At a second EGM last night, shareholders voted 27 to 5 in favour of the merger with Wales and West. The result of the vote was featured on Newyddion 9, although rather oddly the news report contained a statement from the Welsh Government claiming that the shareholders had voted "unanimously" in favour of the merger, a claim which was unsurprisingly repeated as fact by BBC Radio Wales in an English language news bulletin.
Speaking on behalf of the campaign group Ble ti'n mynd i fyw, Osian Elias warned that Wales and West had made no firm commitments to back up promises it had made to safeguard the position of the Welsh language or use local contractors. Shareholders could only hope that Wales and West kept its word.
One of the shareholders, Peter Davies, expressed sadness at what had happened. Shareholders had little choice but to back the merger, he said, because Cantref's creditors had threatened to withdraw their lines of credit, and that would have pushed Cantref into the hands of the receivers. He went on to call for an independent investigation into what had happened and the publication of the secret report commissioned by the government.
Jonathan Edwards MP again pointed to the lack of consultation with Cantref's tenants, and warned that there could be a judicial review of the decision.
Events at Cantref are moving rapidly, and so this is the third post on the subject in 48 hours.
A second special general meeting of the association's shareholders has been called for 23 August at its headquarters in Newcastle Emlyn to ratify the decision taken on 9 August to "merge" with Wales and West Housing.
Ble ti'n mynd i fyw?, an independent group set up to give a voice to young people in Ceredigion on housing matters, is calling on shareholders to overturn the earlier decision.
Here is their statement.Welsh first, followed by an English translation:
Ail gyfle i achub Cantref rhag ei draflyncu
Rydym ni, grŵp annibynnol lleol Ble Ti'n Mynd i Fyw sydd yn cynnig llais i bobl ifanc yn y Gorllewin ar faterion ynghlwm â thai, eisoes wedi mynegi ein pryderon am yr uno arfaethedig rhwng Wales and West Housing a Chymdeithas Tai Cantref.
Yn dilyn cyfarfod cyfranddalwyr Cymdeithas Tai Cantref (nos Fawrth 09/08/2016), mae Ble Ti'n Mynd i Fyw yn pwysleisio bod ail gyfle i achub Cantref rhag cael ei draflyncu gan Wales and West Housing mewn cyfarfod cyfranddalwyr ar nos Fawrth 23/08/2016.
Amlygodd y cyfarfod cyntaf nifer o ddiffygion y broses o uno Cantref a Wales and West Housing, gan gynnwys:
Diffyg ymgynghori gyda thenantiaid, cyfranddalwyr, rhanddeiliaid a'r cyhoedd.
Diffyg sicrwydd i denantiaid.
Diffyg sicrwydd swyddi yn y Gorllewin.
Diffyg dealltwriaeth o werth y Gymraeg, a diffyg sicrwydd mewn perthynas â'r iaith.
Diffyg tryloywder a chyhoeddusrwydd mewn perthynas â'r datblygiad lleol pwysig hwn.
Bod nifer o gyfranddalwyr yn anhapus gyda'r diffyg gwybodaeth o flaen llaw, ac wedi codi pryderon am hyn a'r diffyg ymgynghori yn y cyfarfod.
Mae pryder difrifol mewn perthynas â'r diffygion hyn, yn enwedig o ystyried y broses uno arfaethedig hyd yn hyn. Mae nifer o bobl wedi sôn wrth grŵp Ble Ti'n Mynd i Fyw am y bygythiad i swyddi a gwaith lleol a'r diffyg llwyr o ymwybyddiaeth iaith a amlygwyd trwy gynnal cyfarfodydd yn uniaith Saesneg.
Pwysleisiwn fod gan gyfranddalwyr Cantref ail gyfle i wrthod yr uno arfaethedig hyn, ac i osgoi traflynciad ased dai lleol gan y cawr yma o'r brifddinas sydd yn dangos dim dealltwriaeth na gwerthfawrogiad o anghenion lleol.
Mae Ble Ti'n Mynd i Fyw yn gwrthwynebu'r uno arfaethedig ar sail tair prif ddadl:
Gwasaneth lleol – mae Cantref yn sefydliad bach sydd wedi'i leoli yn y gymuned, ac yn rhan naturiol ac allweddol o'r fro y mae'n gwasanaethu.
Swyddi – mae Cantref yn gyflogwr allweddol sydd yn darparu swyddi o safon uchel trwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg yn lleol.
