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£6M COMMUNITY COHESION PROJECT IS REAPING REWARDS, CLAIMS MACTAGGART

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The government's£6m community cohesion programme, set up in the wake of race riots in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham...
The government's £6m community cohesion programme, set up in the wake of race riots in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham, is delivering real rewards in terms of bringing communities together, Home Office minister Fiona Mactaggart has claimed.

Launching a review of the early stages of the programme, Ms Mactaggart said: 'Strong local leadership is the key to building strong, cohesive communities.'

Ms Mctaggart's optimism is not shared by everyone involved in the community cohesion project. The Home Office community cohesion unit has had trouble recruiting civil servants to lead it, and some argue cohesion has been sidelined rather than integrated into the department's wider work.

The programme set up 14 pathfinder partnerships between councils and the voluntary sector - funded by the Home Office and the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit - plus 14 unfunded shadow pathfinders.

The review says some of the pathfinders are working against a background of extremist political activity, where a minority of local politicians seek to exploit differences for electoral gain.

They have adopted a range of methods to establish long-term cross-party and cross-community support, including councillor training on community cohesion and appointing a cabinet member as a champion.

Ms Mactaggart commented: 'These results show that when we work in equal partnership, government, community organisations and local agencies can make real progress in bringing people together.'

Community cohesion pathfinder programme: the first six months is available from www.communitycohesion.gov.uk

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