Aug 072016

Cantref, or Tai Cantref, is a housing association based in Castell Newydd Emlyn (Newcastle Emlyn) on the border of Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion. It ran into trouble last year and is now in the process of being handed over to a Cardiff housing association run by a Labour Party member. This after an ‘independent’ investigation by an English management consultancy run by a Labour supporter.

Cantref Cym

Many of you will know that I’ve written about Cantref’s woes before, so listed below you’ll find the posts in which Cantref has figured. They will help you understand how we arrived at a situation where a housing association using the Welsh language in its day-to-day operations seems to have been handed over to an English housing association based in Cardiff with no concern for the Welsh language at all.

This handover was facilitated by a ‘Welsh’ Government ‘committed’ to the Welsh language that, only last week at the National Eisteddfod, expressed the ambition of having a million Welsh speakers by 2050.

Housing Associations, Time To End The Madness, 3 July 2014

To Those That Have Shall Be Given – Housing Benefit! 4 May 2015

Updates, etc: Cardigan Castle, Organ Harvesting, Overseas Aid Programme, Housing Associations, Labour Leadership Contest 26 July 2015

Boors & Crooks; Cowards, Spooks & Idiots 29 September 2015

Social Housing Back to Council Control? 11 April 2016

Tai Cantref: Favoured Suitor Named 21 April 2016

Housing Associations – All Change? 25 April 2016

Tai Cantref: Fate Decided by Labour Cronyism 29 April 2016


Let’s start by conceding that Cantref being up Shit Creek is in large part due to poor business decisions and less than inspiring management. Indicated in this comment to one of my earlier posts.

Cantref Insider comment

Even so, a change of management and the injection of a little moolah could have steadied the ship and saved it from being taken over by pirates. So what do we know of these ‘pirates’?


Wales and West is no cuddly housing association but a ruthless and acquisitive business. ‘Association’ was dropped from the name in 2012, which should give you a clue as to how W&W likes to see itself and be perceived by others.

Something else I’ve previously remarked on is the ‘Englishness’ or non-Welshness of Wales and West, and I’m not just referring to language (when compared with Cantref), I’m talking about those who run it. Look through the Board of Management and the Directors’ Team. There seems to be minimal Welsh involvement at the top of this ‘Welsh’ housing group. (Maybe lower down as well.)

Nationality aside, the important figure to note is the chief executive, Labour Party member Anne Hinchey. She’s married to Cardiff councillor Graham Hinchey. Mrs Hinchey you may recall had her staff going around Cardiff during May’s Assembly election campaign making sure none of her tenants had the temerity to display non-Labour posters or placards, and removing any that were found.

Wales and West header

Knowing how ‘Welsh’ Labour likes to conflate Plaid Cymru with the Welsh language, and hate both, the thought of this woman taking over Cantref should make anyone concerned for the Welsh language, political pluralism, or just fair play, shudder. But then, as I’ve been telling you for years, this is how ‘Welsh’ Labour operates – when presented with the opportunity it will always encourage nepotism and cronyism to further its political ends.

Mrs Hinchey attends the Vine Christian Centre in Bridgend. Knowing how the devout enjoy each other’s company I couldn’t help but wonder if any of those listed in the Board of Management or Directors’ Team at Wales and West share Mrs Hinchey’s faith? Just a thought.


Like all housing bodies Wales and West survives and prospers due to our generosity, in the form of funding from the ‘Welsh’ Government. The main funding comes from the Social Housing Grant. Between 2008 and November 2015 Wales and West was given £65m in SHG alone.

Part of this figure is broken down (I assume) in the Wales and West entry on the Transparent Wales website, which shows a total of almost £45m between 28.04.2011 and the end of the financial year on 31.03.2016. Though one thing puzzles me.

Payments made up to 28.11.2012 are listed as “Capital Grants to Private Sector”, and after that date as “Capital Grants to Voluntary Organisations”. Yet the changes implemented in 2012 by W&W were if anything in the opposite direction, from voluntary to private.

