Black History Month briefing, House of Commons, 20 October 2020

At the LGA we will be helping to celebrate and honour the accomplishments of black Britons by sharing councillor perspectives on the importance of Black History Month and the vital contributions of black councillors to our local communities.


Key messages

  • Black History Month is a time to celebrate, as well as reflect on what work still needs to be done to achieve equality. At the LGA we will be helping to celebrate and honour the accomplishments of black Britons by sharing councillor perspectives on the importance of Black History Month and the vital contributions of black councillors to our local communities.
  • The social impact of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have shown the need for councils to build communities where everyone feels valued and equal.
  • The pandemic has highlighted the existing inequalities in our communities. Public Health England (PHE) found that people from some black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups are at a significantly higher risk from COVID-19. This is worrying and underlines the need for a Government commitment to tackling health inequalities and the need for more council resources and flexibilities to tackle the underlying economic and social causes of ill-health and premature death.
  • Although we have seen a slight increase in the number of black and mixed heritage councillors in the past few years, it is clear we have further to go to ensure councillors better reflect the communities they serve.
  • Through the Be a Councillor campaign, the LGA works with councils towards increasing diversity and inclusion; encouraging  people from all walks of life and experience - including those from BAME communities - to stand in their local elections; tapping into talented people who would make great councillors but might not have considered the role before.
  • In addition, the LGA created the UK’s first development programme for councillors who are BAME in 2004. Over 365 members have attended it, with several members going on to higher positions such as committee chairs, mayors, cabinet members, deputy leaders, leaders and Members of Parliament.
  • More councillors from BAME backgrounds are participating in our political leadership programmes and for the first time, there has an upward trend of the participation of black councillors – in 2016/17, 35; 2017/18, 36; 2018/19, 51; and 2019/20, 62. We want to continue this work so there continues to be an increase in more black councillors in senior positions.
  • Looking to the future, councils are committed to continuing to tackle inequalities and build community cohesion, as well as working towards ensuring councils, candidates and councillors reflect their communities so that they are best able to speak to and for their communities.

Further Information

Building cohesive communities is a vital part of local government’s work. The social impact of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have shown us the need for councils to build communities where everyone feels valued and equal. Councils must be given the backing and tools to do this – to ensure that everyone can lead a healthy, safe and productive life supported by their community.

Council representation

It is vital that that councils, candidates and councillors reflect their communities so that they are best able to speak to and for their communities; can ensure effective democracy and decision-making that considers impacts on the whole community; understand the day to day lives and issues facing their communities; and bring a broad range of skills and life experiences.

According to the last census of Local Councillors by the LGA in 2018, 0.9 per cent of councillors described themselves as black/black British and 0.9 per cent stating their heritage was mixed. While these figures are disappointing, the 2013 census found that 0.6 per cent of councillors described themselves as black/black British and 0.4 per cent had described themselves as mixed heritage. Although we have seen a slight increase in the number of black and mixed heritage councillors in the past few years, it is clear we have further to go to ensure councillors better reflect the communities they serve. The LGA, working with councils, is working on this in a number of ways which we outline below.

Be a councillor

The LGA’s Be a Councillor campaign works with councils towards increasing diversity and inclusion; encouraging  people from all walks of life and experience - including those from BAME communities, LGBT groups, people with disabilities, women and young people - to stand in their local elections; tapping into talented people who would make great councillors but might not have considered the role before; and with the current situation, seeking people who are resilient to change, can help communities recover from the challenges brought about by COVID-19, and see an opportunity to renew the way we serve communities. It does this through:

  • Public facing information and resources on beacouncillor.co.uk - information and inspiration for the public about the role of the councillor and what councils do, the next steps people can take on the journey to standing for election, and resources to help consider what it would be like in practice to be a councillor.
  • Supporting councils to run their own local campaigns and events – toolkit, resources, LGA Advisers or Regional Advisers to help organise and/or deliver events.
  • LGA Political Groups run their own Be a Councillor campaigns and activities.

The campaign also works with expert partners such as Operation Black Vote to extend its reach with black, ethnic minority communities and to work to address the imagined and real barriers, which can prevent people stepping forward.

As part of Black History Month 2020, the LGA’s Be a Councillor campaign is helping to celebrate and honour the accomplishments of black Britons by sharing councillor perspectives on the importance of Black History Month and the vital contributions of Black councillors to our local communities.

Development programme for BAME councillors

In 2004, the LGA created the UK’s first development programme for councillors who are BAME. It was designed to help councillors from this group develop new skills and insights and prepare for leading roles in their communities and councils. As the years have gone by, the participation on this event has increased – over 365 members have attended with a number of members that have gone on to higher positions from Committee Chairs, mayors, cabinet members, deputy leaders, leaders and Members of Parliament.

We are also proud to see more councillors from BAME backgrounds participating in our political leadership programmes and for the first time, there has an upward trend of the participation of black councillors – in 2016/17, 35; 2017/18, 36; 2018/19, 51; and 2019/20, 62. We want to continue this work so there continues to be an increase in more black councillors in senior positions.

Tackling inequalities

The pandemic has shown that investing more in prevention would have led to better outcomes. There is clear evidence that some groups have been disproportionately affected by the virus. Public Health England (PHE) found that people from some black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups are at a significantly higher risk from COVID-19. This is extremely worrying and underlines the need for a strong Government commitment to tackling health inequalities and the need for more council resources and flexibilities to tackle the underlying economic and social causes of ill-health and premature death.

In our Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) submission, we are calling for health to be recognised as an essential part of the economic recovery and vice versa. The LGA report Nobody Left Behind: maximising the health benefits of an inclusive local economy makes clear the link between health and the local economy:

  • Sustainable core funding. Whilst the pandemic makes it vitally important that prevention is not side-lined, it should be given prominence at all times, with 40 per cent of avoidable deaths as a result of tobacco, obesity, inactivity and alcohol harm. Increases in the public health grant are vital to improve these characteristics.
  • Investing in transformation. In order to arm our population against this virus, we will need to turbocharge public health programmes that can reverse chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes. The Government should work with councils to introduce a new Prevention Transformation Fund, underpinned by a sector-led transformation programme, to help deliver on this shared ambition.
  • Strengthening local leadership through devolution. Local authority directors of public health have demonstrated the value of local public health teams being able to respond effectively to the pandemic based on a detailed understanding of their community. As the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock said on 18 August, local directors of public health and their teams are the unsung heroes of health protection. ‘Local by default’ is now the approach to addressing public health in the COVID-era. A sector-led transformation programme that can address the issues of obesity, drugs and alcohol abuse, sexual health, 0-19 years and the NHS health check is the best way to sustain this change. It would additionally provide public health transformation assurance.
  • Rewiring behavioural incentives and raising revenue. Levies on alcohol, smoking and sugary products can discourage consumption of harmful products while also raising income to help fund other proposals set out in the strategy.