Tag Archives: national assets working group

Asset Transfer: Everything you need to know

What were the key learning points from WCVA’s Asset Transfer event? The National Assets Working Group reflect on the day.

Asset TransferThe Asset Transfer event organised by the WCVA was a day of learning for all of us involved in community asset transfers – community groups, local councils and members of the National Assets Working Group (NAWG). For us in NAWG, it was an opportunity to engage directly with groups taking part in community asset transfers.

Setting out our stall

Sharing a stand with colleagues from the Welsh Government responsible for the Protecting Community Assets consultation, we brought our lifetime supply of Community Asset Transfers in Wales – A Best Practice Guide. By the time Lyn Cadwallader, Chair of One Voice Wales recommended the guidance, all copies of the English language version had gone (luckily, the internet never runs out!)

Our Welsh Government colleagues also offered up copies of their consultation on Protecting Community Assets (closing date 11 September 2015) – please have your say.

Opening Speeches

Jane Hutt AM, Minister for Finance and Government Business, outlined the Welsh Government’s support for community asset transfer and took questions from delegates. One question from the floor (with no easy answer) asked about funding for feasibility studies for community groups looking to take over community assets.

After the Minister’s speech, there were two speakers from the social enterprise sector; Louise Barr from Monwel, discussed their expansion as Wales’ largest signage manufacturer. The second speaker, Dinah Pye, from Cynon Valley Museum outlined their story in negotiating with Rhondda Cynon Taf council to re-open their heritage museum. She outlined the challenges arising from originating as a pressure group, then morphing into Trustees of the facility; namely that they had the correct skillset for the future and the importance of getting expert advice at the right time on contracts and employment law.

Workshops

We were as keen to learn from the event as we were to engage with people and attended different workshops to gain some coverage of the issues being discussed. These included DTA Wales’ workshop on establishing viability of the community enterprise/ service – exploring how if an asset wasn’t viable, then it could become a liability.

Empower delivered an interesting workshop on developing an entrepreneurial culture within the team – stressing the need to be clear in target setting for outcomes; transparency on why that was necessary (how much money would be required each month to stay viable); and the need for everyone involved to own the solutions. There were also some sobering examples of poor management and cost control, bringing charities to the brink of insolvency.

There was a lot of emphasis given to the need to be as prepared as possible – business plans, employment law and TUPE were mentioned as recurring themes.

Representatives of Unity Trust Bank (an ethical and social bank) and the WCVA funding programme talked through how and when to access the funding available to social enterprise and community groups for both the initial community asset transfer and following that, any capital investment that might be needed. The message to take away was that loan finance can actually help attract other grant funding as the bank welcomes being part of match funding with other funding partners. Applicants should not be afraid to consider a range of funding streams and be prepared to think outside the box. There is plenty of advice and help available, be brave they said!

Geldards talked delegates through the legal issues that can present when groups and individuals take up the challenge of pursuing an asset transfer. They helped navigate the potential steps from a germ of an idea through to a full incorporation as a charitable or social enterprise organisation, focusing on how the risk of personal liability for an asset can be managed.

Logos of organisations that contributed

Organisations that contributed to the conference

Reflections on the day

The event presented much needed access to information and professional advice, which can be provided by contacting the WCVA on their number: 0800 2888 329.

Whilst the work of the NAWG is focussed on the Welsh public sector, with the spotlight on community asset transfer, it was useful for us to discover the experiences of delegates, first hand. This will inevitably inform our work in this area and practically speaking, inform the development of our website and future guidance work. Engage with us at assetscymru@wales.gsi.gov.uk.

Improving Your Space

Buildings Management Seminar

The theme of our shared learning seminars over the last year has been assets, and we’ve been working with the National Assets Working Group to share good practice between people who are working in the field of asset management.

A couple of the projects that we’ve been able to showcase have been funded by the Invest to Save Fund, which provides short-term funding to help public service organisations transform the way that they work. These have included the assets review that Carmarthenshire County Council have undertaken, which Jonathan Fearn spoke about at the Land and Asset Transfer Shared Learning Seminar. His presentation is available on our website and you can also see him discuss it in the below video from the seminar.

There are a range of Invest to Save case studies available on the Welsh Government website, including an interesting project from Bridgend County Borough Council, where they’ve rationalised their accommodation.

One of the interesting aspects of the case study is that although the rationalisation is about saving money as the funding dictates, it’s also about improving how the service is delivered. The approach has brought together services from a few different sites and made it much easier for different departments to work together.

Not only that, but by moving the building into the town centre it’s made use of a previously empty building to help regenerate the town centre. And by moving into the town centre, the council has been able to make the building a hub for the community as its customer contact centre there.
If this has started to get you thinking about the rationalising of buildings, it’s also worth having a look at the details of Antony Wallis’ workshop at our Buildings Shared Learning Seminar, where we heard about how of Natural Resources Wales is looking at its present and future needs as the offices of the Countryside Council for Wales, the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission Wales.

The striking thing about each of these projects is that they focus on the service’s role in enabling public services to deliver more, rather than navel-gazing at their own functions. It’s great to see how Bridgend County Borough Council have not just saved public money, but also improved service provision for the people of their county.

Dyfrig