Why Birmingham has to work to be a real equal opportunity employer

Cllr John Cotton, Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Community Safety & Equalities, on how the council, already leading the charge on tackling inequalities affecting Birmingham’s diverse population, is turning the spotlight on itself as an employer

Next week (10 November) I will present what can only be described as a ‘difficult read’ to my Cabinet colleagues – a report which clearly shows some of our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff are paid less or are less likely to be appointed over white applicants.

Does that sound fair to you? The gap between opportunity, recruitment and retention that council staff from the city’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities have faced for years.

As one of Birmingham’s major employers, we know we can - and must - do better. However, I don’t think we’re alone in this – if other organisations turn the spotlight on themselves, they are likely to find similar unsettling truths. Indeed, some organisations are already contacting us for advice on this.

As the largest local authority in Europe and home to a diverse population of over one million people - we have to be big enough to admit that we have a problem and we need to take rapid action to do something about it. Bluntly, we must lead by example if others are to follow.

That is why Birmingham City Council is one of the first local authorities to carry out a Workforce Race Equity Review which reveals that as an organisation we don’t reflect the demographics of our city with 67% of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff being in operational or front-facing services, and we don’t recruit sufficient Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff at supervisory and management levels. There is also a need to review roles where promotion, recruitment and career pathways are concerned

Stark facts require a radical answer. So, we have set ourselves an ambitious aim to ensure the council’s workforce truly represents Birmingham and to eliminate the pay gap identified in this report.

A comprehensive action and implementation plan has been drawn up to help us address those systemic inequalities in our workforce and make the changes we need to make to put things right.

Work has already begun in some key areas, such as recruitment and selection, culture change and rebuilding staff trust. It requires us all – politicians and officers to step up and play our part in delivering change.

That’s why the Leader of the Council, Ian Ward, and all of my Cabinet colleagues are committed to this – together with the interim Chief Executive Chris Naylor and the council’s Leadership Team.

In September, I outlined the council’s proposals on how we are aiming to tackle the inequalities that people face in communities and neighbourhoods across our city. This report is the vital next step in this work.

I know this won’t be easy, but that must not stop us doubling down on our efforts to see change happen across the city. And that change must start with getting our own house in order.

Our work will not stop there to ensure inequalities are no longer a fact of life in 21st century Birmingham.

As this report makes clear, we have much to do to ensure we offer a truly level playing-field to our staff and those who wish to join the council’s workforce.

I’m determined that our great city seizes this opportunity to make the changes that our citizens and communities need and deserve, so we must – and will – lead from the front.

Read the Cabinet report, review and action plan in full

This post was published on 3 November 2020

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