Councils told by their own leader to improve race record

The race relations record of local authorities has been
criticised by their own leader.

Sir Jeremy Beecham, Local Government Association chairperson,
said: “Too many councils have failed to review their own policies
and practices in terms of service delivery, employment, or
championing racial equality.”

Only about half of local authorities know how many black and
ethnic minority staff they employ and most have failed to review
their policies to examine levels of potential or actual racial
discrimination and harassment, according to an LGA survey of local
authority responses to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.

With the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 introducing a
positive duty to promote racial equality from April, the survey
reveals the extent to which local authorities have implemented the
recommendations of the Macpherson report into the death of black
teenager Stephen Lawrence.

Despite government attempts to address institutional racism in
the public sector, including the Best Value indicators on racial
equality for 2000/01 and the Commission for Racial Equality’s
‘Standard for Local Government’, the LGA survey makes
for worrying reading.

Only 18 per cent of councils have undertaken a corporate and
departmental review of their policies, although a further 64 per
cent are planning to do so. Only 27 per cent make provision for
black, Asian and ethnic minority staff or workers’ support
groups to contribute to corporate and departmental policy
development, while less than half have an action plan to ensure the
provision of appropriate and professional services to black, Asian
and ethnic minority groups.

In addition, the report shows local authorities have paid little
heed to the guidance issued in the wake of the Macpherson report by
the LGA, the Employers’ Organisation for Local Government and
the Improvement & Development Agency. Councils are urged by the
LGA to “revisit” the guidance.

In a letter to all local authorities, Beecham and LGA chief
executive Brian Briscoe urged chief executives to use the report as
“an opportunity to take stock of the steps they have taken, and to
decide what they need to do next in taking this agenda

“If we are to secure wide recognition and endorsement of
councils’ community leadership role it is essential that
local authorities are seen to reflect the needs of all members of
the communities they serve,” says the letter. “The challenges posed
by the Lawrence report are demanding ones, but it is crucial that
every council is seen to be responding positively to them.”





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