Community renewal programme hit by staff shortages and in-fighting

The government’s flagship £2bn regeneration programme is
struggling to retain staff and control infighting, according to a
report released this week.

The New Deal for Communities was launched in 1999 to tackle
deprivation in England’s poorest neighbourhoods. A national
evaluation of the initiative has found many community
representatives leave the schemes because they suffer

The 10-year programme is intended to tackle crime, education,
health, employment and housing problems in 39 areas, but the
success of some schemes is being threatened by high staff

According to the report, commissioned by the Neighbourhood Renewal
Unit, “chief executives leave, chairs of boards are replaced and
agency representatives move on”, all of which places a heavy burden
on those who stay.

Many partnership boards are in a “state of flux”, with four-fifths
reporting changes in membership in a year and a third saying their
chairperson has changed.

More than half of community representatives believe that the time
commitments involved in the work are “excessive” and becoming

Less than half of the schemes – 40 per cent – are fully staffed,
and there are difficulties recruiting people with the specialist
skills to carry out the work.

Only about two-thirds of the projects have an evaluation plan.
Levels of community involvement, a core element of the NDC
programmes, are variable.

As well as facing burnout, some representatives feel they are
compromised, while some schemes are dominated by small groups or
cliques, says the report.

Researchers at the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research
based at Sheffield Hallam University also found that some of the
schemes were split by tensions.

Nearly halfway through the programme, problems surrounding the
management of some schemes and disagreements about how to spend the
£50m allocated to each are still surfacing.

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister junior minister Yvette Cooper
said it was inevitable that some NDCs had faced early problems. But
she emphasised that the government would continue to support
troubled schemes.

– New Deal for Communities: the National Evaluation

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