Select Committee on Communities and Local Government Committee Tenth Report

Annex: Notes from the Committee's visits

Visit to Peterborough: 29 January 2008

Members who attended the visit:
Jim Dobbin

Anne Main

Dr John Pugh

Dr Phyllis Starkey

Emily Thornberry

1. Visit to New Link

The Committee visited the New Link Centre in Peterborough which aims to create a new model for managing new arrivals in the UK. New Link delivers a range of services including information and advice, and employment support to new arrivals. The Centre works with the settled and migrant communities to promote cohesion. The New Link centre was established through Government funding—an Invest to Save bid of £2.2 million.

The Centre Manager, Suchitra Rampal, provided an introduction to the centre. Her presentation included an overview of the role and function of the service, an explanation of the different projects underway, and an outline of the centre's work with community groups.

Suchitra described the history of the centre and inward migration to Peterborough. Peterborough became an asylum dispersal area in 2001. She explained that the issues and challenges faced by the centre today differ considerably from those faced in 2001 owing to the changing profile of the migrants that staff now work with: today the centre primarily works with economic migrants rather than asylum seekers and refugees.

Suchitra outlined the range of countries that migrants living in Peterborough came from. She also explained that the centre works with the settled existing community to promote integration. For example, the Millfield and New England Regeneration Partnership (MANERP)—the local area where New Link is based—held some of its meetings at the centre.

In response to a question on where migrants moved on to after leaving Peterborough, Suchitra explained that they had no record of this and that it was difficult to track the movements of migrants.

In response to a question on the role of the English language in the integration of migrants, Suchitra stated that there were not enough ESOL classes. She stated that there were long waiting lists for classes and that the funding changes, which have resulted in classes no longer being free, were a major block to integration.

Following this, two members of staff at the centre then spoke about their respective roles—Julie Solley, Training Awareness Officer, and Kasia Chiva, Community Development Worker. The staff explained that a training programme is run for the host community to promote understanding about migrants, cultural awareness and 'myth busting'. The types of myths tackled include assumptions that Eastern Europeans do not have electricity or rubbish collection in their countries. Staff at the centre also see their role as listening to the concerns of local people and demonstrating that they are not ignored. Kasia described the role of the Polish Women's Association and stressed the importance of creating opportunities for people to come together to integrate, for example through community events, or volunteering in schools.

2. Meeting with representatives of migrant community groups


Jovita Zigonyte (Lithuanian)

Liliana Fonseca (Portuguese)

Petr Torak (Roma Czech)

Dan Cissokho (Peterborough African Community Organisation, Senegal/Nigeria)

Tariq Zandi (Iraqi)

Kasia Chiva (Polish)

Meeting participants introduced themselves and explained their reasons for coming to Peterborough. Dan explained that he came to Peterborough as an asylum seeker in 2002 and that as an asylum seeker you did not have any choice about where you moved to. He stated that in the past, before New Link was established, it was more difficult to integrate, as there was no support or information to assist migrants. He stressed the isolation that asylum seekers felt.

Lenka explained that she came to Peterborough eight years ago seeking work. She felt that in the past it was easier to integrate, as there were more job opportunities.

Tariq stated that he was treated badly by the system on arrival in the UK. He arrived in London and then moved to Liverpool, which was a designated dispersal area. He too stressed the isolation felt by asylum seekers upon arrival.

Liliana said that she first arrived in Peterborough in 1998 when it was much easier to find work, as there was less competition.

Petr argued that the tensions between migrants and the host community related to valid concerns about practical issues and not simply about race; concerns over litter and people not respecting the law, for example.

In response to questions about why economic migrants chose to come to live in Peterborough, participants explained that the area had many low-skilled jobs that do not require a high level of English, for example food packing and agricultural labour, and that the living costs were lower than in London. Whether migrants planned—or hoped—to return to their home countries differed and depended on the economic and political situation in the home country.

Participants stressed the importance of opportunities to meet people from other backgrounds, such as through community events, and the importance of speaking English. A particular concern was the ability of migrants' children to integrate and to progress at school: it was felt that more help needed to be given to such children, particularly in learning English. Two examples were given of migrants' own initiatives to tackle this problem.

