§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ Lord Banks
My Lords, perhaps we may now return to consideration of the position of voluntary organisations after the abolition of the GLC and metropolitan county councils. I am sure that the whole House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, for raising this very important matter this afternoon and for drawing the attention of the House to the disturbing situation which prevails.
I listened very carefully to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, and noticed that he began by defending the Government's general attitude toward voluntary organisations; but, of course, this afternoon we are not discussing that attitude or whether it is good or bad. What we are discussing this afternoon is a more limited but very important point, which is whether the position of those bodies which originally relied on the GLC or the metropolitan county councils for an essential part of their funding is satisfactory or not in the new situation.
It seemed to me that the criticisms which were put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, were not in fact answered, at any rate at this stage, by the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur. The facts which I have in my possession indicate that the transitional system is not working smoothly nor well. As both noble Lords made clear, there are two principal methods of replacement funding. One is the collective scheme and the second is transitional funding.
Perhaps I may look briefly at the collective scheme, to which both noble Lords made reference. As your Lordships may recall, this is where the boroughs or districts agree by a two-thirds majority on the 980 operation of a scheme and one borough takes the administrative lead. In the GLC area some £27 million has been allocated for this purpose, but it is £1¼ million less than the director of the scheme felt to be necessary. The scheme is called the Richmond Scheme because the borough of Richmond is taking the administrative lead in it, though of course all the boroughs are involved and they spent some four months haggling over the budget.
It seems to me that the important fact is that most final decisions will not be taken until the end of this month, March, and barely a quarter of currently funded organisations will know by the end of the financial year whether or not they are to be funded next year. The House will appreciate that forward planning for voluntary organisations in those conditions is extremely difficult. I believe it is true that it is intended that funding should continue in the GLC area on the old GLC-funded basis for a further three months. Nevertheless, as the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, has said, redundancy notices have already been issued. Some decisions have been made and some of the existing schemes will not receive further funding.
One example is the Citizens' Advice Bureau at Tooting Bec mental health hospital, which helps patients and families. I believe that the Conservative view is that it ought to be funded by the borough, but in point of fact the patients come from all over London and that seems to justify funding on a wider scale. At any rate, as I understand the position at the moment, there is to be no funding for that organisation.
The Richmond Scheme has taken the decision that it will fund only schemes which operate in a minimum of four boroughs. One wonders what will happen to those schemes which operate in two or three boroughs. Clearly they will have to apply separately to those boroughs. One wonders whether they will get an even-handed response from the different boroughs or whether they will fall between several stools.
When one looks round the rest of the collective agreement areas and the rest of the metropolitan areas, one sees that a budget has been agreed in Greater Manchester but, so far as I am aware, there is no budget covering social welfare projects in West Yorkshire, Merseyside, West Midlands, South Yorkshire or Tyne and Wear. I should like to ask the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate whether that is an accurate picture and that there are no welfare projects in those areas which are to be funded on a collective basis; and, if that should be so, do the Government regard that position as satisfactory? Also, do the Government agree that the timescale is indeed very restricted? In fact, the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, admitted that it was restricted, but do the Government agree that the restriction in the timetable is one of the factors which are causing these problems?
Turning to the transitional funding, which is money made available by the Government for Government-approved projects, as the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, explained, some £20 million has been made available for this arrangement, but again there is the problem of delays and the fact that decisions have not been made and organisations do not know whether or not they are to receive any further funding; and there is also the problem of a very restricted timetable.
981 The National Council for Voluntary Organisations made a request to the Government for emergency funds to allow the boroughs, districts and voluntary organisations to establish and understand those new arrangements. That would have given a breathing space and prevented an abrupt cut-off of funds. I regret that the Government have so far not felt able to accept what seems to be a reasonable and sensible proposal.
The Advice Services Alliance has commented in a most disturbing way on how in its view the Government are putting advice and law centres at risk. It issued a statement on that just last week, on 12th March. It points out that every working day over 35,000 people get advice from the country's 2,000 independent advice and law centres. It goes on to say that hundreds of advice centres are likely to lose all or some of their funding because of the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan councils and because of rate limitation and changes in the urban programme policy.
The organisation argues that up to one half of the advice and law centres in Great Britain may close or face serious cutbacks. If that is correct—and it is put forward by a responsible body—surely the Government would agree that that is a serious situation. Incidentally, it has complaints about the general funding system. It says that funding from both central and local government is piecemeal and inadequate. It argues that the present funding situation is chaotic. Some seven government departments share responsibility for central government funding for advice centres, but none of them has the ultimate responsibilty; and that situation is exacerbated by the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan county councils.
Perhaps I may give three examples of centres that may have to close. One is the Paddington Law Centre, which was formerly funded by the GLC. Its borough of Westminster has not put it forward for transitional funding. It applied to the Richmond Scheme, but it was turned down. It has no other sources of funding, and present funds run out on 31 st March.
Then there is the Merseyside Welfare Rights Resource Unit. That was funded by the Merseyside County Council. There is no replacement funding scheme for Merseyside, and there is no hope of help from Liverpool City Council. Private sources have provided the unit with three months' funding to cover salaries and running costs, but there is nothing further to come from those sources. On 31st March 1986 its current funding will cease; it has the three months, and no funds beyond June 1986.
The third example is the Acocks Green Advice Centre, which was funded as to 95 per cent, by the West Midlands County Council. It had not heard at 12th March whether it would get transitional or replacement funding. Its funding expires on 31st March 1986.
A month earlier, on 14th February, the National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux, which is one of the constituent bodies of the Advice Services Alliance, with at that time two months to go to abolition, said that 27 of the services that it provides for the bureaux throughout the country were still at 982 risk. I understand that the position today is that 11 are still at risk. It is not likely that those 11 will be saved, but even if they are it seems an unsatisfactory way in which to conduct the transfer—that bodies carrying out a valuable service should be put in that position.
The funding from the GLC and the metropolitan counties to the Citizens' Advice Bureaux service in 1986 was £850,000. I understand that as a result of intense negotiation with the local authorities in anticipation of abolition it has secured £483,000 of long-term, replacement funding, leaving £367,000 of Citizens' Advice Bureaux service funding with no guarantee of long-term continuation.
As I understand it, it was not the Government's intention that the CAB should suffer in that way. One recalls the reassuring remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, during the passage of the abolition Bill through this House, and there is the statement made in October 1984 by Mr. Kenneth Baker, when he said:Turning to the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan county councils, we are well aware of the concern expressed about the future of voluntary groups currently funded by these authorities. As you know, it is our firm desire that abolition should not in any way impede worthwhile voluntary endeavours".Yet it is clear that as a consequence of that measure some wholesale voluntary endeavours are to cease; some are left in a state of great uncertainty; some are obliged to scurry around seeking alternative sources of funding in a haphazard way at the last moment; while all are subject to the pressure of a tightly restricted timescale.
I hope that in those circumstances the Minister will be able to say that the Government will, after all, accede to the request of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations for the provision of an additional measure of funding for one year only to allow an opportunity for that serious situation to be eased.
§ 4.7 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark
My Lords, I must apologise first to the noble Lords, Lord Bottomley and Lord Elton, for the fact that I cannot stay till the end of the debate. Your Lordships will know that Bishops try hard to clear their diaries when taking part in a debate, but it is sometimes difficult, and I did not feel that it was right on this occasion to override the engagement that I have this evening.
Preparation for this debate has inevitably led me to reflect and to look back, as I am sure it has other speakers in this debate. In the Second Reading debate on the Local Government Bill last April, and in the subsequent debates, there were many cogent references to the near impossibility of effecting such a massive change in the structure of local government in the space of about 10 to 12 months. It was feared that many individuals might be hurt in the process (and I am not simply referring to voluntary organisations at this point) and that many problems, and not least those that affect the voluntary organisations, might still be unresolved by the day of official extinction. I remember particularly the noble Lord, Lord Plummer, with his experience of London government, referring to the especial difficulties of getting London boroughs to work together harmoniously and promptly if previous experience was any guide.
983 Those of us who were anxious, therefore, about the future of the voluntary organisations hoped that those gloomy predictions might nevertheless be proved wrong. But with 10 days to go, as the noble Lord, Lord Banks, made clear, it does not look like it. I have to say that in spite of what the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, said, he must know full well that it is a totally unsatisfactory situation for any organisation, even government, to have decisions about future funding left to the last few days.
As we have heard, morale is desperately low among those who face imminent redundancy and a threat to their future. I notice that the noble Lord puts the blame squarely on the local authorities. But the fact is that the timescale has been appallingly short, quite apart from the difficulties about evaluation and cooperation that were bound to arise in the early stages.
I want first, therefore, to express the very fervent desire that nothing like this will ever be allowed to happen again. Even if GLC forward funding saves the day in London by giving everyone more time, the stress and human cost has already been so severe that it will take a long time for some organisations, their staff and their management bodies fully to recover. The point at issue for many of us is not the continuation of every organisation without exception. I notice that Ministers are very careful now to preface the words "voluntary organisations" with the adjective "worthwhile". Clearly, there is a debate about what is meant by "worthwhile". However, the point at issue is that time is needed for that debate. Time is needed to make new and workable guidelines. Time is needed, surely, to behave in a responsible manner where people's jobs are at stake and perhaps a valuable community resource as well.
During the debate on Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, chided me gently for not acknowledging the extent of extravagant and unnecessary spending by various local authorities. Having previously been a Minister in the Department of the Environment, he had good reason to know about some of that. The noble Lord had in mind in particular, I believe, housing. In some cases, the sums involved and the waste of resources have, I know, been very considerable. I should therefore like to take this opportunity of accepting the criticism and making that acknowledgment now.
I am indeed aware that some of the grants made to voluntary organisations, by the GLC, for instance, invited criticism and that the public has in consequence gained an overall impression of extravagance and extremism. But in fact the amount involved in such disputable grants was not large, especially taken as a percentage of the whole. A vast range of necessary and important work has been sustained by these grants over the past few years. For the sake of pruning back some suckers, if that is what we are about, the whole tree of voluntary and statutory partnership has been, and is being, exposed to very considerable strain.
I should like to illustrate this, and what it has meant, in two particular ways that have not so far been mentioned. I shall try not to produce too many particular illustrations because I recognise that other speakers will want to do this later. However, the first that I shall mention is certainly, in large measure, 984 concealed from the public view. The London Voluntary Service Council estimates that the equivalent of about two and a half members of staff, full time, have been used over the past two years in coping with the endless problems and acute uncertainties created by the scale and manner of the reorganisation. The director himself estimates that he has had to spend over half his time on this issue for the same period. He has been increasingly unable to tackle all the other issues that press upon such a body in our largest city and national capital. That has been the experience of many voluntary bodies—their best executives spending more and more time trying desperately to find or secure funding at this critical moment.
The second example concerns children's services. As one commentator has put it,Voluntary groups have been forced into being played off against each other".Child care seems to be coming off worse. Different councils have reacted in different ways. But in many inner city boroughs in London—Tower Hamlets and Lambeth in particular—it looks as though many child care projects will be coming to an end either this April or next, depending on the GLC forward funding. These are not causes or areas that are likely to attract large amounts of private giving. Nor can the projects be run with a skeleton staff. You cannot allow that to happen where you are working with children.
Looking to the future, two key questions emerge. One is that of persuading or helping local authorities to support work done by voluntary organisations when their own statutory services are under pressure. The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, referred to this last April. As a former director of social services, she can see all too clearly, I am sure, what might lie ahead. The Government have of course maintained that the demise of the GLC and the metropolitan counties will enable the boroughs and the districts to use all or part of the rate that the GLC or the county would have levied in order to sustain the work for which they accept some responsibility. This was mentioned in the reference to the rate support grant. But it is not actually happening very much, and in some cases not at all, even with transitional funding. And the signs are that it will not. Both Conservative and Labour controlled authorities, although for different reasons, seem agreed that the other pressures are simply too great.
I wish therefore to ask the Minister whether the Government will reconsider their earlier refusal to enlarge the Section 137 rate or, as an alternative, consider introducing a small rate of a similar kind specifically for the support of the work of voluntary organisations within certain broad, defined criteria. At present, local authorities are claiming that they do not have the funds available even though allowance has been made in the overall rate support grant or in other ways. And of course transitional funding is going to taper away to nothing over the next four years. What is needed, I believe, is some visible mechanism that makes the connection obvious. While this would still be a charge on the rates, it would be easier to justify, would leave room for the local voice and give statutory expression to the partnership with voluntary organisations that the Government, I know, are very anxious to sustain.
985 My second question is to ask the Minister whether he would consider setting up a departmental review of the decisions now being made by the London boroughs' grants scheme and its metropolitan equivalents, and by individual boroughs or districts, to see what has actually happened to all the applications, the criteria that have been used and the difficulties encountered, and to see which organisations have fallen between two stools, and why. I refer to this business of not being eligible for cross-borough or collective funding and not eligible for single borough funding. It seems that the tug-of-war between central and local government on the one hand and between cross-borough funding and single borough funding on the other is causing acute problems for certain organisations such as the CAB, already mentioned, the family service units, or, to take one specific case, the Spitalfields care workers in Tower Hamlets.
The Home Secretary emphasised recently that law and order issues are complex, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, did in his report on the Brixton disorders. If the problems of the inner city are not to be solved simply by pumping money into new buildings, setting up new organisations, or in other ways that are felt to be extravagant or not to serve the purpose intended, no more will they be solved simply by pumping more money into the police forces and taking it away from voluntary organisations in order to pay for that. Yet this is how the equation is almost beginning to look.
Far from the difficulties we already face being eased, I believe they will get steadily worse if voluntary organisations diminish still further. I hope that we can all unite today in our determination to preserve and strengthen all the good work which is already going on through voluntary effort in the community to reinforce the fabric of society against the many forces that are undermining or attacking it and to give some relief to those organisations which at the moment see their existence threatened within a week or two.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
My Lords, I begin by thanking my noble friend Lord Bottomley for initiating this debate. It is well that we should bear in mind that it relates to the needs of voluntary organisations following the abolition of the GLC and metropolitan counties. If I may say so with respect, calling in aid yesterday's Budget announcement has no immediate relevance to what we are discussing although in the long run, undoubtedly, the help to charities will be of assistance.
