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Apr 14 2014

ILG Say: Response to Racism Report Whitewash

ilg_rosePress Release from Harrow’s Independent Labour Group:

RESPONSE TO WHITEWASH – SO-CALLED INVESTIGATION INTO INSTITUTIONAL RACISM AT HARROW COUNCIL – FROM INDEPENDENT LABOUR GROUP

The findings of the report confirm Independent Labour Group’s fear that “this was a flawed appointment resulting in a cosmetic exercise – a whitewash and waste of taxpayers’ money”.

The recommendations sound good on paper but are simply a tick box exercise. Probably such observations have been made in previous surveys, Council reports and Employee Consultative Forums but there has been no real change on the ground.

The Independent Labour Group reiterates that establishing the enquiry was a step in the right direction but good intentions are not enough – unfortunately the appointment was neither independent nor cross party, nor was it professionally carried out so it lacked credibility. The findings of the “review” confirm this basic fact. The appointment contradicted the Leader of the Council’s public claim – as reported in local press – that an Equality Lawyer will be appointed to investigate.

With regards to the appointment process, you would be right to assume there was an interview panel with senior officers who would follow a fair procurement process and ensure that they recruit the most appropriate person for the job.

Unfortunately this did not take place. One candidate was invited for interview then informed before the interview he was no longer required to attend it. Another candidate had exceptional experience but was also not considered. With three applicants capable of this investigation, you would assume there would be three interviews and the best person appointed. Dal Babu was appointed by an executive decision, which meant that he was appointed directly by instruction of the Leader of the Council.

Whatever her intentions were by this appointment, it is clear a fair appointment process has not taken place. We as a group were repeatedly told when we raised this that ‘ we are where we are, just participate’ but doing so would condone and validate an unfair process.

Just as you would not let a brilliant GP perform brain surgery, a former Borough Commander – even one as good as Dal Babu was in Harrow – does not necessarily have the skills and expertise to carry out a sensitive forensic investigation into Institutional Racism at the Council. We need to remember that until recently Dal Babu OBE was employed by an organisation which has been described as being Institutionally Racist and recent revelations point to a culture of cover-up and destroying evidence. For example, Harrow’s former Borough Commander Richard Walton, who was well respected for his work in Harrow, has been moved out of his Scotland Yard job after being caught up in the Stephen Lawrence spying scandal.

With regards to the report by Mr Babu, it is as expected – a report on a different brief from what was originally agreed to be commissioned. This was to be an investigation into whether there is institutional racism at the council.

Regarding the approach itself:
A) It does not meet what was agreed before appointment
B) It will only review policies and processes, and not the way they are implemented or the actions performed by those who are meant to behave in a professional and fair manner.

We believe Dal Babu had good intentions but his report can only reflect what he investigates based on evidence that is being looked for in the wrong place and within a very limited time frame. Once you predetermined and controlled the scope in such way, there was no doubt that Mr Babu will only find what he has. A flawed process, resulting in flawed results – a whitewash.

The report states from the onset it is a review of the evidence “laid out in Harrow Council’s policies, procedures and action” (page 3). Racism can be overt, inherent or implied, and we have yet to find any organisation which would openly state in their published policies or processes that they are racist. Doing so would only be foolish and open up discriminatory cases but racism can exist in the way someone in their approach as a professional or as an elected official deals with others based on a prejudice of race, religion etc. Institutional Racism is even more difficult to uncover because it stems from unwitting prejudice and becomes part of the culture of an organisation. Whilst well-meaning people will deny its existence, victims feel its impact and a Beacon status award for Race Equality does not mean Institutional Racism is not prevalent, it simply means the Council writes a great story.

With regards to our concerns, we have stated from the onset that Institutional Racism is an important issue which affects all staff, elected members and the entire community of Harrow. To attempt to investigate whether institutional racism exists within Harrow Council within a period of a few weeks neither gives the issue the seriousness it deserves nor carries any credibility, and it is not surprising that the independent investigation was turned into ‘review’.

You can only investigate something thoroughly with adequate time and resources, and in this case neither were provided.

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