Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Britain Labour era New Deal For Communities program, a civic engagement centric revitalization initiative

I recently wrote two entries on what I would do were I in a position to create a revitalization agenda for a weak market Rust Belt city like St. Louis ("St. Louis: what would I recommend for a comprehensive revitalization program? | Part 1: Overview and Theoretical Foundations" and "St. Louis: what would I recommend for a comprehensive revitalization program? | Part 2: Implementation Approach and Levers").  

Part of the proposal outlined a program driven by engaged citizens, with funding for citizen-conceptualized and implemented initiatives at the neighborhood scale.

That's what the UK New Deal Communities program was about, according to an article the Guardian, "If Johnson is serious about ‘levelling up’, he needs to look at what Labour got right."  

It sounds a lot like the Savannah Grants for Blocks program and the Neighborhood Revitalization Program in Minneapolis, programs referenced in the St. Louis articles.

Columnist Polly Toynbee discusses a recent report, Turnaround: How to regenerate Britain’s less prosperous communities by helping them take back control (full report), by the Conservative think tank Onward, which declares that the only real successful regeneration program in the UK (it doesn't mention the EU structural adjustment program that had great success in communities like Liverpool) in the last 25 years was the New Deal For Communities program created during the Blair era, and immediately junked by the Conservatives when they took office in 2010.

-- The New Deal for Communities Experience: A final assessment The New Deal for Communities Evaluation: Final report – Volume 7, UK Department for Communities and Local Government, 2010

From the article:

In 2000, the millennium era of exuberant social optimism, Labour launched an extraordinary experiment. Identifying the country’s 2,000 most deprived estates, just 39 were chosen as a regeneration testbed. NDCs focused on lifting people’s quality of life by giving them the power and the money. Each neighbourhood received a 10-year budget of £56m – electing their own resident-dominated boards. 

The targets set were eye-wateringly ambitious: 100% of housing was to be repaired to “decent” standard, crime and unemployment to fall to national averages, child and adult education qualifications to reach the national average, along with health levels. At least 85% of residents were to feel “satisfied with their area” and three-quarters “involved” in their community. ... 

At first there was no “community”, no organisations to build on, only a handful of volunteers who hired some professionals. But what galvanised people was the cheque placed in their own hands to follow their own priorities. They created 64 projects, from debt advice, job support and training, arts and sports for children, clubs for the lonely, a community centre, an annual festival, a bike repair training scheme, family outings – and undertook massive housing repairs. New wardens walked the streets and dozens of crack houses were shut down.

Of course, gains reversed when the program ended.  A lesson not likely to have much impact on the Conservatives.  From the article:

Nonetheless, Onward’s study of all 39 NDCs finds 77% saw deprivation fall relative to the national average. Where communities were most involved, deprivation fell fastest. Those “satisfied with their area” rose by 18 percentage points, employment up by 10 points. That’s remarkable. 

But here’s what happened next. “Interestingly” the report notes, “many areas saw their improvement in the Index of Multiple Deprivation start to fall back after 2010.” That “interestingly” is Onward’s political caution: more than half the NDCs that caught up to their local authority average fell back again. Nor does this report take enough account of how NDCs benefited from services improving all around them: Clapham Park opened two Sure Start children’s centres, the NHS was getting 7% more a year, while school results rose with a boost to teacher numbers and spending. Post-2010 cuts to public services and benefits meant few NDCs sustained their gains.

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At 9:47 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

off topic;

At 11:54 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

will read. Thanks! for the cite.

speaking of off topic, have you been to Girona? I saw some stuff in a tv program, then looked at some videos online. They have a nice pedestrianized walk and area too.

At 2:25 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

WRT the article. Not in any particular order.

They mention as third the problem of gender equity (it turns out the reason that Utah was the first to extend voting rights to women was because non-Mormons were becoming an increasingly large part of the demographic and they needed Mormon women voters to be able to counteract the votes of the "gentiles.")

But I think that is extendable more broadly to respect for diverse people, and this gets at that "talent" and "tolerance" point that Richard Florida always makes.

The article states homogeneity is a strength. It is also a severe weakness. Many Mormons, especially people in political leadership, are severely intolerant.

The Legislature is dominated by Mormons and they have a lot of wacked ideas and don't believe in the here and now, but that "The Heavenly Father" will provide.

Utah can't wait for God to solve our water problems.

Gerrymandering is severe. Tolerance is a problem. The state is severely divided between Salt Lake City (and to some extent the County, but currently the County Council has a Republican majority). The Legislature frequently does stuff specifically against the city (like Michigan and Detroit), etc.

The Republicans out here are wacked, I guess like everywhere, but being from Michigan (not now, but when I was there) when there was an honorable moderate Republican tradition this is really hard. (And was the one thing that made me consider very seriously whether or not to move here, but the relative tolerance of Salt Lake City eased my concerns.)

(The State Capitol is less than 2 miles from City-County Hall.)

The point about "the diverse economy" is true but it leans "industrial", a lot of logistics, but more importantly and not mentioned, it's heavily dependent on resource extraction.

(I know someone who works at Kennecott. They believe that if they "mined" their tailings pond, there are billions of dollars of gold in there.)

There are 5 refineries in North Salt Lake (city and the separate NSL jurisdiction). The state has big business in oil and coal (remember that the state tried to sue Oakland, California over local zoning restrictions on coal docks). And interestingly in car dealership groups, which are pro-gasoline consumption.

