Georgina Edwards, Policy and Research Manager, represented Plunkett and the community business movement at a panel event hosted by Building Communities Trust in Cardiff.

Community Assets: Empowering Communities 

The event’s theme was “Community Assets: Empowering Communities”. Evidence has demonstrated, time and time again, that that the existence of community assets – and the support and opportunities they provide for people – is critical for the wellbeing, recovery, and resilience of communities across Wales. This was a timely conversation, taking place one year on from the Welsh Parliament Local Government and Housing Committee’s report, Community Assets, which drew on evidence submitted by the Plunkett Foundation and other members of the COG.

Community assets can be buildings such as community centres, leisure centres, libraries, pubs and shops, where people can access information and learn new skills, or come together to socialise and share experiences. They can also be places such as parks and green spaces, where people can relax or exercise; they can even, in some cases, provide homes for people. Research recently published by BCT, setting out a new Wales Community Assets Index, concluded that:

“Our research shows 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.”

Plunkett Foundation’s own research has found that community-owned businesses have continued to put people first during the cost of living of crisis, with two thirds of businesses absorbing price increases to protect their customers, and over 50% offering their staff a pay rise of more than 5% to help with the cost of living.

Eleri Williams, BCT, Natalie Sargent, CRT and Georgina Edwards, Plunkett.

The Pierhead, Cardiff.

Owen Griffiths AS / MS, Plaid Cymru and co-sponsor of the event

Full panel line up including, Sam Rowlands, Welsh Conservatives, John Griffiths, Labour and Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid.

Political support for Community Ownership in Wales

The event took place at the Pierhead building at the Senedd, and was co-sponsored by Peredur Owen Griffiths AS/MS and Mabon ap Gwynfor AS/MS, both members of Plaid Cymru. Also on the panel were Sam Rowlands AS/MS and John Griffiths AS/MS from the Welsh Conservative and Labour parties. It was fantastic to see support across the political spectrum for community ownership and acknowledgements of its beneficial impact, from local people, local economies and “pride in place”.

What needs to change in order for more communities in Wales to be able to take ownership of assets? BCT’s Strong Welsh Communities Manifesto calls for more recognition and rights for communities, specifically in relation to the asset transfer process of buildings and land owned by local authorities. Given that many assets are in private ownership, Plunkett recommends legislation the offers the community a right to first refusal on assets that matter to them.

Natalie Sargent, representing the Coalfields Regeneration Trust on the panel, highlighted the need for specific support for communities based in more deprived areas, such as former mining communities, where there is less capital available to fund the costs of running a project and unpaid time on managing it. Eleri Williams, BCT, agrees that communities need a combination better funding, policies and legislation – what is needed is a national strategy that works in the Welsh context. Although a recent announcement from the Welsh government confirmed that a commission would not be launched on community assets by the October 2023 that was set last year, there is clearly political appetite for change.

Get involved – gathering evidence on community assets

In light of the need for change, BCT has commissioned the Plunkett Foundation to investigate the effectiveness of existing means of supporting communities to take ownership of assets in Scotland and England. The aim of the research is to understand what legislation and policies could be beneficially adapted in a Welsh context.

We’d like to hear from community groups and organisations in England, Scotland and Wales who took ownership of an asset in the last 5 years, or who are currently in the process of trying to acquire an asset. If you were involved in an unsuccessful community ownership project, we’d also like to hear from you.

By contributing to this research, you can help shape the future of Community Rights in Wales and other UK nations. We need as many community groups to come forward as possible to complete a survey, so that we can advocate for change.

Get involved by:

Responding to our survey – deadline Tuesday 5th December (Approx. 15 minutes).
Sharing your experiences at an online workshop on Zoom, Tuesday 21st November 2-3:30pm.

Community Ownership Group in Wales

Plunkett Foundation is a member of the Community Ownership Group (COG) in Wales, a network of organisations who wish to see more assets being run by communities, especially if those assets are at risk of loss to the community otherwise. We all see access to community spaces – whether they are buildings or land – as an essential part of thriving communities, and we know from our work and the work of other groups that this provides a wide range of benefits to communities and to community life.

The COG was initially convened by Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA), with Building Communities Trust now acting as the convenor. The group also includes PAVS, PAVO, The Green Valleys, Interlink RCT, Institute of Welsh Affairs, The Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Cwmpas, Social Farms and Gardens.

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