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16/04/2009

On the Naughty Step- allegedly

The CAB in Wales appears to have branched out into inadvertent wealth re-distribution, allegedly by way and end of Dale and Sally Foster now on trial at Swansea County Court.

The Fosters ran the CAB office at Ammanford, Carmarthenshire, together. In fact, they were the main paid employees of the branch. What isn’t clear from reports is quite how much the Fosters were paid, although Mr Foster was on £9000 for a 30 hour week as an assistant when he started in 1997 and Mrs Foster was the manager of the branch. However, the police, the CPS and, one presumes, the CAB were fairly sure that their wages didn’t account for an alleged spend of £650,000 up to Easter 2006. In fact the CAB is pretty sure that they hadn’t contracted for the additional £150,000 salary over 5 years ‘over that to which they were entitled’. Oh and a £76,000 expenses claim which belatedly ‘flabbergasted’ the chair of the trustees. Prosecutorial eyebrows were further raised at a spend of £57,000 between October 2003 and January 2004.

Of that 57K, the prosecution state that £17,000 went on preparations for and going on a ski trip to the Whistler resort in Canada, including stayovers at the Ritz and the hotel Carnaby Tower (which as far as google can see, doesn’t exist anymore) on shopping trips.

But the true horror of the Foster’s alleged offences lies in the detail of the rest of the spend of £40,000. £8,000 on designer furniture may be fair enough but £1300 on vinyl wallpaper is inexcusable by either criminal or aesthetic standards.

The prosecution claims that in that four month period, the Fosters spent £2000 on champagne and fine wine. But two years later, their alleged reign of terroir was at an end when, at Easter 2006, they posted the keys to the CAB office through the door of Mr Bell, a local solicitor who was acting as bureau chair, and quit their work – initially one presumes to spend more time with their wallpaper, and then shortly afterwards to head for France. According to Mr Bell, they left behind an office which ‘appeared to have been emptied of most of its records and even its computer system had been wiped clean’. But he found some of the expense claims in a box, at which point his flabber was gasted.

Allegedly, the temptation became all too much when the Ammanford office won a contract to provide phone advice for the whole of Wales, worth £1.2 million, plus sundry other grants. (Any imputation on the wider provision of telephone only advice contracts is to be avoided.) The prosecution suggested that the contract meant the CAB Office was ‘awash with cash’, which is not, I suspect, a description most CABs would recognise at all.

One trusts that the truth will out in the course of what is apparently to be a six week trial. The Fosters are, of course, innocent of any criminal wrongdoing until proven otherwise, but there are no reports that they have denied their choice of wallpaper, and for that alone – until a verdict is given – they go on the Naughty Step.(1)

(1) I have the qualifications that officially allow me to make this kind of aesthetic value judgement. It is a bit like being admitted to the roll, but takes longer and pays less. The only benefit is being able to point at some things in the Wallace collection and say loudly ‘this is third rate rubbish’ without shame or uncertainty.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

14 Comments

  1. lawminx

    Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a Thief, Taffy came to our CAB and stole absolutely EVERYTHING, but NOT the Leg of Beef – because he couldn’t spend it on Champagne at The Savoy………

    Honestly, if anything of worth isn’t BOLTED to the floor in these here parts, it takes a walk – straight into Laura Ashley’s no doubt, where some particularly HIDEOUS paper is to be had, for sure!

    Reply
    • NL

      Minx, I had studiously avoided any mention of Welshness, not just for fear of offending your Cymricity, but because I couldn’t tell if the Fosters are actually Welsh. Might this not be an, alleged, act of latter day colonialism – echoes of Edward 1 in the not-for-profit advice sector…

      Reply
      • lawminx

        My Dear NL,

        My Cymricity ( good word!! ) is not in any way offended! What is it with couples in this area of the country that are overcome with a sudden desire to rip people off? First Shashi Bacheta and Jeffrey Cole ( sailing their way around the world on £ 40K) and now the Fosters! They must have met in Laura Ashley’s place in FforestFach!!!!!

        Reply
  2. simply wondered

    sorry; that was me. too damn tired to sign in. oh this life of toil. still it will all be worth it when i make tenant and can vinyl up my room in chambers.

    Reply
    • NL

      Simply – better check the Bar code of conduct before you get the paste out. It is in there, under bringing the profession into disrepute.

      Reply
  3. Francis Davey

    A strong motivational element for me becoming a sole practitioner was the penchant that the bar seems to have for rather musty and old-fashioned seeming offices with leather covered desks. I am glad every day that I do not have to suffer that.

    I doubt that lack of decorative good taste will result in a breach of the code.

    Reply
  4. simply wondered

    and saying ‘arsebiscuits’ a lot in a professional context? i suppose they won’t like that either. watch out, bar…

    Reply
  5. simply wondered

    and i reckon henry iv was well up there with edward i in ghettoising the cymraig. did you see some of those laws? you’d think it was the 15th century. at least we can rely on the cyms not to forget. it’s in their mental ledger of ‘bad stuff the bastard english have done to us’. a copious volume, i fear.

    Reply
  6. Carl Gardner

    I absolutely love “reign of terroir”. Brilliant.

    Reply
    • NL

      Thanks Carl. I was quite proud of it.

      Reply
  7. Rudy

    Yes, rightly, it was the vinyl nail in their coffin.

    Reply
    • NL

      Wah wah waaah. Now kindly leave the stage ;-)

      Reply

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