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MSPs URGE NEW APPROACH TO DEPRIVATION

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The establishment of a single fund to combat deprivation has been recommended in a report published today by the Sc...
The establishment of a single fund to combat deprivation has been recommended in a report published today by the Scottish Parliament's finance committee.

In a wide-ranging review of spending on deprivation funding the committee suggested that a new national fund would allow the wider problem of deprivation to be tackled more effectively, reducing bureaucracy.

The proposed fund would merge existing funding streams and allow the introduction of supplementary funding, ensuring best value.

Implementation of the fund requires that national performance indicators should be introduced alongside outcome agreements reached by the community planning partnerships for each local authority area.

This would mean that the success of local and national efforts to overcome deprivation can be monitored systematically.

Des McNulty MSP, convener of the committee said: 'Although deprivation policies have existed in various guises over many years, the incidence of deprivation remains widespread. In our inquiry we questioned the effectiveness of having so many different programmes.

'Although the Executive has provided more resources for initiatives aimed at tackling deprivation, we found a lack of clarity on the eligibility for such funds and their purpose. This makes it difficult to assess what progress is being made or how effectively the money is being spent.

'Separate streams of funding create unnecessary bureaucracy and have fostered the growth of a 'deprivation industry', which needs to be trimmed back. The maximum available resources should be spent helping individuals, families and communities.

'At present far too much money is swallowed up unproductively because resources are routed through area based organisations or local government departments, who have kept out more efficient voluntary sector providers. We strongly recommend greater use of tendering and contracting to ensure tangible results and better value for money.'

The committee considered that mainstream budgets in local government and health are not sufficiently focused on tackling deprivation. The report recommends that the local government funding formula should be adjusted to take full account of deprivation, which would benefit authorities suffering population loss and heavy concentrations of multiple deprivation.

The committee also wants to see much greater accountability locally and nationally for how deprivation resources are used and improved co-ordination between community planning partnerships and the Executive.

The committee made a number of further recommendations to target resources more effectively on the people and areas that need it

including:

* Regeneration outcome agreements (ROAs) should be approved and monitored by the Executive rather than Communities Scotland. The committee believes at present there is a fundamental conflict in the roles of Communities Scotland as they are simultaneously strategic partner, project sponsor and adjudicator.

* Community planning partnerships (which involve local authorities, health boards, enterprise networks etc) should develop partnership outcome agreements which will include a description of the money to be targeted on deprivation and what will be done with the money.

These will be much wider than the current agreements in place to deal with deprivation.

The committee's report is based on evidence from experts in the field of deprivation, Communities Scotland, the Wise Group, various Community Planning Partnerships and the Communities Minister. In addition, the committee visited various deprivation and regeneration projects in Glasgow.

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