Britain unveils model plan for Liverpool face lift

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

The city of Liverpool, scene of some of the worst rioting Britain has witnessed for generations, is to become the venue for a major program of urban regeneration and renewal.

The government, local citizens, and Liverpool business concerns will join forces to make a serious assault on economic and social decay.

The plan was unveiled Aug. 5 in Liverpool by the specially appointed "Minister for Merseyside," Michael Heseltine, who has spent the last three weeks in the city examining at first hand the background to last month's violence.

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Mr. Heseltine is environment minister in Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet and was assigned to special duties in Liverpool in the knowledge that his recommendations would probably be accepted as a model for programs in other cities where rioting was fierce.

The theme of Mr. Heseltine's package for Merseyside is "do it yourself." District authorities in Liverpool will each select a special area of housing estates and mobilize citizens into a program of home improvement and rebuilding.

Builders and other craftsmen will be taken off the unemployment register and assigned jobs on the housing estates. They will recruit young unemployed people and offer them on-the-job training as refurbishment proceeds.

Another part of the Heseltine plan calls for urgent building of new private houses in inner city areas. Mr. Heseltine wants building firms to work with housing associations and local authorities to produce an urgent construction program.

The government will also help to set up small workshops in vacant business premises and school buildings. They will offer training to unemployed youngsters.

At first the workshops will receive official financial backing, but in a year they will be expected to begin paying their own way.

Mr. Heseltine says the help and advice of local business concerns will be crucial in ensuring the success of the entire package of measures.

Solving Liverpool's inner city problems will be a lengthy job, Mr. Heseltine admitted, and much will depend on Britain's economy. He said he had taken an urgent approach to an urgent problem, and had tried to create conditions where the enthusiasm of the citizens themselves could be harnessed.

The aim is to get the Liverpool schemes operating as quickly possible, monitor them carefully, and then begin adapting the ideas for application in large cities like London, Manchester, and Birmingham.

One measure of his success has been congratulations from leading opposition Labour Party figures, who say his program for Merseyside deserves support locally and nationally. But a parliamentary report published Aug. 6, criticized Mrs. Thatcher's government for doing too little to combat racial disadvantage -- especially in Liverpool.

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