party. It goes without saying that almost all those of whom I speak are Englanders. Such as young Simon Darvill, who was recently elected chairman of Young Labour.

So what is going on inside Labour? With the ilk of Prescott being phased out we increasingly see a party made up of besuited and smarmy career politicians who’ve never done a ‘real job’, and consequently have to rely on focus groups and other means to learn what ‘ordinary people’ think. (Then pretend they care.) This is clearly true at the UK level, increasingly so at the Welsh level and now, it seems, filtering down to local government level. (That the trend is less obvious in the Valleys is largely due to the lack of universities there.) But this trend does not seem to be confined to Wales.

The Labour leader of Newcastle city council appeared a few weeks ago on Newsnight and I was surprised to see (and hear) that he is from southern England! Is the Labour Party in such a poor state that Tyneside, one of its traditional bastions, can no longer produce its own leaders? Or is there another explanation? Is the control freak Labour Party now training cadres to be sent out around ‘the country’? We know that ‘parachuting’ in parliamentary candidates is common practice, but has it filtered down to lower levels of government?

NO JOBS FOR THE BOYOS

Whenever a multinational company starts smooching politicians and communities in order to get planning permission to erect wind turbines it invariably does so promising jobs. The company hoping to erect wind turbines on Mynydd y Gwair (see February posts) is German company RWE Npower Renewables. Looking through the jobs advertised on its website I see that apart from those on offer in Germany, there are vacancies in Reading, Swindon and Iverness (sic). None in Wales.RWE

The RWE website also provided news of a conference held to discuss the worrying resistance in Wales to wind turbines. Did you know that consent rates for onshore windfarms is 67% in Scotland, 40% in England, but only 18% in Wales? Isn’t that something to be proud of! So a meeting – sponsored by RWE – was called in January to see what could be done to break this Welsh resistance. Read an account of the meeting here. Note also who was in attendance.

THE POVERTY PARTY

Today the wife and I took a spin to Rhuthun, a town we both like. (Though a socialist of my acquaintance thinks it’s ‘chintzy’!) En route, and because our area escaped the worst of the snow, we were surprised to see the white stuff still piled up on Bala High Street. And of course, being a woman, she complained when I pulled up alongside one of the piles and gave her instructions to go buy me a newspaper. “Can’t open the door”, she moaned. “What’s the bloody window for, woman?”

On the way home, instead of taking the direct route back to Bala, I decided to head over towards Cerrigydrudion (and there join the A5). Boy! even today, after a week of sunshine, the drifts were still massive, and in places encroaching onto the road. I began to get some appreciation of what the people of the north east had been through recently, especially the farmers. After getting home I switched on the BBC 1 Welsh News, in time to hear Alun Davies AM, Minister for Natural Resources and Food, defend the Welsh Management’s decision not to give financial aid to the farmers who had lost stock in the recent snowfall.

He justified the Assembly AM'sdecision with the following words: “You don’t create a strong business base by throwing public money at every problem you face”. Just think about that for a minute. This is a spokesman for a Labour administration, and a Labour Party that has done precisely that – throw public money at problems – since the Assembly came into being fourteen years ago. So what’s different about the farmers? Well, for a start, farmers don’t vote Labour, unlike the parasites who make up our Third Sector. To many within Labour the Welsh countryside should exist as envisioned by former AM Jane Davidson – a place of recreation and retreat for the English middle classes. Welsh farmers are brutes who threaten this idyll with, bulls . . . blocked paths . . . speaking Welsh . . . commercial milking parlours . . . noisy tractors . . . just being there, basically.

Labour, the party that keeps Wales poor in order to blame the Tories and stay in power. What a bunch of lying scumbags they are. And to think, until today’s imbecilic and insulting utterance, Alun Davies seemed one of the more acceptable Labour AMs.

A Tale of Modern Wales

Once upon a time . . . in a big city in Englandland lived four friends, Jacqui, Jenni, Jimmi and Maximilian. They’d been friends since they’d first met, some ten years earlier, at Lowestoft University (formerly Suffolk Fish-boners’ Polytechnic). They weren’t happy in the big city. For one thing, they didn’t like the work they did, nor the people they worked for . . . or even the people they worked with. What they really wanted was to work for themselves and to live somewhere nice, perhaps in the country.

One Friday evening, the four friends were having a candle-lit dinner in Jimmi’s basement flat and, just before Jimmi opened another bottle of Lidl’s famed Afghan red wine (‘£2.99 for 3! This month only!’), Jenni piped up with, “Do you remember Primrose . . . was in college with us . . . real swot, got a 2/2?” The question got a mixed response, but undeterred Jenni went on, “Well, she runs some charity or something, down in Wales, catering for trans-sexual trawler men. I was thinking we might do something like that.” This information was greeted with a more interested response, and it was Maximilian who articulated the thoughts of the other two, “Sounds good, but . . . Wales!” “Yes”, answered Jenni, “It’s not that bad, honestly. Let me explain”. And she went on.

