Headlines: February 18th, 2005

The Local Government Association wants councils to work harder at building stronger partnerships to improve community cohesion. Councils need to make definite links within their own communities to create neighbourhoods where people’s differences are valued and respected and where everyone feels they can belong. The council is the only body directly elected by local people to represent them and they have a duty to ensure that everyone in their locality feels respected and lives with a sense of responsibility and belonging.Councillor David Rogers OBE, the LGA’s Community Well-being Board chair, called on local councils to make definite links within their own communities to create neighbourhoods where people’s differences are valued and respected. Councils are uniquely placed to bring together the many organisations that contribute to life in local areas. “It is vital that they use their capacity as community leaders to make links with local businesses, partners and the voluntary sector to understand issues which are barriers to cohesive communities, and tackle them head on,” he said.

Councils have a range of options to explore when expanding their community cohesion work. They include working closely with the voluntary sector, which can often provide good links to groups in communities which are hard to reach, working with businesses and neighbouring authorities, and using Local Strategic Partnerships to influence the culture of others and agree formal local targets.

The LGA has recently produced a practical guide to help councils build on work already being done to tackle community cohesion issues. See http://www.publicnet.co.uk/publicnet/fabstrac.htm   It covers issues including working with black and ethnic minority and faith communities, older people, children and young people and all those who are disadvantaged. The guide also explores how community cohesion can be integrated into the delivery of all services, and offers advice on dealing with conflicts that arise.