ONE of the original ‘100 Voices’ of Blackburn with Darwen Asif Mahmood clashed with council leader Kate Hollern over whether the borough was becoming more divided at a public meeting.

He asked her at the first event of the new community forum: “Do you think Blackburn with Darwen is more cohesive than it was at the original 100 Voices event eight years ago?”

She replied: “I think it is.”

Mr Mahmood said afterwards: “No. I don’t think it is. The borough is more segregated and divided.”

Community cohesion was just one of many issues raised during the three-hour session in King George’s Hall attended by more than 70 people and chaired by Coun Hollern.

They ranged from collecting rubbish off the streets and access to playing fields and sports hall through to the location of the interim bus station.

Queens Park community volunteer Val Yates, another of the original voices, asked representatives of Chester Street Mosque, why their youth activities were segregated by sex.

Zuber Yaqoob from the Mosque said: “This is a cultural matter for us.”

Coun Hollern said they needed to discuss this.

At the end of the meeting Mrs Young and the four Mosque representatives were discussing this and other issues as old friends from adjoining neighbourhoods.

Dorothy Crampton and Elizabeth Gregory from Guide ‘Circle of Friends’ said the interim bus station was inconvenient for pensioners.

They were assured the new £5 million Ainsworth Street complex would solve their problem.

Darwen’s Harry Blackwell praised council’s help in restoring the town’s ‘Square Meadow’.

Suzeda Patel from the Abu Hanif Foundation and Abid Saleh were two of many young people and youth workers to raise concern about the cost and red tape involved in using school sports and gym facilities.

Coun Hollern said: “It was interesting to hear what different issues were raised compared to eight years ago. The question of the use of new BSF schools facilities needs to be looked at.”

Blackburn MP Jack Straw said: “I am pleased 100 Voices is back. I don’t thing community cohesion is less good than it was eight years ago but what would have happened if we had ignored this issue?”