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

Examination of Witnesses(Questions 40-58)



Chris Mole

  40. On this question of the balance between place based regeneration and people based regeneration, do you think we have got it right at the minute?
  (Dr Tyler) It is one of those things which you can only ever get right in the particular context. In some ways, to suggest you can either have people or place is completely wrong. I also think that in the past we have often lost opportunities to think about the interactions between areas. Many of our policies have focused on a particular boundary driven area but have not thought about the interactions with the rest of the areas around them. That is beginning to change and that is a powerful change. I do believe that in a sense you are always going to have to have people and place type policies because in the very worst areas unless you are challenging both of those domains you are not going to get anywhere.

  41. A plea for the place side of things. There can be an inclination, rightly in a sense, to emphasise very much the impact on individuals and households, but areas around housing, environment and crime really do have a major role to play in regeneration. Each time residents are asked about their particular problems in an area it is strikingly consistent how issues of local crime and local environmental issues almost invariably figure at the top of the list. Other issues such as health and education, perhaps particularly health, do not figure as major problems. Perhaps they ought to, but they do not.
  (Dr Tyler) Evidence from the SRB shows that you can affect place and crime related perceptions relatively quickly. It is the more deep-rooted areas, unemployment and those sorts of things, which take a lot longer.

  42. I was wondering why nobody mentioned anything about work in that context. What is the connection with economic regeneration and how important are skills in this?
  (Dr Tyler) I was very much taken by the point made earlier that we needed to think very carefully about the interface between welfare to work programmes and area-based initiatives. I could not agree more. This is an area where we need a lot more understanding, but we need to do a lot more with our mainstream programme. It is hardly surprising that we are only scratching the surface. We have some SRB areas where hardly anybody is taking up mainstream training programmes at all. In those circumstances it is hardly surprising that we are not turning these areas around.

Mr Clelland

  43. We talk about urban areas, but of course they vary hugely in size, in demography, in levels of incomes, unemployment, employment, prosperity. Although you say these areas have benefited from the improvement in the economy, they have benefited in hugely varying degrees. From your experience what have you learned about what kinds of area-based initiatives work best and in what kind of areas?
  (Dr Tyler) One of the things which is impressive about the Single Regeneration Budget was its flexibility. People could apply for large amounts of funds from a bottom-up driven approach. Partnerships came together and produced a clear vision and strategy from their area. That is good practice. Flexibility in regeneration is important because in some areas you may need a very sizeable programme. Some of the SRB schemes are up to £100 million and run for seven years. That flexibility in terms of size, duration, is something you need. The nature of the problems varies enormously. That flexibility is important and we have to be careful not to lose that under some of the recent changes.
  (Professor Lawless) With NDC it is simply too early to say. One of the intentions of the evaluation is that we will look at different groups through time and within a period of time be in a position to say what kinds of outcomes are easier to achieve for different types of groups and different types of areas. It is too early to say on NDC.

Chris Mole

  44. Do you think that the government can achieve its objectives for Local Strategic Partnerships? That is a particularly relevant question in the context of what you said just now about the interface between areas and neighbouring areas. What is local? Is it a neighbourhood, is it an area, is it citywide or is it where?
  (Dr Tyler) LSPs are broadly district based in England. In Scotland they are going to be community planning partnerships based on the Scottish areas. In general if we look at those areas the idea is correct. What you are doing is bringing all the main players round a table who are going to look at that area carefully over the years. One of the big problems is in bending the resources sufficiently between budgets. The lack of budget flexibility across mainstream providers lies at the core of our changing the problem in the long term alongside engaging the private sector.
  (Professor Lawless) LSPs do have a role to play in how ABIs might move in the future. You could envisage a situation where LSPs played a bigger role in trying to look at ABIs and seeing a different sort of package, a different diet appropriate for the area in which they are. It comes back to the earlier question because some kinds of initiatives are clearly more important in some areas than are others. Generally across the whole of the history of ABIs in England there has tended to be quite a centralised view as to what should happen. There is much more scope for there to be more of a local view of what might happen, what kind of initiatives might make sense in what kind of localities.
  (Dr Tyler) One of the difficulties at the moment is that we have the regional development agencies which operate at a different level and sometimes with a different set of spatial areas compared to the LSPs. Those sorts of differences in geography are sometimes problematic.

