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Carmarthen call centre boss banned for 221 million nuisance PPI calls

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A CARMARTHEN director has been banned for eight years after causing two companies to make almost 221 million unsolicited nuisance PPI phone calls.

Richard Jones, age 31, from Carmarthen, Wales, was the director of Miss-Sold Products UK Limited and Your Money Rights Limited, the two companies at the centre of investigations by the ICO and the Insolvency Service.

This latest case takes the total period of director disqualifications achieved through collaboration between the ICO, the Insolvency Service and other enforcement bodies, past the 100 year mark.

Miss-Sold Products UK Limited was a company Richard Jones used as a vehicle to make unsolicited phone calls contrary to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations*.

The company came to the attention of the ICO after the regulator received 146 complaints between November 2015 and March 2016 about automated phone calls from telephone numbers used by Miss-Sold Products UK.

Further investigations by the ICO found that in a five-month period, Miss-Sold Products UK made close to 75 million automated marketing calls, primarily containing a recorded message about PPI refunds.

The ICO attempted to engage with Miss-Sold Products UK from May 2017 onwards but were stonewalled before issuing a £350,000 penalty against the company for making unsolicited marketing calls to people without their specific consent and for failing to include a company name and contact details in the recorded message.

Miss-Sold Products UK failed to pay the debt and the company was wound-up through the courts in June 2018.

Richard Jones also used a second company, Your Money Rights Limited, as an additional vehicle to make unsolicited PPI calls.

In a near identical set of events, the ICO investigated Your Money Rights after the regulator received more than 250 complaints between March and July 2016 about automated calls from telephone numbers used by the company.

This time round, the ICO found that in a five month period Richard Jones’ second company made more than 146 million automated marketing calls to people who had not consented to be called, with a recorded message about PPI refunds.

The ICO attempted to engage with Your Money Rights but similar to proceedings with the first company, Miss-Sold Products UK, the regulator was thwarted in their enquiries.

This resulted in a second £350,000 fine being issued against the company for making unsolicited marketing calls to people who had not consented and for failing to include a company name and contact details in the recorded message.

Your Money Rights failed to discharge the debt and the company was also wound up on the petition of the ICO in March 2018.

Following referrals from the ICO, further investigations were conducted by the Insolvency Service to assess Richard Jones’ activities and how he had contributed to cause the two companies to breach the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

Investigators concluded that Richard Jones played a central role, which led him to submit a disqualification undertaking to the Secretary of State.

Effective from 1 March 2019, Richard Jones is banned for eight years from directly or indirectly becoming involved, without the permission of the court, in the promotion, formation or management of a company.

David Brooks, Chief Investigator for the Insolvency Service, said:

“There are no justifications Richard Jones could provide that would have excused him from what he had done. Not only did he use two separate companies to make the unsolicited phone calls but we are talking about millions of intrusive calls rather than a small handful.

“Unsolicited phone calls cause misery and harm to unsuspecting people and being banned for eight years will put a significant dent on Richard Jones’ ability to do something similar again.

Andy Curry, ICO Investigations Group Manager, said:

“Richard Jones is one of the worst offenders we have come across in the 15 years since laws around electronic nuisance marketing were introduced. This disqualification which takes him out of action is good news for all those who have been a victim of his cold calling and should be a warning to other operators who use similar marketing techniques.

“The net is tightening and we now have increased powers to make directors and other company officers responsible personally liable for fines of up to £500,000 for nuisance marketing.

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Dead calves left rotting on Carmarthen farmer’s land

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A CARMARTHEN farmer has been ordered to pay over £2,000 after three dead calves were found rotting on his land.

Wyn Morgan, of Rhyddgoes Fawr, in Newcastle Emlyn, admitted delaying the disposal of the fallen stock despite being reminded by animal health officers on a number of occasions to do so.

The 48-year-old appeared before Llanelli magistrates in a case led by Carmarthenshire Council on Friday.

