Leader’s statement: our plans to tackle inequality

The anger felt at racial prejudice continues to make itself keenly and visibly felt in Oxfordshire, as we have seen from recent demonstrations in Oxford and Abingdon.

Oxfordshire, taken overall, is a relatively wealthy and healthy place. However, if any of us felt that issues of inequality are not deeply impacting our society, we have only to look at the way COVID-19 has had a disproportionate effect on our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities.

In my message last week, I asked us all to consider the changes we need to make to ensure that every one of us is able to meet our potential. At the County Council, we have been doing just that.

First we need to acknowledge that, while we are wholly committed to tackling inequality and injustice and to creating an inclusive and more equitable society, we don’t have all the answers. Indeed, many of us can only have a limited understanding of the problems faced by Black communities. However, with the platform and resources that we have as a council, we need to re-commit to understanding what needs to be done and to taking sustained action.

Within the council, we are taking a fundamental look at how we recruit, train, manage and develop staff, including training in unconscious bias.

More broadly, as we start to look towards the future, our plans for recovery from COVID-19 will focus on inclusive renewal. This means transforming the way we deliver services to build economic and community resilience for all, targeting our services where they are most needed. Getting this right means listening to the needs and concerns of all communities and learning what needs to be done to challenge injustice and inequality.

We do know that there are no quick fixes. We also know that we may make mistakes. But what we can promise is that we will listen and learn, and that this is an agenda we will keep talking about and acting on.

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council