Campaigners question lack of diversity amongst local government executives
Research has revealed that the top tier of local government in Britain is overwhelmingly white – and that black and minority ethnic people have missed out on top jobs in the 400 town halls across the UK.
Staff in the highest paid council posts are mostly white men. Only a handful of black and minority ethnic (BME) people feature in key positions, even in local authorities covering areas with a large BME population.
Figures released to The-Latest.com, a citizen journalism news website, using freedom of information requests, show that many authorities employ predominately white staff as top decision makers, the posts that usually have the biggest salaries.
Of London’s 33 local authorities, including the City and the Greater London Authority, only Lambeth has an African-Caribbean or Asian chief executive. Yet the capital has a population that is 31% BME.
The chief executives of Newham and Brent are both white. An Asian woman is the sole BME representative on Brent’s nine-strong corporate management team. The populations of the two London boroughs are mostly BME.
The survey reveals that some councils come close to reflecting their ethnic minority population in their workforce. But the authorities fare far worse when forced to reveal the number in top jobs.
As part of a three-month investigation, town halls in Manchester, Birmingham, Bradford, Leeds, Nottingham, Leicester, Liverpool and Bristol were studied, none of which had a BME chief executive, as well as councils in London with a large BME population, including Boris Johnson’s City Hall.
Britain’s former race equality boss, Kick It Out chair Lord Ouseley, said he deplored the dire lack of black or minority ethnic bosses in town halls.
Ouseley made history as Britain’s first black chief executive of a big unitary authority when he took control of staff at the Inner London Education Authority in the late 1980s. He left his job as boss of Lambeth council to become chair of the Commission for Racial Equality in 1993.
Ouseley said: “One can look back to 20 years ago and say that there were black council leaders and local government executives, whereas today there are very few. In some town halls it’s an all-white structure at the top.” He added:
“It’s inexplicable why talented black and minority ethnic people are no longer in key decision-making positions.”
In 2001 Greg Dyke, then director-general of the BBC, described it as being “hideously white” because 98% of its management was white.
Race equality campaigners blame what they claim are institutionally racist local authority processes – such as selection procedures – that have worked against well-qualified BME candidates applying for top jobs at town halls.
Ouseley said: “The system benefits white executives who are very good at using networking processes that get their faces seen by the right people with the power to recruit them to plum jobs in local government.”
A new equality law, created by Labour, came into force this month, which many hoped would improve things at town halls. But Ouseley, who fought to make it tougher, said it was toothless and “not worth the paper it is written on”.
Excerpt from the Guardian