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< Regeneration, < New Start editorial index page


Brutal it may have been, but West Ham’s dismissal of the man who took them to last year’s FA Cup final was certainly decisive. It sent out a clear signal that when things are going wrong, you must do something about it.


Whether sacking Alan Pardew was the right something is another question. To some it will look like hard-headed business sense; to others, it’s like coming home and kicking the cat after a bad day at the office.


Simple solutions have a tendency to miss the point. So just as I find the actions of West Ham’s board less than reassuring, so I wonder about the Tories’ latest pronouncements about families and poverty. The diagnosis of the malady is at least partly correct: there are clear links between family breakdown and social problems. On the Richter scale of revelations, that’s not exactly earth-shattering. But we con ourselves if we think there are easy answers.


I’m not aware of any family that has stayed together because the government of the day has handed out a few extra quid in tax allowances or welfare benefits. Neither do I imagine that any couple in crisis will sit down and assess how Britain’s social policies will influence their future relationship. Those ‘should I stay or should I go?’ decisions are made for much more immediate reasons.


In families as in football, there are always bigger pictures. The same is true of the business of regeneration. What makes regeneration work is very seldom having the right legislation or the government taking the correct decisive action. These things can help, but they’re not the defining factor.


Over the last three weeks I’ve heard 14 different regeneration schemes in northwest England describe what they have achieved, the difficulties they have overcome, and what they have learned along the way. It’s been striking how few of them have mentioned the role of government.


But common to all of them has been the importance of seeing the bigger picture, and the ability to put personal and sectoral agendas on the backburner in order to achieve a greater good. Successful families and football clubs do the same. That kind of collaborative leadership, and the guts and energy that underpin it, will achieve more good than any high-profile changes in policy and personnel.


Julian Dobson, editorial director, New Start Online magazine


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