The Government's community participation programme is being "dictated and dominated" by bureaucrats rather than local residents, new research claims.
A survey of community volunteers by the Quest Trust uncovered a strong belief that local authorities were still "controlling the agenda" in Local Strategic Partnerships, the forums in which representatives of the private, public, voluntary and community sectors work together to regenerate deprived areas.
The survey, which involved eight hour-long telephone conferences each with up to 10 residents' representatives on LSPs, also found that service providers such as the police and health trusts were not keen on giving communities a say.
"Services may be hitting the targets of the service deliverers but not necessarily those of the community," the report states.
It also found community groups were suffering from "participation meltdown" because of the number of government initiatives and that there was a lack of support mechanisms to help unpaid representaives sustain their involvement.
Ben Hughes, chief executive of community sector umbrella body Bassac, said community groups often find it difficult to secure representation.
"The big local community interests are often not present on LSPs because they are not able to access them," he said.
A spokesman for the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit said the points raised in the survey were in line with Government priorities and would help the unit address them in a challenging way.