Today's post is written by Runnymede's director, Dr Rob Berkeley
In his speech filled with allusions to wartime blitz spirit, and calling for a ‘buccaneering, deal-making, hungry spirit’ to the CBI yesterday, David Cameron announced an end to ‘equality impact assessments’. An announcement that was so good it needed to be made twice. An announcement that was not all that it seems, on either occasion.
The PM has been keen to make a link between efforts to promote equality and sclerotic decision-making in government. The argument goes that having to consider the impact of policy decisions on marginalised groups is a key hold up in creating policy that will lead us out of double- (and soon to be triple-) dip recession to the sunlit uplands of economic growth. This is the reason why government has failed to introduce an industrial policy worth describing as such, why there will be no decision on airport capacity until after the next election, and why the eurozone is failing to recover. Perhaps that’s unfair and I’m falling into the trap of prime-ministerial hyperbole, but the more modest claims that equality impact assessments are to the detriment of effective and speedy policy-making are similarly lacking in evidence. Radical reforms to our schools, university funding, welfare benefits, criminal justice system, armed forces, NHS, energy, and immigration systems have hardly been stalled by decision-makers having to give due consideration to the impact of these decisions on marginalised groups. What Cameron seems to be suggesting by re-announcing this measure is that policy-makers are still spending taking too long to think about the potential impact of policy changes on marginalised people. Given the direction of education, welfare, employment and immigration reforms this hardly bears much scrutiny.
Today's blog post is written by Runnymede's director, Dr Rob Berkeley. It was originally posted on Left Foot Forward
Today’s announcement of an integration strategy from Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, marks a dangerous and ill-advised reversion to assimilationist policy, where all differences of ethnicity and heritage are subsumed into a majoritarian ‘mainstream’. Instead of taking the opportunity to further benefit from the diversity of the ethnic and faith backgrounds of its citizens, Pickles seems intent on restoring some notion of Britishness that is frozen in time and fails to take account of the nature of a modern Britain, its citizenry, or its role in the world. While in interviews Pickles points to last year’s Royal Wedding as a unifying moment for the British people, he would do well to also remember this summer’s Olympics, won for a London described as ‘The World in One City’.
His emphasis on ‘British values’ and ‘national unity’ in a series of interviews given to the Daily Mail and Express, suggests that people from minority ethnic backgrounds are somehow a threat to these values or to a unified country. This is despite significant evidence to the contrary and the significant contribution people from minority ethnic backgrounds have made and continue to make to Britain. Pickles seems to be advocating that the government, or perhaps he, or just the white majority, should be the arbiter of these values rather than the citizens of this country in all their ethnic diversity.
It is a testament to the speed and depth of government reforms that most organisations we work with are only now coming to terms their massive impact. More than £83 billion is to be cut from public spending during the course of one parliament. It is only now as the NHS, local authorities, charitable trusts, and quangos let voluntary sector organisations know about what budgets are available that the penny drops. Or does not, as many are discovering.
I recently attended a meeting of the London Minority Ethnic Elders Forum where local and national politicians sought to defend the cuts that are being made. The organisations represented at the meeting reported that services to support the most vulnerable were being put at risk.
Written by Runnymede's director, Dr Rob Berkeley. This post was also published on Left Foot Forward
So we’re back to what is becoming an old chestnut; as the latest senior politician condemns multiculturalism. On Saturday, David Cameron took his place, behind Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Trevor Phillips, arguing that “state multiculturalism” has encouraged “different cultures to live separate lives” with a particular Cameron twist – that the UK needs a stronger national identity to prevent people turning to extremism. Surely, such a panoply of senior politicians should have been able to organize the end of so-called state multiculturalism by now – unless of course it never existed in the first place, they do not really mean it, or the alternatives are simply too unattractive to countenance.
A key problem in debates around multiculturalism is that the term means different things to different people. Some believe that multiculturalism actively promotes separate religious and ethnic identities at the expense of common values, whilst others believe that it simply means the existence and recognition of different identities in a shared political space within a framework of human rights. Runnymede’s understanding of the term has always been the latter. This is why the insistence that multiculturalism is the root of all evil has always been confusing to us. On an everyday level, the people of these islands generally accept that different identities exist and for most, thankfully, this is trivial – what people choose to eat, what music they listen to, how they choose to dress, are not generally seen as controversial in this country. The notion of a shared political space and the protection of individuals’ human rights however seem to be more problematic – and the inability to deal with these issues may explain why this debate so often generates more heat than light.
