Y Pwyllgor Llywodraeth Leol a Thai

Local Government and Housing Committee

23/03/2023

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Carolyn Thomas
Jayne Bryant
Joel James
John Griffiths
Mabon ap Gwynfor
Sam Rowlands

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Dr Jessie Hohmann Prifysgol Technoleg, Sydney
University of Technology Sydney
Dr Koldo Casla Prifysgol Essex
University of Essex
Faye Patton Care and Repair Cymru
Care and Repair Cymru
Glenn Bowen Cwmpas
Cwmpas
Jennifer Huygen Community Leisure UK
Community Leisure UK
Jim McKirdle Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru
Welsh Local Government Association
Laura Courtney Cartrefi Cymunedol Cymru
Community Housing Cymru
Lyn Cadwallader Un Llais Cymru
One Voice Wales
Owen Hathway Chwaraeon Cymru
Sport Wales
Professor Simon Hoffman Prifysgol Abertawe
Swansea University

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Catherine Hunt Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Chloe Davies Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Jonathan Baxter Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Manon George Clerc
Clerk
Osian Bowyer Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Stephen Davies Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:02.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:02.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Welcome, everyone, to this meeting of the Local Government and Housing Committee. The meeting is being held in hybrid format, but, aside from adaptations relating to conducting proceedings in that format, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place. The public items in the meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and a Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. The meeting is bilingual, and simultaneous translation is available. Are there any declarations of interest from members of the committee? No.

2. Gwasanaethau Llyfrgell a Hamdden awdurdodau lleol - sesiwn dystiolaeth 1
2. Local Authority Library and Leisure Services - evidence session 1

Then we will move on to item 2, which is the committee's first evidence session in our inquiry into local authority library and leisure services. I'm very pleased to welcome, joining us here in person, Glenn Bowen, interim chief executive of Cwmpas, and, joining us virtually, Jennifer Huygen, head of policy and strategic partnerships for Community Leisure UK, Owen Hathway, assistant director for investments, insights, policy and public affairs for Sports Wales, and Lyn Cadwallader, chief executive of One Voice Wales. Thank you all very much for coming in to give evidence to committee today. Perhaps I might begin with some overview questions, and, firstly, could you summarise the key benefits and value of leisure and library services to communities and those that use them, the impact on communities when services are withdrawn, as well, please? Who would like to begin? Jennifer, thank you very much.

I can start us off.

Good morning, everyone. I think the key benefits of leisure and library services to communities really cannot be overstated. They promote physical and mental well-being through various programmes and partnerships and that includes adult education, early years provision, school holiday programming, and, of course, the national exercise referral scheme. So, they reduce inequalities and ill health, they reduce the time that patients spend in hospital on NHS care, and they do that, really, by contributing to developing the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 through integration of arts, culture, sport and leisure. So, it's not just a library for a library's sake, book lending, or sport for sport's sake—no, it's actually a well-rounded community offer there. So, when those services are withdrawn, of course communities lose critical support for health and well-being, but also they lose educational opportunities, they lose employment opportunities, and there's just a loss of social cohesion, because, libraries and leisure centres, they are those community hubs; they are anchor institutions within their communities. So, that is a real threat to the health and well-being of our communities, and I'm sure colleagues on the call and in person will elaborate on that.

09:05

Thank you very much, Jennifer. Who would like to add to that? Yes, Glenn.

Yes. Thanks, Chair. Adding to the previous comments, obviously, in terms of health and well-being and prevention, I think most people would agree that they add to that immensely in terms of the support to the community sector. But, from our perspective within Cwmpas, the economic development impact—. I think, particularly when you look at the ones that have moved away from local authority provision, by creating that economic anchor locally, providing the good quality jobs close to where people live in terms of from a foundational economy perspective, but also by creating an independent economic anchor away from the public sector, there's potential around the social value supply-chain work and procurement. You find that actually, they find that slightly easier, moving away from the sort of public sector procurement regime by becoming more independent, to try and get that spend to remain local as well. So, definitely prevention, the health and well-being agenda, all that I think most of us would agree with, but the power of the economic anchor institution, particularly in some of our communities where we have less impact by the private sector, creating economic value and economic wealth.

Would you say, Glenn, that that economic development advantage in the way that you describe it is fairly well established and evidenced?

I think so, because there are larger trusts out there now, more established. We've got some very small organisations just running one facility, and, obviously, they will have a smaller impact from an economic development perspective. But some of those larger ones out there, there are examples now, and if we use one like Awen Cultural Trust—. I'm not sure if you're going to be talking to Richard as part of the evidence—

—but, obviously, they started in Bridgend; they're now delivering services outside of Bridgend. So, they are growing as an anchor institution, but they remain anchored within Bridgend. So, there's a good example there of how they are growing and will continue to grow in developing their services as an economic anchor organisation.

Thanks, Chair. Good morning, everyone. Firstly, I just fully concur with what Jen and Glenn have said there. I'll try not to repeat too much, because I think they've made the case quite strongly, but, certainly, I fully agree with the health and educational benefits that those facilities and provisions provide. I think one of the critical aspects of public leisure services in whatever format they may take—and there are different mechanisms and operating models across Wales—is that there is a duty on them, obviously, to be representative of the communities they are based in. So, it's an opportunity to ensure that delivery models are looked at through the lens of equalities and tackling the undervalued or underrepresented groups that you may not necessarily see if it's a sport-specific model or a commercial-specific model.

A couple of the other points I thought I'd pick up, just to be slightly different, I guess, in terms of the perspective, are, when we look at, say—. Sport Wales, for example, really push this principle of non-early specialisation in sport. We know that anyone can have a lifelong enjoyment of sport; they might just not necessarily have found the sport that most appeals to them. So, having multisport offers is really critical to that exposure to different sporting opportunities, which then bring about different skill sets both within a sport and physical context, but also different skill sets that set people up for life, from communication skills, leadership traits, self-confidence et cetera, and, very often, those local public leisure services are that multisport offer. It's central in terms of its location very often, but also houses a wide range of different sporting opportunities, in a non-competitive environment, that can be done at leisure, so I think that's a really important critical component.

And then secondly, that setting as well—we do know that it's really difficult to engage families—in family offers. Particularly through the pandemic, where we did see some positive traits in terms of physical activity trends, it was around family activities. And that particularly had an impact in terms of female participation in sport and, again, those local leisure services do create family offers, which you might not necessarily see in other services. So, I think that is also a really critical component that local leisure services can facilitate that we might not often see in other delivery models.

09:10

Okay, Owen, thank you very much. Anybody else like to add anything? No. Okay, let me move on then to ask you about the key challenges that local authorities and leisure trusts face. There are certainly many challenges around at the current time, but what would you say perhaps are the three—if you had to choose three, what would be the three key challenges facing local authorities and leisure trusts in managing those services at the moment and investing in community provision?

So, I don't mind going first.

Only because I can see that my mike is already on, so it'll save someone the job of having to switch it on and off. And I imagine that I'm probably likely to repeat what at least Jen will certainly say, and maybe others as well, which is that I think the three for me that stand out are the operating costs, especially those with swimming pool facilities. We've seen major increases, increasing costs, to facility providers in recent weeks and months, and so managing that is going to be a key challenge.

If I give you just one example: we run a capital funding scheme at Sport Wales, where local authorities and leisure trusts have been able to bid in over the last year. We'll be reopening that in April as it goes. There were a number of instances in the last round of that funding where Sport Wales agreed significant—hundreds of thousands of pounds in fact—awards to some applicants, but there was a match funding element to that and, just within the weeks when those applications came in, some of those leisure trusts and local authorities were not able then to see that through, because the picture had changed so dramatically for them. In one instance, that was a 90:10 split in favour of Sport Wales providing 90 per cent of the funding, but that 10 per cent was no longer able to be found just because of the increase in energy costs and inflation. So, you can see the pressures that are there.

Second is the issue around the cost of living. We've seen that impact individuals and communities quite heavily. That obviously has an impact in terms of their ability to spend or prioritise leisure investments. We've seen, through our quarterly Wales activity tracker that we do with Savanta ComRes, that there's a significant proportion of the population saying that they're changing their physical activity habits—they're having to source free or cheaper physical activity offers, or indeed reduce their physical activity to not doing it. That has an impact in terms of footfall and then the spend that those facilities are receiving. And then I'm sure there are issues around staffing, both retaining and recruiting staff into those facilities as well, and the cost-of-living awards that are associated with that.

So, that's almost—. Coming out of a pandemic, the sector was quite resilient. It did a lot of really innovative work to protect itself, and the Welsh Government invested in leisure services to protect them through the pandemic. We were probably in a slightly better place in Wales than most other areas of the UK, as a result of some of the work that had gone on through the pandemic. Unfortunately, that perfect storm of staffing, the cost of living and operation costs and inflation and the energy crisis that have come about now have almost, to an extent, undone a lot of that work, or at least set us back to a point—. We would have thought this would be a really positive, redemption year almost, if I can use that term, and, instead, it's just firefighting new and emerging challenges.

Thank you, Owen, that's very useful scene setting. Thank you very much. Carolyn. Carolyn Thomas wanted to come in at this point, Carolyn.

Yes, so, it's just on something that Owen said. So, there is capital funding available. Is that for decarbonisation to help with energy costs, such as cladding, solar or alternative forms of energy? And also I'd like to take the opportunity to raise with you now that we visited a community group that runs the Plas Madoc Leisure Centre in Wrexham—their energy costs have gone up from £6,500 to possibly £16,000 to £17,000, which is huge. And they thought they wouldn't be able to apply directly to Sport Wales, that they would have to do it through the local authority, even though they manage on their own, not through the local authority. Are they able to go direct to Sport Wales? I just thought I'd clarify while you're here.

09:15

Yes, of course. So, to answer those two questions in turn, yes, they are able to access funding for decarbonisation projects through that capital funding stream, but it isn't exclusively to that, so we have a number of—. We've funded athletics tracks, or pump tracks for cycling, so actual projects that are delivering new facilities—3G pitches, et cetera—through that fund. But we've also funded a number of projects that are around reducing energy costs and decarbonisation.

Where we've invested in solar panels, we've actually done that on the basis of a 50/50 split, because we know there's a return on investment to the facility. In a perverse way, actually, that return on investment is slightly better now, because of the increases of energy costs. Whereas the repayment might have taken seven, eight, nine years in the past, it's now going to take two or three years, because the energy costs are so high. But to answer the question, certainly, they are able access funding for energy costs. 

In terms of who can access the funding, it is specific to national partners that we fund, local authorities and national governing bodies, because those three groups are on our capability framework, so, giving us assurances around where we invest public funding. However, there is nothing, in theory, stopping those organisations that you noted there having conversations, and the local authority, an NGB, or a national partner coming in on their behalf, and we have funded a number of organisations, be they specific clubs, leisure trusts, community-run facilities. We have had community-run facilities and co-operatives in the past that have accessed that capital funding through local authorities, that have acted as the interim, both in terms of, then, supporting, and there are some VAT benefits, where actually going through the local authority is beneficial to the individual applicant as well. 

So, they should have those conversations with their local authority, and any governing bodies that may be relevant to the sports. But, certainly, they're able to access it via that third party. 

Okay. Would any of our witnesses like to add anything to what Owen said about the three main challenges facing these services at the moment? Jennifer?

Thank you. I definitely agree with everything that Owen has said. I just wanted to give a bit more context to two of them. In terms of the utility costs—and we really welcome the Sport Wales capital investment that Owen just talked about—I just wanted to give that context on the utility costs. There's obviously the high increases in gas and electricity prices that is causing the bulk of this challenge, but one of the main areas contributing to this is that a lot of our leisure and culture facilities are dated buildings. So, they're past their expiry date, if you can say that. And, also, the free energy service from the Welsh Government, and the audits that can be done by local authorities through that, have found that leisure facilities are consistently in the top five of high-emitting buildings from local authorities. So, obviously, that contributes to the scale of the problem, because, obviously, our buildings are unfortunately not as efficient as they can be. 

