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YesCymru Chair under fire over CEO sacking

03 Jan 2024 7 minute read
Gwern Gwynfil, former CEO YesCymru

Emily Price

The Chairman of YesCymru has come under fire over the sacking of CEO Gwern Gwynfil and the removal of several members of the board.

In December, Nation.Cymru reported that the Chief Executive had been sacked due to the “needs of the business changing”.

The CEO received the news via an email sent by Director and Chair of YesCymru, Barry Parkin who stated that his position was “no longer required”.

Following this we have been conducting an investigation to uncover what happened at the pro Welsh independence organisation in the run up to Mr Gwynfil’s dismissal.

Concern

Whistle blowers have told Nation.Cymru that a week prior to the sacking, two YesCymru directors were removed from the board despite them both being involved in planning the organisation’s strategy, events and administration.

Sources told us the two directors concerned received the news of their sacking via an email “without debate or discussion” and without an official reason given.

We have seen an email between two directors which states: “After a discussion with the Chair, I was informed that the behaviour of the two directors concerned in the meeting of the 27th November 2023, was ‘obstructive, aggressive, deliberate, and planned’.”

We understand that the meeting in question also saw the first attempt made to remove YesCymru’s CEO.

However, the board failed to vote it through after the proposal was challenged by several directors.

A group of directors expressed concern about whether the board was justified in taking such a step without first looking at evidence such as financial records showing that the organisation could not afford to pay Mr Gwynfil.

Concerns were also raised about how members would react about the removal of the CEO who was appointed in September last year and had become “the face of the organisation”.

It was suggested that targets be put in place to monitor the CEO and that any attempt to remove Mr Gwynfil should be backed up by “HR advice”.

Concerns were also raised about the legitimacy of YesCymru’s Articles of Association which needed “ironing out”.

We have been informed that this evidence was not provided and the motion to sack the Chief Executive failed to be voted through.

Dismissed

Barry Parkin – who was just a director at the time of the first attempt to remove the CEO – was then appointed Chair of YesCymru after the former Chair failed to vote and stepped aside.

Shortly after the first attempt to remove the CEO, the two directors who had questioned the removal of Mr Gwynfil were themselves dismissed because their “input was no longer required”.

Insiders have told Nation.Cymru that the removal of the two directors enabled a small faction to obtain a decision making majority within the organisation.

A week after the removal of the two directors, Gwern Gwynfil was sacked via email by Barry Parkin.

Sources from within the organisation have claimed that the company’s rules were manipulated in order to achieve the desired outcome of removing the CEO from his role.

We were also told that directors are instructed to only speak in English not Welsh during board meetings and some directors found their comments muted by the Chairman if he was challenged.

Nation.Cymru contacted Mr Parkin asking for a response to these allegations. We gave him a 10am deadline to respond.

Mr Parkin told us he was entertaining friends and therefore could not stick to our deadline but said he had been working on a statement regarding the sacking of the CEO and two directors and that the statement would be released at 4pm today.

However, at around 8am this morning, the statement in question was released via email to YesCymru directors and members.

Last night a board meeting took place and despite Mr Parkin knowing about our investigation, he did not raise it with directors nor discuss the statement he planned to release on behalf of the organisation.

We understand that during this meeting a request was made for £2,000 to be set aside every year for the Chair of YesCymru to fund his own HR and legal advice.

This request was strongly rejected by several directors.

We were able to obtain the statement from a YesCymru member and therefore can release it before embargo. YesCymru sources described it as “amateur” and “lies and spin”.

Numbers

Barry Parkin Chair YesCymru said: “During the interview process and following the appointment of the CEO it was made clear that an increase in membership numbers was required to maintain the position of the CEO.  The financial budget of 2023 was set with a clear target of raising membership to 8,000 from the then membership of YesCymru of around 7,000.

“Following concern amongst the Board about our financial position following the fact that membership targets were not being met and our reserves more than halved over the last fifteen months, the Board requested a financial review together with a forecast for 2024.

“Following comprehensive discussions with staff and analysis of our finances by specialist volunteers, including a Management Consultant, a report was written with very conservative assumptions that were included for transparency. The report was accepted by the Board and a plan was developed to reduce the deficit to a sustainable level.

“In the subsequent months, our plan for raising funds mainly through an increase in membership numbers was unsuccessful. Consequently, several proposals were made to consider other options, including staffing levels which included offering to reduce the CEO’s hours. Unfortunately, many constructive compromise proposals were not even discussed or voted upon as two co-opted Directors decided to filibuster and stop the Board from even accepting previous meeting minutes.

“The two former Directors pushed for removing our entire Articles of Association democratically set-up by the Gweithgor that were supported overwhelmingly by members in an EGM. They not only questioning the validity of the Articles of Association but also the professional legal company who supported the Gweithgor in drafting the articles.

“They also wanted to remove the Board from their strategic management, meaning that the organisation would be rudderless and consequently be unable to address our critical financial position until after the election which is due in February 2024.

“Even in the unlikely event the new Board implemented substantial changes in their first full meeting following the elections, and all were very successful, it would take months for these to be implemented and to have any financial impact. By which time, YesCymru may be insolvent or have very minimal reserves left.

“The majority of Directors on the Board believe such delays to be unnecessary, dangerous for YesCymru’s financial position and our members’ hard-earned money, and inconsistent with our moral and legal responsibilities as Directors.

“It would also risk the movement’s reputation and our ability to react to the Constitution Commission report due in January 2024. As a result a majority of the Board decided by resolution following set procedure 10.1.b in our Articles of Association on the 8th December there was no choice but to remove the two co-opted members due to continuous disruption of Board activities and decision-making processes.

“Due to the disruption caused over a number of months to the Board activities and the continuing decline in the financial situation the majority of the Board came to the very difficult decision on the 18th December again following set procedures in accordance with 10.1.b in our Articles of Association that it was no longer financially viable for YesCymru to employ a full time CEO and therefore it was decided to terminate his contract.

“Having removed the CEO does not mean that YesCymru stops operating, to the contrary, YesCymru has grown and thrived during most of its time in existence without a CEO.  We recognise as a Board to achieve our desired goal of independence it is not a sprint but a marathon and moving forward, we need to be united not divided.

“Our focus in 2024 will be on supporting or members and groups in bringing the message of independence to our communities through more targeted grassroot activities.  Over the next few weeks and months, we will be bringing forward proposals to our AGM, regional and local groups about activities and campaigns that they can get involved with.”


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Gary H
Gary H
1 month ago

Rats in a sack? And who is B Parkin? Wales deserves better. Im starting to think the whole thing is a clever plot by anti-independentists.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Gary H

Too many people easily distracted from the core purpose, or never had any interest anyway.

Dr Dewi Evans
Dr Dewi Evans
1 month ago

Who the h*** is Barry Parkin?

This looks a complete shambles, and a breach of every corporate principle, even a breach of standard practice for small charities.

I have been a ‘non-active’ member of Yes Cymru until now because of other business – thankfully completed. If anyone wants to get in touch with me in complete confidence I would hope to be able to contribute.

I’m usually easily contactable, and can guarantee confidentiality. Dewi Evans

Johm Bates
Johm Bates
1 month ago
Reply to  Dr Dewi Evans

We must remember that after the current Board threw the last Central Committee overboard (through what some say were nefarious means), YesCymru is a Ltd company.

Like you, I’m a non-active member but I know from EGMs & AGMs of old that all of those who were directors after the Gweithgor process were involved in destroying YesCymru in 2021; it’s deeply unfortunate but the belligerents who broke everything then are breaking everything again.

What I also know is this: Barry Pakin used to work for GCHQ.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
1 month ago
Reply to  Johm Bates

As a non-active member I decided to remain a member after the last shambles when we had the Central Committee more concerned with peddling their own various agendas other than indy, even though I was less than happy that a decision had been made to make YesCymru a limited company – it worried me that this might impact on the democracy of the movement, as the limited company ploy is exactly the route taken by Farage’s Reform UK, which is deliberately a limited company and not a political party specifically to avoid democratic accountability. It makes it much easier to… Read more »

Annibendod
Annibendod
1 month ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

Democratic structure was exactly what Gwynoro Jones raised at the Burry Port AGM. At the time Iestyn listened very carefully to what he had to say. It saddens me that the vision he and people like Sion had, failed to come to fruition. It has long since become a distraction, or worse … a concrete block tied to our feet. I’d hoped that the reset would allow the movement to grow into the role that was intended but that has clearly failed. Just call it a day now and call on members to support the pro-indy party of their choice.… Read more »

Ian Hunter
Ian Hunter
1 month ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

Yes Cymru is a company limited by guarantee. This type of corporate structure is used by associations throughout the UK. These companies have no shareholders but members ‘guarantee’ a payment (usually a nominal £1) in the event of the company ceasing to exist.

