Progress with Equal Opportunities

This chapter follows on in topic and chronologically from chapter 5, detailing how Equal Opportunities policies were implemented in Manchester City Council from 1987 to 1994. This includes disagreements between ‘oppressed groups’, and restructuring departments and sub-committees to adapt to both budget constraints and changing priorities. In some matters Manchester was leading the field and sharing experience at a national level through Khan Moghal’s attendance at Association of Metropolitan Authorities meetings and the European Local Authorities Network. In other matters, the Council sought to learn from the successes in other local authorities. The chapter includes the setting and monitoring of Global Equality Targets for the Council’s employees to reflect the population they served, in relation to gender, race and disability. There was less success in achieving a balance in the political representation and positions of responsibility.
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Breastfeeding in the Council Chamber
During the first three years of the new administration, from 1984 onwards, enormous progress had been made on Equal Opportunities (as covered in chapter 5), but much more still remained to be done. Despite the 1987 re-election of the Tory government, the financial pressures, the privatisation legislation, the splits within the Left and compromises with the Right, the majority Left was determined to continue to implement the new policies as far as possible. However, the team of councillors championing Equal Opportunities was considerably weakened after the local elections in May 1987, with the retirement[1] of Val Stevens, Sheila Newman and Margaret Roff[2],, and the electoral defeat of Marilyn Taylor.

John Clegg and Khan Moghal were elected as Chair and Deputy of the Equal Opportunities Committee, which was strengthened by the inclusion of Val Edwards, a feisty, working-class woman who had been an officer of the City Party for a number of years before being elected to the Council in May 1987. Val replaced Marilyn Taylor as Chair of the Women’s Sub-committee and became the lead member on the Lesbian Sub-committee, which was chaired by a member of the lesbian community. She also took one of the five places on the Greater Manchester Police Authority and was elected as the Chair of the National Association of Local Government Women’s Committees.

It was a huge number of responsibilities for anyone to take on, let alone a new councillor. In normal circumstances, a newly-elected councillor wouldn’t have been given any position of responsibility – to give them time to find their way round the bureaucracy – but with so many seats lost at the election, it was thought to be unavoidable. In Val’s case, it was even more burdensome because, although she was a very strong, intelligent and competent woman, she was about six months pregnant at the time of her election, and, as an insulin-dependent diabetic, she was under doctor’s orders to rest as much as possible. In fact, she had to spend the final six weeks of her pregnancy in hospital and had to get medical permission to leave hospital to vote at one crucial council meeting.

After her son, Tom, was born, she had just three weeks maternity leave and from then on he accompanied her to many council and committee meetings and conferences. On one occasion, a female Tory councillor, Joyce Hill, complained about Val breastfeeding during a meeting and demanded that he be put in the crèche (which the Tories had opposed being established). John Clegg immediately stood up and defended Val’s right to breastfeed. The spat was reported in the Manchester Evening News the following day with a picture of Val and Tom alongside a quote from Val:

“I am an elected representative of Manchester, which has an equal opportunities policy. I shall continue to bring Tom with me to meetings so that I can carry out my duties properly.”

Changes and Restructure
In May 1988, John Clegg was re-elected as Chair of Equal Opportunities Committee with Val Edwards as Deputy. Khan Moghal took over as Chair of the Race Sub-committee following the resignation of Graham Balance due to ill-health. During that year a unit was established to provide legal advice and support to people fighting deportation. This Immigration Aid Unit, which was jointly funded by the City Council and two other councils in Greater Manchester, provoked great hostility from the right-wing press.

An enormous number of developments were taking place in the city and there was real optimism about the impact the Council was having on combating discrimination. The Equal Opportunities Unit had been protected from the cuts being carried out across the Council after 1987, but Nick Harris (Deputy Chair of Finance at the time) expressed concerns that the structure of the Unit wasn’t achieving the changes within the Council’s workforce that were wanted. In a paper for the Labour Group, he acknowledged that good progress had been made on recruitment of women and black people and on physical access to council buildings, and that the Unit staff had also built up good networks amongst disadvantaged groups. But he identified a number of problems, including that the Unit was ‘over-centralised’ and lacked good links with the Personnel Department. He also claimed that there was a lack of political control over the committee and its community representatives.

This was perceived by John Clegg and Val Edwards as a criticism of them, but it is debatable whether anyone could have exercised better political ‘control’. The community representatives from all the ‘oppressed’ groups were vociferous in their demands and were influential within the City Party. This was particularly true of the black and ethnic minority community representatives, who made great efforts to gain complete control over the Race Sub-committee (see later). At a time of intense budget pressures, the Labour Group leadership was extremely concerned about the influence they wielded.

Nick Harris proposed that the Equal Opportunities staffing work should be incorporated into the Personnel Department; that an Equal Opportunities Policy Committee should co-ordinate initiatives across the city; that a Joint Consultative Committee (for consulting the public) should replace the sub-committees; and that a central staff team within the Chief Executive’s Department should service the above. But these proposals were not pursued.

