Councillors have criticised the Casey Review’s strong focus on problems in Muslim communities and called for an approach to promoting cohesion which includes wider society.
The report published yesterday highlighted people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnicity living in segregated and deprived communities in some parts of the country, with women and children in particular left vulnerable by “regressive religious and cultural ideologies”.
Dame Louise said such problems had been “swept under the carpet” by public bodies, including councils, due to cultural sensitivities.
Greenwich RBC councillor Mehboob Khan (Lab), a former leader of Kirklees Metropolitan Council, said issues around cohesion had become “hardened” in recent times and said the report was helpful in highlighting issues for public debate.
But he added: “[The report] is unhelpful because much of the report is focused on the British Muslim community.
“It is not the only community in the country in which people could be isolated and living parallel lives.
“There could be a backlash in a community that feels aggrieved and singled out.”
Cllr Khan added that there was a need for a “full and frank” debate about wider determinants of poverty and isolation which effect some communities more than others.
But he added falling council budgets have had a “big impact” on non-statutory responsibilities such as promoting community cohesion.
Cllr Khan said: “It is unfair to single out northern towns as having particular problems when they are facing such economic decline.”
Blackburn with Darwen BC leader Mohammed Khan (Lab) agreed that the focus on the Muslim community in the report had been unhelpful.
He said this had led to some members of the community telling him the report was “the same old story” which blamed Muslims for society’s problems.
Cllr Khan added: “Deprivation is an important issue as parts of the community do not have a proper job and are very much behind in every field.
“The whole community needs to work together – not just part of it.”
Cllr Khan said there should also be a discussion about attitudes within some members of the white community.
He added: “Integration is a two-way thing. There are Asian families that have done well and moved into mostly white areas and unfortunately some families have started to move out.”
Leader of Bradford City MDC Susan Hinchcliffe (Lab) described the Casey Review as “an interesting contribution” to the cohesion debate.
She added: “In this large city there can be are underlying tensions between some members of different communities particularly in a climate of austerity where they perceive themselves to be competing for scarce resources, services or opportunities.”
Cllr Hinchcliffe said some people spoke poor English which limited their ability to integrate and some neighbourhoods were “mono-cultural” with poor quality housing.
“We don’t turn a blind eye or consign these issues to the “too hard” box,” she added.
In her report Dame Louise Casey highlighted that Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups lived disproportionately in deprived areas of England and sai there was a link between minority groups that experienced high levels of residential and school segregation and socio-economic disadvantage. She recommended that the government support a new programme to improve employment for marginalised groups, increase participation of women in the labour market and increase IT literacy in segregated areas.
Ted Cantle, director, iCoCo Foundation, led a government review into the causes of disturbances in a number of northern towns and cities in 2001.
He said while it was important to tackle deprivation, issues around social cohesion had “different drivers”
Mr Cantle added: “Many on the left say all you have to do is tackle inequality and everything will be rosy.
“It is clear that strategy has not worked. There are cultural factors that have divided people as well and we have to tackle the prejudice that divides different communities from each other.”
He added that he believed Dame Louise may had hoped to go further on the role of faith schools in promoting division, but said government’s focus on attainment and parental choice would have made this ”very tricky”.
Mr Cantle said: “We have seen the growth of schools, particularly amongst minority faiths, which mean children are being virtually segregated at birth and they are being segregated as a result of government policy which is just absurd.”