HC Deb 26 February 1985 vol 74 cc96-7W
Dr. Hampson

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what proposals the Government have to improve the co-ordination and effectiveness of their programmes for the inner city areas; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

The Government are making a very substantial contribution to help improve economic and social conditions in deprived urban areas. They are determined to improve both the cost-effectiveness of the various departmental spending programmes and the coordination of Departments' efforts. Therefore, the Government are setting up five teams to be called city action teams which will comprise the regional directors of the Departments of Environment and Trade and Industry, and Employment-Manpower Services Commission. One team will serve the three London inner city partnership areas (Hackney, Islington and Lambeth) and there will be separate teams for the partnership areas of Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester-Salford, and Newcastle-Gateshead.

The three Departments will share the leadership of the teams to reflect the joint commitment of Departments to improve the delivery of urban policy. The Department of the Environment will lead two of the teams, the. Department of Trade and Industry two and Employment-MSC one. The extension of the teams' work to other urban areas will be considered as experience develops. Further details of the teams and their leadership will be announced shortly.

The task of each team will be to secure improved co-operation between Departments in developing and implementing their policies and programmes reflecting the local circumstances in the partnership areas. They will work closely with the local authorities and the private and voluntary sectors. They will build on and strengthen the existing working arrangements, for example between Government Departments and the local authorities through present partnership links. Within the framework of departmental policies the teams will establish priorities relevant to the needs of each area; they will establish joint arrangements for co-ordinating departmental programmes; they will monitor systematically the output from local programmes and projects; they will develop opportunities for joint funding between departmental programmes; and they will provide a point of contact for external sources of finance.

The scale of existing financial resources being provided for the partnership areas through many Government programmes is substantial in recognition of the many special problems which they face as a result of long-term structural, economic and social change. In 1984–85 the partnership areas are expected to receive over £130 million through the urban programme; the MSC expects to spend of the order of £100 million on employment and training measures; and DTI expects to spend some £35 million on assistance to industry. The review of the regional policy map last November brought two more partnership areas within the scope of regional assistance to industry. These resources, and the measures announced today, will help to ensure maximum opportunity for all concerned to release the skills, energy and physical resources in our cities.

Complementary to the initiative for city action teams, but serving a separately defined purpose, I propose to establish a new unit within my Department to be called the Urban Housing Renewal Unit and be headed by an assistant secretary. Its task will be to advise local authorities on ways of promoting on council estates a greater degree of private investment, a wider variety of tenure and more effective and efficient management. For this purpose it will draw on the expertise of the priority estates project and of the Department's housing services adviser and will bring in expertise from the private sector. Its activities will not be restricted to the partnership areas.