  45. So those are systematic problems. The Bishop talked about the importance of inter-personal relationships in partnerships, to what extent are local agencies hamstrung perhaps by other national initiatives?
  (Professor Lawless) This is a major problem, indeed we identified this in the initial scoping phase of the evaluation. We asked partnerships about their experience of mainstreaming and they did identify a number of problems which were preventing them doing this. You have identified two of the key problems. One was around this issue, not so much of personalities but the status of the individual; what sort of role and power did he or she bring to a particular partnership? I think that was very important. Clearly other kinds of national priorities can occur which make it difficult for agencies to sustain their commitment. A classic example in some of the partnerships could be around crime; street crime for instance has emerged as a major issue. That may not necessarily fit in with the same kinds of priorities which an NDC partnership would want. It is very difficult when you take a 10-year programme. Inevitably all kinds of more immediate policy initiatives are going to come to the fore which are going to have implications for partnerships and that is going to create stresses and strains.
  (Dr Tyler) Over the years there has been a tendency, if in doubt, to invent yet another partnership delivery structure on the grounds that partnership always has to be a good thing. We have created far too many partnerships. We should have used the existing structures more and we should do that in the future. Recent moves to consolidate partnerships are to be welcomed. Once some of the mainstream initiatives which have been called Area Based Initiatives (ABIs), health action zones and employment zones have been shown to work they should fall away. They are not the sort of partnerships which need to carry on. They demonstrate their worth and then fall away.

Alistair Burt

  46. Your last remarks prompt the observation that government in, government out over the last 20 years the constant cry from local authorities has been that it is all getting centralised. Why all these initiatives, why not give us the money? We know what is happening locally, we know what is best for our area. If all the money which was spent on all the initiatives around the country was simply given to local authorities, presumably weighted to make sure those in most need had most money, could we not cut out an awful lot which has been spent on creating initiatives, finding new people, new consultants and simply give the local authorities the support and let them get on with it. Why should we have any of these initiatives at all?
  (Professor Lawless) There are strong arguments for Area Based Initiatives but in a sense there are two questions in that: the role of ABIs and the degree to which these should be localised. In terms of the role of ABIs there are still very strong arguments. There is often a combination of factors which occurs in certain areas which does require specific intervention. One of the advantages of ABIs is that admittedly we have not always learned the lessons, but NDC is an example of where we have learned lessons nationally, centrally, from previous ABIs and these are beginning to unfold now. I personally thing there is an argument that there could be greater autonomy and we could give greater decentralisation to local authorities or LSPs because they are in a position to be able to reflect to this.
  (Dr Tyler) We have to recognise that local authorities vary enormously in their ability to be able to carry forward the requirement. Most local authorities would recognise that there is a huge variation in the skill base and their ability. Some local authority areas are only recently understanding the problems because the problems are relatively new to them in historic terms.

Chris Mole

  47. Can I just follow up the point about whether there is a difference? Do the skills to do that exist at the district level or do they exist at a country level?
  (Dr Tyler) It varies enormously. I was asked earlier what I felt to be one of the benefits of recent years. We have now a very large group of professionals in the United Kingdom, people who know what to do. We did not have those people 20, 30 years ago because they had not gone through the experience curve. That has been a big plus.

Alistair Burt

  48. Two or three things come together with this. The Bishop spoke earlier about the distrust which had been built up in a local community over a long time with the very people who had been elected to solve the problems which people were still suffering and 40 years on nothing had happened. You do not build up that trust if other people, apart from the elected representatives of the city council or the district council come in, plant it on top and say you do not need to worry about trusting local councillors now, these people will solve it, so we do not deal with that. Voting patterns and voting behaviour continue to show a decline in people voting and why should they vote because somebody has come in to sort out the problem anyway. Thirdly, why should anyone stand for the council because anything useful they might want to do has been handled by somebody else in an initiative. Councillors have complained over the years that they do not have enough to do these days. Some of the things they would like to do, if they had more control over their budget and their own money, they would be able to do but for initiatives which are out of their hands. If we really want to support local government, let us give them more to do.
  (Dr Tyler) One of the lessons learned in terms of addressing these local problems is that you have to have the different groups of players there, the private sector.

