Wales politics

'Buy time' community policy shelved in Wales

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Media captionVillagers in Dryslwyn Carmarthenshire say their shop is at the heart of the community

A policy which could make it easier for community groups in Wales to take over facilities like swimming pools and pubs when they are put up for sale has been abandoned by ministers.

Community assets in England must all be kept on a list by councils who give local groups first refusal if they are sold.

But ministers want to develop an approach "better suited" to Wales.

Critics say they cannot understand the decision.

Under the Localism Act, councils in England keep a register of "assets of community value".

These could include libraries, playing fields and shops.

If they come up for sale, community groups or parish councils are given a six month window to put together a bid to buy them on behalf of local people.

There is a scheme in Scotland too.

The Welsh government's communities minister had been considering enacting the legislation in Wales but last month she decided against the idea because she wants to spend time developing "an approach which is better suited to the Welsh context".

In a statement, Lesley Griffiths told the BBC Sunday Politics Wales that the resource requirements could not be underestimated "including the need for adequate provision for monitoring and evaluation".

Ms Griffiths also said she was mindful "of the legislative time pressures on the Welsh government currently" and she's concerned there could be "unrealistic expectations public funding will be provided to enable community organisations to purchase assets".

'More effective'

Tim Hartley, a director of Supporters Direct, has been helping community groups in England to have sports grounds and stadia listed as assets of community value since the Localism Act came into force.

Mr Hartley told the BBC Sunday Politics Wales: "This is not expensive, it's not a hassle.

"I don't understand why the Welsh government won't bring in these elements of the Localism Act which will allow communities across Wales not only to safeguard but also to take ownership of these assets which they've been playing on for years and years."

Mr Hartley said listing sports grounds and pitches as community assets made "absolute sense" when councils were cutting back on their budgets.

Mick Antoniw, Labour AM for Pontypridd said he was disappointed but had received some assurance from the minister that she was going to look at a "more effective and better way of supporting community trusts".

Ms Griffiths said the government "greatly values the contribution key community facilities" but conceded it was unlikely any new approach will be implemented before the next Assembly elections in 2016.

Sunday Politics Wales is broadcast on BBC One Wales at 12:25 GMT on Sunday 9 November

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