|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Many people sit on community boards as volunteers, and the Urban Forum suggested that consideration should be given to paying them an honorarium, given the time commitment. Obviously, if people were unemployed or on benefit, that would have to be addressed, but some financial assistance might encourage people to make the necessary time commitment.
The Centre for Local Economic Strategies serves a network of local authorities, regional development agencies, partnerships and other organisations. The centre's view of the new deal for local communities is that it is not working too well. For example, in the Braunstone project in Leicestershire there seemed to be acrimony between the local community and the professionals. It is possible that the local community was not sufficiently involvedthe project was top-down rather than bottom-up. Furthermore, the CLES found that the projects themselves were not imaginative enougha point echoed by the Urban Forum.
The hon. Member for Cotswold referred to the plethora of initiatives. That was not a partisan point; it was a large list. The hon. Gentleman did not read all the names, but the list included the Millennium Commission, the new opportunities fund, green spaces and heritage organisations, Sport England and so on. I am sure that there are many more bodies on the list.
The hon. Gentleman's point was not partisan. Small organisations trying to bid for funds do not have the necessary skills and do not know what funding is available so they are not as well able to access funds as bigger organisations such as local authorities which have staff who are experienced in putting bids together. The very people whom the Government presumably want to access those funds are unable to do so, owing to the complexity of the process. We want the establishment of a one-stop shop organisation so that funds could be accessed without dealing with a variety of bodies.
The CLES felt that the single regeneration projects had worked well and that they had matured to such an extent that the bidding organisations knew what was expected and how to go about the process. The CLES was sorry that the projects were coming to an end.
I do not want to exaggerate the problems that we face in the London borough of Sutton. Statistics occasionally show that Sutton is the most affluent borough in London, although I think that may be incorrect and that Richmond might be more affluent. Sutton does not have problems on the scale that I attempted to address as a councillor in Hackney in the early 1990s. I regret that during the 12 years that have passed since then those problems do not yet seem to have been tackled.
The Minister did not say how the Government would make the targeting system more flexible so that pockets of deprivation are not missed out. I hope that she can address that point when she sums up the debate.
We were successful in our SRB bid for the Roundshaw regeneration projectthe second-largest such project in Londonwhich will be finished in a couple of years. There is one concern, however. As the funds are time-limited and all the money has to be spent by the end of the seven-year period, the local community feels driven by a timetable that is not of its choosing or making.
By comparison, the Durand Close project has an advantage because there is no timetable. If funding is awarded, it will be made available progressively over a longer period so the community will be able to work to a timetable over which it has a certain degree of control.
It is clear from the comments of hon. Members that a simple bricks-and-mortar approach will not offer a solution. The Heriot-Watt report confirms that. Reference has been made to policies that could address the problems. We need a single regeneration grant system to get rid of that plethora of pots of money. Organisations that lack the administration to tap into the funds could then apply through a single point of contact.
As other hon. Members have said, there is a need to boost the level of policing in rural and urban areas, to address the fear of crime, which clearly has a significant, and disproportionate, impact on disadvantaged communities. Proposals such as a community safe force that would involve traffic wardens and estate and other park attendants could play a role. We would support the idea of a "safer front doors for all" initiative, which would ensure that people[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Corby (Phil Hope) will wait, I will tell him. Such an initiative would mean that people who lived in communities that were subject to high crime levels could at least ensure they were safe in their own home. There are other proposals such as promoting local exchange trading system schemes, and ensuring that in unemployment black spots funds are transferred to a much more local level, from the Government's equal opportunities fund to finance local initiatives.
As I said at the start of my speech, there is a degree of optimism out there, but the patchwork quilt of regeneration budgets, which has created confusion and red tape, is not helpful. It needs to be streamlined and made more flexible, so that the pockets of deprivation, in rural or urban areas, that are currently excluded from bidding for funds may have much greater access to them.
Whole communities have been neglected for decades. In my west midlands constituency, the urban village of Lye has been blighted by the demise of manufacturing. Many traditional metal-bashing jobs, where son would follow father into the local factory, have been lost. Schools have crumbled, starved of cash and resources. Under-invested health and social services have struggled valiantly to deal with a host of problems. The infrastructure has gradually decayed, but the people have remained. The soul of the community is alive and well; Lye is still a viable urban village, and potentially a proud one.
Many of Lye's families have lived in the area for generations. The Cartwrights, the Partridges, the Newtons and the Hindleys have names that date from the industrial revolution, when the air of Lye was thick with fumes and the sky was darkened with smoke. It is a hard-working community and it has a vision for itself that I believe will surprise the Housea vision of a place of excellence in the very heart of Britain.
The people of Lye have decided that their urban village will be regenerated in a very modern way. They have rejected initial council plans for extensive housing development on brownfield sites; instead they have formed a community action group called LARAthe Lye Area Regeneration Alliance. It includes local churches, the mosque, the allotment associationmany members have tended those plots for 50 yearsand local children, who want to know, quite reasonably, why there are no trees where they live. It also includes plenty of individuals who are determined to improve their surroundings.
LARA is unusual in that its vision is big and it is special. Yes, its members want to see more housing, but they also want to create a place of modern architectural excellence. They want to construct a set of community buildings that will, in their words, be a "flagship for the future", not just for Lye, not just for the industrial black country and the west midlands, but for Britain. They want their new buildings to bring hope back to an area that has been neglected and blighted and they want to do it with modern architecture of the highest possible quality. As one local woman, Carol Partridge, said, "Why can't we have the best?"
Under the LARA community vision, its members' children will have a way to reach out to Britain as a whole. I am sure that hon. Members will agree that that is a very big vision, and a brave one. We in Westminster should salute it, because it will undoubtedly be a long, hard road to achieve such a landmark project.
People in Lye desperately need the investment that, as the Minister pointed out, has been denied them for decades under Conservative Governments. Moreover, they will need to be backed by an equal amount of political willpower; I wonder whether it actually exists.
As joint chair of the parliamentary planning and architecture group, I was interested to discover how many new schools had been built since 1997 and what would be built in the next couple of years. I was planningthere was nothing sinister in itto visit schools that had recently been built and to keep an eye on the new ones that were built. I therefore tabled a parliamentary question about that. I was pretty surprised to receive from the UnderSecretary of State for Education and Skills, my hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (John Healey), a written answer to say: