LGA wants renewal flexibility

13 Apr 00
Councils must be given 'freedom and flexibility' to help deliver the government's ten-year strategy to renew deprived neighbourhoods, the Local Government Association warned this week.

14 April 2000

Advocating the introduction of local Public Service Agreements, the LGA said councils and other partners would have to determine what improvement targets were needed if the plans were to have any chance of success.

Speaking after a series of meetings between the LGA and officials from the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU), the LGA's social inclusion executive chair, Chris Clarke, said: 'Councils need more government-imposed targets like a hole in the head. What we would like to see is targets set within a broad framework which allows councils to meet the needs of their most deprived communities.'

A report from the SEU this week said the government's response to neighbourhood renewal had often been thin and ineffective.

According to its document, National strategy for neighbourhood renewal, 'too much reliance has been put on small-scale, short-term regeneration programmes operating in only a few areas. Nothing has been done about the chronic failure of mainstream policies in thousands of neighbourhoods'.

A new approach, moving away from the emphasis on bricks and mortar, will address jobs and skills for people in poorer areas. The report sets out 30 key ideas and advocates area-based initiatives and better, joined-up services.

At the meeting on April 12, local government minister Hilary Armstrong singled out the contribution of councils to some flagship regeneration strategies. She said: 'We need to ensure that services in the most deprived areas are as good as those in the most affluent.'

The LGA's Clarke said local strategic partners would help deliver the ambitious project. 'The evidence shows that the earlier we address the problem, the more far-reaching the consequences. So any targets will have to allow for regular mileposts to measure longer-term progress. This is not a quick fix.'

The housing associations were more blunt. The Chartered Institute of Housing claimed time was running out. Policy officer John Perry said: 'We are now aware of the problems facing those living in the poorest areas, but we need some action on the ground. There have been enough discussions. Let's get on with what needs to be done and ensure resources are allocated to support the initiatives.'


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