Examination of Witnesses (Questions 580-592)|
WEDNESDAY 12 DECEMBER 2001
580. We have already had evidence from earlier
witnesses that some Neighbourhood Renewal Programmes are still
being delivered in silosI think that was the expressionand
that mainstream resources are still not being targeted. Would
you like to comment on that? Secondly, would you like to comment
on an argument that I have heard mooted that local authorities
in receipt of Neighbourhood Renewal funding may then be tempted
to move some of their resources away from those areas because
they are getting money from Neighbourhood Renewal programmes?
(Mr Montgomery) We have invited into being these coalitions
called Local Strategic Partnerships. They are to be made up of
not just local authorities but also their sister organisations
from elsewhere in the public sector, hopefully also the private
sector and certainly voluntary community and resident representatives
too. It would be fair to say that as these LSPs draft their local
neighbourhood renewal strategies they should be seeking to bend
all the main programmes available to them in support of renewal
strategies for particular neighbourhoods that are either in decline
or on the brink of decline. I would be disappointed if there was
not an inter-agency approach reflected in those strategies to
the needs of the most deeply deprived neighbourhoods. I do see
some risk of local authorities facing budgetary pressures possibly
doing the substitution of funding by using NRF, but we are commissioning
work to track the resource flows into these neighbourhoods to
try and identify where that is going because it is our explicit
aim to get additional benefit into these areas of consequence
of our giving them NRF rather than just allowing substitution
funding to go in.
581. Talking about value for money as my colleague
mentioned earlier, when we were in the North West in Manchester
and Bootle we saw rows of houses that had had thousands and thousands
of pounds of public money spent on them within the last ten years
and they have now been abandoned. How should we ensure, and your
unit in particular ensure, how public money is not going to be
wasted in the future? Perhaps you have just started mentioning
the monitoring. Maybe you could elaborate a bit more.
(Mr Montgomery) We want to work extremely closely
both with DTLR, housing colleagues and with the Housing Corporation
to look at instances where house building is continuing apace
despite the availability of under-used homes. I am reasonably
confident that the new requirements on local authorities to include
in their housing plans detailed statements about housing assessment,
housing need and how they will work with their own planners to
ensure that the planning regime takes account of under-used properties
before allowing new build through those mechanisms we should be
able to get a better set of results but I would be disappointed
if there was poor value for money as a consequence of not having
the read-across between housing and planning.
582. Do you accept that demolition is inevitable
in some areas and have you done any assessment of the likely level
of demolition that may arise over the next ten years?
(Mr Montgomery) In a sense our programmes are committed
to a bottom-up way of working so we would have to aggregate from
local plans what the likely demolition totals might be. Certainly
some New Deal for Communities strategies on the grounds such as
the one in Bristol, for example, are entirely predicated on large
scale demolition accompanied by significant amounts of renewal
of existing stock. There will be demolition as a consequence of
a lot of our work but I am not able to say what the total numbers
would be like at this point.
583. Can I take you back to the point you were
making earlier about what causes neighbourhoods often overnight
to become very unpopular. Certainly from the evidence we heard
and saw in the North West the trigger often was the druggies moving
into an area. We equally, all of us here, see in our surgeries
every week the desire of the public to have a more visible policing
presence in their neighbourhoods, but in this inquiry we have
heard evidence from a witness from the police saying that they
are not exactly embracing the concept of neighbourhood wardens
with a great deal of enthusiasm and there are worries about the
training particularly of those wardens. Would you like to comment
on that? What assurances can you give that neighbourhood wardens
will be well trained and have the types of skills that are necessary
to do the job?
(Mr Montgomery) A substantial training investment
goes into the creation of neighbourhood and street warden schemes.
We have two senior police officers seconded to the Neighbourhood
Renewal Unit to design and implement this very training. Both
programmes have the support and involvement of Home Office officials
and have been endorsed by the Association of Chief Police Officers.
That having been said, the wardens programmes as currently cast
do not give those wardens the power of arrest or some of the law
enforcement powers that are envisaged in some of the Home Secretary's
recent statements. New iterations of the wardens programme might
well look at training these officials differently if they are
to have the power of arrest. Really these are people who will
be on the streets to try to make sure that existing public service
providers respond quickly to litter, graffiti, abandoned syringes,
reporting abandoned vehicles and being visible in the sense of
reassuring people, but they do not have the power of arrest and
they probably have not been trained in that way. It may be that
the new additional warden programmes proposed by the Home Secretary
are trained in a different way because they may have some power
584. Finally, perhaps Moira Wallace would like
to say something as well, which Government policies so far have
been the most effective at addressing the problems of antisocial
behaviour, difficult neighbours?
