12000 word dissertation: A critical analysis of Conservative government polices (1979-1997) and comparison to Labour government polices (1997-2009) relating to urban regeneration.

A critical analysis of Conservative government polices (1979-1997) and comparison to Labour government polices (1997-2009) relating to urban regeneration.

Word Count (Excluding Appendix): 12,693.








Abstract:                                                                                    3

Chapter 1:  Methodology                                                          4

Chapter 2:  Introduction                                                           5-6

Chapter 3:  Literature Review                                                  7-11

Chapter 4:  Conservative government policies                        12-16

Chapter 5: Labour government policies                                  17-21

Chapter 6:  Comparison and contrast of Conservative

and Labour Policies                                               22-23

Chapter 7:  Conclusion                                                              24-26

Bibliography                                                                              27-29

Appendix                                                                                    29-36





This work aims to assess in detail the issue of urban regeneration.  In particular, focus is given to residential urban regeneration under the Conservative governments from 1979 to 1997 and Labour from 1997 to the present day.  However, the writer’s general assumption is that urban regeneration policy has been too narrowly defined both in academic and practical terms.  As such, this work aims to broaden the contextual framework of reference by widening the debate.  Thus, at numerous points throughout this work, a multi disciplinary approach is offered to the issue of urban residential regeneration in an attempt to provide a full and comprehensive analysis of the question.  Above all, it is shown that a variety of social, economic and political issues all combine to impact upon urban residential regeneration.  Thus, offering an effective policy agenda for such regenerative efforts would logically fail if it did not take into account all these varied and diverse phenomena.  Given this, assessing residential regeneration cannot take place without the active and overt inclusion of wider regeneration issues.  As such, although residential regeneration is given expression in what follows below, the primary focus is on the wider concerns.

Overall, the piece concludes that New Labour policy since 1997 has taken a number of positive steps in the right direction by successfully merging the best components of previous Labour polices with those of the post 1979 Conservative Party.  Effectively joining the competing developments of private sector investment with an active government led social policy is a notable success.  As such, although much of this work aims to offer an imbalanced appraisal of the subject in question, there is also consistent emphasis on the need for central government to take the lead in urban regeneration.  However, such a lead needs to take account of numerous external actors in order to be successful.  Finally, the assumption is made that although present economic conditions are concerning, there is huge potential for government led investment in the economy in order boost growth.  Thus, regeneration of residential urban communities could form an integral part of this process.


























Chapter 1:



The methodological approach to this question has dictated that the subject be split along chronological lines.  Therefore, respective Conservative and Labour polices in relation to urban residential regeneration are dealt with in chronological order.  Furthermore, in order to provide a clear and determined structure the work beings with an overall introduction.  This is then followed by a literature review.  Desktop research represented the primary method employed during the research process and the reader will quickly realise that secondary source material in book form represents the central research tool.  However, given the changing and modern nature of the subject matter online material also figures highly in the research process.  Two chapters then follow the literature review on actual policy implementation and then a conclusion is offered reaffirming the central thesis of this work and suggesting possible developments in the future.



































Chapter Two:




Since the end of the Second World War urban regeneration has been viewed as an important issue in the political realm (Davies, 2001).  In terms of traditional definitional parameters, urban regeneration has often focused on land re development.  However, since the 1980s it has become increasingly apparent that regeneration in Britain’s communities goes far beyond this narrow confine.  As such, at the outset of this piece I affirm my own wish to broaden the analytical debate in a manner that encapsulates the wide an encompassing nature of urban regeneration.  Given this, although much focus in what follows below is naturally given to structural concerns, there is also a consistent emphasis on the broader questions pertaining to urban regeneration.  Thus, the reader can be assured that when the debate moves beyond the narrow and traditional understanding of regeneration in urban residential communities this is deliberate.  Indeed, it is the writers conviction that such broader concerns actually lie at the heart of the problem in attempting to regenerate Britain’s communities.

The primary concern of this work is to assess the various polices pertaining to urban residential regeneration which has been carried out in Britain since 1979. As such, there are two overall periods of discussion, these being the policies of the 1979 to 1997 Conservative governments and those of Labour since 1997.  This primary aim is achieved by detailing the actual prescriptive policy manoeuvres which were carried in each of the political eras in question, followed by an assessment of the arguments which are proffered both in favour and denunciation of such polices.

Therefore, the overall aim of this piece has been outlined.  In terms of thesis, this work will conclude that regeneration efforts need to be more aggressive on the part of government.  Thus, the active involvement of government in the process is vital for success to be achieved.  Secondly, in recent years there has been a growing emphasis placed on the need to focus regeneration efforts to specific areas with specific problems.  The writer feels that this process represents the most effective way forward and should thus be continued and extended as far as possible.  Finally, it is absolutely pivotal that the wider connotations of urban residential regeneration are fully appreciated in a way which places them at the centre of analysis.  Indeed, without such inclusion it is simply impossible to effectively carry out regeneration initiatives aimed at improving the material, physical, mental and emotional needs of the British public.  Urban regeneration is not simply about demolishing buildings and replacing them with something else or developing previously unused land.  This is not to say that such issues are not central to the process as a whole, however, to view urban regeneration solely in such narrow terms is to repeat the mistakes which have been made in the past.  Thus, it is of paramount importance that a more encompassing debate takes place about this issue in order for policy prescriptions to be effective.

As such, the reader is aware of the opinions of the writer on this subject and also the primary conclusion that will eventually be made.  However, it is now necessary to provide an outline of the form and structure this piece adopts.

The second chapter of this work offers the reader a literature review.  This is an essential component of the piece as it provides the reader with an academic foundation to the arguments and assertions which are offered throughout the remainder of the work.  The literature review is split broadly into two sections, the first details the literature used for assessment of Conservative government policy from 1979 to 1997, whilst the second offers an analysis of literature pertaining to Labour policy from 1997 to the present day.  Naturally, given that many of the sources used during the course of this work provide in-depth examination and assessment of both these periods then there is a natural need given the structure of the review to focus such general texts to a specific period.  Chapter three then offers a brief outline of the methodology adopted for this work.

Following this, chapter four begins the detailed analysis by providing an in depth examination of Conservative government action with regards urban regeneration between 1979 and 1997.    However, in order for the reader to accurately gain a contextual foundation on which to base regeneration policy since 1979 it is prudent to offer a brief discussion on the period prior and this is therefore provided at the beginning of chapter four.  Following this it will become clear that Conservative policy during the years of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership between 1979 and 1990 was heavily focused on the wish to fundamentally alter the ideological foundations of British government policy.  This ideological shift centred primarily on the move towards decentralisation, privatisation and limited state involvement.  As such, this overall outlook fundamentally directed urban residential regeneration.  The chapter then moves on to discuss Conservative policy under John Major from 1990 to 1997 and the manner in which it bore both similarities and differences with those of the previous Conservative governments.

Chapter five then offers an assessment of the urban regeneration policy prescriptions carried out by New Labour since 1997.  Above all, it will be clearly shown that although New Labour has endorsed many of the previous Conservative polices in this regard, the focus has altered at a fundamental level.  Indeed, this is the broader and more diverse alteration that the writer views as so essential to success.

Chapters four and five thus offer a largely impartial outline of the various polices employed since 1979 and the arguments made both for and against such polices.  However, following this chapter six offers the primary thesis of this piece in greater detail through a comparison of Conservative and Labour polices. The reader will quickly realise that given the ultimate thesis of this work centres on the need for active government, which provides focused regeneration in the areas which require it, preference is given to the policy actions of the Labour Party over the Conservatives.  However, realisation of the important role played by Conservative governments from 1979 is nonetheless accepted.

Chapter six then offers a conclusion of the primary issues and concerns of this work by providing an evaluation of past polices and suggesting the ways in which future moves should be directed.  Finally, a bibliography is provided in order for the reader undertake further study is so wished.


















Chapter Three:

Literature Review


This chapter offers a review of relevant literature used during the course of this work.  Given that a significant number of sources were used overall, then it is prudent and sensible to focus the review on those sources which were most heavily used.  As such, what follows below focuses on the ten most prevalent pieces of source material utilised for this piece.  The structure is broadly split into two sections.  The first details source material used for gaining information on Conservative regeneration polices, whilst the second is dedicated to an appraisal of those used for Labour policies.  Naturally, many of these sources were used for researching both periods, thus there is an inevitable level of duplication.  However, as far as possible sources have been confined to the specific political eras for which they provided the most benefit.  Each of the ten sources is dealt with individually under separate sub headings.  Under each sub heading is then an outline of the main contents of the designated source along with an assessment of its usefulness in completion of this work.  A full bibliography of all sources used is provided at the end of the work for the readers’ reference.  Some of these sources do not form referencing notes in the actual text.  This is because they were used as general reading and research without actually deriving any direct information included in the discussion.


Literature review for Conservative regeneration policies




Bramley G, Munro, M and Pawson, H. (2004) Key Issues In Housing: politics and markets in 21st century Britain. London: Palgrave Macmillan.



