Cardigan Castle: Gang of Four + One

My two recent posts on Cardigan Castle have generated an incredible response. On Thursday the 9th – when I was away in Pembrokeshire – my blog received a record 2,223 visits, and the ‘Cardigan Castle – Ready to Fall?’ post has been shared on Facebook an incredible 534 times, another record. Since then, more information has been received, in comments to the blogs, and also in e-mails and DM tweets. To the point where I feel the time has come to lay out the allegations against those who are – allegedly – running this fiasco.

Those familiar with the saga will know that the four principals are Mrs Elizabeth Jann Tucker MBE, Mrs Susan Joy Lewis, Mrs Sandra Margaret Davies and Dr Hedydd Parry Jones. The ‘One’, and the only man, is Jonathan Timms. Between them, these five play various roles in the running of the project. Those roles will be explained below.

To recap: Cardigan Castle is an old pile that changed hands many times over the centuries, and as castles go, in a land that has so many, Cardigan is not one of our great castles. But for the people of the town it’s their castle, and for the rest of the nation it’s important because in 1176, when it was home to Rhys ap Gruffydd (1132 – 1197), it hosted the first ever national eisteddfod.

I would advise everyone to set aside half an hour or so and read my previous posts before starting on this one. They are Cardigan Castle – Ready to Fall? (July 7), and  Cardigan Castle – It’s Getting Worse! (July 12).

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It seems only fitting that we start with the grande dame of this enterprise, Mrs Elizabeth Jann Tucker OBE. She was born in 1935 in Cross Hands, Carmarthenshire, the “only child of a well-to-do family” and was, I’m further informed, educated at an English boarding school. She now lives 7 miles north of Cardigan with her husband Tony in Aberporth, where they run a holiday homes business. She was awarded the OBE last year, as this report from the Tivy-Side Advertiser tells us.Jann Tucker

By an example of happenstance such as litter this saga, the newspaper report was almost certainly written by Mrs Susan Joy Lewis who was then the editor of the Tivy-Side Advertiser. I say happenstance because Mrs Lewis also lives in Aberporth. And as if that wasn’t enough happenstance for one paragraph, both are trustees at Cardigan Castle!

Jann Tucker and her husband strike me as the kind of people who like to ‘involve’ themselves. Perhaps because they know best. The Charity Commission website tells us that Mrs Tucker is also a trustee of Aberporth and District youth club, and also Aberporth village hall and recreation ground. Hubby is also a trustee of the latter body, and managed to upset locals with a plan hatched in 2008 to sell off part of the car park. And as might be expected, Jann Tucker also belongs to Aberporth community council, whose meetings Sue Lewis used to attend representing the Tivy-Side Advertiser.

It seems that Jann Tucker and Sue Lewis have been friends and neighbours for some years, and if one comment to my blog is to be believed, mutual back-scratching has been the norm. For according to ‘Wenda of the West’, “apparently back in 2006 ish Jan Tucker stole/claimed a parcel of land from Aberporth Primary School, who was chair of the school governors – Sue Lewis, she did nothing to stop her and Mrs Tucker added a nice piece of land to her estate”.

Jann Tucker joined Joined Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust (hereinafter referred to as ‘Cadwgan’) on 21.03.2000, and Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Castell Aberteifi Cardigan Castle Building Preservation Trust (hereinafter referred to as ‘Castell’) 28.03.2000. She still serves as trustee on both charities and also served as a trustee / director on Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd from 15.06.2010 to 28.01.2015.

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The next up in our Gang of Four profiles is Mrs Susan Joy Lewis herself. So what do we know? For a start, she was born in Devonshire, England, in 1962. Until late last year she was the editor of the Tivy-Side Advertiser. As we’ve already learnt, she lives in Aberporth, with husband Mike, who is also a journalist.

Sue Lewis served as a trustee on ‘Cadwgan’ from 18.03.2002 until 12.01.2015. (Though she is still shown as a trustee on the woefully out-of-date details to be found on the Charity Commission website.) She probably resigned from this charity to take up the paid post of the Castle’s Facilities Officer, something I shall return to in a minute. Though she still serves as a trustee on ‘Castell’, which she joined 19.12.2007. And she is also a trustee / director of Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd, which she joined 16.06.2010. Away from the Castle she is also a trustee / director of Small World Theatre.

I suppose it’s worth asking why there is no Welsh version of ‘Castle Enterprises Ltd’. Perhaps because it wasn’t formed until 2010, and Lewis was on board from the start, as was her neighbour, Tucker. Though that said, and despite its name, it’s a company that doesn’t seem to be that enterprising, with a net worth of £0 and doing hardly any tradiSue Lewisng. Which only serves to make more corporeal the spectre of yet another project that will forever be suckling on the teat of public funding.

A few lines back I mentioned Sue Lewis becoming Facilities Officer at the Castle early this year . . . very soon in fact after losing her job as editor at the Tivy-Side Advertiser. In the taverns and coffee-houses of Cardigan dispute rages as to how this came about. Essentially, there are two interpretations.

The first – and more charitable version – posits a scenario along these lines. With the Castle opening to the public in 2015 it was felt – in the latter part of 2014 – that a restructuring was needed to meet the fresh challenge. And so existing staff were laid off (but encouraged to re-apply for their jobs). It was simply unfortunate – but unavoidable – that the new post of Facilities Office (salary £25,000 p.a.) was advertised over the Christmas period, and only on the Castle’s Facebook page, which must have been visited by as many as . . . oh, I don’t know, a dozen people.

(UPDATE 25.07.2015: I am indebted to ‘M O’ for providing this link which seems to show that the post of Facilities Officer was first advertised on December 23rd 2014 with a closing date for applications of January 2nd 2015. In other words, from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day. This is how things are done when the post has already been allocated but the clique involved has to pretend otherwise.

That this was allowed strengthens my belief that what we see at Cardigan Castle is what the funders want – an English tourist attraction and events venue stripped of all Welsh content and significance. Though I’m not sure the funders fully understand that the project they’re supporting may be camouflaging the real estate ambitions of some of those involved, and others close to them.

What is now clear is that Sue Lewis became Cardigan Castle Facilities Manager by deception and nepotism. I would hope that the way this post was advertised and allocated broke both charity law and the rules applied by the funders. But even if it didn’t, Sue Lewis’ position is now untenable. She must go, from her post as Facilities Manager and from all involvement with Castell Aberteifi.)

The second – and less charitable version – portrays a different sequence of events entirely. Having been told in early December that she was about to get the chop Sue Lewis and her friends decided to capitalise on the already announced restructuring and use it to create a new post for her, and then go through the motions of advertising that post over Christmas. She may even have been tipped off about her redundancy before the restructuring was announced.

Proponents of both versions seem to agree on three important points:

1/ The post of Facilities Officer was inadequately advertised, if it was advertised at all.

2/ Sue Lewis was appointed to the post by her friends and neighbours.

3/ She has no experience of the duties she is now expected to fulfil.

The Small World Theatre is a company based in the town that, with its falling income, may see regularly performing at the Castle as its financial salvation. If so, then it was obviously a wise move to get Sue Lewis on board in May, 2012, and it’s already reaping rewards. For as this letter written to a local politician puts it, “It is also worrying to be told that over £15,000 has been given to Small World Theatr for putting on very English based summer activities for children without any opportunity for other Welsh theatre groups to bid for the money and offer more suitable performances. There is a very serious and corrupt edge to this development as Sue Lewis is a trustee of Small World . . . “.

Elin Jones, the Plaid Cymru AM, is a ‘Friend’ on Lewis’ Facebook page.

In fact Plaid Cymru, the party, has behaved in its usual manner when confronted with ‘awkward’ situations – it has slunk away to the shadows for fear of upsetting people. And in the process abandoned a Welsh cause. God! I hope Plaid Cymru is destroyed next May.

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Next in line is Mrs Sandra Margaret Davies, born 12.06.1949. She is married to Meirion Davies, a teaching assistant some 17 years her junior. Having been born and raised locally she of course speaks Welsh, but like Jann Tucker, chooses not to. Now prepare to overdose on happenstance.

Mr and Mrs Davies live in Aberporth. (Where else!) Sandra Davies is the vice-chair of the governors of Ysgol Gynradd Aberporth. The chair, you will remember, is Sue Lewis! Meirion helps out at the local youth club, where other trustees are Jann and Tony Tucker. I stopped digging at this point because, quite frankly, there’s a limit to how many connections I can take. But I think I’ve established that we have here three people, Jann Tucker, Sue Lewis and Sandra Davies, who are all trustees at Cardigan Castle, who all live in the same small village some 7 miles up the coast, and who all know each other very well, having worked together on other bodies.

We all say, ‘It’s a small world’, but humbling phenomena like this bring home to us how true that is. Oh, yes.

Sandra Davies is now retired but formerly worked at the English military’s weapons establishment in Aberporth which used to provide many jobs for local people, alongside the service personnel and the ex-servicemen (who always had priority for civilian jobs). Nowadays the base employs far fewer locals and is engaged in developing drones, for both military, surveillance and commercial use.

She joined ‘Castell’ 27.11.2013, but seems never to have been a member of ‘Cadwgan’, maybe because, as she claims to be the trustee-accountant or some such, she too is getting paid. She joined the spectacularly unenterprising Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd on 24.04.2013.

Though one perplexing chapter in her recent history is Keykeeper Wales Ltd, Company No 08517357. It was in existence from 07.05.2013 to 20.01.2015 but never made any returns or filed any accounts. It seems to have been one of those companies that are set up, do nothing, and then fold; leaving one to think, ‘What the hell was that about?’ Apart from the Davieses the only other directors were William Neil Chambers and Nicola Lesley Chambers.

