Y Pwyllgor Llywodraeth Leol a Thai
Local Government and Housing Committee04/05/2023
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Carolyn Thomas AS|
|Jayne Bryant AS|
|Joel James AS|
|John Griffiths AS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Mabon ap Gwynfor AS|
|Sam Rowlands AS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Amy Staniforth||Sefydliad Siartredig Llyfrgellwyr a Gweithwyr Gwybodaeth Cymru|
|Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals Wales|
|Carwyn Jones||Cyngor Sir Ynys Môn|
|Isle of Anglesey County Council|
|Chris Neath||Rhwydwaith Cymheiriaid Cenedlaethol Llyfrgelloedd a Reolir gan y Gymuned|
|Community Managed Libraries National Peer Network|
|James Hooker||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Julie James AS||Y Gweinidog Newid Hinsawdd|
|Minister for Climate Change|
|Nicola Pitman||Cymdeithas Prif Lyfrgellwyr Cymru|
|Society of Chief Librarians Cymru|
|Rob Stewart||Cyngor Abertawe|
|Sarah Rhodes||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Sharon Davies||Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru|
|Welsh Local Government Association|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Catherine Hunt||Ail Glerc|
|Stephen Davies||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
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 09:04.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The meeting began at 09:04.
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 way, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place. Public items of 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, please? Joel.
It's basically with regard to the evidence session this afternoon, where one of the evidence givers is the relationship manager of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. I'm also a member of that organisation.
Okay. Thank you very much for that, Joel. Thank you.
We will move on now to item 2, our sixth evidence session on the right to adequate housing. I'm very pleased to welcome the Minister for Climate Change, Julie James, to committee, together with two of her officials, Sarah Rhodes, who is interim deputy director of housing policy for the Welsh Government, and James Hooker, who is head of private sector housing policy. Welcome to you all. Thank you for joining committee this morning.
Minister, perhaps I might begin with a couple of initial questions before other members of the committee ask further questions. On the Green Paper, Minister, I wonder whether you could inform committee of progress with the Green Paper on the right to adequate housing and rent controls and the potential timescale that's currently envisaged.
Bore da, Cadeirydd. Bore da, pawb.
Good morning, Chair. Good morning, everyone.
It's very nice to be here. So, yes, absolutely. We have a commitment as part of our co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru to publish a White Paper in this Government term, and the timing for that is summer 2024. That will set out proposals for a right to adequate housing. It's also important, though, to point out that that isn't the only thing the White Paper will look at. It will also look at fair rents and new approaches to making homes affordable for those on local incomes. So, as part of developing the evidence base to understand the potential impacts and consequences of that, we'll be launching a Green Paper, which is basically a call for evidence, before the summer recess this year.
We've got a stakeholder advisory group established so that we have a collaborative approach and appropriate representation from organisations that represent tenants, landlords and local government, who are the main categories of people impacted and likely to have the kind of data that we're looking at. Lots of the people on our advisory group, I know, Chair, have already provided evidence to your inquiry.
We know that we have lots of data and evidence gaps, particularly in relation to the affordability aspect of a right to adequate housing, and that's why the Green Paper is a call for evidence. So, pretty succinctly, really, we want to help build our evidence base to inform the development of the White Paper. We want the White Paper to be a direct route to a Bill. Sometimes, you have a White Paper and it looks more like a Green Paper, because it's a wide, discursive document, but we're having a Green Paper and then a White Paper in order to get a proper build-up to a Bill that would introduce the right to adequate housing.
The Bill is not part of the co-operation agreement, the White Paper is, and the reason for that is that we are very unlikely to be able to get that Bill to come forward in this Senedd term, given the legislative timetable that we already have. We also have, of course, as the Chair will know, as the committee will know, a very large homelessness piece of legislation on its way as well, and it's been my long-stated policy that we need to do those sequentially, because we need to—. I would very much like a right to adequate housing to be enforceable, and I would like people to be able to get adequate housing as a result of that. It's not a statement of intent; it's an actual right.
To do that, we have to establish what we mean by 'affordable', what we mean by 'adequate'. We also have to put local authorities into a position where they can get people adequate housing, and, to do that, we need to reform the homelessness legislation. We have—the lawyers don't like me saying this, but—a sticking plaster at the moment over the legislation that allows us to give a service to everyone in Wales, but we want to put that right so that it's properly set out in law, and then the next Bill will follow as a matter of course.
Thank you very much for that, Minister, and we'll be coming on to other legislative questions later on in this session. Could you tell me the extent to which there have been discussions across Welsh Government departments to develop the policy for a right to adequate housing, where you are in that process?
Yes, certainly. Myself and Cabinet colleagues are all fully supportive of the general principle that everyone should be able to access adequate housing. We've been consistently driving housing policy and practice towards that goal the entire time. The ending of homelessness in all of its forms has been a top priority in driving towards that. We've already taken and continue to take significant steps towards meeting the criteria to deliver housing adequacy, and we do that on a cross-Government basis. So, I've got a number of examples I could give, Chair; the work to end homelessness is obviously a prime example of that. We work with education, health, social services, criminal justice, local authorities, to take forward our shared goal of ending homelessness, pooling budgets and developing joint programmes of work, and all of our policy and legislative work across housing is taken forward in collaboration with colleagues right across Welsh Government, as well as external partners. I can specifically name some, but every department is involved. We specifically work, for example, with the Deputy Minister for mental health, we work with substance abuse colleagues, we work with the Deputy Minister for children, we work with health overall, economy. Even rural affairs is included here, because we have rural housing enablers in place; we have a whole project around second homes, which the committee will be familiar with. All of these policies are driving towards adequate housing across Wales, and so we have a very long and very well-established process for pulling in colleagues from across Government. Well, and indeed, wider—the wider government family, like local government as well.
Okay. Diolch yn fawr, Gweinidog. And now Sam Rowlands. Sam.
Thank you, Mr Chairman. Morning, Minister. Thank you for your time with us this morning. Thank you, then, for just walking through some of your process of consideration around Green Paper into White Paper and moving through from there, and we have already heard as a committee from a number of stakeholders who have expressed some support for the right to adequate housing into Welsh law, and I wonder whether you would be able to expand a bit further on how you think we would see benefits from incorporating a right to adequate housing into Welsh law, and what tangible difference will it actually make being law, rather than being a directive, as it were.
That's really quite a complex question, really, Sam. So, legislation isn't a panacea here. It doesn't in and of itself deliver adequate housing for everyone. We have to have a series of strategies, policies and programmes that deliver the housing, which then allows everyone to have that adequate housing. So, we've got all kinds of issues going on there. We've got record levels of funding across housing portfolios here in the Welsh Government that will deliver a housing supply and so on. What we want is for local authorities to be able to deliver it in practice. So, we want, when somebody is asking for adequate housing at a housing options service, for example, for the local authority to be in a position to say, 'Well, yes, we have x, y, z on offer'. That absolutely is not the case at the moment. We have a lot of work to do to get there.
We have to have collective understanding of what we mean by a right to adequate housing. So, there are seven specific criteria that are put forward by the UN, and my official James, who is in the committee with me today, is more than happy to take the committee through those, if that would be helpful, Chair; I'm sure you've heard of them before. And then we're focusing on putting all the building blocks in place in order to deliver housing adequacy for everyone in practice.
So, I suppose the philosophical answer to the question, Sam, is that I think that it's a fundamental human right that you are adequately housed, and that it's the mark of a civilised society that we can adequately house our citizens. I don't think there's much disagreement with that. The issue we're dealing with is the route to get there, and then that's why I've just talked about the route for a Green Paper, White Paper, Bill. The Green Paper is to call for evidence. We know that we don't have enough Welsh-specific data on what we're looking for, so we need to fill in those data gaps, and both the officials with me on this call can talk to you in a great deal of detail if you want them to about exactly what the data gaps we're looking at are.
I chair a housing cabinet with members across Welsh Government and we talk there about how we get data together; we collaborate with various centres for collecting housing data, statistical organisations and so on. But we need to know what we're doing, because interventions in the housing market can have consequences that are unintended, so we like to make sure that we have the data sets available. It's very difficult to answer what seems like a simple question simply, I'm afraid, so it's a complex series of building blocks we're putting together here to get us to where we want to go.
Thanks, Minister, and I certainly recognise the complexity of this, absolutely. I wonder is it worth, then, as you mentioned, hearing just what those perhaps top two or three biggest data gaps might be at the moment and perhaps how you're seeking to resolve them. Because, I guess that's part of the challenge or concern you might have about incorporating this into law.
And secondly, I wonder whether we could hear about your thoughts on the challenges it might bring for public bodies in Wales, whether they be local authorities or other public bodies that would be responsible for actually delivering this on the ground.
Yes, thanks, Sam. I'm going to ask James to come in and just talk you through the process that we've been identifying the data gaps and so on with, if you don't mind, Chair, and then we can go on to the issues with local government.
In actual fact, we were going to come on to research and data later on actually, so, I wonder, Sam, if we might park that just for the time being and that you might address the other issues that Sam has raised at this stage, Minister.
So, the issues for local authorities are pretty straightforward. Sam, you'll be very familiar with them from your previous role. we want to have a service that is adequate. We want to re-enable the local authorities that are stockholders to build, and the ones that aren't stockholders to work with their registered social landlords to get a housing supply in place. It's not just about new build though, it's about bringing a whole series of other measures to bear, and it's about changing the way that we run housing options.
So, the committee, I know, is very familiar with this, but we've been working with the homelessness action group for quite some time. You'll know that, just as a matter of serendipity, they had given us a report just before the pandemic hit. We were able to implement that report in a very short period of time, when we'd originally intended it to be over a number of years, and we've kept that approach up.
But there's an enormous culture change to be driven through the system here, because, in fairness to colleagues in housing options, for many years, they've operated what's effectively a rationing system, and we've turned that around into a front-facing service for everyone. And that's quite a big culture change for them. So, we've been working with the local authorities to do that transformational change. It's very much welcomed by most of the staff in the service, because the service has not been set up in that way. And then, we've worked with local authorities around the way that they work, either with their own housing departments as a whole authority challenge, using what's called, the 'trauma-informed approach'. And we've worked with the non-stockholding authorities to work well with their RSLs in a similar way. We've got a lot of work to do there, which, Chair, I'm more than happy to talk—I could talk your arm off, as you know—I'll talk very happily about that. But basically, we're trying to get a system change here and local authorities are absolutely at the heart of it.
Sam, are you content?
Yes, and just perhaps a brief response further to that, Minister, I was wondering whether you think that, whilst they may well commit and want to see this change, do you think they have the capacity to be able to then deliver on this change?
Yes, so, that's the point of the data and the call for evidence, isn't it? What we want to know is: what does this system require? So, when we go out with the Green Paper, we're expecting local government to respond by saying, 'Well, if you're going to do that, then we will require this.' And we expect the RSLs to do that; we expect the tenants' organisations—you know, we expect people to do that.
And then, the White Paper will have a set of proposals, which again, is a consultation document, obviously, for local government to respond to. And then, if we're going to deliver a right to adequate housing, local government has to be in a position to be able to deliver it—they are the delivery arm, effectively. Obviously, they do that in a variety of ways: through the RSLs and through their dealings with the private rented sector, through their local development plan and their planning process and through their homelessness and housing functions. You'll know how diverse the services that a local authority provides are in this sphere. But we need that system change. So, the whole point of the Green Paper and then White Paper process is to make sure that we have an adequate consultation mechanism in place. And, in the meantime, I continue to meet very regularly with both leaders of councils and with housing planning cabinet members in order to make sure that we're driving towards that outcome.
Okay. Thank you very much, Minister. Thank you, Sam. Mabon ap Gwynfor. Mabon.
Bore da. Diolch yn fawr iawn i chi am ddod y bore yma. Rwy'n falch iawn o glywed eich datganiadau agoriadol. Dwi'n deall yn ôl yr hyn rydych chi wedi'i ddweud eich bod chi eisiau gweld polisïau gwahanol yn cael eu gosod mewn trefn—dwi'n meddwl mai 'sequentially' yr oeddech chi wedi'i ddefnyddio fel term. Ydych chi ddim yn teimlo, hwyrach, o gyflwyno deddfwriaeth mor fuan â phosib, gan gymryd bod angen y data, ar yr hawl i dai—the right to adequate housing—y buasai deddfwriaeth o'r fath yn sicrhau bod y polisïau eraill dŷch chi am weld yn cael eu gwireddu yn cael eu gwireddu oherwydd bod deddfwriaeth o'r fath mewn lle, heb felly orfod gwneud pethau mewn trefn?
Good morning. Thank you for joining us this morning. I'm very pleased to hear your opening remarks. I understand from what you've said that you want to see different policies being put in order—I think that 'sequentially' was the word that you used. Don't you feel that, in introducing legislation as soon as possible, assuming that we need the data, on the right to adequate housing, that kind of legislation would ensure that other policies that you want to see being delivered would be delivered, because that legislation would be in place without doing things sequentially?
No, Mabon, I'm afraid I don't agree with that at all. I think you could put a statement of principle into legislation, but you can't put a delivery mechanism into the legislation. We have a principle of not putting legislation in place without all of the funding available for it. I can't imagine what the regulatory impact assessment or the financial assessment of such an Act would be at this time. It would have to include all of the things I've just talked about, and those things are not in place yet. So, quite genuinely, I want to see this—it's something we should have; all civilised societies should have it. I absolutely agree with that. But we have a long road to travel to get to it, and I want it to be deliverable and implementable.
The committee will be very familiar with the fact that it took us many years to implement the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016. Fundamental system change takes a long time. It's not just about the principle in the legislation. It's about the ability to actually deliver it on the ground. We want to learn the lessons of the renting homes Act in putting the homelessness legislation in place. That is a transformational piece of legislation by itself. This committee will be dealing with it. That has fundamental changes in the way that we approach housing—really fundamental changes. We need to put that in place first and get the system change running first before we then put the rights that come with it in place. If you do it the other way around, we will have something that nobody can implement and that everybody just shrugs about. We've had unattainable goals put in place before, where everybody just—'Well, nobody can do that, so that was interesting', and it just doesn't happen. There are many examples of that, Mabon, that you and I could discuss at great length, you know, 'Why didn't that happen?' And I really want this to happen.
So, we want to put a practical set of steps in place that get us to this goal, which is adequate housing for everyone. It's a very straightforward goal, isn't it—adequate housing for everyone? It's a right. You have a right to it. But at the moment, we wouldn't be able to implement that right. We can't give everyone at the moment adequate housing. That's the horrible truth of it, and we need to get our system to change itself around so that we can do that. That will take a little more time. We've gone a long way towards it in the last three years, but we've got a few more years to go yet before we get there.
Diolch. Dwi'n derbyn yr hyn rydych chi wedi'i ddweud o ran bod angen gwybod effaith, er enghraifft, ariannol polisi o'r fath—beth mae o'n mynd i gostio—ac mae angen inni gael y wybodaeth yna. Mae data rydym ni wedi'i dderbyn ac rydych chi wedi'i weld, wrth gwrs, gan Alma Economics a gafodd ei gomisiynu gan Back the Bill yn dangos arbedion hirdymor o gael polisi o'r fath. Ydych chi wedi modelu i mewn—? Wrth ragamcanu cyllideb dros y blynyddoedd nesaf, ydych chi wedi modelu i mewn effaith gadarnhaol potensial yr hawl i dai ar finances Llywodraeth Cymru a sut mae'n mynd i gael effaith gadarnhaol ar gyllidebau adrannau eraill?
Thank you. I do accept what you said in terms of the fact that we need to know the impact, or the financial impact, for example, of that kind of policy—what it's going to cost—and we need to have that information. The data that we've had and you've seen from Alma Economics, which was commissioned by Back the Bill, shows long-term savings in terms of having that kind of policy. Have you modelled in—? In projecting budgets over the coming years, have you modelled in the potential positive impact of the right to adequate housing on the finances of the Welsh Government and how that's going to have a positive impact on the budgets of other departments?
'Not yet' is the answer to that. That's part of what we want to do through the Green Paper process, so, we accept that, we absolutely know that it's a kind of invest-to-save proposition, if you like. But we don't have any data for Wales. There are data sets from around the world. James can talk you through all of this. He's much more knowledgeable about it than I am. We have data sets that show that, but we don't have it for Wales. We don't have it specifically, and we don't know how much that would cost upfront, so we don't know what the invest amount is and we don't know what the save amount is. There is quite a piece of work going on at the moment. We're doing it as part of the clean air Bill as well, to look at what health impact savings might look like. We're doing a piece of work with the national parks around that as well—what do the national parks save us in terms of health impacts, mental health impacts and so on? We're doing that internationally as well, Mabon, but we need the evidence base. We don't have it at the moment. So, the Green Paper—. That's one of the things the Green Paper will be looking for. There are several international efforts being made at the moment to properly map out how you adequately account for health savings in various green measures, and we're really interested in being able to take advantage of that, but there is no current model for that.
I have seen the Back the Bill proposals, but they're not Welsh-specific either. So, we need to get that in place, basically. But, yes, absolutely, we accept that it's an eventual saving, but there are three things to say also on top of that. First of all, we have to have the investment upfront. As you know, the budgets are very constrained at the moment, so, trying to get there across a number of years has been our approach to putting that investment in place; we just don't have the funding upfront to do that. So, we can do it over a number of years. And it's just a whole issue at the moment of the supply chain. So, we can't do this without supply—that's the bottom line. We have to build the housing, or have access to the housing that is the adequate housing we're talking about. So, we need to accelerate that supply, and it's well rehearsed—and I'm sure the Chair doesn't want me to rehearse it yet again—where we are with the current economic problems that we have in the supply chain, and the problems we have with inflation. So, each house we build at the moment is costing us significantly more than we thought it would when we put the programme in place. Although we have record levels of investment, each house that we build is costing considerably more than it did at the point in time we put the investment in place. So, it's not buying us as much as it would have in the first place, and that's the case for absolutely all of us with everything, isn't it? So, we're in, pretty much, a perfect storm over some of that.
So, Chair, I'm sure you don't want me to, but I can talk for hours about what we've been doing on the supply chain interventions, and so on, to try and speed that up, and the interventions we've made to the social housing grant, and so on, to increase the level of intervention from the Government to make sure the houses keep being built. But the whole system needs to be in gear to be able to deliver the housing supply, which is the adequate housing we're talking about.
Diolch, Gweinidog. Wrth gwrs, pan ein bod ni'n sôn am y ddarpariaeth—y supply o dai—mae'r Llywodraeth yma wedi rhedeg rhaglenni peilot yn y gorffennol—Ely Mill, dwi'n meddwl, yn un enghraifft lled ddiweddar, lle mae'r Llywodraeth wedi bod mewn partneriaeth efo cyrff eraill, Principality, ac yn y blaen i ran-ariannu. Felly, tybed a oes yna ffordd, er mwyn cyflymu'r broses i ddatblygu'r partneriaethau yna efo, er enghraifft, cwmnïau pensiwn cyhoeddus Cymru, i dynnu pres i lawr i gyflymu'r broses? Hwyrach bod hwnna'n un datrysiad i chi edrych arno.
Ond yr hyn dwi'n ei glywed, cywirwch fi os dwi'n anghywir, yw bod yna ymrwymiad, felly, i gael yr hawl i dai digonol—mae'n mynd i fod i yn ddeddfwriaeth—cyn belled â'ch bod chi yn y cwestiwn, mae'r Llywodraeth yma yn y cwestiwn; mae yna ymrwymiad i gael deddfwriaeth efo'r hawl i dai digonol, ac mi fydd y Papur Gwyn yn cychwyn yn 2024. O ran y broses yna, ydyn ni'n medru cael ychydig fwy o sicrwydd ar yr amserlenni? Dwi'n gwybod eich bod chi wedi dweud ei fod e'n amhosib yn y tymor yma, ond os yw'r Papur Gwyrdd a'r Papur Gwyn yn dilyn trefn yn naturiol, onid oes lle i ddadlau bod yna, hwyrach ar ddiwedd y tymor yma, le i gyflwyno deddfwriaeth—gan fod yna bartneriaeth gydweithredol yma—bod yna le i gyflwyno deddfwriaeth ar yr hawl i dai digonol, o gael pob peth mewn trefn yn gywir? Ac hefyd, gan dderbyn bod y rhan fwyaf o RSLs yn cefnogi'r alwad yma, ac eisiau gweld hyn hefyd—mae'r gefnogaeth gyhoeddus yno.
Thank you, Minister. Of course, when we talk about the supply of housing, this Government has run pilot schemes in the past—Ely Mill, I think, was one example recently, where the Government has worked in partnership with other bodies, the Principality and so forth, to part-fund the project. So, I wonder whether there is a way, in order to accelerate the process to develop those partnerships with, for example, public pension bodies, to draw funding down to accelerate the process. Maybe that's one solution for you to look at.
