- Even though the building works carried out on his property via an agent were sub-standard and unsatisfactory, the council still approved payments; Completion certificates were also submitted and approved for work that was never finished and which had also been improperly invoiced by the builders;
- The costs of the works tendered were artificially inflated significantly over the actual value of the works. Consequently in order to remain within the budget of his contribution, Gwynfor agreed that non-essential items should be omitted. However with the help of a quantity surveyor Gwynfor later discovered that the items omitted were extreme, leading the flats to be judged "detrimental to the health and safety of future council occupants". Furthermore Building Control also later discovered 24 contraventions of building regulations;
- The agents failed to provide proper contracts and the council failed to ensure that Gwynfor was fully informed of his responsibilities under the grant scheme. Proper quality monitoring procedures were not implemented;
- When Gwynfor took his concerns to the council he was faced with an extraordinarily complex complaints system coupled with real difficulties in obtaining information from the council's grants files. This made it extremely difficult for him to substantiate his claims;
- The council is responsible for ensuring that all Welsh Assembly housing grants are spent properly on works that are fit for purpose and meet Welsh Housing Standards -- however in this case the works were not fit for purpose and yet the council appeared unwilling to pursue the case.
Despite the above difficulties Gwynfor faced in pursuing his case with Anglesey Council, he fought on and after years of pushing an internal audit was eventually ordered into the matter. After 120 days of investigation the result was a grudging acknowledgement by the council that,
"there are certain recommendations arising ... as regards procedures and future administration of grants".
However it also predictably found fault with Gwynfor himself:
"[t]he investigations ... have raised questions with regard to the applicant and certain agents employed by the applicant. Some terms of the grant have not been complied with and the Council has requested re-payment of the grant monies".
Following further pressing by Gwynfor (including this letter sent to all councillors in September this year) and the helpful intervention of Mark Isherwood AM, Anglesey Council have now gone one step further by admitting for the very first time -- and as long alleged by Gwynfor -- that,
"... evidence exists that external parties have sought to defraud the Council".
Happily the case is now being investigated by the council's external auditors, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and the Police have been informed of the irregularities. The increasingly excellent welsh language news magazine, Golwg, has also took up the case. The Druid hopes that justice will now be swiftly served.
However the story does not end here. Gwynfor first took his concerns to the council in 2007 and it has taken him three years of continuous effort to get Llangefni to recognise that there really were serious problems with his grant. The question we have to ask is whether Gwynfor was just extraordinarily unlucky -- or whether there are other Anglesey residents who have also had a similar experience with housing grants but have lacked Gwynfor's herculean perseverance in pursuing their cases with the council?
Well, as it happens a Brynsiencyn resident, who also regularly contributes to this blog, had a very similar experience with a Home Regeneration Grant he was awarded seven years ago. He also took his concerns to the council but was repeatedly rebuffed, investigated himself for attempting to defraud the council (for which he was cleared), and was then outrageously told to stop writing to the Legal Department about his continuing concerns. Sound familiar?
Through word of mouth he found another nearby resident who had experienced exactly the same problems (even down to having the same agent and builder) -- and this despite having been told by the council that there had been no other similar problems reported concerning Home Regeneration Grants. Finally, out of frustration, he went to see our AM, Ieuan Wyn Jones and told him about both cases. Ieuan was sympathetic but ultimately unhelpful and sent him away saying,
“I believe that these two are isolated cases -- however if you find that there are enough other similar cases, then I will bring the matter to the attention of the Welsh Assembly”.
Accordingly, today we are launching an appeal to find other Anglesey residents who have suffered a similar experiences. Explicitly we are looking for people who have been recipients of grant works to improve private/landlord/public housing but have experienced any of the following problems:
- sub-standard work which they have had to accept due to the actions of agents who have behaved improperly due to a lack of proper contracts or lack of oversight by the council;
- problems during the tendering process;
- the need to make their own repairs to the works afterwards;
- have tried unsuccessfully to obtain formal documentation explaining the policies and procedures for progressing the grant and how to sort matters out when things go wrong;
- have tried unsuccessfully to obtain redress through the council.
You can get in touch by using the 'Contact' tab above and can rest assured that your anonymity will be protected. Based on the number of responses, the plan will be to prepare a dossier of such cases which can be presented to Ieuan Wyn Jones. Then we will see whether our AM will take the acton he has promised.