Sandra Davies world class staff

To help you understand Sandra Davies, and other self-hating Welsh, I’ll recount her answer when it was suggested to have bilingual front-of-house staff at the Castle. “We’ll never get world class staff if we have to rely on the Welsh”. World class staff! How much do they intend paying these ‘world class staff’?

Sandra Davies is also on Facebook.

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If we pass the Davies residence and keep going up the road we soon come to the village of Tresaith, near to where we find Dr. Hedydd Parry Jones. On the one hand, it’s nice toHedydd Jones get away from the stifling incestuousness of Aberporth, but on the other hand, we are of course moving further away from Aberteifi.

There’s not a lot to report about Dr Jones, she’s another who keeps a low profile. I’m told that before her retirement she was a GP in Castell Newydd Emlyn and is, I’m also told, married to a farmer in the Tresaith area.

She came relatively late to the Gang of Four, joining ‘Cadwgan’ on 18.11.2009, and ‘Castell’ on 25.04.2012. She served her time with Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd from 15.06.2010 to 28.01.2015.

One spectacularly offensive remark has been attributed to her. During a discussion on whether the Gorsedd should be invited to the spiritual home of the National Eisteddfod, she is reported to have contributed, “Over my dead body”.

Hedydd Jones remark

Hedydd Jones is also on Facebook, and despite her being another shrinking violet, I have managed to secure a photograph.

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It’s almost a merciful relief to be leaving the Ceredigion coast, but I don’t believe we should have to move as far as Kent, in England, for that relief, which is where we find Jonathan Richard Timms. ‘Who’, you cry, ‘is Mr Timms?’

Another figure of mystery is Jonathan ‘Joff’ Timms. We know he was born in 1945, so he’s of a ripe age, and he joined ‘Carigan contact TimmsCadwgan’ 15.11.2006. On the Charity Commission website he is even listed as the contact for the trust. (Click to enlarge panel on right.) He joined ‘Castell’ 18.04.2007.

As if that wasn’t enough, he and Sue Lewis seem to be the only directors left standing at Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd. So he appears to be the one person who is a trustee for both trusts and is also a trustee / director of the trading arm. So how does that work, with him living so far away? Does he make the 620 mile round trip to attend every meeting, or are meetings arranged for when he might be in the area? Though come to that, why would he be in the area at all? Well, boys and girls, you will not be surprised to learn that a dickie-bird tells me Mr Timms has a holiday home in Aberporth, and that he was almost certainly invited aboard the good ship Cardigan Castle by Jann Tucker.

A regular contributor to my blog, ‘Brychan’, had this to say of Mr Timms:

“The mysterious Mr Timms has moved.

When originally registered at the charity commission he declared he was resident at a period mansion, Glebe House, Mersham in the Weald of Kent. This property is Grade II listed. It was renovated by Talus, who are specialists in restoring period structures and sub dividing the property for sale. Half of this property is now up for sale for £950,000. I find no record of title change for the other parts of the structure. 12 other properties were built on associated land.

Mr Timms subsequently changed his address declared at the charity commission to another of his properties at 44 Oxenturn Road, Wye, a village some miles away, nestled in the North Downs.

It is quite evident, as his original Glebe House period mansion changed from detached to two semi-detached properties, that he specialises in buying and renovating period structures and then sub-dividing them for sale as separate units at vast profit. The ‘wedding venue’ and ‘events’ businesses that habit the property for a short period are merely ghost enterprises, the real cash is generated by the sub-division and subsequent piecemeal sale of a renovated freehold.

Do the good people of Aberteifi really know who they’re dealing with? I have assumed the ‘Welsh’ Government, CADW and Cyngor Ceredigion have done the precautionary background checks on this geezer. I wonder what he did with his bats? Did they move to Wye or Aberteifi?”

So Jonathan Timms appears to be a property specialist whose forte might be converting and flogging period and listed buildings, such as – dare I say it? – Castle Green House inside the Castle grounds. (Click to enlarge image.)Castle Green House 1

Also note that both trusts, in their declarations to the Charity Commission, state their objectives thus: “To preserve for the benefit of the people of Cardigan town and of the nation the historical, architectural and constructional heritage that may exist in and around Cardigan town in buildings (including any building as defined in Section 336 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990) of particular beauty or historical, architectural or constructional interest’. Which suggests that certain persons’ ambitions may not be limited to the Castle.

I’m told Mrs Timms was acting as a ‘volunteer’ when Our Glorious Leader visited the Castle last month.

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This is the situation now, but the problems with Cardigan Castle go back years, to when the renovation was being done. There are too many problems to list them all, but one worth mentioning is the complaint from local businesses that they were not invited to tender for the work being done on the Castle.

Now there could be a simple explanation for this in that the main contractor, Andrew Scott Ltd of Port Talbot, was allowed to choose its sub-contractors and suppliers, perhaps arranging its own tendering processes. But if so, why did those representing the Castle not insist that the process be opened up to local contractors and suppliers?

Alternatively, if handing out the contracts to suppliers was within the gift of the trustees then local anger is understandable, and helps explain why a complaint I’ve heard more than once concerns the work given to Leekes of Cross Hands to supply furniture, fittings, sanitary ware and much else that could have been sourced cheaper locally. Inevitably, seeing as Jann Tucker was born in Cross Hands, people suggest she is related to the Leekes family. Possibly, though another option is that a member of the Leekes clan has a holiday home on the Ceredigion coast – Llangrannog has been mentioned – and is known to the Gang of Four, or some of them, or perhaps just one of them.

One of the most serious complaints I’ve heard is contained in the letter to a local politician I linked to above. (Here’s the link again.) The writer says, “We have at least 60 people in Cardigan who have asked to join (the trust, presumably) but have just been ignored”. This suggests that the Gang of Four doesn’t want anyone involved who isn’t going to toe their line. No elections, no applications; entry is by recommendation and invitation only, a methodology they might have picked up from their Freemason husbands.

Another regular complaint is that there seems to be no constitution for members of the public to consult, which charity law says there should be. Then there’s the issue of minutes being doctored, with the final versions bearing little resemblance to what took place in the meetings the minutes supposedly refer to. And as mentioned in the earlier posts, there is the absurdly high turnover in staff and trustees for the very simple reason that no one can work with the Gang of Four.

One of the more bizarre complaints is that the trustees spent £100,000 on a wedding marquee, a permanent structure but, of course, without foundations. This was done despite being told that weddings can only be in held in a building with three sides and a roof. As I say, this is one of the more bizarre complaints, but if true, then it displays a stupidity, and exposes a waste of public money, that should not go unpunished. Regarding this marquee, Jann Tucker averred that she didn’t want any “local riff-raff” getting married in it.

Sticking with the bizarre, another story I was told by, I suspect, someone who worked on the project, was that the main contractor, Andrew Scott Ltd, was told by a local contractor that the sewage / drainage system was 300mm ‘out’. The advice was ignored and now the Castle is said to have problems with this system. Oh yes, the same source tells me that the Castle has bought two banana trees. I just hope these are traditional Welsh banana trees.

Cardigan Castle is clearly in deep, deep trouble. A £12m project is being run by people who are out of their depth. Incompetence would be bad enough, but they compound that failing by being unpleasant creatures given to venomous, insulting outbursts. Small wonder the townspeople of Aberteifi feel alienated. They see no one from their town involved in running the Castle, and local businesses excluded from the £12m bonanza! Welcome to Aberporth Castle . . . with the contact address in Kent.

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That the major funders involved, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the ‘Welsh’ Government, have not stepped in to replace these women, and Mr Timms, with a board of trustees operating more transparently, a board more representative of Cardigan and the surrounding area, makes those funders complicit in and responsible for the malpractice now taking place.

Beyond malpractice we also have the clearly expressed sentiments of hostility towards the Welsh language, Welsh culture, and Welsh people. Outbursts that should disqualify these women from involvement in any project in Wales using public funding.

They themselves are the intolerant bigots they accuse their critics of being. Get rid of them!

Sham Devolution + Puppet Regime = Assimilation

In recent years I have published many posts arguing that devolution is a sham. That’s because Wales is run by departments of the UK government in London. Decisions made by these departments are then implemented by civil servants based in Wales. These civil servants are, invariably, ‘advisers’ to  ‘Welsh Ministers’, but the true relationship is more like puppeteer and puppet.

A perfect example, and one that I have dealt with more than once, is the Planning Inspectorate. We are asked to believe that Wales has its own Planning Inspectorate, based in Cardiff, answering to the ‘Welsh’ Government. The truth is that the Planning Inspectorate, responsible for forcing Planning Inspectoratetens of thousands of unneeded new dwellings on Welsh local authorities (in order to encourage English colonisation) is part of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London, with a branch office in Cardiff. The Planning Inspectorate takes orders from London; and gives orders to Cardiff.

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This situation of Wales being run by civil servants on behalf of the London government has been in place as long as we’ve had devolution. Usually it just rumbles along in the background, unnoticed, but recently Wales has seen two very important pieces of legislation that have exposed this system as never before.

One new law is the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. Now while this legislation plays to the gallery with tough talk on private landlords, protecting vulnerable tenants, etc., these are distractions from the real purpose of the Bill, which is to confirm beyond any lingering doubt that social housing in Wales is now part of an Englandandwales system. Which means that someone who qualifies for social housing anywhere in England can be allocated a property in Wales. A policy so insidious and damaging that housing associations, especially in rural areas, are now building and buying properties – with Welsh public funding – for which there is no local demand!

The Housing (Wales) Act contains thirty-nine references to ‘England’ By comparison, the Housing (Scotland) Bill has not one. Though absent from the Welsh Bill is any reference to the Welsh language, providing further proof that this is ‘Welsh’ legislation designed to serve England’s interests, as is so much else done by the ‘Welsh’ Government.