Glen Bramley and his associate writers have provided a detailed study into the ever-changing nature of the British housing market.  Moreover, this piece aims to highlight the extent to which the issue of housing is increasingly becoming ever more prevalent in British political circles, primarily due to a housing shortage.  The work offers empirical analysis of developments in the twenty first century.  Moreover, this empirical examination offers insight into both public and private sector housing development and the manner in which they interact.

Therefore, Bramley et al was used a various points throughout this work when the issue of housing arose.  Although this central issue did not feature prominently in some sections, the source nonetheless provided a firm basis on which to assess Conservative government policy in the 1980s and 1990s.  In particular, the ideological outlook of the early Conservative governments directly led their housing policy.  As such, Bramley et al provided a clear and concise appraisal of this subject.  The benefit derived from the chapter on Conservative policy is therefore obvious.




Childs, D. (2001) Britain Since 1945: a political history. London: Routledge.


David Childs has written a detailed and assertive analysis of developments in British politics since 1945.  As such, all the major political eras are dealt with in detail along with the major policy prescriptions that were undertaken.  What the work lacks in terms of empiricism it makes up for in effective argument.  Although quite naturally many parts of this book were irrelevant for the purposes of this piece, the sections detailing Conservative policy were particularly helpful.  Above all, a consistent argument of this work is that ideological political outlook has always played a significant role in government action with regards to urban regeneration.  Therefore, the analysis provided by Childs of the seismic ideological transformation carried out under the Thatcher governments was hugely useful.  The work could certainly have benefited from a direct discussion of regeneration policy however the analytical assertions on Conservative outlook were easily translated to encapsulate such policy areas.  Finally, much use was made of pre 1979 material that was of considerable assistance in developing the opening argument of chapter four.



McCarthy, J (2007). Partnership, Collaborative Planning and Urban Regeneration. London: Ashgate.


John McCarthy has provided a detailed empirical assessment of collaboration in urban regeneration.  Given that such collaboration is viewed as essential in the primary thesis of this work, then McCarthy’s analysis was hugely relevant.  Also, given the detailed and encompassing nature of the work it also proved useful for the section on Labour policy.  Just as with Pacione’s work on Urban Geography, McCarthy’s analysis gives detailed explanations of specific policy programmes.  Although the same detail is not achieved to the same extent as Pacione, there is nevertheless a succinct discussion of the primary practical implementations that occurred during the years of Conservative government.  Thus, the work provided an overall framework from which to carry out further research and was helpful for focussing that research in the correct areas.


Pacione, M. (2009) Urban Geography: a global perspective. London: Taylor and Francis




The analysis offered by Michael Pacione highlights the extent to which urban regeneration must assume a multidisciplinary approach.  The work details how urban geography differs from one country to another in terms of prescriptive characteristics.  Although this work has been placed in this section of the literature review it could very easily form a central component of the next section.  Thus, the comparison offered between Conservative and Labour policy was hugely useful.  In specific reference to the former, a comprehensive analysis of the move toward emphasising the importance of the private sector in urban regeneration was provided.  This therefore provided much of the theoretical basis for the chapter on Conservative policy as it offered a clear and decisive link between ideological political outlook and prescriptive policy implementation.  In particular, the outline of various government initiatives and what they aimed to achieve in terms of urban regeneration policy was very effective.  As such, this work provided a firm grounding of the subject matter in general terms whilst simultaneously offering in-depth discussion about the various successes and failures of specific polices.  Once again, the fact that this is an urban geography work exemplifies the interdisciplinary nature of the subject.  Moreover, the political, social and economic analysis offered by Pacione clearly indicates his own determination that such cross-disciplinary approaches are the most beneficial.



Sommerville, P and Sprigings, N. (2005) Housing and Social Policy: contemporary themes and critical perspectives. London: Routledge.


This analysis of housing policy in Britain provides a truly excellent appraisal of the subject by broadening the analysis beyond its traditional boundaries.  By integrating regeneration policy into the wider discipline of social policy and in particular to that of welfare, Sommerville and Sprigings have reinvigorated the debate regarding housing policy which moves the foundation of discussion to new and exciting areas.  Moreover, the authors are very determined to outline that this wider framework is a deliberate act which provides a much more effective understanding of housing issues in their social context.  As such, the traditionally limited areas of development and practical building are discussed within this framework.

Given the above outline, this work was hugely useful if only for the fact that its primary thesis mirrored that of my own.  Namely, that if urban regeneration is to be fully comprehended and implemented in a systematic fashion which encapsulates all the necessary connotations involved, then wider analysis of the subject is vital.  As such, this work provided much of the background support for the primary thesis outlined in the above introduction.  Comparative analysis between Conservative and Labour policy was sadly lacking, however it was fairly easy to provide such discussion on the basis of the issues raised.





Literature review for Labour regeneration policies



BURA. (2009) ‘British Urban Regeneration Association’ [online] date accessed, 19/04/2009, available at: http://www.bura.org.uk/.


This Internet resource details the activities of the British Urban Regeneration Association.  As such, it is an ongoing and changing source that develops alongside current progressions. Thus, although it was not used consistently as a direct reference it nonetheless provided much of the theoretical background for the discussion on New Labour’s urban regeneration policy.  Moreover, given that this organisation acts primarily as a private entity aimed at securing the interests of private business in the regeneration process, it also provides a clear and current example of the extent to which New Labour has embraced the private sector in its general social policy agenda.  Thus, the relevance and usage for the chapter discussing New Labours’ approach to urban regeneration naturally benefited considerably from the use of this electronic source.  However, BURA also consists of members from the public sector.  Thus, the process that has witnessed greater cooperation and partnership under New Labour can be seen directly through the use of this resource.  As such, the benefit for the overall thesis was also significant.  Naturally, there is always a reliability problem when it comes to private sector assessment of an essentially publicly directed issue, however the source was still extremely useful for assessing modern developments in urban regeneration.



Homes and Communities Agency. (2008) ‘English Partnerships’ [online] date accessed, 20/04/2009, available at: http://www.englishpartnerships.co.uk/.


The above discussion can also be applied with relation to the English Partnerships.  However, in addition, the fact that English Partnerships is a component of a government department (Department for Communities and Local Government) also exemplifies the extent to which New Labour has to some degree reasserted the role of central government in the regeneration process.  As such, the arguments proffered in favour of greater government direction were supported by the success of policy moves such as English Partnerships.  Of course, the Major government originally established this branch of government activity.  However, the focus and emphasis placed on its importance by New Labour indicates the overt wish to establish partnership based community activity which aims to provide regeneration efforts to those areas most in need.  Thus, the usefulness for this work is obvious.





Imrie, R and Raco, M. (2003) Urban Renaissance? New Labour, community and urban policy. London: Policy.


Imrie and Raco have offered a very detailed and effective analysis of the early years of New Labour in relation to regeneration policy and wider urban policy in general.  As such, the depth of discussion provided was particularly useful for outlining the arguments made in chapter five.  Given the focus of the title the ability to accurately ascertain New Labours’ ideological motivation is clearly evident.  Much time was dedicated to the discussion of citizenship that although interesting, was not hugely relevant for the present piece.  However, the outline of New Labours acceptance of public/private cooperation and the wider wish to instil partnership at the heart of regenerative policy was very effective.  Naturally, given the publication date the work was unable to offer appraisal of very recent developments, however, it did prove useful for conceptualising such developments within the process of political progression since 1997.  In particular, the concept of community, so vital to New Labours outlook was given full and very detailed expression.  Thus, sections of this work that highlight the community based action that New Labour has attempted to instil since 1997 were heavily reliant on the work of Imrie and Raco.  Thus, considerable research benefit was derived.



Beswick, C and Tsenkova, S. (2001) Urban Regeneration. London: Macmillan


This book figures highly in the discussion that takes place in chapter four.  Thus, the primary focus is on Conservative policy and in that regard it is very effective.  In particular, the focus on detailed policy concepts and implementations such as for example the Single Regeneration Budget was very useful.  However, in attempting to compare and contrast Conservative and Labour policy prescriptions it also proved to be most useful.  The analytical and empirical discussion which occurs (particularly in chapter two) was very beneficial particularly because of the case study analysis.  As such, it was possible to view theoretical assumptions through the lens of practical implementation in the real sense.  This was very helpful in providing a clear outline of end results in policy implementations and the possible problems that could occur along the way.





Sommereville, P, Beckhoven, E and Kempton, R. (2009) ‘The Decline and Rise of Neighbourhoods: the importance of neighbourhood governance’ European Journal of Housing Policy 9 (1) pp. 25-44



Finally, Sommerville et al offer a very insightful article comparing the concept of community and neighbourhood throughout numerous European countries.  Naturally, given the scope of the current question, the article only proved to be directly useful for the British examples, however it also provided a theoretical framework by which to conceptualise developments in Britain in relation to elsewhere.  As such, the work presents a clear thesis showing that similar patterns aimed at reinvigorating community organisations and community involvement can be seen across Europe.  As such, given that one of the components of the central thesis of this work supports the concept of greater local involvement in regeneration efforts, it was pleasing to know that such processes are being undertaken on the continental stage.  Thus, such assessment naturally supports the thesis argued in depth below and therefore provides a sound academic grounding for the arguments that are made.

































