Memorandum by The Regeneration Practice
WHETHER LESSONS HAVE BEEN LEARNED FROM PREVIOUS
INITIATIVES LIKE CITY CHALLENGE, AND APPLIED TO NEW REGENERATION
INITIATIVES SUCH AS NEW DEAL FOR COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL STRATEGIC
PARTNERSHIPS, HOW THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD DECIDE WHEN TO INTRODUCE
AN AREA-BASED INITIATIVE, AND WHETHER THERE ARE SUCCESSFUL ALTERNATIVES.
The movement away from Challenge Funding where
bids are locally led and administered in Single Regeneration Budget
partnerships towards more Area Based Initiatives (ABIs) led by
the Regional Development Agencies under single pot funding is
counter to the effective management of regeneration, as it ignores
an essential precept of success, subsidiarity.
That is to say, the principle that:
"authority should reside at the lowest level
commensurate with the necessary information and resources for
making and implementing decisions, with the onus of proof on those
who would move powers to a higher level."
If you buy into this precept, it means Government
should do (but only do) those things where it has a demonstrable
comparative advantage. The more remote the power over regeneration
is from the individual, the greater the tendency to stylise assessment
and monitoring procedures in a predetermined way to suit purely
aspirational political objectives. On grounds of efficiency, I
would question why there should be any regeneration strategies
beyond local or individual control.
Area based strategies led by the RDAs and the
reorganisation of funding into a single pot has created further
distance from local delivery agencies and decisions on funding
programmes. Government has not learned that the effectiveness
of previous City Challenge and Single Regeneration Budget delivery
agencies related to the close proximity of funding decisions to
local organisations, local delivery and monitoring; and that by
increasing this distance it is encouraging:
the creation of false partnerships
between the public and private sectors where patently the market
is in control, such as the Urban Regeneration Companies.
the alienation of local companies,
organisations and individual risk takers in the delivery of regeneration
initiatives in favour of larger organisations with greater power
to present and influence regional government.
a counterfeit vision of success by
Government because "one size fits all" audit procedures
become the self fulfilling focus for regeneration programmes,
designed around audit and monitoring, rather than local projects,
social enterprise and risk taking .
a focus for regeneration skills upon
form filling, aspirational presentation and networking with regional
and local government officials rather than social enterprise and
results on the ground.
I therefore suggest that while Government may
perceive a good contribution by area-based initiatives to broader
regeneration initiatives and regional strategies, such a contribution
may, in fact, be wholly unsustainable, and the product of a self-serving
audit by Government of itself.
A successful alternative to ABIs would be to
build upon the previous Challenge Programme format using a locally
administered Gap Funding investment grant, adjusted to take account
of the social as well as the market gap. Such an approach would
build up a more sustainable approach by building up local risk
takers and the delivery agencies themselves, rather than the auditors
and managers of centralised regeneration programmes.
1. Not for Profit Ownership of Risk: Driven
by a social entrepreneur (not spatial, market or political strategies).
A market owner of risk will (correctly) only strive for profit
with any public outcome being an incidental result of planning
2. The Creation of Sustainable Social Capital
(a) Taking risk to create property ownership
and sustainable revenue streams by the not-for-profit sector;
(b) Taking risk to expand the local skills
base in social enterprise.
Successive regeneration programmes have failed
to connect with local people. New Deal for Communities is intended
to achieve broad social goals, on our most deprived "sink
estates", and to allay fears that previous regeneration programmes
are too much based on physical regeneration without addressing
underlying social problems. These concerns were set out in a Report
by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF): "Social Cohesion
and Urban Inclusion for Disadvantaged Neighbourhoods" published
in April 1999: "in many cases, it was felt that broader social
and economic problems had not been addressed, throwing into doubt
the long-term sustainability of regeneration". The Report
recommended that new ways are found to involve residents, including
handing over all or part of the regeneration budget to ensure
their priorities are met, and it blamed Government inspired regeneration
programmes for exacerbating existing tensions and divisions.
However, the ability of community groups to
show an interest in Government designed regeneration initiatives
has been widely reported as a failure, with most programmes involving
local authorities in their bidding and administration. A criticism
which reportably extends to Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs).
For example, a study by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies
(CLES) on behalf of the Government Office for the North West,
published in April 2000, reports that Local Authorities dominate
the management of LSPs. Both in their operational style, and in
their community plans which are often prepared by local authorities
and rubber stamped by the LSP. The failure of ABIs is arguably
exacerbating social tensions in deprived areas, as the Cantle
Report into the Oldham rioting suggested.
Government designed programmes cannot be democratically
accountable to people if they are administered by Government for
local people, but fail to engage at local level.
The problem goes beyond the design of the application
forms or the structure of Government Agencies, but right to the
heart of the Government's strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal.
Success cannot be led by Government through centrally inspired
partnerships and audits, which only succeed in alienation and
falsification of outcomes. Real renewal can happen only if Government
creates a local environment in which the green shoots of social
enterprise are allowed to flourish from the bottom up, by a reformed,
locally delivered and accountable Gap Funding Programme, together
with fiscal measures to encourage local initiative and courage.
Pockets of poverty and economic success are
simply by-products of unsustainable market activity. Fundamental
planning reform and fiscal measures to skew growth into areas
of low demand are the key Government programmes with a potential
impact on its regeneration strategy. Planning gain through major
reform, and fiscal stimulation in areas of economic failure have
the potential to create an engine for sustainable growth.