Councillor Douglas Johnson spoke at the Council’s Strategy and Resources Committee in response to the reports “Race Equality on our Council” and “The Equality Framework – Equality is Everyone’s Business”
“The statements that are before us today on equality and the actions proposed to take us on our journey towards being an anti-racist city are very welcome and not before time.
“The basic statistics show that our city is changing. A population that was 95% white in 1991, even after decades of migration, dropped to 89% ten years later, then to 81% by 2011 and at the 2021 census is now 75%.
“Ten years ago, most people still said they were Christian. That is no longer the case.
Sheffield has benefited from this: we have steadily improved our diversity and, in doing so, our outlook on the world.However, there are other facts we see with our own eyes, which may be uncomfortable when we talk about race equality.
“If you see classes of primary children going to swimming lessons, you will observe there are classes of almost all white children’ and there are other schools with almost all black children.
[I use the word “black” in a deliberately blunt way here]
“And whilst most people – 60% – in England and Wales have a spare bedroom, 60% of Somali people live in overcrowded homes. 72% of Somali people live in social rented housing, compared to just 17% of the population at large. So, when it comes to rehousing overcrowded families, our policies and the individual decisions affect everyone – but the impact is clearly not the same. We need to use this data to drive change.
“Finally, I want to say that I think the developing change in culture in this council is a welcome step. We have to accept that, try as we might, we will sometimes still make bad decisions.
“In my time fighting unlawful discrimination, I often found that organisations, when faced with clear evidence of discrimination, would either clam up or aggressively deny they could possibly discriminate in any way. They ended up in court. A far better approach came from those organisations that accepted the challenge and looked at the objective data to see what they could do better. It resulted in a better outcome for the individual and a better outcome for the organisation.
“For this council, the move away from its former culture of defensiveness will genuinely help us become an anti-racist organisation.”