Jane Hutt AM, Minister for Finance and Government Business
I am making this Statement to inform Members that today I am publishing the first Annual Report of the National Assets Working Group (NAWG).
The NAWG was established in 2010 and comprises senior representation from a range of public sector bodies across Wales. It was constituted to bring together strategic leadership to help embed collaborative asset management across the public sector in Wales.
The role of the Group has never been more important given the current difficult financial climate. Using existing public sector assets more effectively will be important in helping to face up to these challenges and to help facilitate the delivery of services in a more effective and joined up way.
The current work of the Group has been influenced by the National Assembly for Wales (NAfW) Finance Committee report (Asset Management in the Public Sector) published in August 2013. The Committee called for greater collaboration on asset management as an integrated whole where the value to the wider public sector is maximised through opportunities for collaborative effort.
The Annual Report outlines the work of the NAWG during the period 1 April 2014 – 31 March 2015 and within the context of improving efficiency through collaborative effort; the Group have produced and supported the development of a number of key tools to help deliver improved effectiveness. The significant achievements during the year included:
- development of ‘Community Asset Transfers in Wales: a Best Practice Guide’, which is designed to support and enable organisations to be better equipped to undertake community asset transfers;
- the ‘SpaceCymru’ portal, which is Wales’ only public access platform, which allows the general public to see what publicly owned property is currently available to buy or rent; and
- the publication of the ‘Estates co-ordination and Land Transfer Protocol’, with the original guidance updated and extended to include co-location and shared occupancy of assets by public sector bodies.
To build on these achievements, I am today also chairing a discussion with the NAWG at the Plasnewydd Community Centre in Cardiff, regarding a proposed future work programme for the Group.
The Plasnewydd Community Centre is a Community Asset Transfer (CAT) between Cardiff County Council and the Cardiff YMCA. Following the recent publication of the ‘Community Asset Transfers in Wales: a Best Practice Guide’ developed by the NAWG, I am delighted to be able to visit this facility that has been transferred via the community asset transfer process.
There are many examples of successful CAT in Wales, and as part of my annual budget tour this year; I had the opportunity on 9th July to meet key personnel involved in and the end users benefiting from, two other such transfers.
The CAT at Carnegie House, Bridgend has facilitated a number of changes within Bridgend that are each delivering benefits to the wider community. This includes the provision of a space to host a growing demand for art and cultural activity as well as securing the longevity of a site of heritage value to the town.
The CAT at New Sandfields Abervon (NSA Afan), Port Talbot has provided a facility at Dalton Road that harnesses community interest around a number of key issues, encouraging the uptake of training to improve the skills attainment of the community; ICT support and energy efficiency advice. The success of this CAT has been to facilitate a target for community engagement and cohesion around a range of community development aims.
The aim of Community Asset Transfers is community empowerment, they present an opportunity for communities to safeguard and ensure the long-term use of local property assets and services across Wales; generating local economic benefits, reinvesting income locally, creating new jobs and skills and improving social cohesion.
I would like to see success stories such as those in Bridgend and Port Talbot replicated across Wales. They demonstrate clearly the benefits of Community Asset Transfers and confirm the approach that should be adopted, one of mutual understanding with the ultimate aim of community empowerment.
A copy of the NAWG Annual Report 2014-15 can be found online.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.