Top jobs at English councils still held by whites despite diversity agenda

English councils have rebutted union accusations that they are failing to promote staff from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds to senior roles.

Figures published by the GMB union last week revealed that in 22 local councils, less than 1% of the top 5% of earners came from BME communities.

Wiltshire, North Tyneside, Hartlepool, Redcar and Cleveland, Blackpool, East Riding and York all fared badly in the report, with none of the top 5% of earners directly employed by these councils coming from non-white communities.

Most councils were significantly below the English employment average of 8.6% for BME workers, the GMB’s study showed. The union used figures from the Audit Commission’s best value performance indicators in 2004-05, which were supplied by local councils.

Susan Thompson, head of HR and equality at Cumbria County Council, which came in the bottom 10 in the table, said the figures were an accurate reflection of its local community.

“The council is actually above the percentage for the local population in Cumbria and is working to increase that,” she said.

But she admitted the council was in a precarious situation, with just 0.9% of its top 5% of earners coming from BME backgrounds. “If one senior BME manager left, it would make a big difference to our figures,” she said.

Wiltshire County Council was found to have no BME staff in its top 5% of earners, but a council spokesman disputed the figures.

“The council’s latest figures show that 1.55% of the top 5% of earners at the council are from BME communities,” he said.

“Equality and diversity training is now included in our corporate induction programme for new starters, and we have a diversity course as part of our management development programme.”

London councils generally fared well in the league table, with at least a quarter of the top 5% of earners from Haringey, Hackney and Lambeth coming from BME communities.

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