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Bradford is a great city. Our diverse community is rich with cultural and economic opportunities, but our recent history is also full of challenges: riots, racism, poverty, unemployment, crime and more. It is these very challenges that led the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to commit to Bradford in 2004

Importantly, Bradford isn’t alone in facing these problems. Many other cities in the UK – and indeed worldwide – face similar difficulties. We will be delighted if evidence from our research allows valuable lessons to be learnt and progress made.
Positively, local businesses are optimistic about the future. They have a vital role to play because economic growth will be crucial to how Bradford moves forward. They can make a real difference as the area seeks to deal with youth unemployment and difficulty attracting and retaining investment, jobs and skills. Our research has also made clear the negative impact poor economic conditions can have on health and well-being.
Our research also found that people were frustrated and angry at seeing Bradford portrayed negatively.

They felt this damaged the district’s prospects. Policies on ‘community cohesion’ and ‘preventing violent extremism’ following 2001’s northern disturbances and the 2005 London bombings have been criticised for being counter-productive. This has been particularly acute for Muslim communities, and in particular young Muslim men and Muslim staff in public and voluntary sector agencies. Alongside this, Bradford’s white working-class/low-income communities have also experienced increasing marginalisation. Some feel they are seen as the ‘lowest of the low’, left to struggle while they see their neighbourhoods change and (real or perceived) examples of resources being used elsewhere.

While Bradford seems to have escaped the worst of the recession, many fear public spending reductions will have a serious impact on frontline services that deliver crucial support to vulnerable local communities. Just as they are needed most, their very existence comes into question.
National counter-terrorism and community cohesion policies can be very damaging at local levels. Many we spoke to felt focusing on Muslim communities and Bradford’s ethnic make-up had been unhelpful, diverting attention from the underlying issues of poverty, inequality and lack of access to jobs, housing and services. For these reasons many in the city feel let down by both local and national leaders.
Despite all this, Bradford has clearly moved forwards – something national government, politicians and the media need to catch up with. In Bradford there is a clearer understanding of the city’s strengths, failings and challenges. We must remember that Bradford remains the most unequal district in England and 26th most deprived in England.

At a time of huge pressure on budgets, perhaps our greatest challenge is achieving more transparent debate over who gets what, helping to build a shared understanding around what citizens accept as fair within communities. Bradford’s future rests on being able to harness the potential of its population, emerging industries and global links, and on being able to demonstrate cohesion between residents, regardless of their background. The ethnic and social diversity of the city can be a source of strength in a changing society and economy.
We are looking forward to our current partnership with UnLtd bearing fruit. By investing £130,000 to support up to 13 SocialFutures Awards, we hope to recognise the enterprise and energy local people have to shape Bradford positively.
We know the problems Bradford faces aren’t unique or extraordinary, but we also know that a community which feels unfairly treated may be drawn into dangerous downward spiral. None of us want to see this risk become a reality. We want to see Bradford becoming a prosperous, dynamic city once more.

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Written by Bana Gora   
Friday, 29 July 2011 10:45

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