But what I hear, correct me if I'm wrong, is that there is a commitment to the right to adequate housing—it's going to be legislation—as far as this Welsh Government is in the question; there is a commitment to having this legislation on the right to adequate housing, and the White Paper will start in 2024. In terms of that process, can we have some more assurance on the timetables? I know you've said that it's impossible in this term, but if the Green Paper and White Paper follow that natural order, isn't there scope, at the end of this term, to introduce the legislation—given that there is a co-operation agreement—and that there would be scope to introduce legislation on the right to adequate housing, if everything is in the right order sequentially? And also, accepting that the majority of RSLs support this call and want to see this happening—that is, there is public support for this.
Yes. So, Mabon, if it's possible to put legislation in place, then I would love to. The co-operation agreement is an agreement to put the White Paper out, just to be clear; it's not an agreement to put the legislation in place. Depending on how we get with the White Paper and so on, I would love to do it. I'm just trying to be realistic about it. In all honesty, the legislative programme is crammed, really crammed, and we know, from past Senedds, that Bills that start to be introduced towards the very end of the programme tend not to make through the Senedd in time, so we have a number of examples of that in the past.
I don't want to say 'never' to you. I don't want to say it absolutely isn't possible, but I think it's unlikely that it would be in this Senedd term, given where we are. And I really, really want to get the homelessness legislation in place. That's the acute end of this, really. We really need to get that right. And I really want to get the homelessness legislation so that it's implementable immediately it passes the Senedd, and we don't have a huge delay lag on renting homes, because we haven't done all of the consequential issues that arise from that. We've learnt a lot from trying to implement that Bill. It took a long time as a result of various processes.
So, I hear what you say, Mabon, and I have a lot of sympathy with it, but I'm trying to be practical about it as well, and we really do need to get this system change under way to get there. I'm sure we'll get around to the data and evidence sets, but that's partly why I'm being a little bit hesitant about it. It's not just about having a Bill—it's about having an implementable Bill, which is a very different kettle of fish, we've learned.
Diolch. Diolch, Gadeirydd.
Thank you. Thank you, Chair.
Diolch yn fawr, Weinidog, a diolch yn fawr, Mabon. Carolyn Thomas.
Thank you, Minister, and thank you, Mabon. Carolyn Thomas.
Thank you. Minister, could you give me your view of the draft Bill put forward by the Back the Bill partners and the proposals for incorporating the right to adequate housing into law?
Carolyn, I'm not going to do a blow-by-blow account through the Bill. I understand exactly where the Back the Bill campaign is coming from and, indeed, you can hear that I'm very sympathetic to the aims of the organisation. But we have to have a Bill that is in the devolved context, takes into account the wider legislative context, has a clear and understood policy objective, and is underpinned by a robust evidence base.
We also need it to be fully implementable. And again, Chair, I'm sure this committee will want to see lessons learned from the renting homes Act and so on at some point, but you will be nevertheless aware that it took us many years to implement that Bill. One of the main reasons for that is because it is a radical system change, and that's what this is. So, we need to be really sure that this isn't just about saying, 'Let's put a right to adequate housing into law', it's about, 'Let's have an implementable, enforceable right to adequate housing', and we want to be really sure that we get there.
The process that we've set out, we think, will get us there. It's not the only thing we're doing. As I keep saying, there's an enormous number of other things to do, including the homelessness legislation and all of the issues we've just discussed about supply. The issues with local authorities et cetera all play into that as well. So, I'm going to decline the very kind offer to take you line by line through the draft Bill, I'm afraid. I don't think that would be appropriate for me. I think the organisations backing it absolutely have their hearts in the right place and I understand exactly what they're trying to do. The organisations are also part of the stakeholder advisory group that's in involved in advising us on the Green Paper, so they're fully involved in this.
During evidence sessions we heard that the policies are very progressive in Wales, and are complementary, but lacked long-term vision. Looking at this Bill, you were saying that it could be based on available finance, but well-being is very important. Not all costs and benefits are financial; benefits are not always measured. How can you monetise the benefit of well-being? Looking at this, as well as incorporating, long term, the impacts on health, education et cetera, the impact of well-being as well and the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, how could that legislation help to deliver the right to adequate housing?
Thanks, Carolyn. Obviously, all legislation has to interact with one another, and we do have a set of progressive pieces of legislation here in Wales. There are other Acts that you could mention as well—the environment Acts and the various pieces of housing legislation, like on renting homes, for example.
I'm a bit taken aback to hear that we don't have a long-term vision. I'd say we've got an extremely clear long-term vision, which is that every person in Wales has an adequate house. I'll say it again; what other long-term vision were you hoping for? That is the long-term vision—that every single person who lives in Wales has an adequate home throughout their lives. What do we mean by 'adequate'? We can have another chat about that, but it's an adequate, lifelong home throughout their lives.
The well-being of future generations Act would give us some powers to be able to do some of that, but it requires a whole set of pieces of work around the future consequences of current policy and a whole series of other goals, which are all commensurate with this, I completely agree with you. The new Bill would have to build on that foundational building block.
It's not just about the legislation—it's about having an implementable system change that goes with it, and a whole system that's geared up towards that. We do not have that at the moment, and I'm afraid I don't think the legislation, as proposed, would deliver that either.
Chair, I think I'm repeating myself endlessly now. I'm not quite sure what we mean by a lack of a long-term vision. I'm slightly thrown by that, actually. I think the reason that we have a set of progressive policies and Acts in Wales is because we do have a long-term vision for that. We have a long-term vision for the Wales that we want. Part of the Wales we want is a healthy, prosperous Wales, and you can't have a healthy, prosperous Wales unless people are adequately housed.
Thank you. It sounds from your feedback that your commitment is really there to have this right to adequate housing, but it sounds like you need more information regarding impacts on Wales. You need more devolved information, because what's been provided so far in the Back the Bill campaign is based on UK-wide, and it might take time. Am I correct that that's the main thing?
That's right, Carolyn, and also we need to understand what the system would look like to deliver it. So, how would it be monitored? How would it be enforced? And, frankly, just as simple as, 'What do you actually mean by adequate housing?', 'What is an adequate house? What does that look like?' This is the sort of language you can use, but when you actually ask each individual person around the table, I suspect you'll all come up with a slightly different answer. If we're going to enforce something in legislation, it has to be certain; we have to understand what is that duty when you place it on a local authority and what constitutes an 'adequate' house for the local authority to deliver. So, it sounds easy, but it's more complicated than that. We need to have a system that delivers that and then continues to deliver it into the future.
The objectives of security of tenure against forced eviction, availability of services, safe drinking water, affordability, habitability, accessibility, location, cultural adequacy—you don't think they're strong enough definitions, or not defined enough.
Would that be delivered by a converted office building with one-bedroom flats that are poorly insulated, for example? I don't think it would, but might that definition meet that? I would like to have very distinct policies in place that mean the local authority has to deliver to a decent standard right across Wales. Those lists are things we can all agree with. James, I'm sure, will talk to you about the data and evidence required for the seven pillars in a minute, but we need to be able to make sure that we can deliver them everywhere across Wales.
And the other thing to say, Carolyn, is that different homes mean different things to different people. If you're an urban dweller, a high-density home with lots of services around it might suit you down to the ground; if you're a rural dweller, that might be a very different kettle of fish. What can be delivered in Gwynedd might be very different to what can be delivered in Cardiff, and that might be fine. We've got to be able to put this duty into law in a way that means the local authorities can actually deliver it.
Okay, Carolyn, diolch yn fawr. We'll turn to Joel James.
Thank you, Chair, and thank you, Minister, for today's evidence. I just wanted to pick your brains on a few of the comments you've made. In previous evidence sessions, we've heard from Alma Economics and the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru, and I just wanted to quote from one of their written submissions. They mentioned that
'if Wales was hypothetically and fully on the path toward universal adequate housing under current policies, introducing the RTAH would not generate any additional costs or benefits'.
With that in mind, I took that—and you've mentioned it in your evidence so far—as the current policies and legislation that are in place are almost failing. You've talked about system change, and I just wanted to get your opinion on whether or not—. You've mentioned that the legislative programme is crammed. Is there scope that the Welsh Government should be looking to improve existing policies and legislation rather than looking into introducing a right to adequate housing Bill?
I think I've covered that by saying that we need to do it sequentially. We've had enormous system change since the pandemic; we'd already put in place a set of proposals to do that, and then, as I said, the homelessness action group reported just before the pandemic hit and we were able—. Chair, I want to take this opportunity to just once more thank all of the people who work in housing across Wales for having done it. They implemented that in weeks, not years, and accelerated that. As I've just explained, Joel, we've put a sticking plaster over the current homelessness legislation to allow us to give a service to everyone in Wales, but that needs a fundamental reform.
I don't accept that what we've done is inadequate, if that's what you're trying to say. What I've said to you is we have a sequential series of steps we want to take along our transformational journey. We intend to take them in that sequence so that we have a deliverable policy at all times through our local authorities, so that our local authority partners are sure about what they're expected to deliver, and there is a well-defined path between where we are now and where we want to get. So, absolutely a right to adequate housing will deliver benefits, because it will entrench that right, so that Governments of the future can't row back on where we are.
One of the things about progressive gains is that you have to entrench them and then guard them fiercely, otherwise they get rowed back. We want to make sure that this is implemented properly. As I said—I'm in danger of being groundhog day a bit here, I'm sorry, Chair—we need to do this in a sequential way that allows the system to adapt and adequately change, so that this is implementable. This is a big thing to do, it's something we should be doing, it's something we are doing, and we have a very good and well laid-out path towards it. But we want to do that in an implementable way. I hope you're going to come on to the research stuff in a moment, but I do think it might be very useful to let James just take you through where we are with each of the headings, if you don't mind, at some point in the next few questions.
We will come on to that very quickly now, Minister. But, Joel, please continue with the legislation questions for the time being.
Okay. Thank you, Minister, for that response. With that in mind, could I just get some idea, then, of what is currently being done? Because you mentioned the sticking-plaster approach. Could you just elaborate more on that? And obviously you mentioned the sequential changes that would need to happen first. Could you outline that for the committee in the sense of what you think needs to be done before that? Because I know one of the questions I was quite keen to ask is how existing legislation would interact with this right to adequate housing. If you could just elaborate.
At the moment, we have changed the priority need categories so that everybody is included, and that means that we can offer a service to everyone. But the way that the housing and homelessness legislation is set up isn't adequate to provide a service to everyone who's homeless in Wales and it certainly doesn't get them into rapid rehousing, which is where we'd like to be.
As I said in my opening remarks, we will be bringing forward homelessness legislation that radically transforms the current legislative piece for homelessness. The committee I know has already done some work in this regard. The sticking plaster is that we've basically added everybody into the priority need category, so everybody's in priority need. But what we actually need to do is get rid of priority need. That's nonsense if you're giving everyone a service. What we need to have is legislation on homelessness that makes it clear and obvious that every single person in Wales is entitled to a service from a housing department and what that service should be. I can't outline that in today's evidence session, Chair—that's an enormous piece of work that the committee will be looking at in great detail going forward. But that needs to come first, so that we have the gear-up of the system to get people into rapid rehousing.
At the same time as that is going on, as I've spoken about a lot, we have an ambitious 20,000 social homes for rent target for this Senedd term, in a perfect economic storm. We are doing an enormous amount in the supply chain and build category. The committee will know all about the problems we've got with phosphates and planning. We've got an enormous number of exemplar sites coming forward on our own land, to show people what can be done when you do it properly. There's an enormous number of interventions already going on. But we need to get into a situation where all of that comes together to produce a set of housing legislation in Wales that allows us to implement an enforceable right to adequate housing—not a philosophical right, not a general right, but one that means you can rock up to your local authority and say, 'Oi, where's my adequate house?' That's where I'd like to get to.
Thank you, Minister. I suppose I've just got one last question, and it's about timescales. Do you have an estimated timescale for all this, or is it—? Sorry, I see you nodding, so go on.
I set that out at the beginning: the Green Paper will come out before the end of this summer term, the White Paper is scheduled for next summer, and then the Bill will follow. I already discussed with Mabon whether or not the Bill would then follow in this Senedd term. I'd love it to, but I think it's unlikely. The co-operation agreement is an agreement to have a White Paper, and the reason that it's just for a White Paper is because I can't promise that we can get a Bill in in this Senedd term. But we can get a long way towards it.
With that in mind, though, in terms of all the sequential stuff that needs to be done as well, have there been timescales for that? Because you mentioned some of it's just policy change.
We're already doing the policy change, and the Green Paper will underline that. I'm sorry, but I think I've already answered that question in a number of different ways, really. The long-term policy is in place, and now what we need to do is the various component parts of that policy to get us there. We're already delivering policy, programmes, legislative change, that moves us towards the right to adequate housing. And as I said, Chair, at the beginning, the White Paper doesn't just cover the right to adequate housing, it covers fair rents and affordable housing as well.
Okay, Joel? Thank you. Research and data, then, Minister—you'll be pleased to know we have some questions on that. Jayne Bryant.
Diolch, Cadeirydd, and good morning, Minister. So, research and data—I know there's a lot to say on this. Firstly, it's just on the aspect of other countries, and whether other countries provide models for Wales to follow to incorporate a right to adequate housing into law.
Thank you, Jayne. We're very well aware of international comparators and examples. We're having a really good look at it. One of the ones the committee, I know, has heard about is in South Africa, but that's very much been hampered by the availability of resources needed to deliver the supply—so, back to making sure that you've got the system in place to do it. But what we have to do is understand that you can't pick up many of those models and just put them down in Wales. We have to understand the Welsh context, the cultural context, and all the rest of it, and that's why we need to do this call for evidence in the Green Paper to get the data. I wonder if you would mind if I bring James in at this point in time to just explain in a little bit more detail to the committee exactly where we are.
That would be very useful, Minister. James.
Thank you. Good morning, everybody—hi. As part of the work to inform the development of the Green Paper we've actually appointed Alma Economics and the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence to look at some of these international models, and look at various aspects around affordability, for example, in particular. What's coming out from that, as the Minister has highlighted, is that there's a real gap in evidence and data on the Welsh context in order to understand the Welsh context.
If we go back and look, the United Nations have set out those seven factors of adequacy, but we need to be able to define a minimum core, and without this evidence and understanding the Welsh context, we won't be able to define the minimum core. The centre for collaborative evidence on housing, which is the universities, the academic institutes, has clearly said that the context is vitally important. Cardiff isn't Ceredigion, and Llanelli isn't Lampeter. So, we can't move ahead and look at minimum core without understanding that real Welsh granularity and context.
Alma Economics have looked at over 130 data sets on socioeconomic factors and affordability. That's raised some challenges, and that report will be coming out alongside the Green Paper. But again, it's the different scales the data is being collected on, it's both the geographical scale and the timescale that data's being collected on—the boundaries don't necessary marry up very well, and we need to get a much better understanding of those data gaps and where we need to look at addressing those data gaps to then be able to move into how do we look at defining that minimum core against those seven factors.
Brilliant. That's really helpful, because I was going to ask around where you do have data, perhaps where you are able to do some work. I know the Minister has said some of the policy changes that are happening at the moment, where perhaps some of that can already be addressed. But then, it's just about those obvious gaps within the data that are missing, and which mean that you can't take this forward as quickly as you'd like. I don't know if there's anything else you want to say, particularly around the data, or if there's any additional research that you're intending to commission, perhaps, in the future.
On that, Jayne, we're basically looking for Welsh context data, from larger data sets, and also, in particular, for very granular data around things like, given the large increase in social housing that this entails and that we are very keen to support, what does the maintenance and long-term future improvement budget for a local authority look like, given the increase in social housing, and how can we build that into the formula for local government funding, for example. That has to be very Wales-specific. That's a very granular set of data that we would need to put into the regulatory impact assessments for the Bill. We don't have that at the moment. Forgive me James, but I'm not sure that we really understand quite how we would get it. That's what the call for evidence is for. So, we will be asking people, 'How can we get this data? How would you suggest that we do it?'
We have already done several pieces of work with other organisations in the past. We have worked with—I can't remember the name, but Sarah or James will remind me—something like the housing centre for data and something or other. I have spoken at a few of their conferences. It's 'statistical data and something'. It's got a very long title. They are really interesting. We have worked with them to try and get more granular detail for us. Then, there's the issue around where is the supply, where is the need, and are they even remotely matched. We are already doing an enormous amount of work on trying to do that—match the supply to where the demand is. That might sound easy, but it really isn't. Just because somebody's currently living in Cardiff, it doesn't mean that that's where they would like to live. They might prefer to live in Ceredigion. So, we need to be able to match the housing supply to the economic aspirations and needs of the communities around Wales, for the future and not just for the present. They are quite complicated data sets for that.
Then, we have a whole series of other system changes. For example, housing allocation, and the way that the social housing register works, is a rationing system. And it's a rationing system because we have an inadequate supply. So, we have to increase the supply and change the way that the allocation system works, and we need to know how to do that in equilibrium. So, as the supply increases, you—. You can't just do it and then—. You will cause chaos. You will all have examples from around Wales of people who have been on housing waiting lists for ages and ages because they are category 2. Actually, nobody who isn't category 1 ever gets moved because, actually, the supply is so inadequate. We need to get under that and change it. We need to understand that we need houses that are adequate for people with all kinds of disabilities and lifelong issues, and also people just with regular changes in their lives. All the way from a baby to a young family, to an established family, to an ageing family, the home needs to be able to be adaptable and change for all of those things. We just haven't got that yet, and we need to know what that looks like in order to put this in place.
We have done a lot of policy change over the last three or four years, in particular in the homelessness area. The move to rapid rehousing and housing first policies has been transformational. It is not embedded yet. We are in the process of embedding it, and then, as I say, we will have the rest to come. I am looking forward to the Green Paper process, to be honest. I am really hoping to enthuse people right across Wales—across the world, actually, because we will be putting it out there—to help us get these data sets in place so that we can have a really robust set of policy interventions, going forward.
Absolutely. Thank you, Minister. That's really helpful. Diolch, Gadeirydd.
Thank you very much, Jayne. If Members have no further questions, thank you very much for coming along to committee this morning to give evidence, Minister, and thank you to your officials as well. You will be sent a transcript to check for factual accuracy in the usual way. Diolch yn fawr.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. Thank you, everyone.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o o eitem 4 ac eitem 8 ac o'r cyfarfod ar 11 Mai o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 4 and 8 of the meeting and from the meeting on 11 May under Standing Order 17.42(ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Our next item is item 3, which is a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from items 4 and 8, and the meeting on 11 May. Is the committee content so to do? I see that you are. We will then move into private session.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 09:54.
The public part of the meeting ended at 09:54.
Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 10:47.
The committee reconvened in public at 10:47.
May I welcome everybody back to our committee meeting today? We've reached item 5, our fifth evidence session on local authority library and leisure services. I'm very pleased to welcome our witnesses here to committee this morning. Joining us in person are Amy Staniforth, relationship manager with the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals Wales, and Nicola Pitman, chair of the Society of Chief Librarians Cymru. Joining us virtually is Chris Neath, network manager for the Community Managed Libraries National Peer Network. Welcome to you all. Thank you very much for coming along to give evidence to committee today.
Perhaps I might begin with some overview questions. Firstly, I wonder if you could summarise the key benefits and value of leisure and library services to communities and residents, together with the impact on communities when services are withdrawn. So, quite a general initial question, but I wonder if you could answer that for committee today, please. Who would like to begin? Nicola.
I was just going to say, 'How long have you got?' [Laughter.]
Yes, I should have perhaps included in my question the need for a succinct answer, Nicola, but do attempt it.
I shall do my best. I think I'd like to start off with social connection. We've all seen the impact of social isolation that's been experienced during the pandemic and the effect on mental health. For many, libraries are their one place they can go to to become connected. There are so many different groups and activities that are run throughout the public library network within Wales. It gives people a sense of purpose, taking part in walking groups, and for our older customers, taking part in things like walking football, walking netball, things like that. We do things that you may not expect a library service to be undertaking. Obviously, things like knit and natter and stuff like that are going on, social groups, but also morning meet-ups. We support unpaid carers, people who are bereaved to get back out into the community and have a place to go and to feel that they are connected to others.
I would say, obviously, literacy, an opportunity to develop a love of reading. Our groups that support children, so our reading groups, our story times, our rhyme times. And during the cost-of-living crisis, we offer free events and activities that parents can take their children to. Throughout the winter, we've had warm spaces within our libraries, where people can't afford to put the heating on, so they are welcomed, they have been welcomed, and we are maintaining some of those groups in some of the libraries. What else would I say? Peer support, so targeted peer support for particular health elements, including things like carer support groups, dementia cafes. The list is endless, of where we have been able to sort of work to impact the health of people's communities, and to stop the decline that can occur without that connection.
So, yes, libraries are not just about the books. Obviously, the books are important, but they're just one, product, really, and we have many: digital inclusion, again, keeping people connected, helping people with work opportunities to develop skills. I'm not quite sure—have I left anything? I could go on and on and on and on, so, I don't want to take too much time. But hopefully, you can get a sense that we are a very multilayered service for the people within our communities who rely upon us.
Yes. Thank you very much for that, Nicola. Amy, Chris, did you want to add anything to what Nicola has said?
