ODPM Committee Social Cohesion 17 Sep 2003
Q6 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Mr Archer touched on the use of interpreters. In what situations is it necessary to use interpretation and translation services to people with limited or sometimes no English? How extensive is the need for these services?
Mr Appleby: It is quite extensive. We all have fairly sophisticated services for dealing with interpreting, both formal and informal, in the hospital.
Q8 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): That is in the normal course of events, but what about emergency situations where you need quickly to have consent to perform an emergency operation or something like that?
Mr Appleby: The first port of call will often be relatives. Often you are able to resolve the issues through relatives. Relatives will come in and they may come in deliberately because they know there will be a language problem.
Q10 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Can I ask specifically about the GP services? A lot of the doctors who came over from the sub-continent in the 1960s and who have language skills are now reaching retirement age. Is that going to create a problem?
Ms Richards: Yes. We very much recognise the need to be far more proactive and I always said from the outset that the position would get worse before it got better because of predicted retirements which, for a whole set of reasons, things have not been put in place to address. The current position is that we have 13 vacancies within Oldham. We have GPs providing health services to very high list sizes in some cases. The recommended average is 1,800 patients per GP. Some of our GPs have list sizes of 3,000, 3,300, which is wholly inaccessible. The good news is that we are beginning to turn the corner but it will take the next three to five years. Since we have been in post we have recruited 82 new GPs into Oldham, which was something that had not been happening previously, a number of whom are females. Of course, a lot of the other GPs were male so, although they had the language, for some of the issues people wanted to see a female GP and have choice. Besides harnessing every opportunity, every flexibility going, one of the things that changes in GP contracts have brought is that we have developed out of the primary care trust a salaried GP scheme which is very flexible and offers more flexible working hours and opportunities for research, education and development. We have recently recruited three salaried GPs into Oldham and we are interviewing next week and we have five very strong applicants for that, so yes, it is very difficult but we are moving forward in the right direction.
Q28 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Can you tell us what type of training in race relations and racial equality staff receive?
Ms Richards: As a new organisation we are still accessing the training and education that is available from the predecessor organisation. We have reviewed that and we have put in place an action plan to ensure that we take forward "positively diverse" across the organisation. We have now recruited an education and training lead to take that forward within the organisation because we recognise that, whilst the staff did have access to equality and diversity training, not just in relation to employment but in relation to playing a part in the borough, it was a bit piecemeal. We will be commissioning a company later in the year and two of our HR staff are now trained in "positively diverse" to bring that in across the organisation. If you were to ask me the question in a year's time I would be able to give you absolute assurance that this is a whole organisation programme, not piecemeal.
Mr Appleby: We are in a similar position, that people have been receiving equality and diversity training in all individual trust bases, which is on a site basis. That has continued until recently, although we have submitted some evidence in terms of what we have done in terms of trying to bring that together. One of the things that we have just arranged to do is put all the trust board through that training because we think that will set a good example in terms of trying to cascade that down through the organisation. What I do not want to do is set it up centrally and find that we are getting less training because of that. If it has worked locally then I do not want to change something just for the sake of changing it.
Mr Archer: That training will be mandatory. For everyone within the trust it should be achieved by the middle of next year.
Q29 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): To what extent does this training include training in social cohesion as opposed to training in equality and race relations?
Ms Richards: Certainly from our point of view we took a paper to our board a couple of weeks ago and it was supported that the work around taking forward the action plan for the racial equality scheme which included training and education became an integral part of our work on fairness, equality and diversity, so it is certainly something that we are considering but, as I say, we have not put ours in place yet.
Mr Archer: What has been very helpful to us is that in all of the boroughs we are integrating management arrangements with social services so we function as one unit. Social services have traditionally done far better than the health service on this type of training, so they are really helpful in making us think afresh about what we want to do. That has helped us enormously.
Q30 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): What effect has the Race Relations Act 2000 had on your organisation?
