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The regeneration hokey cokey!

I recently gave evidence to the Regeneration Select committee, commenting on the document: regeneration to enable growth: What Government is doing in support of community-led regeneration.

One of the key, things I tried to convey, was that failing place, is a problem that market will not solve it on its own. Even in the economic good times, growth did not deliver for some places and people.  To achieve regeneration, in the context of localism and less resources, we need to work differently.

Regeneration is needed when some or a combination of parts of the public, social or commercial network in any given place, are failing. As my colleague Sarah Longland’s outlines in a blog and as was stated in our written submission, regeneration in the future, is about re-connecting up this network in new ways. Local government, has a key interconnecting and stewardship role in this.

The regeneration hokey-cokey is about local government being fleet of foot and nimble. In this it needs to gauge its involvement, carefully calibrating know to get involved or not, what to put in, what to shake about when it is in and how to get out.

It possibly needs to put its whole self out! Regeneration can, in some instances, occur without any public intervention. Local government involvement is needed when the solutions are taking too long, or the other sectors need support in some way. So local government needs to look at its priorities, consider what other sectors are doing, and the likelihood of the market solving the problems, before it decides to get directly involved.

It needs to put parts in! if the problems look severe enough then local government, needs to stop being out and start putting things in. However, this intervention must be in proportion to the issue and the resources and capacity available. It could be that it merely acts to nudge behaviour of other sectors, or may act deeper and harness available resources and service activity to create a voracious concentration of forces.

It needs to shake it all about! How long local government hangs around and what it ‘shakes about’ is a decision which was often miscalculated in past regeneration activity.  Previously, fettered by central government, it was usually ‘shaking it about’ for a set period of involvement, say 5, 7 years.  Playing a managerialist role, feeding back outputs to Whitehall.  In this the ability to make decisions about tipping points and ability to retreat, were difficult to do.

Do the hokey cokey and get out! Finally local government needs to gauge as soon at it is in, it’s plan for getting out again and which ‘bit’ it gets out.  Previously, this judgement call, usually came to late in the day and involved the often illusive aim of mainstreaming specially funded activity, back into central core budgets or ongoing practice.  The getting out, could be incremental, all at once, or a phased ‘in and out’ depending on what is required.

This is not abstract, may local authorities are already doing this dance, being proactive about place stewardship and thinking differently about regeneration.  For instance Blackburn with Darwen are already considering its key priorities, when and where it needs to get involved, predicting how deep it can or needs to get involved, predicting how deep and how long it may need to stay around.  All of this framed within a recognition that it needs to act witha network of public, commercial and social actors.

This regeneration hokey cokey, is the new dance for Local government.  Take the floor!

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