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Where next for race equality at the local level?

Manchester Council leader Richard Leese (2nd R) talks with participants at the CLES/One North West event on race equality.

The government says that ‘equality is at the heart of this coalition government. It is fundamental to building a strong economy and a fair society’.

However, the evidence for this is far from compelling.

The disproportionate impact of the cuts on BME voluntary and community sector and the communities they serve is evident. Also, the move away from equality to fairness (which has no legislative framework) is concerning.

This is in the context of David Cameron’s recent speech on multiculturalism, which signalled a move away from a race relations policy of equality of opportunity for all and cultural diversity, towards one of assimilation and mainstreaming. The Big Society is held up as a means through which communities and public services will improve, but this still does not have a social justice framework to ensure equality.

The context in which we operate is radically changing and certainly challenging. New arguments have to be made in order to keep race equality on the agenda both at national and local level.

As Sylvia Sham from Wai Yin Chinese Women Society said: ‘strong leadership is needed…the previous government instructed us. It was like IKEA. This government leaves us with an empty room, where we can push forward equality using the localism agenda’.

To develop some new thinking and to develop opportunities, One North West and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies held a joint policy roundtable on April 1st, entitled ‘Where next for race equality at the local level’. This brought together a wide range of participants from the BME voluntary and community sector, academics, economists and both local authority officers and representatives, including the leader of Manchester City Council.

The aim of the event was to develop a cross-sector comment on current government policy and to develop a blueprint for linking race equality with economic development that can be used both locally and nationally.

The event developed thinking around linking race equality more closely with key agendas around gender, economics and the wider anti-poverty movement, and lobbying to ensure accountability within the new infrastructure that we now find ourselves in. This will include developing a more robust evidence base and exploring how we can make the growth agenda work for all communities. One North West and CLES will be working together over the coming months to make this happen.

  • This event will be covered in greater depth on the New Start website in the coming weeks as part of an In Focus feature on the equalities agenda

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