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Tai Cantref: plea for ‘local solution’



Accountability is key: Elin Jones

Accountability is key: Elin Jones

THE HERALD reported exclusively last week the news that Carmarthenshire County Council had expressed an interest in partnering or taking over the Tai Cantref Housing Association.

Ceredigion AM Elin Jones openly expressed her concerns over the fact that any take over by an external organisation would risk the integrity and continuity of Tai Cantref’s work.

The Herald caught up with Elin Jones this week and asked her how things were progressing regarding Tai Cantref.

Elin Jones told us: “It is very distressing for tenants and staff of Tai Cantref. It is looking to merge or be taken over by another housing association.

“It makes it very unsettling for people who have a direct interest especially staff and tenants. They have been in touch with me to express those concerns.

“There needs to be a period of consultation and a period of taking time to consider the best options for Tai Cantref. Everything has happened so quickly overnight and caught most people including myself off guard really. Not expecting that things had become so serious.”

We asked if the concerns of the lenders or concerns over finances had contributed to the sudden decision to look for a partner or takeover.


Elin Jones explained: “There are concerns internally about the management of Tai Cantref and that has led to the Welsh Government intervening. That has put the lenders more wary of the future.

“The board has taken the decision to look for a partner and a take over. We need to ensure that whoever ends up in control of the Tai Cantref housing stock is locally accountable.”

We asked Elin Jones if Ceredigion County Council were not the most obvious partner or organisation set for a take over.

She told us: “There are other interests, not just Carmarthenshire County Council. The majority of housing stock is in Ceredigion. Tai Ceredigion I believe are interested.

“I believe strongly that there should be a local solution for the future of Tai Cantref. I wouldn’t like to see a external national housing association take over Tai Cantref. I’d like the new set up to have strong local ownership, strong local accountability and staff to continue to be able to work locally as well.”

She continued: “I think Ceredigion County Council have seen that the stock has been transferred from Ceredigion Council to Tai Ceredigion, so Tai Ceredigion are the natural Ceredigion partner possible for take over of Tai Cantref stock.

“I can’t speak on behalf of Ceredigion Council but I would hope that Ceredigion Council would see that Tai Ceredigion and other local housing associations may well be the answer for Tai Cantref.

“The important thing is to make sure tenants are involved in the final decision making process and also that everybody commits to working towards a local solution for Tai Cantref.”

The Herald asked if tighter controls were now required to make sure any company partnering Tai Cantref should have due diligence checks carried out in order to assess their suitability and finances to sustain the association.

Elin Jones replied: “I think that whoever ends up being the partner responsible for Tai Cantref housing stock and their tenants that we need to ensure that they have the suitability the sustainability and the ability to provide a safe and secure tenancy for all of their tenants.

“That has to be the primary responsibility of a housing association. Currently there is uncertainty for everyone and that is not a good place to be. The ability to have local control but to have stability for the future has to be the overriding concern of the current Tai Cantref board that have to take some of these decisions.

“I also want the next Welsh Government to take an active interest in finding the right solution for the Tai Cantref stock.

“The local authorities have a particular interest and a responsibility here as well. They all have to make their pitch for it. The majority of the housing stock is in Ceredigion. It would feel a bit strange to have Carmarthenshire County Council responsible for that stock.

“I believe that for the Ceredigion stock in particular that the first option should be for Tai Ceredigion to have the ability to show that they could appropriately and securely run that housing stock for their tenants.”


We asked Helen Mary Jones if she thought it was right for Carmarthenshire County Council to help bail out a housing association in Ceredigion when they have their own abandoned housing stock at Brynmefys.

The Llanelli candidate told us: “There have to be lots of options for Tai Cantref. It would be slightly odd for our County Council to be spending its resources on running housing stock in another county.

“Our housing stock has not been outsourced. From my perspective that is fortunate because it gives democratic control. I haven’t heard this discussed but I suppose that one option might be that Tai Ceredigion would take on the Ceredigion stock and Carmarthenshire County Council would take on the Carmarthenshire stock.”

Helen Mary Jones echoed Eline Jones’s views on the importance of ensuring continuity of service: “The absolutely crucial thing is that the tenants have some security and for the staff that they know what the right way forward is. We need to take time to consider how best to do this.