This morning I heard speeches on making land rights and properties rights effective for minorities in the US, Bangladesh, Israel, Colombia, post-conflict Eastern Europe and Africa. It's good to share experiences and also to discover some good policies, however few.
Thinking about effectively ownership rights made me wonder how we ensure that everyone benefits from the UK Coalition Government's proposed community right-to-buy schemes...
Today's blog post is written by our public affairs intern Ashley Burton-Lynch
Labour peer Lord Falconer has slammed government plans to change constituency boundaries due to the fact this will exclude the 3.5 million people currently not on the electoral register because of out of date data. He added that many of those excluded from the register would be Black and minority ethnic (BME) people. Lord Falconer made the comments during the House of Lords’ second reading of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, where the government has proposed that constituencies across the UK should be of an equal population size and be reduced by 50 seats.
Lord Falconer went on to argue that the changes would create constituencies which “carve(d) up communities” and did not reflect local needs. This, according to Lord Falconer, was supported by the Constitution Committee which stated in its report on the Bill that holding a public consultation on the issue would have highlighted whether the electorate actually thought equalisation of constituencies should be prioritised over other considerations.
Labour peer Baroness Healy elaborated on these concerns by adding that “if these missing millions are ignored in the redrawing of boundaries, it will have a distorting effect on the electoral map and unforeseen social consequences whereby government bodies do not recognise the true nature of the communities they should be supporting” – for example concerning the allocation of funds per head.
Today's blog post is written by our public affairs intern Ashley Burton-Lynch
Labour MP David Lammy last week highlighted how the government’s proposed changes to housing benefit could negatively impact ethnic minorities. The comments came in an opposition day debate in the House of Commons on housing benefit, where the Labour party called on the government to review its plans to cut the housing benefit of those who have been on Job Seeker’s Allowance for over a year. Further details of the changes are available here.
During the debate, Lammy argued that it was “extraordinary” that an equality impact assessment had not yet been published on the reforms, adding that they have the potential to “greatly affect London’s ethnic minorities”.
Later in the debate, Lammy expanded upon his point, stating that ethnic minority families make up a significant proportion of those claiming housing benefit in London. He argued that in seeking to remove the “safety net” for the most income vulnerable people, the reforms would in effect forcefully “drive people from central London to outer London”.
Today’s blog post is written by Runnymede’s public affairs intern Farrah Sheikh
In equality oral questions yesterday in the House of Commons, the equalities minister Lynne Featherstone was quizzed by MPs about ways to increase recruitment to the civil service from black and minority ethnic communities. In response, Lynne Featherstone reiterated the government’s commitment to create more internships for people from BME backgrounds within the civil service and added that the civil service is gradually becoming more diverse following a drive to target BME people.
Elsewhere, newly elected Conservative MP Nicky Morgan received an answer to a written question on government policy on helping people from BME backgrounds gain senior positions in both the public and private sectors. In reply, Lynne Featherstone outlined the coalition government’s commitments to promoting equality and opportunity for all under represented communities. In addition to internships, she added that the government will provide mentoring and funding for entrepreneurial BME people who want to start a new business.
Today's post was written by Runnymede's public affairs intern Farrah Sheikh
Home Secretary Theresa May has announced that Prevent - a scheme introduced by the last government to prevent violent extremism - is to be re-evaluated in the counter terrorism review later on this year.
The Guardian had originally reported that the scheme was to be scrapped altogether. However, May clarified the Home Office’s position on Prevent in a response to a parliamentary question from Alan Johnson MP, saying that she wanted to separate the community cohesion and integration elements of Prevent from the counter-terrorism strands. Stating that it was “right and proper” that the two elements be separated, she told the House that Prevent was being rejected by those it was supposed to help because it currently merged the integration aims of the Department of Communities & Local Government and the Home Office’s counter terrorism measures.
