The Leader presented the report to Cabinet.
Under the Equality Act (2010) the Council was required to report annually on the progress it made against the strategic equality objectives contained within its Strategic Equality Plan. The Equality Act also required Local Authorities to publish staff equalities data, which this report also contained. This Annual Report related to the first year of delivery against the Council’s new Strategic Equality Objectives, published on 31 March 2020.
The new Objectives were developed in partnership with key internal and external stakeholders and were subject to extensive community engagement. The involvement of grassroots communities ensured that whilst the Plan delivered a strategic vision for equality in Newport, it also ensured tangible outcomes for communities on the ground.
The pandemic presented significant challenges in delivering against some areas of work, for example, in relation to customer services. However, other areas had gained traction as a direct result of the impact of COVID-19. The Council’s equality work this year had to be flexible, responding to emerging challenges, particularly around access to information, education and addressing race-based hate crime.
The impacts of the UK leaving the EU was deeply felt by our EU migrant communities this year, and our focus on supporting people to remain in Newport and protect their rights and entitlements continued. The Council had also taken stock of the effectiveness of its monitoring arrangements throughout the year and taken steps to improve them.
Highlights from the past year included:
· The council signed up to Race Council Cymru’s Zero Tolerance to Racism Policy for Wales and Victim Support’s Hate Crime Charter
· The council Leader has established a Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority community roundtable which meets on a quarterly basis
· Significant dates, including Pride Month, Black History 365, Refugee Week, Holocaust Memorial Day and Hate Crime Awareness Week were recognised and promoted across the city, including within our schools
· Themed delivery groups were established to deliver against each Equality Objective
· The Terms of Reference and membership of the council’s Strategic Equalities Group (SEG) was reviewed and updated and the Group now received quarterly progress reports
· Responsibilities under the Socio-economic Duty were embedded in council processes, including strategic decision-making
· The council had a Diversity (ethnic minority) LGBTQ+ and Disability staff network, all of which were now represented at SEG
· £100,000 of funding was distributed to grassroots community projects, overseen by Newport’s Fairness Commission and a representative community steering group
· An Accessibility Stakeholder Group was established and was advising on council projects with a focus on access for disabled people
· Equality support has been provided to all Test, Trace, Protect staff to ensure COVID-19 response was culturally and linguistically sensitive
· A review of the council’s complaints policy is complete, providing clearer guidance on how the council would respond to complaints relating to discrimination
· Partnership programme delivered with Ffilm Cymru encouraged under-represented groups to learn more about careers in the film sector
· Representative workforce group established and updates made to application forms (removal of personal details) and exit interview process (considers experiences of discrimination)
· Significant support provided to EU citizens ensured high levels of EUSS applications received from Newport residents (currently 10,500)
· Welsh Government’s new Anti-Bullying Guidance embedded in local processes
· Youth Council developed LGBTQ+ schools guidance
· New scheme launched for people with learning disabilities to increase opportunities for independent living
· 302 people were supported by the council’s ethnic minority Community Connectors
· Online hate crime seminar delivered in partnership with the Centre for Countering Digital Hate and Hope not Hate for professionals and community groups
The analysis of the data for our workforce highlighted key areas for improvement, including improving the levels of recorded equality data, better aligning recording categories with census data, and understanding why our levels of leavers were higher for particular groups (eg people from an ethnic minority background and disabled people).
The Council’s ethnic minority representation remained the same this year despite a slight drop in staff numbers and the gender pay gap reduced for this period. The council still had work to do to improve representation of minority ethnic staff at all levels of the organisation, and this would be a focus for our work during 2021/22. The council established specific Recruitment and Representative Workforce working groups to progress this.
The Annual Report was also reviewed by Scrutiny earlier this month and their comments were included in the Cabinet Report.
The Leader invited the Cabinet Member for Community and Resources to address Cabinet.
The Cabinet Member for Community and Resources advised colleagues that the report was a summary of the work that was undertaken during first year of our new Strategic Equality Plan. It set out the Council’s commitment to a workplace culture and approach to service delivery that valued inclusion and diversity.
We would continue to progress this work over the next 12 months, and the Annual Report set out clear priorities for the next period based on a review of our workforce data and progress against our Equality Objectives to date.
Work this year was delivered against a challenging backdrop which resulted in an acute focus on inequalities and scrutiny of public services’ response to the pandemic, particularly in supporting minority communities. A key strength this period was the increased engagement of key stakeholders, including both our grassroots communities and minority staff. This had not only informed the Council’s response to COVID-19, but also its priorities during recovery and wider equalities work.
The Council’s Strategic Equalities Group was refreshed and now received quarterly highlight reports, was attended by Elected Member Champions and Network Chairs and was notably more outcome focussed in its approach to supporting this work.
The Leader thanked Councillor Mayer for his hard work in relation to his work.
Comments from Cabinet Members
· Councillor Davies stated that this was a statutory piece of legislation which required adherence to the socio economic duty and thanked officers ensuring that this was embedded in the legislation. This also enabled councillors to focus on equality within Newport and supported those and give positive reinforcement to those who were most economically disadvantaged. Councillor Davies welcomed the work undertaken by officers to ensure the training of councillors and staff regarding this legislation.
· Councillor Hughes recently attended Wales Strategic Partnership Meeting, where the work of local authorities was recognised, in particular, Newport by the Home Office and internationally. Councillor Hughes wanted to note the FEIA Comments, and the positive impact Newport had on the ethnic communities and was proud that Newport and wales was seen as a sanctuary and a welcoming place for people moving into the City.
· Councillor Cockeram made an observation on the complaints and customer service for the Council and that it compliments were not included. It was hoped that in future we would look at compliments as well as complaints.
Cabinet approved the Strategic Equality Plan Annual Report 2019/20 for consideration by Council in November.