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!

Vroom, Vroom – The Next Gravy Train?

I don’t know how many of you are aware of this, but there’s a new £250m racetrack planned for Ebbw Vale, to be known as the Circuit of Wales. Promising to bring high tech, top-wage jobs; tens of thousands of high-spending visitors; and much more besides. All this promised by a company – the Heads of the Valleys Development Company – set up specifically and solely to deliver this project. I was unable to find a website in Ebbw Valethe name of HVDC so I assume this serves as the company’s website. So who’s behind the company?

Well, one of the founding directors is named as Peter Thomas. Is this ‘Peter the Pies’, the man behind that great Welsh success story, Cardiff Blues? Or is it Swansea’s Peter Thomas, who is obviously big in tyres? Either way or neither way, according to Company Check, Peter Thomas joined (set up?) the company on June 30th, 2011. Presumably with a Mr M. A. Carrick, who is listed as joining the Board on the same day. Though according to Company Check Peter Thomas left the Board roughly a year later, on July 13th, 2012.# Which appears to have left the company with just one director! Whatever, August 13th, 2012, saw four new Board Members appointed: Mr S. J. Kealey, Mr T. N. Murnane, Ms A. L. Lloyd-Carrick and Mr A. P. Woodbury. Can we assume that Ms Lloyd-Carrick is somehow related?

Oh, yes . . . perhaps I should have mentioned earlier that this exciting new Welsh venture has its global headquarters at The Coach House, 79 Mill Way, Grantchester, Cambridge CB3 9ND. (Yes, that is the Grantchester of Rupert Brooke fame: ‘Corner of a foreign field’ and all that.)

Let us return to the man who appears to have been the co-founder of the Heads of the Valleys Development Company / Circuit of Wales, M. A. Carrick. Not so long ago he was working for Merrill Lynch, which many people believe is more responsible for the current financial crisis than perhaps any other single company. In fact, he’s described as nothing less than ML’s “Managing Director and Global Head of infrastructure”. Carrick now plies his trade – whatever it might be – with Duet Asset Management, which, reassuringly, appears to specialise in hedge funds. But he also seems to run Aventa Capital Partners Ltd., which looks like another new company set up to promote, or capitalise on, the Ebbw Vale project. Listed with Carrick on the ‘Investment Committee’ of Aventa are Charles Grime and David Bates.

Another name I have unearthed in connection with this venture is Chris Herring, formerly of Honda Racing. Though he is not mentioned in the Company Check extract referred to above. Of those who are mentioned as joining the company in August 2012, information is sparse. Without, I admit, digging too deeply, I drew a complete blank with S. J. Kealey, T. N. Murnane and Ms A. L. Lloyd-Carrick. The search for A. P. Woodbury produced only this which might, or might not, be him.Neil and Glenys

One more name is worthy of mention in connection with this project . . . wait for it! – Neil Kinnock!!! Who is billed as the “Ambassador”. I don’t wish to appear cynical, or unkind (you know me!) – but any project needing Kinnochio to lend it “considerable credibility” is surely dead in the water. Though give him his due, he can still recognise a gravy train approaching, even one running on very expensive tyres.

Someone else plugging the project, sort of, was that famous Danish rugby international, Sebastian Barrett, writing for Click on Wales. Though he seemed to quickly lose interest in highly-tuned engines and soon started plugging the Cardiff city state and the planned Cardiff Metro system. So irrelevant had the Ebbw Vale project become to him that at one point he referred to the Circuit of Wales as the “Circle of Wales”! (What’s happened to the Institute of Welsh Affairs, it’s become just another mouthpiece for Cardiff?)

The reason I started writing this piece is that there is mounting opposition to the project from a particularly obnoxious sub-species of colon. You know who I mean, they’re always on the ‘Welsh’ News, fleece jackets and English accents; ‘Oh, you can’t do that!’ ‘Oh no, we oppose this’. All of them working for bodies funded by taxpayers, charity collections, old ladies’ legacies, EU or other funding. Dictatorial bastards who want to keep Wales unspoilt by jobs or prosperity, preserved in aspic for the English middle classes to which most of them belong. First, in November, it was the Gwent Wildlife Trust. Then in March the Open Spaces Society chipped in. Last week it was Natural Resources Wales. It begins to look co-ordinated on the part of those who ‘love’ Wales but don’t give a toss about the Welsh.

