§ Mr. Jim Cunningham
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps his Department is taking to encourage people to take part in community action for the purposes of civic renewal. 
§ Fiona Mactaggart
[holding answer 12 January 2004]: The Home Office recognises that local communities are best placed to define and solve their own problems and that they should be able to work with the relevant authorities and organisations in a flexible way. This approach is termed civil renewal and can be applied across areas such as policing, criminal justice, and the work of drug action teams.
In terms of policing and police reform, for example, in the last six months three police authority areas have been identified—Cheshire, Merseyside and Northumbria—to test out new ways to engage with communities. The lessons they learn will be fed through to the work of a Practitioner Panel which will identify and share good practice in citizen-focused policy and community engagement.
Reform of the criminal justice system will continue to address the challenge of developing more effective community engagement, so that individuals and communities affected by crime can play an active part in solving the crime-related problems in their local areas, and can feel greater confidence in the criminal justice system.
As another example of the civil renewal approach, the Home Office is monitoring what drug action teams across the country do to engage local communities. Progress is good, including a grants scheme for black and minority ethnic community groups to carry out research into the health needs of their communities and generate ideas for service improvements.
The Home Office is currently consulting the community and voluntary sector about practical ways to build capacity in communities in order to achieve civil renewal. It has also recently launched the Active Citizenship Centre, which is the centre for research in best practice and case studies of civil renewal.