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WOODVALE CENTRE CHARITY INSULTS ORIGINAL WOODLAND PROJECT VOLUNTEERS ON FACEBOOK

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Pat Regan's picture
A negative statement concerning the original Woodvale Woodland Project (WWP) volunteers, accessed on Facebook and written byWoodvale & Ainsdale Community Association (WACA), has come to our attention.
 
WWP must consequently correct the wide-ranging inaccuracies in the following WACA statement that has been brought to our attention by a well-wisher. 
 
Please note: our WWP responses shall appear in red text beneath the WACA claims
 
NB. We however note that this WACA content link is now unavailable to some people but this is the Facebook link in question:
 
 
 
Statement by Woodvale & Ainsdale Community Association (“WACA”) January 24, 2014 at 1:35pm
 
 
Above: WACA staff members (Julia MacKenzie driving mechanical digger) and manager, Davina Suthren, seen here with Tory Cllr Ted Hartill at Woodvale Centre. 
 
WACA says:
 
We have been made aware of several media items in relation to the WWP and WACA that appears to originate from a grievance between one family and the WWP. This has been very upsetting for the staff, trustees and volunteers at WACA and such statements have been extremely detrimental to our small charity. Due to some inaccurate information being circulated we would like to clarify the following:
 
WWP response:
 
The “grievance” mentioned by this ‘anonymous’ WACA writer is NOT confined to one family. Furthermore, it is not a single grievance but a whole, series of serious complaints that have remained unaddressed.  Although the Regan family has committed a great deal of time and energy into this project, other people from other families have also worked very hard to make the Project successful. WACA does these volunteers, a huge disservice by seeking to mislead readers like this. The only “inaccurate information” has been circulated by WACA/Tory Cllr Hartill and not others. WACA therefore can 'only' blame itself and their Chairman’s unacceptable conduct for the current situation at hand!
 
WACA says:
 
 The Woodvale Woodland Project (“WWP”) was initiated in 2012 by Woodvale & Ainsdale Community Association (“WACA”). 
 
WWP response:
 
Members have no issue with this statement! However, the Project only effectively kicked into gear at the first public meeting, back in March 2013. We made the Project what is was and most of the time we were the 'only' members who turned up for work! 
 
WACA says:
 
While WACA has no political affiliation, we are grateful to current chair of the Community Association, Cllr Ted Hartill, him for all the many hours he has contributed as a proactive trustee, helping at the Youth Club, taking local young people Mountain Biking and Blo Karting, helping young women to learn Self Defence, and project managing the WWP for the benefit of the community. Ted Hartill has done all of this on a voluntary basis for the past 8 years.
 
WWP response:
 
This WACA statement is wholly immaterial and has no feasible link to the current problems between Cllr Ted Hartill’s conduct and the vote of ‘no confidence’ he has received from our original WWP members. Cllr Hartill’s ‘leisure time’ hobbies, as noted above, are of no concern to us. Nevertheless, the WACA chairman, Cllr Ted Hartill, has blatantly sought to use the Project to increase his political standing in the community and this was validated in his emails to members. See this link for details:
 
 
WACA should realise that very many ordinary people in fact volunteer freely over many years for all sorts of things. These good people do not run around seeking accolades and do it because they care! 
 
WACA (not us) mention the "Youth Club" here for some unspecified reason. Serious issues about a certain drug-related prank (between a young person and a youth club volunteer) are 'not' something that WACA will however wish to unduly highlight at this stage we imagine? 
 
WACA says:
 
The WWP continues to be, and always has been, part of WACA. Any volunteers working with the permission of WACA are covered by our public liability insurance up to £5,000,000.
 
WWP response
 
This statement is somewhat comical and astonishingly misleading, as the original WWP team is the one that has done 99% of all the hard work and the one that still makes up the lion’s share of the volunteer team.  
 
Serious insurance issues under Cllr Hartill’s careless remit have been appalling. He had WWP members operating dangerous power tools and starting fires all summer long ‘against’ Council advice. Thus, any insurance cover WACA claims to be applicable herein would of course be entirely invalid. Is WACA honestly seeking to claim that any WWP volunteers may do whatever they like with whatever power tools they wish to use and 'still' be covered for insurance on Council land? Is WACA also seeking to mislead others as they ‘know’ their statement herein is being very economical with the truth! 
 
Cllr Hartill was told by the Council that use of machinery had to stop until further notice. Anyone for example using a chainsaw must have a valid chainsaw certificate of which they would have to obtain at their 'own' extensive expense. Also they would need to have all of the relevant PPE equipment and have the appropriate insurance. Use of power drills, generators,  etc on the Council site was also unauthorised. Cllr Hartill dismissed requests to halt the use of such power tools and referred to an officer who had told him to cease this activity as an "old woman."
 