The second element to add to what Owen said around staffing, is we have, of course, from 1 April, a 9.7 per cent increase in the national living wage, which is the right thing to do, but to be able to afford to put a 9.7 per cent increase across all pay scales in an organisation adds a lot of pressure on the bottom line. So, in addition to the recruitment and retention challenges, there is that risk, and that threat, to keeping differentials, because, obviously, the national living wage increases it so much. So, that means that, in some cases, those on the national living wage, or just above, will get a 9.7 per cent increase, but that might not be for everyone in the organisation; they may get a 3 or 6 per cent increase, because 9.7 per cent is unaffordable across the organisation. And that's not to say that operators do not want to pay; of course they do want to pay that, it's just talking about budgets and the affordability of that. 

And, then, the third one, just to add to what Owen said, in terms of our key challenges, there's also the high inflationary costs in the supply chain. So, things like food—yesterday, I heard an example of tomatoes, and how much they cost now for one box, which, obviously, is a key ingredient in cafes and that kind of thing, but operators are unable to pass that on to customers. So, obviously, that puts another pressure on budgets. Thank you. 

Thanks, Chair. It was interesting that Carolyn said about Plas Madoc. I was talking to their chair last week, and she was making the point quite strongly that the main thing is the subsidy around the energy costs. And what I would say, in terms of energy reduction, from my knowledge, a lot of—particularly the smaller ones, the community pools, have done a lot over the last 10 years to reduce their ongoing revenue costs by looking at energy efficiency. But now, the main issue right here, right now, is the cost of energy and how they can cover that cost, particularly those swimming pools.

If I could add one other challenge, which is a little bit leftfield from what's been said so far, and that's governance. In terms of those independent trusts and organisations, and particularly those smaller, really focused in smaller communities, they work really hard initially to set up. Lots of them come from the starting point of setting up a pressure group to save the facility, and they have a board, and we can support them and train them to develop good governance. But good governance never ends, so, actually, the challenge is when board members, who are volunteers, leave and it's actually how you replace them and how you ensure that they're representative—I know that Owen talked about representation earlier on. But that is a constant need to support those smaller organisations, because without good governance, some of those facilities will fail at a point in time in the future. So, I think we've really got to keep an eye on the governance, and support the ongoing governance within those independent trusts.

09:20

Thank you very much, Glenn. Okay. A further question from me, then, before we move on to other committee members. In terms of closures of leisure centres and libraries and the picture over the last five years, perhaps you could set out what's been happening. But also, how the strain on local authority budgets has changed the context for the decisions they make on alternative models of delivery. Because, obviously, that's going to be a key aspect at the current time, but it has been, I guess, for some time, although, now, it's a stronger factor. So, could you just give us your view, really, of the picture regarding closures over the last five years—leisure centres and libraries—and the pressures on local authorities in terms of alternative models of delivery rather than in-house? Who would like to begin? Yes, Glenn.

Just from a library perspective, Chair, I think, within Cwmpas, we had a challenge with this, because where there were individual libraries and the communities came together to try and save and keep that facility open, when we were trying to support them, if there wasn't an economic model there, as part of a sustainable social enterprise, social business, that was always problematic. So, it was a lot easier when the library was linked to something else, when there was an economic potential model there that included the library—and Awen Cultural Trust is a good example of that—by putting libraries and culture and theatres together. And I know, for lots of those smaller single libraries—I'm thinking here of an example up in the Afan valley—the community worked really hard, but it was based on voluntary endeavour and grant giving and raising money constantly from funds, because there wasn't that economic model, a sustainable model there. So, that was a challenge.

I can't comment so much on the challenge from local authorities, but obviously, the budget restraints meant that lots of these sub-libraries—and particularly my knowledge is that, some of the Valleys communities and those further up lost their individual ones and had to travel further south to the main libraries. But I think that was the challenge that we saw, is supporting the local context, to save it, and very much dependent on voluntary giving to make that work and be sustainable, and that's difficult in the long term.

Yes. Sure. Carolyn, did you want to come in here, or is that an old hand raised?

Just following on from what Glenn said. Do you think that's more of an issue now—the sustainability of volunteers—post pandemic?

It's a difficult one, isn't it? What we found, actually, was an increase in people wanting to set up social enterprises, post pandemic. I think the impact on all of us as individuals made us question what we do and how we do it, isn't it. So, actually, we did see a lot of civic engagement throughout the pandemic—people stepping up to do things more community based. I would hope—I don't know, Carolyn, but I would hope—that there was that increase in volunteering and that that carried on after. But whether that is sustainable in the long term, to keep the doors open—. You will get volunteer fatigue, obviously, and people get older. Lots of our volunteers are retired and you might get 10, 20 years, but you've got to look for the new set of volunteers as well, haven't you?

09:25

Just to come in on that last point, really, and it's slightly tangential because it doesn't necessarily relate to leisure facilities where there's going to be paid staff, but, certainly, we saw probably the opposite in terms of volunteers during the pandemic for the sports sector. We saw, naturally, obviously, quite a significant drop off in volunteering during the pandemic, because people were unable to be in sports clubs, but we've seen quite a lag in getting those volunteers back. And partly, that's around confidence, and partly around the fact that there's a generation of people who would have been volunteering and would have been upskilling themselves in terms of coaching and education, et cetera, through different sports, who missed out on 18 to 24 months of doing that. So, we've got a bit of a volunteer deficit in the sports sector. As I say, that's not leisure services, per se, but it probably does strengthen the argument about why leisure services are so important, because, actually, that volunteer sector within normal sporting clubs across Wales is still trying to play catch-up a little bit, which emphasises the pressures then put on the staffing and retention side of things for the leisure services themselves.

Okay. Thanks, Owen. In terms of libraries and the ability to generate income, obviously, they're in a different position because they're free to use, thankfully, are there any examples of libraries generating income that anybody's aware of, whether it's a cafe, or particular events that they might hold, with authors giving talks, or whatever it might be?

I think there will be examples. I would look to the larger organisations that run libraries and other bits of the business model, because those are the ones who are going to be more focused on making a sustainable business and will look for opportunities. I would assume that it's going to be in the larger libraries, in terms of where the footfall is higher, where, actually, you can make a return on that. I'm just thinking of local knowledge, and the libraries like in Haverfordwest, in terms of where the library was put in, and there is a cafe there, but that's just from local knowledge. But in those very small communities that fought to save their libraries, they are the difficult ones, because, again, you could put a cafe in there but you're not going to get the footfall from the cafe as well. So, there would be examples, I think, of larger ones, in more urban conurbations and where there are larger footfalls, and I think, as part of that bigger picture, where the business runs a small library, but subsidises that smaller library by running something else in another community to subsidise that smaller bit of the business that is never going to earn money and is not going to actually cover all of its costs either.

Just to add to this and everything that has been said around this topic, I just want to emphasise that a facility closure is the last thing that you will see happening to the service, because, especially in the case of leisure and culture trusts—so, both from a leisure and library perspective—they've been working really hard with local authorities and councils to keep the buildings open. So, thankfully, we've only seen a very small percentage of facilities at risk of actual closure in Wales, although there is, of course, that risk that that will come in the new financial year. But there is that partnership working.

But I think the point that you made earlier, Chair, around the dependency on additional income, I think this is definitely a trend that we've been seeing in the past five, if not longer, years. And that is mainly because leisure and culture trusts specifically receive a management fee from local authorities to manage the service, and that management fee has stayed flat, so that's actually a real-terms reduction, or, in some cases, they've also been reduced in the past few years. Now, where there was a reduction, that was frozen during COVID in recognition, obviously, of the pandemic pressures, there is, of course, an intention to reduce the services further, and that makes sure that, actually, the operators become then more reliant on income from trading, so that means you are more reliant on your cafes or on your events taking place, in parks, summer events—those kinds of things.

I think that the final thing to point to on this is that the Welsh Local Government Association, they warned that Welsh local government is facing a £784 million budget black hole next financial year. Now, of course, the local government settlement was better than everyone anticipated, but that still comes to £400 million, so there's still at least £300 million, almost £400 million, of a gap, and that will, of course, impact on the ability of local government to invest in these services.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Gadeirydd. Dwi'n mynd i siarad yn Gymraeg, a gwirio bod pawb yn deall ac yn clywed y cyfieithu. Iawn. Diolch.

Yn dilyn y cwestiwn yna, os caf i, rai blynyddoedd yn ôl ar gychwyn cyfnod cyni, llymder, austerity, ddaru ni weld lot o awdurdodau lleol yn trio allanoli neu gau llyfrgelloedd a chanolfannau hamdden, ac yna ddaru ni weld lot o fudiadau lleol ac ymgyrchoedd lleol yn cael eu sefydlu er mwyn cymryd y sefydliadau a'r gwasanaethau yma ymlaen yn annibynnol. Pam, yn eich barn chi, fod corff annibynnol yn medru cynnal canolfan hamdden neu lyfrgell, pan fo awdurdodau lleol, sydd efo'r holl adnoddau swyddfa gefn, HR, ac yn y blaen, yn methu cynnal y gwasanaeth yna? Beth sy'n achosi hynny? Oes gennych chi farn ar hynny? 

Thank you very much, Chair. I'm going to be speaking Welsh, so just to check that you can all hear me properly and the interpretation. Okay. Thank you.

Following that question, if I may, some years ago at the beginning of the austerity period, we saw a lot of local authorities try and outsource or close libraries and leisure centres, and we saw a lot of local organisations come together to try and provide these services independently. Why, in your opinion, would an independent body be able to maintain a leisure centre or a library, while a local authority that has all of the resources behind it—HR, et cetera—cannot maintain that service? What causes that? Do you have an opinion on that? 

09:30

That's a good question. If you think of smaller individual units—and I think of Harlech swimming pool back in the day from Gwynedd's perspective, and we supported them—the council budgets cost them quite a lot more to run those facilities just in terms of the overheads they've got across the business. So, they would make the call that they'd have to reduce their overall budget, and they'd look to which facility that they would make the political decision to close. I suppose the advantage in terms of getting the community to step up is setting up a legal structure that allows them to access capital from outside the local authority. That's the one advantage, because as a non-profit distributing company, whether they're defined as a co-operative or a social enterprise, they could develop relationships with third-party funders in doing that. The other advantage, obviously, is linking that facility back into the community, and the company developing their membership base, so they get members of the company who will become volunteers, who may volunteer within the business, on the board as part of that governance, or may volunteer to be part of the running of the service. So, there's an element of reducing the potential cost of delivering that service. 

There are some savings to be made from the public sector, but it is hard work, as we said earlier on. You have to have that sustainable business. Those swimming pools that went out 10, 12 years ago had to work hard to reduce their energy costs, to constantly look for funding, because the amount they were earning from charging to use the facility never quite made it to balance the books. So, it is difficult for single facilities. Like you say, there's probably a model where you run a number of facilities and some are cash cows and that subsidises the ones that are struggling. But that being said, there are examples of communities that are still running single-facility businesses, and they've been going for 10, 15 years. But I would say—and I'm sure you'll interview some of those running those—that it is a constant struggle, and they need the partnership between their communities, their volunteers, their members and their local authority as a potential supporter and funder, and third-party funders as well. 

Dwi'n gweld bod Jennifer eisiau dod i mewn hefyd. 

I see that Jennifer wants to come in also. 

Just a very quick addition to what Glenn said. I think he's absolutely right in everything that he has said. The other advantage to a social enterprise running an independent facility is the charitable tax relief that they receive. The charitable national non-domestic rate relief of 80 per cent is quite significant on actually running a facility. So, that helps with the costs, notwithstanding, of course, all the other pressures in terms of actually managing a budget. But this does provide some relief. And in addition, being a charitable organisation, being an independent organisation, you are quicker in your decision making in terms of where you're going to invest in your facility, in the events that you are going to run and the partnerships that you have with your local community. That just allows for quicker, as I said, decision making and action as well in terms of developing services and programmes.  

