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CITIZENSHIP DEBATE IS KEY TO ACHIEVING COHESIVE COMMUNITIES

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Honest and inclusive debate on what it means to be a citizen in ...
Honest and inclusive debate on what it means to be a citizen in

Britain today is key in building genuine and long-lasting solutions

to help prevent the type of disturbances that Bradford, Burnley and

Oldham experienced last year, home office minister John Denham said

today.

Mr Denham was speaking at the LGA and home office Community Cohesion Conference, where he said that a meaningful debate on citizenship is crucial to achieving cohesive communities.

He proposed that the some of the defining values within which British

identity needs to be explored are:

- An unambiguous rejection of racism and racial and religious hatred;

- Recognition of the real benefits that immigration has brought in

the past, in terms of diversity and in the richness of our culture as

well as in terms of skills and labour, that we would be a much poorer

society without;

- A commitment to tackle poverty and deprivation in all communities.

And to do so in ways which make it clear and transparent that it is

our opposition to poverty - not a bias for or against different

communities , that drives our policy;

- Acknowledgement that our vision of a modern British identity must

identify both the rights and the responsibilities that go with

citizenship.

He also announced the membership of a community cohesion panel led by

Ted Cantle, author of the Cantle report into last summer's

disturbances. The panel will advise ministers and officials on the

development of community cohesion policy across government and

provide practical support and advice to local authorities and civic

leaders.

Mr Denham said:

'We need to build a society where we truly value diversity, where

there is real equality and where everyone understands their rights

and responsibilities.

'One thing is clear, a debate about modern citizenship is vital. And

I think it ought to take place in parameters similar to those I have

suggested. Not everyone will agree exactly with how I have defined

these issues, but I do think it is important to define the terms in

which the debate takes place.

'Without that open and inclusive debate tensions can result which

extremists are all too ready to exploit - we all want to avoid that.

That is why debate and communication at all levels is vital.

'While I acknowledge that progress has been made in some parts of the

country, a lot more remains to be done.

'I believe that all local authorities need to urgently address the

issue of community cohesion, including an assessment of their

policies and any changes necessary to help build effective community

cohesion.'

Mr Denham's full speech follows.

NOTES

1. The home office, LGA, DTLR and the Commission for

Racial Equality launched a consultation document today for local

authorities titled 'Draft Guidance on Community Cohesion'. The

consultation period finishes on 14 August. The guidance is available here .

2. The membership of the community cohesion panel was confirmed today

as:

Panel members: biographies

Ted Cantle is an associate Director of the Improvement and

Development Agency (IDeA) for Local Government. Until March 2001, he

was Chief Executive of Nottingham City Council and has previously

worked for Leicester City Council, Wakefield MDC and Manchester City

Council. Ted chaired the Independent Review Team on Community

Cohesion.

Darra Singh joined Luton BC as Chief Executive in May

2001. Prior to that, he was Regional Director (North) for the Audit

Commission Best Value Inspectorate Service. His career also includes

periods as Chief Executive of two London based housing associations,

a policy role for a housing unit for London Boroughs and work in the

voluntary sector. Darra served on the Independent Review Team on

Community Cohesion.

Lorna Beckford was a member of staff at British Telecom for 20 years.

She rose through the ranks by training and consulting on ethnic

minority and race relations issues within the corporation. Through

expertise in this area, Lorna was seconded to a number of

organisations including Race For Opportunity (a division of Business

in the Community). She was the founder of BT's Ethnic Minority

Network. Lorna left BT in January 2001. Currently Lorna is Chair of

the Thames Valley Probation Board, a Home Secretary appointee.

Cressida Dick is Director of the Diversity Directorate in the

Metropolitan Police, this role includes responsibility for the

implementation of the Recommendations of the Stephen Lawrence Enquiry

Report. Her police career began in London where she served as a

Constable, Sergeant and Inspector. She subsequently joined the Thames

Valley Police where she spent three years as the area Commander in

Oxford. Her policing interests include diversity, ethics, public

order, community policing and partnership working.

Raja Miah works as a youth officer for the Children's Society

pioneering work across different communities in Oldham. He runs

Peacemaker, an anti-racist youth development project, and is one of

the founders of a cross community mentoring project which encourages

mentoring relationships between young Asian men and young white men

in Oldham. He is a qualified youth worker who has worked in a range

of youth and community work settings in Oldham and Leeds.

