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‘Religion is the glue that holds a diverse borough together’

Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham

Thursday, January 31, 2013
12:07 PM

Labour MP for East Ham Stephen Timms

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The census data, which was published towards the end of last year, told us a lot about Newham. We have a large and youthful population, growing quickly; its members are very diverse and have high religious affiliation.

The census put Newham’s population at 308,000. The census 10 years ago made it 250,000 – clearly an underestimate. It’s good to have official confirmation of a much bigger population. It should eventually mean morel government funds. The increase reflects not just the correction of an error but also growth. Tower Hamlets and Newham recorded – by a large margin – Britain’s biggest percentage population rises in the past decade.

Newham is not dominated by one ethnic group. ‘White British’, the largest group, accounts for one in six – the lowest proportion of any local authority area. The remaining five sixths are very varied. The second biggest group is people from India and Sri Lanka, at 13.8 per cent. Bangladeshis make up 12.1 per cent and Pakistanis another 9.8 per cent, so the Indian subcontinent for more than a third of Newham residents.

Africans account for 12.3 per cent and ‘white non-British’ – presumably mainly east Europeans – for 11.4 per cent. Caribbeans are 4.9 per cent. That leaves another 19 per cent outside these groups.

Newham has the country’s smallest proportion who say they have ‘no religion’ – 9.5 per cent. It is 25.1 per cent for Britain as a whole. In Newham, 40 per cent describe themselves as Christians, 32 per cent as Muslims, nine per cent as Hindus, and two per cent as Sikhs (6.4 per cent didn’t say.)

With such variety you’d expect Newham to be very fragmented, but it isn’t. I think high religious affiliation is the key. People in a local religious congregation also feel part of the wider community. 2012 showed Newham’s strengths to the world. Let’s hope we continue to build on them.

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