HC Deb 07 March 2000 vol 345 cc853-5
8. Mr. Michael Jabez Foster (Hastings and Rye)

What steps the Government are taking to encourage local authorities to develop services for young people at risk of social exclusion. [112180]

11. Mr. John Cryer (Hornchurch)

What steps the Government are taking to encourage local authorities to develop services for young people at risk of social exclusion. [112183]

The Minister for Local Government and the Regions (Ms Hilary Armstrong)

Reports by the social exclusion unit and others have highlighted the need to develop services for young people and children at risk of social exclusion. We are taking action across government, and a number of Departments are working with local authorities to deliver programmes such as sure start and new deal for communities. In addition, best value will drive up the standard of local authority services, and statutory guidance will encourage authorities to develop cross-cutting approaches to service delivery that focus on the needs of socially excluded sections of society and not on traditional service boundaries.

Mr. Foster

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. The Xtrax centre in Hastings deals with a wide range of issues affecting the excluded young people in that town. However, the withdrawal of lottery and European social funding means that existing projects are often in jeopardy. Will her Department's invest-to-save schemes be available to pick up the shortfall when the other schemes come to an end?

Ms Armstrong

The invest-to-save programmes are very much targeted at how we can, through public investment, make sure that we improve service delivery and enable services to develop in a local area. The recent round of invest-to-save programmes has provided £23 million of funding for local authority-led projects to develop joint working in the delivery of services. Some of those projects, such as those in Milton Keynes and Worcestershire, were specifically targeted at work with young people. I cannot promise my hon. Friend today that his authority will be successful in terms of the next invest-to-save round, but I assure him that we will work with it to find ways in which good practice can be extended and developed.

Mr. Cryer

I acknowledge what my right hon. Friend says and I thank her for her answer. However, will she bear it in mind that even in comparatively affluent and prosperous areas, such as the one that I represent, there are pockets of deprivation and unemployment? The bottom line is that areas such as Havering need more resources—however they are brought to bear—to tackle social exclusion and youth disorder, which is closely associated with it.

Ms Armstrong

I have not yet encountered a local authority that does not say that there are pockets of deprivation in its area. We have been seeking ways to make sure that we measure and recognise those areas more effectively. We are determined to tackle problems wherever they arise, whether or not they are in so-called affluent areas. We are determined also to work with local councils and the local voluntary sector to ensure that our children and young people have the opportunities that they deserve and need if they are to grow up to be the contributing citizens that we all want them to be.

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest)

In all her answers the Minister has missed the point. Would not a more effective and efficient way to help people in danger of social exclusion be to give taxpayers' money to the social services departments that so badly need it—instead of wasting it on more politicians and bureaucrats in unnecessary regional assemblies?

Ms Armstrong

The hon. Lady has forgotten that in the last three years of the previous Administration, the money given to local authorities by central Government was reduced in real terms by 4.3 per cent. In the first three years of this Administration, we have increased that sum by 7.8 per cent. in real terms. We are funding local government so that it can tackle problems that the hon. Lady's Government created.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

When will the Minister recognise that she is speaking a lot of twaddle? Local authorities are strapped for cash. They want to do a lot more for the socially excluded, but they see over £1 billion of their money being drained away into useless regional assemblies and the cost of extra government. Is it not about time that the Government returned that money to local authorities so that they can better help people in need?

Ms Armstrong

Clearly, the hon. Gentleman had worked out that question before I gave my previous answer. The Government have substantially increased, in real terms, the amount going to local government. The hon. Gentleman does not seem to have understood that regional assemblies are not created by the Government or funded by the Government; they are established locally and funded locally.

Back to
Forward to