Archbishop Sentamu speaks of opportunities and challenges in Bradford

ABY SpeakingOn 16th January 2014, Baroness Eaton led a debate to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the opportunities and constraints for the wellbeing of the City of Bradford Metropolitan District. The Archbishop of York spoke during the debate.

The Archbishop of York: My Lords, I, too, give thanks for the speech given by the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton.

At the last census, 84% of people in Bradford considered their level of well-being to be good or very good. That is 3% ahead of the national average, which is not surprising—Bradford is in “God’s own county” of Yorkshire. The statistics show the resilience of the people of Bradford. Bradford does not need pity, it needs positive commitment. Bradford is often spoken about from a distance, or as an illustration of certain national problems. The church, however, has a different perspective, an insider perspective. In 2005 the churches in Bradford set up an organisation called Bradford Churches for Dialogue and Diversity, to help bring together the different communities to learn from and share with each other. The government-funded Near Neighbours programme has provided small grants to many local projects. One of these brought together Muslims, Christians and Jews in a Muslim majority neighbourhood to share meals. This led to the Muslim community helping a local synagogue raise funds to repair a leaking roof. This is about restoring not just the fabric of a building but the fabric of a neighbourhood, of civil society.

Bradford is the most youthful city in the country: 37.4% are under 25, compared with a national average of 32.1%. But what are the prospects for these young people? At Bradford Church of England Academy, where I was a month ago, young people are doing my Young Leaders programme, unlocking their potential within their local communities. It is fantastic to see the energy going into a church club for older people. All kinds of projects are being done by young people. A lunch club has been created.

These young people have so much to offer, but in parts of the city, Church Urban Fund research indicates that child poverty rates are as high as 42%. What will happen to those children, for example, if the Government abolish, as they plan to do, the ring-fenced funding given to local councils for crisis payments and community care grants? The link between poor health, poor housing and poverty is of particular concern, with just over a quarter of the district’s children classed as living in poverty. There are 287 families across the district currently affected by the housing benefit cap. The average reduction to housing benefit for those families is £49.29, and needs to be made up from other benefits to avoid rent arrears. What sense does that make?

On the matter of benefits, why is it that in Bradford, 1,130 local disabled people have fallen foul of jobcentre sanctions and left without any income for periods of between four and 13 weeks. That is astonishing to me.

Bradford’s population is forecast to grow at 8.5% over the next 10 years, and around 2,200 additional new homes will need to be built each year to meet the projected growth in households—a major challenge. It is estimated that up to 25% of all new homes will need to be affordable homes. With the right investment, this will mean much-needed new jobs.

Bradford is proudly resistant to those who would seek to sow community discord, but high levels of unemployment are clearly a danger. Long-term projections indicate the importance of immediate action and investment. Just to maintain Bradford’s current employment rate of 65.6%, an additional 10,000 people will need to find employment by 2021. This is possible—with work on the Westfield centre beginning, there are new opportunities—but the city will still need 31,000 new jobs to bring it up to the national average. Jobs in Bradford tend to be low paid. It will be important for those in work to be paid a living wage.

I am very much looking forward to hearing the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, give her maiden speech. Her experience as director of the north-west rail development company qualifies her well to encourage investment in a northern city. We in the Church of England are creating a new Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales. This will create neighbourhoods that are wonderful.

Noble Lords, Government, business, civil society, churches and all religious communities: I put it to you that this is a key moment for Bradford. I hope that today’s debate will lead to more understanding and more investment in this vibrant city. Long live Bradford!

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: …The cornerstone of the city deal is a commitment that every young person in the Leeds city region has access to a job, training, apprenticeship, volunteering or work experience. It is important for me to emphasise that in response to the comments of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York. The aim is to create 20,000 new opportunities, which will tackle the problem of young people not in education, employment or training. The Department for Education is also working closely with Bradford local authority, schools and the dioceses to improve school performance. There are now 25 academies open, with another nine in development, helping to drive improvement in some schools with the lowest performance. I was also pleased to hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, said, about the work happening with the University of Bradford. Much is going on in that area. We must ensure that Bradford has a highly skilled workforce and that the young people in Bradford receive the right level of education, which is so important to their future.

I also want to pay tribute to the strength of local communities in Bradford. The noble Lord, Lord Patel, among other noble Lords, spoke powerfully about that. Cities are far more than just their economies, and Bradford is not just culturally and socially rich but has a proud tradition of diverse communities working together across a range of issues. We have had some powerful examples highlighted by my noble friend Lady Eaton, the most reverend Primate and others. That is incredibly heartening…

…I pay tribute to the local authority in Bradford for the effort that it is making to improve the delivery of its services and to save money, although I certainly urge it to go further, as I do with all local authorities. I point to one specific different approach to local government financing, which I think answers one of the points made by the most reverend Primate about the desperate need of some families. That is the troubled families programme. That is one way in which we are changing the way in which we finance and approach difficult and entrenched issues, and we are making a huge amount of progress in that field…

(via Parliament.uk)