PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
But I stress that they’re three distinct stories, so you can take them one at a time.
HOUSES OF MULTIPLE OCCUPATION – HOW MANY DOES WALES NEED?
We begin in Port Talbot, where the playful zephyrs carry that heady mix of motorway traffic fumes and steelworks belch. (For as anyone who reads the popular press will know, steelworks always ‘belch’ smoke and fumes.)
Let’s home in on 20 Olive Street in Aberavon, where there is a change of use application to convert a house in this residential street into a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO). Locals are very much opposed to the proposal.
(As a matter of interest, Olive Street is not far from Dic Penderyn’s grave.)
On the application document I’ve linked to you’ll see that the applicant is ‘Joe Furneaux’, and the address given is in Upper Killay, where Swansea peters out into Gower. So I got to wondering about ‘Joe Furneaux’.
I couldn’t get very far in my investigations until I realised that his name is actually Jonathan Furneaux. And it soon became obvious why he might wish to generate confusion about his identity, for he has a chequered business record.
To be specific, two companies that are no longer with us. The first, Picton Street Management Company Ltd, was dissolved in March 2014, though Furneaux ceased to be a director 22 March 2010. The second, Phoenix Property Acquisitions Limited, was dissolved April 2014, after Furneaux had baled out 10 March 2010.
Both companies gave their address as 44 St Helens Road, Swansea. You’ll see that the second of them went bust with no less than 11 outstanding charges.
If we look more closely at those charges we see properties in Ferndale, Tylorstown, Penrhiwceiber, Pentre, Ebbw Vale, Abertillery, Nantyglo, Llanhilleth, Aberdare.
(Maybe some readers can give me feedback on these properties, for the addresses are all given in the charges. For example, are they now residential properties?)
Towns that have been abandoned by self-styled ‘Welsh’ Labour. Where the economy is depressed, where people (those who haven’t left) have either given up or got angry, and where we find the lowest house prices on this island. Ideal locales for ‘investors’ to buy properties in which to house ‘problematic’ (for neighbours) – but highly profitable (for them) – tenants.
A scam encouraged because it shows how ‘caring’ we are – ‘Socialism, innit!’ While also exposing Wales’ poverty – which is always blamed on the Tories.
What a way to run a country! But back to ‘Joe’/Jonathan Furneaux.
To confuse the picture, Phoenix Property Acquisitions Limited may have been dissolved in April 2014 but in February 2015, Phoenix Property Acquisitions Ltd was born. This company did nothing – apparently – and was was compulsorily struck off in July 2016. The address used for this brief reincarnation was 39 Park Place in Swansea city centre.
So we see that in addition to the Upper Killay address Furneaux has also used addresses in the city centre. Though both of the earlier companies began life in Hartfield, a village near Tunbridge Wells, which is where I think Furneaux is based.
For I believe he lives in England and uses accommodation addresses in Swansea. I say that because if this (below) is the same man, then his day job may be with Palatine Homes Ltd of Berkshire.
This company specialises in bespoke, upmarket dwellings in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, a world away from the Labour fiefdoms of Swansea, Port Talbot and the Heads of the Valleys.
Furneaux joined Palatine Homes in March 2016. Now that he’s got a few bob together perhaps he’s making a come-back.
(If the Jon Furneaux of Palatine Homes Ltd is not the ‘Joe’/Jonathan Furneaux active around Swansea Bay, then I shall be happy to delete this reference.)
And he’s doing it with a company set up as recently as March this year, Horizon EXP Ltd, with a ‘postbox’ address in Dorset. For this is the company that bought 20 Olive Street, Aberavon for £43,000 in July. Now Furneaux wants to convert this small, mid-terrace house in a residential neighbourhood into a four-bed HMO.
For no better reason than idle curiosity I scrolled down the planning application and was surprised to read (in section 27) that the owner, on 27 June, was a Samuel Hawking. ‘Who he?’ I asked myself, and eventually turned up this website.
As I say, the date on the planning application, giving Hawking’s ownership, is 27 June 2019; while the date on the Land Registry document tells us that Horizon EXP Ltd, i.e. Jon Furneaux, bought the property 19 July 2019.
So did Hawking get the ball rolling for a HMO and then sell the property, or was the sale of 20 Olive Street provisional on him initiating the process for Furneaux? Given that Hawking might be a relatively large fish in the Swansea Bay property market, I incline towards the second possibility.
And I use the term ‘Swansea Bay’ because I also turned up a planning application in the city itself, in Plasmarl. Where a 4-bed mid-terrace property owned by Jonathan Richard Furneaux (with a loan from West Bridging Ltd) is to be converted into a 5-bed HMO.
Plasmarl, where my father was born and raised, is not one of the more salubrious quarters of the city, having much in common with the post-industrial Valleys’ towns we looked at just now. In earlier times Plasmarl was home to many of those who worked in the valley below.
