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New diversity and inclusion strategy for South Oxfordshire

Councillors have approved the creation of a new diversity and inclusion strategy for South Oxfordshire District Council.

The new strategy will aim to ensure the council is doing everything it can to be inclusive to all BAME and other diverse and hard-to-reach communities in its staff recruitment, representation and service provision.

Equality is already of paramount importance to the council and this new strategy will complement an existing, robust equalities policy that has been in place for many years. This policy already ensures that the council plans and provides services, policies and employment opportunities in a fair, inclusive and equal way to foster good relations and meet everyone’s needs.

Cllr Andrea Powell, Cabinet Member for Corporate Services at South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “It’s important that the events of this year that began with the death of George Floyd in America and the Black Lives Matter movement don’t simply raise awareness but bring about actual change – while the council already has equalities policies in place, it’s important we take this moment to look at ourselves and make sure we’re doing everything we can.”

Cllr Alexandrine Kantor proposed the new strategy as part of a motion at a full council meeting on 8 October.

Cllr Kantor said: “I brought this motion forward as I believe it is necessary for our national and civic leaders to start an open and respectful conversation about who we are and what we stand for as a community. I believe this motion is a proactive step in the right direction for this council.”

Here is the full wording of the motion:

The Council recognises:

• The term BaME is not one that every person from an ethnic minority background identifies with but it is a term that everyone understands.

• The brutal, and unlawful, death of George Floyd in the United States of America has justifiably triggered global protests against institutional racism faced by Black people right across the world, including here in the United Kingdom. This support has been revived following the recent aggression of Jacob Blake leaving him paralized.

• These protests have come, alongside all the inequalities faced by Black people, in the wake of the devastatingly disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BaME communities in Britain and other parts of the world.

• It is clear that this impact has been made far worse by the structural inequalities Black people face when it comes to health, education and housing amongst the numerous obstacles that Black people encounter daily in the UK.

• BaME people are 54% more likely than white people to be fined under the new coronavirus lockdown laws.

• In the UK, 26% of instances of police using firearms are against Black people, despite Black people making up only 3.3% of the population.

• 51% of young men in custody in the UK are from BaME backgrounds, despite these groups making up only 14% of the UK population.

• Around two thirds of healthcare staff who have died as a result of COVID-19 are from a BaME background whereas they make up 20% of the overall workforce.

The Council notes:

• That Black lives matter as much as all others.

• That George Floyd’s brutal murder must be a catalyst for change across the world.

• That no country, city, police service or institution can absolve itself of the responsibility to do better.

• When the BaME communities will experience economic justice and opportunity, we all benefit. When our democracy works for Black Britain, it is a better democracy for all of us.

• That there is no place for racism or any form of xenophobia or bigotry anywhere in our society.

• That language is a powerful tool for inspiration and change, as well as oppression and ignorance and must be used wisely and respectfully.

• That it is necessary for our national and civic leaders to start an open and respectful conversation about who we are and what we stand for as a community.

• That the national conversation on institutional racism and immigration should be conducted with care for the dignity of people who are vulnerable, who do not have a voice in the public domain, and have to suffer the consequences of inaccurate, insulting and inflammatory language.

• That it is vital all efforts are taken to understand the impact of Covid-19 on BaME communities in South Oxfordshire and that we should work with all relevant stakeholders to mitigate the impact now and into the future.

• That whist 3.9% of South Oxfordshire population is from a BaME background, that is not matched from the data available by the proportion of staff working at Grade 11 and above. The same is true for elected members of the Council.

• That we must stand together as one.

The Council resolves to:

Show leadership in the campaign to rid our district of bigotry and racism by creating a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy which will ensure that the council is inclusive to BaME and other diverse and hard to reach communities: in its staff recruitment, in its representation and in its service provision.