To much fanfare last week saw the launch of the Tower Hamlets council Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Inequalities Commission report which you can read here. Or not. Take it from us, don’t waste your time. It is dire.
The Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Inequalities Commission report is so bad that within a day or two of it being published an open letter from borough residents was published accusing the report of being a ‘cover up in regards to serious allegations of discrimination direct and indirect by Tower Hamlets Council and its partners.’
Hardly a ringing endorsement, is it?
The open letter (below) continues in similar vein “Contrary to the aims of the commission, the report does not include tangible, practical and time-specific targets to tackle the systemic racism faced by the BAME community in Tower Hamlets. Mere recommendations are not enough to tackle the root cause of the problems. Whilst the Commission acknowledges that race plays a big part in preventing the BAME community from accessing basic resources, it does not condemn key stakeholder groups responsible for many of the ills identified in the report. “
Here is the letter in full. Unlike the Commission report it is worth reading.
Open Letter to Tower Hamlets Council Mayor & Cabinet on BAME Inequalities Report
“We the residents of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets are raising our concerns, in relation to the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Inequalities Commission Report launched on 18th March, 2021.
We believe that the current proposal tabled at the cabinet meeting on the 24th of March 2021 is tantamount to a cover up in regards to serious allegations of discrimination direct and indirect by Tower Hamlets Council and its partners.
Contrary to the aims of the commission, the report does not include tangible, practical and time-specific targets to tackle the systemic racism faced by the BAME community in Tower Hamlets. Mere recommendations are not enough to tackle the root cause of the problems. Whilst the Commission acknowledges that race plays a big part in preventing the BAME community from accessing basic resources, it does not condemn key stakeholder groups responsible for many of the ills identified in the report. We are deeply concerned that the time and money invested in commissioning the report will lead to no significant changes in the quality of life for the residents of Tower Hamlets.
We are therefore calling on the Mayor John Biggs, to do the following:
Consult the residents to gather views and responses to the recommendations and for it to be translated into community languages.
Set time-specific targets to evaluate progress made over time in housing, health, education and employment.
Hold leaders in the aforementioned areas accountable for continuously failing to deliver acceptable outcomes for the BAME community.
Ask major establishments to draw up a timeline to address the pervasive institutional racism that hinder the progress of the BAME community.
These actions must be the first step in a borough-wide strategy to eliminate structural racism in the council and its services. It is not enough for public servants to identify the scourge of racism. You must be actively involved in calling out and sanctioning organisations that seek to divide the community by splitting the residents of Tower Hamlets into the camps of ‘us’ and ‘them’.
We will not let our suffering, the daily discrimination we face to be used as a political rebranding exercise. We demand immediate action to a problem which affects the lives of the majority in Tower Hamlets residents.
Deputy Mayors: Sirajul Islam, Asma Begum, Rachel Blake
Cllr Sabina Akhtar (Cabinet Member for Culture, Arts and Brexit)
Cllr Candida Ronald (Cabinet Member for Resources and the Voluntary Sector)
Cllr Danny Hassell (Cabinet Member for Housing)
Cllr Motin Uz-Zaman (Cabinet Member for Work and Economic Growth)
Cllr Mufeedah Bustin (Cabinet Member for Planning and Social Inclusion (Job Share) – Lead on Social Inclusion)
Cllr Asma Islam (Cabinet Member for Environment and Public Realm (Job Share) – Lead on Environment)
Cllr Eve McQuillan (Cabinet Member for Planning and Social Inclusion (Job Share) – Lead on Planning)
Cllr Dan Tomlinson (Cabinet Member for Environment and Public Realm (Job Share) – Lead on Public Realm)
To sign the open letter follow this link.
That’s quite a lot of names. Especially as they are Labour councillors.
The Enquirer had been looking forward to reading the Commission’s finding so we were more than a little disappointed to read approximately 14,000 words (53 pages) of flannel. This might just scrape through as an A level project but that’s about it.