“My perspective would be that one of the reasons Carmarthenshire have said that they could be a potential buyer is because that does give some stability. It means in the short term that the lenders know that there are credible bidders out there who could take on those liabilities.

“I think that is probably beneficial, but in the end I think that a Ceredigion based solution with the Carmarthenshire stock coming to Carmarthenshire would be better.

“There is a shortage of social housing. What we need is long term planning.”

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Werndale Hospital recognised for outstanding patient care in national award



STAFF at Werndale Hospital near Carmarthen have been recognised for the quality of their patient care. 

The prestigious ‘Private Hospital Group of the Year’ award is presented to an organisation that has shown excellence in its delivery of care, commitment to the community and innovation within healthcare.

Werndale Hospital was also recognised for their initiatives to support staff in their career progression and wellbeing.   

The latest statistics show, 98% of patients at Werndale Hospital were satisfied with their overall level of care, 98% of patients would recommend their care to family and friends, and 98% of patients rated the nursing staff as excellent or very good. 

In addition, independent analysis of Circle hospitals’ hip and knee procedure outcomes of health improvement shows that Circle scored 8.4 versus an independent sector average of 7.8 in the hip category, and a score of 15.4 versus an independent sector average of 13.9 in the knee category.   

The award presented to Circle Health Group, owners of Werndale Hospital, in London in June, also noted the extraordinary contribution the teams at the hospital had made to the community. 

In 2021 alone, Werndale Hospital partnered with Air Ambulance Wales and raised £1,205 to support the charity’s work in the community.  

In addition to the charitable work, Werndale Hospital was recognised for it’s commitment to support staff through a series of wellbeing initiatives and career development opportunities. The judges were particularly impressed with the launch of the ‘Be Heard’ survey at the hospital.   

The survey looks to empower staff to feedback on everything from the working environment at the hospital through to their own career ambitions. Building directly on the feedback from this survey, the ‘Grow Your Own’ campaign was launched which supported staff to work towards specific qualifications from nursing degrees with partnered universities through to bespoke management programmes and MBA qualifications.   

As a direct result of this support for staff at what is a challenging time for healthcare workers, Werndale Hospital and Circle Heath Group were recognised as being a Top 20 Best Large Company to work for.   

At the heart of Werndale Hospital’s approach to treating patients is a commitment to the community they serve.  

 Paolo Pieri, CEO of Circle Health Group, said:  “The award is a testament to what an amazing year 2021 was for Werndale Hospital with considerable investment into the facilities and services on offer to patients in west Wales. I couldn’t be prouder of what our staff and doctors have achieved.”  

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Aberglasney Gardens delighted to win 2022 Trip advisor Travellers’ Choice Award



ABERGLASNEY Gardens is thrilled to have been recognised by Tripadvisor as a 2022 Travellers’ Choice Award winner for being in the top 10% of attractions worldwide.

The Award recognises businesses that consistently deliver great service with the Gardens being rated ‘Excellent’ by 342 visitors.

The award celebrates businesses that have received great traveller reviews from around the globe on Tripadvisor over the last 12 months. As challenging as the past year has been, Aberglasney stood out by consistently delivering positive experiences to visitors.

Aberglasney’s Director of Operations Jim Stribling said: “We are delighted to have once again won an award from Tripadvisor. It is fantastic recognition for the team’s hard work and dedication. To rank among the top ten percent of those listed on Trip Advisor as one of the best places to visit is outstanding.

“We are grateful to all those who take the time to leave us a review after visiting. It is no cliché when I say all the team, be it in the gift shop, the gardeners, the tearooms and the administrative team, all take the reviews on board to help make a visit to Aberglasney the best possible experience for everyone.”

Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel guidance platform, helps hundreds of millions of people each month become better travellers, from planning, to booking, to taking a trip. Travelers across the globe use the Tripadvisor site and app to discover where to stay, what to do and where to eat based on guidance from those who have been there before.

With more than 988 million reviews and opinions of nearly eight million businesses, travellers turn to Tripadvisor to find deals on accommodation, book experiences, reserve tables at restaurants and discover great places nearby.

