Council funding up by almost a third in Wales

Funding for Welsh voluntary sector organisations from local councils has risen by 28 per cent in two years, according to new figures produced by the Local Government Data Unit for Wales.

The increase amounts to an extra £35m for the sector between 2004 and 2006, with Wales’s 22 councils providing over £160m in funding through grants and commissioning services over the period, as well as a further £30m in rate relief between 2005 and 2006.

The research, conducted on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government, the Welsh Local Government Association and the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, also shows increases in funding for the sector from other Welsh public bodies. The country’s three national park authorities increased their funding by 87 per cent (£504,000, compared with £269,000 in 2003-04), while its three police authorities provided just under 200 per cent extra (£272,000, compared with £93,000).

WCVA chief executive Graham Benfield Welsh funding was now at a comparable level to that of England and Scotland. He siad it was a significant improvement on the past figures and reflected the increased role of the third sector in service provision.

Welsh Local Government Association leader Derek Vaughan said the research was further evidence of an “effective relationship” between local councils and the voluntary. He said: “Councils are investing in their relationships with the voluntary sector and are investing more in organisations, projects and services delivered by the voluntary sector.”

However, Ruth Hopkins, director of Rhondda Cynon Taff's county voluntary council, Interlink, said the picture across the country was still patchy. She said voluntary organisations in some parts of Wales, such as Anglesey, were facing funding cuts, while many Welsh councils still lacked formal relationships with the voluntary sector and did not regard partnership working as a high priority.

She said: “I don’t think we are totally secure in partnerships with local authorities. There is still an element of uneasiness.”

Andrew Davies, minister for social justice and public service delivery at the Welsh Assembly, said the increased level of funding was a recognition of the important role the voluntary sector plays in communities.

“It is crucial that local government and the voluntary sector continue to work together in moving forward the Making the Connections agenda, supporting the advent of Local Service Boards and implementing the assembly government’s forthcoming strategic action plan for the voluntary sector scheme,” he said.

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