Parish councillor calls for Uttlesford debate on structural racism

Stansted parish councillor Daniel Brett

Stansted parish councillor Daniel Brett - Credit: Daniel Brett

A parish councillor said his council supports an initiative set up by several district councillors to debate structural racism in Uttlesford – but that the council administration is resisting it.

Stansted parish councillor and Labour member Daniel Brett praised an anti-racism initiative from Lib Dem and Green district councillors, saying “it is necessary for every local authority to examine structural racism in the community and address it”.

But he says Residents for Uttlesford has not been clear about its support.

Cllr Brett would like a debate in Uttlesford about structural racism, which he says has a link to higher mortality rates among black and ethnic minority communities – and, although he acknowledges these communities are very small in Uttlesford, he says they are still facing “significant challenges”.

“A lot of our communities working in care homes and in the airport are black and Asian, so they are more likely to face Covid-19, because of the nature of their employment. We have to look as a community at how to address that,” Cllr Brett said.

Commenting on recent events which saw statues being taken down across the country, he said imperial issues are “more important” than a “culture war with statues”.

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He said: “When it comes to structural racism, you can tear down all the statues that offend people, but that will not deal with structural racism.

“I think the whole statues issue is a bit of a distraction from what BLM is about, but I am not a black person, so I can’t speak for black people.”

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He expressed his disapproval towards the existence of colonialists and slavers statues, and stressed the need for education: “Statues are not a good way of learning about history, books are.”

The councillor also thinks people should ‘accept Britain’s imperial history’ and understand the effects of slavery in South Asia and Africa.

He said his wife’s uncle and aunt were freedom fighters in India in the Communist Party.

“I learned about what they suffered,” Cllr Brett said, adding: “They told me about the deprivation and the famine they faced, that Winston Churchill created, that was entirely avoidable, which happened because Winston Churchill was a racist, so my wife’s uncle was hiding down the well from the British, trying to escape.”

Dan Starr, vice chair and founder of Residents for Uttlesford, said that “discrimination is unacceptable” and UDC did and will debate on racism, and that R4U will “make any changes required and within the power of local government”.

He added: “It has been nationally documented that Covid-19 deaths are disproportionately higher for those from minority backgrounds. Suggested reasons have included a number of socio-economic and health factors. But what about our district? Over the last week R4U has been discussing Uttlesford with the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Their information shows that very sadly 60 Uttlesford residents have died from Covid-19. At 0.07% of the population this rate is the same as our neighbours in Braintree and East Herts districts.

“The Death Certificate information reported on by the ONS doesn’t record ethnic details, so the ONS guided us towards a number of other relevant studies. Their analysis leads to an estimate of 0 to 6 total deaths from ethnic minorities in our district. Every death is tragic, irrespective of background. ONS cautioned that small statistical samples are notoriously error prone, so actual numbers could be anywhere in that range. What the ONS analysis can’t tell is if any socio-economic, or discrimination, or health factors, or the actions of a particular government, council, organisation or business played a role.

“We expect councillors of all parties to debate this topic appropriately and with the respect and gravity that it commands. Residents don’t expect anyone to play politics with grieving families. This situation warrants clear analysis based on legitimate evidence, with appropriate action as determined.”

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