The record of my noble friend Lord Bottomley in the field of social service and of public activity is equalled only by that of his wife, Lady Bottomley.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
My Lords, it is right that I should pay tribute to her as well in the course of this debate. Without her, how far would the noble Lord have travelled, I wonder?
However, we have already had notable speeches on this important question from my noble friend and 986 from the noble Lord, Lord Banks, and right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark. In due course we shall be examining with care what the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, has said in his attempted explanation. I would not call it exactly an attempted vindication of what has been done so far by the Government, because it is abundantly clear that a great deal has been left undone.
There is one common factor which will be accepted by all sides of the House and by the Government as well; namely, the value and importance of the network of the 2,000 or so independent advice and law centres which exist, many spread over different parts of the country.
I attended the meeting of the Advice Centres Alliance, to which the noble Lord, Lord Banks, referred, on 12th March. I noted that the Government sent a PPS along to that conference, where experts in the field had gathered from all parts of the country. As a former PPS I remember how important the work performed by those who carry out little errands for Ministers of State is. The PPS was a very admirable young man who said frankly that he had come to listen and not to take part in discussions. There it is—and I must not hold that too severely against the Government. I appreciate the seriousness with which both the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, and the noble Lord, Lord Elton, approach this problem.
However, at that conference we learned that about 35,000 callers call at the advice centres every day for advice. About half the centres are Citizens' Advice Bureaux (CABs). Last year they dealt with just under six million inquiries covering the whole range of social, personal and family problems. It is a remarkable achievement that our society has created this on a largely voluntary basis. I shall say a little more about that in a moment.
Some people go to these centres needing advice as to how they should try to solve their problems. Others need immediate professional legal advice and representations. Broadly speaking, the CABs and the law centres meet both contingencies, with some overlap on the part of both.
The volume of work that the centres have attracted has shown how deep is the need that they are attempting to meet. Ministers in this House and elsewhere have admitted their importance and value. Indeed, we were impressed by the assurances given, I am sure in the utmost good faith on his part, by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan county councils would not damage that valuable voluntary sector. The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, gave the same assurance today.
Unhappily, those promises are not being fulfilled. We have already had some examples given. Voluntary organisations in London and in the metropolitan counties are facing utter confusion. In the conference to which I have referred, on 12th March, of the Advice Centres Alliance they wrote in their joint declaration by all the major advice networks in the United Kingdom:The present funding situation is chaotic. No one government department has overall responsibility for funding, although seven departments,as has been indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Banks,have some involvement".987 They continue:The result is a large variation in legal and advice provision between different areas. Each year existing agencies are faced with financial insecurity, and forced to divert valuable time and resources to the annual round of funding negotiations".Those existing difficulties have been greatly aggravated by what has followed: the abolition of the GLC and the MCCs together. That, I regret to say, was done in a hurry without forethought of the grave consequences. There was no Royal Commission which preceded it, and no careful examination of its implications for local authorities or the people involved. We are now paying a high price for the failures to anticipate and now the inability of desperate last-minute measures to put the situation right.
I greatly hope that the message which will emerge from this debate is that the Government must introduce immediately an emergency funding package to provide for the contingency funding at existing levels of voluntary organisations currently funded by the GLC and the MCCs until the various successor schemes which the Government have introduced can begin to function efficiently. As has been said, something along that line has been proposed by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations as well.
If that immediate action is not taken, it means a sentence of death on many of these valuable organisations. So far the successor schemes have failed to deliver. We have had some examples in the speeches we have heard already. In London—and there are similar critical problems elsewhere—out of about 700 currently-funded organisations which have applied for funding only 118, I am told, know their fate and their future. Hundreds of currently-funded organisations have no idea what their future will be or when it will be decided. How can we run any organisation on that basis, whether voluntary, commercial or professional?
I understand from sources in the Greater London Council that only 80 per cent, of approved grants will be paid this year because of staff shortage. At this stage we are entitled to ask whether the London Residuary Body will guarantee to pay out in full all grants already approved. That would be something. At least we should have expected that.
With regard to borough funding, very few London boroughs have yet taken decisions as to which of their local voluntary organisations they will be able to support in the next financial year. A large number are left in the dark. Time will not permit the detailing of the numerous pleas that I, and I am sure most of us will have received for help from these centres. My own particular concern has been with law centres and I have already had two "goes" (if that is the right word) at the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and another Minister on that matter.
May I say at once that I regard law centres as being in a very special position, not only because I have taken a personal interest in them and indeed was present at the birth of several of them, but because they are concerned with the giving of legal aid and advice. Access to justice is an essential part of any civilised society. It is an essential part of the rule of law in this country and elsewhere. We pride ourselves on it. Surely the provision of legal services should be a central, national, governmental funding responsibility. It is not a matter for local authorities.
988 Very often there is inevitable conflict between what a legal advice centre may recommend and the interests of the borough council concerned. I remember one experience of that, and I hope that my right honourable friend to whom I am referring will not mind my telling this. I opened the Adamsdown Law Centre of Cardiff, the constituency of the then Prime Minister. With great kindness and willingness he attended the opening. Six months later he said, "What on earth have you done to me? Your Adamsdown Law Centre has enabled one of my constituents to bring an action. Because she has broken her leg falling down a hole in the pavement it will cost the ward £60,000 to put the pavements right". That is exactly what law centres are for and what they were doing; but one can well understand that not much love was gained in the relation between the centre and that particular area. However, that may not be characteristic. I hasten to say that the enthusiasm of my right honourable friend Mr. Callaghan for law centres has continued in spite of that experience.
There is no time to give more than an example or two of the fate of some of the law centres. About 12 years ago I opened the Paddington Law Centre. It now has 239 current cases. It is scheduled to close on 27th March when its funds will run out. The Westminster City Council has refused to help it and transitional funds are not to be forthcoming. The centre, which employs eight people, has an extensive workload. Well over 200 cases are outstanding. Most of the staff have been given redundancy notices and will have to leave by the end of the month. What a lot is lost by the loss of these staff and the law centres.
The emergence of law centres is a tribute to the largely voluntary young men and women—lawyers and non-lawyers alike—who brought them into being, prompted not by wanting to make money, but by the stirrings of their social consciences. They have shown that they are willing to help in the face of the miseries and worries which they see around them. The support of the few paid lawyers and a mass of volunteers will give way to disruption because of the destruction of some of these centres. In many cases they will be irreplaceable; they cannot be replaced.
Another startling example is the Liverpool 8 Centre which covers Toxteth, a place which calls for as much support as can possibly be given, especially by way of legal aid, if further riots and unrest and attempts to take remedies outside the law are to be avoided. This centre is left with no public funds for the new financial year. So far it has raised a few thousand pounds from charitable sources. The last time we debated law centres the suggestion was made that they should do more by collecting from charity themselves. There is a limit to that, and the limit has been reached.
In view of that ominous object above, the clock, there is no time for me to take the matter further. However, the need to rescue these imperilled centres is very great. This is a situation of the Government's own creation. I shall not go into the merits of whether or not the GLC and the metropolitan councils should be abolished. However, the effect and result of abolition has hit this area in a way which I do not suppose the Government really anticipated. It is certainly not something for which they have provided. Now, unless they deal with this situation, created on their own 989 responsibility, the consequences of doing nothing in terms of social order will be grave indeed. What has already happened in some of the inner cities ought to be warning enough.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Baroness Elliot of Harwood
My Lords, I take part in this debate with very great pleasure, more particularly because the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, has initiated it. The noble Lord and I have had a long association with voluntary organisations ever since the war, when my sister and I started the North Riding Association of Youth Clubs and the noble Lord helped us very much. He was then Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough. Therefore, I congratulate him very much on initiating this debate and it is a very great pleasure to take part in it.
It is also a very great honour to speak immediately after the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones. I happen to know that the noble and learned Lord has a great interest in legal matters to do with voluntary organisations, and is also interested in the mental health situation as he is president of an organisation with which I am closely associated. Therefore, all of us here today are (as we often are in your Lordships' House) in no way in opposition to one another but are anxious to do the right thing and to find the right way to do it. That is not at all an easy task.
I can remember the time when local authorities did nothing at all about voluntary organisations. I sat on the first government youth committee set up by the Ministry of Education in about 1938, and our job was to try to make the education committees in all local authorities pay some attention to and do something for the training of young people in voluntary organisations. I can remember travelling around the country making speeches in order to try to get local education authorities interested in voluntary organisations. That was quite a long time ago. However, it was a start and it has been growing ever since.
It is impossible to over-estimate the enormous value of all the societies that have been discussed here today, which I shall not go into, because at the end of the day they save local authorities so much money. They receive millions of pounds worth of help from personnel which they would never be able to provide in terms of cash. That is one of the reasons for us to urge all the boroughs who are taking over these responsibilities to realise from the start that assistance to these societies is an investment, not an extravagance. This is something that will bring things to them. If they had to pay for everything done by the voluntary organisations, these things would not be done. This is something that the Government should take into account in the financing.
I understand that it is difficult for the Government to follow up everything that is happening in the boroughs at present. I agree with those people who have said that time is an important factor in all this. There is too little time to organise properly. I only wish that there could be an interim period in which the arrangements could be made and financed by the local authorities. But if the local authorities do not fix matters up quickly enough it would be a thousand pities if what is being done suddenly has to come to an 990 end. That is why I hope that the Government w ill give this their consideration.
There are many schemes which will work very well. The other day, I was looking at the Richmond scheme for London, where there is a budget of £27 million. I believe that will be a great success, but the tiding-over of grants from one borough to another is making everything difficult. The timing is difficult to estimate. That will be part of the responsibilities which this change will necessitate.
I have also been given papers by the National Society of Voluntary Organisations on voluntary sector loans or subsidies, which may be temporary, for £20 million for one year. The noble Lord, Lord Banks, has mentioned that, and he is right. Twenty million pounds sounds a lot of money, but it is nothing to what the local boroughs would have to pay if all these organisations come to an end. That would be devastating. I appreciate and understand the difficulty that the Government have, but there is a strong case to be made for some tiding-over, even if some of it had to be refunded from the boroughs eventually. But we should not let the whole thing collapse now, because to try to revive it would be enormously costly.
I was talking to someone the other day about the Arts Council and the help it has had from the Government, all of which I strongly support. It is vital that the work of the Arts Council should be strongly supported as a result of all this reorganisation. But the Arts Council is one body. Art is very varied, but it is still one subject. Voluntary organisations cover hundreds of different matters. It is not possible to amalgamate everything and put it into one body so that it can be easily run. It would be quite impossible to do that. Arts are one subject, but voluntary organisations cover a huge field of community work and activities. One cannot treat them by handing it all over to one centre, because there is not one centre that could handle it. It is extremely important to realise that the whole problem is so complicated and varied.
I was told (and I believe it to be true) that Liverpool and Merseyside, which has proved to be one of the most difficult areas, has refused to co-operate in the reorganisation. When the Department of the Environment offered £500,000 if the area would produce £300,000 to make the transition, it refused the £500,000 and it did not produce the £300,000. So far, Merseyside has not come together with any sort of joint scheme and therefore the fate of many organisations is in the balance. However, grants have been offered and it is up to Liverpool to receive those grants and to make the best of them. But at present, so far as I have been told, that metropolitan county refuses to do that.
There are a number of boroughs and councils that have agreed, are busy reorganising and will continue to give grants. That shows that it can be done. It is only a few areas that are proving to be so intransigent. On that, I have the sympathy of the Government because they are anxious to help; yet in places that help is not being accepted.
Looking at the situation today, it seems to me that the timetable is the real difficulty. It would help if more time could be given to the major organisations which, with their efforts, would put new heart into the activities of so many organisations. I know that the 991 noble Lord, Lord Elton, is a keen worker for voluntary organisations, as indeed is the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur. They will appreciate all that I am saying and will do their very best to help. But the local authorities must co-operate. The majority are doing so, but there are these one or two exceptions. I feel it is a great mistake. They should be pressed by their own ratepayers to help in these matters.
Finally, yesterday, when we heard the Budget for the first time, I was extremely encouraged by the items in the Budget that will help charities and voluntary organisations. If we can achieve that from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Budget, let us try to get something else as well to tide us over, for I believe that at the end of the day it will work. I do not want it to be knocked on the head now when all it needs is another six or nine months to keep it going. I hope that the Government will realise that, while we are all supporting them in every way, there is this essential timetable which is so difficult to organise. If they could make an interim gesture, that would be of enormous help.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Lord Rhodes
My Lords, I join those who have congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, on the way he led the debate today. There is no one in this House better fitted to initiate such a debate because he has spent a long time caring for others. It was grand to see and hear him this afternoon. If we have to attend the pre-funeral rites of the Greater Manchester Council we should be allowed some indulgence in praising it.
When the GMC was set up, and we in Saddleworth were carved out of Yorkshire and thrust into Greater Manchester, we did not like it. We said so. But over the years that have intervened the GMC has proved itself to be a first-class authority. The fight against abolition has highlighted some of the achievements of the GMC during the past 12 years. Loyalties are a slow and tender growth and pride in our institutions is a precious thing. No authority in this country has done better than the Manchester Metropolitan Council in fostering that desirable thing. It is what our country is short of, is it not? It is time that some of our town halls woke up to the fact that a bit of prestige goes a long way in the world today.
The Government are clobbering it in about a fortnight, just when we should be celebrating its maturity as an imaginative authority. What is happening this week? The Queen is going to Manchester to open one of the finest new exhibition halls in Europe. It never would have come to pass if it had not been for the fact that the GMC stepped in and organised the rebuilding and rehabilitation of 26 acres behind the Midland Hotel, Manchester. It was the site of Manchester's old Central Station. A company was formed to refurbish and equip it as an exhibition centre of 10,000 square feet. Of course it has been a costly venture, but it has been worth it.