Another paper was produced by John Clegg, Val Edwards, Shirley McCardell (Chair of Personnel) and Vince Young with proposals to amalgamate the Equal Opportunities and Race units and connect them with the Personnel Department. This was opposed by NALGO, so these proposals weren’t pursued either.

In July 1988, after a long period of discussion within the City Party, a new structure for the Equal Opportunities Unit was finally agreed in principle. There would be two sections, each with a team leader. One section would have four workers – one for each area of ‘oppression’ – specifically to support the relevant sub-committee and to co-ordinate and initiate other policy work. The other section would have seven workers (two working on women’s issues, two on disabled issues, one on lesbians, one on gay men and one on employment issues) and would concentrate on policy development and implementation. This would sometimes mean work on authority-wide issues and sometimes concentration within a single department. The role of the other workers within the sections was left to be resolved later. Members of oppressed groups were to continue to have the right to speak for themselves at the sub-committees and steering groups.

In the context of the huge budget problems faced by the Council, the amount of time and energy spent on this one small section of the Council’s workforce was disproportionate. Although it reflected the importance placed on the policy issues involved, if there had been less time spent arguing about structures, more time could have been devoted to new initiatives.

Global Equality Targets
When the Labour ‘rebels’, including John Clegg and Shirley McCardell, resigned in November 1988, Val Edwards took over as Chair of the Equal Opportunities Committee (although not for long) – at the same time that I became Chair of the Personnel Sub-committee (see chapter 12).

After only a few months in our new roles, we were thrust into the forefront of the launch of the Global Equality Targets. This was an impressive piece of work by the Head of Unit, Terry Day, which involved setting targets for the number of new employees that should be female, black or disabled, in order to achieve, over a ten-year period, a workforce that reflected the population in the city.

Targets were also set for the number of women and black people in senior officer positions. The idea was not to employ or promote people simply because they were female or black, but to remove all the barriers and positively encourage applications. The figures were arrived at by calculating a percentage of the normal turnover of employees within each department.

While the Voluntary Early Retirement (VER) and redeployment agreements were in force, the first priority had been to ensure that as many employees as possible remained in employment and it was impossible to properly monitor the effect on the diversity of the workforce. But as these were coming to an end, it was anticipated that there would be a greater turnover of staff and therefore an increased chance of targeting potential new employees.

In March 1989, the Council formally adopted the equality targets and agreed that from 1 April 1989, all council jobs would be advertised concurrently (ie externally and internally).

Graham Stringer tried to introduce, as an Equal Opportunities issue, the principle of Mancunians being prioritised, but this would have been impossible to introduce across the board and the majority of the City Party delegates were opposed to the principle when it was debated. It was agreed, however, that residence within the Manchester boundary would be a pre-requisite for all new apprenticeships and entry-level administrative posts.

In order to monitor progress on the equality targets, a Joint Sub-committee on Employment was set up, with representatives from the Personnel Sub-committee, the Equal Opportunities Committee and the Race Sub-committee.

As Chair of Personnel, I chaired this Joint Sub-committee, with Val Edwards and John Byrne as deputies. Its role was not just to monitor progress on the equality targets, but to review departmental action plans and the corporate actions being taken to achieve the required changes.

The equality targets initiative was a great success in achieving its objectives, but involved a huge amount of work within each depart-ment for which, initially, allowances hadn’t been made.

Part of the new system for achieving the targets involved using the recruitment and selection system far more rigorously, with every job vacancy having a clear job description and person specification (stating the minimum qualifications and attributes required by an applicant). A detailed procedure, drawn up by Terry Day, was to be followed for every vacancy. Previously, a high percentage of jobs had no job description, never mind a person specification and in the departments employing manual workers, the recruitment procedure had been particularly unfair, apparently with friends or relatives of existing employees getting first chance at all vacancies and very little rigour applied to the selection of candidates.

Val Edwards and I chaired a meeting of chief officers to emphasise the importance of the recruitment and selection process and the procedures to be followed.

This process is now standard practice in all large private and public sector organisations, but at the time it was regarded as revolutionary and we were heavily criticised for it. The Tories referred to it as a ‘raffle system’ because, at the very last stage of the process, if (and only if) all candidates were equal in every respect, then lots would be drawn. But this was envisaged as being extremely unlikely. When the right-wingers had the system explained to them, they agreed it was an improvement and the press calmed down about it. But even when it was well established in Manchester, the other Greater Manchester districts regarded it with deep suspicion.

Gay and Lesbian Support
In 1988, in addition to implementing changes within the Council, a lot of energy was put into campaigning against what became section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act prohibiting local authorities from ‘promoting’ homosexuality or gay ‘pretended family relationships’. The Guardian published a letter from Manchester’s Labour Group urging MPs to reject the clause at the bill’s third reading, and many City Party activists became very involved in the campaign against it.

