The Government has no strategy for tackling deprivation and regenerating run-down inner city areas, MPs have claimed.
A scathing report by the Commons Local Government committee, including West Midland MPs James Morris (Con Halesowen & Rowley Regis) and Mark Pawsey MP (Con Rugby) slammed Ministers for cutting regeneration funding and ending a scheme designed to improve housing stock.
The end of Housing Market Renewal Funding, which provided more than £100 million to refurbish and rebuild homes in the West Midlands alone, had left some families “stranded in appalling conditions”, the MPs said.
Ministers published a document called Regeneration to enable growth setting out its regeneration policy in January this year, but the MPs said: “It lacks strategic coherence and does not seek to define what is meant by the term ‘regeneration’.
It is unclear about the nature of the problem it is trying to solve and to what overall outcome the measures set out will contribute.”
The committee was critical of the decision to scrap a scheme called Housing Market Renewal, which was introduced by Labour to transform housing stock in the North and the Midlands.
The Treasury spent £1.2 billion on housing market renewal from 2002-08 and £1.04 billion in 2008-2011.
Although the last round of funding was always due to come to an end this year, there had been calls for the Government to announce a new round of cash.
Clive Betts, the committee chairman, said: “People have been left stranded in appalling conditions: many are owner occupiers, often vulnerable people with no other options. The Government must act to help these people and to eradicate the blight in so many neighbourhoods.”
However, the Housing Market Renewal scheme has also been criticised in the past by the Audit Commission, the independent spending watchdog.
An Audit Commission study warned in 2007 that a £95 million spent on improving housing in the poorest neighbourhoods of the West Midlands had been used to demolish 525 properties while only 191 were built.
The Local Government Committee also accused the Government of failing to provide sufficient resources for regeneration or to attract badly needed private sector investment.
But they praised initiatives such as Tax Increment Financing, which will allow councils to borrow money to invest in infrastructure, and Enterprise Zones, which provide tax breaks to firms in designated areas.
Giving evidence to the committee earlier this year, Local Government Minister Grant Shapps insisted that sometimes the best thing that the Government could do was to “allow space” for the private sector to invest.
He said: “If you think about the Bullring in Birmingham, which I think is the biggest retail regeneration anywhere, or was at the time, it would have been quite tempting to conclude that this really rundown, horrible old Bullring that was long past its sell-by date could only be regenerated through public funds.
"No, there was another way of doing it. Sometimes you need to allow the space for those things to happen.
“We’ll shortly be announcing additional funding to help those people living in the worst-affected streets, and we’ll continue to untie the hands of councils and residents so they can make the key decisions over how they would like to improve their own neighbourhoods.”