Sports field with goal posts and houses in the distance

Greater Manchester to Consider New “Whole-Society” Approach to Tackling Violent Extremism


Rising levels of extremism in all communities means new thinking is needed to counter the terror threat, the Mayor of Greater Manchester says. 

  • Citizens, families, communities and faith groups to be asked to support the work of police and public bodies by challenging and reporting extreme and hateful behaviour 
  • New approach will support a Home Office pilot in Greater Manchester where more intelligence is shared at a local level

The increase in the number of individuals inciting hate and violence, and the more localised nature of the threat, means the police and security services are unable to monitor all those posing a risk.

The Mayor says that the time has come to consider a stronger, whole-society approach, where all families, communities and faith groups work to provide information to support the work of public bodies.

Andy Burnham was responding to the report of the Commission Preventing Hateful Extremism and Promoting Social Cohesion, published on 30 July. It was set up by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor Bev Hughes following the Manchester Arena attack.

The Mayor and Deputy Mayor have responded to the report’s recommendations, focusing on four key areas:

  • Working with the Home Office, Greater Manchester will develop a new, whole-society approach to tackling extremism. Alongside a pilot which will look at more local sharing of intelligence, Greater Manchester will make it easier for citizens to raise and report concerns
  • Greater Manchester will work to make the Prevent approach more transparent, explain its focus on safeguarding and challenge false perceptions
  • Greater Manchester will promote the #WeStandTogether movement as an informal means of building common values, including a new phone line to report concerns
  • Greater Manchester will make young people the priority for investment to create a greater sense of hope for the future.

Andy Burnham said: “In the aftermath of the horrific and evil attack on the Manchester Arena, people in Greater Manchester responded with a spirit of great defiance and solidarity. The Deputy Mayor and I commissioned this report to see how we might capture that spirit on an on-going basis, with a desire to make our communities permanently stronger and safer. 

“The truth is that we live in polarised times when violent extremism is on the rise in all communities. As the Commission concludes, it is families, friends and neighbours who are most likely to be the first to witness changes towards more extreme behaviour that might lead to violence. This is not about encouraging people to spy on each other but creating a greater understanding of the signs that indicate where behaviour has crossed the line and then making it easier to report. 

“Of course, the primary responsibility for tackling terrorism will always lie with the police and security services. They have our full support and they have done great work since the attack to bring those responsible to justice and reassure our communities. But there is more that we can all do to help them. The more we adopt a ‘whole-society’ approach to tackling extremism, the more effective it will be.

“I want to thank the commissioners and Councillor Rishi Shori for all their time and care in preparing this important report and opening up a new perspective in the nation’s debate about preventing violent extremism. Its conclusions deserve full consideration at a local and national level.”

The Commission was chaired by Councillor Rishi Shori, the Leader of Bury Council and Greater Manchester’s lead member for young people and social cohesion. Rishi was supported by six independent commissioners with a range of impressive experience in this field. They engaged with thousands of people in Greater Manchester to paint a picture of what life is like here, and also used academic research to guide their work. 

The report has found there is no single cause of individuals becoming radicalised, but the behavioural patterns caused by situation or emotional changes can be an early indicator. It also found there is a need for people to have the opportunity and safe places to have difficult and challenging conversations. 

Councillor Shori said: “Hundreds of hours went into putting together this comprehensive report looking at some of the difficult issues we face in Greater Manchester.

“We wanted to make sure we went about our work in the right way and spoke to the people that matter – our residents. We held face-to-face meetings with hundreds of people from a wide range of backgrounds and also engaged with a range of community organisations.

“By doing this, we hope that we can build on the fantastic work that was already taking place before the Arena attack and go forward together to create a more cohesive Greater Manchester for everyone.”

In their response, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor have pledged to adopt the Commission’s analysis and findings into the development of a new Greater Manchester approach to tackling extremism and promoting social cohesion. They have called on all communities and parts of society to play a part in developing new solutions.

They have backed the report’s finding that people need new ways to have difficult conversations about friends or family about whom they are worried and that it needs to be easier for people to have these conversations and report their concerns.

One of the main focuses of the report was how Prevent, part of the Government’s anti-terrorism strategy, operates in Greater Manchester. The commissioners found that while the principles that underpin Prevent are correct, there is a lack of information available and this leads to fear spreading in communities, which has led to a perception that it targets one community in particular. 

A drive will now be made to share more information about Prevent to allow it to be more effective and build trust in communities. The Commission has supported a second pilot of Operation Dovetail - the transferring of safeguarding responsibilities under Prevent from the Police to councils and other agencies to enable a more community-focused approach, learning from Manchester’s RADEQUAL programme.

The Mayor and Deputy Mayor have accepted the argument put by the Commission that top-down efforts to create common identity is unlikely to work and that a Greater Manchester charter would not be an effective way to build social cohesion.

Deputy Mayor, Bev Hughes said: “Whilst it was right for the Commission to explore the idea of a Greater Manchester charter, we understand their argument that it would not be an effective way to build social cohesion.  It is not possible to impose an identity on people, as the Government has found with its promotion of ‘British Values’.

“Identity takes many forms and can come from locality, faith or communities but importantly identity for society comes organically, as was shown through the #WeStandTogether movement.

“It is through the principles of these publicly-supported movements that we can best build social cohesion.”   

The report also highlights the need for investment in youth services to help us build a cohesive society. The Mayor and Deputy Mayor have pledged to make young people the priority for investment to give them hope for the future. This will include providing opportunities for them to meet young people from other communities and discuss difficult topics. The Commission has also backed the Mayor’s plan to introduce free bus travel for 16 to 18-year-olds.

An audit of Hate Crime Reporting Centres will be carried out to see what facilities are available in the city-region and a campaign will then be used to promote awareness of them. A further audit will look at public buildings to identify where voluntary and community groups could hold regular meetings to give people places to go in their communities.

The report can be accessed here.

Article Published: 14/12/2018 13:09 PM