Examination of Witnesses (Questions 420
THURSDAY 14 DECEMBER 2000
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
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
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 thatand I am delighted that you have come so
well briefed about itif 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
426. I will be glad if you do because the Victoria
Baths Project in Manchester is also one on which I have a very
(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 viewat least,
in my experiencethose 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.