Yes, I would just echo everything that Nic has said. In a public letter about cuts that didn't end up happening earlier this year, we quoted a journalist in the Financial Times who said—I'm going to read it, because it's better than me saying it:
'Libraries serve a manifold role. They provide books, periodicals, digital resources — information! — curated and stewarded by experts'.
And I would add that that information isn't just the latest blockbusters, it's information about visas, about local knowledge and societies, about if your child is saying that they want to transition, what might you do. I mean, it's literally information about everything.
'And they take up the slack of countless underfunded or disappeared social programmes. Public libraries are English teachers, job hunters, after-school administrators, technology trainers and citizenship educators. They are cooling and heating centres and refuges. They serve the very young and the very old. They are, in effect, crucial twin engines of democracy and economic growth'.
And so, that's other people saying that, people who understand that, and we would just add, I think, from a CILIP point of view, that they're also staffed by people who see their roles as vocational; they don't do it for the money. I'm also a librarian in my other role, and if I'm made redundant from that, or when I retire, I'll still be a librarian, and that's not because we're nice, it's because we know these things are important. We're providing services where people can go to wait; they can wait for a job interview; they can wait for the late train. And they're not pressured to buy a cup of coffee, and in how many places in all of our communities is there a space where that already exists? So, we see those spaces as being very important—the staffing, the fact that they're warm and all of the other services that Nic was talking about; they're very integrated as a network across Wales, and that's very valuable.
Thank you very much, Amy. I don't know, Chris, did you want to add anything?
Thank you, yes. I would absolutely mirror those thoughts. I think libraries are an element of education and literacy source, but they go far beyond that. I think they provide an absolute linchpin for social inclusion, offering a free, safe space for absolutely anyone in the community, and heighten those marginalised voices, and I think that's a really important element of what libraries provide. They're a safety net for people who are struggling and they can go for non-judgmental guidance and support before the situation for them gets worse. And libraries remain that trusted centre for information, providing support to absolutely anyone who needs it.
I think it's already been mentioned about the significant amount of digital support that you can get from your library for those who are digitally excluded. But I also wanted to mention about the impact when services are withdrawn. Transport and accessibility: the fewer libraries there are, the bigger the burden for people to try and reach those centres of learning, and accessibility and space become a lot harder. The libraries are a huge investment in communities, they save other departments money, they support local business development, IT skills, advice; you can go for legal support, you can go for guidance when you're dealing with homelessness, fuel and food poverty. And all of this support and advice lessens the burden on other centrally funded support services. So, the effects on those library services being withdrawn are absolutely huge.
Okay. Thank you, all, very much. Quite a number of the benefits of library services that you've mentioned are particularly relevant to the more deprived people and families in our communities. Do you have any statistics on that—the demographic of library use and how it relates to social class and particular groups in Wales, or not?
There hasn't been a significant amount of work on the social value of the Welsh public libraries, I would say. I guess, I mean we're all aware individually, within the authorities—obviously, every authority is unique to itself, and I know that they do take time to look at the community profile of the make-up of the authority. Librarians and library service plans are really good at doing that so that they can make sure that they're framing their services for the communities that they aim to serve. Talking about the books again, making sure that the books are reflective of the communities so that people can see themselves mirrored within those collections, which is something that Amy has been working on, haven't you? And I guess, yes, we know numbers; we collect all those figures on people who are accessing our warm spaces, or taking part in the activities to improve their financial situations and all the people who have been referred to, or are accessing directly into, work groups—things like that. But, yes, there could be more work done on this. I think it is an area that we should be focused on and maybe potentially could be focused on on a national level.
Okay. Anything to add, Amy or Chris?
Yes. I was just going to say that we very echo that there isn't a lot of research that's been done across the UK, so, I did speak to our chief executive officer in London as well to ask whether there are any lessons from English libraries that we could take forward, and there just isn't an awful lot of research, so, that makes it very difficult for people running library services to make evidence-based decisions. So, we'd very much ask for some more research into public libraries—what works and what doesn't.
And, in terms of more deprived areas, I think librarians are obsessed, perhaps quite rightly, with who is not using their services, and that's very difficult to measure. But I think we do need to spend time—I don't want to edge too much into later questions—thinking about that in the new public library standards and how we do that. There are lots of really interesting cases across individual authorities, and sometimes individual libraries, where people are doing really interesting work in these areas, but, as Nic suggests, it's not very strategic at a national level, and we'd really welcome that.
Yes, okay. Chris, did you want to add anything or—?
I think the only thing I would add to that point, which I totally agree, there is a lot more data and research that could be collected and I think the fault of that is around that qualitative-impact-social-value information on how it can be done strategically. And I think a lot of the work that's done at the moment is fantastic, but it's done from a ground-up approach—it's the passionate library staff and volunteers knowing their communities and adapting the service to meet the needs of as wide a pool of people as possible. So, I think there is—. I think this may come up again, certainly later on, but there's a lot more to be done strategically in terms of that data and research.
Okay, Chris, yes, thank you very much. I well remember a library in the area where I was brought up, which actually is in my colleague, Jayne Bryant's constituency—Jayne's joining us online today—which had a keystone that said, 'Knowledge is power'. And I think it's interesting to reflect on how the knowledge available through libraries might empower, particularly, those more disadvantaged members of our communities, so I'm sure we will come back to that later.
Just in terms of the current picture, we know that local authorities are under tremendous pressure at the moment—financial pressure—and budgets are very difficult, and you reflect on that in the evidence that we've received. How would you characterise the current state of library services run by our local authorities in Wales, especially really, looking forward, what we may see, although I know it's difficult to look into the crystal ball, but how would you characterise the current situation and the immediate future?
I think it is a difficult time, potentially, and I know from conversations with the other members within SCL Cymru that there are levels of vulnerability being felt in some of the authorities. It does depend how invested the authority is with its library service in, I guess, how comfortable the authorities and the library heads feel currently. It is vulnerable also due to aspects that I know we're going to come onto later around the standards and around the development of a new strategy, the culture strategy, that is happening, and making sure that there is a strong library voice in that. There are issues around the public library Act, and you know, what the interpretation of that Act actually means. So, yes, I would say, perhaps, disquiet. There are levels of disquiet among the membership at the present time, although no immediate threats that I am aware of anyway. I think that's probably the picture at the moment.
Thank you very much, Nicola. Anything to add, Amy or Chris?
I don't want to keep going before Chris, but jump in, anyway, if you do want to. I suppose I speak anecdotally for public libraries, because our membership cuts across other sectors in Wales, but that can be quite interesting as well. We have a lot of members in health libraries and in the NHS libraries across Wales and in HE, FE and in schools. The picture, anecdotally, is that a lot of public library staff, as Chris was alluding to, are ambitious for their service, but it rests on them to really move forward and adapt, as he said. Some of those people are tired, and they are leaving. I was just speaking to a colleague in HE yesterday, and there are a lot of public librarians who are taking up posts in HE, and it's really sad for public librarians. It's not just sad; it's a real problem, because they're excellent. The reason that they get these jobs is that they're really good, and they go somewhere where they are really appreciated because they've worked in quite difficult circumstances.
I'm not sure people quite understand what it's like to work at the front face of a public library and what they have to deal with. And they're good; they're good at their job. They're really keen. They go somewhere where they're really valued and then work even harder, so it's great for them, it's great for the sectors that they're moving to, but that isn't happening in reverse, and I think that should tell us something—that we should, not panic, not get overly alarmed, but I think we have to understand—. Well, we have to think about why people start these jobs in the first place, and CILIP would really like to see local authorities being able to use entry-level positions and apprenticeships to really offer librarianship as a career path to local people, so, it isn't just, 'Oh, we go there when we're unemployed and we need a job, or I need a printer', which is what lots of us do. It's at any time in your life; it might be when you've got kids, it might be when you're retired, it might be when you are applying for a job. So, it's a life cycle and it's also a professional opportunity, and that at the moment isn't really there. Yes, disquiet, I think, is a good way of putting it. We're not panicking, but we need to be doing something to make sure that the stuff that we're worried might happen doesn't. And there are lots and lots of opportunities to work together, because, in Wales, we are smaller, we have the standards already, and it's frustrating if we can't quite get to the next level.
Okay. Thank you very much, Amy. Chris.
I suppose what I would add to that is that I think there's something around the infrastructure itself, maintaining, traditionally, fairly old, ageing buildings. We're looking at greener, more sustainable methods—I do think that's worth mentioning—and there's a cost and a long-term strategic approach to that. I also wanted to mention the collaborative and collective approach as a whole, and that's involving community groups, that's involving staff, that's involving other organisations, and local government, to look at a collective, long-term approach to a sustainable level of service delivery.
I think, for a long time, the approach was often a little bit more reactive, and that's certainly the situation with lots of local authorities that we've had experience of in England. So, I think that level of long-termism, and also having a good level of engagement with all aspects across society—so, lots of community engagement, but not just stopping there, engaging with the private sector as well, the social services sector, and really understanding the impact of libraries as a whole, to make sure that they fit into a sustainable model going forward.
Yes, okay. I know, Amy, that, in your evidence, you referenced this sort of piecemeal approach to libraries and budget decisions, without a sort of really strategic look and a meaningful plan, really, which, obviously, Chris has just referenced as well. Is there a real threat of drastic reduction in services, and closures at the current time, do you think?
Well, I think from—. I can certainly say, from a UK point of view, we're expecting things to get worse, because, as each local authority has to work out what to do with its smaller budget, we then find out about consultations, about where those cuts are going to fall, and, to us, it seems sort of fairly unavoidable, in a sense. How we respond to that, though, is—. It doesn't have to be local authority by local authority. I think what we should really be doing is thinking, rather than responding and being reactive, as Chris said, and asking ourselves—. We have this network, we have a network at the heart of communities across Wales. All the programme for governments that I ever read, anything that comes up, say, 'We should build some hubs in local communities', whether that's for tech delivery, digital skills—whatever—health. And we've already got these hubs, because they are libraries, and I think we have to be thinking, 'What is it we want to do with them? What is it we want them to perform in those communities?' And if we ask that first, and we're not constantly saying, 'How can we save this authority some money when they've got to pay for x, y and z?', what we're saying is, 'We want this thing to do x, and that's how we're going to interpret the Act for the next five years.' We should sort of turn that on its head.
And we do have a network—we've got the Society of Chief Librarians, we've got the national library. We've got a Government department that is understaffed, and that's proving to be a real issue, that we're not making the most of the work that they are doing and the funded projects that they're putting out. But the potential is there. As each of these cuts happen, I think what the real problem is is that, as the cuts hit, we're not then coming back. If a budget ever goes back, there is no plan, there's no guarantee, there's nothing accountable to residents in that local authority that says, 'When we're slightly better next year, what we will do is hire back some staff or buy some more books for this particular library.' There isn't that long-term plan.
I see. Okay, thanks very much for that, Amy. We'll move on, then, to Mabon ap Gwynfor. Mabon.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, Gadeirydd, a diolch i chi am ddod i gyflwyno tystiolaeth i ni y bore yma. Mae un peth wedi bod yn ddiddorol yn yr ymchwiliad yma hyd yma, sef gweld y gwahanol ffyrdd o ddarparu gwasanaethau, llyfrgelloedd yn yr achos yma. Mae yna rai yn cael eu cynnal gan awdurdodau lleol; mae eraill yn cael eu darparu gan ymddiriedolaeth, eraill yn cael eu darparu gan gyrff lled-braich o awdurdod lleol, a gwahanol fodelau tebyg. Ydych chi'n meddwl bod yna un model yn well na'r llall? Neu beth ydy rhinweddau'r modelau yma, os gwelwch chi'n dda?
Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you for giving us evidence this morning. One thing has been interesting in this inquiry so far, namely the different ways of delivering services, library services in this case. There are some that are delivered by local authorities; others are delivered by trusts, others by bodies at arm's length from local authorities, and other delivery models. Do you think that there is one model that's better than another? Or what are the virtues of these different models?
Who would like to begin? Amy.
Yes, I'm happy to, because I suspect it'll be shorter than my usual answers. We don't have a strong opinion or a fixed position on this. I've personally worked with fantastic librarians, both in trusts in Wales—in trust-run services and in local-authority services. The question has to be: what is a successful library? Is it doing what we've all decided that a library should do? Is it equitable across Wales? Are all citizens able to access the same information, the same resources, the same excellent trained staff? And how do we measure that?
I think the only real concern I have about the idea of outsourcing to a different model that's outside of a local authority is that skills are being lost in that local authority. Any procurement exercise has to be repeated at some point, contracts have to be renewed, so who is doing that internally? Where are we getting the expertise from? How do you know what to ask for? So, I think it's really important, especially if these decisions are being taken reactively, that that has to be built in. We have to work out where do we get our expertise when we're going to do this, because how do you know if something's a good service, if what they're saying they're going to do is a good idea? And there just isn't much—. Again, as we said, there's not much research out there. There's certainly not much research out there on failed outsourcing, because nobody wants to share that. So, I think it's really important that we're honest about that lack of evidence.
Thanks, Amy. Nicola.
Do you want me to come in there? I would say, for the millions of customers across Wales, it actually makes no difference. The membership of SCL Cymru is made up of all the different models of delivery. And we are all—. The main thing is our performance, what are we expected to—how are we meant to maintain that quality performance and have that comprehensive and efficient service for our customers. And of course, we come back to the standards. So, we're all governed by the same, I guess, targets and objectives, and it's about making those standards the best they can possibly be so we can ensure that customers throughout Wales, are all enjoying consistent service. I work for Cardiff and we have the hub model, which is fine; it's great. We also have very good trusts in Wales operating library services, and they have fantastic services. So, it's back again to that performance assessment and having a robust scrutiny of that, which is the key thing, not the model of delivery, I would say.
No, okay. Thank you, Nicola. I don't know, Chris, did you want to come in on this?
Yes, I would. Obviously, we as an organisation are a support and advocacy charity for community libraries. So, that is our core. I think community libraries are defined by how embedded they are in local communities, and the benefit of those groups, individually, running library services, is that level of ear-to-the-ground consultation, the ability to reflect the needs of marginalised voices. With that, I would say and totally agree that engaging with sector-wide good practice is essential. I don't think there is any need to come away from that in any way, and I think having standards and equality is absolutely vital for the sector, and community libraries that we work with are passionate and want to be involved and measured by those standards as well.
And just to go back on the point of the interpretation and the perspective that people have of libraries is that they don't tend to notice the difference, I've spoken to and visited hundreds of community libraries, and the general feedback that you get talking to people is that they don't know who runs it, necessarily. Whether that's a good or a bad thing for that community organisation, I don't know, but the service at the point that they receive it is the same.
On top of that, I think that there's an element of the organisations in a charity governance model, because most community libraries are registered charities—community interest companies or charitable incorporated organisations—and this does enable them to crystalise their social purpose and their vision and focus their efforts on a clear and specific strategy for their community, and this allows their organisations to be really agile as well in response to new developments or pressures, whether that be funding the workforce or the pandemic and cost of living that's been hitting libraries over the last few years, and they've responded fantastically to it.
I'd also just say that there's a real importance in that strategic, collaborative, sharing model as well, and, even with a wide variety of different models and approaches to service delivery, the core elements are the same, and to ensure that we have a sustainable service in the long term, it's that sharing of good practice, good guidance, information, but also celebrating the sector. They've proved fantastic at dealing with huge, global issues that have affected everyone, pivoting their model and the services to meet the needs of people as they change, and I think it's just really important that that is recognised and celebrated as a broad sector.
Okay. Thank you very much, Chris. Mabon.
Diolch am yr atebion hynny—mae'n ddifyr. Yn un peth, dim ond i fi drio deall, rydych chi'n dweud mai'r hyn sy'n bwysig ydy darpariaeth y gwasanaeth ac effeithlonrwydd y gwasanaeth hwnnw, a bod rhywun ar lawr gwlad, mewn gwirionedd, ddim yn gweld y gwahaniaeth rhwng y math o fodel sy'n cael ei ddefnyddio pan fyddan nhw'n derbyn yr un gwasanaeth. Ond rhywbeth roeddech chi, Chris, wedi sôn amdano, am ystwythder rhai modelau elusennol, a rhywbeth rydym ni wedi'i glywed, ydy bod rhai o'r ymddiriedolaethau, er enghraifft, yn dweud eu bod nhw'n llawer iawn yn fwy ystwyth i fedru ymateb i anghenion cymunedol, tra bod llyfrgelloedd sydd, hwyrach, o dan reolaeth awdurdod lleol yn llawer llai ystwyth, oherwydd bod yna haenau o atebolrwydd maen nhw'n gorfod mynd trwyddo cyn medru creu newid. Felly, ydych chi'n derbyn hynny? Ydych chi'n credu bod hynny'n gywir, a bod yna rinwedd, felly, i'r ystwythder yna a modelau sydd yn fwy annibynnol?
Ond yna yr ochr arall ydy bod y rheini sydd o dan reolaeth awdurdod lleol yn llawer iawn mwy democrataidd, o bosib, efo atebolrwydd lleol yn rhan o'r broses. Felly, mae yna rinweddau ar y ddwy ochr, a dwi'n trio deall a oes yna gryfder neu rinwedd yn well yn un nag yn un arall, a pha fodel sydd felly'n well mewn gwirionedd i'r bobl sy'n defnyddio'r gwasanaethau yma.
Thank you for those answers—it's interesting. If I can just understand, you say that what's important is the provision and the efficiency of the service, and that the person on the ground, in truth, doesn't really see the difference between the kind of model that is being used when they receive the same service. But, Chris, you mentioned the flexibility or the agility of some charitable models, and something that we've heard is that some of the trusts, for example, say that they're a lot more agile in terms of responding to the needs of communities, while libraries under local authority control are less agile, because there are different tiers of accountability that they have to go through before being able to create change. So, do you accept that? Do you think that that is right and that there is merit, therefore, in that agility and the more independent models?
But then the other side is that those under local authority control are a lot more democratic, possibly, with local accountability being part of that process. So, there are merits and virtues on both sides, so I'm just trying to understand whether there are virtues on one side that are better than the other, and which model is best, in truth, for the people who actually use those services.
I think the different model approach is dependent on the community itself. What we've found is that the provision of a really successful community-led library is based on the passion in that community and what it wants to see delivered. It's therefore very embedded in understanding the local voices and engaging with people and consulting with people properly. I think that's the important thing. That's dependent on who you are and where you are, and how the local authority has structured its approach, because it doesn't work everywhere in that sense. What I would say is, wherever it is, there should be a close collaboration between local authority library services and community libraries anyway. It's more about having that collaborative, working-together approach to make sure there's successful delivery across the board, nationally.
Just on the accountability point, I can understand the democratic structure of being in a local authority setting, however, the community library organisations, the way that their governance structure is set up is that they're accountable to the community as well. So, there's always a level of accountability, but I would always promote and prefer the model where the community groups are working very closely with the local authority. And there are some really successful examples of that in England, in various local authorities where they have worked together, but allowed the freedom for that agility where it's needed. And where one small community group is in a more deprived setting, for example, they can then relate to the needs of their community, which wouldn't necessarily be relevant across the board for a whole library service.
Chris, which local authorities in England, then, would you particularly point to in showing that good practice?
There are a couple I would probably mention, which are Staffordshire and Leicestershire. I think they've had a really resilient approach and they're very supportive in the way that they work with the community libraries, and there are a number of community libraries in those local authorities. But what they've done is they've engaged with them in terms of having library support officers who are there, so the professional and accountable level is there to support them when they need it, but they're also able to step back and allow that agility and that more localised service development to happen at the same time.
Thank you very much, Chris. Yes, Nicola.
I'd like to point out that is happening in Wales as well. We have community libraries in Wales. In fact, there are some in the Vale, and they work very closely with the authority. We also have, as Chris just mentioned, community groups that work directly with library services, and that is happening across Wales as well. We have several of those groups in Cardiff, where they work on events together, they really connect with the community. We have Awen in Cardiff. They call themselves 'friends of library groups', and we have a number of those across Wales, and they'll work on programmes together. So, it is actually happening in Wales as well.
Okay. Thanks, Nicola. Amy.
I wanted to say, because I listened to one of the other sessions, that I was very taken with the way some of the trust-run places talked about how it wasn't a financial decision to be outsourced, that it was about efficiencies and ways of working and developing the service, and I can think of examples of where I'd agree with that. But I think what Nicola and I were probably trying to say was that there are also examples of where that doesn't work in the trust, because it isn't terribly well run. You get really well-run local authorities where there might be a funding issue, it might be a managerial issue, and then you get some that are less good. I don't think the answer can always be, 'Oh, well, this isn't working for us, so let's outsource it to somebody else' or a different model of delivery. Changing your model of delivery shouldn't really be because a local authority can't manage to perform its statutory duty. And I think we have to think about what they're losing if they are changing that model, what isn't working.
