Community Halls Programme

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 5 December 2016.

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Photo of William Humphrey William Humphrey DUP 2:45, 5 December 2016

4. Mr Humphrey asked the Minister for Communities for an update on the response to his recent announcement of the community halls programme. (AQO 834/16-21)

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

The community halls capital grant scheme was launched on 19 October 2016 at Salterstown Orange hall, Ballyronan. My Department aims to distribute individual grants of up to a maximum of £25,000 towards community halls minor works. There is £500,000 allocated to this pilot scheme in the current financial year. I can update the House and say that officials are in the process of assessing in excess of 800 applications.

Photo of William Humphrey William Humphrey DUP

I thank the Minister for his answer so far. I join others in extending sympathy and condolences to Austin Hunter's widow, Jean, and their children, Simon and Rachael.

I commend the Minister's initiative on community halls and welcome the response; indeed, I encouraged many to apply for the scheme. Will the Minister take the opportunity to acknowledge the huge need for investment in our community halls throughout Northern Ireland?

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

I thank the Member for his encouragement around the introduction of the scheme. The fact that well in excess of 800 applications have been received has demonstrated the need for investment in community halls. They support the hugely valuable work that is carried out across our community in Northern Ireland.

Many halls are dilapidated, and the pilot will reach only a small proportion of those that are in the worst condition. On the basis of the pilot scheme, the work merits future support in our capital programme over the years ahead. I intend to bring forward a future programme to allow us to continue to improve community halls and undertake larger projects to raise the standard of community hall facilities. As I indicated in my original response, half a million pounds of capital resource was identified in my Department to fund the pilot scheme. Given the huge response, that will come nowhere near meeting the need identified. However, I have tasked officials in my Department with identifying whether additional capital can be found to do more than initially envisaged. I have commissioned my officials to look at that.

Photo of Paula Bradshaw Paula Bradshaw Alliance

What shared future arrangements are included in the application process for the grant?

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

The grant was available to everybody, irrespective of class, creed or religion.