City calls for public's views on community cohesion strategy

Cllr Tristan Chatfield, Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Community Safety and Equalities, looks at the work being done across Birmingham to improve cohesion in our ‘super diverse’ city.

Birmingham has been used as a punchbag on issues around cohesion for as long as I have been involved in local government.  The Trojan Horse scandal, OFSTED, the Henry Jackson Society and the Dame Louise Casey report have all been used to illustrate and highlight wider concerns regarding integration in the UK.

Birmingham has been presented as a battleground between two competing ideals, liberal democracy versus religious theocracy.  This analysis is grossly simplistic and fails to recognise the complexity of Birmingham.  It also neglects the many examples of good work being carried out around cohesion every day in our second city.  

In order to rectify this imbalance the city council, working with its partners, has developed a cohesion strategy green paper. This document not only sets out our approach to cohesion but also provides examples of the work already going on across the city.

Our approach is to recognise that whilst diversity is broadly positive and has brought many benefits to the city, it also presents challenges. These challenges are sometimes based on ethnicity or religion but often they are simply a result of the rapid population churn that has resulted from internal, as well as international, migration. Communities that are constantly changing struggle to build the kind of social capital and connections that mitigate against challenges when they do occur.

Poverty and economic exclusion remain as a great barrier to developing the kind of inclusive city we all want to see. We cannot rely on national government policy to address these problems alone, it is essential therefore that Birmingham sets out a clear set of principles when it comes to cohesion. Principles, such as gender equality, for every citizen regardless of their background or where they are growing up.

There are some areas in which Birmingham can rightfully claim that it is being more radical and forward thinking than most other parts of the UK.  On health and wellbeing we have put cohesion at the heart of our efforts to build a healthier city.  Our Prevent programme has engaged directly with very difficult issues and worked with community partners to develop an approach to preventing extremism using safeguarding as its core value. 

Birmingham is a booming city that is experiencing rapid change. It is therefore vital that we continually observe, discuss and seek best practice in the field of cohesion. Cohesion must become a mainstream part of our work and must be shared by citizens, employers, statutory agencies, faith organisations, third sector partners and community organisations.

I am determined that Birmingham sets out its stall with regard to cohesion but more importantly we engage with our citizens on a sustained basis, rather than waiting for problems to flare up.

From today (Monday 9 July) people will be able to have their say on the community cohesion strategy on the Birmingham Be Heard website, until 31 August 2018:


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