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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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Theatr Felinfach Performing School presents CAMAU

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OVER the past few months enthusiastic members of Theatr Felinfach Performing School have been developing new skills through a series of masterclasses with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru.

The members have been busy creating material through scripting, directing, choreography, clog dancing, folk dancing and much more. All their hard work will be shown in their ‘CAMAU’ (steps) performance on Monday 28 October, 7:00pm at Theatr Felinfach. This is your chance to see the fruits of their labour!

The Performing School was established in January 2017 and has now grown into a very popular group. It’s a great opportunity for 7-18 years olds to gain new experiences in theatre skills through the medium of Welsh and to make new friends who share the same passion for performing.

This year two trips were organized for members of the Performing School. In June, the group visited the ‘Lexicon’ show by the UK’s leading large-scale circus company ‘NoFitState’ in Bluestone, Narberth. The audience was amazed at the performers’ talents and agility and seeing the children’s faces was invaluable.

Later in July, the group visited ‘Chores’ at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, a production organised by Cluster Arts, an Australian company. The story was about two young boys playing in their mess of a room where they began using their acrobatic skills to sort out the carnage. The show was inspired by ‘slapstick’ legends Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.

Theatr Felinfach hopes to continue taking members to see various shows and productions to give them the opportunity to experience professional theatre.

The Performing School meet each Thursday evening – the primary members (7-11 years) from 4:30pm to 5:30pm and the older members (12-18 years) from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.

Membership fees are every half term and range between £30 and £35 depending on the age of the members.

If you would like more information about the Performing School and how to become a member in the new year, please contact sioned.thomas@ceredigion.gov.uk or call 01570 470697.

Tickets for ‘CAMAU’ are £6 for adults, £5 for OAPs and theatre members and £4 for students and Children. They’re available from the Box Office on 01570 470697 or online at theatrfelinfach.cymru.

 

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New plaque unveiled at Cardigan War Memorial to honour three fallen soldiers from Cardigan

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A NEW plaque was unveiled at Cardigan War Memorial to honour three fallen soldiers from Cardigan. The plaque was unveiled during a public Commemoration and Dedication Service on 12 October.

The plaque commemorates Michael J. Dunphy who gave his life in the 1982 Falklands War and Lee T. Davies and David M.E. Greenhalgh who gave their lives in the 2001-2015 conflict in Afghanistan. The plaque was unveiled by Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Dyfed, Miss Sara Edwards.

Councillor Paul Hinge is Ceredigion County Council’s Armed Forces Champion. He said: “It was an honour and privilege to welcome everyone to the Service of Commemoration and Dedication, not only as a son of Cardigan, but as a veteran myself and Ceredigion County Council’s Armed Forces Champion.

“The three fallen soldiers of Cardigan, Michael Dunphy, Lee Davies and Dave Greenhalgh paid the ultimate sacrifice and their names are now immortalised on Cardigan War Memorial honouring their sacrifice.

“It was a privilege to work with all stakeholders involved in planning the day including the families, regiments, Cardigan Town Council and Ceredigion County Council officers. We were delighted with the strong attendance on Saturday which was a testament to how important this Commemoration is to all concerned. It was a fitting tribute to the fallen soldiers of Cardigan.”

 

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