Monthly Archives: October 2015

The ‘poppy’ problem

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The poppy has become a symbol of respectful remembrance, and as such has become a conundrum.

I was brought up to believe that the red poppy was a symbol of remembrance for the fallen of the two world wars. My father was a survivor of a Nazi concentration camps and so it was always a time of poignancy in our household. But as time goes on, these things get manipulated, and I have learned a lot of history along the way too. My perspective has changed.

The history of the now traditional remembrance ceremonies is in itself enlightening. On the first Armistice anniversary, Tuesday November 11, 1919, the country did indeed fall silent for two minutes. At the signal – church bells, flares, even gunfire – traffic stopped, people stood still in the street or stepped away from their work, machinery (and every telephone exchange) was turned off, nobody spoke. In some schools there were special assemblies for the Silence, in others people just sat quietly at their desks. The impact of ‘the Silence’ on the people was enormous. The whole of everyday life could be halted simply by everyone joining together to do it. Most people found that very impressive and moving. Many thought it felt like a religious ceremony.

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 14.17.15The government almost immediately decided to make it an annual event. In the years that followed a spiritual element was encouraged as an important part of Remembrance ritual. So were ideas of ‘victory’ and ‘glory’ and ‘sacrifice’. All these were ways of trying to make sense of so many needless deaths, which had filled people with horror. The fate of ‘our glorious dead’ was desperately sad, but the word ‘glorious’ gave it false grandeur. The idea that these British soldiers had ‘given’ their lives was misleading, considering the reality of conscription and the use of propaganda that led them to their fate; the word ‘sacrifice’ gave the idea nobility, while it should have reflected that they were innocent lambs to the slaughter. There is nothing grand or noble about war. War makes everybody victims. War makes people bring needless death upon themselves and those around them, friend, foe, or anywhere in between. So, right from the outset, remembrance was used by the establishment, that had caused and inflicted war on everyone, to manipulate our reflections on the horrors.

The origin of the poppies we see worn today is also interesting. Everyone seems to be aware of the fact that those who fought in Belgium and northern France commented on the extraordinary persistence and profusion of an apparently fragile flower: the cornfield poppy, which splashed its blood-red blooms over the fields every summer. It was American ex-servicemen that first adopted the red poppy as their emblem, perhaps prompted in part by the poem of Canadian doctor, John McRae (he was killed in battle in 1915). His poem begins:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below….

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 14.21.35So the Americans arranged for artificial poppies to be made by women in war-ravaged northern France. The funds raised from selling the poppies were for children who had suffered because of the war.

In Britain, the weary soldiers came back from the grimness of war to find that life was hard at home too, though in a different way. Many of the men were wounded or disabled or suffering the effects of gas and shell-shock. Many were physically or mentally unable to work; many others found that there were no jobs anyway. The provision made for them by the state was less than adequate. They certainly didn’t get the heroes’ homecoming that they had been led to expect. So ex-servicemen’s societies united in 1921 to form the British Legion. Its purpose was to provide support to ex-servicemen, especially the disabled, and their families, and it was to become one of the most successful British charities ever.

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 14.23.07A Frenchwoman, who was helping to organise the production of artificial poppies in France, suggested that the British Legion might like to sell them to raise money. The British Legion approved of this idea, and ordered at least 1.5 million for November 11, 1921. They sold out almost at once. The first Poppy Appeal made £106,000, a huge sum in those days. The British Legion then decided to set up its own poppy factory, with disabled ex-servicemen making up the workforce. The Remembrance red poppy rapidly became an established part of British life. Unquestioningly so for the vast majority (as ever)!

For those of a more questioning disposition, however, there have been issues and problems as it has been politicised and even became a cause of stigmatisation. Some people who have chosen not to wear it have faced anger and abuse. In Northern Ireland, for example, it became regarded as a Protestant Loyalist symbol because of its connection with British patriotism. This perspective has been eloquently presented for a few years now by an unlikely source – a Premier League footballer. Derry-born James McClean, of West Brom, may well be the only Premier League player again this year not to wear the special edition shirts with red poppies on them. He explains why he has taken this stance since 2012 here. 

A growing number of people have been concerned about the poppy’s association with military power and the justification of war. The official line these days is that the British Legion poppy is not in recognition of the fallen in the two world wars, but about caring for all British soldiers that have died or fallen in the line of ‘duty’, past and present. But why, with a state welfare system, are the services of the British Legion (slogan: ‘Honour the dead, care for the living’) still needed; some say it’s disgraceful that they were ever needed at all. In fact, rather than not be needed, Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 14.28.04Help for Heroes has come along (in 2007) to crank up the help for servicemen severely hurt, doing the government’s current dirty work for them, and redoubling the the propaganda of glorious, heroic sacrifice.

To be honest, I have no time for this at all. Heroes? What heroes? Perhaps the RAF pilot who recently declared he would have refused the order to bomb the MSF hospital in Kunduz. Perhaps Chelsea Manning, for making clear the extent to which we are lied to and have despicable acts done in our names.

This is why a growing number of people have become uneasy about what the red poppy has come to represent. It has become jingoistic and nationalistic. Remember the ‘glorious’ soldiers defending British (government) interests. Let us not dwell on the ‘enemy’ combatants killed; and we better not mention the multitude of innocent civilians killed and harmed by our ‘heroes’ in far off lands.

Thus the growing appeal of the ‘rival’ white poppy. Again, a history lesson is worthwhile. The Women’s Co-operative Guild, founded in 1883, began its life preoccupied with the problems and issues of home and family, but by 1914 attention had turned to the bigger picture: the Guild’s Congress declared that ‘civilised nations should never again resort to the terrible and ineffectual method of war for the settlement of international disputes’. By the end of the war the guildswomen had learned first hand the extent to which war could profoundly affect and harm their lives. Many of them were the wives, mothers and sisters of men who had been killed. They embarked on an active campaign for peace. By 1933 they were searching for a symbol which could be worn by guildswomen who wanted to show publicly that they were against war and for nonviolence. Someone came up with the idea of a white poppy. Workers from the Co-operative Wholesale Society began making the poppies almost at once. Money from selling them, after the production costs had been paid for, was sent to help war-resisters and conscientious objectors in Europe.