In 1970, Dick Atkinson established the St Paul's Community Project in

Balsall Heath, and has also acted as senior advisor to Birmingham

LEA. Since the early 1990s he has been particularly involved with

issues surrounding urban renewal and the reform of local government,

and in 1992 set up the Balsall Heath Forum to lead regeneration of

the area through resident participation. Dick is an external member

of the SEU Policy Action Team on Neighbourhood Management, and is a

member of the Urban Sounding Board advising Government on community

involvement and urban renewal.

Rev Dr Alan Billings is the Director of the Centre for Ethics and

Religion in the Department of Religious Studies at Lancaster

University. (The Department has specialists in all the major world

faiths). He is also currently the vicar of St George in Kendal, and

was previously parish priest in an inner city (Sheffield). Alan was a

member of the Archbishop's Commission on Urban Priority Areas

following the 1983 riots, producing the report 'Faith in the City'.

He was also Head of Social Studies in an 11-18 years Comprehensive

School.

Rumman Ahmed is a community relations advisor with the Royal Borough

of Kensington & Chelsea. Rumman is heavily involved in a range of

Muslim and other mainstream organisations nationally, and was a

member of the Home Secretary's Race Relations Forum. His focus is

very much on 'what works', and he is very well respected within the

Muslim community. Rumman is author of 4 books and has written

articles in various journals

Kimiyo Rickett is Head of Cultural and Leisure Services at Stafford

Borough Council. She is a member of the Sport England Lottery Panel

and the Equity Sub Group of Council. She has also served on the

Racial Equality Advisory Group. Kimiyo has worked in local government

recreation posts in Waltham Forest, Lewisham and Glasgow and, in

1996, joined Slough Borough Council as Head of Leisure Policy before

taking up her current position in 1999. Kimiyo was involved in the

PAT 10 consultation and chaired a feedback workshop at the PAT 10

Implementation Conference.

Bob Abberley is Assistant General Secretary for Unison, Great

Britain's largest Public Service Trade Union. Mr Abberley spent most

of his Union career working in the health field and is a member of

the NHS Modernisation Board. He currently has overall responsibility

for Unison's equality work with a particular focus in the

implementation of the recommendations contained in the Macpherson

report into the death of Stephen Lawrence, together with the

amendments to the Race Relations Act. Bob served on the Independent

Review Team on Community Cohesion.

Baroness Uddin has been a senior social services officer and a local

government advisor. She is a Labour peer and former Deputy Leader of

the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. For the past four years she has

chaired the project People into Management Network, a mentoring

scheme providing placement opportunities with leading public figures

for ethnic minority women graduates. Baroness Uddin has served on the

European Select Committee in the Lords and currently is a member of

the Lord Chancellor's Inter Governmental Working Group on Domestic

Violence. Baroness Uddin served on the Independent Review Team on

Community Cohesion and chaired the Forced Marriage Group for the Home

Office.

Andrew Rowe retired in June 2001 after 18 years as a Conservative MP.

His interest in community organisation began in 1965 in Scotland. As

Director of Community Affairs for the Conservative Party (1975-79),

he worked to improve the mutual understanding of the party and ethnic

minorities. He served on the Committee which examined the education

of ethnic minority children. He has spent much of the last three

years helping to establish the UK Youth Parliament of which he is a

founder trustee. Andrew served on the Independent Review Team on

Community Cohesion.

Dr Haseena Lockhat is a Home Secretary appointee on the National

Probation Service (West Mercia Board). She works as a Child Clinical

Psychologist at the North Warwickshire NHS Trust and is involved at

local levels on issues affecting community and race relations in

Britain. More particularly, around minority ethnic womens' issues,

social and community cohesion.

John Denham speech to Community Cohesion conference

I'm delighted to be helping to launch the joint guidance on promoting community cohesion at local level. To acknowledge the work done by the LGA, CRE and Government officials. And the commitment of the local authorities who have come to this conference.

The Cantle report into last year's disturbance produced a whole series of recommendations. There are two that I want to spend most time on this morning.

- Firstly, the need for effective civic leadership at local level if we are to overcome fragmentation, misunderstandings and frictions and build genuinely cohesive communities. This is where your role as local authorities is so critical.

- Secondly the importance of an open debate at local and national level about the nature of the type of communities and the type of society that we are trying to create.

What is it?

What are the common values and common vision that can bring us together as a society - in a town or in a country?

And how do we ensure that common values can also embrace the diversity that must be a hallmark of our society.

