BOLTON Council has backed a Greater Manchester-wide approach to tackle extremism and radicalisation - against the backdrop of the national strategy being seen by some as a "toxic brand".

The 10 member councils of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) agreed the new strategy on Friday.

It came after the GMCA reviewed how its members collectively meet the duty on local authorities under the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 to prevent people being drawn into terrorism.

The report was told radicalisation is an "emerging threat to community stability" with residents – including young people, women and families with young children – seeking to travel to Syria to join ISIS or ISIS affiliates in south Asia or north Africa, extremist groups speaking at private premises within Greater Manchester, susceptible individuals being groomed via social media and 'lone wolf' terrorists becoming increasingly prevalent.

The new approach aims to combat all this by better sharing information and practices, particularly in regard to the protection of vulnerable people swept up, and to better collaborate on cross-border issues, threats and management plans.

Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd, who is the conurbation's interim mayor, said: “There is a lot of good work going on across Greater Manchester to build trust and empower communities to work with police, local authorities and other agencies to challenge extremism, keep our streets safe and build cohesive neighbourhoods.

"By taking a stronger, more consistent approach to monitoring and sharing best practice, we can build on this good work and also identify missed opportunities to protect vulnerable people from radicalisation and target those who prey on them.

“Today, Greater Manchester’s leaders have committed to that approach, highlighting once again that we are more than capable of taking control of our own destiny for the benefit of our citizens.

"We cannot afford to wait for the Government’s review of its Prevent agenda to be published – an agenda that local people tell us is alienating and damaging to community relations.

"Working in partnership with local people is the only way to tackle radicalisation.”

A report on the GMCA review says there is no method for monitoring how the Prevent strategy is performing across Greater Manchester apart from existing twice yearly reports focused on policing efforts.

The GMCA agreed to establish a partnership forum to bring together Prevent co-ordinators from further and higher education sectors, NHS trusts, prisons, GMP and probation services in order to share concerns and lessons learned.

Research is currently in the early stages of development to try to understand the process of the radicalisation of young people in a bid to stop 'lone wolf' style attacks.

The report says: "Some would argue that whilst the original Prevent policy intention was appropriate, recent consultation with communities suggests that the Prevent strategy appears to have had a negative impact and is perceived by local communities to be a toxic brand.

"Rather than seeing this as a mechanism through which help, advice and support can be sought, it is perceived as being too focused on policing and intelligence gathering.

"As such, rather than helping to bring communities together in the fight against terrorism, the prevent strategy appears to have had the opposite effect and is divisive."

The GMCA members signed a set of seven 'community resilience principles' which commits them to among other things community engagement, supporting staff and councillors, encouraging communities to counter hate speech and protecting the most vulnerable and providing advice and support.