The court heard that following a complaint on rotting calves being dumped on land in April last year, Morgan was advised to remove the mixed breed carcasses which were along the boundary hedge and against the woodland. After removing just six he was given until May 7 to clear the remaining three.

On May 4, in a phone call between his solicitor and council officers, it was claimed that Morgan had been unable to locate the remaining three despite him having collected six from the same location earlier. The location was also marked with a red and white feed bag. The farmer then claimed he couldn’t move them until May 11 – some four weeks after the find – as he was short staffed. They were eventually removed on May 8.

In mitigation, Morgan maintained they weren’t his animals and that he had difficulty locating them, however, he did accept that as they were on his land he had the responsibility to remove them.

Morgan was given a 12-month conditional discharge and must pay £2196.70 costs and £20 victim surcharge. No separate penalty was imposed against his company, IW Morgan Farms Ltd.

The council’s executive board member for public protection, Cllr Philip Hughes said: “This has proved very costly for Mr Morgan who was aware it was his responsibility to dispose of any animal remains found on his land, safely and as quickly as possible. It was a very blatant act by him claiming, via his solicitor, that he didn’t know the location even though he’d been there previously and picked up six of the nine carcasses. Controls on animal by-products are there for a very good reason and protects against any potential risks to both human and animal health. Hopefully this will serve as a reminder to anyone who fails to remove fallen stock and we will continue to take action when necessary.”

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Reports damning for City Deal management

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THE PUBLICATION of two reports on Friday, March 15, has shone a light into corners of the Swansea Bay City Deal.

The first report released, prepared on behalf of the UK and Welsh governments, written by Actica

Consulting, suggests a combination of concerns over funding and of the “much-publicised concerns on the wellness village (Delta Lakes, Llanelli, the single largest project) could cause a loss of confidence within the region”

In the meantime and, The Herald understands, over the anguished objections of the Regional Office/Carmarthenshire County Council, the second report – an internal review – was circulated to county councillors in Pembrokeshire this morning.

The second report makes for grim reading.

The report lays bare the amount of distrust between the City Deal partners, particularly between Neath Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire councils on the one side, and Carmarthenshire County Council on the other.

Each report highlights deficiencies in the management of the Deal, which Carmarthenshire County Council and its controversial CEO Mark James are meant to lead.

Familiar to those who have kept a close watch on the activities of Carmarthenshire County Council are complaints of a lack of transparency and openness in the way the City Deal has been managed to date.

Particular criticism is made of two key aspects of the project: that under Mr James’ leadership the Deal has failed to consider the City Deal as a truly regional opportunity and focussed on building individual, local projects of limited regional value; the second major criticism is the failure of leadership given to the project and an abject lack of clear financial processes and accountability.

In spite of an attempt to spin the ‘success’ of two elements of the deal, Swansea Waterfront and Yr Egin, it is worth noting that Yr Egin was only tacked on to the City Deal when already underway because UWTSD revealed it couldn’t afford to complete the project on its own as it had promised.

Cllr Rob James, the Leader of the Labour Group on Carmarthenshire County Council told The Herald late on Friday afternoon: “I am pleased that this review has highlighted many of the concerns that we have raised on governance.

“Frankly, the report validated our actions to date.

“Trust has broken down between partners and public confidence in one of the projects, in particular, has taken a big hit.

“There are clear lessons that need to be learnt and this report highlights several of them. I now hope that the administration in Carmarthenshire consider the review in full and ensure that radical changes on governance are delivered immediately.”

Cllr Rob Stewart, Chairman of the Swansea Bay City Deal Joint Committee, said: “This review was carried out alongside the UK and Welsh Government’s independent review of the City Deal programme and sought to assure that it will deliver full economic benefits for the region.

“The findings and recommendations of the internal review will be formally considered by the SBCD Joint Committee at the next meeting.

“Looking to ensure governance is as robust as possible reflects that we’re still in the very early stages of a 15-year programme, but we’re ready to support any recommendations that would benefit the region’s economic prosperity in future by speeding up the City Deal’s delivery.”

