ITS WEBSITE says that Cymdeithas Tai Cantref is a housing association which provides ‘good quality affordable homes’ and housing services for almost 3,500 people across four local authority areas in West Wales: Ceredigion, North Pembrokeshire, North Carmarthenshire and the Machynlleth area in Powys.
What it does not tell visitors to the website is that it is currently under investigation by the Welsh Government and has been the subject of previous investigations into its management and an alleged culture of bullying.
With 84 staff, largely based in its Newcastle Emlyn HQ, Cantref is a major employer. And one it appears with a number of major problems.
The recent AGM of Cantref was held at Cardigan Castle, a venue itself no stranger to controversy. It was a bumper event, with tenants invited to partake of a hog roast and free wine, while residents of Cantref’s hostel were similarly entertained.
The uncharitable have suggested that perhaps the Association’s money would have been better spent on repairing its existing stock. Something which it is claimed the Association is too cash-strapped to manage.
Meanwhile, The Herald has been told that Cantref is struggling to find people to take up residence in its new Felinfach development while the student accommodation built in Aberystwyth, and which was intended to fund further projects, has proven a similarly hard sell.
The Herald has confirmed that three senior staff left Cantref’s employment, among them the Director of Housing, whose replacement Jamie Saunders took up his post earlier this month. Mr Saunders’ background in housing appears limited to the twelve years’ experience he gained working for Hugh James Solicitors, latterly as a senior associate solicitor specialising in property litigation.
The Finance Director was replaced in March. The new post holder, Rhodri Jones, was formerly with Newport City Homes. In 2013, the Welsh Government reported that ‘Newport City Homes recognises that it is not yet always providing excellent outcomes in the way services are delivered’. Comments made by former staff were less kind. One staff comment dated March 20, 2015 on the site glassdoor.com said: “Horrendous working environment, incomprehensible structures & processes, mainly incompetent managers & directors completely out of their depth with personal values to match with all too few exceptions. Stress levels that hugely impact on your quality of life, ill health, huge staff turnover, very high staff absence mainly due to stress. Incredibly poor recruitment policy”.
The Herald has confirmed that officials from the Welsh Government are now using their powers to investigate Cymdeithas Tai Cantref. The Herald has been told, but has not been able to confirm, that this is the first time the Welsh Government has used those powers.
The Herald has, however, confirmed that the investigation has arisen following ‘whistleblowing’ by either past or current Cantref employees.
The Welsh Government is following three lines of enquiry: Governance of the organisation, procurement irregularities and HR (treatment of staff ).
The Herald has been told that the Welsh Government’s officials initially made great play of the situation’s seriousness.
Our sources have confirmed that staff are unaware of any further visits by the Welsh Government to Cantref to follow up that initial intervention. Consultants from a firm called Campbell Tickell, a housing consultancy, are involved and while its representatives have spoken to senior managers, no staff have been interviewed to date, or even been asked their availability. One source has told us that Cantref’s management have told staff the investigation could take four months.
The Herald understands that a letter sent to stakeholders by Cantref has played down the importance of the Welsh Government’s intervention.
We have also been told that senior managers have told staff that if they say anything to WG or the investigators the Association will be shut down and everyone will lose their jobs. A planned (cost of living) pay rise has been cancelled. The move has been widely regarded by staff as a collective punishment for the actions of the whistle-blowers.
Our reporter contacted Cymdeithas Tai Cantref and asked them to comment on the situation.
Lynne Sacale, Cantref’s Chief Executive, told The Herald: “Cantref believes in ‘placing our customers at the heart of our work’ and we want to reassure our tenants that Cantref is fully compliant with all financial and regulatory requirements to date. We have recently undergone a robust and successful statutory audit and our performance indicators show we deliver high quality services to our customers. We welcome the inquiry on the basis that any findings will be to the benefit of the association going forward”
Restrictions on Ammanford Man Jailed for Sexual Touching
John David James, aged 67, from the Llandybie area, was recently jailed after urinating on the wall of a dental surgery and breaching a community protection notice (in June 2020).
