Welsh Office Minister David Jones today praised the Big Society spirit of Mid Wales as he visited voluntary and community organisations to recognise their contributions to the local communities.
Mr Jones visited Voluntary Arts Wales in Welshpool to learn more about how the organisation supports and promotes participation in the arts as well as strengthening community cohesion, before moving on to Trefeglwys and Newtown to meet with representatives from Trefeglwys Cooperative project and Robert Owen (Newtown) Credit Union.
The Minister was in Mid Wales to see examples of the Big Society in action, where community groups have stepped up to transform community services and create thriving social enterprises in the process. Trefeglwys Post Office and Community Shop have been developed by villagers to provide essential services as well as leisure facilities for the nearby community and visitors and the area. Operating through a ‘Community Cooperative project’, a friendly society of volunteers run a post office branch, village shop, cafe, florist and petrol pumps.
The Trefeglwys Community Shop Limited (TCSL) project is managed by two part-time Location Managers and a Project Manager, appointed after a successful Lottery Grant allocation of £250,000. With 142 shareholders and over thirty active the community members wishing to help in the community shop and other facilities, the project earned special recognition at the Countryside Alliance Awards at the Senedd this month. The project has also developed its social and educational activities with computer classes, a youth and film club and a book swap scheme.
Mr Jones said: “The services offered by the Community Cooperative project in Trefeglwys are testament to the determination of its members in taking positive action to bring about the changes they know their communities need. They are an inspiration to other rural communities and display the true essence of what the Big Society is aiming for - more autonomy and decision-making for communities.”
The Robert Owen (Newtown) Credit Union Limited was the first rurally - based credit union in the UK and is now open to anyone living in Montgomeryshire.
Mr Jones added: “I have seen living proof today that the people here in the heart of Wales are dedicated and passionate, coming together to run services for the benefit of the community and demonstrating that cooperatives and community social enterprises are thriving. Big Society is about empowering people to take ownership of their communities and the examples I’ve seen today show the true power of volunteerism changing people’s lives for the better.”