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Ms Armstrong: My hon. Friend's authority, although it does not receive a neighbourhood renewal fund, none the less has at least two wards which are suffering from deprivation and are among the 10 per cent. worst in the country, which means that it will be eligible for the neighbourhood management pilots and for some of the other money.
More than anything else, this strategy is a means by which local communities can come together to work out what the local priorities are and how to tackle them locally. The police will have targets. Whatever the chief constable feels about other matters, he will be seeking to ensure that the outcomes that every community has the right to expect are delivered in his area.
Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon): I have rarely heard such a blubber-laden statement, even by the prolix standards of the Labour Government. Does the Minister agree that she spends too much time emphasising exam results in secondary schools and not enough time identifying the real problems in primary schools? In those areas, many primary schools are not failing, quite; are not in special measures, quite; and are not in an education action zone. They thus receive no help from the Government at all, and are finding things immensely tough. What measures does the right hon. Lady propose to give head teachers to enable them to fire bad teachers and to reward and thereby retain good teachers who could easily leave to work in a much more pleasant neighbourhood for the same money?
Ms Armstrong: The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that there has been significant investment in primary schools. No primary school has failed to benefit from that additional money. Every primary school has received
Ms Hazel Blears (Salford): I warmly welcome the report and pay tribute to my right hon. Friend's personal commitment to regeneration issues. That is in complete contrast to Conservative policies which, in their 18 years in government, led to mass unemployment, wrote off inner-city communities and caused a doubling of crime.
As a result of the rundown of inner-city areas, one of the most difficult matters is to engage local people in regeneration initiatives. My right hon. Friend is aware that in Salford several initiatives are under way, but one of the most difficult things is to get local people to have the confidence to take part in decision making. That is why the community empowerment fund will be crucial in encouraging people to come forward. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the fund will support existing initiatives, as well as the new neighbourhood management initiatives? I fundamentally believe that we all need to learn from each other's experience of the whole range of initiatives; the community empowerment fund could be a mechanism that enables us to do that.
Ms Armstrong: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's dogged determination in her own constituency and to the way in which she works directly with community groups in some of the regeneration areas in Salford. Over the next three years, Salford will benefit by almost £11 million from the neighbourhood renewal fund. That shows the degree of deprivation in the city and the work that is to be done. I assure my hon. Friend that the community empowerment fund will ensure that local groups--local people--can be full partners, so that their voice can be heard whether the programmes are existing or new. Local people will be able to play their part; they will be equal partners, along with the local authority, the police authority, the health authority and business. Local people have their part to play; the programmes cannot be achieved without them.
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): The Minister knows that any interest in the more deprived communities--many of which were Labour heartlands, but are so no longer--will be most welcome. Do her comments about neighbourhood managers mean that local residents, and not other agencies, will appoint--and sack, if need be--such managers?
Will the right hon. Lady look positively at the fact that, as London is the only part of the United Kingdom where there is not even a power to set up parish or community government, if people want to set up such government, they should be allowed to do so? In combination with the Homes Bill, which is also welcome, will these measures mean an end to the politically correct system of allocating housing? That system broke up communities, separating people from their families, from carers and from their children's nursery places. Families should be allowed to live near each other--if they want to do so--where they can be mutually supportive, and not thrown to the four
Ms Armstrong: The hon. Gentleman's constituency is in the London borough of Southwark, which over the next three years will benefit to the tune of nearly £16 million from the neighbourhood renewal fund. Local residents will be involved in appointing the neighbourhood manager and will determine the framework for that. Some may decide to do it through a community trust. It is not up to us to establish the local framework. The local community must determine the employer, accountable body and so on.
Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside): I very much welcome the Minister's statement, especially in the context of the economic regeneration that is under way. I anticipate that Liverpool, where eight of the 20th poorest postcode areas are to be found, will benefit. What powers will be given to the strategic partnerships or their nominees to ensure that co-ordination of existing initiatives takes place and that Departments react constructively to what is happening locally? What role does my right hon. Friend see for local government, with its renewed powers in relation to environmental and economic well-being?
Ms Armstrong: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for welcoming the initiative. She is right: Liverpool has some of the most deprived people in the country. They will benefit by receiving more than £40 million from the neighbourhood renewal fund in the next three years, in addition to mainstream funding. We need to be sure that that money works effectively. It is therefore important to have co-ordination at local, regional and national levels, and that is precisely what the strategy sets out to achieve.
The local strategic partnership will work with regional government offices and central Government to ensure that barriers to effective co-ordination are removed. The negotiation of work between central and local government will also help to ensure that that happens. By having the right levers at local level, local people will be able to make a difference and bridge the gap between poorer and richer areas.
Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury): Is the Minister aware that if we are going to have daily ministerial electioneering statements, I shall pray nightly and fervently to the Almighty for an early general election to release us from our sufferings? Of course there is cynicism, here and elsewhere: if the Government cannot even deliver on the five early promises contained in pledge cards at the previous general election, how on earth does the right hon. Lady expect to persuade people in the inner cities that she is going to build the new Jerusalem, starting tomorrow?
Ms Armstrong: We cannot win, can we? Some Tories accuse us of not announcing the strategy early enough and others accuse us of producing a last-minute election ploy. Today's statement is a result of sustained work over the past
Thousands of people took part in an extensive consultation. We have assessed and evaluated that consultation and the results are before us today. I suspect that if we had not laid them before the House, the hon. Gentleman would be raising points of order and complaining. This is a significant move. We are admitting past mistakes made by Labour Governments and by Governments of whom the hon. Gentleman was a member. Governments have too often been part of the problem. We have to change that and ensure that they work effectively with people so that everyone benefits from this country's growing prosperity.
Ms Karen Buck (Regent's Park and Kensington, North): Until recently, the Lisson Green estate in the Conservative-controlled borough of Westminster was the model of how not to do urban regeneration. Some £50 million was spent on hugely mismanaged building works, with no consideration given to crime prevention, the community or economic development. I am glad to say that the corner is now being turned, with an education action zone, a sure start scheme and the opening last week of the council-funded information technology access project, firststep.com.
Will my right hon. Friend give me a commitment that small areas of acute deprivation such as the Lisson Green estate in Church street will continue to benefit from Government initiatives even though they are located in the midst of areas of considerable prosperity, as is so often the case in London?