Written statement to Parliament

August 2011 riots

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Statement by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles on the response to the August 2011 riots

I am grateful to Darra Singh and the other members of the Riots, Communities and Victims Panel for their work on their independent review into last year’s public disorder. They have presented us with a substantial report that seeks to identify steps that can be taken to strengthen social and economic resilience in the aftermath of last August’s riots. We value the importance of the panel’s work and will publish further information on the government response to the panel’s report in due course.

Riots recovery

On 12 August 2011, as part of a concerted, cross-government action, the government announced a series of measures to help rebuild communities following the riots and public disorder in the summer of 2011.

The package provided immediate and ongoing support to open up shops and rebuild buildings which were damaged, make sure people who lost their homes were re-housed, and to help councils get their areas back to normal as quickly as possible.

Under these schemes, local councils played a pivotal role in providing support to local firms and local residents, with central government reimbursing their costs. I would like to put on the record the thanks of Her Majesty’s Government for the work of local government in giving clear and determined leadership to their communities.

The Department for Communities and Local Government reimbursed councils’ immediate costs of around 10 million to make their areas safe, clear and clean again and to help councils reduce business rates, finance emergency building repairs and encourage customers back to affected areas. It also reimbursed councils for potential losses from New Homes Bonus payments as well as for immediate costs of just under 400,000 to re-house those made homeless by the public disorder.

We also recognise the leadership shown by the Mayor of London and local authorities across the country in driving recovery in their areas. Their leadership helped galvanise the community and brought people together to reclaim and rebuild their neighbourhoods. Salford celebrated local pride by launching an ‘I love Salford’ campaign as an act of defiance against the looters. Manchester made sure people understood what help was on offer by knocking on doors and helping to complete forms. The Mayor provided immediate advice to those affected through a dedicated website and helpline as well as supporting the charitable High Street Fund. The Mayor has also created a Regeneration Fund to create jobs and economic growth in the worst affected areas.

Local authorities also provided their own funding or facilitated access to other funding. For example, the Croydon Enterprise Loan Fund provided interest free loans up to 10,000 to affected businesses and the Tottenham Fund in Haringey raised around 50,000 and received donations of clothes and goods for displaced families. Councils such as Ealing started making emergency payments to businesses within a week of the disorder working swiftly to overcome bureaucracy.

Government played its part, but communities themselves led the way and got on with the job of repairing the damage. We saw some remarkable examples of kindness - people coming together and giving their time and energy to cleaning up streets in the mornings after the disturbances, helping victims through donations of money and goods and affirming their pride in the places they live and work.

Riots damages and insurance

Separate to these actions, residents could potentially also claim back costs from their insurers and/or police authorities.

The vast majority of individuals and businesses who suffered losses as a result of the riots last August have received a payout. Police authorities have concluded 95 per cent of all valid active uninsured claims made under the Riot (Damages) Act. Of those who have insurance approximately 95 per cent of individuals and 92 per cent of small to medium size businesses have received a payout from their insurer. There are also a number of claims to be settled by police authorities who are seeking reimbursement of costs they have paid to policy holders, so far 81 per cent of these cases have been dealt with. The majority of cases that are still outstanding in police authorities are being delayed as a result of required information that has not been sent by the claimants or insurance companies.

While every effort has been made to support and compensate victims, we are reviewing the Riot (Damages) Act to ensure that it is fit for a modern policing world.

Policing reform

The scenes of disorder last year were unprecedented in modern times and we are working with the police to take forward recommendations of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s report, The Rules of Engagement: A Review of the August 2011 disorders. Significant progress has been made, including ongoing development of information and intelligence gathering; testing of swifter mobilisation capabilities; and, consideration and enhancement of the broad range of tactical responses required for policing disorder. Reform is an ongoing process and the work underway will help ensure the police maintain the sharpness to respond effectively each and every time.

The Panel’s report also notes the need to improve engagement between the police and local communities. We know the public want a permanent and visible police presence in their communities, working alongside them to identify and tackle the issues that matter to them. The police should work openly and in partnership with all members of their community. From November, Police and Crime Commissioners will be responsible for ensuring that local people’s voices are heard and acted upon and make sure that the police are delivering the priorities of the local community.

Social policy review

Alongside responsible steps to strengthen our capabilities to deal with any future disturbances should they arise, Government is taking forward action to address some of the more entrenched issues highlighted in the Panel’s report. We have conducted a review of social policy which has built upon existing programmes of work that were in place to address some of these issues, such as enhancing the support provided to parents.

The importance of early intervention and good parenting was brought out strongly in the Panel’s report. We know that the experiences children are exposed to in the very early years and before birth - social, economic, psychological and environmental - affect their health, wellbeing and outcomes in later life. The Government is increasing the number of health visitors by 4,200 and, for some of the most vulnerable families, doubling the number of places on the Family Nurse Partnership programme by 2015.