Such as the funding that has gone into the Deeside Industrial Park, that runs almost up to the border, providing jobs for north west England and keeping the resultant mess, noise and traffic out of leafy Cheshire. Then there’s our failing NHS, especially in the north, which the UK prime minister and local Tory politicians have capitalised on, yet only a ‘racist’ would make the obvious connection between a failing health service and many tens of thousands of elderly English people moving into the affected region.

And the impression given that Wales is doing things differently, being tougher on private landlords, is just so much flim-flam, as I discovered a couple of days ago when making enquiries about the regulation of private landlords. Here’s the link, but the screen capture below makes it clear enough that – despite the Housing (Wales) Act – England and Wales are covered by the same legislation, but not Scotland.

Private Landlords

The second piece of legislation worth highlighting is the Planning (Wales) Bill. This again was designed to bring Wales into line with England. As was made clear by the (now defunct) Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) in its December 2013 Newsletter. Unfortunately the link provided in the newsletter is no longer working, so I can’t offer it to you, but among the things it said was ” . . . many of the proposed reforms resonate with those introduced in England.” And later, “Again reflecting change in England . . . “.

As might be expected, in its original form, this legislation also neglected to take any account of the Welsh language. That’s because, as with the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, it is English legislation, drawn up by English civil servants, for England, who neither understand nor care about Wales, who then stick ‘(Wales)’ in the title and tell some ‘Welsh Minister’ to run with  it.

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Those clowns down Cardiff docks masquerading as the ‘Welsh’ Government must know what’s going on, this explains why so many of them are reluctant to give interviews to explain or defend the legislation they’ve announced – they don’t understand it, and they don’t understand it because they had no input to it. But in return they are allowed – perhaps even encouraged – to introduce pet schemes for the sole purpose of giving the impression they’re in charge.Puppet regime

For who can forget the rejoicing – and the global media attention – that attended the abolition of ferret licences back in 2006. While the Zeppelin service between Penclawdd and Amlwch that took off in 2010 was universally welcomed . . . especially in Penclawdd and Amlwch. Now I hear that next year, just before the election, our ‘Welsh’ Government plans to bring in a vote-winning policy of free toothbrushes for the over 90s. Verily! our cup runneth over.

OK, so I’m taking the piss, but it’s publicity-grabbing and largely valueless legislation such as free prescriptions that the ‘Welsh’ Government is allowed to introduce as a reward for acting as puppets. These ‘giveaways’ are then used to distract us from the more weighty English legislation with ‘(Wales)’ in the name that is constantly being pushed through by civil servants of whom we know nothing.

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To conclude . . . The post-devolution era sees a regular stream of England-only legislation in areas that have been ‘devolved’. What happens is, that after a decent interval, and in the interests of an undeclared policy of ‘harmonisation’, this England-only legislation is re-packaged with ‘(Wales)’ in the name and passes through the Assembly. To disguise what’s being done the re-packaged law may differ in a few minor details, but never in anything of substance. End result? The same laws in both countries for the convenience of the Planning Inspectorate and countless other Englandandwales organisations.

After sixteen years of devolution it is clear that Wales is not allowed to have separate legislation that is meaningfully different to England’s unless the ‘Welsh’ law actually benefits England. This is the sham of devolution, the polar opposite to what it was promised devolution would deliver, and it explains how ‘devolution’ is helping assimilate Wales into England more effectively than the Fraser Welshpre-devolution system, for now it’s easier to introduce Wales-specific laws to achieve that assimilation. With the added attraction that because these laws have ‘(Wales)’ in the name too many people are misled into believing they’re designed to serve Welsh interests.

And yet if you think about it, there should be nothing here to surprise anyone. Since the introduction of this non-devolution, implementing the ethnocidal planning policies of a non-existent ‘Welsh’ Planning Inspectorate, the Notional Assembly has been under the control of the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party. So we have a sham devolution run by a fake party, for a country that will soon exist nowhere outside of our imaginations.

Welsh NHS: Let’s Have Some Honesty

Yesterday the ‘Welsh’ Government announced that is has taken the troubled Betsi CadwaladrGwynedd SW Wards merged University Health Board into special measures. (The Tawel Fan scandal being the last straw.) Today we learnt that the chief executive, Trevor Purt, has been suspended. And yet . . . despite everything that has been said and written about the health service in Wales generally, and the northern part of the country in particular, there are a couple of issues, or contributing factors, that no one is willing to address. To explain what I’m referring to, I can do no better than quote a recently elected Tory MP, James Davies, now representing the Vale of Clwyd.

This is what the Daily Post had to say about him a month before the election, and here’s Dr Davies’ maiden speech in the House of Commons on June 2nd. The same two themes crop up in both pieces and also figured prominently in his election campaign; one is his concern over the state of the NHS in Wales and the second is the decline of Rhyl. The first of those he blames on the Labour regime down Cardiff docks, which is the easy way out and no more than we should expect from a Tory politician on the Costa Geriatrica. As for Rhyl, well, he doesn’t actually blame anyone, he just seems to believe, rather vaguely that, well, something should be done. Among his suggestions is a new Sun Centre. Of course, that’ll solve all the problems.

Being a GP, Dr Davies must be aware that one of the major reasons for the poor standard of health and other services in his area is the demands placed on those services by a) large numbers of elderly people moving into Wales and b) the white trash, problem families, drug addicts and other substance abusers, plus all manner of criminals, being dumped in the towns along our northern coast. Rhyl being the worst example. Dr Davies knows all this but he cannot say it because, as an England-worshipping Welsh UnionisAge, where bornt he is psychologically and emotionally incapable of viewing England as anything other than a paradise inhabited by superior beings with which Wales enjoys a one-sided relationship, with everything good that we enjoy emanating from England, and everything wrong with Wales our own fault. This is the Unionist mind-set (of both right and left), though it’s sad to see this self-loathing displayed in a seemingly intelligent man of just 35 years.

Which leaves James Davies in the position of wanting to discuss, and demand remedies for, problems for which he cannot admit major contributory causes. The Vale of Clwyd constituency is located in Denbighshire, where only 42.7% of the 65+ age group was born in Wales, yet we are asked to believe that the obvious influx of elderly people from outside of Wales has no impact whatsoever on the performance of the NHS locally. (In my area, less than one third of the 50+ age group is Welsh born! See map and table.) I’d hate to think that this inability to link cause and effect is indicative of how he works as a doctor. ‘Yes, Mr Smith, you’ve definitely got cirrhosis of the liver, but we’ll ignore your three bottles of whisky a day’. Much of Davies’ support would have come from elderly English voters angry at the standard of the local health service, but of course oblivious to the fact that their moving to Wales in such numbers contributes to the declining health service they’re complaining about. Nor can Doc Davies be honest about the reasons for the state of the NHS because he’s after the votes of those causing the problem! It’s altogether fitting that this flight from reality is taking place so close to where Alice in Wonderland was written.age, place of birth

But it’s not just James Davies who is unable to face the truth. It’s all the other politicians, and the media. With the latter doing its already tarnished reputation no good by tip-toeing around the elephant in the room. All terrified of speaking the truth for fear of making the front page of the Daily Mail or some other rag and being vilified as ‘racist’ or, what is much worse, ‘anti-English’. And fearing said rag going into overdrive with ‘ . . . veterans of Dunkirk . . . “the few” . . . Welsh all supported Hitler anyway . . . We’ll Meet Again . . . have to ask in Welsh to go to the toilet . . . fucking immigrants . . . fucking Jocks . . . good bloke, that Farage . . . blahdeblahdeblahdebritnatbollocks’.

Last night I put out a few tweets on this subject which were well received, being favourited and retweeted. The one discordant voice belonged to a Plaidista named Rhydian Fitter, who seemed unable to make the connection between tens of thousands of elderly English people moving to our rural and coastal areas and deteriorating heath provision. “I don’t see the connection”, protested young Fitter. Of course not. As a loyal member of Plaid Cymru you must follow the party line that pretends the colonisation of Wales is notRhydian Fitter happening (and, er, if it is, then it’s a good thing), a line that is little different to that of Dr James Davies, and is also the line enforced by the Daily Mail. Let us hope and pray for Plaid Cymru’s demise to begin next May. Plaid Cymru has had nothing to say to Welsh people – as Welsh people – for over thirty years, you can’t run on empty for ever. If I thought it would help put Plaid out of its misery, I’d even consider voting Ukip . . . despite Nathan Gill.

To conclude, and here I make no apologies for repeating myself. People living in other parts of the country, particularly the south, may be tempted to think that the problem dealt with here is restricted to the rural north and west, because English people don’t retire to Merthyr or Newport. Don’t kid yourself! The ‘Welsh’ Government has a fixed amount to spend on the NHS and other services, when so much of that has to be diverted to the areas suffering the strain of the geriatric influx, or the dumping of undesirables, then clearly, there will be less to spend in Merthyr and Newport, Swansea and Cardiff. We are all paying for the refusal – of all concerned – to acknowledge one of the major factors contributing to the crisis overwhelming the Welsh NHS.

Political Harmony: The Music of Englandandwales

I am indebted to my old confrère André Jacob for drawing my attention to an upcoming musical event entitled ‘Beyond the Marches’, information for which is reproduced below. You’ll see that I have highlighted a passage that reads, “Six of the finest young folk musicians from Wales and England come together to explore and celebrate the shared history and culture of the two nations”. As you might imagine, this got me thinking about our “shared history and culture” and so, now infused with the spirit of sharing, I feel compelled to share my thoughts with you.

Trac, Beyond the Marches

Let’s look at our ‘shared history’, and where better to begin than with our first contact with the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians who invaded Romano-Welsh Britain following the collapse of the empire. What this episode tells us is that the ancestors of the modern English introduced themselves as invaders. In the centuries that followed these Germanic peoples pushed west and north, taking more of our territory, killing, expelling or enslaving our people, until we were left with little more than what we today call Wales.