How could we have got Europe to subscribe, as they did, to Manchester if it had had to go through 10 local authorities? We in Manchester received in total £40 million. The GMC also did a good job in providing a more secure base for major organisations such as the 992 Hallé Orchestra. We have also increased the range of arts activities and so on on a county-wide basis. Now, with the demise of the GMC pending, the districts are likely not to embrace their new responsibilities, not because they are opposed to them in principle but because they cannot afford to exceed the limits particularly of non-statutory provision.
In addition, there is the extra burden that is being placed on local government councillors.
During this phase—and I am going to say something that is probably unusual—of the life of the GMC we have had a Lord Lieutenant in Manchester who has been a tremendous influence in furthering the prestige of Manchester and all that it has stood for. He has done a wonderful job.
The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, when he replied to my noble friend Lord Bottomley, recounted some of the things that had been done by the Government. Let me just remind your Lordships of some of the things that have happened since the GMC received notice eight months ago. When the Local Government Bill became law at the end of last summer the districts and the county established a co-ordinating committee which got on with making the best of a bad job. They worked against a quite unnecessarily short period of time. They had only eight months, which was nothing like enough, in which to implement major changes. The introduction of joint authorities for police, passenger transport, fire and waste disposal is the least satisfactory unit of local government. It has placed extra burdens on local authorities, local councillors, and there must be some doubt whether these arrangements can sensibly stand the test of time.
Another deficiency in the Act was its handling of the superannuation fund, which in the GMC is about £1,000 million. The Act said that it had to be placed with a lead district on the basis of a unanimous vote; otherwise it passed to the Residuary Body. In this case, as the districts could not agree, it has passed to the Residuary Body. It should have been resolved by a majority decision. It is worrying that an unelected body should be administering important aspects of local government. Similar problems have arisen on the voluntary sector. The Act provided for a collective scheme to fund the voluntary sector across the county. Here, in order for a grant to be made and a contribution from all the authorities to be binding, a two-thirds majority is required. In Manchester seven authorities are required to agree to vote for each voluntary scheme.
Now I come to what I really want to speak about in this debate. Today, and every day in the week except Sundays, there is a queue outside Strangeways Gaol of as many as 500. Who are they? They are those who have come to visit people in the gaol. They have allowed to them a quarter of an hour every day. They stand outside that gaol in terrible weather, wet through; children run about in danger from traffic.
Then there came together a committee to do something about this situation. What are the credentials of the committee? I will give them to your Lordships: the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, Manchester City Social Services Department, the prison governor, the unions (both the uniformed and the non-uniformed), the Greater Manchester Area Health Authority, the 993 Greater Manchester Probation Service and the Save the Children Fund. Moreover, an organisation that I have the honour to lead has promised to administer it—the Selcare Trust.
Selcare Trust was formed by a group of probation officers, magistrates, judges and interested members of the public who felt committed to the idea of giving practical help in many varied ways to the disturbed, lonely and frequently homeless ex-offenders. It was felt that these problems could not be controlled, let alone solved, by the statutory authorities without the help of the community and the neighbourhood where such problems arise. The type of thing that Selcare has done over the years has increased by leaps and bounds. Now it has a turnover of over £1 million and it is growing every year. So they formed themselves into a committee.
We approached the GMC for money. We wanted from the GMC £185,000. They were absolutely magnificent in the way they received that request because at once they said, "Yes. You can have your £185,000". Also from the Home Office we were backed splendidly at the same time, the offer being contingent on the grant from the GMC going through.
What was the timetable for all this? Although it started in September we still await a decision. The GMC's sub-committee on financial assistance to outside bodies agreed on 5th November last year to find £185,000 funding as a one-off payment. On 8th November the GMC applied to the Department of the Environment for the Minister's consent and approval. Here may I say that the Leader of your Lordships' House helped the application along because he sent his backing to the Minister for the Environment. They agreed that this should happen.
Various hindrances have cropped up. The last one concerned Trafford, the authority of Manchester which took it to court so that the GMC could not pay the money over. Trafford lost the case and now I believe it has gone to the residuary body, which is what might be called a transit place for the handing over of money through to the local authorities.
Are we going to wait until we are told that it is too late? I should like a reply from the Minister today about this. It is a standing disgrace to society that this pitiful queue is outside the prison in Manchester and I understand that the same thing applies at Armley Gaol in Leeds. It has been exacerbated by the fact that it is a remand prison now and of course more people are involved. Please, will the Government tell us whether it is a fact that the programmes which have been agreed by the GMC will be honoured by the districts, even after the end of March? If this can be done, they will help the voluntary bodies associated with the statutory bodies to go ahead with this work and at the same time they will be making it quite obvious that the Government have a heart—because unless they show willing on this everybody will say that they have not.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Baroness Stedman
My Lords, I too should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, for initiating this debate today because I believe the situation facing the voluntary organisations in the metropolitan counties and the GLC is extremely serious. All that 994 some of us feared when the Bill was going through this House is now happening. There are problems relating to timing; there is a lack of co-operation and consultation between the successor funding agencies; and in some cases there is what appears to be some lack of commitment to the voluntary sector from the district councils. Few of the successor bodies seem to feel a real sense of any responsibility towards voluntary organisations which they did not have to fund previously.
The Government have said all along that resources, and more, which were available to the metropolitan counties would be available through the successor funding authorities, but although extra funding has been provided with voluntary organisations in mind, as the Minister has said, the districts sort out their own priorities and it does not seem that voluntary organisations always figure very high in those priorities. The result is that the voluntary sector projects are losing out. No one is taking the responsibility. Money is not being made available and redundancy notices are being issued.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity of going to Liverpool, and I talked to some of the Merseyside county councillors. Merseyside is essentially an area which is one of the most disadvantaged regions in Europe. A high proportion of the population of that city are completely dependent on state benefits and other forms of public expenditure, just to enjoy a basic level of subsistence; and since few groups have heard whether they will secure funds they have been trying to economise over the past weeks. Workers have been leaving, morale is very low and organisations have had to explain to their clients that they can offer no long-term commitment. Closure of many of those organisations is now becoming a real threat.
There are differences between those organisations which have been totally dependent on the county and other services which may have other sources of money. I am talking about organisations like the Netherley Citizens' Advice Bureau, which has been providing tribunal representation in a community where 61 per cent, are claimants on social security benefits, in an area with the highest population of single parents in the whole of Merseyside and with the second highest number of 12 to 24 year-olds. Where and to whom will those people turn now? I am talking about the resource centre, which provides education and information to combat racial discrimination. There is only one whole-time worker involved, but no funding is yet available.
There are other vitally necessary services which may have access to other sources of finance but they have not had enough time to sort themselves out, and even where the metropolitan county has not been the only source of funding there are situations where the other sources have been dependent on what the county has been able to put into those schemes. Where the groups have attracted some district council interest in the past, this may be withdrawn if the major districts do not contribute; and, in any case, time is now very short to sort out the complex arrangements.
In Merseyside, I am told that because the Government and the county were totally unclear about the nature of the funding of the voluntary sector, of its geographical area of operation and of the range 995 and type of services that were offered, the guidelines which were drawn up were quite inappropriate for the area and the organisations concerned. They tell me that the rules and procedures have been changed in order to try to accommodate the voluntary sector, but in many cases it has been with disastrous results.
All this coming and going has meant that the successor funding bodies have not been able to get together. They have not had access to accurate data and they have tried to act responsibly because they have been imposing what they call a viability rule, which means that if one of the bodies has offered a sum of money others will consider—but only consider—making a contribution. In practice, that has meant that if nobody does anything definitely, the voluntary organisation may well slide into oblivion by default.
This is proving a particular problem in Merseyside for those organisations which are countywide. Many of them are based on Liverpool, with 33 per cent, of the population of the county in that city. We all know about Liverpool's budget problems, with a deficit of some £37 million; and if Liverpool will not or cannot put any money aside to fund discretionary projects then no transitional money will come to Liverpool and Liverpool will not put its portion into any other scheme. If Liverpool does not contribute, then the other successor bodies may well impose their viability rule and will not contribute either. So failure by Liverpool to participate is quite disastrous.
In Toxteth, not only is the law centre affected but the community council needs help from Liverpool, as does the Netherly youth trust for the deprived and socially handicapped and their children's holidays. Those are just two of the organisations that are likely to fall. The metropolitan county has also used EEC money for some projects, but to continue using that money there must be matching funding from the district. The Apprenticeship Action Committee offers training for young workers and for redundant building and construction workers. If matching money is not found, then £94,000 from Europe will be lost and 41 full-time posts will be at risk.
Similarly, the Greenbank Project aims to provide permanent jobs for the physically disabled in engineering, printing and microelectronic works, and aids for the deaf and the blind and computerised wheelchairs. There will be £210,000 at risk from the European Social Fund and 96 full-time jobs will go if those matching funds are not available.
The same situation applies to grants from the Sports Council and the Arts Council. At present the metropolitan county supports the arts and the voluntary organisations to the tune of some £4.5 million. The Merseyside Development Corporation may fund some of the groups to the tune of £600,000, subject to the approval of the local districts. The Department of the Environment successor funding body, involving the co-operation of St. Helens, Knowsley and the Wirral, using transitional money, may produce £224,000. This still leaves some £3.75 million to be found. Money actually on the table from the Sports Council, the Arts Council and the British Film Institute amounts to £1.15 million.
This is a serious situation in Liverpool and Merseyside as a whole, and it indicates that the vast 996 majority of social welfare-type organisations have little or no chance of securing money to allow them to operate after 31st March. As we have been reminded several times today, that is now only days away.
I have concentrated on Merseyside this afternoon because I believe that it may have the greatest problems. In the current climate of scarcity of resources, I believe that it is ironic that the social welfare organisations may be the ones that have to close their doors. I think that it shows a lack of caring for, or understanding of, the problems of the people living in those socially deprived areas. Even at this late stage, I would join with colleagues from both sides of the House and ask the Government to show concern and to try to do something to save or to tide over the voluntary sector. The reliefs for charities for April 1987 contained in the Budget are welcomed, but they are not in time to keep the voluntary organisations open in 1986.
§ 5.13 p.m.
Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)
My Lords, I too should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, for giving us this timely opportunity to look at the needs of voluntary organisations. If I may, I should like to congratulate him on the comprehensive picture that he gave. I do not think that he is in the Chamber at the moment, but I should also like to apologise for missing the beginning of his opening speech.
With only two weeks to go, the message coming across is one of uncertainty and confusion. Many organisations still do not know whether or not they will receive funding. I should also like to say how very welcome yesterday's news about tax relief was.
I shall confine myself to organisations dealing with the needs of disabled people. I should like to look closely at a handful of them to see how worthwhile they are and how necessary they are for the people whom they serve. First, two organisations, one in London and one in Greater Manchester, which seem to be doing valuable jobs, have been refused funding. First, in London, FOLDAR, the Federation of London Dial-a-Rides, has been refused funding by the London boroughs' grant scheme. Since the dial-a-ride service, about which we are all very happy, is to be funded by London Regional Transport, FOLDAR's role is changing. It is moving towards developing the service, making sure that the needs of customers are taken into account and ensuring that those who could benefit from the service know all about it and use it. For example, very few people from the ethnic minorities or people with mental handicap use dial-a-ride at present. FOLDAR still has a necessary and useful job to do to ensure that disabled people can travel around London.
My noble friend Lady Masham has asked me to give her apologies as she will be unable to speak. She has had to go to a meeting of which she had not received notice but which it is very important that she attends. She has asked me to say that some dial-a-ride services do not cross borough boundaries. That, of course, does not meet the need of the disabled traveller.
CALL, the Cancer Aid and Listening Line, has been refused funding at present by Greater London Council. They are meeting again next week, and there is just a chance that they will reconsider the decision. 997 CALL started four years ago as a telephone line offering support, information and advice to those who have or have had cancer. Last year, a grant of £5,000 from Greater Manchester Council was received, which was 50 per cent, of its budget. It was able to expand and meet an ever-growing demand.
The service is not duplicated by any other organisation, voluntary or statutory, in the Greater Manchester area, where over 15,000 new cancer patients are diagnosed every year. I know that it is not strictly a "disabled" organisation, but cancer can of course literally disable physically, and it can certainly have a metaphorically disabling effect on the sufferer and on his family. When someone has cancer, the life of the whole family is affected.
CALL'S value is acknowledged throughout the area by doctors, social workers and hospitals. Unless Greater Manchester Council has a change of heart next week, CALL will lose 50 per cent, of its funding and go back to offering a greatly reduced service. A person with cancer can feel very isolated and very much needs the support—emotional, psychological and practical—that CALL can provide. Surely that is beyond price.
I move now to organisations which do not yet know whether they will receive funding. The Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People is a county-wide organisation, completely managed by disabled people and existing to ensure that disabled people have the necessary facilities and support to live independently and have control over their own lives. The coalition started in 1981—The International Year of Disabled People—and after four years of careful voluntary development it received a grant and began to implement its policies. There were positions for three full-time disabled staff, and activities began to take shape.
As the coalition's future is still uncertain, it can give its staff no assurances about the future, and it has not been able to consider any expansion or development of its activities, which, of course, is essential in a new organisation.
Lambeth Accord is a London example of a project whose future funding is still uncertain. That project was started in response to the EEC's wish to support schemes dealing with the issue of economic and social integration for people with disabilities. An essential element of the scheme is that it is supported financially by all the statutory authorities concerned. The central staff core of the project are the co-ordinators, each one funded by a different authority. The GLC's contribution was that of a housing, transport and planning co-ordinator. At present it is unclear where the funding of that project is to come from. If it cannot be found, the matching EEC funding will be lost. I appreciate that that concerns only one post within the project, but Lambeth Accord's view is, understandably, that it concerns an area of work which is crucial when considering social and economic integration.
