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The BBC's Niall Dickson
"Fighting poverty is a top priority"
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The Prime Minister, Tony Blair
"Government can offer partnership to local people...but government can't do it all for people"
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Monday, 15 January, 2001, 17:31 GMT
Labour highlights assault on poverty
Tony Blair and estate resident
The prime minister met members of the local community
Details of a 130m bid to tackle poverty on some of Britain's most deprived estates have been outlined by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The money is being made available to help create posts for "neighbourhood managers", community-driven projects and local authority initiatives.

Labour's neighbourhood renewal schemes have been announced and re-announced before

Archie Norman
The regeneration plans highlighted by Mr Blair on Monday were first unveiled by Chancellor Gordon Brown last October.

Conservative environment spokesman Archie Norman attacked the new announcement as nothing more than a "re-heated pre-election gimmick".

'Past failures'

During a visit to Stepney, east London, Mr Blair said the policies of previous governments on inner-cities had failed to tackle social exclusion.

"We have still not succeeded in giving everyone a share in Britain's economic success ... there are still whole areas, not just individual people, excluded from society's prosperity.

"Our aim has to be to spread prosperity to every part of Britain, every town and village, every estate in our cities."

Tony Blair
Tony Blair was joined in Stepney by cabinet big guns

Mr Blair called for a change in the "fundamental philosophy of government" and attacked many previous job creation schemes for offering mainly "short-term improvement".

During the 1980s inner-cities were written off as a hopeless case and this led to a divided society - "its social fabric torn in parts", Mr Blair said.

As he spoke, community leaders on the nearby Ocean Estate, one of the most deprived in London, welcomed the plans.

Cora Murphy, from the partnership that is already spending 56m to revamp the estate, said: "I've worked on 13 regeneration projects and this is the most exciting because it is community-led."

Tory attack

The Director of the New Deal for Communities on the Ocean Estate, Nasir Uddin, said the government's Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy had a chance where other regeneration schemes had failed over the last 20 years.

"Previous schemes involved the government throwing money at deprived areas and saying, 'sort out your problems'.

"This might have had a short term benefit, but the long term problems of communities cannot be solved unless they are involved at every stage of the regeneration."

After Mr Blair's visit the Conservatives attacked the new launch of the initiative.

Gordon Brown: Announced the scheme last year
"This is a re-heated pre-election gimmick," said Mr Norman. "Labour's neighbourhood renewal schemes have been announced and re-announced before.

"This is a case of you have paid the tax so here are the re-announcements."

He said Labour had fragmented the existing regeneration budget into "a thousand incoherent, politically correct particles".

'Poor poorer'

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Don Foster accused the government of "recycling" spending announcements.

He said it could not hide the truth that under New Labour "the rich have got richer and the poor poorer".

But later Local Government Minister Hilary Armstrong defended the strategy as she gave details in a Commons statement.

The aim was that within 10-20 years no-one should be "seriously disadvantaged" by where they live, she told MPs.

Strategy aims

By 2005 no area should have a burglary rate three times higher than the national average and by 2004 no local education authority should have less than 38% of pupils getting five "good grade" GCSEs.

The government will put 45m into at least 30 of the new neighbourhood management projects.

In a sign of the government's determination to flag up the initiative ahead of an expected May election, a phalanx of cabinet ministers attended Mr Blair's speech in Stepney, which was then followed by a string of photo-opportunities.

A Downing Street spokesman said the presence of so many senior ministers "sent a signal that tackling social exclusion is not just the responsibility of one part of government, but of all different parts of government, working together".

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See also:

15 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Stepney flooded with ministers
10 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Boost for inner cities
02 Oct 00 | Conservatives
Hague promises inner-city revival
15 Jan 01 | UK
Here goes the neighbourhood
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