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Welsh Government investigates Cantref

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Uncharitable?: Cymdeithas Tai Cantref housing association

Uncharitable?: Cymdeithas Tai Cantref housing association

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”

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Our election prediction: No change for west Wales, same MPs will be elected

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COUNTING of ballots is underway at the Pavillion at the Pembrokeshire County Showground, Haverfordwest and in Llanelli at the Selwyn Samuel Centre.

Exit polls from the BBC and Sky News predict a Conservative majority of over eighty seats, with Labour predicted to slip as low as 191 MPs, come the end of tonight’s count

We’re live throughout the night from the County Showground, Haverfordwest, and the Selwyn Samuel Centre, Llanelli, to bring you rolling coverage and news as it unfolds for Preseli Pembrokeshire, Llanelli, Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.

We are predicting the following results:

Preseli Pembrokeshire – Stephen Crabb, Conservative, Hold
Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire – Simon Hart, Conservative, Hold
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr – Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru, Hold
Llanelli – Nia Griffith, Labour, Hold
Ceredigion – Ben Lake, Plaid Cymru, Hold

Effectively, we predict no change in members of parliament for any of the constituencies in west Wales.

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Cadno’s General Election message

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NO AMOUNT of lies told by politicians will change the fact that poorer and/or fewer public services in Carmarthenshire are a direct result of budgetary decisions reached in London.

For the last nine and a half years, the Party pulling the budgetary strings has been the Conservatives. Choices made by the Conservative Party in Westminster to cut welfare benefits, target the most vulnerable in society to bear the burden of austerity, strip out funding for public services, to reduce access to criminal justice through cuts to the police and courts – underpin many of the issues affecting Carmarthenshire. If you look around Carmarthenshire and see the number of people dependent on food banks, people in work reliant on charity for food, you must realise how much their use has climbed in the last decade.

Austerity was a political choice made by the Conservative Party. It placed the burden for baling out banks on those with the least. The bankers kept their money, the people with least to give ended up giving the most. Even George Osborne acknowledges – now – Labour wasn’t responsible for the financial crisis.

When you’re angry at the Council, at the Health Board, the persistent ‘they’ who never listen ‘to the likes of you and me’, you should be angry at the people ultimately responsible. Central Government has been very good at shuffling the blame for cuts down the line – but it is ultimately responsible. No jiggery-pokery with spending promises that just reshuffle the same old money or apply only to England will change that.

One Conservative PM called a referendum to hold his party together; a second tried to reach a deal that appeased the head-bangers in her party and failed accordingly; the current PM – one of the head-bangers who blocked Brexit in favour of moving the UK to Narnia – is a proven serial liar and blustering bully whose idea of research is reading back issues of The Beezer.

This column isn’t about Brexit. Quite frankly, most minds are made up on the issue in a way that tolerates no rational debate. For all the difference one fat fox will make to his readers’ thinking on that subject, he may as well pee in the sea at Pembrey.

All Cadno can do is state the facts: every industry which contributes to Carmarthenshire’s economy will be affected adversely by tariffs between the UK and the EU. And the magic lifebelt to help relieve the fall will be a City Deal funded directly and indirectly by EU funding.

But Cadno wants to turn to those of you who either have not decided HOW to vote or those who have decided NOT to vote.

To the first of those, Cadno says the following: take a good look around you. If you are happy with what you see, you know where you can stick your cross. If you are unhappy that Carmarthenshire has become measurably poorer and worse off in the same period, you won’t want more of the same. Not unless you’re some sort of masochist.

To those who have decided not to vote: if you can’t be bothered you waive the right to complain afterwards.

Whatever happens, you couldn’t be bothered to try and influence it beforehand, so stop chirping with the benefit of ignorant hindsight. There is certain nobility in going to a polling station and spoiling your vote or writing in ‘none of the above’. If enough of you do it, even by casting a spoiled ballot your voice will be noticed. It takes ten minutes to vote. It’s better than five years of moaning when you couldn’t make the effort to write the letter ‘x’ on a scrap of paper.

Voting is a right and it is also a duty.

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Your Candidates: Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire

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THE CARMARTHENSHIRE HERALD invited each of Pembrokeshire’s General Election candidates to provide us with a statement asking them to complete the following in 300 words:

Voting for [candidate name] is best for [this constituency] because…
Seven out of eight candidates answered our request.
We present them below in alphabetical order and by constituency contested.

CARMARTHEN WEST AND SOUTH PEMBROKESHIRE:

ALISTAIR CAMERON

VOTING for Alistair Cameron is best for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire because he wants to remain within the European Union, tackle the underfunding in our public services and work for new jobs for our area.

Alistair grew up in South Pembrokeshire and he has a positive vision for our area with a stronger economy, better job opportunities, a cleaner environment and better funded public services.

This depends on staying in the European Union which is vital for farming, tourism and future job opportunities. EU membership benefits our Irish ferries and our oil refinery. Staying in will secure a £50 billion Remain Bonus, with the economy 2% larger by 2024-25. This can be invested in our schools, and in tackling in-work poverty and inequality. Staying in allows British citizens to live and work throughout Europe and EU workers to work in our NHS, care homes, farms and tourist attractions. EU action forced us to clean up our beaches and seas.