Councillors were determined not to let the new legislation hold back implementation of their anti-discrimination policies. Legal advice confirmed that opposing discrimination was not the same as promoting homosexuality, but because of the uncertainty that many council workers and school governors felt about the situation, the Equal Opportunities Unit organised more than 60 seminars for key staff and governors to explain the legal position and to reassure them.

One of the very stressful issues that Val Edwards had to deal with around this time was the increasing pressure from the lesbian community for their own purpose-built centre. The 1987 Manifesto had committed the Party to “fully resourcing a lesbian social and community centre”. When Val was the lead member for lesbians in 1987, she had been closely involved with one of the women planning officers, Barbara McLoughlin, who was overseeing the design and planning for the centre.

A Gay Centre had already been built, and Barbara and Val had conducted extensive consultations on the design and potential locations for the Lesbian Centre, with a suitable site being eventually identified in Rusholme. Val put in a lot of time and effort trying to make progress on it, but with the funding restrictions on new buildings and the increasingly difficult financial climate, she was in a no-win situation. Despite her efforts, she felt that the lesbians didn’t trust her and made impossible demands – sometimes quite aggressively. The press were extremely hostile to the whole idea of a Lesbian Centre (as they had been to the Gay Centre) and she got lots of poison pen letters.

She was also given a hard time in the Labour Group, from both the Right and the Left, even though she was only trying to make progress on something that had previously been agreed. At one meeting of the Group, David Black intervened: “Why are you all having a go at Val when all she’s doing is trying to deliver what you elected her to do, just as all of us elected Chairs are doing?” John Clegg sympathised with her after the meeting and confessed that he’d been through similar experiences and had had the experience of razor blades in the mail.

The Lesbian Centre never did get built, being first suspended and eventually abandoned. The capital cost was put at £300,000 in 1988/89 when there was only £60,000 in the whole ‘other services’ block (ie not Housing or Education) of the capital budget.

The purpose-built Gay Centre was a replacement for an advice centre that had been run for a number of years from within a rented building and did run advice services for young lesbians as well as gay men.

Progress on Issues Affecting Women
Some significant progress was made on women’s issues as a result of the work done by a group of women officers in the Planning Department and Community Safety team, led by Barbara McLoughlin. A report was submitted to the Council entitled ‘Planning a safer environment for women’ which proposed many initiatives that would benefit not only women, but the wider population as well. This included small things, such as better street lighting, removal of subways, better door and window locks, as well as more significant planning and design issues.

Manchester Council hosted a one day national conference on the issues, which attracted a lot of press attention and Val Edwards spoke on local TV and radio about it, pointing out that these sort of safety measures actually helped everyone, and that measures such as ramps to help women with children’s push-chairs also helped disabled people and elderly people.

A significant piece of work was also done in relation to taxis (persuading the owners to invest in pushchair and wheelchair accessible cabs) and private hire companies (making them adopt stricter rules about prior booking and have better signs on the cars), and giving a grant to a women-only taxi service.

Although there was great optimism about achieving more equality within the Council’s workforce the situation in the Labour Party was not so good. In early 1989, the City Party expressed its concerns about the poor representation of women on the Executive Committee and there was a recognition that more needed to be done to encourage more women to get involved at all levels of the Labour Party, although nothing practically was done about it at the time (see later).

Then, at the May 1989 City Party meeting there was a further blow to gender equality balance. As a result of the long and complex voting for the 25 positions contested by the group of ‘rebels’ (see chapter 12), five women, including Val Edwards, lost their positions of responsibility to members of the rebel group. The City Party selection for the Equal Opportunities Committee was Vince Young as Chair and Yousouf Gooljary as Deputy.

When it came to the Labour Group meeting, even the rebels and the right-wing recognised the impossibility of sustaining any credibility on Equal Opportunities with no woman in a leadership role so a second deputy position was created and Val Edwards was pushed into going for this. Unfortunately this put into an impossible position, which quickly became apparent.

Vince Young was a quiet, Caribbean elected in 1988, whose affiliation to the ‘rebels’ had been a surprise. Yousouf Gooljary was a young Sri Lankan, only recently elected councillor, who was on the rebel’s slate because he was ambitious for a position, and Tony McCardell and Sam Darby had promised positions to anyone who would support them. It became clear to many of us that neither Vince nor Yousouf were knowledgeable or experienced enough for the roles. Terry Day (Head of the Equal Opportunities Unit) was unhappy about having to work with inexperienced councillors in such high profile positions.