The aggression and conquest continued, until the death of Llywelyn in 1282 and that of his brother Dafydd the following year, their children either killed or imprisoned to ensure no succession. This was followed by a period in which we were treated as second-class citizens in our own country, a colonialist system that an African-American or a Tibetan would understand. This discriminatory system was one of the causes of Glyndŵr’s great war for national liberation that began in 1400 and explains why so many rallied to his cause.

Glyndŵr was unsuccessful but victory at Bosworth in 1485 put a Welshman (of sorts) on the throne of England and things began to look up . . . if only for the Welsh aristocracy and gentry. Harri Tudur and his son Henry VIII decreed that Welshmen would in future be treated exactly the same as Englishmen . . . because there would be no recognition of any distinct Welsh identity.

The next great stage in the ‘shared history’ came with the Industrial Revolution, which saw our people and our natural resources exploited for the glory of imperial England. And so it has continued to the present day when we can now add colonisation to the list.

As for the ‘shared culture’ referred to, where in England can you hear penillion sung? Where are the great English practitioners of cynghanedd to be found? Just as with history’s march, the cultural influences are all one way, as they must always be between a colony and the country that exploits and dominates that colony. So who’s responsible for this insulting nonsense, this pretence that Wales and England are equal, each having influenced the other?

The body organising ‘Beyond the Marches’ is Trac (Traddodiadau Cerdd Cymru / Music Traditions Wales), Charity Commission number 1085422. Trac is also a company limited by guarantee, No 4106014, with the charity’s trustees also acting as directors of the company. Among these director-trustees are “performer, author and TV producer” Eiry Palfrey, Cardiff folk singer Frank Hennessy, radio celeb Huw Stephens, Dafydd Iwan, and the man currently campaigning to be re-elected Labour MP for Cardiff West, Kevin Brennan. Trac is funded by the Arts Council of Wales, the ‘Welsh’ Government and the National Lottery.

Trac appears to be run by director Danny Kilbride, manager Blanche Rowen, with Angharad Jenkins serving as project officer. It might help if I knew a bit more about Danny Kilbride and Blanche Rowen. Kilbride lives in the Mount Pleasant area of Swansea, and the charity is registered at the same address. Though the company is registered at an address in the neighbouring Uplands area. I know little about Blanche Rowen beyond that she performs with a Mike Gulston.

trac staff

It would be easy to think of Trac as something like the cultural organisations one encounters in totalitarian states – funded by the government and designed to keep artists and ‘creatives’ in order to ensure that nothing subversive emerges. Or am I being unkind? Even if I am, and at the very least, Trac carries the hallmarks of a Welsh Third Sector body funded by the Labour Party to serve Labour Party interests and promote the Unionist message. Which makes it look like yet more squalid politicking using public funding.

How else could anyone interpret ‘Beyond the Marches’, a musical event clearly promoting the idea that there is little or no difference between Wales and England? Such a perfect way to push the Unionist, Better Together message. And this being done just days before the general election, with concerts in Aberystwyth on May 2nd, Cardiff on May 3rd, and London on May 4th. Will these concerts end with Rule Britannia and God Save the Queen?

Perhaps next year, before the Assembly elections, Trac can balance things out by organising a few concerts promoting the message that Wales is most definitely a different country to England, and one that has always been abused and exploited by England, so remember this when you go to vote . . . but it ain’t gonna happen.

Swansea Labour Party 11: What Price ‘Loyalty’?

Opponents of the Labour Party, no matter what they think of the party generally, are always impressed by its discipline; by how a council group made up of individualists, the intellectually challenged, revolutionaries, Blairites and disgruntled back-benchers, can still be made to vote as instructed and hang together in order to face down any challenge. But how is it achieved? Well, a clue may be coming out of Swansea, and if this theory suggested to me is correct then my guess is that the method employed is unlikely to be restricted to that city.

Now I don’t want Uplands Labour councillor John ‘Boy’ Bayliss to think I’m picking on him, but I must start with him for he might, unwittingly, provide the key to unlocking this great mystery of Labour Party solidarity. The place to start is the extract here taken from Bayliss’s Declaration of Interests on the council website.

Bayliss declarations

This tells us that John Boy received an undisclosed amount of money from the Swansea Labour Group for a reason or purpose that is also undisclosed. And note that it came from the ‘Swansea Labour Group’, not the council, so it must be supplementary to any official payment for his work as a councillor. What are we to make of this? Was it a birthday present? If so, why did other Labour councillors not receive their ‘presents’? I’m told there is another explanation.

It has long been rumoured that Labour councillors in Swansea are required to pay ten per cent of their allowances to the party. Some of this, it is suggested, is used for elections and to otherwise promote the party in the city; a portion is sent to ‘Welsh’ Labour HQ; while the remainder is distributed among those Labour councillors lower down the food chain who do not receive hefty allowances for chairing committees and being in the cabinet. With a percentage also going to pay the dues of students from local universities who’ve been given free party membership.

Now quite obviously, a disgruntled Labour backbencher can have his or her disaffection ameliorated with a sweetener of a few grand every year. And a red-hot ‘revolutionary’ could also be persuaded to toe the party line. Which could help explain Labour Party ‘solidarity’. As I say, it’s only a rumour, but if true, it would give Swansea Labour group a secret pot of maybe £70,000 to play with every year. A great deal of ‘solidarity’ can be bought with that kind of money when it’s used to top up flat-rate councillor pay, especially if the recipient has no other obvious source of income.

So if the suggestion being made is correct, then the first issue is that the Labour Party is virtually extorting money from leading councillors (because you mustn’t believe that all Labour councillors give up their 10% willingly). Then we have the issue of recipients of this secret levy – recipients other than Labour donations‘Honest John’ Bayliss – not declaring this income in their Declaration of Interests. And finally, we have the consideration of income tax. For if the loyalty of Labour back-benchers is being bought with what are effectively back-handers, then we can be fairly certain that these secret payments are not being declared to the tax authorities.

A final consideration is that if what I’m hearing about Swansea Labour Party is true, and if this is how the Labour Party operates elsewhere in Wales – a reasonable assumption – then Labour in Wales must have well over a million pounds to play with every year. A million pounds that perhaps no one outside the party knows about, and that no one inside the party is willing to talk about. Essentially undeclared income and tax-dodging of the kind that so agitates the bruvvers when done by others.

I feel we need clarification on this matter. First, we need a statement from the Swansea Labour Party on whether or not it demands that its leading councillors ‘donate’ ten per cent of their allowances to help sustain (and retain the loyalty of) less fortunate brethren, and to also top up the party coffers. Then, we need a statement from ‘Welsh’ Labour, telling us if this is common practice within the party. Finally, it would be interesting to hear the views of the tax authorities; so maybe HMRC can give an opinion on whether income derived in the manner described is a) legal and b) if so, whether it should be declared for tax purposes.

Let’s Be Honest About Housing Associations

This post is a revised version of an article that recently appeared in Cambria magazine

When I was growing up in Swansea in the 1950s most of the people I knew lived in terraced houses owned by people we didn’t know. For our house, the rent was collected by a chain-smoking bottle blonde from Mumbles who would enter the payment in her rent book with the kind of yellow fingers that persuaded me to become the only 10-year-old in the area who smoked his Woodbine from the other end of a cigarette holder. (Well, I was too young to give up smoking.) Despite our rent-collector’s aesthetic shortcomings, her caBuddy Hollylling was considered a steady job, and quite respectable. There were a lot of them about. Another I recall was a man with a bicycle that had a small motor affixed to the back wheel, which I found fascinating. I can see him now, tackling hills with the tails of his long, drab mac flapping behind him.

Some of these rented properties would then be sub-let, or lodgers would be taken in to help pay for a ‘telly’, or a week in Tenby. One such sub-lettee was ‘Old Sam’, who lived in someone’s front room across the road from us. Sam had piles of pennies (he had piles of just about everything, come to that!) and I’d be sent across the road when the gas meter was running low. Then, some tme in 1958, my father decided to join the property-owning classes. This rise in the status of the Joneses was not without disruption; for example, our new home needed a bit of work, things like a kitchen and an indoor lavatory.

So while the builders were in I was farmed out to my maternal grandmother over on Pentregethin Road. And it was from there, walking through a building site to Penlan School one bitterly cold February morning, that I overheard a trio ahead of me talking; “‘Ave ew yerd, mush – Buddy Holly been killed”. There’d been a light snowfall and the wind had blown the snow against the piles of builders’ sand. It was so cold that the snow didn’t melt, yet the fall had been so light that I could almost make out the individual flakes. That’s how I heard of the death of my idol, though the rest of that day is lost.


Those of our acquaintance that didn’t live in privately rented properties tended to live on council estates, such as Penlan, through which I had walked that dreary February morning. Penlan belonged to a new generation of post-war council estates, supplementing those Swansea had constructed in the inter-war period – Lloyd George’s ‘Homes fit for Heroes’ – most noticeably the massive Townhill-Mayhill estate, collectively and colloquially referred to as, ‘The ‘Ill’. As in, ‘Whe’ by do ew live, luv?’ ‘Up on the cowinʽ ‘Ill!’. (I’m making myself quite homesick here.)

Despite the allocation system for council tenancies being, theoretically at least, needs based, it was a decided advantage if one was a Labour Party member, trade union official, or friend / relative of a local councillor. Of course, as a young lad the complexities of this allocation system were beyond my ken, though it must be said that many of my elders were also confused. Especially those who thought they had enough points to put them near the top of the waiting list, only to find that they had been queue-jumped by a woman no better than she ought to be whose only ‘points’ seemed to be . . . no, let’s not go there, or I shall be accused of picking on the Labour Party again.