Weighing it all up, my position is as follows. If this project can deliver what it promises, primarily investment and well-paid jobs for local people, then I support it. But I have grave reservations as to whether it will deliver. Mainly because I have little faith in those behind it. I smell another Valleywood. So strong is the aroma that I would have expected ourCarrick wonderful Welsh Government to be asking many more questions about those behind a £250m project that will soon be asking for a hell of a lot of public funding. (Or does Kinnock’s involvement mean that this scheme gets nodded through?) I might also be worried by what appears to be the total lack of Welsh involvement. When does ‘outside investment’ become exploitation, colonialism? As for those objecting on what they allege to be environmental grounds . . . I’m sure you think you mean well, but shut up!

#Though on this page (shown right) of the Circuit of Wales website, in an undated piece, Peter Thomas is still listed as a director. He is also listed as CEO of Insight in Infrastructure, another new company (set up in September 2011) and also based in Cambridge. Though this company appears dormant, if not dead. Yet these are the people running a £250m racetrack project, with only one among them who appears to have any experience of motor sport, and no obvious assets. Doesn’t that fill you with confidence?

Genesis and Demise

Genesis logoAround the middle of 2010 the Welsh Management launched its Genesis Cymru Wales 2 programme. Yet another ‘back to work’ scheme, this one aimed at female single parents, NEETS and others; the programme partly funded by the European Social Fund and administered by local authorities. Here’s a link to the scheme in Pembrokeshire. Reading the blurb brings on an attack of deja vu because I’ve read it so many times before: the usual mix of pious hopes, unattainable objectives and Third Sector jargon designed solely to justify wasting spending EU funding.Genesis Cymru 2

Genesis never delivered what it promised and so it was no surprise when, in January, it was announced that the scheme was closing early after failing to meet its targets. This brought on a Freedom of Information request  in which I asked:

  • How many groups, bodies, schemes etc in Wales are being funded by the Welsh Government or other bodies to ‘help people back into employment’?
  • How many people are employed by these organisations?
  • How many of these running and employed by ‘back to work’ agencies are Labour Party members?

The reply may be found below (click to enlarge). In the 2007 – 2013 Programme the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) funded no less than 30 schemes across Wales. Genesis was targeting: “females”, “lone parents (male and female)”, “individuals who find it difficult to find or access work due to health problems”, “16 – 18 olds who are Genesis Wales p1not studying, training or working”, “individuals over the age of 50”, and “black and ethnic minority groups”. Fairly comprehensive – so who were the other 29 schemes targeting? And why do we pay taxes for Jobcentres and other government agencies to do the same work?

In fairness, I didn’t expect an answer to question 3 (though I bet it could quite easily be calculated). But the answer to question 2 is rather worrying. We are dealing here with large amounts of EU funding administered by the Welsh Management. This money has to be accounted for. The EU will want to know how it was spent; this I know from having dealt with WEFO myself. Yet I’m being told that, ” . . . the Welsh Government does not hold information on how many people are employed by these organisations . . . If this cavalier approach to using someone else’s money is typical of how things are done then it explains a lot.

First, it helps us understand the chronic duplication in these ‘back to work’ schemes, and explains their abject failure to deliver. Next, distributing funding after the manner of an inebriated seafarer is why Wales is so attractive to charlatan brothers and sisters from over the border. Then, after reading this, doesn’t it become easier to explain Awema and other rip-offs? Finally, what the Genesis episode shows us yet again is how EU funding has been squandered on Labour’s cronies and Leftist or New Age ‘schemes’ that have done nothing to improve the condition of of our people.

Footnote: Consider also this scheme, targeting exactly the same groups as Genesis. Is it a successor to Genesis, or was it running simultaneously? And is this the same group in an earlier incarnation? If so, how did a bunch of holistic ‘healers’, helping victims of sexual abuse, graduate to the big time and the ‘back to work’ racket?

