HL Deb 02 November 1998 vol 594 cc2-4WA
Lord Evans of Parkside

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What arrangements they are making to ensure effective co-ordination of their area-based initiatives. [HL3628]

Lord Whitty

The Government are committed to tackling social exclusion, reducing inequality and promoting regeneration and development. To help meet this commitment, they have, in their first 18 months, launched specific area-based programmes and initiatives including Health Action Zones, the New Deal for Communities, Employment Zones and Education Action Zones.

These area-based programmes have their own distinct goals. But they share key characteristics. They are targeted on areas and communities where there is a need for priority action; they aim to support new, cross-cutting approaches; they promote genuine local partnerships with stronger local involvement; and they encourage greater flexibility and responsiveness in the operation of public spending programmes.

We are announcing today measures to ensure that area-based initiatives at neighbourhood, local, regional and national level are co-ordinated so that they serve local people as effectively as possible.

The Cabinet Office and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) have circulated a guidance note to all departments. The guidance note:

  • outlines the strategy for co-ordination of initiatives;
  • defines the common characteristics of many area-based initiatives; and
  • sets out the arrangements for handling proposed new area based initiatives and extensions to existing ones;
Copies of the guidance note have been placed in the Library of the House.

DETR is commissioning research on the mapping of these initiatives and on options for streamlining their accountability and funding. These projects will help us gain a better understanding of the interactions between area-based initiatives.

An interdepartmental support unit is being established in DETR to carry out day-to-day exchanges of information, advise on future initiatives and support their monitoring and evaluation.

In six key locations, which represent a cross-section of types of area and where there is a range of initiatives, the Government will build on experience and support the development of models of best practice in managing and co-ordinating initiatives. They will explore what lessons can be learnt, both about the way in which individual initiatives are delivered and about their relationship to main public spending programmes. The proposed areas are: Newcastle; Plymouth; South Yorkshire; East London (Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets); West Cumbria and Sandwell. The Government will be contacting key interests in those areas, including local communities, to discuss how to take forward these studies and define the target areas more closely.

The Government support the Local Government Association (LGA) New Commitment to Regeneration Initiative, which is seeking a more co-ordinated and flexible approach to regeneration in 22 pathfinder areas through the preparation of comprehensive regeneration strategies for their areas. In these areas the implementation of area-based initiatives will take account of the emerging pathfinder strategies. The progress of the LGA New Commitment will be monitored at regular Central/Local Partnership meetings between the LGA and the Government.

The Government will continue to support the City Pride initiatives in Birmingham, London and Manchester, through which local partnerships are pursuing a shared strategic vision of their areas.

Government Offices for the Regions and, in due course and subject to legislation, Regional Development Agencies will play a key part at regional level in the co-ordination of area-based initiatives.

In line with the Social Exclusion Unit report Bringing Britain Together: a national strategy for neighbourhood renewal, an action team, led by DETR, will report by April 1999 on how to build on existing area-based initiatives and local government reform so that in the long term broad-based strategies to prevent and tackle social exclusion become the norm and good practice is disseminated and acted on. This will include development of more effective ways of disseminating information about the wider context within which regeneration programmes and initiatives operate.

The Government will keep these arrangements under review and reflect the outcome of relevant research and studies in the future development and operation of their programmes and initiatives.

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