Issue 13

TIME TO REFOCUS REGENERATION RESOURCES?

By Derek Rankine, Policy and Participation Manager, SURF

The Scottish Government is committed to tackling poverty and inequality. So to what extent are national regeneration investments focused on Scotland’s deprived places? To a lesser extent than is often thought, based on our work with SURF, a network of more than 250 regeneration-related organisations in Scotland.

SURF undertook a comprehensive 18-month consultation process to develop a After engaging with academics, community representatives and regeneration practitioners across the country, the main conclusion reached is that many regeneration resources, which are intended to tackle deprivation challenges in Scottish communities, actually end up in affluent areas and commercial city centre hubs.

Backed up by evidence from the University of Glasgow, Ryden Property Consultancy, and the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee, SURF’s manifesto argues that current regeneration investment mechanisms favour already successful places. Despite the good intentions of policy rhetoric to the contrary, the effect is increasing inequality between places.

The Post Industrial Challenge

In response, SURF’s manifesto proposals are drawn from experience and knowledge derived from extensive cross-sector consultations, other core SURF activities, and independent research. They comprise nine ‘bold and practical’ policy recommendations for the next Scottish Government. The proposals are intended to be ambitious in tackling the far-reaching impacts of post-industrial degeneration and disconnection, yet deliverable within existing powers and resources.

The manifesto prioritises two key complementary recommendations: investing in a new generation of 15 place-based regeneration initiatives in strategically significant geographies, and introducing a statutory duty requiring public bodies to address socio-economic disadvantage across all policy and resource decisions.

SURF’s investigations indicated that the evidence base in support of place-based regeneration programmes is mixed.

SURF’s investigations indicated that the evidence base in support of place-based regeneration programmes is mixed. While targeted regeneration investments can demonstrate improvements in some aspects, such as a place’s housing quality, there are valid questions about how effectively they deliver meaningful and sustainable change for intended beneficiaries over the longer term.

Despite these caveats, a good deal has been learned about what does and doesn’t work in place-based regeneration from the Social Inclusion Partnerships and Urban Regeneration Companies experience in Scotland, as well as England’s New Deal for Communities and relevant programmes in mainland Europe.

Over recent decades, SURF has built up a bank of knowledge from ongoing responses to post-industrial challenges. Many of these are highlighted by the SURF Awards for Best Practice in Community Regeneration, a national recognition programme that SURF delivers in partnership with the Scottish Government. Examples include Dundee Waterfront, Clyde Gateway, Strathleven Regeneration Company, and Urban Development Plans in Barrhead and Kilmarnock.

These substantial place-based initiatives are authentically based on the industrial heritage and distinctive assets of their respective urban contexts. In doing so, they have revitalised communities, addressed physical decline, operated holistically, and developed external investment opportunities in manufacturing, life sciences, the creative industries, and other sectors.

Place, Poverty, Politics

SURF argues that now is the time to put this learning into practice by establishing long-term support for a new programme of 15 place-based initiatives in Scotland. This programme should maximise value by utilising existing delivery vehicles, developing clear and measurable convergence targets, and implementing transferable learning processes to benefit wider geographies and contexts.

Why 15? SURF believes this represents an appropriate scale of ambition within the next Scottish Government’s budgetary limitations. Which places should be part of the programme? SURF argues that deprivation levels, strategic significance, and practical scope for achievement should be among the key factors in any decision-making process led by the next Scottish Government.

This high-profile place-based programme should, SURF argues, be accompanied by renewed efforts to place poverty and inequality impacts at the heart of public spending decision-making. Introducing a socio-economic duty would provide a policy mechanism with the potential to put policy rhetoric around the importance of addressing poverty and inequality into practical action.

As raised in the debate around the 2010 UK Equality Act , there is a concern that such a duty may ultimately prove ineffective amid the ‘noise’ of other local government responsibilities. SURF agrees with the Poverty Alliance that, in order to be adequately effectual, the duty must contain clear targets and definitions, and robust monitoring and enforcement.

SURF contends that the implementation of both of the above proposals together is necessary in linking focused support towards physical, social and economic challenges in particularly disadvantaged places with broader policy development aimed at tackling poverty, deprivation and disadvantage across Scotland.

Scale Mismatch

Such a combined approach would help to address the ‘scale mismatch’ identified by SURF’s consultees between the structural levels at which social and economic problems develop, and the local neighbourhood levels in which they are often attempted to be addressed through regeneration plans and processes. In doing so it addresses the fundamental targeting challenge in which most of the 468,430 people classed as income deprived in Scotland in fact Hub procurement model with one more supportive of local regeneration aims, and building on the Community Jobs Scotland model to invest in direct job creation in areas of chronic employment market failure. SURF’s consultations also indicated a widely held desire to see the regeneration approach of Highlands & Islands Enterprise replicated to benefit small towns and rural geographies in central and south Scotland.

SURF’s manifesto was launched this month with a view to influencing the main parties competing for seats in the 2016 Scottish elections. The content will also form the basis for a Scottish regeneration hustings event, in which guest politicians will be questioned by the SURF network in Edinburgh on Thursday 7 April 2016, one month before the election.

The parties and politicians that will be campaigning on SURF’s manifesto themes – supporting places and tackling poverty – can expect some demanding questions on how resources are best targeted.

Read SURF’s manifesto at:
www.scotregen.co.uk/projects/2016-manifesto/

Derek Rankine
Is Policy and Participation Manager, SURF

By Derek Rankine, Policy and Participation Manager, SURF

Issue 13

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