HC Deb 19 November 1996 vol 285 cc829-30
12. Mr. Pike

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received from local authority leaders concerning capital challenge. [3129]

Mr. Curry

Progress with the pilot scheme is regularly discussed at ministerial bimonthly meetings with the local government associations.

Mr. Pike

Does the Minister recognise that council leaders everywhere are worried about the time taken in preparing bids for all those challenge-type schemes? They are fed up with the fact that no extra money is made available for them, they are fed up with the rules continually changing and they are fed up with those schemes not dealing with the urgent priorities of expenditure that exist in many parts of the country.

Mr. Curry

I was expecting the hon. Member to make that comment, because he firmly represents old Labour. Whenever we introduce a scheme, local authority leaders say, "This is terrible; it is new, it is innovative. We want to carry on as we always have," and when it works and it delivers they say, "That was a very good scheme indeed; you ought to continue it."

There is new money—the money we bring in from the private sector. That is what is so good about the challenge programme. It adds private sector money to public sector money, and very many Labour local authority leaders throughout the country will benefit from it and are beginning to appreciate the schemes greatly.

Mr. Ian Bruce

What sort of money is coming from the private sector? My right hon. Friend noted that local authority leaders always say that they cannot find matching funds and then promptly go off and do just that from completely new, non-public funds. Can he give us an idea of how much that has saved for the taxpayer?

Mr. Curry

In the capital challenge programme, according to the bids that we have received, for every £1 bid, £1.70 comes with it, of which 90p is from the private sector. Those are the bids; we expect better figures in the final acceptances.