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Community Relations Councils

Volume 933: debated on Thursday 16 June 1977

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7.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many local community relations councils there are; and, of these, how many receive a grant from the local authority.

There are currently 91 local community relations councils, of which 83 are in receipt of a grant from the local authority.

Bearing in mind that the Slough Conservative council has withdrawn its grant to the Slough community relations council, thus hoping to render it inactive, will my hon. Friend consider compelling local authorities to support their community relations councils? Originally the idea was that the councils should represent a cross-section of political opinion, so that they would not become political footballs.

I am aware of the Slough case. I have recently written to the Slough council expressing my concern my belief in the value of the community relations councils, and the importance of their being supported. This has been confirmed in a circular issued by my right hon. Friend and other Secretaries of State of various Departments urging the necessity of working closely with the councils. Beyond that it would be difficult to go. Section 71 of the new Race Relations Act has placed a duty on local authorities, and one of the ways in which they can discharge that duty is through support for their local community relations council.

Is the Minister aware that community relations councils can sometimes do more harm than good to community relations? Will he leave entirely in the discretion of local authorities, as it is now, to question whether they support the councils?

I have probably seen more community relations councils in the past year than the hon. and learned Gentleman has seen in his lifetime. I pay great tribute to the constructive work that they undertake. The purpose of my answer was not to insist upon removing the discretion of local authorities but to try to advise them how best they might exercise their discretion.