HC Deb 26 January 1983 vol 35 cc894-5
18. Mr. Dubs

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will provide special funds to local authorities so that they may give a higher priority to the installation of locks and entryphones in blocks of council flats.

23. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make funds available to local authorities to establish caretakers in walk-up council flats.

Sir George Young

It is for local authorities to decide their own priorities for spending the housing resources available to them. Special allocations for the items mentioned are, therefore, not necessary. The extra capital allocations recently made available for 1982–83 can be used for expenditure on security and entryphones systems and several of the allocations already made have been for those purposes.

Mr. Dubs

Does the Minister agree that such locks and entryphones represent an extremely cost-effective way of reducing the incidence of crime and vandalism on council estates? Is he aware that such devices are welcomed by the police and are being increasingly demanded by council tenants of local authorities that do not have the money, because of the Government's policy, to provide those facilities? Does the Minister agree that his answer comes oddly from a Government who keep talking about law and order but are unable to do anything practical about it?

Sir George Young

The first half of the hon. Gentleman's question was the most sensible to come from the Labour Benches this afternoon. With regard to the second part of his question, we have made additional resources available to his own local authority. For example, Wandsworth submitted a bid for £1.2 million in November. Of that, £181,000 has gone on eight security work schemes. Resources are available to carry out this important work.

Mr. Allaun

Is the Minister aware that good caretakers can do more than anyone or anything to prevent vandalism? Since the Government have more than doubled rents in three years by removing over £1 billion in subsidy, could not the Minister make compensation for that in this very small way, which would ease the problem?

Sir George Young

The Government have emphasised, through their priority estates project, the importance of local management, and in some cases local management presence has more than covered the extra cost because vandalism has been reduced and occupancy rates have gone up. It would be wrong to have a special allocation to local authorities for caretaking in the housing budget, as local authorities would not welcome that degree of interference by central Government.

Mr. Dickens

Do not local authorities claim that they are spending millions of pounds a year on rectifying vandalism? If this is the case however, is not the money available, because if local authorities introduced security measures this would cut expenditure on vandalism, which would be a cost-benefit to the authorities?

Sir George Young

My hon. Friend has made the point clearly.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Has the Minister noted the recent spate of television programmes, and other reports in the media, about violence and vandalism in deck access flats in London and elsewhere? Does not the House of Commons deserve some reply, so that hon. Members can assure their constituents that the Government accept that a problem exists, and thus reassure them about the future? Should not the Minister do something?

Sir George Young

The Government have made available a range of advice and guidance to local authorities, but at the end of the day it is for the local authorities to decide what scheme is best for their own estates. The detailed knowledge of these is not available to Ministers and it would be wrong for us to interfere in this specific way.

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