An example of a council led cross party and joint community stakeholder group aimed at improving the way the council works with and supports Black Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals and communities in its area.
As part of its corporate strategy, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council is committed to engaging with its diverse communities. In response to the killing of George Floyd by police in the USA and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests in the UK, the Council’s Strategic Equality Leadership Group (SELG) established a new Equality Action Commission. The Commission has representation from Councillors, community leaders and the Trade Union Congress.
There are representatives from the administration and opposition groups as well as independent community representatives specifically from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. Its inaugural meeting was held on Friday 25 September. It will meet at least quarterly and updates will be given at each of the quarterly meetings of the SELG. Further updates from the group will be issued on BCP Council’s Equality Action Commission webpage.
Although the Commission’s starting point is BAME issues, it does recognise intersectionality and will move onto focusing on other disadvantaged groups defined under the Equality Act 2010 and has the flexibility to adapt its membership as appropriate.
The Council believe that the Commission is vital to help it understand more about the BAME community. Its first objective is to help guide the council to build trust amongst BAME residents, as well improving representation of BAME people in the council’s public profile and messaging. The group aims to help improve the way the council works with and supports Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals and communities.
The commission aims to:
- review BCP Council’s current practices and what it could do to improve it’s understanding of the needs and vulnerabilities of BAME communities and individuals
- review and understand the impact of the council’s public profile and how it can encourage BAME communities and their representatives to engage with the council
- understand the experiences of BAME communities to enable the council to take appropriate actions which increase participation, representation and reduce marginalisation
The commission are expected to address issues including:
- increasing BAME representation in senior management grades
- enhancing the range of images used in internal and external communications so that they are more representative of the communities served across the towns of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole and reflective of the people employed across BCP Council and visitors to the area.
- increasing trust and confidence from BAME residents/service users
- improving recognition of BAME people amongst recognised community leaders.
There are a number of factors that a council looking to implement something similar would need to consider. Members of the commission must have integrity and validity within the community. The project must be driven from the top of the organisation and requires demonstrable political and executive support. The ability to build on relationships and attract strategic thinking non-dependent representatives from local communities with a working knowledge of the public sector and a commitment to the delivery of equitable and tangible outcomes is key. Members need be given a clear but non-prescriptive mandate to challenge.
It is important to have legitimate reasons for the formulation of the group and for justifying the Race and BAME communities as the imperatives. Putting forward a convincing argument for remuneration for independent members was also challenging. There is a need to balance recognition of commitment of time, effort and experience with volunteering or paid work.
Councils will need to consider how people are recruited or co-opted onto such groups. They should be apolitical to avoid them becoming politicised between parties. The exclusion of officers from the organisation retains independence and avoids compromise of purpose. It will also be important to build in clear lines of accountability and responsibility.