Senior Lib dem calls for action on cohesion
Local government minister Andrew Stunell has warned last month's riots, and lingering support for the right-wing English Defence League, shows there are 'enduring problems of cohesion and integration in communities up and down the land'.
In an exclusive article for LocalGov's sister title, The MJ, on the eve of the Liberal Democrats' annual conference in Birmingham, Mr Stunell claims recent events have provided 'a severe jolt to any thought that social alienation was a thing of the past' in Britain.
He also warns that a failure to assist 'socially isolated' communities could lead to further civil disobedience.
The minister's warning could act as a wake-up call to those elements within Whitehall – and elsewhere - that have so far treated the riots across England largely as a law and order issue, and treated less seriously tensions still at the heart of some urban communities.
While ministers within the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) have quickly recognised the extent of the community cohesion challenge facing them over the next few years, other Whitehall departments have been slow to acknowledge what many experts believe are likely causes of the riots.
Prime minister David Cameron has been criticised in some quarters for handing an influential role in the post-riots analysis to welfare secretary Iain Duncan-Smith – while referring less to the vital cohesion remit held by the DCLG.
Mr Stunell's article makes clear the cohesion challenge. 'If we fail to tackle those problems we not only face more flash points, we will also be leaving another generation in those neighbourhoods completely stuck: socially isolated and economically unproductive,' he writes.
The minister – the most senior Lib Dem at DCLG - goes on to warn that a failure to tackle rising unemployment across communities that already experience high levels of poverty and deprivation could exacerbate matters.
'Where jobs are scarce, unemployment high, competition for housing and other resources fierce, then the resulting tensions tend to undermine cohesion and integration,' he writes.
The minister praises local authorities' 'truly outstanding' work in dealing with the aftermath of last month's riots. But linking wider cohesion policies to the need to tackle lingering support for groups such as the EDL , Mr Stunell also warns there can be no let up in the work of local cohesion teams attempting to deliver fair policies in areas of high immigration.
'Delivery has to be perceived to be fair; there will always be claims that incomers have been leap-frogged over local residents on housing lists, or that migrants have been left in hostels for years whilst long-term residents get the homes,'he warns.
Andrew Stunell's full article will appear in next week's edition of The MJ.
The most urgent requirement is that society needs to start valuing and supporting the family again. The family has taken a real battering over the last 20 yrs and its time to start understanding why it is so important. The family is the key component of a functional societyJ Smith, Added: Friday, 16 September 2011 04:30 PM
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