Thanks very much. If none of our witnesses have anything to add to those particular matters, we'd better move on. Carolyn Thomas. 

Thank you. I'd just like to ask to what extent the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 provides the required statutory protection for public libraries in Wales. Do you think it is still fit for purpose to protect them going forward? 

09:35

Quite a specific question there. Who would like to answer? Any offers? Jennifer. 

Thank you. I am not an expert on the Act, but in preparation for this session we did go back to our members, who obviously manage libraries, just to get their views on this in particular, and they were quite clear that the Act in itself doesn’t prevent closures of libraries. It doesn’t necessarily protect a minimum level of service, because the Act applies to both England and Wales, and actually we have seen library closures in both nations—more so in England than in Wales. That means that, actually, the Act applies in both nations, but in Wales there are fewer closures, so there must be another contributing factor to actually keeping the libraries open. However, even in Wales some of our members have heard political voices saying that public libraries are not statutory, even though of course the Act requires politicians to decide how comprehensive and efficient they wish the libraries to be. So, in an extreme case you could argue that as long as there’s one library in a community then there is library provision. In that sense, it’s very difficult to say whether it’s effective or not, this Act, but there are definitely other contributing factors that value and support library services beyond the Act.

I'll follow that on, then, with whether you think there's sufficient evidence that local authorities are providing a comprehensive and efficient library service, as required by the Act, and whether there's adequate data to evaluate delivery. Perhaps that's something we could look at. Do you think there's a need to legislate in Wales to safeguard library services, and to ensure the provision of leisure services is also a statutory requirement, maybe, in Wales? Perhaps that will bring in others. So, if you could legislate that there was a statutory requirement for leisure as well as libraries, do you think it would make a difference?

There were a few questions there. Again, who would like to answer?

I can continue to answer for now, but other colleagues can come in as well. Thank you, Carolyn, for the question.

In terms of that first question around the Welsh public library standards, there is a great deal of evidence, I think, that libraries have a significant and valuable impact on people’s lives, but that isn’t necessarily always evidenced through the library standards, especially when you look at the impact that libraries have on health and well-being, and the many other programmes that they run from their facilities, specifically targeting families and early childhood, for example. In that sense, the case studies that are provided as part of those Welsh public library standards aren’t necessarily as comprehensive or touching on all the different elements that libraries provide. So, that is one thing that could be looked at for improvement.

In terms of statutory leisure provision, we find this a very difficult question, because we would ask the question why make it statutory, what is the purpose of making it statutory. Because as we can see with library services, it doesn’t protect them from closures. So, there is another way to value leisure and library services. That’s not to say we are against making it statutory, but we would ask the question, 'Why make it statutory?' and really explore that. What was the purpose of it? What would we want to achieve by making it statutory? And set some really understandable criteria for that. As I said, it doesn’t protect against closure or reduction or a minimal service delivery, so really the value of both public leisure and libraries is determined by the investment made into the service, and not by it being statutory or not. Any statutory provision would need to clarify that.

Okay, Carolyn? I think Glenn would like to come in on this point as well.

Thanks, Chair. Thanks, Carolyn. I think it's definitely worth considering if there's a need for a statutory footing in the provision of this. I'm just thinking, if we go back to 2010, the debates were that, actually, this isn't statutory—obviously, social services is statutory, education is statutory—and when the public sector had to make some difficult decisions, some of the first decisions were based around this agenda. If you think of us in Wales, we are a nation that created the well-being of future generations Act, and if we all agree on the whole well-being part of this and the prevention part of this work that we do, then maybe it does need to be on the same, similar statutory footing. When we go through difficult periods again, then if something isn’t on a similar statutory footing, this is the first thing where difficult decisions will have to be made. So, I certainly think that it’s worth considering that, based on the fact that we have got the well-being of future generations Act, and the emphasis that we put on this work as a society.

09:40

I do remember that when we were looking at anything—I used to be a councillor—that was non-statutory, leisure was put there as non-statutory, but we didn't really, at the time, look at the 1964 Act. I think, maybe, that it does need strengthening. But you did mention the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the associated well-being goals. Do you think that they do provide the required statutory protection and support to safeguard leisure services in Wales? Would anybody else like to come in on that as well, to see if maybe that should be strengthened or applied more? 

It's interesting that my predecessor, Derek Walker, who would have been sat here as chief executive of Cwmpas up until 17 February, is now our future generations commissioner. Derek would have a brilliant view on this, I’m sure. My view, and it is a personal view, is that we have got great legislation as a basis, but actually, the impact of that legislation needs to be felt across all of the things that we do. So, I do think that there’s more work to be done. We can’t simply rely on that. Actually, it needs to influence our decisions and our appetite for legislation in other areas for us to achieve that. But I think that that’s more of a personal view, really, Carolyn. 

Does anybody want to make a bid for greater statutory protection for library or leisure services among our witnesses? Jennifer.

I just wanted to say, around the well-being of future generations Act, that we do believe that, actually, that provides some statutory protection for leisure and library services, because the associated well-being goals play a significant role, actually, in safeguarding leisure and library services in Wales. But that doesn't necessarily mean that that is recognised yet on a local level, with local government obviously implementing the well-being of future generations Act.

In our view, leisure and culture trusts contribute significantly to local authorities' statutory duties under the Act, mainly because, as a non-profit-distributing organisation, as a community organisation, they provide inclusive and accessible services to the community. That obviously aligns with the Act, in terms of actually making sure that there are health and well-being benefits to communities. And of course, the trust model is founded on that principle of community engagement, transparency, dedication to public benefit. So, that all aligns with the Act and its focus on long-term community development and wealth building.  

In that sense, we do think that the well-being of future generations Act provides a great statutory duty. But again, it's still relatively new. It's eight years, which is a long time in some contexts, but a short time when it comes to policy. But if we can act more on those statutory duties, we do think that leisure and culture, including library services, should be considered and invested in.

I fully agree that the Act gives a really strong basis and significant protection in terms of the narrative around these things. I think that the Act does empower communities and those who are running organisations to think long term, to see the broader benefits of the activities that take place in those facilities for the wider community. But ultimately, the decision to keep facilities open, or at reduced hours, et cetera, will come down to the perceived benefits of doing so against the bottom line and the pressures that are put on it.

I think that the Act does help to significantly broaden the perspective of what that bottom line is. I think that we have all come to the nature of it being a bit of a false economy to cut back on leisure services and library services. Ultimately, that's going to have a knock-on effect on education, health, social services, et cetera, in the longer term, which will potentially be more expensive to the public purse if we're having to deal with the impacts of not providing those benefits. But I think the Act is there, at the moment, more as a carrot than a stick, and I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. It is about using the Act to empower social change and to think broadly and long term about these things. But, ultimately, I don't think, if we're being really honest about it, that people are making determined decisions to keep things open, or at a certain level of service, based entirely on the future generations Act. It's the here and now of what they're dealing with. But the Act provides the context, perhaps, to be more ambitious around the here and now than previously would have been the case.

09:45

On this point, I think our sector's view in terms of the well-being of future generations Act is yes, it probably does provide sufficient statutory protection to support leisure services. The point that we would probably make, though, Chair, is that, in terms of the practicalities of supporting leisure and library services, from the perspective of community and town councils, the level of engagement by public services boards with community and town councils is very mixed across Wales. This, potentially, undermines the ability of the sector to help to prop up library and leisure services. It is happening across parts of Wales, but, again, stronger representation through the public services boards by community and town councils will enable the sector to engage far more with the agenda of supporting these very important services.

Thank you, Chair. Thanks, everyone, for today. I just wanted to come in about the well-being of future generations Act. Are there any specific examples that you can cite where it's been used to safeguard services? Because one of the things that gets fed back to me is that there's a lot of talk about the well-being of future generations Act, but there's not much understanding of the relevance of it. I was wondering if you have some idea of that, then. Thank you.

Anybody able to point to any examples of the impact of the Act in safeguarding and protecting these services? Jennifer.

I believe—and I will need to look this up after this meeting, but we have looked at this. In 2019, we were responding to the future generations commissioner's consultation on 'Our Future Wales'. Leisure and culture trusts actively used the Act to report on their services and their programmes. One example is from Aura Leisure and Libraries in Flintshire, north Wales, who have included the well-being goals in their business plan, and they actually report on that. Obviously, that business plan goes to the council as part of the partnership work and as part of the conversations around fees, subsidy and those kinds of things. So, I believe it was Aura Leisure and Libraries that included it in the business plan, but I do know that leisure and culture trusts generally use the Act to report on their programmes in conversations with councils and local authority partners. Obviously, that then helps evidence the value of public leisure and library services and the investment that needs to go in for the next financial years.

Okay, Jennifer. Thank you very much. We'll move on to Mabon, then. Mabon ap Gwynfor. 

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Gadeirydd. Yn benodol ynghylch llyfrgelloedd, fe fyddwch chi'n gwybod bod yma yng Nghymru fframwaith safonau ar gyfer llyfrgelloedd cyhoeddus, ac mae'r fframwaith yma'n trio sicrhau gwasanaeth cyson ar hyd a lled y wlad. Ond, eisiau trio deall ydw i beth ydy effaith y fframwaith yna wedi bod yma yng Nghymru. Ydyn ni wedi gweld perfformiad yn gwella ac ydyn ni wedi gweld y cysondeb yna?

Thank you very much, Chair. Specifically with regard to libraries, you will know that, here in Wales, the Welsh public library standards framework seeks to ensure consistency of service across the breadth of Wales. But I'd like to understand what its impact has been here in Wales. Have we seen the performance improve and have we seen that consistency?

Who would like to respond to that question? Jennifer.

I do feel sorry for jumping in on every question—

There are some examples, we believe, of where the standards framework has ensured consistency. One example is free Wi-Fi across Welsh libraries—and there's the question: would it have been possible without that standards framework and the core entitlement? But one of the cautions that we would argue for is, obviously, every community is different and every community has different needs as well, so if it's about equity of access, it's important that there's not a one-size-fits-all offer.

The other element to that, of course, is that there is great innovation happening across library services in Wales that can be applied in terms of programmes in other local authority areas as well. That isn't necessarily needed to be included in a standards framework, but is just generally in terms of sharing best practice. One example that I can—I mean, there are many examples—but one example to mention is again going back to Aura Leisure and Libraries in Flintshire in north Wales. They have been working with StreetGames on their Fit and Fed programme, which is a well-known school-holiday programme. And what they did last summer is genius, in my opinion; they made it a 'Fit, Fed and Read' programme, so they integrated the leisure and library services into that to obviously encourage reading, as well as being physically active, and merging those two services, which is a programme in itself that can be implemented in other local authority areas in Wales, and that's just an example of best practice and innovation. It doesn't necessarily mean that this needs to happen in every area, but it is something that can be shared through other means, through other networks, in terms of best practice sharing.

And the second example that I will mention, if I may—and it's just because I love this example so much—it's from Aneurin Leisure in Blaenau Gwent, a leisure trust that manages, again, both leisure and library services, and last year, they implemented sports libraries in all of the library services, and that actually means that the public can take out dumbbells or resistance bands from the library as if they were taking out a book, and actually, the staff in that library can actually direct the public to online exercise videos and guidance as well. So, again, an integration of library and leisure services. Again, this is not something that would come up potentially through the library standards framework, but it is best practice and innovation in library services and integration with leisure, which I think should be celebrated and recognised. So, I get quite passionate about this—apologies. I'll hand over to other colleagues now.

09:50

Don't apologise for being enthusiastic, Jennifer. It's something we're very keen on in the committee. Okay, would anybody like to add to that at all? We'll return to Mabon. Mabon.

