Wednesday, 12 October 2016

An early victim of Brexit

A signal that the post brexit slump is starting to bite occured yesterday with the news the Welsh labour government was dropping a scheme called 'Communities first'. Indeed last month the Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones hinted some government backed programmes would lose out as a consequence of brexit and what it is likely to mean for the resources available to the Welsh Assembly in future http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-37407084

For those readers from outside Wales or who may be unfamiliar with the scheme Communities First was set up in 2001 by the Welsh Assembly and targeted resources at the poorest areas in wales. Funding numerous community schemes in areas like port talbot, wrexham and merthyr. The nature of these schemes varied - some sought to help people in deprived areas into work, others sought to impove life skills and access to higher education and others sought to engage and work with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

As with any government funded programmes there were hits and misses with Community First, and the widely respected academic Victoria Winkler of the left leaning Bevan Foundation has given an honest assessment of Communities First here https://www.bevanfoundation.org/commentary/goodbye-communities-first/.

But when discussing the merits of anti poverty programmes like Communities First it needs to be stressed that a scheme which has in its 15 year existence received less than 400 million in funding wouldnt on its own seriously dent poverty levels in Wales - a country where one in five people lives in poverty and which has long standing economic problems.The fact is the major economic levers which can make a real difference to tackling poverty - like powers over welfare and employment law - still lay with the British government at Westminister and not the Welsh government in Cardiff bay.

It's also important to understand that many of the poorest people in Wales are actually in work but constitute that growing and disturbing development in modern Britain known as the 'working poor' http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/09/18/poverty-working_n_3947166.html

So the importance and value of government funded programmes in communities with poor transport links, where there's poor health and nutrition and where many households cant afford access to basic things like the internet shouldnt be underestimated. And if such interventions are abandoned the quality of life of people in these communities isnt suddenly going to improve by itself. Indeed with numerous reports of the grave economic consequences of brexit already emerging ( http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/hard-brexit-could-cost-66bn-a-year-phpmh6fcd ) the future for the poorest people in Wales and the wider UK - people who need more resources and more government intervention not less - doesnt bear thinking about.

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