Lack of leadership has been blamed for the failure of many local authorities
to meet their legal duties on equality.
An Audit Commission report published last week reveals that 40 per cent of
councils have not yet produced a race equality scheme – which they should have
achieved by Friday last week under the Race Relations Amendment Act.
The report blames senior council leaders for a lack of commitment to
diversity issues, with many authorities lacking even the basic data capture and
analysis systems to shape race equality schemes.
Equality and Diversity finds a huge majority of council workforces do not
reflect the ethnic mix of the communities they serve.
Francesca Okosi, president of local government HR body Socpo, urged council
executive teams to support HR in making race issues mainstream.
She said: "It is a sad indictment if areas have not been identified
where there might be discrimination. We have all known the Act was coming and
should have planned for it. The leadership team must stand up and be counted on
race. It seems it is being left to HR middle managers to put it together with
no support or guidance from above."
Angela O’Connor, head of HR at Enfield Council, believes that the private
sector has overtaken the public sector in valuing a diverse workforce.
The failure to promote ethnic diversity could be a wider problem in the
public sector, according to Trish Longdon, people development director at the
She urged HR directors at public sector bodies such as NHS trusts to make
sure they had the backing of senior management for efforts to drive diversity.
Public sector bodies that have not yet published a race equality scheme
could be served with a compliance notice and ultimately prosecuted by the
Commission for Racial Equality.
What you to know about the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000
• The Act requires that public sector employers produce a race equality plan
by 31 May
• This must spell out how the workforce will be monitored by ethnicity
• It covers staff numbers, applications for employment, training and promotion
• It should target areas for improvements and how these will be met
• Organisations with more than 150 staff must cover disciplinary procedures in
• Employers must publish a race diversity annual report
• The Commission for Racial Equality enforces the Act
By Paul Nelson