§ 3. Mr. Hal Miller
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will take steps to ensure that voluntary works organisations receive a substantial proportion of the funds available under the recently announced urban aid programme.
§ 11. Mr. David Hunt
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will advise local authorities to circulate details of each phase of the urban aid programme not only to established voluntary organisations but to neighbourhood groups, community organisations and self-help bodies as well.
§ 23. Mr Peter Bottomley
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make it his policy that half the grant aid available under the urban aid programme is earmarked for voluntary organisations, neighbourhood groups, community organisations and self-help bodies.
§ 24. Mr. MacKay
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will advise local authorities to circulate details of each phase of the urban aid programme not only to established voluntary organisations but to self-help bodies, community groups and neighbourhood councils as well.
§ The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Peter Shore)
I am sure that local authorities will want to keep in close touch with voluntary organisations, which can make a most valuable contribution to solving urban problems. The proportion of funds allocated to them will depend very much on local circumstances and on the local authorities' view of the best way of tackling their problems. I would not wish to limit the flexibility of 609 the urban programme, or the discretion of the local authorities, by laying down centrally fixed proportions to be allocated to a particular type of body.
§ Mr. Miller
Does the right hon. Gentleman understand that it is necessary to involve people living in the inner city areas in any work that is being done, and that there is unfortunately often some antipathy between voluntary organisations and local authorities, which is why I asked that there should be some direction of the funds being made available?
§ Mr. Shore
I think that we would all agree that it is very important to involve the people in our cities—certainly in our cities with the worst problems—in the programmes of revitalisation which all of them wish to undertake. I believe that most local authorities have a whole network of connections with voluntary bodies in their areas. They are aware of the contribution that voluntary bodies can make, and I believe that that contribution will be a growing one in the period ahead.
§ Mr. Steen
Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to see that local authorities do not merely take all the money made available under the urban aid programme as a means of getting extra rate support through the back door? Does he agree that the best way to get people involved is to say that all those who have made applications under the urban aid programme should be involved in the distribution process of determining which schemes should go forward to the Home Office, rather than let local authorities determine the matter on their own?
§ Mr. Shore
The Act puts the responsibility on the local authorities to make application. They are closer to the ground in their own areas than we can hope to be centrally. I believe it right that they should have the responsibility of acting as a sieve for various proposals put forward. I do not believe that local authorities have shown themselves insensitive to the rôle that voluntary bodies can play. Indeed, voluntary bodies have received a high proportion of the money made available in recent years.
§ Mr. Bottomley
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why certain applications were not successful? Is not some 610 form of positive discrimination needed to make sure that a higher proportion of these community initiatives is satisfied and funded by an increased urban aid programme?
§ Mr. MacKay
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that voluntary organisations, local residents and local bodies normally know best how their local environment can be improved? If he does, will he take a stage further his original answer and ensure that the Department monitors carefully each local authority's contacts with local voluntary organisations?
§ Mr. Shore
I believe that local people know best, and I include in them the elected local councillors who represent their areas. That point really must be understood. The hon. Gentleman asked about monitoring. I am particularly taking up with the new partnership authorities under the inner city programme the whole question of how they can bring into the picture in perhaps a more regular way the local bodies in their areas in order to help them play their part in the programme.
§ Mr. Eyre
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at present it is the local authorities that are under the most pressure, as they have great difficulty in finding the 25 per cent. contribution? As a result, neighbourhood, community and self-help groups suffer most, yet they have a valuable contribution to make. The right hon. Gentleman has acknowledged the difficulty created by the rejection of applications of this sort. When he says that he will look again at urban aid, will he consider the 25 per cent. requirement? To demand that contribution of a local authority may operate as a considerable stumbling block when it cannot meet the demand. It may be possible to amend that requirement.
§ Mr. Shore
I am not aware that the urban grant arrangement—namely, the 75 per cent. that central Government pay 611 —has caused difficulties. Local authorities have come forward in almost all cases with substantial programmes which they are willing to finance with their 25 per cent. We have not always been able to match all that they want with the 75 per cent. central Government contribution. In the inner city programmes we are widening the urban aid concept so that we are concerned not exclusively with social problems but with environmental problems and the need to stimulate industry and employment in those areas.