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

Memorandum by Wigan Borough Council (GRI 28)

  Wigan Borough's Community Plan provides an overarching strategy and a long-term vision for the future. Alongside the Community Plan, the Borough's Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy sets out the Borough's priorities in tackling regeneration. Consequently, area based initiatives are making a huge contribution to our Community Plan principles which are:

    —  Improving standards of living and providing a better quality of life;

    —  Reducing health inequalities and promoting better health for all;

    —  Investing in learning and improving both education and skills throughout life;

    —  Growing the local economy and increasing jobs;

    —  Providing more efficient and sustained transport;

    —  Creating a better physical environment;

    —  Creating safer and more pleasant neighbourhoods free from the threat of crime.

  It is a mandatory requirement for area-based initiatives such as SRB and European Programmes to demonstrate how the programmes will meet Regional Strategy priorities and guiding principles; de facto they contribute to regional strategies.


  The scale of resources apportioned to an initiative is important. City Challenge provided resources of a significant scale with the result that the impact of the regeneration initiative was visible and ultimately measurable. In recent years smaller amounts of grant have been made available for area-based regeneration. This has meant that whilst a holistic approach to the regeneration of an area has been maintained, improvements have been small scale and diluted.

  Successful regeneration initiatives have a clear vision coupled with strong and clear leadership. Resources need to be invested in the strategic management aspects of a Regeneration Programme and not just assigned to the monitoring and evaluation of the Programme.

  Regeneration initiatives in the Borough are aligned to the five principles of Wigan's LSP—strong community, social inclusion, partnership, sustainable development, learning from experience.

  Evaluation is built into the programme from the outset and is not some add-on at the end of the programme.

  Effective partnerships at all levels and the establishment of a culture of partnership working. Wigan Borough's LSP supported by seven partnership boards, to which the Council has aligned its political structure.


  Wigan Borough has been at the forefront of innovative methods of engagement and community consultation. Residents' surveys provide general satisfaction ratings with our services and ask the public to rate the importance of the service. The council has recently formulated a corporate Consultation Strategy which seeks the genuine involvement of people in the development and delivery of our services. Forums such as the Citizen' Panel, Township Co-ordination, Community Networks, and Twin Ward Risk Management support the strategy.

  Regeneration Initiatives have provided an opportunity to not only pilot methods of community engagement and involvement but have also provided an impetus for gathering views from local people on how regeneration programmes should be developed and delivered. Examples in Wigan include:—

    —  SRB funded outreach work, for example, with young and old people from the ethnic minorities;

    —  Sure Start Initial consultation meetings;

    —  SRB6 Community Questionnaires which have informed the preparation of Local Action Plans, which have been fed into a Baseline Study for the Programme;

    —  SRB Community Partnerships where local people decide how resources should be spent;

  SRB Boards where community and voluntary sector representatives influence the strategic direction which regeneration programmes should take.


  There is a perception that Local Government regeneration initiatives will tackle the increasing disengagement of local people from the democratic process. Such initiatives can only make a modest contribution to this, through the "Modernisation Agenda". Legislative and constitutional change is required. Given the ad hoc manner in which funds are made available they do not assist in engendering community engagement. Initial pump-priming grant should be provided to offset subsequent programme management costs.

  The impact of the White Paper "Your Region, Your Choice; Revitalising the English Regions". Does this reduce the role of Local Government in regeneration initiatives and transfer greater power to the Regional Assembly and the North West Development Agency? If so, this will have the effect of reducing accountability at the local level and make it more difficult for local people to influences changes in their own neighbourhoods.

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

  Wigan Borough has adopted a systematic approach to improving its neighbourhoods, based on levels of need and deprivation. At one level, economic development focused area-based initiatives have, in fact, prevented certain communities from getting worse. Indeed, there is quantifiable evidence to show improvements to an area through new jobs, increased inward investment, employment sites, improvements to the Housing Stock through Housing Renewal Areas. Area based initiatives have also had a positive impact on other quality of life indicators, notably in Wigan Borough, Education attainment targets.

  Initiatives such as Sure Start have provided partnerships with greater flexibility in delivering the programme. Area-based initiatives have promoted innovation in service provision.

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

  The Douglas Valley Community model is a good example of a successful forward strategy for continued support to the Community once regeneration funding has ceased. Under City Challenge Rosebridge Court became a development of small workshops, constructed by Wigan Council utilising City Challenge and European Regional Development Fund assistance. An innovative aspect of the development is that the scheme is held by Douglas Valley Properties and rental income is transferred by covenant to Douglas Valley Community, a local charitable company which supports community activities in the Wigan area.

  It is evident that involving people absorbs time and resources; it is easier to find resources for specific programmes. Recognition needs to be given to the fact that it is much harder to find resources to inform and involve local people. Pump-priming resources need to be given to partnerships to allow community involvement and capacity building initiatives to take place before a regeneration initiative is introduced to an area. Ironically, successfully accessing funding for a small group can be the start of problems. This is because many groups do not have the capacity to manage the project or are unable to meet the onerous monitoring and evaluation reporting requirements of funding providers.

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

  Previous regeneration programmes have influenced the New Commitment to Neighbourhood Renewal, Policy Action Teams, and National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal, Urban White Paper etc. There appears to be an understanding of the issues, but limited resources to address the actions required. It is felt that funding from Central Government tends to be hypothecated and department driven with funding being awarded for certain themes such as health, education, crime prevention without an overall strategy for the allocation of resources.

Whether lessons have been learned from previous initiatives like City Challenge, and applied to new regeneration Initiatives, such as the New Deal for Communities and Local Strategic Partnerships

  Regeneration principles should not be confined to area based regeneration initiatives and should be embedded in mainstream service provision.

  Wigan's City Challenge programme established a multi-agency team which promoted an innovative approached to multi-sectoral working and encouraged partnership workings.

  Raising unrealistic expectations must be avoided; it is unfair to assume that local people will solve the problems that professionals cannot. Community engagement and involvement cannot be used as a panacea for complex social exclusion issues.

  Learning by doing works, local people are more likely to learn if they have involvement in and ownership of the processes.

  The value of networking, the opportunity for regeneration practitioners to learn effectively, share good practice and obtain support in their work through meeting people who are co-ordinating and implementing similar initiatives.

  Engendering ownership of Regeneration Initiatives within the local community, leads to self-help and sustainability.

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

  An allocation-based approach rather than a competitive bidding process would be welcomed. Competitive bidding takes up valuable time and resources without any guarantee of success. The best written bid is not necessarily the best delivered regeneration programme.

  A fair and equitable approach to the Revenue Support Grant/SSA. The Neighbourhood Renewal Fund is an example of where "local flexibility" was initially implied in its application but has since generated a bureaucracy out of proportion with the level of grant received.

  Introduce Regeneration Initiatives which are a balance of social and economic activity. Consider the RDA's Single Financial Framework which is economic focused. Whilst the RDA was set up as a regional driver for Economic Development it has responsibilities for social exclusion, how are its obligations to this agenda being met through the Single Financial Framework?

  Consider that, unfortunately, using the IMD for area based initiatives excludes equally meritorious communities.

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Prepared 28 October 2002