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‘Deeply troubling’ concerns over diversity of Barnet Council

PUBLISHED: 11:00 01 October 2020 | UPDATED: 11:04 01 October 2020

The discussion followed a Black Lives Matter event in July which called for

The discussion followed a Black Lives Matter event in July which called for "structural change". Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Barnet Council bosses have admitted more needs to be done to promote equality after concerns were raised by members of staff.

Barnet Council leader Dan Thomas said discrimination, prejudice or hateful comments “should not be tolerated”. Picture: Barnet CouncilBarnet Council leader Dan Thomas said discrimination, prejudice or hateful comments “should not be tolerated”. Picture: Barnet Council

Chief executive John Hooton said senior management needed to become more diverse to be representative of the borough and structures should be put in place to tackle prejudices such as racism, transphobia and sexism.

It followed a presentation by Barnet Equality Allies – a group of staff set up to champion equality – during a meeting of the policy and resources committee on Thursday.

A survey of the women’s staff network, launched in July, revealed most members described feeling “betrayed” and “disadvantaged” by the organisation.

The entire LGBTQ plus network, launched in August, said they had experienced homophobia or transphobia, or had been made to feel uncomfortable due to their orientation – with nearly a third saying this had happened in Barnet.

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At a Black Lives Matter event in July, members called for “structural change to address problematic HR policies”. They said they would like to see more diversity in the top leadership team and fair treatment in the organisation, including zero tolerance of microaggressions and racism.

The presentation took place in response to a request by Cllr Arjun Mittra (Labour, East Finchley) at a meeting in June following the global Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

Speaking at Thursday’s meeting, Cllr Mittra described some of the findings, in particular the concerns over HR policies, as “deeply troubling”.

Council leader Cllr Dan Thomas (Conservative, Finchley Church End) said discrimination, prejudice or hateful comments “should not be tolerated” and staff “should have confidence they should report these things and it will be handled sensitively but robustly”.

Anisa Darr, the council’s finance chief, said HR policies were included in an equality, diversity and inclusion action plan drawn up by the council and currently out to consultation.

Chief executive John Hooton said: “In terms of diversity, if you look at senior management, we are not hugely diverse, and we need to do a lot more if we are going to become representative of the communities we serve.

“We have got a promising action plan on that to start tackling some of those things, too.”


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