Ted Cantle is the UK’s leading authority on community cohesion and intercultural relations.       He established the Institute of Community Cohesion and the iCoCo foundation to build on this work and to develop policy and practice on interculturalism and community cohesion and created and chaired a new UK National charity in 2017 to build the capacity of this sector, see: Belong the Cohesion and Integration Network

In August 2001, Ted Cantle was appointed by the Home Secretary to Chair the Community Cohesion Review Team and to lead the review the causes of the summer disturbances in a number of northern towns and cities. The ground breaking Report –known as ‘the Cantle Report’ – was produced in December 2001 and made around 70 recommendations. The concept of ‘community cohesion’ was subsequently adopted by the UK Government and many of the interventions which it spawned have been used by local communities in this country and around the world. Community cohesion programmes have succeeded in reducing tension in local communities by promoting cross cultural contact, developing support for diversity and promoting unity.  Cohesion also continues to tackle inequality and the prejudice and discrimination which underpins it. (Ted’s book Community Cohesion: a New Framework for Race and Diversity) provides a historical background and review of current policy and practice.

He then developed the concept of interculturalism to provide a theoretical background to community cohesion and as an alternative to multiculturalism which he saw as holding back more fluid and changing patterns of identity and creating divisions. His book Interculturalism: The New Era Of Cohesion and Diversity is also published by Palgrave. Most of Ted’s work has, however, been focused on the practicalities of cohesion – to heal divisions and challenge prejudice and intolerance. This has included work in schools, in the workplace, in sporting and community settings.

Political Reform 

Ted has now begun to focus on the need for political reform, as a prerequisite for cohesion. In his recent review of the ‘Coming of Age of Cohesion at 21’ (see publications), Ted pointed to the lack of trust and support for the political process and politicians themselves – and the way that the political system and culture was fuelling divisions. He has begun to develop a programme of reform that includes: developing a more representative political class, ending the ‘career for life’ mentality of politicians and introducing limited terms; replacing the party political special adviser system with a new robustly independent and skilled advisory service; replacing the ‘first past the post’ electoral system with PR; creating more community centred political support; devolution of governmental decision making; abolishing the political control of appointments and honours; and creating a new culture based on collaboration rather than conflict. However, he is under no illusions – politicians are unlikely to welcome change that threatens their position!

Ted is not a member of any political party and maintains an independent position. Having canvassed a number of politicians from different parties, he has been delighted to find that the new True and Fair Party is very willing to consider the reforms he is advocating, and has already set out similar ideas, whilst politicians from other parties seemed very reluctant to even consider them and have a clear interest in trying to maintain the status quo.


Environment campaigner

Ted is also passionate about the environment and continues to champion environmental causes, especially those focused on tackling climate change. Ted set up and chaired and is currently a Patron, of Sustainability First, which is particularly focussed on energy management techniques. He was a member of the Board of the Environment Agency for England and Wales (from 2000 to 2008) and Deputy Chairman (2005 to 2008).

Ted’s environmental campaigns and work included:

  • Pioneering low energy housing in Wakefield in 1980 and developing an energy policy for the housing sector; and new national housing standards guidance
  • setting up the first Environment City exemplar programme in Leicester (1988)
  • leading the Climate Change Declaration for local government, signed by over 200 councils, pledging to step up their work to reduce carbon emissions
  • developing the ‘Green Charter’ for Nottingham City
  • founding Sustainability First in 2001, a national charity devoted to environmental change. I chaired this for twenty years and it is continuing its work today.
  • chairing the local government construction task force to champion higher standards (this probably reflected my work on housing and the Ice Centre)
  • becoming a board member and Deputy Chair of the Environment Agency

Other stuff

In over 30 years in public service, Ted has held a wide range of senior positions at national and local level focussing, in particular, on urban regeneration and key social and environmental problems. Mr. Cantle was the Chief Executive of Nottingham City Council between 1990 and 2001 and previously Director of Housing in Leicester City Council) and in Wakefield MDC and Under Secretary at the Association of Metropolitan Authorities. He has written extensively on housing and urban regeneration issues. Ted has also worked in both the private and health sectors. His early career spanned nearly 20 years of work in the housing and building sectors – see separate section below.

He successfully led the development of the £25 million Nottingham National Ice Centre from inception to completion and, as a consequence, was asked to lead the redevelopment of Nottingham Castle – a £35 million scheme to create a national visitor attraction. However, along with one in five such attractions, the Castle was unable to attract visitors due to the Covid19 pandemic and had to briefly close but has since re-opened (though still awaiting the completion by Nottingham City Council of some previously agreed features) . During this time, Ted was  chair of the Nottingham Castle Trust and will be setting out his experiences in this role in due course . He is also visiting professor at Nottingham Trent University and the University of Nottingham and has honorary doctorates from Oxford Brookes and Portsmouth Universities.