Of course, as the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, said, when an organisation loses European Social Fund support as well, funding is doubly reduced. Another organisation whose ESF money is at risk is a very imaginative scheme which the noble Baroness, 998 Lady Stedman, has already mentioned—the Greenbank Project. It is unique in this country, although its problems are not, and I should like to talk about it at length. The Greenbank Project, which I think the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, has said is based in Liverpool, is a countrywide organisation which trains handicapped people along with some able bodied people so that there is an element of integration. Seven workshops were opened in 1983 to teach basic skills, and another followed in the next year. The scheme was organised as a youth training scheme funded by the project's charitable income and MSC money. In 1984, five workshops teaching higher skills were opened, funded by the project's charitable money, plus ESF money and money from the Liverpool inner city partnership. The initial capital for the Greenbank project—£20,000 of it—was raised by a paraplegic who is the manager of the workshop, and who did a wheelchair push from Land's End to John O'Groats, which is 908.4 miles, in 15 days. In fact, he is here today.
The Merseyside County Council and the ESF approved funding for a consortium of six cooperatives from April 1985 to 30th March 1988. Each year, 32 young people, predominantly handicapped, will receive a year's comprehensive training in marketing, management, financing and formation of co-ops etc., while continuing with the more specific vocational training that they receive at Green bank's training workshops. This innovatory programme is a unique opportunity to allow even the most severely handicapped people on Merseyside the chance of gaining open and full-time employment in an environment that is able to adapt to the needs of the individual.
Three of the co-operatives were launched on 29th November 1985. The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, told your Lordships about them and what they are doing. The other three can only be launched when some money from a public authority to match the remaining two years of ESF funding is found. There is a very real danger of losing this ESF funding if they do not obtain matching funding by April this year. Altogether the Greenbank Project has invested £50,000 of its charitable money in capital for the co-operatives.
I feel there is surely a moral obligation on both central and local government to support this three-year contract. If the co-operatives are successful, they will enhance the employment prospects of all handicapped people throughout the next decade and bring us into line with our counterparts in the rest of Europe.
All the organisations to which I spoke said that they would try to carry on whatever happened, even if they could offer only a very reduced service or if various aspects of their work were curtailed. They would carry on, because of the commitment of those involved in the work and the demand for the services and the projects. But very few of them will arise unscathed like a phoenix from the ashes of abolition: because of the uncertainty, they are confused, worried and exhausted and there has been no forward movement or growth. I think that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark put it very well earlier on.
999 In a world geared to the young, the healthy, the agile and the rich, many disabled people desperately need the support, help and advice provided by voluntary organisations. It may well be that most of the worthwhile organisations will eventually receive funding—I very much hope so. But at present what is needed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, said, is time, a breathing space to sort things out. That is what I hope the Minister, who I know is a very understanding man, will be able to provide so that these organisations can survive over the next few months and then go on in strength to support and help those who need them.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, like the noble Baroness who has just spoken so movingly, I join other speakers in paying my tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley. I cannot imagine anyone better qualified to open this debate. When you think of all the work he has done at Toynbee Hall and elsewhere, you see him as being in the tradition of Clem Attlee and William Beveridge who did so much there, but of course in a wider sense did more than any two men to improve the lot of the poor. But the noble Lord, Lord Bottomely, was in a position—and most effectively he made use of that position—to discuss the matter generally.
I feel that in these few minutes, at this time of day, all I can do is deal with one or two illustrations. But in a sense this debate is valuable because of the totality of the witness provided. No one person can really say a great deal in a few minutes in connection with this vast subject. As regards the general issue, I would say that all of us—and this applies to people on all sides of the House—who are dedicated in greater or lesser degree to the voluntary bodies may approach the question from at least three angles.
One may approach the question from an ideal angle. Anybody who is attached to any voluntary body can see that that body would benefit if they could only get more help. That is not possible, perhaps, in this world. Then one can hope for a standard of provisions provided by an enlightened government. Finally, one can ask the question: what is possible from the present government? What is it reasonable to expect from the present government? It is from that angle that I shall be offering these few remarks. In other words, I am taking for granted, for the moment, what might be called Thatcherite philosophy and asking: do they really mean to produce this result? I think, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, said, that they do not. There is a large element of muddle. It is not a question of deliberate government policy. A lot of it is just unthought-out and this has come about in a way that they themselves probably regret. If that is at all true, there is an element of hope in that prospect, because they can at least put that right without any conflict with their principle.
But to come to individual cases, as I have often said before, I have been associated for many years with a body called the New Horizon Youth Centre in central London. There, up to the present, we have nothing to complain about. We have the same grant that we had before. So I am not—to use a coarse expression—bellyaching about the treating of the New Horizon Youth Centre; at any rate, not yet. But I must point 1000 out that even a centre like that, trying to cope with homeless young people, is not acting in isolation. The young people need legal advice; they need health education; they need places to leave their children; they need help in getting employment; they need advice centres, and so on. So when one says that they are getting the same grant, one must realise that they will be disadvantaged if in these other respects the facilities are diminished, which is either happening or is in danger of happening.
However, I am not going to talk about them, partly because I have spoken about them often but partly because they are not complaining—not yet. I should like to speak about something else, about one particular organisation. The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, and others have dealt with much wider illustrations where far more people are involved, but this is a concrete example of how a particular organisation is likely to suffer. I gave some notice to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, so he probably knows what I am talking about.
This is an organisation called the Community House Information Centre, and if I say that I am not connected with them that is, in a sense, an advantage. I do not come at this with any particular bias in their favour. They are known for short as CHIC—they do not like to be called chic—and they are in north Marylebone. The area is one where there is a large number of Bangladeshi families and CHIC were the first agency to recognise their needs. In their very small staff, as I found when I went there, they have a Bengali speaker and a Chinese speaker. I have made a good many inquiries and I have been assured on all hands that they are rendering an invaluable pioneering service.
The question is: will they or will they not be able to continue under the new arrangements? For the past two years, they have been wholly dependent on a grant from the GLC which has now come to an end. One might suppose that they would benefit from the transitional funding arrangement, and if they were in Camden they would. But they happen to be in Marylebone, which comes under Westminster City Council. If they were in Camden, they would no doubt benefit, but Westminster City Council are very reluctant to seek transitional funding. In fact, they have apparently up to now declined to seek transitional funding.
In Camden, a body such as this would hope to obtain transitional funding, but it is impossible for them to obtain that money because Westminster refuse to make the application. They are making desperate efforts to raise money by voluntary means and are meeting with some success. I appreciate that for every £1 they raise Westminster will contribute another £1, so that for the moment they seem to be temporarily saved—that is to say, they are likely to survive for the present year—but they are living in the most precarious possible condition and that is the result of government policy.
I do not for a moment think that the noble Lords, Lord Glenarthur and Lord Elton, if they were asked about this, would say, "We do not want them to continue". They would probably say, "Oh, yes, we want them to continue but somebody else has to make arrangements for that". This whole set-up introduced 1001 by the Government—the rather desperate outcome of the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan counties—is a supreme example, to repeat myself, of muddle. I honestly do not think for a moment that the noble Lords opposite or their superior Ministers have planned this immediate outcome. I only hope that as soon as possible they will take steps to think it all over, enter into the spirit of the voluntary bodies, as I believe in their hearts they wish to do, and come to the House next time with a very much better answer.
§ 5.32 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Manchester
My Lords, if I am not in my place at the end of the debate to listen to the noble Lord the Minister and to the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, as the debate concludes, I hope that they will forgive me. It depends on when the debate finishes, but the train for Manchester calls. When the noble Lord the Minister does reply, I hope there will be no complacency over this issue, because, as has been shown during the debate, a critical situation faces a large number of very worthwhile organisations.
One of the valuable things about this debate is that it cuts right across the party. People have spoken from different sides of the House. I was bound to notice the very high proportion of noble Baronesses who have spoken, some of whom are very intimately engaged with various voluntary bodies.
There are several reasons why the Government should listen and act in this matter and recognise that there is a real moral issue here. One is their own professed commitment to voluntary bodies. If you have a philosophy—and I am not questioning or arguing about it for the moment—that it is a right policy to roll back the frontiers of the state, to leave more to individuals and to leave room for enterprise, particularly in voluntary bodies, you must be envisaging a very vigorous partnership between the funding of the state and the kind of enterprise and initiative which is being enlisted in support of tackling various problems which we have in our country. Very few people would argue today that such bodies should depend primarily on charitable giving, covenants from individuals and that sort of thing. One of the points that has already been effectively made in this debate is that efforts to raise money sap the energy of many voluntary organisations, and the more they are thrown into that field the less effective they become. The bread and butter, the thing on which they must depend, is funding either from local authorities or from central government.
I listened with care at the start of the debate when the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, spoke of the Government's rising contribution to voluntary organisations. He said that the figure was something like 55 per cent, up on the year 1979 in real terms. But if that is so it does not seem to me that it is anything very surprising or even very admirable. If you have their particular kind of philosophy the proportion of support from central government for voluntary organisations ought to be very much higher now than what we have in fact seen. After all, these organisations save both local authorities and central government a great deal of money. The noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, made that point very well in the debate. That is one 1002 reason why I believe the Government should listen very carefully to what is being said in the debate and recognise that there is a moral issue here. Their own professed commitment to voluntary bodies is at stake.
Secondly—and the point has come up again and again in this debate but it still bears repetition—many of us in the House listened to very clear commitments during the debates on the abolition Bill that worthwhile voluntary organisations would not suffer during this transition period. It is all too clear that as the date for abolition draws nearer they are suffering already. A great deal of damage has already been done. What we are now engaged in or should be engaged in is a damage limitation exercise. It is rather as though—if one may use the metaphor—you are going up a long and difficult hill in a vehicle and the decision has been taken to change gear. What has come with the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan counties is a very major change of gear. There is a danger of missing gear altogether and failing to climb the hill.
It may be argued that the prime responsibility rests on the various local authorities. References have been made in the debate to delays in producing schemes from some of the metropolitan counties. But I think the answer given to that is also correct—that the time pressure has been enormous and that what is really needed is more time in order to limit the damage that is likely to be done. I would submit that the greatest responsibility really rests on central government. I am not in any way trying to absolve the local authorities from their own share of trying to produce the right kind of arrangements and the right type of transitional funding but there are very great pressures on them. Surely central government must recognise their prime responsibility in this matter, especially as they initiated the whole question of abolition. May we please have no buck-passing on this issue while the voluntary organisations suffer a great deal? That is the second reason why there is a moral issue here: because of clear commitments given in this House and in the other place about the effect of abolition.
The third reason why there is a moral issue is that we are talking here about services to some of the most deprived areas in British society. Some in the debate have spoken for London. I come from Greater Manchester and I would endorse everything which my noble friend Lord Rhodes has said about the Greater Manchester council, about what it did during the years of its existence and about how much we dread some of the effects of its passing. These areas in the metropolitan counties, particularly in the North of England, are very hard hit indeed by industrial recession. They have among them an exceptionally high proportion of poor, deprived and unemployed people, and high proportions of ethnic minorities. Many of the voluntary organisations are working in those fields.
I have before me a list of 28 organisations from Greater Manchester. Please bear in mind that Greater Manchester is probably not the worst affected—I admit that readily. I should like quickly to read the names of some of those organisations, because that will give the House an idea of the range of work which is covered. I shall not read them all; there is not time for that. They are: Action for the Victims of Medical 1003 Accidents; Action Resource Centre—to strengthen community activities; Action on Disabled Persons' Transport; CALL, the Cancer Aid Listening Line, which has already been mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy; and the Chinese Information Service.
Ethnic minorities feature on this list: Community Regeneration; the Coalition of Disabled People, again mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy; the Community Work Training Group; the Federation of Marriage Guidance Councils; the Mobile Outdoor Pursuits Unit—for youth; the Young Citizens Programme, also for youth; the Employment Research Group; the Jewish Blind Society; the National Council for One Parent Families' and the Pre-Retirement Association of Greater Manchester. That is just a small selection of those which are listed here, none of which know where they will be shortly nor how many of their activities they will be able to continue. I would submit to the noble Lord the Minister that there is a serious question here facing many bodies doing a great deal of valuable work. The bodies on the list which I have given and the others which I did not read out have at stake no fewer than 95 full-time jobs of people who do not know where they will be shortly.
There is a moral issue here also in the sense that information is freedom. Many of those organisations work in the information field. We have a very complex state, with networks of social services that are sometimes very difficult to understand. What many of those agencies are doing—and law centres have been mentioned in this connection—is helping people to understand what are their rights and how the system operates. That help is most urgently needed.
I submit that there exists here a very serious situation. Most of us will look forward with very great interest, and perhaps with some hope, to the reply that the noble Lord the Minister will give the House tonight.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Baroness Lane-Fox
My Lords, like other Members of your Lordships' House, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, for initiating this debate. What a wealth of experience of local government and of voluntary organisations is represented among those noble Lords taking part! My only qualification, apart from once having been a county councillor and having worked for three years in the offices of a rural district council, is that I have been and I am involved in a number of voluntary organisations, not least as adviser to one of the large charitable trusts on their disbursements to charitable causes. That work has made me very aware of the vast number of appeals, of the needs served by the vast number of voluntary organisations and of the great danger of overlap because the right hand does not necessarily know what the left hand is doing.
That has taught me to have a horror of new organisations springing up, unless it is quite certain that their ground is not already covered. There will always be only a limited amount of money available for disablement causes. Any spare funding is desperately needed for the basic requirements of care and real help for disabled people in the community. I 1004 should say that in this, as in everything connected with help for disabled people in the community, there is a lack of sources of informal advice, and that that is where an overriding need exists. When people are in a crisis and in difficulty, they want an access point at which to obtain immediate advice. To a large extent the Citizens' Advice Bureaux meet that need, and I therefore echo the worries expressed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones.
