Pathfinders lost their way, claims commission

24 Feb 05
Pathfinder programmes set up to boost demand for housing in the North and Midlands have struggled to spend money on worthwhile projects, says the Audit Commission.

25 February 2005

Pathfinder programmes set up to boost demand for housing in the North and Midlands have struggled to spend money on worthwhile projects, says the Audit Commission.

According to inspectors, it is difficult to assess whether the first nine housing market renewal pathfinders provide value for money because of the non-prescriptive way they were launched two years ago.

Under pressure to spend money as quickly as possible, pathfinders were unclear over the extent to which their work differed from previous regeneration schemes.

'Some projects may not have achieved the best possible impact from market renewal funding,' the commission states in Housing market renewal, published on February 17.

'Lack of clear ground rules, while providing an opportunity for innovation, also makes it more difficult to gauge performance.'

The £500m market renewal programme was launched in 2003 as part of the Sustainable Communities plan.

Last month, the government announced that, by 2008, a total of £1.2bn would have been spent in areas suffering from low demand, including some non-pathfinders.

But the commission warns against duplication, such as paying for social housing to be improved when the work should be carried out by landlords.

The report says that it may not be possible to assess value for money when projects do not lead to benefits with a monetary value, but says there should be more effort to bring together commercial and public sector skills rather than using costly consultants.

PFfeb2005

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