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Blears puts councils at heart of cohesion strategy

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Councils should monitor extremist “hot spots” and intervene at an early stage to defuse community conflicts, according to government guidance.

Under the guidance , published today by communities secretary Hazel Blears, councils are being encouraged to monitor tensions by ramping up their mapping of communities and the people living there.

Councils must keep 'watchful eye'

Ms Blears wants councils to make better use of local data - including feedback from police, neighbourhood wardens and community workers. She also wants to see a heightened response from councils to bring together key players, including community and faith groups, to keep a “watchful eye” on tension levels.

The guidance also says councils should also counter rumours and scaremongering by setting out facts and work with local media to ensure balanced local reporting of issues that do not “exacerbate tensions”, says the guidance. Local authorities have also been told to be aware that global issues can threaten local cohesion.

Ms Blears said: “The overwhelming majority of people in this country live successfully side by side, but we cannot take this for granted.

"Challenges to cohesion do exist - this might be between different ethnic or faith groups or new migrants and longer term residents - but things can be done to address problems at the earliest opportunity and stop things escalating.”

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