Wales politics

Labour AM criticises minister over charity funding answers

Alun Davies
Image caption Alun Davies has been criticised over his handling of changes to funding for a youth work charity

It would have been better if a minister gave "straight answers" over funding for a youth work charity, Labour AM Lynne Neagle has said.

The education committee, which Ms Neagle chairs, has expressed criticism over a lack of answers from Alun Davies on changes to funding for the Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services.

Questions were asked after it emerged funding was to stop from March.

The Welsh Government confirmed that it will now continue into 2017-18.

Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services (CWVYS) represents and provides training to the youth work sector.

Letters published on the assembly website show that last November Ms Neagle, in her capacity as chair, expressed "serious concerns" to Mr Davies, who is lifelong learning minister, after the charity discovered its grant would end in March.

The decision came despite the minister having previously told the committee he would speak to a group representing organisations in the sector and others before making a decision on a future model for youth work.

The letter asked a series of questions, including when the decision for CWVYS not to receive funding was made, and on what evidence was the decision based.

Image copyright LABOUR
Image caption Lynne Neagle said it would have been better "if we'd had straight answers from the very beginning"

Mr Davies wrote back, saying he was willing to review his approach and asked officials to make changes to the model to allow "sufficient time" for more discussions.

Ms Neagle wrote again in November, saying his response did not address all the questions asked and requested answers over CWVYS again.

Mr Davies responded saying there was ongoing dialogue with the charity.

But the committee chairwoman wrote again to express the committee's disappointment that not all their queries were dealt with.

Funding for the group - which this year stood at £105,000 - has since been granted for 2017-18 at the same level.

But the latest letter from Ms Neagle - which has not yet had a reply - raises worries that the charity might not have enough time to plan for a condition the group needs to become self-sustaining.

When the issue was raised in the Senedd chamber earlier this week Ms Neagle said: "Clearly, it would have been better if we'd had straight answers from the very beginning."

She added: "I really hope that we will now get a definitive answer and be able to move on, really, to consider what is a huge issue, which is the whole future of youth services in Wales."

The committee previously warned that youth services were suffering an "alarming decline".

Image caption Llyr Gruffydd suggested the minister was "evasive"

Plaid Cymru AM Llyr Gruffydd, a member of the committee and an honorary president of the charity, told BBC Wales: "There is a feeling when I read the letters that the minister is being evasive."

He added: "We can't fulfil our role in scrutinising the government unless the government offers us information when we ask for it."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "The minister is in the process of replying to the committee and they will have that response in time for their meeting next week."

He said consideration of grant funding to organisations providing support advice and guidance to the voluntary sector is a "different matter" to the issue of future models for youth work provision.

The spokesman confirmed that grant funding for the charity was now agreed at the same level for the next financial year.

"As is usual such funding is subject to a fit for purpose work plan that officials are developing with CWVYS," he said.

"One objective for the grant in 2017/18 will be working toward becoming a sustainable organisation."

"This matter will be discussed again in the assembly in two weeks time providing further opportunity for members to pose questions," he added.

Paul Glaze, chief executive of CWVYS, has said the charity is "pleased we have had indicative funding for next year".

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