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

Memorandum by Hartcliffe and Withywood Community Partnership (GRI 16)

Para Nos
2.The contribution of area-based initiatives to broader regeneration initiatives and regional strategies
3.The characteristics of successful regeneration schemes
4.Involvement of local communities and democratic accountability
5.End of scheme arrangements
6.Long-term impacts
8.Neighbourhood renewal
1.HWCP Background Information
2.Extracts from HWCP Periodic Review
3.Extract from HWCP Capacity Building Evaluation


  1.  Hartcliffe and Withywood Community Partnership (HWCP) was established in 1998 to lead the regeneration of the local area and to co-ordinate the £12.15 million "Working Together for Change" SRB5 scheme. Controlled by local residents, it creates a new framework, which is led by local needs and focuses on locally led solutions.

  2.  HWCP was recently praised by the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA), "HWCP is a good example to other schemes in the south-west of community-led regeneration. It is a model for the future. Managing an SRB regeneration is very difficult and challenging. HWCP is going in the right direction and is viewed as successful by the Regional Development Agency".

  3.  Hartcliffe and Withywood are two post war estates on the southern edge of Bristol. They now have a combined population of 20,000. When designed, the estates were intended to be self-contained and fully serviced. As was so often the case however, the money ran out and many of the planned facilities did not materialise.

  4.  Combined with the economic recession of the late 1980s, the closure of the Wills' tobacco factory meant that the many people previously dependent upon manual and semi-skilled employment could no longer find jobs. Public transport links to jobs elsewhere in the city were also poor and people suffered the added burden of "postcode" discrimination.

  5.  The failure of a second City Challenge bid in 1992, however, coincided with riots which left Symes Avenue, the commercial heart of the area, ransacked and in a state from which it has never properly recovered.

  6.  Hartcliffe and Withywood were, though, able to attract other smaller amounts of funding which helped contribute to a long period of capacity building in the local community. As a result, the local community was able to work with the Bristol Regeneration Partnership, Bristol City Council and other key agencies to write a bid for SRB funding.

  7.  In July 1999, SWRDA awarded £12.15 million from SRB to help regenerate the area. This is the largest grant to a local community in the southwest. HWCP has to find "match funding" from the public and private sector to reach a total of £32 million overall. The seven-year scheme lasts up until March 2006.

  8.  HWCP is working towards its vision of:

  9.  "A strong local partnership, which will reduce poverty and exclusion in our diverse community by:

    —  creating opportunities for all to work and learn;

    —  improving our environment now and for the future;

    —  making the area a safe and healthy place to live."

  10.  HWCP is a limited company with charitable status. It is run by a 17-strong board of directors, ten of which are directly elected local residents. It employs four full-time and six part-time staff. For more information on HWCP see Appendix 1 or our website [].


  11.  On paper all area based regeneration initiatives should be able to make a contribution to wider strategies. Most do in one way or another. In our view it is the timing of such initiatives that need to be studied before launching. This holds particularly true for those initiatives that wish to engage communities in their management and delivery. In our experience there only so many community activists in any one area and the duplication of some schemes, particularly if boundaries and timescales do not coincide, can overburden already stretched resources.

  12.  However, an equally, if not more important, question, is how do broader initiatives and strategies contribute to area-based regeneration? Our experience of this is very mixed.

  13.  For example, education and health plans are often developed at a city-wide level to meet national targets without properly considering the local impact. For example, proposals to close a school in the area may meet the local education authority's need to reduce the number of surplus places, but does not meet the local education needs of the community. Similarly, a recent new road proposal in an adjoining authority may well be meeting transport objectives but it has not fully considered the potential impact on the economic regeneration of Hartcliffe and Withywood.

  14.  Major prestigious physical regeneration schemes, often in city centres, rarely make proactive links with outer estates to ensure that the benefits of such schemes flow to the residents in them. Work is needed to overcome real and perceived barriers (transport, training, cost, psychological and post code discrimination) to residents of outer estates accessing jobs, services and facilities in such developments.


