HC Deb 23 June 2004 vol 422 cc1321-2
1. Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South) (Lab)

What steps his Department is taking to support the development of crime and disorder reduction partnerships. [179829]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Yvette Cooper)

Local authorities have a statutory duty to work with the police and other agencies in local crime and disorder reduction partnerships. More than a quarter of neighbourhood renewal funds are spent on local crime and community safety projects supporting the work of the partnerships.

Ms Taylor

The Safer Stockton partnership, which has received beacon status, has reduced house burglaries by 13 per cent. over three years an excellent achievement that has been delivered by street wardens. How will that body of excellent people be funded in future?

Yvette Cooper

I congratulate the Safer Stockton partnership, which was highly rated by the beacon council panel. My hon. Friend is right to say that neighbourhood wardens and street wardens are making a huge difference—in fact, the in independent evaluation found that there was a 28 per cent reduction in crime in the first wave of areas in which wardens were used. Of that first wave, 80 per cent. have found continuing funding, and we are examining ways in which to expand the programme further.

Mr. Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar) (Con)

It is no use the Minister saying that she is examining other funding methods. The wardens were introduced in a pilot scheme, which was extended local authorities such as Stockton were encouraged to take them on, and the Prime Minister, in extending the schemes, said that they were very popular. Then, the Government pull the rug out from under local authorities and withdraw the funding. Is not that the clearest example of the Government imposing burdens on local authorities and transferring public expenditure by way of their favourite stealth tax, the council tax?

Yvette Cooper

I welcome the hon. Gentleman back to the Commons. I hope that he is recovering well. I am only sorry that he is continuing to talk nonsense. As he well knows, neighbourhood warden programmes have been extremely successful and, as I said, 80 per cent. of schemes across the country are already picking up continuing funding. He talks about burdens on local government, but what sort of burden would be imposed by a £2.5 billion cut in the local government budget? I wonder whether Conservative spokesmen actually speak to each other. The hon. Gentleman ought to talk to the shadow Chancellor and get to the bottom of the funding problem. It is true that wardens need continued funding; we are providing that from various sources, whereas his party would cut it.

Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab)

I have met my local superintendent, Alasdair Hope, to discuss the crime and disorder reduction partnership in my constituency. The police have raised the planning impact assessment with me and want to know whether pressure can be brought to bear on new development. Four thousand new houses have been built in the area in the past five years, and a further 9,000 are due. If housing estates were better designed, crime would decrease. How can we improve the system?

Yvette Cooper

My hon. Friend is right to say that well designed public spaces and estates can have a big impact in terms of preventing crime. Working with the Home Office, we have produced guidance on designing out crime, and I encourage his local partnership to have a look at that guidance.