And in terms of agility, because that's where it just sounded like, 'Oh, yes—'. In my other job, I work at a university library, and, yes, it takes a huge amount of time to get a machine like that to move or to change its behaviour, and I imagine local authorities are similar. But if COVID showed us anything, it's that they absolutely can do that, and libraries were at the heart of how local authorities continued to serve communities in a very direct way. So, they can do it, and I don't think we should let them off the hook—if that's what we're doing. It shouldn't be that, 'Oh, well, they just can't be agile'; I think we have to think about different ways of working. For us as CILIP, it's about having the staffing in place. In Wales, we are quite small, so if you get a really good, committed librarian in a high-leadership role, then their service tends to be good, their staff tend to be happy, the users are happy, and that's whether it's a trust-run service or whether it's a local authority service, and the reverse will be true.
I would suggest looking at the performance as well, the performance reports, of all the different models, and then you could decide for yourselves whether you feel that it's a more agile library service or not.
And actually, it's unique to Wales, isn't it, that I think the community-run libraries do have to submit and, as Chris said, want to submit, to the Welsh public library standards. That doesn't happen in England, and they're quite jealous, I think.
Yes. Okay. Well, thank you very much. Mabon.
Mae'n gas gen i am ofyn hyn, ond dwi'n casáu’r syniad yma bod pob dim yn cael ei fesur yn ôl gwerth ariannol, ac wrth gwrs mae llyfrgelloedd yn cynnig gwerth llawer, llawer iawn mwy nag edrych ar y bottom line, fel petai. Ond, yn achlysurol, mae'n rhaid edrych yn oeraidd ar elfennau ariannol. A dwi jest eisiau cyffwrdd ar hynny. Os medrwch chi edrych yn oeraidd ar yr ochr ariannol, ydych chi'n meddwl bod yna rai modelau sy'n cynnig gwerth am arian gwell na modelau eraill? Ynteu, wrth edrych ar awdurdodau lleol, er enghraifft, mae ganddyn nhw'r ôl-swyddfa yna, efo'r holl sgiliau ag adnoddau HR angenrheidiol. Ond eto, mae awdurdodau lleol yn gorfod torri'r gôt yn ôl y brethyn, ac rydyn ni'n eu gweld nhw'n sôn am gau rhai llyfrgelloedd yn achlysurol, tra bod llyfrgelloedd cymunedol heb yr adnoddau yna ond hwyrach eu bod nhw'n medru tapio mewn i wirfoddolwyr a chyfraniadau elusennol, ac yn y blaen, eraill. Felly, oes yna un model, eto, sydd yn cynnig opsiwn ariannol gwell, ynteu, yn mynd nôl i bwynt Chris, ei bod hi'n ddibynnol ar y gymuned?
I regret having to ask this, but I hate this idea that things are measured according to financial value, and of course libraries offer much more broader ranging value than just looking at the bottom line. But, of course, sometimes we do need to look at the cold, hard facts in terms of finances. I just want to touch on that. If you could look at the financial side, do you think that there are some models that offer better value for money than other models? Or, in looking at local authorities, they have the back-office functions with all of the skills and HR resources, which are vital. But, then, local authorities have to cut their cloth accordingly and we do hear about library closures occasionally, while community libraries don't have those resources but maybe they can tap into volunteers and charitable contributions, and so forth. So, is there one model that offers a better financial option, or, returning to Chris's point, does it depend on the community?
Okay, who would like to start a response?
I think we'll stick to our guns and say you'll get what you pay for, in any delivery model. There will be good services, you'll get cheap quotes, you'll get really expensive quotes, and, as Nic said, it's the performance at the end of the day. We have to have evidence that this is working, and there isn't a lot of evidence out there either way.
Yes, and I would say how granular do you want your library service. I would say that; it's probably as far as I can go with that comment, really. In terms of value for money, all of us, across the 22 authorities, act in consortia to secure the best, I guess, value for money possible, with consortia around book purchases and our library management system as well. We're currently involved in a big project around that, driving costs down. We all use volunteers anyway, and we want to offer that experience to people in the community to develop their skills, and also volunteering can really help people overcome loneliness and social isolation and get a sense of purpose as well. So, we are utilising volunteers already. So, yes, I'm not quite sure—I probably can't say anything more than that.
Yes, it can be more financially viable, a cheaper alternative—it certainly can. I would again echo the point that it really does depend on the service, and I would always advocate for that long-term investment from local authorities, even if they are then exchanging to community library ownership in some senses. I think there is that ability to fund raise and to provide the services you need ad hoc. So, with the backroom staff element, I know lots of community libraries who are able to then structure in a way where they have financial support, HR support, on that ad hoc basis, and it can be made very affordable for them depending on the needs at the time.
But again, I would go back to that it's very much dependent on two main things. They are the skills and experience and the enthusiasm of the community that's involved—that group—however it's structured and whoever is involved. In many cases, if it's a charity that has formed as a 'friends of' group to take over the ownership of a community library, it's what experience and skills are spread across the board of those trustees. That is what invigorates a really successful community library, but, at the same time, working very closely with other libraries across the sector, whatever model or structure you've taken, is really, really important.
And then, just on the procurement and working as a wider structure of community libraries specifically, there is a lot of opportunity for that, and that is something that we're working to develop more and more in terms of the number of community libraries that there are across England and Wales. There is a huge amount of experience, skills and support that can be shared there, but also to procure things on a bulk basis, whether that's stock or a table and library management system that works well with volunteers, for example.
Okay, thank you very much, Chris. Mabon, are you content?
Yes, content. Thank you.
Diolch yn fawr. Okay, we will move on, then, to Carolyn Thomas. Carolyn.
Thank you, Chair. I want to go back to social value and well-being. It seems to me that the role of and need for libraries have changed significantly over the last few years—warm hubs, somewhere safe and quiet and free to go and study. Also, community groups are using them more. So, I know local government have looked, as they've had to make cuts over the last few years of austerity, at anything non-statutory, and sometimes libraries seem to have a bit of protection because of the 1964 Act, and you think libraries as statutory, maybe leisure services a little bit. Listening to previous evidence from Aura leisure, they've been applying the future generations and well-being Act to help protect their services, looking at the long term. So, do you think that local authorities put enough value on the social value and well-being now that libraries do offer? It sounded earlier on that you don't. So, how do we make sure that there is the quantitative value put on that social health and well-being now as they've changed? Who do you think would be in the best position to do that collection of data, because you said that it would be really useful to have that? Who do you think would be in the best position to do that, because I think it really is important now, going forward, as models have changed?
You mentioned earlier the new public library standard. Now, I've not picked that up, so it might be in the report and I've missed it, I'm sorry, but is that part of the new culture strategy that's coming forward? If you could just give me a little bit on that, because I think we, maybe, need to capture this social value and well-being as part of that, and so it could be a quantitative measure, going forward. So, if you could just say something on that, please.
There is a strong emphasis on the ground on that engagement, social value, the impact. On the ground, we're all engaged in this work. There is a little bit of a missing trick, though, that starts with Welsh Government, I would say. So, when the programme for government was developed and the strategies that developed as a result of that—. I'm going to say the strategy for an ageing society, for example, is one such strategy. Now, I would argue—. It just so happens I also happen to be the age friendly lead for Cardiff, as well, so I'm able to put two and two together and always make four when it comes to libraries, but not everybody's in that position. So, libraries are delivering in spades on that strategy. No-one at Government level has made that sum and realised that this is the case, so we're not part of these conversations. It's just completely missing a trick and possible investment, then, into the library offer and that focus on what we are actually delivering.
I'd also say the unpaid carers strategies, the mental health strategy, the loneliness strategy, specific elements around preventative social care, as well. We're doing all of this stuff, but when the strategies are put together it's like it's a battle to get libraries in there. So, on the new cultural strategy that you've just mentioned, there hasn't been a library-specific strategy in Wales for several years now. I can't remember what the last time was we had one, actually, but it has been quite a while. Yes, there is work being done for a cultural strategy that will involve also museums, archives, arts, tourism, as well, a little bit in there, I think, and we are lobbying hard to get an awareness and an understanding of what libraries can actually deliver within the cultural space. It will be the only strategy, though, and for authorities to be hanging their hats on that strategic direction, it's really important right now. And it's a challenge, and we're all feeling not very confident that our voices are going to be heard loud enough within that strategy. So, yes, it's at that level, it's that Government level, and we're going back to what we said about a division that is under-resourced within Welsh Government. But yes, we need people to be doing the sums at a higher level, bringing us into that—what's the word I'm looking for here—conversation. So, that is a challenge.
And the standards you mentioned as well. Obviously, the standards are the way that the Minister evaluates whether authorities are doing what they should be doing to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. It is a fact that the Act itself—the standards are not legislated for within that Act. I think I might be answering a subsequent question here, but they're not. Theoretically, a library authority could have a telephone box full of books in a park or wherever else, and it would be legally compliant with the Act. So, yes, there's a question mark there about what should be done with the standards, and bringing in some of those focuses on that social value that you've mentioned, and maybe the standards demonstrating more effectively the social value by asking us, I guess, to collect all this data that can make it clear.
We have clinically selected book stock within our libraries, so these are not selected by librarians; these are selected by clinicians, healthcare professionals, and people with lived experience of conditions such as dementia and mental health. We have a children's list and we have a young person's mental health list as well. They're really powerful ways of accessing bibliotherapy. And we want to have more of these lists. This originated in Wales, this bibliotherapy programme. In England, they have all sorts of clinically—. They've taken our idea, basically, and they've run with it. We need more investment in aspects such as that, and collecting that data nationally, so that we can evidence how good this is. All of these people are coming in, and we're amplifying prevention through people accessing these collections, so the standards could potentially help us to achieve that, and help us demonstrate our social value more effectively. But the trick is at national level.
Okay, thank you.
I don't know if I've spoken too much, but—yes.
No, it's been really—.
Food for thought. Is it okay if I continue? I think it is very much—. We were talking before—. I've sort of found in CILIP that libraries are not that well understood in Government. So, the digital strategy for Wales that came out just didn't reference libraries, and so, we organised a cross-sector response. I think public libraries suffer a little bit, like I think Nic was sort of alluding to, in that they're sort of positioned here under the culture division, which is appropriate, but actually, they work across all sorts of issues, so they're in health, in education; they're cutting across all of these things, and there isn't brilliant working across those sectors. And I represent librarians who work across those sectors—in the education sector, in the health sector, for example—so I know what kind of discussions are happening. And nobody's super-funded anywhere, obviously, because we're not in that sort of environment, but they are taken more seriously, for example, in the health sector, and there's more money in the education sector, and if we could actually just work together, because we have the same professional skills and we all come from the library and information sector, we could do an awful lot with it in Wales, because we're small enough to have those conversations; we know each other already. And I think that would really help with this understanding of social value.
And again, perhaps a bit dismissively earlier, I said that we're librarians, not because we're nice—and obviously, some of them are nice—but something like social value, it can come across as nice and nice to have sometimes, and, actually, that's great from a user perspective, they don't need to know all the things that go on behind that. But behind that lie a lot of professional skills. If you're delivering, as they did during COVID, rhyme time online via Facebook to a load of parents going insane at home with their children, that's nice, but what it also includes is a lot of information organisation and retrieval. It takes copyright skills, data protection skills, it takes technology skills, it takes audience-awareness skills, it takes literacy training skills, and those things are what make social value. It doesn't just pop up because people like it and they're enthusiastic, it comes out of a serious profession and an approach.
And, yes, so, Welsh public library standards, which are under review now for the seventh framework—. So, currently we're limping along a little bit in the sixth framework. They will go under review. They've been delayed because of the library management system tender, which is going to affect it because they work together across all of the local authorities and because of the culture strategy coming out, and they want to dovetail, and that makes sense, but, in the meantime, there's a lot of—. It's really hard for libraries, but Nic can tell you more about that.
But I did want to draw attention to the actual, on-the-ground decisions that are then being made. So, if you get the latest blockbuster, you know you're going to get a lot of loans, and that's the statistic that we're counting—we're counting how many loans you're making. So that's digital—it's e-books and it's print books. So, you can keep buying extra copies of that to up your loan stats—and why wouldn't you do that, because you're serving a community—but it's quite a small community of people who are regularly using libraries. If you're not very well funded as a library and your budget for stock is cut, you're taking a bigger risk to buy something that's for a particular community that doesn't normally use libraries. You're going out on a limb and you might only get one usage out of that, you might get none, but you might get one usage that has a massive impact on that user's life, and how do you count that? How are you measuring it? How can we get that into the Welsh public library standards? And to be fair, I think everybody agrees that that's what we're trying to do next—that's what the seventh framework should look like. But I think everybody has to work together to make sure that that is what we're doing when we're asking for the right numbers, the right data.
Carolyn, just before you move on, I think Sam just wanted to come in on this point. Sam.
Maybe—I know, Chair, that's very generous of you, but it's a slightly separate point, maybe [Inaudible.] to the broader thing when we come on to—
Okay, yes. Carry on then, Carolyn.
Just on that, do you have visitors to the libraries and is there a register of what organisations and groups use your libraries, besides books being hired out? I just think that information would be really useful for you, going forward, if you could do that.
Can I just come back on that? I mean, librarians count everything. You're the one who knows what exactly is in the current questions in the standards, but we count everything. What we're not very good at is making sure that we do something with that data, because then we're too busy. And to be fair to the culture division, they're so under-staffed, they don't actively share those reports very widely, and at CILIP, we'd love it if they were easier to find online, if they were easier for researchers and any members of the public to actually—. I mean, they can, they can access them, they're available, but it's quite difficult and we don't have these public occasions where we get together to talk about them, and that's difficult for libraries; the libraries themselves should get to talk about them. And I think, again, going into another question perhaps, they need to have teeth—there needs to be something that happens when something's not working, when there are drop-offs year-on-year. Because it's incredibly useful having data that crosses time and sectors and local authorities, but what do we do with it? And that, I think, is where we're not so good and that's a capacity issue.
Data is often used, though, as evidence for applications for funding, isn't it, unfortunately? So, sometimes, we have to measure all these values—
Yes, we have the quality indicators—the quality indicators for the standards. Although, I know, speaking just as the Cardiff head, we have numerous key performance indicators that we work to, some of which are reflected in the standards, some of which are not. But part of that conversation now, really, as we draft the new standards—. I will also talk about the case studies. So, under the sixth framework, authorities have to submit case studies of impact that you've had, either on an individual or a group of individuals, and there are some absolutely outstanding case studies of how library services across Wales have made such a difference to the lives of individuals, even some who have rediscovered a sense of purpose when they were considering—. There have been things like suicide, or people newly arrived in the country, finding friends and connecting, and things like that—anyway, fantastic case studies. But going back to what Amy has just said, they all get sent through as part of that standard process, and then nothing happens with it. And in terms of advocating for the impact of library services, you're not going to get better than that. So, something needs to happen, and like Amy said, it's the teeth as well, isn't it, that are missing at the moment.
Okay, I've just got one supplementary on social value and well-being. Do you believe that community-managed libraries offer greater social value and improved well-being? Cwmpas, which is the the co-operative body, notes that alternative delivery models such as social enterprises produce significant social value. We did go to a really good community library in Gresford; it was managed by an ex-librarian, which was fantastic, though, as well.
I think Chris was referring to this earlier, Carolyn, wasn't he, when he was talking about the community aspect and producing good community libraries if there is very good community buy-in, and it comes from that bottom-up situation. Perhaps it's not so much about the model—. Chris, do you want to add anything to what you've said earlier on this?
Yes, I think I would add, expanding on that point, that community libraries are very well placed to adapt to the social need very quickly. I think community libraries have been found, often, to exceed the expectations of specific outputs—so, we've talked about financial savings and there are things like opening hours and visitor counts. But while also maintaining those quality levels, they're often able to increase that social capital in a local area, and again, it's coming back to that point of really knowing your community and having your ear to the ground and having that focus that is very specific to the community that you are part of and working in.
I think there are also areas where stakeholders have reported that they felt that community libraries can be better placed on occasion, when they're delivering services that are very tailored towards those local communities. I'm very aware that this happens across the board as well, but it's that encouraging community consultation, and I know I mentioned it before, but I'll say it again, it's amplifying those lesser heard voices and bringing those voices into how you steer the service, going forward, in those areas.
Okay. Carolyn, I think we'll have to move on. Sam, do you want to come in at this stage? And maybe, Sam, co-location is a good topic to cover at this point.
All right, no problem. Thank you, Chair. Just a quick point, just reflecting on the evidence given so far, a number of different types of services and support is provided by libraries. I wonder, do you ever consider the risk of 'jack of all trades and master of none', and losing some of that professional expertise and the focus of what a librarian can offer? Is there a pressure on those professional librarians and library services to provide lots of other things that perhaps, then, does water down some of the core work that you'd expect a good library to deliver?
Yes, we do worry about that, and that's across all sectors, not just public sectors, I think, because we don't do a great job of explaining what we do, but we do try and be nice all the time, as I keep saying. I think that can undermine people's understanding of what we do.
I did a project last year, interviewing acquisitions staff in libraries for the Welsh Government, and I think it surprised even them how libraries buy books, for example. What I think is interesting there is that very few of us know how libraries buy books, except the people who work in them, and that they work with these big global suppliers, and they work on profiles, and they're buying everything that's new. Literally, you could look at The Observer reviews from Sunday, and those books will be appearing in your library almost instantaneously, and there's a lot of work and a lot of money that goes into that, and they're very, very contemporary. So, I think, often in—. Certainly, when I've seen debates about representation and about culture and about heritage in Wales, we think of museums and archives, and then we sort of put libraries in there. But these aren't historical collections; they're contemporary collections, and they are incredibly dynamic. And I think that's sort of lost on a lot us, even—. I didn't know that's how it worked in public libraries; it's very different in universities.198
So, I suppose, I'm pointing to that to try and say we're much more—. It needs those range of skills, whether you learn that at university, whether you do that through an apprenticeship, whether you do that through chartership; there are lots of different routes into the profession. But that does need to be taken account of, whatever the model is. Whether that's a hub, or whether it's a trust, we need to be asking questions, and I suppose that's what I was sort of suggesting earlier, that, if you don't have the expertise in-house when you're doing your tendering, how do you know what to ask for? And we would say, 'Well, ask what you're going to do with your staff. Who are you hiring? What kind of development opportunities are you giving them to move forward? What kind of professional training are you offering them? What are you requiring of them?' And I think that can be embedded. There's no reason why we can't do those things, why we can't start those entry-level and apprenticeship kind of roles, but it can't be sidelined, or it shouldn't be sidelined, and it has been a little bit from our perspective.
Okay, thanks. Can I continue with a further question, then? I was struck at the start of the evidence session also, Amy, when you mentioned libraries providing a space for waiting, and it reminded me of the most widely distributed book in the world ever, which makes a link between being strengthened and the moment of waiting. And I wonder whether you see the opportunities of the co-location of some of the health side of services, talking about people being strengthened in that space for them to be strengthened within. Are we missing a trick, outside of local authority services, whether it be health or other things? Are we missing a trick at the moment about that co-location? Is there more that we could or should be doing in working with other services, whether it be private sector, public sector or third sector?
Yes, I think Nic's a good person to respond to that, but I would say, yes, absolutely. And those moments of, those spaces—. It's really important, and what I should have said was that this is a moment where we can be citizens, not just consumers, and it's there that you can start to have those other conversations with different community groups, as Chris has alluded to, but also across those different aspects of local authority services, because we are—. There was a workforce mapping survey in 2015 that covered library and archive sectors, and it was rerun in 2022, and the Welsh Government was one of the partners in that one. So, it hasn't been published yet, the results, but they do confirm we're quite a stable sector, people love being and working in it. They're not entirely sure anymore that they're being valued as much as they have been, but the fact that we're very stable also means we're not very diverse. So, there's a lot of information about why people work there, and what it is that they're seeing.
But it's really important that those other services—and again, it's not that it can't happen, but, if you're in a trust, and there's something new happening from a programme of government level and a local government level—that we use those networks, that they're not sort of cut off from us, because we've signed them over and we're outsourcing them, that they're used for that equitable provision of whatever it is that we're sharing across the country at any moment. And you wouldn't want a local authority to lose that opportunity, whether that's something in mental health, or whether it's something in physical health, or all of the other things that you're doing. But I'll let the hub expert talk.
It is a fantastic opportunity, I must say to—. I call it 'upselling' or 'cross-pollinating' services, particularly around health. So, we've been developing a strong focus around age-friendly advice, for example. People are coming into the hubs, and we train our staff to be screening champions, for example, so that they can have that conversation. To be carer aware is another area that we're looking at. We do things like we're installing screens that we can have, almost like the GP surgeries. So, we can direct people to information that's going to help them manage their own health, things around, even, like HIV screening, all of these aspects—bowel cancer screening. Obviously, it was Bowel Cancer Awareness Month last month. Things like that, where people are coming in and waiting for, say, advice or housing advice or whatever else and they're there, almost like a captive audience. And then you often find that they'll take a book out as well, which is great. So, yes, there is an opportunity for that. But I know, for some of the other authorities, where they haven't got the hub model, they are doing this health engagement as well.
