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September 2012 Monthly Archives

Opening of Kate Fassnidge Community Hall

September 14, 2012

Kate Fassnidge Community Hall

Nick speaking at the opening of the Kate Fassnidge Community Hall in Northwood.

Cabinet Office Questions

September 5, 2012

Nick Hurd answers MPs’ questions on topic including the National Citizen Service pilots and the funding of the voluntary sector.

National Citizen Service Pilots

Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): What recent assessment he has made of the second round of National Citizen Service pilots. 118535

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Nick Hurd): In its first year, the National Citizen Service achieved customer satisfaction ratings of 95% and a benefit-to-cost ratio of 2:1, with approximately three times more young people going through the programme this year. We expect to build on that, and we will be publishing an independent evaluation next year.

Andrew Stephenson: I thank the Minister for that answer. Last week I took part in a “Dragon’s Den”-type session for young people to pitch social action projects, which was organised by the Challenge Network and which took place at the ACE centre in Nelson in my constituency. Does my hon. Friend share my admiration for organisations such as the Challenge Network, who get young people involved in projects that can make a real difference in their communities?

Mr Hurd: Yes, I do. I congratulate the Challenge Network and others who are helping to deliver what is an outstanding programme. I continue to be amazed that so much can be done in just three weeks in building young people’s confidence and skills, and in giving them a chance to make a positive difference in their communities.

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op): Does the Minister share my concern at the report by the Education Committee which found that, based on the cost per head of the 2011 pilot, it will cost a total of £355 million each year to provide a universal offer for the NCS, and that, even allowing for economies of scale, that cost may well outstrip the entire annual spending by local authorities on youth services, which totalled £350 million in 2009-10?

Mr Hurd: I simply encourage the hon. Lady to visit an NCS project. I think she will see that the projects are outstandingly popular with the young people who are taking part, and that although people in the youth sector are understandably frustrated at cuts elsewhere, they are beginning to recognise that the NCS is an enormously positive asset in terms of developing the young people of this country.

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Voluntary Sector Funding

Mrs Mary Glindon (North Tyneside) (Lab): What estimate he has made of the total reduction in funding to the voluntary sector in 2011-12. 118536

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): What estimate he has made of the total reduction in funding to the voluntary sector in 2011-12. 118540

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Nick Hurd): Data from the Charity Commission suggest that the gross income of registered charities grew in 2011, but we all know that the sector is going through a very difficult period. We are putting in place plans to help it through this very difficult transition period, and to open up new funding opportunities over the medium term.

Mrs Glindon: In the north-east, funding reductions are forcing 48% of voluntary sector organisations to close services and 28% to reduce the number of beneficiaries they support. What impact does the Minister think such losses will have on the Government’s plans to increase the role of the voluntary sector in delivering public services?

Mr Hurd: I share the hon. Lady’s concern and that is why we have pressed the point, from the Prime Minister down, to local authorities that they should try to avoid making disproportionate cuts to the voluntary sector and why we have put in place funds to help manage the transition. I have to say to her that for the Labour party to keep talking about cuts to the voluntary sector without recognising why those cuts were necessary in the first place, and without recognising that Labour councils are doing some of the heaviest cutting while saying absolutely nothing about the future of the sector, is fooling no one and disappointing many.

Helen Goodman: In County Durham, the local authority has had to reduce its grass-cutting service because of the reductions in its grant, so I rang the local Community Service Volunteers, thinking that that might be something it could take on. It said that it could not, because it did not know whether it will have core funding after the new year. Does the Minister not understand that far from creating a big society, he is destroying the society we have?

Mr Hurd: We are investing in the infrastructure that supports the voluntary sector, with some £30 million already invested through the transforming local infrastructure fund. Yet again, I draw the hon. Lady’s attention to the fact that that cut to that grant has not come from the centre but from the local authority, which is accountable for that decision.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): Will the Minister join me in thanking the 70,000 volunteers who took part in the London Olympics? What steps will be taken to ensure that we build on that volunteering legacy?

Mr Hurd: Anyone lucky enough to have gone to the Olympic games or the Paralympics will know just what an important role the volunteers played in making them an enormous success. My hon. Friend is right that we clearly have a big opportunity to build on that, which is why we have committed another £40 million for the social action fund to back exciting new campaigns to inspire volunteers, such as “Join In”, which inspired a quarter of a million people to get involved with their local sports clubs in August.

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on bringing forward new proposals to support the voluntary sector, but will he join me in condemning Labour-run councils that are cutting the voluntary sector, decimating services and then blaming the Government?

Mr Hurd: My hon. Friend and neighbour from Harrow makes a good point. Locally, we have the contrast between Conservative-run Hillingdon council, which is increasing its investment in the front-line voluntary sector, and Labour-controlled Harrow next door, where that investment is being reduced.

Mr Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op): Ministers’ huge cuts in funding for charities mean that volunteer centres across England are losing, on average, 25% of their income, according to Volunteering England. With so many Olympic and Paralympic volunteers wanting to continue to volunteer after the games are finished, why are Ministers so determined to make it so hard for them to do so?

Mr Hurd: We are not. The hon. Gentleman has never let facts get in the way of shameless opposition and he has not disappointed today. We are investing in the infrastructure to support and inspire volunteers, with £30 million for the transforming local infrastructure fund. We are doing our bit from the centre, but the point I would make to local authorities across the country is that they should recognise the value of the volunteers in their community and not cut the investment in the local infrastructure that supports them.

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Topical Questions

James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con): Over the summer, I had the pleasure of hosting a visit by a group of young people as part of the National Citizen Service, organised by the Challenge Network in the black country, which was a fantastic success. Will the Minister outline his plans for the further roll-out of the NCS next year?

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Nick Hurd): We are ambitious to expand the NCS because it is such an outstandingly positive opportunity for young people. The aim is to make it available to 90,000 teenagers in 2014.

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Stephen Mosley (City of Chester) (Con): Last week, I was privileged to see the hard work of the NCS volunteers at the New Scene centre in Chester. However, a number of the young people were from over the border in Wales. While they were delighted to be able to do their NCS activities in England, they were disappointed that they were not able to do them in their own communities. Will the Minister join me in calling for the Welsh Assembly Government to introduce a national citizen service in Wales next year?

Mr Hurd: I thank my hon. Friend for getting so actively engaged with the NCS this summer. I am delighted that Northern Ireland teenagers will be involved in the pilots this autumn, and we have extended the offer to the Welsh Assembly. I hope he can help us to get a positive response to that.

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Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): In July 2011 the Department for Work and Pensions introduced a new standard contract that encouraged its suppliers to hire 5% of their work force as apprentices. A year later, more than 2,000 apprenticeships have been created, at no extra cost to the Government. Is the Minister aware that rolling that out across Whitehall will create thousands of new apprenticeships?

Mr Hurd: My hon. Friend makes a good and valid point. This Government have a proud record on creating apprenticeships. Our position is not to put a blanket condition on Departments, but to encourage them to take an innovative approach, such as the one he mentions in the Department for Work and Pensions.

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