Plasmarl, where the ‘Golden Boy’ was born and raised. And where I sank many a pint in the Smelters, and the Coopers, and the Imperial, and ‘Y Cwrcyn’. (No one knew why it was called Y Cwrcyn, but as the real name was The Ivorites Arms, and there were other Ivorites not far away, it served a purpose.)
No mean neighbourhood, Plasmarl. But before I get too nostalgic I’m going to end with a few questions:
- Why has a man with so many unpaid debts returned to Wales to go into the Houses of Multiple Occupation racket?
- Does the company to which he owes so much money know he’s resurfaced?
- What’s his relationship with Sam Hawking?
- Do the local authorities involved know exactly who they’re dealing with in these applications, and all the possible ramifications?
- What rights do locals have when threatened with a HMO near to them?
- Do the planning committees so ready to give permission enquire where the residents of these HMOs in Aberavon and Plasmarl (and elsewhere) will come from?
- Does the ‘Welsh Government’ have concerns about cheap property in deprived areas being converted into HMOs and hostels to house persons from outside of Wales?
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the Upper Killay house, 13 Edgemooor Close, is owned by a Roy Anthony Griffiths of Worcester.
BURRY PORT CARNIVAL COMMITTEE
This next story takes us west, west of Llanelli in fact, to Porth Tywyn (in English, Burry Port). A town I know quite well; in fact, I stayed there for a few nights very recently.
This report is different to the topics I usually cover in a number of ways, but it still fits because it’s about the abuse of influence and the misuse of money, with the Labour Party central to the tale. For all those involved are councillors, candidates, members, supporters. Indeed, it’s suggested that the reach of the Labour Party explains how this scandal has festered for so long.
I have been given the full names, and relationships, of those involved, but I’ve decided to use initials. Those involved will recognise themselves, of course, and locals will be able to identify them. While those who don’t know the area can understand the issues raised without having to know the principals’ names.
In a nutshell, a small group, made up it seems of two families, monopolises fund-raising activities in this small town. Money is ostensibly raised for the community, and yet most of it seems to be unaccounted for. And I am talking now of what is said to be hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The points below represent a summary of the information supplied to me in the words of a source. I have made a few additions or clarifications
1) Burry Port Carnival has been around for some 20 years and is driven by S. M. In the early years all money was paid into her personal bank account and no accounts were produced.
2) Members of the community were involved and some became members of the committee but they didn’t last long.
3) More recently, in the past 5 years or so, the committee is made up almost entirely from two families. The M. and F. families. This consists of S.M., her husband, her daughter and her grandchildren. Also A. F. and L. F. It is believed that there is one non-family committee member, D. D., the nephew of Cllr J. J.
4) S. M., A. F. and J. J. are serving Labour Party councillors. L. F. is an active member of the Labour Party and was a failed Labour candidate for a recent Pembrey Ward by-election for the town council.
5) Members of the community are now saying that unless you are a family member and a member of the Labour Party you will not be allowed on the committee. This seems to have some weight as a recent member of the committee, L. M., was ousted as soon as she got elected as an independent town councillor 5 years ago.
6) The committee will state that anyone can apply to join but nobody does because they know that they would not be accepted or, if they are, they won’t last very long. The general view is that this is more like a family business than an inclusive and transparent community organisation.
7) The Carnival Committee not only organise and run the annual carnival but in season, April to October, they run the weekly car boot sale in Burry Port. It has grown to be the largest in mid and west Wales.
8) Some conservative estimates are that the income from the car boot sale alone ranges from £40,000 to £50,00 a year. (Ed: This is explained by over 100 stalls paying £7 for a car, £10 – 12 for a van, £15 for anything bigger. But no receipts are given, just ‘raffle tickets’, which I assume to mean cloakroom tickets.)
9) The annual Carnival has also grown and income from that is not recorded.
10) (Those involved) also run the annual Christmas Carnival, an annual dog show and vintage car show as well as a number of minor events.
11) They do not give receipts to any who enter the events. They do not give receipts to any stall holder, car owner or sponsor. More recently they started issuing a raffle ticket from various different books to car boot pitch holders. (Ed: The ‘raffle tickets’ referred to earlier.) They have been frequently observed collecting money and putting it in their pockets.
12) No one knows how much they collect but they are quick to publicise a handful of very small grants that they give to local groups, (Grants of a few hundred pounds only) They have also funded around a dozen defibrillators in the community at around 1,200 each. No one knows where the rest of the money goes.
13) They do not publish any audited accounts and they do not publish any annual report or minutes of meetings.
14) Any accounts or financial statements they may produce may not be worth very much if they do not issue any receipts to back up their income.
