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Thursday, August 02, 2012

More questions on Welsh Government flagship programme

Yesterday's Western Mail highlights problems with yet another Community First area reporting that the Cwmaman Communities First Partnership in the Cynon Valley is the second such regeneration project to face a police inquiry.

As they say this raises fresh concerns about the level of scrutiny exercised over the initiative, which up until 2010 had spent £241m of public money.

They add that in October last year Miriam Beard, the coordinator of Plas Madoc Communities First Partnership in Wrexham, was jailed for 32 months after defrauding the body of more than £53,000:

Beard’s family members benefited by tens of thousands of pounds from payments made by the partnership.

Last month a confiscation order for £22,000 was made against Beard at Mold Crown Court. She was given six months to pay, with the alternative of serving an additional 15 months in jail.

During her trial, the prosecution said Beard had “milked” the registered charity, diverting money supposed to be used to improve the local community, for her own ends and that of her family.

Scrutiny and accountability are not the only concerns about this programme. Huge amounts of public money are being spent without any clear way of measuring outcomes.

It is virtually impossible to tell if the cash is changing things in a meaningful way in terms of reducing poverty, tackling unemployment, building skill levels or improving the health and prospects of local people. Furthermore the level of local accountability is inadequate.

There needs to be a much more significant overhaul of the way Communities First is operated and how success is measured, something that the recent review does not achieve.
Lets hope the investigation goes deeper than just scratching the surface. This may be the second involving the Police- what about those that have had problems that resulted in the Coordinator being dissmissed or those Com First Partnerships that went into liquidation!! Look wider than those that have hit the press..
Talking of failed WG flagships, I am quite surprised that you have not raised the failure of the Regeneration Investment Fund in Wales (RIFW). Nearly two years after its launch, not a penny of the £55 million initially allocated to be loaned to Welsh regeneration projects has been spent. I do hope that the presence of Chris Holley as a RIFW board member has not inhibited you from being equally vocal on this Welsh government failure.
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