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Agenda item

PROMOTING THE COUNCIL'S ACHIEVEMENTS AROUND COMMUNITY COHESION AND PREVENT

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Director of Communications and Communities.

 

Eddie Townsend introduced the report and said there was an important distinction between the Prevent programme aimed at tackling violent extremism, and the more general counter-extremism agenda.  There is a particular focus on countering extremist messages on social media.  He referred to an article by the Chief Executive to appear in the LGC (Local Government Chronicle) about co-operation and an information-sharing approach across East London boroughs.  Other articles will appear in Waltham Forest News, the local Guardian, and the Waltham Forest Echo.

 

Mr Townsend apologised for the omission of the Chingford Weekender from the list of Big Six events and acknowledged its importance to the community.

 

The Committee welcomed the Chair’s suggestion that press releases and other relevant information should be shared with the Ward Forums across the borough.

 

Chingford Guardian - Councillor Berg pointed out that the Chingford edition of the Guardian also covers Epping Forest, and information relevant to Waltham Forest is sometimes overlooked.

 

Waltham Forest News - He also felt that the Council’s newspaper Waltham Forest News, although a quality publication, was too political in nature and gave undue prominence to Council policies and the views of senior Members.  Many people he knew in North Chingford threw it away or only looked at it for traffic control notices and planning applications.  Given the cost and effort that went into it and the fact it was delivered to every house, it seemed to him a missed opportunity. 

 

Notwithstanding this, the Chair believed the Leader of the Council had the right to convey her views.

 

Mr Townsend acknowledged the views expressed, and said he wanted Waltham Forest News to become more of a champion for residents.  Philip Dundon added that this could be enhanced by having a letters page, although it was explained that letters about particular services would be referred to the department concerned.  Mr Townsend agreed with Councillor Mahmood that it had its part to play in both tackling extremism and in publicising the achievements and services of the Council.

 

Prevent and counter-extremism, arts and culture - Mr Macorkindale expanded on the distinction between the Prevent programme and the general counter-extremism agenda.  He provided the example of arts linked to regeneration, and how an arts-based project could help people view themselves in a more cohesive way and shift perceptions.  It was not about terrorism, but about challenging views in the community that might be Islamophobic, homophobic, or supportive of practices such as female genital mutilation.  He suggested that a community advisory group would be needed to ensure the work was of genuine value and relevance.     

 

Councillor Mahmood referred to positive efforts in his ward led by Queen’s Road Mosque, and suggested that talks and activities aimed at inclusion could be publicised in advance rather than just reported afterwards.  He welcomed the suggestions and said the nature of Waltham Forest made it fertile ground for pioneering good practice in the capital and nationally.  Mr Macorkindale added that the Chief Executive’s article was part of this work, initially in response to the Westminster attack in March 2017.  The Home Office has also relaxed its position so that the Channel programme is acknowledged in a way that provides the opportunity for more meaningful work.

 

Knife crime - Councillor Berg underlined the need to communicate directly with young people.  With regard to carrying knives, he believed that the main reason was fear of other young people carrying knives.  Mr Macorkindale said this was a common perception, but it was also linked to more complex factors such as discontent with foreign policy and a sense of injustice that went unheeded.

 

Councillor James said that for cohesion to be effective, it must draw people together from different backgrounds, and in the case of events this physical, to enable people to understand one another better and see themselves as one community.  He asked how the impact of different media could be quantified, and how to keep the message fresh.  Mr Townsend said it was difficult to measure, and research in the field was very costly.  With social media, the aim was for young people themselves to communicate positive and reinforcing measures with each other.

 

Homophobic attacks – Councillor James also referred to the recent homophobic attacks in Hoe Street, and later in the meeting, to the groups of young men who congregated there.

 

Decision

 

The Committee: 

 

(a)  welcomed ideas for Waltham Forest News as a more inclusive champion for residents; and

 

(b)  welcomed the Chair’s suggestion that press releases and other relevant information should be shared with the Ward Forums across the borough;

 

(c)  supported the principle of a community advisory group to explore how arts and regeneration can work to shift perceptions and create a more cohesive community.

 

 

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