Tourism: In Wales, Not Of Wales

The Welsh Government has just received ‘2020’, a new report on the future of tourism compiled by the Tourism Sector Panel. I’ve been taking an interest in tourism for quite a few years and I’ve read a lot of such reports; this one, I’m afraid, was just another off the same production line. Summed up by what is grandly called “A new vision and ambition” Which says . . .

Like I say, I’ve read a lot of such documents over the years and this one is just another mish-mash of platitudinous bollocks and pious hopes. What does the ‘vision’ say? In essence: ‘In the next decade tourism in Wales will carry on much as it has for the past century. It will serve England’s needs and to hell with the lack of economic benefits accruing to the Welsh and the social and cultural damage incurred.’

For that’s always been the bottom line of ‘Welsh’ tourism – it was always English tourism taking place in a scenically more attractive, adjoining country that happened to be called ‘Wales’. Because it takes place in our country we Welsh are then expected to be proud of the fact that so many people – the vast majority of them English – want to come here. With the added joy that many more wish to move here permanently, for tourism is the main driving force  behind English colonisation.

I won’t deny that in the early days of tourism, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Welsh people did benefit, but those days are long gone. What we have now is tourism run by strangers for strangers. You know how bad things are when there are English mountain guides in Wales! (Can you imagine going climbing in the Alps and learning that your guide is Jeremy from Reading! Sorry, I’d want somebody who’d been born and bred there; could read the weather . . . and the names of the streams and other features.)

Perhaps worse, our treacherous and incompetent politicos, devoid of ideas and energy, take advantage of tourism and present it as an ‘industry’, the ‘economic salvation’ of rural Wales, no less. These politicos pretend they put a lot of work and money into making tourism what it is today. Rubbish! Tourism in Wales would carry on even if the Welsh Government ignored it. Day-trippers would still infest the resorts of the north coast. Brummies would still flock to their mobile homes along Cardigan Bay. Walkers and climbers would still come here because we have the scenery and the topography. Nothing would change because we have no real control over it. It is, I repeat, English tourism that just happens to take place in Wales.

It needn’t be this way. It’s done differently in Scotland. If the political will was there we too could have a tourism industry that served us, without the destruction of our identity and despoliation of our homeland.

Before making direct comparisons, let’s familiarise ourselves with the figures for Scotland in 2010. For a start we see that Scotland earns only slightly less from English visitors than from Scots holidaying at home, £1,471m against £1,002m. In 2010 the ‘domestic markets’ provided 84% of Scotland’s tourists but only 65% of her income. A fuller breakdown of Scotland’s  markets and spends can be found below. Curiously, Wales is half way up the table in numbers of visitors, but nowhere to be seen in the ‘spend per head’ column. (Surely there can’t be that many Cardis going to Scotland on holiday!)

Where Scotland scores heavily, and what shows up the real difference between the two countries’ (see table below), is in income from overseas visitors. Wales’ figure of 879,000 overseas tourists is dwarfed by Scotland’s total of 2,341,000, almost three times what Wales sees. Translated into hard cash, Scotland earned, in 2010, £1,444m against Wales’ £328m a year later. With the spend per head figure for overseas tourists in Scotland £616 to Wales’ £373. Not good, is it? And remember, most businesses in Scotland catering for tourists are owned and staffed by Scots. Another unfavourable comparison.

From whichever angle one looks at it, it soon becomes clear that Wales is simply being used by England to provide cheap holidays and breaks. The slogan might as well be: ‘Come to Wales, you won’t be expected to spend much’. Because this is so we have to encourage more and more low spending English tourists just to stand still . . . with all the attendant cultural and social damage already referred to plus the sheer numbers at certain times of the year slowing traffic and in other ways damaging the wider economy; bringing added expense to local authorities and similar agencies; plus adding strain to already stretched  health services.

Let us be honest. If Wales was starting out today to develop a tourism industry to benefit Wales and Welsh people it would be a lot different to what we are now suffering. You don’t need to be an economist, or even a nationalist, to realise that Wales should be targeting overseas tourists for all sorts of reasons. Here are just a few:

  • Overseas tourists spend more money per head than ‘domestic’ tourists; over twice as much in Wales and nearly three times as much in Scotland.
  • Overseas tourists are more likely to want serviced accommodation (hotels, etc.) or quality self-catering, thereby creating jobs.
  • Overseas tourists are less likely to want to buy a holiday home, or to settle here, so they will not inflate property prices and place excessive demand on our housing stocks.