He was released from that stint in prison on July 22, but within a matter of hours was arrested for sexually touching a member of public while drunk.
He pleaded guilty to the offence and was sent back to prison for 12 weeks. He will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release.
On July 24, the court granted a Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO) on James in readiness for his release from prison. If he breaches any of the following restrictions he can be arrested and placed before the next available court:
- Drink alcohol or be drunk in any public place in England or Wales.
- Act in an anti-social manner, that is to say, manner that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to any member of the general public; behaviour such as and not limited to shouting, swearing or using abusive, insulting or threatening words/language.
- Entering the curtilage of llandybie parish church or go within 5 metres of the church and the church grounds save to pass and repass without stopping.
PCSO Ian Morgan, of Ammanford’s neighbourhood policing team, said:
“James is a persistent offender in the Ammanford area, and as a result of previous behaviour had been made the subject of a community protection notice (in August 2019).
“We’ve received numerous complaints from the residents and visitors of Llandybie about his behaviour, and the ball has now been firmly placed in his court – if he does not listen to what the court are asking, he can be arrested and put back in front of them.
“I hope this resolves his bad behaviour and reassures the community that we will not tolerate these actions in our area.
“This is the second criminal behaviour our team have successfully applied in a matter of days. Let this be a warning to anyone intent on unacceptable behaviour in our communities, it will not be tolerated.
“We have a structure in place that allows us to deal with antisocial behaviour appropriately, and if you won’t work with us, we will use all of the tools we have.”
Works to improve Carmarthenshire roads gets underway
NEARLY £2million is being invested in Carmarthenshire roads over the next few months.
Carmarthenshire County Council has announced that 37 sections of road will be resurfaced after funding was made available from the council’s capital works programme and the Welsh Government.
This significant investment is in addition to a programme of preventative dressing treatment which is already underway.
Short term road closures will be necessary on some sections however these will be planned to minimise disruption as far as possible.
Traffic management will be in place and details will be published in advance on https://one.network/tm.
All work will be carried out in line with latest Covid-19 guidance and social distancing requirements.
The council’s Executive Board Member for environment, Cllr Hazel Evans, said: “This is a significant amount of money that we have secured to improve our roads in the county.
“Whilst we can’t treat every road, the combined improvements will support safer and improved journeys for Carmarthenshire’s road users.
“We will minimise as far as possible the impact on road users by careful planning, however, some disruption cannot be avoided, so please bear with us. We thank everyone in advance for their cooperation and patience.”
The roads being improved are:
- W9007, Parc Pemberton, Llwynhendy, Llanelli
- W5113, Havard Road, Dafen, Llanelli
- A484, Farm Foods roundabout, Llanelli
- C2200, Lon Y Dderwen, Pentrepoeth, Llanelli
- B4308, Trimsaran Road, Cwmbach, Llanelli
- A48, Pont Abraham roundabout approach, Hendy
- B4306, Heol Y Parc, Pontyberem
- A476, Gorslas Square to Gate Road, Gorslas
- B4297, Coopers Junction, Tycroes
- C2130, Lotwen Road, Capel Hendre, Saron
- C2043, Trevaughan Village, Carmarthen
- A484, Morrisons roundabout to Pensarn roundabout, Llangunnor, Carmarthen
- C2032, St. Catherine Street lights to Mansel Street junction, Carmarthen
- A484, Jail Hill, Carmarthen
- A484, Bronwydd Road to Pante Farm entrance, Carmarthen
- A484, Bronwydd Village, Cynwyl Elfed
- B4301, Bronwydd Village junction with A484 to Gwili Railway Level Crossing, Cynwyl Elfed
- B4299, Maniwan bend, Bryn Iwan, Cynwyl Elfed
- U5589, Esgair to Pen Ffynnon bend, Cynwyl Elfed
- B4333, Ty’r Park to Hermon, Cynwyl Elfed
- A484, Gillo Farm to Forest Lodge, Cenarth