Diolch i Jennifer am yr ateb yna. Mae'n awgrymu bod yna lawer o arfer da allan yno sydd yn bosib rhannu ymhlith llyfrgelloedd a chymunedau eraill. Felly, Jennifer yn benodol yn yr achos yma, a hwyrach Lyn hefyd, ydych chi'n teimlo bod cyfle neu angen i ddiweddaru’r fframwaith yna, neu i osod strategaeth genedlaethol newydd yn lle'r fframwaith, er mwyn dod â’r arferion da yna ynghyd a sicrhau bod pawb yn cael yr un budd?

Thank you, Jennifer, for that response. It does suggest that there's a lot of good practice out there that it would be possible to share amongst other libraries and communities. So, Jennifer in this particular case, and perhaps Lyn also, do you feel that there is an opportunity to update that framework, or to set a national strategy to replace that framework, in order to bring those good practices in and ensure that everybody gets the same benefit?

Jennifer, should we ask you for an opinion on that to follow up on your earlier answer, to begin with, please?

Yes, of course, and I think Lyn will probably be able to provide more of the context from a local government perspective as well. But, one of the key things, when I went back to our members with the question generally around the frameworks in the library services, what they said is that what is missing is a national body to lead public library development in Wales. Now, I am, of course, aware that there is the society of chief librarians in Wales, but its purpose or accessibility by—especially, to charitable trust operators, it is sometimes not well known or understood. So, that means that actually, there's not a wide enough reach to support the development of library services on a local and regional level. I can't say whether a new national strategy would support that, because it obviously depends on how that strategy is then implemented on a local and regional level, but when it comes to best practice sharing, there are other ways to do that than with a national strategy.

So, of course, as Community Leisure, we have our members' networks where we share best practice. I know that CLOA, the Chief Cultural and Leisure Officers Association of Wales, they also have their members' meetings on both culture and leisure as well. The Welsh Local Government Association has networking groups as well. So, when it comes to best practice sharing, I don't think that the national strategy in itself would support it—there are other ways to do that. But there are, of course, other considerations for a national strategy, potentially from a local government perspective, that I'm unable to comment on unfortunately. I hope that helps.

09:55

Yes, to follow on from Jennifer's comments, I would agree—I don't think it necessarily needs a national strategy, but perhaps an extension of the existing network to include community and town councils. We have got some really good examples of where community and town councils have taken on the assets of unitary authorities. The one that certainly springs to mind is the work that Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn Town Council has done taking over 200 acres of leisure land and has developed a facility in the centre of Newtown now, and that has become used by many organisations, not only in Newtown, but in the wider hinterland. And one of the things that we've done through our networks within One Voice Wales is to, obviously, amplify that work to the community and town council sector. So, it'll be really helpful.

We are tangential to a lot of the discussions that are happening during the course of today, but there's certainly a far bigger role for community and town councils moving forward. We've got examples where community and town councils have funded community interest companies and where that has helped to develop a volunteer network to support the library provision in communities. So, the greater the opportunities for engagement with other bodies on this agenda, the better really.

Yes. There's always the question, of course, of who should be developing and driving this strategy, and there's Welsh Government, isn't there, there are the local authorities, there are the town and community councils, there are the various players, such as Sport Wales. Would anybody like to offer an opinion on which body would be the most appropriate to really make sure that the sort of improvements we'd like to see take place? 

Just because you've mentioned us there, Chair, what I would say is that I don't think that we would be the best organisation to lead any sort of review or monitoring of that. We don't manage or oversee any public leisure centres other than our own national centre here in Cardiff and the partnership we have in Plas Menai in the national outdoor centre. Obviously, if there was some sort of review or monitoring being conducted, it would seem to me that the WLGA probably would be the best-placed organisation, but I also don't want to commit them to something without them being in the room. But certainly, I'm sure that those on this call, and Sport Wales included, would be keen to add value to that and share the information we hold and the partnerships we have, but certainly, I don't think that we, as an organisation, would be best placed on that as the deliverer or partner.

Diolch. Wrth feddwl am y strategaeth neu'r fframwaith yna sydd mewn lle yng Nghymru ar gyfer llyfrgelloedd, ond i fynd cam ymhellach i ran arall o'r drafodaeth yma, sef darpariaeth hamdden a chwaraeon, i Owen yn benodol: rydyn ni'n gwybod bod Sport England wedi cyhoeddi adroddiad, 'Future of Public Sector Leisure' yno, sydd wedi bod yn rhoi, neu mae'r adroddiad yn rhoi trosolwg o'r dirwedd presennol o ran darpariaeth chwaraeon a hamdden yno. Oes gan Chwaraeon Cymru unrhyw fwriad i gynnal adolygiad tebyg yma yng Nghymru a fyddai'n arwain at greu fframwaith neu well cysondeb ar draws Cymru?

Thank you. Thinking about that strategy or that framework in place in Wales for libraries, but going a step further to another part of the discussion here, to leisure and sport provision, for Owen specifically: we know that Sport England has published a report, 'Future of Public Sector Leisure', which has given an outline of the current landscape in terms of sport and leisure provision there. Do Sport Wales have any intention to conduct such a review here in Wales that would perhaps lead to creating a framework or improved consistency across Wales?

Diolch, Mabon. I fynd yn ôl at yr ateb dwi newydd ei roi, dwi ddim yn credu mai ni yw'r sefydliad mwyaf addas i wneud y gwaith yna. Mae bach o remit gwahanol, ac yn sicr mae budgets gwahanol gyda Chwaraeon Lloegr nag sydd gyda ni yng Nghymru. Dwi'n credu, yn bersonol, mai'r WLGA efallai yw’r bwrdd mwyaf addas i allu gwneud hynna, ond byddwn ni siŵr o fod yn keen i sicrhau ein bod ni'n rhoi mewnbwn i hwnna a chefnogi ble allwn ni—mae lot o ddata ac yn y blaen gyda ni. Dŷn ni wedi symud yn y gogledd, a dŷn ni ar fin gwneud hynna ar draws Cymru, o ran newid i ranbarthau chwaraeon—partneriaethau chwaraeon rhanbarthol; regional sport partnerships—a dwi'n credu bod hwnna'n newid y ffordd dŷn ni'n cydweithio ar draws y 22 awdurdod lleol. Ac felly, dwi'n credu bydd hwnna yn rhywbeth sydd yn gallu bwydo mewn i'r math o adolygiad yna yn gryf iawn. Ond, yn sicr, o ran arwain e, does dim cynlluniau gyda ni, a dwi ddim 100 y cant yn sicr mai ni yw'r sefydliad addas i gymryd y rôl yna ymlaen, i fod yn onest. 

Thank you, Mabon. To go back to the answer I've just given, I don't think we'd be the most suitable organisation to do that work. Perhaps there is a different remit, and certainly there are different budgets in England compared to Wales. Personally, I think the WLGA is the most appropriate board to be able to do that, but we can ensure that we provide input into that—we've got a lot of data and so on. And we have moved in north Wales, and we're about to do that across Wales, in terms of changing to regional sport—regional sport partnerships—and I think that changes the way that we collaborate across the 22 local authorities. And I think that would be something that can feed into that sort of review quite strongly. But, certainly, in leading it, we don't have any plans, and I'm not 100 per cent sure that we are the suitable organisation to take that role on, to be honest.  

10:00

Gan dderbyn hwnna—diolch yn fawr iawn, Owen—fel rwyt ti'n dweud, mae hynna'n adeiladu ar yr hyn roeddet ti'n dweud ynghynt. Ym marn Chwaraeon Cymru—a Jennifer, am hynny, hefyd—oes angen adolygiad o'r fath yng Nghymru? Ac os oes—mi rwyt ti, Owen, wedi awgrymu, hwyrach, y WLGA—pwy ddylai arwain ar hynny, a beth ddylai'r amserlen fod?

Accepting that—and thank you very much, Owen—as you say, that builds on what you were saying previously. In Sport Wales's opinion—and Jennifer, for that matter, also—do we need such a review in Wales? And, if we do—Owen, you've suggested that, perhaps, the WLGA would be the ones to conduct it—who should lead that, and what should the timetable be?

Dwi wir ddim eisiau clymu dwylo'r WLGA fan hyn gan ddweud y syniad yma. Efallai y bydden nhw'n troi rownd a dweud, 'Nid ni.' Ond, os oes angen yr adolygiad yna, dwi'n siŵr bydd e'n ddefnyddiol iawn, yn enwedig yn dod allan o'r cyfnod diwethaf yma gyda COVID, achos mae COVID yn rhoi'r context, mewn ffordd, i ni, ond hefyd mae'n rhoi outlier i ni. So, mewn ffordd, mae angen i ni wybod beth oedd impact COVID ar gyfer y sefydliadau a'r adnoddau yma, ond hefyd, dŷn ni ddim yn mynd i gael COVID arall, gobeithio, dros y pum mlynedd nesaf, felly, o ran deall y context yna, beth yw'r heriau newydd sydd yn mynd i newid? Ac mae'n rhaid i ni fod yn onest, mae deall beth sydd wedi mynd ymlaen ym mhob cymuned yn anodd i'w fonitro, achos mae yna newidiadau yn digwydd o wythnos o wythnos, o fis i fis, o ran yr adnoddau sydd ar gael. 

Mae Llywodraeth Cymru wedi mynd ati yn ddiweddar i ddod â'r holl ddata at ei gilydd o ran y facilities sydd ar gael yng Nghymru, ac maen nhw'n dechrau defnyddio data mapping i ddangos ble mae'r facilities yna a ble mae'r adnoddau yna. Mae hwnna'n central unit eithaf pwerus ac, os yw pobl yn gallu gweld y darlun, mae hwnna'n helpu wedyn i fapio yn unigol beth rŷch chi eisiau cymryd mantais ohono fe, ond hefyd, o ran yr awdurdodau lleol, ynglŷn â deall beth sy'n mynd ymlaen. 

Os oes angen adolygiad, dwi ddim yn siŵr. Ond, a fyddai un yn ddefnyddiol? Dwi'n sicr y bydd e. 

I really don't want to tie the WLGA's hands here in making this suggestion. They might turn around and say, 'Not us.' But if there is a need for that review, I'm sure it would be very useful, in particular after coming out of these last few years with COVID. COVID provides a context for us, but it also provides us with an outlier, so, in a way, we need to know what the impact of COVID was on organisations and these resources, but, also, we're not going to have another COVID, hopefully, in the next five years, so, in terms of understanding that context, what are the new challenges? And, we have to be honest, understanding what's going on in every community is difficult to monitor because changes occur from week to week, from month to month, in terms of the resources available. 

Welsh Government has recently been bringing all the data together in terms of the facilities available in Wales, and started to use data mapping to show where those facilities and those resources are. That is quite a powerful central unit and, if people can see that picture, it then helps to map individually what you want to take advantage of, but also, in terms of the local authorities, giving an understanding of what's going on. 

If a review is needed, I'm not sure, but as to whether it would be useful, I'm sure it would be. 

Okay. Thank you, all, very much. Thanks, Mabon. Lyn, did you want to come in?

Yes, I'd just follow on from Owen there. I wouldn't want to put the WLGA up for being the lead delivery body, but it certainly feels like the WLGA and organisations like One Voice Wales—again, I don't want to put another organisation on the spot, but perhaps the Wales Council for Voluntary Action as well—as potential future delivers of leisure services and supporting library services. I'd certainly say, from our organisation's perspective, we'd certainly want to contribute to a review of leisure services, but it kind of feels like, from my perspective, that it's a conversation to be had between the WLGA, One Voice Wales and the WCVA, as to how this could be possibly taken forward in collaboration with Welsh Government. 

Okay. Thanks, Lyn. Jennifer, did you indicate that you'd like to come in here?