Yet it’s worth remembering that prior to World War One there had been very little housing built by local authorities; in fact, I’m not sure there was any council housing built in Wales. Before the Great War housing had either been built by the big companies and mine owners or quarry owners for their workers, or else the need for rented property was met by speculative developers. (In the village where I now live most of the properties over 30 years old were built by the owners of the local quarry in the 19th century to be rented to their workers.) But the fact was that just about everybody had a home, even if it was a little room like Sam’s, piled high with pennies, newspapers and God knows what else in a permanent fog of stale urine. Well into the 1950s unmarried adults (and many young married couples) lived with their parents, the elderly invariably lived with their adult children, while single men and young women who left home to work ‘took lodgings’ or found a ‘bedsit’.

So we can safely say that council or social housing, despite our familiarity with it today, has been a feature of Welsh life for less than a century. With its hey-day probably already in the past, for today most Welsh local authorities have lost their housing stock to housing associations. Another big difference between 1915 and 2015 is of course that most people today are home owners, and many more aspire to be, which is another need being met by housing associations with ‘shared ownership’ schemes and other imaginative arrangements. All of which makes housing associations worthy of closer inspection.


Despite self-applied labels such as ‘social enterprises’ and ‘not-for-profit organisations’ most housing associations are registered as Industrial and Provident Societies; registered with, but not regulated by, the Financial Services Authority. And unlike companies limited by guarantee they have share capital. Then, and despite wanting us to believe they are public bodies, housing associations are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000. (Your local council is of course covered by the Act.) All that being so, and it suggesting they are not public bodies, why have housing associations in Wales received billions of pounds in public funding since the arrival of devolution in 1999? And why is so much of this Welsh public funding seeping over the border in the form of maintenance contracts and sub-contracts for English companies?

If you think I’m exaggerating, just remember that thirty years ago the housing departments of our councils provided many tens of thousands of jobs, making this sector one of the biggest employers, especially in our rural areas. There were those employed in building and maintaining the hundreds of thousands of council properties, and there were also jobs in administration, allocating properties, collecting rents and dealing with all manner of queries. Thirty years ago local authorities were big players in the economic life of the country. ‘But surely’, you ask, ‘the council staff simply transferred to the new owner of the properties?’ Well, usually . . . some . . . and to begin with . . .

To explain what’s happening now I shall use an example I have studied on my own door-step – literally from my own door-step! In 2010 Gwynedd council’s housing stock was transferred to Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd (Gwynedd Community Housing), and to begin with, things seemed to carry on much as before. More recently, worrying changes have been apparent. The contract for maintaining the properties was awarded to Lovell, a major English company which has its ‘local’ branch office in Cheshire. Lovell in turn sub-contracted to smaller companies over the border. Let me explain how this works in practice.

In 2013 Lovell’s sub-contractors were working in the Tywyn area and my next-door neighbour waited months for his bathroom and kitchen to be re-tiled. The tilers travelled every day – when they bothered to turn up – from Wigan. Their day worked out at roughly four hours of travelling and five hours of work! And this lunacy, remember, is being perpetrated with Welsh public funding and at the expense of Welsh sub contractors!

More recently we have seen the controversy over CCG’s attempts to bring in English managers. Defended and disguised with arguments such as ‘unable to find suitable Welsh-speaking applicants’ and ‘seeking the best for the job’, when the truth is that it’s a move to better ‘integrate’ CCG with the Englandandwales social housing setup. Those it is hoped to recruit will have contacts in England that will ensure Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd secures more tenants from the lucrative – but damaging to the host community – ‘vulnerable’ sector. The real question is, where did this diktat originate? Because CCG’s chief executive, Ffrancon Williams, seems to be just a mouthpiece in this, and the acquiescing Board member nothing but a smokescreen. The decision was certainly taken elsewhere.

The table below (click to enlarge) shows the amounts of funding given to Welsh housing associations in just one six-year period and from just one funding stream, the Social Housing Grant. Couldn’t that seven hundred million pounds – and all the rest! – have been better used?

Social Housing full

There are just so many problems attaching to the current arrangements for social housing. The one I have just dealt with in Gwynedd is replicated across Wales, resulting in thousands of jobs being lost and billions of pounds of Welsh money flowing over the border – Welsh public money that is supposed to be used to boost the Welsh economy! In addition, Wales is locked into an Englandandwales system that means a large family of English social misfits (or worse) can qualify for social housing in Wales ahead of locals; as can criminals, drug addicts, paedophiles and other who qualify as ‘vulnerable’, and therefore generate more income for whoever houses them. With such rich pickings on offer no one should be surprised to learn that many housing associations are building properties in numbers that cannot be justified by local demand – especially in some rural towns – and are only being built at all to meet the lucrative demand from England. As an example of what I’m talking about let’s remember the paedophile gang housed by Gwalia in Cydweli, which generated a lot more income than if those properties had been used to house law-abiding locals.

STOP PRESS: Just before posting I learnt that police in Haverfordwest are warning interested parties (schools, etc.,) that convicted sex offenders are now being housed in the centre of the town.

I don’t wish to paint an overly depressing picture (recalling ‘The Day the Music Died’ has already had me reaching for the Kleenex!), but social housing in Wales is an indefensible system. To conclude this section, and expose the lunacy from another angle, consider this. Apart from hundreds of councillors worried about losing their allowances just about everyone else in Wales believes we need many fewer local authorities. That being so, why does our ‘Welsh’ Government encourage the proliferation of housing associations – actually funding them to compete with each other? Or to put it another way: why should an area deemed too small to have its own local authority have half a dozen or more housing associations on its patch fighting like ferrets in a sack over the social housing racket?


The day of council-owned social housing is clearly coming to an end, dealt its death-blow by Margaret Thatcher’s Housing Act of 1980 and its ‘Right-to-Buy’ provisions. I would like to believe that we are approaching the end of social housing altogether and heading towards a system in which all rented accommodation will be provided by private sector. Housing associations are obviously a half-way house towards such a system, and were probably designed to be just that. What I would like to see in the next few years is their full privatisation. The writing may be on the wall, and it’s in David Cameron’s own hand.

In January 2012 the UK Prime Minister announced new legislation (due in 2015) for the governing of co-operatives (including Industrial Provident Societies), and he said, “We know that breaking monopolies, encouraging choice, opening up new forms of enterprise is not just right for business but the best way of improving public services too”. What I’ve underlined is a strange term to use in relation to what purports to be nothing more than legislation to consolidate earlier Bills and iron out anomalies. ‘New forms of enterprise’ in the same sentence as ‘public services’ should also have raised a few eyebrows.

Then we have the Housing (Wales) Act of 2014. On the one hand this seeks to further integrate Wales with England but it also has a lot to say about the ‘Regulation of Private Rented Housing’, with little of it aimed at your average ‘Buy-to-Let’ investor. My reading of Part One of the Act (by far the largest of the nine Parts) is that it sets the ground rules for a major shift in the provision of social or rented housing. And why not?

Housing associations already borrow money from banks and other institutions, so why shouldn’t they be allowed to look for commercial investors and shareholders? They would have little trouble in attracting them given that they have solid assets in the form of their housing stock. Housing associations would be ideal investment vehicles for pension funds, and socially acceptable for the more ‘ethical’ investor. Fully privatised social housing, with the right legislation in place to guarantee secure tenancies, prioritising locals, fair rents, etc., would not only provide investment opportunities but such an arrangement would also relieve a great burden on the public purse.

And there is of course another great advantage to handing the provision of rented housing over to the private sector. There is unquestionably a housing shortage, not in Wales, but in England. Despite the platitudes and promises, there is no intention of ever meeting the needs of all those wanting to own their own home, because to do so would reduce the value of millions of other homes people have invested in. So the demand remains. So why not meet it by letting the private sector build decent homes for rent, dwellings with – as on the Continent – more cachet than social housing and its connotations of problem families, pit bulls and sink estates? Give people a decent home, solve the housing crisis, and create jobs in the process, something that could be done without causing revolution in the suburbs.


Those buffoons down Cardiff docks who persist in masquerading as the ‘Welsh’ Government need to decide whether they want to start living up to their billing, or whether they continue allowing Wales to be run by English civil servants taking orders from London and doing little more than feeding the parasites of the Third Sector. If they choose the former, then one of the most convincing ways of showing their newly-grown gonads would be to devise Welsh laws for Welsh needs, rather than being bullied into accepting English laws with ‘(Wales)’ inserted into the name. Social housing might be a good place to start.

The table below shows that the fastest growing hoising sector in Wales is the private rented sector. Much of this is accounted for by ‘Buy-to-let’ mortgages but, increasingly, major companies and corporations are moving into the sector. Again, why not? As I’ve said, the demand for home ownership will never be met because to do so would lead to a collapse in property values; so why not allow private and commercial landlords to provide more salubrious accommodation than is currently provided by housing associations?

Housing by tenure

As I hope to have persuaded you, the current, Twilight Zone model of publicly-funded quasi-private companies is an unsustainable nonsense resulting from Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Right-to-Buy’ legislation. The irony being that it is currently sustained by ‘Welsh’ Labour and it’s right-on cronies in the Third Sector. This situation leaves us with two options. The first would see a new model of publicly-owned social housing, serving Welsh needs, employing Welsh people, and giving contracts to Welsh companies. The second option is to cut housing associations adrift (from public funding) and say, ‘Right you’re on your own now, behave like private companies, find shareholders and raise your own funding using your massive assets as collateral’.

The first option takes us back to that system we were once comfortable with (and so proud of); whereas the second option takes us back to private landlords (but without the bottle blondes with nicotine-stained fingers). Either option will be an improvement on the absurd system we know today; which sees far too many housing associations in Wales, and too many of them wanting to employ English staff, give contracts to English companies, and take in English tenants – and do it all using Welsh public funding!

