EFFORTS to bring different communities in the district together must not ignore the fact that many people are not religious, a councillor has advised.

The Bradford Stronger Communities Partnership comprises figures from the voluntary, private and faith sectors and local people who live in Bradford.

Its vision is to make sure that all people living and working in Bradford District 'Get Along, Get Involved, Get On and Feel Safe'.

It is headed by Bishop of Bradford the Rt Rev Toby Howarth, and one of its main aims is to bring together communities that rarely interact with each other to improve social cohesion.

But at a meeting of Bradford councillors on Thursday one member warned that in its efforts to be inclusive the project should not ignore one specific group - people of no faith.

Bishop heads project to tackle integration in Bradford

Bradford had been granted funding of £2.75m over two years by the Department of Communities and Local Government to carry out the project, and numerous activities have been organised for across the district.

People involved in the partnership have been visiting Bradford Council’s various area committees to discuss the work being done across the district.

The Keighley West Area Committee discussed the partnership at its most recent meeting in Keighley Town Hall on Thursday, and heard from Neena Punnu, a project support officer.

Members were told of various different projects happening in the district including “social mixing” schemes that brought together different communities that would rarely socialise.

She said 17 projects were on the go at the moment.

Some schemes involved young people from different ethnic communities meeting for activities, and another sees young people who are not in education or training getting mentoring advice from older generations.

Members acknowledged the good work being done, but one member pointed out there was a danger that it focused too much on defining groups by religion, and ignored people who are socially isolated by class.

Councillor Paul Godwin (Lab, Keighley West) said: “One of the biggest challenges will be getting people from different areas to mix - getting people from Ilkley mixing with the people of Keighley.”

Pointing out that there seemed to be a religious slant on the project, he added: “The chair of the project is the Bishop. We need to remember that very few people go to church.

“People of no faith are often ignored, despite the fact they represent the vast majority of our communities. We talk a lot about faith groups coming together, but we much remember that the majority of people do not have a faith.”

Other schemes in the project involve an “innovation fund” providing grants between £2,500 and £5,000 to smaller programmes and schools joining a “linking network” that brings schools from different areas and communities together. Over 130 classes of Year 3, 4 and 5 children have already signed up.

In Keighley there will soon be a scheme to help people in the town with poor English skills.