I have tried to assure some organisations that were doing useful work for the disabled that, provided they were free from propaganda or bias and had politically neutral projects, they would find developments working in their favour. It did not surprise me at all that they were unready to believe me, because it was unknown territory. It is more than a relief to find that some organisations are now content with their funding. They have found that there is new government money over four years, to be distributed by the successor authorities. That sum is in addition to the 100 per cent, rate support grant, and I understand that its purpose is to erase problems that may occur during the transitional stage. If there is a hold up, it is likely to be due to bias or because the help has become stuck within the successor authorities. From what we have heard this afternoon, it sounds as though funds have indeed got stuck on many occasions.
I was sorry and surprised to hear of the difficulties of the Association of Careers as described by the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, for that is indeed an important and valuable organisation. I hope that its problems will be met and solved. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth), I extol the work of the Green bank project and plead with the authorities to save it.
For those of us who are old hands at fund-raising, it is more than encouraging to hear that the London boroughs have agreed on a grant scheme to assist voluntary bodies whose activities are Londonwide, to the tune of £16 million. Because the Richmond unit is so new, it is still rather obscure to me, but some organisations already know from that source what is to be their lot. On the other hand, 33 individual Dial-a-Ride bodies that were funded by London Regional Transport find their position to be satisfactory. For that I am thankful. So many alarm bells were sounded in my ears as to their plight that I was almost sickened of life. Nothing I could say reassured them. Although I rejoice now, I am disappointed that my reports of satisfactory discussions with both the Secretary of State for Transport and the Minister, Mrs. Chalker, did not convince them. It would have saved everyone a lot of steam and worry if only they had listened at that time.
Dial-a-Ride is an excellent arrangement, and for something that is so innovative and new it has quickly made its mark. In future, LRT's national advisory committee on disabled travel should be urged to look for ways of giving more vehicles so that users are not compelled to book several days, and even several weeks, in advance. The question of meeting the needs of those disabled travellers who want to travel further also deserves attention. The worry is about the coordinating committee, FOLDAR. It has six workers—four full time and two part time. Now it is expected that their role is to be undertaken by LRT's advisory committee on disabled travel and that the 1005 efforts of the two would overlap. It is essential that the best help shall not be lost, but I still say that overlap must be guarded against.
In earlier debates, there was a good deal said about the future of concessionary fares after abolition. The threat put by Members on the Benches opposite was that those concessions would end ruthlessly. It is good to hear that the London boroughs have agreed to appoint a travel concession officer so that the concessions will continue for elderly, blind and handicapped permitholders, and that the GLC's scheme for the elderly will be copied. That is my understanding of the situation from the Kensington press. I understand that discussions have already been held with the travel operators and that post offices will be distributing travel permits after March. The local authority association has agreed that proper publicity shall be prepared and LRT is producing posters that will be widely displayed. It is always the dissemination of information that is so necessary.
The fears that were expressed about travel have at least been allayed. Those of us who care about the progress of vital work to help disabled people should indicate their relief where that is appropriate, in order to give credence to the valid points they wish to make, and so obtain even more care in the community. We would do well not to cry wolf.
We are told that the Government will set up a new charitable trust for London that will give grants to voluntary bodies. I understand that at least £10 million will come from surplus assets after the disappearance of the GLC. I believe it is the intention to attract matching finance from the private sector, and the Budget proposals must surely help in that respect.
Those of us who are concerned about the arts must be pleased that there is to be made available £43 million in addition to the 100 per cent, grants for funding of the arts. Obviously there will never be enough to satisfy all our hopes, but that at least gives those of us on the Carnegie council concerned with arts for disabled people reason to look for some compliance with our request to establish better facilities for disabled people to enjoy and participate in the arts world. What is needed is that the Arts Council and the managements will look kindly on our requests.
It is for the best friends of progress for good causes to extract from the sizeable new help that is going to be available the best possible value for the intended beneficiaries. May we hope that the grants to overcome transitional difficulties will quickly be used to that effect.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, I am almost irresistibly attracted to a discussion on voluntary organisations. I have been mixed up with them for most of my adult life and I am the more grateful, therefore, to my noble friend for introducing this topic today and for the prospects, which I think increase with each speech, of some kind of constructive result.
I list, if I may—although at this stage in the debate it is more a matter of reiteration than initiation—some of the qualities that belong to voluntary organisations 1006 which I cherish and which I am jealous should not be impinged upon or eroded; and I clearly recognise a real danger that that might happen.
One of the great advantages that belong to a voluntary organisation is that it has an element of freedom in creating conditions which later on can form a kind of bellwether effect. I refer, for example—though modesty prevents me from saying too much about the Methodist foundation of it—to the fact that the voluntary bodies associated with child care were initiated, first of all, through the churches and that the crèches which first of all were in the West London Mission, with one in Manchester, have now become a broad highway of enlightened civic administration. Therefore, I am the more jealous that voluntary organisations should not be impaired when they have this great and positive contribution to make to an improved kind of civic administration and to a more immediate improvement in the society in which we live.
Secondly, it is unquestionably true that voluntary organisations can mobilise and utilise the devoted and vocational qualities of those who, for no other reason than that they have a compassion and a sense of vocation, will dedicate themselves to causes which at that stage are necessarily unpopular or unknown. It is in this respect that we do great damage to any community if we impoverish a number of those who can so contribute and, in my judgment, there is a real danger that that also is likely to happen.
Furthermore, I hold the conviction that sooner or later the society which can really be called a community must make a co-operative attempt to provide that those voluntary organisations which are contributing to that immediate and better society should be merged with and married to an administration of a more legalistic kind. I believe that there is always a need for that kind of marriage and I hope that it will so continue. These are moral issues.
Let me, then, turn to what I believe to be the threat. The noble Lord the Minister was not complacent but seemed comparatively satisfied with what has been happening. I am sure he has been listening to the debate and it seems to me that it is unquestionable now for any fair minded person to say that administratively the situation is not a shambles. In fact, in some ways it is almost only the preamble to a shambles. Those who imagine that within the next few weeks everything will sort itself out in a reasonable fashion are surely crying for a moon that is not there anyhow.
This is a question which requires not only an immediate rescue attempt but the recognition that the procedure whereby we move towards a different kind of civic administration, with the elimination of the great councils and of the Greater London Council, has already been shown in the informed speeches to which we have listened today to be an impossibility within the framework of the time schedule and, indeed, to be ill-conceived and in many cases to be inoperable. That has been established, by whatever means. People are prepared, as are Members of your Lordships' House, to look kindly on some of the basic considerations of what is happening with the demolition of the Greater London Council. In fact, we have been made aware time and again in the speeches to which we have 1007 listened of the way in which the facts of the matter preclude any kind of optimism that within a short time our present problems will no longer be there to vex us.
I do not defend every voluntary organisation. Of course I do not. As a churchman I know that in some cases voluntary organisations have a greater commitment to sentimentality than they have to some of the greater values such as a sense of the sensitive qualities. Sensitivity is just as much a matter of moral obligation as is the proper use of one's feelings. I would not for one moment seek to defend some of the more extravagant voluntary organisations which run themselves into the ground—and not too soon. But I am further convinced, listening as I have to most of this debate, as to the supreme value of those organisations which have been defended this afternoon and this evening.
It is in that regard that I add one other area which has not been sufficiently recognised as yet; that is, the problem of the ethnic minorities. Already in London there are Indian and Chinese minority movements, which I believe are admirable, that have been refused the kind of funding which they require. I give your Lordships a local habitation and a name to what I am trying, panoramically, to describe. In Uxbridge for example, there is and has been for the past one-and-a-half years an organisation dealing with the problems of women of Asian lineage and descent who have, until now, been more or less confined to their homes according to certain habits and principles that belong to other faiths than the one to which I belong.
A most excellent and efficient effort is being made to bring to such women a sense not only of community but also of training. They have been denied access to the funding of the local authority and for reasons which need to be ironed out they have been denied the opportunity of the transitional funding. It is highly likely that unless something is done immediately they will cease to operate as a community; and that will be to the impoverishment of a society which already has enough problems on its hands in Uxbridge,
Finally, what is to be done—
§ The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Elton)
My Lords, will the noble Lord forgive me? I seek knowledge because if I can answer noble Lords I like to do so. I do not think the noble Lord named the organisation he has been speaking about. Whether I shall be able to give an answer before the end of the debate, I do not know, but I should like to give a reply at some stage and it would help if I could have the name.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, if I have the actual title of it I will write to the noble Lord and let him know what it is. However, I am quite sure of the facts that I produced and that they are well justified.
What seems to me to be the immediate issue is the suggestion made by my ecclesiastical and noble friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark that there should be an allocation of public funding which will be specifically directed towards the boroughs so that they may provide more opportunities for funding what they now feel they cannot do because of the impoverishment they suffer. They have had to make harsh choices and in some cases the voluntary 1008 organisations have been the victims of this kind of unfortunate decision.
I am quite sure that there should be a fund which can be used for dealing with problems which cannot be resolved immediately, so that there will not be the requisite and obvious necessity of dismissing staffs which later on could perhaps be recovered and brought back.
I return, as I started, to what strikes me as the essence of the case. I have heard a great deal lately of what is called "caring capitalism". I am not going to take the opportunity of saying that the only thing that I think associates those two ideas is that both words begin with the same letter. What I should prefer to say is that if caring is really a principle then there is widespread conviction that in this particular respect care is very low down on the list. I do not say that with any venom or with any satisfaction. I believe it is true.
Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say—as on Wednesdays I always speak in the open air earlier in the day—that there is an increasing sense that in so many respects the idea of privatisation has taken precedence over the idea of public responsibility. If that is so, I commend to your Lordships the opportunity that we have here for those who champion caring capitalism to make good their claim. One of the ways they can do it is to defend the voluntary associations at their time of peril, believing that, whatever the short-term effects of such benevolence and good will, they are preserving one of the finest and best opportunities for our children to enjoy a better sort of world than that in which we now suffer.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Lord McGregor of Durris
My Lords, as all other speakers, I wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, for creating the opportunity for this debate on a subject which I believe to be vital to a democratic society. I must also declare an interest as being the president of both the National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux and the National Council for One-Parent Families. These bodies work within whatever framework of local government is designed by Parliament; and I shall avoid political considerations.
My present concern is with the transition from one set of arrangements to another, though the experience of the organisations with which I am familiar does not support the eloquent satisfaction of the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur. The National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux was given many official assurances that the service would not suffer as a result of the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan councils. That expectation has been falsified. In 1985–86 the GLC and the metropolitan counties funded the CAB service to the extent of £850,000. By intensive negotiations with the local authorities we have secured nearly £500,000 of long-term replacement funds, but we are still some £350,000 short, with seven actual working days left until the end of the month.
Some CAB activities and services have failed to secure further funding. Let me give your Lordships two examples. First, there are the nine staff salaries and operating costs for the law centre part of the Paddington CAB, which was mentioned by a number 1009 of noble Lords. The cost is some £119,000. The London Boroughs Grants Committee would not consider a grant for this purpose and referred the CAB to the Westminster Council, which was willing to match half the expenditure if the CABs raised the other half. We have written to 200 trusts and have sought funds from other sources, but without success. Therefore, we fear that this provision will cease.
Following the stirring speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, I make only one comment on the tragic loss of this law centre. I believe that the most remarkable feature in the efflorescence of law centres in the last 15 years is that their mostly young and frequently very radical members, lay and legal, have pinned their faith on law as an instrument of social betterment. Is that faith to be destroyed in order to save a few candle ends?
My other example is the West Midlands Money Advice Unit, which serves the 62 advice bureaux in that area. When the Payne Committee on the Enforcement of Judgment Debts reported in 1969, its recommendations included the establishment of an enforcement office acting for all courts, served by financial welfare workers who would assist multiple debtors by providing the services that the rest of us obtain from our bank managers and accountants. None of the Payne Committee's recommendations in this field was implemented, yet the need which was urgent then is inescapable now, given today's level of unemployment.
The CAB service has been inventive, where funds have permitted, in providing advice and a service which the Payne Committee thought should be part of the administration of justice in the county court. Thus the path-breaking and long overdue efforts of the CAB in the West Midlands will come to an abrupt end; unhappily the mire of debt in which too many people paddle for too much of their lives will remain.
I could give your Lordships several other examples, but the essential point is that the financial loss to the CAB services as a result of the abolition of the GLC and metropolitan counties is in fact resulting in the disappearance of advice services without which, for many people, the status of citizenship becomes a mockery and justice a facility for the better off.
The CABs have been acting in recent years to develop a new technique of funding through partnership agreements with local authorities. CAB grant aid is offered on a tapering basis over three years, with the local authority assuming full funding responsibility in the fourth year. We have also used this method successfully to secure replacement local authority funding where we were previously committed to permanent CAB grant aid to bureaux in places where local consumer centres have closed down. We have been directing an increased proportion of our central government grant aid in this way, once we had tested and demonstrated its value in providing partnership between the CAB service, the local authorities and central Government.
In 1981–82, 18 CABs were involved in such partnerships and the grant was £33,000, which amounted to 3 per cent. of the total grants made to bureaux. In 1986–87, over 200 bureaux will be operating such partnerships and the CAB grant will be approaching 1010 £1 million, which is rather more than half of the total grant which we receive from the Government. If a further £325,000 were available to us, we could establish next year a further 60 partnerships, which would achieve half a million pounds' worth of permanent funding from local authorities.
I emphasise that significant and encouraging development in order to show that voluntary bodies can adapt themselves quickly to new circumstances. We do not wish to stand by like a Greek chorus, wringing our hands and muttering "Woe is me!" But there is ample woe. We yet see no prospect of escape from the present nightmare of the transition from one set of arrangements to another. We pointed to the likely difficulties; we were given repeated assurances that our service would not suffer. It has suffered to the immediate financial extent of some £350,000.
To that must also be added our estimate that £60,000 of staff costs have had to be incurred in the attempt to replace funding which previously came from the GLC and the metropolitan counties. In addition, we have some 13,500 voluntary workers, some of whom feel very demoralised. No wonder the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark referred to the stress and human cost which government policy has imposed on many voluntary organisations.