Ted Cantle made the point that this can be a difficult discussion. For years, difficult issues have been avoided for fear of deepening misunderstanding, causing offence, saying the wrong thing.

But he also said it was essential.

There is a view that we shouldn't talk about issues that demonstrate tensions between and within communities, that this only gives sustenance to racists and far-right organisations who want to exploit these tensions.

I disagree. Not talking about difficult issues is far more likely to allow the malign and the vicious to exploit on a spurious claim of speaking up for ordinary people.

But let's make a dividing line very clear:

The racist right want to raise issues of race and identity in order to make race the defining issue of our society. With all the terrible consequences that we have seen in the past.

Democratic politicians want to deal with questions of race and identity for the opposite purpose: to ensure that race does not become a defining issue in political life; to ensure that the questions of work, high quality public services, environment, housing, family life - issues that bring people of all communities together - are the issues that dominate debate at local and national level.

So we need to debate what is to be an included citizen in a modern British society.

I don't want to foreclose that debate today.

I do want to suggest some of the parameters of the debate. Some of the defining values within which British identity needs to be defined.

- Firstly, the debate needs to be unambiguous in its rejection of racism and racial and religious hatred.

Again, some people say that we should take this for granted; we can't.

The repeated assertion of our opposition to racism is a pre-requisite to engaging all sections of our communities in the debate about values and identity. It is the assurance that discussion about specific issues is not a Trojan horse for a more sinister agenda; a code to send messages of comfort to those with racist views.

- Secondly we need to be clear about the real benefits that immigration has brought in the past, in terms of diversity and in the richness of our culture as well as in terms of skills and labour, that we would be a much poorer society without. And to recognise that, properly managed economic migration - as with work permits, Highly Skilled Migrants Programme (HSMP) and other routes on which we are consulting following the white paper - immigration can continue to provide opportunities for some of those who wish to come here, and to help meet the needs of the British economy and to contribute to British society.

We need to say this so that it is clear that the measures that must be taken - and which we are taking - to overhaul the asylum system and to tackle illegal immigration and people-trafficking are not some disguised attack on either immigration itself or those whose parents, grandparents or older generations came here as immigrants.

Indeed, sometimes you would get the impression that asylum and immigration were issues of exclusive concern to the white community in Britain. Many of us know that this is not the case. That the issues that can arise between stable communities and newcomers are issues that all stable and settled communities - of whatever ethic origin or culture may express concern about.

- Thirdly underpinning our drive for community cohesion must be our commitment to tackle poverty and deprivation in all communities. And to do so in ways which make it clear and transparent that it is our opposition to poverty - not a bias for or against different communities - that drives our policy.

And this is important. Not just for policy-makers; but for those who are involved as recipients and active community leaders in delivering local regeneration, housing, health or community projects so that they know why their area of community has been identified as being in need of support.

And we need to be clear that our drive against poverty and exclusion applies wherever it exists. That statistics about relative deprivation are a useful guide but not ones that should blind us to poor communities within a wider wealthy community.

- Fourthly our vision of a modern British identity must identity both the rights and the responsibilities that go with citizenship.

Rights to enjoy equality under the law. Responsibilities to respect and obey the law.

Rights to enjoy access to a decent education. Responsibility to support children throughout the education system.

Rights to participate in a democratic society. Responsibilities to ensure that all members of every community are able to do so fully in ways in which they choose.

Rights to religious freedom and tolerance. Respect for the values of those of different faiths or none.

Rights to live free from discrimination. Responsibilities not to discriminate on grounds of race, gender or sexual orientation.

Finally, we need to be careful about identifying the way some people from any community behave with the core values of that community.

I have some sympathy with the young Muslim woman - an engineer - who said on Five Live recently (I paraphrase) - if being British means going clubbing, taking illegal drugs, drinking too much and having promiscuous sex I'm not sure that's what I want. And most British people would say - that's not what being British is about. It is simply the way some British people behave. And, indeed, drug abuse, binge-drinking the consequences of unsafe sex would be regarded as important problems to be tackled.

If some parts of some communities are more inward-looking than is desirable for a cohesive society, then there is an issue to be addressed. But we should not assume that this is inherent to every part of a community, nor that there may not be reasons for being inward looking - whether of discrimination, language or aspirations - that need to be identified and tackled in their own right. Some communities need greater reassurance that they are welcomed in wider society before they will engage in wider debate.

I suggest those points are some of the parameters to the debate about a modern British citizenship. Not everyone will agree. Some people would change or challenge some of the points or want to add to them.

