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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Race riot town 'remains divided'
Oldham during the 2001 riots
Oldham was one of three northern towns hit by riots in 2001
Divisions between communities are still "entrenched" in Oldham five years after riots, even though residents feel race relations are improving, a report says.

The town has done much work to build "community cohesion" but it could take "at least a generation" to address issues if policy gaps are not met.

Report author Ted Cantle led the first Home Office inquiry into the riots in the Greater Manchester town in 2001.

The riots were initially blamed on segregation of whites and Asians.

Attitudes 'untenable'

"Divisions within and polarisation between Oldham's many communities" remain, according to the progress report.

Divisions are most acute in housing and schools, Professor Cantle believes.

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And "the seeming reluctance of many sections of the community to embrace positive change", was commented on.

"Such attitudes are completely untenable as a basis upon which to build cohesive communities," the report said.

Oldham Council chief executive Andrew Kilburn said the report's conclusions should not decry "the sterling work, dedication and commitment" by community representatives, faith leaders, schools and the police.

"Their work gives us the platform to take on board the recommendations of the report," he said.

'Openness and trust'

Professor Cantle said there needed to be greater representation from both women and young people in Oldham.

Oldham residents air their views on racial integration

"That means us thinking about community leadership in different ways, and I think there is an opportunity here in Oldham to do precisely that and I think that getting women more involved, and particularly women from some of the ethnic minorities," he said.

Earlier, he told BBC Radio Five Live: "There is I think more openness and trust. But there are some very entrenched divisions in Oldham, it's going to take some time, probably at least a generation, to deal with the divisions."

Pasha Shah, chairman of Oldham-based Peacemaker that aims to tackle conflicts between ethnic groups, said economic differences were a major part of the current problems.

"In Oldham in the past there's been segregation, but many of these communities are very poor, and I think that's been an underpinning problem," she said.

Community divisions are based on ignorance and fear
Lisa E, London

The chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality has warned similar riots could still happen in the UK.

Trevor Phillips said the "landscape" was being changed by both settled and new immigrant communities.

"Some people are anxious about this, and the way they respond is sometimes governed by the what the far right will do, because they will exploit it," he said.

Local Government Minister Phil Woolas said his office would continue to work with communities across England to "deliver further real changes".

"It is vital that issues of community well-being are addressed," he said.

Claims questioned

The original Cantle report, published in December 2001, made 67 recommendations, covering areas such as housing, political leadership, education, youth and leisure facilities and regeneration.

As well as the Oldham riots, the report examined unrest in Bradford and Burnley later that same summer.

It detailed how Britons were leading "parallel" and "polarised" lives where people from different backgrounds did not mix.

Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council later criticised claims race was the catalyst for the disturbances and said poverty, deprivation and social exclusion were the greater influences.

See how Oldham has tackled race relations since the riots

Oldham unveils regeneration plan
28 Apr 04 |  Manchester
Riot 'sparked' by gang's violence
13 Jun 03 |  Manchester
Race 'no issue' in Oldham riots
26 Jun 02 |  England
Riot-hit town bridges gap
28 May 02 |  England
Race 'segregation' caused riots
11 Dec 01 |  England

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