When it came to the consideration of the budget proposals, Terry Day met with Vince and Val and went through all the disabled access projects that potentially could be proposed as cuts under the different department’s budget proposals – there were at least 20 of them. Val highlighted them all in her copy of the papers, but at the Budget Review Working Party, Nick Harris (as Chair of Finance) went through the papers at a terrific speed and Val had to keep jumping in saying – “whoa, whoa, Nick, Nick, not that cut” when it came to one of theirs. Martin Pagel (as Chair of the Disabled people’s steering group – before he was a Councillor) reproached Val about this afterwards, saying that Vince was really upset and felt that she was undermining him in meetings. Martin suggested that she shouldn’t undermine him in this way, until she explained what would have happened to projects dear to his heart if she hadn’t spoken up – millions of pounds worth of disabled access projects would have been cut. Although Martin (and others) sympathised with Val’s predicament, she was in an intolerable situation.

In January 1990, the situation was resolved when Vince Young was removed from his position as Chair of Equal Opportunities for voting against the whip (see chapter 12), and Val Edwards became acting Chair again, but only until May 1990 when she was elected as Chair of the Children’s Services Committee (see chapter 17). At that point, Khan Moghal was elected as Chair of Equal Opportunities, (with Yomi Mambu and Winnie Smith as his deputies)[3].

In May 1990, the City Party was still concerned about the low number of women councillors (only 18 out of 78 Labour councillors), but this time devoted some time to discussing practical ways of encouraging more women to get involved. A special newsletter was put together by the Women’s Officer (Cath Inchbold[4]) headlined ‘Women come forward’ and circulated to all female Party members in the city. The Executive Committee recommended to branches that they adopt ‘all women’ shortlists (they didn’t have the power to ‘instruct’ branches to do so), or if that wasn’t acceptable, to have at least an equal number of men and women on their shortlists[5].

Difficulty in Finding Enough People
Despite the high political priority afforded to Equal Opportunities, there weren’t enough personally committed councillors prepared to put in time and effort on the committee work and the small size of the committee reflected this – only 11 members (as opposed to over 20 on most other committees).

The Labour Group had decided in May 1990 that the Race Sub-committee ought to go back to being a sub-committee of the Equal Opportunities Committee (as it had been originally) rather than being a sub-committee of the Policy and Resources Committee, and Khan Moghal (as Chair of Equal Opportunities) embarked on a negotiation with the different community groups to persuade them to accept this. The fact that the Race Unit had been amalgamated within the Equal Opportunities Unit, under the management of Terry Day, didn’t help Khan’s negotiations.

The greatest objections that the black and ethnic minority representatives voiced were to being put in the same category as disabled people. They also had issues about being associated with gay men and lesbians, but these were not openly voiced. From the beginning, they had wanted Graham Stringer (as Leader of the Council) to attend all their meetings, in order to boost their own self-importance within their communities. Because he didn’t attend, they had boycotted the meetings for a time. Eventually Graham did agree to attend a meeting, but at too short notice for it to be well publicised. The representatives modified their demand to him meeting with them two or three times a year, but Graham wasn’t going to be dictated to like this.

In June 1990, Khan wrote a paper for the Labour Group in which he commended the Council for still having an Equal Opportunities Committee when many local authorities had abandoned theirs, but expressing his concern about the half-hearted support from the Labour Group. The low numbers on the Committee made it difficult to have five workable sub-committees and he believed that this sent out a message to the different communities that Equal Opportunities was not regarded as important. Apparently they had also experienced difficulties with the clerking of the meetings, which Khan felt was a reflection of the lack of importance afforded by the council officers.

Khan also reported that gay men had expressed their doubts about the Labour Group’s commitment and had refused to elect representatives to their sub-committee (although they had elected ten men to ‘negotiate’ with councillors), and that the representatives of the ethnic communities had completely rejected the committee re-structuring and felt demoted by being a sub-committee of Equal Opportunities rather than a sub-committee of P&R, which they had never wanted in the first place. The Manchester Council for Community Relations (MCCR) also felt by-passed from all the consultations.

Khan acknowledged that although Equal Opportunities had been salvaged from the ravages of the last round of budget cuts, he recognised that they would be under even greater pressure during next round of cuts. He felt that it was important for each area of oppression to be clearly identified with a team of officers charged with responsibility for it, and that Race had to occupy a special political visibility again, with a dedicated team or unit allocated.

None of these concerns were really addressed by the Group leadership and in the Labour Group report to the July 1990 City Party meeting, Graham Stringer simply reported positively on the progress made:

“We have completed the 1st year of an eight year plan to achieve a fair representation in the workforce of black people, women in management and disabled people. Targets for black people have been exceeded, only two thirds [of the target for] women in management and one third of [the target for] disabled people have been achieved. During 1990, we plan to introduce new action[6] to employ more disabled people, where our progress so far has been the weakest, and to get black people into management jobs.

“The first phase of our programme to make all major Council buildings accessible will be complete once the ramp into Central Library opens later this year. With no further capital available we are now concentrating on access outside (dropped kerbs, tactile [road] crossings for blind people) and looking to external sources for money to fund future access improvements.

