The comments attributed to Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion, could be interpreted as having been a criticism of the work we are doing in Hounslow (Chronicle, February 12). I don't believe that to have been the case.
The argument which ranges respect for diversity against the desire for cohesion is a spurious one.
One of the three foundations for Community Cohesion as defined by the Department of Communities and Local Government is that all sections of the community should enjoy equal life opportunities.
I would concur with this entirely.
Disadvantage exists and for a variety of reasons - cultural, linguistic - some identifiable sections of the community do have specific needs and requirements that need to be addressed before they can reasonably be expected to integrate fully into a cohesive society.
Wishing that this were not the case or pretending that it isn't do not alter this essential truth one iota.
The key to cohesion lies in eradicating disadvantage and celebrating diversity whilst recognising that what we have in common as human beings far outweighs any differences that may exist between us.
I agree with Baroness Warsi that local councils, not the Government, should identify those areas in which monies allocated for cohesion projects should be spent.
Should we ever be granted that right I would hope and expect that the elimination of genuine disadvantage, as part of an intelligent cohesion strategy, would be a major priority.
I also share the distaste expressed by some of my coalition colleagues about the cynical way in which single-group funding has been used in the past for reasons of political advantage rather than in the community interest.
But that does not mean that we should wilfully close our eyes to disadvantage, disengagement or underachievement where it truly exists.
It is wrong to dole out public money to sectional interests in the hope of buying political support.
It is equally wrong to ignore obstacles to cohesion for fear of upsetting racist opinion.
I believe the current administration at Hounslow to be above doing either.
CLLR PHIL ANDREWS Community Group leader and lead member for housing and community safety, Hounslow Council.