Memorandum by National Association of
Councils for Voluntary Service (NACVS) (GRI 11)
1.1 NACVS is the National Association of
Councils for Voluntary Service. NACVS welcomes the opportunity
to respond to the Urban Affairs Sub-Committee's Inquiry into The
Effectiveness of Government Regeneration Initiatives.
1.2 NACVS is the growing network of over
300 Councils for Voluntary Service (CVS) throughout England. We
help to promote voluntary and community action by supporting our
member CVS and by acting as a national voice for the local voluntary
and community sector.
1.3 A CVS is a voluntary organisation that
is set up, owned and run by local groups to support, promote and
develop local voluntary and community action. CVS support their
members by providing them with a range of services and by acting
as a voice for the local voluntary and community sector. Usually
funded by the local authority and other local statutory agencies,
there is a CVS working in almost every district and city in England.
Individual CVS differ in character and size, although they usually
work to the same geographical boundaries as the local authority.
They also differ in name. Many are called CVS, while others might
be called Voluntary Action or Voluntary Sector Council.
1.4 In so far as this Inquiry is concerned,
it is worth noting that CVS across the country are actively engaged
in, and support, the involvement of local groups in a wide range
of area-based and other regeneration initiatives.
1.5 In preparing this response, NACVS has,
in the short time available, consulted our members. This has involved
a paper-based survey (which was backed up with an option to respond
electronically via our website) and a consultation meeting, which
was held at our Annual Conference on 11 September. The points
outlined below are based on the written and verbal feedback that
we have received from our members.
2. SCOPE OF
CVS INVOLVEMENT IN
2.1 As indicated in paragraph 1.4, CVS are
actively engaged in, and support, the involvement of local groups
in a wide range of area-based and other regeneration initiatives.
Research commissioned by NACVS in 2001 and undertaken by Sheffield
set out the extent to which CVS were at that time involved in
a range of government initiatives. Examples included Welfare to
Work programmes, Health Action Zones, Lifelong Learning Partnerships
and Community Safety Partnerships. The report also highlighted
CVS involvement in broader regeneration initiatives, such as the
Single Regeneration Budget and New Deal for Communities (NDfC).
2.2 In the months since the research was
published, the extent of CVS involvement in regeneration and strategic
partnership work has increased. Indeed, the role of CVS in this
area of work has been explicitly recognised in separate Government
guidance to local authorities on Local Strategic Partnerships
and on the development of Community Strategies.
In the 88 local authority areas that are in receipt of the Neighbourhood
Renewal Fund (NRF), CVS are, with the assistance of the Community
Empowerment Fund (CEF), playing a lead role in promoting the development
of voluntary and community sector participation in LSPs. Across
the country, CVS are also working with local authorities and other
public bodies to develop local compacts, which are helping to
underpin the relationship between the various sectors involved
in regeneration work.
3. RESPONSE TO
3.1 The contribution of area-based initiatives
to broader regeneration initiatives and regional strategies.
3.1.1 Many of the respondents to NACVS'
survey felt that Area Based Initiatives (ABIs) have contributed
to broader regeneration. Respondents said that ABIs have led to
the physical improvement of neighbourhoods, have helped build
the capacity of those involved, have provided a clear focus and
have led to improved voluntary and community sector participation.
3.1.2 However, a message from many respondents
is that ABIs require a greater degree of local co-ordination,
need to take a holistic approach by linking social, economic and
environmental issues and need to be linked to other local developments.
In particular, it was felt that LSPs have the potential to bring
together the different parts of the public, private and voluntary
and community sectors to ensure that ABIs and mainstream services
support each other.
3.1.3 Respondents raised difficulties associated
with ABIs, and these will be set out in the points that follow.
3.2 The characteristics of successful
3.2.1 Respondents to NACVS' survey felt
that the key characteristic of successful regeneration is the
effective participation of local groups and communities. Without
effective participation, regeneration becomes a top-down process,
which has a negative impact on the sustainability of the regeneration
work. The Government has taken positive steps to enhance participation
and ownership, notably through the CEF and Community Chests. Whilst
these resources are welcomed, they are only available in the 88
NRF areas. Consequently, effective participation in non-NRF areas
is a greater challenge. Further points will be made on this aspect
of the Inquiry in section 3.3.
3.2.2 Genuine partnership working is also
regarded as a key issue by those who responded to NACVS' survey.