Thank you, Chair, yes. Just very briefly, in terms of the review that has happened in England, I think one of the positives that came out of that is that Sport England quite clearly stated an intention for public leisure to become an active well-being service, and to be recognised as such. And I think that is something that would be very welcomed by public leisure operators, to have that collective commitment to say, 'Actually, public leisure is more than sport, physical activity; leisure is actually there for health and well-being.' We worked together with the Welsh NHS Confederation last year to provide an offer to the NHS and public health professionals on behalf of leisure and culture, just to say, 'We are here, please work with us, use our facilities, use our skilled workforce, our reach into communities'. And, so, I would welcome that collaboration within Wales between Sport Wales, the WLGA, One Voice, and other organisations, to say, 'This is our vision for public leisure, and we will all work together towards that.' And that is something that Sport England did, in England, bringing together different organisations, to say, 'We all commit to this.'

Now, I would be careful with timelines, because, as we've seen in the past three years, that's been very difficult, and the timelines in that report from Sport England are quite out of date already because of everything that's happened with the cost-of-living crisis. But the commitment is there, and I think that is an important starting point for working together. But, as other colleagues have said, I would not want to commit one organisation on this call to start leading that, but if it can be a collective effort, we would very much welcome that. 

Okay, Jennifer, thanks very much. Time is pressing, as always, so we'd better move on. Sam Rowlands. 

10:05

Thank you, Chair. Morning, everybody. I hope you're enjoying the day so far. We talked a bit there about the policy framework and, perhaps, who should or shouldn't be responsible for setting some of that up. And then we've also mentioned so far in discussions, or touched on, delivery of that framework and whether it's local authorities delivering things in-house, whether it might be third sector, charities, the private sector or other trust-type models. I'm just wondering what your thoughts are on what works best in terms of how these things should be delivered. And then, are there any real obvious examples where things haven't worked well at all that should be avoided like the plague?

Thanks, Chair. I think that's a good question. The first thing I'd say is, probably, that one size doesn't fit all, and you're starting from where the community are and their needs within that community. So, different models will suit different communities. I think that's the first thing to note.

I think there have been some bad examples. Because of that pressure from communities to save venues, difficult political decisions have had to be made. But I would argue you can't just divest—you know, we talk about asset transfer, but, actually, not everything is an asset; some things, potentially, are liabilities. So, I think if you're going to transfer an asset, then it needs to be that and it needs the support with it. You can't just hand that over to a fledgling community group where we can go in and help them to set up as a charitable incorporated organisation or a community interest company or a community benefit society; you need the ongoing support from the local authority to make that work, because without that ongoing support, it's highly likely that that will fail. So, I think. in terms of that very micro delivery model, it needs the support of the public body and it needs hand-holding to a point where it can be sustainable or has got a better chance to be sustainable. There are other models, like I said, which are the larger models taking on a number of different facilities, and it has been more facilitated from a local authority perspective. It's been more of that spin-out model and, again, that works in lots of areas and there's been learning from other areas where it could work better, I suppose.

I absolutely agree again with everything that Glenn said. I would add to that that good practice is where local authorities and leisure and culture trusts, or whichever is the operator, adopt a partnership approach, where they co-design, co-develop the service to address common goals. And if you focus on public value imperatives, such as being purpose driven, community engaged, addressing social needs, then these partnerships will have led to a more sustainable service delivery.

In terms of what hasn't worked as well, it's where the relationship is treated as a client-supplier relationship, focusing specifically on low-cost services. So, again, putting purpose over low cost is really important there. And, as Glenn rightly pointed out, there are several models being implemented by local authorities across Wales for both leisure and library service provision. So, from our view, that includes in-house management, partnership with leisure and culture trusts and local authority trading companies as the main different models. And the most common approach at the moment in Wales is through a partnership with leisure and culture trusts. So, for local authority library service provision, in four out of the 22 local authorities, that's managed by culture trusts, and, for local authority leisure service provision, it's 11 out of 22 local authorities at the moment where that is managed by leisure trusts. We work with all of these organisations, and they very much want this to be a partnership approach with the local authority and do not want them to be treated as a client-supplier relationship.

Thank you for those responses. Lyn, I heard you mention earlier the example in Newtown in terms of where a town or community council—a town council in Newtown's instance—is taking on and seeking to deliver some of those services. I'm really interested in that in particular. If I'm really honest with you, I sometimes worry about some of our town and community councils, because there are no statutory duties on them about what they end up looking to deliver. But this seems like a really obvious area where they could make a big difference. Are there any other examples, do you think, in Wales where we see town and community councils delivering on these types of services and sharing some best practice in that area?

10:10

No, Sam, not specifically on library services, particularly because, under, I think, the 1964 Act, for community and town councils to get involved, there's got to be a partnering agreement, and I think that, for part of the reason you've already outlined, there's been a concern over whether community and town councils have got the wherewithal to run, certainly, library services. One of the models that we are seeing—and this is something that we are encouraging as One Voice Wales—is the enabling role that community councils and town councils can play in terms of providing funding to CICs. One that certainly comes to mind is Resolven. A number of years ago, the community council funded the establishment of a CIC, and that helped to retain the library provision in that area. I understand, though, that some of the problems with that kind of model is that, obviously, it's reliant on volunteers to maintain that service, and I understand that there have been problems in terms of the number of volunteers that are available to retain that service on an ongoing basis.

Chair, can I just carry this point on a little bit further—

and ask Lyn to come back on this, because I'm genuinely really interested in the role of town and community councils in these types of services? Would you share, perhaps, my concern that—you mentioned the 1964, I believe, Act; yes, an Act—there's too much focus on the letter of that Act rather than the spirit of it and, therefore, we're missing a trick? If the spirit of the Act is able to be delivered by town and community councils, rather than the exact letter of the Act, as it were, do you think that, if that was looked at in a different way and approached in a different way, our town and community councils might be more willing to see how they can make that difference in our communities with these services?

I wouldn't disagree, Sam, actually. I think it would need, obviously, legislative change so that the community and town councils have got that power to be able to spend around this area. Yes, I wouldn't see that being a problem.

Great. Thank you for that. If I may move on, Chair, in terms of questions.

I think you've probably answered some of what my next questions and comments would have been, which were about that relationship between local authorities and those providers. And, Jennifer, you mentioned that the client-supplier relationship being a hard-nosed relationship isn't necessarily the best thing. I was wondering also about the engagement with external bodies, like Sport Wales, or other external bodies, and how you see that working well, or where it works well, as some best practice, perhaps, with those external bodies.

Thanks, Chair, and thanks, Sam. Just to give our experience, I guess, where this has been evident to us has been in that capital fund, in the process that I've spoken to, where, in particular, because of our capability framework and ensuring that we invest specifically and exclusively in organisations that have gone on that capability framework, then, leisure trusts, community council-run facilities and others are having to come through their local authority partners. Broadly, I'd say that that has worked really well. Now, obviously, we are talking about applying for funding, and there is a benefit both to the operator and the facility owner in that instance, so I guess everyone is a winner in that process. But, ultimately, we've had applications that have been done in partnership and worked really well.

There are definitely examples where there is a much closer relationship between the local authority and the leisure trust or the other partner that's delivered it than in other instances. But broadly, where Sport Wales has come into contact with those as a partnership, because they've both been applying at the same time, concurrently to our funding, it's generally worked well. And we've had relationships going back and forth directly with the deliverer, because we need to ascertain information around the projects they're putting forward, but also, then, the assurances we need from the local authority partner in terms of supporting those deliverers as well. So, it's worked well with us, and it seems that there's a good relationship between them, but, again, I am coming from the context of everyone is trying to get to a positive end goal of releasing funding and spending funding on good projects. So, I guess we haven't seen it where it's been done in a position of tension, I guess. But, certainly, the broad experience where it's involved us has showcased that, in many different ways of delivering, the relationship generally has been working quite well. 

10:15

Thank you for that, Owen. It makes sense and comes back to, I think, Jennifer's point earlier about when that relationship works well between those partner organisations, the external organisations can then link into it really well. That makes a lot of sense. I'm just going to quickly go through a couple more bits; I appreciate time is running away. In terms of the different delivery models, I guess some could be seen as more top-down and others could be seen as more bottom-up from the community. Have we seen a difference, especially post pandemic, in the usage and engagement with those facilities, depending on the way in which they are delivered, if it's a classic in-house delivery model versus a community-run-type model? Have we seen usage increase more or less across different models, do you know? If you're not sure, don't worry. 

I don't think—. No, I can see shaking of heads, I'm afraid, Sam. 

Okay. That's fine. And perhaps a final quick point is around the financial benefits and challenges associated with the different delivery models. I would have thought one of those benefits for the charity-based model would be the ability to apply for certain grants that, perhaps, an in-house local authority model may not. Are there other benefits and challenges that we would need to be aware of as a committee with the different types of delivery models, do you think? 

I think we heard about non-domestic rates as well. I think maybe Jennifer mentioned that earlier, Sam. I know there's the context of Neath Port Talbot councillors now, and their decision to bring services back in-house, rather than continue with a trust. I don't know whether anybody wants to comment on perhaps not the specifics of that decision, but whether we've reached a point where that might happen to a greater extent, and whether there are any particular pressures driving that, or whether there might be pressures driving in the opposite direction. Glenn. 

I think in terms of—. For a process to work successfully, that partnership approach in the co-design and co-delivery of transferring a service to an independent not-for-profit—. But there's also the political realisation that, if you do that, you lose an element of control in terms of the political decision making. You can't really have your cake and eat it in terms of control, ownership, management. And I think, sometimes, if you want that to happen, that's going to cause issues, because you need to set something up to give it the best chance of success, to free it away from bureaucracy and some of the red tape. And maybe for local authorities that have done it primarily to get the rate relief, there might be some that think, 'Well, actually, we can't afford that 80 per cent, and, if we spin it out into a charitable trust, we'd get the 80 per cent.' But if that's the only motivation, it's not more about the proactive, 'Let's do things differently, let's work, let's engage, with our workforce differently, let's give it a state of independence; we can still have a contract with that body to deliver services for us, so we will have a say, but we're not going to manage it.' I think that conflict sometimes can be problematic and could potentially lead to some problems where it's not going to work effectively. So, I think you have to be—. Elected members need to be realistic that, if they're going to do it, it's not just about saving, the bottom line of the 80 per cent mandatory rate relief; it's about giving the model—spinning that model out and giving it the best chance to have the freedom to be entrepreneurial and to make changes, and develop better services for the people in that community, really. 

Okay, Glenn. That's great. Okay. Thank you very much. Okay, Sam, we'd better move on then. Joel. 

Thank you, Chair. I've just got a couple of questions, really, if I can, about social value and well-being. One of the things that I'd like to try and ascertain is whether or not local authorities are placing enough emphasis on social value, and, if they're not, what should they change about it. But then, also, how you would go about defining social value. I was reading an article now that there are over 300 metrics to define social value, and there's also a lot of criticism of those processes as well, and I just wanted to get some idea from yourselves there, if I can take the opportunity to. 

10:20

Thanks, Chair. Thanks, Joel. I’m not sure I can speak explicitly to if local authorities place enough emphasis on social value; it’s probably a question better directed to them. But I suspect as a rule it will vary, and often that emphasis on social value is then tested by the financial challenges that, potentially, override them a little bit. I know that there are definitely examples where we’ve seen different areas of Wales exploring the social return on investment, and they’re aiming to better understand the impacts on health, well-being, education—the kind of thing that Jen spoke to in the opening discussion. So, it definitely is evident there, and I think it varies from different area to different area.

In terms of social value, you’re right, it’s a really broad way in which you can capture that. We have at Sport Wales—not explicitly to leisure services, but to sport in general—previously done a social return on investment study in Wales. That did show that for sport—again, not leisure services per se, but sport—you can see around a £295 million return on social value as a result of the impact of sport. It works out at something like £2.88 return for every £1 invested in sport. We’re in the process at the moment, actually, of having recommissioned Sheffield Hallam University, who are one of the world’s leading experts in this social return on investment study, to redo that work in Wales around sport, and there are examples where different local authorities will have done some of that work themselves, and different sports have done some of that work. So, there is a bit of a picture.

