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  • STEVE COOKE AATA

BUILDING A BETTER FUTURE - RESPONSE TO RBC PROPOSAL

This proposal looks to review the work of Rochdale Borough Council's Neighbourhood Cohesion and Community Engagement service. The proposal would remove one full time post.


The rational put forward by RBC follows my response.


RESPONSE BY STEVE COOKE


As we strive together to create the new ‘normal’ it is imperative that we are driven by the motivation to make it a new ‘better’.


The full extent of the effects of social restrictions and lockdowns on mental health will only be fully revealed many years down the line. What can be reasonably predicted is that individual and community resilience will take a sizeable hit.


The building blocks of social cohesion and integration will need to be remade and slowly cemented into place. A life spent on the internet in isolation, with little real social interaction is a crucible for potential indoctrination into extremism sparked by the catalyst of conspiracy theories. We are already suffering from a proliferation of online hate crimes.


I strongly believe that diluting the effectiveness of the Neighbourhood Cohesion and Community Engagement service at this time would be severely detrimental in our quest to create a ‘better normal’. Not only that but also be harmful to individual and community resilience.


The post under threat will be vital to restoring the wellbeing of our diverse communities.

As a J.P., an organiser of the International Day of Peace event in Rochdale, a member of the Rochdale in Rainbows Steering Group, leader of VIBE Creativity and an arts columnist with AATA in print in local papers and digitally I have personal experience of the huge contribution that this post delivers in bringing together our vibrantly diverse communities.


I am fully aware of the financial challenges that are and will be collateral damage inflicted by Covid-19. This role not only delivers value for money but will be vital to our community wellbeing, safety, and building better future for us all. The removal of this post would inevitably, down the line, be very costly to public funds across health, support, and security services.


Claiming the work of this post ‘will continue’ is simply not good enough, our communities deserve much better, our collective resilience and wellbeing requires much better.


Overview of proposal


This proposal looks to review the work of Neighbourhood Cohesion and Community Engagement service. The proposal would remove one full time post.

Overall impact of proposed change


The main functions of the post with respect to community safety consist of tension monitoring, developing and supporting cohesion and integration events and training in the borough. The tension monitoring evaluates local community tensions and risks by gathering intelligence from various platforms as well as from members of the public. This intelligence is then fed into the local Police Hub and the Force Intelligence Bureau help formulate a picture of any dynamics which may potentially lead to disorder or threaten the stability of communities. Early interventions can then be developed where necessary to mitigate the impact of these tensions.


The post to be removed currently supports a number of community groups, for example, the multi-faith partnership to deliver events such as Holocaust Memorial Day, St Georges Day, International Day of Peace, International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT), National Hate Crime Awareness Weeks, Black History Month & Pride events. These events will continue via the Community Groups and there will be a requirement for the groups to update the Council as to how these events will be run.


The service, and in particular the post to be removed, provides a communication link for 14 grant funded community centres and other community and voluntary organisations who want support or services from the Council. This can include organising and supporting Community Base Network meetings every 4 weeks. The post holder also represents the Council at the Voluntary Sector Partnership and supports the Inclusive Messaging Group. Again the community and voluntary work will continue and there will be liaison with the Council via the wider Neighbourhoods Directorate.


Other duties include: Facilitating Community Cohesion Resilience and Integration Meetings, Training of Hate Crime Ambassadors, supporting faith groups and active citizens across the borough.


Impact on affected Service Users


The deletion of this post will dilute the resources within the community safety team and end the dedicated police partnership tension monitoring provision in helping prevent and reduce crime and disorder.


It will also dilute the council’s ability to assist with the organisation and support of community groups and cohesion events described above.


It will dilute the support arrangements for community centres.


Savings Total:

£41k with on-costs. This would be split over 2021/22 and 2022/23 to account for consultation.




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