David Cameron's "no one will be left behind" message rings hollow as deprived areas suffer the most from council cuts and are shut out of Local Enterprise Partnership zones.
The Department for Communities and Local Government recently – and with very little fanfare – published the latest index of multiple deprivation figures. Some initial analysis by ippr north reveals a familiar picture, with urban areas of the North, inner London and seaside towns continuing to top the deprivation league.
Given David Cameron has said that “no one will be left behind” by his government, the publication of these figures seems a good moment to consider what this government is doing for those living in our most deprived neighbourhoods.
The best route out of deprivation for most people is to find good quality employment. This means economic growth and job creation must be priorities for national and local government. This is particularly important in areas where deprivation is high.
The government has put its faith in local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) to lead private sector growth. These partnerships between local authorities and local business are responsible for developing an economic strategy for their area; identifying and driving opportunities for growth.
But looking at the list of local authorities with the deepest levels of deprivation, six of the top 20 (Blackpool, Burnley, Blackburn with Darwen, Hull, North East Lincolnshire and Preston) are not even within an LEP area.
The response might be so what. After all, aren’t LEPs devoid of any funding or powers? While there is some truth in this perception, they are the only game in town in terms of local economic development, and it is for local areas to make of them what they will. Furthermore, the 2011 budget changed things by providing LEPs with a purpose: only areas that have an LEP are eligible to establish an enterprise zone, with their altered planning regulations and tax breaks designed to boost growth.
So will the existence of an enterprise zone make any difference to people living in deprived neighbourhoods? The answer is only if links are made between areas of deprivation and areas of opportunity – this could be in the form of improved transport links, or training to support people to take up new job opportunities.
The role of local authorities in directing this investment to the people that need it most, will be crucial.
But here’s the rub for our most deprived places: they have witnessed larger cuts to their local authority budgets. Fourteen of the authorities with the deepest pockets of deprivation saw their “spending power” cut by 8.9 per cent, the maximum amount allowed by the government, and all 20 authorities received an above average cut to their spending power (the median was 6 per cent).
|District||% of neighbourhoods in the most deprived 1%||Central Government cut to local authority “spending power” in 2011/12|
|7||Blackburn with Darwen||9%||8.9%|
|11||Redcar and Cleveland||7%||8.4%|
|14||North East Lincolnshire||6%||8.9%|
|17||Newcastle upon Tyne||4%||7.8%|
If the aspiration of no one being left behind is to be fulfilled, local authorities and their partners must focus some of their resources on linking deprived individuals to economic opportunities. But this will be difficult for some of our worst off places.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.