Croydon politicians call for more equality in the top ranks
LEADERS from Croydon's two main political parties have agreed they both need to do more to ensure decision-makers for key public services are representative of the borough's wider diversity.
Last week we reported that despite more than 40 per cent of Croydon's population being from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups, just five per cent of Croydon Council's top executives and directors running areas such as housing, education and children's services are from BME communities.
Meanwhile Conservatives' controlling ten-member cabinet has just one BME member, as does Labour's shadow cabinet.
Of their ten, the Conservatives' front bench also only has two women compared to Labour's five, despite the fact women outnumber men across the borough.
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With more than half of all people in Croydon – 50.6 per cent – predicted to be from black and minority ethnic groups by 2026, calls are being made for measures to open up the borough's elite roles to all.
However, all parties the Advertiser spoke to rejected the idea of using quotas to force organisations into filling positions with a fixed number of BMEs or females.
Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell said: "I think the Conservative party needs to do more locally and nationally, but we have made progress.
"If the situation is as it is now by 2026, I think that would be very depressing, but I don't think it will be.
"There are several issues at play. There is still discrimination, but also BME communities don't get as good a deal from the state education system.
"The wider thing the council can do is help people develop at the lower levels and up into senior positions.
"I'm strongly opposed to quotas because it should be the best person gets the job, and setting quotas won't do that."
Mr Barwell said it was unfair to draw comparisons between Conservative and Labour at a council level because the latter traditionally represents the borough's northern areas where most BME communities exist and subsequently run for election.
Council figures show 18 of its 20 top-paid executives and directors are white, with only one black Caribbean. Some 60 per cent of the top-paid executives and directors are also men.
Meanwhile, of Croydon's three MPs, none is from BME groups and all are male.
Of Croydon Council's Conservative 37 councillors 25 are men and 12 woman. Labour, meanwhile, has 19 and 14 respectively.
Labour leader Tony Newman said his party's equality between the sexes is down to a party rule stipulating at least one female candidate must stand at local elections for every ward.
Mr Newman said quotas are only supported "when appropriate", adding: "In terms of our front bench we recognise there is more progress to be made. We have a number of BMEs in deputy positions.
"I agree it is harder to deliver public services if you don't have people representative of the wider community."
Nero Ughwujabo, 38, chief executive of charity Croydon BME Forum, said: "The problem is a very difficult one primarily. Quotas too often create other problems, but the council could come out with a range of initiatives.
"I think all-BME shortlists for positions could be looked at. Also the council could look at things like setting up a BME leadership programme for potential managers.
"They could also set targets to say, 'we want to see this level of representation by a certain date'."
Since 2001, Croydon's BME population has risen from 36 per cent to an estimated 42 per cent in 2011, and will be more than half by 2026 according to the Greater London Authority Population Projections.