South West Wales

Community groups in Swansea 'feel undervalued'

Parc Llewellyn in Morriston is one of the parks which volunteers help run Image copyright Google
Image caption Parc Llewellyn in Morriston is one of the parks which volunteers help run

Volunteers and community groups which have taken on services to stop Swansea council from axing them feel undervalued, a report has said.

The finding was made during a review into how the council can help residents run services in their own communities.

About 75 have been taken on by groups including community centres, recreation areas and clubs.

The report to this week's cabinet said more needs to be done to recognise their good work.

Thirty-nine community centres are run by voluntary management committees along with six bowls clubs including the main Swansea bowls centre and Swansea Bowls Association - an umbrella group for smaller clubs.

On top of that, there are about 30 "friends of parks" groups which work in partnership with the council carrying out litter picks, reporting maintenance issues and putting on events.

Talks are also taking place about the future of sports pitches as the council continues to look at ways of making savings.

"There was a consistent message from our evidence gathering that many community volunteers and community groups do not feel valued either by their communities or by the council," the councillor-led scrutiny panel report said.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Sketty Park community centre is one of the 39 venues run by groups

"We believe that recognition for the work of volunteers is important not just because this is the right thing to do, but also because it provides encouragement and it lets them know that they have the support and backing of the council and the wider community."

The report also found some people see handing services over to communities as a "threat rather than an opportunity".

There was also "concern" raised by some about the level of service being provided if the council is not involved and the longer term sustainability of projects because of the current age of many volunteers.

Ten recommendations have been made including publicly promoting the roles of volunteers and creating an award category in the annual Lord Mayor's Awards.

In response to the report, Mark Child, cabinet member for wellbeing and healthy city, said: "Community groups and volunteers are often the lifeblood of their communities. Without them we'd all be poorer."

He added: "Community groups have a great track record of achievement.

"An important part of this is that they are often embedded in their neighbourhoods so it means they're better able to shape services so they meet the needs and expectations of local residents."