Yesterday, the Welsh Conservatives put forward a motion calling on the Welsh Government to “protect community assets by enabling local people to run and expand facilities that benefit the local community”.
Their motion states: “Community assets act as local hubs and provide important access to information, services, skills and social experiences”, and asks the Senedd to recognise that “community assets improve community cohesion and allow local communities to take control of shaping the area they live in”.
Opening the Debate, Shadow Social Justice Minister Mark Isherwood MS, stated that “Real co-production lies at the heart of this”.
“Emphasising the genuinely transformative nature of co-production when leading the first debate here on co-production a decade ago, I stated ‘it's not just a nice add-on, but a new way of operating for the Government as well as for public service professionals and citizens themselves’.
“However, despite this being central to both the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 and The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, successive reports, including Audit Wales in January, found that:
“too often, Local Authority work on community resilience is poorly defined and the actions are too narrowly focused”.
“Without effective monitoring and evaluation, there is also often push back by Senior Public Officials, who either do not want to share power with the people, individually or in communities, or who falsely claim that this change of approach is unaffordable, when doing it properly actually saves money, turning problems into solutions.
“We therefore need to fully embrace co-production, moving beyond rhetoric and consultation to doing things differently in practice, with service professionals, services users and their communities working side by side to provide solutions.
“Enabling Wales will require the development of a long-term, overarching communities strategy to help empower local people and establish ‘asset-based community development’ as a key principle within community development, unlocking both ‘people’ and ‘physical’ assets, empowering the people of the community and using existing community strengths to build sustainable communities for the future.
Mr Isherwood went on to speak of the findings of the Building Communities Trust research with community groups across Wales, which showed they often feel overlooked and under-resourced by local and national government, and that “that communities with fewer places to meet, a less engaged and active community and poorer connectivity to the wider economy, experience significantly different social and economic outcomes compared to communities possessing more of these assets”.
“To reduce these place-based disparities, their 6 key recommendations include: ‘Welsh Government must create a Community Wealth Fund from the Dormant Assets Act’ and ‘must ensure, through stronger guidance or legislation, that communities have a simpler process to take over key community facilities”.
“However, despite the UK Localism Act 2011, the Welsh Government has refused to require Councils in Wales to maintain a list of ‘Community Assets’ and to introduce the ‘Community Right to Bid’ for assets of community value, unlike England.
“Our motion therefore regrets that there is no statutory right for communities in Wales to buy land or assets as in Scotland, and no right to bid, challenge, or build as in England – and calls on the Welsh Government to protect community assets by enabling local people to run and expand facilities that benefit the local community, and introduce a Community Ownership Fund and Right to Bid. I move accordingly.”