New Deal for Communities

Oral Answers to Questions — Deputy Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 21st April 2004.

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Photo of Jim Dobbin Jim Dobbin Labour/Co-operative, Heywood and Middleton 11:30 am, 21st April 2004

What progress there has been on the New Deal for Communities programme; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Local Government and the Regions, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

In the new deal for communities, we are investing more than £2 billion in 39 of our most deprived communities. After just four years, we have already seen significant achievements: employment in the NDC areas is down by 7 per cent., which is faster than the national average; pass rates for pupils who achieve five or more GCSEs are up by 5 per cent., which is higher than the national average; and crime is down by 14 per cent. That is a fantastic achievement, which the National Audit Office has called "pleasing", and it has made a real difference to people's lives. I am sure that the House will want to congratulate the 50,000 ordinary people who have been involved in achieving that success.

Photo of Jim Dobbin Jim Dobbin Labour/Co-operative, Heywood and Middleton

Is my right hon. Friend aware of "Heart of Heywood", which is the new deal for communities programme in my constituency? It has just purchased five state-of-the-art buses to transport unemployed people to areas that are difficult to reach. Other plans in the pipeline include a new primary school and a community campus, which will deliver services from the police, housing authorities, the local library and other agencies, and a new health connections centre supported by the primary care trust, social services and Sure Start. Will my right hon. Friend make sure that all NDC projects throughout the country are well supported because they are helping to regenerate the poorer communities in our society?

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Local Government and the Regions, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. My Ministers and I have visited the majority of NDCs, and we continue to do so. Indeed, I shall visit Shoreditch NDC on 28 May. My hon. Friend will be aware that I visited his constituency a couple of weeks ago, when I announced the £53 million investment in a pathfinder scheme for Rochdale and Oldham. I am certainly aware of the achievements of those in his NDC, and they are to be congratulated on them. They join the rank of successful NDCs, which we are proud of, and it shows that people have the money and they can make a difference—but if people vote for the Tories, they will slash those programmes in the future.