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

Examination of Witnesses(Questions 20-39)



Alistair Burt

  20. Even at this early stage perhaps your thoughts are turning to how to make sure any of the benefits through the initiative will remain after the initiative comes to an end. Can you give us some thoughts about what you would like to see built in to the mechanisms to make sure that the good outcomes which are achieved carry through into the future?
  (Rt Revd Jones) There are certain objectives such as the housing, the crime statistics, the fear of crime and the health statistics and you hope that in each of those you would see significant progress. I go back to my previous point. What in the end will make Kensington a place in which people will choose to live and work is whether it functions as a community. I know that is an overworked word, but it is a place where people feel they can care for each other and that there are opportunities for them to shape their own future. I would hope for example that with the City Academy we shall have a means whereby not just children and young people will be equipped, but parents as well. For example, whereas many schools welcome the parent into the school, we hope to create a school in which the teachers will be as welcome in the young people's homes as the parents will be welcome in the school. If life-long learning is the new mantra, then who are the learning specialists in our community? They are the teachers. Why should their skills not be available not just to the children and young people but to the parents as well? We hope very much that we are going to be creating a different sort of community where people are much more involved than they are at the moment.

  21. What is the most important thing that you are seeing happening now which did not happen before and must continue to happen in the future to ensure that the benefits of the initiative are not lost? What is the single most important difference to people that you are seeing at the moment from what happened in the past?
  (Rt Revd Jones) You might think this is too wishy-washy, but it is people believing in themselves, people staying in the community, not moving out, people staying and believing in themselves and their own ability to make the community a better place to live and work. If people start moving away, we shall have failed. If people stay and new people come because there is a good academy, there is opportunity to work, it is a place where they feel safe, then I think we shall have succeeded.


  22. Was the area which was chosen for New Deal the right area? Did it take account of local wishes? If this process starts to happen and the area starts to improve, is there a danger that as the area improves some of the people who live there now will not feel able to continue living there in the future or some of the social problems will be displaced into other areas and as they get displaced other areas will become less popular and less desirable in which to live as Kensington improves itself.
  (Rt Revd Jones) You have just spoken in a way which echoes a discussion at our last board meeting. It is the local residents who are saying that it is not good enough for them to devise strategies which simply push people out, push the asylum seekers out into another community. They themselves feel responsible for everybody within the community, so it has to benefit. A phrase I use is "urban diabetes". We are in danger in some of our cities of suffering from urban diabetes where you get the blood pumping round prestigious projects which everybody shows off and says they are wonderful, but the blood does not get to the extremities of the body. So you have communities on the edge which atrophy. What we have to make sure is that the valves are open so that these prestigious projects, the blood, the wealth of them, is actually channelled to the whole of the community.

  23. Do you have any specific ideas at your board meeting on how you are going to make that happen?
  (Rt Revd Jones) At every board meeting there is yet another attempt to make sure that does happen, whether we are talking about health or crime or education. That is what we are all about. We are not about creating an exclusive community which gets rid of all its social problems and dumps them in Toxteth or Everton or wherever. We are talking about changing, transforming the whole community and that those people who are marginalised are embraced within the community and not further marginalised. Yes, you can have false regeneration simply by dumping your problems in a different part of the city. That is not acceptable to the board of Kensington.

Chris Mole

  24. How local is local? How does the neighbourhood approach of New Deal for Communities fit together with citywide Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) and indeed regionwide regeneration policies? Can you give examples of where things are going either well or badly?
  (Rt Revd Jones) It is all integrated. The housing is integrated into a city housing programme. That is one of the difficulties, because if you are saying that it is to be community led and yet you are bound into a programme which is citywide or regionwide, you do not have a lot of autonomy. Especially when people are saying you have to have spent the money by X time and you are awaiting a decision about Objective 1, or about the city housing strategy, you are really boxed in and powerless. We do recognise that you have to do things on a micro and a macro scale and it is choosing which things are better done on a micro scale and which things are better done on a macro scale. I do not know what the answer to this is, but one of the big questions is: what is the optimum size of a community which can shape its own future? Is it 1,000 people, is it 4,000, 5,000? I know some work has been done on this but if we are talking about self-determination of local communities, that is an issue which has to be addressed.

