North East Wales

Call for Wrexham voluntary organisations group inquiry

Calls are being made for an inquiry into the running of an organisation set up to help charities and voluntary groups in the Wrexham area.

The Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham (Avow) received a critical judgement after being taken to an employment tribunal by a former member of staff.

North Wales AM Mark Isherwood called the tribunal's findings shocking.

Avow said it was unable to comment as it was considering an appeal.

The organisation was taken to an industrial tribunal by a former member of staff in March.

The tribunal upheld a claim by Genny Bove for unfair and constructive dismissal, as well as her claim of disability discrimination and direct discrimination and victimisation.

The case followed Ms Bove's attempts to get changes to the lights in the Avow office where she worked because they triggered her problems with migraines.

Details of the tribunal's findings have only now been made public.

In reaching a unanimous decision, the tribunal, chaired by Judge BJ Clarke, concluded its 49-page judgement that "the grievance processes were a sham".

"They did not resemble a fair attempt to deal with the claimant's concerns," said the document.

'Major concerns'

"The trustees merely listened to what the claimant said and took no proper decisions in response. They deferred all such decisions to the officers.

"They failed in their duties to oversee the conduct of the officers. The fact that they are unpaid volunteers is no excuse."

The report contains list of other criticisms.

Mr Isherwood, a Conservative AM, said an inquiry was needed into how Avow operates.

"The findings of the tribunal are shocking," he said.

"They raise major concerns around the way the organisation has been managed, the way it operates, the management of resources, the management of the people and more broadly the role it plays in the wider community.

"I want a full inquiry in public into the findings [of the tribunal] in the context of the good governance of Avow."

Avow, based in Egerton Street, Wrexham, is one of 19 organisations across Wales which provide support to voluntary and community groups, and it also administers grants schemes.

Frank Lloyd, a volunteer with a charity for the disabled in Wrexham, said: "I am sure many funders are now considering their options with Avow as a distributor of funding.

"It is also my opinion Wrexham charities may well be the loser if these major funders pull the plug on Avow as its distributor of funding on their behalf," he said in an email to BBC Wales.

Avow chairman Mervyn Rosenberg said: "As Avow is constrained from making any statement about this tribunal because our HR advisers and insurers are taking counsel on the possibility of an appeal, we are unable to comment..."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said while the issue is "primarily an operational matter" officials have spoken to Avow and will be writing to its board to ask for an "update on the actions they propose to take in response to this ruling".

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