Monthly Archives: May 2014

Published today – the RENEW Northwest Collected Works 2005 to 2008 (free PDF, 400 pages)

Embargoed to 00:01, Thursday 29 May 2014

RENEW Northwest was the region’s centre of excellence for regeneration from 2005 to 2008. It worked with thousands of professionals in design, construction, housing, economic development, neighbourhoods and more and encouraged better regeneration through multi-disciplinery working in the interests of communities, the environment, the economy and society throughout the region – urban and rural, deprived and more affluent.  Much of the RENEW Northwest learning is contained within over 400 pages of great advice and help to professionals involved in all aspects of regeneration and renewal. Free to download here (PDF), much of the advice is as relevant now as it was when it was produced. 

From Liverpool to Manchester, from Crewe to Carlisle, great work was found, supported and celebrated. The former staff have scoured their computers and attics to put all that excellent material in one place for the benefit of everyone involved in regeneration.

Phil Barton, former Director of RENEW Northwest said, “In this age of public sector austerity, it is more important than ever that professionals, agencies and local groups work effectively together across sectors, professions and geography.  RENEW Northwest pioneered new approaches and the achievement of better results by encouraging learning, good practice and professional development.  RENEW’s legacy lives on and this archive is a significant resource for the region which we are delighted to make more widely available.” 

Tony Baldwinson, former Head of Knowledge, Design and Innovation at RENEW Northwest said, “There is so much to choose from in this treasure trove. The Ladders in Regeneration group was especially important in making sure no-one was excluded, not just from the outcomes but also from the jobs within regeneration. Everyone will find something of use to their work here.” 

Notes to editors:

1. The RENEW Northwest project was funded by the Northwest Regional Development Agency from 2005 to 2008. Its Board included the Government Office North West and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), as well as the private sector, community groups and universities.

2. The book is free to download as a PDF, using the Open Government Licence administered by UK National Archives.

3. The full website address is


Our housing crisis – is it under-supply or under-occupation?

Is the crisis in UK housing a problem of under-supply of new homes, or of under-occupation of our existing stock? Do we need to be building 240,000 more new homes a year?

Simon Jenkins in The Guardian, 21 May 2014, (link below) makes a strong case for under-occupation being the market failure, and as such he challenges the British economic orthodoxy in construction over the last ten years, since the Barker Review in 2004.

His point especially about the abandonment of the brownfield-first planning policy is correct and well made. However, he is wrong to support the principle of the bedroom tax. This tax is regressive – poorest people pay the most, and often in circumstances where they have no options for a smaller house or flat.

He could have added that an emphasis on refurbishment over new-build would impact on construction employment because refurb is more labour intensive. And can have a strong impact on fuel poverty and carbon emissions.

But perhaps the key market failure he misses is the mismatch between urban living and urban employment across Britain, rather than just the South East.

In short, market failure needs a programme along the lines of:
1 – more jobs outside the South East
2 – reinstate brownfield-first planning policy
3 – refurbish social housing, including houses-to-flats conversions
4 – tackle poor quality private rented properties, and
5 – begin to address the issues of poorer, older owner-occupiers.

Public Procurement and Local Benefits, part 3

The previous two posts here have outlined the permitted ways by which public bodies can include local equality outcomes within contracts.

In a nutshell, the practicalities revolve around the importance of the “core purpose” of each procurement exercise. The general principle is the difference between (a) ‘just’ procuring a new school and (b) procuring better education, skills and economic wellbeing in community X in which a new school will be built.

The recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation is here –

Also useful here, the Equality and Human Rights Commission produced a guide in 2013 to public procurement and equality benefits, called Buying Better Outcomes. A key extract is:

“Equality clauses may be introduced under these arrangements relating to the performance of the contract, but they must:

  • be compatible with EU rules (as determined by the Public Contract Regulations 2006 and any other related legislative requirements)
  • be relevant and related to the performance of the contract
  • not be a technical specification in disguise or used in the evaluation process
  • not discriminate (directly or indirectly) against any potential tenderer
  • be able to demonstrate that value for money is maintained, and that whole life costs are taken into account
  • be proportionate and quantifiable
  • be referred to in the contract notice or tender documentation, and
  • be clear and unambiguous, and understood by tenderers and contractors.”


As pointed out in the first article, it would be helpful now for Treasury Solicitors to produce guidance for public officials on the operational steps to achieve local and equality benefits using public procurement.