ISHERWOOD: We must get to root of what went wrong with Communities First

The Shadow Secretary for Communities, Mark Isherwood AM, has accused the Welsh Labour Government of failing to drive positive change with its flagship anti-poverty programme.

It comes after a report published today (25 July) by the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee into the Welsh Government’s Communities First Programme.

The flagship scheme – which has spent around £492m since it was set up in 2001 – will operate on reduced funding until next March before being scrapped.

The report examines the decision to wind down the programme, and considers the lessons that could be learnt from Communities First for future anti-poverty programmes.

Responding to its findings, Mark Isherwood AM, Welsh Conservative Shadow Communities Secretary, said:

“While the committee’s report is welcome, we must get to the root of what went wrong with Communities First.

“Despite repeated warnings, the Welsh Government has failed to deliver what the Communities First programme originally intended, which was to deliver community ownership and empowerment to drive positive change.

“Successive reports have highlighted how this approach can work successfully, embracing both UK and international best practice – all of which were ignored by the Labour administration, who persisted in their top-down mind-set.

“Nearly half a billion pounds spent, and one in four people in Wales are still in poverty with many regions of Wales still poorest in uk and  among the poorest in Europe.

“An article by the Bevan Foundation achieved a far more perspicacious insight into why Communities First achieved such little success, by stating that community buy-in is essential and that if people feel that policies are imposed on them, then policies simply don’t work. The Cabinet Secretary should take note.

“However, it is not too late to do things differently. We can still unlock human capital in our communities and places to develop solutions to local issues, improve wellbeing, raise aspirations and create stronger communities.”