Welsh Government confirms poverty scheme to end

The Welsh Government has confirmed the end of its Communities First scheme Photo: PA

The Welsh Government has confirmed it will end what had been its flagship scheme to help the most deprived parts of Wales.

The Communities Secretary Carl Sargeant told Assembly Members he will 'phase out' the Communities First scheme which has been running for 16 years.

But there are concerns that funding for projects could become lost in wider spending by councils after he announced that much of the funding for transitional arrangements will go to local authorities.

Mr. Sargeant told AMs that he will introduce the following changes:

  • Two thirds of the current funding will be provided until March 2018 to help projects plan for the end of the scheme
  • A 'legacy fund' of £6m for local authorities to keep going 'some of the most effective' projects after 2018
  • £4m to keep community buildings open
  • £12m to councils to support employment schemes
  • Further development of 'Children's Zones'
  • Continued support for Flying Start and Families First programmes

In 2014, the Welsh Government gave £30 million to Communities First.

The Welsh Government announced in October 2016 that it was 'minded' to phase out the scheme which began in 2011 and was intended to combat poverty through a range of community-based projects.

At the time of that announcement, Mr Carl Sargeant said he didn't believe that concentrating on '52 small areas' was the most effective way of dealing with poverty.

In his statement the Cabinet Secretary said he 'would like to thank the Communities First workforce for the difference they have made to thousands of people.'

But he said that 'mixed' performance meant it couldn't continue.

Individuals have clearly benefitted from Communities First but, as the Bevan Foundation highlights, performance has been mixed and poverty remains a stubborn and persistent challenge. No single programme can tackle poverty. We need an holistic approach encompassing the Welsh Government, local authorities and Public Services Board members.

– Carl Sargeant AM, Communities Secretary

And he said 'building resilient communities is the work of Welsh Government as a whole.'

Change is never easy. But we cannot ignore the combination of new and deep-rooted challenges we face. We must have the courage to find fresh ways to respond. That is what I and all of my government colleagues are determined to do.

– Carl Sargeant AM, Communities Secretary

'This is you walking away from our poorest communities'

In the Senedd chamber, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said it was 'absolutely scandalous' that no replacement scheme for Communities First had been announced.

The Cabinet Secretary accused the Plaid Cymru leader of 'purely politicising' the decision to end Communities First