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Government / Local politics

Even in diverse British cities like Bristol and Manchester, ethnic minorities are still at a disadvantage

So says new research from the Runnymede Trust.

When Manchester elects a new mayor in just over three months’ time, Mancunians will have an opportunity to vote with their feet for the first time since the EU referendum.

The spike in post-Brexit hate crime was a blow to the inclusive idea of multi-ethnic communities all getting along. Since June last year we have been forced to directly confront simmering tensions underlining society.

The in-tray of the Manchester mayor is likely to be dominated by transport, regeneration and further devolution, but there will also be an urgent need to heal divisions and tackle racial inequality.

briefing by the Runnymede Trust, published today, lifts the lid on hugely unequal gaps between white and ethnic minority communities in employment and housing in Greater Manchester. People from an African and Caribbean background suffer disproportionate overcrowding, and the gap between white and black unemployment has widened over the past 15 years.

All this despite an increase in educational qualifications amongst non-white school-leavers over the same period.

The key to bringing communities together and promoting integration is equality and opportunity. When people have fair access to opportunities and stability they are able to feel part of society and take part in civic life.

Bristol, which already has a directly-elected mayor in Marvin Rees, comes out particularly badly in the research. In terms of racial inequality gaps it is the worst major city in England and Wales, despite having the longest-established black community in Britain.

Once again it is African and Caribbean communities that are most heavily impacted by disadvantage, and are three to four times more likely to be unemployed than their white neighbours. (The England & Wales average is just twice as likely.)

Nationally there is a 12 percent employment gap between white British and BME population, which translates to 500,000 “missing” BME workers. Generic social mobility or fair hiring policy does not result in equal opportunities for BME people.


The Department for Work & Pensions’ own research shows that even with the exact same qualifications you need to send twice as many CVs just to get an interview if you have an African or Asian-sounding name.

Homelessness is also on the rise among black and ethnic minority populations, especially in the big cities. We found that black Londoners were up to five times more likely to be accepted as being homeless and in priority need of rehousing.

Ethnic minorities account for up to 40 percent of all homelessness despite being 14 percent of the total population. Indeed figures show that BME homelessness has increased by over 50 percent between 2010 and 2016. This is an issue that London mayor, Sadiq Khan, and other big city mayors should tackle urgently.

The non-white population has traditionally been concentrated in our big cities, so it is right to ask whether the extremely high levels of unequal racial outcomes are the result of a failure of political leaders in our largest and most multicultural urban conurbations to address the issues.

As the devolution agenda takes root, and city mayors get ever more powers, metropolitan cities will have greater ability to tackle the racial divisions that underline our society and less excuse to blame central government.

Increasingly big city mayors have, or will shortly get, powers to address rough sleeping, direct economic growth and promote prevention in reoffending. Mayors are in a position to join the dots and coordinate multi-agency action to solve local problems.

They can do more than ever to reduce ethnic inequality, and in this post-Brexit period have even more reason to do so.

Farah Elahi is a research analyst at the Runnymede Trust. She tweets at @farahelachi.
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