Of course the defeatist argument will run, ‘Ah yes, but Scotland can attract more overseas tourists because she has a higher international profile than Wales . . . whisky, golf, kilts, Braveheart . . . ’. Agreed. And mightn’t one way of remedying foreigners’ ignorance of Wales be to attract them here first as tourists? If Bangor University can attract so many students from China in such a short time why can’t Gwynedd attract their parents as tourists?  Why don’t we at least try?

The new publication is yet another afraid or unable to think outside the box or challenge the orthodoxies that prevailed when Rhyl was still a vibrant tourist resort and Coney Beach was filled with miners. An ugly combination of anglophilia and economic illiteracy – ‘More tourists good; fewer tourists bad’. (Even when it could be fewer tourists spending more money!) The Tourism Sector Panel does not dare articulate it, but nevertheless believes that Wales’ only real function is to serve as a destination for low-spending English tourists. All the while refusing to even consider that there might be downsides to tourism in Wales.

Low-spending tourists result in second-rate facilities, low wages, and a race to the bottom. For a country becoming poorer year on year this ‘strategy’ is not only unhelpful, it exemplifies perfectly the lack of ambition to be found in those who rule us and those who advise them. Left to the likes of these, in ten or twenty years time Wales will be receiving food parcels and old clothing from Albania and Bulgaria. But don’t worry, for Wales will by then be an even cheaper destination for English tourists.

Swansea Council, etc., etc., Part the Fourth

Following on from the previous post I have now written to the Welsh Government asking that the Mynydd y Gwair project be ‘called in’ due to the many irregularities attaching to the February 7th vote and other, linked issues.

For if the Council’s legal officers strongly advised Councillor Ioan Richard (of the affected ward) to absent himself from the debate then there were a number on the other side as obviously predetermined to vote in favour as Councillor Richard was to vote against, so were they given the same advice? And if so, why were they allowed to ignore that advice? All explained in the letter here. A further copy, with a covering letter, has been sent to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

Looking at the wider picture, the Mynydd y Gwair case, and what I’ve learnt about the state of the Swansea Labour Party in the past couple of weeks, it fits in with a wider picture of the Labour Party in Wales. It is a party increasingly reliant upon a regular influx of non-Welsh candidates in order to keep up the appearance of strength. What’s interesting, is how it achieves and maintains that influx.

I began this series of posts with a fit of nostalgia by recalling the Labour Party I knew back in Swansea when I was growing up there in the 1950s and 1960s. Few of our local councillors and activists impressed me in a positive way, but at least I knew them. I knew who they were. Or if I didn’t, then the chances were that my father knew them, or worked with one of the Brother’s brothers. Most Labour councillors of that era started their political careers in the trade unions, blue collar trade unions catering for the working classes.

Despite their many shortcomings no one could argue that our local councillors did not know their patch, and did not want the best for Swansea. Looking back to those days, the Labour Party I knew back then was, through the trade unions and other activities, part and parcel of the lives and experiences of those who supported the party. Not so today.

THE ‘PAINTED SHELL’ PARTY

I have chosen this metaphor because the more I think of today’s Labour Party the more I see an empty but cleverly decorated shell where once there had been something less attractively adorned but with more content. A party today still able to rely on the ‘donkey’ vote, but with the problem that ‘donkey’ voters rarely join the party, let alone become candidates. Thus leaving Labour dependent on other avenues for many of its representatives.

One route for that supply, obvious when we consider Swansea, is higher education. With two universities and a few other colleges the higher education sector is a valuable source of council candidates for Labour in Swansea. This applies elsewhere in Wales and may go some way to explaining why the ‘Welsh’ Government is so keen on giving Wales a higher education sector grotesquely and damagingly in excess of what a small country needs.