  25. There is a view that people exist in numerous communities: the community of work, the community of leisure, the community of neighbourhood.
  (Rt Revd Jones) Yes, I subscribe to that view, using slightly different language; the Church of England talks about parishes. I talk about the visible parish and the invisible parish. You have a visible parish, because everybody lives within a geographical area, but you have an invisible parish, which is those networks, those relationships, which are non-geographical, which come through work or come through leisure. The reality of modern life is that people live within both those communities.


  26. To come back to a point you made earlier, a slightly sceptical question, you were talking about payment for people involved in these various roles as community activists and representatives. Would there be a concern there that whilst sometimes the community may see someone coming from ten miles away getting a bit of reward for serving on the board, if it is the person down the road then you start to build up suspicions and rivalries within the community and a feeling that people are only doing it because of the money they get rather than as a pure representative? Is that something you have discussed? Are you happy that in fact that would not work through if you started paying people?
  (Rt Revd Jones) Absolutely; that is an issue we discussed at length in the community, that if you start remunerating people, then you can set up all sorts of difficulties within the local community. What we have said is that if that is to be the way forward, then you need to have a constitution which is both transparent and a body which is totally accessible to people within the community. At the start of New Deal, what you do is bring together various people who have shown some commitment to the local community. It is on a very ad hoc basis. Then you have to work out together how you can enfranchise the whole community. You can only start remunerating people if there is equal access to that remuneration so that everybody has the chance. For example, if you are going to pay your board members, then you have to have a constitution and a process where anybody in the community can find their way onto the board or stand for election to the board, so you can say, "This is open, you had your chance to stand and you were not elected". If it is not transparent and it is not accessible to all, then you certainly will build up that sort of distrust which we are trying to work against the whole time.

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. I hope you feel you have had the chance to get across your obvious concern for your local community in the answers you have given. Thank you very much for your evidence.

Examination of Witnesses

DR PETER TYLER, University of Cambridge and PROFESSOR PAUL LAWLESS, Professor of Urban Policy, Sheffield Hallam University, examined.


  27. Good afternoon and welcome to the Committee. For the sake of our record, could you begin by introducing yourselves?
  (Professor Lawless) My name is Paul Lawless. I am at Sheffield Hallam University. I am the Director of the New Deal Evaluation Team.
  (Dr Tyler) My name is Peter Tyler from the University of Cambridge. I have been evaluating the regeneration budget for the last eight years.

Mr Clelland

  28. You do not need me to tell you that there has been a plethora of urban renewal initiatives over the last 30 years, in fact you could probably reel them off if I asked you to, but I am not going to ask you that question. What I am interested in is what we have learned from that experience, whether or not the initiatives we have today, the new initiatives, Sure Start, Neighbourhood Renewal, etcetera, have been designed taking into account the knowledge which we have built up over those 30 years, or are we just getting more of the same?
  (Professor Lawless) May I kick off particularly in the context of New Deal. There are some important things to say about New Deal which reflect on experience from previous initiatives. Peter will talk about SRB. If we reflect on a couple of issues where NDC has definitely made a step forward. Two leap to mind: one is the thought that regeneration takes time. NDC is an initiative over 10 years and that is a distinct improvement. Someone previously raised the issue around sustainability. I think that is a very important question; equally we have to accept that regeneration of these kinds of areas is going to take time. Having 10 years as opposed to five or seven years is a definite step in the right direction. The second issue I would point to is the way that NDC is about outcomes. It is not about outputs, it is actually saying we can be about improving health or improving jobs. The previous evidence was very interesting in terms of the problem around community regeneration, but as well NDC was important in getting people to think across the piece, not just the community but also agencies as well, about 10 years, about what can actually be achieved in 10 years and setting targets, which might prove to be quite naive, but nevertheless setting targets and giving people goals to go for. We have learned some of the lessons from previous initiatives.
  (Dr Tyler) One of the first things to say is that it has taught us that areas vary enormously in the nature of the problem they face. Looking across the various deprived areas in the United Kingdom, we have some with very high levels of need and also very low levels of economic opportunity in terms of their position in relation to new economic growth. What we have found over the years is that in the worst areas—and generally speaking most of the New Deal Communities are these sorts of areas—you do have a combination of physical, economic and social problems which have all come together, which necessitate action over a very long period of time. I believe firmly that if you instigate action in just one or even two of those domains, you are likely to fail. In other words, you lead what we would call increasingly an holistic approach. That is one of the big messages of the last 10 years. In the United Kingdom we have advanced enormously over 40 years and what we were doing at the beginning was a sticking plaster on a wound. What we are beginning to do now, if we could do certain things a bit more evenly, is beginning to get at the root cause of certain problems.

