Headlines: February 12th, 2008

An independent study says the two billion pound New Deal for Communities programme has led to real improvements in people’s lives and bridged the gap between some of England ’s most deprived neighbourhoods and the rest of the country. The study by the Centre for Regional, Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University also found local people were more satisfied with the communities.

The programme covers 39 deprived areas including in Lambeth, Bradford, Plymouth , Manchester, Leicester, Hackney, Oldham, Middlesbrough and Hull . The study found big steps had been taken in improving quality of local people’s lives and their opportunities. The study also found evidence that interventions focussed on one problem in an area could lead to benefits in other fields. For example, as housing and the physical environment was improved crime rates fell and as the number of workless people fell, health improved. That, the authors, say is a clear argument for a holistic approach to regeneration.

The study looked at changes between 2001-02 and 2006-06 and found a reduction in total crime rates, the fear of crime and in feelings of being unsafe after dark, lawlessness and dereliction; an 11 per cent increase in the number of children gaining five or more GCSEs at grades A Star to C; a 7 per cent increase to 42 per cent in the number of people who felt part of their community and satisfaction with the community as a place to live rising from 60 per cent to 71 per cent.

The findings have been welcomed by the Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, who said the New Deal for Communities was transforming areas that had been blighted by the cycle of deprivation. “But I recognise that there is more to be done to narrow the gap that still exists between the richest and poorest neighbourhoods in our country,” she said.