Uncomfortable Reading for Council in Race Report

Article excerpt

Byline: Samantha Lyster

An independent investigation into racism in Birmingham has revealed a gulf between institutions' efforts to tackle inequality and the perceptions of ethnic minorities.

The city's Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Commission said it was particularly concerned about the city council which it said should be playing a major part in promoting race equality.

The commission's report said the city council's efforts 'have been blunted by institutionalised racism'.

Council leader Albert Bore said the report was 'uncomfortable reading' for everyone.

'We are prepared to accept that there are things in this report that make uncomfortable reading for the city council. We will respond to the report,' said Coun Bore (Lab Ladywood)

The commission was set up in November 1999 to consider the implications of the Macpherson Inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993. Its report shows that despite race relations legislation and greater social awareness, ethnic communities are still being failed.

Commission chairman District Judge Ray Singh said organisations in the city, including the city council and West Midlands Police, needed to put race issues at the heart of their planning processes.

Judge Singh said some institutions in Birmingham had done a great deal to reduce race inequality.

But he added: 'Despite this work our findings point to a fundamental mismatch between what institutions are doing to tackle racial inequality and the perceptions and experiences of minority ethnic people and communities who are employed by or receive services ... from many of these institutions.

The commission, which included councillors, a professor, a teacher and a bishop, recommended a wide-ranging 'Agenda for Action' to tackle the problems it had addressed.

Judge Singh, who is also a Commission for Racial Equality commissioner, said the city council had agreed to produce an 'action plan' within three months with a clear time scale for its implementation.

The report states the under-representation of ethnic minorities in key leadership positions and in policy and decision-making structures meant that 'decisions are made by the observers of racism and not by those with first hand knowledge'. …