MONDAY 28 OCTOBER 2002
Mr Clive Betts, in the Chair
Memorandum submitted by the Bishop of Liverpool
Examination of Witnesses
THE RT REVD JAMES JONES, Bishop of Liverpool, Chairman, Liverpool New Deal for Communities (NDC), examined.
(Rt Revd Jones) I am James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool. I chair the Government's New Deal for Communities programme in Liverpool, which is the Kensington community.
(Rt Revd Jones) I am very happy to go into questions, but I should like to concentrate very much on what we mean by community-led regeneration, because this is meant to be the key to the New Deal programme. Certain things have become apparent over the last few years doing this programme and I should like to explore those with the Committee members.
Chairman: We shall pursue certain questions but I am sure you will bring any lines of thought you have into your answers.
(Rt Revd Jones) It is trying to be led by communities and it is being encouraged by the rhetoric, but very often the reality is very different. The emphasis upon delivery makes it feel as though the thing is being constrained by people outside the community rather than within the community. Three years ago the New Deal programme was started. What you have is an ad hoc group of people who have been cobbled together, people who have shown some sort of well-meaning towards their local community. They are then called upon to produce a delivery plan within about 12 months. Then you find you are held to this delivery plan subsequently. I think that is totally unrealistic because such an ad hoc group of people are still feeling their way, they are beginning to trust each other. After years of distrust, you cannot just come into a community and say, "Trust us", and think that those sweet words will overcome all the suspicions. There has to be a much more realistic expectation of the time it takes to build up a team of local people who are really in the driving seat of regeneration. The rhetoric is there, but the practicalities are not, and it is in the demand for the delivery plan to be met as specified that you really feel the thing is being led from outside rather than inside.
(Rt Revd Jones) There are years and years of distrust with people coming in with solutions, top-down solutions. People are told, "Now listen, you have the solutions". So they come together and they begin to articulate some of these. Then they can feel that they are just there as tokens of community representation and that nobody is really listening to them. If, for example, you look at a lot of the delivery plans - and I have not looked at all of them - they are very similar in the way they approach education, health, crime, fear of crime. My sense is that if these were genuinely community led, there would be a much greater degree of variety between those delivery plans.
(Rt Revd Jones) The other day I was at the opening of a scheme and I asked the person who had been doing the consultation work what the attitude of the local community was. She said about 50 per cent of the people really welcomed it and the other 50 per cent could not really be bothered. You just have to work very, very hard. In one of my papers I quote the advice given to Roosevelt when he came with his New Deal programme. He said that people need to be most on their guard when the government's intentions are beneficial. That is what people do feel. I did not appreciate just how far back you have to go to retrace your steps, to say to the community, "We really do believe in your ability to shape your own future". As I said in one of the articles, the tension is revealed in the sort of language we use. Those of us who live in communities use organic language. We talk about seeds, planting, grassroots. The people who control the funds use mechanical language, talk about triggers and levers and hits and outcomes. The truth is that you need both the organic and the mechanical. There are the communities who know that it takes time for a community which has died to live again and it does not happen in those neat three-month sections in the year. So if you have reached the end of the year and you have not spent the money, you are then penalised. That feels in the local community as though they are being punished. On the one hand you are saying, no, this has to be community led and you are affirming and encouraging. The moment they do not meet these targets which have been devised by an ad hoc group in the first 12 months of their existence, they are told, "That's it. You've lost the money". We understand that central government needs to work to times. The local communities are also asking for results. They are saying, "Look. We've got this money. What do we have to show for it?", but there has to be a greater understanding of the time it takes to build up a community's capacity to shape its own future.
