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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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Herald publisher ceases operations

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HERALD NEWS UK LTD, the company which prints The Pembrokeshire Herald, The Carmarthenshire Herald and The Llanelli Herald has ceased operations.

Editor of Pembrokeshire Herald, Thomas Sinclair said: “After finalising today’s paper to go to print yesterday, a meeting was held last night. It was confirmed that the expected further investor funding would not be made available for the company.

“This meant that operations need be halted as the businesses was not able to pay its ongoing costs.

“At 10am today the 24 members of staff working at the newspaper have today been given notice of redundancy.

“We are absolutely devastated that after nearly 7 years and hundreds of editions of the paper we can no longer continued.”

“I would like to think that over those years, some of the stories we have written have made a difference to Pembrokeshire and beyond.”

Director of Herald News UK Limited, John Hammond said: “The company accountant could be appointing administrators as soon as next week.”

“The Owners of The Pembrokeshire Herald came to the conclusion last night during a finance meeting that the venture is no longer financially viable.

“Whilst every conceivable effort has been made to improve the financial situation of the business, we have to face the fact that there is no way that we can now continue in a solvent position.

“Whilst there has been a slow decline in readership of local newspapers, our costs for wages, printing and transport have substantially increased.”

“We would like to thank all of our loyal readers and staff.”

<img class=”wp-image-51343 size-large” src=”http://pembrokeshire-herald.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/herald2-1024×678.jpg” alt=”” width=”740″ height=”490″ /> Community: Herald titles were campaigning newspapers<img class=”wp-image-51344 size-large” src=”http://pembrokeshire-herald.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/herald3-1024×565.jpg” alt=”” width=”740″ height=”408″ /> Popular: 45,000 people read Herald titles each week in west Wales

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Volunteers needed in Carmarthenshire for Christmas food collection.

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LEADING charities the Trussell Trust and FareShare are appealing to people in Carmarthenshire to volunteer to help in the UK’s biggest food collection for people in need.

From Thursday, November 21 until Saturday, November 23 the two charities will be collecting food in Tesco stores across the UK and Northern Ireland during the annual Tesco Food Collection. They are looking for local volunteers to encourage shoppers to donate, so that as much food as possible can be collected.

During the collection customers are encouraged to donate long-life food to help food banks and community groups support people in need at Christmas. Tesco will top up customer donations by 20% to further support the two charities in their work.

Last year, 3.5 million meals were collected as part of the Tesco Food Collection, and since its launch in 2012, more than 50 million meals have been donated to the two charities by generous Tesco customers.

To make this year’s collection a success volunteers are needed to hand out shopping lists to customers, so they can see the food items most needed by food banks and community groups in their area, and to encourage people to donate.

Emma Revie, chief executive at The Trussell Trust said: “No one should need a food bank at any time of year – but we know during the lead-up to Christmas our network of food banks see even more people needing help.

“Food banks will be doing all they can to provide vital emergency support so people don’t face hunger this Christmas. But to make sure there are enough donations, we need your support. Having your support in this year’s Tesco Food Collection will make a real difference – the more people who volunteer, the more food will be collected from generous shoppers, and the better prepared food banks will be to help local people.”

Farihah Choudhury volunteered at the last Tesco Food Collection, collecting donations for local groups supported by FareShare.

“I loved volunteering last year – it was great to speak with shoppers donating food. The kindness I saw was wonderful and gave me a lot of hope,” she said.

“I believe everyone should have access to good, healthy food and I’d encourage anyone who can to give some time to help stop people going hungry this Christmas.”

People interested in volunteering can find out more and sign up at www.fareshare/tescofoodcollection

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UK’s top skaters and riders drop in on Llanelli youngsters to celebrate a special birthday

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THE WORLD’S and the UK’s finest skateboarders, BMX and Wheelchair Motocross stars will drop in on young people at a Carmarthenshire Ramps skatepark on Saturday 19 October 2019 from 11 am till 2 pm. The event was arranged to celebrate the £3 billion National Lottery players have raised for projects which have specifically helped children and young people develop and thrive in the UK over the last 25 years. £2 million of National Lottery funding has specifically been awarded to support and develop over 47 BMX projects in local communities for young people in Wales to enjoy.     

Wales and Pembrokeshire’s own wheelchair sports superstar, Lily Rice; the Olympic BMX freestyler from Swansea, James Jones; Britain’s leading street skateboarder and 2020 Olympic hopeful, Alex Decunha; and YouTube influencer, Jake O’Neill (aka Jake100), visite hundreds of youngsters at Ramps indoor and outdoor skatepark in Llanelli as part of the National Lottery’s celebrations.
More than £340,000 was awarded by the National Lottery in 2013 to develop and build Ramps Skatepark which now provides activities for over 15,000 young people a year.

At 15 years old, Lily Rice from Manorbier, Pembrokeshire, is a World Champion wheelchair motocross (WCMX) star. She was propelled to fame two years ago when she became the first female in Europe to achieve a wheelchair backflip, and only the second girl in the world to pull off the stunt. Since then, Lily has emerged as one of the global leaders of WCMX – wheelchair motocross.
She says: “By contributing towards building amazing facilities such as this indoor and outdoor skate park, National Lottery funding is helping thousands of young people of all abilities to reach their goals and discover new opportunities. I have trained and practised at numerous National Lottery funded skate parks and there is no doubt that the funding has helped wheeled sports, enthusiasts, to become healthier and more active.”

The National Lottery has inspired millions of people to get active in their local community, as well as supporting individuals and teams from grassroots to elite.

James Jones is a 25-year-old professional BMX rider from Swansea. James, who also celebrated his 25th Birthday this year,  is one of six world-class athletes who make up the Freestyle BMX Team GB for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. James honed his skills and practised his tricks at the Ramps skate park in Llanelli when he was growing up and highlights the importance of young people having access to facilities like this on their doorstep.
James Jones said: “I practised a lot here growing up and this facility has played a big part in my development as a professional rider and a person. I probably wouldn’t be where I am now without the support I got here. It’s not just about learning to ride or skate, there’s a real family vibe here, a great social aspect and it’s well supported by the community. The National Lottery must fund parks such as this one so that young people can have a safe space to pursue their hobbies and meet friends.”
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