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

Memorandum by Bristol Regeneration Partnership (GRI 23)


  The Bristol Regeneration Partnership (BRP) is a cross sector, inter-agency partnership set up in 1995 to provide a focus for regeneration activity across the city. The Partnership has managed schemes under six rounds of the Single Regeneration Budget and a European funded Objective two Action Plan totalling over £50 million. We also work closely with the local New Deal for Communities pathfinder (Community at Heart) and the Hartcliffe and Withywood Community Partnership (HWCP) both of which are resident led.

  It is perhaps worth quoting from our SRB6 Bringing Bristol Together bid, which predated the setting up of LSPs and the Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy, as its stated intentions of strengthening cross cutting partnership working, building on existing good practice in service delivery and adding value to main programmes still apply:

    The Bristol approach is an integrated one that develops connections between neighbourhoods, regeneration good practice and main programmes. This proposal is needs and opportunities led and recognises that sustainable regeneration requires new ways of working within the contexts of local, national and European policy, targeted funding and mainstream programmes. We will build on previous initiatives, identify additional ways of tackling disadvantage and promote cross cutting action. We will ensure that problems are not displaced between areas. Regeneration cannot be achieved by external funding alone. Bristol is proposing measures that address social and economic problems through strong partnerships working together to influence the city economy, local service delivery and main programme spending. No agency working in isolation can achieve sustainable improvement. Regeneration with long-lasting solutions will only be achievable when local communities can influence agencies at local, regional and national level in a co-ordinated way.


  There is widespread agreement that regeneration initiatives have been encumbered by excessively bureaucratic requirements that are particularly off-putting to neighbourhoods, communities of interest and the private sector. Continually changing programmes have resulted in initiative fatigue at many levels. It is to their credit that the local partnerships in Bristol have managed to retain considerable commitment from their resident-led Boards in the face of high national and local expectations and very tight centrally imposed deadlines—maintaining an overall vision while being very project and spend driven has not been easy.

  However there is a growing body of evaluation work that demonstrates some examples of good practice. For example, the recently published independent evaluation of our Youth Owning Urban Regeneration (YOUR) Scheme stresses the significant contribution that it has made to

    —  pioneering a number of forms of young people's participation;

    —  assessing barriers to participation and partnership working;

    —  learning about what works and what does not when trying to involve young people;

    —  organisational learning across sectors;

    —  challenging institutionalised ways of working;

    —  learning about project management; and

    —  widening the debate about the roles and responsibilities of the various providers of services to young people.

  The evaluation also refers to the Local Government Association/National Youth Agency publication Hear by Right which provides a set of clear and thoughtful bench marks against which progress towards actively involving young people in local democracy can be measured. The paper also poses some challenges for consideration in the form of a series of questions. For example, if young people are to be a central theme of LSPs how are they to become meaningfully involved?


1.  The contribution of area-based initiatives to broader regeneration work and regional strategies

  A DfEE good practice guide "Learning Elements of SRB" (in which two out of the 22 case studies were from Bristol's area based Northern Arc Scheme) noted that SRB had added value by injecting resources, targeting disadvantaged groups, challenging the uniformity of provision, providing scope for experimentation and building coherence and partnerships. The detailed intelligence gathered and experience gained from area based initiatives should be used to inform policy making at local, regional and national levels and should ensure that appropriate connections are made between social and economic regeneration. The lessons learnt, both good and bad, should be built on so that "the baby is not thrown out with the bath water".

2.  The characteristics of successful schemes

  The best outcomes are achieved where there is genuine cross sectoral activity and where there is continuous and active commitment from residents, communities of interest and agencies to developing new ways of working and sharing powers and responsibilities. Schemes must be needs led rather than project driven. Getting the balance right is not easy given the different organisational cultures and expectations of all the participants. It cannot be a quick process—centuries of neglect to disadvantaged areas cannot be overturned in a decade.

3.  Community involvement

  Active community involvement is essential if regeneration is to be successful and sustainable. As has already been stated the commitment demonstrated by residents in Bristol's local partnerships continues to be very high in spite of the often unrealistic expectations of them and the lack of any remuneration. Continued support will be necessary—it is significant that this is often provided too late, for example, the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit's guidance on Skills and Knowledge "the Learning Curve" is to be published in October, three years after the New Deal for Communities Pathfinders were set up and at the end of the Single Regeneration Budget.