Chapter Four:

Conservative Residential and Urban Regeneration Polices; 1979-1997



This chapter aims to offer a full and detailed assessment of Conservative government policy with regards urban regeneration between 1979 and 1997.  Above all, what will become clear is that the ideological shift to the right as personified by the Thatcher led governments of the 1980s very quickly pervaded the prescriptive policy agenda of government in this area.  At every level of government planning, a firm and proactive ideological agenda was at work which aimed to fundamentally alter the nature of the central government’s role in regeneration polices (Malpass and Murie, 1994).  As such, this chapter details the form and characteristics which exemplified this change.  However, in order to gain an effective theoretical framework of reference capable of fully conceptualising Conservative policy, it is first necessary to outline the reasons which were perceived as essential for bringing such change about.

Urban regeneration in the immediate post war years was primarily concerned with the wholesale reconstruction of bomb-damaged cities.  However, there was also an overt wish on the part of the post war Labour government to ensure greater levels of equality in British society (Malpass and Murie, 1994).  Thus, ensuring effective redistribution through regeneration was a central concern of post war Britain.

The ideological basis on which this policy aim took place was very clear to all concerned.  Above all, it was generally determined that the only actor capable of effectively financing and organising such a wide ranging and comprehensive process was the national government (Bramley et al, 2004).  Thus, the post war Labour government laid the ideological foundations of state action with regard urban regeneration for decades to come.  This foundation essentially dictated that government should assume a central and proactive role in the regeneration process.  By doing so, government could then centrally direct redistributive regeneration polices in urban areas which would directly combat social inequality and provide for greater social justice.  Of course, this proactive government role also included employment issues through the nationalised industries, and welfare provision via the centrally coordinated welfare state (Childs, 2001).

Therefore, broadly speaking pre 1979 urban regeneration polices were centrally directed due to the overt ideological assumption (a position more comfortable for Labour than the Conservatives) that such direction would bring about greater efficiency in terms of implementation and allow for increased social justice and equality.  However, by the 1970s it was becoming increasingly apparent that social inequality was not being alleviated by government involvement and in fact, many argued that such involvement was actually exacerbating existing problems (Pacione, 2009).  Poverty in inner city areas remained persistently high and increasing unemployment as a consequence of reducing large-scale heavy industry was making the situation more difficult.  A government White Paper commissioned in 1977 entitled Policy for Inner Cities outlined that poverty and urban decline came about as a result of a variety of factors and had “structural causes located in economic, social and political relations that originated outwith the affected areas” (Pacione, 1999; p. 331).  As such, it was becoming clear that greater partnership at all levels was the only effective way of countering poverty issues in inner cities if housing and other poverty indicators were to be addressed (Bramley et al, 2004).  Thus, government would be required to engage in active partnership with outside agencies from the private sector.  This however would be difficult for a centrally orientated government like Labour.

Given this, the Conservative Party fought and won the 1979 General Election on a pledge to reduce government involvement and allow for private enterprise to play a central role in urban regeneration policy as a whole.  This then formed the ideological foundation which was to direct Conservative policy for urban regeneration throughout the early 1980s.  Partnership between central government, local government and the private sector would allow for more effective policy prescriptions which would then lead to greater progress in tackling the issues of concern for housing in inner cities (Bramley et al, 2004).

Therefore, it is possible to see how an ideological viewpoint gained the ascendancy in the late 1970s that adopted a new theoretical position regarding urban regeneration.   This new position, which viewed less government involvement as a positive development was to personify the approach of the Thatcher governments.  Thus, we can see the ideological underpinnings that drove government action in the 1980s.  Given this, let us now turn to the prescriptive policy implementations that such underpinnings engendered.

This overt shift away from central government control in favour of private sector direction took a number of forms.  Naturally, the overall policy prescription did not aim to totally remove government from the process but rather alter its role from an overt provider of urban regeneration to an enabler (Beswick and Tsenkova, 2001). Indeed, this shift of emphasis was seen throughout social and welfare policy in general.  As such, the new role of the central government was to “attract and accommodate the requirements of private sector investors without unduly influencing their development decisions” (Pacione, 2009; p. 331).  From the virtual outset of the new Conservative government a series of reforms and legislative endeavours were put in place in order to create a more central role for the private sector in urban regeneration policy.  Most important of these was the creation of Enterprise Zones and Urban Development Corporations, which acted as the foundation of private sector led regeneration initiative in many parts of urban Britain.

The establishment of Enterprise Zones aimed to remove much of the administrative red tape involved in regeneration (Pacione, 2009).  As such, entrepreneurial investment from the private sector would be welcomed in most areas through the prospect of limited restrictions from government and by various financial incentives provided by the state.  Many of the previous controls placed upon development projects were removed thus allowing private investment to flow into carefully designated areas.  Provided that basic planning and development criteria were met, new private investment could take place with less administrative time and energy expended (Pacione, 2009). Moreover, local government taxation on development projects was to be paid for by the central government for a fixed period of time anywhere up to ten years (Beswick and Tsenkova, 2001).  Thus, the initial financial cost incurred by the private investor in setting up new business opportunities was reduced.  Furthermore, the central government would offer financial allowances for private investors up to a level of 100% if a clear and effective business idea was put forward.  Thus, Enterprise Zones aimed to attract private sector investment through financial incentives, whilst simultaneously removing many of restrictions placed upon such investment by central government.  The government would thus act as an enabler of development in urban areas allowing private sector initiative to be the driving force behind such development.  The initial hope was that if the establishment of Enterprise Zones was carefully directed into areas with a history of low economic performance then new businesses would be allowed to flourish thus tackling numerous issues of concern, most notably unemployment and inadequate housing (Pacione, 2009).

In conjunction with the establishment of Enterprise Zones, Urban Development Corporations were also set up.  These represented the essential drive to decentralise decision making in development and planning by transferring various powers away from central government to local business groups.  In particular, Urban Development Corporations had the power to acquire and develop land through investment either from central government funding or private capital.  Furthermore, they could carry out infrastructure requirements such as gas, electricity and water provision, thus providing the necessary utility requirements for new private industry (Imrie and Thomas, 1999). The primary purpose of these new powers was thus to create the required environment in order to attract private businesses to a specified area.  As such, Urban Development Corporations were often concerned with ensuring that aesthetic issues were dealt with in areas suffering from low investment (Imrie and Thomas, 1999).  Therefore, in addition to ensuring greater private sector interest in such areas, it was also hoped that by making these new developments more aesthetically pleasing there would be an increased willingness for people to live and work in the area.  Given this, urban development corporations were also charged with ensuring that various social amenities and provisions were made available thus making the regenerated area more attractive for people to live and work.

Although Enterprise Zones and Urban Development Corporations represented the most overt attempt to decentralise regeneration policy, the Conservative governments of the 1980s also set up a number of other privately motivated structures aimed at regenerating areas of Britain suffering from poor economic performance. Among these was the establishment of the Urban Development Grant which directly provided state financial provision for private sector forces to develop new businesses and residential development projects (Bramley et al, 2004).  The grant was available for a variety of different development processes however it was only available to private sector investors who worked in conjunction with local government forces.  As such, democratic control would hopefully be ensured along with targeted regeneration projects which fitted the needs of specific communities and areas.  Moreover, private sector interest would be ensured through the availability of public funding and therefore counter the imbalance between public and private regeneration projects in Britain’s inner city areas.  However, the role of central government would be reduced to that of merely providing the financial stimulus for such endeavours (Pacione, 2009).

Urban Regeneration Grants were also set up as a parallel drive with that of the Urban Development Grant.    Here the role of local government actors was reduced and the position of the private enhanced (Beswick and Tsenkova, 2001).  Urban regeneration grants were primarily aimed at large and specific inner city projects and allowed for central government grants to be given to private actors without the involvement of local councils.

As such, in the early years of Conservative government there was attempt to reassess the role of the private sector by allowing for greater partnership between private enterprise and local government.  However, as the 1980s progressed the policy focus began to move away from one of public/private partnership to that of the primacy of the private sphere.  This policy development was personified in 1988 by the merging of Urban Development Corporations and Urban Regeneration Grants into the City Grant.  Those businesses eligible for this new central government funding would be decided by private sector committees on the basis of entrepreneurial process.  As such, the role of local government actors was completely removed from the process altogether (Beswick and Tsenkova, 2001).

City Grants therefore formed part of the wider policy move Action for Cities, which had the overt and clear aim of instilling private enterprise at the heart of urban residential regeneration (Pacione, 2009).  This policy prescription had a number of other features such as; direct land grants, Inner City Enterprise, housing action trusts, training and enterprise councils, local development companies (Pacione, 2009). All these initiatives had the same essential aim as the City Grant, namely to place the private sector at the helm of residential and urban regeneration in Britain’s cities.  Thus, initial attempts to allow for cross partnership between the private sector and local government was removed in favour of sole private sector direction.  As such, it is clear how the focus for Conservative regeneration policy in the 1980s relied for success on the initiative and business prowess of private sector entrepreneurship.