He was awarded the CBE in 2004 and appointed as Deputy Lieutenant in the same year.

Ted’s Books on Community Cohesion and Interculturalism 

book-cohension book-interculturalism

Community Cohesion: A New Framework for Race and Diversity Published by Palgrave Macmillan. Updated Edition 2008.

Interculturalism: the new era of cohesion and diversity  Published by Palgrave Macmillan. September 2012.


Ted’s Account of His Twenty Years of Housing

“In terms of my career, housing dominated my life for two decades. This spanned a number of different roles – from housing the homeless in Manchester, research and development in Wakefield, becoming a housing Director, then working in Westminster as a national spokesperson for the Association of Metropolitan Authorities – and then running a Housing department again, in Leicester

Despite the different roles, in many ways, the housing jobs were all the same – trying to get more resources to invest in decent housing and improve standards.

In Wakefield I was able to create a housebuilding programme from scratch. It was a new Council trying to find its feet so I was asked to assess the need for new housing in each of the fifteen different towns within Wakefield and to suggest housebuilding to suit a range of needs – families, elderly and younger people. As a new authority, we also had no designs for these new dwellings, so I was able to prepare design brief for an architects’ team created especially for the purpose. I looked around for ideas to copy, but there did not seem to be much available, so it seemed like a good opportunity to not only develop some ideas myself, but also to begin publishing them too! 

The number and type of houses that were being built at the time seemed to be very outdated in many respects.

In 1976 I published (with architect Norman Sharp) a proposal for ‘Mobility Housing – more flexibility in housing for the disabled’ in the Housing journal. This article, which was based upon our experience of designing and building new homes in Wakefield, proposed that the idea of housing for the ‘handicapped’ was outdated and that all homes and all estates should be built to mobility standards – with level entrances, wider doorways to permit wheelchairs, higher level electrical fittings, lever taps, ground level wc, more circulation space in bathrooms and kitchens, lower window cills, removal of internal sills, dropped kerbs to all pavements, wider pathways etc.. This allowed for greater integration and for seeing disability as more of a continuum. 

As a result of my support for ‘mobility housing’ in Wakefield, I was appointed to the International Year of Disabled Working Party and campaigned for better provision nationally and internationally. I published three  articles, two  in the Housing journal in April and May 1981, covering the integration of severely disabled people as an alternative to institutional care, and then the more general provision for the less severe; and then in the Journal of the Centre on Environment for the Handicapped, as it was then known, also in 1981.

At the same time, I was promoting better standards of energy conservation and had the chance to commission eight new experimental low energy houses as part of the Wakefield building programme. These were an attempt to reduce the cost of energy and contribute to conservation – climate change was not generally accepted at the time. The insulation standards were as good, if not better than anything developed today!

I published several articles to demonstrate that low energy housing was possible, with details of the eight houses, but also to advocate for a stronger energy policy nationally, for example through changing building regulations, provision of grant aid and new energy pricing policy. 

The articles were: ‘Why We Need An Energy Policy for Housing’ in Housing January 1983; ‘Wakefield’s Miserly Energy Houses’ in Housing February 1983; and these were re-printed in the Institute of Housing Yearbook 1984. The problem of demonstrations schemes is that they are admired, but generally not taken up unless led by government policy. If these standards had been adopted, our housing stock would today be very different.

I was also part of a campaign, by the professional bodies, to raise the standards of new housing more generally and joined a RIBA/CIH working party to develop new standards to replace the then outdated Parker Morris standards produced 20 years previously. I co-edited (with architect Stuart Mackie) and wrote the new proposed standards Homes For The Future, published in 1983. 

The standards included better heating and insulation, mobility provision, defensible space on estates and higher space, electrical and storage provision. However, the standards also reflected the need to respond to the poor building designs and maintenance problems found in earlier housing, which I was researching at the time under the Defects in Housing study (see below).

My Major Work – ‘Defects in Housing

I somehow fell into a major piece of housing research which came to dominate my life – and much of the housing debate – for a good few years. 

While working at the AMA as Under Secretary, local authorities were complaining about the lack of resources and the growing problems of repairing their housing stock. I foolishly started a survey of local authorities and was then swamped with information. This started a long process of not only identifying the causes of disrepair and the cost of rectification, but also having to identify many different types of dwellings spread across the country, for which no record had ever been compiled – a lot of fieldwork with my camera! 