Perhaps even curiouser is why Wales and West should have received funding from the UK Government which is – given that social housing is devolved (so we are told) – in this context the English government. Yet that’s what happened in 2014. So why did the ‘English’ government give money to a Welsh housing association?


The latest communication I’ve received from within besieged Cantref paints a worrying picture of intimidation, but one that also offers some hope. Read it carefully and digest what it says.

Cantref Insider redacted

Clearly, Wales and West has absolutely no sympathy for the Welsh language. In other aspects, the information above ties up with what I’m told by another contact appeared in the Carmarthenshire Herald last week.

Cantref Ble ti'n myn i fyw

So it might be that things are not yet cut and dried. Because if Wales and West needs 75% approval from stakeholders, and this group includes bodies opposed to the Wales and West takeover, indeed, in the case of Carmarthenshire County Council, a body that itself wanted to take over Cantref, then there might still be hope.

Another of the leading players in this drama remains something of a mystery. I’m referring now to the interim chair at Cantref, Kevin Taylor. (There is currently no chief executive.) It is he presumably referred to above, in the note smuggled out of Cantref, as “Cantref’s english acting chairman”.

According to his Linkedin profile Taylor was employed by Forte Hotels 1977 – 1987 then, from 1987 to 2013, he worked in Bermuda. How did this complete stranger turn up at such a critical juncture in the history of Cantref, just in time to recommend the takeover by Wales and West? Or to put it another way, who parachuted him in?


Note the reference in the message I was sent to it “all being stitched up in a Labour meeting in Cardiff last year”, for it’s easy to see the advantages for Labour in this takeover.

The bulk of Cantref’s properties are in Ceredigion, where Labour got 9.7% of the vote in the 2015 UK general election and 6.5% in May’s Assembly election. And where there is just a single Labour member on the local authority (and he’s in a university town). Consequently, ‘Welsh’ Labour controlling Cantref would give the party influence in an area where it is consistently and comprehensively rejected at the ballot box.

The suggestion that opponents of the takeover are being refused access to shareholders is worrying, as is the allegation there is also a refusal to accept new shareholders. Unfitting behaviour I would have thought for the Christian CEO of Wales and West. But not surprising, for we’re dealing here with ‘Welsh’ Labour, and that’s how they operate.

(I’m also beginning to suspect that in the wider picture ‘shareholders’ might be a way for a clique or political party to maintain control of a housing association, by encouraging ‘their people’ to become shareholders, and then be eligible to join the board of management, while turning away those who are likely to disagree with them.)

The Wales and West takeover of Cantref is less a business deal and more a political manoeuvre, and an assault on the Welsh language. An agenda that would meet with the approval of most members of ‘Welsh’ Labour, despite the pie-in-the-sky promises from the party’s local leadership.

I therefore suggest that if Carwyn Jones wants to be believed when he talks of his party’s commitment to the Welsh language he should step in and call off the Wales and West takeover of Cantref. If he doesn’t, then it’s just further proof of what I’ve been saying for years about ‘Welsh’ Labour.