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 14.31.31The wearing of a white poppy on Armistice Day became a focus for the peace movement, and the Peace Pledge Union took it up in 1936 as ‘a definite pledge to peace that war must not happen again‘. In 1938 ‘Alternative Remembrance’ events began: a pacifist religious service was held in London’s Regent’s Park, followed by a march to Westminster and the laying of a wreath of white poppies at the Cenotaph. 85,000 white poppies, by then an acknowledged symbol of peace, were sold that year. Many people wore them alone, others wore a red poppy as well.

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 14.33.05Given my upbringing and my father’s story, if I wear a poppy at all, my first choice is a white one, but I feel most comfortable with a red one alongside it to acknowledge the tragedy of young men on all sides duped into combat for reasons they didn’t understand by an establishment that had (and has) no respect for humanity. That the red poppy has been highjacked by those same establishment interests is a pity, but at the end of the day can we ever be surprised by that anymore? This in itself is progress of a sort.

The obstacles Plaid Cymru have to overcome to emulate the SNP

Listening to both Leanne Wood and Nicola Sturgeon address this weekend’s Plaid Cymru Conference in Aberystwyth has helped consolidate my view that Plaid Cymru are up against it in achieving SNP levels of success next May, but has given me reason to think that they may get there one day.

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 15.48.07Leanne’s speech was, to my mind, a lot better than the headlines made me think it was. The Guardian’s headline was:
“Plaid Cymru leader opens party conference with attack on Labour”

This was the one that appeared to be going around the twittersphere too, even among the PC supporters. This made me sigh with frustration. It is exactly the sort of negative campaigning I have been complaining about for months. And for sure, there was far too much of it in Leanne’s speech. But there was a lot of good stuff in it too that I was pleased to see some of the Welsh media latch onto instead.

Wales Online (the website that aggregates the coverage of Western Mail, South Wales Echo, Wales On Sunday and many local titles) ran with the much more positive headline: ”

The nine key pledges from Leanne Wood’s Plaid conference speech – as she outlines her priorities for government

Most of these pledges were much more along the lines of what we need to hear:

  1. Reversing cuts to NHS services
  2. New cancer diagnostic centres to ensure a maximum 4 week wait for cancer tests
  3. Free personal care for the over 65s
  4. Reform of school inspection system and rewarding improvement in schools
  5. Banning fracking
  6. More renewable energy
  7. £100 million for most promising new businesses
  8. Achieving devolution equality with Scotland
  9. Achieving at least an involvement in government.

I am not going to dissect these individually, except to say the first seven are all major steps in the right direction that a PC government should be able to deliver. We need a lot more detail on how they would achieve them, within the current budgetary constraints in existence, before the wider public will see them as attainable rather than aspirational. I have little doubt that they are achievable, but they would need funding and we need some honesty about how that would be achieved. If they are serious about coming into government, they must have done those sums. Presenting this analysis will help give them credibility. The last two pledges, on the other hand, are outside their ability to deliver alone. Such things are therefore dangerous, indeed I would say foolish, things to pledge. Taken as a whole, I would agree with Adam Johannes’ assessment: “The problem with the 9 key pledges that Leanne W made is that they are all okay, but taken as a whole seem a jumbled shopping list and are not demands that present …….. something that will inspire people. Pretty timid. For example, it could include – Housing Justice – ending the bedroom tax in Wales; introducing rent controls in private rental sector;  making letting agency fees illegal;
opposing trident, nuclear power and foreign military intervention….”  

But I am digressing from the main points I wish to make here.

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 15.49.48Nicola Sturgeon’s speech contained within it a very sound analysis of where Plaid Cymru are and set out how the SNP went from a very similar position a few years ago, to its current position. It strongly stated that Leanne Wood is the right person to lead Plaid Cymru and take them forward. This I agree with wholeheartedly, not just because Leanne is a very accomplished performer, but perhaps even more because of the lack of alternatives. For the SNP to have Nicola Sturgeon lined up to seamlessly takeover and advance the SNP after Alex Salmond is a luxury that the SNP simply do not have. Nicola also tried to make the case for PC being able to advance as rapidly in Wales and the SNP did in Scotland. But here I do not share her conviction. There are key aspects of the political landscape in Wales that make it much tougher for PC than the SNP. I believe three things are particularly significant in this respect.

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 16.02.29Firstly, the make up of the media scene in Wales is not as conducive to getting PC’s message across. As I point out above, the Welsh papers gave a much more positive spin on Leanne’s speech that the the UK national peers like the Guardian. The Welsh papers have a much lower market penetration than the the Scotland only papers. On top of which the Scottish editions of the big ‘red tops’ have Glasgow based editorial control; something that does not happen in Wales. Wales may have stronger Welsh Language broadcasting provision than Scotland in S4C and Radio Cymru, but these achieve pitifully low penetration figures and little political impact on voting intentions I would suggest. Overall, however, this may well be the weakest of the three factors.

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 16.04.51Secondly, and most certainly a key factor, is the nature of the Labour brand in Wales. Welsh Labour, and Carwyn Jones in particular, have been relatively successful in carving out a separate identity for Welsh Labour and differentiating themselves the UK Labour Party. This is truer now than it ever has been with Carwyn making it very clear that he does not buy into the Corbyn ‘revolution’ and that whoever is labour leader in Westminster does not alter the fact the he is Labour leader in Wales. Thus labour in Wales was never quite as Blairite as Milliband Labour, but are now being seen to be a lot more Blairite than Corbyn Labour. Red Tories, they most certainly seem to want to remain. This may prove to be an opportunity for PC and Leanne Wood. Historically, with more of a Welsh identity, being a bit to the left of the national party and voting Labour in the people’s DNA, PC were a resistible force against an immoveable object.

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 16.06.01Labour were always seen as little more than a branch office of UK Labour in Scotland and all its big players shunned the Scottish Parliament to head of to Westminster. The SNP have very successfully shone a light on this with the help of the independence referendum showing just how close to the Tories UK Labour, and thereby Scottish labour too, had become. The PC focus insofar as attacking Welsh Labour, needs to be less on Welsh Labour’s record in office. Quite frankly, that speaks for itself. It needs to be on Welsh Labour’s refusal to sign up to the leftward march of popular politics – the ant-austrerity agenda – that speaks to values of old Labour and which are being renewed and re-invented for the new century by people like the SNP in Scotland and other popular movements in Europe (e.g. Syriza and Podemos). This is a gift to PC that they need to take advantage of, but requires a subtle change of messaging from the off-putting negativity of purely bashing their record in office. Focus instead on highlighting the differences in approach going forward. This will, of course, be much easier once the manifestoes are available. Carwyn promises something fresh and radical. It will be a surprise if he even knows what that means.

