Select Committee on Work and Pensions Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR) (ES 12)


  DTLR, along with other Government Departments, is committed to high and stable levels of growth and employment, in order to deliver employment opportunity for all. The Department contributes to achievement of this goal in delivering this goal in a variety of ways, reflecting the wide remit of the Department.

  Primarily, we aim to create a climate in which business and the labour market are able to operates to maximise employment opportunities. This can be achieved through physical infrastructure, such as capital investment through the 10 Year Transport Plan. But we also aim to create the right regulatory environment so that business is able to operate effectively. We wish to minimise the burden of regulation faced by business, and to ensure that alternatives to regulation are explored whenever possible. To this end, we have contributed extensively to the Government's Regulatory Reform Action Plan, published by the Cabinet Office in February. Similarly our proposed planning reforms, set out in the Green Paper Planning: Delivering a Fundamental Change are geared towards delivering a planning system which, while sympathetic to the environment and beneficial to the whole community, benefits businesses by being fast, predictable and fair, allowing them to exploit opportunities and plan their future.

  As well as helping business, the Department contributes by helping people. A safe and healthy population also contributes to employment objectives, and progress towards our objectives of ensuring that everyone has a decent home, and improving health and safety by reducing risks from work and other activities forms part of a wider employment strategy.

  Crucially, we aim to target our policies and programmes so as to help those areas most in need of regeneration, so that people are given access to employment opportunities. This is done through the work of the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit (NRU), bringing opportunities to deprived areas. We also work through other agencies such as the Regional Development Agencies, in their cross-cutting work in this field, and contribute to these objectives through funding of grant-giving bodies, such as in the coalfields areas.


  The DTLR Urban Policy Unit is responsible for overseeing the Urban White Paper policy agenda on creating and sharing prosperity. It works closely with other parts of DTLR, other Government Departments and outside agencies to help create prosperous towns and cities. This includes supporting bodies that help promote more joined up working on economic development/enterprise and other urban issues such as the Urban Sounding Board, the Urban Sub Group of the Central Local Partnership, and Cabinet Sub Committee on Social Exclusion and Regeneration.

  The Department works with the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) to promote sustainable economic development in the English regions, contributing about 90 per cent of its Single Pot funding. Government has set them challenging targets not only for the creation of jobs and attracting new businesses, but also supporting the creation of new learning opportunities to widen the employment opportunities available to people. RDAs have a statutory duty to promote regeneration, and their activity is targeted at reducing deprivation by 10 per cent in the 20 per cent most deprived wards. It is forecast that RDAs will create over 70,000 jobs this financial year.


  The Coalfield Regeneration Trust is an independent UK wide grant making body launched in 1999. Working with partners, its objectives are to be a key agency promoting and achieving the social and economic regeneration of the coalfields in England, Scotland and Wales. Solely funded by Government, the Trust provides grants to a wide range of organisations. It particularly provides support through Intermediate Labour Market, Lifelong Learning and other projects and activities for local community projects and sponsors projects targeted on workers displaced from mining-related industries who have been unemployed for a long time.

  The Department will also support the Coalfields Enterprise Fund, providing £10,000,000 of its £20,000,000 capital. The fund will be launched in summer 2002, and provide venture and development capital in the form of equity to small and medium-sized enterprises in coalfields in England and to demonstrate the location of the coalfields as an attractive target for commercial venture capital funding, creating further employment opportunities.


  A New Commitment to Neighbourhood Renewal: A National Strategy Action Plan was launched by the Prime Minister in January 2001. The Strategy sets out the Government's vision for narrowing the gap between deprived neighbourhoods and the rest of the country. The aim is to deliver economic prosperity, safe communities, high quality education, decent housing, and better health to the poorest parts of the country. The Neighbourhood Renewal Unit (NRU) was established within the DTLR to drive forward progress on the strategy. NRU works with other Whitehall departments to encourage them to focus their mainstream services on deprived areas. One of the main mechanisms for this is through encouraging departments to set floor targets, which commit them to raise the standard of the worst performing areas.

