So, Nottingham’s history finally catches up with it. The Nottingham Evening Post reports on the latest trouble at the Neighbourhood Development Company. This is a ‘legacy’ organisation, intended to sustain the benefits of the government’s New Deal for Communities (NDC) regeneration programme beyond its 10 year life. The scheme in Nottingham has been surrounded by damaging news stories from the outset – overpaid directors and staff, lack of proper financial controls, conflicts of interest, a ‘race row’ over election systems, misconduct and, now, in-fighting, illegal suspensions and a threat to withdraw funding. To anyone who has followed the scheme, this is no surprise. However, some reflection on Nottingham’s NDC, prompted by recent events, raises some interesting questions:
- Given the evidence against the NDC, why did the Government Office for the East Midlands (GOEM) rate it as ‘excellent’ in 2007? They had rated it poor in 2004. And, now, in 2008, central government is threatening to withdraw funding. At the very least, this suggests a degree of imprecision in the judgements made by GOEM.
- What have other supervisory and regulatory bodies been doing? The Accountable Body (Nottingham City Council) seems to have been passive, and yet they are financially at risk if things go wrong. This seems cavalier in the extreme. What did the Audit Commission make of the arrangements for ensuring proper use of public resources? And the Charities Commission should also have some role, surely?
- The report details a confusing and, frankly, surreal series of events – allegations, suspensions, investigations (some improper, some incomplete), resignations, factions…. It seems improbable that nobody intervened. And this is not something new. This has been going on since 2000.
- What of the National Evaluation of New Deal for Communities? A great deal of money has been spent on evaluation and on ‘learning’. Did they have evidence and reason for concern? If not, what do we understand evaluation to be about?
- The National Audit Office undertook a study of New Deal for Communities and, despite evidence available at the time, appear to have done nothing about Nottingham (or other NDC programmes that were in difficulties at the time).
- Those reports that were available were not acted upon. Did the plethora of regulatory agencies all think that another agency would deal with it?
There are many other questions we might ask about the past. And there are some people, particularly in Nottingham, who should be answering some awkward questions. So many of the names of those in ‘leadership’ positions, both in the city and the region, recur throughout this whole sorry saga.
And now what? As it stands, the Board of Directors has stood down in the face of the evidence of their incompetence and mismanagement. A new Board is being recruited to sort out the future for the NDC legacy organisation. This will need to look to the future. But who is looking at the past? What do we learn from this history? When we look back to the late 1990s, there was a sense of optimism. The Social Exclusion Unit and the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal seemed to have drawn upon lessons from the past and to set out a clear direction for regeneration. Nottingham was, perhaps, better placed than most to take advantage of the strategy – it had one of the most successful EU funded URBAN programmes in Europe from which to learn the lessons of partnership working and of community engagement. Looking back now, do we reject government policy (as some are all too eager to do) or do we point the finger at ‘leaders’ in Nottingham?
Read the Evening Post article at: http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=133965&command=displayContent&sourceNode=133948&contentPK=21016742&moduleName=InternalSearch&formname=sidebarsearch