(Rt Revd Jones) Two of the most overworked words in the English language at the moment are "community" and "partnership". Having said that, partnership is what it is about. Interestingly, the Faith in the City report 18 years ago did say that partnership was the key to urban regeneration. We are beginning to experience partnership, but it takes a long time to build up the relationship of trust between community members on the board and the agency representatives. What that does actually require is a particular relationship. I actually feel a fraud chairing New Deal, because here I am advocating community-led regeneration, but I am not a community member. I am there at the invitation of the local community, because what the board and the chair have to be able to secure is the confidence of the local community and the confidence of government, be it local, regional, national. You can have the confidence of government and not the community, but you might as well pack up your bags and go home and some New Deal programmes have demonstrated that. Similarly, you can have the confidence of the community and not the government and be equally useless to the task. I feel that my job as chair of the board and chair of New Deal and working in the community is to build up the trust. I am for ever saying that we are people of goodwill here, we must believe the best of each other around the table. There are all sorts of suspicions and I leave a board meeting, I leave my time in the community and I go to my home. The community members are there, but they are the ones who get knocked up at midnight by neighbours saying they have heard a rumour that their street is going to be bulldozed. Community members are very, very vulnerable and they feel caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, sometimes they feel patronised as the token community representatives and on the other hand they feel that the rest of the community reckons they have betrayed them by getting involved in this process. There is no easy solution to any of this, but it does take time. That is why I come back to the delivery plan: it is unrealistic in terms of understanding the nature of the task to build up this real partnership between the community members and the agencies which you need.
Sir Paul Beresford
(Rt Revd Jones) At the moment the majority of those people coming in are asylum seekers. This is another issue where the community feels that it is powerless over the people coming in. We addressed this with the housing associations who were part of the problem as well as being part of the solution. Community members felt they had no control at all over the people who were being brought in to live in the community by housing associations. Similarly now, through the scheme of asylum seekers, there is no local control about the embracing of asylum seekers. That is not that there is ill will towards asylum seekers, but a community can only carry a certain percentage of people. I am not quite sure what the exact number is but a large proportion of the 18 per cent is asylum seekers.
(Rt Revd Jones) There are lots of ideas around and there are ideas which have come from the local community. We have not begun to think creatively enough about this. One particular project we are developing at the moment with Sure Start is to offer a parent in the first year of their first child double child benefit if they will avail themselves of a parenting course which allows them to develop skills in parenting in association with their peers, learning from one another and also gaining support from professionals in the community during that very vulnerable time. We feel that parenting education, not highly prescriptive but mutually supportive, enables especially young parents to handle issues of conflict, of low self esteem and also develop very basic skills and leadership as they take leadership responsibility for their own children. This is being worked up at the moment, together with a means of assessing the benefit of this. We have 600 families in the New Deal area with children between the ages of nought to four and the proposal would be to assess and evaluate the worth of this particular scheme, to see whether the benefits system can be used to stimulate and also to sustain community involvement in regeneration.
(Rt Revd Jones) There has to be greater flexibility on the part of government, especially as it is expressed through government offices regionally. They dance to a tune from Whitehall which seems to dance to a tune from politicians who understandably want to see results. That is why people like myself and others who are involved in regeneration need to speak frankly to politicians to say yes, you are right to demand community-led regeneration, but you really have to understand what that means. You therefore have to be much more flexible when it comes to the delivery plan for example. I would argue that if a New Deal programme has not spent according to its budget by the end of the year, instead of saying, "You are penalised", you should then sit down with representatives of the government to work out why that target had not been met, to see whether there was a case for that target, that amount of money to be transferred to the next year's budget.
(Rt Revd Jones) That is a danger. There is a need for good bureaucracy but it must be a bureaucracy which stimulates community flourishing and not oppresses it. In the past it has felt oppressive. What we are about in this New Deal programme is constructing a trellis on which the vine of different communities can flourish. It is happening and I think this is the best and the nearest we have ever got to community-led regeneration. I am here to say, no, you really have to understand the rhetoric much more than is presently being understood.
Sir Paul Beresford
(Rt Revd Jones) Yes, they do.