Then, when we look at another route, the Third Sector, and strip away all the political correctness and touchy-feely nonsense, what we see is naked politics. An overlarge Third Sector such as we suffer in Wales attracts a steady inflow of individuals to take advantage of sinecures, jobs and funding handed out by the party they belong to or support.

Making the Third Sector a system of political patronage, plain and simple. Nothing more than a party in power with money to disburse rewarding its friends and supporters. This kind of mild corruption is found all over the world, but it’s rare to find it practised so blatantly in Protestant Europe. In return for this largesse the Labour Party has a ready supply of candidates.

Which means that since the first round of EU Objective One funding in 2000 the Welsh economy and the welfare of our people have taken a back seat to the Labour Party’s ‘patronage-results-in-candidates’ system. That’s bad enough, but understandable in a selfish kind of way. What’s unforgivable is that both the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru have supported this corruption . . . and being the unprincipled chancers or deluded ‘socialists’ they are, would do so again, tomorrow, given the opportunity.

Something else that struck me as I trawled through the available information on Swansea’s new intake of Labour councillors was how many of them belonged to trade unions. Or rather, a single trade union, Unite. And how many are members of the Co-operative party. Which provides another stark contrast with the days of my youth.

For I recall horny-handed sons of toil (unless of course they were shop stewards) who belonged to the TGWU or the NUR, and who drank in the Dockers Club. But today’s skinny latte Labour Party, to maintain the pretence of a link with the hoi-polloi, has union representation from a white collar union that has as members people who’ve never done what most people would regard as work! Somehow I can’t see their names being stitched onto the union banner by candlelight prior to the dawn assault on the bastions of capitalist oppression.

This final observation (no, not the candlelight stitching) brings me to the ugly reality of professional politicians; which is where academe, Third Sector and white collar unions inexorably takes us. To the realisation that we now have a class of people – especially within the Labour Party – who got involved in student politics then, on leaving university became an ‘adviser’ to an MP or AM, or worked for a trade union or a grant-guzzling Third Sector body and, then, without venturing into the ‘real world’ inhabited by un-networked mortals like thee and me, go on to ‘represent’ us in our local authority, or else in Cardiff, London or Brussels.

Throw in the loose canon or crank who nevertheless knows how to play the selection process and you can understand how the Labour Party on Swansea City Council is what it is today: a repulsive collection of carpetbaggers, trendies, oddballs and single-issue obsessives exploiting the indigenous ‘donkey’ vote in order to serve constituencies such as the GLBT community.

I leave you all to consider this. Due to the assorted machinations listed above it could be that the Conservative Party is today, for the first time ever, more representative of the Welsh nation than the Labour Party.

 

UPDATE 27.02.2013: More information has come to light that has resulted in me making another complaint to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. To explain.

Just before Christmas all Swansea’s councillors received a copy of a book, The Wind Farm Scam, by Dr. John Etherington. The book was sent by the organisation leading the resistance to the Mynydd y Gwair wind turbines, SOCME (Save Our Common Mountain Environment).

One councillor, young John Charles Bayliss (who has cropped up here quite often of late!) was mightily unimpressed with this Yuletide gift. So unimpressed that he was moved to tweet. My interpretation of this tweet is as follows. The Bayliss, coalreference to “coal” I take to mean that the book should be burned. “#Scientificallyilliterate” is probably his opinion of those who sent the book, or possibly Dr. Etherington. While “#BuggerOff” can only be his response to those who kindly sent him the book. Such ingratitude! (The picture referred to in the tweet is simply the front cover of the book with the SOCME complimentary slip.)

This tweet for me is proof positive that as early as December 11th (and almost certainly long before) Bayliss was predetermined to vote in favour of wind turbines on Mynydd y Gwair. That being so, John Charles Bayliss is another councillor who should not have voted on February 7th.

Swansea Council, English Lords, Swansea Labour Party, German Multinationals, Student Politics, Trots, Wind Turbines, etc., etc: Part the Third

Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Because what follows gets a bit complicated. That said, I believe there is now enough evidence to question the legitimacy of the decision taken by Swansea council on February 7th to allow RWE to erect wind turbines on Mynydd y Gwair, common land owned by the Duke of Beaufort on the city’s northern outskirts. My previous posts this month on Swansea council are, in chronological order, here and here.

