Tony Rich, programme manager for regeneration at the Local Government Association, said local authorities welcomed the extra money, but there was still a ‘gap in the rhetoric’ in terms of the Treasury’s focus on addressing local needs. He called for RDAs to be given more freedom from national targets, coupled with greater accountability within their regions. The Campaign for the English Regions ‘cautiously welcomedÉ the government’s recognition of the continued problem of economic disparities within and between regions’.
But it warned that Mr Brown’s giveaways including £1.25bn to science and £90m for innovation in higher education would ‘only be meaningful’ if new money went to all regions rather than a select few. A beefed-up neighbourhood renewal fund and tougher targets for government departments have signalled a new determination by ministers to tackle deprivation. The ‘floor targets’ for individual departments are to be strengthened after concerns that previous targets were measuring the wrong things and would not deliver the Neighbour-hood Renewal Unit’s strategy. 0The move, unveiled by chancellor Gordon Brown this week, was hailed by commentators as a sign of the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit’s growing influence since it became the responsibility of deputy prime minister John Prescott. Under Stephen Byers, who resigned as secretary of state for transport, local government and the regions in May, there were concerns that the unit’s role in tackling deprivation would be undermined because many departments had been set unchallenging improvement targets for crime, health, education, transport and housing.
Geoff Fordham, director of GFA Consulting, which worked closely with civil servants on the national strategy for neighbourhood renewal, said: ‘From day one the line surrounding the national strategy was that this was about floor targets. In some cases people were critical about what the targets measured. A spokesperson for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said: ‘The DPM is committed to making sure this money is spent in the right way and he is showing a great commitment to neighbourhood renewal. The chancellor promised to extend the neighbourhood renewal fund beyond its intended three-year lifespan, with an additional £975m. find out more: E Conveyancing Adelaide
Extending the lifetime of the NRF addresses our concern that with lots of separate funding streams there is a danger of them being turned on and off, which prevents local authorities’ potential to plan. Voluntary organisations got a £125m cash bonanza this week to help run public services but the new legal framework to regulate their activities could still be months away.