Calls for more people of colour in senior roles on council
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
Calls have been made for more people of colour to be recruited to senior management roles in Cardiff council.
While the council has improved recently on hiring staff from Black, Asian and ethinc minority (BAME) communities, these workers are disproportionately in lower paid jobs.
Experts on the new BAME taskforce — set up last July in response to the Black Lives Matter movement — will explore how to improve diversity in the public sector and how to support access to good jobs for people of colour.
The team will also look at education, criminal justice and healthcare, ahead of recommending a series of changes to decision-makers on how to improve racial equality in Cardiff.
Councillor Saeed Ebrahim, chair of the taskforce, said: “The challenges of inequality are by no means unique to Cardiff, but there is much we can do as a city to widen opportunity for black and ethnic minority Cardiffians.
“Our taskforce is being tasked with just that, treating these issues with urgency and the right profile they deserve.”
Updates on the progress of the team so far were given to councillors on the policy review and performance scrutiny committee, on Wednesday, January 20.
Around one in five Cardiffians come from ethnic minority backgrounds. Many inequalities exist between them and white Cardiffians, including in health, housing, and employment.
Among 16 to 24 year olds in Cardiff, for example, 58 per cent of white people are employed while only 36 per cent of those from ethnic minorities are employed, according to council research given to the racial equality taskforce.
In housing, 63.2 per cent of white people in Cardiff either own or have shared ownership of their home; while 78.5 per cent of black people rent their homes.
The taskforce will meet regularly to explore how to address these inequalities, reporting back to the council’s cabinet, as well as relevant bodies in the police and health service.
During the progress update, councillors raised the issue of a lack of council staff from BAME communities in senior roles.
Cllr Ramesh Patel said: “The diversity of the public sector within our own council is pretty poor. When are we going to start changing the society we live in? Cardiff is a capital city and a metropolitan city, but we have hardly any senior management from BAME backgrounds.
“A lot of BAME communities are highly educated and they’re able to do those kinds of jobs. It’s just that we’re not recruiting them, and I think that’s the area we need to target.”
BAME council workers make up a quarter of staff on the lowest three pay grades, despite being less than 10 per cent of the total workforce, according to analysis of the council’s annual equality review.
Helping the taskforce with their work is Sian Sanders, operational manager for community safety, cohesion and community engagement. She said the team will focus on the gap between high-achieving BAME pupils and a lack of diversity in higher paid jobs.
She said: “Several ethnic minority groups outperform white pupils at present in Cardiff. But that doesn’t translate into labour market success. We don’t seem to have the same level of representation of high achieving pupils in well paid sectors.
“Something is clearly going wrong in that journey. We want to focus on that bridge from education into good quality work.”
One change the council made recently is anonymising the recruitment process, which has led to more successful BAME applicants, according to council leader Huw Thomas. But he said more work needs to be done.
Cllr Thomas said: “One of the challenges, particularly with senior management of the council, is that it’s affecting people who began their local government years 15 or 20 years ago. So we are certainly playing catch up.
“The changes we’ve made, like an anonymised recruitment process, have led to far higher levels of applicants and far higher levels of successful BAME applicants. Particularly in areas like apprenticeships.
“It’s not going to get fixed overnight, but we are looking to make some quick wins as well as building for the long term.
“There are people of colour working in middle management in the council. We need to understand what are their barriers, perceived barriers to future career progression. And how can we put in place effective mentoring systems for them as middle managers to mentor people coming in lower down the organisation.”
As well as Cllr Ebrahim, the members of the racial equality taskforce are:
- Asmut Price, chair of Cardiff council BAME staff network
- Emma Wools, deputy police and crime commissioner
- Keithley Wilkinson, equality manager at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board
- Catherine Floyd, locum consultant in public health, Public Health Wales
- Marcus Walters, solicitor at Burges Salmon
- Anita Naoko Pilgrim, university lecturer in race, gender and history, Open University
- Najma Hashi, team support officer with Future Generations Commissioner’s Office
- Salah Mohamed, former chief executive of the Welsh Refugee Council
- Yaina Samuels, founder of NuHi Training Social Enterprise
- Daniel Mapatac, final year student at Cardiff University
- Eshaan Rajesh, representative of Cardiff Youth Council
- Yusef Jama, taxi driver and Unite branch secretary
- Councillor Daniel De-Ath, former Lord Mayor
- Hilary Brown, chair of Butetown Community Centre