It's also about bringing partners in. So, we work with so many different partners in libraries. It's working with the health board, it's working with Public Health Wales, things like 'stay steady' clinics, working around falls prevention. So, they'll come in and they'll use our venues, and they have an opportunity then to access our customers in the community. So, yes. But the hub model does actually present an opportunity, I would say, for that captive audience, almost, sometimes.
Thank you, Chair.
We've dealt with the statutory framework and standards to some extent, but not entirely. Jayne. Jayne Bryant.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Yes, I was going to say that I know that we've touched on the public libraries Act. I just wonder if there's anything in particular you'd like to add to that around if you think that—you know, to what extent you feel that that Act provides a statutory protection for public libraries in Wales, and the evidence that local authorities are fulfilling their duties in providing that comprehensive and efficient library service.
Okay, who would like to begin?
So, I think I've sort of touched on the main issue with the Act in relation to the standards, in that there is no connection, really, and possibly it's something that should be looked at, particularly as we are now developing the seventh framework, as we've mentioned.
Then we mentioned the 'teeth' aspect of it—what is missing is the monitoring of performance as it relates to the standards. So, what happens afterwards where, potentially, authorities may have fallen down below what would be seen as acceptable levels? What takes place then? So, that needs to be a bit clearer, I think.
And then, on its flip side, where things have gone really, really well, we need to use it as a vehicle to advocate for libraries, so people can understand what they are and what opportunities they present. So, I think those are probably the main elements of it.
I'd just agree. We were talking before in the waiting room and, I think, from a CILIP point of view, that Act, it does a lot of heavy lifting across the UK, and it's useful for people to rally around when there are cuts threatened. But it doesn't do an awful lot. It's really important in a public sense and it's really important that it's there as a starting point, but it's up to us as stakeholders—that's SCL, that's the national library, it's the Government, it's organisations like CILIP—to then decide what that means for us today, now, and how we're going to implement that.
And it was interesting though, sitting in the waiting room, talking to Nicola about it, and she said, 'Well, we need to tie the standards to it, from an SCL point of view.' And it's like, 'Well, yes, obviously'—(1) why haven't we done that, and (2) we've just solved that, because why hasn't anybody asked us? Why hasn't anybody asked the chair of SCL that before? So, I think that's sort of telling that those conversations aren't happening. It's brilliant that's it's happening today, but why hasn't it happened before? What's going on that means that we're not getting that feedback? So, those case studies and the Welsh public library standards should be stuff we should be so proud of, and they should be all across Government. It shouldn't be a surprise to people, and there should be an interest in what's happening, because every politician has a community and a library in it. So, why wouldn't they be having a quick look seeing how they're doing? It should be out there, on that profile. So, I think it's all happening, it's just happening slowly, and that's affecting services and then we're not shouting about it—it isn't out there.
Amy, do you see a need for specific Welsh legislation to address that?
Well, I was going to say 'no' until I'd had that conversation, because then I was thinking, 'But, actually, we've got these standards', and I know I keep saying, 'We've got them'; everybody else wants them—they're talking about doing all sorts of things in other places, about trying to get library accreditation in the way that museums have accreditation. It's like, 'Well, really? What? We'd set up this whole other process?' Sorry, that's a very personal opinion, but we've got some standards—let's just improve those, let's make sure everybody has a stake in them, consult widely on them, and really make them work, but then do something with them. So then, maybe, in Wales, what we could do is directly link the standards to the Act, and that might give it some more teeth. I don't know.
Okay. Jayne, are you content with that?
Yes. That sounds very sensible.
Okay. Diolch, Jayne. Joel, anything?
Yes. I'm happy to just come in, actually, and I'll be quick because I'm conscious of the time. Thanks ever so much for coming in today. You mentioned there about the Welsh public library standards and everything, and you've spoken quite highly of them, and also, in your written evidence, you've spoken quite highly of them as well, but you have identified there that they need to be used more effectively, and I know in other written evidence we've taken that there's a lack there in terms of it doesn't necessarily properly define what a proper library is, and one of the evidence sessions we've had then says, 'Well, that's a green light, then, for council cuts', because it isn't defined properly what it's meant to be. I know some other evidence we've taken, where—. It was Awen Cultural Trust, that, basically, said that the Welsh public library standards need a whole revamp. I just wanted to get your thoughts on that, because you've spoken quite highly of them, so I'd assume they don't, but they've spoken quite negatively of them, and I just wanted to get your views on that, then.
Mine would actually be 'yes' to both parts of your question in a sense, in that we speak highly of them because they exist, but they exist in frameworks that have evolved since 2001, I think. So, there's a new one coming that, I think, does need to be a complete review, and perhaps in that there's a stronger definition of what a library service can be, which is really tricky because they're changing constantly, and we have to be, as we've talked about, agile. Technology in particular is changing what we do and how we do it, and the skills that we have to maintain and develop. So, I think we have to be careful not to wed ourselves to a notion of what a public library perhaps was or is in some people's minds still. But, yes, I mean, I think the Welsh Government know that they need to be completely reviewed, and that's why it's taking so long, but they need some capacity to do that.
I would say that my colleague at Awen, I know that she's not negative about the standards themselves, it's more this problem with the process that we've been talking about and the lack of using the fantastic evidence that comes out of it, and also that scrutiny element of it, which is also lacking, is where I believe are the main misgivings around this.
Yes. That element of, 'Well, what do we do when something isn't working?'
Because if you're going to capture all of this data—we're all there and we're capturing all this data, all this analysis—you want something to be done with it, don't you? Otherwise, it's just going into this big, black hole, and for what purpose?
Okay, Joel. Chris, before we conclude, is there anything you wanted to add to what you've already said on any of the last few matters we've discussed?
I think I would very much echo a lot of the points that have been discussed. I think the two main things that I would add to is that the library sector is not very good at celebrating itself, that the data and the impact is there, it's just how it's used and how it's got out into the public consciousness as well. It isn't necessarily just about informing strategic development, which is very important, and general policy, but it's the understanding of libraries in the general public as well, because that's what happens when library services are cut—that is when people come out to defend them, and they should be defending them all of the time. So, I think that would be a good point for me to leave it at.
Okay. Well, thank you very much, Chris, and thank you very much, Nicola and Amy. You will be sent a transcript of your evidence to check for factual accuracy. Thank you very much for coming in to give evidence to the committee today. Diolch yn fawr.
Okay. Committee will break until 1 p.m.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 12:05 ac 13:01.
The meeting adjourned between 12:05 and 13:01.
Welcome back, everyone, to this meeting of the Local Government and Housing Committee. We've reached item 6, which is our sixth evidence session on local authority library and leisure services. I'm very pleased to welcome, all joining us remotely: Councillor Carwyn Jones, portfolio holder for corporate and customer experience at the Isle of Anglesey County Council, Ynys Môn; Councillor Rob Stewart, leader of Swansea Council; and Sharon Davies, head of education for the Welsh Local Government Association. Welcome to you all. Thank you for coming along to give evidence to committee today.
Perhaps I might begin with some overview questions. Firstly, could you summarise the key benefits and value of leisure and library services to communities and those that use them, and the impact on communities and the local workforce when services are withdrawn? I know it's potentially a big question, but I wonder if you could give us fairly succinct thoughts on that. Who would like to begin? Rob.
Chair, I'm happy to go first. I think it'd be a mistake to underestimate the impact that both library and leisure services have. We all rediscovered our parks and our play areas and our sports fields during COVID, and if we want to have a healthy population, then we've got to provide really good-quality leisure services, which is challenging for any local authority, given the statutory services that are often a higher priority for local authorities in terms of education and social care. They are hugely important.
For libraries, they're not—or are no longer, if they ever were—just a place to go and get a book; they are community hubs, they provide a range of services, they are, potentially, one-stop shops for residents and real community bases. In Swansea, they've doubled up as warm spaces, as places for people to go and get community advice on housing and other matters, so they are really, really important facilities in our communities.
Just turning back to leisure and leisure centres, again, if we want to maintain a healthy population, if we want to achieve our well-being aims, if we want people to be healthy and fit and active and to reduce reliance on social services and health services later in life, then investing in those leisure services is really important, but challenging.
Thank you very much. Carwyn, did you want to add anything?
Prynhawn da. Diolch, Mr Cadeirydd, a diolch am y cyfle i gael siarad ger eich bron heddiw. Dwi'n meddwl bod yna ddau wasanaeth ofnadwy o bwysig rydyn ni'n eu trafod heddiw, gwasanaethau sy'n effeithio gymaint ar drigolion hyd a lled Cymru. Mae'r gwasanaeth hamdden a'r gwasanaeth llyfrgelloedd yn fwy na beth ydy eu pwrpas craidd nhw. Maen nhw'n cyfrannu cymaint tuag at amcanion yr awdurdodau lleol ac amcanion Llywodraeth Cymru yn y gwaith maen nhw'n ei wneud. Dwi wir ddim yn meddwl ein bod ni, fel awdurdodau lleol, na'r Llywodraeth chwaith, ac aelodau etholedig i gyd, yn wir gwerthfawrogi'r cyfraniad mae'r ddwy ddarpariaeth yna yn ei wneud i bob dim, ac i'n hamcanion ni trwy Gymru. Dwi'n meddwl y dylem ni ffeindio ffordd o ddeall yn well yr holl waith maen nhw'n ei wneud.
Darpariaeth llyfrgelloedd—wel, dim jest y llyfrau yn mynd allan, fel roedd y Cynghorydd Stewart yn ei ddweud. Maen nhw'n gwneud cymaint mwy. Maen nhw'n gweithio gyda'r adran addysg, mae plant yn dod mewn, maen nhw'n gweithio gyda'r gwasanaeth ieuenctid, maen nhw'n gweithio ar draws gwasanaethau, gyda'r gwasanaeth iechyd yn enwedig. Felly, mae yna gymaint yn cael ei wneud, ac mae yna fanteision ataliol i'r gwaith yma—ataliol o ran nadu pethau rhag mynd yn waeth, a nadu sefyllfaoedd wedyn rhag mynd i ddwylo'r gwasanaethau cymdeithasol. Felly, dyma'r pethau maen nhw'n eu gwneud dydyn ni ddim wir yn gwerthfawrogi. Gyda'r gwasanaeth llyfrgelloedd yn Ynys Môn, maen nhw wedi gwneud yn y flwyddyn diwethaf 289 o achlysuron ychwanegol, dim jest mynd i nôl llyfrau—pethau fel outreach, summer reading scheme, rhyme time, health visitor groups, coding clubs, Lego clubs, paned a sgwrs—so, lot o bethau ychwanegol dydyn ni ddim wir yn meddwl amdanynt.
Wedyn, i sôn am hamdden, eto, mae'r ddarpariaeth yn gallu mynd o, ie, yn amlwg, gwersi nofio i bobl ifanc—ac yn Ynys Môn mae yna 1,900 o bobl ifanc ar hyn o bryd yn cael gwersi nofio Swimtime, sydd yn bwysig—ond hefyd, mae yna glybiau garddio, rydyn ni'n gweithio'n agos gyda Disability Wales, so mae yna lot o bethau sy'n dod â phobl i mewn i'r canolfannau hamdden yma, yn fwy na rhywun jest yn mynd i'r gym a chodi pwysau. Mae yna gymaint o ddarpariaeth. Felly, i'n pobl leol ni, rydyn ni'n gwybod eu bod nhw'n bwysig, ond pan mae'n dod i warchod, rydyn ni'n meddwl am y cyngor o ran lot o bethau eraill, a dydyn ni ddim yn meddwl am ba mor bwysig ydy beth mae'r rhain yn ei gynnig o ran manteision. Diolch, Mr Cadeirydd.
Good afternoon. Thank you, Chair, and thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I think that there are two very important services being discussed today, which affect individuals across Wales. The leisure service and the library service are more than their core purposes. They contribute so much to the objectives of local authorities and the Welsh Government's objectives as well in terms of the work that they do. I don't think that we as local authorities, and all elected members, really appreciate the contribution that those provisions make to everything, and our objectives throughout Wales. We need to better understand the work that they do.
Library provision—well, it's not just about book lending, as Councillor Stewart said. They work with the education service, children come in and they work with the youth service, they work across services, with health particularly. So much is put in, and there are preventative benefits to this work in terms of preventing things from getting worse and ensuring that things don't fall into the hands of social services. So, the things that they do we don't always appreciate. With the library services in Anglesey, they put on 289 events as well as book lending, such as outreach, the summer reading scheme, rhyme time, health visitor groups, coding clubs, Lego clubs, paned a sgwrs—so, and there are lots of things that we don't think about.
When we talk about leisure, the provision can range from, yes, obviously, swimming lessons for young people—and in Anglesey there are 1,900 young people having swimming lessons with Swimtime, which is very important—but also there are gardening clubs, and we work with Disability Wales, and there are lots of things that bring people into leisure centres, rather than somebody just going into the gym and lifting weights. There's so much provision on offer. So, for our local people, we know that they're important, but when it comes to protection in the council, we think about other things, and we don't think about the importance of this provision in terms of the benefits that it provides. Thank you, Chair.
Diolch yn fawr, Carwyn. In terms of those challenges, really, that you've touched upon, the challenges in maintaining services and protecting them at such a difficult time in terms of budgets, what would you say in terms of those key challenges that are facing local authorities in terms of leisure and library services at the moment? How bad are they, really, and how might you find a way through?
Who do you want to go first?
Go on, then, Rob.
No problem. We know that, whilst the settlement that the Welsh Government have made to local authorities in Wales is more than we were expecting, it's still well below inflation, because obviously the Welsh Government themselves had a below-inflation settlement. That's meant that we've got huge pressures on services. As I said, often, or in most councils, education and social care will take the majority of what you have, so you've got to try and cover all of your other services with what's left.
Trying to respond positively to that is where we are as local authorities. I'll give the example of my own local authority, because I know it best. We've already tried to move to a different way of providing library services. We're in the process of creating a new central library hub, which will be home not just to our libraries, but to our archive service, and a host of other local housing and other services provided by the council—so, essentially incorporating a library into a building with other services as a one-stop shop. We propose to replicate that on a smaller basis across the authority. Because I think the days of having an individual building as a library and then an individual building to do something else, and an individual building to do something else, are probably behind us. Therefore, we're trying to address some of the ongoing costs of running services by co-locating them in a single location.
In terms of leisure, like a number of other authorities, we have had to look at a non-profit model, working with a trust partner. In our example, it would be Freedom Leisure. Again, that allows us to have significant investment from the partner into the leisure facilities, but to also run them at a lower cost than the council could do if it was doing it directly.
While those arrangements are working well for us, those partners are also facing significant pressure this year from the cost of living and energy crisis. So, we are having to look for additional support for a number of our leisure providers, and providers who run some of the leisure facilities for us, to help with that energy cost. We publicly announced a fund of £15 million to support schools, services and external providers who are in partnership with us, to get them through the energy crisis.
Rob, just in terms of the leisure trust and the lower cost that you mentioned, what's the picture in terms of the staff. Are some of those lower costs at the expense of staff, as it were—whether it's numbers or the salaries that they receive or, indeed, the pension arrangements?
No. Obviously, it's a mixed picture because some of the staff who now work for Freedom previously worked for the previous operator and then previously for us. So, there are very different sets of terms and conditions in there, but the principle for us is that it's not about driving those cheaper costs through paying people less, because that's not what we are about and that's not what we would entertain without partners. But of course, it's the on-costs that you pay as an employer directly that add 20 to 25 per cent to running your services. And of course, when they are a trust or a charity, they may be able to access different terms that a local authority can't access, and they may be able to access different grants that a local authority cannot access. So, there are benefits by not being a public body in terms of being able to run your operation at a lower cost, and therefore deliver that saving. But we certainly don't support arrangements whereby the staff in those organisations are seeing erosion of their wages and salaries as a result of the model.
Just a little bit further on that, Rob. In terms of on-costs and that 25 to 30 per cent saving for the authority, if those are costs associated with employing people, presumably the trusts would have those costs. Basically, I would imagine that they would have been transferred from the local authority to the trust, so the trust would still have to cover them, wouldn't it?
Some of those will be covered because that will be recognised in the arrangements that we have set up. Obviously, the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 and other legislation applies to give people protection when they transfer between employers, but what we are talking about here—. I was trying to address the point, 'Are you basically in a contract with somebody who is then going to lower the wages below what you would pay?' That is not the position. What we are trying to do is set up a model that allows for an operation to be at a lower cost than the council could do if it was running it directly.
Our preference, though, just to be really clear, is always to run something in house if we can. But of course, often, if you have got a service that has already been outsourced or is in a partnership or a trust, it is difficult, within the constraints of the budget, to find that extra money to in-house that service and to bring those additional costs online. I think the key factor for us as well was unlocking the capital investment that the trust and the partnership could bring with Freedom, because that is allowing investment of over £5 million into the facilities in Swansea to upgrade them and improve them, which is not then directly laid against the taxpayer.
Carwyn, beth ydych chi'n ei feddwl?
Carwyn, what do you think?
Diolch, Mr Cadeirydd. Dwi’n gwybod hefyd fod Sharon wedi darparu gwybodaeth dda i’r Pwyllgor yn y ddogfen. Felly, mae yna lot o wybodaeth yn y fanna ynglŷn â’r costau a'r heriau hefyd. Rydyn ni’n sbio ar ddarpariaeth llyfrgelloedd. Ers y blynyddoedd llymder, o 2010 ymlaen, mi oedd yna lot o edrych ar y gwasanaethau. Yn amlwg, roedden ni eisiau cadw’r gwasanaethau craidd—gwasanaethau cymdeithasol, addysg, priffyrdd, tai, ac ati. Felly, lle’r oedd yna doriadau’n dod, roedd pawb yn sbio ar lyfrgelloedd—beth fedrith rhywun ei dorri yn y llyfrgelloedd, beth fedrith rhywun ei siafio oddi ar y costau hynny, a hamdden yn yr un modd.
Wrth wneud hynny, beth rydym ni wedi'i wneud, ac un o'r heriau sydd yno rŵan efo'r ddarpariaeth llyfrgelloedd, ydy ein bod ni wedi mynd i lawr i fath â skeleton staff o ddarpariaeth. Felly, mae her eithriadol rŵan i ddarpariaeth fath â llyfrgelloedd o ddod i lawr i'r asgwrn mewn beth rydym ni ei gynnig yn nhermau safleoedd ac yn nhermau staffio'r cynnig yma. Felly, os mai dyna rydych chi'n ei gynnig ac mae rhywun i ffwrdd yn sâl, wedyn mae yna her eithriadol a ydych chi'n gallu darparu'r gwasanaeth yna neu a ydych chi'n gorfod oedi'r gwasanaeth yna. Felly, mae hynna'n her ofnadwy.
Lle mae staffio'n gost, mae'n gost fawr. Ond mae'r gost yna wedi dod i lawr yn sylweddol—so, mae staffio'n gost, ond yn gost rŵan ar y skeleton, lean model, os hoffech chi, o staffio. Mae nifer y llyfrgelloedd wedi mynd i lawr, ac rydym ni hefyd wedi gweithio efo darpariaeth gymdeithasol yn ardal Biwmares ac wedi gwneud asset transfer yn fanna o adeilad er mwyn i'r ddarpariaeth gael ei chynnig yn lleol, yn nhref Biwmares, drwy fenter gymdeithasol. Hefyd, yn dod i mewn i hamdden, mae hynna wedi digwydd ym Miwmares hefyd gyda'r canolfan hamdden, a oedd ym mherchnogaeth y cyngor cyn i'r comisiynwyr ddod i Ynys Môn. Ond un o'r penderfyniadau a wnaed oedd y byddai'r ddarpariaeth hamdden yn cael ei throsglwyddo, a dyma'r gymuned ym Miwmares yn rhoi eu dwylo i fyny, felly mae honno o dan fenter gymdeithasol. Ond dydyn ni ddim wedi eu gadael nhw ar eu pennau eu hunain—mae'n bwysig, fel cyngor, ein bod ni'n gweithio gyda mentrau cymdeithasol, a phan fo yno gyfleon yn dod am hyfforddiant a chyfleon lle mae staff hamdden y cyngor yn gallu mynd â rhoi darpariaeth, rydym ni yn gwneud hynny.
Efo'r heriau ar yr ochr hamdden, mae'r ddarpariaeth sydd gennym ni yn costio tua £2.2 miliwn y flwyddyn i redeg, ac rydym ni'n dod ag incwm masnachol i mewn o'r ddarpariaeth yna o tua £1.9 miliwn. Felly, mae angen sybsidi o tua £300,000 gan y cyngor er mwyn rhedeg darpariaeth hamdden. Rydym ni wedi gweld yn ystod y flwyddyn ddiwethaf fod y costau wedi cynyddu o £100,000, ac mae hyn, yn amlwg, oherwydd cynnydd yng nghostau staff—ac yn iawn hefyd; mae'r staff yn haeddu mwy o gyflog, ac yn haeddu mwy o gyflog nag y maen nhw'n ei gael, a dweud y gwir wrthoch chi—ond hefyd y costau cynyddol rydym wedi eu gweld efo ynni. Mae canolfan hamdden yn sugno ynni, yn enwedig os oes gennych chi bwll nofio—mae pwll nofio yn beth ofnadwy o ddrud i'w redeg—ac rydym ni wedi gweld y cynnydd aruthrol ym mhris ynni er mwyn cynhesi'r pyllau nofio yma. Rydym ni'n gwybod bod pobl yn cwyno bod y pyllau nofio yn oer pan fyddwch chi'n mynd yno, ond mae'n costio'n aruthrol i'w cadw nhw ar y tymheredd maen nhw.