Iaith – mae gan Cantref werthfawrogiad unigryw o werth yr iaith, mae hyn mewn cyferbyniad ag unieithrwydd Saesneg Wales and West Housing.
Rydym o'r farn y byddai'r uno arfaethedig yn golygu bod nifer o'r manteision o gael ein gwasanaethu gan Cantref; megis yr elfen leol, swyddi, a'r iaith; yn cael ei golli ym maint a diffyg dealltwriaeth Wales and West Housing.
A second opportunity to save Cantref from perilous takeover
We, Ble Ti'n Mynd i Fyw? – an independent local group providing young people in the west of Wales a platform to discuss housing matters – have already expressed our concerns regarding the proposed takeover by Wales and West Housing of Cantref Housing Association.
Following a meeting for Cantref Housing Association's shareholders (Tuesday 09/08/2016), our group (Ble Ti'n Mynd i Fyw?) stresses that shareholders still have a second opportunity to save Cantref Housing Association from being swallowed by Wales and West Housing in a second meeting held on Tuesday 23/08/2016.
The first meeting highlighted a number of shortfalls in the process of merging Cantref and Wales and West Housing, including:
A lack of consultation with tenants, shareholders, stakeholders and the public.
A lack of certainty for tenants.
A lack of employment security in the west of Wales.
A lack of understanding of the value of the Welsh language, and a lack of assurance regarding the language.
A lack of transparency and publicity with regards to this important development to the local area.
The fact that many shareholders were unhappy with the lack of information provided beforehand, and had raised concerns regarding this matter and the lack of consultation during the recent meeting.
There are serious concerns regarding these shortfalls, especially considering the background of this proposed merger. A number of people have raised concerns with the Ble Ti'n Mynd i Fyw? group regarding the threat to employment and local contracted work, and the complete lack of language awareness highlighted when the company started holding meetings in English only.
We stress that Cantref shareholders have a second golden opportunity to reject the proposed merger and to avoid the takeover of a local housing asset by this giant company from the capital, which has showed no understanding or appreciation of local needs.
Ble Ti'n Mynd i Fyw? opposes this proposed merger based on three main arguments:
The local factor – Cantref is a small organization rooted in the community, and a natural and key part of the communities it serves
The employment factor – Cantref is a key employer which provides quality employment opportunities locally through the medium of Welsh
The language factor – Cantref has an unique appreciation of the value of the Welsh language, which contrasts drastically with the English monolingualism of Wales and West Housing.
We believe that the proposed merger will lead to the loss of the local element, employment and the Welsh language, which Cantref provides, due to being swallowed by the sheer size and lack of understanding of Wales and West Housing.DIWEDD / END
Both Ble ti'n mynd i fyw? and the Tai Ceredigion Tenant Monitoring Group have made strenuous but largely fruitless efforts to contact Cantref's shareholders who, it is clear, have been treated like those proverbial mushrooms: kept in the dark and fed a diet of manure. Even the manure was strictly rationed.
Here is an extract from an open letter sent to Cantref's tenants from the Tai Ceredigion Tenant Monitoring Group, dated 1 July 2016:
"At the Annual General Meeting on the 16th of July last year your CEO signed off the annual accounts for Cymdeithas Tai Cantref, as audited on the 31st of March, 2015. The accounts stated Cymdeithas Tai Cantref Limited had a surplus in funds for the year of £978 thousand, increasing the total funds available to the company to nearly £6.6 million. Yet, by the end of the same month of July, 2015, there were reports that the company was in serious trouble.
The Welsh Government called in a consultancy to conduct an inquiry into the company. Before it was completed, on the 15th of August, 2015, CEO Lynne Sacale stated to the BBC that:
"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."
It was another four months, until the 10th of December, before your CEO took their leave of absence. But this did not appear in the local press until the 11th of February, 2016, when it was announced that Hilary Jones of Bro Myrddin Housing Association and Doug Elliott, a former head of regulation in the Welsh Government, had been parachuted in to take “temporary charge.”
The letter goes on to describe at length the many attempts the Monitoring Group made to obtain a copy of the shareholder register, as it wished to contact Cantref's tenants and offer them advice. Normally, shareholder registers are public documents, but Cantref is regulated not by Companies House but the Financial Conduct Authority, and the group was sent on a wild goose chase which ended up with Cantref declaring that they could not have a copy because of Data Protection.
In the end, the Monitoring Group decided that its best hope of contacting those tenants who were also shareholders lay through publishing its appeal on Facebook.
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