“You see, the way Primrose explained it to me there’s oodles of money being dished out in Wales to anybody who can come up with the right idea. What you have to do is find a ‘niche market’ that no one else has thought of. Once you’ve identified it, and set up your group, you apply for the grants.” “Like trans-sexual trawler men, you mean?” interjected Jimmi. “Exactly”, she replied, “We’d be working for ourselves; and it wouldn’t be like running a real business . . . y’know, capitalism and all that . . . ripping people off, taking money for nothing. We’d be helping people . . . wouldn’t we?” The others nodded thoughtfully.

“The other thing Primrose said was that Labour Party connections help. Well, Max is a member . . . and we’ve all helped out in some way or another over the years. I mean, we share the values, right?” Jimmi gave a half-hearted clenched fist salute before contributing, “Yeah, this could work. But how do we identify a niche market?” There was a silence for a moment before Jacqui – who up until then had been under the table doing something – patted her hair into place and made her contribution.“There must be a list somewhere of all the groups currently being funded, so we avoid these and think up something really imaginative that’s not on the list. Simples!” This met with general approval, and it was decided that Jenni should make a trip to Wales to learn more from Primrose, do a little networking, and get the lie of the land.

So off Jenni went to Wales. Rather than travel all the way to Pembrokeshire – where Primrose had her ‘Mission’ for sexually confused net yankers – they had decided to meet in Swansea. Primrose was waiting on the platform, excitedly waving her Andean recycled llama wool scarf as the train pulled in. They hugged and kissed effusively, attracting much attention. Then, as they gaily waltzed out of the station, they were confronted by the harsh realities of modern Wales . . . in the form of a foul-smelling beggar shouting, “Gis a tenner for a cuppa, you slag!” They both moved quickly away from her, and as they pulled away saw many others of the same type, drinking from bottles, fighting, urinating and generally making mayhem. They jumped into the nearest taxi and sped off to an agreeable little bistro down Mumbles.

Once safely ensconced at a table overlooking the bay, and waiting for their Indian filter coffee to arrive, Jenni felt safe enough to ask, “What the hell was that all about up at the station?” Primrose grimaced before explaining. “Well, thing is . . . homelessness is something of a cottage industry in Swansea. The way it works, right . . . you argue that there’s many homeless people in the city, so you get funding . . . then – and this is the clever bit – you make Swansea attractive to homeless people from all over the place. Bingo! More homeless equals more funding; more funding attracts more homeless; which then results in more funding. It’s what we in the Third Sector call a virtuous circle.

“Now a few more things to remember. First, get to know your local Labour councillors and officials. Second, make sure you put ‘Cymru’ (it means ‘Wales’) in the name of your organisation. Third, employ somebody with a Welsh accent to answer the phone, maybe give the odd interview (otherwise certain people will try to undermine the good work we’re doing). Fourth, identify a disadvantaged group that didn’t even realise it was a group (let alone that it was disadvantaged), then start a campaign saying how this group is losing out. Fifth, finally, and most importantly! don’t ever succeed in solving the problem you’re being funded to deal with. Because if you do that, the funding stops and you join the ranks of the unemployed”.

The following Friday it was dinner again at Jimmi’s. Jenni explained what she’d learnt in Wales and the discussion was soon in full swing. All sorts of ideas were aired for the new group – someone wondered if gay and lesbian ramblers were catered for. Or could they get funding for bar staff to get breast implants. (Or was that sexist?) Jenni reminded the others that ‘Helping people back into employment’ was a very popular area for funding, but all possible angles seemed covered: black and ethnic minorities, battered wives, east Europeans, defrocked vicars, etc. There was even a group in Cardiff getting funding to help find employment for Vietnamese waiters with speech impediments – of whom there were two! (Possibly one, if the European-looking one is in fact – as many suspect – named Evans, and comes from Brecon.) It was then that Maximilian had his moment of inspiration. “Wait! I’ve just thought of a group not covered in all these lists we’ve been looking at. How about – wait for it! – holistic car mechanics? Instead of all those spanners and stuff, we train car mechanics to repair cars holistically. What about that?” The others looked nonplussed to begin with but their faces changed as they gave the idea more thought. Eventually it was enthusiastically agreed (even by Jacqui under the table). They would set up the Holistic Car Mechanics’ Co-operative Cymru and unveil it after meeting with the local Labour hierarchy in Cwmscwt, with whom they had made initial contact, Cwmscwt being where they had decided to set up base camp.

And lo! it came to pass. The founders of HCMCC changed trains in Cardiff and soon arrived in Cwmscwt, with its long rows of terraced houses climbing up the sides of the valley. It was raining. They looked for a taxi outside the station, but all they could see was a burnt-out car and a few supermarket trolleys in only slightly better condition. So they trudged up the hill to their guest house. After freshening up, they went down for tea. They were greeted by the proprietrix, Mrs Lucrezia Leyshon who, after scanning the signing-in book, felt confident enough to suggest, “From away, are ew?” Not entirely sure how to respond, they simply nodded. In a desperate attempt at conversation Jimmi informed Mrs Leyshon that in a couple of hours they would be in the Labour Club meeting with Councillor Josef S. Lloyd. This seemed to leave the good woman unimpressed, for after extracting another bogie, and flicking it at the cat, merely responded with, “Mmm . . . I yeard ʼe was out.” Unsure what to make of this remark, or indeed, what to make of the taciturn Mrs Leyshon, the group tucked in to their guinea pig and cockle pie with feigned gusto.

