Bristol City Council (BCC) is investing another £335,000 in over 50 new actions to improve equality, diversity and inclusion as part of its drive to dismantle structural racism, prioritise race equality and become a national exemplar for inclusive practice.
A report for the council’s Cabinet meeting on 14 July details work planned by the council over-and-above its many existing commitments. It has been produced as part of the council’s efforts to continually review and improve its practice, and has been informed by the findings of independent consultant David Weaver. Mr Weaver has been working with the council over the past year to provide support, facilitation and review of race equality practice, and his recommendations are appended to the report.
The new actions cover an extensive range of changes and improvements to recruitment practice, strategies and leadership. This includes using positive action principles to increase diversity in the council’s workforce and creating opportunities for under-represented groups to move in to more senior roles. They also seek to address the current context of Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement and their implications for working practices within the council.
The report comes the week after Bristol became the first major city to publish its ethnicity and disabled employees pay gaps as well as its gender pay gap. Its publication also coincides with the publication of the council’s annual progress report on Equality and Inclusion during 2019/20, which will be discussed at its Full Council tonight (Tuesday 7 July).
Together, the package of reports shine a light on the council’s progress towards improving equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) performance and embedding positive practices. They also highlight challenges that still face the authority as it works to tackle structural and institutional racism, improve overall performance and change its organisational culture – a long term process that began in 2016 following major changes in leadership.
Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees, said:
“These proposals showcase our openness and transparency about the journey we are on to improve our culture and make this authority one which is truly inclusive. We have made significant progress in recent years, particularly in facing head-on the kind of race equality challenges that have been centuries in the making.
“We’ve had to look long and hard at the organisation; its history, its ambitions and its character. What we’ve found along the way is what we see reflected across our society as a whole – an organisation that was built many years ago with little concern for diversity and a need to modernise and reflect the citizens it serves. Taking the bold step of inviting others in to lay bare our effort and progress means we can have open conversations about where we are and how we get to where we want to be. We will use the interventions within these reports to boost our activities even further and to bring the city with us as partners to improve conditions across Bristol. We stand on the cusp of further change and the support and challenge these reports contain strengthen our resolve to stay the course.”
Chief Executive of Bristol City Council, Mike Jackson said:
“We aim to reach high standards of equality and inclusion practice in all that we do, and for others to look to us as a source of good practice. We’ve worked hard and made good progress towards this, but we know that there is still more to do.
“We have been listening closely to our colleagues and learning from their experiences. We know that being truly inclusive is not just about welcoming different contributions and standing against any discrimination, it also means actively addressing our everyday practice and the systems we use that inadvertently lead to a lack of opportunity or fairness for black, Asian and other colleagues from minority ethnic backgrounds. Structural inequality also affects women, disabled employees, our younger staff and LGBTQ+ colleagues and we are working hard to improve things for everyone.
“Change doesn’t happen overnight and I understand that the experience colleagues have of working for the council is not the same across the board. These reports will help us take even more practical action put equality and inclusion at the heart of everything we do.”
David Weaver, Senior Partner at DWC Consulting and author of ‘Transforming race and equality at BCC’ said:
“People’s experiences, along with a wide range of data and benchmarking, have been fundamental in shaping my recommendations, and I am pleased that the council has not only accepted but embraced them. It is clear to me that whilst there are undoubtedly some real challenges, the council has openly stated its commitment to unlocking opportunities for Black, Asian and minority ethnic people in its organisation and beyond. I would urge other employers to adopt similar ambitions and draw from the council’s learning so that together we can address some of the most stubborn elements of structural and institutional racism.
“The council should be applauded for opening itself up to independent scrutiny and support. Choosing to do this brings risk, not least because observations I have made could be taken out of context and used in attempts to undermine the council and its efforts to tackle racism and inequality. This would not only be inappropriate, it would be counter-productive and would risk deterring other organisations from being so open and making visible attempts to tackle racism.”
Since 2016 the council has been investing in changing its culture, including intensive and thorough reviews of its structures, plans and processes. It has been working to fully understand and address the inherent prejudices and biases which can be present in systems and processes and which lead to institutional racism. Its work has included:
- creating shared organisational values with its staff to drive culture change
- a regional Stepping Up programme that gives people from under-represented groups formal leadership training and the chance to ‘step up’ in challenging roles across the public and private sector
- reporting gender, ethnicity and disabled employee pay gaps and taking action to reduce them
- redesigning Staff Led Groups to engage more staff from under-represented groups and provide a strong advocacy and influencing network
- creating Equality Action Plans for every single department in the council
- strategy changes (including the creation of an Organisational Improvement Plan and Equality and Inclusion Strategy)
- leadership, performance and culture programmes
- launching the Bristol Equality Charter and Bristol Equality Network
- launching the Bristol Race Equality Strategic Leaders Group and working with various groups including the Bristol Women’s commission, Commission for Race Equality, Voice and Influence Partnership and Bristol Muslim strategic leadership group to invite constructive challenge and seek support with good practice