(Rt Revd Jones) Yes, there is understanding. I have had discussions with government ministers about how you could use the benefit system to stimulate community involvement. They are very sympathetic. Then they say, "But this is the legislation, these are the rules and it is very, very difficult to be flexible". My feeling as a parson and not a politician is that surely it is not beyond the wit of us to try to devise a way in which we could actually do that. After all we use the tax system in a flexible way to encourage people to develop brownfield sites, to come into urban areas. If we can do that with the tax system, surely we can also use the benefit system in an equally creative way to stimulate and reward community involvement. As I said in one of my papers, we had our meeting and I asked people to say how many hours they had spent in the previous week on voluntary community activity, 10 hours, 12, 20, 40 hours. One woman said that she had in the previous years attended 174 meetings, most of them lasting between three and four hours. When I was in discussion with a government minister and I passed this bit of paper along to him, he gasped, rightly, and said that was a full-time job. The point is that we can pay a professional regenerator to go into a community. We can pay them £30,000, £40,000, £50,000 a year to bring their skills to bear - and we do need professional regenerators - but those people who live in the communities stay there, working to make it a better place and we pay them nothing. It seems to me that there is a principle of justice here. Surely if you stand back, you say to yourself it cannot be right when they are dividing up the case to allow the day tripper to be remunerated, yet to offer the people who live there no remuneration whatsoever.
(Rt Revd Jones) The acquisition of appropriate skills to do it. I cheer when I hear people say that you have to have a board of which at least 50 per cent of the membership is local. At the first meeting I attended before I became chair the board spent two and a half hours on the minutes. You cannot make any progress if every meeting you simply retrace the steps of the previous meeting. Why is that? Because there was distrust. Why is that? Because there are not the skills. Here we are, middle class people, we create our hoops which we expect people to jump through, but they do not have the skills. It sounds patronising to say they do not have the skills, because they have many other skills. The people who live in the community have the skills of survival
they have the self-knowledge, they also know the solutions. The example I gave was about the City Academy in Kensington. There was no secondary school when we did the consultation and people were saying that one of the major problems in the area was the disaffection of young people. I asked whether anybody had ever asked for a secondary school. The answer was instructive. They said, "No, we wouldn't be allowed that". That hits the nail on the head because what you have here is low aspiration, low self-esteem, a sort of dependency culture where people think they would not be allowed it. I said, that this was New Deal for Communities and they were meant to be able now to dream their dreams for the future, they had the solutions. The thing is that they do know the solution and in fact we have gone ahead and we are into the first round of submitting a serious bid for a City Academy. The problems are low self-esteem, low aspirations, not sufficient skills. I know these are clichés but community capacity building must be one of the priorities. We took a long time to get started because on the board we had to devise a constitution. We were simply out of our depth. Nobody had any experience of drawing up constitutions and we just flailed around doing this. Hindsight is a great thing. What I reckon would have been useful for New Deal programmes would have been if central government had provided a number of options, say free templates of constitutions which people could have picked off the shelf., but we had to do all that work ourselves and people did not have the skill to do it; I did not.
(Rt Revd Jones) I know them to be people of goodwill, but I think there were and are two problems with the agency involvement. Firstly, it is not always the same representative of the agency who comes to the meeting, especially the local meeting; the board is different, but the sub-group is where much of the work is done. Bearing in mind that the key thing is relationships, if you have a different person coming to each meeting it is very difficult to build up that relationship of trust. The second problem - and this is both at the board level and at the sub-group level - is not having a person of sufficient seniority to make a decision of commitment on behalf of the agency, therefore if you are going to, which you must, have the agencies involved, it has to be somebody of sufficiently senior level to be able to say, "Yes, we can do this".
(Rt Revd Jones) On the private sector, I have been to the chamber of commerce and after two years we are beginning to get some private sector involvement. This is a bit of a caricature now, but Single Regeneration Budgets (SRBs) seem to be very much business led and New Deal for Communities is very much community led. My hunch is that we need a regeneration scheme which has a dual emphasis of both business and community. SRB was business-led with some community add-on. New Deal is community with any private sector which you can get interested. There has to be a twin approach, so that we make our communities good places to live and to work. You need genuine economic regeneration. That brings me to your second point, which is the involvement of the faith communities. I believe that they are crucial. I speak now as a minister in the Church of England. One of the strengths of the Church of England is that we have a presence in every community. It gives us an authority to speak about where comfortable and uncomfortable Britain is today. Unlike other professionals, we are there seven days a week. In fact I was making this point to the chief constable recently, when a vicar had been in particular need and had rung for police assistance and the police had been very slow in coming. This is an exception but I was trying to point out to the chief constable the unique position that a clergy person has in a community. On the one hand you are seen as a symbol of compassion so that if somebody is in need the address of the vicarage is advertised, the telephone number is there and the person will literally come to the vicarage door. If you have had a run-in with the social services and you feel that all authority is against you, the Church then becomes a symbol of authority and if you have a brick in your hand and are passing the church or the vicarage, then you will lob that at the building. I think the Church has a unique place within the community and in many places they will do some of the community capacity building. That has been demonstrated through Faith in the City and the Church Urban Fund. There the single biggest contribution the Church made is building up the capacity of the community to be involved in decision making. You will find that there are clergy and lay representatives heavily involved on the boards of NDCs; on the primary care trusts, any of those local groups like the police liaison committee, you will see very strong Church representation and other faith communities too.
