The Conservative Councils Innovation Unit have produced a paper published by Localis on what we might learn from Mayor Bloomberg of New York, in terms of mitigating the recession. Often Councils are allocated bits of money from central Government which have to be spent on regeneration projects. My own view is that much the best regeneration project would be that offered by the Conservatives – the chance to offer lower business rates to attract new business and then to keep some of the extra revenue provided by those new businesses.
But we are where we are. So we should make an effort to get the best value for money from regeneration spending as possible. Bloomberg is very much focused on the "hand up not a hand out" school. For instance they will advise people on how to pay off their own debts rather than pay them off for people. "The best welfare programme is to get a job," says his Head of Community Affairs Lolita Jackson.
The paper also shows how projects are often in partnership with the private sector. Donations are raised via the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City. If people choose to donate to top up the funding it is an encouraging sign that it is good value for money. The emphasis is on practical help – such as websites offering job vacancies, a financial advice hotline, breakfast clubs in schools. On housing the emphasis is on buying up and restoring derelict empty properties rather than new building.