- Meeting of Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee, Thursday, 8th October, 2020 2.00 pm (Item 39.)
Report of the City Solicitor
This report provides a summary update on some of the key equality issues and activities that have been prioritised and progressed in the first half of the financial year 2020-21. It provides an overview and examples of the ways in which the Council and its workforce have engaged with issues such as COVID-19, its impact on different communities and its detrimental effect on existing inequalities; the Black Lives Matter movement and; how the Council is ensuring that Our Manchester funding is helping to address some of the inequalities experienced by Manchester residents.
The Committee received a report of the City Solicitor which provided a summary update on some of the key equality issues and activities that had been prioritised and progressed in the first half of the financial year 2020-21. It provided an overview and examples of the ways in which the Council and its workforce had engaged with issues such as COVID-19, its impact on different communities and its detrimental effect on existing inequalities; the Black Lives Matter movement and; how the Council was ensuring that Our Manchester funding was helping to address some of the inequalities experienced by Manchester residents. Whilst environmental impacts were not addressed in the report, it did outline the importance of and approach to an inclusive recovery from the impacts of COVID-19. It noted that the Council’s recovery plans would have regard for environmental issues, recognising that there was a relationship between these and the health and wellbeing inequalities that could affect some of the city’s more disadvantaged communities who historically experienced poorer health outcomes.
Officers referred to the main points and themes within the report, which included:
- COVID-19 and inclusive recovery planning;
- Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) in the COVID-19 recovery work;
- Black Lives Matter;
- Workforce Race Review and Race Equality Working Group;
- The Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Staff Network Group (SNG);
- The Greater Manchester BIG Disability Survey;
- Equality compliance in Our Manchester funded organisations; and
- Equality objectives.
The Chair of the SNG informed Members that she was also the Senior Project Manager for the Race Review and a member of the Race Equality Working Group. She reported that the Working Group so far had been an encouraging journey which members had learnt and grown from and that she was feeling positive about where this was going.
The Executive Member for Neighbourhoods described 2020, with both the publication of the Council’s Race Review and international events, as a watershed moment. He emphasised the importance of equalities being embedded within the Council and reported that he had been encouraged by the work that had taken place so far and how it had involved BAME employees, while stating that the outcomes would be seen over weeks, months and years. He also highlighted the financial challenges the Council was facing and the importance of using EIAs to consider how different communities would be affected by budget proposals.
Some of the key points that arose from the Committee’s discussions were:
- To welcome and support the work being carried out and hope that the Council could lead the way and provide examples of best practice which other organisations across the city and more widely could follow;
- Request for an update on the review, in response to Black Lives Matter, of symbols within the city, including who was carrying out the review, what was being looked at (for example, statutes, emblems, street names, building names) and when Members could expect some feedback on this;
- The increase in people suffering from mental illness due to the pandemic and how this would be addressed;
- The need to acknowledge and address the Council’s failings, including the lack of BAME employees in senior leadership roles;
- The monitoring of diversity within organisations that the Our Manchester VCS Fund awarded funding to; and
- The Working Group including its membership and how staff had been recruited to it.
The Executive Member for Neighbourhoods reported that the Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure was involved in the review of symbols across the city. The Chair asked the Scrutiny Support Officer to follow this up with the Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure and for a response to be circulated to all Members of the Committee.
The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager assured Members that the increasing need for mental health support, including the impact of this on the VCSE sector, had been recognised and that discussions were taking place on how to address this. The Programme Lead (Our Manchester Funds) informed Members about the review of the Mental Health Strategy. The Chair suggested that the Committee might want to consider this at a future meeting.
The Executive Member for Neighbourhoods reported that the under-representation of BAME staff at senior levels had been highlighted in the Race Review and that this issue was being taken forward by the Working Group which was putting together an action plan. The City Solicitor reported that the Council’s recruitment policy and other Human Resources policies were being reviewed. She also informed Members about the reverse mentoring trial project which, she advised, would help senior managers to think differently about the decisions they made and how they made them.
The Chair of the SNG outlined some of the work that was taking place to address the under-representation of BAME staff at a senior level. This included looking at whether managers were adhering to the act-up and secondment policies and looking at how staff above Grade 12 were recruited, including the recruitment agencies used, the criteria for the posts and the candidates being put forward, as well as the development of existing Council staff and giving them the opportunity to apply for these senior posts.
The Vice Chair of the SNG informed Members that, through the Working Group, BAME staff had been involved in planning this work and been able to provide feedback, receive a response to that feedback and see changes being made, rather than just being led along a path which had already been determined. He advised that he felt this was an encouraging sign that this work would lead to real change.
The Programme Lead (Our Manchester Funds) reported that, when considering applications for the Our Manchester VCS Fund, factors considered included the make-up of the organisation, governance and the involvement of local people that they served, and that this was done through looking at the application and through due diligence checks of organisations which were due to be awarded funding. He clarified that this was a grant and different from the arrangements in place for monitoring contracts awarded by the Council.
The Chair of the SNG informed Members that there were approximately 30 employees in the Working Group, including black, Asian, minority ethnic and white staff from different areas and across different grades. She advised the Committee that the work had been split into five themes, which were being worked on by subgroups of 6 to 8 staff, and that staff had been able to choose which theme they wanted to work on. She reported that the Working Group had been advertised through a staff broadcast and some employees had put themselves forward through this while some had been chosen by their head of service to be involved.
The Chair expressed the Committee’s support for this work and emphasised the high priority the Committee placed on this. He thanked the Chair and Vice Chair of the SNG for their work and advised that he was open to discussing with them and other members of the Working Group how the Committee could best be involved in scrutinising this work and raising its profile. He suggested that the Committee receive an update report in the new year, in particular focusing on the work of the Working Group.
1. To request that a response from the Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure on the review of symbols across the city be circulated to all Members of the Committee.
2. That the Committee might want to consider the review of the Mental Health Strategy at a future meeting.
3. To receive an update report in the new year, in particular focusing on the work of the Working Group.
- Equalities Update, item 39. PDF 495 KB
- Appendix 1 - Covid-19 Equalities and Inclusion Overview 0.1, item 39. PDF 253 KB
- Appendix 2 - Covid-19 EIA, item 39. PDF 159 KB
- Appendix 3 - Black Lives Matter Communications, item 39. PDF 609 KB
- Appendix 4 - Equality Objectives 2020-24, item 39. PDF 279 KB