HC Deb 18 January 1995 vol 252 cc699-701
10. Mr. Dowd

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what proposals he has for a second round of bidding for the single regeneration budget.

Mr. Curry

A second bidding round of the single regeneration budget will be launched later this year. Some £40 million will be available in 1996–97 for early funding of approved bids and £200 million the following year.

Mr. Dowd

I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that the London borough of Lewisham, which has an exemplary record in public-private finance partnerships, including city challenge and estate action, is still unaware of the status of the three unsuccessful first-round bids in relation to the second round of bidding, which is due to commence shortly? Does he agree that his Department has a responsibility to provide all local authorities with unambiguous and clear guidelines at the earliest opportunity if they are to persist with their cut-price, gameshow approach to urban regeneration?

Mr. Curry

If it is a cut-price approach, I am surprised that the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) said that he thought that the sums spent on it were about right; he said that Labour would spend roughly the same amount of money.

The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dowd) has forgotten, perhaps, that Lewisham received £14 million from the urban programme, that Deptford city challenge is receiving £37.5 million over five years and that the task force is receiving £1 million of Government money and £10 million levied from other sources. There are four major estate action programmes worth £83 million of public funds, two successful SRB bids related to ethnic minorities, and the docklands light railway extension. so it ain't a bad record as far as Lewisham is concerned.

As for the Deptford creek project, the local authority will have been in discussion with the Government office about the nature of that bid. The bidding will not change so substantially for the second round that the bids that did not qualify this time will not be eligible as candidates in the second round. Clearly, one cannot prejudge the outcome.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Sadly, Macclesfield was unsuccessful in the first round under this programme—perhaps even more so than Lewisham, Macclesfield being one of the few councils still with overall Conservative control, well run, abiding by every regulation that the Government request of it. Does my hon. Friend accept that, even in an area that is considered to be prosperous, there are pockets of deprivation and poverty and that this project can uniquely assist in such areas? Will he give me an assurance that any further application from Macclesfield will receive his sympathetic consideration?

Mr. Curry

My hon. Friend will know that the single regeneration budget has national coverage, so all areas in the country are eligible to bid. There were successful bids from rural and urban areas. I cannot give my hon. Friend an assurance that a bid will receive sympathetic consideration any more than I can say that it will receive unsympathetic consideration. However, the regional office will be working with the partners to ensure that any problems or deficiencies in a bid are pointed out so that the authorities are capable of bidding in the second round.

Mr. Vaz

The Minister is clearly not aware of the huge costs and the great difficulties faced by those local authorities that have been unsuccessful in their first round bids. Will he ensure that, before the second round begins, a detailed regional statement is produced by the regional offices—something that he failed to have produced at the last round of the SRB—so that local authorities know precisely what the criteria will be, or is it the case that the statement cannot be published because the Government do not have a clue what their regeneration policy should be?

Mr. Curry

That is rather rich coming from the hon. Gentleman, who is allegedly the author of "City 2020", which sank without trace soon after being launched; even the assistance of the mayor of Baltimore could not rescue that document. The regional office has instructions to work with all the partners in order to point out where there were deficiencies so that they are capable of bidding for the second time around. [Interruption.] It is not a blind date process. It is done with a great deal of consideration.

The best bids won this time, but we do not intend that those that were unsuccessful should not be capable of putting their bid in order so that they can bid the second time around, when their bid will be judged on its merits in competition with other bids.

Mr. McLoughlin

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Government are often accused of diverting money to areas that support the Government's case? Will he therefore explain to me why, under the single regeneration budget, the two most successful areas in Derbyshire were Bolsover and Chesterfield? Are they well known for their support of Government policies?

Mr. Curry

I am tempted to say that it clearly must reflect the particular characteristics of the Members of Parliament concerned, but I do not wish to mislead the House on the matter. It happened because those bids, which were the result of public and private sector support, were among the best bids in the region. That demonstrates that this is not a political process; it is based on the merits of a bid in a competitive process which has proved to be successful.

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