Debut speech will focus on hate crime

Nazia Rehman (centre)
Nazia Rehman (centre)

A newly elected Wigan councillor has chosen the topic of hate crime for her maiden address to the borough’s council chamber.

Coun Nazia Rehman will call on the council to “refresh” its approach to promoting the town as a “compassionate and tolerant place”.

The impassioned plea follows the death of MP Jo Cox and a rise in hate crime incidents across the country in recent weeks following Brexit.

Coun Rehman, who is the borough’s first ethnic minority representative, told the Evening Post: “I want to urge everyone to work with us (to promote equality), we all have a role to play. When Jo Cox died and there was an upsurge in hate crime, I was very moved by it all and that has urged me to speak.

“Someone has to stand up and take action and I believe it’s my role as an elected councillor to make sure this happens.”

Coun Rehman, who was elected in Tyldesley ward in May, explained that she has not witnessed any racially motivated incidents herself but her motion “evolved” after the results of the EU referendum were revealed.

The Pakistan-born chartered accountant said: “We have seen since Brexit a rise of incidents nationally where people think they can say or do what they want. I want to stand up and say that won’t be tolerated. This will be my maiden speech so I’m looking forward to it.”

Earlier this month, a regional police chief condemned a spate of race attacks following Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

GMP Assistant Chief Constable Ian Pilling: “While we cannot categorically say whether the increase is related to any particular event. I wish to make it absolutely clear that all hate crime is unacceptable and even a small increase is of concern to us. It is really important that we have an accurate picture of hate crime in Greater Manchester so that we can deal with it in the most effective way possible. So, I now want to make a wider appeal to the people of Greater Manchester - where you see it, report it.”

Coun Rehman will tell the council chamber: “In 2013 through our Believe campaign we created a sense of community pride and togetherness was built upon a platform of sporting achievements benefitting the borough with an enhanced national and international profile. Wigan Council, had a clear role to play in supporting and shaping the community at this unprecedented time.

“I believe we now need a campaign that raises wider issues including prejudice based on race, religion, sexuality, disability, age and gender. The aim is to demonstrate that the borough is accepting, tolerant and welcoming regardless of an individual’s circumstances.”

Following reports of racist incidents following the EU referendum result, GM interim mayor and police and crime commissioner Tony Lloyd said: “People across Greater Manchester will condemn racist attacks which have been reported in different parts of the country in the wake of the EU Referendum result.

“While Greater Manchester Police have said they have not seen an increase in reports of hate crime over the weekend, we are now starting to hear stories of people being abused because of their race, religion or nationality.

“There is no room in GM for hatred and division. We have worked hard, together, to build strong, cohesive, and welcoming communities.”