HC Deb 07 March 2000 vol 345 cc845-6
1. Helen Jones (Warrington, North)

If he will make a statement on the implementation of tenant participation compacts. [112172]

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Mr. Nick Raynsford)

Bringing tenants into the heart of decisions affecting their homes is a vital part of our agenda to improve local services, increase local democracy and strengthen local communities. Tenant participation compacts, which are being introduced by councils from April, will set out how tenants can be involved in local housing decisions in ways that meet their needs and priorities. The Government will make £12 million available to councils over the next two years to help with the extra costs of setting up compacts. Parallel assistance for tenants of housing associations has been made available through the Housing Corporation.

Helen Jones

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, and it is welcome to hear how much money will be made available to councils to implement the compacts. What steps will he take to ensure that councils involve the widest possible number of tenants in compacts and spread their net to involve a wide variety of people, not simply a self-selected few?

Mr. Raynsford

My hon. Friend makes a fair point about the importance of ensuring that good practice extends throughout the local authority world. We are keen to monitor progress, to highlight the achievements of those authorities that are doing best in tenant involvement and to encourage good practice to spread more widely.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

While tenant participation compacts can, and probably will, be helpful in developing a superior housing service in the future, what does the Minister intend to do now about the scandal across the country of empty council housing that is predominantly the responsibility of left-wing authorities that are providing rotten services at rip-off prices?

Mr. Raynsford

The Government attach the most serious importance to the problem of empty properties, and they occur in all sectors. There are too many properties empty in the local authority sector and there are too many privately owned empty properties. The Government are taking steps across the board to encourage bringing properties back into use. In particular, we are encouraging local authorities to develop local empty properties strategies to identify those homes that are empty, to take action to bring them into use and to put in place supportive measures with other bodies, such as registered social landlords, that can help in that process.