The Prison Service is being investigated by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) after director-general Phil Wheatley admitted it was relocating 80 jobs from Corby to Leicester to attract more non-white workers.
Corby Council chief executive Chris Mallender told Personnel Today: “This is clearly in breach of equality guidelines. They are moving jobs away because Corby is too white. It is reverse discrimination.”
Civil liberty groups and unions have joined the Northamptonshire council in opposing the move. The Prison Service is expected to report to the CRE in May.
Wheatley wrote to Corby Council at the end of March explaining the reasons behind the decision to move the support office from Corby to Leicester.
“As director-general of a committed equal opportunities employer I make no apology for including the impact on diversity as one of the key determining business factors of the decision,” he wrote.
A leaked letter from Prison Service director of finance Ann Beasley to the Corby and East Northants Conservative Association explaining the decision also prompted outrage.
Beasley cited the following “key influencing factors” behind the relocation:
- “Our ability to recruit professional staff (the population of Corby is around 53,000, of whom 9% are educated to degree level; the population of Leicester is around 280,000, of whom 17% hold degrees).”
- “To attract a more diverse workforce (93.7% of the population of Corby are white British, compared to 59.6% in Leicester).”
Corby Council accused Beasley of branding its residents “too British” and “too thick” to work for the Prison Service.
Gerald Hartup, director of civil rights group Liberty and Law, said that white British people were being put at a disadvantage by the Prison Service.
“People should be recruited according to their abilities, not the colour of their skin,” said Hartup.
A Prison Service spokeswoman confirmed that it had “received correspondence from the CRE, but had not responded to it yet” and did not wish to make any further comment.