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Alun Michael: It is appropriate that there should be a permissive ability to hold public inquiries, because in some circumstances damage to others could be created as a result of closing off access to an alleyway. We are moving from an automatic requirement for a public inquiry, precisely to address the issue that my hon. Friend raises. In some circumstances, it is manifest to everyone that alley-gating is the best thing that could happen, and that it happen with a minimum of bureaucracy. I can assure him that our aspirations—and the way in which these provisions are set out in the Bill—will address the issues that he is raising.

Andy Burnham: I am grateful to the Minister for that clarification; it will greatly reassure those of my constituents who are considering these schemes. My point is that if the procedure became excessively bureaucratic, people would lose heart. If they were faced with too much bureaucracy when trying to take positive action to change their community, they would quickly be put off. We must not allow that to happen. People who are trying to get actively engaged in their community should not feel the walls of bureaucracy rising up around them. However, I take the Minister's point.

Wigan council's director of engineering, Peter Taylor, has asked the Minister to consider whether the process should be akin to that for traffic regulation orders,
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which would make it much easier for the authority to take things forward. We are still bringing the order through under the 2000 Act as an interim measure, but I very much hope that the use of public inquiries will be the exception, not the norm, and that residents will be actively encouraged to take forward initiatives to have their alleyways gated when they believe that that could make a substantial difference.

Following those few remarks, I want to congratulate the Minister on introducing this legislation, which will directly benefit my constituents. I know it will be warmly welcomed and I very much hope that the Bill is not the beginning of the end of rebuilding a culture of respect and higher standards in our communities, but part of a long process in which the Government are engaged.

We must carry on getting tougher on antisocial behaviour until we can genuinely say that the streets of towns such as Leigh, and others represented by hon. Members who are present, are safe and decent places where the law-abiding majority are in the ascendancy, and that the culture is one in which people show respect and consideration for others.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Northern Ireland

That the draft Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act 1997 (Amnesty Period) Order 2005, which was laid before this House on 26th January, be approved.—[Margaret Moran.]

Question agreed to.


European Scrutiny


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Economic Regeneration (Burton)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Margaret Moran.]

9.56 pm

Mrs. Janet Dean (Burton) (Lab): My constituency has benefited enormously over the past few years from the investment through Government and European aid, as well as the increase in Government funding for our public services, programmes such as new deal and the massive increase in support for hard-working families. Most of the regeneration money has been concentrated in the inner wards of Burton upon Trent. However, the six northern rural parishes of my constituency previously received the former European regional development fund objective 5 funding. Uttoxeter, which received no Government help in the early 1980s when more than 2,000 jobs were lost with the closure of Bamford's agricultural factory and the local dairy, is, I am pleased to say, one of the towns that have received funding through the Government's market towns initiative.

The need to address the problem of pockets of deprivation in Burton upon Trent has been recognised with millions of pounds of investment in the past 10 years, secured through objective 2 funding; the single regeneration budget—rounds 2 and 6; the neighbourhood management initiative; and Sure Start. The £20 million of regeneration funding has gone a long way to open up an area of Burton upon Trent called Centrum 100 for inward investment, as well as helping to reduce unemployment and raise educational attainment.

SRB 6 money is being used to undertake work in three local high schools and five primary schools, which is improving results as well as personal and social development. In the neighbourhood management initiative area of the town, local people are being involved in improving the local environment and feel safer due to the proactive work of the neighbourhood wardens who have been funded through the initiative. The Sure Start programme is making a real difference to local families and has recently moved into the new children's centre, which is bringing together all the local children's services, including—I believe uniquely—paediatric specialists.

