Social Cohesion (3)
ODPM Committee Social Cohesion (3), 18 Sep 2003
Q348 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): You mentioned the system of working through the local townships, perhaps you would like to say a bit more about how important that is in terms of cohesion? In particular how are differences in approach and indeed in opinion by the townships reconciled at a borough-wide level?
Cllr Robinson: As I was already starting to say it is not that it is little fiefdoms of their own, there is quite a lot of commonality of view in relation to the borough as a whole. To be honest it is not always easy to reconcile where you do have differing views, as I am sure you are aware, but there never really does seem to be major disparities in relation to the borough impacting on housing policies and strategies.
Q352 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): There will be differences in the resources that are given to the townships, how do you reconcile the arguments that are bound to arise if one township is getting more than another?
Ms Martin: Those arguments carry on all of the time, I do not think you are ever going to be able to totally reconcile them. One example is in terms of regeneration funding we have had several rounds of SRB funding, the first round went to Central Rochdale, the next time round a conscious decision was made that the next round went to Middleton township. Then New Deal for Communities came along and at the time I was an officer working in Middleton and there was all sorts of very good reasons to invest that money in Middleton to build on the good work that had been done under the SRB scheme but a conscious political decision was made that it was Heywood's turn. Those were all based on need. Most of the wards in the borough are deprived, the problem that you get is that one of the townships, Pennines, as a whole tends to hit very few of the deprivation criteria for anything. We have tried to address that with the Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy when identifying very small geographical areas of need and been able to pick up the pockets of deprivation in the Pennines township, also by including some "at risk neighbourhoods" as well as the ones that are the most deprived.
Q385 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): You have said, and it is quite reasonable for you to say, it would not be right for you to comment on other local authorities but of course we can because that is part of our job here: we know, and I am sure you know, that in some local authorities there is a great deal of tension that arises over the competition of area-based regeneration initiatives and the distribution of resources but you seem, to a large extent, to have managed to overcome that, is there a lesson for other local authorities here? Would you say that it is possible to target funds at the most deprived areas without giving rise to these tensions and causing these problems?
Cllr Robinson: I do not think that you will ever do that 100 per cent but you can do it the best that you are able to balance, and I think we have managed that. Obviously, as we said, inevitably there is always going to be, "what about my ward?" you will always get that. We have managed to meet the needs criteria to a large extent because of the number of deprived wards in the borough. I do think that it is possible if the demography and geography are perhaps similar if you had a couple of wards that had quite severe deprivation and met certain indices and you had a number of others that did not you would then get those tensions and it would be much harder to resolve.
Q386 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): You say to a large extent you have overcome these problems, what further action do you need to take?
Cllr Robinson: On?
Q387 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): In pursuing this?
Cllr Robinson: I think it is continuing.
Q388 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Do you need more help from the Government? Should the Government be doing more?
Ms Martin: In terms of area-based initiatives the impression that you get as an officer is that there is lots of money available but it is separated into different schemes with slightly different criteria and a lot of effort has to go into putting in bids and fitting it all together to come up with something substantial.
Q389 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Do you think there are too many area-based initiatives?
Ms Martin: There are possibly too many separate ones, it would be better if they could be blended together.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Okay.
|Promoted by Ken Childs on behalf of David Clelland, both of 19 Ravensworth Road, Dunston, Gateshead. NE11 9AB|