A Bexley councillor has called on the authority to take greater action to address racism in the borough, saying discrimination in the area has gone unaddressed “for far too long”.

Labour’s Mabel Ogundayo posted a letter detailing a seven-point action plan to tackle racism on Wednesday, saying in it that the death of George Floyd “has led to an awakening of the real issues of racism and inequality across the globe”.

“In recent weeks, I have been informed of and seen many accounts of racism Black people have experienced within our Borough, both in the public arena and within the education system,” she wrote.

“Bexley has a growing Black population and it is important that we make sure all residents feel welcome and valued. However, sadly this has not been the case thus far.”

While the message received widespread support including from councillors in the neighbouring borough of Greenwich, one of Cllr Ogundayo’s Bexley colleagues called it “a load of old rubbush”.

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Councillor Davey's response to the letter.

“The UK and Bexley in particular are the most tolerant in the world. You should worry about the Mayor of London’s failure to stop knife crime, much of it black on black,” Cllr John Davey, the Conservative member for West Heath, responded on Twitter.

“I should have added getting rid of councillors like this in Bexley. Those that will deny well know, undeniable events and discount people’s experiences of racism,” Cllr Ogundayo replied.

“There will always be a few people who are racist, but my point is generally Bexley residents are some of the most tolerant in the world. And, I won’t have you trying to start race wars in Bexley,” Cllr Davey said back in the Twitter spat.

Cllr Ogundayo’s letter, addressed to Bexley Council leader Teresa O’Neill and CEO Jackie Belton, stated actions the authority could take included setting up a forum where people living or being schooled in the borough could “share their experiences of racism”.

The Thamesmead East representative also advocated for regular meetings with police to discuss stop and search inequalities in the borough.

Cllr Ogundayo told the local democracy reporting service after posting the letter that she hoped the council could play a greater role going forward with hosting multi-cultural events and rooting out racism in the borough.

She added that initial email exchanges with the council’s leadership had left her optimistic about more action being taken in the future.

“I think the council’s role is to openly celebrate the diversity in our borough – hold educational events, cultural celebration events, ensure people feel welcomed and part of Bexley, actively speak out against the increase in hate crime and lead the charge on equality,” she said.

“By doing this, it gives us the right to question what our partners are doing to root racism out.

“I have always addressed the issues of racism in council meetings, but have not always received the response I should have.

“More and more people who lived or attended school in Bexley are speaking up about their experiences right now and I can’t stand by and I can’t sit by and let future residents go through the same experiences we have.”

Cllr Ogundayo’s action list 

  1. A press statement supporting the growing diversity within our Borough and encouraging all who experience hate crimes to report it
  2. That the BAME staff network hold regular meetings and encourage staff to discuss concerns they have and set tangible targets to address the concerns
  3. A BAME staffing review group that looks at how we can increase diversity at all tiers of staffing, particularly senior level
  4. A review of our housing allocations process and address any racial inequalities that may need to be addressed within it
  5. Regular review meetings with the police regarding stop and search inequalities in our Borough
  6. To meet with Bexley schools, to address any racism that has taken place, set tangible actions to prevent racism and encourage them to teach Black History – both British and international
  7. Most importantly, set up a website or forum where people who have attended school or live within Bexley to share their experiences of racism. Then to continue working with these individuals to find solutions to racism in Bexley. I believe this is so important because without understanding people’s experiences, we will never be able to truly change things.