Letter: Efforts to regenerate Newcastle's deprived areas

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Sir: I have represented the Benwell Ward, adjoining the Scotswood and North Benwell areas featured in the Independent on 24 February, for the last 26 years. The statistics demonstrating appalling levels of unemployment, poverty and crime cannot be gainsaid. The people of the West End of Newcastle, as in so many other urban centres, are the casualties of government economic and social policy.

But it would not be true to say that no one is attempting to improve matters. Despite serious cutbacks in local services forced by government capping of council services, there has been a substantial investment in the area, particularly in housing, with millions of pounds being spent in refurbishing both private and council housing, many of them in schemes involving recruiting and training local labour.

The Newcastle Business Park immediately to the south has become successfully established, and employers such as British Airways are seeking to recruit from the local community. The City Challenge programme aims to enhance training and employment opportunities as well as to improve the physical environment and the health of inner-city residents.

The City Council has for many years worked with the community to develop specific local projects, and we were much encouraged by the success of the Urban Crime Fund initiative which has led to a significant reduction in crime over the past twelve months. Unhappily, the Government has significantly reduced the funding available to the police authority and the extent to which that success can be continued remains to be seen.

Substantial long-term investment in the area and its people, and co-ordination of arranging government policies, from crime prevention to social security benefits and education and training, will be required to effect long- term change. In seeking to achieve these objectives, the City Council will continue to work in partnership with central government and the local community, which continues to demonstrate an amazing resilience by throwing up concerned and active citizens to fight for their area, despite facing in their personal lives the unremitting pressures of poverty and deprivation.

Yours sincerely,

JEREMY BEECHAM

Leader of the Council

Newcastle upon Tyne

24 February

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