The latest and presumably last programmatic review of the HMR Pathfinder programme by the Audit Commisison it presents a surprisingly positive picture for a programme that has been so widely criticised.
However, whilst offering a useful overview of the programme, some of the figures presented are of little value because they include no comparators (eg against "all-of-England" or "region-as-a-whole"), making it mpossible to judge the relative effectiveness of otherwise of the Programme on the measures selected. This is most striking in the case of the house price tables, given the "Housing Market" in the title of the overall programme. This seems an unusual deficiency in a publication from the Audit Commission and invites suspicions that it has been less than neutral about the Programme. Similarly the report hightlights many examples of good practice - undoubtedly useful for future regeneration programmes - but does not highlight examples of bad practice the way that an Audit Commission Inspection report into a local authority might have done.
Another gap in the analysis - astonishing in he context of Audit Commission's normal approach as experienced by local authorities - is any reference to the satisfaction or otherwise of the people in the communities affected. Human beings seem to have sunk without trace under the weight of statistics.
Given the sometimes ferocious politics around the demolition aspect of the Programme the report's positive comment, in a case study on job creation, that "In Birmingham and Sandwell, HMR activity was used to develop Britain’s first apprenticeship in demolition" might raise a wry smile amongst those not directly affected.