THE disharmony between factions in the community of Pembrey and Burry Port and an online spat with a blogger known as Jac of the North is continuing with the latest episode leading to claims by the Pembrey and Burry Port carnival committee that they have nothing to hide with regards to their financial affairs.
Claims made on a blog and replicated in a local newspaper that their financial house was not in order has resulted in the carnival committee threatening to take legal action against the source of the information if they can establish who that is.
The committee now claims that following legal advice they have been advised to release the following statement:
“We are aware that a blogger has placed an article referring to residents of Burry Port citing what we consider to be information completely devoid of the truth and validity. We are also aware of a news press release in a local newspaper, which has sought to use much of the informed and biased information.
“As a result of reading the items we have reported the incident to Dyfed Powys Police. We completely refute any suggestion of financial irregularities and given that the people we help with our fundraising and subsequent allocation of funds are vulnerable, it would be wholly irresponsible to go into any detail regarding who we have helped financially.
“We are governed by our own accounting, which in turn goes through the standard banking procedures and record keeping. To have people who do not even live here write such damning and hurtful lies is beyond belief. To have a newspaper reproduce it is just beyond the realms of decency. They may claim they contacted us, but we have no intention of providing information to a newspaper that is unregulated.
“Who and what we decide to support is a matter for the committee. Each of our meetings have accurate minutes and are kept up to date. We published the cost of the carnival in this year’s brochure. We wish to make it very clear that we have instigated legal action to address what we consider to be extremely damaging accusations and we will take action against whoever we identify as the source of these disgusting accusations and anyone circulating the information with the intent to blacken the character of volunteers whose sole aim is to benefit our community.”
The full text of the article on the blog by Jac o’ the North can be read here:
We asked the committee to answer some questions based on the claims on the blog.
Extract from the blog are in bold text
A small group, made up it seems of two families, monopolises fund-raising activities in this small town. Money is ostensibly raised for the community, and yet most of it seems to be unaccounted for. And I am talking now of what is said to be hundreds of thousands of pounds. The points below represent a summary of the information supplied to me in the words of a source. I have made a few additions or clarifications. Burry Port Carnival has been around for some 20 years and is driven by S. M. In the early years all money was paid into her personal bank account and no accounts were produced.
We asked the committee:
Has anyone got accounts for the carnival going back this far back? Has Shirley Matthews been solely responsible for the carnival takings for the last 20 years?
Response: The carnival Committee has been running for over 50 years plus since the end of the second world war. All accounts have been payable into Midlands Bank now being HSBC with two signatories. We have digital access from 2005 with various treasurers.
Members of the community were involved and some became members of the committee but they didn’t last long. More recently, in the past 5 years or so, the committee is made up almost entirely from two families. The M. and F. families. This consists of S.M., her husband, her daughter and her grandchildren. Also A. F. and L. F. It is believed that there is one non-family committee member, D. D., the nephew of Cllr J. J.
Could you provide the full list of committee members for the last five years?
Response: Members of the committee are as follows;
S. M., A. F. and J. J. are serving Labour Party councillors. L. F. is an active member of the Labour Party and was a failed Labour candidate for a recent Pembrey Ward by-election for the town council. Members of the community are now saying that unless you are a family member and a member of the Labour Party you will not be allowed on the committee. This seems to have some weight as a recent member of the committee, L. M., was ousted as soon as she got elected as an independent town councillor 5 years ago.
Are these claims true?
Response: We are not political and focus on the need for the community. LM sent a text to SM Stating that she could no longer be on the committee due to health and
The committee will state that anyone can apply to join but nobody does because they know that they would not be accepted or, if they are, they won’t last very long. The general view is that this is more like a family business than an inclusive and transparent community organisation.
Response: No-one has approached us to join the committee but offer to help on the days of the events.
The Carnival Committee not only organise and run the annual carnival but in season, April to October, they run the weekly car boot sale in Burry Port. It has grown to be the largest in mid and west Wales. Some conservative estimates are that the income from the car boot sale alone ranges from £40,000 to £50,00 a year. (Ed: This is explained by over 100 stalls paying £7 for a car, £10 – 12 for a van, £15 for anything bigger. But no receipts are given, just ‘raffle tickets’, which I assume to mean cloakroom tickets.)
Can you explain the reasoning for raffle tickets rather than duplicate book receipts? Are the figures correct? If not can you provide figures?
