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Public Spaces

Volume 471: debated on Wednesday 6 February 2008

2. What support the Government plan to provide to help local people make use of high-quality public spaces for voluntary activities in the next three years. (184600)

The Government are committed to providing opportunities for local third sector organisations and public bodies to work together to ensure the best use of public spaces and buildings. The new £30 million community assets programme will provide grants to improve local authority assets so that they can be transferred to community ownership. That is just one element of a broad programme of support for local authorities and third sector organisations to develop quality partnerships to ensure the best use of high-quality assets.

I thank the Minister for his response. In line with that answer, on 15 March, Wembley stadium will open its doors to voluntary organisations and the London borough of Brent to talk about facilities and its football development programme. Does my hon. Friend agree that that programme, along with the extended schools programme, is one of the right steps forward in making sure that our young people keep fitter, and in the development of stars for the future? As we are talking about Wembley, will the Minister also join me in congratulating the football—

I wish the England team and their new manager every success—that is one European partnership that I am sure the whole House would want to support. I congratulate Wembley and Brent council for creating their new partnership. There are many football teams throughout the leagues that create such partnerships, and they bring real benefits, such as new learning centres and the engagement of young people in their communities in imaginative ways that provide them with constructive alternatives and opportunities for learning. I shall visit Watford football club in the near future to learn about the success it is having in improving the community around its town.

I welcome this new initiative, and any help to local and voluntary groups is always welcome. However, is not the real support that the third sector wants from the Government the provision of more clarity and long-term core funding? What can the Minister tell us about the real help that local groups in all our constituencies are looking for?

I have some very good news for the hon. Gentleman. If he reads today’s edition of The Guardian, he will see an announcement about the new Grassroots Grants campaign. That grant regime will provide a flow of revenue funding, which is particularly targeted at small, local voluntary organisations, whose grant needs often get overlooked. It will be rolling out from this summer through local providers, and it will consist of not only a revenue stream, but an endowment fund to provide sustainable funding for local voluntary organisations over the years ahead.

Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the happy campaigners of the Gwynneth Morgan day centre, whom he visited recently, on their campaigns on pavements and post offices, which took place with the help and encouragement of his Department? Does he agree that campaigning is an important activity for voluntary organisations and charities?

We had an excellent morning in Wandsworth with the happy campaigners. The group is a Leonard Cheshire group, and it is standing up for the needs of its community. It is campaigning for better pavements in particular. We want to see such campaigning throughout the country—people with needs in their local areas having a voice. We want those who do not have a voice, who are the most marginalised, to have the opportunity to speak up and get public services to respond to their needs. I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work he does in his constituency in standing up for groups that are often the most overlooked.