Threat to success

The absence of a proper strategy damaged confidence in the whole concept of local economic regeneration

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Over the past years, tensions between the police and the black community in Brixton have mounted considerably. The recent deaths in police custody of two young black men have caused the situation to get out of control, incensing black families in the wider community. This has given rise to violent protests, as we saw on Wednesday evening. While I do not condone acts of lawlessness, we have to remember just how the community feels about injustices meted out to young men in particular.

The most recent police statement, about young black men being involved in mugging incidents, has only served to worsen an unstable relationship between the police and the black community in London overall.

In 1981, Lord Scarman, in the aftermath of the violent upheavals in Brixton, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol and other areas, recommended strongly that government invest more in inner-city areas to encourage minority groups to be more involved in the political process of development and change. Since then, funds have been allocated for economic regeneration in inner cities, but small black businesses in Brixton are still to benefit sufficiently from such initiatives. It has been suggested that the only way the black community can develop is through the creation of employment opportunities, which will enable both the unemployed and professionals to contribute meaningfully towards economic and social improvement.

The absence of a proper strategy of investment in black businesses and community organisations badly damaged the confidence of the community in the whole concept of local economic regeneration. Although my own organisation's input is seen as small, it is contributing in a significant way through its various construction training programmes, business advisory service schemes and our growing partnerships with community enterprise groups - local and national.

My company's activities are funded by Brixton Challenge and Lambeth Council as part of a local labour scheme which involved helping many unemployed people - both black and white - into employment and training within the construction industry.

If we are ever to have development in Brixton and Lambeth generally, every effort should be made by all parties to ensure that there is no repeat of Wednesday evening's incident. Only in this way will the scale of economic and social injustice be reduced or removed altogether. And only in this way, too, will we be guaranteed stable race relations.

The writer is project manager, ICEL, Lambeth Directions.

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