I turn now briefly to the contrasting experience of the National Council for One Parent Families. Although the council's GLC grant of £58,000 for 1985–86 was promised month after month, nothing had been received by early February and the council would have run out of money by the end of March. It was compelled to issue redundancy notices to the staff and prepared to close down by the end of March. We mounted a rescue campaign and received help from many friends who included the noble Lord, Lord Elton, members of the DHSS and the City Parochial Foundation. Indeed, I am pleased to have this opportunity to say "Thank you" to all of them for their support.
In the event, we were given and promised sufficient assistance to enable the redundancy notices to be withdrawn and to enable us to see our way forward, even without the GLC money. The London Boroughs Grants Committee was helpful and sympathetic and approved a grant of £64,000 for the financial year 1986–87, payable at the beginning of next month. As it turns out, a recent letter from the chairman of the London Residuary Body to the principal officer of the GLC makes it clear that the National Council for One Parent Families, together with other voluntary organisations which are due grants from the GLC and which have fully satisfied all grant conditions, will receive outstanding payments from the London Residuary Body.
The National Council for One Parent Families was lucky and scraped through that crisis without damage, but many bodies are not so circumstanced. Some need funds to tide them over the present crisis so that they can raise money; and we should remember that it is a crisis which has hit many organisations at the end of their financial year. Others will need assistance to wind themselves up and to deal with outstanding obligations. In short, in all the areas affected there is urgent need for an emergency fund, as other noble 1011 Lords, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, have emphasised. Of all the items in the catalogue of anxieties compiled during this debate I believe that this is the most urgent. Within and without this House the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, will be treated as a test of government intentions.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, it is 19th March, and therefore 12 days before the implementation of the Local Government Act 1985 abolishing the GLC and the metropolitan counties. Time is not on the side of the voluntary organisations, many of which do not know whether they are to receive funding. It is timely that the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, has initiated the debate.
Her Majesty's Government subscribe to the policy and practice of partnership as between the statutory and the voluntary sectors. That was evidenced in the speech of my noble friend Lord Glenarthur; he quoted the amount of money that has been given to voluntary organisations at a national level. I am conscious of that because I know that both in the matters of delinquency and of handicapped children the partnership of Barnardo's and the Ministry has produced positive work. Furthermore, the concessions in the Budget yesterday by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of which many national organisations are appreciative, give evidence also of the Government's intention to support the voluntary organisations.
However, I would say this. The concessions given in the Budget will not in this area immediately help the voluntary organisations either countrywide or within local authorities. I hope that that will be clearly understood. I think that quite a lot of people have not understood what was in the Budget yesterday and are looking for help that they cannot at this moment get.
I was going to give facts and figures, but many noble Lords have done so adequately and therefore I shall not. But I should like, first, to mention resources. Many of us today talk about the voluntary organisations, the money that they need and the work that they do. However, I wonder whether it is fully appreciated also that they are a resource for the local authorities. If they give up, the local authorities will be the poorer and the law of diminishing returns will set in. That point should be clearly made. The work of many of the voluntary organisations is absolutely indispensable. If those organisations give up or are given up, the local authorities will have to undertake that work; otherwise, they will be in severe difficulties.
We all know that if a local authority does a job of work, inevitably that is more expensive than if a voluntary organisation does it. It is very much for the local authorities to realise the resource that they will lose if those organisations give up. I am putting it at its lowest. There are other levels. For instance, a voluntary organisation uses volunteers. Some local authorities do too, but not on the same scale. Voluntary organisations can carry out innovative work which local authorities cannot do under their terms of reference. I repeat, therefore, that to lose the work of the voluntary organisations will put an extremely heavy strain on local authorities.
1012 Another point made by many noble Lords is the question of time. Your Lordships will remember the jingle that says:Time, you old gipsy man,Will you not stay,Put up your caravanJust for one day?That is what we need, but we shall not get it. Time moves on.
In connection with time, I should like to talk for one moment about relationships. My noble friend Lord Glenarthur insisted today that it was for the local authorities to carry out the work under this Act of Parliament. You can take a horse to the trough, but you cannot make it drink. Even my noble friend Lord Elton, with his skill and charm, cannot do that. It is the same with local authorities. If you are going to build up a partnership between local authorities and voluntary organisations under a different system, as the noble Lord, Lord McGregor, has said, it is a question of establishing relationships.
Relationships cannot be established in a short time or in a hurry. If you want to give your friends bulbs for Christmas, it is no good planting them the day before: they have to be planted in the summer. However much we may wish it, we cannot expect local authorities to co-operate with the voluntary organisations and vice versa without time being available to establish what each wants and how each can help the other. Hurried relationships very often fail.
I should like to ask my noble friend Lord Elton four specific questions that have already been put. First, I should like to ask my noble friend why the arts, in a part of the world where I have colleagues working for the Greater Manchester Council for Voluntary Services, have been able, I understand, to get money. I support the arts; I am glad for the arts. But how is it that they can get the money whereas those who are vulnerable and who need help in our society are unable to do so?
Secondly, how is it that there is a charitable trust set up for London but not for the metropolitan counties? Unemployment in the Midlands and the North, I think I am right in saying, far exceeds even that in London. It is to me astonishing that a charitable trust should be set up only in London and not in the metropolitan counties. I have to say that many of us are disappointed that the charitable trust does not operate until 1987. It really needs to operate straightaway.
The third point is that made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark. I reiterate and support this call for a rate to be allocated for voluntary organisations. This would, I am sure, help local authorities. It would help the voluntary organisations. It would smooth over the relationships between voluntary organisations and the local authorities.
A fourth suggestion, also made by other noble Lords, has to be seen bearing in mind that one cannot force a relationship quickly and that time is not on our side. I should like my noble friend the Minister to consider whether the emergency fund for this year can be taken over. That would at least give us a year to establish relationships, to get going the mechanism 1013 that the Government want and to maintain also voluntary organisations that are a resource to the country, that help the vulnerable and that are valuable in their assistance to local authorities.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, I have never, before this evening, enjoyed being the last speaker on the list. But on this occasion I have been fortunate enough to hear a highly-informed debate in which all speakers have been in total agreement and have given merely different examples to prove the same point. They share great anxiety about the future of some of the voluntary organisations.
As it is rather late, I should like to avail myself of my noble friend's relevant and appropriate Motion to examine the needs of the voluntary organisations in one particular borough. I have chosen the borough in which your Lordships' House is situated; namely, the City of Westminster. I have tried to find out the relevant facts. I hope that they are accurate because I, too, find that there is a great deal of confusion and anxiety among groups that are spending a great deal of time pursuing different leads, sometimes to no avail.
In a debate such as this, it is perhaps important, first, to recall the motives and values that underlie the work of the voluntary sector. It must be true to say that, right from the start, the pioneers of the welfare state saw voluntary bodies playing a vital but complementary role to that of the statutory sector. They argued that while the state should ensure an appropriate allocation of funds, as much as possible should then be left to the initiative, the enterprise and the sense of compassion of individual citizens. They recognised that many people are able and, indeed, willing to serve the public. To reject their help means delaying social advance, inhibiting self-criticism, experimentation and innovation. Those early pioneers saw that the consumer of welfare provision needed the voluntary bodies to fill the gaps. These are gaps that voluntary bodies are so much better equipped to fill through being more flexible and more innovative, and having the ability to remain close to the ground and therefore in touch with the true needs of a very changing society.
There is little doubt in 1986 that the needs of the inner city communities are constantly changing. It is therefore vitally important that voluntary organisations should remain to respond to those needs. Everyone will agree, I believe, that the GLC and the metropolitan counties tried to remain closely in touch with the true needs of the community around them. It is for this reason that they funded many groups that have come in for criticism when, often, they were trying, in fact, to be innovative and to keep in line with what was needed around them.
I have tried to ascertain whether the voluntary organisations operating within the boundaries of Westminster have found replacement for their GLC funding. As already explained, those groups operating across borough boundaries can apply for Richmond Scheme funds, but those operating within borough boundaries are at the mercy of their local authorities. It is evident that some local authorities are not as merciful as we should like.
1014 To assess the type of help that is needed, it is important to see the pattern of the community living within Westminster. It is a very complex community; it is very varied and polarised. Some very highly well-to-do people live in Westminster. But, increasingly, there is a high proportion of very elderly residents and a high proportion of groups from the ethnic minorities. There are many homeless young people who have come to London in search of those golden pavements and who end up in Westminster needing help and housing. There are also a large number of residents who live in rented flatlets or bed-sits.
There are people who are dependent on means tested benefits, often with little or no command of our language or knowledge of the system. It is for that reason that the expert advisers are indispensable, and particularly so in this very varied community who live in Westminster. The Westminster council has acted, so far as I have been able to ascertain, in the following way. First, alone among all the London boroughs, Westminster did not apply for any transitional funding in respect of local projects currently funded by the GLC. Apparently they could have expected to receive £300,000 to £400,000 of central government money; but the Westminster councillors argued that they would rather stick their necks out straight away and try to get replacement funding which would be permanent. I am not sure whether the voluntary organisations agree with this decision because they are suffering at the present moment from the decision made by the Westminister councillors.
The Westminster grants sub-committee invited all voluntary organisations which had previously been funded by the GLC to apply for grants. In order to help the groups that had been turned down by the grants committee the city council set up a pound for pound matching scheme. As I understand it, of the 42 voluntary organisations previously funded by the GLC who applied to the borough only seven obtained the sum they asked for, 17 were refused completely, and the rest received a proportion of what they had requested or their requests were deferred. It was at this point that I remembered with great clarity that in the debate on the Local Government Bill the noble Lord, Lord Elton, repeatedly spoke about worthwhile voluntary organisations not suffering. I therefore attempted to establish the work being done by those 17 groups whom Westminster had refused and who had previously received half a million from the GLC.
As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester said, "worth while" is a very relative term. What is worth while to one person is not at all worth while to another. What is utterly useless in the eyes of one group is life giving for another. I would argue that groups which had lost their funding were in my view enormously worth while.
There is the Voluntary Action Westminster group which is providing an enormously vital service to Westminster's less privileged residents by coordinating voluntary work in the borough. I would argue that the Paddington Federation of Tenants and Residents' Association was very necessary for all those private tenants who live in the borough and who badly need to be helped by an association that will advise them of their rights vis-à-vis their landlords.
1015 I do not think that I need to add to what my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones and many other speakers have said about the work of the Paddington Law Centre, which seems due to close; it could not possibly be considered as anything but highly worth while. I could go on for a long time outlining these different groups. So many of them seemed to be helping and countering the real needs of many of the residents of Westminster. They were trying to fill the needs of those least privileged inhabitants of this borough.
Finally, may I say one word about the matching scheme offered by the city council. Although I am sure that all of us agree with the principle of attracting private money towards voluntary work, these funds sometimes do not end up with the groups who most need them. We all know that fund raising is now highly specialised. Many of your Lordships are constantly drawn into it. Sometimes it is through a contact that one hits the jackpot. Sometimes it is on the "old boy network" that one attracts money to a particular group.
It is absolutely true that particular groups are viewed more according to their emotional appeal than to the relative worth to the community of the services they provide. They are the ones who find it extremely hard to attract private funds. This has been proved by the fact that the City of Westminster grants committee offered as much as £200,000 to this matching scheme but the deadline for application was put off until May because so far only £140,000 has been allocated. That proves that groups were finding it difficult to raise the funds in order to have them matched.
I can only agree with all the previous speakers when they say that it is a very worrying time for these essential organisations if they are to continue their work. As previous speakers have said, it has all been very hurried. These people are trying to carry on their work while at the same time trying to understand the new rules and to make sure that their funding continues. There is a danger that these very innovative groups which are trying to help people in need will have to close their doors. I would urge the Minister to consider carefully the emergency package which my noble friend Lord Elwyn-Jones has suggested; and the suggestions which have come from all the other speakers this evening.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Lord Ennals
My Lords, the remarkable quality of this debate leads me, even more than I had anticipated, to congratulate my noble friend Lord Bottomley on his decision to inaugurate it, and on the warmth and absolute commitment which he contributed in his opening speech. We are greatly in his debt for this as we are for so many other things that he has done in his lifetime of service.
I have to say, on the other side, that I was amazed—I must say, appalled—by the rosy picture which was presented by the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur. It has not produced echoes from any other speaker in any other part of the House. The noble Lord seemed to me to be moving in a different world from that of other noble Lords, all of whom are involved in one way or another in the work of voluntary organisations. One of 1016 the great advantages of your Lordships' House is that we have here such experience on which we can draw. The noble Lord must realise that there is deep concern. This has been expressed from all parts of the House.
I feel that my task in winding-up for these Benches is to put together the many valuable, very carefully researched, points which have been made in the course of today's debate, and to put forward a cohesive programme before the Minister for consideration by his right honourable friends.
My noble friend Lord Bottomley quite consciously did not table a Motion on which we could have voted. Had he done so this would have divided the House. It would have placed the Minister with his back to the wall. He would have felt obliged to say no to some very important proposals which have been brought forward during the course of this evening. My earnest plea to the Minister is not to close the door to any of the proposals that have been put forward.
There is very great and genuine concern, not only among your Lordships but also among the voluntary organisations themselves and the people involved by their thousands in different parts of the country who do not know what their future is. They do not know whether they will be able to carry out the mission that for many of them is almost sacred. There is equal concern among those who represent them: the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the London Voluntary Service Council and the Voluntary Organisations of Personal Social Services Group. All of them have expressed deep concern.
I should like to make one or two preliminary remarks. There will of course be a great welcome for some of the initiatives which were announced in the Budget yesterday. I am grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones and to the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for saying that, however welcome these may be—and we may have a chance to debate them—they will not affect in any way the situation that we are debating tonight. The Finance Bill has not yet been introduced, let alone passed. We are talking about issues for the future.
