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Orders of the Day — National Lottery Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:36 pm on 14th June 2005.

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Photo of Colin Breed Colin Breed Shadow Minister, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs 6:36 pm, 14th June 2005

I wish to make a fairly brief contribution on behalf of a number of my constituents who are in what I suppose is a growing band of the disappointed. It is not that they expect to wander down to the results every week to find that they have won a huge amount; they have simply become part of a growing number of people who have become disappointed by being involved in one way or another with rejected applications for funding.

The group to which I refer consists of village halls and community centres. It is not surprising that a growing number of people have become disappointed when we bear in mind the role of such buildings in community work and the huge number of people who become involved in them. Almost from first thing in the morning to last thing at night, those buildings are used for a variety of activities. In the mornings, they are used for children's playgroups, nurseries and early-years education. Later on, there are coffee mornings and fundraising activities. At lunchtime, there are old and lonely people's luncheon clubs, and in the afternoons, there are forums where people meet as part of community groups. Some places have tea dances, and moving on to the late afternoon, there are after-school clubs and meetings for Beavers, Cubs and St. John Ambulance cadets. In the evenings, there are sports such as badminton, meetings of Scouts and Guides, committee meetings, fundraising activities and community events. It is not surprising that in many communities, especially in rural areas, a vast number of people have become interactive with what happens in their village hall or community centre.

When the lottery was introduced, a fairly significant number of capital grants were available for refurbishments, replacements and even brand new facilities. I am pleased to say that some such developments occurred in my constituency, but that happened a long time ago. There have been very few, if any, such awards in more recent times. The Countryside Agency had a vital villages initiative to enable some more funding to be available for projects, but it was quickly curtailed. Many of those involved are now being asked to raise their contribution to a refurbishment or even replacement in the hope—most of the time, it is a forlorn hope—that a lottery grant will be awarded to them.

At the same time, in recent years, significant costs have been imposed on village hall committees. There have been enhanced and additional health and safety regulations and developments in the disability access situation. Licensing has been mentioned, and the standards required for playschools and nurseries have changed, including standards for toilets and so on. All those factors have produced significantly greater costs for village hall committees—even insurance costs contribute to that huge burden—but those committees cannot access additional funding to make their facilities compatible with today's standards.

For some reason, applications are almost inevitably refused, which causes huge concern and disappointment among a large section of the rural community, particularly in Cornwall and in my constituency. Mrs. Moon mentioned many of the problems with match funding in an objective 1 area that we have experienced, and match funding is becoming less and less feasible.

People often use village halls and community centres to raise funds, but if they try to raise funds for those buildings, they encounter an ever-decreasing circle.