Despite the progress that has been made in recent years, it is
felt that many statutory organisations still "do regeneration
to local communities", rather than with them. In addition,
it is felt that many statutory agencies lack a genuine commitment
to partnership working, and regard it as a means of accessing
funding. The development of effective local compacts is seen as
a key tool to ensure that partnership working is genuine, and
recent Government moves to strengthen and broaden the compact
3.2.3 There is also a need to continue the
capacity building work within local authorities and other local
public sector organisations working locally and regionally to
ensure that they understand the role, culture and value of local
voluntary and community sector organisations.
3.2.4 The way in which ABIs have been rolled-out
has also caused concerns, with time-scales and targets creating
the greatest difficulties. Tight time scales and a focus on quick
wins has not helped build partnerships. Respondents to NACVS'
survey argued that long lead in times are required, and that programmes
need to be delivered over a six- or seven-year period.
3.2.5 As indicated in 3.1.2, it is felt
that successful programmes take a holistic approach, and recognise
the cross-cutting nature of issues that face deprived communities.
3.3. Involvement of local communities
3.3.1 It is worth repeating that the key
characteristic of successful regeneration is the effective participation
of local groups and communities. Respondents to NACVS' consultation
felt that community participation is essential if real change
is to be achieved. One respondent described it as the "Holy
Grail of regeneration".
3.3.2 NACVS' survey revealed concerns about
the "cherry picking" of community representatives and
tokenism. Mechanisms need to be in place to ensure that representatives
are representative. Reporting back mechanisms are also vital.
It is felt to be important to involve communities from the earliest
stages, but it is recognised that involving hard to reach groups
is difficult, and requires support.
3.3.3 Respondents stated that successful
regeneration requires community ownership. It is argued that communities
need to be encouraged and supported to put forward their own project
proposals. Greater resident control over assets and budgets is
3.3.4 Measures of community participation,
such as those being developed by the Audit Commission or used
by Yorkshire Forward,
may be of assistance in demonstrating effective participation.
3.3.5 Support for community participation,
such as that provided by the CEF, should be made available across
3.4 Democratic accountability
3.4.1 Once again, respondents felt that
the way to improve democratic accountability was through effective
community participation and the community ownership of assets.
Respondents questioned the role of local councillors, and referred
to the dominance of local political agendas. It is felt that there
is a need for clarity over the role of elected councillors on
3.4.2 It was widely felt that local authorities
and other statutory agencies have tended to agree decisions, and
then try to carry communities with them. Equally, it is felt that
the fact that many local authorities do not let go and act as
"accountable bodies" means that they retain power and
control. As set out in 3.3.3, there is an argument for assets
being owned or controlled by communities.
3.4.3 Suggested ways of improving democratic
accountability include the election of community representatives,
as has happened in NDfC partnerships; and ensuring transparency
of decision-making, including opening up partnership meetings
and utilising mechanisms for participation and feedback.
3.5 Whether and where area-based initiatives
have brought about sustained improvements to deprived communities
3.5.1 A number of respondents referred to
the physical improvements that regeneration initiatives had brought
to localities. However, others commented that the focus of regeneration
has been too narrow, focusing only on the physical. It is argued
that regeneration is most effective when physical improvements
are matched by the upskilling and development of communities.
3.5.2 Comment was also made on the difficulty
of measuring the benefits that ABIs might have delivered, with
respondents stating that it is too early to say that ABIs have
delivered benefits. It is argued that further research is required.
3.5.3 Most importantly, it is argued that
ABIs have brought about sustained improvements to deprived communities
when there have been high levels of community participation and
ownership. This, respondents argue, requires support, which needs
to be sustained over a period of time.
3.6. What arrangements need to be put
in place at the end of a regeneration initiative to ensure that
benefits to local residents continue
3.6.1 In addition to the section dealing
with the characteristics of successful regeneration and community
involvement (see 3.2 and 3.3) this issue prompted the greatest
response from NACVS' members.
3.6.2 Respondents argued that sustainability
needs to be built-in from the outset, with clear forward planning
and exit strategies. On-going support, particularly to enable
community participation, is essential.
3.6.3 Resources are, unsurprisingly, seen
as a key to continued success. Many of the problems of deprived
neighbourhoods require long-term investment and commitment from
all partners. The mainstreaming of particular initiatives is seen
as essential if any benefits delivered by the scheme are to continue.
This requires resources to be found from elsewhere.
