A ROW has broken out after Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner said radicalism is not being taken seriously by the city council.
Simon Hayes criticised Portsmouth City Council’s work in the wake of young men travelling to fight in Syria with Islamic extremist groups.
The News can reveal the council has, in the last few days, employed a counter-extremism coordinator with £80,000 Home Office cash.
It comes nearly 18 months after Primark worker Ifthekar Jaman died fighting in December 2013.
Speaking at a public meeting Mr Hayes said: ‘There’s great concern around Portsmouth.
‘I hope Portsmouth City Council will take their responsibility seriously – and I’ve yet to see that.
‘I would like to see them step up to the plate quite quickly because this is hugely important.’
Councillor Donna Jones, council leader, has hit back and said front-line workers have been trained to recognise vulnerability to extremism, with events and seminars put on addressing the subject. Leaflets have also been put out.
Cllr Jones said: ‘We have taken our responsibility very seriously, and have been working behind the scenes with relevant community groups for a number of years.’
She added: ‘As leader of the council I’m deeply disappointed with the crime commissioner’s remarks, I’ve personally met the Muslim community and have strong links with the Bangladeshi welfare community and have attended multi-agency meetings.
‘I suggest the police and crime commissioner seeks more accurate information and is briefed appropriately about work in Portsmouth.
‘In fact he’s welcome to come to the city and find out about the work we carry out for himself.’
She said tackling extremism is not an overnight fix and needs time and specialist skills.
Mr Hayes said he welcomes the council taking a proactive role and will keep an eye on the matter.
He said: ‘Preventing radicalisation is very important. Primary responsibility has now shifted from the police to the local authority – this has been a government change so I welcome the city council has now taken on this responsibility.
‘There’s a great deal to do and time to make up. We all have a role to play and I will be making sure the chief constable’s in a position to support the council where possible.’
The city has been classed as a second-tier area under the national counter-extremism Prevent scheme, meaning there is a higher risk of radicalism.
Hampshire, excluding the city, is designated as tier one and a lower risk.
The Home Office cash was only confirmed mid-March and the person employed two weeks ago.