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Manifesto review – What does the Welsh Conservative manifesto mean for social enterprise? 

Ahead of the Senedd elections, we will look at each party manifesto in turn and consider what they mean for the sector in Wales. 

By Ceri-Anne Fidler Jones · April 29, 2021

See this page in: Cymraeg

This May sees the Senedd elections in Wales.  The Social Enterprise Stakeholder Group’s manifesto outlined how the next Welsh Government can support the social enterprise sector to realise its potential and deliver a fairer, more inclusive and sustainable economy.  As political parties begin to publish their manifestos, we will look at each manifesto in turn and consider what they mean for the sector in Wales.  

The Welsh Conservatives manifesto is available here.  Here are some of the key points for social enterprises in Wales.  

The manifesto proposes a National Mission to grow the Welsh economy with a clear target to create 65,000 new jobs with government, businesses, and entrepreneurs all working together to play their part.  Social enterprises should be given a clear role in any such mission to ensure that their potential is fully realised and that any support coming out of the Mission is fit for the sector. 

For SME social enterprises, proposals of interest include abolishing business rates for small businesses.  The manifesto also proposes Welsh firms to bounce back from the pandemic by giving them priority for government contracts by proactively promoting opportunities, particularly to micro and small businesses.  We believe that guidance for government and other public bodies on increasing local spend should be accompanied by guidance and support for social enterprises to help them access these opportunities. 

The manifesto proposes promoting the establishment of a social enterprise in every Welsh secondary school to enable young people to develop business skills.  We welcome this proposal and it reflects our manifesto call for embedding social enterprise and well-being economics into economic/business studies curriculums in Welsh schools.  We believe it is essential we train a new generation of entrepreneurs who are ready to innovate and develop socially responsible and environmentally friendly business ideas.  The stakeholder group would welcome the opportunity to work with any party in government to design and develop such a scheme based on our knowledge and experience of working with schools to date. 

Finally, the manifesto proposes protecting community assets by enabling local people to run and expand facilities.  This includes a Community Ownership Fund and Right to Bid to support the takeover of assets such as libraries, pubs, leisure centres and green spaces, particularly those threatened with closure or development.  Learning lessons from the approaches to community rights in England and Scotland should inform this approach.  It should be accompanied by support for communities and community businesses considering asset transfer.  Finally, a focus on assets particularly threatened with closure or development also risks a concentration on unviable assets being offloaded from public bodies and any legislation should consider safeguards to prevent this.