P. S. A Special General Meeting is to be held on Tuesday August 9th, presumably at the Cantref offices. Why not try to get details and go along there, make your feelings known?

~~~~~~~~~~ END ~~~~~~~~~~

Update 10.08.2016: The worst happened at the Special General Meeting last night, and Cantref is to be taken over by Labour-run Wales and West. Comments to this blog and information received by another route paint a worrying picture of how this was achieved.

First, Wales and West decided not to accept new shareholders – who would have had voting rights – after May 26. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it smacks of how Blairite Labour tried to stop any more Corbyn supporters joining. And Wales and West is run by ‘Welsh’ Labour which, above NCO level, tends to be Blairite.

Cantref Insider Aug 10 2016

The other comments made in the anonymous message I received to the ‘Contact Me’ box on my sidebar explain themselves. Plaid Cymru does not emerge from this saga with any credit. Penri James being a local Plaid luminary.

Note also the comment from ‘Simon’, another indictment of those left in charge of Cantref after the dismissals. I urge you to read ‘Simon’s comment carefully because it tells us what a shamble our housing associations are in.

Our old friend ‘Cneifiwr’, in another comment, tells us that those present last night, “were given assurances about local jobs and the use of Welsh”. Does anyone really believe that? I don’t. (Nor, I suspect, does ‘Cneifiwr’.)

Wynne Jones – who knows of these things – reminds us that a business case must be presented to the ‘Welsh’ Government by W&W and approved by the WG before the takeover can be completed. Those are the rules. But given that W&W and the WG are both Labour, I can’t see this being an obstacle.

‘Llyr’ questions Plaid Cymru’s role, wonders why they weren’t more active. They were – but on the side of the ‘enemy’!

Let me end by returning to ‘Anon’, who writes “Hillary jones sold us out to wales and west and the welsh government gave them the wink as they want only five or six rsls in wales”. Hilary Jones of the Bro Myrddin Housing Association was shipped in as Interim Strategic Director, and over a year ago rumours were circulating that she wanted Wales and West to take over Cantref but leave her in charge.

I have argued more than once that we need many fewer Registered Social Landlords. But if we are to have mergers then let them be local, with other housing associations that understand the realities of working in a bilingual rural area. Another consideration is that RSLs need a working relationship with their local authorities.

As a match, Cantref with Wales and West can be compared with Dianne Abbott shacking up with Nigel Farage. It’s so bizarre as to be unthinkable, and certainly unworkable. Or if we are to stick with matters connubial, then perhaps the best analogy is with an arranged marriage, with all that that conjures up.

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41 Comments on "Cantref: ‘Welsh’ Labour Takeover Challenged?"

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Peter Evans

Hag Harris is a Labour County Councillor in Llambed and is a Ceredigion County Council cabinet member.


Jac, it’s not even Cymraeg on the website, more like Sgymraeg as it’s merely auto-translated by Google Translate, or something very similar. This is even more contemptuous than providing an English only website, as it demonstrates precisely Wales & West’s attitude towards Welsh speakers. Google Translate is only suitable for very rough translations, as I’m sure you know.

Imagine the howls of protest were a Welsh language organisation to rely on Google Translate for the English version of a website!


I should have added before pressing ‘Post Comment’ that the proposed ‘merger’ of W&W and Cantref needs to be highlighted. The very fact that there are rumours of shenanigins surrounding shareholder votes, and alleged attempts to stifle debate and block shareholder applications, (presumably from tenants as well as others) is enough to cause grave concern.

It’s particularly worrying that W&W are in line to take over Cantref which operates internally entirely in Welsh, (they were pioneers of this policy, plus had very progressive policies towards learners who applied to them for employment – something I doubt W&W will want to maintain) and in some ways is a model that I believe all housing associations in Wales should emulate, (adopting policies such as using Welsh internally would go a long way to securing that million Welsh speakers by 2050).

Already huge, W&W is set to become a real monster, as with the 1691 properties that Cantref have, W&W is set to grow to have 11,000 properties under it’s control – far too big, and it remains to be seen if they can provide adequate support from their (presumably English only) 24 hour support centre in Cardiff.

