HL Deb 02 November 1998 vol 594 cc7-8WA
Lord Burlison

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have concluded consideration of responses to the consultation paper on the funding of home improvement agencies. [HL3642]

Lord Whitty

Our consultation paper set out proposals for giving local authorities a greater say in decisions on the funding of home improvement agencies, as part of our overall aim of increasing local democracy and improving services for local people. We have received over 200 responses to the paper. The majority expressed support for a greater local say, but a large number of respondents expressed concern about the proposal to transfer resources from specific grants into local authorities' revenue support grant. Respondents were particularly concerned that this could divert resources from authorities who currently choose to support an agency, to those who do not.

In the light of these comments, we have considered very carefully whether there is an alternative mechanism which allows us to achieve our objectives while avoiding these potential problems. We have concluded that, within the present funding framework, the best way ahead is to retain an element of specific central grant, which would only be made available if the local authority agreed to provide funding itself. Subject to the availability of resources, the grant would be paid up to a level which would match the amount provided to the agency by the local authority and its funding partners. In this way, the primary decisions on support for agencies will be taken to local authorities, rather than by central government.

We propose to introduce this "matched funding" approach without delay. Letters explaining the details of the arrangements and inviting bids for funding for next year will go out to local authorities shortly. In order to give greater certainty to agencies, funding will generally be for three years. Meanwhile we will continue to explore how the funding arrangements might develop in the context of our longer term strategies for improving the local delivery of services to elderly and vulnerable people.