Mr Archer: There are targets that we have to meet that we are monitored against, so all of our human resource departments have had to construct strategies that are closely monitored in terms of their performance against those targets.
Q45 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Before I start is it possible to get an assessment as to what percentage of the housing in Oldham is managed jointly by your organisations?
Mr Broadbent: Jointly I guess we probably manage about 20 per cent.
Q46 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Oldham has been described as having acute residential racial segregation and members of the Committee saw this for themselves yesterday. Would you like to offer some explanation as to why this has come about?
Mr Hussain: I think it is a historical factor that, despite all the efforts in recent years, will take a long time to deal with. Oldham appears to be a unique area where, for whatever reason, segregation has existed.
Q47 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): You do not know why it has come about?
Mr Hussain: From my perspective I think it has been the fear factor from both communities to a certain extent: from the Asian community the racial tension, the fear of race, -----
Q48 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): But that is not peculiar to Oldham.
Mr Hussain: It is probably unique in the sense of the segregation factor. I am from the Midlands and you had the fear factor there but you still lived in predominantly white areas. That does not appear to be the case here where the white community perceives the Asians to a certain extent as a liability because of the fact that if they move into your area the property values will go down, so the segregation is not purely on race but there are other factors that are taken into consideration.
Mr Broadbent: One of the issues that the Committee ought to understand is the background to Oldham. Of the homes that we manage more than 50 per cent are small homes. The demand from the minority communities is typically for large family homes and that is a historic and cultural background which will still be there for some time. Just to give you an example, we manage only 270 four-bedroom homes out of our 18,000 homes and yet on our waiting list at any one time there are more people from the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities wanting homes of four bedrooms or larger than we manage in their entirety.
Q49 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Does that mean that the four-bedroom homes are all in one place?
Mr Broadbent: No, not at all. Typically, most council estates that have developed over the last 30 or 40 years did have a range of property types. As an example, the estate closest to Westwood that we manage is our most minority occupied estate, and 37 per cent of the tenants on that estate now come from the local Bangladeshi community. The stark reality is that a number of the properties in that area are small flats which are not suitable to the demands of the local Bangladeshi community who are still predominantly wanting large family accommodation, although that is changing.
Ms Heyes: Typically within our stock traditionally it has been two-bed terraced housing but that has been occupied by the Bangladeshi community predominantly because that is the area where they first settled when they came into Oldham and there has not been the accommodation that they could move out of those areas into, so they stayed in an area that they have seen as being safe for them to stay in albeit the property types that they occupy do not suit their aspirations or their needs.
Q50 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Does this manifest itself in the private sector as well, the same sort of segregation, so that people are buying properties in particular areas in order to keep their particular communities together?
Mr Broadbent: There are some very interesting factors in the market. You will see in certain parts of Oldham, particularly those areas of Oldham which are occupied by those communities, that estate agent boards are virtually absent because the local community deals with the market itself. There are enormous levels of overcrowding. Typically in parts of Westwood and Glodwick that you have been to see you might find that 40 per cent of the households statutorily are overcrowded. Part of that is to do with the cultural desire to live together as well as, as Sajjad has said, some of the negative factors that affect choice which are around fear.
Q51 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Is it realistic to assume that we can create racially mixed residential areas?
Mr Broadbent: My own view is that clearly efforts need to be made in order to try and spread opportunity, to establish a framework that enables people to make positive choices, and that was something that came out of David Ritchie's original report. From a housing provider point of view, providing socially aware and socially sensitive services, providing the language speaking, all the things that you have heard from our health partners, are just as important to us as having appropriate accommodation that those families need and demand in all locations. The reality is that we have so few larger family homes; we have probably got less than Sajjad has and yet his is a small organisation. Providing larger family homes in all communities is one way in terms of the actual accommodation in which we can allow a framework for integration to start to occur.
Q81 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Can I ask you all about your work in identifying and tackling tensions between different communities and how you work with the council and other public agencies in doing that?
