Town Hall to ‘urgently implement’ new priorities for tackling race inequality

Camden Town Hall.

The Town Hall is set to “urgently implement” six new core priorities across all of its services in a bid to tackle race inequality and disproportionality.

In a policy platform aimed to cut across all of its services over the next year, the council’s cabinet will be asked to vote in the new principles committing it to a refreshed focus on the issues in response to the injustices highlighted by the pandemic as well as by Black Lives Matter protests in the UK.

The six new priorities cover justice, education, the workplace, health, procurement, and work undertaken by the Town Hall across London and the country, with a report on the issue pointing to the establishment of a new Equalities and Disproportionality Service within the council.

Introducing the priorities, Cllr Abdul Hai said: “Camden has a proud rebellious spirit that throughout its history has seen communities come together to tackle problems and bring about real social change. The borough benefits from a strong identity as a welcoming borough with vibrant grassroots activity. However, we also know that not everyone feels a part of this identity or sees the benefits of the progress made.

“This has become highlighted further following the Covid-19 Pandemic and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK. These events have reminded us of the longstanding, entrenched structural inequalities which remain in our communities, with our Black, Asian and other ethnic residents perhaps feeling this most acutely.

“We recognise that we need to work together as a borough to reduce inequalities, tackle disproportionality and build cohesion within our communities.”

The Town Hall now has a council officer in charge of working towards eliminating disproportionality and promoting equal opportunities, with the report recognising that the council has “not gone far or fast enough  in tackling the persistent structural inequalities that acutely affect our Black, Asian and other ethnic staff and residents”.

The report points to a position statement committing the council to collaborate with other organisations in order to eliminate disproportionate representation in the youth justice system, with a framework envisaged to allow issues around Black, Asian and other ethnic minorities’ experiences to be challenged holistically.

With the pandemic having exposed deep health inequality with Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities bearing a heavy toll from the virus throughout the crisis, the Town Hall has stressed the importance of addressing diversity of need “in a culturally competent and accessible way”, with proposals to be submitted for funding for a new community mental health framework.

A working group was established in September to develop a new education strategy, with empowering young people and reducing inequality to be placed at the heart of the work, which will implement the recommendations of a scrutiny panel on school exclusions to attempt to reckon with the “devastating effect” exclusions have on children and families, as well as working to increase diversity within schools and their governing bodies.

Forty per cent of the Town Hall’s workforce are from a Black, Asian or other ethnic minority background, with the number of ethnic minority staff decreasing across the higher job grades and the mean ethnicity pay gap widening over the past two years, from 16.2 per cent in 2019 to 16.8 per cent in 2020.

In response, the Town Hall has committed to rejecting all-white shortlists for candidates, will have anonymised recruitment processes for all leadership roles, and interviewing panels at all levels will be required to be diverse, with a recruitment working group to be established.

Hai added: “The spirit of [overarching community plan] Camden 2025 has been on show throughout the borough’s response to the unique challenges we have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We want to make Camden a place where everyone has a chance to succeed and where nobody gets left behind. Together, we will create a place that works for everyone and where everyone has a voice.”

Further details here.

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