Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
I wish to update Assembly Members on actions to be taken regarding Assets of Community Value (ACV) provisions in Wales.
My Written Statement on 13 October 2014 regarding the development of proposals related to the provisions of the Localism Act 2011, made a clear case for considering whether a bespoke solution to this issue would be a better approach for Wales. Since that time, we have been discussing these issues with a range of stakeholders to inform next steps.
This Statement sets out my intentions to produce a Consultation Paper in May 2015, which will set out the current policy and practice context and analyse options to take forward a Welsh model. The consultation will consider assets in both public and private ownership and is intended to underpin discussions with stakeholders over the summer months on the detailed proposals set out.
This consultation will align with the White Paper on ‘Reforming Local Government: Power to Local People’ in February 2015. I am working closely with the Minister for Public Services to explore the issues raised by the Local Government White paper, which clearly signals new opportunities for community organisations to have a greater say in the management of community services and facilities.
There is a significant amount of related work being undertaken at present across Government. The Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism launched a sector specific Community Asset Transfer Toolkit for sport and culture facilities on 26 February 2015. The toolkit complements the work of the National Asset Working Group and the overarching guidance on Community Asset Transfer the Minister for Finance and Government Business will launch on 31 March 2015. A Community Assets Welsh Government Working Group has been established to enhance collaboration across a range of Ministerial Portfolio areas.
Should the requirement arise for a new statutory framework relating specifically to Assets of Community Value, it is inevitable it will take this process beyond the next National Assembly elections. However, we will consider what can be achieved alongside Local Government reform in the short term.
There are already successful models across Local Government in Wales actively driving community asset transfer, for example, City of Cardiff Council’s ‘Stepping Up’ Toolkit, aims to work proactively with communities to take over the management of a community service or asset formerly run by a public body. Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council has recently published a Community Asset Transfer Policy and there are excellent examples of successful projects in Ebbw Vale and Brynmawr.
As part of the consultation, I am committed to considering what support is needed to up-skill and work with our communities, to enable asset transfers which will bring real benefit to them. I have agreed to fund a post through Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations (GAVO) for 12 months to pilot a model across Gwent. This includes providing regional support for community groups to develop proposals and enhance greater innovation and collaboration. This builds upon an existing model, in collaboration with Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council, and will help me to evaluate the merits of a regional model.
My officials are also working with the Wales Council for Voluntary Action to organise a national event in June 2015, in collaboration with the Public and Third Sectors. This will give practical ideas to enable organisations to manage the process of asset transfer successfully. I am also pleased Big Lottery has recently announced a second Community Asset Transfer Fund. This will ensure there are greater resources to influence the development of community asset transfers in future.
In conclusion, I am committed to ensuring steps are taken in the short term to influence innovation and collaboration with regards to the transfer of assets. However, through the consultation, I want to develop an approach in Wales which is built upon current evidence and will help to empower our communities. I want Wales to develop a model which not only enhances and protects our community assets, but is sustainable and can ensure success for generations to come. This will help to safeguard assets which are treasured by local people and are integral to the lives of our communities.