Monday, July 17, 2006

Southwark Race Equalities Council

After the local elections my main concern was that a LibDem Tory coalition would have little regard for the centre of the borough - where they have no councillors and little electoral support. Of course it is also right that Camberwell and Peckham has the highest concentration of black and minority ethnic ('BME') residents in the borough, and it is often difficult for their voice to be heard - as we have seen over the past 4 years. So I was truly amazed to find that the Tory/LibDem Executive in Southwark had failed to nominate Labour's Cllr Tayo Situ onto the board of Southwark Race Equalities Council, but had instead nominated two LibDems from Bermondsey and a Tory from Dulwich. In their amazing defence of this decision, the LibDems claim their discrimination is justified on the basis of Cllr Situ's record of attendance at SREC meetings over the past 12 months. Forget the fact that Labour polled the highest number of votes in the local elections, has the highest proportion of BME councillors, and represents the greatest number of BME voters in the borough or that Cllr Situ is an influential voice in the BME community.
I think what shocks me most about this sort of decision is the arrogance and lack of sensitivity it demonstrates. Cllr Stanton could not be bothered to attend a public meeting organised by Operation Black Vote before the elections because he had another important appointment - canvassing in Brunswick Park ward! So the LibDems have a record on this sort of insensitive behaviour.
I am relieved that the Tories have seen sense and offered their place to Cllr Situ. But the shameful decision to exclude Labour's representatives from SREC should never have been taken in the first place.
The message really needs to sink in to the current administration - no one voted for a Tory / LibDem coalition and you have no mandate to do as you please. And the borough of Southwark certainly cannot afford a further deterioration in relations between the council and the BME community which we witnessed under the last 4 years of LibDem rule.

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