The Liberal Democrats will tackle the health and social care crises through an extra £7 billion funded through putting 1p on the basic rate of income tax. In the longer term, we support a dedicated, progressive Health and Care Tax, offset by other tax reductions.

We will be carbon-neutral by 2045 through insulating all of Britain’s homes by 2030, ensuring 80% of UK electricity is from renewables by 2030 and planting 60 million trees a year. We will electrify Britain’s railways and ensure all new cars are electric by 2030.

We will provide free childcare for all children with parents in work from nine months and for all children from two years up to starting school.

Contact Alistair on facebook: AlistairCameronPembs, Twitter: AlistairPembs or email: alistairc@traseweb.co.

SIMON HART

Voting for Simon Hart is best for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire because leavers and remainers alike share a desire to get Brexit done and get on with the important business of improving the NHS, law and order and sustaining the livelihoods and jobs of those who live and work here.

In my experience though there are plenty of non-Brexit topics that keep us awake at night – our house, our health, our job and our schools. The environment has rocketed up the list of concerns too which is why our new Environment Bill has become a flagship issue.

On top of this we are going to recruit 20,000 extra police officers (50 of them in Dyfed-Powys) invest £34 billion in the NHS (which translates into £1.4 billion for Wales) make major improvements to broadband and mobile phone coverage and invest in schools, housing and jobs – something our Labour colleagues running the Assembly will also receive the funds necessary.

We will increase the national living wage from £8.20 to £10.50 and increase the threshold for National Insurance payments to £12,500 – lifting thousands more people out of paying NI altogether.

I am lobbying strongly against the plans to reopen a Waste Transfer Station in Royal Dockyard in Pembroke Dock and fighting to retain vital services at Withybush Hospital.

I have spent years taking on BT to improve the rollout of superfast broadband and still battle with the Welsh Assembly to improve dangerous junctions such as Nash near Cosheston and Red Roses.

I have now been your MP for almost a decade during which time my local office has helped well over 10,000 local people with a whole range of different issues. Our area is special because we have such a wide range of jobs, from oil to agriculture and such a diverse community. We like to get on, to succeed, to aspire and to look after each other. My ambition is to see that continue.

RHYS THOMAS

Voting for Dr Rhys Thomas, Plaid Cymru, is best for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire because we need an MP who’s lived life: a man with a proven track record of serving his country and saving lives. After 17 years as a front-line army medical officer in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan, Dr Rhys co-led on setting up the Wales Air Ambulance service after retiring as a Lt. Colonel to run the family farm and work as a Consultant Anaesthetist in local hospitals.

“The Wales Air Ambulance service is the best in the world and we should also work towards making our NHS the best in the world,” he said.

“While Labour, which runs the NHS in Wales, is dragging its feet, Plaid sees integrating health and social care as the only sustainable future for both services. Meanwhile, at a time of huge staffing shortage and financial cuts due to the Tory UK government’s failed austerity project, front line NHS staff are doing a heroic job,” said Dr Rhys.

“People are fed up with Tory lies and Labour false promises. Westminster is a toxic mess. This election won’t change that. ‘Let’s get Brexit done’ is a misleading lie. Brexit isn’t an event but a process – a long and hazardous process which will take several years. Wales will badly need a powerful voice to get fair play for our nation in a post-Brexit Britain. Here in west Wales, that means ensuring continuing support for agriculture, fishing and small businesses; investing to create jobs in sustainable energy to boost our economy, mitigate climate change and provide future generations with a clean and safe country to live in.

“Plaid Cymru is the only party that exists to fight Wales’ corner. Wales needs Plaid MPs more than ever before,” said Dr Rhys Thomas.

MARC TIERNEY

Voting for Marc Tierney is best for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire because Marc is totally committed to getting things properly done. Unlike the Tory MP we have had for the last decade, he will get the support we need for jobs, the environment, hospitals and surgeries, social care, schools, training and infrastructure.

Marc said: “This has become an election about hope for a better future. I’m really excited about Labour’s plans for green jobs – including the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon, an incredible boost for West Wales. I’m proud of our clean seas and our green farming and I’ll be a strong advocate for our food and tourism sector. Better technology, free broadband, and training in high skill industries mean our young people will no longer have to get out to get on.

“This has become an election about empathy. Like you, I love living here but we see every day the struggles local people have, just like in other areas. I will support a compassionate government that supports you and your family, with better-resourced services and fairer social security. Asking the very well off to pay a little more tax so that others don’t have to struggle. I support the fair pension fight for women born in the 1950s. Labour will deliver that justice. As your MP, I will always stand by your side.

“And this has become an election about trust. Throughout the campaign, I have met people right across the constituency who have told me they don’t trust Prime Minister Johnson. They have seen him lie on Brexit, on hospital funding and on nurses. They are frightened that a majority would give him free rein to pursue a trade deal with Mr Trump using our NHS. We can’t let that happen and if I am your Labour MP, trust me–it won’t.

Change only happens when you vote for it. Vote Marc Tierney on Thursday.

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