Page last updated at 09:45 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

Grant 'may not save' play scheme

30th anniversary party at the Venture
Hundreds attended the Venture's 30th anniversary party in 2008

A £316,000 assembly government grant may not save a 'model' playground on a deprived housing estate, it is claimed.

The three-year Communities First grant has been made to the Venture, a long-running scheme on Wrexham's Caia Park.

But Venture founder Malcolm King said it may still have to close unless Wrexham council reconsidered a 2008 decision to withdraw its core funding.

Wrexham council leader Aled Roberts said the tendering process for services on Caia Park was still "under way".

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

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.

I hope Wrexham council now shows its commitment to The Venture by continuing its funding for the same period
Lesley Griffiths, Wrexham AM

On 23 March, the assembly government announced that it would receive £316,000 in funding over the next three years from the Communities First programme, aimed at helping people living in the most disadvantaged areas.

Mr King revealed that the scheme was under threat of closure after Wrexham council announced in November 2008 that it would not be renewing its £170,000 central funding beyond 31 March 2009.

But while welcoming the award of the assembly grant, Mr King, a Wrexham councillor, said that it might not be enough to prevent the Venture from closing down.

"The grant is a good thing for us," said Mr King, "but if the council withdraws its core funding the assembly money will not matter. The Venture would have to close.

"The local authority is by far our biggest benefactor and without our core funding we would not be able to meet our insurance bills.

Officers have been actively engaged with representatives from the Venture throughout
Aled Roberts, Wrexham council leader

"We are looking for some answers from the council to our questions on funding, questions that we have been asking them for the past 14 months."

Cllr Roberts explained that Communities First funding was awarded independently of the tendering process undertaken by the county borough council.

He added: "Cllr King is aware that there is a tendering process that has been in operation for some months.

"The purpose of that tendering process is to deliver outcomes in Caia Park and Cllr King will be aware that meetings are arranged with officers to discuss the outcomes of that process."


Ian Lucas, Wrexham MP, welcomed the award of Community First funding to the Venture, and commented: "What is really needed is the backing of Wrexham County Borough Council, who currently seem content to allow a question mark to hang over the future of a vital part of the Wrexham community."

Wrexham AM, Lesley Griffiths, a patron of the Venture, described the grant as "superb news" and "testimony to the great work that takes place at this flagship project".

She added: "This money demonstrates the value placed on the Venture by the Welsh Assembly Government. It serves as a model for the rest of the country and hopefully will do so for many years to come.

"I hope Wrexham council now show its commitment to the Venture by continuing its funding for the same period."

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