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Housing Renewal Pathfinders

Volume 405: debated on Wednesday 14 May 2003

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5.

What impact housing renewal pathfinders are having on the areas they cover. [112944]

The Minister for Social Exclusion and Deputy Minister for Women
(Mrs. Barbara Roche)

We have invested £2.66 million in each scheme so that long-term, robust plans to revitalise communities can develop. The first tranche of £4 million funding is available for radical action to begin this year, and more for those moving ahead with completed plans.

Is the Minister aware that communities such as Thurnscoe, East and Mexborough in my constituency are already benefiting from the funding that she is providing? The number of empty and void properties in my constituency, which can attract antisocial behaviour and are often the cause of disorder and nuisance, is diminishing. Does the Minister agree that if we are to continue to be successful in the pathfinder areas, we must adopt a bottom-up approach that will give local communities a direct input into resolving the problems in the housing areas where they live?

I agree and I know that the Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) visited the pathfinder in my hon. Friend's constituency—and was impressed by what he saw. It is essential to secure community involvement and the schemes are predicated on the fact that the community will be involved. It is also right to target measures to reduce antisocial behaviour.

Does the Minister accept that many pathfinder areas are precisely those with a predominance of houses at the bottom end of the council tax bandings? If the rebanding goes ahead and a half-A or minus-A band is introduced, what will be the impact on councils of a significant increase in council taxes marginally up the bands? Will the nearly poor be required to pay yet again for the very poor?

The right hon. Gentleman makes important representations. He will know that no decision has been taken on rebanding, but I shall view his representations as part of the process.

I welcome pathfinders in areas such as my own where the housing market has completely collapsed, but rather than more plans, strategies and assessments, people want to see a visible sign of change on the ground. Can the Minister assure me that the pathfinder area in Burnley and Pendle will be adequately resourced so that crumbling and rotten houses can be torn down?

I have to say that that is exactly what is happening. Action is being taken on the ground. I have seen the pathfinders in action and demolition is taking place. Some of the old crumbling houses are going; new mixed housing is taking its place; and communities are being revitalised. The involvement of local people and action plans are necessary to achieve that.