Headlines: February 13th, 2004

The 2 billion pounds UK regeneration programme, the New Deal for Communities, compares favourably with international comparisons across three continents. The comparison was made by the National Audit Office as part of a review of regeneration approaches in USA, Canada, Germany, Netherlands and India. The review found that the UK achieved a higher level of community engagement than any of the programmes in other countries.The mandate of NDC is to ‘narrow the gap’ between deprived communities and the national average in five ‘theme’ areas of employment, education, health, crime, and the physical environment.

The National Audit Office found that the NDC is helping to tackle the problems of disadvantaged communities and it is delivering a new and innovative approach to regeneration which places people at the heart of the process.

A survey of 117 local service providers in NDC neighbourhoods showed that 41 per cent considered NDC partnerships to have been very or extremely influential with regard to their own policies, plans and services. Conversely, only 16 per cent of local service providers had not been materially influenced by their NDC partnerships. The contribution that NDC partnerships have ranged from collaborations with higher education institutions to improve accessibility, to working with police forces to improve drug prevention strategies.

The report did, however, set up markers for improvement. Some accountable bodies, often local authorities, hindered innovation and project delivery, while others were doing little more than acting as glorified bankers. The report criticised operational “micromanagement’. In some cases relationships had become strained between local authorities and the NDC and there was an element of mistrust. It also urged NDC partnerships to resist the temptation to ‘go it alone’ and to work hard to maintain constructive relations with local and national bodies, in particular local authorities. It calls on those delivery agencies who are not engaging well with NDC partnerships to review their opportunities to work constructively with them and the communities they represent.