Saturday, 11 July 2009

Wrexham MP's 'cheap point scoring' over Venture

Curious coverage of this in the Leader - the story has appeared online twice, here and here, in a matter of days. Same story, different headline.

For the record, this is how we responded to Ian Lucas's initial press release:
Wrexham's MP has been accused of trying to score cheap political points by attacking Plaid Cymru.

Plaid has two councillors in Caia Park and they expressed surprise that Labour's Ian Lucas had opted to attack Plaid on the matter of funding for The Venture playground. They said they visited parents and staff at The Venture just last week and have tried to keep party politics out of the matter.

Plaid councillor for Whitegate Marc Jones said: "Ian Lucas really has to get his facts right before he starts making these unsubstantiated attacks. He makes much of a pledge* before we were elected to end the £8,000 grant that Caia Park Community Council gives to The Venture each year as an open-ended subsidy. All other bodies applying for funding from the community council have to make a detailed case for what is being funded - The Venture shouldn't be any different.

"We have never mentioned The Venture's funding from Wrexham County Borough Council - the process for this funding was already ongoing before we were elected. So he is mistaken in his claims and I would urge him to withdraw his remarks."

He added: "Everyone accepts that, due to greedy bankers, there will be less money in the public sector in coming years. Does Mr Lucas think The Venture should be immune from cuts in the public sector? Does he think The Venture cannot make savings because during our visit last week Malcolm King told us that could make 10-20% cuts if needed. In fact, savings have already been identified. Not for the first time, it seems Mr Lucas is out of touch with the reality on the ground."

Cllr Carrie Harper, who represents Queensway, said: "For the past two months we've been promised financial details from Malcolm King. We're constantly being told The Venture has no money to run its core services but we know that the council this year is giving it £86,000 for just that purpose. On top of that there is three years' funding amounting to £316,000 from Communities First, which includes core funding. "

"Yesterday Ian Lucas was in the paper blaming the council leader, today he blames Plaid - perhaps the blame lies closer to home."

Both Plaid councillors stressed that decisions about funding for children's services had been made by officers and the entire process had started before they were elected. They said: "To try to score cheap political points on this matter may suit Ian Lucas's agenda but won't help the children of Caia Park one bit."

Mr Lucas also criticised Plaid Cymru councillor Arfon Jones, who is the lead member for children and young people. He responded: "Ian Lucas tries to make this out to be a Plaid vendetta against The Venture but the truth is that The Venture is one of many organisations subject of a new Commissioning Strategy. This was first mooted in November 2007 - six months before we were even elected as councillors. All the other organisations co-operated with the Council and provided the information requested months ago but Malcolm King and The Venture have failed to co-operate. We have always said there is no need for the Venture to close, their own returns to the Charity Commissions shows their income to be £500,000 a year.”

Cllr Arfon Jones, who will challenge Ian Lucas at the next General Election, added: "This attack by Lucas is politically motivated and is the start of his fight to retain his seat and his £94,000 salary. Ian Lucas knows that Plaid Cymru’s excellent result in the recent European election makes his position extremely precarious and vulnerable. This attack on us has nothing to do with the welfare of children but all to do with the welfare of Ian Lucas.”

* Plaid's pre-election (April 2008) leaflet in Caia stated:

For the lack of £30,000 Queens Park Youth Club has been forced to close. Many people will have fond memories of it as a place where they met, socialised and perhaps had their first kiss.
£30,000 is a comparatively small amount to ensure a place for our youngsters to meet up safely, socialise and engage with others in their community. If we compare value for money with The Venture, which last year spent over £400,000 on 214 children, we get some perspective.
Last year Caia Park Community Council, Communities First and the Caia Park Partnership all donated money to The Venture but couldn’t save the youth club.
Why is The Venture considered more of a priority than our youth club?
Why is our community council the only one in Wrexham that gives it money when it is a facility that takes referrals from the whole of Wrexham?
Our community council is Labour controlled and the Venture is run by Labour councillor Malcolm King.
When Plaid Cymru community councillors are elected in May, we will end the open-ended subsidy of the Venture and instead invest in our community and our children.

It is quite clear that our pre-election leaflet refers to the £8,000 grant The Venture receives from the community council rather than Wrexham Council's funding, which still amounts to £188,000 a year.


Anonymous said...

"When Plaid Cymru community councillors are elected in May, we will end the open-ended subsidy of the Venture and instead invest in our community and our children."

You know you were refering to general funding!

Come on have the balls to be honest.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

The Commissioning Strategy which involved a whole host of organisations was commenced in November 2007, we weren't elected until May 2008, so really it made not a blind bit of difference what we said in our leaflet. We are however quite impressed that our opponents think we have as much influence as we do, 4 out of we don;t have as much influence as you give us credit for. When the Commissioning Strategy was approved by the Exec Board it was approved by at least 8 only 1 of whom was Plaid Cymru!

Shadrach said...

The photograph sums Lucas up to a tee, the shifty eyes, the smirk, that is just how he is, he is just unfriendly looking.

Plaid Whitegate said...

@Anon - It's clear what we're referring to - community council funding. Plaid's opponents have tried to pin the blame on us for The Venture's problems.

Rather than join the pack, why don't you have the balls to question why The Venture was threatened with closure two weeks ago despite having more than £400,000 in income this year and a further £40,000 from the council immediately available for core costs?

Why has the Venture's management been so slow in bidding for the Communities First funding stream of £316,000 over three years? Money that would have helped meet core costs.

Why has The Venture's manager promised in person three times in the last two months to provide financial details to Caia councillors and three times not delivered?

Rather than the full facts, we are given snippets - such as the claim that Flying Start costs more for The Venture to deliver than the £33,600 it gets from the council.
Upon checking, it costs just over £20,000 in staff costs to deliver this service with the remaining £13,000 going on core costs. On top of that, additional funding has been provided for equipment, training and staff accreditation as well as a further £13,000 in 2007-8 for major costs such as roof repairs, heating system repairs and sanding the floor.

Let's deal with facts and figures, not rumour, innuendo and lies.

Anonymous said...

King's losing and getting desparate even the community council last week voted against giving him any more money.Even labour councillors like Tristan and Dorothy voted against.

The Ghost of Ramsey McDonald said...

Heard that Tristan wouldn't second his uncle Nigel to give the Venture the money, things must be bad.