Perhaps the first thing to make clear is that the long-serving local councillor, Ioan Richard, was not allowed to vote on February 7th because he had previously shown his opposition to the project. In other words, he’d been open and honest about his position. The same may not be the case for a number of those who voted to grant planning permission.

My attention has been drawn to the fact that RWE’s Renewables Developer for Mynydd y Gwair, Gwenllian Elias, tweets as @gwenll_elias, and among her 59 followers are Councillor Mitchell Theaker (@mitchelltheaker) and Councillor Pearleen Sangha (@PearleenSangha). She reciprocates Sangha 2by following them. (Another Swansea councillor Ms Elias follows is Nick Bradley (@CllrNickBradley) the council’s number one West Bromwich Albion fan.) On the night of (possibly the day after) the Mynydd y Gwair vote, Pearleen Sangha tweeted her joy at the outcome of the council meeting . . . and her tweet was almost immediately retweeted by Gwenllian Elias of RWE! Great minds, eh!

Now this may be harmless enough, perhaps nothing more than contact limited to Twitter. Alternatively, it could suggest that Elias, Sangha and Theaker were known to each other before the vote was taken. In which case it puts a totally different complexion on the matter. For if they knew each other before the vote then, seeing as both Sangha and Theaker voted for the bird and bat mincers, they were as ‘compromised’ as Councillor Richard in that their minds were also made up long before the discussion of the matter, and the vote, on February 7th. If that was the case then they should not have been allowed to vote.

Now let us turn to Llansamlet’s very own advocate of permanent revolution, Councillor Uta Clay, who has come in for a bit of a hammering of late, partly for stoutly defending the Duke of Beaufort’s financial interests, and partly for making silly remarks during the February 7th debate. This letter is just one of a number I am told have appeared in the Evening Post. As the letter suggests, how could this woman, who has only been in Swansea for five minutes, be so silly and insulting as to slur ordinary Welsh protesters as belonging to the “privileged few”. A category to which an English nobleman apparently does not belong! (Is this making sense?)

You also have to ask why, after the local party had the good sense to deselect her, and suspend her and her husband, some unnamed authority representing ‘London’ stepped in to insist the Clays’ suspensions be lifted and she be reinstated as candidate for the May 2012 council elections. What happened to devolution? What happened to ‘Welsh’ Labour?

Someone else who’s only been in Swansea for five minutes is New Zealander Andrew Hore, ‘Elite Performance Director’ at the Ospreys. (Not to be confused with the Andrew Hore who did the dirty on Bradley Davies last autumn) Hore was allowed to speak at the February 7th meeting in favour of the Mynydd y Gwair money machine. RWE sponsors the Ospreys, and a number of councillors are season ticket holders at the Ospreys; others have received ‘hospitality’. Which looks a bit . . . er . . . iffy? Here is a (PDF) link to an interesting exchange between Edwina Hart, a local AM, and Patrick Arran, Head of Legal, Democratic Services and Procurement at Swansea council, in which Ms Hart questions why Hore was allowed to speak at the council meeting. A good question.

Then, today, a letter appeared in the Wasting Mule from a Swansea councillor – one who actually knows the city, and can pronounce Mynydd y Gwair! What Councillor Tyler-Lloyd is (perhaps unwittingly) alluding to is a system now becoming dominant in Welsh political and public life. It begins with civil servants in London or Cardiff issuing diktats. When this is done in London it’s invariably done on the instructions of  politicians; when it’s done in Cardiff it’s too often done on orders from London and presented to the self-styled Welsh Government as a fait accompli. (Well, what do you expect? If Welsh Labour won’t stand up to ‘London’ on matters of internal party discipline do you really think they’re going to challenge Sir Humphrey in Whitehall?) These diktats then become Gospel for senior officers in local government who use them – and the threat of the expense involved in challenging them – to silence debate and stifle opposition. R.I.P. Welsh local democracy.

As it takes hold we see this process leading to situations such as that which has been played out in a London courtroom this week, as Fuehrer James of Carmarthenshire County Council sues – with public money – a blogger who dared criticise his regime. Or the cabinet of Labour-controlled Caerffili council meeting behind closed doors to give whopping pay rises to senior officers . . . at the insistence of the chief executive – i.e. the major beneficiary!