(Rt Revd Jones) This is anecdotal as all of this is anecdotal in a sense. At the beginning I felt that there was an encouragement for New Deal for Communities to be very dependent on a local authority; this was three years ago. I sense the mood has changed. The pressure is that the local authority has to be much more involved in bending the mainstream funding. This goes back to my earlier point that if there has been a history of a breakdown in relationships between communities and a city council, then you have to do a lot of hard work to overcome that. Certainly on our board there was suspicion of the city council, especially when it seemed the city council had to become our accountable body and there was a lot of resistance to that. However, the city council officers have worked very hard with the community to demonstrate their own goodwill and I think they have won the community over. As with most media programmes, we take days away - have away-days - where the agencies and the city council and the community members work through some of these issues of distrust and begin to work together as a team. That is happening, but it is three years on.
Sir Paul Beresford
(Rt Revd Jones) In the end community regeneration has to be about people in local communities caring for each other. That is the bottom line. I think that is happening. We have a public meeting for New Deal and we have 400 people turn out. This is an area which is notoriously low in turnout for elections. I find that heartening. People feel there are real issues which affect their lives and people are working together in citizens panels, on the board, in neighbourhood planning groups and beginning to trust each other and look out for each other. It is very difficult to quantify that. It is much easier to look at a row of houses and say 20 houses have been restored and tick a box. It is not so easy to tick a box and say here is a community which is beginning to breathe again, beginning to flourish. In the end that is what is at stake, whether a community will come together to care for its own and we are seeing signs of that.
(Rt Revd Jones) We now have a representative of asylum seekers on the board of New Deal. We are looking at how people who are the asylum seekers can be integrated into the community.
(Rt Revd Jones) We would always hope to have a representative of that part of the community on the board. This is anecdotal but when asylum seekers have been treated badly over using their vouchers in the shop, I have heard local community members going to the support of the asylum seeker and that is very heartening.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
Memoranda submitted by Dr Peter Tyler and Professor Paul Lawless
Examination of Witnesses
DR PETER TYLER, University of Cambridge and PROFESSOR PAUL LAWLESS, Professor of Urban Policy, Sheffield Hallam University, examined.
(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.
(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 ten 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 ten 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 ten years, about what can actually be achieved in ten 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 ten 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.
(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.
(Professor Lawless) In terms of NDC, one of the things is that it is a ten-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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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 ten 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.
(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 renew.net scheme. That is a very important innovation in terms of getting practice generally around the regeneration community.
(Professor Lawless) Absolutely.
(Professor Lawless) No; absolutely.
(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 ten-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.
(Dr Tyler) We would be bound to go a long way towards it although I would make two points. One is 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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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 NBC 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.
(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.
(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 ten-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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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 put 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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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 not 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.
Memorandum submitted by the Audit Commission
Examination of Witnesses
(Mr Webster) I am Andrew Webster of the Audit Commission and I have my colleagues Scott Dickinson and Katie Smith with me.
(Mr Webster) We are very happy to go straight to questions.
(Mr Webster) We were clear that there are always going to be some circumstances in which ABIs are the right thing to do, particularly where there is a very substantial problem which will be beyond the resources of any local agency. We cite some examples around major decontamination costs for example, or where there is a time-limited problem which requires some exceptional action which would be too much. We also endorse the remarks that clearly the capabilities of different local agencies vary very significantly and therefore some regime which supports people to do better so they are more capable of taking local action themselves will be important. Equally we were very clear that unless there is a very clear focus by the initiative on what matters in the locality, any amount of satisfying central government will not be successful. We see a future but one in which the balance is different and in which there is less focus on the intervention and more on the local capacity.
