Sayeeda Warsi, the Tories' community cohesion guru, has warned that Hounslow's efforts to stop far-right groups and religious fanatics flourishing could be doing more harm than good.

Hounslow Council has received nearly £600,000 of government funding, under the banner of 'preventing violent extremism' (PVE), to spend on community projects over the next three years.

Town hall chiefs hailed the success of the programme, which has provided opportunities for 'socially-excluded' and 'disengaged' youths from various religions and backgrounds, in a report published last November.

But Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, shadow secretary for community cohesion, claims providing funding for groups based on faith and race may be doing more to divide than unite Hounslow's diverse population.

"For too long we've engaged as politicians and funded as a government on the basis of race and religion," she told the Chronicle. "We've pitted communities against each other and made people feel like haves and have-nots.

"We need to stop engaging with individual groups and start meeting people on the basis of the issues they have."

She added that there was no evidence the PVE fund was working and called for local authorities to be given a greater say on how such grants are spent.

Ministers identified Hounslow as a 'priority' council for PVE funding because of its history of terrorist links and the rise of the far right in the west of the borough.

Asif Hanif, Britain's first suicide bomber, and suspected terrorist Zeeshan Siddique both grew up in Hounslow and studied at Cranford Community College.

The National Front received nearly 1,000 votes in Alan Keen's constituency of Feltham & Heston at the last general election - almost 200 more than the Green Party.

A number of groups in Hounslow have already received PVE funding.

They include Hounslow Asian & African Youth Association (HAAYA), which was awarded £30,000 to provide leadership training for young people, and Volunteer Centre Hounslow, which got £10,000 for projects aimed at 'disengaged and vulnerable Muslim young people'.

There was also funding for three schemes targeting 'socially excluded white communities' seen as susceptible to extremist views, with £8,000 for Brentford Football, £15,000 for Hounslow Youth Service and £2,000 for Feltham Arts.

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