Sustainable Communities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:23 pm on 11th March 2010.

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Photo of David Drew David Drew Labour, Stroud 4:23 pm, 11th March 2010

I shall be brief, but the Local Government Association asked me to say a few words. I was the best apologist that it could get, given the absence of my co-conspirators the hon. Members for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Hurd) and for Falmouth and Camborne (Julia Goldsworthy), who did so much to get the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 on to the statute book. I cannot and would not want to discuss the Windsor fire station in any detail, just as, presumably, Adam Afriyie would not want to discuss the fire stations in my constituency. However, I want to express some sympathy for the LGA, given the circumstances with which it has been wrestling.

It seems rather bizarre that the LGA should be criticised for what it did not let through. Some of us would argue that it let an awful lot through in the first round of bids, and the Government are currently trying to wrestle with all that the LGA agreed to in its capacity as selector. I want to discuss why we ended up choosing the LGA as the selector, given all its possible faults, and to suggest that we stay with it for the time being. During the passage of the Bill that became the Sustainable Communities Act 2007, we discussed which organisation would be the appropriate selector. We considered creating a new selector, but ultimately we opted for the LGA because it was a representative body of local government and we felt it would best reflect what local government wanted, given that local government had been a driver for the Act.

As my hon. Friend the Minister knows, this week we have been wrestling with the Bill that will enhance the 2007 Act-the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 (Amendment) Bill, which we hope will become law and which includes parish and town councils. I declare an interest, as I always do: I am still a town councillor. The position was always going to be a bit rough and ready, at least for the first year, because of the number of bids received. The Minister will give more details, but many hundreds of bids must have been received, given that so far the LGA has sent some 190 on to be distilled and assessed.

As the hon. Member for Windsor said, we need to open up other parts of the statutory sector and even parts of the non-statutory sector, and to try to persuade them to think in different ways-which chimes with the Government's approach in Total Place-so that, hopefully, we can save money and do things better. However, that will not be easy.

I know that the LGA has been trying to contact the hon. Gentleman. I ask him not to beat up the messenger. We are trying to convey the message, and there are bound to be some disappointed parties.