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Village Halls

Volume 460: debated on Thursday 17 May 2007

11. What support his Department gives to rural communities for the maintenance and improvement of village halls and community centres. (137596)

Support is provided in many ways, both for the fabric of rural community buildings, including village halls, and for those who are responsible for running them. Over the past five years, through a variety of DEFRA programmes, including the rural social and community programme, the aggregates levy fund and the rural enterprise scheme, DEFRA has invested more than £10 million to support a wide range of rural community assets.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, not least because I have an unusually high number of village halls and community centres in my largely rural constituency. They are used by a variety of voluntary and community groups, who are often nowadays the lifeblood of their communities. Will my hon. Friend give a commitment to the House that he will work with the Cabinet Office to ensure that those groups can continue their valuable work, thereby ensuring that they make full use of the investment that has been made in our community centres and village halls?

I am very glad to be able to reassure my hon. Friend that we intend to continue to do precisely that. The rural social and community programme provides funding for a diverse range of local projects in the manner that she suggested. Of course, in the light of recent announcements, we may need to look afresh at how best we can maintain other community facilities such as former grammar school buildings, for which the Conservative party no longer seems to have a use.