Hefyd, pethau fel carbon deuocsid—rydym ni'n gwybod bod yna argyfwng flwyddyn diwethaf efo'r carbon deuocsid. Doedd dim ond rhyw un darparwr ym Mhrydain, felly mae cost rhywbeth fath â charbon deuocsid wedi mynd drwy'r to hefyd. Felly, mae costau yn heriol, a heriol ydy—. Rydych chi eisiau gallu cynnal y ddarpariaeth sydd gennych chi, ond rydych chi'n gwybod ei bod hi'n costio i chi wneud hynny, lle dydych chi'n methu â'i wneud o yn broffidiol. Ond rydym ni'n trio gwneud ein gorau, oherwydd mae yna heriau daearyddol a dydyn ni ddim eisiau gadael dim un ardal heb ganolfan hamdden, ond, a dweud y gwir, efo poblogaeth fath ag Ynys Môn, o 68,000, efallai mai dim ond un canolfan hamdden all singing, all dancing a ddylech chi ei gael, ac nid y pump sydd gennym ni ar draws yr ynys. Ond dyna ni, rydym ni'n trio ein gorau i gadw'r ddarpariaeth, er bod y costau'n ofnadwy o galed. Ond mae'r ddarpariaeth yn bwysig, onid ydy, i'n trigolion. Diolch.
Thank you, Chair. I know that Sharon has provided good information to the committee in the document. So, there is a lot of information in that about the costs and the challenges. We are looking at library provision. Since the years of austerity, from 2010 onwards, there was a lot of scrutiny of services. Evidently, we want to keep the core services—social services, education, highways and housing and so forth. Where there were cuts, everyone was looking at libraries—what people could cut from those costs, and leisure in the same way.
In doing that, what we've done, and one of the challenges that we face in terms of library provision, is that we've gone down to a skeleton staff in terms of provision. So, we have an extreme challenge in library provision in being cut down to the bone in terms of what we offer in terms of sites and staffing this offer. So, if that's what you're offering and someone is away sick, then there is a great challenge in terms of being able to provide that service or having to pause that service. So, that's a great challenge.
Where staffing is a cost, it's a large cost. But that has decreased considerably—so, staffing is a cost, but we have now a skeleton, lean model of staffing. The number of libraries has gone down, and we have also been working with social provision in the Beaumaris area and we have done an asset transfer there of a building in order to ensure that the provision is offered locally, in the town of Beaumaris, through a social enterprise. Regarding leisure, that's also happened in Beaumaris with the leisure centre, where it was owned by the council before the commissioners came to Anglesey. But one of the decisions made was that the leisure provision should be transferred, and the Beaumaris community put their hands up, and so that's under a social enterprise as well. But we haven't left them on their own—it's important that, as a council, we work with social enterprises, and where there are training opportunities and opportunities for the leisure staff of the council to be engaged in that provision, we want to do that.
In terms of the leisure challenges, the provision that we have costs about £2.2 million a year to run, and we bring in commercial income from that provision of about £1.9 million. So, there is a need for a subsidy of around £300,000 from the council to run that leisure provision. We've seen during the last year that the costs have increased by £100,000, evidently because of an increase in staffing costs—and rightly so; the staff deserve more salary, and, actually, they deserve more than they're getting, to be honest—but also the increasing costs of energy. Leisure centres are very energy intensive, particularly if they have a swimming pool, because they're very expensive to run, and we've seen an astonishing increase in energy costs to heat these swimming pools. We know that people complain about the fact that pools are cold when they go there, but it does cost an awful lot to heat them to the temperatures that they're at.
Also, carbon dioxide—we know that there was a crisis last year in terms of carbon dioxide. There was only one provider in Britain, so the cost of something like carbon dioxide has gone through the roof as well. So, the costs are a great challenges, and the challenge is—. You want to sustain your provision, but you know that it costs a lot of money to do that, and you can't do it profitably. But we're trying to do our best, because there are geographic challenges and we don't want to leave any area without a leisure centre, but, to be honest, with a population in Anglesey of 68,000, maybe you should have only one all-singing, all-dancing leisure centre, and not the five that we have across the island. But there we go, we're trying to maintain the provision, even though the costs are very challenging. But the provision's very important to our residents, isn't it? Thank you.
Diolch yn fawr, Carwyn. As a regular user of the leisure centre swimming pool in Newport, I can certainly agree that the temperature in the water has gone down in recent times. Just specifically on local library provision, then, you've touched on some of the changes that have happened and are taking place. Do you think that further reductions in service, closures perhaps, are inevitable now, as we move forward? Or can they largely be avoided? Rob, do you want to—?
Yes, certainly. Look, I think it's a real risk that library provision will reduce. For us, we've started, as I said, to try and address that by trying to co-locate services into hubs, of which a library forms a part. In addition to that, we'd be looking at partnerships with private operators, local businesses, who might want to run cafes, et cetera, in the same building to encourage footfall into the library and usage and share the costs of running that facility, but I think, inevitably, if we don't see further funding coming through, that libraries are under threat and that you will see closures across Wales.
I think you've got to remember that our library service, even where we are able to provide it, is not always equal either. There are great disparities across local authorities. In my local authority, some libraries will be open six days a week, while others will be open just a few hours a week. That's one of the challenges for us, to try and equalise that provision, so that especially in areas of deprivation, where they need more library services, where they need more support, those are retained, provided and protected. So, it is a challenge. It's not just about how many you have got, but where they are and the hours of provision that you are able to offer.
Again, there are statutory requirements around things that are called 'libraries', as I am sure you are aware. But again, it's about how you incorporate that into a building that could potentially be open for a lot longer, with other services in it, to try and make it a more sustainable model. But it takes money and it takes resources, and those are the things that are currently, as you'll be aware, a little bit limited.
Okay. Diolch yn fawr, Rob. Carwyn.
Diolch, Mr Cadeirydd. Wel, mae’n anodd dweud efo unrhyw sicrwydd, onid ydy? Dydyn ni ddim yn gwybod beth sydd o’n blaenau mewn termau y toriadau rydyn ni’n mynd i’w hwynebu dros y blynyddoedd i ddod. Ond un peth sy’n saff: mae'r ddarpariaeth llyfrgelloedd, y buaswn i’n ei ddweud, drwy Gymru wedi cael ei thorri i lawr i’r asgwrn, a dweud y gwir, o ran beth yw’r ddarpariaeth.
Ond, wrth fynd i’r dyfodol, efallai y bydd yn rhaid torri mwy neu efallai y bydd yn rhaid ailedrych ar sut rydym yn ei chynnig—fath â gweithio, fel y gwnes i sôn, efo mwy o fentrau cymdeithasol; llai o adeiladau; bod y llyfrgell a'r hamdden efo’i gilydd mewn adeiladau, efo’r adran iechyd. Felly, bydd yn rhaid inni sbïo ar ffyrdd gwahanol.
Rydyn ni’n gwybod am ffaith bod llai yn darllen llyfrau ffisegol, ond mwy yn darllen drwy gyfrwng digidol. Felly, bydd yn rhaid inni ystyried hynny hefyd yn y ddarpariaeth llyfrgelloedd—bod yna fwy o ofyn. Mae pobl ifanc rŵan yn fwy tebygol o ddarllen pethau ar eu ffonau ac ar eu iPads nag ydyn nhw o fynd a gafael mewn llyfr. Dydy hynny ddim i ddweud nad yw’r ddarpariaeth yn bwysig ac nad oes ei hangen, ond mae’n rhaid inni wneud yn saff bod y ddarpariaeth sydd gennym ni yn ffit i bwrpas i'r dyfodol hefyd.
Ond dydw i ddim yn gweld newid mawr yn nifer y safleoedd llyfrgelloedd dros y blynyddoedd oherwydd bod cymaint wedi cael eu torri ac mae’r ddarpariaeth wedi cael ei siafio. Ond hefyd, mae’n rhaid inni addasu i’r dyfodol. Diolch.
Thank you, Chair. Well, it's difficult to say with any certainty, isn't it? We don't know what's in front of us in terms of the cuts that we are going to face over the years to come. But one thing is certain: library provision, I would say, has been cut to the bone throughout Wales, regarding provision.
But, in the future, maybe we will have to cut more or look again at how we provide those services—by working, as I mentioned, with more social enterprises; having fewer sites; offering library and leisure services in the same building, with the health department. So, we will have to look at different ways.
We know for a fact that fewer people read physical books, but more people read digital content. So, we will have to consider that in the library provision—that there is more demand. Young people are now more likely to read things on their phones and their iPads than they are to grab a book. That doesn't mean that that provision is not important and that it's not needed, but we have to ensure that the provision that we have is fit for purpose and for the future as well.
But I don't see any big changes in terms of the number of library sites in the years to come because the provision has been cut so much. But we also have to adapt for the future. Thank you.
Diolch yn fawr. Mabon ap Gwynfor.
Thank you very much. Mabon ap Gwynfor.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, Gadeirydd, a diolch i chi am ddod yma o'n blaenau ni i roi tystiolaeth heddiw, gyfeillion. Rydych chi wedi cyffwrdd ychydig ar y trywydd yr oeddwn i am ei ddilyn. Rydyn ni’n gweld bod pethau’n anodd yn ariannol ar awdurdodau lleol, ond mae yna rai awdurdodau wedi mynd ar ôl datblygu rhyw fath o ymddiriedolaeth er mwyn darparu'r gwasanaethau yma—fe ddaru’r Cynghorydd Rob Stewart gyfwrdd ar hynny ynghynt. Mae eraill yn eu cadw nhw i mewn o dan do’r awdurdod, ac eraill yn creu rhyw gwmni led braich.
Felly, a fyddech chi’n medru cyffwrdd ar hynny, os gwelwch yn dda, o ran rhinweddau'r modelau gwahanol yma? Pam eich bod chi wedi dewis y model sydd gennych chi yn eich ardal chi? Neu, o ran Sharon, beth ydy’r modelau sydd yng Nghymru, ac oes yna rhai sydd yn well nag eraill yn darparu gwasanaethau, a’ch meddyliau chi ar y modelau yma, os gwelwch yn dda? Wnawn ni gychwyn efo Sharon.
Thank you very, Chair, and thank you for being here and providing evidence today, colleagues. You have already touched a little on what I wanted to discuss. We can see that things are difficult financially for local authorities, but some local authorities have developed a sort of trust in order to provide these services—Councillor Rob Stewart touched on this. Others have kept them in house, and others have created an arm's-length company.
So, could you touch on that, please, and the benefits of these different models? Why have you chosen the particular model that you have in your area? Or, Sharon, what kinds of models are there in Wales, and are some models better than others in providing services, and what are your thoughts on these different models, please? We will start with Sharon.
Iawn. Mi wnes i sôn yn y papur fod yna fodelau gwahanol ar draws Cymru. Mae gan wyth awdurdod lleol fodel lle maen nhw’n dal o fewn yr awdurdod lleol, ac mae’r gweddill wedyn, naill ai—. Mae gan y rhan fwyaf ohonynt ymddiriedolaethau ar draws Cymru. Mi wnaeth y Cynghorydd Stewart sôn am sut y mae’r rheini yn gweithio yn Abertawe—enghraifft Abertawe. Mae gan bob un ohonynt—. Wel, maen nhw’n gweithio’n dda ar y cyfan, er bod yna broblemau gydag un awdurdod lleol y gwnes i sôn amdano yn y papur. Maen nhw’n edrych i gymryd honno i mewn. Ond, a bod yn onest, mae hynny i gyd yn ymwneud â chyllid, fel y gwnaeth y Cynghorydd Stewart sôn ar y dechrau hefyd.
Rwy’n credu mai’r prif beth sydd angen ei gofio yw bod pobl yn cydlynu ac yn cydweithio ar y strwythur ar yr ochr hamdden ac ar yr ochr llyfrgelloedd, achos maen nhw’n ceisio datblygu—. Mae hyn ar gyfer y cymunedau sydd yn yr awdurdod lleol. Felly, pa bynnag fodel sy’n cael ei ddefnyddio, mae’n bwysig bod y cydlynu hwnnw’n digwydd gyda’r ymddiriedolaeth a’r awdurdod lleol i wneud yn siŵr eu bod nhw'n cynnal gwasanaeth i’r cymunedau. Diolch.
I mentioned in my paper that there were different models across Wales. There are eight local authorities where the services are provided within the local authorities, and the remainder—. The majority of those have trusts across Wales. Councillor Stewart mentioned how they work within Swansea. There is the Swansea example. All of them—. They work well on the whole, although there are problems with one local authority, which I mentioned in the paper. They are looking to take that in house. But, to be honest, that's all to do with funding, as Councillor Stewart said at the outset.
The main thing that needs to be borne in mind is that people co-operate and collaborate on the structure on the library and leisure side, because they're trying to develop—. This is for the communities in the local authority. So, whichever model is being used, it's important that the collaboration happens between the trust and the local authority to ensure that they do maintain a service for those communities. Thank you.
Thank you. Carwyn.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Yn wir, efo darpariaeth hamdden, pan wnaethon ni gychwyn yn 2013, roedden ni’n meddwl, 'Does yna ddim ffordd byth fedrwn ni gadw'r holl ganolfannau hamdden yma sydd gennym ni.' Ac wedyn mi wnaethon ni gomisiynu cwmni i edrych ar y ddarpariaeth a sut ddylem ni fynd ymlaen efo hi; a ddylem ni ei rhoi hi i mewn i ymddiriedolaeth; a ddylem ni fynd i roi'r ddarpariaeth i gwmni hyd braich; neu a ddylem ni ei chadw'n fewnol. Ac mi wnaeth cryn waith gael ei wneud ar hyn, i ddweud y gwir, ar beth oedd ei angen, a pan ddaeth y casgliadau yn ôl i ni, doedd yna ddim opsiwn arall ond cadw'r ddarpariaeth yn fewnol.
Mae oed y stad yn hen. Y canolfannau hamdden, efallai bod dwy ran o dair drwy Gymru yn dod i ddiwedd eu hoes ddelfrydol, i ddweud y gwir wrthych chi, a buasai yna ddim un cwmni hyd braich, na neb, eisiau cymryd liabilities ar eu llyfrau i gychwyn, os nad oeddech chi'n mynd i wario miliynau i'w rhoi nhw mewn stad twt cyn cychwyn. Felly efo stad, y cyflwr, a dweud y gwir—. Hynny yw, mae pob dim yn gweithio'n iawn, ond dydyn nhw ddim yn ganolfannau hamdden delfrydol ar draws Cymru, heblaw efallai bod yna un neu ddau o rai newydd yn rhywle.
Felly, does yna ddim posib rhoi bwndel o rai fel yna at ei gilydd i gwmni hyd braich. Wedyn, beth wnaethon ni benderfynu oedd eu cadw nhw'n fewnol, ond trio gwneud iddyn nhw i dalu ar eu pennau eu hunain, a'r gost fwyaf ydy cost pwll nofio. Pe tasai gennych chi lai o byllau nofio, dwi'n siŵr y buasen nhw yn broffidiol. Ond dyna fo, rydych chi eisiau rhoi cyfle ym mhob cornel efo pwll nofio.
Ond beth sy'n bwysig ydy bod yna fuddsoddi yn slow bach ym mhob canolfan hamdden, ac wedyn drwy wneud hynny, rydych chi wedyn yn cynyddu yr incwm sy'n eu gwneud nhw'n fwy hyfyw a mwy cynaliadwy. Dwi'n meddwl un fantais anferthol rydyn ni wedi ei chael dros y blynyddoedd diwethaf ydy gweithio gyda Chwaraeon Cymru, ac mae'r gwelliannau rydyn ni wedi gallu eu gwneud wedi codi niferoedd. Rydyn ni rŵan efo tua 600,000 y flwyddyn yn defnyddio'r canolfannau hamdden yma, ac rydyn ni wedi gallu buddsoddi; mae gennym ni nifer rŵan o gaeau 3G yn dod â mwy o ddefnyddwyr i mewn. Rydyn ni wedi gallu rhoi offer ymarfer newydd ym mhob un canolfan hamdden, gwerth tua £200,000, ac mae hyn drwy weithio gyda Chwaraeon Cymru, ac mae'r offer hamdden yma yn rai dwyieithog, so rydych chi'n Gymraeg ac yn Saesneg yn cael eich canlyniadau a'r wybodaeth. Ac felly mae'r buddsoddiad yma rydyn ni wedi ei wneud, ac wrth frandio—mae gennym ni Môn Actif, sy'n frand gwahanol—mae o wedi gweithio ar ei ganfed, ac i ni, mae wedi bod yn benderfyniad perffaith i'w cadw yn fewnol, am ein bod ni rŵan mewn sefyllfa ofnadwy o dda yn darparu'r gwasanaeth, ond mi wnaethon ni sbïo ar hynny'n drylwyr a doedd yna ddim mantais i ni o'u hallanoli nhw.
Un fantais fuasai wedi bod buasai i gael gwared ar y rates, y national non-domestic rates, ond doedd gennym ni ddim digon o ganolfannau hamdden i wneud hynny'n fanteisiol. Mae gennym ni un ganolfan hamdden sydd ynghlwm ag ysgol, ac wedyn mae yna fantais yn y ganolfan hamdden yna nad oes yna ddim trethi efo hi, ac felly mae'r ganolfan hamdden yna'n gwneud proffit, os ydych chi'n ei alw fo'n broffit, felly, ond mae o'n gweud surplus, felly. Ond mae hynny oherwydd does yna ddim trethi ar y ganolfan yna, am ei bod hi'n styc i ddarpariaeth un o'r ysgolion uwchradd yn y dydd. Felly, mae trethi yn lladd canolfannau hamdden. Heb y trethi, dwi'n siŵr y buasem ni mewn lle hollol wahanol.
Thank you very much. Truth be told, with leisure provision, when we started in 2013, we thought that there would be no way that we could keep open all the leisure centres that we had. We commissioned a company to look at the provision and how to move forward with it; should we put it in a trust; should we make it an arm's-length service; or should we keep it in-house. And quite a lot of work was done on this, to be honest, on what was needed, and when the conclusions came back to us, there was no other option than to keep the provision in-house.
The age of the estate is old. The leisure centres, well, perhaps half of them throughout Wales are coming to the end of their ideal life, to be honest, and there's no arm's-length company, or anyone, who would want to take on liabilities at the outset, unless you were to spend millions to update them first. So, with the estate, in terms of its condition—. Actually, everything works properly, but there are not ideal leisure centres across Wales, apart from where there may be one or two new ones somewhere.
So, it's not possible to put a bundle of these things together and give them to an arm's-length company. So, we decided to keep them in-house, but try to make them pay for themselves, and the biggest cost is swimming pools. If you had fewer swimming pools, I'm sure that these leisure facilities would be profitable. But there you go, you want to provide swimming pools in all areas.
What's important is that there's gradual investment in every leisure facility, and in doing that, you increase the income, which makes it a more profitable and sustainable service. I think one huge advantage for us over recent years has been working with Sport Wales, and the improvements we've put in place have increased numbers. We now have around 600,000 people using these sports centres annually, and we've been able to invest; we now have a number of 3G pitches, attracting more footfall. We've installed new fitness equipment in every leisure centre, worth some £200,000, and this is in conjunction with Sport Wales, and the fitness equipment is bilingual, so you can get your results and information in both Welsh and English. So, this investment that we've made, and the branding—we have Môn Actif, which is a different brand—that's really worked for us, and it was the right decision to keep this in house, because we're now in a great position in providing the service, but we looked at that thoroughly and there were no advantages to outsourcing it.
One advantage would have been to get rid of the rates, the national non-domestic rates, but we didn't have enough leisure centres to make that advantageous. We have one leisure centre that is attached to a school, and that leisure centre has the advantage of not having rates attached to it, and so that leisure centre makes a profit, if you can call it a profit as such, but it is at least making a surplus. But that's because there is no taxation on that leisure facility, because it's stuck to the provision of a secondary school during the day. So, the rates are killing leisure centres. Without the rates, I'm sure we'd be in a completely different place.
Diolch. Tybed os oes gan Rob—?
Thank you. I wonder if Rob—?
Yes, certainly. So, it was a slightly different position for us, because when we put in place the current arrangements, we did as Carwyn has done, which was to look at all of the options, but we were moving from a position where some of the leisure centres were run by our schools, so were in our schools and run and operated by our schools; some were run independently by us directly, and then some were already run by a provider. So, we had a very, very mixed bag, so we wanted to try and standardise that, and there were opportunities then for us to deal with some of the challenges that Carwyn outlined, which are: how do you, when you don't have the capital or any of the money to invest, make the facilities as good as they can be? How do you do that? And that's where we went out to the market to look for a non-profit partner who could retain the sorts of level of employment conditions, wages, and to make sure that they could offer a better service and bring investment to the facilities.
