Labour leaders at Luton Council have been criticised for failing to commission projects aimed at reducing extremism.
Luton has found itself centre stage nationally as a result of actions designed to divide communities and bring about bad feelings between neighbours, as those with political and divisive agendas of all types have used the town as a focal point to spread their hatred.
The potential for some of the extremist messages pushed by a minority of unrepresentative protestors at the recent Royal Anglian Parade – described by Luton Council of Mosques as “hotheads” – has long been recognised at all levels, from the Government down.
Counter-protests, legal and otherwise, followed, with the actions of a few leapt on by others with intolerant agendas. A Luton Mosque had its library torched. The weekend saw an illegal march, with over 200 trouble-makers from far and wide holding an unauthorised demonstration – some of whom split off to inflict criminal damage and violence on people.
Now, the Council has admitted failing to spend £166,000 of “Prevent” money last year – which funds community initiatives to educate communities and reduce tensions, directly engage those young people most at risk of getting involved in extremism, and promote good relations. The figure appears in a report to the Council’s Executive on 1st June.
Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Pantling comments:
“We are at one with the Labour administration on the need to maintain good community relations in Luton, and ensure the vast majority of sensible, law abiding citizens of all faiths and backgrounds can go about their daily business in peace.”
“But it will concern people that a large part of the money given to Luton last year specifically to spend on Preventing Violent Extremism was not used.”
“You have to ask, if those projects were in place last year, if extremist dogma had been challenged in more places, would that protest have happened, and would we be seeing so many repercussions following the widespread, often inaccurate, coverage of events?”
“The Council Leader has been quite vociferous, and rightly so, in saying that Luton does not want this reputation. It might just have helped if the money given to her administration for the specific purpose of preventing extremism had been used at the time.”