Housing Renewal Pathfinders

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 14th May 2003.

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Photo of Jeff Ennis Jeff Ennis Labour, Barnsley East and Mexborough 11:30 am, 14th May 2003

What impact housing renewal pathfinders are having on the areas they cover.

Photo of Mrs Barbara Roche Mrs Barbara Roche Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

We have invested £2.66 million in each scheme so that long-term, robust plans to revitalise communities can develop. The first tranche of £4 million funding is available for radical action to begin this year, and more for those moving ahead with completed plans.

Photo of Jeff Ennis Jeff Ennis Labour, Barnsley East and Mexborough

Is the Minister aware that communities such as Thurnscoe, East and Mexborough in my constituency are already benefiting from the funding that she is providing? The number of empty and void properties in my constituency, which can attract antisocial behaviour and are often the cause of disorder and nuisance, is diminishing. Does the Minister agree that if we are to continue to be successful in the pathfinder areas, we must adopt a bottom-up approach that will give local communities a direct input into resolving the problems in the housing areas where they live?

Photo of Mrs Barbara Roche Mrs Barbara Roche Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

I agree and I know that the Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, my hon. Friend Mr. McNulty visited the pathfinder in my hon. Friend's constituency—and was impressed by what he saw. It is essential to secure community involvement and the schemes are predicated on the fact that the community will be involved. It is also right to target measures to reduce antisocial behaviour.

Photo of David Curry David Curry Conservative, Skipton and Ripon

Does the Minister accept that many pathfinder areas are precisely those with a predominance of houses at the bottom end of the council tax bandings? If the rebanding goes ahead and a half-A or minus-A band is introduced, what will be the impact on councils of a significant increase in council taxes marginally up the bands? Will the nearly poor be required to pay yet again for the very poor?

Photo of Mrs Barbara Roche Mrs Barbara Roche Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman makes important representations. He will know that no decision has been taken on rebanding, but I shall view his representations as part of the process.

Photo of Gordon Prentice Gordon Prentice Labour, Pendle

I welcome pathfinders in areas such as my own where the housing market has completely collapsed, but rather than more plans, strategies and assessments, people want to see a visible sign of change on the ground. Can the Minister assure me that the pathfinder area in Burnley and Pendle will be adequately resourced so that crumbling and rotten houses can be torn down?

Photo of Mrs Barbara Roche Mrs Barbara Roche Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

I have to say that that is exactly what is happening. Action is being taken on the ground. I have seen the pathfinders in action and demolition is taking place. Some of the old crumbling houses are going; new mixed housing is taking its place; and communities are being revitalised. The involvement of local people and action plans are necessary to achieve that.