City council ‘too white’ and must become more diverse

Oxford City Council’s workforce is too white and too few applicants from black and ethnic minority backgrounds get jobs there, councillors have said.

More than a third of the city’s residents do not have a white British background but only 8.7 per cent of the council’s staff identified as being of a black and ethnic minority (BAME) in a survey.

It also found 24.3 per cent of all job applicants identified themselves as BAME but only 12.44 per cent of those were successful in getting jobs in the authority.

Councillor Nigel Chapman, who was formerly director of the BBC World Service, said ‘proactive’ work had to be done to make the council more representative of the city it serves.

Mr Chapman said: “When I look at the people in front of us to give evidence, I see very, very few senior managers from the black and ethnic minority. I worked in this area at the BBC and we had a huge issue with an issue of representation on screen.

“The only way we cracked it was a bespoke traineeship for the BAME community, which guarantee a fusion of bright, talented people and we really had to engineer a lot more proactively than just leaving the market and application process to work.”

Last year, 36 per cent of Oxford residents were not white British.

While about 54 per cent of city council’s 1,300 staff live outside its boundaries where the ethnic mix is far less diverse. Staff said that was a problem in trying to recruit a more balanced workforce.

But Mr Chapman said that could not be used as an excuse.

He added: “The point is you have council tax payers paying for services and those council tax payers don’t live in [wider] Oxfordshire, they live in Oxford.

“So therefore the workforce needs to reflect the people who pay for it.

“The fact that people who work for it live outside [the city] is a secondary concern.”

Fellow Labour councillor Mark Ladbrooke said the figures, from 2015/16, needed to be improved – but were not wholly negative.

He said they proved ‘something is going right’ as it received a relatively high proportion of BAME candidates applying for jobs.

He said: “It could be that people don’t have the same access or training or apprenticeships which means they [would] get the job.”

Last year the Government slammed the continued ‘unacceptable’ lack of diversity in Oxfordshire’s Fire and Rescue Service.

When its chief fire officer Simon Furlong took over in April 2017 it said it was his priority to make the service more diverse.

But by October just three of its 530 operational firefighters were from a BAME background.

Written By: Angela Swann

First Published 11.03.18:

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