A REPORT being considered by one of Carmarthenshire County Council’s own scrutiny committees has laid bare the extent of the authority’s confusion over exactly where money goes which is intended for collaborative projects with and grants to third sector organisations.
Citing duplication and incoherence in the council’s own approach and blaming, in part, the over bureaucratic systems insisted upon by the Welsh Government, the most startling part of the report reveals discrepancies between what has been reported as third sector spend, what the council’s own information is telling them about that spend and what organisations are actually receiving from the authority.
The failure to control third sector spending featured prominently in the recent court case involving disgraced former mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman. While there is no allegation of corrupt practices relating to third sector spending at Carmarthenshire County Council, close scrutiny is bound to follow as to who is benefiting from the Council’s largesse and exactly what their relationship is with different Council departments.
The report also reveals that:
- The ‘management’ of all these funds has led to some organisations receiving multiple funding from departments across the Authority.
- A number of the organisations operate under aliases making it difficult to understand the whole funding picture to them.
During a TIC Programme Board meeting in September 2013 Wendy Walters, then Head of Economic Development, was asked to investigate how much money the Authority spent annually on the Third Sector community. This was as a result of anecdotal information received about a lack of co-ordination of spend and strategic focus in this area.
A report presented in April 2014, revealed that in one division of the county council alone there was:
- A number of ‘historical’ reasons for relationship and spend with some external organisations with little or no current appropriate rationale.
- Lack of knowledge and understanding across Divisions with respect to ’joining up’ of spend, i.e. two or more Divisions spending with same providers, operating separate and not standardised contracting, administrative and monitoring processes, resulting in duplication of effort, inconsistencies, etc.
- Evidence of 3rd sector organisations operating across the county with the same or very similar remits, however contracting separately with various Council Depts. Potential for efficiencies, by removing duplication of negotiating, commissioning, contracting, monitoring and evaluating tasks within both CCC and 3rd sector organisations.
- Some evidence of CCC managers attempting to encourage and support the 3rd sector partners to engage in collaborative activities, to deliver better ‘joined up’ services. This work is meeting with considerable resistance due to the effects of funding systems that encourage fragmentation.
Initial information suggested that the authority facilitated funding in excess of £19m to the sector during 2013/14 and that the figure was likely to be similar in 14/15. There were in excess of 1,000 organisations and individuals registered as being in receipt of some form of funding from the authority. This ranged in size from grants of less than £100 to over £1m.
At its meeting on the 20th March 2015, the Policy & Resources Scrutiny Committee unanimously resolved that “a report relating to the work undertaken in relation to its spend on third sector services be provided at the next meeting.”
That report reveals that at the start of the project £19,217,800 was paid to voluntary and community organisations, this was during the 2013/14 financial year. The figure for 14/15 was £16,858,803.
In relation to those cuts, the report reveals the reduction target for this project is £1m during 2015/16
Included within the recent round of budget consultations were a number of recommendations relating to finances within the Third Sector. This equated to £608,000 in 15/16, £408,000 for 16/17 and £179,000 for 17/18.
In addition to the figures above the officer working group have been reviewing all contracts and in consultation with the organisations have identified further areas of reductions.
Compensation offered after FSCS declares Llanelli firm in default
CONSUMERS could get back money they have lost as a result of their dealings with a failed regulated firm in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire. The firm is Hayden Williams Independent Financial Services Limited formerly Assura Protect, Room 1, 7 Meadows Bridge, Parc Menter, Cross Hands, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales SA14 6RA.
The firm was declared in default in June 2019 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).
FSCS is the UK’s statutory compensation scheme that protects customers of authorised financial services firms that carry out certain regulated activities. A declaration of default means FSCS is satisfied a firm is unable to pay claims for compensation made against it. This paves the way for customers of that firm to make a claim for compensation with FSCS.
Alex Kuczynski, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at FSCS, said: “FSCS steps in to protect consumers around the UK when authorised financial services firms go bust. This vital service, which is free to consumers, protects deposits, insurance, investments, home finance and debt management. We want anyone who believes they may be owed money as a result of their dealings with this firm to get in touch, as we may be able to help you.”
Since it began in 2001, FSCS has helped more than 4.5m people, paying out more than £26bn in compensation.
If you wish to make a claim with FSCS against Hayden Williams Independent Financial Services Limited, you may be able to do so using FSCS’s online claims service at https://claims.fscs.org.uk Or you can contact its Customer Services Team on 0800 678 1100 or 020 7741 4100
Disabled people hit hardest by changes to benefits
CHANGES to the welfare system over the past ten years have left disabled adults four times worse off financially than non-disabled adults, according to new research commissioned by the Disability Benefit Consortium, a coalition of over 80 UK disability organisations.