3. Meeting with New Link staff

Fiona Baugh, the employment coordinator, provided an overview of her work in supporting migrants into employment. She explained that 95 per cent of her clients were from A8 countries, reflecting the number and types of migrants in the area, rather than deliberate design. Fiona stated that in her experience, there is often a gap between migrants' level of English and their skills, with some highly qualified migrants working in low-skilled factory jobs. She explained that there were also difficulties with equivalency in international qualifications.

The main types of employment for migrants were low-skilled packing and picking work; but many migrants have aspirations to move on to higher-skilled work in the long term. Staff at the centre try to match individuals' skills with the employment opportunities available and support them in moving into sustainable employment. As with many of the centre's services, there was quite a long waiting list for in-depth advice, although a walk-in service had been established for advice on immediate employment needs.

The Committee was told that employers were generally supportive of the efforts being made, since they needed the employees and appreciated that those employees needed the backup of suitable education and housing.

The Committee then met David Copeland, who outlined the work of the 'linking communities' project aimed at resolving neighbourhood disputes between migrants and members of the host community. He explained that a number of residents groups had formed in the local area solely because of concerns about inward migration. He explained that many of the tensions arose from practical issues such as waste, maintenance of properties, late-night parties, and issues related to the proliferation of the private rented sector.

David explained that in his view simply bringing people together does not solve any problems: rather, the underlying issues need to be dealt with first. The project had so far trained 14 people to act as community facilitators and had dealt with ten cases. Often disputes arose from misunderstandings or lack of information: for example migrants need to understand how the rubbish collection system works. He stressed the importance of early intervention in disputes. The project had a relatively high success rate in resolving disputes, but David explained that even where they were not successful, the local indigenous community at least felt that they had been listened to and their concerns heard.

David stressed the importance of mechanisms to manage the problems associated with the private rented sector. The high level of turnover amongst tenants created a wide range of problems, such as rubbish left outside the property. The local council is seeking to expand its licensing powers (selective licensing Housing Act 2004) but the application process is believed to be long and difficult. He stated that anything that could be done to expedite this process at the centre would be helpful.

Cohesion was an ongoing, long-term issue: if it was to be achieved, it was essential for problems such as these to be addressed. A major challenge in the future will be the increasing number of migrants entitled to social housing.

4. Meeting with local residents


Hema Patel, Chair of MANERP, Millfield and New England Regeneration Partnership

Christine Cunningham, Vice-Chair of the Greater Dogsthorpe Partnership (neighbourhood management)

Jenny Farnham, Orton Waterville parish councillor and Chair of Governors, Bushfield Community College

Madeleine Lillywhite, Hampton Parish Council Steering Group

Participants stated their views on inward migration to Peterborough. A number of problems were outlined as being a consequence of migration. These included: increased litter, fly-tipping, anti-social behaviour, drugs, prostitution, street drinking, road-traffic offences, benefit abuse, cars being sold illegally and pressures on public services, such as schools. It was recognised that these were not new problems, or ones associated solely with migrants, but the increase in the numbers of migrants had stretched the agencies dealing with them beyond their ability to cope. It was a struggle to get the local council to deal with the problems because of the lack of resources.

The problems brought by the increase in houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) were stressed. HMOs often contained increasingly large numbers of typically single males who came and went at all times of the day and night, had little to do with the rest of the local community and caused a great deal of disruption and nuisance. Participants stated that there had been a massive increase in the number of HMOs in recent years. It was felt that migrants who did not mix with the local population could be intimidating. Unscrupulous landlords were exploiting migrants but were also causing great distress to existing residents.

The lack of English spoken by migrants was viewed as a problem. One of the consequences of this is that teachers were viewed as struggling to cope, with 40 languages being spoken in some schools. One participant argued that migrants should be taught English in a Saturday school to help them integrate. One participant told the Committee that her school provided literacy classes to the parents of migrant children at the school, which was beneficial. However, the group felt that migrants should pay for English classes themselves and that the cost should not fall on the taxpayer.

