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Work of the Department during Summer Recess

Volume 599: debated on Monday 14 September 2015

I would like to update hon. Members on the main items of business undertaken by my Department since the House rose on 21 July 2015.

Starter home boost to first-time buyers

On 10 August my Department launched a new £26 million fund to bring forward land for house builders to demonstrate a range of high-quality homes for first-time buyers.

In a further move to support aspiring homeowners my Department has also made available up to £10 million for local authorities to prepare more brownfield land for development of starter homes.

Careers in construction

The housebuilding industry was devastated by the 2008 economic crash, resulting in the loss of quarter of a million construction jobs. Today the sector is making progress thanks to Government efforts to get the country building.

The Government are committed to driving up the number of apprentices across the construction industry. Last year, saw the start of more than 15,500 new construction apprenticeships—a 14% increase on the previous year.

Rogue landlords

The Government are determined to crack down on the small number of rogue or criminal landlords who knowingly rent out unsafe and substandard accommodation.

On 3 August my Department announced a range of new proposed measures, including a blacklist of rogue landlords and letting agents, the introduction of banning orders for serious or repeat offenders, a tougher fit and proper person test, extending rent repayment orders and introducing civil penalties.

Fairness in the planning system

On 31 August new policy came into force from my Department that strengthens the hand of councils to tackle unauthorised development and ensure all communities are treated equally. The new planning policy will make intentional unauthorised development a material consideration that would be weighed in the determination of planning applications and appeals.

The Government are particularly concerned about harm that is caused by intentional unauthorised development in the green belt. For this reason the Planning Inspectorate will monitor all appeal decisions involving unauthorised development in the green belt to enable direct Government oversight.

After six months we will review the situation to see whether it is delivering our objective of protecting land from intentional unauthorised development.

Coastal communities fund

On 22 August new figures released by my Department showed that thousands of new jobs, apprenticeships and training places have been delivered thanks to community-led regeneration efforts supported by the Government’s coastal communities fund.

The latest figures show there have been almost 3,000 jobs created, 860 sustained and 6,800 new training places and apprenticeships across the UK.

Over the past three years, the Government have invested some £120 million in projects across the UK to help seaside communities achieve their economic potential.

On 3 September, a £2 million grant from our coastal communities fund helped light up Blackpool’s illuminations. This funding will drive investment in the north and help seaside communities thrive.

Helping small businesses reach their full potential

In August my Department announced that local organisations working with small firms would be able to apply for a share of €3.6 billion (currently about £2.6 billion) funding from the latest round of the European regional development fund.

European regional development funds are for the first time being targeted at local enterprise partnership areas in a shift towards more localised spending decisions. The funding will support innovation, boost businesses and create jobs across local economies.

Enterprise zones have attracted thousands of new jobs

New figures released by my Department on 27 August show that enterprise zones are playing a vital role in growing the local and national economy and have attracted 19,000 jobs to sites across the country.

The 24 zones report that they have now attracted £2.2 billion of private investment and more than 500 new businesses across a range of key industries including the automotive, aerospace, pharmaceutical and renewable energy sectors.

Funding for child sexual exploitation outreach service

On 3 August my Department in conjunction with the Department for Education, the KPMG Foundation and Rotherham Borough Council announced £3.1 million of new funding to help children and young people in South Yorkshire who have been or who are at risk of being sexually exploited receive more support.

Victims of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham have been appallingly let down in the past. Through this funding, the children’s charity Barnardo’s—which has been working in Rotherham since September 2013—will employ a team of 15 specialist workers to help those who have been sexually exploited to rebuild their lives.

These new services will support victims as they seek justice through the courts against the perpetrators. We will also work with schools, families and communities to ensure that they are aware of and vigilant to possible signs of sexual exploitation.

New domestic abuse fund now open

Domestic violence and abuse is a devastating crime that shatters the lives of victims and families and this Government are committed to ensuring that we have a strong safety net for anyone who finds themselves in a situation where they are forced to leave their home.

On 24 August we opened bids for a £3.2 million fund announced in the Budget to provide specialist accommodation-based support to victims of domestic abuse.

The July Budget also announced a review of the full range of services currently available to victims of domestic abuse. Its findings will feed into the spending review and an updated violence against women and girls strategy to ensure that victims of domestic violence and their families have access to the support and services they need to keep safe.

Commemorating first world war heroes

On 21 August we marked the first year of the Victoria Cross paving stone ceremonies, in which communities honour local first world war heroes. The commemorative stones—laid in the servicemen’s place of birth or where they lived following the war—provide a lasting legacy to their “most conspicuous bravery”.

Over a four year period, 469 stones will be laid in communities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. They enable residents of all ages and backgrounds to gain a greater understanding of the sacrifices made by local people during the first world war.

Community rights

On 24 July my Department announced that a further 250 communities across England are using the community rights programme to have a greater say on local issues like job creation, health priorities and new development.

Following the launch of the new support programme in February, Government funding is now helping people to apply their skills and local knowledge to making their communities better places to live and work.

Copies of the press notices and associated documents are being placed in the Library of the House.