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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 16th November 2011

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration

 

Consultation Response to Welsh Government on the Future Proposals for the Communities First Programme in Wales

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To make Cabinet aware of proposed changes to Communities First in Wales and the response submitted by the Council to Welsh Government consultation on behalf of the Castleland and Gibbonsdown/Court Communities First Partnership Boards.  

Recommendations

That Cabinet notes the proposed changes and endorses the response submitted.

Reasons for the Recommendations

To ensure Cabinet is aware of developments and potential changes to the Communities First Programme.

 

Background

2.             The Welsh Government (WG) issued a consultation document in July 2011 on the future of the Communities First (C1st) programme in Wales seeking responses by 26th September.

3.             From April 2012 Communities First will be a Community Focussed Programme that will support the Welsh Government's Anti-Poverty Agenda. It will focus on those actions that can be undertaken, with the support of the community, that have the greatest impact on education/skills, economic and health outcomes. This will be achieved by:

·               Supporting those individuals, families and groups of people who have the poorest education/skills, economic and health outcomes especially in places where deprivation is most concentrated;

·               Increasing individuals' life skills, self esteem and self reliance, including their financial capability;

·               Supporting and strengthening the local activity which does most to tackle poverty and deprivation, with community organisations and communities themselves as key partners.  

4.             The changes proposed to the C1st Programme reflect in part the lessons learnt in delivering the programme to date. The key changes and features are set out below:

·               Whole Government Support:  The consultation highlights the importance of the WG's commitment to support C1st areas and activities through all relevant Government policies and programmes. The WG recognises the need to ensure that Government Sponsored Bodies, Local Authorities and Local Health Boards (through Directors of Public Health) are committed to working closely with the programme. At the same time, the programme itself should demonstrate the contribution it is making to key national priorities.

·               Shared Objectives:  Striking a balance between the strategic priorities of the programme (principally strengthening communities and tackling poverty) will be essential. The objective here will be to ensure that local priorities can be agreed and supported by all the appropriate agencies and funders as well as by the WG.

·               Effective Partnership Working:  To facilitate the engagement of key partners and maximise resources, the new programme structure will be based on fewer, larger 'clusters'. In many cases this will mean combining existing C1st areas. However, the new programme will not necessarily be restricted to those areas, and existing areas will not automatically be carried forward into the new phase of the programme. Effective partnership working will still be essential, but the programme will be less prescriptive about the particular structures required in each area.      

·               Targeting Resources to Support Disadvantaged People:  The WG will expect the actions delivered through C1st to be based on clear evidence of need. This should take account of the most recent Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation (WIMD), published on 31st August 2011, and other evidence. There will be a greater flexibility of boundaries to ensure that the programme supports the individuals, families and groups who are most disadvantaged, and also facilitate closer working between communities and strategic partners.

·               Demonstrating the Impact of the Programme:  C1st must be able to clearly demonstrate its commitment to addressing the education/skills, economic and health outcomes for disadvantaged people and communities. The programme will also need to demonstrate how much the community itself has been engaged in delivering the programme.

·               Simplified Management Structure, Co-ordination and Support:  The consultation recommends the introduction of a 'simplified management structure' to reduce bureaucracy and ensure more consistent delivery of C1st across Wales. It is proposed new C1st Clusters be supported by a smaller number of Grant Recipient Bodies who will coordinate at the local authority or regional level. Their role will include engagement with key service providers and statutory bodies, monitoring of outcomes and indicators, governance and financial management, sharing and promotion of good practice and conflict resolution.  

           

Targeting of Communities First

5.             Local areas will be based on "clusters" of deprived super output areas. The main focus will be Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs) which feature in the most deprived 10% as defined by WIMD. The target population for each local programme area would be around 10,000 - 15,000 residents (around 7-10 LSOAs). Although WIMD will be one very important tool for identifying local programme areas, the consultation recognises other considerations will be those with a local relevance, for example major employment centres. It is for local areas to undertake needs analysis and provide the evidence.

Management and Delivery Structure

6.             The consultation proposes the reduction in the number of grant recipient bodies, with specific roles and responsibilities to be discharged consistently by Programme Boards and Central Teams on behalf of all the Clusters and Local Area Delivery Teams in their areas.  

Relevant Issues and Options

7.             Following a workshop with members from Castleland and Gibbonsdown/Court Communities First Partnership Boards a response was drafted by the Council. The response submitted to WG reflects the views of partners and residents on the way forward, including the areas seeking eligibility and the proposed management/delivery structure.

8.             It is proposed nine LSOAs in Barry form one cluster with a population of around 14,400. The proposed areas are: Castleland 1, Castleland 2, Cadoc 1, Cadoc 4, Court 3, Gibbonsdown 1, Gibbonsdown 2, Gibbonsdown 4 and Buttrills 2. 

