The chief executive of one of the country’s leading BME-led housing associations has called on Westminster politicians to “grasp the Brexit nettle” to avoid local communities being thrown into chaos.
In a New Year message, Ali Akbor, who has led Leeds-based Unity Homes and Enterprise for two decades, warned that fears over a no-deal Brexit or second referendum were causing “deepening anxiety” amongst tenants.
Akbor argues that MPs from across the political divide now had a responsibility to reach an agreed way forward.
“Unity is not a political organisation and has no desire to become one,” Akbor said.
“But our staff are close to the people we serve and it is clear that the decisions politicians make in the coming weeks will impact on tenants’ lives for years to come,” he said.
But Akbor draws away from a second referendum saying he was wary of further damage to community cohesion given the “aggressive tone and negative rhetoric” that has dominated the issue so far.
“Our tenants wish to live in a society at ease with itself, and side by side with people respectful of each other’s differences.
“This is not helped by politicians who advocate a ‘my way or no way’ doctrine and who seek to denigrate those who hold a different viewpoint to their own,” he said.
Akbor – also secretary/treasurer of BME National, a collective of over 60 BME housing associations – said it was “essential” that a Brexit compromise was reached in Westminster.
“The wheels of government have ground to a halt, that’s not a criticism, it’s a fact.
The Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper and the Social Housing Green Paper are gathering dust in Whitehall – we need to be moving on to the next stage on both,” he said.
Akbor also addressed “apprehensions” about the damage that Brexit uncertainty was doing to local businesses.
“Unity Enterprise, our not for profit subsidiary, hosts more than 80 businesses across three locations,” he said.
“The ability of these companies, many of them start-ups, to expand and create new employment opportunities is being restricted because of diminishing confidence amongst entrepreneurs.
Existing jobs could also be at risk – these businesses need greater clarity to enable them to plan for the longer term and make investment decisions,” he said.
Westminster, said Akbor, now needed to “reach out, not pull up the drawbridge” in taking example from “millions of British citizens of BME origin now forming a central plank of our nation.”