It is widely acknowledged that when Boris leaves the Mayoralty next year he will leave behind a trail of broken promises, but perhaps the most shameful of these is his broken promise to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) parents: that their children will not have to struggle with the same disadvantages that they endured.
A recent report by The Runnymede Trust found that ethnic inequalities in London have risen substantially throughout Boris Johnson’s time in office. With disturbing levels of unemployment, poorer health outcomes, and overcrowded housing, Boris’ London continues to pose a bleak reality for many ethnic minority communities.
We’ve seen a welcome rise in educational attainment levels amongst black students, but this has failed to translate into improved employment opportunities. Boris’ misleading jobs pledge has had particularly negative ramifications for ethnic minorities in the capital. Despite promising to generate 200,000 jobs by 2016, recent figures have revealed that, with a year to go, the Mayor has only delivered just over half of these, which just exacerbates the situation by increasing competition for the jobs that are available in a job market that reaps fewer rewards for BAME applicants relative to other groups.
Boris’ failure to bridge the gap in employment opportunities between BAME and White British Londoners is mirrored by a stark disparity in earnings. In his ‘2020 Vision’ the Mayor pledged to make the Living Wage ‘the norm’, but on his watch we’ve witnessed a sharp fall in the percentage of employers paying the London Living Wage. The impact of his failure to tackle poverty wages is most apparent amongst Pakistani and Bangladeshi employees, with nearly half (44%) earning less than the London Living Wage.
When I challenged Mr Johnson on why his Mayoralty has led to increasing inequality for ethnic minorities at a Mayor’s Question Time back in February 2014 he admitted that ethnic minorities were being handed an unfair deal when it came to accessing the opportunities that our great city provides.
I might be forgiven, therefore, for expecting him to provide me with some concrete steps he’s taken over the past year to remedy the situation, when I challenged him again at Mayor’s Question Time yesterday.
True to form, however, Boris failed to give a coherent answer and simply pointed to his record of recruiting young BAME people to his minimum-wage apprenticeship scheme; something that will do little to help the millions of other ethnic minority Londoners who are falling further behind when it comes to accessing employment opportunities, housing and health services.
The Runnymede Trust’s report is a sad read for London’s BAME communities, highlighting yet another failure of Boris Johnson’s reign as Mayor. Despite all the promises, pledges and puff the evidence shows that Boris is on course to leave a shameful legacy of a more unequal London than the one he inherited in 2008. For everyone this is a tragedy but, once again, it will hit BAME communities hardest – and I will continue to push, as I always have, for equality to be put at the heart of the Mayoralty as we approach the London elections in 2016.
Labour London Assembly Member Jennette Arnold OBE has today called for an investigation into reports that Metropolitan police officers have been issued with arrest and stop and search targets. Mrs Arnold’s call follows a Channel 4 investigation which found that officers in one London borough had been issued with targets which she argued would disproportionately impact upon BAME communities and result in an increased breakdown of trust in the police.
The Channel 4 report alleged that leaked documents had shown that officers in one London borough were “expected to arrest at least two people every month, as well as to stop and search at least four. They were also ordered to issue at least one penalty notice or get a case to charge stage and to make a minimum of four entries in the force’s intelligence database.” Under questioning from Ms Arnold at today’s London Assembly Police and Crime Committee Assistant Met Commissioner Craig Mackey denied the reports and said the Met was “absolutely clear” that targets of this kind should not be used.
Despite consistent denials from the Met, this is the third time in the last year that they have been accused of implementing arrest and stop and search targets. Ms Arnold is now calling for a full investigation to get to the bottom of the reports and to help reassure the public that officers are not carrying out unnecessary stop and searches to hit artificial targets.
Speaking after the Committee meeting, London Assembly Labour Group Equalities Spokesperson, Jennette Arnold OBE said:
“The allegations arising from Channel 4’s investigation are deeply concerning. All the evidence shows that stop and search disproportionately impact on minority communities, if targets are being set for their use that is going to have a big impact on trust in the police within those communities.
“Whilst the Assistant Commissioner’s reassurances are welcome, we must be clear that a return to the bad old days of stop and search targets will not be tolerated.
“This is the third time this year that serious concerns have been raised about stop and search targets which could do irreparable harm to community relations in the capital. What we need to see now is an investigation to get to the bottom of these reports and ensure that police officers, whether at a local or central level, are not being issued with arrest and stop and search targets.”
In Mayor’s Question Time, I challenged Boris Johnson on his failure to assist the thousands of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) graduates in London that leave university but can’t find employment. When I asked him what he is doing specifically to help BAME graduates find work, he failed to offer any answers and even turned the blame back on young Londoners for not being willing to take the existing jobs.
Many ethnic minority young people are better qualified than their white British peers, but are up to three times as likely to be unemployed once they enter the labour market. Only 11% of the Mayor’s senior staff members are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups (2 out of 18), and none of the organisations the Mayor is accountable for come close to representing the diversity of London’s workforce, which reaffirms just how out of touch he is with the diversity of London today.
As Manchester University’s recent report shows, over the past decade, we’ve seen a fabulous rise in the number of people from minority ethnic groups obtaining a degree, with several minority groups outperforming their white British peers. Yet unemployment rates amongst young ethnic minority graduates remain up to three times as high as white Brits.
Time and time again, we hear Boris celebrating the diversity of our great city, but his words mean nothing if he fails to offer real solutions for young, ethnic minority graduates. We are in a position whereby there is very quickly becoming a lost generation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) graduates.
He should lead by example and work as hard as possible to ensure his own teams are representative of the diversity of London, but the figures prove otherwise. He’s had 6 years as Mayor to address the diversity of his immediate Mayoral Team, but a paltry 2 members of staff (11%) are from BAME ethnic groups. 30.3% of London’s working population is BAME, but none of the bodies the Mayor has oversight for come close to this figure. Workplace figures for all parts of the GLA Group that the Mayor has oversight of do not reflect BAME working population figures for London (Metropolitan Police Officers has 10.5%; the Greater London Authority at City Hall has 24% with the majority of these on lower pay grades; and TfL has 27%, which is down from previous years).
It’s clear to me that, when it comes to diversity, Boris is very good at being the “PR politician”, giving the impression that he takes diversity seriously, but, once again, failing to put these empty words into action. The Mayor must be held accountable for his failure, and I will continue to push as hard as I can to champion the cause of young BAME graduates.