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Eric Pickles MP: How we're helping to rebuild communities hit by the riots

PICKLES ERIC 2009 By Eric Pickles, Local Government and Communities Secretary

Last week we saw shocking images across Britain: shops looted, buildings ablaze, families burnt out of their homes, and businesses, sometimes established for decades at the heart of their local community, going up in smoke.

The emergency services have done an admirable job under very difficult circumstances to bring law and order back to our streets.  As the Prime Minister made clear in his statement to Parliament, they will have government’s full backing to do whatever it takes to keep people safe and bring those responsible to justice.

As the police and justice system tackle the criminals, my priority is to set local communities back on their feet, get businesses up and running again, and make sure nobody is left without a roof over their head. That is why I have announced a multi-million pound support package to help local firms and families rebuild their communities. I have written to council leaders telling them how they can claim this money quickly, simply, and with a minimum of red tape. I will also be leading cross-Government work in the longer term to improve integration and secure economic recovery and regeneration in areas which have fallen behind.

Councils have pulled out all the stops to get their areas back to normal. All over the country, council workers and communities have worked side by side to make their areas safe, clean and clear again. This resilience in the face of adversity shows the best of British, and this Government will support the law-abiding majority as they reclaim their neighbourhoods. In these extraordinary circumstances, my Department is giving extra funding to councils to help with these immediate costs. A £10m recovery fund will help them clear debris from streets and carry out repairs to make pavements and roads safe.

Some of the saddest stories I heard during the riots were those of the shopholders whose livelihoods had been wrecked by looters and arsonists. They have seen their takings stolen, stock ruined and premises destroyed. A new £20m High Street Support Scheme will help councils to get businesses in their areas trading again as soon as possible. Councils will be able to use this funding to reduce business rates, finance repairs to buildings, and encourage customers back to the areas affected by the riots.

The rioters were indiscriminate in the destruction they caused. Innocent families have been left on the street, having lost their homes. We will ensure that no-one is left without a roof over their head because of this mindless criminality. It is councils’ immediate responsibility to provide shelter - but my Department will make sure that those councils have the support they need, and we will foot the bill for providing emergency accommodation to people who have been made homeless by the disturbances.

For those who were responsible for the rioting, there will be tough penalties. The full force of the criminal justice system will be brought to bear to ensure rioters and looters are found and punished, but there will be wider consequences too. Social housing is a precious resource, funded by taxpayers who would quite rightly question why criminals should benefit from a subsidised home in the very communities they trashed, burned and looted during the riots. I have pledged my full support to councils which seek to evict tenants involved in the riots and my Department is consulting on ways to strengthen the power councils have to take tough action against tenants who so firmly and definitively cross the line.

The scenes which we saw on our TV screens and on our streets last week do not represent Britain – but the council workers and communities who are working together to rebuild their communities do. They are showing that we will make our streets clean and safe again, we will rebuild the livelihoods of our shopkeepers and business owners, we will put families back in their homes and we will revive our local high streets and neighbourhoods. The support which I have put in place will help our communities and businesses get back on their feet.


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