Politicians respond to report confirming Newport has most deprived areas in Wales
Rhiannon James, local democracy reporter
A report has revealed that Newport has the highest amount of the “most deprived” areas in Wales.
Nearly 23 of Newport’s 95 areas are within the top 10% of most deprived areas in Wales.
This information was revealed in an Audit Wales Annual Report for 2021 that was presented to the Governance and Audit Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, March 31.
This report also revealed that Newport City Council has over £100 million in council reserves, the fifth highest in Wales.
With council elections occurring on Thursday, May 5, the Local Democracy Reporting Service put these facts to the political parties standing.
This is what the local parties are proposing to address the issue:
Leader of the Newport Conservatives, Matthew Evans, described the statistics as “shocking” and “a sad indictment of not just the council but the Welsh Government”.
He added: “It appears that we have gone backwards in these areas. There are things that can be done, but it can’t happen overnight. There are also limits because the Welsh Government is responsible for the economy.”
Mr Evans, who is currently campaigning for re-election in Allt-yr-yn, said employment opportunities and creating a community environment are two of the party’s proposals to reduce the number of deprived areas across the city.
Mr Evans added: “Job creation is essential, everyone who wants a job should be able to work. It’s also about creating the right environment – occupying the derelict buildings and better enforcement on fly tipping.
“The UK Government’s Community Ownership Fund has allowed communities to use buildings which were previously empty.”
Newport Labour has said it will do what it can, but blames the Conservative UK Government for the challenging circumstances.
Jane Mudd, Leader of the Labour Group, said: “Labour will always stand by people where we can and support those who need it. We oversaw the distribution of more than £1.3 million in winter fuel support and this year the council donated £100,000 to our city’s foodbanks to help them with the increase in demand – and all of this before the real impact of increased home energy bills is felt.
“Going forward we will invest in community wealth building, using our spending power as a council to increase investment in the local and regional economy.”
The leader, who is campaigning for re-election in Malpas, said that early intervention and prevention, free school meals, a new leisure and well-being centre and increasing the number of affordable homes were all priorities that would address the issue.
Ms Mudd said that good employment and training opportunities are “key”, in addition to making Newport a Living Wage City, to tackle the current situation.
Ms Mudd added: “It must not be forgotten that political choices made in Westminster are having a significant impact on our communities here in Newport.”
The Liberal Democrats in Newport have described the amount of deprived areas in Newport as “heart-breaking” and said the issue of tackling poverty is complicated.
Leader of the Newport Liberal Democrats, Oliver Townsend. said: “It has to start with a plan and a vision that people work on together. There are many causes of poverty, but three key issues are a lack of income, a failing benefits system, and abuse or trauma.
“We need a city-wide plan that pulls together every agency, organisation, business and individual in a mammoth effort to tackle this.”
Mr Townsend, who is campaigning for election in St. Julians, added that accessible jobs for people of all backgrounds, investment in support for struggling families, and pressure on Westminster to address the benefits system – are all points the party believes will help to tackle the issue.
He added: “We need to make sure our areas have good and affordable places to live, with spaces that are cared about. That means tackling rubbish, and making a concerted effort to reduce crime. How can our poorest communities feel part of our city, if we let them fill with waste and leave them to suffer from drug gangs, prostitution and more?”
Newport Independents Party
Kevin Whitehead, Leader of the Newport Independents Party, said he feels as if he is “screaming into an echo chamber” when pleading with the council to tackle the issue of deprived areas in Newport.
In Bettws, where he is campaigning for re-election, Mr Whitehead said there is a lack of facilities for the youth, old buildings in need of updating and a surgery with limited services.
Mr Whitehead continued: “Thankfully, we have the dedicated coaches at the Civil Service Football club, alongside the fabulous GLD School of Dance, and Bettws RFC – that do cater for great numbers of young and old, thank God for them at least.”
He added: “Bettws still retains a fantastic community spirit that is most evident when you’re out and about. There’s much to like about our estate and its residents who would be grateful if some of the issues highlighted could be addressed.”
County Council elections are taking place across Newport and Wales on Thursday, May 5 when residents will be able to cast their vote.
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