Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I have followed the relationship between Carmarthenshire Council and the small evangelical organisation, the Towy Community Church for the past couple of years. I do not want to repeat everything I have said and will provide some links at the end of this post. The main concern has been the readiness of the council to promise £1.4m of public money to fund a bowling alley, auditorium (a church), debt counselling etc to a group with links (now removed) to the discredited Mercy Ministries who advocated, amongst other dubious treatments, exorcism for anorexia. They had planned to establish a Mercy Ministry in Carmarthen. The council have cut funding to secular organisations including Citizen's Advice and yet have funded an organisation who use an evangelical umbrella debt service, Christians Against Poverty who themselves were recently dropped by Advice UK (again secular) who felt that proselytising through offering prayer as part of the service was not compatible with their constitution.
A public body such as the council has a duty to operate with a strong ethos of equality; their 'partners' the Towy Community Church, which comes under the umbrella of the Evangelical Alliance, have a rather different view of 'equality', with many similarities to the more extreme evangelical organisations one finds in the USA.
Much of the council decision making has been taken behind closed doors and tonight, Dragon's Eye attempted to get some answers. I have also tried to get some answers and await a reply from the Wales Audit Office who I contacted back in February.
Dragon's Eye asked to speak to the Leader of the Council Cllr Meryl Gravell, she would not return their calls (she publicly, and worryingly, stated that she hoped this organisation would ease the pressure on the social care budget), Plaid Cymru council leader, Peter Hughes Griffiths and Kevin Madge, Labour leader, also refused to be interviewed. The Chief Executive, Mark James, joined with the council leaders who approved the funding by stating 'it would not be appropriate to comment on this matter during the local elections', I am not sure why, I would have thought some clarity over questionable council spending decisions would be exactly what the electorate would want - but perhaps, rather like the Taro 9 programme concerning abuse in a council run care home, we would not like what they had to say, and no amount of spin would make it sound better.
The Pastor of the church, Mark Bennett also declined to comment.
Cllr Sian Caiach, who opposed the funding did express her concerns, as did Angela Burns AM who mentioned the recent AWEMA scandal and the necessity for open scrutiny.
BBC iPlayer; http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01g8gkc/Dragons_Eye_19_04_2012/
BBC article; Towy Community Church; Unison and politicians funding concerns
(please use the searchbox on the right for further posts)