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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
Council policy 'aggravated' riots
The aftermath of the Burnley riots
The report says council policies produced social fragmentation
Race riots in a Lancashire town were aggravated by council spending decisions and poor civic leadership, a report published on Wednesday reveals.

Burnley - The Real Story, cites segregated schooling, unemployment, housing and health problems, among other causes of the town's divisions.

However, the report also says that, since the violence, the town "has travelled a long way".

The riots in Burnley, along with Oldham and Bradford, flared up in summer 2001.

More than 200 people, some wielding baseball bats, were involved in the Burnley disturbances as gangs of white and Asian youths clashed with riot police.

We weren't interested in producing a report that papers over the cracks in Burnley's recent past
Mike Waite, Burnley Borough Council

Officers were threatened with weapons and pelted with missiles, cars were vandalised and buildings fire-bombed during the disorder, which took place between 23 - 25 June, with an estimated 1m worth of damage caused.

A similar report about the violence in Oldham, which was released last week, revealed that since the riots there divisions in community relations were still "entrenched."

In Burnley the report, put together by Burnley Action Partnership - a coalition of private, public, voluntary, community and faith organisations in the town - claims area-focused spending on regeneration in the 1990s also had an "unintended side effect" and was partly to blame.

This caused problems by "drawing investment and activity away from a neighbouring area, or displacing a problem such as anti-social behaviour across a ward boundary".

'Real success'

And this "contributed to social fragmentation by increasing neighbourhood rivalries.

"In Burnley this fragmentation took ugly forms," the report says. "Racists latched onto it and encouraged the resentment."

HAVE YOUR SAY
How about treating all members of society equally?
Graham Duncan, United Kingdom

But co-author Mike Waite, Burnley Borough Council's Head of Community Engagement, said Burnley has "travelled a long way" in the last five years.

He said: "The investment in housing, schools, policing and health is just starting to show results.

"However, the real success in Burnley has been how people and organisations have, often painfully, confronted the most difficult and challenging aspects of their culture, attitudes and prejudices."

Mr Waite said inter-faith initiatives set up since had encouraged thousands of residents to get involved.

'Confronting demons'

The Burnley Community Festival, held since 2002, also brings people from different neighbourhoods together each summer.

But despite the improvements, the report reveals the percentage of black and minority ethnic residents in the borough is just 8.2% - 7,400 in a population of more than 88,000.

Out of 15 wards, 12 are home to 90% of people from just one ethnic group and 10 include less than five per cent non-white residents.

Mr Waite said: "We weren't interested in producing a report that papers over the cracks in Burnley's recent past.

"If the report has any lessons for other parts of the country it is that only by confronting your demons can you defeat them."

A conference is taking place as the report is launched at Burnley Football Club, with speakers including Lord Tony Clarke, who chaired the Task Force into the disturbances in 2001.




SEE ALSO:
Race riot town 'remains divided'
25 May 06 |  Manchester
Fragile calm in Burnley
26 Jun 01 |  UK News


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