At a time of great hardship for the really poor in our society, over the years an increasing burden has fallen on voluntary organisations. One matter we are all proud of is the way in which voluntary organisations have responded to the challenge that has been placed before them. The Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, seemed to recognise that in the many debates on the Local Government Act 1985, and he gave many assurances (I have them before me) which I am sure were made in good faith, that the voluntary sector would not be worse off as a result of the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan authorities. However, as has been said by almost every noble Lord and noble Baroness who has spoken today, this has simply not been the case. The system—I will not say the Minister—will not be able to deliver by the time limit of the end of this month. We have been reminded several times that there are only 10 days to go. It cannot be done in 10 days. When one looks at the situation today, there are literally hundreds of sound voluntary organisations, many of which we know personally and with which we are directly involved, which will go to the wall unless urgent action is taken.
1017 If we look at London, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Tyne and Wear, we see that the fate of hundreds of voluntary organisations still hangs in the balance. Many face closure or slow death. Others will have to curtail their activities. Too often, if voluntary organisations die, they do not come to life again; or, rather, it is very hard to bring them to life again. Therefore the Government's pledge, which was made during the passage of the Bill, that no harm would befall voluntary organisations after abolition, however sincerely made, can now be seen to be hollow.
I want to give just a few examples. Very many have been presented by noble Lords, but perhaps we may look at the whole span. We know of the difficulties of the Richmond scheme, and I shall say what should be done about that later. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester has referred to the great problems and the great difficulties which they face in Manchester with a very small budget. Many organisations there do not know what their future will be. West Yorkshire has no budget set at all, and a committee which is beset by difficulties. I thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, did a wonderful job in analysing the problems of Merseyside where there is no agreement even for establishing the coordinating committee.
The noble Lord, Lord Banks, referred to the West Midlands. I come from the West Midlands and there, as I understand the situation, there has been a belated agreement to fund five organisations, but none of them is of a social welfare nature, so they do not touch on the issues of concern to noble Lords. As regards South Yorkshire and Tyne and Wear, there are simply no schemes available. Tyne and Wear agreed to a collective scheme for employment and economic development projects only as it was felt that there was very little truly countywide social welfare activity, and of those, four employment projects have been turned down by the Department of Employment.
So far as the NCVO can tell—and they have been very helpful in collecting information and advising the voluntary organisations—none of the collective schemes established has had time to process all the applications and ensure that all eligible projects know that their funding is secure before 31st March. My noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones put to the Minister a particular question which does not just relate to what happens at the end of this month but relates to the funding from the GLC during this very year. I hope that the Minister will be able to answer that question.
We have referred to the Richmond scheme. I think that 1,101 organisations submitted a total of 2,040 applications for funding. For some extraordinary reason, the committee meets only monthly. Even now, it meets only monthly. So far the committee has decided the fate of only 118 organisations. Its March meeting will take this total, it hopes, to 180—that is, 180 out of 2,040 applications. For the rest—and some may be considered at the meeting in April—the committee is expected to decide on 20th March to use its contingency fund to give them three months' money until it can consider each application. That is better than nothing but, for an organisation that does not know whether it will be in existence in three 1018 months' time, unless it pays very heavily, it must start disposing of its staff right now. Of course, that has already happened. There have been literally hundreds of people in different organisations who have already received their redundancy notices and who expect to leave their jobs.
As the noble Lord, Lord Elton, will remember, there was some warm thanks and praise for his initiative in establishing the London Trust, which was referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. It looked very good. However, no money will be forthcoming from the London Trust until the second half of 1987. It will not affect the situation which we are talking about now. Only just over £600,000 will be available in 1987. Of course, as the noble Baroness, lady Faithfull, reminded us, there is no similar scheme for the metropolitan counties.
There are other bodies which have not been mentioned. Last weekend I was in Tyne and Wear and I made inquiries about this matter, as I think all noble Lords have been doing in the areas where they either live or visit. The districts have been given the total of their allocations but, as yet, no list of approved schemes. Therefore the council can give no assurances and the organisations continue to be totally unsure of their future. The organisations include the Search project, which involves working with the elderly: the National Schizophrenia Fellowship; the Northern Council on Alcoholism; Sense, an organisation with which one of my sons is involved, and which is a project working with children with hearing impairment and visual handicaps; and PHAB, which is concerned with physically disabled youngsters.
Newcastle council, being rate capped, has had to consider reducing its ordinary grants, because if it did not it would suffer the prospect of penalties if it met the demands made upon it. With a heavy heart (but because of the hard heart of the Government) Newcastle is having to impose a cut on the five largest district voluntary organisations. They include the Council for Voluntary Service, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, family service units, the Citizen's Advice Bureaux and the Council for the Disabled.
Ever since this whole sad debate began no one has referred to those nasty little organisations which were said to be the reason that the GLC had to be abolished—no one at all. Not a word has been said about the "way out" organisations because everyone now realises that those were not the main bodies being helped by the GLC and the metropolitan counties. We see now, in all its starkness and misery, the absurdity of the decision that was taken last year.
Noble Lords have given many examples of good voluntary projects now in peril. There are the Citizens' Advice Bureaux, admirably explained by the chairman, the noble Lord, Lord McGregor of Durris. There are the voluntary service units; the law centres, with which my noble and learned friend is so deeply involved; the Association of Carers; voluntary centres; self-help schemes; the Greenbank scheme, referred to so admirably by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth); welfare rights centres; child care services; prison visiting; the Save the Children Fund; education resource centres; youth centres; and centres for the blind and disabled. Those are not the types of 1019 organisations that we were hearing about at the time the Bill went through.
Several proposals have been put forward today and I hope that the Minister will consider each one and will not say no to any. One that was put forward by my noble friend was that an emergency sum should be established—whether it is £20 million or £25 million is open to discussion. It might not all be spent. If someone gets a speed on and the job is done the money will not be needed, but unless some such money is provided we shall see, on a mass scale, voluntary organisations going to the wall.
Secondly, my noble friend Lord Graham did not take part in today's debate, but he took part in the debate on the Local Government Bill last week. He said that nine London boroughs have stated that they expect to spend all the revenue accruing to them under Section 137 without taking on any former GLC projects. My conclusion from that is that we should make more effective use of Section 137 in regard to the need to create a greater revenue capacity. I believe that councils should be allowed greater flexibility on Section 137 money. The 2p rate should be increased to 4p to compensate for abolition and rate capping limits, which should be raised accordingly.
Thirdly, voluntary organisations need permanent and professional staff. This has not been mentioned during the debate and I am sure your Lordships will forgive me for raising it. Many voluntary organisations are now being obliged to take on part-time staff under the MSC community programme. I have nothing against that; I think it is admirable. But part-time people are being taken on rather than the permanent staff who are paid a fair rate for the job and who have had effective training. Voluntary organisations need to be recognised for the invaluable work they do and the quality of their work.
Fourthly, I should like to pick up the point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, which is that there should be some kind of working party to review just what has gone wrong. These are the proposals.
To the noble Lord, Lord Elton, I say, "Please, no rejections; no guarantees that cannot be met; no soft words and compliments that do nothing to stop invaluable, compassionate work and force dedicated workers to be made redundant". Not only is this confusion and near-desperation that has been reported from all parts of the House of the Government's own making but it must also be for the Government to find the way through. I say to them: please reject none of these proposals.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, nobody pretended to me when I took the torch of abolition from the sadly failing hand of my late friend Lord Avon that it would be an easy task. It was not easy at the start and it will not be easy at the finish, but I believe that it will be worth while. Like my noble friend Lord Glenarthur, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, for providing the occasion for this debate. I am sure that that gratitude is shared by all noble Lords who have taken part in it and I believe that most of them have 1020 indicated as much. I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Glenarthur himself for the clear, concise and I would agree elegant, but I think not self-satisfied (as was suggested elsewhere) way in which he put before your Lordships the facts of Government funding of the voluntary sector in the abolition areas and of the mechanisms under which voluntary bodies in abolition areas will in future have to operate.
My noble friend reminded your Lordships that in the rate support grant statement the Government transferred to the boroughs and districts the whole of the resources to which the GLC and MCCs would have been entitled if they had continued to exist. That settlement, as some of your Lordships have cause to know, actually favoured the inner cities at the cost of the shires. There can therefore be no question whatever of the boroughs and districts being asked to take on any inherited voluntary sector funding for which they have not also inherited the RSG resources. In other words, they start level with their predecessors, or they would have done so had we not intervened on their behalf. We intervened by providing over and above those RSG resources £40 million-worth of transitional aid spread over four years. That is £15 million in the first year, not £5 million overall as I believe I heard the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, say in his opening speech. I hope that my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood will recognise that this money is additional to what is being spent at present. It is not and it never was intended to be in substitution for it. This is extra money to account for the difficulty of allocating the existing money, which has not been diminished. That being so an emergency fund cannot be the answer.
I do not pretend that a number of bodies are not faced with great difficulty, but we should consider for a moment from what that difficulty, and hence your Lordships' anxiety, arises. In nine cases out of ten it arises either because a local authority or a funding body has come to no decision or because it has come to a decision that does not favour some activities that the noble Lord in question would prefer to see continued and supported by the local authorities.
Let me deal with that second case first because it is in this context that I believe I may have been a little misrepresented. The reassurance which I gave to the House when I was taking the Local Government Act through its various stages was that the resources that went to the abolition authorities would go to their successors—and so they have. But at no time did I say that central government would see that those successor authorities would spend those resources in the same way as their predecessors did; still less did, I say that central government would direct those successors as to what voluntary activities they were to support. On the contrary, time and again, and on every aspect of the Bill, I said that its purpose was to transfer functions and decisions closer to the electorate and closer to the ratepayer. That means transferring them away from, not towards, central government.
It is the boroughs and the districts who in consequence must now decide in place of the GLC and the metropolitan county councils how the ratepayers' money shall be spent. If they take a decision which any of your Lordships, or I or the Government regret, deplore or disagree with in any way, I have to remind 1021 your Lordships that it is their ratepayers' money that is in question and that it is their ratepayers who elected them to make those decisions. That is democracy, my Lords. It is not for us to lecture them about matters for which they are responsible not to this House but to their own electorates. I listened with particular attention to the noble Lord, Lord McGregor of Durris, because I have long been aware of his concern for, and his distinguished services to, Citizens' Advice Bureaux. Also, I saw a letter signed by the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster as well as the noble Lord himself which showed an expectation of very drastic changes across the board for Citizens' Advice Bureaux, and the noble Lord, Lord Banks, reflected that fear.
I am perfectly ready to be corrected and I shall read the record with great care because I have the greatest respect for the source of information which it represents. As I understand it, there are some 900 Citizens' Advice Bureaux in the United Kingdom and only one bureau (which, I understand, is Acock's Green, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Banks) appears to be in danger of closure as a result of abolition. Acock's Green bureau, as both noble Lords know, is in Birmingham and Birmingham has a very good record of support for the voluntary sector. It supports a number of Citizens' Advice Bureaux and I understand that Birmingham has still to take a decision on Acock's Green.
Perhaps I should start with Tooting Bee Hospital Citizens' Advice Bureau. I understand that that has secured private funding for a year and that during that year it will be considered for later support by the Richmond Scheme; so that there is no immediate danger there.
Law centres are not, noble Lords will agree, part of the CAB network as such and they will also know that only a handful are funded by central government, thanks to the interesting extra-statutory intervention of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, in the late 1970s, for which he received a perhaps grudging accolade from his erstwhile Prime Minister, to which he earlier referred. For the rest of the law centres, the Government's policy, clearly stated before abolition, is that the decision whether to fund them is a local matter. Whatever that decision is, it is for the local authorities themselves to defend it. The decision on Paddington, for instance, was taken by Westminster. The noble Lord told us that they offered matching funds for half the cost of the CAB contribution to that centre. But it must be for them to make that decision and it must be to them that the noble Lord addresses his concern.
The noble Lord, Lord McGregor of Durris, has expressed great disappointment in the Government's commitment to Citizens' Advice Bureaux. I believe that the references that he made were to exchanges on the subject of the National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux and in that case, I remind him, government funding of the National and Scottish Associations, which is now at very nearly £8 million, will be increased above that figure by more than the rate of inflation next year. His concern was tonight about the individual bureaux and I have to say that I was aware that some funding for specialist support services could be at risk in some areas: that will, I fear, 1022 make life more difficult for some Citizens' Advice Bureaux. But, subject to what I read in the Official Report tomorrow, I do not believe that it will affect their basic generalist advice-giving role, using volunteer workers. With that reservation, it therefore seems that the worst effect of abolition on the CAB service will be at the margins, and that reflects the very high regard the service is held in in this country—a regard which is shared, as I have sought to show, by the Government, whose commitment to the National and Scottish Associations has risen to its present level from only £1.85 million when we came into office.
That is country-wide; and it is in London that noble Lords have suggested in one respect or another that abolition has resulted in devastation. Certainly, there has been difficulty and it will continue, but devastation? That seems to me to be a relative term and it is prudent to ask what exactly it is relevant to. In this case, the comparison which is most often made—and it was made several times tonight—is with the level of funding by the Greater London Council for the same purposes. If that is the bench mark, it deserves fairly close examination, because it is a highly mobile bench mark. In 1981–82 it stood at £8 million. In 1983–84, when abolition had already been signalled, it had risen to five times as much—about £40 million. In 1984–85, during which year the Abolition Bill was making its very public progress through Parliament, it went up a further £ 16 million to £56 million.
In that year, the increase alone was double the total expenditure in 1981–82. In the year now just concluding, 1985–86, we are told to expect that this total expenditure, including stress borough expenditure, will come to £82 million and, of course, the farewell distribution that the GLC are seeking to add to that expected total would amount to a further £25 million on top of the £82 million put out by more conventional routes, making a total of £107 million altogether.
What is it that we are seeking to compare with that highly mobile bench mark? What funding are we looking for in 1986–87 as fair? What we do expect is £27 million from the boroughs through Richmond for London-wide groups, plus £16 million with transitional grant support from boroughs to local groups, plus £5 million from London Regional Transport for Dial-a-Ride; and that alone comes to £48 million. In addition, there is the funding which the boroughs themselves would give over and above their traditional grant allocations. Their bids suggest that this would amount to nearly £16 million and, even if this figure were halved to £8 million, we should still be looking at expenditure next year which matches the GLC's outturn in 1984–85. If it is not halved, then it exceeds it.
