Fears over losing a local public voice

North Manchester's Jewish community could lose its only public forum for voicing concern over local issues after Bury council is looking to scrap local meetings to save money.

Local Area Partnership (Lap) meetings cost the council an estimated £200,000 to arrange a forum where police commanders, all local councillors and other authority representatives hold open meetings for local people to attend six times a year. They have also issued over £1 million in local grants including money to repair the Jewish Rainsough Cemetery.

In Prestwich, one of six areas with a partnership, meetings have been the only public forum to engage the strictly Orthodox community, who are currently protesting against a proposed sports facility being built. In November's meeting, the area's police inspector and councillors ordered a report on antisemitic incidents and antisocial behaviour affecting the Jewish community after local people had reported the issue.

Sydney Baigel, who sits as the Jewish Representative Council's spokesman at the meetings, said there could be the loss "of an avenue for bringing up matters within the local Jewish community.

Questions of security have been brought up and noted

"Questions of security and antisemitic incidents have been brought up and noted. Local bodies have been able to be very co-operative. Now I don't know that anyone understands from the council what would replace them. They seem to be communicating about it in smoke signals."

Prestwich's only Jewish councillor, Richard Baum, said a motion in support of Laps had been made at a full council meeting on Wednesday, but the decision undemocratically lay some weeks away with "a mysterious kabal called Team Bury" made up of unelected council workers.

But councillor Michelle Wiseman, who chaired the Whitefield LAP for three years, said: "No decision has been made yet, but the community needs to support them and the attendances at some Laps has been poor. People know where to contact councillors if they need them, and Laps are expensive to maintain. If they were to go, the council are looking at other formats for people to be able to contact their councillors."

    Last updated: 10:43am, December 17 2010