As a travel guidance company available in 43 markets and 22 languages, Tripadvisor makes planning easy no matter the trip type.

“Congratulations to the 2022 Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Winners,” said Kanika Soni, Chief Commercial Officer at Tripadvisor. “The Travellers’ Choice Awards recognise the best in tourism and hospitality, according to those who matter most: your guests.

“Ranking among the Travellers’ Choice winners is always tough – but never more so than this year as we emerge from the pandemic. Whether it’s using new technology, implementing safety measures, or hiring outstanding staff, I’m impressed by the steps you’ve taken to meet travellers’ new demands. You’ve adapted brilliantly in the face of adversity.”

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Council’s plan to expand bilingual education will be a gradual journey over 10 years



Carmarthenshire County Council

CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council’s vision to increase bilingual education in Carmarthenshire will be a gradual journey over 10 years.

The Cabinet met yesterday (Monday, July 4) to discuss the Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP), and emphasised that it was important to give all children and young people the opportunity to develop their Welsh language skills.

However, members stressed that families will still have a choice on the language in which their children will be taught over the next decade and after 2032.

The plan sets out how the council will develop Welsh language provision in schools based on the outcomes and targets set by the Welsh Government.

All councils across Wales have to submit 10-year Welsh language education plans to the Welsh Government in order to meet its target of one million Welsh speakers by 2050.

The outcomes include more nursery and reception children being taught through the medium of Welsh; more young people studying for qualifications in Welsh as a subject, and subjects through the medium of Welsh; increasing provision for learners with Additional Learning Needs; and increasing the number of teachers able to teach Welsh and through the medium of Welsh – with continuing support to develop staff through a comprehensive and flexible training programme.

The Cabinet said it was important for the council to provide more opportunities to be bilingual and referred to the various benefits it brings – from educational attainment to employability and health.

Cabinet Member for Education and Welsh Language, Cllr Glynog Davies said the aim was to meet and exceed the target set by Welsh Government on the percentage of Carmarthenshire pupils receiving their education through the medium of Welsh by 3032 (10-14%).

It included changing the language provision at 10 schools over the next 10 years creating an opportunity for a further 300 learners to be educated in Welsh.

He said: “We want to build on the progress made in early years education provision, and my ambition is clear – equal opportunities across the county.

“It is worth noting that we have the largest percentage 57.5 percent of nursery age children taught through the medium of Welsh. Immersion education is key to the strategy, and it is important that we continue to see an increase in the percentage of children transferring from the Meithrin groups to Welsh-medium education in the Foundation Phase.

“These early years are so important, the children are like sponges, absorbing information and absorbing a new language.

“We must then continue to see an increase in numbers in our reception classes, we say this even though we are the authority with the largest percentage (62.5 percent) of children receiving their education through the medium of Welsh.

“Children must continue to improve their Welsh when going from one school phase to another, and we need to make sure all children have the opportunity to pursue their secondary education through the medium of Welsh.

“At the same time, we need to give children and young people the confidence to use Welsh, in school and in the community. That’s what we want to see isn’t it, more and more using Welsh, hearing Welsh on the street. We need to develop and build on skills and confidence.”

Cabinet Member for Rural Affairs and Planning Policy, Cllr Ann Davies said: “I am extremely pleased to see this document and have a pleasure in supporting it. Working with young children, that is children under three-years-old, I can say that children pick up language very quickly, they absorb it, and the process is very different to learning a language. As they get older the process in the brain is completely different. I am pleased to see that there is an emphasis on early years, that is when we need to start.”

Cabinet Member for Resources, Cllr Alun Lenny said: “It is very important to state that there are many advantages to learning a language, obviously for careers, especially in health and social care where patients and clients must have a choice of language, it’s important particularly for older people, and young children, and people with dementia.

“The Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police has stated he is keen for all his staff to speak a certain level of Welsh, so we have a duty here to support that.

“The advantages of being bilingual are multiple, socially and in the world of work, and this strategy is very much welcomed.”

The WESP has come back to the cabinet for discussion following feedback from the Welsh Government, mainly to include some additional data and detail. It will now be submitted to the Welsh Government for final approval. A public consultation was held last year.

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