There was a general view that there were too many migrants coming into the area and that it was the number of new arrivals that was the central issue of concern. The group recognised that some migrants were hardworking individuals but felt that there were also individuals who did not want to work. There was a feeling that there had been insufficient planning for the influx of migrants and that the local agencies had not been properly prepared for the numbers which had come.

5. Meeting with local stakeholders (held at Peterborough City Council Town Hall)


Gillian Beasley, Chief Executive, Peterborough City Council

Caroline Parsons, Head of Communications, Peterborough City Council

Paul Phillipson, Northern Division Chief Superintendent, Cambridgeshire Police

Councillor John Peach, Leader of Peterborough City Council

Councillor John Holdich OBE, Cabinet member for Housing, Regeneration and Economic Development, Peterborough City Council

Jawaid Khan, Cohesion Manager, Greater Peterborough Partnership

Maureen Phillips, Assistant Director Children's Services, Peterborough City Council

Angela Bailey, Chief Executive, Peterborough Primary Care Trust

Steve Compton, Acting Chief Executive, Opportunity Peterborough (Urban City Regeneration Company)

Adrian Chapman, Head of Strategic Growth and Development, Peterborough City Council

Andy Wheatcroft, Technical Resources Manager, Perkins Engines Ltd.

Nicola Walsh, Human Resources, Ikea Distribution Services Ltd.

The Chief Executive opened the meeting and welcomed the Committee to Peterborough. An overview of migration into Peterborough was given. Peterborough had experienced the largest share of migrants in the eastern region as it was a designated asylum dispersal area. The pressure on the area had been exacerbated by the combination of designation as a dispersal area with the influx of high numbers of A8 migrants. Participants felt that the Government significantly underestimates the number of migrants in the area, which affects local government funding.

One participant stated that a difficult consequence of unplanned inward migration is that it makes it difficult to plan for school numbers. The area had seen a number of planned school closures owing to the projected decline in the number of children, and yet had in actuality experienced an increase in migrant children. The increase in the number of children whose first language was not English was naturally a problem, although the Committee was assured that a great deal of work had been done to ensure that the resource devoted to helping such children was not being diverted from the children of the indigenous community.

An additional stated challenge of migration was viewed as the increase in children in care. Over one third of care proceedings dealt with migrant children. Often these cases have a high level of complexity necessitating additional resource, for example, travelling to other countries to complete a child's assessment.

Housing was viewed as a further area of pressure from inward migration. Many migrants lived in HMOs and the number of HMOs was increasing owing to demand. Inward migrants often not only did not have much money, but also had no accommodation history, which resulted in high demand for low quality accommodation and plenty of opportunity for exploitation by unscrupulous landlords.

As part of the 2004 Housing Act the council secured additional licensing powers to enforce HMOs. The council is now in the process of applying for selective licensing powers to tackle the problems associated with unscrupulous landlords; however the process was seen as long and difficult. The council had designated a full time employees to put together the case for selective licensing powers. It was argued that the Government should make it easier for local authorities to extend its licensing powers and that it should be mandatory for all private rented accommodation to be licensed.

Other problems associated with housing included the purchase by landlords of large numbers of houses which might otherwise be available to first-time buyers; and the pressure on council house waiting lists from increasing numbers of migrant workers who had been in the country long enough to gain eligibility. The upward pressure on house prices was also affecting eligibility for regeneration funding.

A discussion took place on the economic effects of migration. 8 per cent of the Peterborough workforce were migrants. This figure appears low as many migrants live in Peterborough's central wards and travel outside the area to work—for example to agricultural jobs in the Fens.

One firm explained that its growth was constrained by the low number of high-skilled workers in the local area. It perceived the increase in inward migration as an opportunity for the business to exploit their talents. It called on Government to develop a strategy to utilize the skills of migrant workers.

Another company stated that it had benefited from migration through the increase in supply of people willing to work regular shifts. However, the company acknowledged that it could improve the way it utilized the talents of its existing migrant staff and integrated the different cultures.

A participant highlighted that parts of the public sector, particularly the NHS and social care, benefited from migrant workers filling vacancies.