Mr Taylor: Following the riots we identified that we were able to move within communities because we have been regarded as unbiased. Consequently, we found that we had something to offer but we did not know where to turn. The County Fire Officer, Barry Dixon, then instigated the provision of a local liaison officer, fire fighter Geoff Leach, who then undertook to contact the voluntary sector and other providers within the community in order first to identify what role the Fire Service could play. They found that we were able to offer life skills provision and instruction and education within Fire Service premises in a project that was called "Fire Team Experience". It has been such a success that the local providers of funds have taken it upon themselves to invite us to look at a more strategic approach across the Greater Manchester area and perhaps have the provision of funds made to duplicate the efforts that have been made in Oldham.
Mr Cartwright: In common with other parts of Greater Manchester, but in particular certain areas of Oldham, we have developed some community schemes where there is partnership with the community. We are aware, of course, that there are sub-groups within the community where there are frictions and we have been working in areas such as Glodwick and St Mary's to develop community responder schemes which not only helps to have real impact on the people in that area in terms of life saving activities, but also brings people together in those particular communities, and that has been an ongoing programme. It has been very successful in other parts of Oldham, in Diddle and Delve(?) and it is work that is ongoing. It is not easy and it is not going to be something that is going to be over next week but it is a progressing issue that we have apportioned resources to in terms of a community responder manager to that particular project. Also, we have employed a race relations manager who is helping to get into the communities to ensure that we make maximum impact when we have recruiting campaigns so that we can be properly representative of the communities which we serve.
Mr Baines: It is bread and butter stuff, obviously, for policing, particularly after the experiences of 2001. First of all, to talk about the force, how have we responded to whether we have enough information about intelligence to do with community hate and tensions? We found that we were missing some information at a force level because ostensibly there are two types of race incident that come to our attention. One is the straightforward racially aggravated crime which features the criminal law, and the other is described as a hate incident which can be a perception that without breaching the law somebody dealt with me differently because of either the colour of my skin or my ethnicity. Structurally, we have merged those two systems so that any hate incident or racial crime is reported and recorded as if it were a hate crime; in other words, there is a single reporting system, so we capture trend data both on the criminal offences themselves but also on conduct and behaviour issues that run parallel to it. Does that make sense?
Q82 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Yes, but my question really is about how the force interacts with the local authority and other agencies working on these problems.
Mr Baines: Those issues coming together form the basis of our weekly meetings with the Race Crime Incident Group meeting that brings in housing and education and covers every single incident that is discussed, whether it be a hate crime or a hate incident, so that we are able to bring our collective responses together in partnership terms to make sure that we tackle any emergent trends or the specific incidents on a partnership basis.
Mr Griffiths: To add to Paul Taylor's comments, as well as the work that is being done on the ground by our community fire-fighter Geoff Leach, we have at strategic level appointed a community outreach worker in the brigade and we have made great efforts to remove barriers to recruitment and have improved cultural awareness training amongst our fire-fighters.
Q83 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): You say that you have worked on the ground. How do front line workers in your three organisations work together on these issues on the ground?
Mr Baines: First and foremost the thing that followed on from Ritchie was the restructuring of the divisions to match our partner agency boundaries so we adopted the nearest thing that was there with our partners, which was the ward system and the area committees, which ostensibly identified the different communities of Oldham and enabled us to bespoke-tailor our policing service and style to service their needs in a sensitive way. That also enabled us to identify key community beat officers who work in the different areas. I think you met Phil Buckley(?), who is one of those officers, and again there is continuity and consistency in building trust and confidence between the community and ourselves. That was at the front end. In addition, behind that we have an inspector who runs each area and who is the nominated figurehead for policing in their area and ensuring consistent service. We speak almost on a daily basis or incident basis with officers engaging directly with Ambulance or Fire If there are any concerns across our three agencies in dealing with an incident, we normally initiate it because we will take the first call as police. We will raise issues about risk assessment (or there may be a race element included in it), or whether there is anything we need to be aware of so that we can give our operational officers as much information as possible to make them as effective as possible.
