Community groups break with government over cohesion strategy

A leading regeneration organisation has criticised government
guidance on community cohesion for councils, describing it as a
“knee-jerk” response to last summer’s riots.

Urban Forum, a national umbrella body for community and
voluntary sector groups, has also predicted that the document,
which was launched in London last week, will be ineffective in
helping tackle segregation in communities.

Rupa Sarker, local strategic partnership project officer at the
forum, said: “It is a very reactive document, which has highlighted
visible groups such as ‘black’ and
‘minority’ and ‘young people’. All other
groups are sidelined by virtue of their absence. It is very

The guidance, whose authors include the Home Office, the Local
Government Association and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister,
was created after reports into the riots in Oldham, Bradford and
Burnley recommended that councils needed to examine how their
policies contributed to problems.

But its aim was to offer guidance to help councils consider the
impact of their policies on all groups within the community, with
help from the voluntary and community sector.

Sarker said that voluntary sector groups had not been properly
consulted, adding that the purpose of local strategic partnerships
– which are meant to be a partnership between the voluntary sector
and local authority – had been redefined within the guidance as a
council-led body. This would cause problems for the voluntary

“It is to be expected in a way because this guidance is written
from a local authority perspective. But it really should not have
been allowed to slip through, especially as the neighbourhood
renewal unit is in the ODPM.”

Think tank Race on the Agenda has also criticised the 50-page
document. Annie Keys, regeneration and social exclusion officer,
said: “This guidance is simply not sophisticated enough. It offers
nothing new.”

She added that there would be no “buy-in from grass-roots
groups” because they had not been included in the consultation or
attended the launch event.

Peter Smith, senior project officer at the LGA, said that
voluntary sector groups had not been invited to the event because
the guidance was for councils.

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