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Tuesday, 11 December, 2001, 12:45 GMT
Blunkett praises community's vision
Neighbourhood wardens at work
The community group set up warden patrols
A community scheme which transformed an inner-city area was praised as a model of good practice by the home secretary as he launched a report into this summer's race riots.

David Blunkett visited the Balsall Heath Forum in Birmingham, which is to become an example for deprived areas across the country.

Residents came together to clean up the neighbourhood when it was faced with the problems of crime, prostitution and litter.

Mr Blunkett heard about the importance of people of different faiths working together for the benefit of the community.

The key is people with different faiths and cultures working together

Dr Dick Atkinson, Balsall Heath Forum

Mr Blunkett highlighted the change in the area through the Forum's work.

He said: "Years ago Balsall Heath was a run-down, prostitute-ridden part of Birmingham.

"While they have had outside help, not least from the Home Office with support for the introduction of CCTV, the Forum shows what can be done when the drive and initiative of local people is harnessed to a vision for their own community.

"They recognised that each of us is dependent for our prosperity and fulfilment on the wider community of which we are a part."

Dr Dick Atkinson, the chief executive of the Balsall Heath Forum, said the group was very proud to have earned national recognition for its work which started 25 years ago.

David Blunkett
David Blunkett: Praised local vision

He said the success of the work in Birmingham depended on co-operation across the community.

"The key is people with different faiths and cultures working together," he said.

"It works because people believed that this could be done even though circumstances are difficult.

"We couldn't have done it without the meeting of cultures. We have built one community out of people from four corners of the earth."

CCTV cameras and neighbourhood wardens are part of the solution to the area's problems.

Safer communities

Abdul Hamid, the Neighbourhood Warden Co-ordinator said: "There's a lot of investment coming into the area. There's a lot of business coming into the area.

"There's very few people leaving the area but actually moving into the area because it's much safer."

Dr Atkinson agrees that the community is now a place people want to move to not away from.

"Twenty-five years ago there were no residents' groups, now there are 22," he said.

"Where there were two voluntary groups there are more than 50.

"A house that 10 years ago could not be sold, has been sold for 90,000."

Click here to go to BBC Birmingham Online
See also:

10 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Blair backs Blunkett on race
24 Aug 01 | UK
Youth key to race relations
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