Devon County Council has 'allowed racist behaviour to continue' - report

A report commissioned by Devon County Council has found the authority has a culture of denying racism exists within it - despite reports of racist slurs and language against its staff.

In a statement, chief executive of Devon County Council Phil Norrey admitted the report made uncomfortable reading and pledged to make changes.

The key findings of the report:

Denial around racism

The report found there was a culture of denial around racism within the council.

While the majority of white interviewees felt there was not racism within the organisation, the majority of black and asian interviewees felt there was.

A "small numbers" rhetoric

The report said people believed any racism, discrimination or inequality which existed within the council - or in the wider community - was due to "small numbers" of black and Asian people living in Devon.

In fact, according to the report, one in 16 residents from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background living in Devon and Cornwall had been impacted by racial incidents. That compares to one in 200 in the West Midlands.

The report says this suggests that from a care and wellbeing perspective, more attention needs to be paid when group size is smaller.

White fragility in leadership

The report says one of the key identifiers people are ill equipped to deal with the discussion of race at Devon County Council is when they could not effectively describe different races and ethnicities.

Instead of using the words 'black person' or 'Asian person', the report said people within the authority used vague and insufficient terms like “BAME” (black, Asian and minority ethnic) or other inappropriate language.

Equality, diversity and inclusion consultant Maia Thomas - who is one of the report's authors - said people within Devon County Council reported being subjected to racist slurs and language.

  • Maia Thomas speaks to ITV News

She said things needed to change at the authority, adding: "I think for example they don't have appropriate racial grievance channels currently, where they can report incidents independent of their line manager.

"They don't always feel that their voices are heard as well and they are experiencing racist language, racist slurs and incidents in their everyday lives."

Describing the report as a stark wake up call to Devon County Council, CEO Phil Norrey said it made clear how the authority has not done nearly enough to be intolerant of racism or challenge racist language and behaviour.

He said: "We have, through our ignorance and lack of understanding, allowed racist behaviour to continue, and that is unacceptable.

"Although we have grievance procedures and training in place, it is not sufficient in protecting the wellbeing of our staff."