The New Labour Government's New Deal for Communities attempts to stitch neoliberal urban policy onto Area Based Initiatives that involve the local community. In Newcastle upon Tyne, this combination resulted in several fault-lines and considerable local conflict. The local community was not adequately represented, because there was not one. The locus of power was not in the community but in the partner agencies. Thus the most obvious community was that of community regeneration professionals in these partner agencies, who have an ideological and material interest in representing the fact that there is a community for which they act.
'Local residents will control all aspects of the New Deal programme including planning, delivery and finance. Any subsequent statements, clauses, or implications which contradict this protocol in fact or in spirit will be deemed to be invalid.' (Protocol for West Gate New Deal for Communities, May 1999)
'Community involvement was window dressing to get the money.' Councillor John O'Shea, 23 March, 2000 (Wilson, 2000: 55)
Introduction: 'The West Gate: Open for people, Open for Business'1
From the spring of 1999 until the end of 2000, a group known as the 'West Gate Interim Steering Group of New Deal for Communities' (hereafter ISG) met in Newcastle upon Tyne about every two weeks. In January 2001, this steering group was replaced by the formally constituted Newcastle West Gate Shadow Board for New Deal for Communities. The first of these organisations is the optic through which, in this paper,2 an early attempt at realising the New Labour Government's New Deal for Communities is viewed. The focus is on the relationships between the 'community', its representatives, and the professionals who participated in the project in its initial phase.
Many writers on urban political economy in Britain have commented on the development of an increasing interest in the local on the part of the central state. They have rarely done so as sharply as Brenner and Theodore, who write:
Paradoxically, much of the contemporary political appeal to the 'local' actually rests upon arguments regarding allegedly uncontrollable supralocal transformations, such as globalization, the financialization of capital, the erosion of the national state, and the intensification of interspatial competition. Under these conditions, in the absence of a sustainable regulatory fix at global, supranational, or national scales, localities are increasingly being viewed as the only remaining institutional arenas in which a negotiated form of capitalist regulation might be forged. (Brenner & Theodore, 2002: 341)
One form of this localism is the emergence of the so-called 'entrepreneurial city' (Hall & Hubbard, 1998). This form of city is so called because an entrepreneur is a contractor who mediates between capital and labour. The modern entrepreneurial city, on the other hand, is one that frantically grooms itself in order to be competitively attractive to external investment capital. Thus,
A variety of policy experiments have subsequently been advocated in order to unleash the latent innovative capacities of local economies, to foster a local entrepreneurial culture and to enhance the flexibility of local governance systems. In short, the new localism has become a forceful call to arms through which local (and in some cases, national) political -economic elites are aggressively attempting to promote economic rejuvenation from below. (Brenner & Theodore, 2002: 342)
Much of New Labour's urban policy derives its inspiration and legitimation from neoliberalism (Antipode, 2002). The essence of neoliberalism is a positive endorsement and enhancement of the market mechanism, and an obeisance to capitalist business as a form of organisation that is inherently superior to the forms developed by the local and national state: 'What runs through [...] different areas of program redesign is the concern with introducing some notion of "the market" into the state system, both through the formal resource allocation model [...] and through the co-opting of business leaders' (Jones &Ward, 2002: 485).
However, Jones and Ward argue that recently, 'the state has invoked notions of "neighbourhood" and "community"' (op. cit.: 489). These invocations are an attempted governmental rejoinder to the widening of the span of economic inequality that is the inevitable result of the application of neoliberalist policies. As a result, as these collective terms are insinuated into social policy pronouncements, there is the 'recent individualization or atomization of policies, marking a return to the "social pathology" approach that dominated British urban policy in the late I96os'(ibid.). An authoritative overview of urban neoliberalism is to be found in Gough (2002). This article offers some evidence for his contentions.
The data in this study have been gathered through my immersion in the area over a long period of time. This is because I first moved to Newcastle as a student in 1964, and have been familiar with the inner West End of Newcastle since then. I have lived on the edge of the area now designated as West Gate New Deal since 1980, and I have been researching in and writing on the West End of Newcastle since 1989.Thus I have known some of the people who feature in these events since the mid-igSos. My relationships with them have included those of neighbour, teacher, colleague, fellow activist, member of the Labour Party (but not for nearly twenty years), and family friend, besides that of research subject. Some of the younger people went to the same school as my two youngest children. My method is very close to the much earlier work of Norman Dennis (1970, 1971) and Jon Davies (1972): a method that Nayak has also recently vigorously defended (2003: 11-12). I have attended almost every meeting of the ISG, and the Board that succeeded it, as well as many public events and some of the other committees associated with West Gate New Deal. In particular, I attended the meetings of the group known as Our Community'. As a result of this diligence, I have received commendation and commiseration in equal measure from both the paid and the voluntary participants. I took extensive notes at the meetings. Most meetings were also officially taped, sometimes video-taped, and minuted. The minutes, however, were often sanitised, particularly in the early phases. As well as minutes of meetings, this community regeneration project also produced vast and intimidating amounts of documents. For the purposes of this paper a small questionnaire was sent to members of the ISG, but no formal interviews were conducted as part of this largely ethnographic study. There were, however, many encounters with participants at meetings and in the street, which were recorded in notes immediately afterwards.
What is the New Deal for Communities?
The New Deal for Communities is a New Labour central government initiative. It was an important element in the first major report from the Social Exclusion Unit, 'Bringing Britain together: A national strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal' (Cm 4045, 1998). The Social Exclusion Unit is attached to the British government's Cabinet. Newcastle upon Tyne is one of seventeen 'pathfinder' authorities that were invited to submit 'New Deal' bids in late 1998. The basis for the invitations was the degree of deprivation in a particular area, as measured by the 1998 Index of Local Deprivation. However, a 'regional quota system' was applied so that it was possible to 'test different approaches to tackling deprivation across as wide a range of deprived areas as possible' (DETR, 1998: 21).
Central government allocated £800 million over the first 3 years to fund this 'intensive regeneration of small neighbourhoods'; by mid-2002, there were thirty-nine New Deal Partnerships. The Government expected that many of these neighbourhoods would be 'in areas with high ethnic minority populations.' The newly instituted 'partnerships' were required, if their bids were successful, to produce plans costing between £20 million and £50 million over a tenyear period. The successful plans had to bring together 'local people, community and voluntary organisations, public agencies, local authorities and business in an intensive local focus.'