We can the manner in which the urban regeneration policy prescriptions of the Thatcher governments aimed to reassess the structural processes involved in regenerating Britain’s inner city areas.  As such, let us now turn to offering an assessment of whether or not these polices achieved success.

Above all, the emphasis on private sector involvement did create a variety of successful outcomes.  Firstly, the administrative maelstrom of central government was reduced.  The irksome logistical concerns brought about as a result of proactive central government involvement had by the late 1970s caused deadlock and widespread inefficiency.   As such, the active inclusion of the private sector did much to reverse this negative trend (Malpass and Murie, 1994).  Furthermore, given that the private sector was expected to provide a large measure of the financial impetus required, the need for massive central government spending was also reduced.  Indeed, this was of vital importance at the time as balancing the Treasury’s books had become a vital issue of concern (Malpass and Murie, 1994).  Therefore, many of the problematic issues for central government were alleviated.  However, how successful was this reassessment of public/private roles in terms of positive residential and wider urban generation?

Overall, it is generally accepted that the residential and urban regeneration polices of the Thatcher governments were not successful in meeting their predetermined aims (Pacione, 2009).  Firstly, policy moves such as the creation of Enterprise Zones did not bring about the economic stimulus so desperately needed in many inner city areas.  Although such polices were beneficial for profit making private enterprise, the effect on the local economy in underdeveloped areas was slight.  Moreover, instances where Enterprise Zones were effective such as in Corby and Clydebank occurred on the basis of public sector direction and management and not as a result of private enterprise (Pacione, 2009).  Moreover, the establishment of Urban Development Corporations had allowed for central government to allocate funds directly without the consent of local political actors.  As such, much of this financial impetus failed to take account of local needs and concerns.  Naturally this meant that such regeneration polices were ineffective in terms of generating increased economic activity in inner city areas. However, the policy also laid the Conservative government open to the charge that it was more concerned with protecting private business interests than it was with ensuring the productive economic development of inner city areas and the futures of local residential communities (Bramley et al, 2004).  It is important to bear these criticisms in mind as we turn to assess the regeneration policies undertaken by the Conservatives during John Major governments from 1990 to 1997.

In numerous policy areas the Conservative governments led by John Major from represented a continuation of Thatcherite ideology, namely the primacy of the private sector and free market economics.  However, in relation to urban residential regeneration there were a number of differences adopted after 1990.  In particular, this change was exemplified by the willingness to ensure that regeneration projects were directly tailored to meet local needs (Malpass and Murie, 1994).  As outlined above, the lack of focus on local concerns and needs was one of the foremost failures resulting from the Thatcher emphasis on placing private enterprise at the centre of government regeneration policy.  Thus, government moves after 1990 were a direct response to this perceived failure.

`           Therefore, although the importance of private enterprise was reemphasised under the Major governments there was also a focus on ensuring regeneration polices met the needs of the communities in which they took place.  As such, the inclusion of active government involvement in the regeneration process at both a national and local level formed a central component of government policy in the early 1990s.  Public investment in regeneration projects rose to ensure parity with the private sector, and community organisations outside the political and business realm were welcomed into the planning and development process in order to ensure greater awareness of local needs and concerns (Pacione, 2009).  In terms of practical implementation this new direction was exemplified in the latter years of Conservative government by the introduction of English Partnerships, although Labour ultimately carried out the actual implementation of the policy after 1997.

English Partnerships aimed to develop derelict land for purposes of economic growth and regeneration of the wider community.  Once again, the private sector was to play a pivotal role in the process however national government would also adopt an important position by acting as an enabler for economic growth (Beswich and Tsenkova, 2001).   This new focus on central government involvement in a productive fashion is further exemplified by the introduction in 1993 of the Single Regeneration Budget which amalgamated the funding process and all central funding resources under the control of one central body; Integrated Regional Office of Central Government (Beswich and Tsenkova, 2001).  As such, the Urban Development Corporations along with all the various grants and funding methods at the governments disposal where integrated into one area of control.  Therefore, it is certainly clear how the focus of government policy altered under the Major administrations in a way which would allow more focused use of funding in a manner accountable and partly controlled by government actors.  However, was this move successful?

Although the Major governments are generally viewed as ineffective and weak, in many cases urban and residential policy was enhanced as a result of their redirected focus.  Above all, the reemphasis on the importance of central government to at least in some measure act as a director of regeneration polices allowed for more effective and area focused development to occur (Pacione, 2009).  Moreover, the overt wish to once again focus on partnerships as the primary method achieving success in urban regeneration was widely hailed as effective.  Above all, the need to ensure that community needs were met whilst simultaneously allowing private investment and management to flow achieved a measure of success, particular in the years after 1992 when Britain emerged from economic recession.  English Partnerships have therefore on the whole been viewed in a positive light along with the reemphasis on the partnership mentality.  However, a number of criticisms were levelled in regard to the Single Regeneration Budget.  Foremost among these was the charge that the primary criterion for gaining regeneration grants from the Single Regeneration Budget lay in “developmental potential and proven competence to achieve implementation” (McCarthy, 2007, p. 33).   As such, the requirement of assessing need was viewed as secondary.  Thus, regeneration polices were actively failing to consider urban residential need in individual communities, focusing instead on business profitability.  Moreover, the processes involved in placing a bid for funds from the Single Regeneration Budget were long and expensive.  As such, smaller authorities along with those of reduced financial capability could be less inclined to attempt a bid (McCarthy, 2007).

The issues and factors involved in Conservative regeneration policy from 1979 to 1997 have therefore been discussed in detail.  What is clear is that the ideological shift away from central direction in the early 1980s allowed for far greater private involvement in inner city regeneration policy.  However, the successes of this new direction were limited due to too heavy a focus being placed on the primacy of the private sector and ignoring the role government, particularly at a local level.  From 1990 onwards a measure of attempt was made to address these problems.  However, the landslide election of a Labour government in 1997 at least raised the possibility of a new era of government policy with regards urban development and regeneration.  Thus, a detailed analysis of Labour government policy from 1997 to the present day is the focus of the next chapter.




Chapter Five:

Labour Residential and Urban Regeneration Polices; 1997-2009



The purpose of this chapter is to assess the developments undertaken by New Labour in urban regeneration since 1997.  However, before prescriptive analysis is given to particular policy implementations, it is first necessary to outline the theoretical and ideological assumptions that have driven New Labour since Tony Blair’s assumption of the party leadership in 1994.

Above all, there was a widespread sentiment in Labour quarters during the early and mid 1990s that the party drastically needed to alter its ideological outlook in order to allow for electoral success (Childs, 2001).  Furthermore, as was suggested in the previous chapter, the Thatcher governments of the 1980s had fundamentally altered the nature and role of government in public affairs.  Indeed, it is possible to draw parallels between this seismic transformation and that carried out by the post World War Two Labour Party.   Naturally, the focus of change carried out by these two landmark governments differed tremendously, however the fact they both totally changed British political thinking at a fundamental level is undoubted.  As such, the Labour Party of the 1990s became increasingly aware that they had to respond to this new political atmosphere.

The acceptance of many pre 1997 Conservative polices by New Labour exemplifies the extent to which Tony Blair’s leadership of the Labour Party was personified by distancing itself from Labour’s traditional radical past.  The continued focus on the ‘third way’ highlights the extent to which New Labour policy prescriptions have aimed to harness the best features of the private sector whilst simultaneously ensuring a link with Labours traditional egalitarian and redistributive tendencies (Imrie and Raco, 2003).  Therefore, before we embark on a detailed discussion of actual policy prescriptions after 1997 it is vital we reassert the point that New Labour was overtly willing to accept and harness the best of Conservative policy actions in the same way the Conservative Party had done with Labour after 1951.  Given this, New Labour would not bring about a complete reversal of Conservative measures put in place before 1997.  Indeed, the acceptance that nationalisation of industry was no longer a viable option along with the willingness to allow the private sector to continue playing an active part of the public policy process exemplifies this ideological alteration (Childs, 2001).  Thus, it is clear that New Labour would propose markedly different policy manoeuvres to that of the pre 1994 Labour Party.   However, this is not to say that significant differences in policy have not taken place.  Indeed, although in terms of regeneration in residential urban areas New Labour has continued with numerous Conservative measures, they have also attempted to redress many of the problematic concerns that have been levelled at such pre 1997 polices (Sommerville et al, 2009).  Therefore, given that we now have a firm grounding of the ideological change that personifies New Labour, let us then turn to examining the actual policy implementations carried out since 1997 with regard to urban regeneration.

