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Ms Armstrong: As I said, this strategy is not just about money; it is about ways of working and making sure that mainstream money works effectively. However, my hon. Friend is absolutely right that some local authorities had money from mainstream funds but were not using it to target areas of deprivation in ways that gave people in those areas real opportunities. This strategy will make sure that that happens. Both the boroughs that my hon. Friend represents will benefit from the neighbourhood renewal fund, and I assure her that we will be watching carefully to make sure that councils target areas of deprivation. Initiatives such as those mentioned by my hon. Friend will continue to benefit small areas of deprivation in otherwise prosperous places. It is important that we tackle deprivation and give people opportunities wherever they live.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): In her recycled, sustainable statement the Minister said that the measures outlined are designed to cut crime in deprived communities. Given that in such communities it is often the case that a high proportion of crimes are committed by a small number of dedicated criminals whom the courts allow out again and again instead of using their powers to put them away, will she explain how the measures will have any effect whatever on the level of crime in those communities?
Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North): I welcome the statement and wholeheartedly thank the Government for their work to deal with social exclusion, to reduce the poverty gap, to deal with ill health and to improve education. What work has been done to help people in Stoke-on-Trent where, far from there being one area of deprivation, 80 per cent. of people live in wards where there is 25 per cent. poverty among children? Will the programme that my right hon. Friend has announced enable whole areas of cities to be targeted?
Ms Armstrong: The programme is specifically for the most deprived areas. Stoke-on-Trent will benefit to the tune of £8 million from the neighbourhood renewal fund over the next three years. The Government are targeting the specific issues that my hon. Friend raises. She will know that we have a target to eliminate child poverty within 20 years. Our mainstream policies of the minimum wage and the working families tax credit, with the increase in child benefit, will benefit all those in her area who have not in the past received the help and support that they ought to have received.
The programme will particularly enable such people to get involved in other things that are needed to turn their area around, so that there are more job opportunities and they acquire the necessary skills and qualifications for better jobs. It will also tackle inequalities in health, crime and so on. Along with other mainstream policies, the programme will make a real difference to people's lives in Stoke-on-Trent.
Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): Will the right hon. Lady share with the House the reason why the statement is being made today although, as she has admitted, the money was announced as part of the public spending review, and the Select Committee reports on urban and rural renewal are due for discussion on Friday next week? She talks about whole neighbourhoods, but how will the policies adapt to and tackle pockets of urban deprivation? Is she saying that such policies are needed because all the partners to whom she referred woefully let down little Anna from Haringey?
Ms Armstrong: The hon. Lady asks why the statement is being made today. As I have said several times, it is not just about money. It is about how that money will be spent effectively and what can happen locally and nationally in order to ensure that programmes are targeted effectively and have effective outcomes. We are able to make the statement today because we have completed work with those around the country who have been involved in consultation and policy action teams.
Of course the strategy can be used to tackle pockets of deprivation. We have acknowledged in the index that there are such pockets, which the previous Government seemed never to want to do. We know that we must do that and that the data are not sufficiently good to enable us to do so effectively. We continue to work on the data but none the less have a strategy that enables every community to consider what can be done to help to turn things around.
Mr. Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield): I welcome the commitment of the Government and my right hon. Friend to neighbourhood renewal. My right hon. Friend will know that Birmingham not only has a new deal for communities pathfinder initiative, but is to receive £44 million under the neighbourhood renewal fund.
May I take my right hon. Friend back to the issue of pockets of deprivation? Although I appreciate the work that she and her Department are doing on improving data, a problem remains if they are based on ward indices and there are areas of deprivation alongside areas of affluence in a ward. In allocating moneys such as the neighbourhood renewal fund, will she urge local authorities and other accountable bodies to try to target below ward level in order to address that problem?
Ms Armstrong: I thank my hon. Friend. In fact, Birmingham has two new deal for communities areas and will benefit by more than £44 million from the neighbourhood renewal fund in the next three years. I agree with my hon. Friend about the quality of data. At the moment, we are working hard to amass effective data at ward level. That has been difficult; it was part of the reason for the new index. We invested money through the 2000 spending review to try to collect good data on remuneration at district level, data from across the range of public services and information from other important aspects in order to find out what is going on and what priorities should be. Obviously this year's census will help us to do that. In future, the Office for National Statistics will perform that task.
Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South): I warmly welcome the statement by my right hon. Friend, who, I am delighted to say, knows my constituency very well. I wish to draw her attention to Thornaby and Parkfield, which face a problem of unemployment that is considerably worse than the national average, as well as problems of drugs, alcohol and crime which seriously debilitate the community. In addition, the local authority is attempting to find £132 million to repair its council properties--a debt left by the previous Administration. Is Stockton to be included in the urban regeneration package? In particular, are Thornaby and Parkfield, which are areas of serious deprivation, to be included?
Ms Armstrong: I can assure my hon. Friend that Stockton will benefit from the neighbourhood renewal fund to the tune of £7.7 million in the next three years, and I am confident that the Thornaby and Parkfield wards will be covered. The problems that she mentioned, especially drugs, are scourges that tear the heart out of many communities--hence the importance of the drugs strategy and the work done by my colleagues in the Home Office and the Department of Health.
The strategy sets clear targets for housing improvement. I think that it states that one third of the houses that have not been improved should be improved within three years, and that all houses should be fit and improved within 10 years. The Government have put in the money to back up those commitments. Now, we shall work with local people to ensure that we meet those targets.
Mr. John Cryer (Hornchurch): To return to the question of pockets of deprivation, I have in my constituency, which is relatively prosperous, several small areas of deprivation, one of which is the Mardyke estate, in which there are high levels of crime, very high levels of anti-social behaviour, and families facing real difficulties. However, the figures for such areas do not register under the criteria mentioned today, because they are surrounded by areas of relative prosperity. Will my right hon. Friend look again at the data book, and will she give sympathetic consideration to the joint bid from Havering council and the local police for a neighbourhood warden scheme that would cover the Mardyke estate and other areas?
Ms Armstrong: My hon. Friend is right to say that overall levels of deprivation in Havering do not warrant its inclusion in the 88 authorities. However, as I keep saying, the programme is not only about money; it is about providing a toolkit for local communities, local authorities and other public agencies to use to turn areas around. I am sure that Havering will seek to do that in line with mainstream programmes, and I shall be more than happy to discuss with my hon. Friend how we might meet some of his objectives.