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Finance probe into deprived area scheme; We'll be vindicated, say under-fire leaders as auditors look at claims.

Byline: STEVE BAGNALL

A COMMUNITY scheme is under investigation by a financial watchdog over allegations about the way it is run.

Plas Madoc Communities First in Wrexham has received millions of pounds of public money since 2001 to regenerate the local area - one of the most deprived in Wales.

But the Wales Audit Office has launched an investigation following allegations it is not being run properly and is not properly accountable to people.

This has been denied by scheme leaders who believe they will be vindicated at the end of the investigation.

The Communities First scheme in Plas Madoc, was launched in 2001.

It aimed to regenerate Wales' poorest areas from the bottom up by empowering local people to influence how services are delivered to them.

Plas Madoc is classed as one of the most deprived areas in Wales.

While many Communities First groups are run by local authorities or voluntary organisations, the Plas Madoc scheme is independently run as a charity by a board of trustees Among those who raised concerns about it was Mandy Bostwick, a psychotherapist and community councillor for Coedpoeth, Wrexham, who provided counselling services at Plas Madoc.

She was interviewed for BBC Radio Wales 'Eye on Wales' programme last night to air her concerns.

Mrs Bostwick told the programme: "I started to have some concerns about the way they were operating after I attended a staff meeting.

"I started to realise that it was the same residents connected to the project.

"I never saw any new faces.

"I started to hear about people being paid cash.

"I certainly received cash payment, a nominal fee, and I started to ask for receipts for the money that I was receiving for the work that I was doing, and never got receipts."

But PMCF co-ordinator Miriam Beard said: "Our main concern is that the local community are hurt by these remarks having been working with us for the past six years.

"The allegations made by Mandy Bostwick are unsubstantiated," she added.

A Wales Audit Office spokesman said their findings would be passed on to the Welsh Assembly Government, which would decide what to do.

He said: "Auditors from the Wales Audit Office and the Welsh Assembly Government have recently visited the Plas Madoc Communities First partnership following concerns raised about governance arrangements within the partnership."

stevebagnall@dailypost.co.uk
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 13, 2009
Words:391
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