Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-95)



  80. And how do you balance the importance of buildings, i.e. the fact that some projects are just massively more important than others, in terms of their historical significance, that may well be in private ownership, versus the fact that you are doling out public money, to which the public has some right to expect something in return? How do you balance which projects you fund, bearing in mind that some may come forward of huge historic importance, but, nevertheless, owned by a private owner?
  (Mrs Case) We do not support projects in private or commercial ownership.

  81. Period?
  (Mrs Case) Period; except to the extent that the project is about access and education, in other words, the benefits from the project are to the wider public and not to the private owner.

  82. And that was, presumably, why you were set up in the first place, not a decision—
  (Mrs Case) No; when we were originally set up, there was a statutory bar on us supporting projects in private ownership. As a result of the National Heritage Act in 1997, our powers were increased to enable us to do projects in private ownership, but all the consultations that we have had, both in advance of our last strategic plan and in advance of the one which we are about to publish, have suggested that people do not think that it is, on the whole, a proper use for Lottery-players' money.
  (Dr Johnson) May I just make one mild correction to that, which is that when we are dealing with an area scheme, a townscape, we do actually fund, together with the partners who are running the townscape for us, property in private ownership there, where it is clearly part of the town's, or the area's, interest that a building should be refurbished. There is no point in leaving the odd sore thumb sticking there, not being restored, if it is in private ownership, and it is in those circumstances that we are prepared to make funding available, with other partners, to a common fund, which is then used to restore buildings.

  83. But a Grade 1, irreplaceable, listed building can go to rack and ruin, if it belongs to a private owner, despite its importance to the nation?
  (Mrs Case) It is, of course, able to apply to English Heritage for funding.

  84. Who have much shallower pockets than you have, 300 million versus 30?
  (Mrs Case) But our 300 million is not just for the built environment, it is for museums and galleries, on the one hand, the whole of the cultural heritage and it is also for landscape and for nature conservation. So that our remit, what we support, as Heritage, is considerably wider than the built environment, which is what English Heritage and the two other agencies you have just seen support.

  85. And then, just a little plea, because one of the good things about this Committee is that we can actually promote our constituency interests, you are about to receive an application from a project in my constituency, to do with the gardens at Hewell Grange, which was the last big country house that was built, and, sadly, nowadays, it is a prison, but, nevertheless, the gardens are of huge historic significance, I am told by Worcester Gardens. Can you tell me what kind of priority you then give to gardens, and what impact actually having a prison there, and therefore some kind of community aspect and social inclusion perspectives, would really enhance our prospect?
  (Mrs Case) I think the one question that springs to mind, rather obviously, if they are the gardens that belong to a prison, is how much public access there would be, and therefore how wide the public benefits would be from whatever sum of money we were being asked to invest.

  86. Right; but the fact that they are—it may be possible—we do not keep the nutters in there; but the fact that it is a prison, it would have some rehabilitative sort of, presumably, we would try to give jobs to prisoners?
  (Mrs Case) We would ask questions about the extent of public benefit; clearly, a benefit to a community such as a prison could be a public benefit. But I do think that this question about whether the benefits go wider than the inmates of the prison could be a difficult one for us.

  Miss Kirkbride: We will work on it.

Derek Wyatt

  87. Forgive me, I am on the radio at 12.35, but the destroyer and the frigate, that are in the Egyptian Navy, which are being decommissioned, the last ever frigate and a better version of Cavalier, but let us not get too drawn out on that, because, as you know, Cavalier had changes; how would we bring that to your attention, given that they are going to be decommissioned by the Egyptian Navy and they may be sold for scrap, but the last frigate?
  (Mrs Case) You are clearly bringing them to our attention now.

  88. I know, but there will not be a Lottery bid for it, I should not think?
  (Mrs Case) What we would need, to think about doing something about it, is an application from a body that not only wanted to rescue them but could put together a package which would be financially sustainable over the future.