Elsewhere in the House, MP’s called for any change in the Prevent strategy to include all communities. Kris Hopkins and David Davis both said that many Muslims felt that Prevent was targeted specifically at them. They highlighted the importance of moving away from this position and ensuring that all communities were engaged in any new counter terrorism policy.
Today's post was written by Runnymede's public affairs intern Farrah Sheikh
The BBC has reported that a referendum for the Alternative Vote (AV) system is to be held on 5 May next year - the same day as the local elections.
Whilst this announcement will be music to many Lib Dem ears, the proposal is set to face serious Tory opposition, with one of Prime Minister Cameron’s election pledges being to vote “no” in any AV referendum. However, this is also one of the key agreements of the coalition government, putting Cameron in a tricky position. Currently, all three Labour frontrunner candidates are in favour of the alternative vote. Labour support is likely to prove vital in pushing the bill through the House of Commons.
But what does this mean for race equality? As some readers may remember, our senior policy researcher, Dr. Omar Khan recently wrote an article for Left Foot Forward, arguing that proportional representation or the alternative vote system alone would not increase BME representation within the UK parliament. He adds that other measures should be introduced alongside any change in the voting system in order to improve representation. You can read Omar's article here.
There have been some reports over the last week that the government has withdrawn its timetable for the implementation of the Equality Act and that it is considering repealing a number of measures included in the act.
The UK Human Rights blog, along with the Sunday Times this weekend, have suggested that elements of the act which the Conservatives were opposed to in opposition will not be implemented, for example positive discrimination when hiring and compulsory equal pay reporting. These measures require secondary legislation, which the government could choose not to pass.
In addition, the UK Human Rights blog has reported that a spokesperson from the Government Equalities Office has said that “an announcement on scheduling for implementation of the Equality Act will be made in due course” adding that the new Government is not bound by the timetable set by its predecessor.
You can read more on the UK Human Rights blog.
Today's blog post is written by Phil Mawhinney, a research and policy analyst working working on Runnymede's financial inclusion programme. He recently wrote Runnymede's "Seeking Sound Advice" publication which looks at how government money advice services are used by BME people.
In yesterday's ‘emergency budget’ Chancellor George Osborne set out the coalition government’s plans for reducing the budget deficit and public debt. Some measures in the package – made up of 77% of public spending reductions and 23% tax increases – will have a heavy financial impact on disadvantaged black and minority ethnic people. The axing of the Saving Gateway, a faster-than-planned increase in the state pension age, cuts to welfare spending and likely increases in unemployment are just some of the coming changes.
Osborne said the government ‘simply cannot afford to extend’ the Saving Gateway, a scheme in which people on lower incomes receive 50p from the government for every £1 they save and which received parliamentary approval last year. Given that this scheme enables many BME people on lower incomes to protect themselves and their families from hardship and to rely less on credit and debt, as well as its relatively low cost at an initial annual expense of £160 million, you might have thought that the government would happily invest in encouraging a culture of saving among people often portrayed in the media as feckless. It is doubly disappointing given the earlier scrapping of Child Trust Funds, which enable families to save into a tax-free investment account into which government makes contributions of at least £500.
Some of you may have spotted an article in last week’s Society Guardian highlighting concerns in the Gypsy and Traveller community regarding the new government’s housing policy. It highlights that the coalition has reversed policies intending to give incentives to councils to develop land for Gypsy and Traveller communities. As a result of this policy, the article states, all bids to fund new sites and refurbish existing ones across England and Wales have been cancelled.
Furthermore, the new communities secretary Eric Pickles has stated that he wants to revive elements of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act – this may mean that trespass will be turned into a criminal offence rather than a civil one. This could have massive implications for the Gypsy and Traveller community as those who refuse to move from land that is not privately owned by them could be arrested by police or forcibly evicted. In addition, Pickles has previously announced his intention to scrap new rules giving Gypsies and Travellers a "level playing field" in planning disputes with local authorities.
Lib Dem MP Lorely Burt highlighted the issue of Gypsy and Traveller sites in parliament last week where she called for a debate on “how local authorities can protect themselves from Gypsy and Traveller encampments riding roughshod over planning law in green belt areas”. However, she also stressed the need for a “fair system of proper provision of legal campsites for Gypsies and Travellers”.Leader of the House George Young encouraged Burt to raise the issue in the forthcoming communities and local government oral questions, ensuring that this is an issue which will be on the parliamentary agenda for some time to come…
Westminster became a hotbed of discussion on race and equality issues throughout yesterday’s parliamentary debates.