Mr Cartwright: Just to touch again on how the services work together, there are common themes in terms of the 999 Challenges, which all three services support with youth in Oldham and in Rochdale. The more recent one has been about rebuilding the canal boat and that type of thing, working together on projects, and the Crucial Crew type of initiative where we have trained 2,200 young people in Oldham over the last 12-18 months, 10-11 year olds from all communities, in different aspects of each service.
Q95 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Chief Superintendent Baines, you have talked about community policing and the patch responsibilities of some of your officers. How popular is this in terms of building up trust and confidence with the police? Is it working?
Mr Baines: The community love it. The tension I have got is obviously in not having the consistent presence of those officers at a time when I am trying to manage demand. Ideally I would like to ring-fence them and not move them away from their community beat areas, but if I am short of officers because they are under training, on leave or on a rest day, sometimes in order to fill the patrol vehicles to do a response I have to bring them in and use them. The other tension I have in Oldham is that the age profile of my officers is fairly young, so with that there is extra training. I have fewer drivers and fewer tutor constables, so therefore it tends to be the community beat officers who have that driving experience, skill basis and tutor capability, so they automatically become the only option I have got when I am short of a driver or tutor.
Q96 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): So it is popular amongst the community but not very popular amongst your officers?
Mr Baines: There are two styles of officer. The community beat officers are volunteers in the first instance. Their tension is that they get pulled away on other priorities. Indeed, there was a public "Voice on Policing" meeting where the community was saying, "We are fed up of you taking our officers to go into the town centre", because on a Friday and Saturday night it is sometimes a bit like the Wild West and we need to put sufficient officers in there for their own safety. There is a tension between pooling resources and managing.
Q97 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): How do you see the future panning out in terms of retaining talented officers in the community?
Mr Baines: Two things have happened. First of all, with the new Chief Constable, he has secured extra funding that will give the force 800 extra officers, 53 of whom are coming to Oldham. That will be a significant increase in the level of resources and, once I have trained them up to driver skills and past their initial training period, it will stop me having to move community beat officers to fill the resource gaps created. That is the first thing: 53 extra officers coming our way. In addition, the local authority have funded public community safety officers. We got 16 from the Home Office funding to start with and they have gone down very successfully and have a second tier patrol capability that fills the gap when we are going from job to job. They have to step in as tension comes down after a particular incident. We had 16 appointed to start with and in the latest bid we got seven, but on top of that Oldham Borough Council have agreed to fund 24 extra PCSOs to work in the various townships across Oldham and that will give me greater visibility of people with policing badges all over, accessible to police radios, and they become extra eyes and ears, not only for criminals but also as recipients of information and engaging with the communities.
Q98 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): So ideally how long will the community beat officer be within that community? From when he began until he retires or somewhere in between?
Mr Baines: It comes down to the individual officer. You get some officers who will go in and they will do two years, five years, in some cases they will do ten or 15 years, but it is all down to their aspirations. If they suddenly decide, "There is a new job starting and I want to join the firearms unit", or, "I want to become a detective", there is an issue about career progression, or indeed if they seek promotion, because most of our community beat officers are obviously at PC level. What we are trying to do is create a sort of interim layer, that we have community beat sergeants, and whilst they are taking on some of the respective responsive role we would like to create a smaller geographic area for them to be responsible for, and that is part of the township policing model: a small team of officers responsible for a smaller community rather than policing the whole of Oldham. It is about consistency, it is about visibility and it is about accountability to the communities.
Q108 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Could I ask about the provision of each of the services in terms of reflecting the needs of different communities, for instance, in interpretation and translation services?
Mr Baines: There are two issues for us. Obviously, we have some officers on the division who speak Urdu, Bengali and Punjabi. Secondly, we run a language line so that if people are either requiring policing services and have difficulty in communicating effectively, or they have been arrested and they need their rights and responsibilities explained to them, the telephone goes into the Language Line which finds the relevant dialect. Once we have cleared the initial requirements then we identify appropriate interpreters to attend and support us in doing whatever we need to do.
