On 24 August, my right hon. Friend announced that it would be possible to approve new projects to spend in 1985–86. A circular inviting applications, and conveying a statement of policy, will be sent to authorities very soon.
Is it not the case that the increase proposed by the Government is £500,000, as compared with the current £29 million, without taking account of the inflation expected during that year? Will he confirm that councils will not receive the aid unless and until they provide evidence to the Department that they intend to cut staff numbers?
There should be some scope in 1985–86 for about £5 million of new capital expenditure and £5 million of new current expenditure. The provision of £29 million is at least as good as the outturn achieved last year.
As it created the crisis in confidence in the urban aid programme, by how much has the Scottish Office cleared the existing applications for urban aid in its in-trays? Is it leaving it to the local authorities to do the dirty work in prioritising the approval of applications? How much will the information that came to light in the previous census return influence the distribution of funds to deprived areas?
On the last point, my right hon. Friend's statement of his policy and priorities in this matter makes it clear that projects should be of direct and particular benefit to deprived urban areas. There is no scope to approve new projects for start in this financial year, although extensions to existing projects are being approved where appropriate. As I said, £29 million will be available in the next financial year for projects in this area.