Council training sessions are for basic gardening 'only' and will not cover anyone for anything more than that. WACA and Cllr Hartill appear to be unfamiliar with the facts, or simply ignoring them! Insurance accentuated by WACA was clearly NOT adequate and that was ‘why’ the Council finally stepped in and made WWP volunteers sign their Parkforce training cover agreements in October.  Parkforce training cover in fact ONLY gave workers the cover to use basic tools (e.g. spades, rakes, etc) and NOT power tools, as Cllr Hartill had persistently and carelessly urged other volunteers to employ over the previous 9 months. Photos on the WWP blog give clear evidence of this. 
 
Some WWP members in fact left the group due to dissatisfaction concerning the way it was being directed. Other highly concerned WWP members however  blew the whistle on what was happening and for their trouble and courage they were told by the Council's Mark Shaw to either work under Cllr Hartill’s absurd direction or consider themselves to be ‘banned’ from the Project they had made so successful over a period of 9 months. 
 
To add sheer insult to injury the Council also rather clumsily suggested that our WWP team may prefer to go and work in 'another' area as volunteers, away from our Woodvale project.  Such insensitive and official victimisation of a good community volunteer group in this day and age is reprehensible and beyond belief!The Council chiefs above Mr Shaw are also fully aware of all the facts and have so far remained in total silence! 
 
WACA says:
 
The woodland located, at the end of Meadow Lane, backing on to the public playing fields is owned by Sefton M.B.C., who recognise WACA as being the only authorised organisation which has permission to work on the land.
 
WWP response:
 
Yes, the land is the Council’s and the trees that are in question were planted by WWP member Pat Regan in the 1970s with a small gang of workers. The Council had in fact suggested to WWP members that the Project may be able to become a 'Friends Group' and sent members all relevant documents on this sensible move. However, Cllr Hartill ignored democratic WWP mandate and immediately 'refused' to allow such a move. 
 
The Council then went on to back their Conservative councillor, U-Turned on the Friends group proposal and supported this politician ‘against’ the original WWP group. 
 
The equality and democracy of the Project that Cllr Hartill had initially promised one and all was by this time seen to be bogus and utterly fictional. The Project was in fact an autocracy controlled ‘only’ by the councillor himself. This was also proven last spring with controversial issues about fire-starting. 
 
Davina Suthren, manager of WACA, had urged WWP members NOT to light fires, as that activity was not authorised by the Council for reasons of insurance and health and safety. Nevertheless, Cllr Hartill 'overruled' her and constantly told members to "ignore" her and that, "she had no idea what she was talking about".   
 
At one stage WWP member, Pat Regan, had 'strong words' with another member, who wanted to continue starting fires. Pat advised this man that WACA staff (not Cllr Hartill) had stated that the Council would NOT permit fires (which was true) but the member dismissed this advice. Several large blazes were lit and local residents/dog walkers were understandably concerned.  
 
At one stage back in April 2013 the Fire Bridge was in fact called out to this area to extinguish a blaze. 
 
 
WACA says:
 
All funding for the project is part of the same strict accounting guidelines as with any other charity and any volunteer expenses are strictly covered by our Volunteers Policy. Funding bodies are given copies of any and all specific expenditure related to that funding. We have a treasurer who checks all our expenses before they are audited yearly by an independent body.  
 
WWP response:
 
WWP members requested (as was their right) to examine WWP accounts, not WACA’s.  To this day we still have not seen full copies of all WWP related accounts, etc. Matters of misused WWP- ring fenced funding were validated by One Vision Housing some time later on. Other concerns about usage of WWP funding are 'ongoing!' 
 
WACA says:
 
Training was offered to support volunteers of the WWP and several members participated in a Level 2 accredited First Aid training course, the cost of which was covered entirely by WACA.
 
WWP response:
 
This is a highly ambiguous declaration. The First Aid course was ‘not’ specifically aligned to WWP members and was open to all members of the local community. No other training was given by WACA and volunteers had to rely upon their own initiative and personal experience for most of the time, including when Cllr Hartill was in foreign parts on his regular holidays. No training in any aspect of gardening, forestry or horticulture was ever given or offered to WWP members. Experience relating to this eco-project basically came down to Mr Regan, as he already had extensive work experience in these issues. This fact is validated via all correspondence to and from WACA. 
 