Mr Taylor: The Fire Service uses the same Language Line facility. Also, in terms of our recruitment of a more diverse workforce to reflect the communities we serve, we have made sure that we have a disproportionately high number of females and ethnic minority fire-fighters working from Oldham Fire Station across all watches. There is a good chance that if the fire engine pulls up outside your house in Oldham there will be either a black fire-fighter or a female fire-fighter, if not both, coming off it. Also, in terms of career progression, we have recently moved an Asian junior officer into Oldham deliberately for that purpose.
Mr Cartwright: This seems to be a common theme. We have put out an additional booklet and I can show it to you in a second. An additional piece to that is that we equipped all the ambulance staff and paramedics who work in the communities with mobile phones and they can access the Language Line via the mobile phone while they are in somebody's house. You can imagine the difficulties in some cultures where a lady might be giving birth to a child and there are men in the room, so it is vital at that moment. We also have things like this booklet where we can point to a particular phrase in English and then look it up in a language from another cultural background for particular conditions and communicate in that way. Further to that, we have worked hard across Greater Manchester in removing barriers to certain areas of the community to make sure that our working population properly reflects that of the community we serve so that there are more people in the Ambulance Service who are from the community.
Q110 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): The Race Relations Act 2000 places a duty on your organisations not only to promote racial equality and to eliminate racial discrimination but also to promote good relations between ethnic minorities and other communities. What effect is this having in your organisations?
Mr Cartwright: In our organisation it is having a very positive effect. It is improving the culture within the organisation, putting a richness to it. We have, as I mentioned in the opening piece, employed a manager whose whole job for the Ambulance Service is around racial equality and he spends a lot of time in places like Oldham in the different areas talking to the different ethnic groups and encouraging them to get involved with things that are going on, not just in the Ambulance Service but in the wider NHS. It is an interesting thing because it is rolled in different areas where the staff who work in those areas have suggested as part of the race equality scheme the production of a manual to give people a broader awareness of the different ethnic groupings. There are real changes occurring among the staff in the area because of the impact of that individual, so it has been very positive and I think the organisation is much better for that.
Q127 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): The 2001 disturbances presumably had an adverse effect on the attractiveness of Oldham as a place to set up new business. What has been done since to reverse this in order to attract new business to Oldham? How effective has it been and what more needs to be done?
Mr Gard: My personal view is that there could have been a lot more done. There has been an attempt to try and engage with the private sector. In some ways though the private sector has not been regarded with the seriousness that it deserves. There are a lot of people in private business who thoroughly and genuinely believe that social cohesion benefits their business. I do not mean in any airy-fairy way but in a fundamental pound notes and bottom line way. We have set out to try and prove that and we have only started pulling this together, I guess, over the past three months or so with the help of the CRE. The way we would like it to go is that the needs of private business are respected in the social cohesion agenda which then allows us to offer better positions, better jobs, more jobs, more prosperity in the local area. If I can make an observation on something which was said earlier on, the problem we find is not so much a lack of skill but a lack of expectation because we are mainly looking for supervisory and managerial positions in terms of promotion. We have changed our policies in terms of recruitment. A lot of companies are like this in Oldham. We have changed our position with respect to recruiting for bus drivers, for example, and we are increasing rapidly the number of bus drivers from ethnic minority groups and also from the traditional BNP heartland type of group. What we are finding is that the expectations of those people to have an opportunity to use the skills and undoubted qualifications that they have got and move up is quite low and that is our next challenge as a business. Our other next challenge as a business is to say to people from ethnic minorities who have low expectations across the whole of Oldham, "There is a career path here. Let us hope there is something for the future. You can actually have my job at the end of the day". I think that hope and that change of expectation is what private business can offer.
Q128 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): In terms of new business which is located in Oldham, what is being done to make Oldham an attractive place for business to come and overcome the problems of the 2001 riots?
