HC Deb 29 October 1998 vol 318 cc254-5W
Mr. Burgon

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many responses were received to his Department's consultation paper on the funding of home improvement agencies; how many were (i) in favour of the proposal to include funding in revenue support grant without ring fencing and (ii) against; and by how much each local authority will(a) gain and (b) lose at the end of the three-year period if the proposals are implemented. [57308]

Ms Armstrong

We received 202 responses to the consultation paper. 15 respondents fully supported the proposal to include funding in the revenue support grant programme (RSG) without ring fencing, with 184 respondents against.

It is not possible to say precisely how much each local authority would gain or lose after three years if funding was provided through RSG because funds are allocated forsmulaically on the basis of indices which can change each year. However, the 164 authorities currently in receipt of grant for home improvement agency services would each lose about £10,400 on average. The other 225 authorities would each gain about £11,500 on average.

Ms Moran

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he has concluded his consideration of responses to the Government's consultation paper on the funding of home improvement agencies; and if he will make a statement. [57732]

Ms Armstrong

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 be made available only 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 by 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.

Forward to