A discussion took place on the importance of the English language. One participant, commented that often migrant workers have limited English language skills and so enter the employment market at a lower level than would otherwise have been the case. It was stated that speaking English was critical to realising the skills of migrant workers and necessary for them to function effectively in British society.

Another participant echoed the views of the local residents who felt that, although Peterborough had a proud history of welcoming migrants over many generations, the present influx amounted to too many over too short a space of time. It was becoming too much for existing communities to deal with. A system was needed where those with skills needed for the economy were taken in, but not those for whom there were not jobs.

The police representative stated that increased inward migration had resulted in diversity in the types of crimes committed, although these crimes were by a small minority of the migrant community, in the same way that every community has a small criminal element. The types of crimes that had increased were the growing of cannabis, the trafficking of Eastern European women and girls, drink-driving and knife crime.

The police had responded to tackle these crimes. For example, PCSOs were being recruited from migrant communities and the police had increased their roadside checks of cars.

A further problem covered in the discussion was that of migrants who became destitute. This included failed asylum-seekers and migrant children leaving the care system. It was felt that there was little, if any, support for these groups, who then had to resort to crime or the black economy.

GP practices in the area were 50 per cent oversubscribed, largely owing to the influx of migrant workers. Pressure was also placed on health services from the relatively higher levels of smoking, heart disease, diabetes and infant mortality commonly found in migrant populations.

The Committee was told that there was a difficulty in capturing information about the numbers and characteristics of inward migrants. The fee for worker registration was a significant disincentive to registering. Localised systems of registration could help in providing information about migrants in the area and the help which could be provided as a result would be an incentive to individuals to register.

Visit to Burnley: 3 March 2008

Members who attended the visit:
Mr Clive Betts

Andrew George

Mr Greg Hands

Dr John Pugh

Dr Phyllis Starkey

Emily Thornberry

Meeting held at Burnley and Pendle Faith Centre


Mike Waite, Head of Community Engagement and Cohesion, Burnley Borough Council

Naveed Ahmad, Community Cohesion Officer, Burnley Borough Council

Terry Murnane, Community Faith Coordinator, Lancashire County Council

Abdul Hamid Qureshi, Project Coordinator, Building Bridges in Burnley

Sam Tedcastle, fieldworker for Mediation Northern Ireland

Terry Hephrun, Chief Officer, Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale Council for Voluntary Services

Abdul Rahim, Practitioner for Good Relations Programme

Shahida Akram, Partnership Development Manager, Lancashire Forum of Faiths

Simon Cheyte, Detective Inspector, Hate Crime and Diversity Unit, Lancashire Constabulary

Stuart Smith, Headteacher, Burnley Schools' Sixth Form

Angela Rawson, Principal Adviser, School Effectiveness Service, Lancashire County Council

The Burnley and Pendle Faith Centre was established in September 2006. The centre is funded by Lancashire County Council to provide a focus for the educational, personal and spiritual development of young people of all ages. The centre was described as comprising a central activities facility, a quiet room available for prayer and reflection and resources to deliver inspirational and integrated learning opportunities.

The centre and projects related to it take a broad view of faith, and cater for all people not just people from the main religions. The main religions in Burnley are Christian and Muslim. There are 40 churches and eight mosques in the local area.

The Committee was informed about the role and work of the centre. The centre is in constant use for a diverse range of activities. All Burnley schools, as well as some colleges and universities, make use of the centre and it is used by all sections of the community. Participants explained that community cohesion was enhanced through the centre's work by bringing people together in a 'safe space' to share experiences. It was stressed that the work of the centre was not about forced integration; rather, it was about providing opportunities for both young people and the wider community of different faiths (or no faith), race and culture, to come together, mix and learn about each other.

One participant stressed that the centre's activities had a pivotal role in promoting cohesion in the local area; but that they do not use the term community cohesion in advocating the centre's activities.

Many organised events take place during the year for people from different faiths (or no faith) to mix with each other. For example, at Ramadan the centre hosted a festival celebration attended by 70 people, 50 of whom were non-Muslims.

The Committee was informed about the work of the organisation 'Building Bridges' in initiating inter-faith programmes. Participants explained that in all their activities efforts are made to reach out to people who are not the 'usual suspects'. For example, Building Bridges had organised a series of talks on different issues in predominantly white neighbourhoods to provide an opportunity for Asian and white people to speak to each other.

