Aggregate spend in Belfast is probably higher than any other UK city

Haven’t got time to unpack this properly, but I think this is important insight from Mike Morrissey on why despite very high funding levels tackling poverty in Northern Ireland is simply not working

Mainstream service spending per head in Northern Ireland is about 20 per cent greater than the UK  while the region has also benefited from special funding from Europe and the US, a significant chunk of which has been targeted at communities in Belfast. The aggregate spend per head is probably higher than any other UK city.

Accordingly, one would expect outcomes of active citizen and community solidarity, the principle components of social capital. Even allowing for the impact of Northern Ireland’s sovereignty contest, the dramatic patterns of residential segregation and intercommunity rivalry, the achievements of this infrastructure have been less than impressive.

Regarding deprivation, the same set of Belfast wards (40% of the total) have appeared with depressing regularity in the most deprived decile since regional multiple deprivation measures were first constructed in 1994.  These wards have been dramatically more segregated than the city as a whole  and, with just six percent of the regional population, account for nearly a quarter of all those, with a Northern Ireland address, killed by political violence.  Understandably, they have been the primary target of all urban programmes but their prominence in poverty and deprivation rankings remains unsurpassed.

Moreover, overlapping, frequently competing, local structures lead to competition for urban resources that is not easily mapped by the city’s sectarian geographies – contests are within, as well as between, communities. This geography of very small spaces (typically with community leaders who have been around for a very long time) makes it difficult to achieve ‘critical mass’ for any development momentum.

Moreover, one mapping of local social capital found an inverse relationship between bonding and bridging social capital – in-group solidarity, out-group hostility.  Research on local governance in the city has pointed to disjointed, even contradictory, decision making.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty