South West Wales

Towy Community Church: Unison and politicians' funding concern

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Media captionCarmarthen-based Towy Community Church wants to build on an old creamery site in Johnstown

Concerns have been raised over public funding for an auditorium for worship and a bowling alley by an evangelical Christian church.

Towy Community Church has received up to £2m for the new development.

Trade union Unison and some local politicians said it was not the best use of public money when council services are being cut.

The church would not respond to the criticism, but supporters said it will benefit the area and create 17 jobs.

The money will come from the Big Lottery Fund, the Welsh government and Carmarthenshire council

Critics told BBC Wales' Dragon's Eye they were also concerned about the church's links to an organisation called Mercy Ministries.

The church is to use the public money to build on the site of an old creamery in Johnstown.

Eating disorders

It will house an auditorium that can hold up to 600 people which the church intends to use for worship, though it will be available for hire at other times.

A bowling alley, a food bank and a debt advisory service will also be included.

Criticism for its links to Mercy Ministries was made because that organisation was closed down in Australia following a scandal over how it treated young women in its care.

This included using exorcism to drive out demons they associated with problems such as eating disorders.

Towy Community Church has called itself a partner organisation with Mercy Ministries.

It provided a small monthly sum, thought to be £20, towards the organisation and it stated its aim of setting up a Mercy Ministry in Carmarthenshire.

Dragon's Eye approached the leaders of the three largest groups on the council, all of whom supported funding the church's development.

Grant funding

Plaid Cymru's Peter Hughes Griffiths and Labour's Kevin Madge declined to be interviewed for the programme.

Council leader Meryl Gravell, who also leads the independent group, failed to return calls.

A Welsh government spokesperson said the church had not yet received any financial support from its Community Facilities and Activities Programme (CFAP).

"They have been told that in principle, grant funding has been agreed for its Xcel project through CFAP and the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) programme, which is jointly funded with and managed by the Big Lottery Fund.

"However, it must be stressed that CFAP funding for this project has not yet been finalised."

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