The Government hopes that many of the pathfinders will be run by bodies who have not traditionally led regeneration programmes. It will provide support and longer timetables to encourage this. And all bids will need to involve and engage the local community-they won't work if they don't. Longer term funding to carry out the plan will depend on making real improvements to local communities to agreed timetables. It will be crucial that in each area there is strong leadership to ensure that lasting improvements really are achieved. (Social Exclusion Unit, 1998: 54-5)
The problems specifically highlighted by the Social Exclusion Unit were 'poor job prospects,' 'high levels of crime', 'a run down environment' and 'no one in charge of managing the neighbourhood and co-ordinating the public services that affect it. 'The last of these strongly implied that local authorities were frequently failing in their duties (a relatively common theme of New Labour policy, cf. DTLR, 2002), as well as indicating that here was a political void to fill. Despite this disdain for local authorities, at the insistence of the Government Office-North East (henceforth GO-NE), Newcastle City Council was made the accountable body for the New Deal.
The New Deal Area
The New Deal Area in the inner west of Newcastle upon Tyne covers parts of four different electoral wards. These parts are large sections of Elswick; West City; and fractional sections of Moorside and Wingrove wards. To the north is the famous open space known as the Town Moor, and to the south is the river Tyne. Through the upper third of the area, the West Road runs along the line of the Roman Wall. In 1998, only the last of these wards, Wingrove, fell just outside the 10 per cent most deprived wards in England. Elswick was thirty-sixth and West City fortieth among the English wards, ranked in terms of deprivation. For example, in the largely white ward of West City, where the majority of the New Deal area falls, male unemployment was at around 40 per cent and female unemployment at 30 per cent. At the time the New Deal began, 40 per cent of females were in semi- or unskilled work. Around 30 per cent of all those in work were in the poorly-paid sectors of distribution and catering. Roughly a fifth of all residents had a limiting, long-term illness. Nearly two-thirds of households live in council housing, but the number is declining.
25 per cent of the population of Elswick ward is of Asian origin, as is 6 16 6 per cent of the Wingrove households. In figures from 2000, only the population of Moorside, a very disparate ward with an enormous span of housing types, was not diminishing. Overall, the population of the West End of Newcastle uponTyne declined by 40 per cent over the period 1970-2000. Within the New Deal area, most of the physical renewal of the housing stock has been concentrated in West City. A large proportion of the other housing is Victorian terraced housing, which was built for the workers at the massive ship and armament works on the Tyne. Only hundreds now work in these industries, where once there were tens of thousands. Almost every urban regeneration and community policy produced by post-war British governments has met its nemesis in this area (Newcastle City Council, 2001).
Although the New Deal Area crosses the boundaries of four wards, this should not be taken to imply that the area was chosen because of a natural cohesiveness. Its disparateness is strongly confirmed by a household sample survey conducted by the council. The report3 reveals: 'There does appear to be a significant difference in the needs and profiles of the three New Deal localities' (my emphasis). These three localities are Arthur's Hill (in the southern parts of Moorside and Wingrove wards), West City, and Elswick.
The three New Deal localities were divided by housing type and by the ethnicity of their residents. Compared with the other two areas, Arthur's Hill has more owner-occupiers (37 per cent of households), renters from private landlords (31 per cent) and housing association tenants (29 per cent). Only 4 per cent, in Arthur's Hill, rented from the local authority, whereas 94 per cent of the sampled households had the local authority as their landlord in the mostly white West City. No West City household in the sample rented from a private landlord. In Elswick, 70 per cent rented from the local authority and 5 per cent from a private landlord; 17 per cent rented from a housing association, and 9 per cent were owner-occupiers. The annual rate of turnover of households was close to 25 per cent in Elswick. A significant concentration of Bangladeshi households lived on the Bentinck Estate in the Elswick area. Another concentration of black minority ethnic households was to be found in Arthur's Hill, which was why Arthur's Hill was included.
The origins of West Gate New Deal for Communities
Newcastle City Council, which is Labour controlled, called a meeting of forty partner agencies in the late autumn of 1998. As a result of that meeting, the West Gate area was chosen as the site for a bid for money under the New Deal Scheme. The delivery plan ( see below) said that the West Gate New Deal Area covered 3,975 households (Newcastle City Council, 9 1999: 5)4. Given this suspiciously close fit to the upper limit of the Government's stipulated size of 40 ,0 000 households, it is no surprise that one of the local councillors confessed that the local authority's aim was to maximise income into a particularly problematic area (Wilson, 2000: 55). The submitted plan boldly asked for nearly 10 per cent more than the Government's top limit for funding. Another factor that influenced the local authority's thinking was that 'race' relations in the west of the city would have become worse if the New Deal area chosen had been one with a population that was all white or all black ethnic minorities. The chosen area had, therefore, to include white, Bangladeshi and other ethnic groups (Wilson, 2000: 56).
The initial outline submitted to the Government at the end of 1998 was rejected because it did not show enough evidence of community involvement and support. The first significant public meeting of the New Deal for Communities in Newcastle was in May, 1999. Perhaps in response to the Government's rejection, it agreed the protocol (quoted above) that put local residents in charge. There followed a period of public consultation. Seven hundred people are recorded as having attended these local events.
In mid-1999, local people were asked to put themselves forward as candidates to be community representatives on what was called the Interim Steering Group (the ISG), the body that is the main focus of this account. One of the local councillors selected twelve local representatives, three from each ward. There were eleven places for partner agencies. A local councillor was made the chairperson, and despite a commitment to this being merely temporary, until a local person took over, Councillor Todd in fact served as chair until January 2001, for the complete life of the ISG.
Newcastle City Council and 'Going for Growth'
Concurrently with these developments, Newcastle City Council, in 1999, adopted a policy for the city entitled 'Going for Growth.' This policy entailed the demolition of 6,500 working-class houses over twenty years, and the consequent wholesale redevelopment of large areas in the east and the west of the city. 5,000 of the proposed demolitions were to be in the West End, including some in the New Deal area. Assumptions made in the Draft Master Plan (20003) that many working-class areas were losing population at a rapid rate-'40 per cent of the population have left the West End [...] Four families leave Scotswood every week'-led to the questionable conclusion that 'Going for Growth is not an option but a necessity' (op.cit.: 6).The autocratic manner of the original 'consultation' enraged many residents, and was in conflict with the overt community consultation philosophy of the New Deal. The adoption of the policy, despite back-tracking and further attempts to consult, added a good deal to local mistrust of the authority's motives for partici-pating in the New Deal for Communities. 'Going for Growth' was not a policy based on social inclusion, but on social exclusion and forced migration. After some vigorous opposition in the areas affected, the council leader was forced to concede that, if people wanted to move back to their original areas after redevelopment, they would be given that choice.