  15.  The central characteristic of successful regeneration schemes in our view is that of Trust and Local Ownership. We have witnessed the failure of a local authority-introduced financial inclusion scheme because they aligned themselves too closely with an organisation that did not have the financial trust of their community. After a couple of years gap the same scheme was introduced in the area successfully but this time with a trusted community organisation.

  16.  It may not be appropriate for us to judge whether HWCP is a successful regeneration initiative or not, though we believe we are. From our experience key issues are:

    —  Having strong roots within the community, not being imposed. HWCP has benefited from the work and capacity building of a lot of local people and organisations.

    —  Being open, transparent and accountable. Having clear processes which are understood and followed and have been locally determined.

    —  Being community-led and having a high level of community involvement.

    —  Having a proactive communications and information strategy. HWCP produces a quarterly newsletter and annual diary, which are delivered to every household, regular press releases, its own website, organises a range of events and promotional activities.

    —  Having good quality staff with the right skills and supported by good management and financial information systems.

    —  Having the time and resources to do the above.

    —  Supportive partners.

  17.  To be successful, community partnerships such as HWCP have to mange the difficult balance between: community ownership and involvement; the requirements of funding bodies and funding regulations; demands of auditors; and the relationships with the accountable body and the organisations delivering services and projects.

  18.  It is a continuous struggle resolving the tension between (a) the time needed to properly and genuinely engaging with the community (not just token consultation) in identifying problems, agreeing priorities and developing solutions against (b) the pressure to meet funding deadlines, spending targets, local expectations and seeing visible results on the grounds.

  19.  Community partnerships are at the point where "bottom-up" meets "top-down", trying to "join-up" government, local authority and other initiatives at the local level. Initiatives that nearly always have different boundaries and work to different timescales. In Hartcliffe and Withywood there is a Sure Start programme, a mini Education Action Zone, a European URBAN programme and an LSP proposed neighbourhood partnership, all with different boundaries to HWCP. Only the SRB5 scheme and the Neighbourhood Renewal priority area have the same boundaries.


  20.  Involvement of community within local regeneration schemes has been one of the most recent success stories for the regeneration movement.

  21.  Accountability works on a number of levels.

  22.  The local resident directors of HWCP are all directly elected. In the community elections held in June 2002, 4,500 people voted in 34 per cent turnout, which was significantly above the local elections (29 per cent) held in the May. Quite simply the local communities were voting for local people who by and large they knew! And for an organisation they knew they owned and controlled. They could make a difference.

  23.  HWCP has an open structure, meetings of its board of directors are open to the public (except for confidential items) and meetings of its theme groups which support the board are open to all local residents. It has a clear Declaration of Interests policy and procedures that are adhered to.

  24.  HWCP works hard to keep people (both inside and outside the area) informed of its activities and decisions, so local residents know how the regeneration funds are being spent and the external perception of the area improves.

  25.  One of the local councillors is a member of the board to ensure that links are made and maintained with the democratically elected councillors in the area. HWCP also reports to the Bristol Regeneration Partnership, and through that to the City Council and the Bristol (local strategic) Partnership to ensure there is also upwards accountability.

  26.  Finally there is accountability back to the South West Regional Development Agency, as funding body, through quarterly reports and returns.

  27.  Democratic accountability has been something that HWCP has been working towards for the past three years. You can judge by the recent community election turnout that the local community has embraced democracy and it has given them legitimacy and the partnership they represent.


  28.  We do hear of squandered grants etc but overall there is a general feeling that regeneration initiatives can work. If we think of the mainstream European funding that has and still is being pumped into our major cities that have suffered with the shift of large local and national economy sectors we can see and feel sustainable improvements. Local people from such areas speak very proudly of their achievements in turning things around. The same can be said about the smaller regeneration schemes.

  29.  Towards the end of all regeneration schemes we need to ensure clarity of exit. Evaluation and monitoring are essential plus a continuance of support if needed through a practical regeneration agency that can support those community schemes, which have a strong possibility of becoming sustainable eventually. There needs to be a clear and strong commitment from mainstream agencies to learn the lessons from a regeneration initiative and to pick up on the successes. This commitment needs to be at the beginning of a scheme and the work to turn it into action needs to start early, and not wait to the last few months of a scheme.