It was still raining as they walked up the hill towards the Lord Tonypandy Memorial Labour Club. The proud banner fluttering above the building carried the inspiring motto – ‘It’s Always Somebody Else’s Fault’. Upon enquiring at the bar they learnt that Councillor Lloyd was waiting for them in the committee room, along with a couple of other local party officials. As the representatives of HCMCC made their way across the large bar area towards the committee room they couldn’t help but feel the many eyes (some in working pairs) scrutinising them. For the lack of scar tissue and the full complements of natural teeth betrayed them as strangers, as did the four unbroken noses.

They reached the door of the committee room unmolested, though not without many ribald and sexually explicit remarks being directed at the women. (Jimmi and Max certainly hoped they were directed at the women.) They knocked on the door, and were invited in. Seated at a table before them were, in the centre, a large man with a bulbous nose and a curiously shaped ear; to his right, an even larger man bearing a number of tattoos and other adornments; and on the other side, a skinny, rather gormless looking youth with a lazy eye. The man in the centre spoke: “I am Councillor Lloyd; this gentleman on my right is David, our branch secretary, and this young man on my left, is Klarence . . . um, my, er (clearing his throat), sister’s boy. Now then, ʼow can we ʼelp ew?”

The four missionaries explained their plan to use holistic car mechanics as a means of encouraging local youths to take responsibility for their lives; to lay off the drugs and the booze, to desist from thieving, impregnating the local females, and in other ways blighting society. (Though it should be said that most local youths would have thought that, far from blighting society, the activities listed were all that gave meaning to their otherwise empty lives.) All the while Councillor Lloyd nodded sagely, “I loves it, I loves it! ʼOlistic car mechanics. Nobody’s thought of that scam before . . . scheme! I meant to say scheme. I can’t see no problem” the local worthy continued. “Sounds just the kind uh thing they loves to fund. We’ll be ‘appy to join ewer organisation”. The four were not sure how to take this last remark, so it fell to Maximilian to ask, “How do you mean, ‘join’? What exactly will you be doing in our organisation?” Before Maximilian could continue Councillor Lloyd was on his feet . . .

After a pause that took in a quizzical, even pitying look at the putative Board of HCMCC, he continued: “Ew don’ understand ʼow it works, do ew? Le’ me spell it out. Ew people comes ʼere lookin’ to get ew ʼands on funding. Fair enough! We controls the fundin’. People like me puts in a good word, ew gets ew fundin’. In return, ew shows ew gratitude by puttin’ me on the books . . . and Dai by here, and Klarence. Ew scratches our backs, we scratches ewers. Tidy!” Slowly it dawned on our four ingénues that they were lumbered with Josef Stalin Lloyd, his minder, and his nephew. (Klarence was by now making Jacqui slightly uneasy. He was staring at her and drooling but she couldn’t be sure if he was also winking because of the eye.)

And so it came to pass that the Holistic Car Mechanics Co-operative Cymru received £2.3 million in EU Structural Funds and – because it was such an “imaginative scheme” (local Labour AM) and a worthwhile idea – another £750,000 from one of the Welsh Government’s own funds. Councillor Lloyd was paid a fee for ‘advisory services’, but these ‘on book’ figures made no mention of the other payments. And the expenses claims were things of great imagination and no little literary merit. (As the auditors confirmed in the unpublished codicil to their report.) Josef Stalin Lloyd went on to become Leader of the local authority, a position from which he was able to provide for both his henchman and his simple-minded kinsman.

No cars were holistically repaired. No local youths were ever trained to perform this miracle. Jenni became a local Labour councillor. Jacqui had a breakdown, but recovered enough to ‘pull down’ more grants for her Indonesian Massage treatment for Tourette’s Syndrome, a ‘technique’ she had picked up while a guest at Doctor McLoony’s Retreat in Aberdeenshire. Jimmi took to the bottle and eventually went to live with a Chinese herbalist in Trimsaran. Only Maximilian ever made it back to Englandland. He had thought of writing a book about their experiences in Wales, but soon realised no one would believe it.

No matter; for a great purpose was served. The Holistic Car Mechanics Co-operative Cymru, and countless similar ‘projects’, allow civil servants in Cardiff to report to civil servants in Brussels that over one billion pounds of EU funding has been well spent, with remarkable ‘outcomes’. The wheel will turn and more funding will arrive. To be spent in exactly the same way. So keep voting Labour. Keep sending the message to those wicked Tories up in Lundun. We don’t want their type down by ‘ere. For Labour is more than capable of wrecking Wales on its own.