To me, in terms of that study, however, I wouldn’t necessarily say that is a absolute given in terms of those outputs. What it does do is really help create the conversations that are required between not just local authorities, but also health services, education services, about how we pool resources to see the preventative impacts of that funding, the preventative impacts of those collaborative programmes around social prescribing, around education and so forth, to maximise the impacts of leisure facilities.

One of the things that I would also stress is that one of the changes that we’ve instigated at Sport Wales is around our relationship with local authorities. Rather than working with 22 local authorities on sport development, in future we’re working at the regional sport partnership level. This means that we are working with those regional entities through local authorities, but also housing associations, third sector charities, universities are involved, sport deliverers—so, we’re bringing a broader sense to the table, essentially, bringing in different and novel expertise, who are coming at it from a different perspective. I think that is a way of creating some social capital in the decision making that involves sports decisions and physical activity decisions and investment that actually looks at things from that social perspective and what is the impact here going to be for the wider community in terms of health, well-being, education, housing and so forth. So, it’s a community investment in the social value of that sport investment, not just sport for sport’s sake. I think that is one model of delivery in future that will help in terms of shifting that emphasis onto social value, as well as the fundamental brass tacks of the funding involved.

Sorry, I made the mistake of trying to unmute myself. Apologies. I just wanted to very briefly add that social value is not a tick-box exercise during procurement, when we’re looking at leisure and library services and working with an external operator, but needs to be embedded throughout the partnership in the way that Owen just described. I just wanted to add one statistic, because Owen got us on to statistics, and I thought, ‘Well, let me add to that.' So, we know that, from data from 4GLOBAL through DataHub, leisure trusts in Wales specifically create £101 of social value per person using their facilities and services, and that is measured through savings to the NHS, reduced crime levels and improved mental and physical health of communities. Now, that’s a statistic from 2019-20, so they have updated their model since then, but I imagine that the total value will actually have increased rather than decreased when they’ve improved their model. But I just wanted to give that as a context to this conversation. 

Thanks, Chair, thanks, Joel. It's a good question, because social value means different things to different people, doesn't it? I'm going to comment on the economic part of social value and procurement, as opposed to the social outcomes of delivery of the service. I think that it's been like wading through treacle over the last 10 to 15 years to improve our procurement processes, to make them more effective, to keep more money and more spend local and impact on our communities. But we have seen some changes. There is some good practice in local authorities, where they now publish the amount that they invest within the radius of their local authority area, or in south Wales et cetera. So, that's good. But we, as Cwmpas, want to go further, really, in terms of looking at the social value of budgets, and we want to look at where there are supplier voids. Because, from a social business perspective, we're trying to get local authorities and public bodies to put procurement opportunities out there for social businesses to respond to. In the worst-case scenario, a commissioner will say, 'Well, we put it out, and nobody responded', and I would say, 'Well, I could have told you that, because we know the supply chain.' So, I think that there are opportunities to go further, in terms of looking, where there are supplier voids, where we can work with a locally established anchor institution, be that a leisure trust or a.n.other social business—work in a proactive way to be able to respond to a future tendering process.

To me, public bodies, local authorities, health boards should look and say, 'We've got £100,000-worth of spend that goes outside of the authority, outside of the country for A. How can we turn that into 10 jobs in Kidwelly?', and look at it in a much more proactive way. So, that's where we are coming from, from a social-value perspective, in terms of trying to turn that budget into economic outputs and jobs and local opportunities through the foundational economy.

10:25

Thank you very much, Glenn. Okay, Joel. Are you content?

Yes, thank you, Chair. Well, just with regards to that, then, as with most things, there is always that lack of data. Is there a worry then, that that could lead to over-generalisations of the social value, if that makes sense?

There's always an issue of how we measure, isn't there? We need a measuring system that actually is transparent and actually that everyone can sign up to. So, there has been work done through the procurement process to try and solve that issue—the TOMs framework, which I'm not overly au fait with, so I'm not best placed to talk about that. But I think, throughout the improvements in procurement, that Welsh Government have been looking at trying to solve that issue, really, in terms of how we actually measure social value in a way that is fair across the board.

But I think there's probably still more to do. The social partnership legislation—I'm not sure if it has become a Bill yet, in terms of I know that it was going through final stages. But, hopefully, that'll be the next form of improvement within procurement within Wales as well. 

Thank you, Chair. Just one more question there. We've heard—

—of delivery, and you mentioned there about the—

Joel, just before you do, I think Owen wanted to come in on this.

Yes, sorry. I didn't mean to stop you speaking there, Joel. Just to say, I think that you're really right in terms of not over-generalising the social return on investment. Just to give some context to the study that we have done—and again it's in a sport rather than leisure capacity—it's a model that Sheffield Hallam have put together, which is pretty internationally renowned now, insofar as they have done it for ourselves previously, Sport England, Sport Northern Ireland, in New Zealand and others. So, there's a history to that particular model.

Now, obviously, what you put into it will change, and there's always new evidence gathered. What we've been really concerned with and focused on in the past is to ensure that we're quite conservative in terms of what goes in there, and, if there isn't a robust data set, to rather rule it out—so, it's always a conservative reporting figure—but also to treat those data and that evidence as a platform for discussion around what can be improved, and where the evidence for sport and leisure can be used to enhance the value to other policy portfolios, rather than a piece of evidence to say, 'Look how wonderful sport is.' It's not there to justify an outcome. It's there to showcase what can be done if we work in partnership. So, I think it's not just the robustness of the evidence, but, actually, why and how we are using it, and being really clear and upfront about that in the first instance.   

Yes. And it was just to say then—. We've heard about alternative models, such as the anchor institution, institute—whatever—and social enterprises, and I just wanted to get some idea of to what extent that is now becoming the default option for local authorities. Where they are identifying that as the go-to thing now, does that necessarily help increase social value? And then, does that necessarily help, as you mentioned, about being proactive to see what else is out there? I know Lyn mentioned about town and community councils, and I've got to declare here that I am a community councillor. To what extent, then, is that almost siphoning them off so they're not even being looked at as an alternative? I know, with my own council, they've got a good programme, with things like RCT Together, where they're looking at doing that. It just feels as if this is like the new phrase, or the new word, 'Social enterprise models are the way forward', but, then, it doesn't necessarily mean that alternative methods are being looked at, if that makes sense.

10:30

Jennifer will probably come in on this, as well, because she's got the stats from a Welsh perspective on what the actual outlook is on it. From my perspective, we saw a lot of activity in this space from 2010 on in terms of where there were budget constraints and looking at different ways. My perception is it's slowed down slightly now, and if I think of RCT, just thinking of the community swimming pools in the parks, for example, there was a lot of drive to try and look for a community response to open the paddling pools. So, we've gone through that now. I sense that, actually—and the numbers will probably back this up—we've gone through that barrier now in terms of there might be some others that are still going to fall into play, and, again, we don't know in terms of further budget constraints in the future, but it's almost—. We've got a nice mix now of different models out there, single-facility models run very much by the local community, or more of the larger trust models that have been facilitated on a transfer basis by the local authority with a stronger board. There may well be opportunities for things to happen in the future, and there will be some individual facilities that went out early as sole delivery model social enterprises that might go into a larger trust. That would be an interesting dynamic, because they jumped before the rest of the facilities went. But I'll probably bow down to other colleagues, and Jennifer in terms of the numbers across Wales, if that's okay.

Thank you very much, Glenn. Jennifer, if you could be quite brief, we only have a few minutes left, I'm afraid. Jennifer.

Yes, of course. So, as Glenn mentioned, alternative models are widespread in Wales, and, as he mentioned, this started around 2010. So, originally, the larger trusts were established for these financial savings that we talked about earlier, but, actually, in the last few years, they have become popular because of that social value and being embedded in all parts of the organisations. Because, especially the larger trusts, they operate on multi-year contracts as well, so those contracts are renewed with the recognition that, actually, working with a charitable trust model delivers that wider social value to the community.

Again, as Glenn mentioned earlier, that aligns with that foundational economy objective from the Welsh Government and local government perspectives as well. Working with a charitable operator for your leisure and library services actually allows a local authority to then allocate resources and focus on other essential services knowing that their leisure and library services are in good hands and actually will be looked after for the benefit of communities.

Thank you very much, Jennifer. We'll have to move on, I'm afraid. Jayne, I think we've dealt with some of the costs and exit strategies, but perhaps the last question is one we ought to get an answer to.

Yes, thank you, Chair. It's been really helpful, and everybody's covered a lot of the points that I wanted to raise. But it's just a final point, really, around the future outlook for local authority leisure and library services, and what steps you think should be taken to ensure that those services are placed on a firm and sustainable footing for the future.

Sure. Thank you, Chair. We have five steps that we identified, but I'll try to be brief. The first one is probably the most obvious one in terms of addressing the financial challenges faced by the service, and that can be done by ensuring that local government is properly resourced, because it is the key partner in leisure and library services, whether it delivers them itself or it works with a charitable operator or another model, obviously, taking into consideration increased costs of living and inflation.

I think the second key element is that we need to ensure we integrate leisure and library services with other services, including health, education, social care, to create that more holistic and person-centred approach to public well-being. The third one is actually investment in decarbonisation and modernisation of leisure and library facilities. I think that's really important to ensure that they remain attractive, accessible, but also environmentally friendly, and ensuring that we achieve our net-zero goals. And the fourth one—apologies, I made a mistake; it's only four actions, not five—the final one, is actually making sure that we continue to support and share best practice of alternative models of service delivery, whether it's the larger trusts, the smaller independent charities or the in-house delivery of local authorities. They have really good practice as well. It's making sure that we focus on that community engagement, social impact and reinvestment of profits into the service for community wealth building.

10:35

Just to show a bit of Sport Wales's contribution to those things that Jen has just mentioned there, that decarbonisation agenda is one that's really high up on our priorities. It's one of our main business plan priorities for the year for the sport sector in general. Some of that will involve capital investments into those facilities we're discussing, which we've previously done in the last financial year, and we will be having the opportunity to do so again next year—not just into leisure facilities, but actually sports clubs and the sports organisations across Wales, and I think that's a really important thing. We've recently launched a sustainability strategy as well, so there are opportunities for us to have more dialogue with partners around that.

And then, secondly, to repeat some of the commentary I said previously around the growing importance of regional sport partnerships, that's very much the point that Jen is making around the need to integrate sport and leisure with decision-making around health, education and so forth, and so making sure that sport and leisure facilities are an integral part of the solution to some of those problems and are thought about at the start of that decision making. I know there are a number of members of the committee here who are really supportive of that agenda, but it isn't the first thought when it comes to budget pressures and it's the last thought when it comes to problem solving. But, rather, at the forefront of decision making, that ultimately can help alleviate some of those budget pressures in the longer term if you are looking at it through that future generations lens, because it actually is providing preventative healthcare solutions and empowering individuals to reach their potential in other areas. So, that sport partnership approach, bringing together different organisations with expertise, insights and knowledge across different sectors, to be able to create innovative sport solutions at a regional level is a really important aspect of our work, moving forward.

Very quickly, Chair, one of the things that I think would be helpful in improving the relationships between unitary authorities and community and town councils—. Our cousins across Offa's Dyke, the Local Government Association and the National Association of Local Councils, a couple of years ago developed a framework for the delivery of local services and place shaping. I think that sort of development would be particularly helpful in terms of looking at how community and town councils can support these very valued services, moving forward.

And just to pick up that, in terms of where community and town councils consider perhaps taking on an asset or a service previously run by a local authority, it's very much social value that determines their decision making, because what they don't want to see, for example—. I can think of one: Pontypridd Town Council recently came to us and said, 'Look, it's not about the cost; we don't want to lose the community centre in this particular area because it's being used by so many voluntary groups within that community.' So, moving forward, some sort of framework developed, or the one that's been developed in England, and perhaps look at how we can develop that within a Welsh context.

