HC Deb 20 November 2001 vol 375 cc169-70
9. Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South)

What assessment he has made of the impact of transience and population mobility on the ranking of seaside and coastal towns within the index of local deprivation. [13560]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Ms Sally Keeble)

There is no assessment of transience or population mobility in the Indices of Deprivation 2000, although it was considered. We are confident that the index picks up deprivation in seaside and coastal towns, as 18 of the 81 most deprived districts in England are coastal local authorities.

Mr. Marsden

Bearing it in mind that Blackpool is currently the 51st most deprived in that index, does the Minister agree that many of the people coming to seaside towns, particularly for employment, present with multiple deprivation problems? Will she therefore give an undertaking to work closely with her colleagues in other Departments on cross-cutting measures that will improve the analysis of the standard spending assessment for education and social services, on which coastal and seaside towns are currently at a disadvantage?

Ms Keeble

I pay tribute to the work that has been done by my hon. Friend and other hon. Members who represent seaside towns in looking at the difficulties in their areas. One reason why we did not accept the argument about transience and population mobility is that it is not necessarily a sign of success if a population remains in an area for a long time, and indeed it might be a sign of disadvantage. In recognition of the difficulties in coastal and seaside towns, the Government are spending over £297 million in those areas through neighbourhood renewal funds and the single regeneration budget. The groups studying local authority funding are also considering some of the issues that my hon. Friend identifies.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk)

Is the Minister aware that many members of the transient population visiting towns like Hunstanton in west Norfolk often like to play machines in amusement arcades? Is she aware that the future of those arcades is threatened by the Budd report, which may possibly lead to a significant loss of jobs and a rise in local deprivation indices? What is her view of the report and the damage that it may well do?

Ms Keeble

Quite a few of us have been lobbied on the report, but it is not for my Department to consider; the decision is being taken by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Dr. John Pugh (Southport)

Would the Minister support, or at any rate consider, a cross-departmental regionally based regeneration unit as advocated by the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Geraldine Smith) in a debate in the Chamber last week?

Ms Keeble

I have already set out the amount of money that is going into seaside areas. If the kind of scheme for the coalfields were available to seaside towns, it would have two elements. One allows for discretionary spending of about £80 million, which is much less than seaside towns currently receive. The larger element of the coalfields funding is for land decontamination, which is a completely different issue. I appreciate the difficulties that seaside towns have; the Government recognise them and are providing funding. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is looking at some of the problems faced by those areas; in total, there is a very good package to deal with their problems.