  49. They can buy them in.
  (Dr Tyler) Buying in is not what you want, with respect. What you want is commitment. You do not buy in that commitment necessarily very easily. I think that having the partners feeling equal is very important. The local authorities end up in most areas justifiably feeling that they do not get rewarded enough for having to carry the banner and lead the thing through. If we move back to just one partner, be it local authority or whatever, delivering, it would cause all sorts of problems in other directions. I cannot agree that mainstreaming to local authorities only is the way forward because there is a huge other set of constituencies to engage here.


  50. Surely that is not ruling out the possibility that if money were channelled down into the local authority arena they could then develop a different sort of initiative involving partners to suit their particular areas.
  (Dr Tyler) What we are saying here is that you have to channel money down to all the mainstream providers, be it health, police or whatever, as well as the local authorities. All of these mainstream providers have to have sufficiency of resource to be able to devote to the problem areas. If they do not have that, then they cannot bring together what is required. It is not just local authorities which need to have the extra resources, it is all of the mainstream players in those particular areas who need to be spending more.
  (Professor Lawless) That is where I think the role of LSPs could prove in the longer term to be very important in this context because clearly that is an attempt to pull together, if not all of the agencies, many of the key agencies. There is an argument that LSPs could have more of a role in defining and implementing and organising the ABIs within their areas.

Chris Mole

  51. Is this not where the concept of joined-up government and holistic solutions all comes together? These sorts of approaches for many in local government are the first time that you get somebody, say, from the JobCentre around the table, which has not happened in the past.
  (Professor Lawless) Yes, that has definitely been one of the side benefits of ABIs. I am sure we have all been observers in partnerships where people were introducing themselves to each other who ought to have known each other for 10 and 15 years. That does occur. It is always a balance; the degree to which things should be centralised because there does tend to be more of a repository of knowledge and experience around ABIs centrally, however you define that, on the one hand, compared with the fact that much of this could be done locally through LSPs. It is a balance and I just wonder whether there is a case now for the balance to go more locally and regionally. There are key regional players in this too, but if we have a standardised approach to ABIs we are making assumptions about different outcome areas and maybe the reality is that in some parts of the country potential outcomes should play a much bigger role than in other parts of the country and certainly different types of project initiatives are going to make far more sense in some places than others.


  52. There has been a review going on of Area Based Initiatives at national level. Do you support it? Do you have any criticisms of it?
  (Professor Lawless) I am not sure that it is quite as radical a review as the one I thought might be emerging. There are some very sensible suggestions around the phasing out of some initiatives and pulling some of the funding schemes together. The most important possible development is the single local management centre—is that what they are going to be called? Something along those lines. I am not quite certain what they are going to do, but as important as seeing the ABI from the centre's point of view is, equally important, if not more so, is the recipient's end of things. One of the problems we all know if you are working in a partnership, one of the absolutely perennial problems, is the difficulty of reconciling different demands on bidding for ABIs on new bits of money, on evaluating them, monitoring them, implementing them. They are different systems, different pots, different time horizons and so on. If what this means is that you actually do try to unify some of these, or at least make the bureaucracy simpler for those who are actually implementing them, that is a definite step in the right direction.
  (Dr Tyler) In general the reports and the recent review have been very useful because they have gone back on some of the needless partnership developments which we may not have needed. Having said that, at the same time we should not stifle partnership developments because we know this is the mechanism which works. We have to be a bit careful in our streamlining that we do not lose a delivery mechanism which is proving itself to be a good one.