Okay, Lyn. Thank you very much and thank you, all, very much. Thank you, Jayne. So, I'd just thank all our witnesses for coming in to give evidence during this evidence session this morning, and you will be sent a transcript to check for factual accuracy. Diolch yn fawr.

3. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd
3. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitemau 4, 5, 6 ac 11 y cyfarfod, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 4, 5, 6 and 11 of the meeting, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Okay, could we also, before committee breaks, deal with item 3, which is a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the following items of this meeting: items 4, 5, 6 and 11? Is committee content to do that? Yes. Thank you very much. Okay. Thank you, all, and we will break until 10:50.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:39.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:39.

11:15

Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 11:15.

The committee reconvened in public at 11:15.

7. Yr Hawl i Gael Tai Digonol - sesiwn dystiolaeth 3
7. The Right to Adequate Housing - evidence session 3

Okay, then, the committee returns to public session for item 7 on the agenda today, which is our third evidence session with regard to our work on the right to adequate housing. And I'm very pleased to welcome, joining us here in person, Faye Patton, policy and project manager for Care and Repair Cymru. And joining us virtually is Jim McKirdle, housing policy officer for the Welsh Local Government Association, and Laura Courtney, head of policy and external affairs with Community Housing Cymru. So, welcome to you all. Perhaps I might begin with some initial questions, and, firstly, whether Wales needs a right to adequate housing incorporated into law and what that right means to you as witnesses. Who would like to offer us an initial answer?

Happy to start, Chair.

The WLGA support the incorporation of the right to adequate housing as a principle, and I think that's where the conversation really kicks off then about what exactly we mean by that right to adequate housing. And I think, probably for everyone who's worked in public services, public policy, we're used to seeing that good housing or bad housing is a determinant of good or bad outcomes for people. So, for me, the right to adequate housing isn't just an end in itself but is a method of producing good or better outcomes for everyone. And that can be about health, it can be about children's educational opportunities, the opportunity to take up additional skills and employment, and a whole range of outcomes. So, for me, the conversation really starts there, about what we mean by 'adequate' and what that can then achieve by way of outcomes in a whole range of other public and private sector spheres.

So, I agree with Jim in the sense that, at Care and Repair, we agree that there should be a right to adequate housing incorporated into law. In terms of what 'adequate' means from a Care and Repair perspective, our client group are older, tend to be owner-occupiers, and so around 85 per cent of clients we help live and own their own homes. So, for us, that means a home that is warm, safe, secure, accessible, free from hazards and, crucially—and this is why I think that having a right to adequate housing is really important—that meets the needs of the person living in that home. And then, in addition to that, because of our client group, obviously, tending to be older, I think that also means a right to stay in their home if they choose and that they're empowered to do so and supported to do so, if that's their choice.

Thank you. Yes, CHC wholeheartedly supports the principle of the right to adequate housing. The vision of the housing association sector is a Wales where good housing is a basic right for all. Good housing, with the right support where it's needed, is crucial for every person or family whatever their circumstances. We all need somewhere safe, warm, comfortable and secure to live—somewhere that's adaptable to our changing needs and connected to our work, education and public services. So, we hope that a legally enshrined right to adequate housing could act as a catalyst to addressing some of the fundamental challenges we face in Wales, which could be achieved by requiring Welsh Government to take a comprehensive strategic approach to tackling the barriers that stand in the way of people accessing adequate housing—so, a kind of golden thread that runs through all the relevant policy areas, including, but not limited to, health, social care, regeneration, planning, achieving net zero, environmental management, and help for individuals to maintain financial resilience, and so as that catalyst for strategic delivery. I can say more about that as we go through the session.

Yes, okay. Thank you, Laura. Just in terms of deliverability and what that right would mean in practical terms, to what extent do you think that there would need to be clear political and financial commitments before a right to adequate housing would really deliver those very practical benefits to people in Wales? Jim.

11:20

Again, I'm happy to start, Chair. I think it's absolutely critical. And perhaps even going a stage back from that, there needs to be the development of a consensus and understanding and agreement across all the stakeholders about what we actually mean. In our submission, and I've seen it elsewhere, there are seven conditions suggested by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which we think provide a good framework for at least the start of a discussion about what a definition of 'adequate housing' might actually look like. And it certainly acts as a catalyst, then, for those discussions that Laura and Faye have described to take forward so that we build that consensus.

So, I think once we've started that journey—and I would say from the outset that there needs to be greater engagement with stakeholders than we've had the opportunity to have so far in order to develop that consensus and understanding—it's only then that we can start to build the momentum and the clarity about what will be required in order to deliver on those seven conditions, or whatever else we decide is the right answer for Wales. But, I think absolutely clear political and financial commitments will be required, and leadership, I think, so it's not just about politicians and Welsh Government delivering on that clarity and leadership, but also through organisations like local authorities, and housing providers are happy to give advice—a whole range of stakeholders across public services and other services—in order to have that understanding and then to play their part in delivering those rights. 

Okay. Thank you, Jim. Would anybody like to add to that? Faye.

Yes, I'd like to add to that. So, legislating, obviously, will take time. So, the question was about the commitments before a right to adequate housing can be delivered, and I think in the meantime there is lots of work that can get started on some of the fundamentals that we need to know to realise a right to adequate housing. And that, I think, means ultimately understanding exactly what the current landscape of housing is in Wales. So, for example, the Welsh housing condition survey was last conducted in 2017. That showed that 18 per cent of homes in Wales had a category 1 hazard present. And I anticipate—. Obviously, 2017 was before COVID, before the cost-of-living crisis, so I anticipate—and we're seeing it in our service delivery ourselves, actually, at Care and Repair, where clients are coming to us with increasingly complex needs and increasingly complex hazards present in their home. So, I think having a housing condition survey that is not just about what the state of the housing stock is like but actually the people living in those homes as well and what their needs are. So, for example, an older person living in a terraced house, for example, in the Valleys, might have increased frailty, so they will have very different needs to someone on that same street living in a home. But actually, understanding the needs of the people living in the housing stock and the state of the housing stock is really important to actually enact a right to adequate housing. 

And I think that comes through, obviously, the survey, restarting the Welsh housing condition survey, but also engaging with the housing sector, and specifically engaging with the needs of those who are the most affected by poor housing. So, this right talks about targeting vulnerable groups, and Care and Repair's client base is essential in that. We help older people but also four out of five of our clients identify as being disabled. So, having conversations with those people who are living in homes that are already not meeting their needs and then what they need in order to be supported to live safely and independently at home I think is integral. And I don't think it's an either/or, or it's a before or after; we can start those conversations now. It's not about having a right and then get going, there's a lot of scoping and groundwork to do before we start that. 

Thank you. Yes, I couldn't agree more in terms of using the time now to build an understanding of where the challenges are. I agree with everything said, also, in terms of increasing the supply of the social housing side, the barriers that exist within the planning system, the sustainability of the affordable housing contractor sector that we work with, and the way in which policies that are trying to help us to achieve our ambitions, say, for example, in terms of reaching net zero, environmental protection and tackling the housing crisis, the way in which they're currently working together or in which they might be working against each other and not providing the clarity that's needed. 

As I've said before, we would hope that the right to adequate housing would mean that there always has to be a Welsh Government, cross-Government strategy to address the challenges we face in housing, but there is absolutely no need to wait for the right to be implemented; we can kind of model that now. So, we can set the strategic direction, in particular with regard to bold strategic action on those barriers to increasing housing supply, which is so critical, and working across policy silos there; investment and a real understanding of challenges within the workforce, in particular in relation to homelessness support and care staff, and clarity on the road map and investment that is going to be provided in housing to enable us to reach net-zero targets. 

So, these are the urgent challenges of today, and, as I say, working in a parallel track with the development of the right to adequate housing, we can model an approach going forward that might be realised through the progressive realisation proposed by the Act. 

11:25

Okay, Laura. Thanks very much. Just to remind committee members with us virtually that, if you wish to come in at any time, just raise your hand physically rather than virtually. Okay, over to Carolyn Thomas, then. Carolyn. 

How does the right to adequate housing align with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015?

Okay, yes, go on. It aligns really well with the well-being of future generations Act. Improving housing stock obviously links to healthier health outcomes for people, a more equal Wales in terms of improving accessibility of housing support, and that sort of thing. And if we continue to work in line with policies we're already delivering, or implementing, like the optimised retrofit programme, for example, we will be improving the housing stock in a calm and friendly way as well that would result in a more resilient Wales. 

The point I want to make, though, about the well-being of future generations Act, and housing specifically, is that I don't think the housing stock is seen as a national asset, especially in the owner-occupied sector. So, we see it every day—we see thousands of properties that are unfit for future generations, because we don't see the housing stock as an asset to be improved in this way. And, actually, improving the housing stock now, and getting homes up to standard, in condition, actually is improving the housing stock for future generations. 

Also, we have an ageing population in Wales, so we also need to be talking about the housing stock in terms of future generations of older people, and what their needs are going to be. And we are already seeing that in terms of our service delivery at Care and Repair. So, for example, we help people who are 60-plus, or 50-plus who are living with sensory loss, but, actually, 82 per cent of our clients are over 70. So, we're already seeing that demand within our system, and having to meet that increasing demand. So, when we're thinking about future generations, we also need to be thinking of the cohorts of people who are going to be coming through our housing system, and who is going to be living in it. 

Can I just come back on that? Obviously, at the moment, it's for Welsh Government to provide—they're aiming to provide 20,000 low-carbon houses for rent—I think it's for rent. We've been discussing previously that, to do that, it's very costly, and should they maybe reduce the standard, basically. So, for a really good, low-carbon house, the passive house standard costs £230,000, but if they reduced the standard, it could be £195,000, but they're insisting on carrying on with—. In a way, I guess they are looking at the future generations there, but in the private rented sector, are you saying that 85 per cent of your clients are in their own homes, so, maybe look more at helping them to invest in their own private housing stocks? Just to get clarity, sorry, Faye.

No, that's absolutely fine. So, Care and Repair—specifically, our support is targeted at people who are owner-occupiers, who own their own homes, who are living in their own homes. But, increasingly, again, because of the way that people are living, we are starting to see more people in the private rented sector as well. So, those people in their sixties and fifties that we help, we are seeing a marginal increase of people who are in the private rented sector. 

In terms of decarbonising owner-occupied housing, you're right, that's a massive challenge, and, specifically, our client group is really people on a low income who would need support. I know that the Chartered Institute of Building have done some interesting work on incentivising decarbonising and retrofitting for the owner-occupied sector in cases where they can afford it. But, yes, there would need to be support for owner-occupiers, in our context anyway, to decarbonise and retrofit their homes. I've not seen the proposals for the new iteration of the Warm Homes programme, for example, but I know that that's going to include, or I hope that that's going to include more carbon-friendly and carbon-neutral options within that that would be supporting people on low incomes.

11:30

Thank you. Yes, it was back with regard to the future generations Act. I completely agree in terms of the capacity of this to contribute to the realisation of that Act. Also, we would hope that it would work in a similar way, which would mean that everything is seen through a housing lens, as the future generations Act helps us to see through a future generations lens. And also happy to make comment in terms of decarbonisation and that 20,000 homes target. I know that we're going to be talking about the challenges to increasing housing supply. So, happy to touch on that for the social housing sector if that's helpful.

Well, my next question would be: how would this right to adequate housing interact with the existing housing policy and legislation? So, that would lead you into that response.

Absolutely. I think the intention of the right is essentially that it provides a strategic drive for the delivery of current existing housing policy and legislation. So, it creates that right strategic environment in which to deliver it and helps us to assess the extent to which existing policy and legislation is working effectively. Obviously, it needs to underpin and enable partnership working arrangements, and it will really require Welsh Government to take a leadership role in creating that whole-system approach. Also, making sure that communities in Wales have a voice within housing policy and planning to really put the communities at the heart of this.