  30.  The real successes of a regeneration initiative can only be seen in the long-term impacts or outcomes that can be difficult to measure. Have perceptions of an area changed, both inside and outside? Do local residents want to stay in an area; are they proud of where they live; has post code discrimination ended: can local resident get jobs and credit; do people from outside want to move to the area; come to shop or work in the area? One indication of success, though it was not one of our outputs, has been the rise of house prices locally and there now being a waiting list for council housing, when it had been hard-to-let.


  31.  Lessons that can be learnt from the experience of HWCP include:

  32.  The importance of early capacity building, support and advanced funding to communities to develop their capacity to bid for funding and to manage complex wide-ranging regeneration schemes.

  33.  The need for community organisations to receive funding in advance, and not in arrears, for projects and services they deliver.

  34.  The Treasury needs to relax its rules to recognise the time it takes to properly develop regeneration initiatives and to make long-term commitments such as ten years or longer. Short term funding of two to three years can be counterproductive by raising expectations, which cannot be met by schemes that by the time they are up and running are about to wind down.

  35.  There needs to be greater flexibility to carry forward under-spends, without them getting lost (and to avoid panic spending at the end of the financial year). This should include extending the lifetime of regeneration initiatives to give scope for carrying under-spends beyond its original lifetime. The hard split between capital and revenue needs to change. Funding of training schemes, community safety projects, etc even though they may be revenue funding are just as much investment in the future of a community as bricks and mortar.

  36.  There is a need to "re-engineer" the whole regeneration appraisal, approval and claims processes. Over the years in response to individual issues and problems, auditors' recommendations, etc, additions have been made to the process. More information is asked for, extra checks are made, but things are never taken out. The consequence is it has become unwieldy, complicated and bureaucratic and out of proportion to the sums involved. It needs to be looked at again from first principles.

  37.  HWCP supports the employment of local people in the regeneration of their area, to "grow our own" professionals and wishes to employ its staff directly. However, it feels that there should be comparable conditions of employment, including pension arrangements, with local authority and other regeneration staff working in the area. This is both an issue of recruitment and retention of staff needed to delivery a complex regeneration scheme; and of fairness and equity, in that staff should not be worse off as a result of working for a community-led organisation. HWCP recently applied to join the local government pensions scheme. Although it was considered eligible by the pension fund to have admitted body status, it was not supported by the City Council, who argued that it should be a national government responsibility. DETL view was that it was up to local discretion. In the meantime HWCP, and the staff who work for it, have been caught in between.

  38.  SWRDA's Periodic Review of HWCP (see Appendix 2) raised a number of issues of wider significance.

  "Various public sector agencies signed up to and made commitments over the lifetime of the scheme in the original bid and delivery plan, which I am not convinced are all going to be met . . .

  As a functionally organised body, the City Council clearly has problems relating in a `joined-up' way to area based initiatives and neighbourhood working. If the City Council is to successfully meet the challenge of Neighbourhood Renewal it will have to change . . .

  Problem of capacity to respond to all the other initiatives that are happening (eg Neighbourhood Renewal, Local Strategic Partnership, schools review) . . .

  In addition, local residents made strong points about the jargon, process (but it is getting better), the way the `goalposts' keep changing, time commitment and the need to increase resident involvement (and the difficulties in doing this). The HWCP's vision was still thought to be relevant. The commitment of volunteers, project workers and paid staff was appreciated. There was praise for wham! in keeping people informed. . .

  A particular issue for the area is a significant drop in funding coming into the area over a short period as a number of funding streams come to an end. As well as the SRB scheme ending in March 2006, URBAN2 funding ends in December 2006. While funding for `Sure Start' is committed to March 2004 and for the [email protected] until August 2004 . . .

  The difficulties caused, particularly to a community-led partnership that is trying to respond to local needs, by having a hard capital/revenue split. There is a strong case for being able to transfer money from revenue to capital and vice versa in response to identified local needs . . .