Thirdly, and of more significance than PC seem prepared to acknowledge and address, are key differences in demographics between Wales and Scotland. In Wales, 20% of the current population were born in England, with an additional 5% born outside the UK. In Scotland, 8% were born in England, with a similar number born outside the UK. Figures for second generation immigrants are hard to find, but must be hugely higher in Wales than Scotland, especially those with at least one parent born in England. This creates issues of identity and conflict at all sorts of levels, from the individual (am I Welsh, English, British?), to community levels (reflected in attitudes to the Welsh language for example), through to the whole country’s attitude to devolution and possible independence.

Simple branding

Simple branding

The SNP have successfully managed to establish itself as the party of Scotland with high levels of support across all parts of the country and among people of all backgrounds and origins. It has built support by successfully arguing that Scotland can be better off when it has control of its own economy (be it in or out of the union).

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Not so easy for graffiti artists!

Plaid Cymru calls itself the Party of Wales, when it patently isn’t in any popular sense. Welsh Labour has long been the party of Wales in terms in terms of support. It struggles to appeal to people in sufficiently high numbers to win seats outside of its heartland areas of West/North West Wales. It can alienate people with little interest in the Welsh language. It is identified as the guardians of the culture, but not as managers of the country’s wider wealth. It struggles to paint a credible vision of a Wales that would be better off standing on its own two feet.

None of this is insurmountable. But it is certainly too much to overcome between now and next May. But Plaid Cymru needs to get on the right path sooner rather than later. Nicola Sturgeon set out the key to this in one small part of her speech – I’ll get the exact words to quote as soon as I can track them down – where she essentially said that the secret of SNP success was essentially down to stopping simply denigrating the opposition and by laying down a positive vision and explaining how it could be achieved.

I want Plaid Cymru to succeed. They are without doubt the most realistic prospect of positive change in Wales. They have become a party that I can relate to in so many ways. I will almost certainly vote for them in May and probably encourage others to do so too. But there are still too many reservations that they really know where they are going and have the ability within their ranks to deliver. Leanne cannot do it on her own and she is not getting sufficient support or the right advice from those around her. All this has been graphically demonstrated with the Wylfa B issue.

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 16.31.09So as their Conference continues, I hope the right people are asking the right questions and getting the right answers so as to give them the right direction and impetus to make significant progress next year. It is vital that they do. If they don’t, it is easy to imagine the knives coming out for their greatest asset, Leanne Wood, and things completely unravelling again from there. They desperately need to build momentum after a disappointing General Election. Most of what I have said here I said before that election. I can see little evidence to date that anything much is changing. You really do not need to be Einstein to recognise that doing the same things and expecting different results is madness.

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So, is there actually a moratorium on fracking in Wales or not? Yes; well actually no; well kind of! Adds up to NO!

As with most things involving Welsh Labour, even when they make their position crystal clear, the end result remains as clear as mud!!

The Environment and Sustainability Committee met last Wednesday with the number one item on the agenda designed to establish the actual position regarding whether or not a moratorium exists in Wales on fracking. You can watch it for yourself below (click on image). Thankfully, you just need to watch the first 13 minutes.

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To summarise:

AJ = Chair Alun Jones (PC Arfon)
WP = William Powell (LD Mid & West Wales)
CS = Carl Sargeant (Lab Minister for Natural Resources, Alyn & Deeside)
LG = Llyr Gruffyydd (PC North Wales)
SM = Sandy Mewies (Lab Delyn)

N.B. I may be paraphrasing to an extent, so check the video for precise words

WP – Do you think a moratorium is in fact in place in Wales?

CS – Yes, I do.

WP – Do you not see any legal difficulties with this?

CS – The directions to the 25 welsh planning authorities are clear that we do not hold the same position as the UK government in wanting to move ahead quickly with fracking and that we continue to hold to the moratorium position.

WP – Do you think extending this include UCG is appropriate given the different technology and licensing arrangements, and given the decision taken in Scotland [to ban it too]?

CS – We are considering this and will make a decision shortly

SM – Do we not need much more publicity to highlight the different position here in Wales compared to Engalnd as there is a lot of confusion about these differing technologies and the WG position?

CS – Lobby groups on both sides have produced lots of information and I believe a lot of the science behind it is not well founded and this is why we are taking the precautionary approach whereby positive outcomes cannot be made for applications to local [planning authorities – they have to be referred to WG.

LG – I would like to question this as the direction to local authorities would prevent it being approved would it?
CS – Yes it would.

LG – But that decision [by WG] would be subject to legal challenge and likely to be overturned if not on planning grounds.

CS – Everything is open to legal challenge in planning, but it is clear they cannot make the decision local level and that the application would be called in by WG.

LG – So unless you are telling us that you will reject that application, which presumably you can’t, you cannot tell us that the application will not go ahead.

CS – That particular line of questioning is unlawful. I cannot presume any decision and you are therefore playing politics as you know my legal position on this. I can’t understand your argument as we are actually on the same side here. The fact is that you are trying to create a loophole when in fact we have been very clear on the moratorium and I think you are trying to undermine the system.

LG – I am quite taken aback by that attitude. My job is to make sure the decisions you take are robust and scrutinised and I have had a great deal of correspondence from organisations and individuals who are concerned that word moratorium is being bandied about when, in fact, really it is not a moratorium.

CS – I disagree with you.

AJ – If you are not prejudging an application coming to you, you cannot say you would not approve it.

CS – Absolutely Chair, I am not allowed to prejudge any application, therefore the line of questioning led by the member is unreasonable.

AJ – But if you are not prejudging it, how can you say it is a moratorium?

CS – I am saying that the local planning authority are not allowed to pass an application.

LG – So we can agree that it is a moratorium on local planning authorities making the decision.

CS – Absolutely

LG – But that we cannot go further than that because of legal reasons.

CS – I cannot prejudge any application.

LG – I understand that.

There follows a two-three minute discussion as to why CS considers it impractical to extend whatever ‘moratorium’ exists to test drilling applications.

Labour are playing games here, if we look at what a moratorium actually is:

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This all adds up to exactly what I and others, like Gareth Clubb at FoTEC, have long been saying. Clearly the only moratorium actually in place is on local authorities making decisions on fracking applications.

