Examination of Witnesses(Questions 1-19)|
MONDAY 28 OCTOBER 2002
1. Good afternoon. Welcome to our Committee.
I am sorry we are slightly fewer in number than we might normally
be, but various members are stuck at various points in the transport
system throughout the country this afternoon. For the sake of
our records, could you just begin by indicating your name.
(Rt Revd Jones) I am James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool.
I chair the Government's New Deal for Communities programme in
Liverpool, which is the Kensington community.
2. Welcome. Would you like to make an opening
statement or are you quite happy to go into questions?
(Rt Revd Jones) I am very happy to go into questions,
but I should like to concentrate very much on what we mean by
community-led regeneration, because this is meant to be the key
to the New Deal programme. Certain things have become apparent
over the last few years doing this programme and I should like
to explore those with the Committee members.
Chairman: We shall pursue certain questions
but I am sure you will bring any lines of thought you have into
3. May I say first of all how much I enjoyed
reading your submission which, coming from Tyneside, I do understand,
particularly the point you make about having to talk of the successes
as well as emphasising the social problems. That is something
we on Tyneside know very much about. As far as New Deal for Communities
is concerned, this is intended to be led by communities, so perhaps
you could tell us something about your experience in Liverpool.
Is this what is happening? Is it being led by communities?
(Rt Revd Jones) It is trying to be led by communities
and it is being encouraged by the rhetoric, but very often the
reality is very different. The emphasis upon delivery makes it
feel as though the thing is being constrained by people outside
the community rather than within the community. Three years ago
the New Deal programme was started. What you have is an ad
hoc group of people who have been cobbled together, people
who have shown some sort of well-meaning towards their local community.
They are then called upon to produce a delivery plan within about
12 months. Then you find you are held to this delivery plan subsequently.
I think that is totally unrealistic because such an ad hoc
group of people are still feeling their way, they are beginning
to trust each other. After years of distrust, you cannot just
come into a community and say, "Trust us", and think
that those sweet words will overcome all the suspicions. There
has to be a much more realistic expectation of the time it takes
to build up a team of local people who are really in the driving
seat of regeneration. The rhetoric is there, but the practicalities
are not, and it is in the demand for the delivery plan to be met
as specified that you really feel the thing is being led from
outside rather than inside.
4. You mentioned some of the obstacles to the
position being led by the community, but are there any others?
How do they interact with councillors and the voluntary sector?
(Rt Revd Jones) There are years and years of distrust
with people coming in with solutions, top-down solutions. People
are told, "Now listen, you have the solutions". So they
come together and they begin to articulate some of these. Then
they can feel that they are just there as tokens of community
representation and that nobody is really listening to them. If,
for example, you look at a lot of the delivery plansand
I have not looked at all of themthey are very similar in
the way they approach education, health, crime, fear of crime.
My sense is that if these were genuinely community led, there
would be a much greater degree of variety between those delivery
5. I notice that in Kensington you have quite
a high turnover of residents; 18 per cent per annum it says here.
Is that a particular problem when trying to keep people interested
and there and taking part?
(Rt Revd Jones) The other day I was at
the opening of a scheme and I asked the person who had been doing
the consultation work what the attitude of the local community
was. She said about 50 per cent of the people really welcomed
it and the other 50 per cent could not really be bothered. You
just have to work very, very hard. In one of my papers I quote
the advice given to Roosevelt when he came with his New Deal programme.
He said that people need to be most on their guard when the government's
intentions are beneficial. That is what people do feel. I did
not appreciate just how far back you have to go to retrace your
steps, to say to the community, "We really do believe in
your ability to shape your own future". As I said in one
of the articles, the tension is revealed in the sort of language
we use. Those of us who live in communities use organic language.
We talk about seeds, planting, grassroots. The people who control
the funds use mechanical language, talk about triggers and levers
and hits and outcomes. The truth is that you need both the organic
and the mechanical. There are the communities who know that it
takes time for a community which has died to live again and it
does not happen in those neat three-month sections in the year.
So if you have reached the end of the year and you have not spent
the money, you are then penalised. That feels in the local community
as though they are being punished. On the one hand you are saying,
no, this has to be community led and you are affirming and encouraging.
The moment they do not meet these targets which have been devised
by an ad hoc group in the first 12 months of their existence,
they are told, "That's it. You've lost the money". We
understand that central government needs to work to times. The
local communities are also asking for results. They are saying,
"Look. We've got this money. What do we have to show for
it?", but there has to be a greater understanding of the
time it takes to build up a community's capacity to shape its
6. As professional politicians we have a vested
interest in being concerned about this distrust which you indicate
between people locally and their elected representatives. We appreciate
that this is not just true in Liverpool, but true elsewhere. The
word "distrust" is quite a strong one. Are you indicating
that until an initiative such as this came along, there had been
relatively little real interaction between community groups and
their elected representatives? If so, to what extent has this
initiative changed the relationship between elected representatives,
because those relationships will continue for a long time. Are
you seeing anything different in terms of the relationship so
this distrust can be dispelled in the future?
