Jane Hutt AM, Minister for Finance and Government Business
I am making this Statement to inform Members that I am publishing a revised ‘Community Asset Transfers in Wales: a best practice guide’ today.
Originally launched in March 2015, this latest version incorporates feedback and experience gathered from the last 12 months of engagement with recipients of Community Asset Transfers (CATs); as well as partners working to support them. Since the original publication of the Guide, I have sought to provide leadership in this area; and particularly to engage with individuals and groups using CAT as a means of securing services of value within their area. During the annual budget tour, I visited a number of CATs across Wales which allowed me to see first hand the challenges involved with CAT; as well as the opportunities for innovative delivery solutions that can also result.
Furthermore, in the autumn of 2015, I convened an External Advisory Group on CAT to help inform and shape policy and activity in this area. This Group includes membership from the WLGA; GAVO; WCVA; Wales Cooperative; Coalfields Regeneration Trust; the Big Lottery; One Voice Wales; Community Housing Cymru and the DTA; as well as lead officials from within Welsh Government.
This engagement has made apparent that long term sustainability remains a key issue for many; and as new models of public service delivery emerge, there will be a greater emphasis on community bodies engaging in the delivery of local services and taking responsibility for local assets. Therefore, there is a role for public bodies to support organisations taking on a CAT, wherever possible, to ensure that the transfer of assets and services takes place on a sustainable basis.
As we continue to face a difficult and unprecedented financial climate, where the UK Government’s ongoing policies of fiscal austerity mean that the Welsh Budget will be 11 per cent lower by 2019-20 than it was in 2010-11; it is imperative that we continue to work in collaboration to build a prosperous Wales for current and future generations. Finding improved ways to use our public land and buildings will be critical to responding to these challenges and a CAT can be one means of enabling the delivery of services more in tune with the needs of our communities.
In addition, the collaborative approach to community asset transfer, promoted in the Guide fully aligns with the ‘Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015’ coming into force in April 2016. The Act focuses on improving the social; economic; environmental and cultural well-being of Wales by making public bodies in Wales think longer term; work with people and communities across Wales; and taking a holistic approach to solving problems, avoiding future ones.
We know that successfully managing a building or service can carry risks, which could be particularly challenging to third sector and community-led organisations with limited experience and funding behind them. This guidance is intended to help support a step-change in ena