In an exchange about knife crime and police bureaucracy, police and criminal Justice minister, Nick Herbert said that the coalition government is dedicated to reducing ’time wasting bureaucracy’ and will make hospitals share non-confidential information with the police so that they can target stop-and-search in gun and knife crime hot spots.
This could have a significant impact on race equality, as ethnic minorities are often the target of stop and search investigations. However, it has not yet been made clear as to what ‘bureaucracy’ will be scrapped.
See our latest report Ethnic Profiling: The Use of ‘Race’ in UK Law Enforcement for more on the effects stop and search has on the black and minority ethnic (BME) community.
The new coalition government introduced a raft of new legislation in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech which promises to bring radical change to the country. Whilst the full details of the new legislation have not yet been published, below are some early thoughts on what it could mean for race equality.
Given the unequal attainment levels of different ethnic groups, the pupil premium included in the Education and Children’s Bill may have a positive impact on those BME children in lower attaining groups. However clarification will be needed on how the pupil premium will be allocated – will, for example, being a child from an ethnic group with the lowest attainment levels (such as Gypsy, Roma and Traveller groups, or Black Caribbean Children) result in receiving pupil premium funding? In addition, it is important that the amount allocated through the premium is enough as to act as a sufficient incentive for schools to accept them as pupils.
The slimming down of the curriculum could be a concern if citizenship classes and other multi-cultural initiatives are scrapped – however it is not yet clear whether this will be the case.
The emphasis on increasing patient choice in the Health Bill may impact some BME people differently from other groups. Previous research by Runnymede on school choice found that BME parents find it difficult to exercise choice, and therefore downgrade their options prior to selecting schools. Further research would be needed to consider whether this would be the case in heath, but it is worth considering the school choice example
It has now been confirmed that Lib Dem MP and Communities and Local Government Minister Andrew Stunell will hold the race equality and community cohesion brief in the new coalition government. He succeeds former Labour MP Shahid Malik in the post.
Stunell will also focus on the role of the controversial "Prevent" scheme which was set up with the aim of preventing Islamic extremism. His other duties will include building regulations and the "Big Society".
He previously held the post of Liberal Democrat shadow community cohesion minister between 2006-2007 and spent time as the party's deputy chief whip. Stunell - also MP for Hazel Grove - was also one of the five Lib Dem MPs involved in the post-election coalition negotiations with the Conservatives.
Dr Omar Khan, Runnymede's senior policy researcher, posted an article on the well respected Left Foot Forward blog this weekend on the impact of PR on BME representation. In the article he concludes that the electoral system has a limited effect on the proportion of under-represented groups, that AV in particular is unlikely to have much effect, and other measures – including internal political party policies – are more likely to increase BME representation in Parliament. You can read the full post on Left Foot Forward.
The new government has today published a detailed coalition agreement, outlining its plans in a variety of key policy areas including finance, education, climate change and health.
A number of policy positions have been announced on equalities, which include:
The full document is available here.
According to the Guardian, home secretary Theresa May has this morning confirmed that the new coalition government is reconsidering whether to scrap the Human Rights Act. However, whilst replacing the act with a British Bill of Rights was a key pledge in the Conservative manifesto, the Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg reportedly said this morning that any government would tamper with the act "at its peril". The Lib Dems strongly criticised the Conservative’s stance on this issue during the election campaign.
The coalition is currently in discussions over what to do in this area and it remains to be seen whether this will cause a rift between the two parties. It is expected that the new government’s position will be clarified in a detailed coalition agreement to be published tomorrow.
The new attorney general Dominic Grieve MP argued passionately in favour of a British Bill of Rights in a paper written for Runnymede earlier this year on conservatism and community cohesion. In the paper he stated that such a bill would be important for social cohesion and national unity.
Responding to Grieve’s essay, Labour peer Lord Parekh suggested that there is a danger that a new bill could be “regressive and biased towards the anxieties of the ‘law abiding majority’ and against individuals’ liberties, especially those of immigrants and asylum seekers”.