(Rt Revd Jones) Two of the most overworked words in
the English language at the moment are "community" and
"partnership". Having said that, partnership is what
it is about. Interestingly, the Faith in the City report 18 years
ago did say that partnership was the key to urban regeneration.
We are beginning to experience partnership, but it takes a long
time to build up the relationship of trust between community members
on the board and the agency representatives. What that does actually
require is a particular relationship. I actually feel a fraud
chairing New Deal, because here I am advocating community-led
regeneration, but I am not a community member. I am there at the
invitation of the local community, because what the board and
the chair have to be able to secure is the confidence of the local
community and the confidence of government, be it local, regional,
national. You can have the confidence of government and not the
community, but you might as well pack up your bags and go home
and some New Deal programmes have demonstrated that. Similarly,
you can have the confidence of the community and not the government
and be equally useless to the task. I feel that my job as chair
of the board and chair of New Deal and working in the community
is to build up the trust. I am for ever saying that we are people
of goodwill here, we must believe the best of each other around
the table. There are all sorts of suspicions and I leave a board
meeting, I leave my time in the community and I go to my home.
The community members are there, but they are the ones who get
knocked up at midnight by neighbours saying they have heard a
rumour that their street is going to be bulldozed. Community members
are very, very vulnerable and they feel caught between a rock
and a hard place. On the one hand, sometimes they feel patronised
as the token community representatives and on the other hand they
feel that the rest of the community reckons they have betrayed
them by getting involved in this process. There is no easy solution
to any of this, but it does take time. That is why I come back
to the delivery plan: it is unrealistic in terms of understanding
the nature of the task to build up this real partnership between
the community members and the agencies which you need.
Sir Paul Beresford
7. Eighteen per cent is quite a high turnover.
Are the new people in any way coming in because of the changes
you are trying to bring in? Are they the same sort of people?
Do they want to join in? Is there any sign of gentrification or
anything like that?
(Rt Revd Jones) At the moment the majority of those
people coming in are asylum seekers. This is another issue where
the community feels that it is powerless over the people coming
in. We addressed this with the housing associations who were part
of the problem as well as being part of the solution. Community
members felt they had no control at all over the people who were
being brought in to live in the community by housing associations.
Similarly now, through the scheme of asylum seekers, there is
no local control about the embracing of asylum seekers. That is
not that there is ill will towards asylum seekers, but a community
can only carry a certain percentage of people. I am not quite
sure what the exact number is but a large proportion of the 18
per cent is asylum seekers.
8. You said, "Justice requires us to rethink
the tax and benefit system to see whether or not we can use that
to stimulate and engage local involvement". How should the
tax and benefits system be used to get local people involved?
(Rt Revd Jones) There are lots of ideas around and
there are ideas which have come from the local community. We have
not begun to think creatively enough about this. One particular
project we are developing at the moment with Sure Start is to
offer a parent in the first year of their first child double child
benefit if they will avail themselves of a parenting course which
allows them to develop skills in parenting in association with
their peers, learning from one another and also gaining support
from professionals in the community during that very vulnerable
time. We feel that parenting education, not highly prescriptive
but mutually supportive, enables especially young parents to handle
issues of conflict, of low self esteem and also develop very basic
skills and leadership as they take leadership responsibility for
their own children. This is being worked up at the moment, together
with a means of assessing the benefit of this. We have 600 families
in the New Deal area with children between the ages of nought
to four and the proposal would be to assess and evaluate the worth
of this particular scheme, to see whether the benefits system
can be used to stimulate and also to sustain community involvement
9. In answer to a previous question you touched
on the problems which communities have with meeting government-set
timescales and targets. Would you say a bit more about those problems
as you see them and in particular how you think they ought to
(Rt Revd Jones) There has to be greater flexibility
on the part of government, especially as it is expressed through
government offices regionally. They dance to a tune from Whitehall
which seems to dance to a tune from politicians who understandably
want to see results. That is why people like myself and others
who are involved in regeneration need to speak frankly to politicians
to say yes, you are right to demand community-led regeneration,
but you really have to understand what that means. You therefore
have to be much more flexible when it comes to the delivery plan
for example. I would argue that if a New Deal programme has not
spent according to its budget by the end of the year, instead
of saying, "You are penalised", you should then sit
down with representatives of the government to work out why that
target had not been met, to see whether there was a case for that
target, that amount of money to be transferred to the next year's
10. Is that not going to make it even more bureaucratic?
(Rt Revd Jones) That is a danger. There is a need
for good bureaucracy but it must be a bureaucracy which stimulates
community flourishing and not oppresses it. In the past it has
felt oppressive. What we are about in this New Deal programme
is constructing a trellis on which the vine of different communities
can flourish. It is happening and I think this is the best and
the nearest we have ever got to community-led regeneration. I
am here to say, no, you really have to understand the rhetoric
much more than is presently being understood.
