Transcript of the speech as delivered.
Having recently been through an election I would have thought a lot of you would be fed up with listening to politicians.
Instead I think I should be listening to you.
So, I am only going to take about ten minutes of your time and then I’d like to take this opportunity to hear what this audience of experts has to say.
I am sorry I missed the session before lunch - I would have liked to have heard the combined wisdom of Nick Raynsford, Pam Alexander and Lord Heseltine.
I am sure it was entertaining.
And I am sure there are lots of lessons to learn.
There certainly need to be.
Because despite the previous Government’s stated aim of tackling poverty, sometimes that wasn’t the obvious outcome.
- Today poverty has become increasingly concentrated in urban areas.
- People are finding it increasingly difficult to escape the poverty trap.
- And 50 per cent of those in social housing don’t have a job further entrenching poverty.
Commitment to regeneration
These poverty hot spots lead to over-stretched public services, higher levels of crime, and poor education and health outcomes for too many people.
If regeneration was invented for anything, it was to help these communities.
Yet many of same neighbourhoods that struggle today were struggling 30 years ago.
We cannot allow this to continue.
Frankly, we can’t afford for it to continue.
The five Olympic boroughs have pledged that within 20 years, the communities who host the 2012 Games will have the same social and economic chances as their neighbours.
Not all deprived communities have an opportunity of the scale of the Olympics. But they all have opportunity. It’s embedded in their untapped potential.
We need every part of Britain to play its role in turning around our economy. To seize opportunities: to fulfil their potential so as a nation we can fulfil ours.
As the Prime Minister said, ‘All of us, across Britain, sharing in our prosperity.’
The Coalition Government has pledged to tackle the causes of poverty and inequality.
To protect the most vulnerable in society.
Let me be clear - the Coalition Government is absolutely committed to regeneration.
But we have to take a different approach if we’re going to get a different result.
Localism and Big Society
The mistaken belief that if something is broken, only the Government can fix it, is just plain wrong.
It’s wrong for two reasons:
It doesn’t work and …
It wastes money
The deprived communities in Lancashire I’ve visited several times, experience very different challenges to those of the poorest London boroughs.
And those challenges are best understood locally.
And the same applies when you look at Liverpool and Manchester. Sheffield and Leeds. You will know how people are proud of their differences and that is because they are different.
One size does not fit all.
People know best about how to change where they live.
Yes times are hard. Yes we need to cut the deficit.
But we won’t walk away from places where the market has simply failed. The people who lives are affected know things have to change in their area.
But we will make sure that people have a real say in making the necessary changes.
And sometimes demolition may be the answer - especially if a house has no foundations!
Sometimes the answer will be retrofitting.
Sometimes it will be flats. Sometimes it will be new business areas.
Local people know best.
For too long too much regeneration has been done TO local people, rather than BY local people.
And that is why we are devolving power to neighbourhoods and street level to develop the right plans to drive their areas forward.
The Government is committed to this unprecedented and fundamental devolution of power.
That is why we will ensure that Government and Councillors are held to account by communities for how their money is spent. The power of democracy will ensure that millions of pounds of public cash is spent more wisely and more openly.
We are scrapping regional planning, allowing communities and local councils much greater control and power over their own destiny.
And we are removing the regional tier of Government and abolishing the Regional Development Agencies.
Regional Spatial Strategies.
And top-down housing targets.
Instead, through Local Enterprise Partnerships, we are placing responsibility for economic development with the people who really understand the challenges and opportunities their area faces.
So they can chart their own economic future.
These reforms together with a new general power of competence for local authorities will make it easier for local councils to lead the regeneration their communities desire.
But it’s not just about central Government stepping back into the shadows.
We have to create the right conditions to enable local communities to step forward into the limelight.
To enable communities to take the lead we have to give them the right incentives, tools and information.
The Community Organisers and Community First programmes will encourage more social and community action, encouraging people to work together to improve their quality of life.
Regional Regional Growth Fund
Despite the need to address the deficit, this Government recognises that we will need to support the most vulnerable places through this transition.
That is why we have set up the new £1 billion Regional Growth Fund.
It will play a central role in rebalancing the economy in those regions most reliant on public sector spending, by increasing private sector employment and growth.
Regeneration can help us make the best of our assets and our people.
It can help areas adapt to new roles, and improve the distribution of wealth and opportunity.
It can restore social justice, and reduce community tensions.
And as the country adapts to a smaller state, regeneration can play a vital role for communities, by fostering a sense of solidarity and hope.
Lord Heseltine will confirm that the most important thing is getting people working together to tackle problems for themselves. I agree.
That is why I am here today. You’ve heard what I think - now I want to hear how you think we can get people working together.
To give people the belief that they can change their lives for the better, for themselves and for their communities.