Newcastle upon Tyne's 'Going for Growth' has been strongly criticised ( see Byrne, 2000 and Northumbria Sustainable Cities Research Institute, 2000). The need, it stated, was for 'less council housing, less private rented [sic], more owner occupation and starter homes, [and] more housing from Registered Social landlords' (Newcastle City Council, 2OOoa: 10). Through these policies, a new, more affluent, more employed and better -paid community was to be constituted. One of the local ward councillors on the ISG was roundly abused by community representatives, for supporting a contentious policy that was compared by one of them to 'ethnic cleansing'. Indeed, some more recent members of the ISG and Shadow Board became involved with the New Deal in order to question the City Council's policy of 'Going for Growth.'
The New Deal, the local authority was reminded in a sharp, formal letter from GO-NE, was about partnership. Moreover, said the letter, any dialogue between the New Deal and 'Going for Growth' would have to be on the basis that the two projects were equal partners (ISG, 22 june 2000). This did not countermand the massive destabilising effect of 'Going for Growth' among locals, and it has accelerated depopulation, particularly in the outer West End.
The making of the New Deal delivery plan
Because of increasing delays, the decision was taken to hire consultants-DTZ Pieda-to help prepare the New Deal delivery plan. The final version of the plan was only seen by Newcastle's ISG members on the day before it was approved. One of the ethnic minority representatives spoke against a quick decision, but a local councillor and ISG member proposed immediate acceptance, and his motion was carried by six votes to two, with most of those present abstaining. As further evidence of this tepid support, the following meeting was inquorate.
The general idea of the plan, into which 526 local project ideas were supposed to fit, was that this was ostensibly to be a community -led regeneration that concentrated on investing in people rather than in buildings. The largest proportion of the proposed expenditure was to be on jobs and businesses, both in training the unemployed and helping to 'create sustainable opportunities for work for West Gate residents [...] by equipping them with the necessary skills and by fully involving local employers' (Newcastle City Council, 2ooob), and in supporting existing businesses, such as the development of an 'Asian Business Quarter'. secondly, spending on housing and improving the environment for all housing types was given priority. The proposed expenditure on the Our Community' theme was given almost equal emphasis. This was to improve community involvement, promote positive stories about the area, and to fund the community chest for community groups.
Much of the large budget for education was to promote better child -rearing skills, and parental involvement in primary education in particular. Outside Hours Clubs were to be funded in order to promote higher school attendance. Crime was to be tackled with a programme of security improvements, an active youth strategy, and a New Deal Policing Team.
Finally, there was to be funding to improve mental and physical health, combat drug use and promote, amongst other things, better care of heart disease and a reduction in the proportion of those unable to work because of long -term illness (New Deal for Communities, Delivery Plan, March 2000).
These were the parameters of the new community that was to be invented by the agencies, using sub -committees known as 'focus groups' as their vehicles. Although it was apparently influenced by the 526 project ideas submitted by local people, with the help of a supporting team of six community development workers, the plan most closely reflected the views of the partner agencies.
In April 2000, the West Gate Partnership was provisionally given approval for funding of £48.85 million, spread over ten years. An additional £6.05 million was withheld, and earmarked as funding for housing projects, although environment and housing had not been part of the government's original conception of the New Deal for Communities.
The partnership was given until December 2000 to develop these plans into a form acceptable by GO-NE.5 Thus, the total possible allocation was above the Government's suggested range of £20 to £50 million.
The Interim Steering Group's constitution
There was a maximum of twenty-three voting members of the ISG, with a quorum of eight. Four local ward Labour councillors were voting members, as was one representative of the voluntary sector, and one representative of the 'private sector'. The twelve voluntary community representatives formed a deliberate majority of members. If the community representatives did not constitute the majority of those present with a vote, then the meeting was formally inquorate. The built -in majority of the community representatives on the ISG was, de facto, even greater. The constitution decreed that the chair was a non -executive chair, without a casting vote. The chair was actually a local councillor with the technical right to vote.
His position was therefore anomalous. In addition, the private sector showed no real enthusiasm, at this stage, for filling its reserved voting position.6 The standing orders, which included the protocol quoted at the start of this article, encouraged the chair to pursue consensus and to move to a vote by a show of hands only 'if necessary'. If there was a split vote, the non -executive chair did not have a casting vote, and the matter in question had to be referred for the consideration of the next meeting.
The focus groups
The role of the focus groups was to develop costed project proposals to bring forward for the approval of, first, the ISG, and then its successor, the West Gate Shadow Board. Projects also had to be approved by the accountable body, Newcastle City Council. Projects costing over £25,000 had, additionally, to gain final approval from GO-NE.The five focus groups were the Crime and Community Safety Focus Group; the Homes and Environment Focus Group; the Education and Training Focus Group; the Jobs and Business Focus Group; and the Health Focus Group.
Apart from the Homes and Environment Focus Group, which was a local addition early on, the titles of the other groups reflect the main themes that the central government had intended should be tackled by the New Deal for Communities. A Children and Young People's Focus Group, and an Our Community Focus Group, had a less formal role in the structure than did the five original groups.
In the case of the Our Community Group, there was no immediately obvious reason for this diminished status, since 18 per cent of the planned total budget was to be spent on community development.
Most of the focus groups met during the daytime: the focus group chairpersons whose employment directly included their participation in the West Gate partnership did not like more evening meetings than were necessary. This preference limited the participation, in the focus groups, of those in other, conventional waged employment.
This was quite apart from the large number of meetings that the focus groups and the sub-groups generated. This high number is a major test of voluntary commitment. Between 4 October and 18 December 2000, there were 53 meetings listed in the calendar.
The two halves of the Interim Steering Group
There was a simple and unequal division in the composition of the Interim Steering Group, and the voluntary community representatives repeatedly claimed that they felt unsupported and undervalued.