There are is no legally enforceable way of WG turning down fracking decisions brought before it on anything other than planning grounds. There are plenty of such grounds and there may well be the intention by Carl Sergeant and co. to do what they can to prevent it happening, BUT ……..

By his own admission, as things stand (and they may well change with the next devolution bill), he simply cannot say that there will be no fracking approvals granted. By any reasonable understanding of the word moratorium, I therefore (and regrettably) have no hesitation in declaring:


P.S. Carwyn Jones made it clear today (20/10/15) that even though the new Wales Bill will, finally, give Welsh Government the powers to put a proper moratorium or ban in place, it would still need ratifying by Westminster, and could easily be vetoed at the stroke of a pen, rendering it meaningless all the time we have a Westminster government intent on feathering its sponsors and donors nests with fracked gas when the time is right for profits to be made – the only criteria they live by.

Cardiff & South Wales Against the Bedroom Tax: October briefing notes

Beyond Mitigation – Beating the Crisis

 (Written by Jamie Insole)


Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 23.55.42Cardiff & South Wales Against the Bedroom Tax (C&SWABT) is a tenant led, grassroots campaign committed to fighting the ‘bedroom tax’.

Our experience indicates that the financial burden of the bedroom tax continues to fall predominantly upon the sick, disabled and most financially vulnerable members of our community.

Currently, approximately 33,000 households face the impossible choice of finding extra-money they do not have or ‘downsizing’ to smaller homes that do not exist.

C&SWABT has previously called for the Welsh Government to follow Scotland and Northern Ireland’s lead by providing the additional £17 million necessary to effectively cover the cost of the bedroom tax in Wales.

On July 24th, the Welsh Assembly’s own Public Accounts Committee recommended “a cost/benefit analysis of mitigating the full impact of the removal of the spare room subsidy through discretionary housing payments, as the Scottish Government chose to do.”

Following publication, a coalition of sector agencies and high-profile individuals, including, the Archbishop of Wales called upon Welsh Government to find the funds to take tenants out of this charge.

 Achievements to date:

1. Over 1000 tenants taken out of the bedroom tax

2. Established local authority exemptions for overnight care

3. Made law at tribunal – over 300 cases taken forward

4. Partnering with social landlords to take forward pilots and brokering agreements in Cardiff, Merthyr, Bridgend and Caerphilly.

5. Working with Welsh Government to secure an additional £1.3 million DHP

6. Successful press and media campaigns targeting Westminster, poor practise and highlighting social impacts

7. Nine local groups established. Skilling and education through campaigning activity. Tenants brought closer to the process of power!


Bridgend Against the Bedroom Tax Steering Committee (bottom right(

Bridgend Against the Bedroom Tax Steering Committee (bottom right(

“The cost of not intervening will

be measured both in terms of

thousands of evictions and the

irreversible toxification of

the Welsh social housing sector.”

Core argument

Approximately 33,000 households face the impossible choice of finding extra-money they do not have or ‘downsizing’ to smaller homes that do not exist.

Over the course of 2013 and 2014, social tenants in wales were made subject to 5136 suspended possession orders. Dramatic cuts in discretionary housing payment, combined with the perfect storm of further welfare reform can only see more people facing insurmountable debt and eviction threats.

Currently, discretionary housing payments constitute the single means whereby many tenants who cannot objectively downsize cover the cost of remaining in their homes. Perversely, the Local Authority Duty of Care introduced by the Housing Act will mean that a decreasing pot will need to be spread across a wider catchment.

Meanwhile, following the outcome of the May General election, there are strong indications that some social landlords are adopting a more aggressive approach to arrears. This is swiftly giving rise to a postcode lottery in which some seek to transfer the risk to tenants whilst others despair of settling a unified approach.

 A tree is best measured when it’s down – a warning!

Following on from work with the WLGA, our campaign is stunned by the lack of disaggregated data covering; 1: the number and profile of bedroom tax affected tenants in receipt of DHP and, 2: the number of bedroom tax tenants subject either to suspended possession orders or pre-action protocol.

Traditionally, arrears have been cited as the best means of measuring risk. However, and in combination with hidden debt, there is convincing evidence to indicate that ‘tenant resilience’ has been degraded beyond endurance. Welsh Tenants have carried out important work around the growth of local food bank usage. Similarly, Oxfam Cymru, in partnership with the Trussel Trust, sought to map the immediate factors driving the rise of extreme poverty.

C&SWABT suggests the existence of a developing crisis not unlike that experienced in 2007. In essence, whilst Welsh Government, agencies and the sector are measuring the wrong thing, true indicators (to the best of our knowledge) have neither been captured nor collated. Consequently, when the tree falls, it will do so both abruptly and in such a manner as to inflict maximum pressure on overstretched support services.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 23.57.10The backlog at law will be measured in months, if not years. Social landlords will be forced to transform their business models doing irrevocable vandalism to the sectors ethos. Homelessness will spike beyond the capacity of the private rented sectors local ability to accommodate. Estates will fight back. The majority of evictions will be bitterly contested and communities, faith groups and other constituencies will be brought into direct conflict with bailiffs and local decision makers. In short, we will see a pattern currently emerging in London replicated throughout Wales.

Beyond Mitigation

We are fully aware of the budgetary challenges posed by central government underfunding. However, in our view the cost of not intervening will be measured both in terms of thousands of evictions and the irreversible toxification of the Welsh social housing sector.

Welsh Government spends a lower percentage of its expenditure on housing than either Scotland or Northern Ireland. It is essential that the housing budget is expanded so that the DHP top-up does not come at the expense of other vital housing services. In Scotland, no tenant pay’s the Bedroom Tax. We call upon Welsh Government to show the same leadership, act upon the Committees recommendation and take tens of thousands of Welsh tenants out of poverty and misery.


In total it is costing Scotland £50.2m annually to offset the tax, including £15.2m from the DWP and the rest (£35m) coming from Scottish Gov.

If Welsh Government topped up at the same ratio, this would make the whole cost of ending the Bedroom Tax in Wales £26,071,644 (based on 2014/15 figs). BUT this is the total cost of ending the tax, including the money that DWP allocates to Wales via DHP, (£7,984,203 in 2014/15.)

So, the additional contribution from Welsh Government would be in the region of £18/17m. In budgetary terms this is in no way unachievable.

