Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 420 - 426)



  420. What discussions have you had over the last couple of years over the use of the wound down Millennium Fund? Did you all make bids for part of that money?
  (Mr Casey) Yes. There are two stages. One is the ability to put in suggestions about how that money should be used and secondly also to contribute towards discussions that NOF has put out for consultation about future expenditure, so we have had that opportunity.

  421. As you probably know on Monday night next the House deep into the night is going to debate, and presumably approve, the Order extending the life of the Millennium Commission so that the Dome can stagger on for a few more months yet. What consultations have you had about that as distributors yourselves?
  (Ms Case) None as far as I am aware. It does not actually affect any of the four distributors here.

  422. No, because the money would have been committed already. How do you feel about it as distributors yourselves?
  (Ms Case) Since it does not affect us in a sense I do not think we have a view as distributors.

  423. It does not affect you but in the public perception it affects you very much. Whichever way the public may perceive it, it affects you very much indeed.
  (Mr Casey) But I do think, Mr Faber, that is for them to answer and not for us. Our role is to make sure that we are demonstrating how we are handling the cash effectively.

  Mr Faber: I am sure you all agree with that.


  424. Could I return to an issue which Mr Maxton raised and also ask you one question? Mr Maxton was emphasising the importance of local knowledge in relation to consideration of applications. I would be interested to know to what extent pains are taken to acquire such local knowledge. I will use an example from my own constituency which I warned my colleagues I would. As Mr Casey will know, there is an application from Wright Robinson Sports College in my constituency and one of the strong arguments in favour of that has been the use of those facilities not simply for the college but for the entire local community. It has been made known that the local public swimming pool is being discontinued in that area and that the sports college facilities will be used instead, which means that community use of the sports college becomes even greater and more important in a highly deprived area. To what extent is that kind of knowledge flowing to you when you are considering applications?
  (Mr Casey) If I could talk just in generalities and perhaps take the project just mentioned as an example, Chairman, in terms of local knowledge, as I mentioned, there are various stages on this. One is first of all a series of discussions with local authorities and the voluntary sector in the area to make sure that they are aware of the principles of the programme, and secondly working again particularly with local authorities and the education authorities to look at gaps in provision, so we are well aware of that and we have on a computerised demand/supply model so we know all the gaps in provision around the country. Secondly, as I mentioned, most of the advisory work on these sorts of projects, small local projects, is handled by our regional officers in the area who are expected through their geographical responsibilities to know what is going on in their patch and that is quite extensive. As far as the Wright Robinson school is concerned, having met the headmaster myself, and I know the Chairman has visited the college as well, the school has done a tremendous job within the community. It was not successful the first time it applied. I am aware that they have now applied for another pack of information and this is where, once that is received, the specific advisory service will kick in with my colleagues in the Manchester office. Particularly because of the status it has got, particularly because it has been awarded money for the appointment of a school sport co-ordinator, we will want to see how that school provides for its pupils but, just as importantly, how it provides for the local community as well. Because of the new system we can now work on a progressive basis with the school to try to make sure that the project this time round is one which both they and we value in terms of investment.

  425. Could I also ask you, not specifically related to that—and I am delighted that you have come so well briefed about it—if one takes, say, the areas represented by some of my colleagues who are here today, they represent towns or towns plus rural areas which can be considered as entities on their own, but if you take, say, Glasgow, which Mr Maxton represents, or Manchester which I represent, or London which some of our colleagues represent, there is a concern that because they have major projects local projects are elbowed out by these what I might call cuckoos in the nest. If one takes, say, Manchester, obviously we are all very anxious indeed that the Commonwealth Games should be a huge success but at the same time if one looks at that or similar events in other large cities there will be concern that the justified claims of these national events which happen to be in specific local areas should mean that indubitably local projects are elbowed out by the way in which the cash is allocated.
  (Ms Case) May I try to answer that as far as we are concerned.

  426. I will be glad if you do because the Victoria Baths Project in Manchester is also one on which I have a very strong view.
  (Ms Case) Along with a number of others! What we do in an attempt to ensure a balance between local and national, is to divide the whole of our budget into two, and to deal with the bigger national projects across the United Kingdom at a board level. Then, to delegate to our regional committees, responsibility for the smaller grants so that they are not actually bidding out of the same pot. In that sense we try not to allow one to elbow out the other.
  (Mr Hewitt) From our point of view—at least, in my experience—those local authority officers, who have big flagships within them, almost inevitably, because of the political pressures on them, are very acutely aware of the need to deliver to ward level. That, linked to the RAB structure, does tend to produce the necessary application. The other point I would make is that all applications are considered on their own merit. There is certainly no question of discrimination against particular projects in a big conurbation, which may have come forward after a major grant to a flagship project. Each application is considered entirely on its own merit and supported, or otherwise, accordingly.

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. As far as we are concerned, it has been an extremely helpful session. Thank you.

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