I was appalled to hear Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies talk about his plans to scrap the Wales-wide Communities First programme if his party elected to power in the Assembly next month. These plans would be extremely damaging for Newport, where four Communities First clusters - West, North, Central and East - undertake important and valued work.
Communities First - established by the Welsh Labour Government - aims to alleviate the effects of poverty in deprived areas by providing a range of community-focused initiatives. These include job clubs, parent groups, and a range of social and educational projects.
We need to do all we can to narrow the economic, education, skills and health gaps between our most deprived and more affluent areas. Communities First is an important way of dealing with this challenge head-on, and we should be investing in projects which aim to create a more healthy and prosperous society. The work Communities First supports in Newport - including through projects like the Duffryn Community Link, Bettws in Bloom, the Millennium Volunteers in the Gaer, and Pill Mill - is invaluable to residents.
The fact that the leader of the Welsh Conservatives would be willing to shelve Communities First - seemingly in pursuit of negligible savings - is troubling. Andrew RT Davies has shown a distinct lack of recognition of the breadth of work Communities First supports here in Newport and across Wales. It also betrays the Tories' clear lack of respect for staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to run community-based projects for parents, families and individuals. This simply wouldn't be possible without Communities First funding.
Andrew RT Davies' claim that he would personally endeavour to replicate provision already in place - whilst stripping communities of their ability to organise projects - lacks any substance or direction, and will rightly be taken with a heavy pinch of salt by the Welsh public.
It's vital that we maintain a strong Communities First presence in the city of Newport, and support the great work being done in our four clusters. My message for Andrew RT Davies and the Welsh Conservatives is a simple one: hands off our Communities First.