£670m for youth centres will not be financed by unclaimed assets

The third sector was left confused by a statement in the Prime Minister's speech at the Labour Party conference that seemed to suggest £670m from dormant bank accounts would be used to pay for new youth centres up and down the country.

In his first speech to conference as party leader, Gordon Brown said: “We will use unclaimed assets in dormant bank accounts to build new youth centres, and we will invest more than £670m so that in every community there are places for young people to go.”

Some assumed that the £670m referred to unclaimed assets and were concerned that there would be few resources left over to pump into a social investment bank to finance the third sector.

However, the Office of the Third Sector and the Treasury have confirmed that the £670m figure did not include any money from dormant accounts and instead represented government funds that had been earmarked for spending on new youth facilities.

Toby Eccles, secretary to the Commission on Unclaimed Assets, confirmed that the Prime Minister was committed to its bank proposal.

“Gordon Brown has already expressed a great deal of interest in the social investment bank on launching the third sector review,” Eccles said. “We continue to have positive conversations with government.”

Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, agreed that Brown was fully behind the idea of the bank. “The only ‘if’ is how much money it gets,” he said.

However, he criticised the idea of the money being spent on youth centres. “Most of our members still believe in money going to youth, but the problem is that youth centres do not appeal to the sort of youth you want to target,” he said. “Youth centres are a 60s idea, and they’ve had their time.”

Bubb added that if any youth money were to be distributed by the Big Lottery Fund, as proposed by the Treasury, there would have to be “very very clear and transparent mechanisms”. He said: “We want to make sure the money goes out and is not propping up the bureaucracy of the Big Lottery Fund, allowing it to cut back its own youth programmes.”

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