So, that was the best option for this. But of course, across Wales, people will be in different positions and they may choose a different way. Had I been able to get another £1 million or £2 million a year, I would probably have tried to retain or bring everything in-house, but there were additional costs to doing that over and above what we do. We are still subsidising our partnership arrangements with Freedom, and, as I said, we're also pumping in additional money to assist them with their energy bills through this cost-of-living crisis.
In addition, for us locally, we're lucky enough to also be home to the Wales National Pool, the National Waterfront Museum, Plantasia—all of which are big leisure facilities, or cultural facilities—and they also are facing difficulties. So, again, through our partnership and through the arrangements, what we're trying to do is to support them through this difficult period as well. So, it is really, really challenging for us. I think, from a user's perspective, when they turn up at a leisure centre, they still view it as a council leisure centre, even if it's staffed by people wearing a Freedom badge although they are council staff. As I said, my preference is always direct services delivered from the council—you would expect me to say that as a Labour politician. But unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of having unlimited funds to be able to make the sort of political changes I would like in all of the areas of service delivery.
Mae Abertawe, Wrexham a Phowys yn defnyddio Freedom. Os caf i jest edrych yn benodol ar Freedom, neu'r model yna, onid oes yna beryg i hwnna fod yn rhan o ryw fath o fodel echdynnol lle mae unrhyw bres, yn hytrach na chylchredeg yn yr economi leol, ac eithrio'r gyflogaeth, mae unrhyw bres arall, surplus, o bosib, yn cael ei dynnu allan o'r economi leol ac yn mynd i gwmni allanol, er mai cwmni cydweithredol ydy o?
Swansea, Wrexham and Powys, they use Freedom. If I could just look specifically at Freedom and that model, is there any risk that that might become an extractive model where, rather than it being part of the local economy and providing employment, any surplus of money, perhaps, is taken out of the local economy and given to an external company, even though it may be a co-operative company?
Yes. Again, we operate open-book accounting with Freedom, so we're very clear that we're not in the business of subsidising businesses elsewhere. What we want to see is them be successful in Swansea and then reinvest and invest in our facilities here. We have attempted, through the arrangements we've set up through the open-book accounting, through the visibility of the support we give them and the income that then they're able to generate from the usage of those facilities, to make sure, as best we can, that that doesn't happen.
Yn dilyn ymlaen o'r hyn ddaru Carwyn ei ddweud, mae peth tystiolaeth dŷn ni wedi'i dderbyn gan rai cwmnïau annibynnol neu led-braich ac elusennol yn dweud eu bod nhw'n medru bod yn llawer iawn mwy ystwyth yn ymateb i anghenion eu cwsmeriaid nhw. Felly, os oes yna rywun eisiau darpariaeth benodol, ddywedwn ni, mewn canolfan hamdden, mae'r penderfyniad yn medru cael ei wneud a'i droi rownd yn sydyn iawn, tra, mewn awdurdodau lleol, mae'n anodd iawn cael penderfyniad wedi ei wneud yn sydyn oherwydd bod yna gamau a phrosesau angen cael eu cymryd yn mynd i fyny'r gadwyn cyn ei fod o'n dod yn ôl. Ydy hynny'n gyhuddiad teg, Carwyn, neu, yn wir, Sharon, o ran y broses o gadw gwasanaethau fel yma yn fewnol?
Following on from what Carwyn said, we have had some evidence from some independent companies or arm's-length and charitable bodies saying that they can be far more flexible in responding to customers' needs. So, if someone wants specific provision in a leisure centre, the decision can be made and there can be a quick turnaround, whereas in local authorities, it's very difficult to make a decision quickly because there are processes and steps that need to be taken in the chain before they can make changes. Is that a fair criticism, Carwyn, or Sharon, in terms of keeping services like this in house?
Diolch, Mabon. I ddweud y gwir, buaswn i ddim yn cytuno efo hynny o gwbl. Mae hamdden yn cael ei redeg fath â busnes, i ddweud y gwir. Er ei fod o'n rhan o'r cyngor, mae hamdden yn gyfrifol am gynhyrchu incwm ei hunain, felly mae'n bendant, pan maen nhw'n gweld cyfle i greu mwy o incwm, fath â chael partis plant, fath â chael inflatables yn y pwll nofio, maen nhw'n mynd allan, prynu'r inflatables, ac maen nhw'n eu rhoi nhw yn y pwll nofio. Fath â pickleball—dwi ddim yn gwybod os yw rhai ohonoch chi yn chwarae pickleball, ond mae hynny, rŵan, yn chwyddo drwy Gymru i gyd, felly, mae canolfannau hamdden yn gallu symud yn sydyn a rhoi leins pickleball i lawr. Felly, dwi'n meddwl, y ffordd maen nhw'n cael eu strwythuro, eu bod nhw fath â rhyw zero-book accounting, i ddweud y gwir, eu bod nhw angen golchi wyneb eu hunain; maen nhw yn ofnadwy o fasnachol. Efallai eu bod nhw'n cael eu cyfyngu mewn rhai awdurdodau, ond ar y rheol, buaswn i'n meddwl eu bod nhw'n ofnadwy o fynd allan i wneud masnach, i wneud pres eu hunain, a'u bod nhw'n gwybod eu bod nhw eisiau cau'r gap surplus yna er mwyn bod yn hyfyw i'r dyfodol. Felly, dwi ddim yn meddwl, i ddweud y gwir, bod hynny yn broblem fawr, oherwydd maen nhw mwy neu lai fath â busnes ynghlwm ag awdurdod lleol.
Thank you, Mabon. I wouldn't agree with that at all, to tell you the truth. Leisure is run like a business. Even though it's part of the council, leisure is responsible for generating its own income, so certainly when they see an opportunity to create income, such as children's parties and inflatables in the swimming pool, they go out, they get the inflatable, and they put it in the swimming pool. I don't know if you play pickleball, but that's exploding across Wales, so, leisure centres can move quickly and put the pickleball lines down. So, the way that they're structured, it's like a kind of zero-book accounting, and they need to wash their own face; they are very commercially minded. Maybe they are restricted in some authorities, but on the whole, they do try and make their own money, and they know that they need to close that surplus in order to be viable for the future. So, I don't think that that's a great problem, because they are like a business associated with the local authority.
Diolch. Dwi'n gweld bod gan Rob ei law i fyny, Gadeirydd.
Thank you. I can see that Rob has his hand up, Chair.
I'd agree. I think it's a characterisation that's well out of date. I think councils are agile organisations. Many of them are commercially minded, because they've had to be, through 10 years of austerity. We wouldn't be in existence unless we'd been agile and pragmatic thinkers, and I'd agree, absolutely, with what Carwyn said. I don't see that we cannot deliver quickly. I don't see that as a barrier. I think, often, we probably want to platinum-plate some of our delivery and always want to give the best possible service that we can, which you would expect from a local authority anyway. But, no, I reject that as a characterisation; I think it's out of date, and I think it's probably a characterisation that's unfair and untrue.
Are we content, Mabon?
Wel, os caf i fynd ar ôl un cwestiwn arall yn sydyn, os gwelwch yn dda, Gadeirydd, mewn tystiolaeth dŷn ni wedi'i derbyn oddi wrth rhai darparwyr, maen nhw'n dweud pan fy mod i wedi gofyn y cwestiwn, 'Beth fuasai'n digwydd pe baech chi'n mynd nôl in-house?' mae'n nhw'n dweud y buasai hynny'n amhosib oherwydd cyflogaeth. Mae cyflogau awdurdodau lleol yn uwch na'r hyn mae'n nhw'n medru ei ddarparu; yn wir, mae yna rai elusennau neu gyrff annibynnol dim ond yn medru rhoi'r cyflog byw go iawn, tra bod awdurdodau lleol yn talu'n well. Felly, ydych chi'n meddwl, weithiau, ein bod ni'n gweld awdurdodau lleol yn allanoli er mwyn torri ar gyflogaeth? Gan gymryd yr hyn ddaru Rob ei ddweud ynghynt—a dwi'n derbyn yr hyn yn achos Abertawe ddaru gael ei ddweud—ond, yn gyffredinol, ydy o'n ffordd o dorri ar gyflogau a chostau, drwy allanoli?
Well, if I can just ask one last question, please, Chair, in evidence we've received from some providers, they said when I asked the question of what would happen if they went back in-house, that that would be impossible because of the wages. The wages in local authorities are so much higher than what they can provide; it's the same for some charities or independent bodies, they can only provide the real living wage, where others can provide better wages. So, do you think that we see, sometimes, local authorities outsourcing in order to cut wages? Taking what Rob said earlier—and I accept what was said in the case of Swansea—but, in general, is it a way of cutting wages and costs, to outsource?
I'm more than happy to pick that up. I would say that leisure services is probably not the best example. Look at social care; three-quarters of social care is delivered through the independent or private sector. I've been an advocate for many years of a national care system or a national care service, but the reality is that you cannot run social care on the current level of funding. So, that has to be dealt with at national level in order to—. If you want to achieve a fully-funded national system, then you have to put the resources in. Likewise, the same thing applies to leisure. There are additional costs, they can be met, but there has to be more money in the system. Otherwise, all you're doing is diverting money from social care, or education, or other services in order to make the sort of change that you'd want to make in the leisure services.
Diolch, Rob. Ond, o ran yn genedlaethol yng Nghymru, tybed a oes gan Sharon farn ar hynny?
Thank you. So, across Wales, I wonder whether Sharon has an opinion on that.
Dwi'n cytuno â beth mae'r Cynghorydd Stewart wedi ei ddweud. Mae pob cyngor yn trio'i orau ynglŷn â'r staffio. Ac fel y gwnaeth y Cynghorydd Jones ei ddweud, mewn rhai gwasanaethau, yn enwedig y gwasanaeth llyfrgelloedd, mae'r staffio lawr yn llym iawn, ond, er hynny, maen nhw yn cael eu hedrych ar eu hôl, ac mae hwnna'n gyffredinol dros Gymru. Byddwn i'n dweud bod hwnna yr un peth ym mhob awdurdod lleol—bod costau staff, er bod nhw yn sialens, maen nhw yn bwysig i'r awdurdodau ar draws Cymru, yn debyg i Abertawe ac Ynys Môn. Diolch.
I agree with what Councillor Stewart has said. Every council is doing its best in terms of staffing, and, as Councillor Jones said, in some services, particularly library services, staffing has been cut severely, but, despite that, they are looked after, and that is the general picture across Wales. I would say that that's the same in all local authorities—that staffing costs, even though they are challenging, they are important for local authorities across Wales, as they are in Swansea and in Ynys Môn. Thank you.
Okay, diolch yn fawr. Diolch yn fawr, Mabon. Carolyn Thomas.
Thank you. Do you believe that local authorities place enough emphasis on social value when determining how best to operate leisure and library services? And also, on the well-being, we've talked about the model and the need of library services and leisure services have changed, haven't they, over the last 10 years, to become hubs for well-being, warm hubs, places to go, and waiting rooms were mentioned earlier, even, as well, for libraries. How can you measure that—the qualitative impact of social value, and indeed, well-being? We discussed earlier that libraries might be protected under, I think, it's the 1946 Act, so, anything else might be classed as non-statutory going forward. And I know you've faced lots of cuts over the last 13 years, so you're having to look at protecting core services, and anything non-statutory might be looked at, but these do provide so much more, don't they, as well. But it's just: how can you measure the qualitative impact of them, of well-being and the social value? A tricky one, sorry.
Okay. Who would like to begin responding?
I'll go first on that.
Carwyn, yes, please.
Diolch, Mr Cadeirydd. Thank you, Carolyn, for the question.
Dwi'n meddwl ei fod yn glir. Be dŷn ni'n ei gael yw, dŷn ni'n cael niferoedd, onid ydyn. Dŷn ni'n cyfrif yn union faint sy'n mynychu'r sesiynau, y digwyddiadau dŷn ni'n eu rhoi ymlaen. Er enghraifft, hamdden—dŷn ni wedi mynd allan ac wedi gwneud achlysuron i bobl leol yn y flwyddyn diwethaf, a dŷn ni'n gwybod bod yna 45,000 o funudau o chwaraeon wedi cael eu rhoi i bobl sydd dros 50, yn dod yn ôl ac eisiau cael gwneud, a diwrnodau a phethau fel arts and crafts, walking netball, pickleball exercise, a hynny i'r to dros 50. Yn hwnnw, dŷn ni wedi darparu 2,300 o brydau bwyd. Felly, mae gennym ni ddigon o ystadegau fel yna—faint o bobl dŷn ni'n eu cyffwrdd efo'r gweithgareddau dŷn ni'n eu gwneud. Pan mae yna blant ysgol yn dod i'r llyfrgelloedd i wneud coding, dŷn ni'n gwybod yn union faint o blant ysgol sy'n dod a faint dŷn ni'n cyffwrdd arnynt, a phan dŷn ni'n rhoi darpariaeth dysgu nofio ar yr arfordir. Felly, mae gennym ni lot o'r ffigurau yma lle dŷn ni'n gallu wedyn gweithio allan pa ganran o'r boblogaeth sydd wedi cael hyn a beth ydy'r gwahaniaeth mae o wedi'i wneud, a dŷn ni'n cael adborth gan ein defnyddwyr. Mae gennym ni lot o wybodaeth. Pob dim dŷn ni'n ei wneud, dŷn ni'n hel y dystiolaeth, ac mae'r dystiolaeth yma'n ofnadwy o bwysig wedyn pan dŷn ni eisiau mynd i chwilio am grantiau. Pan dŷn ni eisiau trio gwella'r ddarpariaeth, dŷn ni'n gallu dweud wedyn, 'Wel, dŷn ni wedi cyffwrdd ar hyn a hyn o bobl', neu 'Mae gennym ni hyn a hyn o gleientiaid', neu 'Mae hyn a hyn o bobl eisiau'r cynnig yma'. Felly, dŷn ni'n gwneud lot o waith ar hynny.
Dŷn ni'n gwybod bod y llyfrgelloedd yn helpu lot efo cael gwaith, ac yn ddiweddar, dŷn ni wedi colli cyflogwr mawr yma ar Ynys Môn, 2 Sisters, ond, drwy'r llyfrgell, dŷn ni'n gallu helpu pobl efo sgiliau tuag at waith, gallu llenwi CVs, a sut i ffeindio gwaith a mynd ar y cyfrifiaduron i helpu sgiliau IT ac ati hefyd. Ac, yn ofnadwy o bwysig, mae'r Ddeddf cenedlaethau'r dyfodol a'r ddeddfwriaeth partneriaeth cymdeithasol. Dwi'n meddwl bod y ddau yma yn gweithio law yn llaw i gyrraedd amcanion y ddau ddeddfwriaeth yna yn berffaith efo'r gwaith ychwanegol dŷn ni'n ei wneud i helpu pobl leol—ddim jest efo iechyd a lles, ond pethau ehangach hefyd. Yr iaith Gymraeg, mae'r ddau yna'n cyfrannu gymaint tuag at yr iaith Gymraeg a hybu honno hefyd, mewn chwaraeon, mewn addysg, ac yn y ddarpariaeth dŷn ni'n ei wneud. Felly, mae gennym ni lot o wybodaeth, ac mae yna lot o bethau ychwanegol yn cael ei wneud tuag at y bartneriaeth gymdeithasol. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
I think it's clear. What we have is numbers. We count how many people attend the sessions and events that we put on. For example, leisure—they've gone out and made events for people in the last year, and we know that 45,000 minutes of sports have been put on for people who are over 50, days such as arts and crafts, walking netball, pickleball exercise—that's for the generation over 50. And for that, we've provided 2,300 meals. So, we have stats like that, in terms of the activities that we put on. When school children come to libraries to do coding, we know how many school children come, and when we put on swimming provision on the coast. We have these figures, and then we can work out what percentage of the population have attended this and the difference it's made, and we have feedback from users. So, we have a lot of information. We gather together the evidence, and the evidence is very important, then, when we go in search of grants and when we're trying to improve the provision. We can say then, 'Well, we've had contact with so many people', or 'So many people want this service'. So we do a lot of work on that.
We know that the libraries do help many people obtain work, and recently, we've lost a big employer on Anglesey, 2 Sisters, but, through libraries, we can help people with work-based skills and filling in CVs, and how to find work and how to use computers, and we can help with their IT skills and so forth. So, importantly, the future generations Act and the social partnership legislation—they're very important, and they work hand in hand to reach those objectives. Those examples are perfect in terms of the additional work that we do to help local people, not just with health and well-being, but more broadly as well. The Welsh language, they help to promote that as well, in sports and in education and in the provision that we provide. So, we have a lot of information, and there are lots of additional things that are being done in terms of social partnership. Thank you very much.
Thanks, Carwyn. I did meet the pickleball champion in Beaumaris. I think you might be interested to know as well, I saw a figure that—. You talked about swimming centres costing so much money, and there was a figure that it cost £12 a swim now, which is quite interesting, isn't it? We can't charge people £12 a swim, can we? And it was interesting to hear that a lot have moved to charity status so they get the non-domestic rates, but you keep your swimming lessons in-house, and if they're part of schools then they can't access the NDR, so that's quite a relevant point there. Thank you.
Rob, have you got anything to add? I thought that was really interesting how you've collected that quantitative data there, haven't you? So, you can use that to access grants. But do you think that's across the board, though, Rob, in your area?
Sorry, was that towards me? In terms of your question, I think it's clear that there is a significant benefit. We've got stats similar to Carwyn's in terms of the usage and the multi-use purposes that are there. So, clearly, if those didn't exist, then you would lose that social benefit, you would lose that additional impact, and I think some of these are really long burners, because if you don't have the leisure facilities, if you don't have the libraries, then, you see that in long-term health deterioration, you see it in the well-being of communities, the cohesion of communities. It eats into loads and loads of different parts of our social fabric. So, it is really, really important.
For us though, when you operate a facility, I think the model that we've approached on this one, where you do try and secure those services longer term by making them viable, whether it's through a different type of partnership, some of the costs of running it would be avoided—NDR has been mentioned as one—or whether it's by co-location of complementary services into a facility. Those things have been forced upon us, if you like, through the austerity budgets that we've had. But, essentially, they can also provide us with really good models on which to move forward because the reality would be, if we'd have tried to keep everything running individually in the way it was perhaps 10 or 12 years ago, much of our services would probably have ceased by now, because they certainly wouldn't have been able to keep running, because they wouldn't have been viable and they wouldn't have survived. So, it has been an innovative experience, I think, across local government about how we redesign and co-locate and co-produce services and deliver them for the benefits of the community.
Okay, thank you. Sharon, have you got anything to add on that?
Buaswn i'n dweud, yn ôl i'r gwasanaethau cymunedol, fod gwaith partneriaeth yn bwysig iawn hefyd. Fel enghraifft, mae'r cynllun cenedlaethol atgyfeirio cleifion yn cymryd rhan yn y cymunedau gyda'r canolfannau hamdden, yn cydweithio gyda'r byrddau iechyd. Ac mae hwnna'n bwysig wedyn. Mae'n cyfrannu at yr angen sydd yn y gymuned. Ac mae'r rheini—. Er eu bod nhw'n gallu cael y grantiau ychwanegol i ddatblygu'r gwasanaethau yma, mae'r costau'n dal yn uchel hefyd, ond maen nhw'n rhan sylweddol o'r gwasanaethau. Diolch.
I would say that, in terms of community services, partnership working is really important also. For example, the national exercise referral scheme takes place in communities, in leisure centres, in co-operation with health boards. That's really important because it helps us meet the need in the community. And although they can get the additional grants in order to develop these services, the costs are still high. But they're quite a significant part of these services. Thank you.
Okay. Thank you. Sharon, just to expand further regarding the national exercise referral scheme, funding is provided by Welsh Government and administered by Public Health Wales, and in the evidence submitted by the WLGA, it said that it
'has not increased for many years, which means councils are picking up the shortfall.'
So, can you just elaborate a little bit further on that, on the implications of that? How much of a shortfall is there? And when was it last increased, basically? That might be helpful.
As far as I'm aware, because we used to be the delivery arm of the NERS until very recently—. Until the end of the financial year of 2022, the WLGA was the delivery arm of NERS and, up until then, we hadn't seen an increase in the grant funding for several years. It had been quite static. Therefore, the knock-on effect on local authorities then is that—as both councillors have referred to—the oncosts on staffing. The LAs then subsidise those to ensure that the staff—. Because you need your specialist staff to be able to deliver the programme, so, to keep those staff, there are those additional oncosts, and also for clients who had completed the course and who wished to continue with membership of that leisure facility, many, many of the LAs then subsidise the membership for those clients because they can't afford them otherwise, and therefore they pick up all sorts of costs, not only the staffing costs but some of the delivery costs as well and those ongoing costs because you'd want clients, then, to ensure that the programme is very, very successful, and then to continue accessing leisure centres. Thank you.
