MORE must be done to prevent violent extremism in Calderdale, councillors have been told.
In the wake of several far-right group protests and the massacre in Norway, a report by the safer and stronger communities panel has warned the district is vulnerable to a range of extreme groups.
The plan to increase Calderdale’s defences against extremism comes after the council’s budget for preventing extremism has been slashed from £410,000 last year to nothing this year.
So far this year, the English Defence League has descended on Halifax three times, leading to 22 arrests for various offences including possessing an offensive weapon and being drunk and disorderly.
In 2007, two men from Halifax with extreme Islamic beliefs were convicted under the Terrorism Act.
Rizwan Ditta, of Royd Terrace, and Bilal Mohammed, of Thurm Hall Close, were arrested in dawn raids by anti-terrorist offices from the Metropolitan Police supported by officers from West Yorkshire.
Bilal was sentenced to two years in prison and Ditta to four years after admitting possessing material likely to be useful to terrorists.
The panel’s report also says The British People’s Party and National Front contested town council elections in Todmorden and BNP candidates stood in number of wards across the district in elections this year.
It mentions far-right influences from across the county border in Lancashire and names Queensbury, Todmorden and Boothtown as hotspots.
“Calderdale is vulnerable to a range of extremist elements from a mixture of islamist, right wing and environmental groups,” according to the council’s safer and stronger communities director Robin Tuddenham.
“Although Calderdale is not identified as a priority area, the Counter Terrorism Local Profile suggests there are no grounds for complacency.”
Mr Tuddenham has advised councillors to help tackle extremist ideologies by making sure that moderate voices are heard.
Tough action must be taken to exclude foreign hate preachers and to tackle terrorist use of the internet for radicalisation.
“We can continue to build better relations between different communities through meaningful community involvement and engagement to shape neighbourhoods and public services, and narrowing the gap in the quality of life for individual and communities.”
l How do you think Halifax can keep the extremists out? E-mail us: email@example.com