Given that the Single Regeneration Budget established by the Major government in 1993 had encountered widespread criticism such as that outlined above, one of the first moves of the New Labour government was to set about fundamentally altering the budgets’ focus (Imrie and Raco, 2003).  Primarily, New Labour was concerned with ensuring that need played a central role in budget allocation.  As such, the application process was altered in a way that allowed for issues such as economic deprivation in inner city areas to be paramount to the decision making process.  This change in focus provides a useful insight into the theoretical foundation of policy prescriptions New Labour aimed to generate in government.  Above all, the governments’ wider social policy agenda aimed to systemically address the widespread problem of social and economic decline in many parts of Britain.  For Labour, the primary problem lay not in lack of redistribution of wealth, but in the social exclusion that had pervaded many areas of Britain, which had suffered economic decline over the previous two decades (Imrie and Raco, 2003).  As such, focusing on social and economic need became a vital consideration for regeneration policy.  Indeed, very soon after the Labour victory in 1997, the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions detailed to the Integrated Regional Office for Central Government that the Single Regeneration Budget should adopt a new focus aimed at the most deprived areas of the country (Imrie and Raco, 2003).  As such, it is possible to see how the ‘third way’ was at work immediately from the start of the New Labour era.  Previous Labour governments had argued that redistribution of wealth lay at the heart of the fight against poverty and thus, regeneration policy directly administered by the central government was one of the tools available for such a fight.  Conversely, the Conservative had asserted that the private sector should largely determine the nature of redistributive efforts in a way, which allowed for wealth creation as opposed to wealth distribution.  New Labour policy was thus a merging of the two concepts.

Nonetheless, a direct and active attempt to address economic and social deprivation in deprived areas of Britain has been the hallmark of the New Labour approach to urban and residential regeneration.  As such, numerous policy initiatives have attempted to focus on specific areas where protracted problems of economic and social dilapidation have been witnessed (BURA, 2009).  The method employed to achieve such regeneration have been diverse and cross over various government departments.  For example, in 1999 the Department of Education and Employment established Education Action Zones in specific geographical areas where poor educational achievement had previously been widespread (McCarthy, 2007).   Furthermore, Employment Zones were set up to combat the problems involving the long-term unemployed.  Moreover, at around the same time the Department of Health established Health Zones in areas where poor health was viewed as a problematic factor.  Other similar area based initiatives include; Crime Reduction Programme, Pioneer Community Legal Service Partnerships and the New Deal for Communities (McCarthy, 2007).

As such, it is possible to see how New Labour has attempted to cross-departmental boundaries in a way to provide a simultaneous and systematic attack on the causes of poverty (BURA, 2009). Thus, regenerative efforts since 1997 have included most of the main government departments.

However, what role did New Labour envisage for central government in urban and residential regeneration?  Of course there would not be a return to the overt and direct government led regeneration polices of the post war decades, however, at the same time the polices of the Thatcher governments had highlighted the dangers involved in allowing the private sector unchecked and unfettered power.  As such, New Labour policy from 1997 up until today has allowed for private investment and enterprise to continue provided that regeneration programmes meet the required social and economic needs of deprived areas (Evans and Jones, 2008).  Naturally, the only actor capable of ensuring that such focus is actively adhered to is the central government.  Thus, government has once again been allowed to assume an active role in directing regeneration policy whilst simultaneously allowing for the private sector to continue its vital role in the process (Boddy and Parkinson, 20040.

As such, it is possible to see how New Labour has essentially attempted to build and improve upon the policy formulations of the Major governments.  Thus, although much of the legislative endeavours and logistical features of Conservative urban regeneration policy under John Major has remained, the focus and direction of such policy has altered significantly.  Above all, this change of focus can be seen in the persistent wish of New Labour to instil the concept of partnership at the centre of urban and residential regeneration (Osborne, 2000).  Therefore, it is important that we dedicate time to assessing the manner in which the idea of partnership has become integral to government regeneration policy.

Firstly, although New Labour has not returned to the centrally directed policy formulas of previous Labour governments, there has nevertheless been a reassertion of the role of central government in the urban regeneration process.  In many respects, over the last 12 years government has reassumed its role as overall director of public policy processes.  However, New Labour has been acutely aware of the need to ensure that a variety of other actors are included in the urban regeneration process in order to maximise resource potential ensure efficient policy implementation.  Given the natural connotations involved in the former, the private sector has continued to play an active and integral role in government regeneration efforts (Russell, 2001).  However, in addition to private sector cooperation, New Labour has also brought other players into the process, most notably within individual communities themselves.

Naturally, local communities lie at the centre of analysis when it comes to urban regeneration.  However, as we saw in the previous chapter, regional focus on need was an issue that did not receive much attention during the Thatcher years and only tacit acknowledgement under John Major’s leadership.  As such, community actors increasingly play a leading role in deciding what form and characteristics local regenerative efforts should take.  Naturally, an obvious benefit of this lies in the ability to accurately assess need.  However, underlying this move toward greater community involvement in urban regeneration it is possible to see an overt wish in the part of New Labour to engender greater community responsibility and thus tackle the problems of degeneration from the inside (Scott and Moore, 2005).  Now the emphasis on personal responsibility was a consistent feature of Conservative policy from 1979 to 1997.  Indeed, the move away from a collective community mentality in many ways personified the Conservative approach (McCarthy, 2007).  Many argue that this ideological position created the necessary atmosphere for degeneration in communities to be propelled when economic or social problems surfaced (Scott and Moore, 2005).  Therefore, New Labour has overtly and deliberately attempted to include community actors in the overall urban regeneration partnership in order to propel a sense of community responsibility.

As such, when we further assess institutional developments carried out during New Labours governmental tenure it is important to bear in mind the theoretical assumptions that are intended to ensure the success of such developments.  For example, a primary institutional change has been the introduction of Regional Development Agencies, which aim to reduce levels of inequalities that exist between different regions in England (HM Government, 2009).  Thus, if an effective policy is to be achieved in this regard it is clear how the inclusion of local government and community actors in conjunction with the national government in London would be vital.  Therefore, it is possible to see how New Labour has attempted to offer a ‘third way’ to the dialectic of direct state involvement vs. private sector leadership.

As such, we can see the methods that New Labour has employed in order to address the question of urban and residential regeneration.  Above all, this process has been personified by the wish to ensure that all affected actors (especially those in the community) are integral to the decision-making agenda and thus hopefully ensure effective results. This aim is personified by a Tony Blair speech delivered in 1999 to the Labour Party Annual Conference where he asserted, “Our biggest challenge will be to ignite a new spirit on involvement in the community” (NVCO, 1999 [online]).[1]  However, to what extent have such efforts been successful in achieving their predetermined aims?

Firstly, the ‘third way’ has certainly reasserted the importance of central government as a force of direction in social and public policy.  As such, regeneration efforts in residential communities have once again become the focus of central government thinking.  Thus, the failures, which emerged from the Thatcher years, particularly with regard to private sector dominance, have to some extent been countered (Imrie and Raco, 2003).  Naturally, the private sector still has an important role to play in New Labours vision of urban regeneration however the primacy of state involvement both at the national and local level has been reasserted in a positive fashion.  Nonetheless, this reassertion of state direction has still been muted in many respects and has thus avoided the plethora of problems which centrally directed social policy encountered in the post Second World War decades.

Moreover, the willingness to include a variety of different actors, especially those at the local community level has resulted in institutional processes such as the Single Regeneration Budget being able to accurately assess where the greatest need resides and allocate available resources accordingly (HM Government, 2009).  In addition, the inclusion of local community actors in the overall process also actively combats social exclusion.  Of course, the alleviation of social exclusion is one of the primary aims of New Labour social policy in general.  However, numerous commentators on the subject have determined that such exclusion from the functional processes of society is a leading cause in creating degenerated communities in the first place (Scott and Moore, 2005).  Thus, it is possible to see how New Labour has attempted to instigate a pre-emptive approach to the problem of poverty and degeneration in Britain’s communities.

However, I believe that the greatest success of New Labour has been to redirect the focus of regenerative efforts to include a wide array of factors, thus fully appreciating the diverse nature of the problem.  Naturally, regenerative efforts aimed at housing and land development have been of paramount importance (Shapely, 2007).  However, the realisation that urban and residential regeneration hinges on more than simply the rebuilding of buildings has allowed for the root causes of the problem to be addressed.  Thus, initiatives aimed at education, employment, training, environment, health and family have all united together to represent a systematic attack on the primary features that exemplify communities in need of regeneration.

Nonetheless, although urban regeneration polices aimed at renewing the potential for residential communities to progress have achieved notable successes, there are still concerted arguments which assert that the New Labour vision of urban regeneration has been flawed.  Firstly, although a systematic and deliberate attempt has been made to focus the efforts of regeneration polices to the areas where they are most needed, the level of disparity between regions in Britain remains an issue of considerable concern (Imrie and Raco, 2003).  Moreover, the overt wish to instil partnership at the heart of regeneration policy has also come under criticism for diluting the process to such an extent that effective and successful leadership has become impossible.  Furthermore, some such as the Economic and Social Research Council have argued that the focus on partnership has “sparked traditional mistrust between the groups involved” (Weaver, 2004 [online]).  However, I believe such issues to be secondary and merely representing natural logistical issues of a new government policy.

