Norman attacks 'fudged' plan for cities

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The government's long-awaited Urban White Paper on the future of towns and cities was dismissed by Tories yesterday as "too little, too late".

The government's long-awaited Urban White Paper on the future of towns and cities was dismissed by Tories yesterday as "too little, too late".

Archie Norman, the shadow secretary of state for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, said that of 105 hard recommendations in the report, only 14 had been met in full. Thirty four were "fudged or delayed" and 57 were either not addressed or rejected outright.

"Many people living in our cities will feel that is a very disappointing tally. Too little and too late," he said.

"People will judge [John Prescott's] statement and the White Paper, not by the grandiose words, but by whether it accepts the hard recommendations made by Lord Rogers and whether it addresses the fundamental criticisms that have been made of government policy in the past."

Mr Norman added that the continuing exodus of people from cities would accelerate as a result of Mr Prescott's commitment to building 900,000 "unwanted" new homes in the south east and 500,000 in the south west.

"There will be 3,000 more homeless in our cities than you inherited, 51 per cent more in bed and breakfast accommodation, 3,000 more empty council houses, rising crime in almost every city in Britain.

"Of all the new jobs they claim to have created, only 10 per cent will be in the inner cities - 300,000 more people, according to Government statistics, living below the poverty line and the exodus from our cities accelerated and not declined."

Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, said the White Paper was a tale of "sound and fury, signifying little" and had missed many opportunities.

"Why is there no proposal for a greenfield development tax to boost brownfield development?" he asked.

"Why is there no proposal to reduce VAT for work to bring back into use the scandalously large number - 750,000 - of empty homes in our country.

"And why are there no real measures to simplify the plethora of regeneration schemes and budgets so bewildering that much of the budgeted money doesn't even get spent."

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