Parliament and Politics: Action 'failed to reverse inner-city decline'

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Indy Politics
MEASURES to tackle deprivation over 15 years have failed to reverse inner-city decline, an independent think-tank says today. A report, Urban Trends, published by the Policy Studies Institute, concludes: 'Given the record so far, it is difficult to have much confidence in more of the same or feel at all hopeful about the future prospects for the deprived urban areas.'

But the report, based on official statistics, says it is hard to draw overall conclusions because different areas defined as 'deprived' have fared differently under the impact of various policies and economic trends. Even in the same region, some deprived areas have suffered more than others. Salford, in Greater Manchester, for example, lost more in government grants than its neighbours.

The report is by two of the institute's senior fellows, Peter Willmott, co-director of the government inner-city study in the mid-1970s, and Robert Hutchison. It takes 1977 as its starting point, when the Labour Government introduced a battery of policies intended to reverse inner-city decline. Since then, from the Conservatives there have been urban development corporations, legislation on derelict land, grants to encourage private investment and task forces and regeneration agencies.

'After 15 years, and many new initiatives, surprisingly little has been achieved,' the report says. It finds that in education the pupil- teacher ratio at inner-city primary schools worsened over the period - against the national trend. Improvement in examination results in half the education authorities examined was less than in other parts of England.

Unemployment increased in just over one third of the 36 areas, fell slightly in one third and remained the same in the rest. There was no improvement in training in inner cities.

The reduction in house-building, particularly in council and social housing areas, and the sale of council houses produced larger- than-average increases in homelessness in many areas, resulting in the use of more bed- and-breakfast and other temporary accommodation.

People in deprived areas in England were more often in poverty than those elsewhere - and the gap was widening. In deprived areas people still died at an earlier than average age and the infant mortality rate was still higher.