HC Deb 19 May 2004 vol 421 cc963-4
2. Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD)

If he will make a statement on the new deal for communities. [173980]

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

The new deal for communities programme supports 39 severely deprived areas with investment of around £2 billion over 10 years. It has very high levels of community involvement, and the NDCs have reported crime falling and employment and education levels improving faster than the national average.

Mr. Williams

The Minister's assessment contradicts the evaluation of her own Department, which found that community partnerships are stuck in cycles of blame and remain in a continual state of crisis", and that expenditure on administration was in excess of 10 per cent. of total expenditure. When will the Minister get a grip on the scheme and ensure that we get value for money and that the quality of life experienced by people in our most deprived communities is improved?

Yvette Cooper

The hon. Gentleman is talking complete nonsense. The evaluation published by the Department included Professor Lawless's assessment that the NDCs are making progress, and should be commended as they are beginning to deliver a wide range of projects to improve people's quality of life. I am very sorry that the Liberal Democrats want to kick in the teeth the 50,000 people who are involved locally in the new deal for communities and who are making a real difference to their communities and areas.

Mr. Bill O'Brian (Normanton) (Lab)

When considering the new deal for communities, will my hon. Friend take into consideration those communities that do not match the formula for urban renewal, but which could qualify for urban regeneration? There are urban areas in need of consideration for the new deal, and I would ask her to consider those areas that wish to be included in urban regeneration schemes and which would benefit from the Government's programme to help such communities. Will she consider those areas favourably?

Yvette Cooper

My hon. Friend is right that regeneration needs to extend more widely than the new deal for communities. Certainly, the neighbourhood renewal fund is supporting 88 districts across the country, which are making real progress and closing the gap on the national average in terms of employment and education. He is also right that there are other broader areas in which investment and regeneration is needed. That is why the work of the regional development agencies is so important.