PM demands funding to fight antisocial behaviour

In a letter leaked yesterday, the Prime Minister demanded that the department run by his deputy, John Prescott, contribute up to £30m towards his drive to restore a culture of "respect" in society. He has also asked the Department for Education and Skills for a similar amount, which the Home Office has already agreed to stump up.

Mr Blair's letter highlights a power struggle that has been going on in Whitehall since he promised a drive on "respect" after the general election in May. Mr Prescott blocked the appointment of David Blunkett as "minister for respect". The job was given to David Miliband, a more junior member of the Cabinet, working under Mr Prescott at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM).

Amid resistance from the Home Office, which wanted to keep control of the so-called "yobs agenda", Mr Blair took over the chairmanship of a cabinet committee on antisocial behaviour to try to end the infighting.

In a letter to Mr Miliband last month, the Prime Minister asked the ODPM to work closely with the "respect" unit.

Mr Blair said: "I am firmly of the view, though, that the 'respect' programme of work will not be able to function and deliver the kind of results we are all hoping to achieve without clear and dedicated funds from the relevant departments."

Showing his impatience to make progress on the issue, Mr Blair said the funding need not necessarily be transferred to the "respect unit", but "does need to be tracked by them with you, to take action now and deliver results".

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