While Utah given the b.s. about it being so environmentally conscious could be a first mover and force the Wasatch Front to shift to electric vehicles because Air Quality is so bad, between the refineries, resource extraction and the car dealership groups, I can't see it happening anytime soon.

Plus you have the resource curse issues of long term environmental degradation. (A rural county wanted to use royalty mitigation monies to build a railroad line for coal producers to facilitate extraction.)

The article mentions water, but man, that's only going to get worse. It didn't mention how important that issue is.

Especially because the Mormon agriculturists like the Governor don't want to start "regulating" water use by requiring systems that don't use meters to add meters, and to militate against the growth of crops like alfalfa that are water hogs (e.g., given how much rain you get in DC, DC should be growing alfalfa! except for the shipping cost).

My joke after Cox said to pray was:

"Either Cox isn't very good at praying. Or there is no God. Or God has more important things to pay attention too.*

* the last point is based on a section of the book Centennial, when Levi Zendt goes back to Pennsylvania to see his family, and he thinks about the long detailed prayers before meals asking God to deal with x, y, and z to the point where God wouldn't have any time to deal with the important stuff.

At 3:02 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

+ Sprawl here is really bad. So many non interstate arterials and highways that are as wide as freeways.

From the time when there weren't that many people, even today with increased demand land is used wastefully, not parsimoniously. Tremendous opportunity costs.

My line is they are building for today's demand, not future demand, using planning precepts from a couple of decades ago.

.... on another note I shared that Politico article on Oakland County with a Democratic State Representative I met recently.

We had some people over Friday night including one of our next door neighbors (who fortunately are really cool, they have two young daughters, re-creating our set up in DC). I was talking to him, making the point that in DC (although we'd need deeper backyards here), our lots are wide enough to accommodate the equivalent of 5 rowhouses.

At 11:45 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Re tolerance

Water. I didn't say re the Economist article that water and the environment should be separate issues.

Water rates seemingly low because infrastructure costs are hidden in the regular property tax rather than through a special infrastructure charge on the water bill.

(Separately, Salt Lake City has a "public utility" agency so they can charge separately for waste pickup and streetlights in addition to water)

At 10:16 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

Honestly, part of me think being sent out to SLC is like being sent to purgatory. I can't imagine a place less like 'You".

However, it is beautiful. You described your area and honestly it sounds very nice. I have some cousins who live an older part of Aurora CO and it sounds similar. The sprawl however is bad.

I can't comment on the great mormon stories and the intolerance but I can only imagine. The Dutch is Western michigan seem similarly offensive in that regard, although perhaps more open.

But what I thought from your original post (The UK model) is that so much of what it is talking about is really what churches used to do. I had to go back to Cleveland and downsize my parents house. The only cardboard recycling was at the Episcopal church and I said the only function for this church anymore was to do this -- never saw a single person in the parking lot.

Yes, lot of games being played on those hypothetcated taxes and fees. Interesting that they manage to hide that part of the water bill. Very long history there, I guess.

You might like this link, and you might have even cited it already:

So much of post-1973 (oil and dollar crisis) America is about having a "precaiot" perhaps the wrong spelling. I have no doubt that more welfare isn't going to change that, but also if you want to eliminate that its going to take enormous change (stop immigration, get less woman working, attack China) if we want to return to the post-war "middle class" american dream. I'd say Biden is trying that but not sure he any real support as it's a backward looking model.

So perhaps SLC is the future -- use the "Church" is a broad sense to moralize the precariot. I'll just note that in your UK example the one thing Polly admits was a failure was school marks.

And my thoughts not that is the granular level to understand class in the uK context -- how much of that sucesss was really subtle class changes -- will always to be unknown to us.

Likewise, we just assume any growth has to look like the SLC model rather than addressing the 35% of the ghetto/redneck/deplorables (whatever race and creed they are) and getting them up to speed. From what i gather, the British model was to let those types die out during the 19th century or send them to Australia.

As always, thanks for making us think.

At 10:50 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

A lot here. Need to be at a keyboard. But speaking of UK and churches, I just came across the fact that Beveridge wrote a report on the value of voluntary action in the 1940s, and that Routledge did a series of his work c. 2014. I want to track it down.

I'd say churches sure but also the kind if voluntary action noted by Toqueville.

And here, I don't know if everywhere in the city--I doubt it--there is what I call a "neighborliness" that I am certain is Mormon derived.

Block parties and events, neighborhood parades for 4th of July, people decorate their streetlights, people put swings on their tree branches and chairs in their front yard (oddly though I rarely see people sitting in them), a lot of great front yard and parking strip gardening--part xeriscape sure, but also contributing great beauty to open spaces, etc.

... I went to a street fair close to the U, and the university press was exhibiting, and I talked to them about Jumping the Abyss, at another booth a long talk with a state representative who wants to create a 5 year plan for her district, etc.

At 12:55 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

The east side where we live us higher income. DK if higher prevalence of Mormins. Probably because two precincts near us voted for the Mormon in the mayoral election.

Another event, a community film night in a local park, sponsored by a real estate firm. We didn't go, but I happened on promo signs on the way to something else.

This stuff does happen in DC too. But interestingly in certain neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Takoma, Petworth, Georgetown and not others.


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