Sir Paul Beresford
11. Do Ministers come out and look and discuss
your programme with you?
(Rt Revd Jones) Yes, they do.
12. Any flexibility?
(Rt Revd Jones) Yes, there is understanding. I have
had discussions with government ministers about how you could
use the benefit system to stimulate community involvement. They
are very sympathetic. Then they say, "But this is the legislation,
these are the rules and it is very, very difficult to be flexible".
My feeling as a parson and not a politician is that surely it
is not beyond the wit of us to try to devise a way in which we
could actually do that. After all we use the tax system in a flexible
way to encourage people to develop brownfield sites, to come into
urban areas. If we can do that with the tax system, surely we
can also use the benefit system in an equally creative way to
stimulate and reward community involvement. As I said in one of
my papers, we had our meeting and I asked people to say how many
hours they had spent in the previous week on voluntary community
activity, 10 hours, 12, 20, 40 hours. One woman said that she
had in the previous years attended 174 meetings, most of them
lasting between three and four hours. When I was in discussion
with a government minister and I passed this bit of paper along
to him, he gasped, rightly, and said that was a full-time job.
The point is that we can pay a professional regenerator to go
into a community. We can pay them £30,000, £40,000,
£50,000 a year to bring their skills to bearand we
do need professional regeneratorsbut those people who live
in the communities stay there, working to make it a better place
and we pay them nothing. It seems to me that there is a principle
of justice here. Surely if you stand back, you say to yourself
it cannot be right when they are dividing up the case to allow
the day tripper to be remunerated, yet to offer the people who
live there no remuneration whatsoever.
13. You said that "partnership" was
one of the over-used words in this whole area. Apart from the
issue of mistrust, which you spoke about earlier, could you tell
us something of the practical difficulties of setting up the partnership
between the various partners in your area?
(Rt Revd Jones) The acquisition of appropriate skills
to do it. I cheer when I hear people say that you have to have
a board of which at least 50 per cent of the membership is local.
At the first meeting I attended before I became chair the board
spent two and a half hours on the minutes. You cannot make any
progress if every meeting you simply retrace the steps of the
previous meeting. Why is that? Because there was distrust. Why
is that? Because there are not the skills. Here we are, middle
class people, we create our hoops which we expect people to jump
through, but they do not have the skills. It sounds patronising
to say they do not have the skills, because they have many other
skills. The people who live in the community have the skills of
survival they have the self-knowledge, they also know the solutions.
The example I gave was about the City Academy in Kensington. There
was no secondary school when we did the consultation and people
were saying that one of the major problems in the area was the
disaffection of young people. I asked whether anybody had ever
asked for a secondary school. The answer was instructive. They
said, "No, we wouldn't be allowed that". That hits the
nail on the head because what you have here is low aspiration,
low self-esteem, a sort of dependency culture where people think
they would not be allowed it. I said, that this was New Deal for
Communities and they were meant to be able now to dream their
dreams for the future, they had the solutions. The thing is that
they do know the solution and in fact we have gone ahead and we
are into the first round of submitting a serious bid for a City
Academy. The problems are low self-esteem, low aspirations, not
sufficient skills. I know these are cliche«s but community
capacity building must be one of the priorities. We took a long
time to get started because on the board we had to devise a constitution.
We were simply out of our depth. Nobody had any experience of
drawing up constitutions and we just flailed around doing this.
Hindsight is a great thing. What I reckon would have been useful
for New Deal programmes would have been if central government
had provided a number of options, say free templates of constitutions
which people could have picked off the shelf., but we had to do
all that work ourselves and people did not have the skill to do
it; I did not.
14. Your answer to my question was understandably
based around the problems of the community in working with their
partners, but looking at the partners' side, those who would come
into the community to provide support and build up to New Deal,
what have your relations been like with them? Were they understanding
of the problems you were facing with the community themselves.
Is it easy to work with them? Did they find it easy to work with
each other and the community?
(Rt Revd Jones) I know them to be people of goodwill,
but I think there were and are two problems with the agency involvement.
Firstly, it is not always the same representative of the agency
who comes to the meeting, especially the local meeting; the board
is different, but the sub-group is where much of the work is done.