4.  Democratic accountability

  Turn out by residents for the elections for the Boards of HWCP and Community at Heart considerably exceeded that for the local government elections. This suggests that local interaction and ownership makes voting much more meaningful. However, there are a lot of, often conflicting, expectations—accountability to central and local government is not always compatible with local needs and aspirations.

5.  Whether and how sustained improvements have been brought to deprived neighbourhoods

  It is perhaps too early to say whether sustained improvements have been achieved although examples of good practice have been noted. Much will depend on how far public agencies are prepared to review their practice and ensure that the services they deliver are needs led rather than contract driven. The findings and recommendations of the Government's Policy Action Teams will need to be regularly monitored and reviewed. Also the LSPs will have a major role to play in determining which neighbourhoods need special help, finding out what can be done to improve outcomes there, aligning resources behind cross cutting needs and monitoring and evaluating progress. Central Government should ensure that there is greater clarity about what is expected of LSPS if they are to be strategic arbiters for change as opposed to mere talking shops.

  It is significant to note that the flexibilities promised to local areas have not yet materialised.

6.  What arrangements need to be put into place at the end of a regeneration initiative to ensure that benefits to local residents continue?

  Much will depend on the commitment of public agencies to review their mainstream programmes and funding priorities. Long-term change cannot be achieved by relatively short term funding measures. Consideration will need to be given to longer-term core funding (tied to the delivery of floor targets and clear expectations), the provision of asset management at local level and a thoroughgoing exploration and review of neighbourhood renewal principles. The current external funding for regeneration activity provides an opportunity to "test bed" new ways of working and should allow for experimentation and risk taking.

7.  Whether policy has taken into account long-term impact

  A major problem has been reconciling the Government's apparent wish for quick fix answers with the long-term engagement of communities and public agencies. The recent proliferation in government initiatives from different departments with different time frames and requirements does not provide a national role model for real joined up thinking and working! We need to ensure that national policy making is informed by local needs and aspirations, probably using the LSPs as a conduit for this information.

8.  Whether initiatives have had an effect on the major central and local government programmes

  The Joseph Rowntree study on the New Commitment to Regeneration Pathfinders made specific recommendations for improvement but there is no evidence that this has been followed through. Constantly changing or adding to government programmes makes it difficult to embed good practice and learn from previous experience. Given the plethora of government-funded initiatives it would be helpful to have an overview/evaluation to date of their perspective on what has worked and what has not. Reconciling national policy with local needs and aspirations continues to be a priority. Examples of good practice do exist but, at least equally important, is to have the courage and the honesty to look at what has not worked and why.

9.  Whether lessons learned from previous regeneration initiatives have been applied to newer initiatives like New Deal for Communities and the LSPs

  Little seems to have been learned from previous experience as there is the tendency to go from one regeneration initiative to the next on the "and now for something completely different" principle. There is confusion about the range of different initiatives and a lack of coherent information on what has worked and why. Consistent follow up on the work of the Policy Action Teams would be helpful and national policy making must take local experiences into account.

10.  How the government should decide to introduce an area based initiative and whether there are successful alternatives.

  Area based initiatives are an important part of regeneration activity but their success depends on the commitment of public agencies to effect change. Also it is important to ensure that problems are not displaced between areas and that there is specific work to support communities of interest. Experience to date has demonstrated that there are no quick fix solutions and that government initiatives have to be relevant and sensitive to local needs. LSPs, if effective, should be in the position to advise government on the most appropriate interventions for their areas. There will need to be a regeneration input into strategic processes such as community planning and the developing neighbourhood renewal strategies.


  Central Government needs to support government offices, RDAs and LSPs in developing:

    —  a set of principles about community engagement, sustainability, equal opportunities and positive action, partnership working, social inclusion, integrated service planning and delivery;

    —  a menu of ways of working which encourages joint action across sectors, influences main spending programmes and enhances the sharing of experiences; and

    —  information about the trends facing communities and a number of the key issues that have to be addressed.

Anna Schiff

Chief Executive

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