In terms of the existing policy in relation to the 20,000 homes and development, it's incredibly difficult to build homes at this point. There are significant barriers. We're in the centre of two storms, really. One of personnel and costs—the inflationary environment—and one of a complex system of policies that really needs completely unpicking to make sure that it's working in a streamlined way. So, as I say, I would hope that the right to adequate housing would create that strategic environment and make sure that we're always seeing all of our ambitions in Wales through a housing lens to make sure that, in particular those around environmental management and around climate change, are taking advantage of the opportunities to work with the housing sector to make sure that we can increase the pace and scale of delivery of the affordable homes, in particular from our perspective, that we desperately need within Wales.

Thank you. Just to add to what Laura's said there, I think the question is about legislation and about policy. To touch on legislation first, I think housing is an area where there's been quite a bit and is quite a bit of current legislative activity, as you as committee members will know, around the—[Inaudible.]—homelessness, for example, and currently, around the implementation of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016. And I think experience—even those recent examples—shows that it can be quite complex in terms of the way that the interaction between different pieces of legislation can work. So, I think it's an excellent example where we need a good level of detailed conversation and engagement with stakeholders before we run up against implementation problems. So, that certainly underpins the need for that engagement.

In a policy sense, I think that housing is a rich mix of devolved and non-devolved issues. So, we've got the headline devolved matters related to housing here in Wales, but there's no getting away from the very real influence that non-devolved matters, such as welfare, have for very many people in Wales. I think to unpick things like affordability and other aspects of what a prescription around adequate housing might look like, we've got to front up to the mixture of policy implications on both a devolved and non-devolved basis and those complexities.

11:35

Thank you very much, Jim. Is that okay, Carolyn? Thank you very much. Jayne Bryant.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Thank you for joining us this morning. What impact do you think a right to adequate housing is likely to have on reducing inequality, and what groups do you think would benefit the most from that?

I'm happy to go first. I think the right to adequate housing has the capacity to benefit all groups of people who experience inequality. I think that would need to be explicitly baked in to the legislation from the start. I understand that progressive realisation would mean the Bill, as proposed, would set a broader ambition, and the nature of implementation would be determined over time, but we would advocate that tackling inequality should be one of the core principles of legislation.

One example in which this might be possible in terms of tackling inequality would be in helping us to ensure that we're building the right affordable homes for people in our communities—for example, whether larger family homes, which are needed to tackle overcrowding, which is a key objective of the antiracism plan for Wales, are being built where they're needed, and also concerns about housing inequality for young people, who are more likely to need one-bedroom properties. We have local housing market assessments that assess the needs of people, but this would really help us to take that bird's-eye view across what's being delivered in Wales, to try and work out the way in which we really are providing the homes that people need through the social housing programme.

And also, as I've mentioned before, when we've spoken to housing associations around this, they really felt that this would be a way to help to ensure that the planning policy and housing policy as a whole has an increased representation of tenants and partners and stakeholders across the piece. I'm sorry, not tenants—I mean communities. We're often talking about the people who live in our homes, but for this, it's really communities across Wales and what they need in terms of homes.

Thank you very much. Jim, I think you wanted to come in as well.

To add to what Laura said, hopefully without repeating too much of it, I think one of the major impacts will be on those who are not currently housed at all. We've got in excess of 9,000 people currently in emergency temporary accommodation provided by authorities in Wales, and that number is increasing every month. We've got a huge number of people without access to any kind of housing at the moment, so trying to reduce that inequality will be a key driver. Laura's mentioned the significant mismatch in the supply of housing—single-person accommodation or larger homes for households—out there. We see that, certainly amongst that cohort of people who are in emergency temporary accommodation at the moment who are in need of single-person accommodation, that, frankly, doesn't exist and isn't affordable in many areas of Wales at the moment. I think that that strategic perspective on what the needs of our current population are is going to be very welcome in taking that holistic approach, again, that Laura described earlier on.

I think we've seen, through some publications—I think it was the most recent Equality and Human Rights Commission report, 'Is Wales Fairer?', which came out in 2018—a focus on the conditions for older and disabled people in Wales, where there's a lack of information about the supply of adequately adapted or adaptable homes, which I'm sure Faye will go on to talk about as well. I again go back to the impact of non-devolved issues here. We've seen also, through that EHRC report, a focus on UK-wide welfare reforms, which have disproportionately had an impact on different sections of our communities and the poorest in society, particularly women, disabled people, ethnic minorities and lone parents. I think having that in the mix and seeing how the right to adequate housing can try to address some of those inequalities will be an important part of making progress.

11:40

I'm very happy to pick up on what Jim said about accessible housing. As I mentioned, care and repair services are targeted at older, vulnerable owner-occupiers, and, actually, four out of five of our clients identify as being disabled as well. So, I think there are huge opportunities here, and having this right in law, I think, will have a really big impact on accessible housing. For example, we've known for a really long time that we don't have enough accessible housing in Wales. The Wales Audit Office predicted that, in about 2025, so in two years' time, there'll be around 50,000 people aged 65 and older who are going to need housing adaptations, essentially. Care and Repair are seeing that as well, in the increase in demand for our service. Last year, we completed around 20,000 home adaptations, which was the highest amount of home adaptations we'd completed since 2014. So, we're seeing that demand increase.

But we still don't have enough accessible housing, and so I think having a legislative right to adequate housing would really drive forward the impetus to actually start tackling this problem that we know exists. Because having the right would require the Welsh Government and other public sector bodies to make a plan to meet this additional demand that we know is going to be there. This could be then reviewed, organisations like Care and Repair could work with the Welsh Government or other organisations. And if we continue to not have enough accessible housing, under this right in law, we would then need to justify why we didn't have enough accessible housing. So, it's that accountability—this mechanism of having the right in law provides a mechanism for accountability as to why we're not meeting the needs of older and more vulnerable people in Wales when it comes to their housing. That would really help us deliver better outcomes for older people living in their own homes.

The other point I wanted to make, if that's okay, is that, often, as I mentioned, our clients are living in some of the worst housing conditions, and come to us after they've reached crisis point. They come to us because they've had an interaction with the health service, for example—they've had a fall in their home, because their home's unsuitable for them; it's got hazards and they've fallen over. Because this is tenure neutral, it will provide more impetus to help vulnerable people, rather than looking at it from a tenure perspective. As I mentioned, older people are much more likely to own their own homes, but it would mean that for those people who are unseen, who we only see once they have reached crisis point, it will give that impetus to be able to start designing policy in way that would help them. These are the people who are too proud to admit that there's a problem in their home, or don't recognise it because they've learned over time to cope with draughty windows, leaky windows—whatever it is. Often, they call us, and they say, 'Oh, my window's leaking', and, actually, you go into the property, and, yes, the window is leaking, but because the window's leaking, there's now water in the electrics, so the electrics aren't working, there's dangerous wiring, there's draught, there's damp, there's mould, there's condensation. People just learn to live with these things. And because this Act is really people focused, it will help us, really, to give people rights when they're struggling in these situations but don't necessarily know that there's anything they can do about it.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Gadeirydd, a diolch i chi i gyd am ymuno efo ni y bore yma. Ddaru ni glywed ynghynt—Jim, dwi'n meddwl, oedd wedi sôn—bod tai, boed yn dda neu'n wael, yn benderfynydd o lwyddiannau pobl mewn bywyd. Felly, meddwl ydw i am gostau a phris tai o ansawdd gwael ar hyn o bryd. Beth ydy cost tai annigonol i'r Llywodraeth rŵan hyn, fuasech chi'n ei ddweud? Dwi'n cyfeirio yn y fan yma at adroddiadau sydd wedi bod am gost ar iechyd pobl, er enghraifft—rydyn ni'n gwybod bod pobl yn byw mewn tai tamp ac yna'u bod nhw'n cael problemau anadlol, ac yn y blaen. Felly, beth fuasech chi'n ei feddwl ydy cost tai annigonol i'r Llywodraeth?

Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you to you all for joining us this morning. We heard earlier—I think it was Jim who mentioned it—that houses, whether good or bad, were a determinant in terms of people's success in life. So, I was just thinking about the costs and the price of poor-quality housing at present. What is the cost of inadequate housing to the Government, would you say, now? I'm referring here to reports regarding the cost on people's health, for example—we know that people live in damp housing and that they then have respiratory problems, and so on. So, what do you think the cost of inadequate housing is to the Government?

11:45

I'm happy to go first, Chair. It's very difficult to quantify, isn't it? I think that if you look back to where we started around what the conditions that might apply to a definition of 'adequate', then you'd get to see the different ways in which that cost could be calculated and built up. I think there is no doubt that the cost is significant, but I would certainly hesitate to put a figure immediately upon that. I think where you see the kind of approaches where, in policy terms, we've been able to improve housing stock, and I'm probably talking about the social housing stock at this stage through initiatives like the Wales housing quality standard, you can see that over a period of 20 years, we actually are able to make a material difference to the condition of the housing stock, and it's there. What we need to do then is to have the metrics to go on and measure, for that population, what those better outcomes have actually started to accrue like over that period, rather than just be measuring energy performance certificate levels, or some of the inputs. It's about the impacts on people's lives. So, I'm maybe not answering your question directly there, I'm afraid, but it's a complicated equation that has a positive and/or detrimental effect on many aspect of people's lives.    

I'm just going to agree very much with Jim again. I think, as he has said, in defining where we're looking for where the costs lie, it is useful to use any assessment of what an adequate home is that we have already, as Jim has mentioned, within the Wales housing quality standard, the areas of focus within there. So, it would be useful to consider the impact if they are not present. And, as Jim has said, it's very difficult to assess the scale of the cost in terms of health and social care, inequality, people not being able to maintain financial resilience, not being able to seek work because their home situation is not adequate for them to maintain resilience or have certainty over their lives.

As Jim has also mentioned before, there are huge numbers of people presenting as homeless, there's a lack of affordable homes for them to move into, and there is a cost there as well. There's a huge cost to them as individuals, but a cost to the state. So, I think it would be an area of inquiry in terms of the current cost to the state when we're looking at the introduction of a right to adequate housing, to see where inadequate housing is causing huge pinch points. I think that's what I was talking about right at the beginning. It has to be a cross-Government strategy, and this kind of inquiry in terms of the true cost would help to incentivise all departments to come to the table. I think the research that the Back the Bill campaign has done has set a starting point, if you like, for the kind of savings that could be made if adequate housing was available to all.  

I agree with the points that have been raised. I think the reality is we don't know the cost of inadequate housing, because quite a lot of the repercussions and ramifications of inadequate housing are hidden until someone reaches that crisis point where they interact, for example, with the NHS. And in that context, yes, we can quantify it. I know Public Health Wales have published some research saying that the cost of cold homes is around £95 million per year to the Welsh NHS, but, actually, that stat came out—. I mean, I've been seeing that for a couple of years. That predates the cost-of-living crisis. That predates the fact that we've just had a winter where, in our client group, anyway, from our casework experience, we're seeing people who haven't put their heating on for six months, and then the health ramifications of that—the increasing calls we're getting about damp, mould and condensation. 

The BRE Trust have also done some work around the costs of improving the housing stock in Wales. The upfront would be recouped over six years in savings to the NHS. So, there is research out there, but as Laura and Jim have said, it's really difficult to quantify something when you don't actually know what the need is, basically. I do think, though, the Act does offer the opportunity to move away from crisis management and start looking at preventative approaches to health, and we can quantify those kinds of cost savings in an okay way, from a Care and Repair perspective, anyway. So, we know that, for every £1 spent on housing adaptations, we save the Welsh NHS around £7.50, and we've got a specialist hostel to healthier home service, which