Headlines: March 29th, 2006

A new report says central government, local councils and other providers are facing a “make or break” moment over the delivery of services to neighbourhoods. The study, ‘Neighbourhood Management – at the Turning Point?’, has found evidence of more joined-up, accessible and responsive services in areas with Neighbourhood Management Pathfinders.The NMPs were set up by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in 2001, with the aim of giving people in the areas an opportunity to improve local services. The independent report, produced by SQW, says the 35 pathfinders are a valuable tool in regenerating deprived areas and it backs the idea of rolling out the pathfinder model more widely. It warns, though, that the NMP approach is in danger of being a missed opportunity if its value is not recognised.

The report says the first NMPs have led to deeper relationships with many service providers. The strongest involvement is with the police, local schools, primary care trusts, local authority housing services and local authority environmental services. The involvement of the police, it says reflects the importance of community safety as a concern for local people. Its findings show recorded crime has gone down in three quarters of the original pathfinder areas.

Turning to improvements in environmental services, it says where Pathfinders have given priority to improving environmental services they have cleaner neighbourhoods and local residents have helped to change perceptions of their local area.

The SQW study concludes that neighbourhood management adds value by bringing residents and service providers together to improve and join-up local services, strengthening the community and voluntary sector and providing an environment which encourages innovation. It adds, “The main benefits so far have been to make the deprived pathfinder neighbourhoods safer and cleaner and help shape services that are better joined up, more accessible and more responsive to local needs.”

The system, it goes on, seems to many practitioners, residents, councillors and service providers, to be a more intelligent and sustainable approach to neighbourhood renewal and public service improvement and on that basis it should be developed and adopted more widely.