When I was requested to attend the Cabinet meeting in Birmingham a short while ago, I was invited to put a question forward to Hazel Blears at the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG). For me, the question had to be about the PVE programme:
Given that the PVE Pathfinder programme in Birmingham primarily funds Muslim groups and organisations to address perceived issues and challenges within Muslim communities, to what extent do you think that this deepens the divides that already exist between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities across the city paying particular reference to the fact that the British National Party (BNP) attracted a greater percentage of the vote at this year’s local authority elections in Birmingham than it did in London where it won its first seat on the London Assembly?
Below is the response that I have received from the CLG:
Dear Dr Allen,
Thank you for your recent email to the Downing Street website. Your message has been sent to me in Communities and Local Government with apologies for the delay in replying.
The threat from terrorism and violent extremism remains perhaps the greatest threat facing the UK.
Our overall aim as a department is to create strong, prosperous and empowered communities which are positive environments of which we can be proud, and where people want to live, work and raise a family. To achieve this vision, we need to create an environment where every person can realise their full potential and feel that belong. Everyone, regardless of background, has the right to similar life opportunities and to freedom and respect. Our aim is to create communities where people know and act on their rights and responsibilities and where people trust one another and local institutions to act fairly.
Communities and Local Government’s role in preventing violent extremism is to put real power in the hands of local people – enabling a community-based and community-led campaign. Local authorities play a key role in this by supporting grassroots organisations to deliver local solutions for local challenges.
As part of this response, we need to ensure we foster community cohesion: building strong and positive relationships between people of different backgrounds, a sense of belonging and a shared vision for the future. Furthermore, strong, organised and empowered communities are better equipped to effectively reject the ideology of violent extremism, to confront and isolate apologists for terrorism, to channel legitimate grievances through democratic means and to provide support to vulnerable individuals.
Despite this, we have seen that violent extremism can emerge from even the most cohesive and empowered communities. It is clear that we need a specific response to this challenge.
It is, however, important to see these agendas as mutually supportive rather than contradictory. Our recent publication ‘Preventing Violent Extremism: Next Steps for Communities’ sets out the importance of a ‘whole community’ approach to Preventing Violent Extremism – engaging all communities as we seek to strengthen the resilience of those communities who are most at risk from violent extremism. As a Government we are clear that all forms of extremism should be challenged, and we are taking action on this front – including work to tackle extreme right wing groups.
I hope this addresses your concerns.
Local Partnership Support Officer
Preventing Extremism Division
Communities and Local Government
Zone 6/J10, Eland House
London SW1E 5DU
Tel: 020 7944 4993