Agenda item

How do we make Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic lives matter at Torbay Council?

To question the Interim Chief Executive, Head of HR and Assistant Director of Community and Customer Services of Torbay Council on the key question.



The Chair welcomed Anne-Marie Bond (Interim Chief Executive, Torbay Council), Tara Harris (Assistant Director Customer and Community, Torbay Council) and Sue Wiltshire (Head of Human Resources, Torbay Council) to the meeting and the panel then directed a number of questions to them based around the key question of how do we make Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) lives matter at Torbay Council?


The key responses from the council officers are detailed below:


·        It was agreed that the council needed to ensure that its foster care provision was ethnically diverse

·        It was stated that the council has not historically had a targeted campaign to address diversity in its workforce but that this was now being addressed via the development of a revised workforce or people strategy that would make diversity a focus with support from the Local Government Association (LGA)

·        That the council’s workforce was most ethnically diverse in social care roles and in agency staff

·        That the council’s approach to adoption of children was that the process was primarily about the child’s needs

·        That in developing its workforce plan the council would consider implementing a target for the employment of BAME staff but would take advice from the LGA on this approach

·        That whilst Torbay Council has a low BAME workforce of 1.3% in comparison to other councils it does aspire to be representative of the community it serves and the council acknowledges that it needs to do better on this moving forward. To date its approach has been ‘one size fits all’ rather than targeted but that it needs to make improvements on this issue

·        That austerity has made addressing ethnic diversity in the council workforce more difficult as the council has had to focus on a range of issues with less money

·        The interim Chief Executive is committed to the council reaching out and engaging with all sectors in its community and is currently consulting the community on the council’s consultation strategy

·        That the council’s approach to BAME staff has to be more than targets but a wider set of initiatives, campaigns and polices to encourage BAME staff to work and stay with the council

·        Council is clear that it does not tolerate racism and that it needs to work with the community more to address racism in Torbay

·        Council admitted that some of its BAME data was old and dating back to the 2011 census but that the 2021 census data would provide the council with a much better picture of its community and how the council can provide support to the BAME community

·        At times the council found it hard to collect data on ethnicity as respondents were not required to answer this question on forms

·        The council was clear that its approach to addressing ethnic diversity in its workforce also had to happen in its arms-length companies of SWISCo and TDA

·        That the council had not historically marked Black History Month but that it would consider doing in the future

·        That the council works closely with the local police to ensure hate crimes are reported but that more could be done to promote this possibly via the Community Safety Partnership and/or Prevent Partnership

·        That the BAME community faces a number of barriers in reporting hate crime, these being trust in the institutions they are reporting it to e.g. police and council as well as cultural barriers

·        Possibly the focus in Torbay on hate crime has been more on the LGBT community rather than BAME community

·        That the council does not specifically collect data on housing and BAME customers and therefore there appears to be no issues with housing but it was acknowledged that this may not be the truth of the issue. The council is therefore keen to explore how it can encourage the BAME community to come forward and report issues or to access advocacy support

·        The council’s data on BAME access to housing is partial but part of the reason for this was the issue of customers not being under an obligation to disclose their ethnicity on forms or contacts with the council

·        The council acknowledges and is currently working to raise standards in the private rented housing sector to address housing deprivation that may also impact BAME community but the council needs to find ways to encourage BAME community to come forward and complain about poor housing. The Council is currently exploring how to reach some communities who don’t historically interact with the council and is looking to use targeted social media to do this

·        The council needs to review the management of its Facebook page as some racist comments appear on it from members of the public

·        Panel considered the possibility of a future review specifically on Housing and BAME

·        The council has undertaken an initiative to work with local BAME businesses but this is targeted more at restaurants and hospitality industry to aid compliance. Nevertheless this work has been acknowledged as best practice nationally 

·        The council has a link to a BAME staff support network at the hospital trust but no council dedicated BAME Staff network

·        Council does run equality and diversity training but does recognise more could be done to support and train staff on these issues

·        The council acknowledged that it has a low number of BAME councillors but stated that it was only the council’s role to encourage candidates and that political parties also had a role to play on this issue

·        That the council has for some time not had a dedicated diversity officer

·        That the council could consider doing more to work with local schools to promote BAME culture and understanding

·        That there was no specific diversity and inclusion training for councillors as part of their induction.

The following actions were identified by the panel:


·        Numbers on ethnic diversity of Foster Carers in Torbay to be provided to panel – Nancy Meehan, Director of Children’s Services, Torbay Council

·        Clarification on ethnic diversity and role it plays in selecting parents for adoption of children in Torbay to be provided to panel – Nancy Meehan, Director of Children’s Services, Torbay Council

·        Workforce Strategy to be reviewed by BAME Review Panel before consideration by Cabinet – Sue Wiltshire, Head of Human Resources, Torbay Council and Mark Hammett, Strategic Support Manager, Torbay Council

·        BAME staff figures for SWISCO and TDA to be provided to panel - Sue Wiltshire, Head of Human Resources

·        BAME figures on access to housing to be provided to panel - Tara Harris Assistant Director Customer and Community, Torbay Council

·        BAME figures of modern slavery in Torbay to be provided to panel - Tara Harris Assistant Director Customer and Community, Torbay Council

·        Overview of how council works with schools to promote BAME culture to be provided to the panel – Rachael Williams, Head of Education, Torbay Council