Cohesion ‘not just about race issues’

Confusion about what community cohesion involves is leading to the
wrong assumption that it is solely about race relations, according
to the government’s community cohesion unit.

Unit official Alan Smith told a workshop that it was clear that
councils did not realise that community cohesion was about the
dynamics of all groups. He said: “The one word that sums up
community cohesion is confusion. There’s an assumption that it is
essentially about the race agenda. It is not. Community cohesion is
a broad agenda about the problems facing all people.

“In the past 18 months wherever I have gone people say it is about
race. But it is about avoiding fractures in communities and
tackling whatever causes that fracturing.”

He added: “Government officials in Whitehall have the best
intentions but they tend to forget that people who live in the 88
most deprived areas, and other poor areas, do so 24/7. It is they
that have to put up with rabble-rousers. They often have the
answers to the problems in their neighbourhoods, which is something
not understood by Whitehall.”

Guidance on community cohesion, which was launched by the Home
Office and Local Government Association at the end of last year,
was developed after the disturbances in Bradford, Burnley and
Oldham in summer 2001.

But delegate Duggs Carre, voluntary sector development officer at
Kirklees Council, said there was confusion at officer level. “We
are told that the [community facilitation fund] is anti-riot money
but we are not allowed to call it that.”

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