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News ->New Commission on Integration "Comes Under Fire"

(24 August 2006)

Darra SinghCommunities Secretary Ruth Kelly launched a new Commission on Integration and Cohesion on Thursday 24 August 2006. The independent Commission will consider innovative approaches looking at how communities across the country can be empowered to improve cohesion and tackle extremism. The creation of the new commission was immediately criticised by Operation Black Vote (OBV) for failing to address the issues of inequality and racism.

Operation Black Vote (OBV) said that "in her statement this morning, the Secretary of State while attacking multiculturalism and segregation as enemies of integration and cohesion, failed once to mention the underlying roots of inequality, discrimination and racism that many Muslim and BME communities face."

Simon Woolley, OBV Director said: Any progress made to bring all communities together and tackle all religious and political extremism in the UK is to be welcome. However, the Minister's statement this morning dangerously pre-empts the Commission's investigations and findings in saying there was no longer 'near-uniform consensus on the value of multiculturalism'. Furthermore, at no point does she state that the terms of reference of the Commission will look at the underlying issues of inequality, discrimination and racism in African, Asian and Caribbean communities.

Ashok Viswanathan, OBV Assistant Director said: Any snapshot of the UK in the 21st century that disregards the gross inequality and disadvantage Muslim communities face will only exacerbate tensions between communities and increase disadvantage. In not facing up to the reality what it means to be Asian or Muslim, the Commission is setting itself up to fail and lend succour to scaremongering tabloid headlines, racists and the BNP.

Darra Singh was appointed chair of the Commission in June and at today's launch the other 13 commissioners were announced. They are: Professor Michael Keith, Nargis Khan, Hamza Vayani, Leonie McCarthy, Frank Hont, Harriet Crabtree, Ed Cox, Sam Tedcastle, Supt Steve Jordan, Decima Francis, Steve Douglas, Dr Ebrahim Adia and Ramesh Kallidai.

The Commission will now undertake a significant programme of consultation and public meetings and events across the country. The first meeting of the Commission will be held in September. Dates of further consultations will be posted on the Commission's website. Recommendations are expected in June 2007 and the Commission will report directly to Ruth Kelly.

The terms of reference are:

* Examining the issues that raise tensions between different groups in different areas, and that lead to segregation and conflict;

* Suggesting how local community and political leadership can push further against perceived barriers to cohesion and integration;

* Looking at how local communities themselves can be empowered to tackle extremist ideologies;

* Developing approaches that build local areas' own capacity to prevent problems, and ensure they have the structures in place to recover from periods of tension.


Darra Singh (Chair)
Darra Singh became chief executive of Ealing Council in April 2005 after four years as chief executive at Luton. He has led Ealing Council's work to improve its services to tackle race hate crime and is a member of the awards panel on the Let's Kick Racism Out of Football campaign.

Professor Michael Keith
Michael Keith is an academic and director of the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR). He was also council leader for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets where he helped transform the borough marked by social polarisation and to a position where it was awarded Beacon status for Community Cohesion in 2003-2004.

Nargis Khan
Nargis Khan is a Councillor in the London Borough of Hackney leading on community services including community engagement. In 2002 Nargis fed into the Cantle review of Community Cohesion, in particular practical solutions in the role of political and community leadership. She has also advised the Home Office-led task force 'Preventing Extremism Together', with a focus on engaging women in Politics and Public Life.

Dr Ebrahim Adia
Dr Ebrahim Adia is a senior lecturer in education at the University of Central Lancashire. He has a degree in Public Administration and a doctorate in the field of policy analysis. Since 2002, Ebrahim Aida has served as a local councillor in Bolton representing an ethnically diverse ward with high levels of poverty and multiple deprivation.

Hamza Vayani
Hamza is the founder of the Leicester-based voluntary youth organisation, Youth Voice, which was created following the riots in the Northern cities and encourages young people to empower themselves. He has worked with the Independent Police Commission on community cohesion and led a BBC Radio 5 Live documentary following the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London which won the Race In the Media Awards 2006 category for Radio News.

Leonie McCarthy
Leonie McCarthy set up the British Red Cross Refugee Project in Peterborough - the first project of its kind, delivering a one-stop service to assist Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Migrant Workers to access services and information within the city. Since July 2004 she has managed Peterborough's 'New Link New Arrivals Partnership' - which supports and co-ordinates the integration of new arrivals to the city. This won the 2005 UK National Housing Award for 'Excellence in Promoting Community Cohesion'.

Frank Hont
Frank Hont is the North West Regional Secretary of UNISON and has been an active trade unionist for more than 30 years. He is a leading advocate of UNISON's current campaigning work aimed at combating racism. He has also been actively involved in a number of community cohesion initiatives since the disturbances in the North West of England in 2001 and is a member of the Board of the Migrant Workers North West organisation.

Harriet Crabtree
Harriet Crabtree is Deputy Director of the Interfaith Network for the UK. Her interfaith work has included being a member of the advisory group set up to assist on the faith aspects of a range of Golden Jubilee events, and she also helped organise the Golden Jubilee Young People's Faith Forum.

Ed Cox
Ed Cox works for the Local Government Information Unit on cohesion, engagement and leadership issues. He is chair of Urban Forum, an umbrella body for voluntary and community groups involved in urban regeneration across the UK and also works as a Neighbourhood Renewal Advisor with local authorities including Derby and Wolverhampton

Sam Tedcastle
Sam Tedcastle is Managing Director of The Participation - a Burnley company which evolved after the disturbances in 2001 and focuses its work on building meaningful dialogue between different groups in order to improve services and community life.

Supt Steve Jordan
Steve Jordan has some 28 years policing experience in all parts of the West Midlands and has worked abroad commanding a police mission to bring about peace and cohesion across opposing factions in the closing months of the Bosnian war. He is currently an operational police commander in Northwest Birmingham, in an area of very mixed ethnic and religious make-up.

Decima Francis
Decima Francis is founder and director of SASS, The From Boyhood to Manhood Foundation (FBMF), Peace on the Streets, and the 'Calling the Shots' anti gun crime initiative. FBMF, SASS's most successful project was set up in 1997 and provides a service to young black men who are failing in education, involved in high risk behaviour and are in danger of educational or social exclusion. She was the first and youngest black woman Director at the Royal National Theatre. In June 2005, she was awarded an MBE for her work for the black community in Southwark.

Steve Douglas
Steve Douglas is one of the most senior black people in the housing sector and responsible for allocating £533m of grant to housing associations in London. His proudest achievement is the completion of a mixed development in Brick Lane, London's East End, which he completed while at Spitalfields housing association. This not only provided 40 homes for one of London's most deprived areas, it also pulled together a number of agencies, including English Partnerships, the Housing Corporation, and Tower Hamlets council, on a scale that had not happened before.

Ramesh Kallidai
Ramesh Kallidai is a community worker, journalist, IT consultant and Public Relations specialist. He holds a post-graduate degree in Business Computing, besides having board-level experience in corporate communications, bid management, business development, corporate finance, and Information Technology. He works as a consultant with Fujitsu Services, and is also Secretary General of the Hindu Forum of Britain.


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