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Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): I heard my hon. Friend's reference to the home zones fund and other matters. When she visited some of the mining communities a few months ago, including Shirebrook in my area, she will have seen not just abandoned cars but houses abandoned by people who are little more than Rachmans of this modern age. Promises were made that money would be available to make sure that we redevelop some of those old colliery villages to improve the quality of life. Can she say anything further on that today?

Ms Keeble: Specifically for my hon. Friend's area, we agreed financing for work to be done to redevelop the area through the Meaden valley partnership. I have continued to have discussions with people involved to make sure that the work is progressing, and I understand that they have done extremely well in producing the plans, in getting the partners involved and in sorting out the finances so that those particular areas—including that in my hon. Friend's constituency—can be dealt with. He will also know that, separately from his area, which has been a model of regeneration and of how partners can be pulled together, the Government have announced their intention to consider market renewal in a number of areas of low demand. We made an announcement on that some time ago.

The type of issues that my hon. Friend drew to my attention on my visit are exactly the reasons why we must make sure that there are jobs, that the built environment is dealt with, and that people do not have derelict houses and rundown streets. I found the problems staggering when I went round the streets with my hon. Friend and spoke to people about what it is like to live in some of those areas. Work is under way, and I assure him that I follow through closely what is happening with the Meaden valley partnership to make sure that there is progress. I am grateful to him for raising that point.

We can tackle crime partly through housing and streetscape and the issues raised by my hon. Friend, but also through pulling together the community, as well as working with the police. We need to get residents, local businesses and agencies fully involved in the fight against crime so that crime prevention and reduction are not solely matters for the police. One way of doing that is through the neighbourhood and street wardens schemes. The Government have allocated some £43.5 million for those initiatives to tackle the whole range of safety and environmental issues, and 120 schemes are going live across the country this year, including one in Bolsover, as my hon. Friend may be aware. They are helping to care for and manage the physical appearance of our streets and open spaces, as well as reducing crime and fear of crime, and deterring antisocial behaviour.

Neighbourhood wardens can be the eyes and ears of the police, the local authority and the community. They act as a visual deterrent, and their presence on the streets can reassure local residents. Wardens are involved in activities such as security surveys, property marking, neighbourhood watch schemes and providing victim support. They are already helping to build community confidence and foster

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social inclusion in 85 areas across England and Wales. In a very short time, they have established themselves as key public services.

Mr. Stephen McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green): On that point, are not the people that my hon. Friend is describing exactly the kind of support officers that the Government envisage introducing through the Police Reform Bill? Is it not all the more regrettable, therefore, that last night the unelected Lords decided to try to remove from the Bill those very proposals for strengthening our communities?

Ms Keeble: I thank my hon. Friend for that point. He is right to suggest that there is a relationship between the wardens and the support officers who are intended to work with the police, although they are not exactly the same. Wardens have proved a remarkable success, and they have done spectacular work to tackle crime and turn communities around, more than justifying their appointment. Having spent a great deal of time visiting and talking to wardens and those who work with them, I know that in most of the places where they work particularly well they work closely with the police, and each group very well understands the role of the other. It is a great shame that they have been depicted as being in conflict with the police.

Let us consider some of the success stories. In Darlington, since wardens began patrolling in May 2000, the number of burglaries has dropped by 17 per cent. Wardens in Manchester, working very closely with the police as part of a package of anti-crime measures, have helped to cut crime by a third. If we are to tackle crime, it is important that we look carefully at the lessons to be learned from such initiatives.

Having spent time talking to wardens and people in the local communities and seeing the detailed work that wardens do, I know that they have achieved improvements that come under the banner of "community safety", to which values and quantities cannot easily be attached. For example, in east Manchester, where I spent time walking around with the wardens late at night, I saw that they have helped to make it possible for old people to go out in winter to evening activities. The wardens will take people from their homes to bingo or to the social club, and escort them home afterwards, which the police are unable to do. Such action is important because it makes people feel secure and allows them to go out on the streets. In a sense, it enables the community to police itself. I also spoke to an old person in another part of the country who said that when she saw the uniformed wardens outside, she felt safer and much more confident about going out, just to do simple things like shopping.

Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby): May I respond to the point about enabling communities, which is crucial to the debate? As someone who worked as a professional involved in the built environment, I am aware of the criticism that architects, engineers and those involved in physical infrastructure works have not taken any heed of communities. The failure to engage with and listen to communities, and in particular what happened on the estate where young Damilola Taylor died, is an indictment of us as a society. We must begin by understanding that the built environment is a fundamental

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part of how society works. Quality can be determined only by the end users of that environment—those who live in the communities.

Ms Keeble: My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the need to make sure that housing estates and streets are built to be safe from the outset, and about the importance of that being understood by everybody involved in planning and building. That has been the subject of great debate in the community, and my Department has produced a great deal of documentation setting out how it can be achieved.

If my hon. Friend looks at Castle Vale, a housing estate in Birmingham, which I know is not his part of the country, he will see that some of the earlier phases of its redevelopment were built to more traditional designs and have had high rates of burglaries and break-ins. The buildings are not completely secure from the front, so people can get over gates. The newer phases will implement some of the design principles promoted by the Department, so the housing will be more secure from the front. In addition, it will look extremely attractive, with gardens and open spaces in the back which people can use safely. By making something safer, one can also make it more attractive and improve the quality of the whole area.

My hon. Friend made an extremely important point about involving the community, which I shall deal with towards the end of my remarks. For the moment, I shall just say that where the fight against crime has been linked with good environmental management and community involvement, the results have been spectacular. For example, in the east Brighton new deal for communities area, where the community is involved in designing the services, crime figures are down by 15 per cent., domestic burglaries are down by 28 per cent. and vehicle crime is down by a third. That is thanks in part to a safety team that includes wardens.

In the Bradford new deal for communities area, the level of violent crime in particular is bucking the national trend with a reduction of 32 per cent. In the new deal for communities area in east Manchester, apart from the reduction in crime which I mentioned, 26 per cent. of residents said that they felt safer, and the number of people who fear being attacked fell from 86 to 55 per cent. Those are the real achievements of bold, imaginative schemes that engage sometimes cynical communities to make the streets safer. In the process of securing those material benefits, the schemes attract more investment and jobs to the area.

Mr. Robert Syms (Poole): We all know that if we target resources on an area, that usually has an impact on crime figures. Is the Minister confident that those initiatives are not displacing crime to neighbouring areas? She is focusing on communities that are receiving resources, but not on what is happening next door, and that is my concern.

Ms Keeble: That is a fair point, and it is a particular concern for people in areas where CCTV is being installed. The evidence in most of those areas is that many of the criminals, as well as their victims, come from the area, so tackling crime does not always displace it. To achieve a reduction in crime, one has to deal with its

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causes, and the Government's commitment to do so—to be tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime—is therefore particularly important.


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