Voluntary sector urges government to monitor community involvement

The government’s whole neighbourhood renewal
strategy could be at risk unless regional government offices
develop “robust ways” of testing whether communities are genuinely
involved, a leading regeneration group warned last week.

John Routledge, chief executive of Urban
Forum, told delegates at the third National Regeneration
Convention, held in Nottingham last week, that in order for the
strategy to have any credibility it was essential for local
strategic partnerships (LSPs) to involve communities.

Routledge added that Urban Forum, which is an
umbrella group for voluntary and community groups involved in
regeneration, had been commissioned by the Home Office to undertake
a three-year research project to look at community involvement in
LSPs, and that they will be working with regional government
offices to develop a tool to measure community involvement. He said
the forum also hoped to be asked to produce a community involvement

Last month, 87 of the 88 LSPs gained
accreditation from the regional government offices, despite
concerns that some LSPs were not involving community and voluntary
groups and despite frustrations that the first year of the
neighbourhood renewal fund had been released and spent by councils
before LSPs were in place (News, page 10, 7 March).

A report due out next month from the
government’s regional co-ordination unit, which is responsible for
overseeing the government offices, will explain exactly how each of
the offices accredited the LSPs in its area.

Routledge said he expected the research to
show that every government office used different criteria. This was
not necessarily problematic, he said, unless there were differences
in terms of rigour.

“If we don’t look in detail at how the
accreditation has been done, then we are effectively saying that it
does not matter how each LSP spends its money,” he said.

Routledge added that it should be possible for
residents to bypass other LSP partners and go straight to their
regional government office if they felt their views on how the fund
should be spent were being ignored.

Urban Forum will hold a conference for
community and voluntary groups to discuss this and other issues in

– Further information can be found at www.urbanforum.org.uk

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