HC Deb 23 June 2004 vol 422 cc1329-30
7. Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley) (Lab)

What assessment his Department has made of the progress of the housing renewal pathfinder projects.[179835]

The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. John Prescott)

Under the sustainable communities plan, we are investing £500 million to help reinvigorate the housing markets in the nine areas that are worst affected by low demand. So far, we have allocated funding to six of the projects, including £68 million to the East Lancashire partnership, which covers my hon. Friend's constituency. We shall announce the funding for two more projects shortly. Each scheme has been independently scrutinised and endorsed by the Audit Commission and we are carefully monitoring progress to ensure that the proposals are delivered.

Mr. Pike

My right hon. Friend knows the importance of the housing pathfinder renewal projects in Burnley and east Lancashire to my constituency. He will understand that I am a little impatient, probably because of the scale of the problem in Burnley. Will he guarantee today that only the Labour party and a Labour Government are committed to working with councils to ensure the continuity of the programmes so that, ultimately, there is a solution to the problem in Burnley and other similar towns?

The Deputy Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. As he knows, I have visited Burnley to see the scale of the problem after decades of disinvestment in housing and the community. He also knows that the project that we have proposed will help. I can confirm that our programme of investing so much money in such areas will make a difference. The Opposition's proposal of an £18 billion cut will mean a cut of £400 million in the housing programme. I therefore cannot give my hon. Friend any friendly advice to vote for the Tory party unless he wants to perpetuate the housing difficulties in Burnley.

Matthew Green (Ludlow) (LD)

The Deputy Prime Minister will be aware that one of the areas that has made the best use of the housing renewal pathfinder projects is Liverpool, particularly in relation to its development of neighbourhood projects. Will the right hon. Gentleman take this opportunity to praise Liverpool city council for the effective use that it has made of this scheme?

The Deputy Prime Minister

I will certainly praise Liverpool, along with many councils. I do not seek to make a political point. As the hon. Gentleman will know, I produced a report on the eight regions, which showed how all the eight big towns and cities involved had developed and had more jobs, less unemployment, and better health conditions and education. That is because central Government assisted the local authorities to improve the quality of life there. So, whether we are talking about a Liberal or a Labour-controlled local council, good luck to them all if they are carrying out Labour's policies.

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