The wider and more worrying picture though is of a Wales in which we have the chimera of devolution while the reality sees us Welsh becoming increasingly marginalised and silenced across the land. In the rural areas the picture is stark, and villages and small towns are taken over by English colonists, but even in the city of Swansea we see it happening.

For one interpretation of that vote on the 7th of this month would be thart it was a victory for those who view our homeland as a resource to exploit, or else the political equivalent of a sandpit, somewhere to start one’s political career. On the one hand we had an English lord whose family has been robbing us for centuries, a German company here to milk the absurd subsidies paid for so-called ‘renewable energy’, a bunch of ex-student politicians that include a GLTB fanatic, a Californian, a West Brom supporter, another with an interest in cadets, then there’s a New Zealander working for the local rugby team (most of whose supporters still don’t understand what his bloody job is), and assorted other drifters, misfits and parasites who know fuck all about the city I love.

All these were allowed to speak, despite many if not all having already made up their minds on the issue or, worse, having a vested financial or other interest in seeing wind turbines on lovely Mynydd y Gwair. Yet, the councillor in whose ward Mynydd y Gwair is to be found, who had no financial or other interest, who had been open and honest in his opposition, and who represented the views of the overwhelming majority of his constituents – that is, those directly affected by the industrialisation of Mynydd y Gwair – was thrown out of the council chamber.

Where does this leave democracy, local or otherwise? And given that virtually all those on the one side of this debate were foreign, and almost all those on the other side were Welsh, what does it tell us about our country today? And our place in it?

UPDATE 23.02.2013: Interesting comments to the post from Jeff Jones and James Dunkley. Both question whether Councillor Ioan Richard was given the correct legal advice by the council officer(s). (Jeff Jones is the former leader of Bridgend Council who now works as a local government consultant.) They aren’t the only ones asking these questions. If Cllr Richard was wrongly told to leave the chamber then it must call into question either the competence or the impartiality of the person who gave that advice. (Patrick Arran. See the link in the post to his exchange with Edwina Hart AM.)       

Gwenllian Elias, the RWE Npower project officer for Mynydd y Gwair’s CV reads: 2007, left Cardiff University with BSc in Geography and Planning. September 2007 to September 2008 Planner with Newport City Council. September 2008 to August 2009 Planner with City and County of Swansea Council. August 2009 to April 2010 Planning Liason Officer with the Environment Agency. April 2010 to present Renewables Developer with RWE Npower Renewables Ltd. Looks like a planned career course: gain the background knowledge and contacts in the public sector before heading into the private sector and the serious money. And all done in less than three years.

The behaviour of certain councillors at the February 7th meeting, the near certainty of them being predetermined to vote in favour of the Mynydd y Gwair development, plus their established links with RWE’s project officer, has been referred to the Local Government Ombudsman for Wales.

Questions; One Obvious, One Less So

I have just watched Week In Week Out on BBC 1 Wales. It dealt with con man Chris O’Neill who was given £125,000 by the Welsh Government to help ex-servicemen get their lives together with his organisation Forces for Good. His imaginative methods included buying a speedboat, a couple of new cars, and gambling . . . presumably in the hope of raising yet more money for needy old sweats.

The obvious question is, why were so many people taken in by such an obvious con man? As a man who knew him for what he was pointed out, someone should have noticed that every time he was asked a tricky question his eyes rolled up into his head as he thought of an answer. There was nothing spontaneous about him. It was all clearly an act. So why were there not even the most basic background checks?

The other question I have may not be so obvious. Given that O’Neill is English, and was planning to bring English ex-servicemen into Wales, why did the Welsh Government – or its civil servants – decide that Forces for Good was a proper use of funding allocated to Wales and presumably meant to be used for those living here?

Forces for Good is being reported as if it’s a scandalous one-off. Those of us who pay attention to these things know better. This case is just another illustration of the incompetence and bias of those allocating the funding given to ‘Wales’. Another reminder that the priority in future must be re-uniting ‘Wales’ with the Welsh.