Regional Powerhouses? Why regional insight and action on Race is needed

Sandra Kerr OBE, Business in the Community Race Equality Director asks that the Northern Powerhouse line-up of elected mayors is as diverse as the communities they serve. 

 

Image of Sandra Kerr OBE, Business in the Community Race Equality Director

With the chancellor announcing the plans to increase devolved powers last week in England, regional diversity and inclusion has never become more important.  The Northern Powerhouse line-up of ‘powerful’ elected mayors have been agreed for Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield.  There will also be a transferring of new powers over to the criminal justice system in due course. I trust that each elected Mayor will have the guiding principles of diversity and inclusion as they govern their local areas.  

What will the diversity of this line up of Mayors and senior governors look like when it is complete? Useful demographic data on the local populations when it comes to employment and unemployment rates, senior management populations, as well at the primary and secondary populations is important in the regional planning to ensure authentic equality of access to opportunities and improved employment levels and progression outcomes for all. 

To improve these employment levels and close the gaps, regional action plans are necessary. There is a great opportunity for all regions, Local Authorities and the new Mayors to actively tackle these challenges and for the government to ensure that there is high quality data available to support this

This week we have published some regional breakdown data in our ‘Race at Work: regional trends in the UK’ infographic which illustrates that experience of race in the workplace differs by location.  We have also produced a Race at Work: Regional Insights Factsheet for our member employers which illustrates why access to good quality data from government will continue to be vital with increased devolution. 

For example, the Annual Population Survey shows that there continues to be a challenge regarding the employment rate for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people, which is lower across the whole of the UK at 62.3% compared to the White population of 73.2%.  This represents an employment rate gap of 10.9%.  However, when we look at what will be the Northern Powerhouse regions, the employment rate gap for BAME and White people across the geography is starker. In Yorkshire and Humber, there is an employment rate of 55.7% for BAME people and 72.4% for White people - a 16.7 percentage point difference in employment rate.  This is in contrast to the higher employment rates for BAME people in regions in the South of England, with the higher rates of employment for BAME people in London at 63.8% and the South East at 69.4%.

To improve these employment levels and close the gaps, regional action plans are necessary.  There is a great opportunity for all regions, Local Authorities and the new Mayors to actively tackle these challenges and for the government to ensure that there is high quality data available to support this. 

Some questions I would like all regional leaders and policy makers to ask going forward as they continue to experience the devolution of power include:

  • Is there diversity which reflects and represents the local communities of the regions they serve in their own workplaces?
  • Are they ensuring the employers they procure services from promote diversity and equalities within their recruitment and progression practices?
  • Is there diversity reflective of the community in the local police services and other official roles linked to the criminal justice system?
  • Is there diversity reflective of the community within teacher populations in primary, secondary and Higher Education?
  • Is there an action plan in place to improve the employment rates in the region and close any gaps that exist by ethnic group?

I believe the answer to all of these questions needs to be yes. This will ensure that ‘group think’ policies are not introduced locally, which run the risk of employment rate gap by ethnicity remain unchallenged.  

Regional leaders and policy makers must include these questions in the planning so we start now to take action for a more equal future for everyone in the UK.