WACA says:
 
 A local family made a request to see WACA’s accounts last year. All members of WACA are entitled to ask for a copy of the charity’s annual report including accounts, and regardless of the fact that neither party of this family had current membership of WACA, we provided such information. The family then chose to contact a number of our funders to make complaints about how we had spent our funding. The funders were subsequently given a copy of all expenditure. There are currently no issues arising from our funders about how we have spent our funding.
 
WWP response:
 
WACA are 'not' naming anyone here but are referring to the 'Regans'. The Regans, speaking with permission for the whole group, made several requests to view accounts relating to WWP as they were original/long term members of the group. Following a frustrating period of being passed from WACA's manager to WACA's chairman and vice versa members requested advice from the Council and also from One Vision Housing.  
 
One Vision confirmed that WWP- ring fenced funding had been 'inappropriately utilised' and had to be “removed” from the itemised listing. The Council's officer however showed 'no' interest whatsoever in the accounting concerns at hand. This is very odd when we remember that the Council owns the land and gives funding. Something simply does not add up here! We of course retain proof of everything we say. 
 
We ask here: what exactly does one call it if a person takes allotted money (of 'any' amount) they were 'not' entitled to take and use it for their own 'private' use? 
 
WACA says:
 
We were saddened that this family chose to leave as they have made a significant contribution to the initial phase of the project. We were happy for them to continue working with us, but they refused to work with the project lead of the WWP, which was entirely their choice.   
 
WWP response:
 
100% wrong again. WWP members have NOT 'left' anything! WACA know this and are thus being rather economical with the truth! So far as we are concerned we are 'still' awaiting a proposed meeting between the original WWP  group and WACA representatives (not including Cllr Hartill). 
 
WACA indicated that they had to seek advice about our sensible proposal to work with WACA but 'not' with Cllr Hartill, yet instead we now see them presenting a series of somewhat eccentric inaccuracies (that WWP are addressing herein) on their Facebook page. 
 
WACA/Cllr Hartill appear to be playing a very bizarre game here because they 'know' that the Council/Mark Shaw is waiting to hear if they will agree for us to work 'without' Cllr Hartill (as we frequently have done in the past). And we DO of course hold Parkforce cover, which enables us to work alone! 
 
Original WWP members have voted that Cllr Hartill is not capable of leading such a volunteer Project properly and all available evidence substantiates this claim! We, as local residents and volunteers, are committed 100% to our local woodland and our previous efforts validate that fact very well! 
 
Therefore, it is provably 'not' WWP members who are delaying progress but WACA (or perhaps just Cllr Hartill?) in this particular instance. 
 
WACA says:
 
We wish to make no further public statement at this time. However, if any individual wishes to make an appointment with us regarding the above issues, we would be glad to take the opportunity to discuss volunteering with the WWP, as it continues to be an on-going project for people to enjoy. 
 
WWP response:
 
It is quite amazing that WACA is now asking for ‘volunteers’, whilst at the same time doing its very best to ensure that the loyal volunteer team that has already done all the graft, remains ostracised! What an incredible insult off a charity that is supported by local funders and allegedly is supposed to work WITH our local Woodvale community! 
 
Cath Regan of WWP and Davina Suthren of WACA have already met (December 2013) and ‘agreed’ to hold a meeting with the Council. It is therefore misleading of WACA to claim otherwise. Has Mrs Suthren forgotten this already? Has she perhaps 'again' been overruled? Volunteers who have merely blown the whistle on a great deal of wrongdoing should not be victimised like this. 
 
One would expect more from a local charity that is allegedly set up, with a great deal of funding, to help the community. Moreover, all businesses/charities should uphold a whistle blowing policy.
 
 
Above: Health and Safety, training and proper insurance cover for volunteers on Council land using unauthorised power tools and starting fires  - are they joking? 
 
The following is a directory of some of the reasons why the WWP team will ‘not’ work with WACA Chairman, Cllr Ted Hartill, and why they have no confidence in his project management.
 
Improper ‘Duty of Care’ to the group, via placing WWP members (including children) at dire risk of accident from uninsured usage of power tools (chain saws, drills, strimmers, mowers, generators, etc) and unauthorised fire starting. Such unauthorised/uninsured equipment practice also of course placed the Council at serious risk of being sued if accidents had occurred
 
 
·    Failure to keep all concerned stakeholders properly informed about matters that affect the Project
 
·    Direct or indirect misuse of WWP ring-fenced funding, substantiated by other concerned bodies
 
·    Failure to provide the group with all up to date accounting information requested regarding various donations to the group
 
·    Encouragement of WWP and WACA admin members to drive a mechanical digging machine on Council land ‘without’ any training or proper insurance/risk assessment      being in place
 
·     Use of the WWP community group to promote private political agenda
 
·    Cllr Hartill’s reckless attitude regarding his responsibility to our team over youth offenders who were questionably brought into the woodland site, whilst the WWP team were engaged in usual voluntary tasks and while he was not present!
 