In the group of non-community representative members of the ISG, most of those with voting powers were male, and were from middle management and above. They were all white. The overwhelming majority of them, including the focus group chairs, did not live in the New Deal area.
Two of the four local ward councillors (all of whom are Labour party representatives) did not live in the wards that they represented-a phenomenon not unknown in Newcastle-and only one lived in the New Deal area itself. Six members of this group had first degrees or higher qualifications.
All but one had the equivalent of at least British 'A' level qualifications. There was only one female, a councillor, in the group. Many of this group attended meetings because they represented partner organisations, and because it was a 'role requirement', as one of them described it, that they should do so.
By definition, the representatives were local. They were unpaid volunteers who, in some cases, gave the majority of their time to this work.
Two of the BME (Black Minority Ethnic) males had degrees, and one white male an ONC (Ordinary National Certificate). The youngest female had a degree, but the remainder had no educational qualifications. There were four females, but they were still in a minority. At least a third of these unpaid volunteers were dependent on state benefits.
The representatives were divided by age, gender, ethnicity, and education.
The incongruousness of them sitting alongside relatively highly-paid professionals, who in some cases depended on the volunteers' local knowledge, was resented. Two of the women representatives had complained, at the First National Conference for the New Deal, held in Brighton by the Department of the Environment, that 'the community representatives were being used by the City Council' (ISG Minutes, 10 February 2000). Later, one of them described her role as being that of an 'irritant, mainly, to the local authority officers and others who think that the working class people, or the so -called 'deprived people', are incapable of running their own lives or making their own decisionsthat WE are the problem!'
Crèche facilities and a simultaneous interpretation service in Punjabi and Sylheti8 were provided, but this did not overcome the resentment. In a letter to the local evening paper (April 2001), the chair of the ISG could not have made the division within the ISG clearer: 'In fairness., it has been especially difficult for the community representatives, given that they have lacked the same level of support available to partners from the City Council, the NHS and others to grapple with the sometimes over -complex arrangements required to get projects up and running.'
The public and the ISG
ISG meetings were open to the public, and moved (sometimes confusingly) between four different public venues. Public attendance was rarely in significant numbers, and varied from venue to venue.
Members of the public were allowed to contribute to debates at the whim of the chair. Sometimes, contributions from the floor significantly disrupted the meetings, and on one occasion a member of the public threatened the oldest female member of the ISG, and had to be asked to leave9. Those members of the public that did attend and were not abusive were very often later revealed to have been representing some sort of professional social policy interest. They were sometimes, therefore, later to become applicants for New Deal funds.
The community workers
During this first phase, there was funding for community development workers, but these workers were all on short-term contracts because of the provisional nature of the ISG. Twice there were crises as their contracts ended, and had to be urgently renewed.
This required the approval of the ISG and always drew fierce criticism, from some of the community representatives and their allies, about the quality of the service provided by the community development workers. For much of the period discussed here (1999-2000), all of the six community development posts, despite some turnover of the workforce, were filled by workers who were white and mostly female. There had been one non -white member, but only for a relatively brief period.
The workers were line -managed by a white, male parttimer, whose parting shot, when he left in August 2000, was to say that 'community reps/deps [sic] have to look at their behaviour and realise that very often they are the reason why local people will not participate [emphasis in the original]. Fairly or unfairly, many local people perceive community reps/deps as "undemocratic", "abusive", "overwhelming", "out of control", and "manipulative".' His widely-shared view was that some of the existing representatives were a problem, particularly three of the white women.
The community representatives had established the Our Community Group as a response to the professional bias of the other focus groups. The paucity of local resident support, and the conflict with the community development workers, is indicated by the chequered early history of the Our Community Group. The group eventually stopped meeting for most of 2002, following the resignation of its chairperson in frustration at a lack of progress.
The City Council, the local councillors and 'Going for Growth'
The councillor who served as the chair of the ISG throughout its life publicly challenged the local authority over its 'Going for Growth' policy. Despite this, he nonetheless had a very difficult time in his role as chairperson. he frequently had to remind his critics that he lived in the New Deal area (and was the only one of the four local ward councillors to do so), and that he was not, therefore, an outsider in that sense.
Another source of tension between local councillors and local representatives was their respective perceived legitimacy, as Geddes (1997) has noted. The accusation hurled from each group to the other was that they only represented themselves. There were frequent complaints from some activists that councillors did not attend the meetings of the ISG regularly enough, although they were highly suspicious of the influence of councillors when the councillors did attend.
The councillor who was the most vocal critic of the three dissident, local women-see section 'The dissident women', below-saw community politics as apolitical, which might be seen as precisely the point.
When, during the most overt conflict over 'Going for Growth', local Liberal Democrat politicians began to court some of the local New Deal activists, the accusation from this Labour councillor was that the activists were 'bringing polities' into the New Deal.
The response from one of the dissident local women was the perhaps unfortunate, but rather telling assertion, that she had 'never been political' in her life.
The community representatives and the Interim Steering Group
Lack of solidarity among the community representatives was a serious issue. Although the attendance of the dissident women was outstanding, attendance by many was poor. Some representatives barely attended, and there was rarely unity amongst the representatives of an area. The subject of the lack of consistent attendance by some representatives appears in ISG minutes: it was discussed at the meeting of 18 November 9 1999; the next meeting (14 December) was inquorate; and the standing orders were then amended in February 2000, so that missing three meetings consecutively was taken as a resignation from the ISG. However, despite some notoriously poor individual attendances, this rule was not invoked. This was because finding replacements was unlikely. The representatives frequently met in caucus before ISG meetings, but this did not resolve tensions or lead to unity. Indeed, on several occasions there were spectacular fallings-out amongst representatives at the ISG meetings10. TheTyne and Wear Black Housing Project wrote to the chair of the ISG in August 2000, threatening to withdraw its support from the New Deal for Communities.
The complaint was that 'apparently committed New Deal Community reps are becoming involved in episodes of internal bickering and behaviour that can only be described as bullying. [... The] recent conduct of some ISG members in the long -term will hinder Black Minority Ethnic communities and other individuals from getting involved. [... The] participation of new members at meetings is difficult due to the non -inclusive culture and the lack of welcoming support offered by other ISG members.'
