NEIGHBOURHOOD MANAGEMENT AT THE CROSSROADS
Five years after the first Neighbourhood Management Pathfinder projects were launched to improve public services and make them more responsive to local needs, particularly in deprived areas, local government has yet to commit to support this approach into the future through its own mainstream funds. A review of the work of the Pathfinders from Communities and Local Government questions whether the projects have made sufficient difference to become a mainstream approach for improving neighbourhoods.
The pathfinder projects are adding value in various ways. They promote a local ‘customer perspective’ in public service provision, identifying local problems, and encouraging providers to pursue ‘joined up solutions. They encourage the greater involvement of local people in decision-making and consultation about services. They achieve these results by bringing residents, community groups and providers together at a neighbourhood level in a way that improves providers’ understanding of local problems and ability to target services on local needs.
The projects also support economic development, working closely with employment services and training providers to improve the ‘targeting, tailoring and take up’ of their services, to support local people in finding work. Worklessness is a key issue in many Pathfinder areas and they improve access to jobs, and more generally promote enterprise and inward investment, not least through helping to improve the attractiveness and safety of the area.
The Local Government White Paper set out a series of ambitions for local government, calling for more responsive services, empowered and cohesive communities and strong local leadership focused on improving whole areas rather than just individual services. Neighbourhood management initiatives can make an important contribution to this vision with a focus on ‘place and citizen’ rather than individual ‘service silos’. As well as pushing for change, they are also helping to deliver it.
The report concludes with the question whether it is now appropriate for neighbourhood management and other neighbourhood working arrangements to make the transition from being short-term regeneration initiatives to being a long-term feature of local government’s approach to governance and service delivery.