A discussion took place on the importance of the English language in promoting understanding and community cohesion. Participants stated that speaking English was important. One participant explained that not understanding English was a particular issue for women who have come to Burnley from Asia through arranged marriages. Another participant said that many Asian women may understand English but often have a confidence issue about speaking it. There were many ESOL classes available in Burnley, but there had been occasional instances of low take-up; availability was not the only issue to be tackled.

It was explained that in secondary schools there was not a significant issue of students not speaking or understanding English. However, there is a small, contained, issue of Polish students in one school who need additional language support.

One participant explained that lack of understanding of the English language by parents can be a disadvantage to their children's education. If English is not the language spoken at home, parents are sometimes unable to understand their children's work or help them with their homework.

One participant stated that English language is not really a problem in Burnley. The disturbances that took place in 2001 were between Asian and white people who were born and brought up in the area, all of whom were native English speakers.

The effects of arranged marriages on community cohesion were discussed. Comments were made that it is difficult to estimate the number of arranged marriages but that within the local Asian community it was common for them to take place. This practice results in new migrants from Pakistan, and other countries, arriving whose cultural background is likely to be very different and whose English may not be very good. This presented a challenge for achieving community cohesion.

The police representative stated that forced marriages were an issue in the Lancashire area. His force was dealing with one new case per week of either forced marriages or domestic violence. All the cases the police were aware of were of girls being forced into marriages.

Racially motivated crime was an issue in Burnley. 250 hate crimes had been recorded in Burnley since April 2007. The crimes were racially motivated assaults on both white and Asian people, more or less equally divided between the two.

A project had been developed in the town to mediate between people who would not be prepared to meet each other. The project used DVDs to enable them to hear each others' views.

The Committee asked the group why Burnley appeared to have low levels of community cohesion in comparison to the national picture. One participant replied that there was a lot of good work taking place to build community cohesion but that individual projects on their own would not solve the problems.

Another attendee argued that despite all the good work taking place on community cohesion, social trends were working against it. Physical segregation in housing and schools remained an issue. Burnley had high levels of deprivation, which had a significant impact on relations, and could create jealousies over competition for resources.

Another participant commented that Burnley does not have the same level of diversity as in other cosmopolitan areas and is characterised as having 'Asian' communities and 'white' ones. One person suggested that Burnley had a 'small village mentality' where the physical isolation of the town had led to people having a closed-minded attitude.

The Committee was informed about the "Building Good Relations" project, which built on the Northern Ireland experience and was assisted by people who had been involved there. The project included some "civic diplomacy" activity which aimed to enable civic leaders both to consider what role they could play in addressing issues of community cohesion in their town and also to discuss the extent to which they themselves might be contributing to the problem. Similarly, discussion was promoted amongst the agencies working in the town both to develop understanding between communities and to consider how they themselves might be playing a role in creating or exacerbating tensions. A number of people had been trained in mediation through the project.

The Committee asked about the leadership shown by local elected councillors. Members were told that following the 2001 disturbances they had moved very quickly from denial that there was a problem in the town to a recognition that something had to be done.

Visit to Barking and Dagenham: 1 April 2008

Members who attended the visit:
Jim Dobbin

Anne Main

Mr Bill Olner

Dr Phyllis Starkey

1. Meeting with migrants


Andrejs Babins, Chair, Russian Speaking Group

Myrvette Panxhaj (Kosovan/Albanian)

Huyla Gelman (Turkish)

Zahra Ibrahim (Somalian, involved in a Somali Women's Association)

Tokunbo Durosinmi (Nigerian)

Following introductions, participants were invited to tell Committee members about their experiences and those of their communities in the borough.

One participant stated that the community cohesion strategy for the borough was very important, particularly to overcome the barriers to the integration of migrants. The main barriers to integration were seen to be the inability to communicate in English and lack of cultural understanding. Both of these issues affected migrants' ability to seek help and advice on matters affecting their lives such as housing or employment support. Difficulty in finding suitable housing was a particular problem for many migrants. The media was also seen to be a problem as many stories focused negatively on migrants, and did not reflect the positive contribution which they made.

