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”
Mobile COVID-19 vaccination van to visit Ammanford
HYWEL DDA UNIVERSITY HEALTH BOARD is pleased to confirm that its mobile vaccination van, in partnership with Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, will be located in Ammanford from Wednesday 28 to Saturday 31 July.
The mobile vaccination clinic will be based at Ammanford’s Tesco Superstore car park (Park Street, SA18 2LR) and will be open between 11.00am and 7.00pm. There is no need to contact the health board to book an appointment.
The vaccination van will deliver the vaccine to anyone aged 18 and over that requires either a first or second dose (Moderna and Oxford AstraZeneca). Second doses can be given 8 weeks after the first dose.
The fire service is providing one of its vehicles and members of the team will also be in attendance to provide the public with general community safety advice, including about home safety.
With the rise in cases across the UK, it is important as many people as possible to come forward for their first and second doses as soon as possible.
Bethan Lewis, Interim Assistant Director of Public Health at Hywel Dda UHB, said: “We are thrilled that we are able to bring our mobile vaccination van to Ammanford for four days.
“Over 2,000 vaccines have been delivered from the van to date and we hope many more people in Ammanford and the surrounding area will choose to have their vaccine with us during our time at Tesco car park.
“Everyone is welcome, if you have changed your mind having already declined a vaccine we will be happy to see you or if you would like to speak to someone before deciding whether to have it, our brilliant vaccination team will be more than happy to speak to you and answer any questions you may have.”
Chief Fire Officer for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Chris Davies said: “I am pleased that we can, again, assist Hywel Dda in its vaccination programme, having recently concluded a hugely successful partnership where we were able to assist with transportation of people within our communities to and from mass vaccination centres.
“This opportunity and partnership allows us to expand our assistance further within the health arena, and is going to make a positive impact on our response to this global pandemic and we are pleased to be able play our part and collaborate with our NHS partners to change the lives of many people.”
Four charged with conspiracy to supply class A drugs
FOUR people have been arrested and charged as part of an investigation into an organised crime gang supplying class A drugs from London to Aberystwyth, Llanelli and Swansea.
Dyfed-Powys Police, with support from The Met Police, carried out warrants at four addresses on July 21, resulting in four arrests.
Mohammed Osman, aged 23, Yonis Mohammed, aged 20, Salman Mohamoud, aged 23 – all from Islington – and Amy Simmons, aged 21, from Dulwich were charged with a total of 12 offences:
- Mohammed Osman: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine,
- Yonis Mohammed: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.
- Salman Mohamoud: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine
- Amy Simmons: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.
All four appeared at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Friday, July 23, where they were remanded in custody. They are due to appear at Swansea Crown Court for their next hearing on August 20.
The investigation is being carried out by the Ceredigion Serious and Organised Crime Team, Aberystwyth CID and the Operation Orochi command of the Met Police.
Detective Sergeant Steve Jones said: “These four arrests and charges are the result of a coordinated approach to target an organised crime gang we believe is running a county lines operation into the Dyfed-Powys Police force area.
“We will continue to work diligently to disrupt gangs of this kind, to prevent the supply of illegal substances into our community.
“I would like to thank all officers involved, as well as the Met Police for their part in the operation.”
New children’s play area in Bryn as part of new council housing development
A NEW children’s play area has opened in time for the summer holidays in Bryn, Llanelli as part of a new £5.9million council housing development.
Carmarthenshire County Council is building 32 new homes on land close to the Dylan housing estate in Bryn.
The scheme will be made up of 22 two-bedroom homes, four two-bedroom bungalows and six four-bedroom homes and is part of the council’s ongoing drive to deliver more affordable homes across the county. It has been part funded through the Welsh Government’s Affordable Housing Grant.
The development also includes a new children’s play area, funded by the council in partnership with Llanelli Rural Council, which will take over the running and maintenance of the play area on completion.
Executive Board Member for Housing Cllr Linda Evans said: “I am delighted the park has been completed in time for the summer holidays for the local children to enjoy.
“We are committed to delivering more affordable housing across Carmarthenshire and this development will benefit dozens of families in Llanelli, as well as proving much needed facilities for the local community.
“I would like to thank the rural council for collaborating with this us on this and I hope the children are thrilled with it.”
Before designing the play area, the rural council liaised with local schoolchildren to find out what play equipment they wanted at their new park.
Llanelli Rural Council Chairman Cllr Tegwen Devichand said: “The council is delighted to be working in partnership with Carmarthenshire County Council to provide this wonderful new play area for the community.
“The opening of the play area couldn’t have been better timed to coincide with the school holidays. I hope the local children will enjoy the range of challenging play equipment on offer and that they have lots of fun using it over the summer.”
The housing development is due to be completed by the beginning of 2022.
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