9.             This cluster was developed based on either the overall level of deprivation according to WIMD ranking of LSOAs (Castleland 1, Cadoc 1, Cadoc 4, Court 3, Gibbonsdown 2), high rankings within the Income and Employment domains (Gibbonsdown 1, Gibbonsdown 4, and Buttrills 2) or to take advantage of synergy with the designated Renewal Area (Castleland 2). Communities First areas which form the proposed cluster for the Vale of Glamorgan have been developed around linking policy initiatives and funding opportunities together to regenerate Barry.

10.        In our response we have highlighted the importance of linking C1st activities into the WG Regeneration Framework. At a local level this will be delivered through linking Communities First to the Barry Regeneration Area and the Renewal Area, taking advantage of synergy between programmes and economies of scale and established services and relationships.

11.        We do not support the establishment of a regional tier of Central Teams. We believe it would simply add an unnecessary and costly tier of bureaucracy. Our response stresses that the essence of C1st should be better collaboration between agencies at the local level, which will be achieved in the Vale of Glamorgan by the proposed cluster arrangements and the linking of Communities First with the Barry Regeneration Area and the Renewal Area via the Regeneration Partnership. We recommend that any additional resource available to explore and develop opportunities for mainstream programmes to support the regeneration of C1st Areas should be integrated with the delivery of the Barry Regeneration Area Programme.

12.        In our response we recognise that locally based project and programme management arrangements would need to be secured; however, we believe that duplication of employment, financial management and audit roles between central and local partnership teams is unsustainable. It is our view that a single organisational model for the employment of staff within the cluster should be established.

13.        If establishing the regional tier remains the intention of the WG and is a condition of receiving the grant, the response proposes that discussion should take place with Bridgend and Cardiff to weigh up the best option. However, the preference of the Vale of Glamorgan Council as lead body would be for a region consisting of the Vale and Bridgend.

14.        WG have announced they anticipate decisions regarding future arrangements, including eligibility of areas by early November 2011. They have also offered a six month extension to existing funding arrangements to September 30th 2012. An application covering C1st areas in the Vale of Glamorgan is currently being developed for submission.     

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

15.        There will be no financial implications arising from the completion of this phase of Communities First and transition to the next phase. The future areas to qualify for funding, the scale of resources available and the management and delivery structure for the future have yet to be determined.

16.        The Council currently acts as the lead body for the C1st Partnerships in the Vale of Glamorgan, which includes the hosting of grant funded personnel. Any staff appointments made have either been fixed term contracts or agency staff, in order to minimise impact on the Council.

17.        An application covering the six month extension to existing funding arrangements is being developed for submission.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

18.        None 

Crime and Disorder Implications

19.        One of the WG themes for Communities First areas has been community safety, with Communities First staff working with the Safer Vale Partnership to address any issues identified by the local community.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

20.        The WG grant received to deliver Communities First has complied with the Council's equal opportunities policies and has benefited the community. Communities First has enabled all sections of the community who live in Castleland, Gibbonsdown and Court to participate in the regeneration of their community.

Corporate/Service Objectives

21.        The Communities First grant has supported the delivery of a number of corporate plan priorities, including 'Work with partners to meet the diverse needs of residents in ways that will safeguard and protect those that are most vulnerable and in greatest need, helping people to keep fit and healthy and increase social cohesion and equality of opportunities for all', 'Work with partners to develop a sustainable community which maximises opportunities for economic growth, social improvement, environmental regeneration and protection' and 'Work with partners to make the VOG a safe environment free from crime and disorder and fear of crime through prevention and positive action'.   

Policy Framework and Budget

22.        This is a matter for Executive Decision

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

23.        The response to the WG consultation was drafted following a workshop held with members from the Castleland, Gibbonsdown & Court Communities First Partnership Boards. The Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration attended the workshop. Views regarding a draft response were sought both internally within the Council, including corporate management team, and from members of both Partnership Boards prior to submission.

24.        Relevant Ward Members were consulted on our response and most were supportive. The following comment was received by Cllr Margaret Alexander 'I am not sure about linking C1st with the Regeneration Partnership because to me it is a muddying of the financial streams. Regeneration to me is about developing industry and business in the Vale and also developing tourist attractions, whereas C1st is definitely a social and environmental provision. Residents from all parts of the Vale are complaining that the Council has been using Regeneration Partnership funds to prop up the Council's resources'. 

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

25.        Economy and Environment

Background Papers

Consultation Document: Communities First - The Future - Welsh Government 

 

Contact Officer

Mike Jones, Business Manager (Partnerships)

 

Officers Consulted

Bryan Jeffreys, Director of Learning & Development

Michelle Sullivan, Communities First Acting Co-ordinator (Gibbonsdown & Court)

Angela Perry, Castleland Administrator

Dawn Sugden, Senior Accountancy Assistant

Corporate Management Team

 

Responsible Officer:

Huw Isaac, Head of Performance and Development

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