A consortium of Black and ethnic minority organisations have written to new Minister Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government, requesting an urgent meeting to hear what the government’s policy proposals for tackling race inequality entail.
The consortium is seeking dialogue in relation to new national and regional consultative arrangements with Black and ethnic minority communities.
Led by the 1990 Trust and including OBV and the Muslim Council of Great Britain (MCB) among others the delegation hopes to hear first hand from Governments what are its precise plans for delivering fairness for millions of non white Britons.
The recently announced budget cuts have hit the DCLG hard and there are real fears that this could see huge reductions in spending targeted on black communities.
Since the election there has been no mention of what the Government intends to do with the myriad of race equality initiatives established under the previous Labour Government. The lack of any real diversity in the new Cabinet is worrying and a cause for real concern as there real absence of politicians with either a commitment too or track record of tackling discrimination.
Mr David Weaver Chair of the 1990 Trust said:
“This meeting is an important one and provides an opportunity for Government to set out new arrangements for consultation and partnership with Britain’s black and ethnic minority communities and for us to hear what will be this administrations policy approach to tackling race inequality across the board.”
“We are concerned that deprived areas of the country will be disproportionately affected by the budgets cuts announced and those planned for later in the year. We believe that such cuts would place intolerable social strains on our communities. It’s important that the new Government both hears and understands the viewpoint of Britain’s black and ethnic minority communities.”
Under the previous administration the effort to drive forward race equality policy was encapsulated in the Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society Race Equality Strategy and policy framework first launched in 2005.
The Department of Communities and Local Government lead on monitoring and reporting arrangements on behalf of Government and detailed reports were published annually up until 2009.
The original strategy contained over a hundred commitments from across government, aimed at addressing race discrimination in the key areas of Education, Employment, Health, Housing and Criminal Justice.
The previous administration committed to reporting their progress annually for three years. The third and final report of the strategy was published in February 2009 and showed very little real progress had been made in reducing racial inequalities, particularly in areas such as education, employment rates, access to decent housing, mental health provision and criminal justice. Most worrying of all is a growing gap in employment rates between people from BME groups and the overall population which now has grown to 15 percentage points.
A year long national consultation then followed asking key questions of black communities in relation to policy priorities. Undertaken by the DCLG Race Equality and Diversity Division and Cohesion and Faiths Division the consultation results were then set to inform the production of a new Government Race Equality Strategy.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is the regulatory and enforcement body for all equality legislations in the UK and there is now a new Equality Act on the statute books.
With a new Government in power the real question is where now for race equality policy in the UK?