I am proud of my constituency, which is probably one of the most varied in the country, owing to its fine mix of urban and rural areas, as well as a population with many different backgrounds and origins. I am proud of all those who are working hard to improve the local communities in my constituency and the lives of local residents and I am proud of the increase in Government investment since 1997, which has brought more teachers, nurses, doctors and police officers, as well as improvements to our school buildings, such as the new Stapenhill sixth-form centre and the replacement Mosley primary school. I am glad that almost 4,000 pensioner households in Burton now benefit from the pension credit, and that more than 9,000 hard-working families are being helped by the child and working tax credits. I am pleased that unemployment in Burton has fallen by 68 per cent. since 1997, and that by March 2004, 800 young people were helped into work by the new deal for young people, and 400—
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It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Margaret Moran.]

Mrs. Dean: Four hundred people were helped by the new deal for over-25s, and 380 by the new deal for lone parents. The number of people unemployed for more than one year fell by 95 per cent. between 1997 and 2004.

Having described many of the improvements that the policies of the Labour Government have achieved, as well as the successes of regeneration funding, I must say that I believe that we have only just commenced the regeneration of Burton upon Trent. We need a prolonged and sustained effort for at least another 10 years if we are really to address some of the key challenges that face the local community.

While youth unemployment has fallen by 67.8 per cent. since 1997, it is proportionately higher in Burton upon Trent, at 30.1 per cent. of the total number unemployed, than in Great Britain as a whole. In Burton ward, youth unemployment is as high as 46 per cent. of the total.

In education, although GCSE attainment has improved dramatically at Paget and Paulet high schools as a result of SRB intervention and the hard work and dedication of the staff, the number of pupils attaining five or more GCSEs at grades A to C in Burton schools is still below the national average at 46.1 per cent., compared with 53.7 per cent. nationally. That figure masks the low attainment levels of about 30 per cent. in the heart of Burton neighbourhood management area, which demonstrates the under-achievement in some parts of the town and among children from ethnic minority communities across Burton.

Furthermore, the Basic Skills Agency found that 28 per cent. of the inner-Burton working population have poor literacy skills, and 30.6 per cent. have poor numeracy skills compared with 24 per cent. nationally. The 2004 indices of deprivation revealed that east Staffordshire has three super-output areas—which, as my right hon. Friend will know, contain 1,000 to 5,000 people—in the top 10 per cent. most deprived super-output areas in the country. Those are all located in Burton upon Trent, within Winshill, Shobnall and Stapenhill wards.

Income deprivation is an issue for around a third of the population, particularly in areas of those three wards. Lack of employment is also a problem, primarily in areas of Stapenhill, Horninglow and Anglesey wards. Education is an issue in areas of Stapenhill, which are in the top 5 per cent. most deprived super-output areas in the country. Two areas, one in Winshill and the other in Burton ward, also show up in the top 10 per cent. most deprived for crime in the country.

The living environment domain considers poor housing conditions and air quality, and deprivation is found in areas of Anglesey, Shobnall and Eton park wards such that they are in the top 5 per cent. most deprived super-output areas in the country—I do not know who came up with the idea of super-output areas, but it is very difficult to say.

The population of inner Burton is accommodated in more than 20,000 households, and more than a third—39 per cent.—live in terraced properties. That is well
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above the average for England and Wales of 26 per cent., and is more akin to cities rather than towns the size of Burton upon Trent. Recent studies undertaken by East Staffordshire borough council on the condition of the houses show that many millions of pounds need to be invested to bring these terraced properties up to modern standards.

Another challenge is to address health inequalities. Between 1998 and 2002, the rate of death from circulatory disease and from coronary heart disease in Burton was noticeably above the England rates—59.7 and 36.5 under-75s per 10,000 people respectively. Victoria ward's rates were more than double the national average for both diseases, while Edgehill and Waterside wards' rates were significantly above the England average for both causes of death. Rates of death from circulatory disease are well above the England average in the wards of Broadway, Eton and Horninglow.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the borough lost more than 9,000 jobs as a result of restructuring of the brewing industry. Although, thankfully, the industry appears to have reached a period of stability after many years of uncertainty, a recent economic forecast study undertaken by East Staffordshire borough council suggests the loss of another 3,500 manufacturing jobs in the period up to 2020.