Therefore, the above discussion highlights the primary methods by which New Labour has attempted to address the issue of residential urban regeneration.  Moreover, we have seen the manner in which these policy prescriptions have been successful in some sense and not in others.  So then, as we have a firm grounding in the regeneration efforts of both the Conservatives and Labour since 1979 to the present day, let us now turn to comparing these policies in detail.  Such is thus the concern of the next chapter.
















































Chapter Six:

Comparison of Labour and Conservative Polices; 1979-2009-04-20



The above two chapters have thus detailed the prescriptive policies which were implemented by both Conservative and Labour governments from 1979 to the present day.  Now that such has been achieved, this chapter turns to offering a comparison of the two eras.  Naturally, at various points above, comparative analysis was offered in basic form.  However, at this point it is important to extend this analytical debate and reassert in further detail the differences and similarities between the two political periods.

Ultimately chapters five and six have exemplified the fact that political ideology has been an important driving factor behind much government action with regards to urban regeneration since 1979.  In particular, Conservative policy under the Thatcher governments were directly and deliberately formed on the basis of an ideological political programme which aimed to fundamentally alter the manner in which British politics was organised (Beswick and Tsenkova, 2001).  This outlook naturally transcended and pervaded all government activity thus it was also inherently at work in terms of regeneration policy.  Above all, Conservative policy was formed on the assumption that the private sector should be placed at the centre of the regeneration process.  Thus, the role of government at both the national and local level should be reduced in order for private sector entrepreneurship to flourish.  Now although the latter part of chapter four highlighted the extent to which this ideological direction altered under the leadership of John Major from 1990, it is important to remember that the private sector orientated model remained central to Conservative thinking (Beswick and Tsenkova, 2001).  One important difference therefore lies in the manner in which Conservative and Labour governments have conceptualised the issue of regeneration and the actors they view as central to the process overall.  Naturally, New Labour differs in numerous respects from its radical political descendent of the pre Blair years in the way it views the role of private sector forces in public processes. However, the detailed outline and debate in chapter five clearly shows that New Labour has been much more willing to allow government direction to assume an active part of the process than that of its Conservative predecessors.  As such, the policy implementations pertaining to urban residential regeneration have largely been directed on the basis of this different understanding of the role of government vs. the private sector.  Therefore, if one is to make a judgment on the most effective policy programme implemented since 1979 then such judgment largely hinges on the ideological assumptions one considers to be the most beneficial.

Conservative policy from 1979 highlighted the fact that the private sector was capable of playing a positive role in public policy provided that this role was monitored and directed by an external actor, namely government.  As such, perceived failings of Conservative regeneration polices in residential urban communities occurred when the private sector was allowed to completely dominate the process overall (Beswick and Tsenkova, 2001).  Thus, a policy process that has an overt public sphere of interest was allowed to form without public direction.  This therefore led to a woeful distortion in the ability of policy makers to accurately assess need and requirement (Hall and Mawson, 1999).  As such, it is fair to assume that on the whole, regeneration policies carried out under the Conservatives were generally ineffective in addressing the real problematic concerns of run down residential areas.  Comparatively, it is this focus on the importance of ascertaining need that personifies the approach of New Labours since 1997.   Moreover, New Labours willingness to carry out focused policy moves in particular areas of concern has proved to be the fairly successful (Home and Communities Agency, 2008).  As such, when we compare and contrast the policy prescriptions of the two parties it can certainly be argued that Labour actions have resulted in more favourable results than that of their Conservative predecessors.

Comparative analysis of the two periods in question also shows us a clear and unequivocal distinction in the manner in which Conservative and Labour urban regeneration policies differed in terms of conceptual formulations.  In short, the way in which the problem of degenerated residential communities is to be addressed differs considerably.  Whereas Conservative governments essentially viewed the problem of urban decline in structural terms, Labour policy has come to be formed on a growing understanding of the root causes of decline and poverty (Homes and Communities Agency, 2008).  As such, urban regeneration programmes have moved beyond the traditional approach of addressing structural failings to an inclusion of the wider causes which lie at the heart of the problem.  The acceptance that decline and degeneration in residential communities occurs has a result of social, political and economic relations therefore lies at the heart of this analysis.  Given that this is where the essential problem is to be found then it is a natural conclusion that the most effective response will also be discovered here. This then not only represents a fundamental difference in policy prescription but also acts as a further indication that Labour policy with regards to urban residential regeneration has attempted to understand and act upon the diverse nature of the issue.  Conservative policy primarily focused on the physical regeneration of buildings and businesses.  Now of course, Labour policy has also given emphasis to this most pertinent of concerns (Sommerville and Sprigings, 2005).  However, the realisation that structural changes alone do not constitute the sole answer to the problem has allowed for a more effective policy programme to be undertaken by Labour.  The overt willingness of Labour to include community actors in the regeneration process personifies the realisation that regenerative efforts must be formed on the basis of a wide spectrum of parties who have an interest in the policy as a whole (Home and Communities Agency, 2008).  Thus, when comparison is drawn between the private sector focused policy of the Conservatives with that of Labours drive toward the idea of partnership, it is clear how Labour’s urban regeneration policy encompasses a much broader contextual foundation.  Naturally, this is not to say that private sector involvement does not still figure highly in the current governments outlook.  Indeed, as we have seen, private interests have continued to play a central role since 1997.  However, the point here is that the broadening of the policy basis over the last 12 years has allowed a much fuller appreciation of the problem to be ascertained and as a consequence a more complete and effective policy programme to be undertaken.  Thus, the focus on wider issues such as education, health, environment and employment, in addition to structural concerns like housing has allowed Labour to develop a set of policy prescriptions in relation to urban regeneration which effectively combats the underlying causes of decline in residential communities.  Compare this with the narrow conceptual analysis undertaken by the Conservatives (particularly in the period up to 1990) and it is clear how the present government has certainly understood the nature of the problem in a more effective manner.

Nonetheless, it is still vital at this point to reassert the fact that Conservative and Labour policy prescriptions in relation to urban residential regeneration since 1979 have achieved significant convergence and concurrence.  Although the focus of policy does exhibit differing characteristics depending on which party holds power, it is nevertheless possible to see significant areas of similarity.  As such, when comparing the policies of the two parties it is important we bear in mind the convergence of underlying sentiment, namely that pre 1979 polices of direct central government control over regeneration failed to effectively resolve the problems being encountered in many urban residential areas.  Thus, it may be fair to conclude that on the issue of urban residential regeneration a post Thatcherite consensus has emerged which logically means numerous points of convergence of policy will continue to occur.


Chapter Seven:




A full exploration of Conservative and Labour policy with regards to urban residential regeneration has thus been offered above.  At this point let us therefore return the primary areas of concern in this subject and reassess the fundamental questions which have arisen.  Also, this is an appropriate moment for me to reassert the overall thesis of this work and offer an assessment of the way I believe government outlook towards urban regeneration should be directed in the future.

Ultimately, government policy with regards urban regeneration was up until 1979 based on two central premises.  Firstly that the government was the sonly actor capable of carrying out policy in actual terms and secondly, degeneration and decline occurred because of structural failings.  Thus, countering such failings was viewed as the most beneficial method of dealing with the problem.  The post war decades were thus directed at building and regeneration schemes which aimed to improve the material existence of those in deprived areas.  Indeed, this idea that wealth redistribution laid at the heart of poverty issues was accepted by both major parties, although naturally it was an assumption with which the Labour Party was always more comfortable.

Conservative regeneration policy of the 1980s fundamentally altered this foundation.  The active inclusion of the private sector in the formulation and implementation of regeneration policy changed the role of government in the process.  Indeed, although New Labour has gone some way to reasserting the importance of central government in the process it is certainly fair to conclude that the legacy of the Thatcher governments in this regard continues to have importance and relevance.

Above all, the move towards private sector leadership in urban residential regeneration highlighted the extent to which government forces needed to actively engage with outside actors in order for effective policy implementation to be achieved.  The problem was that the role assigned to the private sector during the Thatcher years negated the importance of the public sphere in a way which resulted in serious problems emerging.  As private sector interests were (and still are) primarily concerned with achieving effective and profitable business development, thus their primacy in the process meant that effectively focusing available resources to the urban residential areas in most need of regeneration efforts was difficult.  Of course, in chapter four of this work it was detailed how Conservative policy did attempt to focus direction in specific areas of decline.  However, it is now possible to conclude that giving the private sector ultimate primacy over both local government and local communities allowed for a woeful distortion in the assessment of need for urban regeneration funding.  As such, the exertions of Conservative policy would ultimately fail to address the issues of concern in parts of Britain suffering decline.

Although tentative efforts were made by the Major governments to reassess the focus of regeneration and provide for a more inclusive policy agenda, it is now clear that such moves failed to go far enough to counter the problematic connotations that emerged as a result of previous decentralisation policies.  Thus, the focus on reassessing the foundation of regeneration policy acted as a pivotal concern for New Labour.  Above all, although Conservative policy prescriptions had in principle accepted the fact that decline occurred as a result of the combination of socio-economic and political forces acting in conjunction; this was not translated into the urban regeneration policy agenda in a way to bring about effective resolution.  Thus, the New Labour wish to combat decline by instigating partnership between a variety of different actors in the process was essentially a response to this failure.  Therefore, initiatives like the New Deal for Communities acts as a central pivot the New Labours approach to residential urban regeneration.  Naturally, the functions of the regenerative process continue to be placed on physical renewal and development, however I believe the that the overt and deliberate attempt to carry out as inclusive a policy as possible makes the New Labour approach the most effective attempt at urban regeneration since the early post war years.  However, I certainly do not aim to suggest that such policies have reached their zenith in terms of achievement.  Indeed, even the most basic examination of degenerated areas leads us to conclude that serious and protracted difficulties remain.  As such, I will conclude by reasserting my thesis on the subject, offering possible new directions which should be undertaken and finally highlighting some of the wider political concerns which will inevitably impact upon future residential urban regeneration.

