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Volume 700: debated on Tuesday 25 March 2008

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Hazel Blears) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today reporting on the ad hoc ministerial group on regeneration in Manchester that met for the first time on Monday 17 March 2008. This fulfils the commitment made by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport during the debate on gambling policy on 26 February 2008 that the group would produce its first report by the end of March.

The group, which I chair, includes the Secretaries of State for Culture, Media and Sport; Innovation, Universities and Skills; Work and Pensions; Transport; Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform; and Health, as well as the regional Minister for the North West, the leader of Manchester City Council and the chair of the Northwest Regional Development Agency. Other Secretaries of State or the chairs of key partner organisations, such as English Partnerships, may be invited to take part in the group.

The Government are committed to further regeneration in Manchester, and the group exists to co-ordinate this task. The aim is to help generate an equivalent number of jobs to those that a regional casino could have delivered and to foster greater long-term growth that benefits the people of east Manchester. The agenda is therefore an ambitious and wide-reaching one which will offer real benefits to the residents of east Manchester and beyond.

The knowledge economy and innovation

The group supports Manchester’s emerging role as a centre in the international knowledge economy, and believes that the residents of east Manchester should be a part of this. The Secretary of State for Health announced on 19 March 2008 that a national Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) will be created in Manchester, attracting top-flight research expertise, generating jobs and improving outcomes for local people. The group will look at how residents of east Manchester can benefit from improved health outcomes and jobs from this investment.

The NWDA is developing plans to improve higher speed broadband provision and access, targeted at those places, such as Manchester, which are internationally competitive in the knowledge economy. NWDA and its partners will work to ensure that the residents of east Manchester benefit from any improvements.

Regeneration through sport

The group has prioritised development of the Sportcity area of Manchester and supports the creation of a partnership between Manchester City Council and English Partnerships to oversee public investment in this. CLG and EP have worked together to secure an additional £10 million funding so we can see early and substantive progress.

Housing-led regeneration

Increased spending on housing will be a vital ingredient of this regeneration; £52 million additional funding is available for housing market renewal in Manchester and Salford in 2008-09, bringing the total to £230 million since 2003. The group will look at further additional funding, and Ministers are currently considering an application for growth point status.

A world-class workforce

The Government’s ambition is that residents of deprived areas should compete at the highest level in filling current vacancies, setting up new businesses and attracting inward investors. The group will prioritise work on a potential national skills academy for hospitality in Manchester, which could provide 9,000 training places and 200 jobs. Additional skills academies are a possibility, although as with the proposed hospitality academy, the process is competitive and so the outcome cannot be guaranteed.

HEFCE is undertaking an important study of demand for higher education in east Manchester, and the group expects to receive that report by September and will take forward its recommendations.

The highly successful Urban Regeneration Company (URC), New East Manchester Limited, has created and safeguarded 3,000 jobs. The group supports plans to extend its life so that it can build on this success and ensure that east Manchester residents benefit from further new jobs and opportunities.

Government and the Greater Manchester local authorities are working hard to create a multi-area agreement, one of the aims of which is to improve the way people are supported from worklessness into employment. The group cannot pre-empt these discussions, but would factor the MAA into its work. There are major potential benefits to the people of east Manchester from a successful MAA.

The bigger picture

The ambition of the group is to join up the many ways government and the public sector already work to ensure better outcomes for the people of east Manchester. This is not another “strategy”, but practical co-ordination and leadership to make the most of opportunities and build on existing strengths. For example, the group will take an active interest in the Network Rail study of the Manchester rail hub, given the potential regeneration benefits. The group welcomes the creative thinking from Manchester about further developments, for example a possible BMX centre and rugby centre of excellence. All proposals obviously need to find funds according to relevant criteria, but the group is there to offer support and ensure that the process is co-ordinated.

The group will be alert to other opportunities that may arise. For example, if any public agency decides to relocate in accordance with the Lyons review, the group will be supportive of Manchester City Council and its partners in seeking to maximise the benefits for east Manchester.

We must learn the lessons from this work with Manchester so other cities and communities can themselves advance their regeneration plans. Some of what works for east Manchester may work as well in other places, and we are grateful to Manchester for engaging with us in this exercise.