Acquisition, Use and Sale of Property

1. Questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Cabinet Office – in the Senedd at on 19 June 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour

(Translated)

2. What is the Welsh Government's policy on its acquisition, use and sale of property? OQ61290

Photo of Rebecca Evans Rebecca Evans Labour 1:37, 19 June 2024

We have a clear policy and strategy for acquiring, managing and disposing of property assets. The principal aim is to maximise overall value from our assets. Our property portfolio is an important resource for supporting economic growth, health and well-being, as well as protecting and enhancing the environment and biodiversity.

Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour

Thank you for your answer, Cabinet Secretary. When the Welsh Government is planning major development, major infrastructure improvement, for example, to our rail network, does the Welsh Government look ahead and consider acquiring land that's alongside such development, which would be more useful following the development that's planned? Does the Welsh Government consider that its powers of compulsory purchase are adequate, or are there issues around the cost and the time involved? And do those issues extend to local government partners as well? Would the Cabinet Secretary like to see improvements to the use of those powers?

Photo of Rebecca Evans Rebecca Evans Labour 1:38, 19 June 2024

Thank you for the question this afternoon. Perhaps it helps give me an opportunity, then, to clarify my role in relation to the acquisition, management and disposal of property assets. So, my role is very much in terms of the corporate asset management strategy, which I'm responsible for. And then, of course, it's my colleague the Cabinet Secretary for economy who's responsible for the Welsh Government's economic portfolio and the strategy that relates to the acquisition of properties in that space. So, perhaps I'll ask him to write to John Griffiths with a bit more detail in respect of the strategy for the acquisition of land alongside railways, and the approach to the compulsory purchase, and the way in which we work with local government on that, because, I'm afraid, it's not in my portfolio area and I want to give a proper answer, which I'm not able to do today.

Photo of Natasha Asghar Natasha Asghar Conservative 1:39, 19 June 2024

Cabinet Secretary, a significant number of properties were snapped up by the Welsh Government, and Ministers were looking to build the M4 relief road, which I'm sure everyone can remember. Thirty properties, in fact, were purchased by the Government, with an extra six inherited from a predecessor body; it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that's 36 properties in total. Now, Labour's properties shopping spree cost the Welsh Government, and, ultimately, the Welsh taxpayer, more than £15.4 million. As we all know, the much-needed infrastructure project was axed—wrongly, in my personal opinion—back in 2019. Five years on from that decision, just seven of the properties owned by the Welsh Government have been sold. So, given that the project has been shelved, I think that most people will find it baffling that the Government hasn't done more to shift these properties. So, Cabinet Secretary, what exactly is the Government's plans for these properties? And if the intention is to, indeed, sell them all, what proactive steps is the Government taking to market them, dispose of them and make a profit in the interest of Welsh taxpayers, so that this money can in fact be invested elsewhere? Thank you.

Photo of Rebecca Evans Rebecca Evans Labour 1:40, 19 June 2024

Well, our policy and our strategy for the disposal of surplus property is clear that, when a property is no longer required to deliver against a policy area, it should be offered to other departments and then more widely to public sector partners before being marketed commercially. And that ensures that we're delivering the best possible value for money against all policy areas. So, that's our overall approach. 

But in specific relation to the sites acquired for the M4 proposals, I do know that advice will be shortly submitted to the Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, and also the Cabinet Secretary for North Wales and Transport, for approval in respect of the future use of those properties.