After reading this you may wish to sign the petition advertised at the top of my sidebar.

Housing Associations, Time To End The Madness

It’s taken about eight months, but I finally got the information I requested on the Social Housing Grant (SHG). Though let me make it clear that I attach no blame to the Housing and Regeneration section of the ‘Welsh’ Government or the Housing Directorate (which, despite being in Wales is, I believe, an outpost of the UK / England Department for Communities and Local Government); for both have been very helpful. It seems that in the first instance I was asking for too much information, which exceeded the obligations placed on government departments by the Freedom of Information Act, with the delay extenuated by me seSocial Housing Grantnding e-mails to someone who’d left his job but whose e-mail account was still open and accepting incoming e-mails!

As you might have guessed, I’m talking about housing associations, and more especially, how much they receive from the ‘Welsh’ Government through the SHG (click on panel to enlarge). In other words, public funding, money that could – with different priorities – be spent on other things. Between 2008 and 2013 housing associations in Wales were given £692,541,022.51. (I can give you the figure to the exact penny because that’s how it was given to me.) However you look at it, 692 million is a lot of moolah. It could have built a few hospitals, 12 Newtown bypasses, covered most the M4 upgrading, re-opened the Carmarthen-Aberystwyth railway line, or funded a lot of other projects around the country. And remember, that’s just the money received from one funding scheme over six years. There is also the funding prior to 2008 to be considered, funding from other sources, plus the loans that housing associations are allowed to negotiate. Putting it all together makes it clear that social housing is big business, and accounts for a lot of money in a small country like Wales.

Before looking more closely at some of the individual recipients of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s largesse, maybe I should give some background and explain what kind of beast we are dealing with. Anyone over the age of forty-five will remember that social housing used to be the responsibility of the local council; in other words, council houses. Housing associations were usually small organisations supplementing the work of local councils in catering for specific groups, be they disabled ex-servicemen, Jewish widows or distressed gentlefolk. Then came the hammer-blow of Right to Buy legislation (Housing Act 1980) coupled with the inability of councils to use the funding raised to build replacement dwellings. Housing associations were then encouraged into a cannibalistic feeding frenzy that left us with fewer, but bigger organisations while – in Wales at least – they were also stopped from buying existing properties. This seemed to serve a number of purposes: keeping up the stock of social housing, providing work for private builders (as opposed to councils’ own workforces) and, in rural and coastal areas of Wales, ensuring that no cottages or houses that might prove attractive to English buyers became social housing. I believe that my suspicions about the purpose and activities of housing associations began around this time.

The housing associations we see today are either the result of one merger after another of the old units, or else shiny new organisations resulting from councils selling off their housing stocks. All tend to be ‘not for profit’ Industrial and Provident Societies registered with the Financial Conduct Authority, which makes it rather more difficult, and expensive, to get information on them than if they were registered with the Charity Commission or Companies House. (Though there are usually abbreviated accounts on their websites.) In addition, they are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, even though councils’ housing departments are! Odd, really, that it’s so difficult to get information on bodies receiving so much public funding.

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The breakdown, by housing association, can be found below (in PNG format, click to enlarge); or here in Spreadsheet format, with links to each HA website available by clicking on the HA name in the left-hand column. I would suggest opening either file in another window to better follow what I’m going to say. Or just use it to check up on your local housing association. (Right click on the panel, then click on ‘Open link in new window’ or however your browser words it.)

Social Housing full

A quick scan reveals that Wales & West Housing Association got the largest amount in the period covered by the table, no less than £63 million. I had cause to mention Wales and West not long ago, when I learnt that it will Wales & West Housingborrow up to £25m from the UK government, through the Affordable Housing Guarantees, “to build 251 homes in Wales”. (Left, click to enlarge.) Why is the UK government loaning money to a Welsh housing association to build homes in Wales? It doesn’t make sense. The other big gainers are all familiar to me, though some of the smaller ones are eyebrow-raisers, and I always get suspicious when I see ‘Wales’ in the name of any organisation, for it often means an English outfit with a Welsh presence that may be nothing more than a post-box.

Having mentioned mergers earlier, Cymdeithas Tai Clwyd and Cymdeithas Tai Eryri have recently merged to form Grŵp Cynefin which, by happy chance, I wrote about quite recently. The episode in Tywyn tells us quite a lot about how housing associations really operate. In my experience they are devious, if not dishonest; promoting themselves as the answer to society’s ills while operating as ruthless and almost secretive commercial entities. Not only is it difficult to get informaTai Cantreftion about housing associations but what they do put out is often misleading, sometimes deliberately so. Take this sentence, highlighted on page 12 of the 2013 – 14 annual report of Cymdeithas Tai Cantref, which operates out of Castell Newydd Emlyn and covers an area from Machynlleth to just south of Fishguard, and inland as far as Llandovery. Note the use of the deliberately misleading term ‘people living locally’ in the hope that anyone reading it will think it means locals. It does not.

Go down to page 16 and you will read this: “To build new homes, Cantref need (sic) to generate more income and rely less on Social Housing Grant. A successful new initiative to Cantref this year was the introduction of our new student accommodation. We were successful with the submission of 65 units to be part of the Welsh Government’s Revenue Grant programme”. An interesting passage in a number of ways. For it identifies yet another income stream from the ‘Welsh’ Government, given as funding for what is clearly not social housing. Or to put it another way, the almost inevitable coming together of two ways in which Welsh public funding is used for the benefit of England, social housing and higher education.

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Soon after starting on this post I bought the latest issue of our weekly rag, the Cambrian News, where I came across this story, involving an outfit to which I just introduced you, Grŵp Cynefin. This time the project is in Harlech, a place close to my heart from having spent a couple of years there, in good company, in good pubs, Cambrian News, Harlech homeswearing flares and hair over my shoulders . . . I even made it to the Coleg once or twice. (I also met the missus there, but we don’t want to spoil a happy memory, do we.) Anyway, click to enlarge and read it for yourself.

Warms the cockles of your heart, no? What callous brute could possibly object to sheltered housing for adults with learning difficulties? Well, me, for one, if there is no local demand for such housing. Because when I read that story I reminded myself that certain agencies in England would pay handsomely to relocate their clients to Wales. If that’s what will happen in Harlech then it will make this development little more than a housing association irresponsibly increasing the load on the Welsh NHS.

The problem here is obvious, it extends across the social housing sector. There is too much knee-jerk reaction on the part of politicos at all levels to requests for funding – with no thought to the bigger picture and the wider implications – when those making the requests exert emotional blackmail by pressing certain buttons. The biggest ‘button’ is social housing itself, beneath which can be found an array of secondary controls that include ‘sheltered housing for adults with learning difficulties’, ‘victims of domestic violence’, alien abductees, etc. (Go on, make up your own, I guarantee nobody will challenge it! It’s money for old rope.) All such requests for funding or planning should be answered by a simple question from our politicians: ‘Is there a demand from within the established local community for these properties?’ If no such demand exists, then funding, planning permission, and all other help should be refused.

Had this rule been followed, in tandem with a locals-only allocation policy, it would have saved lives and avoided many other tragedies, such as that which unfolded in Kidwelly not long ago, in properties owned by the Gwalia Group (£30 million raked in in the period covered). Gwalia housed Colin Batley and his paedophile gang; an appalling episode that reminds us of a darker side to social housing that the touchy-feely, politically correct, social conscience burdened hypocrites running our housing associations would rather not discuss; namely, providing accommodation for known criminals and undesirables from over the border, inflicting them on Welsh communities. Where does this leave the sanctimonious piffle about ‘being committed to serving our communities’? Yet more bollocks from housing associations.

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The social housing sector is an unsustainable drain on the Welsh public purse. It soaks up vast amounts of money, providing more dwellings than are needed in many (usually rural) areas and often not enough in other (usually urban) areas. It is made up of semi-secret organisations that are – despite the public funding – private companies in all but name. Too often contracts are given to firms from outside the area of the contract or even from outside Wales, which results a) in a loss of income and jobs to local economies, b) projects taking longer than needed to complete, due to workers having to travel long distances, c) lives put at risk as workers pile into vans for the mad rush home around the time children are leaving school. And all this being done while operating an allocations system that prioritises those who have never set foot in Wales over native-born Welsh. A monster encouraged for 15 years by a political party that is ideologically and emotionally hostile to commercial enterprise and initiative, instead funding its cronies to run housing associations and other third sector chimerae in the hope that the faffings of these charlatans might be mistaken for an economy at work. The truth is, a well-regulated private sector could meet most of Wales’ indigenous social housing Wales needs at a fraction of the cost of housing associations. Housing associations are a drain on the Welsh economy for no discernible return – get rid of them!

The Double Whammy

At the risk of repeating myself . . . There is an issue I touched on in an earlier post that has been nagging at me to the point where I think it needs another post to elaborate and explore it better.

In my attempts to explain the machinations of the Planning Inspectorate I have often used the example of Denbighshire. Partly because I like (inland) Denbighshire and partly because it serves the purpose well. In particular, I drew attention to the anomaly of Denbighshire being told – by the Planning Inspectorate – to build 8,500 new housing units (some of which have already been built) between 2006 and 2021 despite the population being projected to increase by only a further 2,927 between 2014 and 2021.

In an earlier post, Bodelwyddan and the Bigger Picture, I drew attention to a Planning Inspectorate report of 2013 into Denbighshire’s Local Development Plan, and the report’s rejection of the county council’s very reasonable attempts to get the new housing figure reduced in line with the revised population projections. What the inspectors said can be found in part 4.8 of their report, reproduced in the panel.4.8 What I neglected to explain fully in the earlier post was what is meant by “the LDP’s objectives and aspirations”, which expose the absurdities behind forcing a Welsh local authority to plan for some four or five times the number of new housing units it actually needs. So what are the “objectives and aspirations” of the LDP?

