Uttlesford District Councillors to attend equalities training

PUBLISHED: 10:00 11 October 2020

R4U District Councillor for Great Dunmow North, Louise Pepper.

R4U District Councillor for Great Dunmow North, Louise Pepper.


Uttlesford District Councillors are set to attend an equalities training course and a Black Lives Matter webinar this month.

Ayub Khan, Lib Dem councillor for Stansted South and Birchanger. Photo: Supplied by Ayub Khan.Ayub Khan, Lib Dem councillor for Stansted South and Birchanger. Photo: Supplied by Ayub Khan.

The timing will coincide with Black History month, district councillor for Great Dunmow North and portfolio holder for equalities, Louise Pepper said.

Meanwhile, Cllr Pepper forwarded a letter to selected members of the public to join an independently chaired panel that will shape community listening events.

“This will ensure that the council works towards a fully inclusive work an social environment, and provides advice and guidance whenever possible,” she said.

The announcement was made during a Great Dunmow Town Council meeting on Thursday, October 1.

Samantha Naik with a petition she sent to Saffron Walden MP Kemi Badenoch earlier this year.Samantha Naik with a petition she sent to Saffron Walden MP Kemi Badenoch earlier this year.

The events will aim to increase the understanding of black and minority ethnic communities living in Uttlesford, and of the local challenges they may face.

Cllr Pepper said councillors will put together an action plan and a written report to address these issues. She added that all minority groups are welcome.

Cllr Pepper said after the meeting that Lib Dems councillors were the ones who put forward the initative, and that it is very important to her to leave politics out of “these matters” and work together.

She said five or six people have been invited to be part of the independent panel, among whom is a student at Saffron Walden County High School.

Cllr Pepper said: “There needs to be a panel to make sure we take action, and people from schools have more experience with this sort of things.

“The student was highly recomended as having a passion for these issues. That is what we need, we need passionate people.”

She added: “We also invited Saffron Walden Town Councillor Jonathon Toy. He has written a book on BAME communities.

“It’s really important as a district council to have this knowledge, to better understand the district.”

Cllr Pepper said councillors will also tackle problems faced by other minority groups, such as the LGBT community and disabled people.

Stansted South and Birchanger Councillor Ayub Khan said he is pleased with the training set up for councillors.

He said: “The vast majority of Cllrs are enlightened on such issues yet, as always there is a tiny minority that require help in understanding what this is all about. My hope is that this training and development will help them recognise the key issues on racism and structural discrimination.

“I hope we can have a meaningful conversation with the whole community across Uttlesford hearing about their experiences and what part we can play to help eliminate any identified problems.”

Cllr Toy said: “I have had the opportunity of working with families and communities who are directed affected by social injustice for over 20 years. Their warmth and kindness, despite the immense challenges they were facing, remains a humbling experience, and has driven me to do more to make real, effective change in their lives.

“I feel passionately that solutions lay within communities, and we are responsible in share our knowledge and experiences to create a culture where every person recognises they are welcome, they have a place and a future.

“I have always felt privileged to have been given the chance to give them a voice, which is so often unheard.”

Earlier this year, Uttlesford District Council published a joint statement condemning prejudice and acknowledging the contribution of ethnic minorities in the fight against Covid-19. The statement expressed sadness at the “disproportional virus impact” on these comunities.

Newport resident Samantha Naik will be joining the independent panel in a personal capacity.

Ms Naik, who is also a Newport Parish Councillor, said: “The community listening events will learn from our constituents who are people of colour and ethnic minorities. Those with power in our democracy can make equality our reality, and have a duty to do so, by listening and taking action to improve lives. The pandemic has thrown inequality into focus, and change is urgently needed.

“It’s an honour to be asked to help and I feel it’s my duty to accept. I hope our MP will be interested in learning from our findings.”

She added: “I regularly get told that racism doesn’t exist in Saffron Walden, but also have to spend time protesting about racism on our local village and constituency Facebook pages. It seems that many people act, perhaps unconciously, in a racist way. Therefore, it is often necessary for me to explain what racism is.

“I hope the listening events will provide an opportunity for those who want to learn. It requires compassion to be able to learn about racism, and, for the sake of our society, I hope we are all willing to do that learning.”

Saffron Walden MP Kemi Badenoch has been contacted for comment.

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