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Council’s third sector contributions in chaos

Thomas Sinclair

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thirdsectorcarmsA 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.

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Four charged with conspiracy to supply class A drugs

Carli Newell

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FOUR people have been arrested and charged as part of an investigation into an organised crime gang supplying class A drugs from London to Aberystwyth, Llanelli and Swansea.

Dyfed-Powys Police, with support from The Met Police, carried out warrants at four addresses on July 21, resulting in four arrests.

Mohammed Osman, aged 23, Yonis Mohammed, aged 20, Salman Mohamoud, aged 23 – all from Islington – and Amy Simmons, aged 21, from Dulwich were charged with a total of 12 offences:

  • Mohammed Osman: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine,
  • Yonis Mohammed: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.
  • Salman Mohamoud: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine
  • Amy Simmons: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.

All four appeared at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Friday, July 23, where they were remanded in custody. They are due to appear at Swansea Crown Court for their next hearing on August 20.

The investigation is being carried out by the Ceredigion Serious and Organised Crime Team, Aberystwyth CID and the Operation Orochi command of the Met Police.

Detective Sergeant Steve Jones said: “These four arrests and charges are the result of a coordinated approach to target an organised crime gang we believe is running a county lines operation into the Dyfed-Powys Police force area.

“We will continue to work diligently to disrupt gangs of this kind, to prevent the supply of illegal substances into our community.

“I would like to thank all officers involved, as well as the Met Police for their part in the operation.”

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New children’s play area in Bryn as part of new council housing development

Carli Newell

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A NEW children’s play area has opened in time for the summer holidays in Bryn, Llanelli as part of a new £5.9million council housing development.

Carmarthenshire County Council is building 32 new homes on land close to the Dylan housing estate in Bryn.

The scheme will be made up of 22 two-bedroom homes, four two-bedroom bungalows and six four-bedroom homes and is part of the council’s ongoing drive to deliver more affordable homes across the county. It has been part funded through the Welsh Government’s Affordable Housing Grant.

The development also includes a new children’s play area, funded by the council in partnership with Llanelli Rural Council, which will take over the running and maintenance of the play area on completion.

Executive Board Member for Housing Cllr Linda Evans said: “I am delighted the park has been completed in time for the summer holidays for the local children to enjoy.

“We are committed to delivering more affordable housing across Carmarthenshire and this development will benefit dozens of families in Llanelli, as well as proving much needed facilities for the local community.

“I would like to thank the rural council for collaborating with this us on this and I hope the children are thrilled with it.”

Before designing the play area, the rural council liaised with local schoolchildren to find out what play equipment they wanted at their new park.

Llanelli Rural Council Chairman Cllr Tegwen Devichand said: “The council is delighted to be working in partnership with Carmarthenshire County Council to provide this wonderful new play area for the community.

“The opening of the play area couldn’t have been better timed to coincide with the school holidays. I hope the local children will enjoy the range of challenging play equipment on offer and that they have lots of fun using it over the summer.”

The housing development is due to be completed by the beginning of 2022.

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Burry Port Harbour lighthouse overhaul tops council’s £2million investment

Carli Newell

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A £2MILLION investment in Burry Port Harbour is nearing completion, topped off with the iconic lighthouse getting a fresh lick of paint.

Carmarthenshire County Council is behind a range of improvements to maintain and restore the historic harbour which is one of the county’s most loved and well visited beauty spots.

Restoration of the Grade II listed harbour walls, undertaken under the guidance of CADW, will conclude within the next few weeks.

The council has also been working alongside The Marine Group, which operates the harbour, to improve mooring facilities. They are working closely with fishermen to bid for funding for new commercial pontoon infrastructure.

It will add to investment made over previous years which saw the council spend almost £1.5million on new pontoons, and over £300,000 in maintaining the harbour railings and bridge.

A local operator has agreed a lease for a cafe and public toilets on east side of Harbour, and the refurbishment of the old RNLI harbour office has recently started by The Marine Group (TMG) to create a harbour-side coffee house.

TMG has also invested in a state-of-the-art dredger which arrived at the harbour last autumn. Dredging is well underway and will continue until targeted depths are reached.

Boat lifting equipment and new fuelling points are also planned.

The council has introduced community safety officers to patrol the harbour assisting tourists and local people during the summer months, especially to advise around Covid regulations, as part of a tourism hotspot plan to take care of issues such as parking, litter, street cleansing, enforcement and signage.

Temporary car parking surfacing has also been laid on the east side along with new pay and display facilities ahead of a wider multi-million regeneration plan that will transform the harbour with a mix of housing, commercial and leisure space covering around 13 acres of prime development site.

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “We are proud of our continued investment in Burry Port Harbour. We are spending millions restoring and maintaining historic features that are much-loved by local people and visitors who come from far and wide to enjoy what the harbour has to offer.

“We continue to work closely alongside The Marine Group and Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council to plan and prioritise works and ongoing maintenance. We are as keen as everyone else to ensure it is well-maintained and continues to be a place people can enjoy.

“We appreciate that there has been some upheaval during these improvement works but we ask people to understand that our investment will make Burry Port Harbour an even better place for the future.”

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