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Carwyn says voluntary groups hit by spending cuts need to speak up.

Byline: DAVID WILLIAMSON

VOLUNTARY groups cannot expect to escape the coming cuts to public finances in Wales and must start urgent discussions with public funding bodies, First Minister Carwyn Jones warned yesterday.

He said that without volunteers the Assembly Government would not be able to deliver many of its goals to improve the quality of life in Wales, and that officials were "explicitly assessing" the impact of the cuts.

But he said: "I cannot emphasise this enough - whether you receive funding from the Assembly Government or any other public service funder, you need to be having discussions with those organisations now.

"Officials with funding responsibility within the Assembly Government will welcome early discussions, so that any decisions can be made with the full information about any potential impacts."

He assured the audience at the Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations (PAVO) conference that his cabinet would assess the outcome of spending decisions. But he said: "It will be for each minister to allocate resources according to their own priorities within his or her departmental budget."

Carl Cooper, the chief executive of PAVO, said voluntary groups were already saving taxpayers "a fortune".

He said: "The voluntary sector does not control a public budget. Consequently, it is often looked upon as a sector with a begging bowl - the beggar at the feast.

This leads some to conclude that beggars should never be choosers. Rather than increasing efficiency, grants and funding to the third sector are seen by some as a drain on increasingly scarce resources."

Mr Cooper said it was time to "bust this myth once and for all".

He said community transport in Powys achieved a 10:1 return on public investment.

He continued: "Spending money in the voluntary sector is excellent value for money and a most efficient way of using scarce resources... Because of our voluntary nature, we are mission-driven as opposed to requirement-driven."

Labour social justice minister Carl Sargeant yesterday launched a pounds 13.5m scheme to help such groups in Southeast Wales deliver services. He told the BBC: "What I'm not going to do is go down the road of encouraging the voluntary sector to take the place of the public sector.

"I expect the public sector and the voluntary sector to work very closely together in the way they deliver services - they're doing that now, and I think what we have to do is to encourage that and give them the catalyst to do that."

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 5, 2010
Words:412
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