Apr 212016
 

Tai Cantref, the Newcastle Emlyn-based housing association has been in the news recently, but for all the wrong reasons. It has, I regret to say, found its way up Shit Creek, where it will struggle to find a berth due to all the other wrecks jostling for space.

For Shit Creek is now home port to a whole fleet of rusting hulks that have collectively ripped countless millions from the Welsh public purse in the devolution era, a period that has given us successive administrations believing that handing out billions to the Third Sector and assorted peripatetic shysters is a substitute for an economy.

Cantref 1

The troubles at Cantref did not come out of the blue, they’ve been predicted for some time. They seemed to start with a few poor business decisions, such as trying to turn the old government building at the foot of Bronglais Hill in Aber’ into student accommodation.

Though, in fairness, Cantref may have been trying to do the right thing. For here, in the Annual Report 2012 / 2013 (page 16) we read, “To build new homes, Cantref need (sic) to generate more income and rely less on Social Housing Grant. A successful new initiative to Cantref this year was the introduction of our new student accommodation. We were successful with the submission of 65 units to be part of the Welsh Government’s Revenue Grant programme”. Alternatively, Cantref was laying off one teat to start sucking on another.

The old government building though is quite impressive, as you can see . . . but then, white elephants so often are.

Cantref 2

Picture courtesy of Herald Group Newspapers

And then, when it began to be realised that Cantref was failing, it seems that a ‘What the hell!’ mentality took over and those responsible for Cantref’s demise decided to invest some of the remaining money in drowning their sorrows.

Or certainly, that’s the impression I gained from this comment to the blog last July. The ‘castle’ referred to is of course Chateau Tucker, the £15m B&B in Cardigan (paid for with public funding, of course), of which I have written many times.

Cantref Insider comment

Even though Cantref, a publicly-funded body, was subsequently investigated by persons answering to our democratically-elected representatives we, the public at large, we, whose money is used to fund these bodies, were not allowed to know what had gone wrong. And this from a Labour regime that preaches ‘openness’.

Cantref 3

Once it became known that Cantref was in trouble the vultures started circling, among them Mark James, chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, though how much the councillors knew of this bid is open to question. For Mr James believes in treating councillors as one would mushrooms. (Keep them in the dark and ply them regularly with shit.)

But there were others interested in taking over Cantref, as we were told by ‘Dai the Post’, in this comment from earlier this month. In particular, note Dai’s reference to “Hillary Jones, from neighbouring ha Bro Myrddin has been trying to self promote herself by persuading Wales and West ha from Cardiff to bail out Cantref and give her a bigger job as head of their western poorer Welsh speaking colony. Perhaps she has been getting advice from her (x Gwalia finance director) husband? More hostels anyone?”

Dai the Post

And so it came to pass. Today it was announced by a Cardiff PR company that the option preferred by Cantref is a ‘merger’ with Wales and West Housing of Cardiff. (Read the press release here.)

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Extra! Extra! You will note in the press release that the person speaking on behalf of Cantref, and in favour of the merger with Wales and West is, “Kevin Taylor, Interim Chair”. Now I mentioned Taylor in Social Housing Back to Council Control? earlier this month, and I wondered who he is. Here’s what I wrote in that earlier post:

Cantref Kevin Taylor

I’m still wondering – Who is Kevin Taylor? Who appointed him to the chair of Cantref? (Here’s his Linkedin profile.)

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Returning to Wales and West Housing, I have a number of problems with this proposal:

  • Judging by this video and other information on the website Wales and West spends a lot of our money building retirement homes for English people, which obviously increases the load on our overburdened NHS and other services. Acquiring Cantref, which operates mainly in Ceredigion, could represent something of a bonanza for a company seeking to attract English retirees.
  • There is a distinctly ‘unWelsh’ feel to Wales and West that perhaps reflects its areas of operation in the south east and the north east. (Check out the Directors to see what I’m alluding to. This is clearly a business, but not a Welsh business.) No merger should be allowed unless – at the very least – there are firm assurances that Cantref’s existing Welsh staff in Newcastle Emlyn will be retained.

This is clearly a ‘merger’ of the kind that took place between Nazi Germany and Poland, or between Communist China and Tibet . . . or between England and Wales.

That’s all for now but I shall be back next week with more on our housing associations, including RCT Homes and Pembrokeshire Housing and its ‘subsidiary’ Mill Bay Homes. And there will also certainly be more to report on Cantref and Wales and West.

UPDATE 23.04.2016: Here’s a press release put out by Mark James Carmarthenshire County Council expressing disappointment at being kicked in the nuts rejected by Kevin Taylor Cantref. I suspect this story has more twists and turns yet.

 

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17 Comments on "Tai Cantref: Favoured Suitor Named"

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Wynne
Guest

The FOI Act needs to be extended to Housing Associations. We are entitled to know how our money is being spent by them. With mergers and takeovers on the agenda I suspect chief executives are now focused on self preservation rather than running the business. It is time for many of these over paid executives to do the honourable thing and “spend more time with the family”. Good work again Jac. I look forward to your next one on Pembrokeshire Housing Group and their subsidiary Mill Bay Homes.

dafis
Guest

Wynne, you say that ….”With mergers and takeovers on the agenda I suspect chief executives are now focused on self preservation rather than running the business”. Much of that self preservation work has most probably been done a while ago, like when the bastards were recruited, with appropriately padded service agreements giving exemplary payouts in the event of an ” unfortunate ” outcome. Indeed some of these greedy pigs are serial beneficiaries of such arrangements hopping from one public/3rd sector appointment to another picking up payoffs as they skip along. Lush, in’nit ? .

