IWA donates evidence on community assets to Senedd Local Government and Housing Committee

The IWA has played a key role in shaping the conversation on community rights in Wales, following the publication of our report Our Land: Communities and Land Usewho argued that Welsh communities were the least self-governing in the UK.

On July 7, IWA Economic Policy Officer Harry Thompson testified before the Senedd Local Government and Housing Committee on community access to local assets alongside Casey Edwards., Community Housing Counselor at Cwmpas.

Harry Thompson argued that communities should be empowered to reshape their areas by giving them control over their local assets, giving the example of community-owned housing as a way to address the lack of affordable housing in some parts of the Country of Wales.

Notably, the recommendations of the Cwmpas on community assets and rights and those of the AIT are aligned at several levels. Harry Thompson reiterated the IWA’s call for a Community Empowerment Bill. His key points included:

  • The need to establish a functional registry of community assets parallel to the legal obligations relating to the goods entered in this register. Harry stressed the importance of keeping track of what happened to these assets following a wave of community asset sales across Wales in the wake of the austerity era .
  • Tailor-made support for communities wishing to acquire local assets, both before and after the acquisition process, to ensure that community groups do not flounder after accessing the assets and can manage them sustainably. This support must be underpinned by a consistent asset transfer process, which Harry said was currently non-existent on a legal basis in Wales for public and private assets.
  • Funding is an essential tool in addition to empowering communities and providing them with adequate support, and should be as easy as possible for communities to access. As Harry noted, current systems leave communities competing with other private buyers who may have deep pockets and established legal identities, with communities hoping to buy an asset having to establish themselves legally and obtain funding.
  • The Welsh Government should adopt a social value policy which applies to public bodies, specifying that they can dispose of assets at a lower price than the best price if it contributes to social value. Although this is currently the case, our research found that many organizations felt nervous about the audit implications of doing so.
  • The Welsh Government must legislate to ensure community rights to access private sector assetsfor which no process currently exists in Wales to prevent the loss of beloved community buildings and monuments – despite legal rights in this area for communities in Scotland and England.

You can watch the full session here. A full transcript of the session is available on line.