Covid has 'heightened' far-right extremism risk in Havering, charity says

Havering Town Hall

Havering was named by Hope not hate as one of the authorities where Covid-19 has "heightened existing risks" of far-right extremism - Credit: Ken Mears

Havering has been named as one of 52 local authority areas where Covid has "heightened" the risk of far-right extremism, according to a charity.

Hope not hate published a report which assessed the impact of the pandemic on social cohesion and integration across the country.

The charity, which aims to expose and oppose far-right extremism, said all of the 52 councils had seen a "significant" short-term Covid impact, have "lower long term capacity to recover from economic shocks", and "more hostile than average attitudes to migration and multiculturalism among parts of the local population".

It said: "We believe that these are the local authorities where stresses on social cohesion have potentially been amplified most acutely by the economic consequences of the pandemic.

"This does not mean they will automatically be susceptible to far-right overtures.

"But it does mean that these are the areas where Covid-19 has heightened existing risks."

Council leader Damian White said the pandemic saw communities come together "like never before".

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He added: "As we head towards recovery, the council is keen to build on the progress made with community cohesion."

Last December, Havering had the second highest rate of Covid cases across the country and a total of 953 residents have died from the virus.

The Recorder also reported in July that the council was facing a budget deficit of £31.9million by 2023/24.

Chris Clarke, policy researcher for the charity and the report's co-author, claimed that Havering saw rising benefit claimants once the pandemic began.

He also argued that the borough was hit "especially hard" by the 2008 financial crisis.

"Havering is likely to feel a particular pinch in economic terms thanks to the fallout from the virus – more so than most authorities," he said.

"There is a risk that this could feed into community tensions. The knock-on effects for cohesion will need to be carefully managed and monitored.

“This is not to say it is a place where the far right is actively mobilising, or to deny that fantastic community work is ongoing.

"Havering has a positive and proactive approach to these issues."

The charity had a round table discussion with the council as part of its research for the report.

Cllr White said: “We work very closely with our different communities and faith groups with our relationships now even stronger following the Covid crisis.

"These partnerships will help the council to foster an inclusive borough where everyone feels welcome.”