In essence, the LDP argues that because Denbighshire has an ageing population it must remedy this by bringing in to the county a younger population. The Planning Inspectorate is therefore saying, ‘Because you attract so many elderly English people to Denbighshire you must improve the county’s age profile by attracting a younger English population’. This is the insane ‘aspiration’ of the LDP, this is the double whammy I refer to in the title.

Yet at the 2011 Census the percentage of the county’s population in the 65+ age bracket was just 21% (the figure for Wales is 18.4%). But only 42.7% of Denbighshire’s 65+ population was born in Wales. While the figure for the 0 – 49 age group was 67.8%, and well over 70% away from the coastal towns. So the 65+ figure for Denbighshire isn’t really high enough to justify the numbers of new dwellings being demanded by the Planning Inspectorate. Strengthening the suspicion that the county is being forced into allowing thousands of new dwellings, close to the A55, for commuters from Merseyside, Manchester and Cheshire. Nothing at all to do with correcting a generational imbalance, that is merely a pretext.

Using the Denbighshire argument the Planning Inspectorate could demand excessive numbers of new housing in any area with an above average percentage of the population in the 65+ age bracket. Which would mean Gwynedd SW Wards mergedjust about any rural area. This is clever, and naughty, considering that it was the Planning Inspectorate that very often insisted on the flats and retirement bungalows that attracted the retirees and the elderly in the first place. Making the Planning Inspectorate’s solution a bit like ‘treating’ a hangover by getting drunk again and repeating the process endlessly. (Something I read about, somewhere.) There has to be a better way – the planning equivalent of not getting drunk in the first place.

In the area where I live the 65+ age group accounts for 30.1% of the total population, and of that group just 31.6% was born in Wales. (Click to enlarge panel.) By the Inspectorate’s own reasoning, this is not healthy, and something should be done to remedy the problem. But a younger element cannot be attracted to the area a) because there is little or no work and b) southern Gwynedd – unlike Denbighshire – is too far away for English commuters. So either we remedy the generational imbalance by bringing in a non-working younger population or we curb the numbers of retirees and elderly moving in. The answer is becoming obvious, especially when isolated.

The whole Western world admits to the accelerating problem of a falling birthrate / ageing population and wonders how to cope. Yet here, on the periphery of Europe, one of the continent’s poorest countries is actually encouraging elderly people to move in! This will result in the death of the Welsh language and the loss of Welsh identity, it will push the NHS and other services beyond breaking point while, economically, this house of cards cannot endure, because the idea that it’s possible to have a healthy, functioning society when the bulk of the adult population is economically inactive is simply delusional. While to misrepresent this phenomenon as proof of ‘Caring Wales’, or to make a virtue of it by arguing that it shows how ‘attractive’ Wales is to outsiders, is no better than telling a rape victim she should be flattered that someone found her so irresistable.

Curbing the numbers of retired and elderly people moving to Wales must henceforth be a priority for the ‘Welsh Government, because if this is not done then the costs will rise, and eventually engulf us. Now, obviously, the ‘Welsh’ Government, even if it was so minded, could not pass legislation stating this as an objective, but it could certainly introduce legislation to ensure that the flats and retirement bunglaows aimed specifically at buyers of a certain age, living outside of Wales, are no longer built in the numbers, and the concentrations, of the recent past.

Curbing this unsustainable influx would also ensure that the Planning Inspectorate could not engage in the black arts of planning as it has in Denbighshire – using one form of colonisation to demand another.

Lies, Damned Lies, and English Civil Servants

To recap . . . I believe I have established in recent posts that the ‘new households’ projections used by the Planning Inspectorate to force through the recent Local Development Plans are flawed. Deeply flawed. So obviously flawed that they were almost certainly contrived to serve a darker purpose than the provision of new housing. So let us consider the origin of the figures used and, more importantly, who produced them.

First let us go to StatsWales, a very useful and well-ordered website providing – as the name suggests – statistics about Wales. You will recall that in my two most recent posts I drew attention to the mismatch between the population projections and the projected increase in the number of households. In a nutshell, the ‘households’ figure argued for new homes greatly in excess of what would be required by the number postulated by the anticipated population increase.

So let us first consider the population projections. These can be found here, with the most recent, 2012 – 2037, predictng an increase of 247,000. If we scroll down to the ‘Metadata’, then click on ‘Author’, we see that these figures were produced by the Office for National Statistics (and can be found on the ONS website). However, when we consult the household projections and select the 2008-based projections (the latest available) these predict 323,009 new households 2008 – 2033. When we scroll down as we did with population projections we read, ‘Knowledge and Analytical Services, Welsh Government’. Is this what Carl Sargeant alluded to in his November letter (see previous post) when he said, that the methodology used to work out the households projection was ” . . . based on a Welsh specific methodology which is separate to the methodology used in England”.

(There may even be a higher figure than 323,009. You will note that in the Sargeant letter it says this figure is “slightly lower” than the figure ‘his’ civil servants were originally working with. I believe the ‘lost’ figure is 331,168. This can be found in the 2008-based households projections by totalling the figures for eachAnalytical Services local authority. Though why this doesn’t tally with the national projection of 323,009 is a mystery. Maybe when you’re being ‘imaginative’ with figures such anomalies are unavoidable)

As you might guess, I just had to find out more about the Knowledge and Analytical Services. In my enquiries I found this on the ‘Welsh’ Government website. (Click panel, right, to enlarge.) Let’s go through it carefully, for it would be easy to mis-read this little announcement.

Note first, that, in the heading, it mentions the ‘Minister for Local Government and Communities’, and later on we read, “the Department for Communities and Local Government”. The same thing, surely? No. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is in London, whereas the Minister for Local Government and Communities referred to is Carl Sargeant, down Cardiff docks. Why have a ‘Welsh’ Government department with a name so easily confused with a separate(?) department in London?

Anyway, the notice says that Carl Sargeant was ‘asked’ “to approve a list of priority analytical activities, and associated research spend, for the KAS team over the remainder of 2012-13”. Analytical activities presumably decided by, and funded by, the minister in London. In other words, a Labour Party minister in Cardiff is ordered to agree to a directive from a Tory minister in London to allow English civil servants to determine what happens in Wales. This is Carl Sargeant’s “Welsh specific methodology”! But wait! have we Carl Sargeantnot encountered this UK ministry before? Yes, indeedy! For the Planning Inspectorate itself is but an executive agency of the very same Department for Communities and Local Government.

Let us start connecting the dots. The Office for National Statistics produces population projections. However, skulking behind the original and respected imprimatur of the ONS the KAS unit then extrapolates wildly exaggerated ‘households’ projections, which are in turn taken up by the Planning Inspectorate to force through Local Development Plans that demand new housing in numbers that cannot be justified by any conceivable future local need.

To be more precise, the KAS unit and the Planning Inspectorate argue that for the ONS’ projected population increase of less than 250,000 over the next 25 years Wales will need some 330,000 new homes! (See recent posts.) Also worth noting is that KAS ‘households’ projections were produced in 2003, 2006 and 2008, so why nothing since then, especially as the ONS population projections – on which the KAS claims to base its own projections – were revised in 2010 and 2012? The answer is obvious – the 2008 ‘projections’ were concocted specifically for the Local Development Plans, to ‘justify’ some 200,000 new homes that we Welsh will not need. Making it obvious who these new homes are being built for.

Wales being controlled by unelected and anonymous English civil servants, taking their orders from London, shows up, yet again, the sham of ‘devolution’; and exposes the self-regarding buffoons of the ‘Welsh’ Government as nothing more than errand boys and mouthpieces. Worse, the refusal of these puppets to challenge the ethnocidal policies being implemented – in their name – makes them complicit in these crimes. Confirming, yet again, that the Labour Party remains the greatest enemy of Welsh nationhood.

Richard Poppleton, ‘Organ Grinder’

This post is a kind of New Year’s Resolution. Specifically, a promise to waste less time in 2014 on the ‘monkeys’ down Cardiff docks and to pay more attention to the ‘organ grinders’. For it is becoming increasingly clear that simia politicus cambrensis is encouraged to chatter and dance in order that he – and, indeed, she – may draw attention away from those who really exercise power in Wales.

It is surely unfair that those burdened with such responsibilities, those shaping the future of our country, should languish, unacclaimed, in the shadows. Seeing as Richard of Poppleton is a prominent ‘organ grinder’ it is wholly fitting therefore that he should enjoy a little of the spotlight; not least so that we might appreciate better the interesting work he does.

                                                     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Richard Poppleton is, according to the gov.uk website, “the Director of Wales at the Planning Inspectorate”. Though in this press release of February 2012, announcing his appointment, he is described as “Director for Wales” . . . while later in the same press release, it’s back to “Director of Wales”! So which is it?

Richard PoppletonThe first thing to understand is that there is a single Planning Inspectorate for Englandandwales, and it is an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. An executive agency is a “machinery of government” device that lacks the freedom from ministerial control (UK government ministerial control) enjoyed by both non-ministerial government departments and non-departmental public bodies (quangoes). In other words, it’s an arm of a UK government department trying to pretend it’s something else. That the UK government should promote this deception is perfectly understandable. What is perhaps less easy to understand is why those wretches down Cardiff docks should so willingly participate.

The clues are everywhere. For example, I have referred to the press release of February 2012, announcing Poppleton’s promotion; let’s look at it a little more closely. First, the heading. The Planning Inspectorate and its bosses obviously understand that a bit of meaningless bilingualism can fool a lot of people into believing something is ‘Welsh’. Then, in the very first paragraph, we read, “Richard Poppleton has been appointed Director for Wales in the Planning Inspectorate”. Making it absolutely clear who he works for, and who he answers to.

