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Labour: coalition’s £30m is peanuts to pathfinders

Labour has launched a campaign to secure extra cash for councils dealing with the aftermath of the axed housing market renewal programme.

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Around 30 authorities have been left to complete the half-finished work of the 11 pathfinder organisations, which Labour set up in 2002 to tackle failing housing markets in the midlands and the north of England.

The campaign, spearheaded by Graham Jones, Labour MP for Haslingden and Hyndburn, aims to calculate the cost of fixing problems left by the government’s decision to stop funding the £2.25 billion programme. Research by Inside Housing this year revealed that almost 1,000 households were left living in abandoned communities.

Mr Jones, whose constituency includes the east Lancashire pathfinder area, described the £30 million ‘lifeline’ offered last month by the government to help deal with blight in five HMR areas as ‘peanuts’. ‘[Housing minister Grant] Shapps is guilty of moral dereliction and the most cynical politics that housing has in seen in some time,’ he said. ‘[He] just wants us to remove people from the area and leave the council to deal with the problem.’

Research submitted to his office already indicates that the government’s £30 million pot with fall far short of local authorities’ inherited liabilities. The five councils covering the Pennine Lancashire pathfinder would alone require two-thirds of the budget to meet its ‘prioritised liabilities’ according to a briefing paper by Pennine Lancs Place, an organisation representing the five councils.

A submission to Mr Jones’ office by Liverpool’s Newheartlands pathfinder said abandoned properties were at risk of collapse and could become magnets for crime. The document also reveals that Hull Council had been issued with a ‘blight notice’ to force it to buy a property devalued by regeneration work. The authority has objected to the notice.

Housing minister Grant Shapps said the blight on communities was caused by the pathfinders themselves. ‘There was far too great an emphasis on demolition, which lead to the blighting of whole communities,’ he added.

Mr Shapps said the government was investing £7 billion in housing renovation and construction schemes.


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