Brown pledges community say on criminal seizures

LONDON (Reuters) - Local people are for the first time to get a say on how assets seized from criminals could be spent on improving their communities, Prime Minister Gordon Brown will announce on Tuesday.

Brown will make the promise in a wide-ranging speech on crime designed to seize the initiative a day after he apologised on behalf of all politicians following the publication of embarrassing details of their expense claims.

A poll at the weekend showed support for his ruling Labour party at a record low of only 23 percent, against 45 percent for the Conservatives before an election due by the middle of next year.

Brown will say that 4 million pounds of criminal assets will be immediately available for local projects such as cleaning up graffiti or providing activities for young people, his Downing Street office said in advance of his speech.

Communities would be able to vote for their choice on a website or give their views at neighbourhood meetings on how to use the money.

More than 530 million pounds has been seized since the Proceeds of Crime act came into force in 2003, with 136 million pounds recovered in the 2007-8 financial year.

Until now half of the money has been given to police and other crime agencies.

It was unclear how much money would be available under the new scheme for local projects.

Reporting by Tim Castle