Linking Interventions to Outcomes in Area Regeneration: The New Deal for Communities Programme in England*

Article excerpt

In line with experience in other countries, the UK has attempted to address social and economic urban problems through the designation of Area-Based Initiatives (ABIs). The New Deal for Communities (NDC) Programme is an ambitious English ABI designed to transform some 39 deprived neighbourhoods over 10 years in relation to 6 outcomes: crime, education, health, worklessness, housing and the environment, and the community. A key mechanism for identifying change is a household survey carried out in all 39 areas in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008. For the 2004 survey all NDC respondents were asked to comment on the degree to which they had benefited from specific NDC projects. Beneficiaries of such projects consistently enjoyed better relevant outcomes than did non-beneficiaries. This finding provides some justification for continuing to designate ABIs.

Regenerating urban England: the context

In line with experience elsewhere, notably the US (Oakley and Tsao, 2006; Varady et al., 2005), but also Europe (Hamedinger et al., 2008; van Gent et al., 2009), there has been a long tradition of urban regeneration initiatives in the UK. From the 1960s through to the mid-1990s, both Conservative and Labour governments introduced programmes addressing economic, social and environmental problems within especially deprived neighbourhoods in English cities. Typically these programmes, which have been examined elsewhere (Atkinson and Moon, 1994; Cochrane, 2007; Shaw and Robinson, 1998), involved the additional allocation of monies to geographically defined, deprived urban areas for predetermined lengths of time. This whole strand of policy was to be given added impetus following the election of Blair's Labour government in 1997. Three agendas came to dominate the urban debate in the following decade. First, one of the mantras central to the incoming Labour government was that policy needed to be evidence-based: 'what counts is what works'. A critical development in terms of enhancing the urban evidence base came through the publication in 2001 of a review of the evidence for regeneration policy and practice (DETR, 2001b). It concluded that: 'there remains widespread neglect of issues such as the impact of intervention on both beneficiaries and anticipated outcomes' (DETR, 2001b, 15). Second, there was more of a strategic 'feel' to policy than had previously been the case. An Urban Task Force was established whose report 'Towards an Urban Renaissance' provided a strategic overview of urban policy (DETR, 2000b). To a degree, this was realised in the 'Strategy for Sustainable Communities' (ODPM, 2003), which created an England-wide framework based on the growth of settlements in the south and east of England and the reinvigoration of housing markets in areas of low demand in the north and midlands through nine Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder areas. The relationships between policy and market change, on the one hand, and urban change, on the other, were subsequently to be explored in 'State of the English Cities' (Parkinson et al., 2006). Third, although the emphasis was largely placed on cities and their regions, there nevertheless remained especially acute pockets of urban deprivation. In 1998 the government's Social Exclusion Unit (SEU), outlined a rationale for a 'national strategy for poor neighbourhoods' (SEU, 1998), which in time became the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal (NSNR). This 1998 overview suggested, in line with other observers (Gripaois, 2002; Hall, 2003), that previous Area-Based Initiatives (ABIs) had failed for a number of reasons: insufficient support from mainstream agencies such as the police; too little local cooperation amongst agencies; and inadequate integration across a plethora of strategies. In order to overcome these problems, the SEU outlined a series of initiatives: getting people into work, enhancing skills, providing better local services, addressing the needs of younger people, and so on. …