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11.49 am

Mr. Iain Coleman (Hammersmith and Fulham): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me in this important debate on a motion for the Adjournment of the House. I shall talk briefly about a major Government-funded regeneration scheme in my constituency, which is in year 1 of its 10-year programme, and discuss briefly the issue of regeneration for London.

The regeneration scheme that I want to talk about is one of the 39 new deal for communities projects located in various areas of the country. The NDC for north Fulham is home to a population of 8,000. It lies in the west of the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, and has 4,000 households, which are predominantly in social housing. As for the exact geographical location, the area is bounded by the nice, discreet and posh Queens tennis club, Barons Court underground station to the west, Earl's Court to the east, Talgarth road to the north and Fulham broadway to the south.

The area has five quite large housing estates, which were built between 1912 and 1977. Housing tenure in the area is 67 per cent. social housing, 13 per cent. privately rented and 19 per cent. owner occupied, and the average price of a two-bedroom flat or maisonette is £190,000.

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That compares with a borough average of £206,000 and a rate of owner occupation of 43 per cent. Much to my regret, the area has been in long-term decline and the rate of unemployment is well over 10 per cent. Twelve per cent. of households have an annual income of less than £5,000, and 25 per cent. of households have an annual income of under £10,000.

I am talking about a highly mixed area, much like the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck), where high levels of poverty and deprivation mix somewhat uneasily with wealth and significant affluence. By itself, that brings particular problems that are complex and difficult to manage. Thirty-five per cent. of households in the area have an income of over £25,000 a year, and many have a great deal more than that. That distorts the average income in the NDC area to one of £23,000 per annum per household, which is obviously well above the regional and national average.

Nearly 15 per cent. of the families living in the area are headed by single parents. The area has a significant non-white population, well above the Greater London and national average. Eighteen per cent. of the population have English as a second language, of whom 15 per cent. have no or very little English. Educational attainment in the area is significantly below the borough and the regional average. Interestingly, while at key stages 1 and 2 attainment is in line with the borough average, there is a noticeable drop in performance at key stage 3. Thirty-six per cent. of residents of working age have no recognised qualification compared with a borough average of 15 per cent.

I am trying to paint a picture of the area. Crime is high—nearly 50 per cent. higher than the regional average. Victims of crime are much more likely to be elderly, black or from an ethnic minority. Poor health is another fact of life for far too many people in the NDC area. The social services mental health case load is substantial, and the area has a disproportionately large number of children on the child protection register. As a result of poor diet, very high levels of smoking and drug and alcohol abuse, life expectancy is well below the national average.

When after careful consideration the local authority selected the area for its bid for funding under the NDC programme, the first task was to put together the key elements of the bid—the delivery plan for north Fulham. At this stage, a steering group, comprising a range of local partners, residents and tenants' representatives and other interested agencies was formed, and I chaired it. It met on a fortnightly basis for several months.

Consultants were employed by the local authority to prepare the bid and, after considerable debate and more than a few problems and interesting discussions within the steering group, the bid was submitted to the Department last year. As I have said, the bid was for a 10-year programme of £44 million. I am pleased to report that the bid was successful in achieving that level of funding.

Having secured the funding, we formed a shadow community board consisting of community representatives drawn from a number of small geographical areas. The community representatives meet monthly and elect one or two representatives to serve on the shadow board, which I now chair.

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A number of strategic partners who also sit on the board are drawn from key local agencies such as the local authority, the health service and the Benefits Agency, and include the chief executive of a major local registered social landlord. There is also a representative from the local black and ethnic minority forum. All those representatives have voting rights at the shadow board. Again, the board meets on a monthly basis and considers a range of issues related to the implementation of the NDC programme. These include recommendations from appraisal panels, which meet to consider the relative strengths and weaknesses of different funding proposals.

Community representatives on the board have attended training programmes to assist them with the monitoring and evaluation of those proposals. The management of the staff employed to date by the NDC has comprised consultants and secondees from agencies such as the local authority and the national health service. I am pleased to report that last week the permanent director of the programme was appointed, and the recruitment of the rest of the permanent delivery team will commence shortly.

The success or otherwise of the NDC programme for north Fulham will not be possible to evaluate for several years to come. To be frank, our early spending programme has been modest but has included the recruitment of a team of five extra police officers, headed by a sergeant, to work exclusively in the north Fulham NDC area. Their role is to act as a highly visible police presence in the area, where the fear of crime has been constantly raised as a major concern for local residents. Early signs are that the level of crime has been significantly reduced.

Three new learning mentors have been funded to work in the local primary schools that score highest on levels of deprivation. One of these primary schools has 78 per cent. of children in receipt of free school meals, and in another primary school, 39 separate languages are spoken. We have also agreed proposals to appoint special co-ordinators in the areas of health, youth and employment. The NDC, in partnership with the local authority, has funded a project called Operation Fresh Start, which has provided for projects to undertake a major clean of the streets in the NDC area, the removal of fly-tipped items and a service offering one-off removal of all unwanted household goods and the removal of graffiti. It has also provided for two refuse service enforcement officers to patrol the area, which suffers the dumping of all sorts of detritus.

Early feedback has been positive. A business network development programme has been set up and a community chest fund started for small grants for which local community groups can bid. A highly successful community carnival was held last year and a shop frontage improvement grant has been established. These are early days, but we have had a successful year in that we have spent 95 per cent. of our projected budget in the first year of the programme. In time, we will need to establish a full community board with democratic elections for all community representative posts. For the next two years we have set a much more ambitious programme of spending, including at least one major new capital scheme for the area.

The NDC programme has not been without its problems, its tensions and its rows, but so far we have been largely successful in establishing a genuine spirit of community engagement in the area. For far too long this

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part of an affluent area—indeed, it is one of the wealthiest in London—has been neglected. Many people have been left isolated and vulnerable and the area has fallen into decline. The NDC programme represents the best opportunity for the poor and the socially excluded to have a share of what they deserve but have been denied for too long.

Too many regeneration projects in the past dealt with the physical fabric of the local area and failed to challenge social problems in the community. Fear of crime, poor health, lack of access to proper facilities and a high incidence of drug and alcohol abuse have allowed areas such as north Fulham to lose confidence. The NDC represents a new approach to tackling decline. It genuinely seeks to allow the local community to work in partnership to challenge that sense of lethargy and helplessness. It is an exciting time to be in north Fulham.

North Fulham is a classic example of many areas in London where there are huge disparities between economic and social prosperity. Too often, out-of-date notions about the north-south divide mask the reality. It is not a matter of geography: the real issues are poverty, deprivation, unemployment and social exclusion.

The real picture on the ground is far more complex then some regional indicators may show. However, hon. Members may be surprised by a few of them. London has the highest number of unemployed people of all UK regions. There are more unemployed people in London than in Scotland and Wales combined. Of the 74 parliamentary constituencies in London, 20 have employment rates of 65 per cent. or less and nine have employment rates of less than 60 per cent. In addition, 26 per cent. of the London-employed work force have very low qualifications and 40 per cent. of the unemployed have no qualifications. Three out of the five most deprived boroughs in England are in London, and 2.7 million London residents live in one of the 20 most deprived wards in England. Those stark facts show that parts of London are far different from the exclusively affluent picture that some may wish to paint.

I recognise the problems that my colleagues representing other regions may face. I sympathise with them and I would not deny them the support that they deserve, but it is the duty of Members representing constituencies with high levels of need and deprivation to argue our case in the coming months and years, and we believe that we have the facts to back up our call for our share of the regeneration cake.

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