To support good parenting from the start, the Government is also retaining a network of Sure Start Children’s Centres accessible to all families and focussing support on those who need it most. Evidence shows that universal stigma free services can play a crucial role in reaching the most vulnerable families as well as helping to improve outcomes for children. We are also trialling providing access to universal high quality parenting classes to mothers and fathers of young children.

We gave local councils much greater flexibility over how they use their funding, to enable them to work with local partners to prevent families reaching crisis points. In addition we have provided up to 11 million of funding over 2011-13 to the voluntary and community sector to deliver national online and telephone support services, including specialist support to help parents when they need it in dealing with a wide range of issues including relationship advice and dealing with children with behaviour problems.

Alongside expanding existing areas of work, the social policy review has led to the development of a further programme of action aimed at reducing crime and re-offending; supporting families and parents; welfare and work; supporting young people; and accelerating regeneration in our cities.

Troubled Families initiative

The Troubled Families programme is targeting those families that would benefit most from help to turn their life around. Troubled families include those with adults out of work, children not in school and families who are committing anti-social behaviour and crime. Through tackling the root causes underlying a family’s problems the programme will turn around the lives of 120,000 families by getting parents into work and children attending school. All 152 eligible councils have confirmed that they are ready and willing to run the programme in their area and are now well in to drawing up their lists of families so that help can get in there quickly. The programme is focusing on the most difficult families, but it will also help drive effective support to a wider number of families who are struggling but who are not the most disruptive or chaotic.

As well as addressing the family’s needs, we are taking action to improve young people’s life chances through a number of wide ranging reforms aimed at raising the educational attainment of disadvantaged pupils. These reforms include the Pupil Premium, the Academy and Free schools programme and strengthening teacher’s powers to tackle bad behaviour in schools.

Tackling gang and youth violence

We know that a significant proportion of young people involved in the disturbances had links with gangs. The cross-Government Ending Gang and Youth Violence report, published in November 2011, contains a series of actions for central government and a set of principles and good practice examples to help local areas tackle the problem. Implementation of the report commitments is underway, including the provision of expert support to 29 areas most affected by gang and youth violence.

Training and employment

We recognise that a successful passage to adulthood is best served by work. As the Panel’s report highlights, we need to make sure that young people have the skills they need to get ready for work. That is why we are overhauling vocational education and have created the biggest apprenticeships programme our country has ever seen. We are determined to bring down the number of young people who are not in education, employment or training through making continuing in education and training to 18 compulsory and supporting those most in need via the Youth Contract which will provide additional support worth almost 1 billion, to young people over the next three years. As part of the Contract 160,000 wage incentives worth up to 2,275 each are now available to employers who recruit an 18-24 year-old from the Work Programme for at least 26 weeks. From late July 2012, in selected ‘youth unemployment hotspots’, wage incentives will be available via Jobcentre Plus to employ 18-24 year olds who have been claiming for 6 months.

Effective justice

The Panel’s report highlighted the number of rioters with a large number of previous criminal convictions. Last year, the Government published innovative plans to reform how we punish, sentence and rehabilitate offenders. We are already taking active steps to strengthen community sentences to stop less serious offenders getting to the stage where custody is necessary, with more intensive community payback, longer electronically monitored curfews and bans on driving and foreign travel. But we want to go further and have just consulted on proposals which include a clear punitive element in every community order handed down by the courts. In addition, since March 2012 all prison leavers that claim Jobseekers’ Allowance will be mandated immediately onto the Work Programme. We are committed to improving the speed and efficiency of the criminal justice system, building on lessons learned from the swift response to the riots, and are setting out the work we are taking forward in the White Paper: Swift and Sure Justice: the Government’s Plans for Reform of the Criminal Justice System, published today.

Alongside this we are taking forward policies to start tackling the high number of repeat offenders. We are making prison places of meaningful productive work and training where more prisoners are expected to work a full week and we are testing drug recovery wings which aim to get offenders off drugs for good. We are also implementing Payment by Results pilots, which will pay providers according to their success in reducing re-offending rates.

We are committed to legislating to extend landlords’ powers to seek possession where a tenant or member of their household is convicted of an offence committed at the scene of a riot.

Punishing criminals

The acts of selfless kindness shown by many, contrast starkly with those who robbed and looted, acting as a reminder that the riots were perpetrated by a reckless minority.

Government has sent a strong message to those that took part in the riots that acts of mindless criminality will not be tolerated. Those involved have been brought swiftly to justice. As of June 2012, 1,968 people were found guilty and sentenced. 1,292 people received immediate custody and their average sentence length was over four times longer than the average sentence for similar crimes in 2010 (based on those found guilty at the magistrates’ court but sentenced at any court). Those sentenced to immediate custody were given an average custodial sentence length of 16.8 months. This compares to an average custodial sentence length of 3.7 months for those convicted at magistrates’ courts, but sentenced at any court for similar offences in England and Wales in 2010.

Through these actions and the programme of work outlined in this response, we are confident that we are building strong foundations to address the issues raised in the Panel’s report.

But there is one clear overriding message: the rioters were criminals. Such opportunistic criminality was not and will not be tolerated.