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The Convergence framework

This text first appeared in an assessed essay submitted in February 2013. To the author’s chagrin, the essay (strangled by a 2,000 word limit) barely scraped a pass, but here’s the useful information about the Convergence framework itself. Links/attachments below.

The Convergence document (Strategic Regeneration Framework: An Olympic Legacy for the Host Boroughs) brings together physical and socio-economic regeneration goals for areas containing Olympic venues in east London: Newham, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Greenwich and Waltham Forest. Barking and Dagenham became a sixth host borough in 2010. Between them they hold “18% of London’s population but 62% of its areas with the highest levels of deprivation” (London Boroughs, 2012, p. 4). The document aims to equalise life chances with the rest of London over a 20-year period. It comprises a series of measurable outputs on regional planning, educational attainment and skills development, reducing worklessness and “benefit dependency” (targeting social housing tenants specifically), tackling overcrowding, fuel poverty, and raising the standard of private accommodation, raising health outcomes and sporting participation rates, and reducing violent crime and anti-social behaviour. The creation of mixed communities through diverse tenure is critical to this vision.

The document is paradigmatic of ‘reflexive government’ (Dean, 1999), where “the liberal and social problematics of security [shift] from … social and economic processes to … governmental mechanisms” (ibid, p. 177). “Convergence targets work towards the virtuous, disciplined and responsible autonomy of citizenry … along with the optimisation of professional performance” (Games Monitor, 2012, p. 21). To a certain extent, the social is reoriented not as something to ‘know’ (that is, as evidence-based) but as a series of markets.

In common with other planning documents, change is presented as transformative [“a tautology”—assessor’s comment], a discourse strategy remarked as central to managerialism by Clarke and Newman (1997). “The focus is on … paradigm shifts involving the … dismantling of … the old social order of the welfare state settlement and the ways of thinking that sustained [it]” (ibid, p. 42). The bureaucracy is identified as leader of change (to [our] knowledge, there has been no public consultation around this document). Its prescriptive discourse makes change appear constructive, achievable and accountable. As a managerialist statement, it “has set the agenda of change, defined its meaning, its direction and the means of its accomplishment. It is the core [document] that other contending positions must negotiate ... In particular, it has established the need to remake organisational forms of the state around the managerial prerogative: the right to manage” (ibid, p. 55). Thus the Convergence document represents a key rationalisation of the Olympic project.

Outcomes

The term ‘social exclusion’ suggests that it is “social relations other than income” (Gough et al, 2006, p. 4) that may exclude, and that “the poor and disadvantaged are excluded from important types of social interaction and social activity” (Sen 1983, cited ibid). Yet use of the term can obscure concerns with inequality (of income and resources) and avoids conception[s] of social justice (ibid). Following Townsend (1979, cited ibid) ‘deprivation’ can be understood as a relative term, and judged against wider consumption norms. Gough et al argue that through the use of these terms, conservative interventionism attempts to relegitimate neoliberal capitalism after the polarisations of the Thatcher years. The tendency (“always a tentative and changeable class settlement”, ibid, p. 189) is described as ‘conservative’, despite an association with New Labour, because of its attachment to organic conservative concerns such as social responsibility, community, inclusion, and local services. It works most effectively at the local scale, addressing spatial concentrations of poverty rather than structural deprivation. The focus is on “patterns of life” (ibid, p. 191) rather than income, to integrate the poor into the lower echelons of the labour market. Policies such as social mix are viewed as reducing class tensions (ibid, p. 196).

When lower-income tenants do gain greater opportunities and access to resources this is little to do with tenure mix; rather “the integration of area-based and people-based policy, as well as decommodified access” to local services “is crucial” (Arbaci and Rae, p. 3). So examining evaluations of the Convergence outcomes (2009–2011 and 2011–2012) we should expect certain improvements from concentrated social investment but not attribute these to social mix policies. In fact, what comes through clearly is the volatility of the national policy context, and the extent to which legislative reforms can sabotage target setting.