The study comprised three separate parts, (with two subject specific studies, on timber frame housing and asbestos):

  • Defects in Housing Part 1 – Non-Traditional Dwellings of the 1940s and 1950s, with a separate Technical Appendix identifying the types and construction techniques. Published by the AMA in July 1983.
  • Defects in Housing Part 2 – Industrialised and System Built Dwellings of the 1960s and 1970s. Published by the AMA in March 1984.
  • Defects in Housing Part 3 – Repair and Modernisation of Traditional Built Dwellings Published by the AMA in March 1985.
    • The two sub-studies were: Timber Frame Housing – A Cautionary Note, published by the AMA in September 1983
    • And: Asbestos Part 1: Policy and Practice in Local Authorities, with; Asbestos Part 2: Model Specifications and Contract Documentation Published in September and October 1985

The studies exposed a number of issues: 

How central government had supported the development of the new construction techniques to rapidly expand the housing stock to meet their housing targets in the past, without any proper evaluation

The urgent need for major repairs to be carried out – and the studies showed that £18 billion was now required – in a period of reduced repair and maintenance capital expenditure and an already existing backlog

Tenants that had bought their council homes would also face a huge repair cost and would be unlikely to get a mortgage, unless the government stepped in to help them.

However, the Government did not readily accept the suggested costs and commissioned their own independent study – but to my amazement, this came to exactly the same conclusion, that £18 billion would now be needed.

And it set about enacting the Housing Defects Act 1984, to create a grant scheme for those tenants who had bought one of the identified defective council houses.

They did not act with the same haste to assist local authorities but capital allocations did begin to increase.

In 1986, I summarised the Housing Defects reports and the implications of them in a book chapter: ‘The Deterioration of Public Sector Housing’ in The Housing Crisis Edited by Peter Malpass, published in 1986.

My work on defects in housing spawned many other papers, conference speeches and publications but, under my leadership, the AMA began another campaign to try to reverse some of the negative image that council housing had unfairly attracted over the years – often because of the lack of investment in repairs and modernisation – and the political ideology of the day, much of which was completely unjustified. 

Homes Above All

The campaign was for ‘Homes Above All’ which included a celebratory campaign of 100 Years of Council Housing.

We produced a range of materials to explain how council housing had, over the years, provided many people with a decent standard of housing, at rents that they could afford. The standards that council housing provided were a vast improvement on those of the private rented sector. This was also part of my personal experience – the house in Well Hall was on the Progress Estate, built by the Co-operative Society for its workers. These ‘model estates’ were very similar to the council housing of the day and had a similar ethos – good standards at a reasonable not-for-profit rent.

The ’Council Housing Information Pack’ included:

  • 100 Years of Council Housing – setting out the history and development of council housing
  • Achievements in Council Housing – the development of council housing had not only provided good homes for its tenants, but had improved health, tackled fuel poverty, led innovations, for example in respect of sheltered housing, and provided real competition for private landlords. In fact, council housing had to be built to try  to tackle the insanitary standards of private landlords.
  • A Home Above All Video – story of a new council tenant
  • Briefing Notes -these included: Council Housing – the Myths and Reality; a wallchart; Housing Facts booklet, and Speakers’ Notes and Briefing

This was all about trying to remove the stigma that had become associated with Council Housing and also trying to persuade politicians to provide the necessary investment – this was actually available as a result of the sale of Council Housing but, despite promises, the money was not all being used to improve the existing stock or build new homes. This meant another campaign – to free up the money!

Many more publications and articles followed, with proposals through the AMA, to invest in the quantity and quality of the housing stock. In all, I wrote around 200 articles and publications on housing, contributing regularly to Housing, Municipal Journal, Local Government Chronicle, with even a weekly column in the Surveyor magazine.

The Move to Leicester

I had worked for the AMA for over six years, it was time to move on again.

It was a slightly odd move, as it appeared as a step backwards form what was a national position, and to one that I had already done – running a housing department.

But the housing service was under attack with the Government not only intent selling off council housing to tenants and not rebuilding sufficient homes, but also encouraging the transfer of the entire housing stock away from democratically accountable bodies to  housing associations. It was also an opportunity to run a housing department in a very diverse City.

I thought that the challenge was to improve the housing service and ensure tenants were happy with their landlord. So, in Leicester I set about developing area housing offices to be more accessible, investing in training schemes for the staff and creating clear quality standards for all services – repairs, re-letting empty homes, tackling complaints. And, as Leicester was a very diverse City, a lot of emphasis was placed in ensuring equality – this included setting up a pioneering Racial Attacks Prevention Group to provide support and safeguarding for  ethnic minority tenants. I was able to build on my previous experience in Wakefield, where I had adopted a similar approach, reorganising the housing service around the tenants, re-training and re-structuring the entire staff and making services more accessible. My assistant directors included Richard Thompson and Ged Lucas, as well as John Perry who, unusually in housing management, also had responsibility for improving private sector housing through grant aid and environmental improvement.

Working in Leicester did not stop me from campaigning for wider improvements in housing and I continued to write for all the journals and speak at conferences. However, I tended to focus more on service improvement and tried to encapsulate this is a book chapter ‘The Role of the Director of Housing’ published in Housing Management Changing Practice and edited by Christine Davies, published in 1992.’