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The Home Secretary David Blunkett,
discusses his proposals for Oldham
 real 28k

Riaz Ahmed, deputy mayor of Oldham
"Oldham at the moment is full of divisions"
 real 28k

Friday, 15 June, 2001, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
'No no-go areas in Oldham'
David Blunkett
David Blunkett: Dividing neighbourhoods 'unacceptable'
Areas of Oldham hit by recent riots will not be fenced off to keep white and Asian people apart, according to Home Secretary David Blunkett.

The promise of "no no-go areas" follows a meeting of civic leaders, police and politicians called to draw up an action plan to ease tensions in the town.


The idea of ringing a neighbourhood would be totally unacceptable

David Blunkett
Mr Blunkett said the strategy would engage with local people, rather than just concentrate on "bricks and mortar issues".

And he launched a broadside against the British National Party and neo-Nazi group Combat 18 - accusing them of "causing havoc" in the area.

The new home secretary, speaking to BBC News, played down the absence of any Asians in Thursday's talks.

Political balance

Dismissing "vicious and unwarranted" attacks on him and colleagues over the issue, Mr Blunkett said Oldham's deputy mayor Riaz Ahmed - whose house was attacked in the riots - had been invited.

But the council had decided not to send him to ensure the delegation was politically balanced.

Three-point plan
Local plan of action within 4 months
Refocused funding
Local forums to restore confidence
The deputy mayor was then invited, at Mr Blunkett's request, to attend as an observer.

But Mr Ahmed had decided this would create problems at local level.

It was more important to make real progress than engage in "gesture-ism", Mr Blunkett added.

Mr Riaz has already said he was more concerned with the outcome of the meeting than who went.

Rising tension

The talks follow rising racial tensions in the Greater Manchester town that culminated in riots last month.

The three-point plan will include a local action programme to be prepared in Oldham, within the next four months.

Oldham West & Royton MP Michael Meacher
Michael Meacher: Lessons must be learned
Secondly, funding will be refocused borough-wide, to address perceived lack of fairness and ensure all communities benefit.

And thirdly, local forums - involving local police authorities, business leaders, and leaders of the white and Asian communities - would be established to rebuild confidence.

Mr Blunkett stressed that the aim was not Home Office intervention, but to support the town to find "solutions in their own community".

He was asked about the possibility of building walls between predominately white and Asian areas in Oldham.

The idea, promoted by far-right groups, comes amid media coverage of a metal fence erected in an alleyway, apparently aimed at blocking off an escape route for white vandals.

But Mr Blunkett said: "I'm not in favour of physical barriers per se.

"If there's a particular problem up an alley... they have from time to time been blocked off, but the idea of ringing a neighbourhood would be totally unacceptable.

"There will be no no-go areas."

'Dangerous situation'

He turned on those calling for the so-called 'peace walls', saying: "The BNP have caused havoc together with Combat 18.

"It is a very dangerous situation where there are genuine problems and people have grievances and others come in from outside to stir them up.

"So keeping the balance, a perception of commitment and support to particular elements of the community, is very important,"

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See also:

14 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Race riot town gets action plan
08 Jun 01 | Vote2001
BNP prompts Oldham concern
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