But I do think it is important to define the terms in which the debate takes place.

Controversial issues - like why some towns have effectively become segregated; the role of education; the balance between community identity and integration - are issues that we have to debate. They can be divisive or they can bring people together. Setting out common ground before we start is one way on ensuring the debate is productive.

I've started with these remarks because, to be a real debate, it has to take place in thousands of places, in hundreds of communities, right across the country.

Your role as local authority leaders in taking that debate forward will be crucial.

So how do we make it a reality?

- In some parts of the country, we are much closer to realising this vision than others. But in much of the country there is more that needs to be done to build diversity, to truly fight inequality and before people really understand their rights and responsibilities.

- Bradford, Oldham and Burnley are examples of where we need to do much much more. But we must face up to the fact that the same issues and tensions may be brewing in other parts of the country.

- And at a national level, I am far from convinced that the vision is a reality. We need to do this if we are to genuinely build a cohesive community.

- To do so will not be easy. We have made some progress in the last year. Ted Cantle's report, and those of Tony Clarke, David Ritchie and Herman Ouseley help us understand the problems. The key next step is to prove to people on the ground that we are all serious about tackling this problems. That we are taking real action to build community cohesion on the ground.

- I believe we need a greater sense of urgency than we have now. On my visits to local areas, I always ask young people whether they think it feels different in their locality. More often than not, they say 'not really'.

Central Government

- As a Government, we moved quickly to respond to last summer's disturbances:

- Making an extra£7 million pounds was made available to fund summer activities, with over 200,000 beneficiaries. We were able to run a smaller programme of activities for young persons at Easter time.

- I am pleased to be able to confirm today that we are planning a similar an extended programme of activities this year including additional activities in areas with high levels of street crime.

- We are funding a programme of community facilitation - working to bring together local people, and foster dialogue about local grievances or misunderstandings which threaten good community relations.

- We have been working with Bradford, Oldham and Burnley to provide Community Support Teams which will help to build the capacity of the local areas to address issues of community cohesion. I can confirm that we have agreed a first phase of funding for Bradford. For the future, we are considering extending the programme to other areas in need of support.

- Last week, my colleague Stephen Byers announced£25m for a Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder Scheme - targeting nine areas including East Lancashire and South Yorkshire. This will help to tackle the very real problems for communities blighted by derelict homes.

- The Home Office is working closely with the Police to ensure that the learning from last summer gets transmitted across the country.

- We have announced that community cohesion will be one of the Beacon Council themes for the coming year.

- And most importantly, today, we are publishing draft guidance for local authorities together with the LGA and the CRE.

- But there is more to do - we need to be sure that community cohesion is central to which we do as a Government.

- That is why I am setting up a Community Cohesion Panel - which advises Ministers across Whitehall on what more we should do. The panel is there to constructively challenge the way that we in Government think. It will also work to provide support and guidance to local areas.

- This Panel chaired by Ted Cantle, comprises people who have real life experience of how community cohesion issues impact on local communities. I am pleased to be able to tell you that membership of the panel has now been confirmed and is being announced today.

- I have also set up a new Community Cohesion Unit - to work across Government - to deliver the change that we need to make. It will work closely with local authorities, police and other agencies to support the process of change. It will help to spread best practice on community cohesion across the country. It will report to the Ministerial Group on Community Cohesion advising us where our policies need reform if we are to make a reality of community cohesion.

Local Government

- But the key drivers must be you at the local level. So where do you need to go from here?

- In practical terms, the Government believes that all local authorities need to urgently address the issue of community cohesion. An essential early step will be for you to conduct an assessment of where your areas are.

- Some of you will conclude that your existing policies and programmes are satisfactory, but I suspect many will not. You will need to revisit your policies and programmes to build effective community cohesion.

- In a small number of areas, the issues will be tougher and tensions deep-rooted. You will need to go further, developing a specific community cohesion action plan.

- The draft guidance, which Ted directed us this through morning, will provide a valuable tool to you - with practical actions which you can implement. We need to remember that the guidance is a draft - and we need your comments to improve it. In particular, we need examples of good practice to show how to deliver community cohesion on the ground.

Conclusion

- I do not pretend that community cohesion is easy. Or that any of us are experts.

- But it is essential. We need to build cohesive communities - which live up to the principles of celebrating diversity, achieving equality and trading our rights for our responsibilities.

- We in central Government recognise the enormity of the task. It is crucial that you in local Government do so too.

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