Others stressed the importance of community groups and opportunities for different communities to meet and interact with each other. Outreach work was viewed as important, as was the need for migrant community groups to work with the host community and not just interact with other migrant groups. However, there was a lack of resources available to assist in the integration of migrants.

One attendee argued that written translation was important to help support migrant communities but that alone was not enough. She explained that through her work as an interpreter she was aware that a significant proportion of migrants, for example in the Turkish community, can not read or write. In addition to learning English people also needed to understand how things work in the UK. For example, benefit forms are very complex and people need assistance to complete the form, not just translation. Others also made the point that explanation was as important as translation.

Another attendee stated that there was a balance between the need for translation and the need to encourage migrants to learn English. If groups were too self-sufficient, they had less incentive to integrate.

Participants said that services were under pressure because of the rapid rate of inward migration into the borough. Many schools were oversubscribed.

One attendee noted that black and minority ethnic families tended to be larger than white families and consequently they needed larger properties. This was a source of tension and resentment with white residents owing to the shortage of larger family housing. She felt that local authority housing officers needed to understand and recognise the need for larger family homes to respond to the needs of the local black and ethnic minority population.

Another source of tension was seen to be the increase in people from inner London receiving priority for housing. Homeless people were being placed into the borough and perceived as living in social or private rented accommodation which would otherwise be available to locals. There was also an issue of perception relating to former council houses sold under right to buy. Many were now being rented privately, but local people simply saw new migrants entering what they think are council homes.

One participant said that the borough seemed to have no long-term plan to prepare and respond to the changing profile of people in the borough. Services needed to adapt to the different needs of the changing population. For example, there is a growing older black and minority ethnic population that has different needs. At the same time, the council needed to recognise that as long as there were ongoing problems in the country of origin, new arrivals would continue to come and there would be a continuing need to receive them into the borough.

Another participant stated that she had problems contacting council officers: how, she asked, could newly-arrived or even more longstanding members of her community be expected to get the help they needed if even she, who had spent a long time working with the council, could not get the answers she was looking for? Many gave up and simply didn't bother seeking help. It was also suggested that the council did not adequately support the work of voluntary organisations.

Minority ethnic groups were trying to mix and undertake activities with other communities, but were finding it difficult. They were tending to mix with other minority groups, but not with the majority. It was felt important to mix with the pre-existing community because, among other reasons, it would help to show that they were not being given special treatment, but were suffering from just the same or even worse problems than the existing community.

One attendee said that she had experienced racist remarks being made to her. She had lived in the borough for 19 years yet still was perceived by some white residents as being a refugee and newcomer.

It was generally agreed that migrants did make a contribution to the local economy, but they needed to be given further opportunities and assistance to do so. It was also generally agreed that local people faced very much the same issues and problems as migrants. It was suggested that the council needed further resources, and a long-term strategy, to promote "one borough".

2. Meeting with representatives of residents' associations


Darren Rodwell, Reede Road Tenants and Residents Association

Graham Letchford, Becontree Tenants and Residents Association

Peter Cleland, Valence Tenants and Residents Association

Mickey Lincoln, Tenants Federation, Scrattons Estate Tenants and Residents Association

Rita Giles, Ibscott and Wyhill Tenants and Residents Association

Dave Cross, Leaseholders Association

Participants explained that the areas of Barking and Dagenham are separate and distinct with different identities. Historically, Barking has had a significant black and minority ethnic population but Dagenham had not experienced diversity. The rapid rate of inward migration into the area had a real impact on Dagenham because of the scale of change.

One attendee argued that myths and rumours about migrants had fuelled the rise in the popularity of the British National Party within the local area. For example, one myth was that migrants had been offered £50,000 to move from inner-London boroughs to Barking and Dagenham. The attendee argued that it was a mistake for the council to discredit these myths without explaining why they were not true and the context. Myths needed to be countered through sensitive and detailed communication of the real picture. More than one participant suggested that they had tried to alert the council for some time to the growing tensions in the borough caused by inward migration, but that it had not listened.