By that year, 1984–85, the effects of abolition were foreseen and the GLC funding had already increased to seven times what it had been only three years before. It has been suggested that even this is far too little but I wonder whether some people would not suggest that the boot was on the other foot. I have to listen to all sides of the argument and there are many I hear who say that this is too high, who argue that it is too far up the spiral of spending which the GLC mounted in the face of expenditure constraints. So 1023 which GLC figure should we match?—£8 million; £40 million; £56 million; £82 million or £107 million? I think that collectively the voluntary sector in London are now set to receive more than they expected to get a year ago, when, indeed, they accepted high-risk grants from a GLC whose likely future has been known since 1983.
That is the collective figure, but your Lordships' eyes are naturally caught not by the crowd, as it were, but by the individual. The collective picture does not mean that there is no reduction on 1985–86, whatever that figure turns out to be, and it does not mean that all activities that were paid for by the GLC in the past will continue to be paid for by the boroughs in the future. That I accept. That is largely the ground of complaint of many noble Lords. But that reduction is not accidental and neither is it imposed, as I have shown, by curtailment of government funds. It is the intended result of decisions deliberately and advisedly taken by authorities elected for that purpose among others.
Outside London, the figures are at once less clear and less dramatic. The districts have, of course, always been the main funders of voluntary bodies and the county contributions have been relatively smaller. The estimate of £14 million funding which the counties produced while the Bill was going through Parliament included arts bodies, and the funding to voluntary bodies overall was rather less. We have allocated some £4 million in transitional grant allocations to the metropolitan districts. That is in support of expenditure plans amounting to some £5.5 million on local projects. In addition, we estimate that they plan to spend a further £5 million on county-wide projects. Both in London and elsewhere the funding of some bodies which have been hitherto regarded as part of the voluntary sector will be now covered by funding from the Arts Council and the Sports Council.
In future years the new trust for London, with its £10 million endowments, will be a further source of grants to voluntary bodies. That endowment will come, as was made clear when the Bill was going through Parliament, from the sale of surplus property by the Residuary Body. It is too early to say whether sufficient funds will be available for similar trusts in other areas, but that is a necessary pre-condition before we can undertake to set one up.
That aside, the funds are there and, as my noble friend Lord Glenarthur earlier said, the rate support grant is there. What we are left with is the plain fact that the priorities of the successor bodies are not always the same as those of the counties. So I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, that if Waltham Forest or Tower Hamlets do not wish to fund causes that he, the GLC, or indeed I, favour, that is for them. As for the things in Middlesbrough and Rochester, which the noble Lord also brought into the debate, I have to remind him that this debate is about the effects on abolition areas. Middlesbrough is in Teesside and Rochester is in Kent; and those we are leaving intact.
If the districts in Greater Manchester choose to fund some county projects under their Section 48 scheme but reject others, are noble Lords saying that we are to say they are wrong? If London boroughs have different views of the world from that of the GLC—
The Lord Bishop of Manchester
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he would accept that sometimes, with the best will in the world, district authorities might wish to fund certain bodies yet the pressures to which they are subject do not really make it possible?
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I will come in part to that, but in part I have already passed it because I have pointed out that the resources are there and the decision is for the districts. The question I was, not altogether rhetorically, asking the House and the right reverend Prelate was: did the right reverend Prelate and the House think that the Government ought to tell the districts what to do with their money? If so, there is not much point in having the districts there. Then the question arises as to whether they have got the money—which I have demonstrated. Another question will then follow: are there other constraints which will prevent them from using the money in that way? I shall return to that before I conclude.
I think I shall curtail my remarks because, if I may say so, that was a very useful intervention by the right reverend Prelate and it is always nice to have a Bishop with us at the finish, too, to fulfil that useful purpose.
On the single authority schemes, as my noble friend has acknowledged, a number of boroughs and districts still have to make their decisions. It is late in the day and that does make for anxiety and difficulty in the voluntary sector, and I take this opportunity to urge them again to make very swift decisions where this has not been done already. Some schemes are multi-authority, and are for Section 48: others are single-authority, and are for Section 137.
It has been suggested that in London some fall between. The boroughs which at Richmond decided to draw the dividing line at three-borough schemes are the same boroughs which make the decisions on funding non-multi-borough schemes individually. They therefore own both the stools that noble Lords fear voluntary bodies may fall between, and there is therefore no reason, in administrative terms, why they should.
I can also assure my noble friend Lady Elliot that all the Merseyside authorities have committed themselves to helping ex-county voluntary groups within the resources available. I can also tell both my noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, that we have provided a transitional grant of half a million pounds to Liverpool City Council. The decisions on spending of course, as is clear, remain with them.
These decisions, as I said before, are not Government decisions and the Government do not therefore control the processes or the speed with which they are arrived at. But I think I should say that we have exerted ourselves all along to get them arrived at in good time. As my noble friend reminded your Lordships, it was in April 1985 that we grant-aided the London boroughs and seconded staff to Richmond to get the biggest scheme in the country off the ground as early as possible. My honourable friend, Sir George Young, wrote personally to the leader of every metropolitan district in April of last year to urge action on this front and to offer help with the setting-up costs of collective schemes, simply because we were already 1025 saying that time was short. Other steps followed in subsequent months.
I accept that difficulties do arise from the sheer volume of applications for grant for cross-county schemes. This has led to the backlog to which the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, referred. In Richmond the steering group of councillors has addressed itself to this problem in a way which I am sure will commend itself to my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood, because they have decided that the director should have discretion to extend grants for up to three months to groups where final decisions have not been taken. That decision has to be confirmed tomorrow by the full meeting at which all boroughs will be represented. My honourable friend, Sir George Young, has written to the chairman in support of that eminently practical suggestion. It is a sensible and reasonable proposal, to which I add my own support. I hope and expect that it will be endorsed tomorrow.
If I may say so, it demonstrates that local authorities are in a position to deal with these issues themselves, as the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, would wish. I am not surprised that the LVSC has devoted a good deal of time and resources to these matters. I should think that the voluntary bodies would consider this to be exactly the sort of work with which they wanted help from that body.
One matter of interest to them was raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, in his interesting speech: that is, what happens when the GLC has promised to pay but has not done so? I can tell the noble and learned Lord—although I think he has heard it from other lips than mine in an earlier speech—that the London Residuary Body, or the appropriate successor authority, will be responsible for any outstanding contractual commitments by the GLC to pay approved grants. They will, of course, have to be contractual commitments.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, it applies to everybody, all residuary bodies.
In the last few days there has been growing interest in these matters and I have received letters from Members of another place and another party suggesting that these were political issues—speaking as if Tory boroughs, aided and abetted by a Tory Government, were bringing chaos to London's voluntary sector by meanness and delay. I notice the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition nodding his head in support of the allegations made by his honourable friend who speaks from the official Opposition Front Bench in another place.
I must say that I find that approach a little surprising, even in the starkly political context in which it has to be read. It was, after all, the Conservative boroughs who, with the Liberal Richmond, got the London collective scheme off the ground, and in the teeth of Labour opposition. They got if off the ground with the help of the Conservative Government and in the face of a flat refusal, at first, by the Labour boroughs to have any part of it at all. And after that refusal they sought to delay its establishment 1026 through legal manoeuvres. I ought to add that all but two of the boroughs have taken their grant decisions, and in the other two decisions are imminent. If there is chaos from delay, it does not appear to be any more the responsibility of the Conservative-led authorities.
The politics of this—and sadly it is a political matter—are that the party opposite has all along been committed to proving that abolition was damaging and would not work. So far, they have been surprised, I believe, although they would not admit it, by the extent to which it is not damaging and does work. I cannot and do not criticise them for drawing attention to instances where there are difficulties or where they think that there will be loss. It is important in such cases to be clear where the blame lies. It does not lie with the Conservative Party at either national or local level.
The right reverend Prelate suggested an ingenious device for hypothecating a proportion of rates—it was the other right reverend Prelate, who has not been able to listen to the answer—to the support of voluntary bodies. Local authorities habitually draw a picture of how every pound is sliced up, and that serves to show how the money is raised and on what it is spent. If the right reverend Prelate and, I think, my noble friend Baroness Faithfull—lurking as always out of sight—had something more in mind, I shall have to look at it.
Your Lordships will have noticed that we have an hour in hand. I do not intend to take it all, but I think that your Lordships would wish me to answer as many points as I possibly can. The particular points that I have in mind were made by the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, who referred to the North-East Section 48 scheme. I have to say that the Department of the Environment has not turned down four employment projects in Tyne and Wear. It has merely asked for information about them on a county application to forward-fund them. There are, of course, no restraints on district funds next year, and it does not need to ask for our approval at all.
The noble Lord, Lord McGregor of Durris, mentioned the case of the National Council for One-Parent Families. I am grateful for his comments. It was like the sun coming out of the middle of his speech. I should make it clear that thanks to a GLC delay of many months, we received the GLC application to make a grant to the national council only on 27th February, and we gave consent on 7th March. That story demonstrates both that the means of decision lie in hands other than ours and that we act to help the voluntary sector when it lies in our power to do so.
The noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, asked me about Selcare, which is a well-established and highly-regarded organisation. Its contribution to the care of offenders and ex-offenders is greatly valued by all the agencies in the criminal justice field with which it co-operates. It is responsible for developing many imaginative schemes, but forward-funding is a use of money expected by successor bodies for purposes chosen by the abolition authority. We therefore naturally asked the Greater Manchester Council on 4th December for the views of the successor districts on the use of the money it proposed. It has not so far replied to us. Although I believe that one district may 1027 have opposed the suggestion, we have to await that information, and so it is not us who are standing about.
I think that the noble Lord, Lord Soper, was referring to the Hillingdon Asian Women's Group. If he was not, I shall have to write to him. If he was, I have to tell him that it was Hillingdon that decided not to put that group forward for transitional grant; it was not turned down by my department because an application was not received.
The noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth) referred to FOLDAR. I am sure that she is aware that London Regional Transport is taking on the funding of Dial-a-Ride, and it is to it, and not to Richmond, that it should turn and which will consider whether it is still necessary. I understand that it is considering that matter now. The cancer link bid was addressed to the Greater Manchester districts. If, as I believe, they do not favour it, it is to them, I regretfully have to tell the noble Baroness, that she should address her moving plea. Accord Lambeth, I can tell her, has had approval given by my department for transitional grant of £12,000.
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, was kind enough to give me notice (I am very sorry not to be able to call it chic, because I think that is a very appropriate term) of his interest in the body called CHIC—the Community House Information Centre. That group has applied to the Richmond scheme, and I understand that its application is now being considered and is likely to be put to the committee during April. I have referred to the interim arrangements until that date. It has also applied to ILEA for grant, but I have to tell the noble Earl that its activities do not appear to be particularly relevant to ILEA'S function as an education authority and it does not therefore seem an appropriate object for transitional grant by that route.
I shall not deal with the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman—I shall write to her—because I see that although your Lordships are not yet impatient, you soon will be and you will miss much good material as a result.
In conclusion, therefore, I have to say that I will, as always, read with great care the comments that your Lordships have made. I shall finish in one minute by saying that we have, as a Government, acted to give all the resources that the GLC and the metropolitan county councils would have had under the rate support grant settlement, and have given it to the boroughs and districts, undiminished. We have acted to provide £40 million of additional cash beyond that. I nearly left out something that I should not have left out because your Lordships will want to hear it, and I shall substitute it for my peroration.
I am grateful to your Lordships for drawing my attention to many matters. Many of your Lordships have said that it is the 2p ceiling on the Section 137 rate—that brings me back to the constraints to which the right reverend Prelate was drawing my attention—which prevents otherwise willing authorities from funding deserving organisations.
Your Lordships will, I hope, have listened carefully when my noble friend pointed out that we had relieved pressure on that ceiling by removing the funding of all 1028 Section 48 schemes, such as the Richmond scheme, from that ceiling; but the anxiety remains, and I am acutely aware of it. The anxiety is that this year's arrangements make pressure on the ceiling damaging, nonetheless. I have to say that we consider it important not to pre-empt the outcome of the Widdicombe inquiry, which is looking at the whole area of discretionary spending. The solution in the meantime does not, I believe, lie in raising the limit, as the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, suggested.
However, I am in a position to make an announcement about one aspect of Section 137 which I know will be helpful to local authorities and therefore to the voluntary sector. Your Lordships will know that authorities with relatively low rateable resources have in the past been allowed to include a certain amount of the rate support grant that they receive in calculating the product of a 1p rate for the purpose of the 2p limit. This has given them, in effect, a higher limit than they would otherwise have had from merely relying upon their rateable resources.
One consequence of the rate support grant settlement for 1986–87 is, as again your Lordships are well aware, that the amount of grant that those authorities can include is substantially reduced. If we took no action, many authorities would face a cut in the amount that they can spend under Section 137. That has been the source of much complaint.
I can now tell your Lordships that my right honourable friend will be consulting local government about proposals to ensure that, for the purpose of Section 137, in 1986–87 the product of a 1p rate will be maintained at the level applying in 1985–86. That will help some of the hardest pressed authorities, including many in metropolitan areas. My noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood said that the Budget was a good thing, but that we should see whether we cannot get something more. I am glad to tell my noble friend that this step will result in a useful release of resources in the area about which she is concerned.
My other credentials I was going to put into a bag and spread along the Table in a peroration. I have disgracefully overshot my time. I apologise. The case rests.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Lord Bottomley
My Lords, I should like to express my thanks to all who have contributed to making this debate a success. The fact that so many of your Lordships have joined in the discussion shows the interest that there is in voluntary organisations.
We are now only days away from the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan authorities. The fate of hundreds of voluntary organisations still hangs in the balance. Some face closure or slow death; others will have to curtail their activities severely. Government pledges that no harm would befall voluntary organisations after the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan authorities can now be seen for the false promises that they were. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.