How we championed a growing anti-discrimination campaign and made our council a more inclusive employer

In November’s Full Council, Hull City Council (HCC) unanimously passed a motion calling for a proactive, zero-tolerance anti-discrimination policy and backed a campaign for the law to be changed to make this mandatory for all organisations.

In the summer, the former president of Hull University Union founded a campaign called @MakeDiversityCount following her experience of racism in her role – and how the university was not equipped to deal with it. Her story and subsequent petition calling for all organisations to have a clear, robust and effective policy prompted me to investigate the situation at HCC, which she was pleased to support.

I did some research and discovered a number of potential failings at the council. Despite pockets of good practice, the evidence suggested many did not feel comfortable speaking up: lack of awareness of the reporting processes and the fear that they would not be taken seriously were among the suspected reasons for this. This simply wasn’t good enough.

Fortunately, the officers I spoke to welcomed the call for change and suggested a number of ways we could simplify and strengthen our existing policies. More training and genuine commitment from leadership was needed. It was clear that a shift in the culture, emphasising a proactive approach over one solely focussed on compliance, was necessary.

I was delighted to hear that the ruling Labour group intended to support and second the motion, pretty much guaranteeing its success. It was passed unanimously at Full Council.

Hull City Council employs over 5,000 people. In a committee meeting in early November, a senior Labour councillor mentioned “negative attitudes towards protected characteristics” as a key issue emerging from a recent staff survey. If implemented properly, this policy can change that.

I wanted to share this as I think it’s a good example of how we can make small changes to combat systemic racism and prejudice in our local councils and other institutions. This year has taught me a lot about the power of listening. For me, the determination to do something meaningful this year began with attending the Black Lives Matter events, supporting emerging campaigns and A LOT of reading.

You can read more about the Make Diversity Count campaign and sign their petition calling for the Equalities Act to be updated here.

* Holly Burton is a Liberal Democrat on Hull City Council, representing Pickering ward.

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This entry was posted in Local government and Op-eds.
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2 Comments

  • jayne mansfield 1st Dec '20 - 9:52am

    Mmm,
    Worth pondering on how long ago Martin Luther King paraphrased the words of Theodore Parker and ask whether justice could be hurried up.

    Keep up the good work Holly.

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