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Review recommends immediate approval of two City Deal projects

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TWO major projects forming part of the £1.3 billion Swansea Bay City Deal should be immediately approved, an independent review has found.

The review – carried out by Actica Consulting for the UK Government and Welsh Government – says project business cases for ‘the Yr Egin’ creative digital cluster in Carmarthen and the City and Waterfront Digital District in Swansea are ‘fit for purpose’.

Senior UK Government, Welsh Government and local authority officials should now aim to bring these project approvals to a swift conclusion, the review says.

A 3,500-seat digital indoor arena and digital plaza at the LC car park site is among the features of the £168.2 million Swansea City and Waterfront Digital District. Other project features include a 100,000 square foot digital village for tech businesses on Kingsway, as well as a 28,000 square foot ‘box village’ and 64,000 square foot innovation precinct development for start-up companies at the new University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) campus in SA1.

Once the project’s business case is approved, a City Deal contribution of £50m from both governments will follow.

Already close to full occupation and with S4C’s newly-relocated headquarters at its heart, phase one of the 4,000 square metre ‘Canolfan S4C Yr Egin’ creative industry development at UWTSD’s Carmarthen campus was officially opened late last year.

A second phase of work is also planned, adding a further 4,250 square metres of commercial floor space for creative sector businesses.

City Deal funding worth £5 million would contribute to an overall £24.3 million project cost.

Cllr Rob Stewart, Chairman of the Swansea Bay City Deal Joint Committee, said: “We welcome the findings of the independent review and the continued support of both governments for the Swansea Bay City Deal.

“We will now look to agree and implement the review’s recommendations, which is evidence of our ongoing commitment to deliver an investment programme worth £1.8 billion and over 9,000 jobs to South West Wales.

“Work on the digital indoor arena and digital plaza elements of the Swansea City and Waterfront Digital District is due to start this summer, so we agree with the review’s finding that commitment of City Deal funds in the short-term is critical to ensure the financial exposure of local authorities remains manageable.

“We also welcome the call to imminently approve City Deal funding for the ‘Canolfan S4C Yr Egin’ project in Carmarthen. This development has been an outstanding success story since opening last autumn, but there’s much more to come thanks to a second phase of work that’s planned.

“We stand ready to meet with UK Government and Welsh Government officials as soon as possible to get these two exciting projects over the finish line.

“These approvals will be the first of many that will benefit residents and businesses in all Swansea Bay City Region communities.”

A further recommendation of the review says there should be flexibility in the City Deal programme to allow some projects to be potentially replaced by other new projects in future. The review says this recommendation would guard against the City Deal stagnating, while enabling the chance to explore new opportunities.

It’s also being recommended that an independent programme director is appointed to provide a dedicated additional resource to help speed up the City Deal’s delivery. This recommendation is echoed by an internal City Deal review.

Cllr Stewart said: “Although the City Deal was first signed in March 2017, the need for a detailed legal agreement to be drafted and approved by the UK Government, the Welsh Government and all four regional councils meant Joint Committee’s first formal meeting only take place at the end of August last year.

“So given the City Deal is still at an early stage, Joint Committee commissioned our own internal review to run in parallel with the independent review to ensure our governance is sufficiently robust.

“Both reviews are recommending the appointment of an independent City Deal programme director, which would provide an additional dedicated resource and support for partners to enable work on projects across the region to be progressed more quickly.

“We also welcome the recommendation for the City Deal programme to be more flexible. This aligns with our consistent request to bring new projects into the City Deal if they’re good for the region.

“Throughout these reviews, work on all City Deal projects has been ongoing. The City Deal hasn’t been on hold in any way, although we’re now in a position to make much more progress in coming months.”

The Swansea Bay City Deal is led by the four regional councils – Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire and Swansea – in partnership with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Swansea University, Hywel Dda University Health Board and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board.

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