15) In the meantime, the F. family have gone from L. F. being unemployed and A. F. having a small stall in Carmarthen market, to having three shops and three businesses in Burry Port. S. M. and her family have just bought a villa with a swimming pool in Spain.
It would be easy to dismiss this report as an example of small town squabbling. But given the quality of the sources, and the amounts of money involved, I know there’s substance to it.
So I call on those involved to produce what they should have been producing all along – minutes of meetings, correspondence, bank statements, audited accounts, and an explanation for the status of their operations. For nothing seems to be registered with either the Charity Commission or Companies House.
Which inevitably gives rise to suspicions that this is a cash-only operation held together by family loyalties and protected by the power of the Labour Party.
UPDATE 08.11.2019: The local media is taking an interest. Here’s a report from Wales News Online, and earlier today I was contacted by a reporter who seems to work for both the Carmarthen Journal and WalesOnline.
Reading through the WNO report I have to say that those involved don’t do themselves any favours. They admit to giving out cloakroom tickets as receipts, but will give real receipts to “those who request them”!
When the awkward questions about accounts and record-keeping were asked the carnival committee kept referring to paying-in books at the bank! A strange response because these would only tell what was paid in, not what was collected.
When asked about the legal status of this money-making operation WNO was told that the carnival committee is a “constituted forum”. It may be, or that may be an excuse used to justify not being registered with the Charity Commission or Companies House.
In related news, two of those involved have resigned from the town council citing ‘bullying and harassment’ for their decision. Who the knows the truth with this lot?
TRANSPORT FOR WALES
Last week a news story appeared concerning the ‘mangling’ of Welsh place names in railway announcements. I picked the story up on Twitter and my comment explains my thinking on the subject.
I wanted to make that point because in the NorthWalesLive article a spokesman for Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) waffled about, ” . . . deep concerns . . . basic failures . . . unprecedented for a public service” . . . and, in effect, said nothing.
Which chimes with my experience of language activists over half a century in that they’re hot on abstractions and visibility, but unconcerned with employment issues unless it’s them losing out. Jobs for working class Welsh speakers don’t concern them, which tends to betray the ‘look-out-for-number-one’ attitude of too many. This attitude explains the rise of Rhodri Williams.
When I put out that tweet last Monday I had no way of knowing that my argument would be backed up so quickly.
The announcements on trains are given out by the guard. Now, quite obviously, if the guard has no understanding whatever of the Welsh language, then passengers will hear, ‘Clanvervekan’ (Llanfairfechan) and ‘Makynceth’ (Machynlleth). The way to avoid this is obviously to employ local people.
But this is not what happens at the moment. And there are no moves to recruit locals, in fact, things could get a whole lot worse.
For I have it on impeccable authority that Transport for Wales is recruiting thirty new guards for the Central Wales line and the Cambrian Coast line. The recruitment is being carried out in Shrewsbury.
This news has been met with anger by railway employees in the area affected, because it means that there will be no Welsh staff recruited for guards jobs on Welsh railway lines, and that can only result in an inferior service.
(And a more expensive service. For English staff have taxis paid for them to join their Welsh trains. This is happening now!)
So not only will we have to endure more of ‘Clanvervekan’ and ‘Makynceth’ but, being ignorant of the area they won’t know the request stops, or the bus connections, or anything.
Take a look at the map below, the railway lines are in red and the green lines represent TrawsCymru bus services. Just look at the number of request stops between Barmouth and Porthmadog! Imagine the nails-on-blackboard mangling of Morfa Mawddach and Dyffryn Ardudwy; and then, just before Abbaerk, we’ll hear the announcement for Penny Chain.
And yet, it could all be avoided by recruiting Welsh people to work on Welsh railways. Why is that so difficult?
Seeing as “Transport for Wales is a not for profit company, wholly owned by the Welsh Government” I would like the ‘Welsh’ Labour ‘Government’ to tell us why it allows this company to practise recruitment policies that insult our native language, lose us jobs, and provide us with an inferior service.
Or are we supposed to just shrug it off and accept this discrimination as yet another example of ‘Welsh’ Labour betraying the Welsh people?
Picking up on something he may have read by Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine nineteenth-century English scribbler Lord Acton is usually credited with, ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely’.
While I’m sure he was thinking of despots and emperors strutting their stuff in his own time that line can equally apply to the Labour Party in Wales. For too many in Labour regard privilege, patronage, and outright corruption as theirs by right. The prize for coming first.
This belief gives us cronyism, rigged elections, the third sector, self-advancement, local ‘mafias’, unregulated lobbyists, parachuted candidates, the arrogance to argue that black is white . . . in the poorest country in Europe.
The Labour Party benefits itself, but fails the nation. It’s therefore time to bring to an end Labour’s century in the sun. Anyone outside of Labour siding with these gangsters on spurious ideological grounds is no better than Labour.
♦ end ♦