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Ethnic minority managers in local government say their careers are often impeded by discrimination and lack of reso...
Ethnic minority managers in local government say their careers are often impeded by discrimination and lack of resources.

Even when money for training is available, white staff often take precedence, said a significant number of respondents to a survey by the Local Government Management Board (LGMB).

This in spite of the fact that the qualifications of black and ethnic minority managers are remarkably similar to those of their white counterparts.

Some even say that equal opportunities policies are used to deny them access to development and training.

But respondents rejected the idea of black-only initiatives, training plans, and management development programmes, saying these often caused resentment among other staff. The idea of a fast track to senior positions was supported by just over half the ethnic minority respondents (52 per cent), while 14 per cent - a high number by the standards of other responses - rejected the idea.

Instead, there was strong support from ethnic minority and white staff alike for development programmes which included mentoring (61 and 64 per cent respectively), networking (60 and 57 per cent), secondments (75 and 65 per cent) and MBA-style programmes (70 and 50 per cent).

But there were differences between ethnic minority and white staff when it came to the question of bursaries and grants for black training and development. Almost 70 per cent of black respondents strongly supported them, against only 40 per cent of white managers. More than 10 per cent of white managers said they didnÕt support bursaries/grants at all.

The survey - Evening the odds: Research into management development for black and other ethnic minority managers - is the first major research project into the management development needs of black and other ethic minority managers in local government. It follows a 1996 survey by the LGMB that showed only 1.4 per cent of chief officers, chief executives and deputy chief officers in local authorities came from ethnic minority backgrounds, although ethnic minorities make up five per cent of the population.

Evening the odds shows that a higher proportion of male ethnic minority managers are aiming for chief executive or chief officer level than their white or female colleagues, however, many more white staff than black think their prospects are good. In fact 52

per cent of black managers think that opportunities in local government are poor.

It is also reveals that white staff occupy more senior positions, manage greater numbers of staff and while 43 per cent have them have managed for more than 10 years, only nine per cent of black staff have managed for the same period.

Researchers originally looked at 53 local authorities, sending questionnaires to 16 of them. The survey sample included 433 black and ethnic minority managers and 93 white. Five focus groups were also formed - four made-up of ethnic minority managers, and the other of white managers.

As part of the research, a number of programmes - including some from the States and from inside and outside the public sector - were examined. The report includes examples from Haringey, Harrow, Leicester, Lewisham, Bradford, Birmingham, Greenwich, Leeds, Croydon, Sheffield, Hammersmith and Fulham and Manchester councils.

As a way forward, Evening the odds lists 22 recommendations - five of them to be actioned by the LGMB, 16 by local authorities and one for the managers themselves. The report strongly argues ensuring managers reflect the workforce, is not merely a case of good practice, but good business sense.

Recommendations include the opportunities for black managers to 'act-up' in senior positions, costing ethnic minority management development as investment in future operations, the monitoring of where ethnic minority staff are and what they do, and the selection of those who are seen to have real potential to participate in development centre programmes.

-- Copies of the full report will be available from the LGMB publications department on 0171 296 6515 in the first week of November.

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