The Commission for Racial Equality has been asked to consider
whether proposals for the allocation of neighbourhood renewal funds
by Birmingham Council contravene the Race Relations Act 1976 or its
Representations have been made to the CRE by individuals and
organisations concerned that the way the council has allocated the
funds amounts to discrimination against their largely black and
ethnic minority populations.
Birmingham has decided to share £31.5 million of its
£50 million neighbourhood renewal fund allocation between the
29 wards that fall in the top 25 per cent most deprived wards
nationally. But critics say cash should be targeted at the 13 wards
that fall into the top 10 per cent. The remaining £18 million
will be spent on other council priorities and initiatives.
The fund is a top-up for the 88 local authorities – including
Birmingham – who appeared in the top 50 on any of the government’s
six indices of deprivation 2000 measures. It will amount to
£800 million over the next three years.
According to the 1991 census, 70 per cent of all people from
ethnic minorities live in the 88 most deprived local authority
areas, compared with 40 per cent of the general population.
The national strategy action plan on neighbourhood renewal,
published in January, states that the fund is a way “to help local
authorities and their partners to begin improving core public
services in the most deprived neighbourhoods” in order to narrow
the gap between the most deprived areas and the rest of the
The newly-established neighbourhood renewal unit also has a
clear responsibility to ensure that neighbourhood renewal benefits
ethnic minorities and that funding under the unit’s control –
including the fund – goes in representative proportions to black
and minority led groups and needs.
In addition, the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000, which came
into force in April, places a new statutory duty on local
authorities to promote racial equality and prevent racial
Liberal Democrat councillor Mohammed Masoom said he and
colleagues were considering launching a campaign against Birmingham
Council over its allocation plans.
“This is not right,” Masoom said. “The money came for deprived
areas. The people in these 13 wards are suffering. That is why
central government allocated this money.”
Masoom said that the 13 most deprived wards would receive just
over £1 million each over the next three years under the
council’s plans compared with almost £4 million if the full
£50 million had been split 13 ways.
A CRE spokesperson said the organisation was considering the
matter. “The CRE has argued for many years that public bodies which
secure funding for race equality needs in their area should spend
that money on meeting those needs,” he said. “The issue though is
whether this is a breach of law.”
Council leader Albert Bore said he was unaware of any legal
challenge and remained “confident that the allocation was
The allocation plans were published within days of the council’s
response to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, which concluded that the
council was institutionally racist.