HC Deb 27 January 1993 vol 217 cc1021-2
1. Mr. Hutton

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assistance he is giving to local authorities to help them with the cost of housing renovation grants.

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Sir George Young)

A total of £386 million has been allocated in 1992–93 to support local authority expenditure on private sector renewal work, including house renovation grants.

Mr. Hutton

Is the Minister aware that that figure represents a cut in the value of renovation grants over previous years and that many local authorities are still struggling to meet the demand for such grants? In my constituency, 4,000 properties could benefit from renovation grants—yet my constituents are having to wait 15 months before their properties can be inspected. Is the Minister satisfied and, if not, what does he intend to do about it?

Sir George Young

On the first point, more resources will be available to the hon. Gentleman's constituents next year for improvement grants. What really matters is the totality of expenditure, from the Government and from local authorities, and next year £1.5 million will be available to his constituents as opposed to £1.3 million this year. That is good news.

On the second point, we recognise that a growing number of authorities face increased expenditure on mandatory grants. I have announced our intention to consult on options for change, and we hope to issue a paper by spring.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my hon. Friend agree that as important as the amount of money give to local authorities is, it is also important to consider their efficiency and whether they are corrupt? Is he aware that the Evening Standard has pointed out that a third of the homeless families in Lambeth are fraudulent? Has he read about the incompetence of that authority, and will he compare it with its competence when he was a member?

Sir George Young

It is, of course, an affront to any families in bed and breakfast if access to permanent accommodation is denied them because of inefficiency or corruption.