£52m New Deal regeneration ends

Sorby House, Spital Hill
Sorby House, Spital Hill
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A REGENERATION programme which aimed to revitalise one of Sheffield’s most deprived suburbs officially ended yesterday - although most of the money had run out two years ago.

Burngreave New Deal for Communities was established in 2001 with a £52 million war chest to spend over 10 years.

It was aimed at tackling a host of social problems affecting the neighbourhood, which was blighted by crime, poverty and poor educational achievement.

Funding went into grants for local businesses, improvements for homes and buildings, youth work and support staff to help youngsters in schools.

Over its first few years the programme, overseen by a board of community members, was regarded as a success, ranked “excellent” by the Government.

But in 2007, The Star revealed a large amount of money was being spent on administration and sums were paying for community projects and outings, plus a high-specification mobile stage dubbed the ‘Bling Bus’.

This year, it emerged Sorby House - former DSS offices on Spital Hill given a £4.5 million makeover - were in danger of being closed and sold because too few businesses were locating there to cover costs.

The Government insisted all £4.5 million spent on the building would have to be returned if it was sold, so Sheffield Council - liable for the bill as BNDfC had run out of money - decided to step in and take it over.

Although New Deal officially ended yesterday, its trust remains in existence to look after Sorby House and Vestry Hall - another community building it owns - because the council agreement to take over its assets has not yet been completed. All other projects have ceased.

John Clark, executive director of Burngreave New Deal when controversy broke in 2007-8, stepped down and became chief executive of Aire Valley Homes.

Sheffield Council auditors criticised Mr Clark for recommending the appointment of Bill Husband as his interim deputy, on a salary equivalent to £110,000-a-year, even though he had been sacked 12 months previously for gross misconduct at a New Deal agency in London.

An investigation by Sheffield Council into the concerns over spending and appointments criticised poor management and governance of New Deal, and lack of supervision.

Jeremy Distin, of Burngreave New Deal for Communities, said: “Although the 10 years are now up, we are still operating and nothing will change until the transfer to the council is complete.”

Richard Caborn, former Sheffield Central Labour MP who negotiated for Sheffield to have one of 39 New Deal agencies created around the country, said: “I think it has been very successful.

“Mistakes have been made but it’s a transformed community. There has been a significant impact on health and community cohesion.”

Sheffield Council leader Coun Paul Scriven said: “It would be wrong to say that everything that has happened through Burngreave New Deal was negative. But it was poorly managed, came up with grand schemes which were poor value for money, and didn’t deliver as much as it could have.”