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Consultants investigate racism at Brighton and Hove City Council
Private experts have been brought in to investigate claims of racial discrimination at Brighton and Hove City Council .
The local authority is paying consultants to look into allegations of unfair treatment of its black and minority ethnic (BME) staff after it received a number of complaints.
Officials say they have taken the step because they are “extremely concerned” about the comments and “deeply committed” to equality.
They believe offering confidential talks with outside experts will encourage more people to come forward.
A council spokeswoman said: “We feel this is the right and proper thing to do. We are deeply committed to equality and dignity at work for all staff.”
According to information from 2011, about 5.3% of the council’s 8,000 workers classify themselves as BME. A report into the findings is due to be presented in March.
The first phase of work by consultants Global HPO will cost £9,500. The local authority said any extra work would be dependent on the results.
The council spokeswoman said: “The independent partner’s role is to determine whether unfair treatment exists within the organisation, specifically relating to black and minority ethnic staff.
“The remit is also to determine what measures need to be put in place to ensure all staff feel confident the council is a fair and responsible employer.
“The council is working very closely with the black and minority ethnic workers’ forum to ensure this is a thorough, open and fair process.
“The independent external assessors will examine the council’s equalities and dignity at work policies as well as the number and nature of complaints of unfair treatment.
Mark Turner, of the GMB, said: “Overall we welcome an independent organisation looking at this but it’s taken them nearly two years to do that.
“Given the council leader took a day to set up an inquiry into the leaking of names on the chief executive shortlist, you wonder where the priorities lie.”
Alex Knutsen, of Unison, said: “We considered asking for an injunction from the High Court as we were only told about this the day before consultants were granted access to a number of our members who have left the organisation and signed compromise agreements.