(Mr Webster) I identified in my last answer some criteria which you might use. I would hesitate to start going through schemes and saying this sort of scheme works, this sort of scheme does not work, because it is a much more complex matrix of the problem which was presenting, the approaches which were taken to it, the history which existed before, the likelihood of success. We know from our other work that predicting success in any kind of government change programme is incredibly difficult to do and we never seem to find any correlation with anything. It requires quite sophisticated judgement.
(Mr Dickinson) The recent innovations following the social exclusion unit's work did highlight where Area Based Initiatives should be treated as important, where estate-based activity in particular needed to be improved. We can actually say what criteria are required. Initiatives which try to get into an area, only deal with physical developments, do not look at wider social issues and the delivery of public services tends not to produce sustainable improvements for the people who live there. So we can produce criteria, but it is difficult to say that one will not work, that one will. That is all we hope we can move towards.
(Mr Webster) Yes, it is a real worry. A much more general problem than simply to do with regeneration initiatives is that a large proportion of local government is busy satisfying the criteria of one central initiative or another and probably a large part of the public sector. We found in our work and in the report we have presented to you that focusing on what will make the difference in this locality and then delivering that through a variety of means is the more likely route to success. Our hope is that people will develop their capability and confidence to have a much more coherent local vision of what they are trying to achieve, to use their own resources to do it and to draw in government and other resources to match that rather than what many perceive to be going on the other way round which is that local resources get skewed by chasing a particularly attractive source of funding which the government or European Union have introduced more recently. We see great advantage in more coherence and more local coherence, but we see very variable capacity to do that. We welcomed the initiatives in central government to rationalise the relationships with local authorities and with other bodies and to co-ordinate and reduce the number of initiatives, but if you ask many of those bodies, as I am sure you will go on to do, they will still be looking for more.
(Mr Webster) We do think that there should be further rationalisations and we were pointing in that direction. We think that the guidance which has been used ... It is not that the policy and programme are going in the wrong direction or that the criteria are wrong, all those things are right. It is the credibility which needs to be gained that it will actually be delivered and will make a difference. We observe many different departments of government very attached to their own ability to intervene in particular localities and particular parts of the initiatives and a lack of confidence in local government that that is going to stop and that greater coherence will be brought to those things. So we would be reflecting back the need for that and for the measures which have been put in place through the co-ordination unit and through the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to be seen to work and then to move on to look at other ways in which that could be expended.
(Ms Smith) One of the things we have done is look at what the regional co-ordination unit has put forward. We have liked a number of the things in the review of the ABIs. It does seem to us to make some progress in terms of trying to reduce the burden on local practitioners which we hear a lot about in terms of administrative costs and the complex system they have to negotiate in implementing these ABIs. That has been quite helpful. Also the fact that it actually does highlight a number of practical tasks for individual departments and individual units to do in order to better rationalise this very fragmented set of initiatives is quite helpful also. What is not clear is whether or not the regional co-ordination unit has any clout, whether it can actually hold other government departments to task. The tendency does tend to be to announce new initiatives. There is a great tendency to announce something to sort a problem out. Whether the regional co-ordination unit's protocol will have any clout is not clear. It is there and it is definitely progress, but it remains to be seen whether or not it will be able to reduce the number.
(Mr Webster) No, it does not mean that we do not see any future for them. I partly answered that in my earlier answer to Mr Clelland, where we see circumstances in which place based schemes are the right things to do. Earlier witnesses have said that it is much more complex than that, people's affiliations work at a variety of different levels and people do move, people want to move, it is a positive thing. It is where there is a strong place or time dimension to something that we see there being real value in having those kinds of initiatives. Where something is within the purview of everyday management and leadership of everyday services, then the greater capacity building and mainstreaming would be a much more desirable way of tackling those kinds of issues. We are not saying we do not see a place for them, we are saying we see a much more focused and limited role for them.
