Doncaster Council recently published its draft equality plan for consultation purposes.
The question for the electorate is: does the plan represent value for money?
Does it tell us about the barriers people face in everyday life, concerns they have when accessing services, employment opportunities, the varying levels of discrimination suffered by people (internal and external) perpetuated through the council, or if anything at all – apart from the law?
More significantly, did the authors of this plan involve the people it is intended to support during its writing? If it did, it would result in a more informed plan that costs less public money. I think the answer to all of these questions is a resounding no.
An elected official recently told me the plan may not answer any of your questions, but nor does it mention how much, if anything, the council has had to pay-out to keep a lid on any discriminatory practices – and if it has learnt anything at all over the years?
This brings me onto the issue of fairness. Most officials in the council that I know question the need to support minorities – or they usually try to qualify their argument, by pointing out which is the bigger minority group, implying if they were to be considerate, their focus would probably not be someone who looks like you – despite the proven needs. Bizarrely the bigger group is not their focus either. My message to these officials is, it’s not a matter of size, it is about understanding impact of your policies and actions and your focus should not be determined by the colour of someone’s skin.
Which brings me onto the culture of the council; as a (former) chief officer I witnessed many practices, including the appalling policy assertion to ban the term Black and Ethnic Minority, which may not seem like a big deal. Well, let me share with you why it’s important.
Firstly it is a term that is often used to define people. Secondly, without a definition, the officials are unable to understand the needs of those tax payers/groups; and thirdly, if there is no definition, then those groups become invisible; as if they don’t exist.
My advice to the council would be to put their stereotypes, populism and political correctness ideologies to one side, and bring together a set of people who can support them – similar to a fairness commission; particularly during these austere times. Stop treating equality as if you’re ordering a latte – whether you want it skinny or full fat.
Equality is not a choice, it is a fundamental right that people have fought, lost their lives, careers, and
aspirations for, and so others can prosper. Let’s have a real plan that relates to the Doncaster people, and will truly advance equality of opportunity for all!
* Nadeem Murtuja