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

Memorandum by Cornwall County Council (GRI 19)


  This memorandum takes heed of the recent research on Area Based Initiatives entitled "Collaboration and Co-ordination in Area-Based Initiatives." Published in May this year it was the third and final report to the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions. The basis of these was that there is a proliferation of initiatives aimed at tackling deprivation and social exclusion, leading to debates about integrated working at central, regional and local levels. In Cornwall it is felt by many that this is the case, with it is estimated well over 100 different partnerships involved to some degree or other with regeneration and delivering relevant initiatives.


  Drawing on the ABI research, it points out that there is a vertical perspective which recognises the relationships of hierarchy and control through which policies and programmes are developed and managed from central government, through regions, to localities and downwards to smaller areas and neighbourhoods.

  We would agree with this, in that changes at national level have sometimes left gaps. In this region the RDA, already in need of additional funding, has had to focus on the hard economic outputs now it is under the remit of the DTI, with no one ready to pick up many of the social inclusion aspects that they previously dealt with.

  At the regional level, when the Objective One management systems and processes were set up, it reflected the systems that GO currently worked with, to the frustration of those involved in successful SRB programme management that was quite well co-ordinated.

  At the local level this vertical perspective can have an impact when a different local government officer is involved because the remit comes with a different label from a different central source. It can be argued that this is positive in that it broadens the effort being directed at the regeneration of an area, but it can have a negative impact through lack of communication. This results in overlapping partnerships as resources are marshalled to take advantage of or to work to direct new national initiatives.

  The ABI research also concludes that there were issues around horizontal relationships, ie between organisations of governance at a particular level. Again this happens locally, with a view that because so many initiatives call for new linkages and partnerships to enable them to operate a split operation develops. This was discussed at a conference held in Bodmin this year, organised jointly between the Institution of Economic Development and the Federation of Economic Development Authorities. They concluded that those individuals outside the new partnership and based "back at the ranch" have ever onerous targets to meet with dwindling resources. They find themselves having to restrict what they do and unable to take risks, whilst their colleagues from the same "ranch" are out at the party, with new money and encouraged to take risks. Some present were questioning the effectiveness of some of the 100 + initiatives in Cornwall because of this.


The contribution of area-based initiatives to broader regeneration initiatives and regional strategies

    —  Worked well at engaging local communities/interests and thus setting up for future work, eg the town forums set up under an SRB programme are now able to participate in other RDA and GO initiatives.

    —  Brought match funding into the area for projects that matched with and supported other strategies eg from SRB and Objective One.

    —  Target areas of one initiative do not always match those of another eg SRB2 key towns and Objective One towns. This reflects the criteria of the funding source but obviously does little for sustainable regeneration as temporal funding sources cease with no successor.

    —  Inability of area-based initiatives to identify very small areas on need eg it is said that there are more economically deprived people in the three east Cornwall Districts but 11 of the 12 areas to benefit from targeted assistance from Objective One are in west Cornwall. This is because they "sit" in measurable numbers as opposed to being dispersed.

The characteristics of successful regeneration schemes

    —  Well thought out at the local level—how will it be delivered etc.

    —  Not hammered into the shape that suits the funds that are being chased.

    —  Representative local partnership that is supported throughout its development.

Involvement of local communities

    —  Much progress made in this area, especially with the Community Empowerment Fund in the two District Council areas in west Cornwall. The RDA in Yorkshire is to be complimented for supporting its establishment in non-Neighbourhood Renewal Fund areas (as highlighted in "The Learning Curve" by the NRU).

    —  In the push to ensure that communities are fully engaged there is the danger that unless every single person has been consulted and agrees with whatever is being proposed then it cannot be said to have community support. We are beginning to experience in the Objective One processes that even if the local area management group resolves to support a project others will say that this is an inadequate expression of support.