It is my firm conviction that the history of government policy for urban regeneration has on a numerous of occasions failed to fully appreciate the diverse and varied nature of the problem at hand.  As such, given that the problem itself has invariably failed to be conceptualised in the correct way, we should find it unsurprising that policy moves have often been unsuccessful.   Above all, the causes of decline are deeply rooted in the political, social and economic forces of the community.  As such, the response to urban decline urgently needs to fully comprehend such forces and the manner in which they interact.  The post war decades show in clear and certain terms that urban regeneration needs to be about more than the structural issues of development.  Thus, I once again reassert the conviction that simply demolishing buildings and developing unused land space does not and cannot provide the ultimate answer to the problem.  Of course such processes do act as an integral part of any regenerative effort, however to ascribe overarching importance to them is in my view missing the point entirely.  Thus, it is essential that the debate surrounding urban regeneration is broadened in way which offers an essentially multi disciplinary approach.  Only through such endeavour will the true underlying causes of decline be discovered and an effective response truly possible.

As such, the attempt of New Labour to broaden the contextual framework of analysis is a huge step in the right direction.  Moreover, the inclusive nature of policy prescriptions since 1997 exemplified in the concept of partnership also provide focus and direction for urban regeneration policy in way unseen before.  However, the government needs to be much more assertive and aggressive in order to improve residential urban regeneration.  Thus, the role of central government in the process is an obvious and vital one.  Moreover, specific policies need to be adopted to meet specific problems.  Thus, generic policy prescriptions that aim to offer an overall answer to concerns which are often uniquely geographically rooted will fail to achieve effective results.

However, there are a variety of wider concerns which impact upon the political realm and thus on the ability of governments to effectively carry out regeneration polices in Britain’s residential communities.  Indeed, this is nothing new.  In the early 1980s issues such as the Falklands War redirected the attentions of government away from the seemingly trivial concerns of regeneration.  As such, modern political issues outside of regeneration will inevitably affect the ability of government to carry out an effective agenda in this area.  Primarily, there are two fundamental issues that will impact upon urban residential regeneration policy in Britain’s most deprived areas in years to come; recession and funding potential.  Firstly, the current recession is almost certainly going to last until at least the end of 2009 before the process of recovery begins.  Moreover, economic recessions invariably affect disadvantaged areas more than any other.  As such, the need for concerted regeneration in Britain’s urban residential communities will inevitably become more necessary in coming years.  However, government debt and the ongoing need to stimulate economic activity through the use of direct government investment in the wider economy could easily lead to a reduction in available funding for regeneration projects.  Thus, the future could well be a difficult one.

Nevertheless, I conclude on a note of optimism.  The massive reconstruction programmes of the immediate post Second World War decades did much to bolster economic activity and national prosperity.  As such, given that there is an urgent need to restart economic activity then regeneration programmes in Britain’s residential urban communities could be an effective move forward.  For example, one of the first industries to be hit hard by recession was the building sector.  Naturally there are obvious possibilities for reinvigorating the building industry through urban regeneration projects.  As such, it is possible to see how the future for regeneration efforts could be bright.  However, the important point here is that national government has to take an active role in the process.  Government direction, in conjunction with partnership funding from the private sector is the only way to ensure that regeneration policies are directed to the areas where they are most needed.  Moreover, the proper conceptualisation of need can only be achieved through collaboration with community actors who are deeply rooted in their local areas and thus fully understand what is required.   Given this, the efforts of New Labour to combine the best features of previous Labour governments with those of Conservatives administrations since 1979 acts as the most positive step forward for many years.  Thus, although the challenges of future urban regeneration will be protracted, there is huge potential for effective and positive development.






































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Speech delivered by the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Tony Blair MP to the Labour Party Annual Conference, 1999.




This year I am going to make a number of speeches about the challenges Britain faces as we enter the next Millennium.

Today I want to start by asking not what kind of Britain we want to live in, but a more fundamental question: what kind of people we believe we are and what kind of people do we want to become.

We are warned often enough where society is heading – to an atomised, individualised, selfish, computer-obsessed, lonely, soulless hell. A society where rules and values count for nothing, respect for others dwindles, where money matters more than humanity.

This is not what people want. It’s a vision that the British people reject. In its place people yearn for a society that heals itself, a politics that reduces division, intolerance, and inequality.

Each day, in communities across the country, people act out their vision of Britain – rejecting selfishness and embracing community.

Today we honour some of those people, the winners of Millennium Awards, local heroes who have captured this new spirit, from setting up a new community transport service to cleaning up their neighbourhood.

Next year, during the Millennium, the eyes of the world will be on Britain, on the Meridian line at Greenwich, on the opening of the Dome. The dome will signal a confidence in British creativity, products, and talent. But I want people’s eyes to be on something else as well. On what is happening up and down this great country -ordinary people making an extraordinary difference.

And because the best way we can mark the Millennium is not just the fun of the year 2000, the Dome, the celebrations but reaching out to our community, giving something back as well as taking from it.

So today I set down a challenge: That we mark the Millennium with an explosion in giving, “acts of community”, that touch people’s lives. Signaling a confidence not just in our creativity but in the nation’s ability to work together, a nation brought together by a spirit of generosity towards each other.

The time is ripe. More and more people are looking to find ways to give something back. To be part of something bigger than themselves.

This changed mood was one of the reasons why the government was elected. It helps to explain our priorities – jobs, schools, health, crime and social exclusion. It has given shape to policies like the New Deal.

And it has cast a new light on the role of government. In the first half of this century we learnt that the community cannot achieve its aims without the help of government providing essential services, and a backdrop of security. In the second half of the century we learnt that government cannot achieve its aims without the energy and commitment of others – voluntary organisations, business, and, crucially, the wider public. That is why the Third Sector is such an important part of the Third Way.

So turning around schools doesn’t just depend on motivated teachers and pupils; it also depends on parents, on local people willing to give time as governors or mentoring children. Cutting crime doesn’t just depend on the police. It also depends on people giving time to neighbourhood watch, serving as a magistrate, or befriending a teenager who is getting into trouble with the law. So government and community need each other. They need to act in tandem.

Both right and left often failed to appreciate this. The right were perceived as believing that people are only motivated by selfish interests and that the private sector has a monopoly of efficiency and responsiveness. That a more active role for government necessarily means less space for voluntary initiative. The left were seen as belittling voluntary activity, seeing it as a poor alternative to direct state provision, and my party at times forgot its own roots in self-help, friendly societies, cooperatives and voluntary organisations, and the insights of Robert Owen and William Morris.

It is incumbent on us to avoid those mistakes. The central belief that brought me into politics, and drives everything that I do, is that individuals realise their potential best through a strong community based on rights and responsibilities. I have always believed that the bonds that individuals make with each other and their communities are every bit as important as the things provided for them by the state. And history shows that the most successful societies are those that harness the energies of voluntary action, giving due recognition to the third sector of voluntary and community organisations.

Britain is lucky in that we have such a rich tradition of enterprise of this kind. From the Salvation Army to VSO. From Barnados to Water Aid. From the Workers Educational Association to the University of the Third Age. One historian recently wrote that ‘no nation can lay claim to a richer philanthropic past than Britain’, and even the NCVO, celebrating 80 years in existence, is in some respects a newcomer.

Overall the picture remains healthy. Every year thousands of new charities and self-help groups are founded, and thousands of social entrepreneurs achieve extraordinary things in difficult circumstances.

I believe that the modern role of government is not to supplant this activity, to dominate it, or for that matter to ignore it. Instead government has two primary responsibilities: first, making it as easy and attractive as possible for people to give money and time, and, second, where appropriate, to provide the support that voluntary organisations need to deliver services and strengthen communities.

A new relationship between government and the voluntary sector.
In the past the relationship between voluntary organisations and national and local government has been at best unequal, at worst oppressive. The public sector has encouraged voluntary organisations to take up contracts – but then failed to provide secure funding. It has too often paid lipservice to consulting the community, or to partnership.

We are now trying to rectify these mistakes. The Compact agreed – with the help of the NCVO – in England, and the other Compacts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, are redefining the relationship between government and voluntary organisations. A commitment to fair funding frameworks. Guaranteed independence to speak out and criticise regardless of funding. Direct involvement in policy making.

This new approach is already bearing fruit. The Department for Social Security has started to remove the benefits barriers to volunteering. Hundreds of voluntary organisations have helped to shape the New Deal, as well as delivering gateway services as placements. Hundreds of voluntary organisations working with children have helped to frame the Surestart programme and will now help deliver it. The Single Gateway for welfare will specifically provide for pilots led by voluntary organisations to test out new ways of helping people off welfare into work. Right across the board, a new, and fairer relationship is taking shape.

