Authorities in many of the 16 first-phase areas, and in a number of other places, are interested in developing community budgets in relation to a variety of local priorities, and we are discussing the possibilities with a range of Departments. The number of areas involved is constantly evolving.
May I press the Secretary of State a little further? Given the demonstrable advantages of community budgeting—value for money, local delivery, and bringing people closer to the political process—what further action is the Department taking to increase the number of projects?
I know that my hon. Friend has taken a great interest in the issue, and that he recently made a number of important points about it to the Select Committee. We are encountering some resistance locally, but we must be vigilant and push local authorities into making decisions, because the future lies in a system that enables us to bring together locally all the funds from the various Departments.
I welcome the commitment made by the Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark)—who is responsible for decentralisation—to look favourably on any further proposals for community budgets from local authorities, but does the Secretary of State not agree that Departments have an obligation to become more involved and proactive in this regard? Does he understand my disappointment that at a recent meeting of the Select Committee, Ministers from the Department for Work and Pensions, the Home Office and the Department of Health could not between them cite a single proposal for further decentralisation measures? Is it not time that the Government as a whole got their act together?
The short answer is yes, of course. As I said in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Meon Valley (George Hollingbery), this is a very important Government policy, and much of the reluctance arises in Departments, on the ground. I look to the hon. Gentleman, the Select Committee and my Department—which is taking a considerable lead—to deliver on the policy. I believe that if we do so, we shall be delivering something much better.