The community representatives on the ISG were divided by age, 'race', gender, housing type and class. One example of an issue on which they differed significantly was that the male Asian representatives argued against a concentration on the inhabitants of local authority housing, which excluded those in other kinds of housing stock, where the ethnic communities were concentrated.
At one end of the spectrum there were white, working-class females living in local authority housing and, at the other, Kashmiri and Bangladeshi males living in their own or in family property. Between them were individuals representing various combinations of these categories. What is obvious is that, despite this rainbow of representativeness, one notable absence was the working-class, white male.
The dissident women
Involved with the ISG were three dissident, white, middle-aged women who refused to support any version of cabinet responsibility, because they felt that they had more meaningful, organic ties to the 'local community-to the 'people'-than they did to the West Gate New Deal. This was symbolised, during the first 18 months of ISG meetings, by their tendency to sit together with two or three supporters, often talking amongst themselves during the meeting. The West Gate New Deal protocol (of which one of them was the author) had been betrayed, and thus they did not see themselves as committed to past decisions that, in their view, had been taken in disregard of the protocol. One of them had, on more than one occasion, aired her sense of grievance about the process in the local press. Their collective sense of alienation led to severe disruption of the meetings. A frequent response to criticism, from the chair or other members of the ISG, was for them to leave the meeting, thus often rendering it inquorate.
When one of them lost, through elections, the right to participate on the ISG, she disrupted the next ISG meeting, with help from the two other dissident women, by refusing to leave the main table. This truculence provoked the oldest female representative (from West City) to leave the meeting in disgust at what she perceived as their immature behaviour, which included playing a 'ghetto-blaster' loudly during the meeting.
By the late autumn of 2000, only one of the dissident women had a permanent place on the ISG. She was both a representative with a vote and the acting chair of the Education Focus Group, and therefore also had a vote in that capacity.
At the same November 2000 meeting, it was agreed that she could give her community vote to her deputy (one of the 'dissident women'), who thereby became a permanent voting member of the ISG. Nevertheless, the crucial feature of the members of this group was their failure to behave 'politically'. That is, although they sometimes brought supporters to the meetings, they did not show themselves capable of creating a political constituency.
The first elections of community representatives for the Shadow Board
An important test for the ISG was the elections for the Shadow Board, which took place at the end of 2000. Voting was by postal ballot, supervised by the Electoral Reform Society, and closed on 9 January 2001. These elections were almost universally seen as a success (Benjamin & Humphries, 2001: 4). There were four electoral New Deal districts, and three places vacant in each". The percentage of valid turn-out in Area Two, at 49.8 per cent, was highest in the country for New Deal elections, and striking in an area where the turn-out for national and local elections hovered at around 20 per cent.
However, the character of this success has to be severely qualified. Area Two was one with a mainly Bangladeshi and Kashmiri population. The shape of Area Two had been deliberately determined by this, and the other areas had been fitted around it when the community development workers had drawn up the area boundaries. all of the five candidates for the three Area Two places were male Asians. None of the female Asians who had been part of the ISG stood for election for the new Board.
Indeed, on the night of the announcement of the results, the female Sylheti interpreter complained to the chair of the meeting that, since the Asian women were on one side of the hall and the Asian men on the other, she could and would only interpret the proceedings for the women. In Area One, there were only two candidates: a young white woman and a 39-year-old Kashmiri male, both of whom had been on the ISG during the last quarter of its life. The turn-out here was 28.75 Per cent. In AreaThree there was no vote, as only one candidate had stood. In Area Four there were six candidates, three of whom had previously been involved with the ISG. all of the candidates, bar one, were white. One, or possibly two of them were from that elusive group: the white, male, working class. They came bottom of the poll. The turn-out was 41.25 per cent. It was necessary to hold further elections for the two areas where vacancies occurred, and one representative was eventually elected with only 3 votes.
A reputation for conflict
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations expressed the hope that 'Areas that take a long time to extinguish tensions may be the most successful in the long-run, as they will have given time to developing good partnership relations' (NCVO, 2000: 6).
The report pointed out that, generally, in Phase Two in most New Deal Areas, partnership involvement had broadened. However, 'An exception to this is Newcastle, where the transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2 has proved difficult, with relations strained between local community activists, the local authority and the voluntary sector. Here it has been commented that ndc partnership working has become the "arena in which long-standing interorganisational tensions are being played out"' (ibid., p. 5).
The judgement of the Government Office, North East (GO-NE) in February 2001 was that the West Gate New Deal for Communities was in the lowest of three bands of performance for the delivery of the New Deal: local participation had not meant community participation, and local participation had not meant easy assent to the New Deal process.
The GO-NE Director of Education, Skills, Enterprise and Regeneration acknowledged her receipt of the draft Delivery Plan in late February 2000, and commented guardedly, 'It does appear that considerable progress has been achieved. I am sure that this will go some way towards addressing the unfortunate negative impressions that other organisations may have of your partnership.' Nigel Todd, the Chair of ISG, claimed that the problems 'are no different to those in New Deal pathfinders elsewhere. The difference is that we tend to display our differences [...] where other people don't' (New Start, vol. 2, no. 50: 1).
West Gate New Deal for Communities, at this stage, consistently failed to meet its spending timetable. The ISG was informed in November 2000 that, despite a budgeted spend for the financial year 2000-1 of £2.1 million, half-year spending had reached a mere £53,548. In the event, the full financial year's spending was £652,000. Those decisions that were made were often made in haste, and the crucial business of deciding on the approval of projects was often left from one meeting to the next.
Exhaustion took over, or the meeting became inquorate as the disenchanted voted with their feet. Often, only the pressure of the spending timetable in the plan forced grudging assent out of some of the voting members. For instance, the fraught meeting of 28 November 2000 reached its finishing time, which had been agreed at the start of the meeting, without having decided on two of the three funding decisions that should have been considered. In effect, the meeting was told that if the West Gate Housing Management Options Consultation (of social housing tenants) were not approved, it would be impossible to meet the timetable targets.
If this happened, not only would the £6.05 million of the withheld housing monies be in jeopardy but also, the GO-NE representative made it clear, so might all the other monies, and even perhaps the whole programme. As the meeting stalled, he said, 'If you are not making progress, then I am fearful of the answer that I will get from GO-NE,' and warned those present that they should behave 'seriously and responsibly.'
