Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda


Memorandum by The Regeneration Practice (GRI 04)

THE CONTRIBUTION OF AREA-BASED INITIATIVES TO BROADER REGENERATION INITIATIVES AND REGIONAL STRATEGIES;

  WHETHER LESSONS HAVE BEEN LEARNED FROM PREVIOUS INITIATIVES LIKE CITY CHALLENGE, AND APPLIED TO NEW REGENERATION INITIATIVES SUCH AS NEW DEAL FOR COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS, HOW THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD DECIDE WHEN TO INTRODUCE AN AREA-BASED INITIATIVE, AND WHETHER THERE ARE SUCCESSFUL ALTERNATIVES.

WHETHER POLICY HAS TAKEN ACCOUNT OF LONG-TERM IMPACTS AS WELL AS THE OUTPUTS CREATED:

  The movement away from Challenge Funding where bids are locally led and administered in Single Regeneration Budget partnerships towards more Area Based Initiatives (ABIs) led by the Regional Development Agencies under single pot funding is counter to the effective management of regeneration, as it ignores an essential precept of success, subsidiarity.

  That is to say, the principle that:

    "authority should reside at the lowest level commensurate with the necessary information and resources for making and implementing decisions, with the onus of proof on those who would move powers to a higher level."

  If you buy into this precept, it means Government should do (but only do) those things where it has a demonstrable comparative advantage. The more remote the power over regeneration is from the individual, the greater the tendency to stylise assessment and monitoring procedures in a predetermined way to suit purely aspirational political objectives. On grounds of efficiency, I would question why there should be any regeneration strategies beyond local or individual control.

  Area based strategies led by the RDAs and the reorganisation of funding into a single pot has created further distance from local delivery agencies and decisions on funding programmes. Government has not learned that the effectiveness of previous City Challenge and Single Regeneration Budget delivery agencies related to the close proximity of funding decisions to local organisations, local delivery and monitoring; and that by increasing this distance it is encouraging:

    —  the creation of false partnerships between the public and private sectors where patently the market is in control, such as the Urban Regeneration Companies.

    —  the alienation of local companies, organisations and individual risk takers in the delivery of regeneration initiatives in favour of larger organisations with greater power to present and influence regional government.

    —  a counterfeit vision of success by Government because "one size fits all" audit procedures become the self fulfilling focus for regeneration programmes, designed around audit and monitoring, rather than local projects, social enterprise and risk taking .

    —  a focus for regeneration skills upon form filling, aspirational presentation and networking with regional and local government officials rather than social enterprise and results on the ground.

  I therefore suggest that while Government may perceive a good contribution by area-based initiatives to broader regeneration initiatives and regional strategies, such a contribution may, in fact, be wholly unsustainable, and the product of a self-serving audit by Government of itself.

  A successful alternative to ABIs would be to build upon the previous Challenge Programme format using a locally administered Gap Funding investment grant, adjusted to take account of the social as well as the market gap. Such an approach would build up a more sustainable approach by building up local risk takers and the delivery agencies themselves, rather than the auditors and managers of centralised regeneration programmes.

WHAT ARRANGEMENTS NEED TO BE PUT IN PLACE AT THE END OF A REGENERATION INITIATIVE TO ENSURE THAT BENEFITS TO LOCAL RESIDENTS CONTINUE, AND THE CHARACTERISTICS OF SUCCESSFUL REGENERATION SCHEMES

  1.  Not for Profit Ownership of Risk: Driven by a social entrepreneur (not spatial, market or political strategies). A market owner of risk will (correctly) only strive for profit with any public outcome being an incidental result of planning gain

  2.  The Creation of Sustainable Social Capital from Risk:

    (a)  Taking risk to create property ownership and sustainable revenue streams by the not-for-profit sector;

    (b)  Taking risk to expand the local skills base in social enterprise.

DEMOCRATIC ACCOUNTABILITY, THE INVOLVEMENT OF LOCAL COMMUNITIES, AND, WHETHER AND WHERE AREA-BASED INITIATIVES HAVE BROUGHT ABOUT SUSTAINED IMPROVEMENTS TO DEPRIVED COMMUNITIES

  Successive regeneration programmes have failed to connect with local people. New Deal for Communities is intended to achieve broad social goals, on our most deprived "sink estates", and to allay fears that previous regeneration programmes are too much based on physical regeneration without addressing underlying social problems. These concerns were set out in a Report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF): "Social Cohesion and Urban Inclusion for Disadvantaged Neighbourhoods" published in April 1999: "in many cases, it was felt that broader social and economic problems had not been addressed, throwing into doubt the long-term sustainability of regeneration". The Report recommended that new ways are found to involve residents, including handing over all or part of the regeneration budget to ensure their priorities are met, and it blamed Government inspired regeneration programmes for exacerbating existing tensions and divisions.

  However, the ability of community groups to show an interest in Government designed regeneration initiatives has been widely reported as a failure, with most programmes involving local authorities in their bidding and administration. A criticism which reportably extends to Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs). For example, a study by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) on behalf of the Government Office for the North West, published in April 2000, reports that Local Authorities dominate the management of LSPs. Both in their operational style, and in their community plans which are often prepared by local authorities and rubber stamped by the LSP. The failure of ABIs is arguably exacerbating social tensions in deprived areas, as the Cantle Report into the Oldham rioting suggested.

  Government designed programmes cannot be democratically accountable to people if they are administered by Government for local people, but fail to engage at local level.

WHETHER INITIATIVES HAVE HAD AN EFFECT ON THE MAJOR GOVERNMENT AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PROGRAMMES

  The problem goes beyond the design of the application forms or the structure of Government Agencies, but right to the heart of the Government's strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal. Success cannot be led by Government through centrally inspired partnerships and audits, which only succeed in alienation and falsification of outcomes. Real renewal can happen only if Government creates a local environment in which the green shoots of social enterprise are allowed to flourish from the bottom up, by a reformed, locally delivered and accountable Gap Funding Programme, together with fiscal measures to encourage local initiative and courage.

  Pockets of poverty and economic success are simply by-products of unsustainable market activity. Fundamental planning reform and fiscal measures to skew growth into areas of low demand are the key Government programmes with a potential impact on its regeneration strategy. Planning gain through major reform, and fiscal stimulation in areas of economic failure have the potential to create an engine for sustainable growth.



 
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Prepared 28 October 2002