(Mr Dickinson) The key bit there is that Manchester as a city did not isolate Hulme as just one place and put everything there. They did try to see it in the context of the rest of the city. It is a location close to the city centre. Manchester suffers from extensive deprivation so any number of areas could have been chosen as a focus and what they have tried to do is put it in a strategic context. Although a lot of the work in Hulme was ground breaking and has been seen to be successful and has changed the nature of the area, it was never seen in isolation from the rest of what was going on in the city. That is one of the key things which we find: you have to make the connections both to other public service provision and wider economic development and that is what they made sure they did.
(Mr Dickinson) Yes. Although it was a very focused approach and still is for East Manchester, it has always made the connections back out to other things which were going on in the city. That is essential if things are not going to be seen as isolated developments which then are very difficult to sustain.
(Mr Dickinson) We have not done that sort of evaluation. There are always issues of displacement; it cropped up with an earlier witness. There are always those issues, but when Manchester have gone about these things they have tried to see things with a strategic view. They have not just not assumed that things will not get displaced. I have not seen work which follows up where the people who used to live there have actually gone, but there are issues about whether people want to stay in some of these areas as well, so developments are issues about helping people and helping places. It is not seen in isolation in Manchester, so they have tried to deal with the displacement effects well and that has been inter-agency with the police as well as the local authority.
(Mr Webster) I was recently in Manchester for another purpose though looking at their regeneration and they were very clear that they had learned a lot about how to do it in Hulme. They would not necessarily replicate everything they did there in other parts of the city; in fact they would not. There were things about community engagement, the links between physical and social regeneration which they have done differently in East Manchester and plan to do differently in North Manchester. There is a very important point to be made there, that even if Hulme were the model, it might only be the model for Hulme. There may well be other things which would work in other places where we would see that capacity in the local agencies and in particular the lead local agency, which in that case is the city council, to look at what did and did not work. To adapt, to change, to modify and then apply differently in other sectors in a coherent way has been probably more important than what initiative it was done under or what particularly happened in that locality.
(Mr Webster) Across the totality of ABI, no, we have not. We cannot say this much went in and they brought in this much in total. We have inspected quite a lot of councils and their economic development and local regeneration strategies. We do find examples of striking success. One I would particularly draw your attention to is in Easington which attracted something of the order of £400 million in additional investment. It clearly is possible to do it and whatever people did in Easington may well be replicatable in a slightly different way in different places. I think that what we can do is point to isolated examples of success and then hope that other people will learn from that or particular cases where that had not happened, which we would also do in places where people were found to be performing less well. In terms of taking a view across the entire country, we have not done that. In fact even if we had been everywhere and you took all our reports and added them up, you would still have problems in that they were looking at different times and different regimes and so on. Our answer is that it is possible but not universal.
(Mr Dickinson) Although we do not have a universal view of this there is a lot of anecdotal information which points to the other view which is that sometimes when an area gets an Area Based Initiative mainstream resources go out because people say, "They're sorted". There are issues about not only not attracting extra but losing some of the mainstream services and spend you would have had because of the ABI.
(Mr Webster) In some places we can point to evidence.
(Mr Webster) Not that we have collected but evidence which other people have supplied to us that outcomes have been improved. I guess our examples of places which have been particularly successful would be Easington and another one would be Hartlepool.
(Mr Webster) What we can say is that the advantages one might hope would have come from those have not materialised. We do have to say that causality is not always that easy to establish here. Is the place poor because the services are poor or are the services poor because the place is poor? We have not been able to establish a direct line of cause between those two things. Regional factors can be tremendously powerful and national factors can be tremendously powerful. There is nothing any council can do to account for any major national or international economic change. A degree of anticipation of those things might better inform what choices are made but it may well be that having made those choices the deliverability was never there. We could compare and contrast examples with our material but we have not done it.
(Mr Dickinson) There are some basic factors which we could try to highlight. One of them inevitably is the capacity of the local authority and other key partners such as the police and primary care trusts to know what they want for their area, know what they want for the services and be able to use the money sensibly as opposed to simply going for targets which have been handed down. People are not consciously analysing the needs of their area. They do not generally use the money well. We also think that working with local businesses and local communities so that they own the issues and can follow through once the grants have stopped is the crucial factor in making sure the success is there. We might even have examples of where local labour has been used in construction but if nothing is planned for what happens, it is still not sustainable. That is another key factor in making sure things are successful. I always get concerned when people make attracting extra resources their target for success. The grant regime sort of requires it so they have to pull down extra resources somehow. I am more concerned with what happens afterwards in terms of the quality of jobs or the quantity of the services. We would look for people looking at those outcomes rather than just whether they got extra money spent in their area.