  29. You do not think there is any danger of us repeating any of the mistakes of the past?
  (Dr Tyler) I think there is every danger of us repeating mistakes of the past. Ultimately the only way these areas can be turned around, the really deep-rooted problem areas, is if they receive an adequacy of resource as well as the commitment and all the other good things mentioned earlier to overcome the problem. If you look up the history of the amount of resources put into new towns and compare it with the level of resources put into regenerating our poorest areas, the poorest areas at the moment are getting a slim deal.

Chris Mole

  30. To what extent do you believe the benefits of regeneration initiatives are sustained in the longer term? Apparently in some places it may have slipped back. To what extent is the capacity to bring lasting change really there within the power of the local community?
  (Professor Lawless) In terms of NDC, one of the things is that it is a 10-year initiative and the evaluation itself has only started. Where we have evidence of previous initiatives, one obvious issue, and perhaps this is an obvious thing to state, is that the more there are incentives towards physical regeneration and housing in a sense they do sustain. It gets more complicated when we look at a wider range of outcomes. One of the positive things about New Deal is that it is about health, it is about education, it is about jobs. These are more difficult to sustain through time and also more difficult to capture. To some extent the jury is slightly out on that one. The evidence we do have on some of the urban development corporations in the 1980s is that they were often criticised in the early 1990s for having a very narrow remit around physical regeneration and land, but they did achieve those kinds of objectives, in a sense they did get more environmental improvement there. In terms of sustainability over a longer period of time than some of the other outcomes, it is much more difficult to say at this stage.
  (Dr Tyler) If you are talking about true sustainability, in some areas it is going to require staying with the area, all the major players in the public sector, and indeed the private sector, staying with that area for a very long period of time. At the other extreme though, there will be some areas where if we do certain things right in the early years, we shall turn them around fairly quickly. I have been impressed by the way in which some of the coal field areas for instance have turned round relatively quickly because they are better place in some ways to build on some advantages of location they may have, which some of the other areas do not have. True sustainability is a concept which requires very careful thinking. I do not know of many areas in the United Kingdom where government commitment, indeed private sector commitment, has stayed with them long enough to be truly satisfied that we have turned the corner.

  31. You mentioned coal field communities. Are there any other neighbourhoods you might identify which have had lasting benefits? The Committee went to Hulme last year which seems to have been very highly regarded in terms of effectiveness. Are there others elsewhere?
  (Professor Lawless) Castle Vale is often mentioned in Birmingham. With some of the urban development corporations you would say, in terms of the objectives they set themselves, which were very much around land reclamation, land development, there is evidence there of longer-term sustainable regeneration. It is much more difficult to point to areas where we have seen this holistic approach to regeneration which has actually been sustained through time. As the Bishop of Liverpool pointed out, one of the difficulties around once you move the outcomes to people as opposed to places and you start taking education, health and jobs, there is inevitably going to be a tendency for the people who benefit from those, or at least some of those, to move on and that creates its own problems in terms of assessing the efficacy of the policy because people do move on. It is tricky to trace them through time.
  (Dr Tyler) We sometimes lose sight of how early actions have prevented some areas becoming the really difficult areas they might have become. Those successes are always difficult to gauge. There is no doubt that if we do think right at the local level, bringing all the players together, we can turn things from not being as severe and problematical as they might otherwise be. The UK has a rich history of doing lots of economic things on the ground in areas which really have helped substantially. Where we have fallen down is in bringing the three together, the physical, economic and social.

