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GOVERNMENT PROPOSALS AIM TO TURN AROUND DEPRIVED AREAS BY 2021

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The prime minister's Strategy Unit and the Office of the Deputy Prime...
The prime minister's Strategy Unit and the Office of the Deputy Prime

Minister's Neighbourhood Renewal Unit today published further plans

to tackle the causes of deprivation and reverse what they identified

as the 'cycle of decline'. This creates disadvantage, including a

lack of employment opportunities, poor living conditions and low

performing public services. The report concludes that the

government's goal should be that, by 2021, no one should be seriously

disadvantaged by where they live.

The report, Improving the prospects of people living in areas of

multiple deprivation in England, identifies the factors that combine

to drive an area into decline. They are:

* low levels of economic activity and concentrations of worklessness

* poor housing, badly managed local environments and failure to

address antisocial behaviour which creates unstable communities

* key public services, such as health and education, performing

poorly, so that the most deprived areas receive the least support

The Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy, launched in 2001, set out a 10 to

20-year programme for tackling the differences in outcomes between

deprived areas and the rest of the country. Much has been achieved in

just four years, but there remains concern about the extent and

severity of some concentrations of deprivation.

The report sets out a number of proposals that will:

* strengthen local economies and help get people into work

* improve housing and the quality of the physical environment

* improve the performance of public services and the delivery of

regeneration support in deprived areas

Prime minister Tony Blair said:

'I strongly welcome this report. In 2001 I set the ambition that no

one in Britain should be held back by the area they live in. We have

made some progress on a number of indicators including some

education, employment and crime indicators and many neighbourhoods

have been significantly improved. However, to fulfil our aim we

must do more.

'This report highlights the factors which create a cycle of decline

and identifies the strategies which can turn areas around by creating

a positive cycle of improvement which can set neighbourhoods on the

path to stability and prosperity.

'We must tackle concentrations of worklessness by helping those

trapped on benefit, particularly the one million on incapacity-related

benefits who we know want to work, back into jobs. By involving local

people in managing their own housing, their local services and,

increasingly, local policing, we will tackle the fundamental drivers

of decline and disadvantage. And we must ensure that our programme of

public service reform puts choice and power in the hands of those who

live in our most disadvantaged areas.'

Deputy prime minister, John Prescott, welcoming the report said:

'After only four years Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy is starting to

show progress in closing the gap between the disadvantaged areas and

the rest. For example, education is showing progress across a range

of measures. The gap between the average pass rate for five good

GCSEs (A*-C) in the 88 Neighbourhood Renewal Fund (NRF) areas and

England as a whole has narrowed between 1997 and 2003 and employment

in the NRF areas has increased by 1.7 percentage points since 1997,

compared to 1.4 points nationally. This represents an extra half a

million more people in jobs from deprived areas, but this is a

20-year strategy and there is more to do.

'Today we are also publishing three other documents: People, Places

and Prosperity, Making it Happen in Neighbourhoods, and Citizen

Engagement and Public Services, which show how the government is

taking forward delivering better services and involving communities.'

The report sets out a package of measures that aim to tackle all of

these drivers in an integrated fashion, from work levels to poor

housing, recognising the complex linkages between them.

Key measures contained in the deprived areas report include:

Strengthening local economies

Measures needed include tackling barriers to work for individuals

through:

* addressing skill shortages by building on measures set out in the

Skills White Paper such as supporting adult education

* helping working age people who are living long-term on benefits

(lone parents, the long-term unemployed, Incapacity Benefit

claimants) get back into work

* better childcare for working parents, including the introduction of

up to 2,500 children's centres by 2008

Government will also lever private and public sector investment to

support regeneration through:

* refining the focus of regional development authorities to ensure

that worklessness and enterprise in deprived areas are given greater

priority

* developing guidance for public sector purchasers on social issues

in purchasing

Improving housing and the local environment:

Measures needed include:

* reforming allocation, build and management of social housing to

minimise excessive concentrations of deprivation driven by the

current system

* using a 'neighbourhoods' element of the safer and stronger

communities fund to promote management of local environments through

methods such as neighbourhood managers, wardens and neighbourhood

agreements

* the forthcoming youth green paper will address the poor performance

of the youth service in some areas

Improving public service delivery

Measures needed include:

* using the performance management regime to ensure that public

services focus more on the needs of people in deprived areas;

* ensuring that people in deprived areas benefit from wider public

service reforms, including the extension of choice, for example

through providing greater support to make informed choices in

education and health and, where necessary, help with transport needs;

* unifying area-based funding into a single funding stream through

local area agreements to increase value for money from area-based

initiatives;

* greater support for neighbourhoods to play a more central role in

holding local service providers to account.

Notes

1. The Strategy Unit report is available here.

2. The project's sponsor minister was Lord Rooker, minister of state

for regeneration.

3. The project was announced in December 2003 on the strategy unit's

website. The project team has been working closely with officials in

the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister as well as other key

stakeholders including the Home Office, Department of Health,

Department for Education and Skills, Department of Trade and

Industry, local government, regional development agencies, key

academics and regeneration practitioners.

PRESCOTT UNVEILS PLANS TO GIVE COMMUNITIES MORE SAY IN LOCAL DECISION-MAKING (ODPM)

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