by Keren Suchecki
Neighbourhood Renewal is over and Bristol won’t be receiving Working Neighbourhoods funding. There’s just a couple of million transition funding to cushion the fall for those being flung off the funding cliff.
Luckily, the city has planned in advance to cope with this news. Back in November, the council’s Neighbourhood Renewal Unit asked neighbourhoods to decide on their priorities and then brought them together with service providers, evaluators and other stakeholders in a day-long citywide joint planning session to agree priorities together.
And very well it went too. The chief exec of the council opened the day by proclaiming this the opportunity to really influence Bristol’s regeneration work by making informed and joined-up decisions. It ended with an agreed framework of priorities for funding that all approved of. We were well prepared.
So it felt like swallowing something hard and jagged when we saw the funding proposals from the council’s Cabinet last week. They bear no relation to the list agreed in what the chief exec plainly told us was the decision-making process. Apparently a more important bit of the hierarchy ran a separate, non-consultative process, with no reference to the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit, and ejected the agreed framework with the efficiency of a dose of Norovirus.
And a stunningly ill-informed bunch of proposals they are, for example: they’ve removed education initiatives from all white working-class areas as Bristol has again been declared bottom of the league tables; stripped money from drug services when Bristol receives less than half the funding per user than other cities; distorted the funding so that south Bristol (highest population and deepest deprivation) is proposed to get a third of what north Bristol will receive.
For that brief moment in November it looked like Bristol City Council had got the hang of informed decision making. Doesn’t a promise from the chief exec of a one-star council count for anything these days?
This article first appeared in ‘New Start’ magazine. Keren Suchecki is a regeneration worker in South Bristol.