Council leaders ‘do not want to be town hall James Bonds’

4 Jun 18

Local authorities must not become a “replacement” for the security services under the government’s updated counter-terrorism strategy, council leaders have warned.

In a speech this morning, home secretary Sajid Javid announced the government’s renewed ‘Contest’ counter-terrorism strategy will declassify intelligence about people of concern to share with local councils and police forces.

Speaking on the anniversary of the London Bridge terrorist attack, Javid said: “We will work more closely with partners outside of central government.

“We are piloting new multi-agency centres in London, Manchester and the West Midlands to bring together the widest range of partners and improve our understanding of those involved in terrorism.”

The Home Office says that central to the new strategy is the notion of a partnership between the government, agencies, the private sector and communities working at international, national and local levels.

Simon Blackburn, chair of the Local Government Association’s safer and stronger communities board, said: “Information-sharing could be a positive step but what is crucial is that councils are not treated as a replacement for the expertise and resources of the security services and police.

“Local authorities are not MI5 and it’s essential that the police and security services lead on responding to and acting on any threats.

“With councils also facing significant and ongoing funding pressure, local authorities’ work to tackle radicalisation also needs to be properly funded over the long term.”

The government has previously denied that a lack of police funding contributed to UK terror attacks.

Javid reaffirmed the government’s commitment to the controversial ‘Prevent’ scheme, introduced in 2015, which requires local authorities to establish or make use of existing multi-agency groups to assess local terror threats.

“The ‘Prevent’ strategy will remain a vital part of our counter-terrorism work,” he said. “I recognise the criticisms, but I absolutely support it.”

The home secretary added: “Misapprehensions around ‘Prevent’ are often based on distortions.”

Blackburn said: “We will continue to engage with government to ensure residents are kept safe and that local authorities can play their role in supporting and protecting communities.

“While we can all be on the lookout, preventing and protecting us from terrorism is a responsibility that should remain with the police and security services.”

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