A range of measures to tackle racial inequality across Cambridgeshire are set to be implemented by Cambridgeshire County Council.
A Liberal Democrat motion reacting to the wider Black Lives Matter movement received unanimous support at a session of the full council on July 21.
A plan to conduct an audit of street names and monuments in the county for links to racism was dropped ahead of the meeting, after it was decided such an action fell within the remit of the district councils.
South Cambs Council has already committed to undertake such an audit. But the motion agreed by the county council will introduce a host of measures to address racial inequality.
Measures agreed include supporting greater education in schools and libraries around the role of race in history, reporting on the council’s BAME pay gap and trialling a “name-blind” model of recruitment, asking the Combined Authority to produce a toolkit for businesses to aid understanding of racial inequality in the workplace, and asking police to report on measures taken to avoid BAME disproportionality in stop and search.
The council committed to adopting “an actively anti-racist outlook within areas we have influence”. The motion was put forward by Lib Dem Ian Manning.
Cllr Manning said the term BAME “is not one that every person of colour identifies with” but said he used it as “a term that everyone would understand”.
Cllr Manning, who is white, said he recognised he was fortunate never to have suffered from discrimination, but said he witnesses racism in his constituency. “Particularly in my division I witness prejudice and racism against Gypsy Roma traveller groups” he said, which he said he believes a minority of people view “as the last acceptable form of racism”. “It’s not,” he said.
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Cllr Manning said the purpose of the motion is “trying to bring local action” against racism, and he argued “we can as a local council respond to national moments and national changes in the mood, and I think Black Lives Matter, the death of George Floyd, is one of those moments.
And it’s important to show to everyone that we can take practical steps to aid in the fight against racism.”
Conservative Steve Criswell, chairman of the Communities and Partnership Committee, welcomed the motion, and said he wished to “reiterate our condemnation of racism in all its forms, and join with the sentiment of the motion that racism has no place in society.
“I wish to emphasise that this council has a long-standing commitment to equality, so this is not new, however we are not complacent.”
Speaking in support of the motion, Lib Dem Nichola Harrison said: “At the outset of the current Black Lives Matter movement, I realised that I am racist, that I am part of a society that is absolutely racist. And I made a decision that I want to try to learn to be anti-racist. It’s not good enough to be not-racist, because that is in a sense still allowing racism through.”
She said she wanted to be an “ally” to the Black Lives Matter movement, and offered to join other councillors looking for “real personal change”.
The motion was seconded by Labour councillor Jocelynee Scutt, who said it is “vital” for the council to recognise discrimination and take “concrete steps” to end it.
“Unless we accept the past as a factor in how the present exists, and how the present is experienced by black and BAME members generally of this community, we cannot change the future,” she said.
Closing the debate, Cllr Manning said he was accused in a local Facebook group of “jumping on a bandwagon” by coordinating this motion and others across the county. “Frankly I think we are all jumping on a bandwagon here, and I think we should be quite proud to jump on a bandwagon, as Cllr Harrison said, of anti-racism,” he said.
He said he was inspired to hear Cllr Harrison’s words and said “to hear that she had come through that realisation, I think that was incredibly powerful”.
He welcomed the cross-party and cross-council support behind the motion and similar motions across the county. “It is very nice to feel that we can find things in some cases where we all join together and agree and put forward tangible change on issues that may not affect all of us directly, but certainly do affect a number of our constituents.”