New Deal for Communities hindered by catalogue of failings, says report

Poor working practices are hampering progress of the government’s
£2bn flagship regeneration programme, according to the
National Audit Office.

A new report by the spending watchdog reveals that the New Deal for
Communities (NDC) programme has potential to “narrow the gap”
between communities but problems need to be overcome.

The programme was launched in 1999 to tackle deprivation in
England’s 39 poorest neighbourhoods.

The study finds that many NDC partnerships need to improve their
basic operating processes, such as the criteria against which
projects are assessed and the way meetings are run.

Arrangements for showing how much money has been spent by
partnerships on areas such as housing or crime reduction are also
weak and vary.

The House of Commons public accounts committee chairperson Edward
Leigh said the government had failed to establish a standardised
set of arrangements.

“Because the [Office of the Deputy Prime Minister] didn’t think to
introduce standard reporting systems, two or three years into the
programme they don’t have a clear idea how much money has been
spent on worklessness, health, housing, crime reduction or
education,” he said. “It boggles the mind that in designing the
programme they could have forgotten something so basic.”

Poor operating processes have resulted in project delays, cynicism
within communities about the way partnerships are being run and the
risk that funds are not well spent.

A spokesperson for the ODPM said the government had “actions in
place” to tackle the processes.

There is, however, praise in the report for the way the programme
has achieved community engagement. In NDC neighbourhoods, 11 per
cent of residents surveyed had been involved in the scheme.

A spokesperson for Urban Forum, an umbrella body for voluntary and
community groups, said the figures were encouraging.

He acknowledged that some partnerships were experiencing
difficulties but pointed out that the report covered only the first
three years of a 10-year programme.

– English Regions: An Early Progress Report on the New Deal for
Communities Programme

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