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An Examination of Unsuccessful Priority Partnership Area Bids - Research Findings

DescriptionThis study seeks to establish the impact of the competitive bidding process on Partnerships which were unsuccessful in their bids to be designated as Priority Partnership Areas (PPAs).
ISBN0 7480 8253 0
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateSeptember 10, 1999
Development Department Research Programme Research Findings No 67
1999An Examination of Unsuccessful Priority Partnership Area Bids
Peter Taylor, Ivan Turok and Annette Hastings
Department of Urban Studies
University of Glasgow

In 1996, local authorities, backed by other local partners, made bids to The Scottish Office for support for urban regeneration strategies in areas to be designated as Priority Partnership Areas (PPAs). Seventeen of the 29 bids were 'unsuccessful'. This study seeks to establish the impact of the competitive bidding process on Partnerships which were unsuccessful in their bids. It makes recommendations on improving the process and its outcomes.

Main Findings

  • Key principles of Priority Partnership Areas were widely accepted, though aspects of the bidding process, including timing, eligibility rules and lack of transparency caused difficulties and reduced its effectiveness in promoting real Partnership working.
  • There are now more inter-agency partnerships operating in the 'unsuccessful' areas than there were before the PPA bidding process. Fourteen of the 17 bid areas are now served by a regeneration partnership at either local or council area-wide level. These forums all involve local authorities, Scottish Homes, the Local Enterprise Companies and Health Boards. Community and business participation are less well developed.
  • There have also been some obvious costs of failure in the process, including the loss of funding, disaffection and the threatened diversion of agency resources elsewhere to the magnet of designated PPA areas. It is unclear whether the enhanced level of partnership activity is sustainable, partly because of this.
  • The overall impact of the bidding process on partnership working has been quite mixed. In seven of the 17 areas the process did not have any real effect, either because there was already a momentum, or there is still very little partnership working anyway.
  • The balance of effects was negative in five cases because the set back from the failure to gain official recognition and the loss of funding outweighed any positive experiences. In the remaining five cases the balance of effects was positive, but these outcomes all stemmed partly from the existence of compensatory funding (the need to organise a Regeneration Programme), rather than the bidding process itself.

Aims and Methods

The study aimed:

  • to document the progress of partnerships which were unsuccessful bidders for Priority Partnership Area status
  • to gain feedback on the ability of local actors to continue to pursue integrated approaches to urban regeneration
  • to identify lessons for the competitive bidding process.
  • It was undertaken by means of a survey of the lead local authorities and interviews with staff from these authorities, Local Enterprise Companies, Scottish Homes, and several community or voluntary sector representatives.

Prior Conditions and Bidding Process

Previous practices tended to support a constructive approach to the bidding process. Although some areas had been the focus of long standing multi-agency regeneration work, few had formally involved the full range of partners now envisaged.

Principles of Priority Partnership Areas which were already accepted included the move away from individual project funding, the development of long-term strategies mobilising different resources, and the concept of bringing together several public agencies, along with local communities and businesses.

Several aspects of the bidding process caused difficulties and tended to reduce its effectiveness in promoting real partnership working:

  • The very tight deadline for bidding.
  • The coincidence with local government re-organisation.
  • Uncertainty over the significance of non Urban Programme expenditure, which had to be included.
  • The rules governing the definition of eligible areas.

The Bids

The nature and seriousness of the bid preparation process varied greatly between areas. In most cases, an agreement had been reached on the establishment of a local partnership, although a minority acknowledge that agreement on some fundamental aspects was lacking. Almost all respondents claim that the bid was prepared or approved by a group extending beyond the local authority. The role of these groups varied from active involvement to purely formal endorsement. All groups included Scottish Homes and the Local Enterprise Company. The Health Boards were also well represented.

Although almost all areas claimed support for their bid from community groups, only a third claimed there was any organised community representation in the process. This was attributed to the lack of time, the artificial definition of some of the areas involved, or a belief that formal community representation would only be appropriate if new resources were definitely forthcoming.

The contents of the bids typically combined some project ideas which depended heavily upon Urban Programme funding for execution, with an extrapolation of the partners' existing mainstream commitments.

Outcomes

Structure of Partnerships

Fourteen of the 17 bid areas are now served by a regeneration partnership at either local or council area wide level. In four cases only a council area wide partnership exists, but it is pursuing a regeneration strategy for the former bid area in three cases.

These partnerships all involve local authorities, Scottish Homes, LECs and the Health Board.