Mr Gard: Oldham United is proving the business case in a clear way that says that because of the disturbances there have been changes in Oldham. I think there was a denial that the riots had taken place, and I will call them riots because that is what they were. There was a sort of, "If we do not say too much about that then people will not notice it very much in any of the publicity that is put out". Our view is that the riots took place, they resulted in a change of attitude. That has meant that Oldham is actually ahead of the game in solving many of the issues that other communities have. It has given us a good head start. In other words, the steam will be blown away and we can contribute to making sure it stays away. If you like, our view is based on the fact that we have had the disturbances, we have not had as good relationships with some of the public bodies as we could have done, and in many ways the project we are on is a mission to generate a better relationship and better understanding between the public and private sectors. That will make such a difference.
Q129 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): But is business responding to this? Are you now seeing this turning round and new businesses being attracted into Oldham?
Mr Gard: Not from our point of view. From our perspective we do not know very much in terms of the economic development people. We find that people are asking questions and are asking questions about the riots. Whether that puts them off or not I do not know. We are saying that it should not do; it should encourage them to come. Whether that is turned into inward investment I could not tell you.
Mr Scuoler: We have in the last two years rented, leased, - whatever the term is - 40,000-50,000 square feet to a business in Ashton to relocate in. The key in Oldham for some time will be in terms of infrastructure. These infrastructure projects are critical and they are moving forward. Witness the cranes you see out here. It does take time, but I think that you do need some entrepreneurial people in both the public and the private sectors. We spent many hundreds of thousands of pounds refurbishing an old mill to a standard where a modern insurance company in this particular case wanted to rent the space from us. It is patchy but there are a number of things happening. Would they have happened without the riots? I doubt it. I think we got the focus after the riots that enabled the kind of refurbishment here that you are beginning to see.
Q130 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): You are not suggesting these troubles were a good thing?
Mr Scuoler: I am not suggesting that at all.
Q131 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): But positive things are coming out of them?
Mr Scuoler: It has got to be. Would we have had the money from the European Social Fund that my company has accessed? Would we have had the enthusiasm of Business Link and the Chamber of Commerce to channel development and research funding into my electronics company without those disturbances? I suspect not, and if that is a positive then let us regard it as a positive.
Mr Moran: While Job Centre Plus has a really important role, which is about promoting work for people who have been excluded from it, perhaps because of their skin colour or other diversity issue, our key role is about working with employers to ensure that Job Centre Plus is going to be seen as a resource that might supply labour. What we are still challenged about is that not enough employers yet see us as a resource that can be seen to be valuable because often the perception is still that we only deal with the problem sector, the low-pay, low-skill type job, or the problem people who cannot get into work because they are problem people. Increasingly we are battering on doors to make that perception a myth that people accept. At a regional level, for example, we are working with an organisation called the Association of Economic Partners, and on this sit the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses and the federations of most employer businesses across the north west, where increasingly we are beginning to open a few more doors about why Job Centre Plus might be a valuable resource to them. For us it is really important to do that because we have got a lot of people who are excluded from work and who for many jobs we can skill up. I do not know whether we can for Ferranti in terms of the very specific needs that Terry has outlined, but for lots of jobs, - and the NHS this morning was a classic example - increasingly public bodies in the past have not used the public employment service as a source to meet their recruitment needs, which means that we are missing an opportunity in terms of meeting that diversity. Increasingly public services particularly are recognising that but often they are worse offenders than employers per se.
Q132 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): A lot of the Committee's time has been taken up in looking at this whole question of promoting social cohesion. Can someone tell us what they think the private sector's role in all this is? Can the private sector help? What should the private sector be doing in promoting social cohesion?
