HC Deb 13 July 1972 vol 840 cc1833-5
18. Mr. Madel

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will now increase the amount of money for Government grant aid for village halls and community centres; and if she will make a statement.

48. Mr. John E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how much has been contributed by the Government in the form of capital grants in support of village halls and community centres in each of the last three financial years; and how much has been allocated for such spending during the current financial year.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Department's expenditure on village halls and community centres in 1969–70 was £513,000, in 1970–71 £595,000, and in 1971–72 £751,000. For 1972–73 it is expected to be over £1 million. In announcing the new grant arrangements last August I assured the House that the total of Government grants would be maintained in real terms and I am glad that it has been possible to improve on this undertaking.

Mr. Madel

I am grateful for my right hon. Friend's reply. I am sure she will appreciate the growing demand for more village halls and community centres. Will she remind local authorities that the Government have increased the grant for these purposes and will she also point out to local authorities that one of the reasons for the increase was that they could catch up with those projects which were backlog projects, that is dating from two to three years back.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the chance to make clear that the amount of money has been increased and to agree with him that part of the increase appeared to be concealed, because some of it had to gotowards reducing the backlog of applications which had already been received.

Mr. Dormand

Does the right hon. Lady agree that the real problem is the lack of qualified community association wardens and leaders, and will she take steps to increase the facilities for their training?

Mrs. Thatcher

That is rather different from the original Question, which was specifically directed towards capital provision, but we need both the capital provision and the people necessary to achieve the results in the youth and community service which we all desire.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, whatever may have happened nationally, the grant to the Dorset County Council has been reduced from over £50,000 to under £10,000, and in consequence at least half a dozen villages in my constituency are deeply resentful of the new state of affairs?

Mrs. Thatcher

Before the present grant system was announced, there was no system of allocating the money. It was on a first come, first served basis. When we started the programme we tried to make a very fair allocation. It may be that some authorities which happened to do particularly well on the first come, first served basis have not done so well under a proper allocation system. I do not have the Dorset figures with me, but if my hon. Friend gives them to me I shall examine them.