It all started with a tweet, last week, someone drawing attention to a post on the Bevan Foundation blog. This post, I think. Doesn’t really matter. As you can probably guess, the Bevan Foundation is not a site I visit regularly but, summoning up my courage (and clutching my crucifix) I ventured deep into this forbidding realm of socialist gobbledygook. Soon forgetting about the post that had drawn me hither as my attention was grabbed by other things I read.
In the ‘About Us’ section, we learn that the Bevan Foundation regards itself as an “independent think tank”, is a “company limited by guarantee” and “registered as a charity in 2004”, then: “We take our name from Aneurin Bevan, founder of the NHS and welfare state. Although he was a Labour politician, Aneurin Bevan is today remembered for his achievements to make society fairer”. Which struck me as an odd way of putting it; for it could be read: ‘Despite being a Labour politician Bevan nevertheless believed in fairness’!
(In contrast to the websites of other organisations the Bevan Foundation’s seems somewhat reluctant to give its company number, 04175018; and its charity number, 1104191. This is how it should be done.)
At the foot of the page I came across these two logos. The blue one I recognised from having used it, or something very similar, myself. It is the logo recipients of European Funding must use on their communications, websites, etc. In Wales, this money is usually doled out by the Welsh European Funding Office, set up by the ‘Welsh’ Government to disburse EU funding; though when I spoke with WEFO they denied that The Bevan Foundation had received funding from them. The other logo tells us that the Bevan Foundation has received funding from Communities 2.0, a “digital inclusion project” offering “free training and support to small enterprises”.
In what I confess was a rather cheeky attempt to get further information on funding I submitted a FoI request to The Bevan Foundation, knowing in advance it was exempted from this legislation. Even so, I received a polite reply from Victoria Winckler, Director of the Foundation, which read:
“Thank you for your request under the Freedom of Information Act for information about the Bevan Foundation. The Bevan Foundation is not a public body, nor does it receive sufficient public funding for it to be considered as such, and it is therefore not covered by the Act. You will however find information about the Foundation’s income, including our audited accounts, on the Charity Commission’s website.”
According to the panel, taken from its website, The Bevan Foundation “doesn’t get funding from government or any political party”, yet the ‘Welsh’ Government logo linked to the ERDF logo suggests otherwise. And seeing as Labour has been in power since 1999 it rather undermines the claim to be getting no funding from government or any political party. (Getting the funding at one remove doesn’t change anything.) Equally untrue is the claim that The Foundation is an “independent think tank”. It was set up in 2001 by Labour politicians to counter the Institute for Welsh Affairs, which Labour thinks is too ‘Nashie’. It may have been entirely co-incidental that 2001 was also the year the European lucre started rolling into Wales.
Returning to Communities.2, this funding is distributed by another outfit with Labour links, the Wales Co-operative Centre and a few ‘partner’ organisations (one being the in-a-hole-and-still-digging Carmarthenshire County Council). So where does the Co-op get the money from? Well, that’s the ‘Welsh’ Government again. And where does the ‘Welsh’ Government get the money from? Again, from those generous people on the Continent through the European Regional Development Fund. Two logos, same money, same source.
I sent a further e-mail seeking a breakdown of the rather vague ‘Research income’ given in the documents submitted to the Charity Commission (£60,731 for the year ended 2012; £84,976 for the previous year). This elicited another polite response from Ms Winckler saying that the exact amounts were confidential, but the organisations for which the Foundation had worked could be found elsewhere in the report submitted to the Charity Commission. So I looked. (Incidentally, let me make it clear that I responded in kind. This was a brief but very civilised exchange. So there!)
If I have read and understood the report . . . the bodies for which The Bevan Foundation is doing work are, the Wales TUC and the Wales Co-operative Development Centre. Then, in the ‘Restricted Funds’ section, we learn that it received £4,875 from the ‘Welsh’ Government’s New Ideas Fund, and a further £4,015 from the ‘Welsh’ Government for an ‘Equality Festival’ held in Ebbw Vale in February 2011. (I never got an invite!) Finally, the report also tells us that in 2012/13 the Foundation will be “employing a research office” (sic) thanks to the generosity of (Labour-controlled) Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council. Oh, and the Communities 2.0 grant I mentioned earlier, well, that amounted to a “£4,665.40 package of support by Communities 2.0 to network their computers to a central data storage facility, update their website and for google analytics training. Additionally The Bevan Foundation received 28.5hrs of ICT support and consultancy assistance”. A detailed FoI has also been submitted to the ‘Welsh’ Government asking how much money, and by what routes, has been channelled to The Bevan Foundation, but I ain’t holding my breath on that one. So what have we got? Here’s how I see it.
As the name suggests, The Bevan Foundation is an adjunct to the Labour Party. As such it should not be receiving funding from the Labour Party, the ‘Welsh’ Government, local authorities controlled by Labour, or third parties funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government.
The EU has given Wales money in the expectation that we would use it to drag ourselves out of the spiral of economic and social decline we have suffered for over thirty years. Yet after twelve years of such funding those areas that voted for devolution in 1997, the same areas that qualify for the highest level of EU funding, are poorer now than they were then. This is why . . .
Instead of using the funding to train people in new skills, on infrastructure, and enterprise, the funding is squandered on schemes and projects that are politically correct rather than economically viable, often run by people who were able to smell the funding from a great distance; schemes that create employment only for those running them; schemes that rely solely on EU (and other) funding and are incapable of growth – not least because of duplication – yet a mirage of entrepreneurialism is created by the funding being broken up and re-packaged, passed on to other third sector groups; allowing grant-reliant charities, social enterprises and community groups to be presented as ‘businesses’. And with every scandal it becomes ever clearer that a disproportionate number of those benefitting from this system are Labour Party members and supporters, often using the funding to disseminate Labour Party propaganda, and other information that might be of benefit to the Labour Party.
It truth, the only real achievement of EU funding in Wales has been the underwriting and strengthening of the pre-existing system of Labour Party patronage, cronyism and nepotism. In short, corruption . . . with the added felony of money laundering. What we see today is the party of power, the party holding the purse-strings, rewarding its supporters, as happens in the Third World that Wales will soon join. Though were this happening in Korruptistan then the ‘serious’ publications in London, Newsnight, even, might take an interest . . . but, Wales? nah, who cares?