(Mr Dickinson) There the evidence is that you need capacity building in the first instance and that is where a differentiating approach may be needed for greater flexibility in setting those targets. Some areas have a capacity to do that; others would not necessarily have the capacity and that needs to be built in, something which can be deliverable in a sustainable way.
(Mr Dickinson) That is a case by case basis. It might be the local authority which needs the capacity built. It might be local businesses. It might be local communities. We cannot really make a general comment there. It is a case by case basis.
(Mr Webster) We said in our earlier answer that we welcome the steps which have been taken to try to rationalise this and we think it should go further. It is not our place to say whether that is a rap over the knuckles.
(Mr Webster) It clearly is the case that this plethora of initiatives can sow confusion; it does not necessarily do so, but it can. It is difficult, if you are trying to look at a whole area, to establish the real priorities in terms of responding to government initiatives. It is difficult enough to look at the real priorities locally, but when you try to marry them up to a whole series of changing national initiatives, that can be difficult. There are some people amongst the more able and successful places who do manage to do this. So there are local partnerships which have integrated all of this into a very successful range of Area Based Initiatives. The question is: is that something we could expect everybody to do?
(Mr Webster) We have highlighted some of those. They look first at their local things, they have capacity, they work well in partnership, they are focused, they are very ambitious. They have many things which drive them through this tangle to something which is coherent for them, but there are many other places where for one reason or another that does not exist and in those cases a wide range of single issue initiatives either becomes a co-ordination problem or an excuse. We would not wish either of those things to be the case. There is definitely an argument for giving greater attention to the capacity of people to knit these things together and for a more careful scrutiny of single issue initiatives. There is evidence that is happening because, for example, health action zones are now being integrated into these things. There are other opportunities to rationalise things. This is not the case of us sitting here saying we need to clear all this out of the way and have a year zero on initiatives. We are not saying that at all. What we are saying is that the recognition which has been given to that problem needs to be consolidated and seen through and the things which make people well able to deal with it need to be encouraged and promoted so that there are better prospects from both sides.
(Mr Webster) Are you talking about in the locality?
(Ms Smith) That is right. Interestingly enough, one of the things we found as part of the neighbourhood renewal research we have done this year is that the training and the message seem to have got through at senior levels; that does not seem to be the barrier. The problem is that often then has not cascaded down throughout the organisation and the middle managers and sometimes the project managers may be confused as to where their organisation is going with regeneration. What we are calling for is better training at that level, so people can understand the implications of new policy for their day to day job.
(Mr Webster) I shall be in a better position to identify this in a number of weeks' time when we publish the results of our comprehensive performance assessment. We highlighted Hartlepool recently in an inspection, where we felt that kind of progress had been made. I think I would feel better if I went away and reflected on that. If the Committee would like, I can write and add to our evidence. I could name some places, but I may have better criteria.
(Mr Webster) We would find that. Do you want to add what we found on that?
(Ms Smith) Referring back to the research we did for neighbourhood renewal, a lot of people told us that Sure Start is an excellent initiative. We really do think it is best practice and does seem to be a way of targeting money to children living in deprived neighbourhoods. It does seem to do that. It will be many, many years before we can determine whether it delivers value for money and whether or not it is effective, because at the end of the day it is about deflecting people who would have gone down a route of crime in their teenage years into something a bit more wholesome. There are issues about when we can evaluate it.
(Mr Webster) If they are so clever they never get caught, then it probably would not be measured as a success. Responding a little further to the question, there are many issues within Sure Start which would feature in many of the issues around this whole area, issues of governance, issues of leadership, issues of how people work in partnership, issues about how people with not very much time get called upon to do quite substantial pieces of development work. Many of those things. People identify very strongly with the purpose and maybe that is the real message. If people could be as clear about the purpose, a lot of the issues they have with the process would start to melt away.
Chairman: Mr Webster, we thank you and your colleagues for your evidence.