Ouseley slams councils on race

18 Nov 99
The chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality has lambasted councils for their 'shameful' race relations record.

19 November 1999

Speaking at a conference on institutional racism and local government, Sir Herman Ouseley said it was 'appalling' that more than half the councils in the country did not monitor the ethnic make-up of their workforce.

He told the November 16 conference it was unacceptable that six years after the death of teenager Stephen Lawrence, people were still sitting in conferences being told what to do. Councils had a clear statutory duty under the 1992 Race Relations Act to ensure their workforce mirrors the wider community, Ouseley said. He accused councils of contributing to institutional racism by inaction and poor monitoring practices.

'This is critically important. They have a saying in the private sector: "You cannot manage what you cannot monitor". If you don't have the information, how the hell can you tell what you need to do?' Ouseley asked.

A survey by the Local Government Association found 51% of authorities had no equal opportunities monitoring in place, while 25% of authorities had no written commitment to providing services fairly to all sections of the community.

A further 23% of councils had such a policy but failed to monitor the outcome.

Ouseley said: 'These figures reveal a record that is shameful, appalling and clearly wrong.'

The Queen's Speech on November 17 extended the statutory duty to the police force. But Ouseley said: 'This is sadly not enough, because with no enforceability we might as well not have it. Already councils know if they do not do anything, the CRE cannot enforce any penalties.'

Opening the conference, LGA chairman Sir Jeremy Beecham said the issue of racism 'went to the heart of the role of councils as community leaders'.

With only 3% of elected members coming from ethnic minorities and few in senior positions in councils, Beecham said: 'Let's not kid ourselves, we are failing.'


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