  32. What you are saying is that if one were to ask the question, "Why have things like Hulme not happened elsewhere?", they have but they are not the generality, they are the exception still.
  (Dr Tyler) We should not lose sight of the facts. I was very much taken with the earlier discussion that we should not lose sight of the fact that people will want to move out of areas and into areas. I always think that good areas are areas where people want to stay, but people will move. What we have observed from SRBs is that a large part of the movement process is people moving for family reasons and all sorts of reasons. A degree of churning will always occur in an area. We are a natural part of it. It is wrong to see areas in a static sense. Things are changing all the time, but it is true to say that attractive areas lead to people wanting to stay in them and wanting investment to come into them. That is an important thing we should not lose sight of.
  (Professor Lawless) There is a regional context to this as well. In the North of England generally, particularly in the context of social housing, we have seen in some areas a virtual collapse of housing markets. Inevitably you can actually be taking one step forward and several back because of the regional context within which regeneration takes place. It is easier to carry out certain types of regeneration in different regions of the country. Generally I suppose you would say that in the North of England broadly it is more difficult in housing and also probably in terms of jobs as well.

Alistair Burt

  33. I was Minister responsible for Community Challenge in Hulme for some years so I am delighted with the way in which it is now evaluated. One of the innovative things which was tried was the introduction of private housing into Mosside and Hulme for the first time in 30 years and therefore a change in the mix of the community. I have not traced how successful that has been five years on. Have you any sense of whether changing the mix in the community has any form of long-term impact? Do people resent new people coming in? Do new people coming in feel an identity with the area and contribute to it? Is the change in the mix of housing sustainable in the long term?
  (Dr Tyler) That is an enormously complex area. The general feeling from the generation side of housing is that mixed housing has been quite a significant success. One of the big success factors across our city landscapes is the new investment which is going in and the new mixtures which are occurring. Much of the old view about the type of housing has dropped away and ceased to be as relevant as it was.
  (Professor Lawless) There is an implication in NDC. Quite a number of the partnerships have identified change in tenures, in particular an increase in private sector accommodation, as one of their key outcome areas. They have also sometimes identified house prices as a key outcome target that they would want to achieve. In a sense you can see that is a bit of a two-edged sword. If you start off talking about higher house prices, which is what you are talking about, that will have implications for the kind of people who can live in them. That is a bit of a two-edged sword.

Mr Clelland

  34. We are still in the early days of the NDC initiative but are you able to see yet at what stage we shall be able to evaluate its effectiveness?
  (Professor Lawless) This current phase of the evaluation is due to report in 2005; there will be an interim evaluation then. As ever, there is the tension between trying to know things immediately and the fact that it does take time for these things to take place. It is particularly important in NDC to accept that it will take a number of years because some of the outcomes—health and education leap to mind—will take many years to unfold. Investing in those kinds of areas could well take 10 years. In other areas, jobs, perhaps crime to some extent, maybe certain types of housing, you get more of a feel more quickly but some of the outcomes are going to take many years to unfold.

  35. Does that imply that by the time we get the assessment we may find it is too late to have learned from the lessons?
  (Professor Lawless) As well as part of the evaluation, we are undertaking work on each of the five outcome areas. One of the intentions there is that as we undertake research on particular issues, so that in the jobs area we are looking at job brokerage schemes for instance, just to give one example, that kind of evidence will be made available to everyone on the new scheme. That is a very important innovation in terms of getting practice generally around the regeneration community.

  36. You are talking about the results of the evaluation being accessible. Would that mean they will be accessible to those working at local level?
  (Professor Lawless) Absolutely.

