Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120 - 139)



  120. Will there be any more new deal for communities schemes?  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No. The 39 are the end of selected areas but those 39 go on for a period of around ten years so there will be more money as the years go on for those 39 areas.

  121. Yet, the national strategy for neighbourhood renewal that came out in 1988 clearly said there was little evidence of mainstream programmes helping the needs of poor areas. Do you think that has now changed? How will you monitor it?  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not think it has adequately changed, but the programme set out in the national strategy for neighbourhood renewal was for a change that would take 10 to 20 years to make the progress described in that national strategy. It is early days. £900 million for the neighbourhood renewal fund is designed to give local authorities the means whereby they can adjust their mainstream programmes to make sure more money is targeted at deprived areas.

  122. There is some evidence that they are using that funding for mainstream expenditure. Have you detected that?  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I have seen some evidence that they are using it, for example, in main stream social services budgets. I do not know how widespread that is. At the end of last month, we sent out to each local authority with neighbourhood renewal fund money something called a statement of use document in which they were going to tell us precisely what they had been doing with the money over the last six months, so we will have a better idea then, but it is critical that the decisions that are made on that money are made by local authorities. It is not for us to ring fence the money or give specific directions about how the money is used. We have made it clear we want it used in neighbourhood renewal but the decisions in relation to that have to be with the local authorities.

  Christine Russell: Can I ask you about the general principle of neighbourhood renewal? Do you believe that every neighbourhood can be renewed? I say that in the light of the experience that Members of this Committee have had who have been working on the empty homes inquiry.


  123. You have just visited Burnley Wood, have you not?  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I went to east Lancashire. I did not get to Burnley Wood.

  124. I thought they were hoping that you would have followed us round.  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I went to Pendle, Rossendale and Accrington. That is a very difficult question. I am not sure that every single neighbourhood can be renewed. The national strategy at the beginning identified the fact that there are thousands and thousands of deprived neighbourhoods in the country. Are you going to renew all of them? No, you are not. Those that you will renew you will renew by improving the quality of services that goes to those and it will be dealt with in a coordinated way, by connecting them with some form of economic prosperity.

  125. Do you feel that government funding should go to those worst neighbourhoods or should it go to those that are on the brink, just slipping into decline?  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think that is an impossible question to answer. It depends on the particular place and the particular community. The national strategy is saying let the relevant local authorities decide what their strategy should be. Let them identify which of the neighbourhoods in their area they want to really work with. Reach agreement with central government, the private sector, the other statutory providers, so they can work together to deliver whatever the aims for the particular neighbourhoods decided locally to be helped are. I do not think it is for central government to decide which should be particularly helped and which not.

  126. Surely you do have a responsibility to give out guidelines. When we were in the north west, some of the evidence that we were given by Government Office North West was quite clearly that they felt the money should go rather to those areas that are just fragile, perhaps on the slippery slope but are not the worst areas. You will have to give some guidance.  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That may be right but if the relevant players in the area, the local authorities and statutory providers, the business community and voluntary community sector, having got together and addressed the issue, conclude the right course is to go for that deprived area which is much worse than another because they think there is good reason for doing so, is that not a sensible course. I think the Committee has been to Hulme. It was Hulme that was an area that was very low down the scale. It was not an area simply on the turn. It was in much worse shape than that. There is widespread agreement that Hulme is an area which has been substantially turned round as a result of the various measures that were taken there, in part, because Hulme was quite close to the centre of Manchester, and therefore Hulme could be connected to economic prosperity. I do not think it is right to say areas on the turn are the areas one has to focus on. It will vary from place to place and local decisions have to be taken about what the right strategy is in a particular place.

  127. Can I ask you another controversial question which is: do you believe that there is any long term future—you have just mentioned Hulme—for these large, single tenure council estates?  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) All the work that has been done suggests that large, single tenure areas are ones that are most vulnerable to market failure and deprivation. They are very difficult to help, more difficult than areas in mixed tenure. That does not mean that they are all remotely beyond help. I think some can be helped but it is a difficulty.


  128. City Challenge: some successes? Some failures? Would you like to tell us one or two of the A-pluses and one or two of the D-minuses?  (Ms Bridges) City Challenge did have some pretty dramatic outputs.  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Hulme started as a City Challenge.

  129. The trouble is that every time I ask about City Challenge I am always told about Hulme, so I want to hear about some others and I would also like a little bit of honesty about the ones that went wrong.  (Ms Bridges) I do not think any went wrong. Hulme is the one everybody talks about because there is such a visual success.

  130. Is that implying that it is not a success in other terms?  (Ms Bridges) No, I do not think so. I think one of Hulme's big successes is that it has created a mixed community with mixed tenure and a wide variety of different people who have a stake in the future of their area. That is why it is an important one.

  131. What about the ones that have not succeeded?  (Ms Bridges) There were 31 City Challenge partnerships and they operated between 1992 and 1998, as you probably know. They did spend well over 200 million in each of their targeted areas, so they were big programmes.

  132. I understand that. I am looking for the successes and the failures.  (Ms Bridges) The round one ones were Bethnal Green, Bradford, Derner Valley, Deptford, Hulme, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Nottingham, Wirral and Wolverhampton. They all led to a step change in—

  133. They were all successes?  (Ms Bridges) It depends what you mean by a success. Yes, they all were.

Dr Pugh

  134. Presumably one hallmark of success would be that they would not become subsequent candidates for further bouts of neighbourhood renewal funding and so on. In my experience, many of the areas in City Challenge are now the same candidates for the new funds as well. How would you define success? Surely success is escaping the need to be funded by large, grand regimes of regeneration planning?  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) One of the most striking things about visiting places is you go and the local authority will make a presentation to you. They will have a map on the wall and it will have the city broken down into wards with various coloured dots on the wards. Most of the coloured dots are in the same place. They represent City Challenge money, single regeneration budget money, HAT money. Then you are taken usually to the place with the most dots in it which remains broadly untouched in two senses. One, the housing remains just as bad and, two, there is no connection with economic prosperity that might provide what you are saying, which is a sustainable future for the community.

  135. I am aware from personal experience of the Bootle City Challenge and there were appreciable infrastructure developments but many of the areas that fell within the City Challenge area are now attracting again very high levels of grant on the basis of indices of deprivation. One thing that was felt very strongly at the time was the limitations on the scheme in terms of what could and could not be funded within it and exactly what geographical areas the money could be spent within was a serious handicap. If educational facilities were off limits, outside the actual deprivation area, those educational facilities did not get funded and would not be beneficial for the area. Similarly with economic boosts. Economic boosts had to go in within the geographical boundaries. Therefore, the same area is not attracting economic investment and is still now largely deprived.  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) You need, in looking to see how you spend regeneration money, to make sure that there is a joined up plan, but also a plan that connects the area to some sort of economic prosperity.

  136. Or give the flexibility that Clive Betts mentioned before?  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes.


  137. Hulme was a success because the area does not need any more money but almost all the others were in some measure failures?  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I am not in a position to say that. I do not know.

  138. Who did the evaluation for you?  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The programme was subject to an evaluation by KPMG Consulting.

  139. Which did they say were the failures?  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not know but it is published on our website.

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