Annex: Notes from the Committee's visits |
Visit to Peterborough: 29 January
Members who attended the visit:
Dr John Pugh
|Dr Phyllis Starkey
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 fundingan
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 basedheld
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
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
Following this, two members of staff at the centre
then spoke about their respective rolesJulie 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
Jovita Zigonyte (Lithuanian)
Liliana Fonseca (Portuguese)
Petr Torak (Roma Czech)
Dan Cissokho (Peterborough African Community Organisation,
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
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 plannedor hopedto 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
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
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
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
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
Caroline Parsons, Head of Communications, Peterborough
Paul Phillipson, Northern Division Chief Superintendent,
Councillor John Peach, Leader of Peterborough City
Councillor John Holdich OBE, Cabinet member for Housing,
Regeneration and Economic Development, Peterborough City Council
Jawaid Khan, Cohesion Manager, Greater Peterborough
Maureen Phillips, Assistant Director Children's Services,
Peterborough City Council
Angela Bailey, Chief Executive, Peterborough Primary
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
Nicola Walsh, Human Resources, Ikea Distribution
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
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 workfor 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
Mr Greg Hands
|Dr John Pugh
Dr Phyllis Starkey
Meeting held at Burnley and Pendle Faith Centre
Mike Waite, Head of Community Engagement and Cohesion, Burnley
Naveed Ahmad, Community Cohesion Officer, Burnley Borough Council
Terry Murnane, Community Faith Coordinator, Lancashire County
Abdul Hamid Qureshi, Project Coordinator, Building Bridges in
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
Simon Cheyte, Detective Inspector, Hate Crime and Diversity Unit,
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
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
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
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
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:
|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
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
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'
Darren Rodwell, Reede Road Tenants and Residents
Graham Letchford, Becontree Tenants and Residents
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
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
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
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
Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive, Barking and Dagenham
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
Joshua Odongo, Director, Widows and Orphans International
Major Nigel Schultz, Chair, Faith Forum
Ken Jones, Head of Housing Strategy, Barking and
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
Two of the major challenges for the council were
tackling social exclusionparticularly of the white working
classand 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
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
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
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.