This sentence on page 20 sums up the quality of the report.
“This report provides further anecdotes and data which suggests that racism is still, unfortunately, a pervasive and insidious issue which needs to be addressed.”
Why does any resident of Tower Hamlets, whatever their colour, need to be told this? If this was not true then there would be no need of a commission and report.
Do your literature review people
Any undergraduate is taught that when conducting research the first task is to review the existing literature on the subject.
The authors have failed to do this as on page 21 are these grand words “The Commission endorses the McGregor Smith review, which underlined the need for ethnicity pay gap reporting and targets. The Commission is disappointed that neither of these are mandatory and will push for organisations in Tower Hamlets to lead the way in implementing this. “
If a literature review had been undertaken it would have found that in 2018 Cllr. Rabina Khan (Liberal Democrat, Shadwell) and Clllr. Andrew Cregan submitted the below amendment about the gender and ethnicity pay gap under the Labour council which reads “As well as the gender pay audit, to carry out an ethnicity pay audit, to determine whether employees from Black and Ethnic Minority backgrounds are consistently paid less. The audit should include an action plan to address any issues found.”
The amendment was rejected. By Tower Hamlets Labour Party. The same people who are now harping on about the inequality of an ethnicity pay gap.
Thing is, and Tower Hamlets Labour have yet to work this out, that the need for a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Inequalities Commission is due to five years of continued discrimination against the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic residents under a Labour council.
This report condemns Tower Hamlets Labour Party as much as it blames society at large.
So why should anyone, with the best will in world, believe that the report is full of anything other than platitudes?
And why does the Biggs administration think it would benefit from the Commission?
Geek Stuff – dull but essential
For our borough to genuinely provide equal opportunities to all it needs to ensure that we all have better internet access than we do now and make digital exclusion a thing of the past.
One Digital Exclusion recommendation is that “Organisations address digital exclusion facing Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities which is having an impact on their ability to access services, employment, engage in community life and their life outcomes.”
Can’t argue with that. So how do ‘organisations address digital exclusion’? What concrete measures can be taken by organisations? How can the effectivness of these measures be monitored?
Nothing to say about this. Not word one. There is no discussion of the need to ensure that we have a robust internet structure across the borough reaching every home and every business.
Having spent many hours researching the effects of structural racism on people from Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic communities and the consequences for their health I was surprised to find little to no discussion of how as a borough we could examine structural racism inherent in our society and then tackle it. The phrase ‘ structural racism’ only appears four times in the report.
Structural racism is both immensely complex and frequently invisible – if you are White. To not address this lurking menace in such a document is at best careless.
The only good thing that Covid-19 has done is kick-start a massive amount of research into how and why people from Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic communities become ill, suffer more than White people and have worse outcomes. Time after time structural racism is cited as the root cause.
Pandemic? What pandemic?
In addition to avoiding any intellectually rigorous engagement with structural racism issues in our borough the report also manages to ignore the consequences of the pandemic.
Multiple reports warn of a lost decade if countries such as the UK attempt to solve the problems through austerity measures.
In addition to post-pandemic problems that will hit every part of the UK, Tower Hamlets is particularly vulnerable because many of us are still dirt poor and the future of Canary Wharf is uncertain. 40% of the borough’s business rates are generated by Canary Wharf and any significant reduction in this revenue stream will have serious effects on our wider economy. Repeated media stories about one of the world’s financial centres becoming a desirable retail and entertainment destination should alarm everyone.
The success or failure of Tower Hamlet’s bid for city status could be crucial.
But nowhere in the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Inequalities Commission report is this issue addressed.
The Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Inequalities Commission could have provided a plan to tackle racism in our communities and a light at the end of the tunnel for the post-pandemic world we are about to face.
Instead it offers platitudes, feeble research, no vision and a total absence of leadership.
Is anyone surprised?
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