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Last Updated: Friday, 14 July 2006, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
Cameron 'will restore community'
David Cameron
Mr Cameron met workers at the Acme whistle factory
David Cameron has vowed to restore Britain's sense of community.

In a speech in Birmingham, the Tory leader said people increasingly felt like "strangers on our own streets".

And he wanted to put the voluntary sector and local democracy at the heart of a drive to restore local pride and give communities more control.

The speech was the latest in a series on "wellbeing", as Mr Cameron seeks to project a more caring image for the Conservative Party.

The Tory leader admitted the last Conservative administration "was not always kind" to local democracy but, he argued, Tony Blair had gone "so much further in binding and controlling it".

Community 'crisis'

Mr Cameron said there had been positive developments under Tony Blair, including devolution in Scotland and Wales and the growth of elected mayors in some cities.

But regional bodies had usually claimed powers from local councils rather than central government.

"I believe that we are experiencing a crisis of community. Social networks are shrinking," said Mr Cameron.

"Neighbourhoods are suffering for the simple reason that people don't know each other."

He said the problem could be described "in a single word: dislocation".

"Too many of us are strangers in our own streets," he said. "People don't feel at home in their own communities - they don't feel that the public space is their space."

All too often the community was "what you pass as you go to and from home and work", he went on.

Voluntary organisations

Mr Cameron said the Tories would abolish unelected regional assemblies, and move away from ring-fencing of funds from central government.

Labour had also created a system that was "institutionally hostile to voluntary bodies and community groups", he said.

And less than 0.5% of government spending went on voluntary organisations.

Mr Cameron made his speech at a community centre in Balsall Heath, where Mr Cameron has links with a residents' association, Street Watch, which is tackling anti-social behaviour in the area.

He earlier met workers at the Acme whistle factory.

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