Questions have been raised in the ongoing election campaign about the risks posed to efforts to combat poverty in the event of Conservative/Plaid coalition in Cardiff.
As the coalition government in Westminster formally published its Child Poverty Strategy, questions have been raised in the ongoing election campaign about the risks posed to efforts to combat poverty in the event of Conservative/Plaid coalition in Cardiff.
In 2001, the Labour led administration in Cardiff launched the new Communities First programme, the Assembly Government’s leading programme designed to improve the living conditions and prospects of those in the most disadvantaged communities across Wales.
Through the programme, local services in communities deemed to be the most disadvantaged are brought together with members of the community to properly support residents to meet their full potential, providing them with advice and enabling them to use their skills and experiences to transform their communities.
Since its establishment, the programme has supported 155 of the most deprived communities in Wales, providing £342 million of funding to invest in new training and skills opportunities, the provision of new affordable child care and improved community safety.
However, as the election campaign begins to hot up, Labour have attacked Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives for planning to cut what is becoming a vital programme to address poverty and its root causes. It comes after reports that the Welsh Conservatives were considering the option of a rainbow coalition with Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems after the election.
Speaking to the Politics Show in October, the Welsh Conservative leader, Nick Borune, argued that Communities First seemed an “obvious” choice for savings to be made with Plaid Cymru’s policy director, Nerys Evans, stating in July:
“Communities First has until May to prove that it is something that has been worth the huge amount of money that has been spent on it since it was first introduced in 2001.
“If it cannot be proven that this project is performing for our nation and our communities, then it should be cancelled as soon as possible.”
Opposition to the programme comes despite the news in February, reported by Left Foot Forward. that Welsh children at more likely to find themselves in poverty than any other part of the UK. It was a point acknowledged by the Deputy Minister for Children, Huw Lewis. who at the time wrote for Left Foot Forward:
“It should be clear to anyone with an interest in the life chances of our children, or the future of our country, that we simply cannot go on leaving a third of our population behind. We have to do more – much more in fact – to try and tackle this scourge.”
Whilst campaigning on Tuesday during a visit to one community that has benefited from the Communities First programme at Tudno in Llandudno, Labour’s social justice minister Carl Sargeant explained:
“While Plaid Cymru is spending its time cwtching up with the Conservatives, one thing is certain if a deal is made – we can kiss goodbye to the Communities First programme that has helped lift so many deprived areas out of poverty.
“Nick Ramsay, a Tory politician, has stated it is an “obvious one” to make savings on. Never has there been a better example of a callous Tory policy that puts pennies before people. Welsh Labour will not turn its back on our deprived communities.
“More than 150 of the most deprived communities in Wales with over £342 million worth of funding have been handed a lifeline through this programme and to get rid of it would be a national disgrace.”
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