Wynne
Guest

Yes, I totally agree Dafis.

Brychan
Guest

That building in your photo Jac, would make an excellent HQ for a Welsh Energy Commission. We could make the ‘renewables’ sector pay for it. It wouldn’t be the first ‘cheap date’ to be had in Aberystwyth. Leanne Ymlaen.

Of course, there are some staff that could not be recruited locally and I’m sure there are a few staff sucking third/public sector tit that currently own of bijou apartments in the Cardiff Bay who might need to buy accommodation closer to their new office. Property vacated by English students and un-financed residential property notionally owned by Tai Cantref may be available.

Jonathan Edwards
Guest

This is so sad.
In the 1980s I became a member of Cymdeithas Tai Cantref (CTC) in the good old days when Cynog Dafis was MP for N.Pembs as well as Ceredigion, and connected with CTC, and when it had a Welsh-speaking grass-roots- up feel to it. I wanted to be a backseat member, not an expert on housing. And I wanted to be able to act if and when the need came to save CTC.
To my regret I allowed myself to lose my membership somehow. Pressures of work and raising a family no doubt. I watched the disastrous transition from Dyfed County Council to Carmarthenshire under Mark James.
My apologies to Wales for doing nothing.
Is it too late?
Jonathan Edwards

dafis
Guest

The need for a new party is glaringly obvious, has been for some time. To cap it all, putting the tin hat on the whole show, Ms Wood buggered off to Exeter the other night to spout her f***in’ dull monologue, now what on earth was she doing parading around darkest West Country when there was plenty for her to do in Wales with an election coming up in May ? Or has appearing on telly with BBC expenses become more appealing than confronting some disaffected natives on their own doorstep or at hustings in a draughty hall ? And it did her no good at all, as all those negative Anglo sites that spend much of their time taking the piss out of Ms Sturgeon, Cameron and anybody else that happens to show his face, turned their focus on her and had a real good laugh.

Time to move on babe, and be heckler bait in England if you like the telly so much.

Sibrydionmawr
Guest

It seems very strange indeed to me that Cantref have chosen Wales and West HA as their preferred partner. Surely this will lead to yet further erosion of the commitment to the Welsh language that was once one of the cornerstones of Tai Cantref. I read with some dismay that over more recent years the central position of Welsh at Cantref seems to have been eroded, as they once had a very progressive policy. Due to operating internally in Welsh, they of course required Welsh speaking staff, and what was so progressive is that they were quite happy to employ people who were ‘improvers’, i.e. people with some linguistic skill in Welsh, but who would require further language tuition in order to come fully up to speed. I also know that as part of the recruitment conditions, specialist staff, who were often recruited from amongst non-Welsh speakers had to agree to learn Welsh to an agreed standard by an agreed date as part of their conditions of employment. The system worked well, as it was inclusive, but didn’t compromise the position of the Welsh language. How long will this remain the case if Wales and West are allowed to take over? Looking at Wales and West’s website doesn’t bode well, as it seems that the ‘Welsh’ version of their website is merely a Google Translate affair. This is pretty insulting when it’s considered that Wales and West manage some 9000 properties in Wales, many in Welsh speaking areas, but being based in Cardiff, their approach to Welsh is pretty much dismissive – as are all other housing associations based in Cardiff. Sadly, even though housing associations receive huge amounts of public money, housing associations in Wales are still regarded as private sector bodies. In England, housing associations are now regarded as being in the public sector, which means that they are subject to all the usual scrutinies applied to state financed bodies.

But back to Cantref. Why is a merger with Tai Ceredigion not being considered? It’s another local body, run and controlled locally with a remit to provide employment and to support the local economy through it’s purchasing policies, (as is Cantref at the moment) so I would have thought it would have been the ideal choice, especially as Tai Ceredigion seems to have a similar ethos as regards the Welsh language. I can’t somehow see any commitment to using local contractors remaining once Wales and West take over, which will mean that they will manage something like 10 and a half thousand properties. They are already too big, in terms of being too distant from their tenants.

I’m wondering if the dead hand of the Welsh Assembly Government is behind this headlong rush to merge with a Cardiff based behemoth that isn’t exactly too popular with many of it’s current tenants anyway, due to their remoteness, and the fact that they are just too big. (Economy of scale only works to a certain point, after which things start to get very inefficient. Some things, of course, are advantageous when it’s things like large scale purchasing of things like central heating systems, but that kind of thing can be done through group buying).

Sibrydionmawr
Guest

Having just checked the Homes & Communites website, it would seem that housing associations are not currently subject to FoI. Though it seems from this report, it seems that housing associations in Scotland are to be brought under the scope of the Act, and it seems that in England they might be required to ’embrace it voluntarily’

http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/scottish-housing-associations-to-be-subject-to-foi/7012565.article

No mention of Wales, so that’s down to people like us.

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