Diversity in local government has long been an issue in the UK. With just 6% of MPs being from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds, many minorities may feel as though they are being underrepresented in their local governments. There are several areas across the UK where there is a lack of diversity in local government.
Bristol is one of the few areas in the UK where the number of BME citizens make up just a small percentage of the local government. The BME population in Bristol has increased from 12 to 22% since 2001, but only three of the city’s 70 councillors are BME citizens. According to a 2014 report by Runnymede Trust, inequality between ethnic minorities and white British citizens was found to be higher in Bristol than in any other city in the UK.
The issue of diversity in Bristol is improving somewhat, with Thangam Debbonaire being elected as MP for Bristol West in the 2015 general election. The city also has a campaign group, Bristol BME Voice, which focuses on providing more opportunities for people in ethnic minority groups. However, more action needs to be taken to get minorities even more involved with local governments.
Wales is another area in the UK where minorities may feel as though they are not being well represented in their local government. Findings from a Local Government Candidates Survey in 2012 showed that BME citizens made up just 1% of the local government in Wales, while 4.2% of the Welsh population were identified as being from BME backgrounds.
While some local governments are recognising the importance of becoming more diverse, there are steps that can be taken to further improve the situation. The topic of diversity in local governments was highlighted in 2015, around the time of the general election, when it was revealed that the total number of BMEs stood at 41. While the number of BMEs in local governments has risen since 2010, there are ways in which minorities can become even more involved.
Getting involved with local governments will enable minorities who feel as though they are underrepresented to put their views across in their local area. Minorities can get their voice across in a number of different ways, such as by having someone run for local government seats or raising awareness on the importance of being involved by working closely with officials.
Communities could also consider holding public events to get their local governments involved with them. Events organisers such as GovNet can help minorities to get their views across by organising a public event with the public sector. This will enable minorities to raise awareness of the importance of getting more BME citizens involved in their local government.
Other steps that minorities can take include organising meetings with local councillors or forming an organisation with other people from underrepresented groups. This enables minorities to speak out as a group, engage with other members of the local community and get their views across. Minorities who speak out together are far more likely to make a difference and receive support from their local community and governments.
By arranging public events and speaking to their local governments, minorities can become more involved in the community and begin to feel as though they are being well represented. Having a diverse range of representatives in local governments will be more beneficial for the public, with more balanced decisions and views being shared, and by getting their voice across, minorities can help more people to realise this.