Okay, thank you. I'll just ask one more question, if that's okay.
It was mentioned earlier that if local authorities could take on apprentices, in librarians, to help the library service, that would be really beneficial, but I know that the levy that was introduced can be prohibitive. Do you find that an issue? Is that something that you might look at—taking on somebody as an apprentice as a librarian in the future, because it seems like that's an issue going forward, to have that skill set?
Shall I pick that one up? In terms of apprenticeships, obviously, we've got quite a hefty number of them running across a number of services, including building services and elsewhere. So, we've been keen to take on apprentices. In terms of libraries, though, there are certain standards that you have to apply in order to meet that statutory requirement for libraries, and I wouldn't want to diminish the role of a librarian. However, I have to say that our approach has been trying to multiskill our staff because, if we're going down the hub model, which we are to try and sustain libraries in Swansea, when somebody comes into a library that's also part of a hub, we want them to be able to potentially help people with other enquiries, other services, or other needs that they may have, or to direct people to what they need to access. So, it's about actually expanding the role of librarian over and above the dedicated core skills that the librarians have as part of their statutory librarian role. So, it's something we wouldn't object to, but I'd want to see a broadening of that, because, again, if you've got a person there who can only deal with library issues, and you've got people entering into a multiservice hub, then you need to be able to service the clientele that are coming in.
Thank you. Okay, that's it. Thank you.
Okay, Carolyn. Diolch yn fawr. Sam.
Thanks, Chair. Thanks for your time this afternoon—I really appreciate it. I just want to explore a bit further the comments that have already been made around hubs and co-location of services, and I'm just interested to—. It's one thing co-locating internal services of a council—it obviously has its challenges at times—but I'm also interested to know how you see co-locating public services more broadly. So, it'd be health services or any other public sector or even third and private sector services within libraries. I'm wondering how you have found doing that, how you have found working with those other organisations. Is there an appetite more broadly in the public sector to make that work and to see the benefits of co-location for the sake of residents?
Chair, I'm happy to answer that. I think it's on several levels for us in Swansea. So, I'll talk about the library hub first of all, which I've sort of covered. So, that will house also services like our housing options, but may also have third sector providers in there sharing that building with us, as well as, as I said, the archive service and the library itself. So, that, if you like, is a local services hub. Then we're also in detailed discussions and are getting close now to coming forward with the development permissions for the creation of two public sector hubs, and within those would be co-location with Welsh and UK Government services. We already are home to part of the Brexit department in Swansea, which co-located here after the changes following Brexit. And we're talking to a number of UK Government departments about co-locating with us, and with Welsh Government, in those new hubs. So, that adds to the work we're already doing with the universities and the health boards in the area, and we do have co-location already with some of those bodies. So, again, I think there is definitely an appetite there, but it's finding the right arrangements in the right location with the right partners that's key if you're going to make your hub successful.
Does anybody else want to comment on that at all?
Diolch yn fawr. Gwnaf i jest ychwanegu ychydig. Dwi'n bendant yn cytuno'n llwyr efo'r Cynghorydd Stewart. Un peth sydd gennym ni, mae gennym ni lot o adeiladau ym mhob man, onid oes—a dwi'n gwybod, efallai, ein bod ni'n mynd i drafod datgarboneiddio wedyn—mae gennym ni adeiladau, mae gennym ni hen adeiladau, gormod o adeiladau, felly dwi'n meddwl ein bod ni angen dŵad, a dwi'n meddwl bod yna drafodaethau yn mynd ymlaen mewn nifer o awdurdodau drwy Gymru, i weithio mwy mewn partneriaeth lle mae'r trydydd sector a darpariaeth gyhoeddus yn dod at ei gilydd i gynnig mwy o bethau dan un to. Dwi'n gwybod bod yna drafodaethau yn mynd ymlaen yn Ynys Môn gyda'r bwrdd iechyd, gyda'r heddlu, ar safle yng Nghaergybi, felly rydym ni i gyd yn symud ymlaen i wneud hynna, oherwydd mae gennym ni ormod o adeiladau ac rydym ni eisiau bod yn fwy o one-stop shop i bob dim.
Un peth sydd wedi gweithio'n eithriadol o lwyddiannus yma yng Nghymru ydy'r polisi ysgolion unfed ganrif ar hugain, lle roedd hi'n bolisi lle oedd yna £1.4 biliwn i'w fuddsoddi tuag at greu rhyw 150 o ddarpariaethau addysg newydd. Ond un peth sydd gennym ni ddim yn y maes rydym ni'n ei drafod heddiw ydy polisi o'r fath: beth ydy'n gweledigaeth ni i hamdden, llyfrgelloedd a darpariaeth ar y cyd i'r dyfodol? Pe buasai yna bolisi yng Nghymru i fuddsoddi dros yr 20, 30 mlynedd nesaf ar ddarpariaeth, buasai awdurdodau wedyn yn gallu gweithio ar y cyd, yn gwybod bod yna grant cyfalaf i gael, i roi hybiau newydd, effeithiol yn eu lle, i ddarparu y gwasanaeth aml-asiantaeth yma i'n trigolion. Mae rhaglen ysgolion yr unfed ganrif ar hugain yn darparu grant o tua 65 y cant tuag at y gost gyfalaf. Os ydych chi'n cychwyn efo lwmp fel yna, a gwahanol bartneriaid wedyn yn dod at ei gilydd, mae e wedyn yn doable, onid ydy, i greu canolfan amlbwrpas newydd i ddarparu one-stop shop i nifer o wasanaethau sydd yn gynaliadwy i'r dyfodol. Felly, yn bendant.
Jest i dwtsiad ar bwynt Carolyn gynnau efo'r NERS yna, mae hwnna'n gynllun ofnadwy o bwysig, ac mae gen i'r ystadegyn o'm blaen i yma ar gyfer Ynys Môn. Y flwyddyn yma, roedden ni'n cael £145,000 o bres tuag at NERS, sy'n gynllun ofnadwy o bwysig i helpu efo gordewdra, codymau, cyflyrau iechyd cronig, ond mae'r £145,000 union yr un pris rydym ni wedi ei gael bob un blwyddyn ers 2015, ac mae'r rhestr aros am y ddarpariaeth bwysig yna'n hirfaith. Ond dydy'r pres rydyn ni'n ei gael ddim wedi newid ers 2015—£145,000. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Thank you very much. I'll just add a little to that. Certainly I agree with Councillor Stewart. One thing we have we is a lot of buildings everywhere—and I think we will be discussing decarbonisation later—but we have old buildings and too many buildings, and so I think there are discussions ongoing in many authorities across Wales to work to a greater degree in partnership, where the third sector and public provision come together to offer more things under one roof. I know there are discussions going on in Anglesey with the police and the health board in Holyhead, and we're all moving ahead with that, because we have too many buildings and we want to be more of a one-stop shop for everything.
One thing that's worked very successfully here in Wales is the twenty-first century schools policy, where £1.4 billion was invested in building 150 new education establishments. But what we don't have in the area that we're discussing today is that kind of policy: what's our vision for leisure and libraries and joint provision for the future? If there were a policy in Wales to invest over the next 20 or 30 years in provision, then authorities would be able to collaborate in the knowledge that a capital grant was available to create new, effective hubs that would provide multi-agency services to our residents. The twenty-first century schools programme does provide 65 per cent of the capital costs. If you start with that kind of lump sum and different partners then come together, it is doable, isn't it, to create a multipurpose new centre to provide one-stop shop services, and it would be sustainable for the future as well. So, certainly.
Just to touch on a point that Carolyn made about NERS, that's a very important scheme, and I have the stat before me for Anglesey. This year, we had £145,000 towards NERS, which is a very important scheme, to help with obesity, falls, and chronic health conditions, but that £145,000 is the very amount that we've had every year since 2015, and there is a long waiting list for the provision. But the funding that we receive hasn't changed since 2015—£145,000. Thank you very much.
Thanks for that. Can I just consider a bit more that co-locating services bit? Is there a role there for PSBs, do you think, to play in terms of helping as a structure or a governance forum, or whatever you want to call the thing, as a way of bringing the public services together to think about how services can be co-located? Or do you think it just works better on an ad hoc basis, as and when the opportunity arises? What are your thoughts on that?
I think, possibly, if there was a national policy that would set the framework, then the public services board would be probably ideal to drive it forward, if there was a national policy saying, 'x amount for x amount of years', it would be a good agenda item for the public services board. In its absence, probably it is the ad hoc way that we'll go about it throughout Wales, as we do at the moment. But, again, it would be a good agenda item for that vehicle.
Okay. Anybody else got any thoughts on that?
Yes. I'd agree. I think there's no reason why that discussion shouldn't happen in a PSB. But we also have the same partners in our corporate joint committees, we also have the same partners in our city region meetings. So, the discussions go on in various venues, and I think, as Sam has said, the opportunity is there, but it's on a case-by-case basis; when the opportunity arises, you don't need to wait for a regional meeting to have the discussion; you get on and explore the opportunity.
All right. Great, thank you very much. And then, I know, Rob, you were talking earlier, and perhaps others have as well, about the expanded roles of librarians, perhaps not just doing what we might always consider a librarian to do in the past. Certainly, when I was a kid, librarians had a pretty singular role, which, as you said, has changed a lot in recent times. There is, though, some comment from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Wales, and they say that a move to generic services staffing in co-located centre shows a
'decrease in local authority interest in and promotion of the library as a professional place of work'.
So, clearly, whilst they acknowledge the need for library services to evolve, it sounds like they have some concerns that the professionalism of the sector is being watered down. Would you have a response to that at all?
Well, look, I said before, in my original response, I don't want to distill down or degrade the expertise that the librarians have, but I think you have to balance that against the need to run a multiservice hub, and, within that model, if a librarian is unable to staff a facility that may be open seven days a week, and we don't have trained, qualified librarians who are able to do that not just in the main big hub, but also in our local hubs around our community, then you look at how best you can cover that with staff that are trained in multiple disciplines to offer the best service you can to the community and to the residents. So, it's about making sure you have a pragmatic but sensible view of that. Again, I don't see a degradation of the library role and the librarian role; what I would like to see is those skills transferred to other staff so that they can also supplement what the librarian does in that hub environment.
Anybody else want to comment? You don't have to. No. Okay, thank you for that.
And then, finally from me, Chair, if I may, I think the WLGA as an organisation commented that leisure and library services, in facilitating other key council services, are poorly recognised and undervalued at times by councils at a council-wide strategic level and also at a Welsh Government level. So, I guess that's talking about the role that leisure and library services can play. Is there a piece of work that needs to be done to educate? Whether it be elected members in local authorities at a senior level, or it be officers, or, indeed, as you said in your comment there, Welsh Government themselves. Is there something missing there that they need to understand better?
Who'd like to come in? Sharon.
Could I come in here, please?
Yes, please, Sharon.
Thank you. I think maybe 'poor' was the incorrect use of the word. It's mainly more to do with budgetary challenges rather than the understanding of the value of the services, I think. When you think of statutory services across local authorities, obviously councillors and councils have to prioritise those statutory services, and when there isn’t enough money in the pot those non-statutory services then unfortunately have to bear the brunt of any cuts, which most local authorities are desperate not to do. So, I think that’s why the comment was in there, in the paper—it’s more to do with the budget challenges that are facing councillors at the minute rather than the understanding of the value of the services. So, I apologise for any misunderstanding in that respect.
Yes, I accept that, Sharon. Thank you for that explanation. But I suppose the two go hand in hand in some respects, don't they? Because if something is valued, then you'd think the money might follow it. Whilst I appreciate they may be non-statutory and those decisions aren't easy to make, is there something that needs to take place to understand the true value and therefore the investment of those services? Is there a piece of work that needs to be undertaken, or is it just perhaps that it's just the reality of having to balance budgets that are really tight at the moment?
Chair, if I respond to that, look, I know Sam will know this from his days as leader, and it is a real difficult budgetary challenge. We know that nearly three quarters of local authority budgets will be on social care and education generally, and the remaining quarter to a third is on all of the other services. So, it’s not just about recognising the value they play. We’ve all, as leaders and local authority advocates, been trying our best under the hugely pressurised years of austerity budgets where budgets have gone down in real terms year on year because of the policies on austerity. We’ve had to do our best as local government to try and reform and to try and re-present services in a way that we can still afford, but doing so, as I said before, in trying to be innovative and pragmatic about how we do it.
I wish that, at all levels of government, there was a lot more money in the system to allow us to do all the things we can, but the reality is we know that our budgets are still at 2010 levels, I think it is, even after some of the more recent, more generous settlements.
Yes. Sorry—just one more minute, Chair.
I'm just trying to—. So, I absolutely, Rob, understand the points around difficulties on the budgets and the funding that's come your way over the last, what, 10 years or so. But there then seems to be the positive note, though, that co-location is good and it has driven behaviours that are positive. So, is it a good thing or a bad thing that you've had to change the way you do things in terms of co-locating services, or just thinking differently in the way that libraries and leisure are delivered? Would it be better, do you think, that you were doing things exactly the same as you were 13 years ago, in 2010?
No, and, look, it's not about not modernising and not providing the best services. Is austerity a bad thing? Yes, of course it is. It’s a failed economic policy, it has been proved to be a failed economic policy. It was the wrong response to the financial crisis. But what it has done, as all crises do, I guess, is force you to think differently and force you to try and deal with the hand that you’re dealt. I think all local authorities have been really innovative and really good at moving forward to try and change services. I think, from a customer perspective, offering services for longer periods in more convenient locations, with more services being offered in the same place, is great, but, unfortunately, it isn’t a benefit of austerity and I wouldn’t want it to be painted that way. I think it should always be incumbent upon us to try and improve services and to try to ensure that we give the best services and the best value for money we can to the taxpayers and to the residents, but I would never paint austerity as a good thing or something that's been of benefit to local government or anybody else.
All right. Thanks, Chair.
Just on co-location, are there sometimes difficult transport issues in terms of access? We know the difficulties with bus services and community transport and so on. To what extent is that an issue? Are you sometimes removing services from particular locations a considerable distance further away? And then are those transport difficulties in danger of reducing usage and access? To what extent does that feature?
So, Chair, just from me quickly, we're going the other way, so we're trying to disperse services more locally so that things are closer to where people live, rather than—. So, even though we've got a hub model, we're setting up lots and lots of local hubs where, instead of having four or five different buildings offering services, you've got one building with lots of services in them. So, that's the change.
But, on the bus issue, I think it is a real issue for us. I've been an advocate of local government having more control over the running and operation of bus services. I think that can't come soon enough. But because—. An example, again, from my local authority: we run free bus services for everyone to go anywhere within our boundaries during school holiday periods. Unfortunately, we're left with the fact that the operators aren't able to service those or provide those services and run those services all of the times that we'd like them run. It's sort of like the Welsh Government's free bus pass, which is that you've got to have the buses there in order to be able to use them. I'm very much an advocate of us getting involved in that and having more control over the running of bus services, so that people can get to the services they need and the ones that we offer.
Yes. Thanks, Rob. Is that the picture for you as well, Carwyn, as Rob is describing? And Sharon, is that the picture more or less across Wales, do you think?
Yes, definitely. I'd definitely agree with that.
Dwi'n meddwl beth sy'n bwysig ydy ein bod ni'n defnyddio'r adeiladau sydd gennym ni, fath â hamdden—ein bod ni'n dod â mwy o bethau i mewn. Mae gennym ni—. Er enghraifft, yng Nghaergybi, mae'r bwrdd iechyd wedi dod i mewn i'r ganolfan hamdden sydd gennym ni yn Amlwch. Mae yna grwpiau lleol wedi dod i mewn i'r ganolfan hamdden. Oherwydd, os ydych chi'n rhedeg y gwasanaethau yma fath â busnes, fuasech chi ddim hefo gymaint o safleoedd. Oherwydd y broblem ddaearyddol sydd gennym ni yng Nghymru, mae'n iawn yn y llefydd mwyaf poblog, lle mae gennych chi bawb yn agos at ryw hwb, ond rydym ni'n byw yn y llefydd mwyaf anghysbell yn ddaearyddol. Mae trio cadw'r gwasanaethau ym mhob cwr o Gymru yn her, onid ydy, a dydy o byth yn mynd i gael ei wneud yn broffidiol. Teithio llesol, te—mae'n rhaid i bobl allu cael at y gwasanaethau yma ac mae pwysigrwydd teithio'n llesol yn rhan o hynny. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
I think that the important thing is that we use the buildings that we have, and that we bring more things in to leisure. In Holyhead, for example, the health board is using the leisure centre in Amlwch. There are other groups that are using that leisure centre. If you run these services like businesses, you wouldn't have so many sites. Because of the geographical problem we have in Wales, it's fine in the populous areas, where you have people living close to some hub, but we live in remote geographical areas. Trying to maintain those services in every part of Wales is a challenge, and it's never going to be made profitable. Active travel—people have to be able to access these services and the importance of active travel is part of that. Thank you very much.
Okay. And Sharon, you'd agree with those points, would you?
Ie, cytuno. Cytuno'n llwyr. Diolch.
Yes. I completely agree. Thank you.
Okay. Diolch yn fawr. Just before we move on, if there was to be a national strategy for leisure that—. I think it was Carwyn who spoke about twenty-first century schools and having a programme of new build and so on and a strategy over a lengthy period of time. If that was to happen, who should be driving that strategy in Wales? Is this very much Welsh Government's role? Is it local authorities that could be in the vanguard? Is it anyone else? Who would like to offer—? Carwyn.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Dwi'n meddwl buaswn i'n edrych i Lywodraeth Cymru gymryd yr awennau i arwain ar hyn, ond, eto, mewn partneriaeth, fel ein hethos ni yma yng Nghymru—rydym ni yn y bartneriaeth gymdeithasol yna efo Chwaraeon Cymru rownd y bwrdd, yr awdurdodau, y WLGA, y chwaraewyr hanfodol, yr FAW, pobl fel yna sydd efo rhan, sydd yn rhanddalwr yn y sector yma yng Nghymru. A dwi'n meddwl rhyngom ni i gyd buasem ni'n gallu cael gweledigaeth i'r dyfodol fel y medrwn ni i gyd gynllunio am y blynyddoedd i ddod.
Rydych chi'n sbïo ar ogledd Cymru yn ei gyfanrwydd—os ydych chi'n gwneud athletau, wel, does yna ddim indoor arena o gwbl yng ngogledd Cymru. Oes, mae Coleg Cambria—rydym ni'n lwcus yng Ngholeg Cambria, efo bach o ddarpariaeth yn fanna. Ond rydym ni eisiau sbïo ar ddarpariaeth ranbarthol i wneud yn saff bod ein pobl ifanc ni yn cael y cyfleon gorau i fod yn athletwyr y dyfodol, ond hefyd i'n cymunedau ni yn ehangach. Felly, mae angen y strategaeth genedlaethol yna. Efallai ein bod ni'n sbïo ar rai mathau o ddarpariaeth sydd ar gael yn rhanbarthol a wedyn yn genedlaethol, ac awdurdodau i allu cynllunio i'r dyfodol. Ond dwi'n meddwl buasai Llywodraeth Cymru yn arwain arno fo, ond bod gennym ni i gyd y bartneriaeth rownd y bwrdd i wneud yn siŵr ein bod ni'n cael cyrraedd lle da.
Thank you very much. I would look to the Welsh Government to lead this, but in partnership; that's our ethos in Wales—that social partnership with Sport Wales, the WLGA, the authorities, the big players, the FAW, all the stakeholders who have a part in this sector. And I think between us all we would be able to have a vision for the future so that we could plan jointly for the years to come.
If you look at north Wales in its entirety—if you do athletics, well, there's no indoor arena at all in north Wales. Yes, there is Coleg Cambria, which has some provision. But we want to look at regional provision so that our young people have the best opportunities to be athletes into future, but also for our communities more broadly. So, we need that national strategy. Maybe we would look at some provision that would be available regionally and then nationally, and for authorities to be able to plan for the future. But I think the Welsh Government should lead on it, but we could have a partnership around the board to reach the right destination.
Diolch yn fawr, Carwyn. And Rob.
Yes, I fully agree with that. I think this is one, absolutely, where we should be looking at co-production between local government, who will be, essentially, the delivery arm of this, and Welsh Government, together with the partners who will be, potentially, able to provide a lot of that leisure expertise. So, definitely one for co-production. I think the last thing we'd want to do is to have a strategy created in isolation and then provide it without any funds to deliver it. So, I think it's an opportunity for us to work together to do develop something really good.
Diolch yn fawr. Moving on to decarbonisation and modernisation, as you've mentioned, we have, in many cases, at least, an ageing leisure and library facility situation in Wales. Obviously, there's always a need to modernise and reinvest in buildings and structures, even if numbers of sites are diminishing. So, how would you describe the current funding situation and prioritisation that exists in Wales in terms of those facilities and the decarbonisation and modernisation agenda? What is the scale of the challenge, really, for local authorities and trusts, and how much support is out there? Who would like—? Rob.