‘Community Plan signals end of Whitehall knows best approach’ claims ODPM head of local authority housing
7 July, 2003

Wendy Jarvis, Head of Local Authority Housing at the ODPM, has today outlined the commitments and intent underlying the Government’s Communities Plan. In a speech to a conference, jointly hosted by the New Local Government Network (NLGN) and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), Ms Jarvis said:

“The new regional arrangements illustrate our strong belief in effective long-term solutions rather short-term hits on investment. The Community Plan promotes the joining up of regional policy-making on housing, planning and economic policy. Aligned with the recent announcement on elected regional assemblies, it is clear evidence of a move away from the formulaic top-down solutions while at the same time a recognition that problems and issues do not stop at local authority boundaries. Radical as all of this is, it spells the end of the Whitehall knows best approach”.

The conference The Communities Plan – The Strategic Role for Local Authorities also heard from NLGN Director, Dan Corry who reflected on calls within the ODPM’s Community Plan for local authorities to separate their strategic housing responsibilities from their often overwhelming concern with being a local landlord:

“Relative to provision, there is a vital strategic role to be played by local authorities to help rebalance the local housing market, arising on the one hand through work with local housing providers and the Regional Housing Boards and on the other – and perhaps more importantly – through the authority linking housing to the provision of many other local services. As such, the local government role is both real and live”.

Meanwhile, Kamal Faizi, Director of Regeneration and Sustainability at the London Borough of Newham, told the conference of his scepticism towards the role of local authorities becoming more overtly strategic, believing it to be a case of:

“Carry on working with the powers you now have but don’t worry any more about social housing” before adding, “There are lots of unanswered questions within the Community Plan and while a lot of money is becoming available, we need greater direction from central government as to how we should best use this”.

NLGN media enquiries to Ian Parker – 020 7357 0116 / ian@nlgn.org.uk

Editors notes:

The New Local Government Network (NLGN) is an independent think-tank, seeking to transform public services, revitalise local political leadership and empower local communities.

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) is the professional organisation for people who work in housing. The CIH is a registered charity and a non-profit making organisation. www.cih.org

The conference The Communities Plan – The Strategic Role for Local Authorities was held on 7 July in central London. Speakers included Wendy Jarvis, ODPM; Simon Cartwright, Thames Gateway London Partnership; Mark Kleinman, GLA; Mark Bilsborough, Government Office South East; Gill Green, Audit Commission; Kamal Faizl, LB Newham; Barbara Brownlee, Edwards Project Management; Paul McDermott, Nabarro Nathanson; Bob Line, B.Line Housing Information; Merron Simpson, Chartered Institute of Housing; and Dan Corry, Director, NLGN.