Memorandum by Wigan Borough Council (GRI
Wigan Borough's Community Plan provides an overarching
strategy and a long-term vision for the future. Alongside the
Community Plan, the Borough's Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy sets
out the Borough's priorities in tackling regeneration. Consequently,
area based initiatives are making a huge contribution to our Community
Plan principles which are:
Improving standards of living and
providing a better quality of life;
Reducing health inequalities and
promoting better health for all;
Investing in learning and improving
both education and skills throughout life;
Growing the local economy and increasing
Providing more efficient and sustained
Creating a better physical environment;
Creating safer and more pleasant
neighbourhoods free from the threat of crime.
It is a mandatory requirement for area-based
initiatives such as SRB and European Programmes to demonstrate
how the programmes will meet Regional Strategy priorities and
guiding principles; de facto they contribute to regional
The scale of resources apportioned to an initiative
is important. City Challenge provided resources of a significant
scale with the result that the impact of the regeneration initiative
was visible and ultimately measurable. In recent years smaller
amounts of grant have been made available for area-based regeneration.
This has meant that whilst a holistic approach to the regeneration
of an area has been maintained, improvements have been small scale
Successful regeneration initiatives have a clear
vision coupled with strong and clear leadership. Resources need
to be invested in the strategic management aspects of a Regeneration
Programme and not just assigned to the monitoring and evaluation
of the Programme.
Regeneration initiatives in the Borough are
aligned to the five principles of Wigan's LSPstrong community,
social inclusion, partnership, sustainable development, learning
Evaluation is built into the programme from
the outset and is not some add-on at the end of the programme.
Effective partnerships at all levels and the
establishment of a culture of partnership working. Wigan Borough's
LSP supported by seven partnership boards, to which the Council
has aligned its political structure.
Wigan Borough has been at the forefront of innovative
methods of engagement and community consultation. Residents' surveys
provide general satisfaction ratings with our services and ask
the public to rate the importance of the service. The council
has recently formulated a corporate Consultation Strategy which
seeks the genuine involvement of people in the development and
delivery of our services. Forums such as the Citizen' Panel, Township
Co-ordination, Community Networks, and Twin Ward Risk Management
support the strategy.
Regeneration Initiatives have provided an opportunity
to not only pilot methods of community engagement and involvement
but have also provided an impetus for gathering views from local
people on how regeneration programmes should be developed and
delivered. Examples in Wigan include:
SRB funded outreach work, for example,
with young and old people from the ethnic minorities;
Sure Start Initial consultation meetings;
SRB6 Community Questionnaires which
have informed the preparation of Local Action Plans, which have
been fed into a Baseline Study for the Programme;
SRB Community Partnerships where
local people decide how resources should be spent;
SRB Boards where community and voluntary sector
representatives influence the strategic direction which regeneration
programmes should take.
There is a perception that Local Government
regeneration initiatives will tackle the increasing disengagement
of local people from the democratic process. Such initiatives
can only make a modest contribution to this, through the "Modernisation
Agenda". Legislative and constitutional change is required.
Given the ad hoc manner in which funds are made available
they do not assist in engendering community engagement. Initial
pump-priming grant should be provided to offset subsequent programme
The impact of the White Paper "Your Region,
Your Choice; Revitalising the English Regions". Does this
reduce the role of Local Government in regeneration initiatives
and transfer greater power to the Regional Assembly and the North
West Development Agency? If so, this will have the effect of reducing
accountability at the local level and make it more difficult for
local people to influences changes in their own neighbourhoods.
Whether and where area-based initiatives have
brought about sustained improvements to deprived communities
Wigan Borough has adopted a systematic approach
to improving its neighbourhoods, based on levels of need and deprivation.
At one level, economic development focused area-based initiatives
have, in fact, prevented certain communities from getting worse.
Indeed, there is quantifiable evidence to show improvements to
an area through new jobs, increased inward investment, employment
sites, improvements to the Housing Stock through Housing Renewal
Areas. Area based initiatives have also had a positive impact
on other quality of life indicators, notably in Wigan Borough,
Education attainment targets.
Initiatives such as Sure Start have provided
partnerships with greater flexibility in delivering the programme.
Area-based initiatives have promoted innovation in service provision.
What arrangements need to be put in place at the
end of a regeneration initiative to ensure that benefits to local
The Douglas Valley Community model is a good
example of a successful forward strategy for continued support
to the Community once regeneration funding has ceased. Under City
Challenge Rosebridge Court became a development of small workshops,
constructed by Wigan Council utilising City Challenge and European
Regional Development Fund assistance. An innovative aspect of
the development is that the scheme is held by Douglas Valley Properties
and rental income is transferred by covenant to Douglas Valley
Community, a local charitable company which supports community
activities in the Wigan area.
It is evident that involving people absorbs
time and resources; it is easier to find resources for specific
programmes. Recognition needs to be given to the fact that it
is much harder to find resources to inform and involve local people.
Pump-priming resources need to be given to partnerships to allow
community involvement and capacity building initiatives to take
place before a regeneration initiative is introduced to an area.
Ironically, successfully accessing funding for a small group can
be the start of problems. This is because many groups do not have
the capacity to manage the project or are unable to meet the onerous
monitoring and evaluation reporting requirements of funding providers.
Whether initiatives have had an effect on the
major Government and local government programmes
Previous regeneration programmes have influenced
the New Commitment to Neighbourhood Renewal, Policy Action Teams,
and National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal, Urban White Paper
etc. There appears to be an understanding of the issues, but limited
resources to address the actions required. It is felt that funding
from Central Government tends to be hypothecated and department
driven with funding being awarded for certain themes such as health,
education, crime prevention without an overall strategy for the
allocation of resources.
Whether lessons have been learned from previous
initiatives like City Challenge, and applied to new regeneration
Initiatives, such as the New Deal for Communities and Local Strategic
Regeneration principles should not be confined
to area based regeneration initiatives and should be embedded
in mainstream service provision.
Wigan's City Challenge programme established
a multi-agency team which promoted an innovative approached to
multi-sectoral working and encouraged partnership workings.
Raising unrealistic expectations must be avoided;
it is unfair to assume that local people will solve the problems
that professionals cannot. Community engagement and involvement
cannot be used as a panacea for complex social exclusion issues.
Learning by doing works, local people are more
likely to learn if they have involvement in and ownership of the
The value of networking, the opportunity for
regeneration practitioners to learn effectively, share good practice
and obtain support in their work through meeting people who are
co-ordinating and implementing similar initiatives.
Engendering ownership of Regeneration Initiatives
within the local community, leads to self-help and sustainability.
How the Government should decide when to introduce
an area-based initiative and whether there are successful alternatives
An allocation-based approach rather than a competitive
bidding process would be welcomed. Competitive bidding takes up
valuable time and resources without any guarantee of success.
The best written bid is not necessarily the best delivered regeneration
A fair and equitable approach to the Revenue
Support Grant/SSA. The Neighbourhood Renewal Fund is an example
of where "local flexibility" was initially implied in
its application but has since generated a bureaucracy out of proportion
with the level of grant received.
Introduce Regeneration Initiatives which are
a balance of social and economic activity. Consider the RDA's
Single Financial Framework which is economic focused. Whilst the
RDA was set up as a regional driver for Economic Development it
has responsibilities for social exclusion, how are its obligations
to this agenda being met through the Single Financial Framework?
Consider that, unfortunately, using the IMD
for area based initiatives excludes equally meritorious communities.