Grants from urban fund given lukewarm welcome

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Indy Politics
The earmarking of 20m pounds of government cash to boost local authority inner- city projects was given a less than enthusiastic welcome by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities yesterday.

Forty-six inner-city councils have successfully bid for a share of the pounds 20m Urban Partnership Fund, which forms part of the Capital Partnership Programme announced with the Autumn Statement last November.

Councils must spend some of their own money - capital receipts obtained until the end of this year from sales of council homes and other assets - in order to qualify for help under the programme, while the bulk of the finance comes from the private sector.

Michael Howard, Secretary of State for the Environment, said: 'The fund will encourage local authorities to make use of about pounds 33m capital receipts and taken together the projects are estimated to lever in over pounds 130m in private sector resources.'

But Andy Elmer, an AMA policy officer, said the announcement was 'small beer' compared with the Urban Programme, which is being run down.

Mr Elmer said the programme, now confined to funding completion of existing projects, provided pounds 271.4m for 9,855 schemes in 1990-91, pounds 258.4m for 6,911 projects in 1991-2 and pounds 237.2m for 8,782 schemes this year. 'It is not surprising that councils are forming an orderly queue for the partnership fund,' he said.

The association is also concerned about Government estimates of the income councils will obtain from capital receipts until 31 December, when the Government has said it will re-impose the previous freeze on using the money.

The Government's projection of a total of pounds 1.75bn of extra spendable receipts was 'a totally unrealistic assumption about income', Mr Elmer said.

The 81 projects to benefit under yesterday's announcement were chosen on grounds of best meeting three criteria; needs of local people and businesses, the complementing of other activities, and value for money.

The Government is providing pounds 44.9m in grant aid to the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation for 1993-94, David Hunt, Secretary of State for Wales, said.

(Photograph omitted)