(Ms Wallace) Do you want to say anything?
(Mr Montgomery) The neighbourhood wardens and street
wardens programmes, even though they are fairly new, have already
started to deliver really quite impressive results reducing crime
generally, specifically helping to reduce burglary, crimes against
vehicles, and we are greatly encouraged by them which, I am sure,
is part of the reason why the Home Secretary chose to announce
his intention to roll them out more widely. We are seeing in places
like East Manchester and in the neighbourhood renewal part of
Brighton crime reduction in the order of 25 to 30 per cent.
585. There is a fundamental difference between
somebody who checks on litter and someone who has the power to
(Mr Montgomery) Yes, there is.
586. You are not suggesting, are you, that the
power of arrest would enhance the role of wardens? It might make
them not only more visible but it might put them at risk.
(Mr Montgomery) I would have thought that if you give
wardens the power of arrest you would recruit them from a rather
different pool than you would recruit the existing wardens.
587. Pay them the same as policemen?
(Mr Montgomery) You might want to think about the
remuneration and you would certainly want to think carefully about
whether they should be living on the estate that they are patrolling,
as the current wardens do.
588. And is there some policy document that
enumerates precisely this extension of the role of wardens, because
we are talking about something completely different and it would
be helpful if we knew?
(Mr Montgomery) That dialogue is going on now between
my colleagues and the Home Office.
589. Can I just press the Social and Exclusion
Unit. A couple who perhaps ten years ago on a low wage saved desperately
to buy a house, get the deposit, pay the mortgage, perhaps in
some regions like Manchester paid £25,000 for a house, and
over the years they started to spend some money on it, perhaps
spent another £5,000, and they now find their property is
worth perhaps £5,000 or £6,000, they are absolutely
trapped in that property, their children are tending to get older
and bigger and want a bit more space. Are they not totally, totally
excluded from the property market and the chance to move out of
that neighbourhood as they intended to do? Do you think that Neighbourhood
Renewal Schemes have any impact on people in that sort of trap?
(Ms Wallace) I would not pretend for a minute that
it has been solved yet. I think the thing that has happened in
the last couple of years and is now being taken forward is that
people are trying to grapple with the complex issue of why the
quality of life in that place has declined, why the value of that
house has gone down and what can be done about it. I think the
thing that our work has brought out and that Joe's unit and the
DTLR are now taking forward is that it is not a problem that you
can solve with housing answers alone, there are many, many reasons
why that area may have become unpopular and stigmatised. It may
be to do with more housing than demand, and already you are into
the question of why is the demand low, which goes into issues
of jobs or it could be schools, transport, the quality of shops
or the quality of the environment. What I would say has changed
is that people are now focusing on the problem and trying to develop
practical solutions to it, but it is very, very complex and the
answer may be different in different places and it involves very
close joint working and that is a huge challenge.
590. Do you not think that once there is a failing
housing market it is the fear that people will not have a good
investment in housing that stops new people moving into the area
and if you could put a floor on the market you could remove that
fear and then people would happily move into some of these areas?
(Ms Wallace) I think it is certainly one of the issues
you could explore, and I have seen that some people have raised
it with you, but it is by no means the only answer because it
is not just about house values, it is about what kind of schools
are my children going to go to, what is the quality of life?
591. If you look at Manchester as an example,
some of the best schools in Manchester are in the areas with a
failing housing market, so it is hard to believe that it is schools.
(Ms Wallace) I am not suggesting that there is a simple
template that you can apply to everywhere but there will always
be a reason, and frequently many reasons. One of the things we
are saying is people need to work together at local level and
we need to support and drive them to do that to identify the reasons
because simply pure housing solutions alone will not shift this.
Sir Paul Beresford
592. I do not often disagree with my Chairman
but would it be the converse is the possibility, that if you put
a floor in on the market you are actually going to encourage the
people you wish to stay to go? If you put a floor on the market
they will have the opportunity of doing that.
(Ms Wallace) I think that is possible too. I do not
wish to suggest that I have looked at this idea and said it is
the right one, all I am saying is I have noticed it has been raised
with you and clearly the falling value of people's houses is an
Chairman: On that note, can I thank you for
your evidence. Thank you.