  37. Not just the policy people.
  (Professor Lawless) No; absolutely.

Alistair Burt

  38. On methodology, you mentioned earlier how difficult it was to evaluate the long-term success of some of the previous regeneration schemes. Two questions. In your experience, have the outcomes which were originally considered for some of these regeneration schemes changed over time in that when you start you have a series of outcomes you are looking to over the three- four- or five-year period of the City Challenge project? In the light of experience have those outcomes changed over time and are you now looking for different ones? With those outcomes and perhaps value for money considerations are you confident now that there is the methodology in place which will enable us in 10 years' time to say whether or not the current crop of initiatives can be sensibly evaluated in terms of whether they have been successful or not?
  (Dr Tyler) Outcome targets and objectives of all programmes have to change through time, particularly in a ten-year programme. New Deal, by focusing on crucial areas like health, economic well-being and many other aspects of those outcome domains, has set new grounds which we think about. It is very challenging for the evaluator. One of the big tensions is that in the last 20 years we have focused very heavily on what we would call the outputs of programmes. I did an exercise recently where we looked at all the main urban programmes and you could say that we created half a million jobs in the various areas. That in itself does not tell you very much about all the things you want to know, whether there has been less unemployment, better health, all these sorts of things. These output measures have often been the only thing we have. I have to say that I do firmly believe that you need outputs alongside outcomes because by challenging the two you can understand the overall impact. I do not think we are ever just going to find that the methodology can look at any one thing in isolation. It is a very challenging task because things are always changing. Things are always changing in the national economy but also in the area around these places. Recently we have seen the biggest change has been the national economy; it has just got better and these areas have benefited. It is a problem of attribution and it is difficult to say what the area-based initiative is doing in relation to all these other things. I think we have never been better at doing it, not just because we are there doing, but also because we do believe that we are better at doing it.
  (Professor Lawless) A recent review of the 39 delivery plans—and unfortunately unlike the Bishop of Liverpool I have read them all—showed at least 250 separate outcomes. They are very similar in many respects but you can imagine the individual partnerships are encouraged to identify their own outcomes and they have gone ahead and done so. Clearly the evaluation team cannot conceivably follow through 250. We can identify a series of core indicators, core outcomes that we will trace through time. Individual partnerships will often actually reflect on their delivery plans and accept that change is inevitable over a 10-year period. Another issue to point to here is that we do now have core targets which is a really important innovation in getting a sense of consistency about what we are to try to achieve in terms of neighbourhood renewal.

  39. Professionally you are convinced that now you have in place sufficient methods for determining success that in 10 years' time if we asked you how successful these had been, you would be pretty sure you would have the mechanisms to enable you to answer the question.
  (Dr Tyler) We would be bound to go a long way success that in 10 years' time if we asked you how that evaluation has often been very poorly funded. A lot of the programmes funded by government have been very small funds for the task required. Secondly, I do believe that most of the people in the community do understand the need for evaluation and it comes down to a point which was made earlier by the Bishop of Liverpool. If you explain things to people, then they accept it, but they do not like you to keep changing it. It is important to get those things built in from the beginning. New Deal is beginning to cut some ground in that respect, but it is very challenging.
  (Professor Lawless) We were commissioned in 2001 to undertake the evaluation of an initiative which has now started, which was announced in 1998, so that was three years straight away. There was no common baseline, so we are seeing 2001-ish as a baseline. With major initiatives such as this—we would say this would we not—there is a very strong argument to have evaluation in a sense not as the second or third task, but a very strong argument that with the announcement of an initiative an evaluation team should be set up at the outset. It would have saved a lot of time and we would now be in a position to reflect on three or four years of experience which we cannot do.
  (Dr Tyler) With SRB government did set up the evaluation right at the beginning and we have been tracking that initiative for eight years. That sort of thing is to be warmly welcomed because you do learn an enormous amount. Unfortunately one of the problems is that there is huge attrition of all of the people involved in an eight-yearly evaluation since very few people who started it end up in there at the end. So it is with the delivery as well.

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