“In the restricted financial circumstances in order that the momentum of Equal Opportunities is not lost, new strategies need to be thought through.”

Racial Equality Issues
Section 11[7] of the 1986 Local Government Act provided finance directly from government exclusively for combating racial disadvantage experienced by people from the New Commonwealth. During 1990, in response to government proposals to change the way section 11 funding could be used, a major review and consultation was undertaken. As a result of this, a new co-ordinated strategy (involving both Council and voluntary-sector provision) was devised and a successful funding bid was made to the Home Office. Covering 75% of salary costs of staff employed specifically for such work, funding from the Home Office was received for 1992 for the following projects:

  • A comprehensive range of language and learning support within education;
  • A new Translation and Interpretation Service (TIS) providing access to over 60 languages in order to improve access to council services for Manchester residents;
  • A network of link-workers based with community organisations to assist access to council services;
  • A multi-agency racial harassment project (in partnership with the police and other agencies);
  • An Asian Women’s community development project;
  • A Youth Service support project.

According to Val Edwards, Nick Harris (as Chair of Finance) continued to express antagonism towards the Equal Opportunities Committee and Unit (perhaps because of the high costs involved at a time of budget constraints), so she asked Terry Day to get the officer team to put together a full report of all the Council’s Equal Opportunities achievements since 1985. This was published in December 1990 and called ‘Equality Matters in Manchester’. The introduction was written by Graham Stringer with the strap-line:

“We have been told that the cost of Equal Opportunities is too high. In my view, the cost of not acting is much greater.”

He went on to say:

“… our Equal Opportunities policy has met some of the fiercest and most vociferous opposition of all the policies we have progressed over the last five years. I have been astonished at times by the strength of bigotry and prejudice aroused by, for example, our decisions to provide a Gay Centre, good quality childcare and support for black people struggling against racist immigration laws. Despite that opposition we have persevered. We have made some mistakes, we have certainly not moved as fast as the people on the receiving end of prejudice would have liked. But we have moved… An all-white workforce providing services to a population, where one in ten people are black, is not acceptable”.

Graham helped Val to launch the report – printed in a booklet form and funded from the Equal Opportunities budget – but Nick Harris expressed objections, saying they hadn’t sought ‘permission’ and that all publications were supposed to come from the central pot of money allocated for them.

Later that month, Khan Moghal reported to the City Party that after months of negotiations, the recommendation that Race become a sub-committee of Equal Opportunities, rather than P&R was to be implemented – even though there was still strong opposition to this from the BME communities.

The first meeting of the Race Sub-committee under the new arrangements was in January 1991, and it was agreed that the next one would be called at the Chair’s discretion, following discussions with BME representatives. At the P&R Committee that month it was agreed that the line management of the Equality Unit would pass to the Deputy Chief Executive (from the Head of Economic Initiatives).

In September 1991, the Equal Opportunities Committee resolved to accept a proposed strategy from the Chief Executive relating to consultation with, and involvement of, BME communities and that the Race Sub-committee should re-commence meeting with elected members only. The 1989 Local Government and Housing Act had ruled that only elected members could in future serve as full members of committees, although non-Councillors could attend as non-voting ‘advisors’, apart from on specific committees[8] where other bodies had a legal or financial interest.

At the following P&R meeting (October) the ‘rebels’ moved an amendment to delete this resolution and instead agree:

“that the Race sub-committee shall NOT recommence meeting until the ‘voting’ elected members of this Council on the sub-committee are in a position to invite ‘non-voting’ advisory members representing ethnic minority community interests within the city of Manchester to such meetings.”

This was carried by the P&R Committee, but then voted down at the Council meeting (following the debate at the full Labour Group the night before).

The Race Sub-committee met only twice during the remainder of the year although there were a lot of important issues that deserved attention[9].

Nationally, the Tory government (not surprisingly) was not giving any priority to Race issues. The (national) Commission for Racial Equality had conducted another consultative review of the 1976 Race Relations Act because the general proposals for change put forward following its earlier review in 1985 had not been implemented. The Policy and Resources Committee (November 1991) urged the Home Secretary to consider amendments to the Race Relations Act on the basis of the Commission’s recommendations and to set a timetable for bringing in the necessary changes. But no action was taken.

Monitoring Against the Targets
After two years of implementing the Global Equality Targets in order to change the composition of the Council’s workforce, a report was submitted to the Policy and Resources Committee reviewing progress. The success of the targets that had been set in March 1989 for achievement by January 1991 was mixed. The target for black people at Principal Officer (PO) grades was overachieved, the target for women at PO grades was nearly achieved, but the numbers of disabled people employed fell very short of the target.

In order to improve these numbers, it had been agreed (as far back as April 1990) to hold a ‘jobs open day’ in March 1991 for all the current vacant posts and make a special effort to attract disabled people. The Equalities officers worked with departmental managers to identify what adaptations or equipment might be needed to assist disabled people in doing any of the jobs and everyone taking part in the recruitment day was briefed in order to be as welcoming and positive as possible. Advertisements for the day were highlighted in publications targeted at disabled organisations and it was a great success. Out of 145 people appointed there were 31 people who were disabled.