3.6.4 Means of transferring ownership and
management of assets to the community should be considered. Community-based
organisations, such as neighbourhood trusts, can ensure sustainability
at the end of a project. Resident ownership, or at least an influential
role in managing the project from the outset, is a key to ensuring
3.7 Whether policy has taken account
of long term impacts as well as the outputs created
3.7.1 Many respondents to NACVS' survey
said that the long-term impact was difficult to measure. This
is exacerbated by the short term nature and output-driven agendas
of some regeneration initiatives. However, examples were given
where the delivery of mainstream services has been influenced
3.7.2 Several comments were made about the
reporting processes, and the fact that they are often output driven.
One respondent said: "reporting is so output driven that
I'm not sure whether people know about long-term impacts. We can
tell how much we have done to how many people, but not what lasting
difference it has made." This focus on output figures has
led to the impression that some initiatives have not been strategy
3.7.3 However, respondents working in NRF
and NDfC areas commented that both of these initiatives appear
to have a greater commitment to long-term outcomes.
3.8 Whether initiatives have had an effect
on the major Government and local government programmes
3.8.1 Comments on this aspect of the Inquiry
were cautiously optimistic. Respondents to NACVS' survey said
that lessons from earlier initiatives seemed to have been learned.
It is felt that the way in which the NRF has been rolled out has
been influenced by earlier initiatives, in that local support
and involvement is integral to the initiative.
3.8.2 Local governance has been influenced
and in particular, the level of community participation is increasing.
However, there is a long way to go and further support for local
groups and communities is required if their participation is to
become truly effective.
3.8.3 The current emphasis on bending mainstream
funding, it is argued, appears to have been influenced by the
recognition that ABIs cannot bring about long term sustainable
regeneration by themselves. Although it is acknowledged that in
practice, bending locally available funding to meet local needs
will be difficult, given the wide range of targets that are set
for local authorities and other local public sector bodies by
3.8.4 Despite the cautiously optimistic
views voiced by respondents, it was felt that there has not been
sufficient evaluation of past initiatives and that community participation
is not embedded.
3.9 Whether lessons have been learned
from previous initiatives, such as City Challenge, and applied
to new regeneration initiatives, such as New Deal for Communities
and Local Strategic Partnerships
3.9.1 Whilst lessons have been learned,
and in particular community participation has increased through
initiatives such as the CEF, it is felt there are other lessons
still to be learned.
3.9.2 It is felt that the time and resources
given over to partnership building have been inadequate. In NRF
areas, too many key decisions had been made by LSPs before the
CEF was available.
3.9.3 Impossible deadlines and quick wins
are cited as a continuing problem. Respondents felt that there
was pressure on those involved in NDfC partnerships to spend the
resources available to them quickly. It is felt that this eroded
confidence and led to a situation where large organisations were
able to respond more quickly than small groups, and thus attract
funding for their projects.
3.9.4 Despite these criticisms, many respondents
felt that LSPs were trying to bring all sectors together and offered
real opportunities. It was also felt by some respondents that
LSPs should not be seen purely as regenerative initiatives, and
that the focus of LSPs is much broader.
3.10 How the Government should decide
when to introduce an area-based initiative, and whether there
are successful alternatives
3.10.1 There was a large degree of consensus
from respondents that ABIs should only be introduced with the
consent of local residents. Respondents said that the Government
should "listen to local people", "not impose own
ideas", "recognise the value of local knowledge"
and "let local people decide, but be prepared to support
them". It is argued that "one size does not fit all".
3.10.2 In terms of alternatives, it was
suggested that effective LSPs are in a position to work with communities
to make decisions and offer a "sustainable way of doing regeneration".
One respondent argues that LSPs should have independent staff
and should not be overly influenced by the political considerations
of the local authority.
NACVS is pleased to be able to respond to the
Inquiry, and looks forward to having an opportunity to expand
on the points contained in this memorandum. From the responses
to our survey it is apparent that two key themes emerge. Firstly,
successful and sustainable regeneration requires effective community
participation. Indeed, it requires community ownership. Secondly,
resources are required to support the building of community capacity,
Although CEF is welcome where it is available, a long-term strategy
is required to ensure that all communities have adequate support
to enable them to engage in community regeneration.
6 The Role of Councils for Voluntary Service in
the Social Inclusion Agenda, Sarah Pearson and Gareth Morgan,
Voluntary Sector Research Group, Sheffield Hallam University,
Local Strategic Partnerships: Government Guidance, Department
of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, March 2001. Back
Preparing Community Strategies: Government Guidance to Local
Authorities, Department of the Environment, Transport and
the Regions, December 2000. Back
Active Partners: Benchmarking Community Participation in Regeneration,
Yorkshire Forward, March 2000. Back