Renewal agenda losing support of black groups

    Local authorities have much “damage repair” to do if they are to
    restore the confidence of black organisations in the local renewal
    agenda, according to a black voluntary sector advocacy and research
    agency.

    “The role of local authorities in the process of community
    empowerment is highly problematic,” says a report, Championing
    Race Equality in Regeneration
    , published last month by the
    Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG).

    Council cuts in funding and services for black organisations and
    communities, added to poor support for the development of the black
    voluntary sector, have failed to encourage black involvement in
    local strategic partnerships, says the report.

    LSPs are the primary vehicles for the development and
    implementation of neighbourhood renewal and community strategies.
    They are expected to bring together the public, private, voluntary
    and community sectors to provide a single, over-arching local
    co-ordination framework. But BTEG is concerned that conflicts of
    interest between the different sectors will lead to tensions within
    the partnerships.

    The report quotes a black community worker saying that LSPs have
    become a “battleground” where the voluntary sector is now “fighting
    for representation”.

    The report also points to research which has found that LSPs
    were not “living up to their expectations” and were “subservient”
    to their local authorities.

    “It would be no surprise to BTEG if local authorities were
    dominating to such an extent that the emerging LSPs are not
    developing community strategies as outlined in the government’s
    statutory guidance,” it says.

    The report makes numerous recommendations aimed at creating
    “meaningful dialogue and partnership working” between the black
    voluntary sector, black communities and local and regional
    bodies.

    Councils should follow the relevant legislation “to the letter”
    in designing and delivering community strategies, so that LSPs
    practise democratic decision-making, recommends the report.

    In addition, the structure and organisation of LSPs should
    enable the representation of a broad cross-section of black
    community and voluntary sector viewpoints, which might require the
    membership of several black organisations, to avoid the pitfalls of
    “gatekeeping” or “tokenism”.

    Also, racism needs to be addressed by LSPs before consolidation,
    mobilisation or democratisation of a neighbourhood can take place,
    adds the report.

    Championing Race Equality in Regeneration – Local
    Ownership in a Regional Agenda
    , from BTEG 0207 713 6161.

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