The Housing Study was eventually approved. However, only four people voted in favour. The opposition-all community representatives, including vocal members of the ethnic minority community-abstained. Indeed, this pattern of fierce and prolonged debate, followed by a vote with a large number of abstentions, was a remarkable feature of debates in the ISG. In this particular case, there were no votes against, so the proposal was carried with the proviso that some amendments were made to it.
Many ISG debates that had been truculent, long, fierce and apparently about matters of principle, resulted in votes in which the number of abstainers matched, or even outnumbered, the number of voters.
A negative vision
Insofar as the community representatives as a whole did share a common vision, it was a purely negative one. One of the constant complaints they made was that the focus groups were controlled by the agencies, and that the projects developed were only providing employment and work for professionals, and not for local people.
The payment of £320,000 to the consultants for preparing the delivery plan was regarded with suspicion as an early tendency to slip into paying professionals very well, rather than encouraging the development of local talent.
The Our Community' focus group, set up by a group including the dissident women, did not function in the same way as the other focus groups, and was starved of professional support so that it could not release resources directly into the locality.
The more vocal representatives repeatedly complained about the £500 million spent in the West End on initiatives such as City Challenge and the Single Regeneration Budget, the results of which they all regard as ineffectual. They suspected that the New Deal might be the same kind of topdown approach. They feared domination by professionals, and that any transformation of the area would be an imposed one, and not community-led.
They often invoked, in opposition to the power of professionals, the 'people'-a singularly opaque term. One explanation of the slow approval of the release of monies was that the majority of community representatives also suspected that New Deal money was being used to supplement inadequate mainstream or core council funding, rather than to achieve something distinctive and different.
The locus of power
The pattern of a large number of abstentions from voting; the bad behaviour at the ISG and poor attendance at it; the negativity of the community representatives; the failure of the Our Community' focus group, and general frustration: all this had a cause that the representatives themselves were well aware of, and yet found themselves unable to do anything about.
The strong leadership that the government apparently desired did not come from the residents. The true locus of power was in the focus groups, which were dominated by the partner agencies: that is, the Health Service, the Police, the Education Service, the Employment Service, the Local Authority and, above all, by the regime of approval and allocation determined by GO-NE.
In May 2000 one of the community representatives, who shortly afterwards left the area, presented a paper to the ISG criticising the relationship of the focus groups to the ISG. It suggested that the focus groups' paid professional leadership and support, and their relationship to the ISG, would lead to a centralising of the structure.
Although other community representatives agreed-'We need to build a new process to allow the community to develop it'-and although the chair expressed a hope that the focus groups would work 'in an inclusive way', the structure remained in place.
The membership of each of the focus groups did include one or two community representatives and local volunteers, but they were divided. The story of the New Deal since then has been, particularly since the replacement of the ISG with a formally constituted board, one in which the power of the focus groups has increased.
Why include the 'community'?
Without community representation, there is no doubt that the early work of the focus groups could have proceeded much more quickly. The ISG meetings often lasted much, much longer, particularly towards the end of 2000, than their scheduled two hours. Four hours was not unusual. Even accepting the largely verbatim minutes as a true record could be an agonisingly slow process, as the dissident women fought a slow, rearguard action.
The record for the minutes was over an hour-and-a-half (18 May 2000). If this meeting had kept to its allotted time, there would have only been ten minutes for the substantive part of the agenda.
So why include the community representation? Urban Development Corporations, an earlier attempt at regeneration, became notorious. According to Dave Byrne, they were 'identified both with private capital rooking the public purse for massive subsidies and with the absolute disregard of the interests of inner-city working-class "communities."' Byrne continues, 'The shift to partnership was supposed to redress the balance' (Byrne, 9 1999: 123).
But why was the shift necessary at all if, as Byrne claims, it is still the case that the 'interests of development capital have been given absolute priority' and 'there has been no real countervailing power from the "community" precisely because the "community" is so fragmented and disorganised'?
According to Mike Geddes: 'The implementation of national policy programmes through local partnerships has been dubbed a "new localism" in public policy, combining elements of urban managerialism, competition for resources, and the involvement of a variety of local interests in a distinctive manner' (Geddes, 1997: 8).
'Increasingly both UK and EU funding programmes have required a strong partnership framework as a precondition for access to funding [...] The ability of partnerships to manage conflicts successfully is a central question for the partnership approach' (Geddes, 1997: 107-8).
The organic intellectuals of social policy
Geddes is clearly right. However, I would argue that those with responsibility for the direct application of this kind of community regeneration have an ideological and self-justificatory interest in including the community. Neoliberal politics has to be transformed into neoliberal social policy and ideology using social policy instruments and related practice.
In addition, without some form of legitimation, policies will not be meaningfully put into practice. Policies and their instruments must allow the creation of some kind of motivation for those with ultimate responsibility for their practical application. Like all ideologies, there must be allowance for its contingent application in particular circumstances by particular groups of people. (Mann (1970) calls this 'transitivity'.)
Without some capacity for adaptation, actors will not feel any sense of ownership and will not, therefore, be positively motivated. Loney suggests that, 'The final content of welfare measures must in part be affected by the political stance of state workers and their interaction with client groups' (Loney, 1983: 196).
A very significant proportion of those who attended the meetings of the Interim Steering Group and the Shadow Board are members of what John Goldthorpe calls the 'service class'. I refer not only to the councillors, the representatives of the partner agencies, the deputy chairs of the focus groups, and to the New Deal community development team, but even to some of the community representatives.
The youngest representative, elected in September 2000, was a charity worker. She was elected with an unemployed BME member who had a long history of semi-professional activism. Another BME representative who had not stood for election was also employed in community work.
The service class is a 'section of the middle class in professional and managerial occupations whose conditions of employment are comparatively advantageous in terms of high levels of autonomy at work and high salaries. Its members share some distinctive political and cultural traits, including typically being highly educated' (Abercrombie et al., 2000: 557). In fact, as Savage et al. (1992) argue, many of these distinctive cultural traits are learned within education, where members of this class acquire the important legitimating symbol of credentials. These managers and professionals also enjoy considerable autonomy at work and good prospects for promotion, with an adequate pension at the end of their working lives. The pension, and the sense of security that goes with it, is part of their conditions of employment.