Annibendod
Annibendod
1 month ago
Reply to  Johm Bates

Are you aware of what the last central committee was doing? The word “nefarious” fits them far better. “Machiavellian” perhaps better, albeit incompetently. They were booted out because of the disgusting way they operated. Arrogant, cloth-eared, self-righteous and dogmatic. They bullied and hounded individuals and shut down those who stood up to them.

Also, what evidence do you have re. your GCHQ claim?

Last edited 1 month ago by Annibendod
Annibendod
Annibendod
1 month ago

Total shambles. YesCymru needed to be very simple – a non-partisan campaign group where people of all political persuasions could unite behind one simple idea … a democratic, sovereign Welsh State. Instead, it has massively over complicated itself, first trying to impose a singular political vision on its membership, then bloated by its own self-importance in reaction. It has become an end unto itself and lost its purpose. A genuine pity.

Annibendod
Annibendod
1 month ago
Reply to  Annibendod

My political priority is to see a democratic, sovereign Welsh State established. Everything else that would like to see achieved politically cannot be fully realised without it. I came to the conclusion following the last meltdown that I was wasting my effort and time with YesCymru. It was getting us no closer to that aim. AFAIC, the most effective thing I can do is help get Plaid Cymru MS/MP’s elected. To my mind, everything else is a wasted effort.

Annibendod
Annibendod
1 month ago
Reply to  Annibendod

Sorry, I should say also, that I feel very bad for Gwern who comes across as a decent and genuine guy. I’m sure there’d be a welcome for him at his local Plaid Cymru branch and who knows, a bright political future ahead of him . Folks, those of you who are progressive/green/liberal, you’ll achieve a great deal more challenging the Unionist Labour vote with Plaid Cymru. Those of you who are more conservatively minded, go after the Tory/Reform vote with Gwlad. Think strategically – Greens might come into consideration too. There is no point, and I emphasise this, NO… Read more »

Siôn ap Fictr
Siôn ap Fictr
1 month ago

YesCymru has become completely about itself. There has been years of infighting and mismanagement, at the detriment of working towards what it was set up to achieve. They have completely missed the boat for exploiting the present situation in Westminster and completely let down its members. Now, after the brand spanking new board was put in place, (voting in some very dubious characters) we find some members of this board acting even worse, with some very questionable tactics being implemented. It all sounds too dodgy for me now, I have resigned my membership.

Brian
Brian
1 month ago

Don’t they realise how high the stakes are? We are living in a country governed by another country which has exposed Cymru to years of austerity. Our public services are a shadow of what they could and should be. We should be working together to create a new Cymru.
PS much of YesCymru’s funding issues can be attributed to its shambolic direct debit system.

Llyn
Llyn
1 month ago

Sadly Yes Cymru are not the best example of how an independent Wales could do things different and better.

Richard
Richard
1 month ago
Reply to  Llyn

Sadly 😅 you have a point

End the UK
End the UK
1 month ago

It’s simple. Gwern was suppose to grown membership and didn’t do this. Thus made his job untenable.

He once stated about opening coffee shops as a means to do this. With YCs funds.

If people are supportive of independence. The last thing they would want to do is see it fail. And this is dummies and prams from Gwern in my eyes

The board is elected by members. The co elected board members are not and do have to stand down.

Andrew Thomas
Andrew Thomas
1 month ago
Reply to  End the UK

Though it was a fine idea I would have made a profit and given yescymru a very visible presence

End the UK
End the UK
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Thomas

Not about making a profit is it. It’s about having the money to fund the research and become an organisation that can make independence happen.

Do you think we can do this without growing the membership and having the money to cause influence.

You know it’s how it works. Ask Nigel farage, it’s how he was able to fun the Brexit movement

Andrew Thomas
Andrew Thomas
1 month ago
Reply to  End the UK

Plough the profits into campaigns? Meeting place for like minded people?
Selling merchandise? Viability for YesCymru? The list goes on

Huw Evans
Huw Evans
1 month ago

Yes Cymry is registered as a private limited company in England and Wales. Details of its registration are available at: YESCYMRU CYF overview – Find and update company information – GOV.UK (company-information.service.gov.uk) Have a look. Facts of significance shown include: • Its accounts are overdue – accounts made-up to 30 December 2022 were due by 29 December 2023. • There are nine current directors, whereas the articles of association provide for 17 (article 19(2)). • 11 termination of director appointments were filed for 2023. • The two most recent termination of director appointments on 8 December 2023 were for Simon… Read more »

End the UK
End the UK
1 month ago
Reply to  Huw Evans

A few things. They were coopted. Not elected! This only have a 1 year term and that is up!

