VILLAGE halls threatened with closure under revised Government funding arrangements are being thrown a £150,000 lifeline.

Yesterday, Durham County Council's cabinet agreed to recommend that the full council incorporates the sum in next year's budget.

The decision comes after the Government announced changes in the way it funds adult education in communities.

From March, instead of giving local authorities an annual adult learning budget to distribute to village halls, cash will be channelled through the Learning and Skills Council.

Community associations will have to meet much stricter criteria to qualify for grants, resulting in funding for 72 village halls in County Durham being cut off.

In addition to losing their discretionary allowances for activities such as whist drives and quiz nights, associations might have to start paying fees under proposed changes to the licensing laws.

It is feared that this will lead to the closure of community halls in isolated communities such as Edmundbuyers, Dipton, Ebchester and Waldridge Fell.

Council leader Councillor Ken Manton said the £150,000 would buy time while the authority considered more permanent ways of helping village halls.

"These small village halls and community centres are often the focus of community life, and are popular and well used for a wide variety of activities, he said."

"It would be a tragedy if any were to disappear, and the council will do what it can with the resources it has available to provide a financial lifeline until we can arrive at a long-term solution."