Moving on to the third paragraph. I couldn’t help but notice the phrase ” . . . our plans and strategies for Wales . . . “, though the sentence ends with, ” . . . serve the particular needs of the Welsh Government.” Which might appear contradictory unless, as I suspect, it is the Planning Inspectorate that decides the ‘needs’ of the ‘Welsh’ Government.

Why is any of this important? Because, the Planning Inspectorate is the agency forcing on our local councils the insane Local Development Plans I dealt with recently in this post. Plans premissed on the projection that Wales will see 323,009 new households between 2008 and 2033. Another way of putting it would be that this projection has the poKey Resultspulation of Wales increasing by some 22% by 2033. Yet elsewhere, in figures produced by Statistics for Wales, the population is predicted to increase by only 8% by 2037! An increase of somewhat less than 300,000.

They can’t both be right. Check the figures for yourself, see what a nonsense the one makes of the other. And here’s another odd thing . . . In a letter dated November 12, 2013 – the very same month of the StatsWales figures! – Carl Sargeant, Minister for Housing and Regeneration said, defending the 323,009 households projection, that the figure is ” . . . based on a Welsh specific methodology which is separate to the methodology used in England”. Which can only mean that not only do we have Statistics for Wales but we must have other agencies doing the same work, and coming up with totally different figures! How many such bodies are there? How much are we paying for this confusing duplication?

The truth is of course that the absurdly inflated figure Sargeant tries to defend is the work of the Planning Inspectorate. It is nothing more than a subterfuge to build new housing in the knowledge that the properties built, especially in more rural areas, will find English buyers. Exposing these ‘projections’ for what they are – a blatant strategy of colonisation. Which is why I suggest that anyone wishing to challenge these plans should not waste their time on the ‘monkeys’; insist on dealing with the ‘organ grinders’. In this case, the ‘organ grinder’ is Richard Poppleton.

Let me repeat what I said in an earlier post. The ‘Welsh’ Government is little more than a national version of Carmarthenshire county council, where the unelected dictate to the elected. This fact probably goes a long way to explaining why the ‘Welsh’ Government refuses to intervene in Carmarthenshire. The main difference being that the unelected in Sir Gar have a higher public profile than those running Wales! We must remedy this situation!

IN THE NEXT ISSUE! How the Housing Directorate plans to give housing associations a near-monopoly in the rented accommodation sector! How the Housing (Wales) Bill keeps mentioning ‘England’, and how being local counts for nothing! How the Planning Inspectorate recently made an almost unreported decision with massive implications regarding year-round occupation of holiday caravans! And more!!

The Bevan Foundation 2

As I mentioned in my earlier post on this topic (here) I submitted a Freedom of Information request to the ‘Welsh’ Government asking if it had given any money to The Bevan Foundation, and if so, how much, plus subsidiary questions. My e-mail request was submitted on November 5th and I received the reply on the 27th. The request and the response can be read below.

Between 2001 (the year the Foundation was formed) and 2008 the ‘Welsh’ Government handed over £20,270.50, and a further £51,251.00 from 2008 up to the present day (or whenever these figures were compiled). Making a grand total of  £71,520.50. The attachments I received were in Excel format but they may be read as PNG files on the right, click to enlarge.

You will note that the response tells me that not all the information I requested can be supplied because to collect and collate it would exceed the £600 limit set by the UK Government for processing Freedom of Information requests. If I have read this section correctly, then the information I have not been given is, 1/ who made the decisiBevan Foundation 2001 - 2008ons to allocate specific funding or work to The Bevan Foundation, and, 2/ if this was contracted work rather than grant funding, then did it follow a fair and open tendering process. Important points, I would have thought, given that we are dealing with an organisation in The Bevan Foundation inextricably linked with the Labour Party and its associated bodies.

Despite the sparsity of the information, I still believe we can draw certain conclusions. In the figures for 2001 – 2008, and in the column headed ‘System Reference’, I see ‘Fees’ cropping up regularly (though not for the larger amounts). So does this suggest work contracted to The Bevan Foundation rather than grants? By the time we come to the 2008 – Present table (using the new accounting method mentioned in the Bevan Foundation 2008 - Presentreply) we see in the ‘Payment Type’ column ‘Invoice’ against most entries. I take this to mean invoices from The Bevan Foundation to the ‘Welsh’ Government for work done on behalf of that body. So what kind of work was this?

The first one mentioned, in the ‘Division’ (of the ‘Welsh’ Government?) column, is ‘Fairer Futures’. But what does it mean? I assume it is in some way connected with the Fairer Futures Division of the ‘Welsh’ Government. (I bet you didn’t even know there was one!) Further down we see that close on thirty grand has been allocated to ‘Democracy Ethics & Partnerships’, for which I can find no information at all. Nor did the ‘Division Code’ X211 turn up anything on the ‘Welsh’ Government website. Also in the ‘Division’ column we can see, ‘Homes and Places, ‘Housing Policy’, ‘Employability & Skills Division’, ‘Chief Economist’, ‘Constutional Affairs & Inter-Government’, ‘Cabinet Division’, ‘Communities Directorate’ and ‘Strategic Budgeting Division’. So what does it all tell us? In case anyone is still in doubt . . .

In 2001 Labour politicians and activists set up a think tank to produce ‘reports’ favourable to the Labour Party. The ‘Welsh’ Government gives work to said think tank, thereby providing State-funded employment for Labour activists to produce Labour propaganda. In return for our generosity we get Reports and Surveys telling us that people without money are poor; that the world would be a better place if we were all nicer to each other; that people with somewhere to live aren’t homeless. Platitudinous bollocks we could get for nothing from an idiot savant like Forrest Gump.

Consequently, I think this is seventy-one thousand pounds wasted. Because it is used for no better purpose than to produce vacuous observations and naive wish-lists. Though this money from the ‘Welsh’ Government is not the only route by which Labour Party largesse reaches The Bevan Foundation. Because the Foundation also does ‘work’ for the Wales TUC and the Wales Co-operative Development Centre. And let us not forget the generosity of cash-strapped Blaenau Gwent council in helping the Foundation pay for a Research Officer . . . to produce yet more vacuous observations and naive wish-lists.

This is just an update to my earlier post; but if anyone reading it can see anything I’ve missed, or can ‘translate’ some of the codes used in relation to the ‘Welsh’ Government spending, then please get in touch.

Fleece Jacket Fascists

This year saw a heated debate that most Welsh people would have been unaware was even taking place; not surprising seeing as it was about Marine Conservation Zones in the north west. Eventually, the protests of commercial fishermen and others saw the ‘Welsh’ Government do a U-turn. These Zones had been proposed with the support of the Countryside Council for Wales, now subsumed into Natural Resources Wales, and the Marine Conservation Society. The first of those bodies is run by the ‘Welsh’ Government, while the other seems to be yet another in the unending list of Englandandwales outfits. (Remember all that talk of devolution? Do you think it will ever happen?)

At the other end of the country we have seen a remarkably similar story, with very similar groups (one, the same) opposing the plan for a motor racing circuit in Ebbw Vale: first it was The Gwent Wildlife Trust, then the Open Spaces Society got in on the act before, finally, our old friends, Natural Resources Wales piped up. I made my position on the Ebbw Vale project clear in this recent post, and I shall repeat it here. If this project can deliver real jobs to the Heads of the Valleys for Welsh people, then we must support it, and ignore the objections. But earlier this week we were told that the ‘Welsh’ Government had put the project ‘on hold’. Seeing as the Assembly is in recess this decision was almost certainly taken by civil servants. Given the background of so many top civil servants in Wales we should not be surprised to see them support protests from what are, essentially, middle class English groups. Their people.

What I now realise from these and other sources is that we have a burgeoning sector of ‘Welsh’ life that is usually alien in its composition, and often hostile to Welsh interests in its policies and attitudes. The fleece jacketmembers of this sector, found all over Wales, can be recognised by their distinctive ‘uniform’ of the fleece jacket. They can be found patrolling our National Parks and nature reserves; we may know them as ‘rangers’ or ‘guides’; they may be working for the National Trust, the RSPB, Woodland Trust, countless wildlife and archaeological trusts, etc., etc. Unless the Welsh language comes into play – as with the Snowdonia National Park – then the practice in the fleece jacket industry is to not employ locals.

How do they get away with it? Simple. In today’s carefully nurtured political and social climate, in which wicked humanity is destroying the planet, a serial killer would be forgiven if he was ‘protecting dolphins’, and Hitler himself could come back and be rehabilitated if he was saving the habitat of some rare and exquisite orchid. More practically, the fleeces always have friends in high places. One was Jane Davidson, Minister for Environment and Sustainability from 2007 to 2011. Among the policies Davidson wanted to introduce was that of opening all Welsh rivers, lakes and waterways to her canoeist friends. It is of course entirely coincidental that Jane Davidson is English, and went to a private school; as is the fact that upon leaving politics she became Director of the Wales Institute of Sustainability and a spokesperson for the Ramblers Association.

Let me end by addressing something some of you may be thinking – that I’ve gone OTT with my description of these people and, consequently, the title of this post. Well, in my defence I would ask you to ponder this. We now have in Wales an army of fleece-jacketed, dictatorial outsiders who view ‘Wales’ through the prism of the group they represent – the English middle class visitor or settler. Too many of this group regard Welsh people as a blot on ‘their’ landscape, marring ‘their’ idyll. They’re in Wales, uninvited, telling us what we can and cannot do. Much of what they do (and wish to do) is inimical to our best interests, yet they do not have a single democratic vote to justify the power they possess and the influence they exert. So what would you call them?

And I haven’t even mentioned the funding. For very often the ‘Welsh’ Government – i.e. you and me – is funding these people to work against Welsh interests so that Wales can be saved for them and their friends. What a bloody system!