Labour’s Record on Neighbourhood Renewal in England: Policy, Spending and Outcomes 1997-2010
When he came to power in 1997, Tony Blair reacted to widening disparities between poorer and richer neighbourhoods by declaring that no one in future decades should be seriously disadvantaged by where they lived. This paper reviews the policies that Labour pursued and assesses how close it came to realising Blair's vision. It draws on speeches, policy documents, government website and evaluation reports, and on new analysis of administrative and survey data. We find that Labour's neighbourhood initial policy approach - the cross departmental National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal, with its 'floor targets' below which no neighbourhood should fall - was distinctive, although after 2007 there was a move away from this approach towards a narrower focus on economic regeneration, at large spatial scales, and on the reduction of worklessness. Evaluations report that the policies pursued represented value for money and there were trends towards positive outcomes. Physical environments and services got better during Labour's term in office - a direct result of the policies enacted. Gaps between poorer and richer areas also improved in many individual outcomes, although these cannot be so readily attributed to neighbourhood policy per se. All gaps remained large in 2010, suggesting that Blair's vision was not fully realised: which is, perhaps, not surprising in the context of sustained income inequalities.
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