The full facts of this odious matter and why the team will not work with Cllr Hartill may be accessed here:
 
 
Currently, original WWP members are effectively ‘banned’ by the Council from working on this very Project that we made into such a success. Nine months of working hard for wildlife and the local community and our group gets treated like dirt. 
 
And the biggest joke, that is NOT in fact funny, is that WACA are now actively seeking NEW volunteers! Can anyone believe such nonsense? 
 
It is a total disgrace that shames our community and potentially a breach of our rights.  
 
NB. We reiterate that this WACA content is now unavailable to some readers: 
 
 
Has it been removed or have WWP members simply been selectively barred by WACA staff/Cllr Hartill from seeing it? This appalling issue shames the whole Ainsdale community. We ask - does it  have more to do with protection of exclusive positions than any care for the Woodvale community at large? 
 
Ainsdale Councillors - 'against' a Community group
 
We also reiterate that Southport Tory chief, Cllr Terry Jones, was given fair warning and several opportunities to address Cllr Hartill about this fiasco. Cllr Jones however failed to assist our WWP group in a time of crisis and apparently dismissed our concerns as insignificant; choosing instead to maintain 'good relations' with his Conservative colleague. 
 
 
Local politician who is 'not' happy with the Woodvale fallout fiasco... 
 
"..formal written question to the Cabinet member in full council."
 
Nonetheless, other local councillors have been less than happy with the way in which WACA/Cllr Hartill and the Council have treated WWP's hard-working volunteers and their children. 
 
 
Liberal Democrat, Cllr Haydn Preece, stated that:
 
 
"Community initiatives have to be centred on group co-operation. It is very evident that some outstanding work has taken place and it is massively disappointing a significant, pro active part of this original team has been recently disenfranchised from the original inclusive project. The reasons have been documented in several ways and I have asked the council officers and Chief Executive to look at the factors behind this very disappointing occurrence. I have also this week raised a formal written question to the Cabinet member in full council. Health and Safety plus trust in co ordination of such a significant and Multi faceted project have to be central at all times. Participation by all for the better good of our community as a whole should always be our philosophy and we need to ensure we return to this rationale at the earliest opportunity especially for the children who at this time who are missing out on something they started with zest and hard work through no fault of their own. There is a lot of disappointment at the moment which concerns me after such an excellent beginning."
 
WWP once again sincerely thank Cllr Preece for his insight and support. Credit where it's due! 
 
It is most encouraging to discover that 'some' elected representatives actually do what they are paid to do and that is toassist residents in times of need within their given ward. 
 
 
Yes, "health and safety" have been serious  issues that Cllr Hartill has apparently dismissed as trivial in this project and as for "cooperation" and "trust", well, our vote of 'No Confidence' in Cllr Hartill's ability to direct this eco-project in a safe and effective manner was not one taken lightly, yet we had no feasible option under the impossible circumstances! 
 
He may of course seek to 'make light' of the entire situation behind the public gaze; but we find his ongoing conduct, as our local political representative and as one chairing a local charity, to be utterly appalling!  
 
 
SOUTHPORT'S SHAME
 
Thanks to combined efforts by Selton Council, Tory Clir, Ted Hartill and WACA the WWP team, plus the children are currently "unauthorised" to work on the woodland project that they devoted 9-months of hand work to...
 
And yes, the young WWP people in particular deserve 'much' better as they have devoted hundreds of their free-time hours to this scheme! 
 
WWP welcome any genuine requests to help us to highlight the appalling situation, created by Cllr Hartill. WACA and the Council that shames our Ainsdale community! We are just ordinary residents who have sought to make the area in question better for the wildlife and community... 
 
 
 
 
The local media have been kept informed by WWP and so are also well aware of the ongoing situation, but as yet have not addressed it! 
 
 
Above: some of our hard-working WWP team in action that WACA has conveniently 'dismissed', whilst asking for NEW volunteers.  
 
 
If you can help our 'original' WWP team against the above official oppression and censorship, rather than the bogus spin put out by others, then please support us now! 
 
Our volunteers do what they do freely, 'not' to preserve well-paid jobs, over-inflated political positions or any fat bonuses. 
 
We do it to: conserve the environment, aid wildlife and improve our local Ainsdale community! 
 

Pat Regan © 2014

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