Cohesive communities in Kilburn

I was pleased to be elected chair of a new Community Cohesion working group a week or so ago which has been set up by through Camden’s scrutiny system.

We’ve just met to start thinking about our workplan; our first agenda and an interesting presentation from officers can be found here

Kilburn, like most of Camden, is well known for being a really diverse place with high levels of tolerance, but we can’t be complacent.  In the wake of the riots in August, the need for the council to examine what it does, and what more it can do, to build strong, cohesive communities is greater than ever. 

So what do we mean by ‘community cohesion’?   

In March the Council brought together a wide range of local partners to discuss and agree a common understanding of cohesion for the borough. The agreed understanding focuses on the themes of:

  • Belonging
  • Feeling safe
  • Participation
  • Interaction

 This resulted in the following definition: 

“We understand a cohesive Camden to be a place where everyone who lives, visits or works in the borough feels that they belong and can safely participate in local life. It is a place where people support one another and share their common values amongst and between our diverse communities.”

But is this right – or, at least, is this complete?  Without understanding the problem properly, we won’t be able to address it satisfactorily.

And we would all agree that, despite striving for this, we know that there are some parts of the borough, some communities in Camden, where there is a sense of exclusion, a lack of civic participation, a feeling of being afraid or isolated. 

Certainly, high levels of deprivation and disadvantage can mitigate against community cohesion.  As a Kilburn councillor – and this is why I’m posting about the issue here – I know that our area has a strong sense of community, but also has some of the ingredients which may create a sense of exclusion and isolation for some individuals, families and groups.

And – as this is a Labour blog – I’d be remiss if I didn’t observe that the ConDem coalition’s cuts aren’t going to help in this respect.  Many of the very organisations supported by Camden (and Brent for that matter) and services provided directly by each council, which foster inclusive communities and bring people together, are being cut.  Combine that with staggeringly high-levels of unemployment (especially amongst young people) and our economic stagnation, and – as they say – you do the math.

I do hope our working group can identify ways of improving things,  but I’m sure there are strong opinions on the issue from a Kilburn perspective, which I’d really like to hear.  Please email me at mike.katz@camden.gov.uk to have your say and an input into our group’s work.

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