A good council has always seen itself as being at the forefront of creating and maintaining good community relations.
In the past this often predominantly took the form of acknowledging and supporting the fact that we lived in a multicultural society.
In the aftermath of the 2001 Oldham riots, 9/11 and 7/7 councils’ approach to the issue moved on. The perception was that previous notion of promoting difference was leading to a fragmented society which could give rise to simmering resentments and a lack of understanding of common purpose. In the most extreme examples this division could allow extremist ideology to flourish.
Far better instead to acknowledge our society is composed of people with different beliefs and viewpoints but to emphasise the fact that we all need to work together for a common purpose.
Recent events suggest some councils have still not got it right. Birmingham City Council failed to tackle a group of individuals intent on instilling their extreme religious views in supposedly non-denominational schools.
Professor Alexis Jay’s report into the abuse scandal at Rotherham MBC meanwhile tells how a climate developed in which officers refused to acknowledge the ethnic make-up of the majority of abusers. An opportunity was missed to work with the Pakistani-heritage community to tackle the problem.
As Lewisham LBC chief executive Barry Quirk and the author of the report into the Oldham riots Ted Cantle set out, all too often the claims of individual groups have dominated over the wider public good. This situation cannot carry on.