The Leader of Newport City Council was pleased to be able to present to Council the authority’s third Strategic Equality Plan. The plan represented an evolution from the 2016-2020 plan, with more outcome based objectives that had been developed by working closely in partnership with various teams across the authority and in collaboration with key stakeholders and communities.
The Equality Objectives within the Strategic Equality Plan, had a good mix of internally focused objectives, such as our commitments to improving our workforce diversity through greater positive action, and more externally focused objectives such as the on-going commitment to improving community cohesion across the city. This balance of internal self-reflection and an outwardly focused commitment to improve equality in key areas of society was the strength of this strategy and represented a positive step forward for Newport City Council.
The past few months, and no doubt the next few months to come, were challenging, and had exposed many of the structural and social inequalities that continued to persist in society, from the global Black Lives Matter protests, to our exit from the European Union, and the ramifications of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The Council found itself at a societal cross road as it looked to recover and learn from events that affected Newport, but had impacted specific groups in the communities so acutely.
The Council continued to strive to deliver equitable public services for all residents in the face of an increasingly challenging economic backdrop, without allowing the forces of division to create an environment of intolerance and hostility, this Strategy would help achieve this aim.
The Leader thanked both the Cabinet Member for Community and Resources, Cllr David Mayer and Cllr Mark Whitcutt for their contributions to the plan and the Strategic Equality Group over the past four years.
Cabinet approved the strategy at its meeting in July and the Leader moved for the adoption of this strategy by full Council.
The following issues were discussed:
Councillor Rahman, speaking as BAME Champion, welcomed the report and thanked Cllr Mayer and councillors for their time putting together the report’s sharing opinions from all the communities. The Leader and staff met with other groups to discuss bringing about community cohesion. Members of the public had been consulted online and through focus groups putting Newport at the forefront of other councils.
Councillor Wilcox supported the Leader’s comments adding that it was a milestone moving forward. The plan continued to be explicit on how to deliver services for Newport. The visuals and graphics were a step forward in how they talked to people. The Strategic Equality Group would support the delivery and scrutiny committee would have responsibility for monitoring progress. Councillor Wilcox added that she would like to see an opportunity for young people and youth groups to feed into the monitoring at some stage when we return to some form of normality, as they had a vital role to play for the future.
Councillor Whitcutt thanked the Leader for her gracious comments regarding his previous role adding that it was a pleasure to work with the team in preparing the document, who deserved to be commended on work they continued to do. Over 5,000 people responded which was a tremendous achievement at this time of challenge. It was an extremely important document which the councillor supported as part of his profession as a solicitor. The Council was in a strong position because of this work, thanking the Cabinet for its involvement and Tracy Mckim, Policy Partnership and Involvement Manager.
Councillor Davies added that the consultation with residents was a fundamental key to this report. It was apparent that views had not changed. The report was welcomed and characteristics should be rightfully celebrated when and ignorance promoted a negative part in society.
Councillor K Thomas, Champion for vulnerable people as well as mental health champion highlighted the commitment that council had to supporting people and as councillors there was a need to approve and support the aims of this plan.
Councillor Lacey, LBGTQ champion also supported the report, stressing the importance of the document and that it was good to see Newport at the forefront of this.
Councillor Al-Nuiami supported the document which was comprehensive and felt that he could not do it enough justice in such a short time. The pandemic had made a different and it was welcomed that the impact of Covid was recorded within the document, which was very important. Councillor hoped that when Mayoral duties were able to return to normal, the events within the Muslim calendar would be celebrated with the community in Newport.
Councillor M Evans highlighted the importance of meeting with Black Lives Matter Group to ensure they were well represented within the community and to be aware of their aims and objectives.
Councillor Routley considered the report united rather than divided Newport, which was a welcoming place to diversity.
Councillor C Evans finally mentioned that the Newport Independent Party welcomed the report and gave its wholehearted support highlighting that is was important that we looked to ourselves and recognised the prejudice potentially in us all and to celebrate the diversity within the city.
That Council approved the attached Strategic Equality Plan.