December 12 2013 Latest news:
Friday, September 20, 2013
Sir Robin Wales has spoken of his aim to prevent “apartheid” in Newham by pushing integration between communities.
The mayor of Newham was interviewed for a film called Naturalising Newham that was aired on BBC Newsnight last night.
He told the BBC: “I am very strongly of the view that if you try to segregate people into different groups and keep them separate, that is not only bad for everybody in the community, it’s very bad for the particular community that you do it to.
“Apartheid was wrong in South Africa, it would be wrong here, so keeping people separate is a bad thing.”
His plan for making different ethnic groups integrate includes removing foreign language newspapers from libraries, limiting translation services to certain cases such as council tax payment and only offering funding to street parties that involve all communities.
“We won’t support single ethnic or religious groups to do things themselves within those groups, it’s not our job to support that,” he said.
“Our job is to support when people come together. So our grants, our government grants, will be £250 if you want to throw a street party but it must be inclusive.”
But Sir Robin’s strategy faced criticism from the leader of the Conservative group on the Great London Authority, Andrew Boff, who said: “Integration is either respecting diversity or trying to suppress it and I think there’s more suppressing going on. What’s happening in Newham is a big backwards step.”
Sir Robin replied: “Andrew Boff’s comments are absurd and quite clearly wrong. A strong and cohesive community is one where people mix across religious, ethnic and community groups. There is no one way to achieve this but equally it does not happen by chance.
“Our approach is about building common ground and developing our shared interests. We insist all activities we fund are open to everyone, not just single identity groups. We also encourage contact between people from different backgrounds through our annual free community events, including the Mayor’s Newham Show and Carnival, Under the Stars and the Waterfront Festival.
“We recognise the importance of speaking English allowing individuals to achieve their full potential and to support the networks that help whole communities improve together. This is why we continue to invest in English language classes. Our approach is also about promoting fairness and avoiding jealousies and suspicions.”