Next Steps

1. Bi-monthly briefings and regular info updates covering trends, case studies, best practise and further options

2. National Assembly of Wales petition launch

3. Sector-wide event – Cardiff – Transport House – December or January

4. National partnership to develop Upper Tribunal appeals strategy

5. Key note demonstrations and pilot ‘citadel neighbourhoods’ (a community-wide support and ‘no eviction’ net)

6. Developing engagement with RSL’s, CHC and the WLGA. Robust press campaigns designed to address bad practise and highlight Central Government failures.

7. Collaboration and support around Welsh Tenant and Shelter Cymru initiatives.

C&SWABT is eager to engage. We work to empower hundreds of bedroom tax affected tenants across South Wales. For further information, please contact or call Jamie on 07717779819, or for Bridgend enquiries, you can call Andy on 078 1066 3241.

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Why I simply can’t bring myself to join my local Labour Party

It was the Ogmore and Bridgend Constituency Labour Party annual dinner this week. Their very own Carwyn Jones turned up and members were keen to share on Facebook his declaration thus:

“we will have a manifesto that is radical, fresh and shaped by Party members”

I have to admit that this was like a red flag to a bull (apologies for the kinda mixed metaphor!).

Having been steadily sipping away at a bottle of Johnnie Walker all evening, I responded like this:

It will be radical and fresh if shaped by the new Corbynite members. It is great news that Carwyn’s stale old blairite, red Tory drivel is being binned at last. Bring it on!!

I guess this deserved the following riposte:

Love the comradely language that Jeremy requests of us. Suppose a real pity we have a Welsh Labour GOVERNMENT. dear me….

Nonetheless, the following conversation that followed, I think, is very telling:

  • ME: I am not on board yet, as I don’t believe a word of the radical and fresh claims. Proof will be in the pudding. Labour’s legacy in government is hardly cause for pride, being the product if years of complacency. Interesting times are upon us. It will be interesting to see if Welsh Labour can rise to the challenge. I sincerely hope so, but I really do think a change of leadership is vital to presentating a fresh, new, radical face with any credibility at all.
  • Reply: We will get out to fight and beat the Welsh Tories. Over and out.
  • ME: Hardly ambitious, let alone fresh and radical. I think I can rest my case too!
  • Reply: Not sure what greater ambition we should have than defeating Tories. They are the enemy after all!
  • ME: Seriously? That says it all and pretty much confirms all my worst fears.

So there you have it. Beating the Tories is their sole ambition. No challenge to the charge of complacency. No interest in being fresh or radical so long as the Tories are not in charge. Tory-lite will presumably continue to be acceptable enough and continue to meet Carwyn’s understanding of radical and fresh. No view on whether Carwyn is the right person to take them forward.

Of course, I may be proved wrong. The Labour Manifesto for next year’s Assembly elections may well prove ‘fresh and radical’. The influence of the massive influx of new Corbynite members, and the presumably renewed confidence of the long-quiet lefties that always hid away within the party during the Blairite years (with one or two exceptions), will surely have a profound impact if Carwyn is right about policy and the manifesto being ‘shaped by members’. But that is, of course, only half the battle with Carwyn’s administration. They blatantly lie, even in the Senedd itself, and their promises are worthless. One straightforward but huge example emphasises this point – the NHS hospital downgrading.

Here are some actual quotes from Labour ministers in the Senedd:

No-one is suggesting the downgrading of any district general hospital (Labour First Minister, National Assembly, November 29th 2011)

No hospital is under threat, and no hospital was ever under threat in Wales (Labour First Minister, National Assembly, May 1st 2012).

I do not want to see any downgrading. We want to see improved services. To talk about downgrading is absolute nonsense. (Labour Health Minister, November 1st 2011)

We have no plans to downgrade any district general hospital (Labour Health Minister, December 7th 2011)

I do not want to hear any talk about downgrading. No services will be downgraded (Labour Health Minister, May 23rd 2012)

Tally these pledges with the reality of what has happened in terms of hospital downgrades:

  • Closure of at least five community hospitals: Blaenau Ffestiniog, Flint, Llangollen, Prestatyn and Mynydd Mawr
  • Closure of the special care baby unit at Withybush hospital
  • Level 3 neonatal care scheduled to move from Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and Wrexham’s Maelor Hospital to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral (i.e. out of Wales)
  • X-ray services to cease in Tywyn, Ruthin and Blaenau Ffestiniog
  • Closure of Minor Injuries Units at Flint, Ruthin, Llangollen, Chirk, Colwyn Bay, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Tenby and South Pembrokeshire
  • Permanent closure of inpatient beds at Hafan Ward (Bryn Beryl Hospital) and Uned Meirion (Dolgellau Hospital)
  • A and E downgrading at Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli
  • A and E downgrading at the Royal Glamorgan in Llantrisant

And this is not necessarily a complete list, and certainly not the end of the issues with NHS service provision in Wales.

So perhaps when Carwyn says he has some radical and fresh ideas lined up, perhaps this simply means he has some actual intention to deliver on his promises. That really would be fresh and radical for him!!

P.S. This picture from the Annual Dinner is doing the rounds on Facebook, and is begging for a caption competition re Carwyn Jones as a Tom Jones tribute act!

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 12.15.53

It’s not unusual to break promises in politics

What’s new pussycat? Is it really fresh and radical?

Burning down the house when Labour lose their grip on the Senedd

Mama told me not to come and get photographed standing in front of that damn sign!

A Review and Synopsis of the Scientific and Technical Evidence Against Hydraulic Fracturing (or ‘Fracking’).

A Review and Synopsis of the Scientific and Technical Evidence Against Hydraulic Fracturing (or ‘Fracking’).

Andy Chyba B.Sc. (Hons)

Revised edition, September 2015. On behalf of Frack Free Wales


This paper seeks to present a summary of the key scientific and technical evidence against hydraulic fracturing. In this sense it does not pretend to be balanced in terms of looking at evidence supporting the industry. It is incumbent on the industry and its supporters to produce any such evidence and to combat the evidence I present here. I have, however, done my best to use credible and respected sources throughout. This is also not exhaustive in terms of issues related to hydraulic fracturing. Issues such as noise, HGV traffic, property values, loss of amenity, and impacts on biodiversity, agriculture and tourism are outside the remit of this paper, but also far from insignificant.


