§ Mr. Sweeney
To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what proposals he has regarding the voluntary youth services, village halls and community centres programme.
§ Mr. Gwilym Jones
The Welsh Office has administered the voluntary youth services, village halls and community centres programme since 1978. The programme aims to assist local voluntary and community groups to repair existing facilities or to construct new premises. It is a collaborative scheme with project costs being shared by the Welsh Office, the local authority and the local sponsor. In recent years, the legislative power for the programme has derived from regulation 12 of the Education (Grant) Regulations 1990.
Since 1978, Welsh Office grants of nearly £6 million have helped fund some 618 local projects. Total provision in 1994–95 is £493,000.
It is our policy that decisions on the funding of local facilities should, wherever possible and appropriate, be taken by local authorities. I am therefore proposing that the programme should be wound up and the finance transferred to local authorities with effect from 31 March 1997. After that date, assistance to local youth, voluntary and community groups to repair existing facilities and to construct new premises will not normally be funded under these regulations.
This proposal does not affect projects which have already been approved under the programme, or those which have been submitted under the 1995–96 round and are currently under consideration.
Before taking a final decision on the proposal, I am consulting local authorities, voluntary groups and other bodies. A copy of the consultation letter, which also includes the arrangements for financial transfer, has been placed in the Library of the House.