Two. The cod is now being set up. This it’s up to the cod to keep everything accountable and make sure the directors are keep things in check.

Three, the fact that the directors sacked gwern shows that they are doing things in the interest of the members.

And yes they should show accounts. But they haven’t done anything wrong as the cod is set up. That’s down to the members

Dr Yates
Dr Yates
1 month ago
Reply to  End the UK

Co-opted Directors are allowed under the articles and have a tenure until the next election where they are required to stand. They require the same level of member nomination as an elected Director, interview by the chair and vice chair, submission of a CV and personal statement, and majority vote to accept by the existing Directors. There is still a coopted Director on the board who’s directorship has not been terminated and has served longest out of the three. Simon Hobson was actually elected, but unable to take the position, so was coopted later when he was available. The Directors… Read more »

Richard E
Richard E
1 month ago
Reply to  Dr Yates

Im lost ! 🥹

Huw Evans
Huw Evans
1 month ago
Reply to  End the UK

Documents filed show Dr Yates was appointed as a director on 31 July 2023 and Mr Hobson on 4 September 2023 – so the suggestion that there supposed one year term has been completed is not correct.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago

Judging from the comments on here it’s clear Cymru needs better. This infighting just means independence is further away. It’s time the Welsh independence movement got it’s act together. Apart from the issues of Yes Cymru there are now too many independence fractions, these organisations need to get their heads together and forge a consensus on the way forward, work together to achieve it. Divided and squabbling is how the Unionists win and we stay in poverty.

Annibendod
Annibendod
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

I agree with you Steve. I spoke to Sion Jobbins at the time of the first fracas. I was so disgusted with the way the central committee was breifing and operating against its own members (ideological cleansing basically) that I wanted to resign my membership. Sion persuaded me to stick with it which I did for another year. He said to me that “movements mark II rarely succeed”. Well, YesCymru is “movement mark II” AFAIC Plaid Cymru are the original movement. I know it’s far from perfect, and I know it’s had its problems but I stand by what I… Read more »

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago
Reply to  Annibendod

As it currently stands the Welsh public will continue to support Welsh Labour (WL) by the bucket load. The present WL politicians are all mainly unionists, but the younger members are leaning more towards an independent Cymru, so hopefully there will be some sort of change of direction in the near future. In saying that Plaid does need to broaden it’s appeal big time. I suspect, it still seems to be a welsh speaking niche party to many.

Daf
Daf
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

I agree Steve – Plaid often go a bit wokey and can be too old school left for many people. If they could only differentiate themselves more from Labour but there no hope of them easing a bit more centre (taking the Liberal votes…) so many cant vote for them despite supporting Independence. They could try to capitalise on the fact that Welsh Labour have recently turned so many against them and will have lost so many votes – have we EVER had such a disappointing government that can never ever seem to read the room as the current lot?… Read more »

Annibendod
Annibendod
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

Regardless, for those on the left who support independence, not supporting Plaid either by vote or activism does what exactly? Anything which supports Labour supports the continuation of the UK. Like I said, Plaid aint perfect – so join and help make it better.

Daf
Daf
1 month ago
Reply to  Annibendod

A very reasonable response. I will consider it. The pragmatic, least bitter pill approach 🙂

Richard E
Richard E
1 month ago

Like most organisations -in Yes Cymru – the vast majority of members join for the very simple but very honest reason – of wishing to support our nation on its pathway towards self determination and a better future.

Sadly like in other bodies – the. “ ehthusiasts “ at the front pushing in local communities are the last to be involved.

Yet again a small group is moving its own agenda for its own reasons without mandate and behind closed doors.

NOT Grayham Jones
NOT Grayham Jones
1 month ago

Reading the comments here are very interesting re all the blame game etc but you all are missing the point- the fact is Yes Cymru is not as big or successful as you all thought, it has 7000 members out of a population of 3.5 million and its numbers are declining. That is very telling in respect of the appetite for independence in Wales right now. I note members can pay as little as £5 a yr if they wish to be members – its not surprising they can no longer afford a highly paid CEO.

Richard E
Richard E
1 month ago

Come back Grayham asp ✔️

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