In addition, members of the service class tend to be owner-occupiers of their housing, which is the case with those involved in the West Gate New Deal. An interesting and distinctive feature of this 'service class' is its members' recruitment into that class. Although the figures are old, it seems important and suggestive that what Goldthorpe, Llewellyn and Payne (1987) called the 'higher salariat' was, and perhaps still is, recruited from across all classes (op.cit., tables 2.1 and 2.2).
Thus, although just under a quarter of the higher salariat in 1972 had fathers who were in the same class fraction when they had been fourteen years of age, the remaining 75 per cent of the class were recruited evenly from across the other remaining six social class categories that these particular authors used.
The service class is a part of a middle class that also includes professionals, lower white -collar workers and the petty bourgeoisie. A majority of the middle class, and particularly the service class as a whole, supports the Conservative Party.
However, supporters of the Conservatives are in a minority among certain elements of the middle class. This tends to be the case among local government officers and professionals, and more so with higher-education lecturers, teachers, social workers, the clergy, and authors, writers and journalists (Heath & Savage, 1995: 280-2).
These are, I would suggest, the kind, of people who are involved in various ways with the West Gate New Deal for Communities. They are a fraction of the service class that is inclined away from the politics of the Conservative Party, towards the Labour Party or the Liberal Democrats. It is more likely than not, we know, that members of these groups who do not vote Conservative, do not vote for the Conservatives because of a sense of allegiance to their class of origin.
What function do some of these different members of the service class perform? My claim-not an original one-is that one of the roles members of these groups perform is that of speaking for other groups. Specifically, they have acquired credentials and abilities that enable them to speak for subordinate groups. This is a new priesthood of earthly intercession. It is not members of the working class who naturally speak of empowerment, capacity-building, and like forms of penance. This is the vocabulary and ideology of the service class ( see Ambrose, 2000: 92-4).
Consider, in this context, some highly suggestive remarks made by Andrew Milner in a wonderfully angry book. he is describing a group that he labels (mistakenly, in my view) the intelligentsia:
As the class has formed and developed, it has progressively acquired common class interests, not only in the legitimacy of credentialism itself, but also in the struggle to delegitimise alternative claims to authority running directly contrary to its own.
Typically these have proven to be [...] those of (white) race, (dominant) ethnicity, (male) gender and (hetero) sexuality. Whilst inequality in the distribution of property appears compatible with credentialism [...] the logic of intellectual class interest appears to require that equivalent certificates be accorded equal treatment, whether they are obtained by black people or Jews, women or homosexuals. As Frow observes, the intelligentsia has 'real, though ambivalent, class interests in the implementation of modernity'.
In practice, moreover, those interests have commonly been associated with what Frow terms the intelligentsia's capacity to speak (uneasily) 'for' others. It is this very specifically conditioned 'progressive potential of the knowledge class', as Frow describes it, which both informs and inhibits the kind of radicalism normally available to the intelligentsia. (Milner, 9 1999: 164)
Milner's somewhat uncertain comment is that 'inequality in the distribution of property appears compatible with credentialism.' I would argue that it is worse than that. With the language of empowerment, which is part of the language of credentialism and equal opportunities, class is 'disappeared' or becomes invisible as part of this kind of politics. The debates can all too easily become ones that are only about some important issues. 'Race', gender, youth and sexuality are significant.
Class division is at least as significant as these, but has become the problem whose name, though it has one, can apparently not be spoken. The closest we get to this barely spoken name is that some claim to speak in the name of the 'people' or the 'community.'
The New Deal aim is for West Gate to become a statistically average area of the city of Newcastle uponTyne. It would have been Utopian to aim to reduce the span of inequality in the city, but what was apparently being proposed by the sober professionals from the agencies was also Utopian.
They were, apparently, pitting themselves against the housing market and other trends that constantly worked to not only reproduce, but to widen, social inequality. There was little, for instance, that could be done about local house prices and house saleability. There was little that could be done about declining shopping provision, and perhaps even public transport, in the south of the area.
They could not ameliorate, except in the most marginal fashion, the workings of the labour market or the decline in manufacturing employment. Their aim of fully involving local employers was not realised at all. What they were apparently trying to do and what they could successfully achieve were two different things.
In the absence of any material success what they could, no doubt, do was to create a group of local residents which would not have, in the future, a legitimate basis for making untoward or excessive demands upon the existing systems of provision. This is really about making the world a quieter, more ordered and less risky place ( see Neocleous, 2000). On that level, it works wonderfully well.
The community that is On board'-to use the jargon-in this process of regeneration is the community of local policy intellectuals. There was a conflict, within this community, over the policy of 'Going for Growth' and the New Deal, but this clash was always one with a rapprochement in sight.
The local residents who are present who are not part of this other community do not have sufficient organised power to adequately contest process or outcome, and do not enjoy the fruits that are that different community's reward for its labours. 'Going for Growth' still proceeds.
If the community representatives are part of the policy community, as those with a degree were, this conflict of loyalties can disable their capacity for opposition. They can all too easily see both sides, and one response is that they abstain from voting. But the ideology of the organic intellectuals of social policy-the ideology of empowerment and inclusion-does have some real effects, like all ideologies. It handed, for the period discussed here, an incomplete and discontinuous power of veto to the local representatives. However, this does not mean that those who oppose the activities of the policy community can do so with any coherence. The form in which the local 'community' is constituted is actually one in which the 'community' cannot assume a significant amount of power. The 'community' is not a coherent whole that can be absorbed or incorporated (cf. Cockburn, 1977), but is actually constituted as a fractionated community by the very process of community regeneration.
Much of UK current social policy is about achieving social inclusion, but evidence of social inclusion-the need to 'engage and involve the local community'-is actually a condition of this funding. Such a stance invites a compromising fudge from the very beginning, on the part of applicants to central government.
As Burrows and Bradshaw rightly suggest, 'neighbourhoodbased approaches to tackling poverty and social exclusion in the United Kingdom are not new. The New Deal for Communities, the formation of Employment Zones, Education Action Zones, and Health Action Zones, all have a long lineage in the development of British urban policy' (Burrows & Bradshaw, 2000: 1345).
The perpetual churning of policy and its recycling is a particular feature of the British state machine12. Jones and Ward's accusation is that each British urban policy initiative is a shop -soiled reaction to the previous one: 'Britain's cities host ineffectual regulatory strategies because urban policy appears to be a response to the socio -political and geo graphical contradictions of previous rounds of urban policy, not the underpinning contradictions of accumulation.' (Jones & Ward, 2002: 490). The new response is selected from a rather limited repertoire (Jones & Ward, 2002: 480-1), particularly when crises are manifested as conjunctural rather than structural.
