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There are four key components to our strategy: improving quality of life through partnership with local people; developing sustainable communities in attractive, well-kept towns and cities; achieving economic growth and shared prosperity in all urban areas, and providing good-quality services.
A clear message from regeneration projects over the past 20 years is that local people must be fully engaged from the outset. All too often, that has not happened--it certainly did not under the previous Administration.
Local authorities have a central role. A good council is one that listens to, leads and builds up local communities. We want councils to work through local strategic partnerships and to involve the community, service providers, business and voluntary organisations in producing community strategies. They should set out an action plan to improve their town or city as outlined in the White Paper.
Secondly, we want to develop sustainable communities living in attractive, well-kept towns and cities, which use space and buildings well and which are cleaner and less congested. Last week, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced a £1 billion tax incentive package to promote urban renaissance. As a result, more investment will be attracted to disadvantaged areas by the removal of stamp duty from all property transactions in those areas. A block of flats costing £250,000 could qualify for an extra incentive of £6,000.
The re-use of brownfield land will be encouraged through the provision of accelerated tax credits for cleaning up contaminated land. A company spending £1 million on cleaning up contaminated land could receive £300,000 without having to wait until the property is sold.
More homes will be provided as a result of the 100 per cent. capital allowances for creating flats over shops and VAT reforms to encourage the conversion of properties for residential use. For example, someone spending £20,000 on a conversion could receive an incentive of £2,500. It is an important consideration in the development of single-person households.
The new urban regeneration companies that we set up last year are beginning the process of transforming parts of Liverpool, east Manchester and Sheffield. We plan 12 more to tackle the hardest hit local areas in every region. One can often tell the health of an area by the quality of its public realm, and in particular its parks, play areas and open spaces. They are indeed, as they are often described, the lungs of our towns and cities. We have set up a comprehensive programme, including demonstration projects and an extended green flag award scheme--like the blue flag scheme for beaches--to encourage and recognise excellence.
Planning has a fundamental role to play. I can announce today that, in response to Lord Rogers's report, we will conduct a fundamental review of planning policy guidance note 1, "General Policy and Principles", to put the urban renaissance at the heart of the planning system. Simplifying compulsory purchase will make it quicker and easier to unlock land and fairer to everyone involved. There will be new guidance and, ultimately, legislation.
There is a shortage of people with the necessary range of skills to drive forward the urban renaissance. We are therefore setting up regional centres of excellence to improve skills and training in each region. The first two will be in the north-west and in London. In addition, we will start a programme of international secondments so that we can learn from the best in the world.
Our town centres will be stronger. We will protect them from new out-of-town schemes. We will improve them through the town improvement schemes, with local funding, as proposed in the local government finance Green Paper. The millennium communities at Greenwich and Allerton Bywater have shown what good design can achieve. The Greenwich millennium village will be an attractive, mixed tenure development, with homes within walking distance of shops, employment and services. It will have good open spaces and, above all, it will be environmentally sustainable, using 80 per cent. less energy and 30 per cent. less water than a similar conventional development. We will build five more millennium communities in different parts of the country.
Our new English cities fund is designed to encourage the maximum growth in private investment in priority areas, which is vital if we are to secure the widespread regeneration that we seek. The fund will bring up to £250 million into new mixed use projects.
The third component of our strategy is creating the conditions for economic growth and shared prosperity in all our towns and cities. We want to see the generation of more wealth and social justice side by side. Growing disparities and exclusion from our increasing national prosperity are simply unacceptable, and have dominated the past 10 years.
If towns and cities are to be successful economically, they need effective support and a clear regional lead. We have therefore given the regional development agencies more money and much more freedom to use those funds to best effect for the people of their region.
Access to investment capital is also vital to economic growth. That is why my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced last week that we will consult on a new community investment tax credit to encourage private enterprise in under-invested communities. We will also work closely with the venture capital industry to set up the first community development venture fund to support new businesses in disadvantaged areas.
Although under this Government there are 1 million more people in jobs, there is a mismatch between the jobs that are available and the skills of those seeking work. We need to ensure that local people have the skills that businesses are seeking. We are therefore setting up the new Learning and Skills Council announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, with a budget of £5.5 billion a year. That is an increase of £600 million. It will bring together funding for education and training to ensure a coherent approach that benefits both learners and employers. In this way, we hope to encourage lifelong learning and reduce the skills mismatch that exists in too many areas of our cities and towns.
Any efficient, modern city requires a good transport system. That is why the 10-year plan for transport emphasises improving bus services and commuter railways, and why it will fund up to 25 new light rail lines. There is a considerable amount of money for the local transport plans that we are to announce in December.
The fourth component of our strategy is good-quality services. By 2003-04 there will be £139 billion a year for key services: health, education, transport, housing and criminal justice, as well as culture, leisure and sport. That is £33 billion more than now. It amounts to an average
The extra money will be backed by tough targets to ensure that we get substantial improvements, with the greatest change in the most deprived areas. We have set ourselves the target of making sure that all social housing is of a decent standard within 10 years, and we are providing the resources needed to make that possible.
Providing homes for key workers is essential if we are to have good-quality services in our major conurbations. We have allocated £250 million over the next three years to help key workers to buy homes. We will shortly set out the details, following on from the housing Green Paper.
We are raising educational standards by expanding the excellence in cities and sure start programmes, by extending free education for three-year-olds and by attracting more people into higher education through the excellence challenge. Only today, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment announced that performance in the first excellence in cities areas has improved much faster than anywhere else.
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health made clear earlier this week, people's health should not depend on where they live. We are improving health services and reducing inequalities through a major expansion of investment in the health service. We have set tough targets for reducing crime and are backing that with an enhanced crime reduction programme, additional funding for the police and a 10-year drugs strategy.
We recognise that the most deprived areas need extra help and we are determined to narrow the gap between them and the rest of the country. That is why we have set up a neighbourhood renewal fund of £800 million and will shortly be setting our action plan for neighbourhood renewal.
There have been many attempts to change our towns and cities. Too often they have been partial and limited, looking at buildings or the economy in isolation and forgetting the people who live there. This White Paper is broad in its scope and long term in its perspective. We deal with towns and cities struggling to recover from decline as well as those where the pressure of growth needs to be carefully managed. We have set out the way to achieve this and provided the money to back it up.
However, no Government can deliver on their own. We will lead and enable regional and local partners to transform our towns and cities. We will get decisions taken at the right level and transfer real power from Whitehall to Whitechapel. Lord Rogers called for an urban policy board to track progress in implementing our proposals. We will put urban issues at the heart of Government by setting up a new Cabinet Committee. That Committee will be advised by a new group bringing together community, academic, professional, private and business interests.
I recently visited a deprived pre-war estate in my constituency. Most constituencies contain estates like it. There was graffiti, litter, empty houses and a general air of decay, but a very strong sense of community too. I met
This White Paper sets out our long-term strategy. We cannot deliver on our own, so I am calling on local authorities, business planners and developers, voluntary and community groups and, above all, local people to work together to bring about an urban renaissance.
In short, this White Paper is about giving people more say over shaping their future, making sure that people can live in attractive and well-kept towns and cities, creating and sharing prosperity, and ensuring that we have places with good-quality services which meet people's needs.