news analysis of regeneration shake-up in London

The London Development Agency welcomes a proposed shake-up in
the management of regeneration schemes, but other organisations are
less enthusiastic, writes Lauren

This Easter, the Greater London Assembly appears to favour
putting all its eggs in one basket.

A report published last week by the assembly’s economic
development committee recommends giving the London Development
Agency (LDA) “full responsibility for the co-ordination and funding
of economic and social regeneration in London”.

Established initially to “further economic development and
regeneration”, “promote business efficiency” and “promote
employment”, the LDA and the eight other regional development
agencies (RDAs) have already had their responsibilities extended
from next week to include the social regeneration commitments of
the single regeneration budget (SRB), and the additional economic
regeneration commitments of English Partnerships.

Fulfilling the recommendations of Rebuilding London’s Future
would involve extending the role of the LDA further to cover other
– principally social – regeneration initiatives. These include
projects developed under the Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy and the
New Deal for Communities, both led by the Department for Transport,
Local Government and the Regions and the Government Office for

Unsurprisingly, the LDA welcomes the idea of becoming a
“one-stop-shop”, monopolising the capital’s regeneration

“Our role as the mayor’s economic development agency is to bring
together key players, provide strategic leadership, identify
regional priorities and ensure we are all combining forces to
greatest effect,” says LDA chief executive Michael Ward.

“We particularly support the assembly’s recommendation that
responsibility for London’s social regeneration should be brought
within our remit. We work closely with the Government Office for
London but believe greater impact could be achieved if the two
strands were brought under one roof.”

Others, however, are less enthusiastic. A survey conducted in
February by Urban Forum, a national organisation dedicated to
supporting community and voluntary sector group involvement in
regeneration and renewal, found that only two of the nine RDAs said
they would honour existing SRB projects – which address issues
including social exclusion, community safety, education, skills and
housing – as the budget is wound down and funding becomes part of
the new “single pot” of money for general RDA regeneration

In addition, Gabrielle Cox, head of the North West Development
Agency’s social inclusion policy, told Urban Forum’s national
conference in December that RDAs were primarily economic agencies.
So progress on reducing deprivation was likely to be measured in
terms of unemployment levels and income support statistics.

“The role of the RDAs within the wider social inclusion agenda
is to try to improve economic inclusion,” Cox said. “I say that
unashamedly because if you have a decent job, you are far less
likely to be excluded.”

With this in mind, and given the RDAs’ historical and statutory
bias towards economic issues, Urban Forum fears that handing them
control of all regeneration decisions would be tantamount to
accepting that social regeneration projects should take second
place to economic regeneration projects for resources and

Urban Forum policy officer Caroline Bond has major concerns
about any move to extend the LDA’s regeneration powers. She says:
“Although there could be advantages in having a single source of
funding or pooling budgets – namely that it would allow one body to
have an overview of regeneration funding, therefore allowing a good
spread – the key issue is whether RDAs are the right bodies to do
this given their emphasis on economic as opposed to social

She suggests that, if a single body is the way forward, one with
a democratic base would be more appropriate so that it could be
accountable to the local community. In this case, she says, it
would be better for the GLA to take on the role – or the Government
Office for London, which is ultimately responsible to elected
ministers – rather than the LDA.

The assembly’s economic development committee tries to address
the accountability issue by calling for any development of the
LDA’s responsibilities “to be matched by greater public access to
LDA meetings and papers and an overall management style that
acknowledges and welcomes a rigorous and constructive level of
public scrutiny”.

But Bond is even more concerned about the accountability
implications for the rest of England if changes in London were to
set a precedent. “There are no accountable elected bodies outside
London yet, so potentially the precedent point is even more
alarming outside London where there is no elected assembly to
perform a scrutiny role on the RDAs.” Bond also questions the
practicalities of the LDA taking on what are now
neighbourhood-based initiatives. “The New Deal for Communities is
targeted in five or six areas in London and the neighbourhood
renewal fund is focused on deprived wards within boroughs. How that
goes into one big pot I’m not sure.”

Transferring all regeneration responsibilities to the LDA would
involve restructuring regeneration programmes, and have
wide-reaching implications for the new Local Strategic Partnerships
(LSPs) as well as questioning the future of the Government Office
for London.

Despite the government promoting LSPs as “the key vehicle for
implementing and leading neighbourhood renewal”, the assembly
report questions the emphasis on LSPs as a means to improve
co-ordination and recommends a review of structures.

“Moves to improve local regeneration co-ordination through the
development of LSPs risk creating further confusion and duplication
in an already crowded arena,” the committee says. This view places
the committee on a potential collision course with the Department
of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, which launched LSPs
as part of the Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy last January.

Not all the committee’s recommendations are controversial,
though. Everyone agrees on the need for a “regeneration resource
library”, which could include detailed information about current
regeneration activity, funding allocations, research reports, local
and regional evaluation reports, examples of good practice, policy
developments and details of networks and events. It could also
promote London’s regeneration achievements.

The LDA has welcomed the report’s recommendations and can begin
work on some of them with the Government Office for London and
others straight away. But what happens to the more radical among
the recommendations – including the proposal to extend the LDA’s
functions – now lies largely in the hands of London mayor Ken
Livingstone and whether he decides to lobby government for changes
to the Greater London Authority Act 1999 in order to implement

One thing, however, is certain: the GLA is as unhappy with the
status quo for regeneration as the voluntary and community sectors
are about the proposed change.

1 Rebuilding London’s Future from


– Creation of a “regeneration resource library”.

– Extension of the evidence base of the proposed GLA/LDA
“economic observatory” to cover integrated economic and social

– Creation of an independent central evaluation unit.

– Collection on a regional basis of information used to assess
regeneration outputs and longer-term outcomes.

– Transfer of full responsibility to the LDA for the
co-ordination and funding of both economic and social regeneration
in London.

– Joint Government Office for London and LDA review of the
structures for local and sub-regional planning and management of

– Research into the amount of public money spent on regeneration
in London and the implications for spending on other public

– Annual publication of details about where regeneration funding
goes in London.

– Joint Government Office for London and LDA review of their
application and monitoring requirements.

– Full involvement of local communities and businesses in
determination of location of regeneration initiatives.

– Inclusion in LDA’s corporate plan of support for pilot
regeneration projects in suburban areas – aimed at preventing the
need to undertake more costly regeneration at a later stage.

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