Where is the local accountability and reflection of local needs? Hopefully it will be difficult to get the 75% majority they need to approve the merger, but who knows what pressure is being put on tenant shareholders, (I suspect they are being bombarded with pro W&W propaganda). As it happens, the application form to become a tenant shareholder is still on the Cantref website, and even though it’s alleged that new applicants are not being accepted, it could be worthwhile for tenants to attempt to become shareholders, and then ask questions loudly in the local press when applications are refused.


The note from your contact within Cantref refers to “no help from Pembs Housing Association as their chief executive has announced his retirement”. Is this Mr Maggs, the subject of your previous posts and is he to receive a generous lump sum “golden goodbye” from the taxpayer. I am continuing to monitor Cantref’s multi-million pound development at High Street Cardigan. The shop unit is still empty. I could never understand how social housing grant could be used to refurbish commercial premises. When the dust has settled maybe I will ask the question again.


I don’t understand why Plaid are so quiet od these disturbing happenings(especially an old war horse like Neil Mcevoy We as a nation really.need to do something urgently to wipe this stain of the face of our land


Perhaps even more worrying that Cymdeithas yr Iaith don’t seem to have taken note of this ‘development’.

As far as Neil McEvoy is concerned, is he aware of the impending take over of Cantref by W&W? Plaid should have waded in, but what is Plaid policy when it comes to housing associations?

As usual, they remain cravenly silent when it comes to really opposing Labour’s stranglehold on Wales.


Plaid runs the Ceredigion and Sir Gar councils. Aren’t Plaid people are involved in most of these housing associations? They certainly are in Gwynedd.

Y Cneifiwr

Following on from Sibrydionmawr’s insightful comments, it seems pretty clear that Cantref, presumably under orders from Wales and West, is less than keen to encourage shareholders to attend the meeting tomorrow. There is no mention at all on Cantref’s website of the meeting, and the most recent “news” about the association’s future was published back on 21 April. The most recent tenants’ newsletter was published back at Easter, and notes in a brief statement the departure of chief executive Lynne Sacale, who is thanked for her hard work…..

Given everything that has happened in the last few months, the near complete lack of information shows an utter contempt for tenants, staff and, crucially, suppliers.

‘Ble ti’n mynd i fyw’ have highlighted the refusal without explanation by Cantref’s board of applications by tenants and members of the public to become members, or shareholders. Members are entitled to vote at AGMs and EGMs, and this is what the association’s website says:

“We want our business to represent the people we house and the communities where we have homes. Becoming a member means you can attend and vote at our Annual General Meeting (AGM), receive our Annual Report and stand for election to the Board – meaning you can have a real say in our work.

Interested? Then you’ll need to apply. We welcome applications from tenants, other individuals, community groups and local organisations. All applications are considered by the Board. Applications from tenants wishing to become shareholders are accepted automatically.”

If it is the case that applications by tenants have been rejected, the board has acted illegally.


Might it be possible that Cantref was subverted deliberately over a period of time thus enabling its eventual absorption by a bigger group more aligned with Welsh Government sentiments ? Does anyone have a bit of history, say 5-10 years , of comings and goings at exec/Board level ?. Ventures in new directions which have proved ill advised, poor internal project controls, downright avoidance to heeding warning signals, and more, these can all be symptoms of subversive input in a corporate setting.


Golwg and Radio Cymru have now picked up on the story ahead of tonight’s meeting. Penri James, who is on the board, appeared to be a little rattled by the campaign being waged by Ble ti’n mynd i fyw. Earlier today he tweeted “I am one [i.e. a shareholder]. Who are you? Why should anyone respond to an anonymous statement? Raises a big question about who is doing this.”

Two individuals replied, pointing out that they were among 7 signatories to a letter containing the statement which they had asked Cantref to pass on to shareholders.

It would seem that either Penri James has not opened his post, or the letter has somehow gone astray…


Turning to real serious business – Biggest blow of the day – Ashley Williams allegedly on his way to Everton ! I thought such nonsense was ruled out when Martinez got the push but it seems that the Dutchman likes him too. Talismanic player for the Liberty crowd, he’ll find that Goodison mob much more fickle.


aircraft belonging to colonial power shot down over Snowdonia – MAC is still out there ! now that’s a cracking headline, in my dreams !

Y Cneifiwr