1.     INTRODUCTION                                                                                                                         

2.     BOREHOLE CASINGS                                                               

3.     SEISMICITY                                                                                   

4.     EXPLOSIVE FRACTURING                                                     

5.     HYDRAULIC FRACTURING (fracking)                             


7.     DISCLOSURE OF CHEMICALS                                             

8.     HANDLING FLOWBACK WATER                                       

9.     SILICA SAND                                                                                

10.  AIRBORNE POLLUTION                                                          

11.  WATER RESOURCE IMPLICATIONS                                 

12.  CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS                                             

13.  IN CONCLUSION                                                                        


1. The technical and scientific problems/issues with the new generation of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) methods span the spectrum from the molecular to the global scales. The key differences between traditional ‘conventional’ fracking and the recent so-called ‘unconventional’ innovations of the last 15 years or so are summarised in Table 1[1]:



Well type



Well pad footprint

1 to 3 acres

3 to 6 acres

Water requirement per frack

20,000 to 80,000 gallons

2 to 9 million gallons (ave. 4mill)

Chemicals required


Many and varied

Fracking frequency



Nature of resource

Large pocket of resource; easy to extract

Scattered throughout the rock; hard to extract

Table 1

2. The unconventional process is shown schematically in Figure 2 [2]. Note the 7 question marks, which highlight just some of the problem areas.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 22.31.52

Fig 2

? = (Left to right, top to bottom): frack fluid spills; blow-outs and pressure release vapourisation; safe handling and disposal of produced wastewater; poor fitting casements and leaks into soil/regolith near the surface; contamination of deep aquifers through cement faults; pre-existing faults through aquiclude exacerbated by fracking itself; seismic activity creating new faults, extending existing ones; destroying integrity of casings.


1. Once the drilling has taken place, the process of casing the borehole is undertaken. This is the process that is supposed to ensure there are no subterranean water contamination issues.  “It’s an engineering process that is too hard to do perfectly,” said Tony Ingraffea, a professor in Cornell’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, “even with the best personnel, cements and equipment.” [3]  He has found that some leaking (of gas and fluid) is inevitable due to failures in the metal casing or cement, contaminating underground sources of drinking water and damaging air quality. In fact, statistics show that even new wells fail and that a higher percentage fails with age. The gas industry has been studying the ongoing problem for decades, and knows these statistics full well.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 22.34.402. In a report entitled “Well Integrity Failure Presentation“, drilling service company Archer reports that nearly 20 percent of all oil and gas wells are leaking worldwide. A 2003 joint industry publication from Schlumberger, the world’s No. 1 fracking company, and oil and gas giant ConocoPhillips, cites astronomical failure rates of 60 percent over a 30-year span. [4]

3. The casings fail for many reasons: failure to ensure gas tight fitting of the metal components; the technical difficulties of ensuring consistent flows and quality in the cement (just about impossible with such long and non-straight boreholes); ground shrinkage around the boreholes; poor mud displacement; and seismicity (natural or induced) destroying the integrity of the cement and distorting the fit of the metal casings.

4. Rumours of self-healing concrete have abounded for quite a few years, but commercially useable versions are only just coming to market. It has been proven effective on buildings, but remains unproven in borehole casings. Predictably, it is also very expensive, currently costing twice the price of conventional concrete. [5]


1. With reference to seismicity, not only is fracking highly likely to induce it[6], but the sorts of area that are being explored in the UK are amongst the most seismically active parts of the country. The January 2015 quake in Leicestershire, while not fracking related, would have been more than enough to threaten the integrity of borehole casings for many miles around. Parts of Leicestershire are in the frackers sights. The lies and deceit of people in the industry are demonstrated by Cuadrilla’s CEO stating on BBC television that: “There are procedures we can put in place to practise earthquake prevention” [7]. The fact of the matter is that, to quote the US Geological Survey, People can’t stop earthquakes from happening. People can significantly mitigate their effects by identifying hazards, building safer structures, and learning about earthquake safety” [8]. Fracking is, patently, the absolute antithesis of earthquake mitigation.


1. Once they have drilled into the gas bearing rocks (e.g. shale) the next stage is the triggering of explosions at regular intervals along the horizontal section of the borehole within the target strata.  Predicting the extent of the resultant cracks is hard enough in a theoretical model, but in absolute terms is impossible due to the vagaries of deep subterranean geology. Pre-existing faults can be very difficult to identify by current survey techniques and continues to be an area of intense research efforts[9]. Very minor ones can also be accentuated by the fracking explosions. Fractures can extend for 2500 ft and are frequently up to 1000ft. They can spread to neighbouring strata and through the target strata to neighbouring wells [10]. This means that there is no assurance that the aquiclude layer is secure above the target strata, either before or, especially, after fracking operations.



Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 22.36.481. Once the explosive fracturing has happened, the hydraulic fracturing is undertaken to extend the fractures still further and prop them open with sand. With the old conventional methods, there was rarely any need to use more than water and sand (the sand acts as the proppant in the cracks).  But the newer unconventional methods (because of the length of boreholes, the drilling technology, the high pressures being used and the nature of the geology) require a whole cocktail of chemical additives to facilitate the processes.

The industry itself admits to the frequent need for the following ingredients [11]:

·                Strong acids to dissolve minerals

·                Numerous poisonous biocides to eliminate bacteria and algae

·                Friction reducers such as acrylamides and mineral oils

·                Corrosion inhibitors to protect drills and well casings (cont.>)

·                Scale inhibitors to prevent furring

·                Surfactants and cross-linkers to adjust fluid viscosity

·                Acidity regulators

·                Breakers

·                Iron control agents [12]



Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 22.38.101. The leading authority on the health impacts of the chemicals used in fracking is Dr Theo Colborn, of the world renowned TEDX (The Endocrine Disruption Exchange) [13].  Doctor Colborn has identified a wide range of compounds in frack fluids and discerned a staggering array of serious health consequences that range from the immediate to the slow developing. In many cases only minute concentrations can cause devastating consequences (parts per billion)[14].  Over 78% of the chemicals are associated with skin, eye or sensory organ effects, respiratory effects and gastrointestinal or liver effects. The brain and nervous system can be harmed by 55% of the chemicals. Other affects, including cancer, organ damage, and harm to the endocrine system, may not appear for months or years later. Between 22% and 47% of the chemicals were associated with these possibly longer-term health effects.



