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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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Judge dismisses appeal in ‘truly disturbing’ animal neglect case

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A CROWN court judge has upheld a judgement of a case which saw the neglect and death of 58 cows. In his judgement, the judge described the offence as ‘truly disturbing’. The west Wales case related to the conviction of David Davies, and Evan Meirion Davies of Penffynnon Farm, Bangor Teifi, near Newcastle Emlyn.

They had both pleaded guilty to 13 charges of animal neglect in February 2019. They later appealed the Magistrates Court’s sentence banning them from keeping animals for five years. The brothers had frustrated the appeals process by securing adjournments in seven appeal hearings. Another request to adjourn the eighth hearing on Monday 2 December was not granted.

They also sought to appeal the guilty verdict despite pleading guilty to the charges earlier in the year.

The prosecution followed a visit by Animal Health Officers and Animal and Plant Health Agency vet to the farm in April 2018. Officers found 58 cattle carcasses in various states of decay in the cattle sheds and surrounding fields. The remaining cattle were housed in terrible conditions with no food, water or dry lying area.

The vet confirmed that the cattle were being caused unnecessary suffering, and that the dead cattle had succumbed to the horrendous conditions found in the sheds, and died of neglect.

The vet had to euthanize two cows to stop further suffering during visits to the premises. This is one of the worst cases of animal welfare neglect seen by the Animal Health team of Ceredigion County Council. Alun Williams is Ceredigion County Council’s Corporate Lead Officer responsible for Policy and Performance. He said, “We had no doubt that the judge would uphold the judgement of the Aberystwyth Magistrates Court.

Although we have been frustrated by the delay caused by the appellants, we are satisfied with the result. “The vast majority of Ceredigion farmers take excellent care of their animals and uphold high standards of animal welfare. We will make sure we pursue the small minority who do not.

We will not hesitate to prosecute in such devastating cases of animal neglect.” Their initial sentences were upheld.

They were sentenced to 16 weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 months, and were disqualified from keeping any animals for five years. The brothers will be allowed 28 days to dispose of the herd.

They were ordered to pay costs to the council of £420.

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New Integrated Care Centre opens

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Services together in one place: The Cardigan Integrated Care Centre

CARDIGAN’s brand new Integrated Care Centre will open its doors to the public on Monday, December 9.
Hywel Dda University Health Board says the new Centre will bring joined-up care to local communities for the first time.
The opening of the centre follows hot on the heels of the launch of a similar initiative in Aberaeron. It represents a decisive change of direction in the way the Board delivers health and social care services to a largely rural area.
The new centre was developed with £23.8m of Welsh Government funding
The centre will provide a modern, fit for purpose healthcare service – including a GP practice, dental service, and pharmacy. It will also host a range of other clinics and services delivered by Hywel Dda, the third sector, local authority. and partner organisations.
Those services include:
• A nurse-led minor injuries walk-in service with telemedicine links to the emergency department
• Radiology and diagnostics
• Phlebotomy service
• Outpatient suite with consulting rooms and clinical treatment facilities for pre-assessment and outpatient consultations by visiting clinicians and social workers
• Disease-specific services for heart failure, motor neurone disease clinics, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease services
• Enhanced telemedicine equipment in clinical areas, providing remote access to specialists from across the professions
• Rehabilitation services, providing opportunities for intensive and slow stream rehabilitation to restore function and improve independence, supported by therapists, nurses and social care staff within the Community Resource Team
• Mental health and learning disabilities services
• A base for the local Community Resource Team in south Ceredigion, including the Acute Response and District Nursing teams
Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “This is an ambitious step forward for our health board, which embodies the strategy we agreed last year to shift our focus to community and primary care. It has taken many years of planning and there have been challenges along the way. We’ve had to work very hard to make sure that we’ve got it right the first time.
“In particular, the hard work and commitment from our staff, and the support of many stakeholders – particularly our local communities – has been a critical part of our journey. It is with these groups in mind that we begin delivering on our ambition of providing safe, sustainable, integrated care for our local population.”

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Ceredigion success at Welsh Indoor Rowing Championships

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THERE was success for Ceredigion at the Welsh Indoor Rowing Championships bringing home nine medals.

Held on Friday and Saturday, 22 and 23 November at the Channel View Leisure Centre in Cardiff, this was the 20th anniversary of the event. The aim in Ceredigion is to grow indoor rowing and to promote the local Sea Rowing Clubs.

On the Friday, 14 children from Aberaeron Comprehensive School and Ysgol Bro Teifi, Llandysul took part in the school event. Some had competed last year for the first time, while others were rowing in the competition for the first time. The standard was exceptionally high, with schools from both Wales and England, with 9 records being broken within the 20 races that were held on the day.

Three medals were won in the school event. Beri Tomkins, Ysgol Bro Teifi; Finley Tarling and Dylan Gwynne Jones, Ysgol Gyfun Aberaeron each won a gold medal. 10 of the children achieved their own personal best times with Beri and Finley even broke national records.

On the Saturday, the club races were held where two junior medals and four senior medals were won. Dylan Gwynne Jones won a gold medal for 4min row under 16. Beri Tomkins won a gold medal with a new personal best of 543 metres rowed in two minutes. Beri now holds four records – year 6 school and Welsh record; and year 7 school and Welsh record.

In the adult event, Leo O’Connor won a bronze medal for 60+years 500m; Hannah Lodder won two gold medals for Ladies 40+ years 500m and Ladies 40+years 2km; and Sam Owen won silver medal for Ladies 40+years 2km.

There are weekly Indoor Rowing sessions held at Ysgol Bro Teifi, Llandysul; Aberaeron Comprehensive School; and Bro Pedr School, Lampeter. These sessions are supported by CRIW which are the indoor rowing group within Ceredigion. CRIW also run sessions on a Monday evening at Aberaeron Leisure Centre.

Rhidian Harries, Active Young People Officer, said, “The Young Rowers from Ceredigion have done fantastically well at this national competition. The event was very well organised, and many English schools that are recognised as rowing schools attended. However, the children from Ceredigion showed that they could compete against anyone. It’s a great credit for them and also for CRIW, who have been working tirelessly to grow the sport in the area. Their support and enthusiasm has been crucial, and they should take great pleasure in the success and the performances of these young rowers.”

CRIW will be running their own Indoor Rowing Competition at Teifi Leisure Centre, Cardigan on Saturday, 28 March 2020. Search them on Facebook for more information.

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