Headlines: October 8th, 2007

The Government is giving extra money to local authorities as part of a plan to reduce community tensions and to promote cohesion. Fifty million pounds over the next three years will be available to authorities to use to tackle their own specific challenges.

The funding is included in a ten-point action plan produced in response to the 10-month review by the Commission on Integration and Cohesion, which identified the challenges involved in responding to changes in local communities. The Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, anticipates that the money might be spent on activities such as youth projects, involving young people in community activities through volunteering, mentoring or becoming neighbourhood wardens, twinning programmes for schools or places of worship, pride in the community campaigns and conflict resolution. Some councils are likely to concentrate on working with new migrants and others will work with people from different backgrounds to promote interaction between them.

The proposals were set out by Hazel Blears in a letter to the chair of the Commission, Darra Singh, who is Chief Executive of Ealing council. Other steps include the promotion of new ‘Citizen Days’ following four successful pilots, information packs for new migrants and the creation of specialist integration and cohesion teams to support local councils in managing any major changes in their local populations.

Local councils will be helped to focus on what works in their own areas by new national indicators on promoting cohesion. These will demonstrate how cohesion is happening in different parts of the country. They will also place a new responsibility on councils to create opportunities for people from different backgrounds to mix and develop a sense of belonging.

There will also be a rebalancing of local translation provision with a greater emphasis on learning English and authorities will get new cohesion funding guidance, stressing that funding for public bodies should focus on groups promoting integration and to support the
bringing together of different communities