As part of that modern relationship I also want the voluntary sector more fully involved into the work of rebuilding communities.

I have always said that turning the tide of social exclusion is a ten year project. We have made a start but there are still far too many areas where people have no job, no shop, no bank account, no links to the mainstream economy. Bringing people into the economy and giving them access to the opportunities that others take for granted requires us to make a new connection between economic opportunity and social renewal.

We have always said that human capital is at the core of the new economy. But increasingly it is also social capital that matters too – the capacity to get things done, to cooperate, the magic ingredient that makes all the difference.

Too often in the past government programmes damaged social capital – sending in the experts but ignoring community organisations, investing in bricks and mortar but not in people. In the future we need to invest in social capital as surely as we invest in skills and buildings.

The voluntary sector is – I believe – showing the way, making the links between rebuilding communities and rebuilding economic opportunity.

Credit unions that give people who are often excluded from conventional financial institutions access to finance. Nearly a dozen community loan funds with over £75 million at their disposal. Microfinance funds like the Prince’s Youth Business Trust. Social banks like Triodos. Hundreds of Local Exchange Trading systems providing services where there were none. Hundreds of community development trusts. All creating wealth, and all in tandem strengthening their communities.

Over the next few years it will be a priority for government to lend its support to this emerging sector. Already a lot of work is underway across government involving the Treasury, the SEU, DETR and the DTI. We are looking at how to introduce new flexibilities for credit unions. A bigger role for community enterprise in regeneration projects. The New Deal for Communities whose first 17 areas will be announced later this year – designed to put community organisations in the driving seat. Regional Development Agencies providing strategic support for the social economy. The Charity Commission looking at modernising the application of charity law to encompass relief of unemployment, and urban regeneration. New projects like the Community Action Network linking social entrepreneurs together to share lessons and experiences. Business is playing its part too, providing finance in imaginative ways, such as NatWest’s Community Bond launched today.

All coming together so that over the next year we will put in place a far more focused, and effective, strategy for creating wealth in the parts of Britain that have too often been bypassed by growth in the past.

The Active Community.
Our biggest challenge, however, will be to ignite a new spirit of involvement in the community.

Millions of people are active in organisations as diverse as the CSV and the WRVS, the Territorial Army and the specials. 80,000 people serve in residents associations, 350,000 as school governors and tens of thousands serving as councillors in the voluntary activity that is the bedrock of democracy. Hundreds of thousands helping out as mentors.

But everyone knows just how much more could be done. How many elderly people could benefit from neighbours doing simple things like picking up shopping, or cooking a meal. How many children could use help learning to read.

Education is not just the teachers and the books and the bricks and mortar. It is the parents who get involved. Charities, however professionally run, however well managed, however well funded, need small armies of people who give their time and effort for free. Without them the charities wouldn’t exist and the causes they help would suffer.

And for all the millions who do get involved I believe there are millions more who would get involved if they knew how.

Barely one in twenty young people, and fewer than one in ten adults gave time last month. Yet many of those who aren’t involved say that they would like to be.

If we are to make Britain a truly great nation in the next century we need to increase these numbers. Indeed, we need nothing less than a step change in public involvement in the community.

Communicating and motivating.
If we are to achieve this change the first task will be to motivate people. Raising awareness about other people’s needs and problems. Showing that being involved can be fun, and fulfilling.

I know that many broadcasters and newspaper groups – particularly in the regions – are already developing exciting plans to use their immense power to support involvement in the community.

We will be working with them and with a new charity, Pilotlight, set up by one of the founders of Comic Relief, in a new project called One20 to pioneer imaginative new ways of encouraging people to get involved, to share their passions and enthusiasms.

We often talk about the feelgood factor that comes from a booming economy. But there is another feelgood factor. Giving time, sharing your talents, does more than anything to make people feel better about themselves.

New volunteering programmes.
If we can engage people the next task will be to channel that enthusiasm into carefully-designed programmes for giving time.

Young people are our priority. Many already put a lot into their communities. But many don’t feel they belong, or don’t know how to contribute.

Today we launch our flagship initiative in this area, the Millennium Volunteers. £48m of help to encourage a new generation of young people to volunteer. It will give them new skills and confidence, and a Millennium Volunteers Award to show to employers at the end.

At the other end of the age range, for the first time ever we will provide funding for a new initiative to support older volunteers, promoting more active lives for older people, and pioneering a more active use of the years that rising life expectancy has given us. Working in partnership with voluntary organisations that are expert in this field such as Age Concern, RSVP, REACH and the Dark Horse venture, it will encourage people to take an active role in the lives of their community as they grow older.

We will also work with business to make it easier for employees to volunteer. Some firms are pioneering new ways of encouraging their staff to get involved. Many see it as good for business – good for motivation, good for developing the skills of their staff. And many employees know that its good to be able to put practical achievements outside work on your CV.

To get more businesses involved, the Home Office is providing financial support to Business in the Community in a new initiative with some of our biggest companies to encourage much more volunteering from the workplace. City Cares will begin in ten towns and cities across the UK later this year, offering hands on opportunities for practical community activity. Demonstrating to employers that they benefit from better motivated, more involved employees.

These – and related projects such as new support for volunteering in the black community, and encouragement for volunteers helping GP s – are just some of the practical ways in which government can provide help, drawing on the additional £25 million of Home Office funding that will support initiatives in this area. Not as an alternative to public service. Not as a way of getting things done on the cheap. But rather as a complement to the commitment we have already made to rebuilding the NHS, education and other public services.

Because a fully employed society isn’t just one where everyone who wants a job has a job. It is one where everyone contributes all their talents – through the things they do, paid or unpaid, in the service of others. A society in which when people ask you: ‘what do you do?’, it’s not just your job that you mention.

New infrastructures.
All of these new initiatives will make a big contribution. But if we are to achieve the step change I believe is possible we also need to modernise the ways in which people find out about whats happening and how to get involved.

At the moment there are some excellent volunteer bureaux, and some pathbreaking projects like The Site which provides information on-line. But for many people it is much easier to find out what’s on at the local cinema than whats happening in the community. It’s easier to buy a foreign holiday than it is to volunteer.

Over the next few years we need to change that, drawing on the very best technologies and materials, and the most imaginative ideas.

To drive the work forward I have asked Lord Warner to chair a group bringing together voluntary organisations, business, broadcasters and others.

They will look at technologies – how to make the most of plans that the New Millennium Experience has developed working with business and voluntary organisations to create an on-line infrastructure so that everyone can access accurate, timely information about how to get involved in the community.

They will work alongside the lottery boards which are already examining how they can better support the infrastructures that will channel volunteers into everything from After School Clubs and Healthy Living Centres, to heritage sites and sports groups.

They will look at what can be done locally – setting up pilots across the country later this year to test out imaginative new ways of bringing together volunteers and volunteering opportunities.

They will look at what the media can contribute – from the mainstream broadcasters to the new community channel which will soon be launched on digital television, and from new printed guides to local newspapers.

And I can announce today that we will be making additional resources available to test out the feasibility of new ways of ensuring that there is a rough guide – a kind of yellow pages for voluntary work – available to every home in every community; which sets out where people can go and what they can do if they want to be involved.

Modernising government.
These are some of the ways in which government will provide help. But it is also vital that we modernise how government works.

In the past the voluntary sector has been seen as a relatively marginal issue for government. It has not been given the priority it deserves.

I have therefore asked Jack Straw to subsume the existing Voluntary and Community Unit into a new Active Community Unit with a substantially bigger role and higher profile. Like the Social Exclusion Unit this new unit will have a brief to work across government to coordinate the work of departments, joining up the many different things that government does. It will be outward looking, building partnerships, making things happen. It will be made up of people from outside government as well as inside. And it will raise the profile of the sector within government, providing a channel for the best ideas.

We should set our sights high. Britain is ready to rebuild a sense of community, common purpose and shared promise. To give new energy to old traditions of self help and mutual aid. So that Britain doesn’t become a country where if people see a problem they wait for someone else to fix it, or say ‘that’s the government’s job.’

At the risk of giving Harry Enfield some free ammunition, there is one last thing I want to say about helping others in the community.

What does it say about the country we became in the late 20th century that do-gooding, rather than being the foundation stone of the fair society and vibrant communities that we want, became a term of abuse?

It is good to do good. Good for those charities and organisations and neighbourhoods in which the good is being done. But good for the do-gooder as well.

The cynics never built anything. They stand on the sidelines. They imagine that all that motivates men and women and children is the desire to do good for themselves, to acquire more, be it power or wealth or material possessions.

But if everyone shared that first past the post, me, my, mine philosophy then there really would be no such thing as society.

But there is such a thing as society and it is made up of millions of people making millions of decisions about what they do with their time, what they do for themselves, what they do for each other.

Let those of us who believe in the power of community reclaim the idea of doing good and wear it as a badge of pride.













































[1] The full text of this speech of provided as an appendix at the end of this work.  It provides a clear insight into community policy under New Labour and the manner in which it affects urban regeneration.