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Conservatives Monday, 2 October, 2000, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Hague promises inner-city revival
Hague and shadow cabinet members
Mr Hague and his colleagues want to revive inner-cities
William Hague has set out a raft of radical measures to breathe new life into Britain's inner cities, using finance from private companies.

The Tory leader says he wants to launch a tough crackdown on crime, drug-dealers and failing schools as part of a new social agenda.

Inner-city policies
'Cops in shops'
Regeneration firms to attract investment and set up new schools
GPs paid to come out of retirement
Demolishing 1960s' tower blocks
Private cash for extra police
Appointing regeneration minister
The plans include tearing down 1960s' tower blocks and introducing "cops in shops" - putting police officers in local shops so they have a higher profile in local communities.

Regeneration companies would pump new money into inner-cities and have the power to encourage the setting-up of new schools.

A special regeneration minister would be appointed to speed up action on planning, crime, health and education.

And doctors who have taken early retirement would be given financial incentives to practise part-time in the inner cities, where healthcare needs can be greatest.

'Halt the exodus' pledge

Mr Hague was setting out the ambitious plans on the first day of the Conservative Party conference in Bournemouth. They are part of the party's outline manifesto, Believing in Britain.

run-down buildings
The Tories want to revive the inner-cities
Launching a document called Believing in our Cities, the Tory leader said the proposals "form a central part of the bold, new social agenda for our party, an agenda that shows we are ready for government".

He pledged the conference would promise to set businesses free, go to war on crime, determine to ensure Britain was in Europe but not run by Europe, and to keep the pound.

But the focus on regenerating inner-cities was part of a broader social agenda.

Seeking to head off criticism that he was adopting a far-right agenda, Mr Hague promised a government for all people, saying his party wanted to halt the "exodus" of talented families from inner cities.

"In the last 30 years we have seen a huge exodus from all of our inner cities as middle-income families have moved out to the suburbs, putting enormous pressure on our precious Green Belt," he said.

London, for example, had some of the most deprived areas alongside some of the wealthiest.

'Planners' monstrous mistakes'

The exodus had resulted in high unemployment, poor schools, high crime and drug problems, Mr Hague said.

It's time once again to be ambitious for our inner-cities

William Hague
Law-abiding families and pensioners were kept prisoner in their homes by drug dealers, he said.

Inner-city estates and tower blocks had rabbit-warrens of crime.

Mr Hague promised: "In our first term, we will demolish some of the very worst examples of those monstrous mistakes of the 1960s' planners.

"The concrete tower blocks. These have blighted the lives of so many people for far too long."

There would be a simplified planning process to promote "brownfield" development, he pledged.

Private capital

"It's time once again to be ambitious for our inner-cities," he said, to make them places where people wanted to live.

Regeneration companies would "drive forward the renewal of our major cities in every urban area that needs special assistance".

They would be able to raise private capital and would be headed by private sector executives.

They would be allowed to buy in extra policing to make people feel more secure, and make the police far more visible on the streets.

"We will put an end to Labour's fragmented and uncordinated approach," Mr Hague said.

Labour hits back

The plans for schools would give greater freedom to heads and parents, he promised.

The regeneration companies would "encourage the setting-up of new partner schools providing education for all, but run by the private sector, charities, voluntary groups, religious organisations or parents and teachers".

On health, Mr Hague repeated the Tory pledge to match Labour's spending on the NHS but said more was needed to attract GPs back to deprived areas, possibly by boosting their pensions.

A Labour spokesman said putting regeneration projects in private hands would spell disaster for many areas.

"Coming after the Tories' privatisation agenda for pensions, this is another extreme privatisation measure which will mean the end of current regional policy," he said.

"It shows the Tories are unconcerned about employment and will leave deprived areas to sink."

The BBC's Mark Mardell in Bournemouth
"They will stress they can govern for the whole country"

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See also:

20 Sep 00 | UK Politics
01 Oct 00 | Conservatives
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