Luton’s Labour Executive last night held their hands up in defeat on the issue of encouraging people from different backgrounds to get on well together.
Ironically, the move came after exchanges between Liberal Democrat Opposition councillors and Labour Council Leader Hazel Simmons about the importance of cohesion following recent high-profile demonstrations in the town.
A report approved by Labour bemoans, in writing, the fact the Council and its partners have been asked to achieve a significant improvement in community relations – defined as the “proportion of people who think people of different backgrounds get on well together.”
The Government wants to see an increase in people’s perceptions that people get on well, from 73% in 2006/7 (when the Liberal Democrats last ran the Council) to 77% in 2010/11. Instead of embracing and working towards this, or identifying work to bring it about, Labour agreed a report saying: “This target of 4% improvement was imposed by Government Office East. We do not believe we can achieve a statistically significant improvement.”
Liberal Democrats say this approach – following hot on the heels of an admission that the Labour-run Council failed to spend £166,000 it was given specifically for cohesion work and Preventing Extremism last year – is little short of surrender.
Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Pantling comments: “It’s hard to believe, after everything we’ve seen recently, that Labour have abandoned a target to improve community relations before they’ve even started working towards it.
“ Everyone in Luton has a stake in people with different backgrounds, faiths, ages and interests getting on well together. Many committed individuals and organisations work hard to achieve this aim, and the results when it isn’t the case have been plain for all to see.”
“ Yet here we have the Labour Leader and others moaning about unfair targets despite having failed to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds they were given last year to make a real difference in this area. What sort of message does this send?” [ENDS]
1) Commentary about not achieving improvement – Performance report Quarter 4, in section “Local Area Agreement 2” – p. 9/23 of Executive Agenda.
2) £165,970 underspend on Cohesion – Revenue Outturn report, App. D – p. 8/12.