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Bexley: Closure of equality council will lead to BNP resurgence

PUBLISHED: 10:08 17 March 2011 | UPDATED: 10:16 17 March 2011

October 16 1993, race hatred erupts on the streets of Welling where more than 20,000 demonstrators clashed with police barring their way to the BNPs headquarters in Upper Wickham Lane, Welling

October 16 1993, race hatred erupts on the streets of Welling where more than 20,000 demonstrators clashed with police barring their way to the BNPs headquarters in Upper Wickham Lane, Welling

Archant

The closure of the Bexley Council for Equality and Diversity (BCED) may result in a resurgence of the BNP, according to the director of the organisation which is set to close.

BCED  l to r Harjeet Walia, Jagdish Sharma, Lux Anadarajah,Jasminder Sidhu and Krisen Jalli

The group, which began work in the borough in 1968 and was instrumental in closing the BNP headquarters in Welling — faces closure after its entire budget— amounting to £140,000 last year — was axed by Bexley Council.

Members attended a number of protests where BNP supporters would chant “go back” while white, black and Asian counter protesters who arrived from all over London would retort “fight back”.

Since the council announced its decision to withdraw funding campaigners and residents have spoken about their fears that the BNP may become prominent in Bexley again.

Director Lux Anandarajah, 60, from Belvedere, said: “The BNP were very open and forceful in their views in the ’90s and they have now entered mainstream politics. They will become strong with the absence of an organisation like ours.

BCED l to r Harjeet Walia, Jagdish Sharma, Lux Anadarajah,Jasminder Sidhu and Krisen Jalli

“We have been fighting for racial equality in Bexley where residents have experienced their fair share of suffering.”

During its consultation period, the council conducted a series of meetings with community groups to establish their views on the work of the organisation.

However, BCED employees claim those consulted were not representative of those who benefit from the service.

It is due to close on March 31 and will be replaced by a single equality group which will work with the council.

Mr Anandaraja said: “It will be chaired by a cabinet member and will not have the facilities to provide advice itself without help from external bodies.

“All the good work is going to be wasted. The council doesn’t seem to realise how far we’ve come.”

Councillor Katie Perrior, cabinet member for community affairs, said: “Funding one community over another is seen as unfair and fuels far right groups to think that some people get special treatment over others.

“One of the driving forces behind these funding changes was to make sure all communities are treated the same.

“So the accusation that cuts play into the hands of far right groups is just plain wrong.”

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