Page last updated at 20:31 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 21:31 UK

Playground funding cut 'review'

The Venture
The Venture caters for up to 600 children on the housing estate

A council has said it will "look again" at cutting the funding of a playground on a deprived estate amid claims it will have to close without the money.

The temporary reprieve for The Venture on Wrexham's Caia Park came after campaigners protested outside a council meeting on Wednesday.

Malcolm King, manager of The Venture on Wrexham Caia Park, said it is facing a 78% reduction in core council funding.

Wrexham Council had said the funds would go to other Caia Park schemes.

The Venture was set up in 1978 and, its management claims, has helped reduce the juvenile crime rate in the area by half.

It currently has 600 children registered but claims it may close within eight weeks because of the funding cut.

The project was chosen by the assembly government in 2003 as the model for its flagship programme of integrated children's centres, now rolled out across Wales.

Key staff

Mr King, founder of the project and a Wrexham councillor, said the council has been the largest single funder since it began and paid the majority of core costs.

As they attracted funds from other bodies, the proportion of the council funds has decreased.

He said last year, the £173,000 council fund represented 29% of its income and the proposal to reduce it to £40,000 from July was a "very drastic reduction".

Mr King said: "As things stand, the Venture will then have to close, despite the fact that more than £330,000 has been secured from 12 other funders to support our services for the rest of the financial year.

"This is because nearly all that money has to be spent on specific projects, leaving little to be spent on core costs like heating and lighting, insurance, key staff, cleaning etc."

Malcolm King
Malcolm King surrounded by protesters outside Wrexham guildhall

Mr King likened the Venture's problems to running a school "with lots of teachers, but no head teacher, administrator, insurance, heating, lighting, cleaning etc."

He said all the children, young people and families who use the project are "deeply upset".

In a previous statement, the local authority said: "The good work carried out at The Venture is recognised and with guaranteed commitment from the council and other providers, the Venture has at least £292,300 at its disposal each year, therefore, its future should not be in doubt."

It added: "The council has had to think long and hard about how best to use the money which was buying services from The Venture. It has decided to spend most of the money on other things in Caia Park, with the remaining money going to The Venture."

Some of the money will pay for parent support advisers in primary schools and health visitors/family support workers to help parents and carers, the council added.

The statement said officers had been working with The Venture since before Christmas to identify cost cuts without affecting its main provision, and it still wanted to work with the group on this.

But as the protest went ahead on Wednesday, the crowd of adults and children outside Wrexham's Guildhall were told by officials that councillors would look again at The Venture's funding.

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