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|Clauses 9 to 12, new Clauses relating to Part 2 of the Bill, new Schedules relating to Part 2 of the Bill.||Two and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Bill.|
|Clauses 13 to 18, new Clauses relating to Part 3 of the Bill, new Schedules relating to Part 3 of the Bill.||Two and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on Clause 13.|
|New Clauses and new Schedules relating to the procedure to be followed at an election on the death of a candidate or relating to candidates standing in more than one constituency at an election.||The moment of interruption or one hour after the commencement of proceedings on the first such new Clause, whichever is the later.|
8. When the provisions of the Bill considered respectively by the Committee of the whole House and by the Standing Committee have been reported to the House, the Bill shall be proceeded with as if it had been reported as a whole from the Standing Committee.
Matthew Taylor (Truro and St. Austell) (LD): I welcome the opportunity to return to an issue that I have debated on a number of occasions, most recently in an Adjournment debate about three years ago, when I made the case for community and village halls that have suffered a funding gap for essential repairs to buildings, many of which were constructed during the first and second world wars and are fundamental to the communities they serve. Over the past couple of years, and especially over the past six months, I have been pressing the case that lottery funding should be made available.
That was the case I wanted to make in my Adjournment debate. Clearly, the Government and the lottery fund have been listening, because yesterday it was announced that about £50 million would be made available over the next three years, which I very much welcome. I have been corresponding on the issue with the Big Lottery Fund and with Ministers for some time, as the Minister knows, and the funding will mean a big change for a large number of village halls and community facilities throughout the country.
There has been a funding gap. Although specific money has been available for new facilities, such as those for the disabled, and money has been available for projects in community and village halls, such as education, training and information technology, there has been a significant lack of the capital resources that are essential for the renewal of buildings. Although I welcome the announcement of the new funding, and suspect that the Adjournment debate may have helped, I still want to raise some issues that arise from it.
To give some context, I shall give a current example from my constituency. Veryan parish hall, like most such halls, was built some time ago; in this case, by the British Legion in 1926. More recently, a benefactor bought it and presented it to Veryan parish council and it operates as a charity serving the community. The activities that take place are typical for halls of that sort: scouts and guides, pantomimes, yoga, women's institute meetings, plant sales and all sorts of community events. However, kitchen and office facilities are limited and there is no small meeting room of the sort that are in such short supply in those communities. The building fabric needs renewal. As buses to the main town do not run after 6 pm, people without transport have to rely on such facilities.
Such community halls are especially prevalent in Cornwall, which has many small villages and towns, whereas most counties have larger towns and cities. Like many similar community halls and facilities, Veryan hall applied for a grant from the lottery fund to improve the kitchen, parking, accessin accordance with the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995and other parts of the hall. The application was backed by Cornwall rural community council, the parish council and other local community groups.
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All that work was done by volunteers, and after going through a complicated process, with visits from financial officials, and having received positive feedback, they were told that they did not meet the funding criteria because the area was not deprived enough. That is ironic as Cornwall is recognised as the poorest county in the country, but its rural communities do not fill many of the tick boxes for deprivation, such as low car ownership. It is almost impossible to exist in those communities without a car. Another reason was that not enough people from an ethnic minority would benefit from the funding. Those criteria would rule out most village halls in Cornwall.
Although it is important that lottery funds are awarded against fair criteria in each case, it was felt that they are stacked against rural applications. The county was not thought to be poor because it did not have the same problems as urban areas but, perhaps most important, no funding is really designed to help decaying village halls with basic maintenance and renewal, as opposed to individual projects. That is the issue that I have been raising in meetings with Ministers and others over the years. The Veryan community, like many others, has raised a lot of moneyabout £80,000 towards the total project cost of £190,000but it is insufficient. It has done a great job raising money but it has no one to turn to.
The announcement has been made that funds will be available. The Government have much more control over the Big Lottery Fund than over predecessor funds and although we have been told that details of who and what will be eligible will not be announced until next year, will the Minister give some idea of how the funds are to work? Most important, how far will they be earmarked for the renewal of existing infrastructure rather than having to meet the peculiar criteria that projects should provide new facilities or activitiesthat have existed since the useful millennium fund?
The press release is somewhat unclear. It talks about not only the renewal of community buildings and village halls, but new beneficiaries. That issue goes to the heart of whether the fund will produce what we need in Cornwall. An improved hall may have new beneficiariesof course, more people are likely to use itbut the key thing is that people often want to keep existing facilities for their communities groups. If they must show that there will be new users or that there will be a major change in the kind of facility on offer, many of them will struggle to do so. After all, funding has been available for the existing uses until now.
I hope that the Minister will give a feel for the direction that the fund is intended to take. I also hope that he will address a broader concern that I raised during the last Adjournment debate on the issue, when the Minister gave a quite positive response, but little has happened since. It is a wider concern about the complications of the funding process that the people who operate village halls and community facilities must undertake. Although they are largely volunteers, they are expected to navigate their way through a wide variety of different funds. For some funds, they must go to the South West of England Development Agency; for others, they must go to other regional development agencies, the Big Lottery Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund or the Local Government Association, each of which may have funds available but only if certain
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criteria are met. For example, the RDA places funds only where the beneficiaries can illustrate economic outputs. So the RDA could help to fund a new computer suite to train local people, but not provide funds to repair a leaking roof.
The process is complicated and people are uncertain about where to go for funding, despite the fact that organisations such as the rural community councils do a very good job in signposting. It would be enormously helpful if something could be done to simplify the cocktail of possibilities and enable volunteers to gain access to funds more easily.
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