The economic difficulties faced by Burton upon Trent are acknowledged in the Advantage West Midlands corporate plan, which states:

It is vital for the need for continuing regeneration funding for Burton to be recognised, so that it is possible to maintain and build on the improvements achieved in recent years. Single regeneration budget, Sure Start, neighbourhood management initiative and European regional development fund moneys are all due to end in the next two years. It is important for future regeneration funding, whatever form it takes, to recognise pockets of deprivation in towns such as Burton upon Trent, as well as considering the needs of rural areas and market towns like Uttoxeter.

Regeneration strategies that focus on the urban areas of the west midlands and north Staffordshire have little impact on my constituency because of the distance from those major conurbations. Lying on the eastern edge of Staffordshire and the north-eastern edge of the west midlands, Burton upon Trent abuts the Swadlincote area of south Derbyshire in the east midlands region. Indeed, the town relates both socially and economically to Swadlincote in what many already recognise as a sub-regional entity. Burton upon Trent itself is a popular and thriving sub-regional shopping centre, and the town has a wide catchment area for leisure activities and services including Queen's hospital. The Burton travel-to-work area extends east and west from the town to include Ashby and Uttoxeter.

Burton upon Trent has a distinctive identity. Known for its brewing industry, it has a strong cluster of food and drink businesses. The town's central location, with good transport links to the west midlands as well as to
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the north and east, has encouraged companies to locate in the area. Indeed, the rise in the number of businesses in the sub-region in the last five years upstages the rate in England in two sectors: other services, and transport and communications. There is pressure for development in the Burton area for housing, employment and retail growth.

People want to live in Burton, and increasingly housing is being developed on reclaimed sites, bringing life back to the town centre. Businesses want to invest in the area, but we need an early resolution of the promised commitment of £14 million to develop the land south of Branston for employment. I hope that the Government office for the west midlands can speedily complete its appraisal of the project to allow the £7 million of ERDF moneys, together with the similar amount provisionally allocated by Advantage West Midlands, to open up the area and help to create 1,100 new jobs. Making that land available is crucial to ensuring that economic restructuring can continue, to compensate for the potential toss of manufacturing jobs in the future.

Securing that funding from the two regional agencies from the west midlands would not only help development of the land south of Branston but, perhaps, help to unlock significant private-sector investment to allow 400 acres of brownfield land at the former Drakelow power station in south Derbyshire to be developed. That would help both the sub-region and the wider conurbations of the east and west midlands. There is a real opportunity to consider the economic regeneration of Burton upon Trent as part of the "Smart Growth: the Midlands Way" document, which is currently undergoing consultation. Efforts to ensure the area's economic prosperity are enhanced by the greater collaboration of the east and west midlands regions.

In summary, there has been a great deal of progress in tackling deprivation and under-achievement in areas of Burton, but there is a lot more to do. We need to continue to raise educational achievement and the skills base, and to develop industries that raise income levels. We need massive investment in housing in the inner wards of Burton, and we need to tackle existing health inequalities. To address these problems, we need to continue to receive regeneration funding, as well as the record investment in public services that we have seen since 1997. We need a Government who are committed to continuing the new deal to help people into work, rather than to scrapping it, as the Conservatives have promised to do.

I realise that my right hon. Friend will not be able to tell me what form of regeneration funding will replace the current programmes, but I hope that he will ensure that pockets of deprivation in constituencies such as mine, which are away from the major conurbations, will continue to receive the help that they need. Regeneration funding is essential to ensure that land is available to continue the economic restructuring necessary to compensate for any displacement of manufacturing jobs. I hope that my right hon. Friend will ensure an early commitment to the release of the £14 million provisional sum allocated to land south of Branston, so that we can see the creation of 1,100 new
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jobs and the possibility of improved cross-border working, bringing greater prosperity to the whole sub-region.

10.11 pm

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