A SHOCKING lack of diversity has been revealed at senior management levels at 15 North West councils.

A Lancashire Telegraph investigation centring on North West councils and the make-up of senior leadership teams found in Lancashire only THREE councils have high-ranking service directors listed from a black/Asian/ethnic minority (BAME) background even in areas such as Blackburn with Darwen which has a high BAME population. Lukman Patel is the Chief Operating Officer at Burnley Council.

And only a handful of staff from minority groups are earning more than £50,000 at these councils or are in senior management positions.

Blackburn with Darwen, Lancashire Country Council and Blackpool Council had someone from a BAME background at director level while the remaining authorities had none.

Whilst all councils are obliged to list salaries of senior leadership teams they do not have to reveal the ethnic make-up of those staff.
The Lancashire Telegraph requested the numbers of those staff who were earning more than £50,000 or were employed as service managers.

All Lancashire councils’ senior leadership teams were seriously lacking in staff from a BAME background at those levels.

In Blackburn with Darwen, adult services director Sayyed Osman is listed as the only staff member at director level from a BAME background.

He is one of nine on the senior management structure. A further four individuals are paid at chief officer pay scales (£77,761 - £85,593) but none of these are from a BAME background.

According to a 2018 report the percentage of BAME employees at the council was 18.6%, well below the population of BAME residents in the borough which was 30% at the 2011 census.

The council said the number service heads at the council is 25 and only two of these are from an Asian background. Twenty are white British, two are white (other) and one is classed as unknown.

The council publishes an ‘Equality Watch’ report each year which it says ‘helps to monitor our progress on achieving a workforce that is representative of the borough’s resident population. The statistical analysis also provides information on the areas where under-representation is apparent and helps us to identify positive actions.’

At Lancashire County Council (LCC) there are 16 individuals listed as directors or members of the senior leadership team. Of those only the director of public health Dr Sakthi Karunanithi is from a BAME background.

According to figures listed on the LCC website 275 non-school staff are paid between £50,000-£100,000. A request for BAME numbers among these has been made.

The number of Pendle Council employees from a BAME background is just under six per cent.

Of the directors and members of the senior leadership team listed the council has no individuals from a BAME background at this level. There are also no individuals from a BAME background earning £50,000 (non-school staff) or more at the council.

Hyndburn Council confirmed nobody from its senior management (listed here) was from a BAME background. It said 4.8 per cent of staff overall were from a BAME background and they ‘recognised that this this is below the figure that would better reflect the borough’.

Burnley Council had one of the most comprehensive report on pay policy equating to ethnicity. These public documents include the average salaries of BAME employees and how many were employed following applications.

The average salary for BAME employees was £32,345 compared to £28,803 for non BAME employees (page 6 here). According to 2019 figures (listed here) the percentage of BAME employees at Burnley Council was 7.8.

According to 2019 figures (page 5) 11.7% were of BAME employees were paid in band 11 (Up to £35,444). A further 47.1% were paid in band 8 (£27,668).

None from a BAME background were paid in bands 12,13 or 14 (above £35,444) except for chief operating officer Lukman Patel. Asad Mushtaq who was Head of Finance at the council was appointed Director of Finance at St Helens Council in May. There was no response to our request for further details.

Blackpool Council confirmed their senior leadership organisational structure had not changed and have Dr Arif Rajpura listed as the Director of public health - he is one of nine in the team.

The Council said they produce a workforce diversity report (here) which includes detailed data about each protected characteristics by salary bands including ethnicity. 

Preston Council do not have a director from a BAME background according to their organisational structure. Their most recent figures state that 7 staff are earning more than £50,000 but none were from a BAME background.

At Rossendale Council of the nine director roles none it appears is occupied by a member of the BAME community. There was no response to our request for further details.

Chorley Council confirmed that of the 12 individuals on their council and Senior Leadership Team only one was from a BAME background who was classed as a head of service.

Blackburn with Darwen Labour councillor Saima Afzal said: “As someone who is passionate about addressing inequality, this has been a constant challenge. The statistics, in my view are just one cog of the scrutiny process, the lack of parity is of course a disappointment to me and others who strive for inclusion.

“Inclusion, for me isn’t about getting the numbers in. My own view is that, as a minimum every organisation should have a three-pronged strategy – internal and external facing that specifically explores recruitment, retention and progression (both lateral and upward). Most organisations seem to be stuck at the BAME recruitment phase and flimsy attempts at the rest, resource pressures being flagged as the main reason to not deal with the issue.”

Pendle chief executive Dean Langton said: “We value the diversity of our local population and recognise that our ability to meet these diverse needs is improved by having a diverse workforce.”

Pendle Council says it is committed to a range of measure including selecting staff on merit and providing all employees with the training and development necessary to achieve objectives.

It also said they provided a ‘supportive, open environment which is free from discrimination’, harassment and bullying and where all employees have the opportunity to reach their highest potential.

Pendle Council leader Mohammed Iqbal said: “I feel is a national issue and there needs to be a wider conversation concerning this. I am happy to pay a part to address that. This issue is not isolated to some of the smaller district councils like ourselves.”

Kirsten Burnett, head of organisational development at Hyndburn Council said: “The Council publishes its annual Workforce Report which gives further detail on equality characteristics of its staff.  Our most recent report will be published here. 

"Our most recent pay policy is here.  The structure chart is the most recent one we have published.  We will be updating this; this has been delayed this year due to covid-19.  However, there have been no changes in our senior management and therefore there are still no BAME staff at this level.  4.8% of our staff overall are from a BAME background and we recognise that this this is below the figure that would better reflect our borough.  We also have a Cabinet member from a BAME background (16.7% of the Cabinet)."

Ally Brown, Director of Communities and Environment at Preston City Council, said, “While we are proud of our diverse staff team, we want to do more to ensure we reflect the different cultures of the residents we serve. Our recruitment process is fair and robust to protect against discrimination or bias.

“We’re also proud that over 20% of our elected members are from BAME backgrounds. As the decision makers for matters affecting residents in Preston it’s important that our elected members reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.

“As an organisation we’re keen to promote opportunities for everyone. We host a number of career workshops within the community to improve people’s skills and empower people to put themselves forward for a career in local government.”

Cllr Siraz Natha of Preston City Council said, “Achieving a diverse workforce at all levels of an organisation is a difficult task. The test to see if an organisation is undertaking this task seriously is if they are aware of their local demographics, undertake workforce monitoring against this, and have a set of actions to address any gaps, and progress ( or not) is regularly reported to their relevant committees.

“If they are doing this, then at least they are making an effort. For organisations that do not undertake this, it is questionable if they are serious about achieving a diverse workforce.”

ALSO SEE: Only one BAME director at Greater Manchester Councils