1. There are well-documented issues with disclosure of the chemicals used in the USA (the infamous ‘Halliburton loophole’) [15] and frequent misconceptions that we are assured of full disclosure of chemicals in the UK. This is a dangerous myth. Assurances about the EA requiring full disclosure of chemicals used in fracking are undermined by a few inconvenient truths. There is no such thing as proprietary frack fluid. You do not buy it off the shelf, with a nice contents label and a MSDS. It varies at every fracking stage and with variations in local geology. You would need a presence at every single ‘frack job’, at every single site, to sample the fluid used every time. This is a practical impossibility. So the EA asks the industry to declare what it is using. The deceits that UK frackers, Cuadrilla and their friends, tell about the chemicals they use are well established [16].

2. The EA undertook some analysis of the flowback waters from the fracking operations in Lancashire [17]. Despite the high profile of this, the first fracking in the UK, the analysis only looked for one of the declared frack fluid ingredients, polyacrylamide, in one solitary sample (and found it). They acknowledged that this is known to break down into the nerve toxin acrylamide (see pg3). They also conclude that the levels of various radioactive isotopes (radium-226, potassium-40, radium-228, plutonium-241) now necessitate a permit if Cuadrilla want to continue disposing of these fluids to the nearest waste water treatment works (c.40 miles away), because the levels measured, combined with the expected quantities of flowback fluid, exceed new (but arguably still inadequate) limits.

3. What the analysis did not mention was the particularly toxic BTEX compounds (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes) found in petroleum derivatives. Cuadrilla never publicly mentions using such things, but it is admitted on a data sheet [18], under the guise of ‘hydrocarbon oil’. It would appear that the EA did not even attempt looking for this – or the non-specific biocides Cuadrilla also own up to using, without ever being specific.


1. It is believed by local campaigners that some flowback water was discharged into the Manchester Ship Canal, after treatment at the Daveyhulme Water Treatment plant, but before the EA analysis was able to be done. The reality is that the treatment plants would have nowhere near enough capacity to handle the massive quantities of flowback that full-scale production would generate, and it would be difficult and costly to eliminate all the toxins. Currently the flowback fluid is being stored in double skinned tanks on site pending a permit application.

To be fair, Cuadrilla is not taking any chances. In their own words: Upon returning to the surface, they [frack fluids] are stored in steel tanks and at no point come in contact with the ground. In the unlikely event that any liquid was spilt on the surface, seepage at ground level is prevented by the installation of an impermeable membrane on land at and surrounding the well site.” [19] Extraordinary precautions, I would suggest, for fluids we are told we should not worry about.  Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 22.39.54Storage is one thing, but avoiding spills while transferring fluids to tanker trucks, for example, is another [20].



1. Over and above the issues with chemicals, the sand used in unconventional fracking has serious health issues too. The best sand to use as a proppant in frack jobs is 99% silica sand, because of its hardness and grain shape. However, there is now well established research that handling such sand, and breathing in the dust from it, is a very serious health risk. The medical journal, the Lancet, cited research (no longer online) that shale gas workers around the world are experiencing unacceptable risks of silicosis – which is debilitating, irreversible and has no cure.  It is also leading to big surge of claims for damages by workers in the industry[21]



1. Airborne pollution is not confined to silica dust, and is increasingly seen as a major issue with fracking activities. A major study by the Colorado School of Public Health, entitled “Human Health Risk Assessment of Air Emissions from Development of Unconventional Natural Gas Resources”  [22],  has shown that air pollution caused by fracking may contribute to acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites.  There was considerable anecdotal evidence of aggravated breathing/lung problems in the aftermath of the Lancashire fracking incidents. “The health science community is now looking at why health complaints are rising in fracking areas, particularly among children,” says Nadia Steinzor of Earthworks [23]. She says that some people who live near fracking areas have been complaining of headaches, nausea, bloody noses and nerve problems.

2. The sources of the air pollution are considered to be from two main sources. One is the large amount of very heavy diesel powered machinery used in the drilling and fracking operations. Typically the pumping equipment would amount to “a maximum pressure rating of 20,000 pounds per square inch, and a power rating of 2000 hydraulic horsepower each, with all twelve pumps totalling 24,000 horsepower”  [24].

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 22.42.283. The second serious source of air pollution is from methane leaks and fugitive emissions[25]. With the methane comes a variety of other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can contribute to the formation of smog. Even where these gases are flared, the gas flare can also lead to the formation of secondary pollutants, such as sulphur compounds, and of nitrogen oxides which also increase air pollution. The health effects of these compounds are well documented [26].

4. Even if there were no issues with pollution whatsoever, there are 2 massive issues to consider; namely water resource implications and impacts on global warming.


1. The scale of water usage in both drilling and fracking is hard to fully appreciate and difficult to ascertain exactly. An independent review of the subject by the Pacific Institute, one of the world’s leading non-profit research and policy organisations focussing on creating a healthier planet and sustainable communities, highlighted the confusion and obfuscation of the facts created by the industry. Entitled “Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Resources: Separating the Frack from the Fiction”  [27], and published in June 2012, it is probably the definitive study on the subject.

2. It establishes six key water resource issues: (1) water withdrawals; (2) groundwater contamination associated with well drilling and production; (3) wastewater management; (4) truck traffic and its impacts on water quality; (5) surface spills and leaks; and (6) stormwater management.

3. ‘Water withdrawals’ refers to the water that needs to be withdrawn from existing resources for fracking activities. The report highlights the huge variability in amounts used, but broadly supports established estimates that it takes about 500,000 gallons to drill the average well, and takes an average of about 4 million gallons for each frack job. These figures are huge enough if you are talking about one frack job, in one well, on one well pad. Once you begin to appreciate the potential scale of the industry in the UK, the figures soon become astronomical.

4. Using industry estimates throughout (probably conservative, at the very least), each well can expect to be fracked about 6 times in its lifetime (range observed in the literature = 3-20). Each well pad will have about 10 wells radiating out from it (range 6 -16). This gives an estimate of 4x6x10 million gallons per well pad = 240 million gallons. Cuadrilla have explicit plans for 80 sites in Lancashire = 19,200 million gallons. This would only be a fraction of the sites needed to exploit the full potential of the Bowland Shale in that part of the country. Current technology would put the optimum spacing of sites at something like 2km apart. Pedl licences cover 10km squares. So that is 25 sites per 10 km square. There are currently about 210 of these 10km squares under licence onshore (as of 18/08/2015) and all are potential targets of the frackers [28]A further 130+ are planned and under consultation, making 340 in total.

5. Continuing the mathematics, this makes an estimated 240x25x340 = a staggering 2,040,000 million gallons of water used for fracking. Add on the water used in drilling (0.5x10x25x340=42,500 million gallons) for a (conservative) estimate of 2,082,500 million gallons of water. This represents well in excess of 3.5 billion Olympic swimming pools, or approximately 30 Lake Windermeres!!

