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Fair rules for strong communities

Fair rules for strong communities

CABINET OFFICE News Release (CAB/115/08) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 2 December 2008

The Prime Minister sets out the Government's 'fair rules' agenda today, outlining a wide range of policy initiatives designed to support strong communities.

Published on the eve of the Queen's speech the 'Fair Rules for Strong Communities' strategy sets out a comprehensive series of reforms covering welfare reform, crime and policing, children and young people, business rules, immigration and communities, which are designed to bring people together and steer the country through the global economic downturn.

Building on the action taken to deliver real economic help to families and businesses, the strategy sets out over fifty measures to strengthen the rules that tie communities together, strengthen enforcement, and provide for clearer consequences for rule-breakers. This includes a new 'one strike rule' for benefits cheats under which they could lose their benefits for up to four weeks.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said:

"We believe in providing real help for families and business now, when they need it. But it also means taking action to ensure our communities are strong. Stronger communities, quite simply, will help our country come through these times faster and stronger.

"So as government takes action, we expect people to play their part in return, with clear consequences for those who do not. In a fair society that is what people would expect.

"In Britain, we have always believed there can never be one rule for some, and another rule for others. Rules must apply to individuals, communities and businesses alike."

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said:

"People want to see fair rules that apply to everyone, and have a fair say in their communities. This is particularly true in tough economic times. We are - and will continue - to support people who really need our help. But, no-one should be in any doubt if you intend to take more out of the system then you put in, you won't get away with it. Rights matched by responsibilities: that's the fair way."

Major steps being taken by Government to promote and maintain fair rules in key areas include:

Welfare reform...
* a new 'one strike' rule for benefit cheats. Government will reinforce the existing two strike rule with a penalty for first time benefit fraud offenders under which they can expect to lose their benefits for four weeks;
* a tiered system for those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA). Claimants who have been on JSA for several months will have to accept any suitable employment that is offered to them. After six months they will be allocated a personal adviser and have to agree to a demanding programme to improve their employability;
* a requirement that from October 2010 lone parents with a youngest child aged seven or over will no longer be entitled to Income Support solely on the grounds of being a lone parent, instead those able to work may claim JSA; and,
* piloting Voice Risk Analysis technology to help assess whether a benefit claimant is providing misleading information.

Crime and policing...
* a tougher community payback scheme. Offenders will wear a uniform and undertake hard community work for several hours a day, with communities themselves directly identifying local projects;
* a new Victims' Commissioner to give victims and witnesses a stronger voice in the justice system, protecting their interests and ensuring fair treatment;
* steps to support people who do the right thing, including a £5m Community Crime Fighters programme to train 3,600 members of the public who are already active in their communities and want to do more to make them safer; and,
* ensuring that public sector workers and other authority figures are empowered and supported in upholding fair rules. We have already given new powers to teachers, for example to search pupils. Assaulting someone who is providing a public service is now an aggravating factor that may lead to a tougher sentence. We will go further.

Children and young people...
* supporting young people to play by the rules by increasing funding for out of school community facilities and activities - making sure that kids have things to do, especially on weekend nights;
* more Family Intervention Projects to provide intensive personal support to 20,000 families in severe difficulty by 2011 to help them get back on track; and,
* a joined-up Youth Crime Action Plan to deal with that small minority of young people who break the rules. This combines tough enforcement with earlier and better prevention, and non-negotiable support for those who need it most.

Businesses and town centres...
* reclassifying lap dancing clubs as 'sex encounter establishments' to allow councils to take into account a wider range of local concerns;
* considering proposals to create a new code for alcohol retailers including a mix of mandatory national conditions for all retailers, such as limits on 'all you can drink' promotions, and locally targeted conditions on 'problem retailers';
* working with local authorities to make it easier for local people to register their concerns about irresponsible and illegal alcohol sales;
* ensuring that local communities and their authorities have sufficient powers to prevent the clustering of betting shops in areas where this is a problem; and,
* a new push to ensure that credit card companies treat customers fairly in these difficult economic times.

Immigration...
* a new requirement that from April 2009, migrants contribute directly towards a new fund that will help local service providers deal with the short-term pressures of migration;
* reforms to the immigration system, including a new selective points-based system to ensure Britain attracts economic migrants who have the skills our economy needs - and no more; and,
* enforcing strict penalties against immigrants or their employers if they break the rules, including the establishment of new partnerships between local authorities and enforcement agencies to gather intelligence, disrupt illegal activity and track down immigration offenders and failed asylum seekers.

Empowerment...
* ensuring people have a fair say in determining the rules by placing duties on all local authorities to promote democratic understanding and participation and respond to petitions, and extending the recently introduced 'duty to involve' to a wider range of agencies in local communities;
* enhancing the ability of community representatives to hold councils to account, ensuring swift and fair redress for poor services; and,
* giving people a greater say over their local police, including the introduction of directly elected policing representatives.

Notes to editors:

1. For more details on specific policies please contact the relevant department press office:
- Communities and Local Government - 0207 944 4605
- Home Office - 0207 035 3535
- Ministry of Justice - 0203 334 3536
- Department for Work and Pensions - 0207 962 8000
- DCSF - 0870 0002288

2. The Department for Work and Pensions have today published the Gregg Review - setting out how more people can be helped off benefits and into work. The Prime Minister and Work and Pensions Secretary, James Purnell, will be visiting a Pathway-To-Work venture, a service which helps give the unemployed the tools and training to get back into the jobs market. Pictures will be pooled in the usual way.

3. 'Fair Rules for Strong Communities' is a cross government report produced by Communities and Local Government and the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit, working with other government departments.

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