The targets for the 1991/92 year were revised in June 1991[10] to take account of the national re-grading of social workers that had taken place in 1990. Without this revision, the Social Services Director would have been able to claim success on equality targets without having actually taken any steps to improve the numbers of women or black people in senior grades. But despite the political commitment and cajoling by the Equalities officers, the second quarter review in September 1991 reported disappointing progress and a warning that efforts would have to be redoubled for the remainder of the year if the targets were to be achieved. By the 3rd quarter report (December 1991) the figures were better, but there was still concern at the under-achievement on women at PO grades and black people at PO5+ grades. Chief Officers were urged to make full use of the positive advertising provision measures that were available.

National Involvement and Example
During Khan Moghal’s tenure as Chair of Equal Opportunities, he attended a lot of National and International Conferences and he was elected as the Chair of the AMA[11] Equal Opportunities Committee. The meetings were in London on the same day as the meetings of the AMA leaders. Graham Stringer never attended these leaders’ meetings (occasionally Val Dunn went in his place) and so Khan was often called upon to speak on behalf of Manchester, and this gave him a lot of influence. Jack Straw attended the Labour Group of these leaders’ meetings as Shadow Minister with responsibility for Local Government.

Khan agreed to be the Manchester representative on ELANE (European Local Authorities Network), since no-one from Manchester ever attended and Graham Stringer gave him a free hand to do what he wanted. Most other local authorities sent a politician and an officer to the meetings and Birmingham sent several. Khan used this forum as an opportunity to promote at a European level what Manchester was doing on Equal Opportunities, and found that other countries were way behind us. On one occasion, he was invited to speak at a conference in Holland on Manchester Council’s partnership working with the GM Police on tackling racial crime, and the delegates were amazed that such things were possible.

Khan was keen that Manchester should join the Eurocities network and when an early conference was held in Birmingham, he persuaded Pat Karney to attend. Pat apparently said it had “opened his eyes” and he recommended that Manchester join, which it did, and later took on a leadership role in the organisation.

Dissolving the Equal Opportunities Unit
In March 1993, the Budget Review Working Party (see chapter 18) had several debates about Equal Opportunities. Graham Stringer was concerned that personnel policy matters were absent from committee agendas and he wanted a more effective implementation of equality and anti-discrimination decisions. A number of issues had also come to a head, one of which was the general unhappiness amongst councillors and officers about Terry Day’s management style and behaviour; another was the impending retirement of the Director of Personnel, Roger Matthews, and the fact that the reduced size of Personnel staff didn’t justify a stand-alone department any longer. It also didn’t make any sense for the officers in the Equal Opportunities Unit to be working on issues related to Global Equality Targets when this was really personnel-related work.

The discussions crystallised around three key issues – the Council’s role as an employer, the provision of services, and community development issues. There were very detailed discussions on staff development and training, sickness monitoring, whether anti-discrimination policies were more effectively delivered by generic or specialist officers, whether the latter function was served better in stand-alone teams or in wider organisational units. It was eventually concluded that the Equal Opportunities Unit should be disestablished, with some of the staff merging with Personnel staff in a new team within the Chief Executive’s Department and the others merging with the Corporate Planning Team (also within the Chief Executive’s Department). The Chief Executive (Arthur Sandford) was charged with the task of devising a new staffing structure for his department that would put these proposals into effect.

It was also decided that the Equal Opportunities Sub-committee of the Policy and Resources Committee should be changed to an ‘Equal Opportunities and Anti-Discrimination’ Sub-committee with its membership comprising all the Labour Group officers (to give it some political ‘clout’) plus any councillors who wished to be on it. The sub-committees dealing with each area of ‘oppression’ were to be abolished and instead, a ‘leading’ elected Member would take responsibility for each area of ‘oppression’. But, although this was intended to raise the profile of the policy, in practice it didn’t work out as the sub-committee meetings were very poorly attended (due in part to the level of other commitments held by the Labour Group officers).

Review Against Targets 1993
The next review of the Global Equality Targets (April 1993) was half way through the eight year strategy. Whilst major changes had been achieved in the composition of the workforce, only one of the numerical targets had been met because of the lower staff turnover than had been originally anticipated (due to budget and workforce reductions). The proportions of black and disabled employees had increased and the proportion of women in senior posts, but there was a recognition that the targets were unrealistic and needed to be revised, so new targets[12] were set for 2000.

In May 1993 there were no Council elections and there was no opportunity to increase the proportion of women in the Labour Group (29% at the time), but following the elections for positions of responsibility those women did very well, gaining 33% of the Chair positions and 50% of the deputy Chair positions. The analysis also showed that 10% of the Labour Group were from black or ethnic minority communities, which was not far from the proportion in the population of the city, so the Party felt that progress was being made.

