Singh warns public sector over race act

The chairman of the Commission for Racial
Equality has stated that the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000
must not be seen as “a tick-box exercise.”

Speaking at a London conference to inform
public authorities of their duties under the new act, Gurbux Singh
said that he did not accept that its effect would be “hugely
bureaucratic and burdensome” to the public sector.

Under the changes all public authorities have
a general duty to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination and
promote equality of opportunity and good relations between
different racial groups.

This includes monitoring for adverse impact of
policies and publishing the results of monitoring and assessments.
By May every public authority must produce a race equality scheme,
setting out how it will fulfil its specific duties over the next
three years.

Singh said inspection would be vitally
important in making sure public authorities were meeting their
duties, adding that the Social Services Inspectorate and the Audit
Commission would need to build it into their inspection

Public sector pride at being at the forefront
of race equality was unjustified, he claimed, as only just under 4
per cent of local authority staff were from ethnic minorities and
just 1 per cent of senior managers were.

But the sweeping and long-awaited change which
the new act represented would not see the CRE “standing on the
sidelines berating” those who had problems with their scheme. Its
role would be to assist with problems, said Singh.

Later, Angela Eagle MP, junior minister for
Europe, Community and Race Equality, told delegates that most of
the discrimination faced by public sector users was indirect, and
the result of “unthinking” public sector policies. Some of the
problems had arisen because of a lack of staff from ethnic minority
backgrounds in the workforce.

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