Bristol Mayor, Marvin Rees has repeated his pledge to tackle race discrimination at the council and to work with partners to create a fair and inclusive city.
Speaking after the graduation ceremony of the city’s landmark black and minority ethnic (BME) talent development programme, Stepping Up, Mayor Rees said that while there is clear evidence of the council’s commitment to promote equality, diversity and inclusion, there will always be work to do.
He said: “My administration has driven the council to commit to inclusion and diversity. We have approached it with focus and urgency. We have a brand new senior team, developed for the first time a set of organisational values, established inclusive training, launched our Organisational Improvement Plan and a city Equalities Charter. However, I recognise the fact that old cultures, practices and attitudes can take longer than acceptable to change.
“I am aware that some members of our BME staff-led group have raised concerns, proving that more work needs to be done. When someone has a concern to raise or a complaint to make we have clear and robust processes for all employees to do so. Every voice must be listened to and all matters should be treated in the strictest confidence, in any situation where this is not the case I will take action.
“As Bristol’s Mayor and as a mixed race man of African heritage, I will work with allies of all backgrounds to create positive change and tackle all forms of direct and institutional discrimination.”
Since 2017 the council has undertaken a review of its equality and diversity functions leading to a number of new approaches being adopted to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.
Alongside the newly launched Equality and Inclusion Policy and Strategy, adopted by Full Council in November last year, the council has taken a number of steps to introduce guidance and training for staff about equality, diversity and inclusion.
Staff led groups aimed at representing council employees from minority groups were relaunched in 2018 and have enjoyed regular engagement with senior leadership and the Mayor since reforming.
Saida Bello, Chair of the BME Employees Group at Bristol City Council said: “The Staff Led Groups were re-launched in 2018 to provide a forum for minority groups in the council to discuss, debate and offer solutions to issues that affect them in the workplace. We are being supported by all levels of the council to engage on matters affecting staff, and where necessary, to offer a point of challenge, ensuring a diverse range of views are considered by officers and politicians. A number of our groups are engaging with new programmes and activities such as the Stepping Up Programme which is aimed at developing leadership skills.”
Olubodunrin Tokosi, Deputy Chair of the BME Employees Group at Bristol City Council said: “We are proud that the Council has adopted a new Equality and Inclusion Policy and Strategy, is a signatory to the first city-wide Equality Charter, has unveiled an Organisational Improvement Plan and is a driving force behind the One City Plan. These commitments will act as a guide for us on our journey. We are looking forward to working collaboratively with colleagues including the Equalities Team, Human Resources and our Corporate Leadership board to deliver the objectives set out in the council’s Corporate Plan.”
Following the publication of the Bristol Manifesto for Race Equality, known as “Batook’s Blueprint” the Mayor set up the Commission for Race Equality.
The Council also became an early signatory to the Bristol Equality Charter, a city-wide commitment to promote the values of equality, diversity and inclusion.
Alex Raikes, Director of Stand Against Racism and Inequality, said: “SARI has been tackling racism and hate crime and working to promote equality for 27 years throughout the City of Bristol and beyond. As with our other key public sector organisations, SARI has always worked with Bristol City Council as a partner – an essential relationship as they have such a big part to play in the city’s journey towards equal opportunities and outcomes and must be part of the solution when it comes to responding to hate crime.
“We are excited by the recent developments to tackle racism and promote equality and inclusion which we have been proud to be involved in. But we have also always been their critical friend raising concerns when citizens feel unfairly dealt with by Bristol City Council services or as an employer. We encourage anyone who either wants to get involved in the City’s equalities initiatives or who wants to report incidents or concerns to get in touch with the City Council or with SARI/ Bristol Hate Crime & Discrimination Services if they need help with resolving hate crime or discrimination.”
Desmond Brown, Chair of the Bristol Commission for Race Equality said: “The Commission for Race Equality's role is to ensure that the vision of the Bristol Manifesto for Race Equality, 'Batooks Blueprint', is implemented across the city and that organisations are taking the right actions in relation to race equality that will lead to lasting positive change.
“There’s a lot of good work underway and whilst there’s been some highlight achievements brought about through collaboration and strong city leadership more still needs to be done. We will not rest on our laurels and where concerns are raised we will continue to work with SARI and other organisations to support the Mayor and council leadership to implement the change they need to match the ambition of the manifesto.”