New ‘City-region’ mayors can fill integration ‘policy vacuum’ at top of politics

Posted on 1 May 2017

The election of mayors for six new city-regions across England this week – in Greater Manchester, West Midlands, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, Cambridge & Peterborough and the West of England – is a major opportunity to address the policy vacuum on integration at the top of politics, according to a new British Future report.

Getting integration right so we live well together matters to everyone in Britain. It’s an issue that forms part of the immigration anxieties that played out in the Brexit vote and that parties must respond to in the General Election. Yet we have never put in place a proper integration strategy in this country.

Governments need to get it right, but integration mostly happens in the towns and cities where we live. The new mayors could be game-changers for integration, understanding the specific integration challenges of their region and with wide-ranging powers and budgets to address them.

An important way for the new mayor to show that they take integration seriously would be to give responsibility to a high-profile individual to make it work across their region – a deputy mayor for integration leading an Office for Citizenship and Integration. Similar offices have been successfully set up in cities like New York, Barcelona, Hamburg and, most recently, in London where Mayor Sadiq Khan has appointed Matthew Ryder as deputy mayor for social integration following a campaign coordinated by British Future and Citizens UK.

So we are calling on all mayoral candidates to publicly support the appointment of a deputy mayor for integration in their region.

The proposal is supported by Professor Ted Cantle, leading authority on community cohesion and author of the ground-breaking ‘Cantle Report’ after the 2001 race riots in northern England. He said:

Integration cannot be left to chance, it needs champions in every town and city – and all have different local issues which a deputy mayor can recognise and support. The deputy mayor can also create a real sense of partnership and purpose and bring together local businesses, schools, housing associations, faith organisations and local and voluntary agencies.

“We need unity more than ever to respond to those that seek to create divisions. Deputy mayors can begin to build bridges and create a real sense of belonging in their areas and, most of all, to develop practical actions to help all communities come to terms with change and build a common purpose.

The new report, Integration: from national rhetoric to local reality, sets out the different integration challenges in each of the six new combined authorities and suggests integration priorities for the new mayor for each region. They include:

– Using new housing powers to address geographic segregation of different faith and ethnic communities in Greater Manchester, particularly in areas such as Oldham and Rochdale.

-Showing the value of British citizenship to new and existing citizens alike through high-profile citizenship ceremonies at iconic cultural and sporting locations in Liverpool.

– In Tees Valley, addressing unemployment and underemployment, and also ensuring that refugees and asylum-seekers are helped to integrate.

– Consulting West Midlands residents on their views on integration through a region-wide conversation – and tackling pockets of segregation in inner city areas, where children may lack opportunities to mix with others from different ethnic and faith backgrounds.

– Improving education and employment outcomes for black Caribbean and Somali youth in the West of England, learning from successful initiatives in other parts of the country.

– Addressing social and educational divides in Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, particularly between Cambridge and the Fens to its north.

 The proposals are also supported by cross-party MPs, civil society and faith leaders.   The Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield and former Inter Faith Relations Advisor to the Archbishops’ Council and secretary of the Churches’ Commission on Inter-Faith Relations, said:

“The Diocese of Lichfield is committed to integration becoming a local reality, working through local churches, our church schools, and the Near Neighbours programme for the Black Country. I am encouraged to see that Andy Street and Sion Simon have both pledged to develop a comprehensive ESOL programme and establish a Cabinet Member for Cohesion on the Board. Appointing a deputy mayor for integration would further encourage the support of the region’s diverse faith communities to work together for the common good.”

Imam Qari Asim, Imam of Leeds Mosque and an independent member of the Government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred working group, said:

“The Casey Review rightly highlighted the places where our society is more fragmented than any of us would like. British Muslims do need to face up to specific challenges within our communities – but in focusing so extensively on Muslim integration, the Review risked making this a ‘Them and Us’ issue.

“New mayors will need to speak for all citizens in the new city-regions, across different faith and ethnic communities. They’re uniquely placed to understand the integration challenges across a broad area – and to make integration an issue that involves and matters to everybody.”

Last week, local MPs, educationalists and civil society leaders in the West Midlands signed a joint letter to the Birmingham Post urging candidates to support the appointment of a deputy mayor for integration.

 Download the full report here

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