Response: Tickets are used as proof of payment preventing non-payment, They are also a good indicator our count and most importantly for health and safety. We keep a detailed log for accuracy.
The annual Carnival has also grown and income from that is not recorded.
Why is the income not recorded or is this also incorrect? If so can you explain how it is recorded?
Response: All items are recorded with our paying in books for the bank.
(Those involved) also run the annual Christmas Carnival, an annual dog show and vintage car show as well as a number of minor events.
Is this true and what are the other minor events? Are they also recorded with any accounts? Where does that money go to?
Response: Published in this years brochure.
A Big Welcome to Pembrey & Burry Port Carnival. Just a little about us, we are a small group of dedicated volunteers. We give up our time every weekend to run the car boot and other events to raise money so that we can put on the biggest event of the year, our annual Summer Carnival. To put on a carnival costs between £12,000-£15,000 and takes a lot of time and effort to organise such a huge event. We also give donations to local groups and organisations in our community. We are holding a Dog and Classic Motor Show on Sunday 4th August, so please come along and support us. We hope you enjoy today’s event that is based on ‘Totally Tropical Caribbean’, the Carnival procession can only be a success, if the community participate. We have provided the day, and with your help it could be one of the best carnivals in Carmarthenshire. We all hope you enjoy this weekend and that the sun shines. I must say a big thank you to my dedicated and trusted committee that work so hard to make this weekend and all our events a successful one. Also a big thank you to Carmarthenshire County Council, Neil Thomas and staff at Pembrey Country Park, Cefn Sidan Rotary Club, and Kev’s Live Music Stage and everyone who supported us throughout the year.
Many Thanks Shirley Matthews Chairperson
They do not give receipts to any who enter the events. They do not give receipts to any stall holder, car owner or sponsor. More recently they started issuing a raffle ticket from various different books to car boot pitch holders. (Ed: The ‘raffle tickets’ referred to earlier.) They have been frequently observed collecting money and putting it in their pockets.
When did you start giving receipts? Has anyone put cash into their pockets with the intention of stealing it? Has cash been placed in pockets for storage?
Response: Receipts are always given out carnival day to those who request them, The majority of stall holders pay digitally and is automatically recorded and issued a digital receipt.
No one knows how much they collect but they are quick to publicise a handful of very small
grants that they give to local groups, (Grants of a few hundred pounds only) They have also funde around a dozen defibrillators in the community at around 1,200 each. No one knows where the rest of the money goes.
Do you have a list of all monies allocated to individuals, causes or groups?
Response: All items are recorded with our paying in book for the bank.
They do not publish any audited accounts and they do not publish any annual report or minutes of meetings.
Is this true? If not where do you publish the accounts?
Response: All Accounts are audited internally and a summary of the accounts are published in our carnival programme.
Any accounts or financial statements they may produce may not be worth very much if they do not issue any receipts to back up their income.
Can you cross reference the accounts with receipts?
Response: Yes we can.
In the meantime, the F. family have gone from L. F. being unemployed and A. F. having a small stall in Carmarthen market, to having three shops and three businesses in Burry Port. S. M. and her family have just bought a villa with a swimming pool in Spain.
I understand you took on a new business and that Amanda opened a new shop. The allegations are that it has been funded with takings from events. Is this true in any way? What is your financial position with business, I.e, have you had to borrow to fund the business?
Response: No funds have ever been taken from the carnival committee funds. This has been funded by sheer hard work.
It would be easy to dismiss this report as an example of small town squabbling. But given the quality of the sources, and the amounts of money involved, I know there’s substance to it. So I call on those involved to produce what they should have been producing all along – minutes of meetings, correspondence, bank statements, audited accounts, and an explanation for the status of their operations. For nothing seems to be registered with either the Charity Commission or Companies House.
Are you registered anywhere for the events operations, carnival committee, car boot, charity, etc?
Response: We are a constituted forum with our aim and purpose to supply the residents of
Pembrey and Burry Port with a multiple array of events throughout the year and whatever we choose to do. Which inevitably gives rise to suspicions that this is a cash-only operation held together by family loyalties and protected by the power of the Labour Party
In what way would you say you are protected by the Labour party? Have you ever asked them to help you legally, financially or through political pressure?
Response: None whatsoever.BURRY PORT CARNIVAL COMMITTEE