HC Deb 19 April 1995 vol 258 cc201-2
10. Mr. Pike

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what have been the financial implications for improvement of council house estates by the move from estate action funding to the single regeneration budget scheme. [17914]

Mr. Curry

About £750 million is expected to be spent through the single regeneration budget in the next three years on estate action commitments. In addition, more than 80 new schemes with significant public and private housing outputs were approved in round 1 of the SRB challenge fund, and will receive about £670 million of investment during their lifetime.

Mr. Pike

Does the Minister accept that, as a result of the changeover to SRB, less money is available to deal with problem housing estates? Are the Government not really bothered about helping people who by choice or by necessity live in council houses?

Mr. Curry

No, I do not accept that, for the following reason. The estate action programmes which are under way will continue and they will see out their life. The new money goes into the challenge process of a single regeneration budget, and the essence of that is that local groups should define their own priorities and needs. Nothing prevents them placing housing at the top of their list of needs. What is more, whereas estate action was a purely physical refurbishment and rebuilding programme, under the single regeneration budget it is possible to tackle more than one aspect of housing problems, as the successful SRB bid for Burnley is indeed doing.

Mr. Barry Field

Does my hon. Friend agree that the concept of the single regeneration budget is an ideal opportunity for small communities such as that on the Isle of Wight to make application for Government funds, especially in places where local councils and councillors concentrate on local issues? In that respect, will he contrast the statements by the leader of the Liberal Democrats on 10 April 1995 in the Southern Daily Echo, where he said that the elections were about local issues and asked people to please judge the councillors according to their record, with what he said when he crossed the Solent to the Isle of Wight, when he said that the elections were about national issues and asked people to please use a double-barrelled shotgun against the Government? Does he agree that, yet again, the leader of the Liberal Democrats is wedded to and inundated with inconsistency?

Mr. Curry

I have observed the same phenomenon in the same gentleman.