Equal Opportunities and Anti-Discrimination Sub
The new Equal Opportunities and Anti-discrimination (EOAD) Sub-committee was set up and Khan Moghal was elected as the Chair, but its first meeting wasn’t held until July. The ‘lead’ Members identified for each ‘oppressed’ group were – Pat Karney for gay men, Claire Nangle for lesbians, Yomi Mambu for women, Martin Pagel for disabled people and Khan Moghal for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people.

The new Chief Executive’s Department structure was agreed in the summer of 1993 (see chapter 18), and one consequence of this was the disestablishment of Terry Day’s job. At the time she was on sick-leave following an operation and it was left to Anne Seex to tell her when she returned to work that she would have a new office (in the ‘attic’ of the Town Hall) and would be seconded to work on special projects[13].

In February 1994 the members of the EOAD Sub-committee expressed their frustration about the way some departments seemed to be side-lining Equal Opportunities issues and felt that some lessons could be learnt from other local authorities and large institutions and that it would be worthwhile making contact with some of these. Although it was recognised that Manchester had done a great deal in trying to achieve Equal Opportunity, it was important that the achievements were built upon and continued:

“… fundamental to the successful implementation of equal opportunities is that chief officers fully understand that this can only be achieved by the policies being absorbed and carried out mainstream throughout the Authority, and not sectioned off within departments. The policies should become an inherent part of the way in which the Authority operates through the existing workforce. To achieve this therefore would not necessarily need more resources but it would mean a change in the way the organisation currently operates.”

Despite this concern about some chief officers not giving enough priority to Equal Opportunities issues, the following month the EOAD Sub-committee was pleased to note that good progress was being made on changing the composition of the workforce, and despite the low staff turnover, the Global Equality Targets were almost met. The sub-committee also expressed support for the campaign for an equal age of consent for gay men.

In May 1994, Khan Moghal took up the post as Chief Executive of the Manchester Council for Community Relations and stood down from the position as Chair of the EOAD Sub-committee. Yomi Mambu was elected as Chair, but in practice, Khan continued to do much of the work in order to support her in the role.

The proportion of women and black people in the Labour Group improved at the May elections[14], with a net increase of one woman and an increase of two black men.

In July 1994 a number of ‘Jobs Fairs’ were held to advertise Council vacancies for all jobs up to the grade of SO1. These vacancies were to be targeted at Manchester residents, rather than ‘oppressed’ groups, so Graham Stringer had finally achieved his aim of including Mancunians within the Equal Opportunities policy. However, the targeting was not extended to the Council’s over-spill estates (described as those for whom the city had responsibility as landlord, forgetting that those tenants had originally been Manchester residents and had been given no choice about being moved out of the city).

Relaunch and Restructure
In September 1994 the EOAD Sub-committee decided it was time to re-launch (ie re-emphasise) the Council’s approach to equality. A number of action plans were to be put together covering – mainstreaming equality into service planning; a review of the recruitment and selection procedures; a review of ‘positive action’ training; establishing a consultation framework; tackling discrimination against disabled people; a review of Section 11 funding; a review of Social Services employment strategy. Another publication was also planned to highlight the Council’s achievements since 1984 in providing Equal Opportunities and combating discrimination. The publication had a foreword from the EOAD Chair, Yomi Mambu:

“Much has been achieved since the Council first agreed a strategy to build fairness and equality into all its work in 1984. … We produced [this] to help us review what our strategy on equality of opportunity should be for the next few years. As part of this review we are now seeking your views on what the Council should be doing in this field as we move towards the year 2000. We will be using a variety of ways to consult Manchester residents and hope to gather a rounded picture of what you think is important… ”

The document summarised some of the main Equal Opportunities successes:

  • All community buildings since 1985 accessible and all schools made ‘barrier-free’.
  • Dropped kerbs and tactile crossings.
  • Making available a fleet of powered vehicles to assist those with walking difficulties. The first council to make sure that 605 taxi cabs were accessible (by 1994).
  • Library services for visually impaired people.
  • Aids and building adaptations to homes of elderly and disabled people to enable independent living.
  • Women only sessions at sports and leisure facilities with crèche provision.
  • Increasing the number of women in senior council officer positions, and those employed in traditionally ‘male only’ manual jobs.
  • An annual Anti-racist day and International Womens’ week.
  • A strategy for access to information – minicoms at frontline service points, in-house Braille services, inductive loop system.
  • Successful campaign for the police to recognise the seriousness of domestic violence with better procedures for dealing with it.
  • Domestic Violence working party set up and around £50,000 allocated to fund an officer and publicity.
  • Leadership of the Greater Manchester ‘zero tolerance’ campaign [against domestic violence].
Postscript
In May 1995, Yomi Mambu was re-elected as Chair, but then in May 1996 the sub-committee was abolished and a new sub-committee was set up called the Equal Opportunities and Community Consultation Sub-committee – chaired by the new Leader of the Council (Richard Leese) to try to re-assert its importance. The consensus was however that the system of ‘lead’ members was not very effective, and despite having the Leader as Chair of the committee dealing with Equal Opportunities issues, the momentum had been lost and a certain complacency crept in, as though ‘everything had been achieved’.