Local community groups are involved in only half of the local partnerships. Others have some voluntary organisations represented. Direct business involvement is less developed.

Role of Partnerships

Most partnerships have adopted a strategy for their areas and claim to co-ordinate the strategies of the partners. Most also approve specific projects, mainly through Regeneration Programmes, though few directly manage projects. The local partnerships are more active agencies than the area wide bodies and meet more frequently.

Most council area-wide partnerships combine a concern for needs throughout the Council area with a focus on disadvantaged areas. In every case these areas are wider than the previous PPA bid area. The broader co-ordinating role of these partnerships is currently developing.

Most respondents could identify a combination of programmes or projects proposed in the PPA bid which have since gone ahead as planned, or on a smaller scale or in an alternative way, or had proved to be impossible. Most could also identify some existing projects which have had to be discontinued.

In most 'unsuccessful' areas some degree of funding became available through a Regeneration Programme. In some areas they provided enough discretionary funding to be a partial substitute. Their existence also created an immediate need for a capability to decide on the use of resources and where cuts were needed.

Types of Outcome

The clearest distinction between areas is how much priority is now given to the former PPA bid area as deserving special attention within a council area.

  • Areas which have been given high priority tend to have retained or developed the support of active partnerships
  • A 'two tier' approach is clearest in council areas where the bid areas retain some priority, but other areas have the magnet of actual PPA status.
  • Areas that are lower on the local priority list tend to have zero or limited involvement in partnerships.
  • Some of the areas where the geographical dispersion of disadvantage is particularly marked are still considering the relevance of area targeting and partnerships to their circumstances.

It is unclear whether this level of partnership activity is sustainable. There is uncertainty about whether public agencies have shifted or will in future shift their expenditure priorities towards PPA areas at the expense of 'unsuccessful' bid areas.

Impacts

Perceptions

Most respondents felt the process had brought some positive changes to the climate for 'regeneration' work, i.e. co-operation between agencies, improved proposals and more focus on the area's problems. Others felt the process added little to what was already a well-developed local response.

Few council respondents thought that the policies of their own authority or other partners had changed as a result of the process. Opinions within the LECs were divided on the influence of the PPA process.

People felt the process made little difference to business involvement. Opinions on community involvement were more divided, though over a longer term there has been a growth in community representation. Most thought that the process was an inefficient use of resources.

Half of the respondents thought that the refusal decision had made it harder to 'give priority to the bid area', normally a simple consequence of the failure to retain previous funding. Between half and two-thirds of respondents thought that refusal had made no difference to working in partnership, involving communities, and attracting private investment. The negative effect of loss of funding on community groups may be offset partly by more opportunities to participate in Partnership activity.

Types of Impact

The overall impact of the bidding process on partnership working has been quite mixed. In seven of the 17 areas the process did not have any real effect, either because there was already a momentum, or there is still very little partnership working anyway.

The balance of effects was negative in five cases because the set back from the failure to gain official recognition and the loss of funding outweighed any positive legacies of participation in the immediate bidding process (though those were evident in three of these cases).

In the remaining five cases the balance of effects was positive. These outcomes all stemmed partly from the need to organise a Regeneration Programme, rather than from the bid preparation process alone.

Views on Process

Respondents suggested a range of modifications to any future bidding process. The most widespread concerned the selection process, which many people felt had been unfair. The called for more transparency generally and more feedback to the losers. Other suggestions included more time to prepare the bids, clearer guidelines and more dialogue with The Scottish Office.

Every respondent believed that their authority and its partners would be likely to make such a bid again. Many argued that partners simply could not ignore the possibility of gaining resources.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The fact that positive outcomes from an `unsuccessful' experience seem possible leads us to consider how the process could be improved. This could be done by allowing for:

  • more bid preparation time
  • greater flexibility in the rules
  • closer dialogue
  • greater transparency
  • more feedback on the failed bids.

It is also true that positive effects were often outweighed by the overall consequences of failure. This implies that, if Programme for Partnership is not just to be about winners and losers but seeks to facilitate a general improvement in regeneration activity across the most deprived areas in urban Scotland, then consideration needs to be given to promoting and sustaining partnership efforts in the 'unsuccessful' areas. The Regeneration Programme has proved to be a useful fillip in several areas, but it is only short-term. A range of other measures could also be considered, which need not all require substantial resources.

'An Examination of Unsuccessful Priority Partnership Area Bids', the research report summarised in this Research Findings, is available priced £5.00. Cheques should be made payable to The Stationery Office and addressed to:

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