One participant outlined her experiences of the pace of change in the borough. Over 30 years ago there were only a couple of black families living on her council housing estate. Today, two thirds of the housing estate residents were black. She explained that the white residents felt that the black residents were not mixing and that many did not speak English.

Another participant told the Committee that his association had difficulties in trying to get black and minority ethnic residents involved. The council was not providing sufficient support to residents' associations to help them with this and their community work. He also stated that the council was not providing any information to new residents about their local area and that this task was left to others, such as residents associations.

A number of participants voiced their concerns about the shortage of affordable housing in the borough and the pressures of migration on housing. One attendee was concerned about the effect of migration on the housing allocations system. He suggested that black and minority ethnic communities families tended to be larger than white families and therefore needed larger properties. white people felt resentful that they were being penalised for not having enough children to get allocated a council house. There were very long waiting lists for social housing, which increased tensions. Referring to the issue of the perception of migrants being allocated council housing which in fact was privately rented, he argued that this sort of explanation or "myth-busting" was no use when waiting lists were rising so steeply.

A number of attendees felt that many white people were moving out of the local area, to places such as Essex, because of the changing ethnic profile in the borough. People felt pushed out because they did not feel safe and no longer knew their neighbours. Black and minority ethnic long-standing residents were also unhappy about the pace of inward migration to the borough.

Participants stressed the damage caused by the loss of community infrastructure in the borough. Over the past 20 years the number of community centres and halls had declined. One participant referred to the decline in community infrastructure as "asset stripping". All participants agreed that the area was getting worse.

Migration was seen as contributing to the rise in house prices, particularly migration from people in inner-London boroughs. Other problems were migrants' inability to communicate in English, and information issues, such as not understanding when to put the rubbish bins outside.

Attendees argued that voluntary groups needed more support to promote cohesion. Support was needed to provide advice to groups, not just financial resources.

One participant argued that it was easier to get funding for specific identity groups than general groups, such as residents' associations. Residents' groups were seen to be disadvantaged by the funding rules, which was not helpful to their work in promoting community involvement.

One attendee argued that children needed to be provided with more opportunities to mix with people from different backgrounds through social activities.

Participants did not feel that the council provided a vision or adequate consultation on the regeneration strategy for the borough. A number of participants felt that the new house building, predominantly flats, would benefit people from outside the borough but not local young people.

There was general agreement that the pace of change, particularly of inward migration, was too quick.

3. Meeting with stakeholders


Cllr Charles Fairbrass, Leader, Barking and Dagenham Council

Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive, Barking and Dagenham Council

Anne Bristow, Director, Adult and Community Services, Barking and Dagenham Council

Roger Luxton, Director, Children's Services, Barking and Dagenham Council

Hilary Ayerst, Chief Executive, Barking and Dagenham Primary Care Trust

Tony Eastaugh, Borough Commander, Metropolitan Police

Ted Parker, Principal, Barking College

Sheila Delaney, Director, Racial Equality Council

John Wainaina, Chair, Ethnic Minority Partnership Agency

Joshua Odongo, Director, Widows and Orphans International

Major Nigel Schultz, Chair, Faith Forum

Ken Jones, Head of Housing Strategy, Barking and Dagenham Council

Alan Lazell, Head of Skills, Learning & Enterprise, Barking and Dagenham Council

Heather Wills, Head of Community Services Libraries and Heritage, Barking and Dagenham Council

Zulfikar Somji, Manager, McDonalds

The Committee was informed that the borough had experienced the fastest rate of change in its demography in the country. One of the major strategic issues for the council was providing services with insufficient funding from central government. The main cause of the funding shortage was deficiencies in the official population statistics, which inaccurately record Barking and Dagenham's population as declining, despite local evidence to the contrary. The system for recording statistics and informing funding decisions could not cope with the pace of change. The Committee was also told that the highly centralised finance system for local government meant that local people did not see the economic benefits of inward migration.

Two of the major challenges for the council were tackling social exclusion—particularly of the white working class—and delivering increased social and affordable housing to meet required need. The borough has one of the lowest skills levels in the country. The area also has an acute need for social housing, exacerbated by the right to buy policy under which 20,000 council properties had been sold. House prices had risen such that local people were unable to buy these homes when they were resold.

