Black and minority ethnic workers at Bristol City Council say the organisation is harbouring a culture of institutional racism.
The investigation by BPM Media - a newspaper in the city - combined the testimony of whistleblowers with leaked emails.
The Council has responded to the claims, admitting its historic record on equality has not been “anywhere near where it should be”.
According to the investigation, Black and minority ethnic (BAME) staff at the Council described a trend where complaints are ‘flipped’ back on them and lead to disciplinary action.
BPM Media claims whistleblowers gave "a catalogue of instances which [the whistleblowers] say reveal the extent of institutional racism within the council". This includes:
- Details of 47 BME employees who said they had no faith in the council’s own systems to report instances of racism, so instead outlined their grievances to their own BME staff group.
- How that list of 47 complaints, gathered throughout 2018, grew to almost 70 after council chiefs initially said they could do nothing about them unless they were registered as formal grievances.
- An email sent by Stuart Pattison, the senior manager in charge of dealing with keeping Bristol safe, which black members of staff claimed ‘belittled’ and ‘joked’ about the death of the murdered refugee Bijan Ebrahimi, and the subsequent finding that the council was institutionally racist. Bristol Live has now been told he is to resign, a year after sending that email, after we approached council chiefs with its content. Read the full story about this email here.
- An internal report commissioned in the summer of 2018 which found Bristol City Council was in a ‘precarious position’ and ‘at serious risk’ of breaking the law because it was not meeting the requirements of the Equalities Act in the way it dealt with BME employees, recruitment and complaints.
- A number of cases involving staff who resigned their posts in exasperation at the response following making complaints of racist bullying.
- A report by the leaders of the group of BME employees told management staff were ‘frightened to come forward with complaints about discrimination’.
- Instances of the same ‘flipping’ of the cases involving victims of racism being investigated themselves that ‘date back decades’.
- Bullying staff who broke into the locker of a black council employee and left a playing card in there - as a threat to warn her against ‘playing the race card’ when she gave evidence in a case of racist bullying.
BPM Media say Bristol City Council at first responded with a three-paragraph statement which claimed they "have clear and robust processes" for all employees to raise complaints and "every voice is listened to."
The publication adds that upon further questioning, the Council's Executive Director of Resources admitted that, "Historically, equality and diversity hasn’t been anywhere near where it should be at the council," adding, "Despite recent strides to create an inclusive organisation, attitudes and cultures take longer than desired to change.
“Our Equality and Inclusion Strategy, published in November 2018, demonstrates that creating a fair and inclusive organisation sits at the heart of everything we are trying to achieve. So when we receive complaints which question our commitment to this, it is deeply troubling."