- A475, Newcastle Emlyn Bridge, Cenarth
- A484, Cenarth Bridge, Cenarth
- A484, Woodlands, Newcastle Emlyn
- C2111, Llanllwni Mountain to cattle grid, Llanfihangel-ar-Arth
- B4336, Penrhiw to Pontyweli bypass, Llanfihangel-ar-Arth
- A482, Pyllau Crynion to Ram Inn, Llanybydder
- A485, Pont Yr Henfaes, Llanybydder
- A485, St. James’ Hall to junction with A482, Cwmann, Llanybydder
- A4068, New Road, Ystradowen to Cwmllynfell county boundary, Quarter Bach
- A4069, between Llwyn Jack and 30mph speed limit, Llandovery
- C2153, Beili Glas to Minyffordd, Llangadog
- C2058, Lanfach roundabout to Bryncrwys, Porthyrhyd, Llanddarog
- C2081, Danyfforest to Nantygrove, Llangynog
- B4314, West Rose Farm to Mountain Farm, Tavernspite, Red Roses
- B4328, Whitland Bridge to Bryngwenllian, Whitland
- A4066, Wood End to Pendine, Laugharne
Police dog finds missing mum and baby on first operational shift
A MISSING mother and baby were found on the edge of a ravine after spending the night outdoors thanks to a police dog on his first shift.
Newly licensed Dyfed-Powys Police dog Max, and his handler PC Peter Lloyd, were crucial in tracking down the woman who had spent a night in a remote location in Powys with her young child.
Two-year-old German Shepherd cross Max swiftly put his training into action during his first operational shift, covering a significant distance to find the mum and child.
He was called into duty at just before midday on Saturday, August 1, when the force received a call reporting the mum missing and immediately launched a search to find her and her one-year-old.
Inspector Jonathan Rees-Jones said: “The woman had not been seen or spoken to for two days, which was out of character, and her phone wasn’t working, so naturally concern for her safety was high.
“Response officers, neighbourhood policing teams and specialist search officers were dispatched to her home, and enquiries were carried out to try and trace her steps.
“Thanks to excellent work between teams, the woman’s car was quickly found on a mountain road. Although this gave officers a location to search from, there was still a vast area to cover given the amount of time she had been missing.
“This is where PD Max’s tracking skills really came into play. Despite only recently becoming licensed, and on his first operational shift, he immediately commenced an open area search.”
With support from Brecon Mountain Rescue Team and an NPAS helicopter, along with advice from a search expert, additional units were deployed to assist in searching the area which included a small reservoir and woodland.
PD Max and PC Lloyd covered a significant distance, and at around 1.30pm, guided by Max, the officer spotted the missing woman waving for help near a steep ravine on the mountain side. She was helped down, and arrangements were made for her and her baby to be checked over by a Mountain Rescue doctor and the ambulance service.
Insp Rees-Jones said: “Extensive searches of the area were undertaken by officers, supported by specialist assets such as the dog unit and the NPAs helicopter, with advice from a police search adviser.
“Thankfully, after an hour-and-a-half of searching, the mum and baby were found. They were safe, but cold, and appeared to have been in the area for a significant amount of time.
“This was a fantastic coordinated and determined team effort from everyone involved, which no doubt ensured the safety of the mum and baby who were at significant risk of harm.
“I must give a special mention to PC Pete Lloyd and Max, who on their very first day since completing their training together covered a significant amount of mileage in the search, eventually locating them safe.”
PC Lloyd joined the Dyfed-Powys Police dog section in February, and was on his first operational shift with Max when the woman was reported missing.
Max is a general purpose dog, who will primarily be used for tracking and locating people in buildings and open air, tracing discarded property and tracking and detaining suspects.
PC Lloyd said: “I was really pleased that during our first operational deployment as a dog team, myself and Max were able to safely locate the missing mother and baby. Max remained focused throughout the long search and he proved invaluable when he reacted to the call for help which resulted in us locating them.”
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