Shareholders voted in favour of the merger with Wales and West last night after they were given assurances about local jobs and the use of Welsh. There will of course be nobody to hold them to account on that.


The bombshell of the whole night was that, on top of there being no written report to the shareholders to the Board on why they should vote yes, the Board of Cantref had not negotiated a rent guarantee for their tenant’s protection, and the Wales and West Chief executive stated they would not be able to bring the homes up to welsh housing quality standard until 2024 – four years after the Government’s revised target date, 12 years after the original target date set by Welsh Govt Minister, and 11 years after the 2013 date when Cantref Board declared that they had already met the standard!

Its time for all housing associations in Wales to be audited for compliance with the WHQS. Time for the truth to come out!


If the take over of Cantref takes effect then surely a business case should be presented to, and approved by, Welsh Government in accordance with circular RSL 05/08 Group Structures, effective from 1 October 2008. If Welsh Government decline to provide a copy of the business case {albeit redacted} under FOI Act 2000, in my view a complaint could be made to the Information Commissioner. It may all take time but disclosure of information is in the public interest.


Wynne You and 1 or 2 others seem to be well versed in many of the procedural aspects of this and other similar situations in the rented housing sector. I am amazed that politicians of all colours have generally failed to reach your level of competence, in which case they should be highly amenable to taking advice and guidance from you and people like you. There may be an odd few members of the Plaid leadership community, and from other parties, out there reading this – FFS get off your thick arses and get on the case , your communities need you to earn your corn, urgently.


Thanks for your note Dafis. My correspondence to date has been with senior officials at Welsh Government rather than politicians. I am simply reminding them of the rules as set by government. They prefer not to be informed and have now advised they do not intend to respond to further enquiries from me. Jac is aware of my recent correspondence with Welsh Government and I believe he may be working on another post that could be published in the near future. I’m afraid “self-regulation” means exactly that: no oversight from anyone.


not surprised by the content of your response -they obviously dislike intensely some well researched character popping up and disturbing their casual approach to duties and responsibilities as required by various laws, regulations and sundry rules written from time to time but put back on the shelf to gather dust.
This matter of failing to behave in accordance with clear requirements of a “control framework” should agitate those assorted A.M’s whose constituencies contain parts of the Cantref estate, regardless of party. O.K, We know that Labour have a vested interest already demonstrated in these columns but surely other A.M’s with seats representing Carms, Pembs, Ceredigion and a segment of Powys should be delighted to take issue on matters where absence of procedural and possibly financial due diligence is a matter of some scale. Or are the Tories and UKIPpers in Wales already showing their indifference ? Plaid on the other hand appear to be showing their complicity.

Does anyone wish to prove me wrong ?


This is a clear cut example of “we know best” and how dare you suggest a knowledge beyond what we have, with our army of professional civil servants, advisers and experts. Initially they’d respond to Wynne thinking this chap’s done a bit of reading, smarter than the average bear, better mollify him and maybe he’ll bugger off. Then when they find that doesn’t shut him up and he actually knows more than they do, there’s a panic starts in-house, followed by what can we get on this bloke to cut him down to size. Nothing there so that’s followed it seems by what has now happened – let’s close up shop and ignore him. There’s a civil service manual on it somewhere. Keep chipping away, Wynne because clearly you’ve got them on the defensive.


A member of Welsh Government housing regulation team (ian Walters) was at the sgm. He was silent, even when the acting Chairman and cynnog Dafis blamed the housing regulation team for their cashflow problems when it was the boards incompetence and former directors and ceos fault. Ian walters also monitors wales and west board and the largest rsl in wales the pobl group. This whole disaster is either gross incompetence by a lazy labour government who failed to monitor welsh housing quality standard compliance or a conspiracy. Either way our tenants will now suffer with an eight year wait for their homes to be repaired and modernised even though wales and west have huge cash reserves. Why dont they use them? Or dont poor Welsh speaking tenants in west Wales count to them? Our tenants deserve better than this!