I can announce today that from September 2008 to December 2009, the grassroots grants programme has provided over 15,500 grants to small charities and voluntary organisations, totalling more than £38 million. These grants are given to small groups across England to do what they think best meets the needs of their local communities. In addition, more than £17.5 million has been received in donations from businesses and individuals. That has been boosted by the Government to more than £31 million to support local activity in years to come.
Will the Minister join me in praising the Birtley community partnership in my constituency, and in particular the chairman, Mr. Ian Caddy, who was recently awarded the MBE by the Queen, for the work that they have done with the community assets programme to develop a community hub in our town from what was a derelict library?
I can. The grassroots grants and community assets programmes are two of my favourite Government programmes for the sector, because they really involve the community in making a difference. My hon. Friend's constituent, whom he mentioned, really earned- [Interruption.]
Order. I apologise for interrupting the Minister, but there are far too many private conversations taking place in the Chamber. I might just tell the House at this point that since last Wednesday I have received a large number of letters from members of the public, whose support we will all be seeking in a few weeks' time and to whose views we should attach importance. Those letters have complained bitterly about the excessive noise, barracking and yah-boo behaviour in this House- [ Interruption. ] Somebody said from a sedentary position "shocking". As far as the public are concerned, it is shocking. It is nothing of which to be proud, and we do not need to hear any more of it.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I may write to you myself on that issue.
I wanted to say that my hon. Friend's constituent earned his MBE, and he should be very proud of that. I understand that his constituent is not very well at the moment, so I send him my personal best wishes and those of my colleagues for the work that he has done for the community.
I can look in more detail at that, but the hon. Lady should know that the grants are issued throughout England and directly by community development foundations locally. If she is concerned that those who give out the grants in her area are not giving enough to rural areas, she should please let me know, because they should be fairly well spread across rural and urban areas and among young and older people. They are small grants of £250 to £5,000, and they are targeted at community groups. I am sure that her concerns can be assuaged if she looks at the issue and comes back to me.
I call Sandra Gidley.
You have had a go. [ Interruption. ] No, I call Sandra Gidley. You can always try on a supplementary.