Despite this ancestry, there are indeed some new aspects to the New Deal for Communities, when we compare it to the superficially similar approaches that dominated British urban policy in the late 19605 and early 19705. The most prominent examples of these approaches were the Community Development Projects. As is well-known, many of the projects, but not all, eventually nurtured apostates who jointly produced a series of critical reports, to the mortification and embarrassment of the Home Office-the leading government department in this venture. Their reports ('Whatever happened to council housing?' and 'Gilding the ghetto', etc.) were a fundamental, class-based and structural critique of area-based interventions.
The reports diagnosed the source of local problems as capitalism and the capitalist state, and their deep complicity in the production of structural inequality and the subordination of the working class.
Thus, poverty and social disorganisation were not a result of the failure of those living in poor areas to properly engage with the labour market and the welfare state (Loney, 1983: 129-30): they were the inevitable consequences of the flight of capital, of the contradictions of capital accumulation, the transformation of the housing market and the destruction of social housing, and of the withdrawal of the state from even tepid commitment to structural solutions.
The projects were not closed down but they were shunted aside (Loney, 1983: 194-7). In tne New Deal for Communities, conversely, there is no sign of a similar attempt at usurpation by the professional community workers, nor the emergence of a radical critique from within.
Indeed, there seems not to be any realisation at all that some forms of investment in the New Deal area of Newcastle upon Tyne might be directly counter-productive to the aims of community regeneration.
Secondly, one of the features that played a part in fostering internal criticism within the Community Development Projects was the coupling of social and community development work and intervention, to action research.
The emphasis now, in the New Deal for Community Projects, is on evaluation-much of it external to the project, and much of it ahistorical and atheoretical (cf. McCulloch, 2000).
Evaluation, as opposed to social science research, teaches that only the pragmatic and immediately feasible is acceptable. Hence, there is the continual adoption of old solutions under new names.
Thirdly, there is the steady and almost complete extinguishing of the British social-democratic tradition. Michael Mann's highly-regarded essay on the 'Social cohesion of liberal democracy' suggested that 'manipulated socialization' at school was limited, but effective and long lasting. 'Hence,' he observed in 1970, ' we can see agencies of political radicalism, like the trade unions and the British Labour Party struggling against their opponents' ability to mobilize the national and feudal symbols to which the population has been taught to respond loyally in schools and in much of the mass media' (Mann, 1982: 391).
Nobody then laughed (out loud) at this. Presently, the individual becomes viewed more and more as both the problem and the solution: 'Economic and financial risk is being shifted from the state and onto the individual through welfare-to-work policies such as the various "New Deal" initiatives'" (Jones & Ward, 2002: 489).
It is a well -known modern management technique to divide up overall budgets, devolve limited budgetary responsibility downwards and impose a strict set of accounting, financial, management and performance criteria to be met within the set budget. This is the situation in which the various Boards of the New Deal for Communities presently find themselves.
Brenner and Theodore have asked a number of crucial questions:
Does the local really serve as a site of empowerment in the new global age, or do contemporary discourses of globalization/localization in fact conceal a harsher reality of institutional deregulation, regulatory downgrading, and intensifying zero -sum interspatial competition?
Have localities and cities really acquired new institutional capacities to shape their own developmental pathways, or are their fates being determined-or at least significantly constrained-by political -economic forces that lie beyond their control?
Are local regulatory experiments actually improving social conditions, or are they rendering local and regional econo mies still more vulnerable to global financial fluctuations, state retrenchment, and the capricious investment of transnational corporations? (Brenner & Theodore, 2002: 342).
They are, particularly the last, very good questions.
1. 'A New Deal for Communities, Outline Proposal from Newcastle upon Tyne', May 1999.
2. My sincere thanks for the extremely helpful comments of the referees in the preparation of this paper.
3. The interviewing for this survey was completed in December 1999. The survey report, I think, is somewhat coy about ethnicity, but 29 09 of the 262 respondents described themselves as white. The biggest groups not describing themselves as white were Pakistanis and Bangladeshis (12 per cent of the sample in total).The survey data is not that robust, although I have used it. 911 or 912 addresses (depending on whether the text or the relevant table is trusted) were selected at random. There was no reply at 363 of these, 54 were empty and 233 refused. (A rate of 5 per cent for voids is actually rather low for the area.) This was a survey in which the rate of refusal was close to that of the rate of acceptance. Indeed, there is a category Other' that may well include un-completed or broken-off interviews. There could be grounds, then, for adding these 17 to the 233 refusals. This high rate of refusal (with or without the Newcastle 17) is worrying, when one of the topic areas that was being explored by the survey was the extent of commitment to the New Deal area by residents, and the strength of community bonds between them.
4. One informed recent estimate now puts the number of households at nearer 4,300.
5. This actually took until 2002.
6. Despite the regular absence of a private sector representative, the slogan that the West Gate New Deal for Communities optimistically adopted was Open for People, Open for Business.' Although it is not part of this account, eventually those who took advantage of this were Asian landlords and small businessmen.
7. The Chair of the Education Focus Group was ill for much of 2000. She is not included in the table.The private - sector representative on the ISG rarely attended, and is also not included.
8. This service is not, at the time of writing, being provided. The reasons for this are various.
However, one is that BME members themselves felt that elected representatives should be able to speak English adequately enough to represent all their constituents. The indirect consequence of this has been to cement the hold of younger BME males.
9. There was a history here. he was allegedly a working class activist who had been employed unsuccessfully on an earlier project in an adjacent area. The object of his attack had been a trustee of the project, and had supported his dismissal.
10. For instance, one of the other local representatives, a middle class male, criticised two of the dissident women for taking their children out of school in order to attend the national New Deal conference in Brighton. he invidiously compared their behaviour to the New Deal's efforts to increase school attendance. The dissident women walked out of the ISG meeting (rendering it inquorate, as the community representatives were no longer in a majority).
11. The electorate was composed of the people on the most recent electoral roll in the New Deal area.
12.German legal provisions for dealing with youth crime and misdemeanours have been built on rather consistent principles since 1923. The same could not be said of British youth justice. see McCulloch, J. (2003).
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