  Supporting employment at local level is a key plank of the strategy. For example, the Department for Work and Pensions has a floor target, over the three years to 2004, taking into account the economic cycle, to increase the employment rates of the 30 local authority districts with the poorest initial labour market position—and to reduce the difference between their employment rates and the overall rate. As part of its overall strategy, NRU will be working with DWP, and encouraging DWP to work with local partners, to achieve this target.

  Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) have been established in the 88 most deprived Local Authority districts to co-ordinate local regeneration activity, and the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund—worth £900,000,000 over three years—has been allocated to support and kick-start local regeneration. LSPs are currently developing Local Neighbourhood Renewal Strategies (LNRS) to secure more jobs, better education, improved health, reduced crime, and better housing. LNRSs will identify specific barriers and set out strategies for narrowing the gap between deprived neighbourhoods and the rest, contributing to the national targets to tackle deprivation. Employment and economic regeneration is one of the key areas on which they are expected to focus. All LSPs will have an LNRS in place by September 2002.

  The New Deal for Communities (NDC) programme will channel a total of two billion pounds over 10 years into 39 of the most deprived neighbourhoods. NDC Partnerships, with close community involvement at all stages, will be establishing and managing a range of projects and initiatives to tackle local problems, especially in the five key themes of worklessness, health, crime, education and housing and the physical environment.

  The programme is at an early stage—most Partnerships are not yet two years in—and, in recognition of the long-term problems being addressed and the extent of community consultation that is or has been undertaken, it would be premature to draw any conclusions about impact at this stage. The NDC national evaluation, recently underway, will over coming years provide robust evidence about worklessness impacts, as well as generating evidence about "what works".

  The Skills and Knowledge Programme has a two-year budget of £21.6 million which will ensure that everyone involved in neighbourhood renewal has the support, skills and knowledge they need to improve neighbourhoods.

  The programme will provide a Knowledge Management System and face-to-face advisers to help those involved in Neighbourhood Renewal (eg New Deal for Communities and Local Strategic Partnerships), base their employment strategies on expertise and examples of good practice.


  The Government has now started to implement the sustained programme of new investment set out in Transport 2010: The 10 Year Plan, to modernise and improve this country's transport networks. This entails substantially increased spending of £180 billion over the next 10 years to address the legacy of decades of under-investment, including £60 billion on railways, £59 billion on local transport, £21 billion on the strategic road network, and £25 billion in London. The result of this long-term programme will be better, more efficient transport systems, with increased capacity on road, rail and local public transport, and road congestion expected to fall below current levels by the end of the decade.

  Of course, the improvements delivered by the 10 Year Plan create jobs in their own right. We have recently commissioned a study to estimate the number of jobs likely to be generated by the 10 Year Plan. The preliminary results show that total employment associated with delivery of the 10 Year Plan is over 1.7 million person years or over 170,000 jobs per year averaged over the life of the Plan.

  But more important still is the creation of a stable and thriving employment environment in the longer term. In pursuit of this, the 10 Year Plan's investment will increase productivity and cut business costs through making journeys quicker and more reliable, both for freight and passengers. It will also open up new and expanded markets for business generally, stimulating competition and potentially contributing to faster economic growth. Better transport infrastructure can also play a major role in supporting regeneration programmes and access to new jobs, at both regional and local levels. The new arrangements we have put in place will help ensure that these linkages are made, in particular through regional strategies and Local Transport Plans.

  Lack of transport can be a barrier to accessing employment. The 10 Year Plan identifies the role of public transport as vital in reducing social exclusion—particularly for those people who have less access to a car including women, older and younger and disabled people. The Plan aims to promote social inclusion through subsidies to people, providing better services and a major spending programme to improve infrastructure. Some of these measures will have a direct and specific effect on socially excluded groups and areas and others will be indirect. DTLR is also working with the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) on a major study on the links between social exclusion and transport. The project is examining the barriers and looking at ways to reduce them.

  Through these and other programmes, the Department contributes to the Government's employment strategy, not only through specific projects, but also to the long-term stable economic environment essential to delivering employment opportunity to all.

8 May 2002

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