Westminster City Council BAME Staff Network

This case study is an example of a council using its Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff network to help it work towards a real culture change within the organisation on equality and diversity issues.

Westminster City Council’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) network comprises of 27 steering group members and 293 network members and was established in October 2018. The steering group meets monthly to discuss and lead on key issues affecting employees from a BAME background, actions to be taken to address these, as well as improving diversity and inclusion within the organisation. The work is split into subgroups consisting of: recruitment, learning and development, external partnerships, health and wellbeing, events, communications and COVID-19 response.

The network was set up with the objective of developing a culture change within the council to improve diversity and inclusion. It was hoped it would create tangible benefits to BAME communities internally, and externally across Westminster. The organisation wanted staff to have more open conversations about race and experiences. Chief Executive, Stuart Love, aims to facilitate a comprehensive culture change.

The network has worked closely with the organisational development team and Executive Leadership Team to establish inclusive recruitment policies. An inclusive mentoring scheme has also been launched which sees BAME staff members mentor senior white colleagues, leading to a deeper, shared understanding which would otherwise not exist. Westminster City Council is a member of the Race at Work Charter, signalling the intention of the leadership to collect data to understand the extent of necessary change, establish the issues it faces in terms of diversity and inclusion and take real steps to effect change.

The council is one of only 3% of organisations in the UK to publish a BAME pay gap report which helps Westminster City Council recognise existing issues and be more transparent and accountable in the provision of solutions. The BAME pay gap report was first published in 2018 and in 2019 there was a 2.2% decrease in the mean pay gap to 15.5% compared to the previous year. However in 2020 there was a decline in results compared with the gains of the previous year. This was a setback for the organisation however they quickly identified the reasons behind the increase and introduced interventions. These included senior leaders sponsoring BAME staff and women to take on challenging assignments and advance their careers, creating and regularly publishing a data dashboard for all staff’s diversity information and tailored interview coaching.

The council was aware of the need to establish a meaningful dialogue with external partners too, such as the Metropolitan Police and community groups, and this has helped effect change not just within the organisation but the community as a whole. BAME council staff mentor local senior police officers where both personal and professional parallels can be found between parties, and lessons learnt. The council also hold pan-London conference every three months for councils discussing topics central to the wellbeing and care of BAME communities as well as establishing working groups to identify how to overcome inequalities at the heart of this. With audiences drawn from across 28 local authorities and organisations such as (MOPAC, NHS, Mind, GLA), the events have proven to be a successful undertaking.