HC Deb 27 April 1983 vol 41 cc858-9
14. Mr. Latham

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will make a statement on the response so far to the 90 per cent., temporary level of repair grant introduced in 1982.

Mr. Stanley

The response to the Government's initiative on repair grants has been exceptionally encouraging. The number of repair grants paid in England in 1979 was 345. Following the legislative changes in the Housing Act 1980 and the introduction of 90 per cent. repair grants in the 1982 Budget, the number of repair grants paid last year was 33,715.

Mr. Latham

I should first declare an interest, because a Labour council has awarded me such a grant. May I congratulate my hon. Friend on progress in this direction, as it is without doubt the speediest and most effective way to deal with urban decay?

Mr. Stanley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I hope that all local authorities will continue to give the most favourable consideration to the use of their discretionary powers in relation to repair grants while the Government's unrivalled generosity in respect of 90 per cent. repair grants is still on offer.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Why do local authorities receive only 75 per cent. in similar grants? Should not they, too, receive 90 per cent.?

Mr. Stanley

We felt that it was right to concentrate on the priority areas of home improvement — intermediate grants for the installation of basic amenities such as inside baths and WCs and repair grants—because the recent English house condition survey showed this to be the priority area of attack in home improvements.

Mr. Cartwright

Is the Minister aware that there is public concern in some areas about increasing delays by local authorities in processing applications for improvement grants? What steps is he taking to deal with that problem?

Mr. Stanley

I am aware that there have been some complaints on that score. This reflects in part the great upsurge in repair grants and home improvement activity that the Government have helped to generate. Local authorities did well in the last financial year, more than doubling the output on home improvement grants in 12 months. I recognise that there is a considerable burden of work, but most local authorities are deploying existing staff to that work.