A new map of Wales’ community-run assets proves that the idea of a strong community sprit in Wales isn’t a myth, according to the charity behind it.
Cataloguing over 400 community-led assets in Wales, the new map demonstrates the huge range of services and opportunities they provide across Wales, Building Communities Trust said.
They said that the importance of these assets had been amplified during the pandemic, as they were often of special value to vulnerable groups – people with low incomes, the isolated and those with mental and physical health problems.
They include key social pillars, such as post offices, pubs, community centres and parks, or community hubs, shops and tourist attractions that boost the local economy. In geographically isolated communities – like parts of the upper Valleys – they ensure facilities exist that may otherwise be available.
The BCT said the Welsh Government and Local Government are failing to give due regard to their contribution, causing “great frustration”.
Chief Executive of BCT, Chris Johnes, says: “Our discussions have exposed real frustration from people working tirelessly in their communities; people feel their work is either being ignored by public bodies or taken for granted. When they’re the ones sorting out youth clubs, foodbanks, childcare groups and social clubs, or running key community facilities, it’s rather galling.”
Altogether, BCT estimates that the 438 organisations are worth at least £50 million to local economies.
Over half generate incomes of between £100,000 and £1 million, with a further 5% earning over £1 million.
Peter Llewellyn, a trustee of Hubberston and Hakin Community Centre in Pembrokeshire said it had given “a new lease of life” to the community.
“The hall was on the brink of closure in 2015, but a group of us were adamant that wouldn’t happen, because the idea of the hall closing its doors was unthinkable,” he said.
“It had been the backdrop to so many of the local community’s lives growing up. Now that we’ve taken over the hall, it’s become more of a wellbeing hub – ‘the Hub of Hubberston’ – with up to 300 people using the Centre every week.”
Unfortunately, Chris Johnes said, community capacity and social infrastructure are not evenly spread across Wales, with poorer urban areas least likely to benefit. The Welsh Government needed to take action, he said.
“This capacity that we have now mapped across Welsh communities has been a strength that has been hiding in plain sight for many years,” he said.
“Welsh Government and Local Government must put more faith in local people to know – and do – what’s in their best interests.
“This is why we’re calling on the next Welsh Government to put in place a Minister for Communities that will prioritise this work, and ensure a more consistent approach to providing a supportive environment for community organisations, at a time when their work is needed more than ever.”