HL Deb 02 December 1992 vol 540 cc1333-5

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will continue for a further period the three-year interim funding provided to London voluntary bodies for work with young people after the abolition of the Inner London Education Authority.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Baroness Blatch)

My Lords, I am pleased to announce that the Government have agreed in principle to provide some further support to certain London-wide educational voluntary organisations in partnership with the London Boroughs Grants Committee.

Baroness David

My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister, because when she wrote to me some two months ago the answer was not quite the same. I should like to emphasise how very anxious the London services are and to ask whether she knows that already there have been tremendous cuts in the London region. Greenwich has seen a cut in its youth service of £350,000 and Newham has had a cut of £200,000. The number of inner London youth workers has fallen from 907 in 1989–90 to 608 in 1992–93, a loss of 33 per cent.

Noble Lords


Baroness David

My Lords, I am asking a question. The introduction was a question. Is it not madness to cut down on the service when crime rates in London are rising prodigiously?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, when I wrote to the noble Baroness two months ago I was talking about the end of the interim scheme. There is to be an end to the interim scheme. What I have referred to today is a wholly new scheme, which was in response to the London Boroughs Grants Unit. It asked for a partnership arrangement which would taper off. That is precisely what we have responded to. As for cuts, many of the points made by the noble Baroness have a lot to do with the priorities of local authorities in London themselves.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon

My Lords, in view of the rising crime rate and the need to divert youth from crime, can the Government say whether the funding of the new scheme is equivalent to the funding of the previous schemes? Perhaps the Government should be increasing their funding of these schemes and not just leaving local authorities to struggle.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the tackling of youth crime generally has a great deal to do with many other aspects of education, including the national curriculum. We are addressing some of those issues in the national curriculum. There are criteria to he established and discussions are going on at the moment between my department, the London Boroughs Association and the Association of London Authorities. They will produce the criteria. We shall publish the details both of the funding and of the criteria as soon as possible, and place the information in the Library.

Lord Judd

My Lords, can the noble Baroness clarify whether there is to be a cut in the level of central government support? Does she recall that both her ministerial colleague in another place, Nigel Forman, and the assistant commissioner of police have pointed out that the youth service is an invaluable way of achieving one of the Government's objectives, which is to preserve law and order?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, it is difficult to be precise in answering the noble Lord because the money that is going to the local authorities which will have money for the youth service is already known. However, we do not yet know the priorities within that. The money that goes to support the voluntary organisations, which have responsibility for 59 per cent. of provision for youth in London, will rise from £2.3 million to £2.8 million. There will be an additional £400,000 for the National Youth Agency, which will be the agent for giving government grants. There will be another £30,000 which will be given in each of three years to provide pump-priming ideas for the regional youth service. The scheme to which I have referred today is new money—additional money—to that which has gone before.

Baroness David

My Lords, I wish to get this quite clear. Will the new money to which the Minister has referred amount to more than the amount that was given during the three-year interim funding after the abolition of ILEA?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, we are talking about two wholly different schemes. One is the tapering system. The local authorities knew that it was a tapering system and that it was time limited. That scheme will come to an end at the end of the financial year. There is a wholly new scheme. I have already said that the funding and the criteria for the application of that funding are yet to be established. We are having very good productive discussions with the London Boroughs Grants Unit, the London Boroughs Association and the Association of London Authorities. We shall place details in the Library as soon as possible.

Lord Elton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that this is a welcome announcement on her part but that her reference to the tapering of funding over the past three years, as though that enabled the voluntary sector to find other resources in its place, is not altogether reassuring? The voluntary charitable foundations generally are averse to providing core funding for bodies which, if they do not have core funding, will not exist to raise charitable funds for their other activities with the result that voluntary sector activity will sharply decline unless the Government address this question.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I understand what my noble friend is saying. It is almost precisely because of our understanding of that difficulty that we have put a new scheme in place. The new scheme, in response to the London Boroughs Grants Unit, will be for a period and will be tapering to allow more time to establish proper funding for those national bodies.

Lord Bottomley

My Lords, I speak as chairman of the Attlee Foundation, in the East End of London, which caters for young people, especially from Bangladesh. It is terribly short of money. Tower Hamlets Council does all that it can to help but it is still short of money. Cannot the Government do something to help?

Baroness Blatch ,

My Lords, with the understanding that whatever money there is there is a finite sum, it is important that we establish proper priorities. My department values greatly the work done in the voluntary sector. It is the majority provider of services for youth in London. I have already said that its budget will go from £2.3 million to £2.8 million.

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