Race Equality: Voices from across the boroughs

The page hosts the Race Matters newsletter, as part of the Tackling Racial Inequality programme, and captures the voice of staff across the London local government workforce. 

The Tackling Racial Inequality programme is led by a Chief Executive working group, it aims to support and build on the work already taking place across individual councils in London seeking to address racial inequality. It aims to tackle the long-standing racial injustices faced by London’s communities and contribute to making London a fairer and more inclusive place for all its residents

Kim Smith, Chief Executive of Hammersmith & Fulham and Chair of the Tackling Racial Inequality programme

Does it feel like a whole year has passed since the world was shocked by the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers? Maybe the recent trial of the assailant has brought it all back but for many of us the hurt never left us …

The words George uttered ‘I can’t breathe’ not only reflected his physical pain as his life was so cruelly ended but it became a symbolic metaphor of the global struggle against racial injustice and inequality encapsulated in the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.

People from Black, Asian and Minority ethnic backgrounds led a global outcry and people from ALL backgrounds demanded change.

In London, local government has stepped up and is taking the lead in driving forward the public sector race equality agenda. We were already working on service improvements and systems leadership in areas like housing, health, crime/policing, skills and employment, climate change but since June 2020, we’ve challenged ourselves to more pro-actively and visibly embed high quality race equality commitments and actions.

We’ve also spent some time establishing a new London local government work programme centred on 3 key themes;

  • growing more visible and impactful senior leadership commitment
  • doing much more as large employers ourselves (recruitment, succession, development, sub-contractors) and
  • building/promoting and critically sharing best practice.

So, we’ve established an almost military-like operation with working groups using over 100 volunteers from all boroughs in the hope that setting up a robust governance framework will make tackling racial inequality stick, make it sustainable and ensure we make measurable differences.

Indeed, every London borough and the City of London have signed up together with London Councils and this engagement has created a solid foundation upon which I believe we can better achieve pan-London action for change.

We’re also collaborating with borough staff networks; Heads of HR, recruitment firms, London Leadership Programme Alumni and other stakeholders who have a shared responsibility to tackle racial inequality to ensure we don’t work in silos and we don’t duplicate.

You can’t fix something until you all agree what’s broken right?

So, our best example of our approach and our progress over the last year has been the ground-breaking ethnicity and pay survey of 87,000 workers across all London boroughs. Imagine it’s never been done before … you need to know where the ‘glass ceilings’ are for which community, in which departments before you can develop training, fast track and get ahead initiatives surely. So our work is unapologetically hard hitting and ambitious and we relish the challenge!

Colleagues we have much work to do so let’s work together to see if we can make 2021 even bigger and better and show visible race equality outcomes for all. You can get involved through your council’s staff network – we’re stronger together.

 

George Perry Floyd Jr. 14/10/1973 - 25/05/2020   Rest in Peace

Janice Green, Community Scheme Manager, Westminster Council

Why did you sign up to the programme?

I signed up to be a part of the programme because I’m currently on the Emerging Leaders Programme and wanted to get involved in working groups that focus on issues which affect my community, especially young people and women.

What is your hope for this work?

My hope is that we identify areas of importance and develop services, policies and support that encourage a better standard of living for local people.

What do you think are the key challenges your group is facing?

The key challenge I feel is inequality itself - there is a reluctance in certain areas to accept that it exists.

What is happening in your own borough/organisation?

In Westminster, I’m a member of a number of working groups including Housing, Health & Safety, Economic Recovery, and Community Engagement. We hope to raise awareness of the impact different issues have on our BAME communities.

Do you have any other reflections on the past year, or local and London progress, that you’d like to share?

The last year has been difficult for us all, some more than others, and my condolences goes out to all those who have lost loved ones.

That being said, the past year has shown how people can come together in support of each other. I have seen and met enterprising people who have used the lockdown in a positive way by starting their own businesses. I would hope this continues and groups like ours would provide them with the support they need to develop further.