Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 January 2022
This chapter examines one of the ways in which urban regeneration under New Labour has sought to address social exclusion and facilitate social inclusion through the involvement of local communities in regeneration partnerships. ‘Community’, and associated notions such as social cohesion and social capital, has played a central role in the discourses structuring urban policy under New Labour (see Part One of this volume). Among the questions that are raised by bringing together notions of community and social exclusion are:
• How will these concerns be translated into the practice of urban regeneration at a local level?
• And what impact has New Labour's obsession with ‘joined-up government and action’ had on practice at local level?
There are also wider issues at stake here as development in urban policy is closely related to New Labour's wider agenda to modernise local government (DETR, 1998a) and reform key aspects of the welfare state.
There is a danger that the ‘solutions’ to the problems faced by socially excluded communities are largely reduced to a ‘technical exercise’. In this exercise, developing the ‘right’ structures of governance and forms of social capital within excluded communities is expected somehow to reverse years of decline caused by wider structural forces beyond the control of local areas. In a sense, responsibility for these problems has been assigned to those experiencing the effects of decline. Indeed, New Labour initially appeared to accept the general diagnosis of urban problems offered by its Conservative Party predecessors when it argued that areas of multiple deprivation in cities had been “largely by-passed by national economic success” (DETR, 1997, section 2.2). Subsequent pronouncements do seem to have accepted that, at least in part, the causes of decline lie outside of run-down areas, although even here much of the blame appears to have been placed on the shortcomings of local government and, to a lesser extent, central government. Nevertheless, there is a strong undercurrent within New Labour's policies towards urban areas, and ‘excluded spaces’ in particular, that those living there bear some of the responsibility for their situation. On the one hand, communities have been assigned a key role in urban regeneration and by extension responsibility for the success or failure of policy.