05 August 2021

‘Potentially wasted decade’ to address some underlying causes of 2011 riots

05 August 2021

The 10 years since the riots which rocked London and other cities may have been “a wasted decade” in terms of addressing some of the underlying causes, according to the expert who led a Government-commissioned review into the disorder.

Speaking at an event organised by West Croydon Voice – a community organisation made up of people affected by the riots – Darra Singh, who acted as the independent chairperson of The Riots Communities and Victims Panel set up by the coalition Government, described the events of summer 2011 as a “national trauma”.

Speaking about progress made on implementing the panel’s recommendations for the first time since they were published, he gave examples of where “progress has been made”, but warned “in other respects I think we can view the last 10 years as potentially a wasted decade of opportunity – wasted by all those organisations that we encouraged to take some action”.

File photo of riot police on the streets in Tottenham, north London as trouble flared. (Lewis Whyld/PA) (PA Archive)

He stressed the recommendations were made for a number of organisations, including for local and national government, businesses, regulators, the police and probation services and others.

The Labour Party said the Government had only implemented 11 of the 63 recommendations made by the Riots, Communities and Victims Panel in 2012.

Asked by the PA news agency if he was disappointed in the progress made, Mr Singh said “to some extent I am”, adding, “of course we would have wanted all of (the recommendations) implemented, it’s up to Government to decide, but I would have welcomed the Government taking up more of the recommendations”.

He clarified that his disappointment at a lack of full implementation was “across all the recommendations”, adding “our recommendations were not all directed at central government”.

He said: “There are three fundamental areas where I still think considerable doubts remain.

“The first one being that there are still too many families and individuals who are not getting the public service support and intervention they require – what we call forgotten families.

“The second is the way in which public services support people hasn’t really improved as quickly as I think it should – taking a whole family view, being more timely and evidence-based.

“And the third is the impact of the reductions in support and funding over the last 10 years, taking capacity out of the system to respond.”

“I think we could have made much more progress than we have done”, he said, adding the pandemic has “deepened our challenge”.

He also highlighted “progress” in some areas, such as Government advice on the importance of partnership working and an increase in intensive family interventions, greater clarity on data sharing between different organisations, and a recent focus by the Department for Education on “character” as an element of personal resilience.

The unrest in 2011 began on August 6 following the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan by police in Tottenham two days previously.

What began as a protest against his killing turned into a full-scale riot that spread across the country over five days, involved around 15,000 people, and included looting, and businesses and vehicles set ablaze.

A report released by Labour on Thursday to coincide with the anniversary of the riots – which started in the capital before spreading to 66 other areas – found that the number of “forgotten families” where many of the young people involved came from was likely to have doubled in the past decade.

Labour’s report said “the key risk factors identified by the [2012] report seem to be even greater today than in 2011”.

File photo of mounted police on the streets in Tottenham, north London as fire burns around them during riots. (Lewis Whyld/PA) (PA Archive)

Speaking at the West Croydon Voice event to launch Labour’s report, the party’s shadow communities secretary, Steve Reed MP, said: “On balance I think it’s fair to say that the things the panel pointed to that needed to change the most have not changed, and in many cases things have got even worse, which should alarm all of us.”

In a statement released addressing the anniversary of the disorder, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Our city has been through a lot since the disorder of summer 2011, and there is no escaping the reality that some of the complex and entrenched causes of the riots – inequality, poverty, lack of opportunity and the need for better relations between our police and London’s diverse communities – remain.

“It’s crucial we tackle these challenges head on by advocating for increased funding and support to help regenerate the most deprived parts of our city.”

A Government spokesperson said: “The events of August 2011 shocked the country, and the police and courts took commendably swift action to bring perpetrators to justice.

“We’re strengthening communities by levelling up opportunities and ensuring local people are at the heart of decision making – identifying what matters to them and the best ways to achieve this.

“We’ve allocated £12 billion to councils since the start of the pandemic, with over £6 billion not ringfenced in recognition that councils are best placed to decide on local needs.”

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