    —  Needs time, which many initiatives in the past did not provide, leading to claims of tokenistic community involvement. The experience of the NRF in west Cornwall, and its LSP, shows that after 12 months and with the support of the CEF the community involvement is just coming through. Whilst these representatives will have a role on the LSP into the future, the funding it has available (NRF) ends in 18 months' time.

Democratic Accountability

    —  LAs need advice and guidance in ensuring that they are happy with the involvement of others in what can seem to be their role, especially if the LA is an accountable body ultimately responsible for funds. We would like to see more attention paid to this, and to better integration at all levels (including town and parish councils) right from the start, rather than the new partnerships developing as an "add on" to existing democratic systems.

    —  See third bullet above.

Whether and where area-based initiatives have brought about sustained improvements to deprived communities

    —  One issue is scale—we're having the full evaluation of SRB2 being carried out at the moment, but at £7.5 million in eight towns over seven years it was hardly likely to do more than slightly influence things. Therefore there are individual projects eg CAB in east Cornwall, Falmouth Maritime, Alma Place Redruth, which will continue to have an impact and for whom the area-based initiative was critical to its establishment.

    —  The temporal issue has been mentioned before—see bullets in next section.

What arrangements need to be put in place at the end of a regeneration initiative to ensure that benefits to local residents continue

    —  Projects that are supported need to demonstrate a forward strategy that is sustainable.

    —  Whatever you do you cannot guarantee it. The selection processes should minimise risk and maximise the chances.

    —  If the managing partnership is seen as more than being there for the length of the funds there is a greater chance of ensuring mainstreaming and sustainability. It becomes less orientated to gaining outputs set down in the contract and more concerned about addressing impact.

Whether policy has taken account of long-term impacts as well as the outputs created

    —  We imagine that all of these initiatives start with the best of intentions, in that they were created to have a long-term impact on a certain issue or location. However in virtually every case the "paymaster" (usually somewhere in HMG) needs to be able to measure progress in limited timescales, which leads to the development of relatively short-term outputs. Unless there is a shift in attitude by the "paymasters" we cannot see this issue going away. In our experience the SRB programmes became output dominated and the overall local strategy/outcomes could be lost as contract-fulfilling outputs were chased. On the other hand the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund has had so little guidance that almost anything can be deemed/argued as being eligible. We anticipate a tightening "from the centre" on this.

    —  What happened to SRB reflects the horizontal relationship mentioned in the introduction. When launched, the outputs for SRB were meant to be a proxy for the impact, but as central auditor-type people got involved and detailed justification was sought from "the centre" the outputs developed an improper importance.

Whether initiatives have had an effect on the major Government and local government programmes

    —  We find this difficult to judge. With certain programmes eg the SRB4 programme in west Cornwall dealing with unemployment, almost as soon as a new way of linking with New Deal was developed it would be announced as national policy or as a pilot for Cornwall. Further, some of the projects trialled by the SRB programme have now been adopted as standard by Jobcentre Plus and Business Link.

    —  Another example is where SRB2 funds were used to enhance the quality of CCC works in Newquay, and this has been reflected in the RDA selecting there for the Civic Pride initiative.

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

    —  Seemed to happen best when within one vertical arrangement eg the RDA were happy for SRB programmes to run through evolving or developing partnerships rather than set up new ones, but other bodies require new partnerships. Another example is the Rural Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Partnership (working with the SRP and RDA), whose membership is almost exactly replicated by the AONB management partnership that is being set up to handle Countryside Agency funds.

    —  Efforts can be made at the local level to build on local expertise eg the systems and processes for the NRF in west Cornwall were more rapidly developed because of the SRB experience.

How the Government should decide when to introduce an area-based initiative, and whether there are successful alternatives

    —  Area-based initiatives work well in engaging local interests as opposed to "professional" interests when it is thematic. Residents, businesses etc are more likely to become involved if they can see an holistic approach to problems.

    —  The downside is that they can cross over with thematic approaches unless there is care and consideration from both the vertical and horizontal perspectives described at the outset.

    —  This care and consideration can only come about if there is long-term engagement, which is usually lacking in area-based initiatives.

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