Community groups concerned over councils’ dominance of partnerships

The government has approved all but one local
strategic partnership despite concerns that the community and
voluntary sectors are not properly represented.

Accreditation has unlocked £300m of
funding for 87 of the 88 most deprived areas of England covered by
the neighbourhood renewal strategy.

But housing minister Sally Keeble admitted
that some partnerships were still not fully involving community and
voluntary groups, despite it being a key requirement of the

“A number of partnerships have further work to
do to ensure they are fully effective, inclusive and able to
deliver better services on the ground,” she said.

Walsall was the only scheme not to be
accredited last week after a critical report on the council’s
corporate governance arrangements by the Audit Commission. But its
neighbourhood renewal fund co-ordinator Stindler Johl was confident
that it would be accredited later this month.

A spokesperson for the government’s
neighbourhood renewal unit (NRU) said: “Walsall has got to look
across the board to ensure there is adequate assessment and a
suitably robust action plan. I have no reason to suspect that they
won’t be in a satisfactory position in due course.”

The NRU said the partnerships’ action plans
had not been judged on whether they had passed or failed the
criteria set by the government.

“They are all at different stages but what is
important is that they know there are different steps that need to
be taken,” said the spokesperson.

Regional government offices will now write to
partnerships setting out their grounds for concern to ensure that
improvements are made. They will also complete annual reviews of
the partnerships and will monitor and assist them throughout the

But community and voluntary groups have warned
that local authorities, which receive and distribute the funding,
are dominating some partnerships.

John Routledge, chief executive of Urban
Forum, which supports community and voluntary sector involvement in
regeneration and renewal, said: “We know there are still problems
around the country of various degrees concerning the lack of

A meeting organised by Hackney Council for
Voluntary Service said groups had no confidence in Hackney’s
existing partnership and called for it to “be reconstituted as an
open and accountable body in line with the democratic intentions of
the LSP initiatives”.

There were also concerns about local
government domination in West Yorkshire where the head of the chief
executive’s office at Bradford Council was appointed to lead the
city’s LSP.

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