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Editor's leader

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LGC editor Karen Day on why the war on extremism must start at home.

Violent extremism and the fear of it is one of the most divisive forces within communities today.

The threat of what can develop in closed communities has disrupted neighbourhood relations and exposed deep divisions among many populations. For local authorities, building a shared neighbourhood identity and engaging with hard-to-reach groups is one of the most pressing and diffi cult priorities.

Violent extremism has revealed the limit of the governmentÍs influence. For this is a very local, grassroots problem requiring community action, honest engagement and leadership from local government.

In fairness, Whitehall's typical response of setting out an action plan and attempting to codify a complex and highly emotive problem did come with money for 70 authorities. But that's where its control of the type of messages sent to communities should end.

As we reveal this week, there is a quiet but vital tussle going on between Whitehall and councils with large Muslim populations.

The government is putting pressure on these authorities to adopt its 'build resilience to violent extremism' target as one of their 35 in local area agreements. Publicly the government has maintained that LAAs should be unique to their communities, so it goes without saying this contravenes that. It also highlights concerns that LAAs won't work if they are locked into responding to issues in a way the government sees fit.

LAAs have been hailed as the first step towards devolution, so if councils are warning that the government's response to violent extremism isn't the right one for their areas, then ministers should listen. Councils don't want their Muslim populations isolated or targeted, nor do they want to draw attention to something that may only serve to disrupt community cohesion further.

If the government is true to its pledge of letting go, it needs to trust local authorities to know their communities and come up with local solutions to very grass-roots problems.

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