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Cabinet Office Questions

  • 2 Mar 2011

Nick Hurd responds to MPs’ questions on the National Citizen Service, Voluntary Sector jobs and the Transition Fund for charities.

National Citizen Service

Amber Rudd (Hastings and Rye) (Con): In which regions the national citizen service will operate in the summer of 2011. 42471

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Nick Hurd): The pilots will be based in 190 different locations this summer and have a good geographical spread in regions across England. I am delighted to say that more than 11,000 16-year-olds will have the opportunity to take part.

Amber Rudd: My constituents and I are very much looking forward to the service arriving in Hastings and its environment. What are the arrangements for rolling the service out further; who will be in charge of fulfilment; and how can MPs get involved with it?

Mr Hurd: This year’s pilots involve areas represented by 400 MPs, so there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. I am delighted to say that Catch 22 and the Prince’s Trust are leading the pilots in East Sussex this year, and I very much hope that my hon. Friend will get involved because this provides a fantastic opportunity for young people in her area to participate in a very positive experience.

Jon Trickett (Hemsworth) (Lab): Anything that taps the idealism of young people in the wider society is clearly to be welcomed; it is a good thing. These pilots, however, seem to be an inadequate response to the needs of 965,000 young people who are now out of work. The scheme itself was criticised, as the Minister will know, by the university of Strathclyde, so will he at least indicate the date by which the scheme will be made universal for all young people, as the Prime Minister promised before the election?

Mr Hurd: I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman appears to have such a downer on the scheme, which provides a hugely positive opportunity for young people in this country. We are testing it thoroughly on behalf of the taxpayer-there are 11,000 places this year and 30,000 next year-with a view to rolling it out, as he suggested, to make it more widely available and so compelling for all 16-year-olds that they will want to get involved in the future.

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Voluntary Sector (Jobs)

Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab): What estimate he has made of the likely change in the number of jobs in the voluntary sector in the next three years. 42478

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Nick Hurd): Unfortunately, the sector cannot be immune from the cuts that are forced upon us, so of course there is concern about short-term job losses, but we firmly believe that there will be opportunities for the sector in the future, not least in delivering public services, and we are working very hard to make those opportunities real.

Rosie Cooper: I thank the Minister for that answer, but the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action estimates that 26,000 charity workers will lose their jobs in the face of the Government’s accelerated cuts to services. Does he agree with that estimate, and if not, will publish his own estimate of the job losses in the sector?

Mr Hurd: I do not recognise the basis of that estimate, but of course there is a challenge in the short term, and this Government are working very hard to try to help the sector manage through this period of transition. There is a very significant long-term opportunity for the sector to deliver more public services, to help people find more of a voice at the local level, and to benefit from the additional time and money we hope to encourage people to give as well as the social investment we are trying to encourage through the big society bank.

Mr David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con): I welcome the progress my hon. Friend is making in promoting and advancing the voluntary sector. [Interruption.] Will he compare that with the lacklustre performance of the last Labour Government?

Mr Hurd: I thank my hon. Friend for that question, and it was interesting to hear the chortles from those on the Opposition Benches. Of course there is absolutely no recognition among Labour Members of the necessity of these cuts after their Government’s absolutely shambolic stewardship of the economy over the past 13 years.

Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): Many in the voluntary and community sector are describing the transition fund, which was heavily over-subscribed and I believe is now closed, as a drop in the ocean compared with the tsunami of cuts facing the sector. Does the Minister not agree that he needs to do more to protect the voluntary sector from job cuts, especially at a time when he is asking it to do more?

Mr Hurd: I do not think any of my constituents would consider £100 million of taxpayers’ money to be a drop in the ocean. As the outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury said, “There is no money,” yet we have found £100 million to try to help the most vulnerable organisations through a very difficult transition period. We wanted to get that assistance up and running as quickly as possible so the money could get out in as unbureaucratic way as possible, and I am very proud of what we have managed to achieve.

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Transition Fund

Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot) (Con): How many valid bids the transition fund received. 42484

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Nick Hurd): There were just over 1,700 applications to the transition fund, which are currently being assessed by our delivery partner the BIG Fund. The first transition fund awards, totalling £1.7 million, were made on 15 February to 18 organisations and there will be hundreds more awards over the coming months.

Anne Marie Morris: Given the appetite for the transition fund, will the Prime Minister consider a new fund to enable even more civic societies that undertake such valuable work, such as Home-Start in Teignbridge, to continue to operate? Will he consider including smaller organisations in such a new fund?

Mr Hurd: I understand the question, but unfortunately we have no money to consider such an initiative. We had to take some very tough decisions on eligibility criteria for the first round and we are actively looking at ways to top that up, but we have no current plans for a second round.

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