Neighbourhoods

The 2011–2012 report notes the Place Survey as abandoned, therefore it was not possible to track street cleanliness, overcrowding (p. 27) or anti-social behaviour (p. 10). In housing, recent legislative changes (including caps on Universal Credit and Local Housing Allowance) are regarded as “likely to impact negatively” (p. 26) on residents due to a higher proportion already on benefits and levels of overcrowding, especially in Hackney and Tower Hamlets (p. 27). The Guardian website (2013) reports that Housing Benefit caps across London are pushing claimants into host boroughs; in Newham, Housing Benefit claimant numbers are up by 41%. There are “significant concerns about the new ‘affordable’ rent regime”, especially for families in larger properties (p. 27). This puts a damper on the delivery of 10,500 affordable units out of 16,500 completions (over 63.6%). The Athletes’ Village is counted within the performance targets, accounting for 79% of new starts in Newham (2009–2011, p. 7). Inside Housing reported (Duxbury, 2010) that Triathlon Homes, developers of the Athletes’ Village, would consider taking future tenants off housing waiting lists only if they were in work. Violent crime increased slightly between 2009–2011 (p. 10), but the gap between the host boroughs and the London average decreased by almost 2% in 2011–2012 (p. 27).

Worklessness

Median earnings 2009–2011 for full-time workers became worse and the gap between the host boroughs and the London average increased from £30.70 to £39.40 per week (2011–2012, p. 14). The interim evaluation of 2011–2012 relied on the temporary posts created by the Olympic event to boost performance. “The boroughs where the employment rate has reduced from the 2009 position are Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney. In terms of the unemployment rate the situation since 2009 has worsened in every borough” (ibid). Local schemes put 3,800 people through training (ibid) in 2009–2010.

Health and education

The numbers of people undertaking no sporting activity at all during 2011–2012 rose in Barking and Dagenham, Greenwich and Newham (p. 21). Data for children doing PE at school is no longer collected at the national level (p .25). Better news on educational attainment: targets for pupils achieving at least level 4 in English and Maths at Key Stage 2 were “on track for convergence in 2014/15”, and pupil’s achievement of five GCSE grades A*–C (including English and Maths) has nearly reached its target (p. 16). The significant gap between the host boroughs and London average on child poverty has narrowed slightly (p. 19), and the gap for adults with no qualifications is down 0.9 (p. 18).

References

Arbaci, S. & Rae, I. (2012), ‘Mixed-tenure Neighbourhoods in London: Policy Myth or Effective Device to Alleviate Deprivation?’ International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, doi: 10.1111/j. 1468–2427.2012.01145.x, pp. 1–29 (forthcoming)

Clarke, J. & Newman J. (1997), The Managerial State: Power, Politics and Ideology in the Remaking of Social Welfare, London: Sage

Dean, M. (1999), Governmentality: Power and Rule in Modern Society, London: Sage

Duxbury, N. (2010), ‘Olympic village looks to favour those in work’, Inside Housing, 23 July 2010

Games Monitor (2012), Background Paper on the London 2012 Olympics: Governance. http://www.gamesmonitor.org.uk/files/BriefingPaper3-Governance.pdf [Accessed 21 February 2013]

Gough J., Eisenschitz, A. & McCulloch A. (2006), Spaces of Social Exclusion, Abingdon: Routledge

Hill, D. (2013), ‘London housing crisis: soaring benefit claimant numbers indicate displacement from centre’, Guardian, 21 February 2013. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/davehillblog/2013/feb/21/housing-benefit-claimants-increase-in-london?CMP=twt_gu [Accessed 21 February 2013]

Host Boroughs Unit (2009), Convergence, Strategic Regeneration Framework: An Olympic Legacy for the Host Boroughs. http://www.hackney.gov.uk/Assets/Documents/strategic-regeneration-framework-report.pdf [Accessed 21 February 2013]

London Boroughs of Barking & Dagenham, Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, & Mayor of London (2011), Strategic Regeneration Framework: Progress Report 2009–2011. http://www.hackney.gov.uk/Assets/Documents/SRF_Convergence_ annual_report_fin.pdf [Accessed 21 February 2013]

London Boroughs of Barking & Dagenham, Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, & Mayor of London (2012), Convergence Framework: Annual Report 2011–2012. http://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Convergence Annual Report 2011-12 FINAL.pdf [Accessed 21 February 2013]

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Links to the 'Convergence' document of 2009. See attachments for the two existing evaluations: 2009-2011, 2011-2012.

www.hackney.gov.uk/Assets/Documents/strategic-regeneration-framework-report.pdf
Strategic Regeneration Framework report (PDF)


AttachmentSize
Convergence Annual Report 2011-12 FINAL.pdf1.75 MB
SRF_Convergence_annual_report_2009-11.pdf893.52 KB

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