It was explained that the council had a long-term strategy to reduce social exclusion. In the short term the council was focusing on developing new community facilities, myth-busting on immigration issues and implementing a neighbourhood management approach. All of these actions would promote community cohesion.

One participant stated that the perception of local people was that the council did not listen to their views. This was partially a result of historical neglect; in recent years consultation had improved. Another participant stated that the council frequently consulted local residents.

One attendee put forward the view that regeneration should not be viewed as merely about the hard infrastructure but equally about the soft. He supported the neighbourhood approach which assisted in developing localised responses. He explained that often people's perceptions of what occurs do not match the reality. For example, there has been a reduction in crime in the borough yet people still perceive crime to be high.

Another participant pointed out that improvements and regeneration takes a long time, up to 10 years for any visible effects, so people do not see any immediate benefits from consultation that they have been involved in. There was a need to ensure tangible benefits to the local community. One attendee argued that there was an urgent need to increase the specialist support for black and minority ethnic communities who are facing difficulties and disadvantage.

One attendee stressed the importance of leadership in achieving regeneration in the borough as well as responding to the needs of local residents. For example, the council had a clear strategy to raise the skills levels in the borough; however, this was not a demand from local residents, but a result of local leadership.

Another attendee stated that trust needed to be built up over time between the council and residents. One of the best ways to achieve this was through a 'quick wins' approach on the seemingly small things that matter to local people. For example, if a group of residents want teenagers to stop hanging around their neighbourhood late at night playing basketball, a simple solution was to turn the lights off at 10 pm on the basketball pitch. If the council was seen to be taking action on these things, trust with the local community would be gained.

The Committee was informed that affordable housing was being built in the borough. 50 per cent of new properties were affordable, and half of these were properties with at least three bedrooms. The council was working on increasing the supply of larger properties and in future 35 per cent of social housing would be at least three-bedroom properties. The majority of the new social housing would go to local residents but some (40 per cent) would go to people from other London boroughs.

One of the housing problems was seen to be the negative impact of right to buy. Another was the problem of inner-London boroughs placing homeless people in private rented accommodation in Barking and Dagenham. A London-wide protocol had been developed that recommended that a maximum of 200 properties be used to house homeless people from other London boroughs, yet currently it is estimated that 700 properties in Barking and Dagenham are being used to house the homeless from other London boroughs.

One participant said that the new developments were placing pressures on community infrastructure and argued that there was a particular need for new places of worship. Some new places of worship were being developed but this was not viewed as being enough owing to the high demand for worship facilities from the growing black and minority ethnic population. He argued that the planning process should take into account the need for places of worship.

Participants noted that the Thames Gateway growth presented positive opportunities for the borough to regenerate.

The rate of rapid change was causing pressure on schools. The rate of change was also causing tensions over competition for social and affordable housing. Many white residents believed that black and minority ethnic families were getting priority access to social housing. However, the reality was that many black and minority families had bought ex-council properties (sold off as a consequence of the right to buy policy).

One attendee stated that the problem of inward migration was not just the volume but also the fractionalised nature of the different groups moving into the borough. It was difficult to respond effectively to the needs of so many diverse groups. For example, there were not enough resources to provide community space for every new group; therefore integration was needed. The council did a lot of work in myth-busting and developing community participation through its neighbourhood management approach.

In response to a question about the extent of community cohesion in the borough, it was suggested that yes, there was friction between communities, but there always would be. The most significant race issue at present was white-on-white crime between different nationalities and ethnic groups.

Following consultation the council had decided upon a definition of community cohesion which stressed fair and equal access to services as well as more traditional issues such as respect and communities coming together. People wanted to come together, but often did not know how. The council was working to support groups in developing their own capacity. People related to small-scale activity: it was hard to engage people at a strategic level. What was most successful was getting individuals or small groups of people to come together to address local issues.

In response to the question of what more Government could do to assist the council, the answer came back that it should "let go". Improvements would take place through local innovation. Resources should be granted without strings attached.

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Prepared 16 July 2008