Noise wardens added to Labour's wish list

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US-style "neighbourhood wardens" could be employed to deal with anti-social behaviour and noisy neighbours under proposals being drawn up for Labour's general election manifesto.

US-style "neighbourhood wardens" could be employed to deal with anti-social behaviour and noisy neighbours under proposals being drawn up for Labour's general election manifesto.

Leaked Labour policy documents obtained by the Independent on Sunday show that policy teams are ready to raise local business rates to pay for regenerating Britain's rundown towns and cities.

A National Noise Strategy and measures to deal with other nuisances such as litter and vandalism are among the ideas being presented to Labour's policy forum next month in preparation for the manifesto.

"Evidence from the US and the Netherlands and from concierge schemes suggests that initiatives such as 'neighbourhood wardens' could deal simultaneously with social and environmental problems," said one of the documents.

Open spaces in towns could be given the same protection as the green belt under other proposals being drawn up by Labour's policy groups.

The presumption against development in the green belt will stay, said the policy team on the environment, which called for it to be extended to "other green public spaces in urban areas". Other manifesto ideas include:

A commitment to make the council tax fairer with a review of the tax bands.

Placing all empty property and vacant land on the database currently used to record all urban "brownfield" sites to ensure they are used.

Creating "Home Zones" for pedestrians to curb car accidents in residential areas. More 20mph zones in urban and rural areas.

Placing "wind farms" on offshore sites to stop noise nuisance to residents.

All companies to be encouraged to produce an environmental report. Tax incentives to companies to encourage the use of renewable energy such as solar power.

Giving consumers a voice through a "citizens' commission" to oppose new technologies such as GMOs and to suspend the activities until further knowledge is gained.

Congestion charging to reduce car use in towns with the money going towards public transport.

More trams and light rail schemes in conurbations as part of a 10-year transport plan.

Echoing Tony Blair's enthusiasm for the internet, the policy teams appear to see Britain in the future as a dot.com nation.

One policy paper raised the possibility that voters could be asked to cast their "X" on the internet as a way of encouraging more people to vote.

A policy team on democracy and citizenship suggested Britain could learn from the Democratic Party in the US state of Arizona which used internet voting in its presidential primary in March this year and "saw turnout increase more than sixfold".

Their report said: "These new technologies have the possibility to change the way in which we can vote, and the way in which we can interact with our communities. E-democracy has important implications for strengthening democratic representation through linking electors and their representatives regardless of geographical problems and for parliament and government to broaden the collection of views from both experts and the public on public policy options."

The manifesto will commit Labour to ensuring that everyone can have access to the internet by 2005. Women, the elderly and the housebound will be encouraged to take up access to the internet from home computers.

They said compulsory voting - supported last week by the AEEU union - would be "controversial" and lacks political consensus.

But "community empowerment" harnessed to the internet could go further than simply voting. The world wide web opens up the possibilities of 24-hour access to volunteering opportunities and "virtual mentoring". There could also be occasional referendums on local government issues.

There are now more than 250,000 "silver surfers" - older people using the internet, said the report, and they spend proportionately more time online than younger people. Around 13 million people in Britain already have access to the internet - more than any other major European economy.

"Our target is that everyone who wants it will have access to the internet by 2005," said the report, "whether in the home through a personal computer, digital television or games console, on the move through a mobile telephone or at a nearby public access point."

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