Oral Answers to Questions

Jacob Young Excerpts
Monday 22nd April 2024

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson (Putney) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1. What steps he is taking to reform the private rented sector.

Jacob Young Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Jacob Young)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

The Renters (Reform) Bill will have its Report stage on Wednesday 24 April. The Bill abolishes section 21 evictions, moves the sector to a system of periodic tenancies and introduces a private rented sector property portal and ombudsman, improving the system for responsible tenants and good-faith landlords.

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Ministers first promised to end no-fault evictions five years ago. Since then, 85,000 households have been threatened with no-fault evictions, including a constant stream of residents in Putney. Does the Minister not agree that that was ample time to implement the necessary improvements and that the delay has caused immense suffering to people in the private rented sector?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I agree with the hon. Lady that we need to abolish section 21 evictions as soon as possible. When it comes to the Bill, we published the White Paper in 2022, we published the Bill in 2023 and we are bringing forward the Report stage on Wednesday.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the SNP spokesperson.

Anum Qaisar Portrait Ms Anum Qaisar (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

In 2019, the UK Government announced plans to outlaw no-fault eviction notices. However, just last week, the housing charity Shelter revealed that almost 1 million renters in England have been served no-fault eviction notices since that announcement. While the Government seem to be unable to get the rental reform agenda past their Conservative Back Benchers, the Scottish Parliament banned no-fault evictions back in 2017. Does the Minister agree that that is yet another example of the Scottish Parliament delivering for the people while Westminster dysfunction only lets them down?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
- View Speech - Hansard - -

As I said to the hon. Member for Putney (Fleur Anderson), we are abolishing section 21 evictions. The Bill will return to the House on Wednesday.

Steve Double Portrait Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2. What recent estimate he has made of the additional cost to the public purse of councils delivering public services in coastal areas.

--- Later in debate ---
Simon Baynes Portrait Simon Baynes (Clwyd South) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

12. What assessment his Department has made of the potential impact of the community ownership fund on local communities.

Jacob Young Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Jacob Young)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Community ownership can boost local connections and pride of place, and bolster resilience. So far, we have awarded about £103 million to 333 projects across the UK. We are working with an external evaluation partner on an evaluation of the fund. We are already seeing some great examples of COF projects making a real difference to their communities, such as Grow the Glens in Northern Ireland and East Boldre community stores in the south-east of England.

James Davies Portrait Dr Davies
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

There have already been three worthy beneficiaries of the community ownership fund in my constituency: the village shop in Llandyrnog; the Salusbury Arms in Tremeirchion, which the Minister has visited; and Rhyl football club, which hopes to secure the future of its ground, Belle Vue. His Department has been very helpful throughout, but what further advice and guidance can be provided for applicants in future rounds?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I enjoyed visiting the Salusbury Arms with my hon. Friend and raising a glass to the community there. Ahead of round 4, we launched a brand-new expression of interest process, which provides interested applicants with an outcome within minutes. To support applicants at the fourth stage, we have also updated the prospectus and other guidance on gov.uk. We want to help as many communities as possible to benefit from the fund, spreading the benefits of levelling up nationwide.

Simon Baynes Portrait Simon Baynes
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Minister agree that the recent grant of £452,700 to the Owain Glyndŵr hotel in Corwen, in Clwyd South, is a wonderful example of the hugely beneficial impact of the community ownership fund on local communities? The grant will enable this much-loved hotel to play a central role in the town again, and to benefit from the reopening of Corwen station and the other projects in Corwen arising from my Clwyd South levelling-up fund.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting that exciting project, which seeks to secure the future of the Owain Glyndŵr hotel and develop it into a community social hub showcasing the life and history of the area. I agree that the project is a great example of what the community ownership fund seeks to do across our United Kingdom. The fund not only safeguards priceless and much-loved local assets, but supports ambition and builds opportunity in local areas. I will be visiting north Wales in the very near future and will test my diary to see whether it is possible to swing by and say, “Da iawn.”

John Cryer Portrait John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister mentioned pubs that have been rescued and secured for the community, but where historic local pubs, which were at one time hubs of the community, have been wrecked by absentee owners and therefore require capital investment, does he envisage the funding being used in that regard as well?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
- View Speech - Hansard - -

The fund is open to community groups, charities, and town and parish councils. I cannot promise the hon. Gentleman that the pub to which he refers would be eligible, but I am more than happy to meet him following this session to get further details.

