South East Wales

Carwyn Jones visits 'most deprived' area Lansbury Park

Lansbury Park residents
Image caption Carwyn Jones with Lansbury Park residents and councillor Hefin David

The first minister has met residents from Wales' "most deprived" estate to hear concerns about how regeneration money is being spent.

Residents from the Lansbury Park estate in Caerphilly are critical of the anti-poverty scheme Communities First and feel it is out of touch with their hopes for the area.

The Welsh Government earmarked further funds via the scheme for improvements.

But Carwyn Jones said simply pouring money into the area was not the answer.

St James 3, including the Lansbury Park estate, overtook Rhyl West 2 in the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation in 2014, despite millions of pounds of public money having being spent there.

The areas were ranked on factors including income, employment, education and health.

But the label has been rejected by Lansbury Matters, a group of local women, whose battle to gain more control over the future of their estate was featured on BBC Wales' Week In Week Out.

'Work to do'

Visiting Lansbury Park nine days after the programme was broadcast, Mr Jones said: "It's not a question of more money, it's a question of people in the community feeling that money is being spent effectively.

"In some places Communities First works better than in others. I have three in my patch of Bridgend and they all work well, but in other parts of Wales there are problems.

"There is some work to do on this estate so that everybody understands what is being done by Communities First but I came here because I wanted to meet people who are really ambitious for their community and are helping others.

"The important thing is that they all work seamlessly together and groups like Lansbury Matters are the spark that can improve community feeling."

Image caption Lansbury Matters chairwoman Michelle Mackenzie-Jones meets Carwyn Jones and councillor Hefin David

Michelle Mackenzie-Jones, chair of Lansbury Matters, said: "People on the estate trust us more than Communities First - I've done two housing referrals this morning myself and we help people out with everything from rent arrears to disability, they come to us with their problems.

"We know community-led regeneration is the best and most proven way of improving things in a sustainable way for the future but we run up against red tape all the time.

"We are raising morale and I'm really optimistic for Lansbury, but every time we try to do something positive like involving local teenagers in painting the flats, we are stopped by red tape and policies."

Natasha Evans, 32, is treasurer of Lansbury Matters and was sceptical of the reasons for Mr Jones' visit.

She said: "I really hope things will change and these politicians aren't just coming here because there's an election soon.

"We are the closest to Lansbury and we know it the best but we just don't seem to get heard.

"What I would really like to see is more funding for the area and more for the kids as there's nothing for them here.

Image caption Lansbury Park resident Lisa Stokes talks to Carwyn Jones about the damp in her property

"The park isn't one you'd want to take your own kids to and they could do with a really nice play area. We are trying hard to get kids off the street because there's nothing for them but we do need more money to do that."

The Welsh Government said it had provided £6m to the council in housing-related support for Caerphilly's most vulnerable, with more than £8m going to Communities First in Caerphilly, including funding for an employment surgery and adult literacy and numeracy classes on the estate.

It said the local Lift team was helping long-term unemployed people living on the estate find a job or training opportunity.

A further £16.3m has been invested in Flying Start services in Caerphilly - which aim to help children aged under four - with 2,500 children supported last year, according to the government.

The spokesperson said: "We have also provided over £9.3m for Families First in Caerphilly, which last year helped over 8,600 local people with parenting support, employment advice as well as supporting victims of domestic abuse.

"We are providing £100,000 to regenerate the area and remove the disused community centre on the estate, while we have also provided £52,600 to improve the entrance to the Lansbury Park shopping centre."

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