Lack of councillors from BAME groups: Black and minority ethnic backgrounds underrepresented in local authorities across London


An organisation set up to monitor and promote black and ethnic minority representation within local authorities says residents in three central London areas are being failed.

Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea and the City of Westminster have all been identified as having a tally of councillors which falls well below the percentage of minority group (BAME) residents in each area.

Operation Black Vote, (OBV) which bills itself as the Home of black politics, has carried out a survey relating to black, Asian and minority ethnic political FROM FRONT representation at local authority level.

OBV looked at 123 single-tier local authorities in England – those which control all of the London boroughs, several large cities, major regions, and the lion’s share of the UK.

The BAME figures overall do not look disproportionate. Of the 7,306 councillors in the 123 single-tier local authorities, 1,026 are BAME. But nearly one third of these local authorities have only one or no BAME councillors at all – 12 have one BAME councillor while 28 have none.

These councils control areas that have BAME populations ranging from six to 12 per cent. And in central London the figures are also a cause for concern, the organisation says.

City of Westminster council has a BAME population of 39 per cent, but only seven BAME councillors, representing just 12 per cent of all 60 councillors.

According to OBV statistics that is a 27 per cent disparity between the ethnic composition of the borough and the ethnic composition of the local authority.

In Hammersmith and Fulham the figure is 18.5 per cent, with only seven out of 46 councillors (15 per cent) having a BAME background, compared to the borough’s resident population, which is 34 per cent ethnic.

In Kensington and Chelsea, BAME political representation is 16 per cent below the 30 per cent figure for the total of BAME residents – seven out of 50 councillors making up 14 per cent of the authority.

OBV director Simon Woolley said: “Some of the data makes very depressing reading. The findings appear to show that some local political leaders really don’t care about representative democracy. Leaving communities without a representative voice is a recipe for community breakdown and discord.”

Deputy director Ashok Viswanathan told the London Weekly News: “What we are doing is laying down the gauntlet to local authorities and political parties to nurture talent and encourage more people from ethnic backgrounds to stand as candidates.

“We want there to be a better pathway, where people can acquire the leadership skills they need. There has been a loss of faith in the system, but I think something like the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower disaster has helped some from ethnic backgrounds realise the powers local authorities have and given them the desire to engage.

To stand up and be counted. “I think it is almost a tale of two cities in areas like Westminster and Kensington and we want to redress the balance.”

OBV has drawn up a list of recommendations it thinks will help get more residents from a BAME background to stand in elections.

As a first step, they want all political parties undertake a BAME democratic audit of members, staff and elected officials at local and national level to help them recognise the BAME democratic deficit.

They say the parties should then have a comprehensive plan to balance the disparities, with a BAME recruitment, retention and promotion drive at local and national level.

OBV also thinks there should be a comprehensive voter registration drive undertaken by national and local government agencies.

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