Andrew Bennett

  53. If you were drawing up the balance sheet for each of these schemes, how many would you put in which have really succeeded and how many would you put in which have failed?
  (Dr Tyler) What we have seen is that a very large number of these schemes have worked for a time to do certain things. If you asked me how many of them have really passed the test of time, that would be a minority because the consistency of approach has not been there in my experience of 20 years of looking at them. Having said that, we have some very clear successes and areas have been dramatically turned round. They have so much to do. I have said in my report to you that we have this problem of fixed effects, that is the areas we looked at 20 years ago are still the same top ranking areas of deprivation now. That is my argument to you, that we are not spending enough in these areas to turn them round in a way that we really need to do. I would have to say that the actual number of areas really significantly turned round in a way which would suggest they are truly enterprising and have turned the corner and a good place to live in again are not the majority at the moment.

  54. You talk about spending the money in the areas. Do you have any confidence that much of the money has really been spent in the areas? My impression is that on a lot of occasions there have been consultants, council officials have been involved, other people have actually taken the money out of the areas and spent it somewhere else. Surely if you are really going to regenerate these areas it is getting the money in and then the money spent in the area so it goes round and round within the area. Is not the major problem for most of these places that they are places where the money hardly remains for a minute?
  (Dr Tyler) I am going to have to disagree with that. In SRB there has been £5 billion of public money, £26 billion overall in the 1,020 schemes. In those areas 60-odd per cent has gone in the physical fabric which is in the area now, it has not walked away.

  55. It is physical fabric but most of the people who are employed in doing those schemes did not come from the area, did they? So in that sense the money did not go on going round.
  (Dr Tyler) The amount of money which has gone on the administration of most of these programmes, to my knowledge, has been minimal; in SRB it has been roughly speaking five to seven per cent which is relatively small given the responsibilities.

  56. We looked at a scheme in Manchester where a huge amount of money had been spent on the housing. When we checked up, almost all the contractors who did that work did not come from that neighbourhood, they came from outer Manchester. So that money in wages went straight away from that area.
  (Dr Tyler) It is very difficult in a country as integrated as the United Kingdom to get local people to do local things necessarily. It is difficult to make that work in that way. Wherever we have tried that from the task force programmes in the 1980s through, it has not proved easy to do that. It is an interesting concept and we should all like to see most of the money retained in the area, but in a country like ours it is very difficult to bring that about. Better to build the right things, better to get the right economic activity engendered there and that is the way forward.

  57. How many of your evaluating teams actually come from the areas in which the evaluation is being done?
  (Dr Tyler) In my case looking at 1,000-odd schemes, there is a fair chance that most of the people I have got working come from one of those areas because we are those sorts of teams. The NDC team is an example of people rooted in the area, who know the area well, live in that area and want to see it succeed. I do not follow this train of thought particularly. It does not seem to be a big issue to me.


  58. Some of us go back quite a long way and we have had a general improvement area, housing action area, SRB, neighbourhood renewal, now New Deal for Communities. On each occasion they have been invested in or money has been put into them because they are perceived to be the worst areas. Might it not have been a bit better if we had found not quite the worst areas and tried to stop areas sinking into a state of decline, recognising that some areas, however much we put in, really are not going to be successful?
  (Dr Tyler) One fifth of SRB has been thematic and gone to areas which have not been the deep-rooted areas. One of the successful things about the SRB mechanism was that any partnership, anywhere in England could make a bid. I think that flexibility is to be welcomed because areas which felt they were on the slippery slope could make a pre-emptive strike. That is something we must not lose sight of. If we just keep concentrating on areas where we know we have problems, we will have the other ones backing up, as there will always be in any country.
  (Professor Lawless) NDC obviously reflects on the whole some of the worst areas within cities, but in many instances it could have gone to several locations. In no city could you definitively say this was absolutely the worst area; it obviously depends on the kinds of indicators you use. One of the critical things around all of these, particularly NDC where there are only ever going to be 39, is what we learn from them. That is going to be an absolutely vital issue in this. It is only a relatively small proportion of deprived urban England and we must learn the lessons.

  Chairman, Professor Lawless, Dr Tyler, thank you very much indeed.

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