Mr Scuoler: What a question to answer in a couple of seconds. Clearly we have a role when June Smith and Vaz Patel of the CRE came to me and I think a dozen or so other employers in the town and asked for help in launching an initiative. Anyone with any form of conscience, anyone with any form of belief in our society had to say yes, and that has resulted in what Russell has outlined in terms of Oldham United. What can we do? We can do what we are doing and that is advertising, running activities. For example, we are running at our expense, although we have been offered money from the CRE, an open day to get ethnic minorities in to see us, to get all our sub-contractors open so that Asian or ethnic companies will bid, because at the minute they do not bid. This is not - forgive me - an issue with the many hundreds of Asian youths in the town. There are more unemployed and unemployable working class white youths in the town because that is what, for reasons we may or may not understand, is coming on to the streets. I suppose this is an issue of education and the role we can play is in mentoring, through economic growth, opportunities for jobs.
Q133 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): How important is the workplace in bringing people together and promoting social cohesion?
Mr Scuoler: In my view, assuming that those employers do what is sensibly and humanly and legally required of them, - and it is no coincidence that the unemployment rate here in Oldham is about twice the national average - it is enormously important to get jobs into the town, even if those jobs are at a fairly ordinary level, because then it is a positive spiral. That ordinary level of employment supports different levels and it starts that positive spiral.
Q134 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): I can see that. In my constituency that happens as well in terms of the level of unemployment, although I was talking more about the mix of employees and how it helps people to work and understand each other much better.
Mr Gard: If I may add a point on that, in addition to bringing jobs in, the workplace is where people can have most interaction with other people. How the workplace treats different groups of people is very important, and therefore how a company represents itself to its workforce, and the biases it might or might not have is very important. I cannot emphasise how important that is. If the workplace is not offering a cohesive atmosphere to work in then you will have problems in society. What we are doing is trying a number of initiatives, campaigns, what we are calling social themes, (which is something that comes from the CRE), employment open days, bringing customers together and other groups of people together so that they understand each other. We believe that if people understand each other's needs then they are more likely to be able to accommodate those needs and therefore the business runs better. I know it is very hard-nosed to say this, but this is for pound-note bottom-line reasons. We believe that having that happen better is better for businesses in Oldham. It is continual, ongoing work to make this happen. The initiatives we have got are a start, a model. Those that work we will pass on as best practice. Those that do not work, we will let people know they do not work, but it is a start. The workplace has been under-regarded but is absolutely fundamental to this. It is more important, I would say, than social leisure activity and in some elements of society more important than multi-faith activity.
Q143 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): How successful have SRB programmes in Oldham been at creating sustainable regeneration?
Dr White: It is probably too early to say. I think there is only one that is actually finished. The other three are ongoing and, from memory, the last one finishes in 2007. They are long term programmes, so it is a bit early to say.
Q144 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): There has been some criticism, has there not, in the newspapers, - not that I believe everything I read in the newspapers - that, "A £20 million regeneration budget award seems to have had little cosmetic effect. A subsequent £53 million boost from the New Deal has added little to the blighted community". Would you subscribe to that or is that just newspaper exaggeration?
Dr White: I would not go completely with that view but it is fair to say that the success of both time limited and area limited initiatives has been frustrated by the fact that usually they are operating in a bit of a vacuum. The whole point initially with the Single Regeneration Budget was to try and join things together. In a way it has become rather detached from a lot of other activity.
Q145 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Do you measure the effect of SRB schemes in promoting social cohesion?
Dr White: Yes, and that is something we now do on all our schemes. It is part of our response to our obligation under the Race Equality Act. We have included in our appraisal of any scheme in the region, not just in Burnley or Oldham, its impact on social cohesion. That is now part of our approach.
Q146 Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): What lessons have you learned from that?
Dr White: I think the fairly obvious one is that we were not very good at it to start with. Traditionally, economic initiatives were assessed on economic criteria, pure and simple. That was the traditional Treasury approach. To try and broaden that approach you have to take other factors into account. It is not just social cohesion; it is sustainability, it is environmental impact and so forth. It is quite difficult but we are getting better at it.
|Promoted by Ken Childs on behalf of David Clelland, both of 19 Ravensworth Road, Dunston, Gateshead. NE11 9AB|