15 November 2001

Communities First Programme

Q1 Alison Halford:

Will the Minister make a statement on how Delyn’s selected communities will benefit from the Communities First programme? (OAQ13982)

The Minister for Finance, Local Government and Communities (Edwina Hart):

I want all eligible communities across Wales to benefit from the programme, including those in Delyn. The programme is designed to empower communities to take responsibility for their own regeneration.

Communities First is a new way of regenerating our most deprived communities. Each community is required to set up a Communities First partnership to drive change, with strong representation from local people.

Alison Halford:

I am sure that you agree that we must ensure that money is spent on outcomes in our communities and not on costly local bureaucracy and administration. The last thing that we want to do is to fund local authority staff. In order to ensure that Delyn’s communities receive the maximum benefit from this excellent initiative, what steps have been taken to ensure that the bidding process is not too time-consuming or costly?

Edwina Hart:

We hope that we have designed a simple bidding process that is not time-consuming, but I am always mindful that there must not be unnecessary bureaucracy. Small community organisations and those in partnership with other community organisations would find a bureaucratic process onerous. We would not get to deal with some of the outcomes or events. I will review all current measures in case I can further simplify the process for future applications.

Janet Davies:

How many communities qualifying for Communities First have set up partnerships?

Edwina Hart:

I do not have that information available today, but I will report to the Local Government and Housing Committee should I have it by next week.

Peter Rogers:

How will you ensure full accountability for funds allocated under the programme, especially when they are used in conjunction with other sources of funding in communities such as Delyn?

Edwina Hart:

There are, obviously, processes to be followed in dealing with public money. However, the Communities First programme must also contain an element of flexibility, as some in the voluntary sector would not welcome the unnecessary bureaucracy that is sometimes attached to monitoring the processing of funds through the system. We ensure that funds are well used, but we must also realise that people sometimes start a project that does not take off. I must accept such losses if I am to be genuine about allowing communities to empower themselves.

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