Tonight's Caia Park Community Council heard compelling evidence that the Gwenfro Valley integrated children's centre has more than £10,000 set aside in its funds to remain open as usual this summer.
The children's play area, which is run by Labour councillor Colin Powell, has had an increase in funding from £77,125 in 2011-12 to £105,991 in 2011-2 - a 37% increase in funding.
Because the playground is mainly used in the school summer holidays, when it opens for eight hours six days a week rather than for four hours Tuesday-Friday during school terms, there are obvious peaks and troughs in funding. With that in mind, the not-for-profit company that runs the playground has set aside £10,000 "to ensure that bills are paid on time regardless of the time of year".
As 92% of expenditure is on staff costs, then it would be unthinkable for the playground not to continue as normal during the coming summer months. This is even more apparent when one considers that there was a surplus of more than £10,000 in the year ended April 2012.
There is also £4,000 in a general fund that "can be used for any purpose".
There were some worrying facts that emerged from the meeting:
• Another Labour councillor, Carole Lloyd, had resigned from the board in 2011 but the manager had failed to inform Companies House as required by law.
• The Gwenfro Valley has been under-estimating the number of children that attend, until a student counted the attendees in the past month. As the ratio of staff to under-8s is legally required to be 1:13, it is a concern that this might leave the playground open to challenge from parents or CSSIW, who inspect childcare facilities in Wales.
• Funding from Communities First to employ a deputy manager for the playground on £25,000 was mishandled. £7,796 has to be returned to Communities First as a result of not sorting out CRB checks in time.
• The manager stressed that the project had been running for seven years and was therefore well aware of peaks and troughs in income and expenditure. This was at odds with claims by Councillor Malcolm King, who was one of eight founding members of Gwenfro Valley ICC, that additional money was needed from Caia Park Community Council to fund summer activities.
This alleged shortfall led to a bid for £8,000 in funding from Caia Park Community Council - to be paid quarterly. This meant that, had the community council agreed to the funding, only £2,000 would have been available this summer. Clearly, the additional funding being sought from Caia Park Community Council is not a key element in Gwenfro Valley remaining open over the summer months, as alleged by Cllr King. Interestingly, Cllr Powell made no such claim.
With that in mind, the council voted 6-4 against the funding. This allows other voluntary community groups such as Caledonian Morris Dancers and Clwb TTP after-school club (who tonight received small grants to fund their activities) a better chance to share in the council's grant funding.
Cllr Brian Cameron asked for a recorded vote. The four who voted for the £8,000 grant (which amounts to more than a quarter of the council's entire grant allocation for the year) were all Labour councillors:
Cllr Carole Lloyd (founding member and ex-director of Gwenfro Valley)
Cllr Malcolm King (founding member of Gwenfro Valley)
Cllr Pat Williams
Cllr Brian Cameron
Cllr Colin Powell and Cllr Brian Halley, another Labour community councillor, declared an interest as the current secretary of Gwenfro Valley and did not vote.