In retrospect, one of the difficulties we encountered in implementing the Equal Opportunities policies was in the personalities of the people employed to head up the two units. The Head of the Race Unit, Keith Burrell, had a very easy-going personality and tried to work within the constraints of the organisation. As a result he didn’t achieve very much and was regarded as incompetent by some senior politicians.

Terry Day did achieve a great deal. She bulldozed through the policies despite resistance, but she lacked management experience and her management style reduced her staff to tears on many occasions and alienated many senior officers and elected members. She also didn’t give competent officers enough leeway to get on with the jobs they had been given to do. Instead she kept a tight, centralised control over everything. Some now believe that more progress would have been made with a different management style, but others believe that the Council needed a good shake up and Terry’s style was an important component in making progress, although even her supporters feel that her style was probably only needed for about a year. In the end the disestablishment of the Equal Opportunities Unit gave the opportunity to remove her, without any confrontation.

On a final note, one of the key Equal Opportunities issues that was never tackled, was that of class. It came up in many of the early discussions, but was felt to be too difficult to deal with and so it was side-stepped and an Anti-poverty Working Party was set up to consider ways of addressing some of the more obvious class issues.

Appendices

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Editor’s Comments

I have found this chapter very difficult to read and edit. It has been hard to pull it into a structure because it seemed to jump about from topic to topic, all under the wide umbrella of equality. Perhaps that illustrates the nature of equality issues, not actually being one matter, but a loose collection of things, which are often completing or not necessarily mutually complementary. The chapter highlights the difficulties of putting policies into practice, but also contains too much detail in chronological order about the people and structures that seem to have been frequently shifting. To make it more readable I have moved some paragraphs to connect them to those on the same equality issue rather than sticking religiously to chronological order. I have cut a few paragraphs and added the section headings.

Footnotes

[1] By retirement Kath means resigning or not standing for re-election.

[2] A few months after retiring from the Council, in October 1987, Margaret Roff died (aged 44) tragically in a hotel fire in Puerta Cabezas. She had been part of a women’s delegation to Nicaragua and a fire in the hotel in which she was staying led to her death and to serious burns for another member of the delegation, Maggie Walker. When committee room 3 in the town hall was refurbished it was agreed to designate it as the Margaret Roff Room and make it ‘woman friendly’ (ie without pictures of old, male lord mayors on the walls). A commemorative picture of Margaret and text is displayed in the room.

[3] See Appendix 15A for full list of chairs and deputies of the committee.

[4] Cath Inchbold later was elected as a councillor who played a lead role (see chapters 18, 25 and 27).

[5] None of the branches did adopt all-women shortlists, but at the May 1991 elections, out of eleven new Labour Councillors elected, five were women. However, this only gave a net increase of one woman in the Labour Group. By 1994, there were 28 women in the Labour Group out of 78 (31%).

[6] A jobs reservation scheme was agreed in April 1990 to help increase the number of disabled people employed – at the time it was at 3%, which was below the target.

[7] From 1994, Section 11 funding was reduced by the government and merged with the Single Regeneration Budget.

[8] The Art Galleries committee had University representatives and the Education committee had representatives from Dioceses that ran Voluntary Aided schools in the city.

[9] Nov 1991 (Moghal, Firth, Mambu & Siddiqi present). Considered reports on Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir; 2nd Review of 1975 Race Relations Act; Refugees and Asylum Seekers; Positive action training for black and women employees. March 1992: – Multi-agency racial harassment project; funding for northern Race Relations advisory group; Moss Side and Hulme job-link training project; Positive action training for BME professional grades; Section 11 funding; career prospects for black workers.

[10] The new targets to be achieved by 1997 were – women at PO1- 4 = 43%; PO5+ = 22%; Black people at PO1 – 4 = 8% (4% black women), PO5+ = 5% (2.5% black women).

[11] The Association of Metropolitan Authorities consisted of the 38 Metropolitan Councils across the country and the 36 London Boroughs.

[12] Revised targets for 2000: 9.2% disabled (inc 4% registered) and 12.7% black; 45% women in middle management; 25% women in senior management; 8% black people in middle management; 5% black people in senior management.

[13] Twelve months after this Terry Day got another job and left the Council. Val Edwards felt that she had been treated very shabbily.

[14] Margaret Ainsworth had retired, but Marilyn Taylor came back on and a new young woman from Wythenshawe (Alison Ryan) joined the Group. The 2 new black men were Von Cunningham and George Harding.

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