Last night, over 150 people attended a packed public meeting called by The Race Equality Centre (TREC). The meeting informed the organisation’s users and stakeholders of the City Council’s intention to remove all of its funding to TREC.
People attending came from all racial backgrounds represented in the city, including the indigenous population, long established communities and newly arrived communities. Members of the public who spoke at the meeting were unanimous in their dismay that this decision could be implemented in a city like Leicester. They talked about the support that they had received from TREC on all matters related to race equality, good race relations, service provisions to address their needs and, about the risk that this decision poses to benefits that TREC has brought to the city for 50 years.
This intended decision is made possible by a City Council ‘review’ that was carried out during the winter. But the review failed to take into account the full range of TREC’s work. This infrastructure review did not even fairly consider the full range of work commissioned by the City Council. Despite this, and before the review results have even been published, steps are being taken by City Council officers to identify alternative providers for some of the core services that TREC has delivered over many decades. People attending the meeting last night pointed out that this demonstrates that the consultation over the review, supposedly to enable cuts in expenditure, was fundamentally flawed as these alternative providers would have to be paid and nobody taking part in the consultation was asked about changing the means of delivery of these services. Less than 140 people responded to the on line survey and less than 80 people attended the consultation events. By means of a comparison, TREC received responses from more than 532 local residents by 16th January.
The decision will remove all existing support provided for people who live and work in the city by TREC on behalf of the City Council. Specific changes will include:
• The removal of the collective voice for racial minority voluntary and community organisations;
• The marginalisation of the issues relating to racial minority communities and the dilution of race equality awareness, understanding and considerations in policy development and service provision in the voluntary sector;
• Reduced consideration of race equality within public policy making and service provision leading to those bodies not meeting the needs of the citizens of Leicester;
• Risk to a dedicated and highly commended service for new arrivals to the city granted refugee status which has ensured that they are integrated into life in Leicester through the provision of appropriate, tailored and informed support;
• Risk to our work of identifying and sharing best practice for the achievement of race equality drawn from across the country;
• The removal of a ‘free at the point of use’ active support service for individuals seeking effective and informed assistance regarding complaints of racial discrimination or harassment in employment or service provision.
The meeting agreed to support TREC in their campaign to prevent this decision being implemented. There was agreement that those attending would write to their councillors and the City Mayor to express their concern and dismay that such a valuable organisation should be placed at risk.
Individuals and groups have already begun to complete petitions in support of The Race Equality Centre. So far more than 1500 have signed the petition and, on line postings have made many supportive comments, including:
“This organisation is a valuable asset to the local community and local government”, and –
“Fantastic work in our ‘supposed’ true multicultural city. How can they even think of pulling funding when the only people it will affect are the most vulnerable.”
Surinder Sharma, Chair of TREC
“I was really encouraged by the positive comments and support that was offered by many individuals and organisations who were represented at last night’s meeting. They fully endorsed the work that TREC is doing in promoting equality of outcomes in the City and County and did not believe that there is any other local organisation with the specialist skills to undertake this work”
The meeting also agreed that their concerns should be directly shared with the City Council’s Neighbourhood and Community Involvement Scrutiny Commission which is meeting on Wednesday 9th April at 5.30pm.