6. To put this into a fuller context, only about 30% of the water used in fracking is ever recovered. It is often as low as 10% [29]. If the industry is to be believed, it is putting this water safely below deep aquicludes. We have examined reasons to doubt this, but if they are right we are talking about putting water outside the water cycle. It will become (highly contaminated) fossil water that may not see the light of day for many millions of years. In an era of ever increasing pressure on water supplies, for a huge range of reasons [30], it is completely irresponsible to be putting 12 Lake Windermeres worth of precious water supply beyond reach.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 22.43.45

7. (Western Resource Advocates report shows that fracking in Colorado uses enough water to supply 166,000 to 296,000 people for a year for household use[31].  As for gas being a ‘bridge fuel’, this is considered below.)



1. This brings me to the last major issue – one that can only exacerbate water resource issues – the impact of exploiting shale gas on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The definitive work on this subject has been done by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, at Manchester University. Its report, “Shale gas: an updated assessment of environmental and climate change impacts” [32] is compelling. The report concludes that in an energy hungry world, any new fossil fuel resource will only lead to additional carbon emissions, thereby wrecking claims that shale gas can be seen as a transitional (or bridge) fuel as we move towards a low carbon energy future. Its use can only delay the introduction of renewable energy alternatives by putting off the imperative. “Consequently, if we are serious in our commitment to avoid dangerous climate change, the only safe place for shale gas remains in the ground” says Professor Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre.

(A thoughtful and useful comment has been added on this particular topic)

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 22.44.45

2. In addition to concerns about groundwater and GHG emissions, the Tyndall Report also points out how important it is, in considering possible shale gas extraction in the UK, to recognise that high population density is likely to amplify many of the issues that have been faced in the US. Those that claim that the US experience cannot happen here are in complete denial of the distinct possibility that the environmental and health consequences could be significantly worse on these relatively crowded little islands of ours.



In conclusion, allow me to point out that most people’s concern over fracking tends to start in a NIMBYist fashion, with concern over related planning applications in their local areas. Witness the ever increasing plethora of local opposition groups across the country, indeed across the world. What invariably happens, however, is that people very quickly learn about and recognise the full range and scale of the issues involved – the issues in this review, and many more such as noise, HGV traffic, property values, loss of amenity, and impacts on biodiversity, agriculture and tourism and so on. We have seen local opposition groups thereby morph into national and international campaigns, seeking to be mutually supportive towards a common goal. This is an issue that therefore stretches far beyond the scientific and technical. It has to become a political issue, and even a human rights issue, in which choices about our relationship with the planet we depend on are central and fundamental.


[1] Paleontological Research Institute paper: 

[2] MJ Whiticar, Biogeochemistry Dept., University of Victoria, British Columbia:







[9] From Feb 2015



[12] See the Congressional Committee sequence near the end of the Gasland film. (from 5:00 of this clip: )




[16] See the second half of:

[17]   Not available as at Sept. 2015, and unable to locate elsewhere.

[18]     Also withdrawn and no longer available.

[19]  No longer available either!









[28] As of 01/09/2015





Defra report reveals extent of impacts on people living near fracking wells

Energy Files

July 1, 2015 – 6:07 pm
Photoby Christine Ottery

People that live near fracking sites could be affected by health problems and financial hardships – and fracking might not even help climate change – a government report has revealed.
The report – which was initially heavily redacted but has now been fully published after the Information Commissioner ordered the government to do so – includes striking passages that were previously blacked out on the risks of living near a fracking well, most dramatically that:
“Properties located within a 1 – 5 mile radius of the fracking operation may also incur an additional cost of insurance to cover losses in case of explosion on the site.”
“Such an event would clearly have social impacts,” some genius notes.
There are also several other health impacts and financial impacts on local rural communities that have been detailed — and are now revealed.
On climate change, the report says that fracking in the UK could cause a gross increase in global CO2 emissions if the LNG or other fossil fuels that would otherwise be burnt in the UK are burnt elsewhere — and we are still emitting from burning fracking gas.

Energydesk put in the Freedom of Information request for the report last summer, and repeatedly asked Defra to fill in the blacked-out blanks in the back-end last year.

We’ve finally been able to properly scour the report — and here’s what’s come to light:

Health: Water, noise, light and air pollution

People could experience the consequences of surface water contamination from fracking — not from drinking water but “it can affect human health indirectly through consumption of contaminated wildlife, livestock, or agricultural products”.

Noise and light pollution from rigs could also lead to problems, the internal Defra report acknowledges. It says: “Some residents may experience deafening noise; light pollution that affects sleeping patterns.”

“Noxious odours from venting gases can also impact on air quality for local residents,” it adds.

Truck movements to and from the site – about 14 to 51 journeys a day over a period of weeks – could also impact air pollution and noise.

And if you have resulting health problems you might find your local services stretched with the additional demand from the influx of fracking workers.

The report says that it’s unclear whether the extra funding given to communities “will be sufficient to meet the additional demand if new schools or hospitals are needed to ensure service provision for existing rural communities is maintained”.

Money: Housing and jobs

So, your house might be worth up to 7% less if you live within a mile of a fracking site (though other estimates say 10% or even up to 70% of the value could be wiped off) — and you might have to pay more for your house insurance in case of an explosion on site.

And if you rent, rent prices are expected to rise as new workers come into the area.

Fracking is also a mixed bag for local economies — short term benefits belie costs in terms of industries including “agriculture, tourism, organic farming, hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation.”

The report also highlights concerns about what happens to local economies after the frackers leave.

In case local people were thinking of working in the fracking industry, there is also uncertainty over “how sustainable the shale gas investments will be in the future and whether rural communities have the right mix of skills to take advantage of the new jobs and wider benefits on offer”.

Regulatory uncertainty

And at a time of deep cuts to DECC, the Environment Agency and HSE – the people responsible for regulating the fracking industry – it is tricky that the report recommends that “regulatory capacity may need to be increased”.

A Defra statement said: “This document was drawn up as a draft internal discussion paper – it is not analytically robust, has not been peer-reviewed and remains incomplete.

“It does not contain any new data or evidence, and many of the conclusions amount to unsubstantiated conjecture, which do not represent the views of officials or ministers.”

Read the UNREDACTED Defra report in its entirety here.