'Change Essential If We Are to Develop Our Economy in the Region'

Article excerpt

Byline: KEVAN CARRICK

IN last week's column I emphasised the need for focus and stability in delivering regeneration. In previous columns I have also alluded to the fact that public sector money and European money are going to be in scarce supply.

Last Thursday the Conservative Party announced a proposal to introduce the Single Regeneration Budget programme of competitive bidding for regeneration funds if it wins power at the next election.

Some pounds 5.7bn was distributed between 1994 and 2006 to local regeneration partners under the then SRB. An interesting read is the Single Regeneration Budget: Final Evaluation carried out by the Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge, on the performance of the previous round of SRB, which was designed to encourage partnership working in local regeneration - no argument there. Success required partnership and the need for funding to target community representation; in other words a "bottom-up" response.

The competition for funding argued that it would encourage innovation - that the players would get their act together and that it should be flexible.

To succeed in the bid, seven criteria needed to be met which were mainly local and community issues with emphasis on more than "value for money considerations".

The main characteristic was that every pounds 1 of SRB money levered in pounds 4 of other funding, thus pounds 5.7bn of SRB money represented a spend of pounds 26bn, but the spend was lumpy geographically with London and the North West accounting for just over half of the total expenditure. One of the downsides was that consultation among businesses at the bid development stage for many of the early SRB schemes was very limited and even when they had been persuaded to join partnership boards, active participation was not guaranteed.

My view of SRB is that in the North East it did not involve the private sector, it focused on skill working and place improvement and was not strategic, nor was delivery close to good. …