‘It’s time to call out racism’ say councillors as they back Milton Keynes' BAME communities

    Saturday, September 19th, 2020 12:07pm

    By David Tooley - Local Democracy Reporter @TooleyMedia

    Councillors have unanimously backed a call to reduce inequality and racism affecting the city’s black and ethnic minority (BAME) communities.

    Milton Keynes Council, which backed the Black Lives Matter campaign, now wants to turn commitment into action, including calling out racist attitudes.

    Liberal Democrat Cllr Andy Reilly (Shenley Brook End) proposed a motion calling for the council to tackle inequalities that had led to higher covid-19 death rates among members of BAME communities.

    Council leader Pete Marland (Lab, Wolverton), gave a personal example of how he had seen an Asian family treated differently in hospital to his “university educated, white middle-class family.

    “When you sit in the corner of a room and witness something for three months, you witness small and incremental differences about how people are treated.

    “I was lucky in my situation that although the outcome was not great, we had no-one to blame.

    “Yet in the same ward was an Asian family who had gone to a hospital and said ‘I haven’t felt the baby kick’ for four hours.

    “If the woman had been listened to after four hours the baby would have been fine.

    “To carry the guilt around of losing a child but knowing that something could have been done about it, if somebody had just listened, is a massive inequality.”

    He called on society to tackle the underlying issues of racism and prejudice.

    Cllr Hannah O’Neill (Lab, Woughton & Fishermead) said the council was taking action, including plans to spend £100,000 on tackling inequalities.

    But she warned that the council could not tackle poverty alone.

    “We have to tackle poverty and we can’t do that one our own, we need massive national investment.”

    But she added that people had to “call out racism and discrimination seen on a daily basis.

    “We have to tackle racism where we see it.”

    And Cllr Marie Bradburn (Lib Dem, Bradwell) said: “We must make a change, we need to do more, it is non-negotiable.”

    Conservative deputy leader Cllr Alice Jenkins (Danesborough & Walton) gave her group’s wholehearted support.

    Her ward colleague Cllr David Hopkins warned that the impact of COVID-19 may have brought improvements in life expectancy to a “temporary halt.”

    And Cllr Saleena Raja (Cons, Shenley Brook End) praised the city’s BAME communities for social distancing and wanted that to continue to “defeat this virus.”

    But she added that councillors had to mean what they say and not use it as a way to get social media likes.

    Summing up, Cllr Reilly said: “We must ensure that we work with the community. We are stronger for being a diverse community.”

    The council passed the motion by acclaim, and it will mean that the cabinet will be considering what action it can take, including in supporting BAME communities.

    The motion also supports calling on the city’s two MPs to hold the Conservative government to implement the recommendations of two Public Health England reports into inequalities.

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