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Monday, May 27, 2024

Chair of Council Committee criticizes prevent scheme as a ‘toxic brand’ and urges Bradford Council to distance Itself

Cllr Nazam Azam, Chair of the Council’s Corporate Scrutiny Committee, made the comments during a discussion of a national review of Prevent, which he claimed discriminated against the Muslim community.

But his fellow Councillors said it was important that Prevent remained in the Council’s remit, as it gave a democratic oversite that would otherwise be lost.
The Committee was given an annual review into the Prevent programme at a meeting this week.

Cllr Nazam Azam. Image: Bradford City Council

Members were told of the various projects that were underway in Bradford to prevent people from falling under the influence of extreme ideologies, including Islamic extremism and the growing threat of far-right terrorism.

But the discussion was overshadowed by a recently published national review of Prevent. Published by William Shawcross earlier this year, the review suggested Prevent place more focus on Islamic extremism, and suggested there had been too much focus on right wing extremism.

The review has been criticised by many groups, who point out there has been a worrying rise in right wing extremism in recent years.

At the meeting Cllr Azam (Lab, City) said the results of the review made it difficult for him to support Prevent.

He said: “For the last three years we’ve been waiting for this review. For me this review is Islamophobic. I can’t see how it is feasible we can deliver this anymore.”

Cllr David Green. Image: Bradford City Council

Cllr Dave Green (Lab, Wibsey) said: “The challenge is groups might refuse to have people from Prevent come in because of the perception of the policy.

“The review says the focus should be on Islamic threats, but from my understanding tackling far right threats is a growing issue.

“If the Home Office goes down these lines then it will do further damage to Prevent, a policy with some aims I have sympathy with. But if you don’t take the community with you it is a bit like a stick with no carrot.”

Addressing officers from the Bradford Prevent work, he said: “We all recognise Prevent is tainted, not because of the work you are doing in Bradford, but because of the politics behind it on a national level.”

Officers confirmed the Channel scheme, to which many people are referred due to extremist views, was seeing a rise in far right and “multi-issue” referrals.

Noreen Akhtar, Assistant Director Neighbourhoods, said: “We do our best to make sure our responses are based on what comes through to us and what we are seeing, rather than what an independent body 300 miles away has assumed.”

Cllr Azam: “How do I go out to my community and say Prevent is there to support them, when this review seems to discriminate against a certain group.

“If this review is saying Prevent needs to tone down on the right wing extremism, I can’t see any way to engage with this programme.”

Danielle King, Bradford Prevent Coordinator, said: “Islamic terrorism is considered to be the greatest threat, but there is a growing threat of the far right.”

Danielle King, Bradford Prevent Coordinator Image: Twitter

She said some of the Prevent programmes in Bradford were specifically set up to tackle far right ideologies, as well as issues like extreme misogyny.

Cllr Azam replied: “The review seems to be telling us to stop doing that, that it is focusing on the wrong type of threat.”

Mrs Akhtar said: “In Bradford we are led by data. The data might tell us that the referrals do not back up what the review is saying.”

Cllr Azam said: “The national picture with Prevent has not helped at all – it is a very toxic brand.”

He said he was no longer comfortable promoting Prevent as a Council, and put forward a motion suggesting Bradford Council move responsibility for Prevent locally to either West Yorkshire Police of the Hate Crime Alliance.

Cllr Green responded to this suggestion saying: “I think you’re wrong. The fact that we as a local authority have a small element of control over this gives it a democratic oversight.”

Pointing out that the Local Democracy Reporting Service was reporting on the meeting, he said having it under Council oversight meant any discussion or debate was in an open meeting – and such debate was unlikely if Prevent was under police control.

He added: “I know a lot of us as Councillors have had kickback about Prevent, but to tak

Cllr Martin Love Image: Bradford City Council

e it out of democratic oversight is a step backwards.”

Cllr Martin Love (Green, Shipley) said: “We are elected as Councillor to do a job, we shouldn’t be washing our hands of it.”

The Committee instead voted to ask Council bosses to write to the Home Office to express the concerns raised at the meeting.

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