  The size of the SRB admin budget (5 per cent + 2 per cent) is a constraint on the capacity of the Partnership to properly manage and deliver the SRB scheme of this size (particularly given the large number of relatively small projects), to set up the organisation (eg local elections, charitable status) and to ensure it continues to be community-led (with the high level of resident involvement and partnership working with other agencies). In many other areas management fees of 10 per cent—15 per cent are not uncommon . . ."

  39.  The evaluation of HWCP's Capacity Building Project (see Appendix 3) made a number of recommendations of wider significance. These included:

  "We have already raised a range of issues and lessons that need to be heard at this level. First and foremost:

    —  Schemes need to be given realistic spending profiles and the space and time to develop in a sensible and practical way. Artificial and externally imposed deadlines, milestones and targets can skew a scheme away from an ethos of community involvement right at the beginning. Schemes need to be given genuine development periods, with funding available to do sensible foundation-building work without the necessity to jump through the SRB appraisal hoop in order to do anything on the ground.

    —  For example, when a scheme is approved a sum of money could be made available against the delivery plan to carry out a discrete range of tasks such as early research, capacity building, surveys and so on without having to construct a complicated multi-stranded project like this one to carry out these essential tasks.

    —  It is clear that SRB-type appraisal processes work against clean, single purpose, well-focused projects. The natural tendency is to bung everything in to a single project to avoid too many jumps through the hoops!

    —  Appraisal processes need to be rethought and scaled to reflect the amount of money being applied for. This would help make it worthwhile to break a necessary but diffuse project like this one into `bite-size' manageable chunks!

  Good research and surveys can improve project targeting and delivery dramatically. However, pressure to conduct standard baseline surveys and evaluations too often comes from the SRB hierarchy. Unfortunately, baseline surveys very rarely `do what they say on the tin!'

  Communities are complex and open systems and the SRB funding available in Hartcliffe and Withywood represents a tiny fraction of the investment coming into the area during the lifetime of the Scheme. To all intents and purposes it is impossible to measure the scheme against a baseline since it is all too easily derailed or complicated. This leads to the regular conclusion that it is too complex to determine the impact that the scheme has had—seen in most SRB evaluations nationally.

  Funding is therefore being wasted finding out that `things are complicated'—we know that already. We need to rethink our overall approach to baseline surveys and Scheme level evaluation; and drop the pretence that we can measure and monitor change in this way. We are not suggesting a move away from measuring or monitoring, or that we should not focus on identified needs. However, we need to move towards a more practical and grounded way of doing this—pragmatic surveys and evaluation that helps us make performance and delivery better today than yesterday. This would be less useful on a national political level but it would be far more useful on the ground day-to-day.

  HWCP are leading the way in this area. Their baseline is relatively sound, if under-interpreted, and it can be put to increased use. . .

  . . .Once approved, this project suffered further delays as a result of RDA scrutiny. Where this happens, and delays become significant because of letters back and forth, there should be a `no penalty' readjustment of spending profiles.

    —  So, for example, if Ministers approve spend on a programme later than expected or the RDA approve a project after some delay, the programme or project should still be allowed to run for the same total amount of time—rather than having to attempt to catch up on itself."


  40.  With the government's Neighbourhood Renewal initiative, there is a real opportunity for success provided that efforts of the community to have a real influence over local public services is mirrored by a commitment from national Government to make sure councils, health authorities, the police, government departments and agencies (such as the Employment Service and Benefits Agency) are directed to engage with the neighbourhood renewal agenda. Successful bending of mainstream services will also need a change in approach by national government in setting its targets to service providers. "Joining-up" at the local level needs to be matched with "joining up" at the national level.

  41.  In terms of service provision, the amount of national targets and service/target specific funding needs to be relaxed to allow the development of locally determined targets relevant to the needs of the communities served.

  42.  In terms of process, clear targets should be set (with sanctions if not met) around implementing a neighbourhood renewal approach to engaging with local communities and bending mainstream services. For example: the number of local service targets determined in partnership with local communities; the involvement of local communities in determining service specifications and letting service contracts; the proportion of the total budget determined by local neighbourhood partnerships; the level of decision-making and budget setting decentralised to local communities.

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Prepared 28 October 2002