While many people who receive welfare support have experienced cuts of an average of £300 as a result of changes to the welfare system, disabled people have typically lost around £1,200 per year.
. The research, funded by the Three Guineas Trust, is the first comprehensive study looking specifically at the cumulative impact of welfare changes on disabled people, and conducted by the University of East Anglia, the University of Glasgow and Landman Economics.
The research also found:
. The more disabilities you have the more you lose out, for example someone who has six or more disabilities loses over £2,100 each year on average, whereas someone with one disability loses around £700 each year.
Households with one disabled adult and one disabled child lose out the most, with average losses of over £4,300 per year.
Today’s report by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), ‘Has welfare become unfair – the impact of changes on disabled people’, which is based on this research, looks at the financial impact and lived experiences of welfare reform on disabled people over the past ten years.
As part of the research, 50 people living with a variety of conditions and disabilities were interviewed about their experiences. People said that they found the application and assessment processes highly stressful, and that they did not feel trusted, and constantly challenged.
The DBC also state that the current system has become so complex and dysfunctional, that many disabled people have found it has had a devastating impact on their wider health and wellbeing.
Pam McGee, 48, from Kent, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1994, which severely impacts her mobility. After a PIP assessment in 2017 she lost the higher rates for both the mobility and daily living components, which means her support was cut by £290 a month and she no longer qualifies for a Motability car. She’s now appealing the decision and says the stress caused by this process has impacted her health. She said: “If I lost my car, I don’t know how I’d carry on. I’m terrified I’ll be out of a job because without the car I won’t be able to get anywhere. If I can’t work at the age of 48, I would lose all of my pride. People always ask ‘What’s your name and what do you do?’ My job is what defines me.
“In the last 10 weeks I’ve had a massive relapse. I went dizzy and lost all feeling in my left leg. When I spoke to my neurologist he said the relapse was probably caused by stress. I’ve also been depressed and eating less.
“PIP has caused me and my family a lot of anxiety and stress. It’s caused my MS symptoms to worsen, which has reduced my mobility, confidence, and ability to take care of myself physically as well as mentally.”
The DBC say that the failure to include disability premiums as part of Universal Credit, and poorly designed assessment criteria are just two examples of the problems that are leaving disabled people worse off and is calling on the Government to make urgent improvements to the welfare system to ensure it works for everyone.
Michael Griffin, Research Lead for the DBC and Senior Policy Adviser at Parkinson’s UK, said: “For the first time, our research has shown just how much disabled people are bearing the brunt of the disastrous changes to welfare.
“Many disabled people have not yet even experienced the full extent of the cuts because they are still waiting to be moved over to Universal Credit. However, when this happens there will be a surge in poverty among those who are already at a crisis point.
“This is simply disgraceful and cannot be allowed to continue. The Government must make urgent improvements to the application processes and assessment criteria, and resolve the flaws in Universal Credit before more people are denied the support they desperately need to live independently.”
Ysgol Pontyberem officially opens its doors
PUPILS, staff, governors and invited guests have come together to celebrate the official opening of Ysgol Pontyberem.
A total of £4 million has been invested into refurbishing and re-modelling the school, along with a new roof, floors and walls.
The full refurbishment was funded equally between Carmarthenshire County Council and Welsh Government through the 21st Century Schools initiative.
A special ceremony was held in the school hall, where invited guests and dignitaries were entertained by pupils and the school choir.
Headteacher, Mr Gareth Owen, said: “Two years of building work has passed in order to achieve the goal, but the journey has been worthwhile. I would like to thank the councillors and officers at Carmarthenshire County Council for investing in our school. The cooperation between us has been vital in order to achieve all of our aspirations. A firm foundation has been set for the future of our pupils.”
During the ceremony, Chair of Governors, Mrs Deris Williams, said as part of the celebrations a new school motto ‘Creu’r Wên, Caru’r Iaith’ has been created by parent of the school and Chaired Bard, Aneirin Karadog.
Ysgol Pontyberem is the latest school to be delivered through Carmarthenshire County Council’s Modernising Education Programme (MEP) which aims to give every child in the county access to first class accommodation and facilities.
To date, around £280 million has been invested in Carmarthenshire schools, including 10 new primary schools, two new secondary schools, 41 major refurbishments and extensions and work in 12 other schools.
Executive board member responsible for education, Cllr Glynog Davies said: “It’s great to see the children and staff at Ysgol Pontyberem have settled in to this totally refurbished school. There’s now plenty of room inside the school with great facilities and a spacious play area outside. It’s a school fitting for the 21st century. We have given a promise that we will do our best for education in Carmarthenshire and that is what we are doing under the Modernising Education programme.”
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