Headlines: June 13th, 2002

The Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy launched eighteen months ago is not narrowing the gap between the most deprived neighbourhoods and the rest of the country as well as it might. This is the conclusion of the Audit Commission in its policy paper ‘Policy Focus: Neighbourhood Renewal’.The renwal strategy requires organisations to change their policies, spending patterns, services and the way people access services to meet the needs of those living in deprived areas. Some are not responding well. There is an absence of a common message coming from Government. A survey revealed that 53 per cent of local strategic partnership members think that government departments are inconsistent in their approach to neighbourhood renewal. The survey also showed that only 36 per cent see the neighbourhood renewal strategy as ‘a fundamental shift in regeneration policy’.

There is a call for a reduction in the number of special and area-based initiatives to ease planning and joined-up delivery in deprived neighbourhoods. The plethora of initiatives distracts providers from the task of aligning their mainstream services with the needs of those living in priority neighbourhoods. Examples quoted include delivering Neighbourhood Renewal Fund projects, Children’s Fund, a community strategy, a Neighbourhood Management Pilot, an Education Action Zone, an SRB 6 programme and a European Objective 2 programme, as well as responding to the Government’s modernisation agenda for individual services. The effect of this is that huge quantities ofstaff, partner and community time are spent preparing financial and output monitoring of the programmes.