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ROTHERHAM MBC'S SUCCESSES IN TACKLING LEGACY OF INDUSTRIAL PAST FACE UNCERTAIN FUTURE

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Rotherham has achieved some significant successes in tackling the legacy of unemployment, physical degradation and ...
Rotherham has achieved some significant successes in tackling the legacy of unemployment, physical degradation and social deprivation caused by its industrial past, says an Audit Commission report. But the council needs to take action with its partners to ensure it makes further improvements in the future.

A team of inspectors from the Audit Commission judged the council's approach to regeneration to be of a good, two star standard, but with uncertain prospects for improvement.

Sue Sunderland, Audit Commission senior manager, said: 'The council is clearly committed to tackling the economic, social and environmental problems created by its industrial past. It also has ambitious plans for the future. Bu progress made in the 1990s to create a more sustainable economy has not continued at the same pace, particularly in the key areas of employment and deprivation. The council needs to simplify its current strategies and plans and ensure it has the money for planned regeneration projects when current funding comes to an end in 2006.'

The council works well with a range of private, public and voluntary agencies and has made significant progress with redevelopment. This includes sites in the Dearne Valley, the Magna Science and Adventure Park, and the beginnings of the Advanced Manufacturing Park. Many local environmental projects have also been carried out with organisations such as Groundwork.

Inspectors also identified other strengths:

  • Physical regeneration projects have created significant short-term and longer-term employment.

  • Social and environmental regeneration activities have led to improvements in housing, incomes and social wellbeing for local people.

  • Some aspects of the council's regeneration work have achieved the national recognition of beacon status.

    However, there has been less success in dealing with areas of acute economic and social deprivation that still persist in some parts of the borough. Tackling the social consequences of poor health and fear of crime is a major challenge. Educational attainment, while improving, is still below the national average. Inspectors identified the following weaknesses:

  • Attempts to develop a clear regeneration plan have only added to not simplified, the current complex set of plans.

  • Concentrating the 'town centre renaissance' project on Rotherham, not the smaller towns on which local residents rely for shopping, commercial and professional services, may damage the continued viability of such places.

  • The council has no systems in place to judge how well its various regeneration projects work in reducing inequalities between neighbourhoods.

    To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations including:

  • Revise the regeneration plan to help clarify all the plans and strategies currently in place. This should include challenging and measurable targets.

  • Fully assess how the 'town centre renaissance' project may affect other smaller shopping and commercial areas.

  • Make sure regeneration is a clear priority across all areas of the council's work and that each department has clear goals and objectives in relation to regeneration.

    This report covers the council's approach to regeneration across the whole range of work it does. The services contributing to regeneration are estimated to have cost£25m in 2002/03.

    Copies of the report are available from Rotherham MBC or on the Audit Commission's website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk

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