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pounds 2bn to spend but New Deal will take years to bear fruit; Taxpayers' millions slow to bridge the deprivation gap.

Byline: Rob Merrick

A FLAGSHIP government scheme to breathe ne w life into two struggling areas of Merseyside has so far failed to improve people's lives, according to anew report.

The study found that the New Dealfor Communities had ``not yet made significant progress'' in cutting crime,creating jobs and boosting educational standards.

And it warned that residents in Britain's most deprived neighbourhoods faced a 10 -year wait before they would notice genuine signs of success. Back in 1998, the Government announced that pounds 61.9m would be pumped into the Kensington area of Liverpool, one of the first 17 projects under the New Dealfor Communities.

A year later, a pounds 55.8m grant was pledged to the North Huyton estate in Kno wsley,one of a further 22 schemes, taking the total spend to a massive pounds 2bn.

The Government pledged the cash would ``bridge the gap'' between those neighbourhoods and the rest of England by tackling five key indicators of deprivation.

They were: job prospects,high levels of crime, educational, underachievement, poor health and problems with housing and the physical en vironment.

Now the study,by academics at Sheffield HallamUni versity,has conc luded: ``Most partnerships have not yet made significant progress in achieving many of these outcomes.

``Some claim success but these should be treated with considerable caution at this early stage.

``Closing gaps between these deprived neighbourhoods and the districts and regions within which they are located will simply take a long time. Ten years appears a realistic time horizon.''

In Liverpool,onl y 24pc of people who hadheardof the initiative believed it had improved their area. In Kno wsley, the figure was just 37pc.

Last year, the Kno wsley scheme spent only 49pc of its ann ualbudget of pounds 4.7m, while Liverpool spent all but two per cent of the pounds 5.7m available.

The study also revealed that, in Kno wsley, 47pc of adults of working age have no qualifications, compared to 30pc in Liverpool.

But Tim Molton, chief executive of the North Huyton NDC, said real progress was being made.

He said: ``I would agree with the report in terms of health and education because those a relong term things that cannot be chang ed overnight.

``Reducing things like cardiovascular diseases and improving GCSE results takes time.

``We have concentrated in our early years on housing, crime and employment. ``We have removed 400 properties which were a blight on the areaandcleared the way for a variety of new properties for sale and rent.

``The next stage of our plans are now out to consultation and we have had 700 people visit in the last three weeks alone . The vast majority of those have been supportive so I think we have the support of the community here.

``On crime, we have seen a 17pc reduction in our area, working with Merseyside Policeand other agencies.

``And in employment, we have a project for 50 young people aged 16-25 calledTeamNorth Huyton which has seen 7 0pc of them placed in jobs.''

Mr Molton also revealed that the North Huyton and Kensington New Dealareas were the only two in the country which actually worked together on various projects.

Stephen Boyle, chief executive of Kensington Regeneration, also insisted real improvements are being made.

Pointing to a 4.8pc drop in unemplo yment and a 2pc drop in crime in the last 12 months, Mr Boyle said: ``Our figures show crime is going down, unemplo yment is going down and educational attainment is going up.

``There have been significant improvements in community safety since the intr oduction of Kensington 's own police team and alleygating.

``And things will con tin ue to improve when Kensington 's CCTV system goes live next month.''

Meanwhile Yvette Cooper, minister for neighbourhood re ne wal, insisted the Government was ``turning the corner in the fight against post code poverty''.


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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 21, 2003
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