To receive the statement of commitment and action regarding Equality, Inclusion and Diversity.
The Chair presented the item as a cross-party statement, produced jointly by Group Leaders with input from other Members and the Chief Executive. He said that it sought to send positive signals to residents, communities and visitors to the District, as well as to the Council’s employees, that diversity and inclusion were valued by the Council. It also recognised that the Council could not be complacent and needed to take further action. He proposed the motion on behalf of all Members to endorse the statement, to establish Community Listening Events, referred to in paragraph 12 and to establish an Oversight Panel, referred to in paragraph 13.
Councillor Khan seconded the motion and praised the four public speakers for their contributions. He said he was pleased that a joint statement position had been reached, although he noted that there had been some hostile reactions at the outset of discussions. He recognised the sentiments of Black Lives Matter and said that the statement sent a powerful and progressive message to the community.
Councillor Light supported the statement. She referred to the death of George Floyd and the need to work closely with the Black and Minority Ethnic community.
Councillor Pepper, as portfolio holder, supported the statement and said that any discrimination should not be tolerated.
Councillors Barker, Driscoll, Sell, Hargreaves, LeCount, Tayler, Lees, Dean, Asker, Gregory, Loughlin, Criscione and Fairhurst all spoke in positive support of the statement. It was stressed that the statement referred specifically to the view that black lives matter. Members considered that this was an excellent starting point. It was stated that earlier versions of the statement had been much improved upon. Comments were made that discrimination still continued because of ethnic origin and that much discrimination was hidden; there was a need for vigilance and to be inclusive. It was said that Members should not make this a political issue but should all work together.
The Chair thanked everybody for their input and said that a vote was needed. He asked if there was any dissent; he ruled that the statement was supported unanimously.
RESOLVED: Council is recommended:
a. To endorse the statement set out below, and
b. to establish Community Listening Events, referred to in para 6 and
c.to establish an Oversight Panel, referred to in para 7
Joint Statement Of Commitment And Action Regarding Equality, Inclusion And Diversity
1. The recent protests surrounding violence against members of America’s black community were a salutary reminder that systemic prejudice and racial disadvantage in their many guises are ever present around the world. They have no place in the 21st century.
2. Here in the UK, the Black Lives Matter demonstrations focused the nation’s conscience on what it means to be on the receiving end of racism and the continuing disparity in life chances and quality of life faced by our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. We are clear that black lives do matter. Prejudice is something this Council will not tolerate.
3. We also recognise the enormous contributions made by Black people and those from minority ethnic groups here in Uttlesford, including the roles they have played in the fight against Covid-19. We are saddened that Black people and those from minority ethnic groups have been disproportionately impacted by the virus.
4. Uttlesford District Council will continue and redouble its efforts to combat racism, disadvantage and injustice. We will, quite simply, do everything within our powers to ensure that the Council and the District are inclusive and welcoming places for all people to live, work and visit.
5. Members and officers are therefore committed to completing its work (that had been suspended with the arrival of Covid19) to reach the ‘Achieving Level’ of the Equality Framework for local Government by Autumn 2020.
6. As a first step towards better understanding what our minority communities experience, Council will establish Community Listening Events designed together with other community leaders, partner organisations, residents and staff and to be held in the Autumn of this year. These will listen to Uttlesford’s Black and Minority Ethnic community and understand what barriers they face. A report will be brought back to full council on what we have learnt from these events, together with an action plan to address such barriers.
7. Council will also establish an independent oversight panel to advise, guide, inform and assure the efforts of the council towards a fully inclusive work and social environment in our district.