Delay in funding for security at places of worship causing ‘distress’ to communities, Redbridge Council leader says
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The leader of Redbridge Council has asked the government to explain why promised funding for security measures at places of worship in Redbridge and across the country has been delayed.
In the wake of the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March last year, the UK government announced it would double the funding available for security infrastructure at places of worship.
The extra funding scheme opened in July last year and successful bids were due to be announced in November.
The home secretary at the time, Sajid Javid, said: "Nobody should ever fear persecution of their faith and it's vital we stand together to reject those who seek to spread hatred and divide us.
"That's why we are doubling next year's places of worship fund - providing physical protection as well as peace of mind."
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This week, Councillor Jas Athwal wrote to Priti Patel, the home secretary, to ask why funding has been delayed.
"It is now nearly one year later and I am extremely concerned we are yet to hear of any funding being allocated to places of worship," he said in the letter.
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"There are several places of worship in Redbridge and hundreds across the country nervously awaiting news on the success of their application."
The promised funding would provide financial support for physical protective security, such as fencing, lighting and CCTV, Cllr Athwal said.
"Places of worship are sanctuaries for our religious communities and to see them targeted for attacks is deeply disturbing and has spread fear and concern across religious groups," he said.
"Before Ramadan started in 2019, I attended a workshop at a mosque in my borough on security advice for places of worship. I heard first-hand how fearful many in our community have become.
"The delay in allocating funding is causing distress to communities in Redbridge and across the country.
"This support is paramount to the safeguarding of all places of worship and without it, leaves many vulnerable."
A Home Office spokesman said the government is committed to protecting places of worship by doubling the amount of funding available for the Places of Worship Scheme for 2019-20 to £1.6million, and doubling it again the following year.
"We received a record number of applications for the scheme in 2019-20, and will be informing successful applicants in the near future." the spokesman said.