Diversity Officers (2) (Supplementary) [1]

Session date: 
October 14, 2009
Question By: 
Brian Coleman
Organisation: 
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Mr Mayor, you will know that the good folk of Barnet and Camden are avid readers of the Daily Telegraph and, of course, particularly look forward to your weekly article. You will recall the excellent piece that you wrote on 21 September 2009 on the subject of cuts - yours and my favourite subject - where the agenda, I think, has moved on considerably since we last spoke on the matter. In that piece you made a rather powerful point about saving front line services; very important.

You also made the point about the legion of officials whose responsibilities have been generated by the cascade of bad law from Whitehall and Brussels - human resources (HR), payroll, information technology (IT), on and on - and, of course, diversity officers. So will you be encouraging the functional bodies to seriously look, as we are going to do on LFEPA, at mainstreaming the equalities work, leaving the 1990s agenda behind and, therefore, getting rid of the need for these particular posts?

Supplementary To: 

Answer

Answer for Diversity Officers (2) (Supplementary) [1]

Answer for Diversity Officers (2) (Supplementary) [1]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Brian, as you will appreciate there have been significant reductions. I have mentioned the reductions in TfL from 22 to 8 and in the GLA from 17 to 11. People should be mindful that those represent people's jobs and their livelihoods. These are not easy decisions to make. We should not make them in any casual manner.

Obviously I think you are right that we should be trying, wherever possible, to mainstream diversity. It should be part of the general DNA of all the organisations that we serve. Everybody should be aware of the importance of this issue.

I would just stress that we are here to serve all London in all its diversity and all its communities. We cannot avoid that. It is absolutely vital that we make something of it and we work very hard to do it.

All I am saying to you, Brian, is that there is considerable progress that has been made. There have been steep reductions. I note that, pro rata, LFEPA has by far the most equality services officers and I wonder what your point of view on that is?

Brian Coleman (AM): You will be aware, Mr Mayor, that we are taking complete political control of LFEPA. I can assure you that that situation will be addressed in next year's budget proposals.

Would you not say that you have rather missed an opportunity at the GLA core where we have still got 11 diversity officers because diversity is actually not delivered by diversity officers? Diversity is delivered by the men and women who deliver our public services on the streets of London day by day, not by diversity officers. It is actually delivered by the police officers, by the fire fighters and by the staff of TfL on a daily basis.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think everybody accepts that there are all sorts of jobs in the public sector and, indeed, in the private sector that could be done differently or could not be done at all.

I am very, very determined to bear down on waste in all our organisations but we must face the fact that, notwithstanding the cuts that we are making -- and the figures speak for themselves; almost a two thirds reduction in the number of diversity offices in TfL and a considerable reduction in the number in the GLA.

We cannot take actions that, in my view, would prejudice our basic duty to have regard to diversity and inclusion and togetherness and all the wonderful things that we believe in in London. I would not want us to be sending out a signal by our actions that we did not think that these things were important.

So all I am saying to you is there is a balance to be struck. Yes, we are cutting the numbers and we are taking painful decisions and we are reducing headcount and people are having to go and find new jobs and it is very, very tough for them but I will not do things that compromise the image of this organisation as one that is generous hearted and wants to bring communities together.

Brian Coleman (AM): It is not about image is it, Mr Mayor? It is about delivering services. TfL and LFEPA and the MPA are about delivering services. We are not interested in image are we? We are interested in quality of services.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Let me say to you very directly, Brian, that I note that you have six full time staff members at LFEPA who are charged with equality. It is my own view that there is still some way to go in the London fire services in delivering on that agenda. That is my view.

Brian Coleman (AM): Absolutely.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I want to know what you are doing about it.

Brian Coleman (AM): I will tell you exactly what we are doing about it because, Mr Mayor, as I am sure you are aware, it is the Conservative Group, under the Labour administration, that drove forward the equalities agenda; in fact we even chaired the panel for many years because, as you know, the trade union and the old Labour attitudes that exist in the fire service have continued some of the disgraceful discrimination practices on fire stations against women fire fighters and black and ethnic minority fire fighters, never mind gay and lesbian fire fighters. That is an ingrained old Labour trade union attitude which we have been doing our utmost to counter.

Darren Johnson (Chair): Brian, have you got a further question for the Mayor because we are going to have you question him rather than the other way round? We will move on.