§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Tony Baldry)
Where the development of new initiatives for local government is best undertaken by using pilot projects, we naturally welcome the assistance of local authorities with such projects.
§ Mr. Cohen
Will the Minister look at the current practice in the United States, where state and city councils have the freedom and the funding to pilot environmental, social and work schemes, the best of which can be taken up by the national Government? By contrast, in this country, local authorities are under uniform restrictions, which stop them responding to the new in a diverse and innovative way. Why does not the Minister free up local authorities so that some creative programmes may emerge?
§ Mr. Baldry
I do not know where the hon. Gentleman has been recently. If he visits any local authority in the country, he will see that the authorities are all busy working up bids for the single regeneration budget to enable them to do exactly what he is suggesting.
§ Mr. Dunn
Can the Minister give an assurance that no pilot projects relating to housing matters will be given to inner-London Labour-controlled councils, as those councils have presided over incompetence, corruption and scandal in their housing departments and have in their stocks many thousands of houses available for letting to homeless people which they cannot possibly carry forward?
§ Mr. Vaz
Can the Minister tell the House what has become of the pilot project, city pride, which was launched by the Secretary of State on 14 November last year? Can 801 he tell us the amount of resources that has been allocated by the Government to the excellent councils of Birmingham and Manchester? When does he intend to extend that pilot project to other local authorities in Britain—or is this, like all the other inner-city projects launched by the Government, a project launched in a blaze of glory and forgotten six months later?
§ Mr. Baldry
City pride is not a pilot project; it is an initiative to take forward pride in the cities. I was in Birmingham on Monday, and I am glad to say that Birmingham council is making good progress with city pride. I have absolutely no doubt that it will be building on what has also been done in Manchester. There is, of course, absolutely nothing to stop other authorities developing best practice, looking at what is happening with city pride and pursuing similar initiatives.
The hon. Gentleman must also go around and look at what local authorities are doing in working up bids for the single regeneration budget, by means of which they will also be able to encourage pride in their own cities and undertake a whole host of initiatives which we are helping to fund.
§ Mr. Dickens
Returning to the original question from the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen), does my hon. Friend agree that representatives of the Department of the Environment have been to America to look at its schemes? The city challenge scheme was started in America and was introduced in this country. We have also had lots of local initiatives, such as estate action schemes, which are very popular. We have more initiatives than any other Government have put forward relying on pilot schemes with local government.
§ Mr. Baldry
My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. With initiatives such as city challenge, housing action trusts and estate action, which give greater freedom and greater responsibility to local tenants and local communities, we do not need to go to the Americans. I am glad to say that many people are coming to this country to see the success of our inner-city initiatives.