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    09 February, 2006

    Communities First Debate

    We debated Communities First last week and I should have posted on what I said:

    Leighton Andrews: The nine Communities First wards in the Rhondda are all at different stages of development, and it has been interesting to watch that development over the past three years. I pay tribute to those involved in the different Communities First schemes, in Llwynypia, Penygraig, Trealaw, Ynyshir and Wattstown, Maerdy, Cymmer, Treherbert, Tylorstown and Clydach Vale, because what is going on in those wards is a real demonstration of the power of the scheme that we have developed in the Assembly. It is the power of bringing people together to find solutions to the problems that they face in their communities. As I said, many of those groups are at different stages of development, but they are all now undertaking a wide range of activities. The structures supporting them may be different in some cases. Some of the development workers and Communities First co-ordinators are employed by the local authority; others are employed by intermediary organisations such as Rhondda Housing Association and Valleys Kids.

    The variety of activities in which they are engaged, demonstrates the importance of this scheme being built from the ground up. In some cases, for example, they may be involved in managing important community assets such as community centres. They may be involved in the development of youth activities. They may be involved in a range of activities supporting Assembly policies, for example, healthy eating schemes, providing fruit and vegetables, and walking schemes. They may also be involved in benefits take-up, debt advice, and working in partnership with the action team for jobs in giving advice on work. They are also involved in many cases in skills training, both formal and informal.

    The issues that I have referred to, such as informal and formal skills training, including in computer skills, are all being taken up by Communities First groups. It is a tribute to the variety of work that they are undertaking and to the people involved in those schemes. They are bringing communities together and are providing an opportunity for communities to agree priorities. They are also bringing communities together in very practical senses, through organising, for example, events such as community fairs and inter-generational activities. They have developed proper, professional analysis of the needs of their communities—the needs of youth groups and of the communities as a whole. They are developing plans to tackle those issues and are providing a real voice in community regeneration. Those things should be welcomed.

    The path has not always been smooth and I am pleased that the Minister has been able to respond to representations that I have made on some of the issues that have been faced, for example, in relation to the allocation of funds from the Communities First trust fund, which has been difficult in the past. I am glad that the Wales Council for Voluntary Action’s procedures have been improved in that regard.

    There are other issues that, because of time, I will not be able to take up with the Minister this afternoon, but I will write to her on one or two areas where we could be more flexible in how we allow those organisations to work together. The Minister will know from things that I have said in the Chamber in the past that I have concerns that when the Plaid Cymru administration drew up the plan for RCT, it left out some parts of wards that could have been included, such as, for example, Blaenllechau and Ynyswen in my constituency.

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    Promoted by Leighton Andrews AM, National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff CF99 1NA.

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