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New research finds councils fall short on BME employment

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Less than fifth of councils have a workforce that reflects the proportion of black and minority ethnic people in their local population, new research has found.

The study by Unison found that BME people made up 14.8% of the English and Welsh population in the 2011 Census, but accounted for only 11.4% of council employees. There were shortfalls in every region.

The gap between the proportion of BME people in the local population and among council employees was widest at Luton BC, and Redbridge and Newham LBCs at 17-18 percentage points adrift.

The findings were based on freedom of information requests to top tier councils. Under representation also occurred even in places with very small BME populations.

Unison’s head of local government Heather Wakefield (pictured) said: “Councils and schools should mirror the communities they serve through the diversity of their workforces, yet most are still failing to do this or complying with the public sector equality duties.

“Our survey shows that just 17% of councils have workforces which reflect the BME population in their areas.

“Urgent action is needed to ensure that councils and schools have workforces which can deliver services required by our diverse population and fulfil the requirements of the race equality legislation.”

A Newham spokesperson said 53% of the council’s employees came from the BME community.

They added: “As a council we strive to ensure that our employees reflect the diverse borough they serve. More than half of the council’s employees are BME and this is one of the highest levels in the country.” 

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