  89. That is much harder, is it not?
  (Mrs Case) It is much harder.

  90. Sport England and Sport Lottery work almost hand in hand, there are some Chinese walls, but they actually belong in the same building. Do you think you would be better served if you were with English Heritage, physically in the building, access, chatting, discussing?
  (Mrs Case) I think part of the answer to that goes back to the point I made earlier. We would not just have to be in the building with English Heritage, we would have to be in the building with Historic Scotland, with Cadw, with Resource, with the Countryside Agency. This is a question which the Government of the day decided, but, as I understand, one of the reasons for making the National Heritage Memorial Fund into the distributor of Lottery money, rather than any of the existing statutory agencies, was that in the heritage field there is not a single umbrella agency, as there is in sports and there is in arts, and the only body which, at that time, covered the whole of the heritage in the whole of the UK was the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

Mr Bryant

  91. You say in your briefing note to us that you prioritise applications in deprived areas. I wonder how precisely you do that; and whether you have had any particular difficulties in former mining constituencies?
  (Mrs Case) We had three programmes which were specifically prioritised towards deprived areas: the Joint Places of Worship that we were running with English Heritage in England; also our Townscape Heritage initiative scheme, and our Parks Programme, both of which are heavily oversubscribed, where we give priority, partly because of the nature of the schemes that they are, to applications from deprived areas. It is something which we also look at, in terms of thinking about public benefits, in relation to every single application that we get. But, under the targeted programmes, almost all the grants that we give go to the most deprived areas. Like other Lottery distributors, we have had difficulties in getting a fair share, however one defines that, of Lottery money to coalfield areas. What we have done, since the work that was done on Lottery distribution in the coalfields, is to fund a study which the Coalfields Regeneration Trust has led, which has talked to coalfield communities about what they think their heritage is, and therefore what might be the basis of an appropriate application to us; that work has almost reached a conclusion, and is about to be published very shortly.

  92. Could you make sure that a copy is sent to me; is that possible?
  (Mrs Case) Of course, yes.

  93. I do worry about this, because in the little bit of research I did it came out that approximately, in the Welsh mining constituencies, the average constituency was getting 24 per cent of what other constituencies in the country were getting; and that had actually gone down, in the last few years, rather than up. Now I accept that there are some problems about the application process, and there is an instance, which I have not mentioned to you before, so I am not asking you to comment on it, but, as an instance, Abergorky Hall, just beyond Treorchy, nearly in Treherbert, is a fine facade, a classic of many hundreds of mining institute buildings that there are around, and we probably should not preserve every single one of them, but there are ideas about what we could do with this one, which would probably preserve the facade and take the rest of the building down and rebuild. But if they are to make a go of it they have to apply to about ten different organisations, because it does not fit into any of the silos. And I just wonder how you can make it more possible for people who do not necessarily have large financial resources, or necessarily perhaps the skills to be able to put together complicated business plans, in areas such as these?
  (Mrs Case) Before coming on to the particular question about how you deal with things which are in a lot of different silos, which I think is a very difficult question, in terms of making it easier for people to apply to us, we have done and are doing two things. We have looked very carefully at our application materials for smaller grants, and have produced new materials, called "Your Heritage" for grants under 50,000, which we took a lot of trouble to talk to not just people who had applied for that sort of money but people who had not applied, to ask why they had not, and whether we could, as it were, address them and make it easier for them to do. So I hope that we are making it easier for groups who are less well funded, less sophisticated, to make applications to us. We launched "Your Heritage" just under a year ago now, and experience suggests that people are finding it an easier way to access our funding. The other thing is that, reflecting some of our earlier conservations with the Government, as part of our new strategic plan, we will not only be opening offices in each of the English regions (and we already have ones in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) where the staff who do the present job of assessing and monitoring applications, will be located, but we will also be populating them with additional staff whose role will be, in part, to reach out to communities who have not made many applications to us and to give more pre-application advice to small groups who find they have difficulties. To answer finally your point about how to help groups who have this problem of applications which have to come to a range of different funders, particularly Lottery distributors, we and all other Lottery distributors try to do on the ground, and I think we will find it much more easy when we have offices in each of the regions, is just to pick up the 'phone to the other Lottery distributors and say, "We have a group here who wants to do . . . How can we make it easy for them?"

  94. You used to work at the Treasury?
  (Mrs Case) I did.

  95. And, as I understand it, but I may be wrong, I may be out of date, the Treasury is doing a consultation exercise on VAT and church repairs; is that right?
  (Mrs Case) I am not sure it is doing a consultation exercise on VAT and church repairs. It has introduced a new grant scheme, which is being handled through the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, under which church repairs can get a refund of part of the VAT that they currently pay.

  Mr Bryant: Right.

  Chairman: Well, there we are. Thank you very much indeed. We are most grateful to you for providing the concluding section of what I regard as a very civilised morning. Thank you.


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