The Welsh Government is set to scrap an anti-poverty scheme after over 15 years.
More than £300 million has been spent on Communities First projects in Wales’ most deprived areas – including parts of Rhyl – since it was launched in 2001.
But Communities Secretary Carl Sergeant told the Senedd on Tuesday that the scheme was set to be phased out – because he was not convinced focusing on 52 small areas was the most effective way of delivering for Wales.
Projects funded by Communities First include those in seven wards of south, east and west Rhyl, two in Kinmel Bay, Abergele & Pensarn and the Henllan and Upper Denbigh areas.
Around £30 million has been spent each year – but a report in 2010 criticised the scheme as failing to deliver value for money. The following year, the head of one North Wales scheme, Miriam Beard from Henllan, was jailed for 32 months for stealing £51,000 from the Plas Madoc project in Wrexham.
Mr Sergeant told AMs: ”I am minded to phase out the Communities First programme while establishing a new approach to meet the challenges of the future. The new approach will focus on three key areas of employment, early years, and empowerment.”
Communities First projects on the North Wales Coast include a step-up bus providing advice and information, well being courses tackling anger management and depression and a business enterprise club.
Welsh Conservatives’ shadow communities secretary Mark Isherwood said the party welcomed the re-think on the scheme: ”With one in four people in Wales still living in poverty, it is clear the programme is not fit for purpose, has largely fallen short of its stated aims and has been the target of concern for many of Labour’s own AMs.”
Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson Bethan Jenkins said while Communities First had done some good work, she added: ”If the goal here is the eradication of poverty, then the government needs to bring forward fresh ideas.”