Bearing in mind that the key thing is relationships, if you have
a different person coming to each meeting it is very difficult
to build up that relationship of trust. The second problemand
this is both at the board level and at the sub-group levelis
not having a person of sufficient seniority to make a decision
of commitment on behalf of the agency, therefore if you are going
to, which you must, have the agencies involved, it has to be somebody
of sufficiently senior level to be able to say, "Yes, we
can do this".
15. I am particularly interested in two groups
and how they relate to you. The first is the private sector and
whether you feel they have been fully engaged and helpful. The
second is faith-based communities. Have they been an active partner
in this particular concept?
(Rt Revd Jones) On the private sector, I have been
to the chamber of commerce and after two years we are beginning
to get some private sector involvement. This is a bit of a caricature
now, but Single Regeneration Budgets (SRBs) seem to be very much
business led and New Deal for Communities is very much community
led. My hunch is that we need a regeneration scheme which has
a dual emphasis of both business and community. SRB was business-led
with some community add-on. New Deal is community with any private
sector which you can get interested. There has to be a twin approach,
so that we make our communities good places to live and to work.
You need genuine economic regeneration. That brings me to your
second point, which is the involvement of the faith communities.
I believe that they are crucial. I speak now as a minister in
the Church of England. One of the strengths of the Church of England
is that we have a presence in every community. It gives us an
authority to speak about where comfortable and uncomfortable Britain
is today. Unlike other professionals, we are there seven days
a week. In fact I was making this point to the chief constable
recently, when a vicar had been in particular need and had rung
for police assistance and the police had been very slow in coming.
This is an exception but I was trying to point out to the chief
constable the unique position that a clergy person has in a community.
On the one hand you are seen as a symbol of compassion so that
if somebody is in need the address of the vicarage is advertised,
the telephone number is there and the person will literally come
to the vicarage door. If you have had a run-in with the social
services and you feel that all authority is against you, the Church
then becomes a symbol of authority and if you have a brick in
your hand and are passing the church or the vicarage, then you
will lob that at the building. I think the Church has a unique
place within the community and in many places they will do some
of the community capacity building. That has been demonstrated
through Faith in the City and the Church Urban Fund. There the
single biggest contribution the Church made is building up the
capacity of the community to be involved in decision making. You
will find that there are clergy and lay representatives heavily
involved on the boards of NDCs; on the primary care trusts, any
of those local groups like the police liaison committee, you will
see very strong Church representation and other faith communities
16. Programmes like New Deal for Communities
were meant to influence the wider behaviour of partners such as
local government and central government departments. I think the
term is bending the mainstream funding. They are also supposed
to create more flexibility in those partners. Is there any evidence
so far that this is happening and what more might be done to improve
(Rt Revd Jones) This is anecdotal as all of this is
anecdotal in a sense. At the beginning I felt that there was an
encouragement for New Deal for Communities to be very dependent
on a local authority; this was three years ago. I sense the mood
has changed. The pressure is that the local authority has to be
much more involved in bending the mainstream funding. This goes
back to my earlier point that if there has been a history of a
breakdown in relationships between communities and a city council,
then you have to do a lot of hard work to overcome that. Certainly
on our board there was suspicion of the city council, especially
when it seemed the city council had to become our accountable
body and there was a lot of resistance to that. However, the city
council officers have worked very hard with the community to demonstrate
their own goodwill and I think they have won the community over.
As with most media programmes, we take days awayhave away-dayswhere
the agencies and the city council and the community members work
through some of these issues of distrust and begin to work together
as a team. That is happening, but it is three years on.
Sir Paul Beresford
17. Hopefully on a more positive note, what
real improvements could you give us as examples which you have
achieved already, those you anticipate and those which are pie
in the sky which you might be able to pull down?
(Rt Revd Jones) In the end community regeneration
has to be about people in local communities caring for each other.
That is the bottom line. I think that is happening. We have a
public meeting for New Deal and we have 400 people turn out. This
is an area which is notoriously low in turnout for elections.
I find that heartening. People feel there are real issues which
affect their lives and people are working together in citizens
panels, on the board, in neighbourhood planning groups and beginning
to trust each other and look out for each other. It is very difficult
to quantify that. It is much easier to look at a row of houses
and say 20 houses have been restored and tick a box. It is not
so easy to tick a box and say here is a community which is beginning
to breathe again, beginning to flourish. In the end that is what
is at stake, whether a community will come together to care for
its own and we are seeing signs of that.
18. Is your 18 per cent joining in?
(Rt Revd Jones) We now have a representative of asylum
seekers on the board of New Deal. We are looking at how people
who are the asylum seekers can be integrated into the community.
19. He loses his appeal and moves off.
(Rt Revd Jones) We would always hope to have a representative
of that part of the community on the board. This is anecdotal
but when asylum seekers have been treated badly over using their
vouchers in the shop, I have heard local community members going
to the support of the asylum seeker and that is very heartening.