Chris Bryant Portrait Sir Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Mr Speaker, I know you know that there could not possibly be a better project to receive funding from the Government than the Rhondda tunnel, which would connect Blaencwm and Blaengwynfi—I am very happy to dangle all the Ministers down the hole and into the tunnel, if they ever want to come and see it. I know the Secretary of State knows all about it, because I had two meetings with him about it several years ago. I have met lots of Ministers who have privately been very supportive and told me to apply for this, that or the other fund, but not a single penny has yet transpired. An official has recently told Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council that it should make a specific exemption for an application for money. Is that still a possibility, to ensure that the Rhondda tunnel comes to pass?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I do not think that the community ownership fund is the appropriate fund. As I have just said to the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (John Cryer), the community ownership fund is open to charities, to community groups and to town and parish councils, but with regard to the hon. Gentleman’s tunnel project, I would be more than happy to meet him and identify what funding opportunities are available.

James Wild Portrait James Wild (North West Norfolk) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

7. What assessment he has made of the potential impact of the towns fund on local communities.

Jacob Young Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Jacob Young)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

As part of their town investment plan, places were required to consult extensively with local communities and to evidence how this feedback shaped their plan. The impact of the towns fund on local communities is also a crucial part of the towns fund impact evaluation, to be published in early 2026.

James Wild Portrait James Wild
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

One success of the towns fund is the breadth of projects, which in King’s Lynn include Shakespeare’s St George’s guildhall, a new community library and adult skills centre and a school of nursing studies. Can my hon. Friend confirm that the very welcome extra £20 million through the long-term plan for towns that Lynn has just been awarded can be used to complement those schemes as well as to secure other investment into the area?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for his commitment to levelling up in King’s Lynn and across Norfolk. Our long-term plan for towns puts power back into the hands of local people. Each town must set up a new town board, comprised of local community representatives and the Members of Parliament for the respective area, who are responsible for developing the long-term plan for their area, underpinned by evidence of extensive community engagement. This plan can include the regeneration projects that my hon. Friend has mentioned, if that is considered a local priority. I look forward to working with him and to seeing the plans when they are finally brought forward.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for his answers. He will recall that I asked some time ago about the Ards and North Down Council’s Whitespots project—a historical project for tourism that relates to the second world war and also to the history of mining in the area. The Minister said that when the Northern Ireland Assembly was up and running, he would be keen to ensure that the project could take place. Can he confirm that the moneys necessary for the project are there, and will he ensure that he, as Minister, does everything he can to make it happen?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he seeks, but I can say that the £30 million that was set aside for Northern Ireland in round 3 of the levelling-up fund has been given to the Northern Ireland Executive as part of the Executive reformation fund. I was in Northern Ireland over the recess, where we were celebrating more than £435 million of levelling-up funding going to Northern Ireland since 2019.

Justin Madders Portrait Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is now approaching five years since the towns fund was launched, promising £3.6 billion of investment to level up the country. Most of it remains unspent, and the cross-party Public Accounts Committee has said that the Department for Levelling Up could not

“give any compelling examples of what had been delivered so far”.

That is a damning assessment of this five years of the fund, never mind after 14 years in power—so, Minister, why are this Government such a failure?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I think that is quite poor, Mr Speaker. The hon. Gentleman’s constituency has itself benefited from £11.1 million of UK shared prosperity funding and £13.4 million from the levelling up fund. Next to him I see the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon), whose constituency has benefited from £24.4 million from the towns fund. Oldham is also the recipient of £10.8 million from the future high streets fund. We are levelling up right across the country, including in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency.

Helen Morgan Portrait Helen Morgan (North Shropshire) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of the level of Government funding allocated to local authorities.

--- Later in debate ---
Flick Drummond Portrait Mrs Flick Drummond (Meon Valley) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

9. What the criteria are for allocation of round 4 of the community ownership fund.

Jacob Young Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Jacob Young)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Our decision-making criteria for the community ownership fund can be found in the published explanatory note on gov.uk. Round 4 window 1 has now closed and will be assessed according to those criteria. Round 4 window 2 will open in the coming weeks.

Flick Drummond Portrait Mrs Drummond
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I was delighted to hear that so many projects have received a large amount of money to take over community centres, heritage buildings, pubs and sporting facilities. The list also includes green spaces, so will the Minister confirm that if a community group wanted to buy part of a chalk stream that is for sale for the benefit of that community, that would be within the scope of the community ownership fund?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss this matter. We have funded similar land purchases, but this will be dependent on the factors locally.

Paula Barker Portrait Paula Barker (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

11. What progress he has made on ending rough sleeping.