The Policy Context in Wales

Asset Transfer

A policy towards the transfer of assets from public bodies to community based organisations and enterprises can be implied from the 2003 agreement of a power for local government in England and Wales to “dispose of assets at less than best consideration”. Previously central government consent was necessary to do this but this general consent, provided transfers were kept within certain value limits, was delegated to local government.

In 2007, the policy became explicit when Barry Quirk, the Chief Executive of the London Borough of Lewisham produced “Making Assets Work: The Quirk Review” (click here to see a copy) after a request from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

The review identified benefits to local groups managing and owning assets, both as a means of empowering communities and as a mechanism to support local government in achieving its goals. The review also acknowledged that the transfer of assets carries attendant risks and implies financial hurdles, but there were no insurmountable barriers to activity in support of community asset transfer.

In 2008 concerns of local government regarding asset transfer were specifically addressed with the publication of “Managing Risks: A Guide” by the Department of Communities and Local Government (Click here to see a copy). This was produced to specifically address all the potential risks of asset transfer both from a local authority and community organisation/enterprise perspective.

At the same time in Wales the government made a specific commitment to look at ways to implement Quirk Review of 2007. The result of this was a partnership between the Welsh government and Big Lottery to make available a Community Assets Fund. As was the case in England, the projects using these funds involve transfer of an asset mainly, but not solely, from local authorities and other public bodies.

In England a clear link had been made between asset transfer and asset management in public bodies and the need for a specific policy towards asset transfer to community based organisations and enterprises. A programme to support local authorities to develop policies and pilot projects ran for four years resulting in many transfer policies and many projects. The Asset Transfer Unit has produced model guidance and transfer policies that local government can adopt in support of asset transfer as a result of the programme.

In Wales this kind of work was addressed by a cross government initiative - the Efficiency and Innovation Programme. One of its work streams is on National Asset Management to make more effective and efficient use of the multi-billion pound public service estate to integrate service delivery, improve access and deliver efficiencies.

This work has resulted in a protocol for the transfer of assets between public bodies but has not yet considered transfer policy and procedures to community based organisations.

Local authorities in Wales have however built experience of this through the Community Asset Fund projects.