North billions ‘wasted’

BILLIONS of pounds spent trying to regenerate deprived parts of the North-East have been wasted, according to leading economists.

BILLIONS of pounds spent trying to regenerate deprived parts of the North-East have been wasted, according to leading economists.

Deprived parts of Sunderland and Tyneside have sunk further into poverty, despite a decade of investment from central Government and development agencies such as One Northeast.

The findings are part of a report by the think-tank Policy Exchange, who claim the Government has spent £30bn nationwide in the last 10 years with no real increase in income or quality of life.

While the precise figure for the North-East is not yet known, it is believed it will be more than £2bn.

The report accuses the Government of failing Tyneside, parts of which have seen drastic decreases in living standards. It states: “Inner Tyneside (among others) had less than 30% of its population in poverty in 1980. The most recent figures show that Tyneside now has 38% in poverty.”

And the value of Newcastle’s flagship Pathfinder housing regeneration scheme has also been questioned.

The report quotes Professor Fred Robinson, from Durham University, who described efforts to improve the West End of Newcastle as yet another misguided attempt to solve long-standing problems.

Prof Robinson said the £73m scheme to improve housing quality in 2003 was “the latest in a long line of policy initiatives” that have not lifted the neighbourhood out of poverty.

The think-tank’s chief economist, Dr Oliver Hartwich, called on the Government to offer real powers for city leaders to decide how regeneration money is spent. He said: “Towns which receive large amounts of urban policy funding are not converging to the UK average. If anything, they are slipping farther behind while successful towns are stretching their lead.

“Rather than poor cities and rich cities converging economically, they are doing the opposite. While we should not give up on urban policy, much of the £30bn spent in the last decade appears to have had no effect.”

Newcastle Central MP Jim Cousins agreed that a lot of money was mis-spent.

“The Government has, in good faith, provided a lot of money for regeneration projects and most of it has been completely wasted. We have seen in Newcastle how tens of millions of pounds have been spent in some areas and none of it has touched the lives of the people who live there.

“We see too often big glamorous projects which property developers can make millions out of that completely fail to have an impact on the lives of those in the area.”

Regeneration bosses at One Northeast said the think-tank had overlooked the many benefits from large-scale investments.

Director of regeneration Ed Rowley said: “Regeneration has and continues to be a huge driver of economic growth and prosperity across the North-East.

“Last year we attracted £247m worth of investment to regenerate deprived areas, more than half of this investment secured from the private sector and regenerated 62 hectares of brownfield land.

“This fact can be clearly seen in Sunderland with the fantastic redevelopment of the historic Sunniside area of the city which has levered in over £50m in private investment.”

Comment: Page 10

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