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January 11, 2012

The figures tell a different story

Last month’s launch of the new national regeneration strategy attracted little by way of negative press. Perhaps this was because there was little in the general tone of the strategy that one could take issue with. The Alliance’s main gripe with the Strategy is that it is way too light on the detail of how any of the grand rhetoric will be delivered. Now Andy Milne at SURF has weighed in with a more detailed critique of the finances which reveals the full extent of the cuts


Andy Milne, SURF


On 12th December, the Scottish Government launched a new ‘National Regeneration Strategy’ called ‘Achieving a Sustainable Future’. 

As Scotland’s independent cross-sector regeneration network, SURF welcomed the Scottish Government’s intention to produce a new national regeneration strategy – the first since the February 2006 ‘People and Place’ regeneration statement. It is therefore important both as the first since the economic collapse of 2008 and the first under an SNP-led administration.

SURF is working hard with local authorities, community organisations, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and many others to find practical ways to support community regeneration at a time of huge changes and challenges for everyone. 

The Scottish Government is a vital partner in these efforts, particularly in setting out an inspiring vision within a deliverable strategy. It has to make difficult choices in that key leadership role but, for SURF, there are some big concerns with the strategy that it launched on Monday:

While the strategy sets out to make, ‘no assumptions about future economic circumstances’, the content confirms a sharp reduction in dedicated Scottish Government ‘preventative spend’ in support of community regeneration efforts. 

The strategy indicates that the Scottish Government will provide £7.9m per annum from 2012 to 2015 in the form of a new ‘People and Communities’ fund to support its vision for community led regeneration. 

This compares with the pre-existing £118m/yr Community Regeneration Fund (subsequently rebranded and amalgamated with others to be the £148m/yr Fairer Scotland Fund) in addition to the earlier level of £12m/yr for the Wider Role Fund. All of this previous annual dedicated support (£160m) for targeted community based regeneration activity is now reduced to the new £7.9m People and Communities fund.

SURF Chief Executive, Andy Milne, said: 

“The rhetoric in the strategy for more ‘community led’ regeneration is not matched with adequate resources to help make that a practical reality. It appears that the increase in rhetoric on the importance of supporting community-based regeneration is in direct proportion to the reduction in resources allocated to that purpose. 

“The strategy represents a shift of the remaining greatly reduced resources to more market-based delivery mechanisms. SURF and many of its members are concerned that these loan based, speculative business models are not viable for local organisations in disadvantaged communities which are suffering the impacts of increasing poverty and unemployment. 

This is a particular problem in a strategy which is specifically dedicated to supporting hard pressed communities.” 

SURF and others have called for adequate, top-sliced investments to be directed to reliable, locally based ‘community anchor organisations’ such as housing associations, development trusts and other established social enterprises. These are widely recognised as being well-placed to support practical community led projects and services as the basis of genuine community led enterprise and regeneration. 

This, and a wide range of other practical measures in support of a more sustainable, community-focused form of regeneration, were proposed in SURF’s pre-election Regeneration Manifesto statement (‘Protect, Empower and Invest’) of March 2011. 

In following through on that collaborative programme, SURF is working creatively with its members and supporters across Scotland and beyond to promote effective ways to offset the worst impacts of the recession and to develop more sustainable approaches for the regeneration of Scotland’s disadvantaged communities.