A call to action

At last we have a ministerial statement about regeneration – the shortest in 30 years but none the worse for that. Grant Shapps and Andrew Stunnell were in Salford today and have been explaining how the Coalition’s policies create a framework for action.

Jackie Sadek, our Chief Executive at UK Regeneration, has welcomed the stateement:

“We are delighted that the Government has set out a clear and very simple framework for regeneration. In keeping with its drive on localism the government is focusing on enabling measures and a few key strategic interventions on transport. This offers all of us a challenge: taking this framework, with limited resources, and making things happen across the country. UK Regeneration is leading that drive.”

Read our lips

True to form for this government  this is WYSIWYAG –What you saw is what you are getting. No surprises, no rabbits out of hats (well almost none); the statement is a simple laying out of the basic tools that we now have and the resources available. Would we have preferred to see a doubling of the Regional Growth Fund – yes. Did we expect that to happen – no. And nor should anyone else have done so if they had been listening to ministerial pronouncements for the last 9 months.

We – all of us engaged in regeneration – need to accept the challenge of working bottom up and in local communities: Localism plus the Big Society now needs to be worked through into practical action.

It’s the economy stupid

Economic growth remains at the heart of the government’s agenda – as well it might after last week’s news. The big political debate will rumble on but at local level a focus on improving the health of the local economy has to be right not just for its direct impact on jobs and spending power but also because this will help – as the statement says- improve the social and physical quality of places.

Action this day

The statement is a start but we now need action.

First, action from government, where there is a unfinished business in delivering the toolkit:

  • settle the details of TIFs and announce a firm timetable for the legislative and other steps through to implementation so that planning can start on where they can be best used;
  • decide whether to revamp Enterprise Zones (on which there have been rumours) and similarly get a settled timetable;
  • find simple ways of getting public land into productive use – even temporarily. Reaffirm the remit of the Shareholder Executive to support economic growth and the rebalancing of the economy;
  • be bold about local government resources. Complete the review urgently and find some simple ways forward;
  • give teeth to the commitment to rebalancing growth across the country;
  • hold to this light touch approach – let a thousand flowers bloom.

Second, action from the private sector,

  • invest long term – we know that transforming areas takes time but those who get in early and stick with it can reap the rewards;
  • invest in potential – not just with the herd
  • invest in people – land and buildings are important but skills and knowledge will drive growth
  • invest in places – be part of the local political community and accountable to local people

Third, action for regenerators, all of us who have worked in projects and places over the last 30 years and more should:

  • bring the knowledge and experience – you know what worked and didn’t work and how to engage with communities
  • support each other – these are difficult times for individuals so strengthen the networks of mutual support
  • seize opportunities to deliver.

Moving forward

When UKR began calling for the government to set out its plans for regeneration we had in mind something like the old fashioned government White Papers. We even wrote our own Not the White Paper. I now realise that we were still partly stuck in the remains of our  top-down mindset. The Government’s position is simply stated as an enabling one. We have to do the moving forward. UKR will continue not only to lead the debate – with our Big Society Task Force getting under way and our conference on 24 March – and offer help and support – more announcements soon – but also take the opportunity to get involved in projects to demonstrate what can be done in this new world.

Watch this space.

Paul Evans

Some biography