Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Goodwill to All Men

Last Thursday morning I received an email from Redbridge Council containing the draft Community Cohesion Strategy that is now out for consultation. I parked it in my Bring Forward file but one thought struck me straight away. The key to community cohesion is communication. Now, Redbridge council did have a really good facility to allow members of the community to communicate with each other. It was a Forum on their website. But at the end of October they effectively shut it down by removing the ability of residents to create and discuss subjects of their own choice. Contributions from residents to the forum are now negligible. At the same time they introduced the “Ask my Neighbour” facility and some of the contributors migrated over to this. But on that same Thursday, in the evening, that facility was also effectively shut down. It was borough wide but is now limited to neighbours within a 1Km radius of your postcode, assuming you have provided one.

Is Redbridge Council serious about its desire for Community Cohesion or is it merely concerned with ticking boxes in order to obtain the resultant government funds?

Highlights:

To design services that foster the coming together of people of different ages and backgrounds.

Community cohesion is strongest where people have the opportunity and the capacity to participate in their community as they wish and on an equal basis with others.

Redbridge is a diverse place where people do generally get on well together. We have not experienced the serious tensions that have cause difficulties in other parts of the country. We do recognise, however, that there are pressures on cohesion created by population growth and the increasing ethnic and religious diversity of our communities.

Our Local Area Agreement (LAA) includes action areas requiring a commitment to community cohesion. Achieving our LAA targets will lead to governmental reward money. The LAA targets related to community cohesion are:
- People from different backgrounds getting on well together in their local area (NI 1)
- The number of people who engage in civic activities (NI 3)

The Equalities Act will place a new duty on Government Ministers, departments and key public bodies, including local authorities and NHS bodies, to consider what action they can take to reduce the socio-economic inequalities that people face. The duty will affect how public bodies make strategic decisions about spending and service delivery. It will enshrine in law the role of public bodies in narrowing gaps in outcomes resulting from socio-economic disadvantage.

Since the 2001 census, the population of Redbridge has grown rapidly, particularly in the south-east of the borough. The growth is similar to inner London growth and approximately double that of other outer London boroughs.

Our population has grown twice as fast as that of Outer London during the same period. Using 2001 as a base year, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) forecasts Redbridge’s population to grow by 11% and 16% by 2011 and 2016 respectively.

The borough is currently ranked as the 9th most diverse borough in the country. In 2001, more than 36% of the people in Redbridge came from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups compared to 29% for London. The 2006 ethnic estimates showed that BME groups accounted for 41% of the population in Redbridge. This is projected to rise to over 50% by 2012 and to almost 60% by 2026.

Young people in the borough are especially diverse, with 70% of primary and secondary school students coming from BME backgrounds. This number is also rapidly rising.

A significant number of migrant workers from Eastern European countries are living and/or working in Redbridge. It is difficult to estimate their population but National Insurance registrations indicate that there are over 1,000 Eastern European migrants entering the borough each year. The largest numbers come from the Republic of Lithuania.

Race and religiously aggravated crimes are relatively low in comparison to London and similar boroughs.

On average, the population of Redbridge is relatively prosperous with 73% of residents aged 16 to 74 being economically active. 7.2% of economically active people are unemployed. The Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claimant rate was 4.6% in August 2009, ranging from 2.1% to 6.1% at ward level. The JSA rates are higher in the south of the borough. Those in employment are well remunerated with a mean household income of £40,000 per annum. However, the mean household income is below £35,000 per annum in some wards.

The results show that in Redbridge 74% of respondents believe people get on well together. The area where most people agreed that people of different backgrounds get on well together was Area 1 (Snaresbrook and Wanstead) with 84%. The lowest percentages agreeing with this statement were in Area 3 (Fairlop, Fullwell, Hainault) with 65%.

Evidence from the research suggests that A10 [Accession states] migrants are unprepared to deal with the multiculturalism of London.

The influx of new migrants and the consequent competition for scare resources was identified as a potential source of tension. Another issue raised by the research was the level of tension between the well-established Black Minority Ethnic groups (BME) and new migrants from Eastern Europe.

To summarise. We are already doing quite well on this front; racial crime is quite low. That’s why people want to come and live here and why our population growth is twice as much as other comparable boroughs. But that is also our Achilles heel. And a tricky problem for the politicians because the tension appears to be between the established ethnic groups and new migrants.

9 comments:

  1. Indeed, Indeed - Community Cohesion "refers to the aspect of togetherness and bonding exhibited by members of a community."

    This is merely a suggestion, an idea, a possible glint of light on the horizon, or even at the end of the tunnel; but how about a creating a Community Forum, which gives the Redbridge community a true online "Forum" again?

    If enough people get involved with keeping it up to date, and we get a large enough volume of community forum users, I think it might be a success.

    As an example I have been tinkering with the idea on a rough draft. Here's the link address:

    Redbridge Community Forums

    Anyway I think we need some way of doing what a forum is meant to do for the Redbridge community.

    Mark

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  2. Quote from above:
    [On average, the population of Redbridge is relatively prosperous with 73% of residents aged 16 to 74 being economically active. 7.2% of economically active people are unemployed.]
    What is economically active?
    Does it mean go to the shop and buy groceries? Or pay utility bills?
    This is a weird statistical method!
    Why exclude people over 74?
    annesevant

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  3. Sorry, Mark. I've only just published your comment - blogger's email got stuck in my spam filter so I didn't know it was there.

    Yes good idea. let's give it a bash after Christmas.

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  4. Ho probs B21, wondered what happened!. See you later!

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  5. Nick Hayes (Fullwell Ward)3:23 pm, December 18, 2009

    Ann - re those over 74 (and without commenting on the merit of the way the figures have been calculated), I suspect the answer is that 'economically active' is taken to mean something along the lines of those who are employed, actively seeking employment or in business on their own account.

    My guess is that the statistic to which you refer is trying to measure is the proportion of the population which is economically active (as defined) out of those who either might be expected to be economically active (as defined) or who although past retirement age might have to or might want to continue in business or employment to some extent. If so, 74 has probably been picked as a cut off point on the assumption that the overwhelming majority of people aged 74 or over will be fully and finally retired.

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  6. You don't seriously think that Redbridge Council wants to hear from its residents, do you? They are in fear of us, they try to run away and hide from us.

    That is the truth about Redbridge Council (of whatever political persuasion it might be); they just don't want to get found out...

    Which then prompts the question: what have they got to hide?

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  7. Cynical as ever, Ray.
    I have to say that I do find the new Leader's open style quite refreshing.
    Perhaps too early to make a definitive judgement, but nevertheless, promising.

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  8. Many thanks to our cllrs who take notice and answer our queries.
    I understand that judgments have to be made and I think that 74 is as good a guess as possible. Not that many over 74 will want or need to be economically active!
    And, if in the borough 73% of people between 16 and 74 are economically active in that way: that's a lot.
    annesevant

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