Nottinghamshire county councillor resigns over previous 'racist' Facebook comments

Nottinghamshire County Council has launched a new strategy to support its black and minority ethnic workers, just one day after a councillor resigned over ‘racist’ comments he made on Facebook.

By Kit Sandeman
Thursday, 9th July 2020, 5:07 pm

Conservative-led Nottinghamshire County Council approved the support scheme today.

The only black councillor on the authority, Labour’s Errol Henry, said the Black Lives Matter movement had brought about a ‘watershed’ moment for the authority and warned previous anti-racism policies had been ‘simply words on a page’.

As part of the plans, an ‘anti-racism hub’ will be set up, a corporate equality officer will be appointed, and unconscious bias training will be offered – but not mandatory – for councillors.

Nottinghamshire County Council is launching a new strategy to support black and ethnic minority workers following the resignation of Steve Vickers

It comes just one day after Conservative councillor Steve Vickers resigned over Facebook comments he made in 2016 in the wake of the Nice terror attacks, in which he said Sadiq Khan ‘and his brethren’ were ‘part of the problem’.

He also used the phrase ‘hunt them down.’

The comments came to light earlier this year.

But after he was suspended from the national Conservative party, he was promoted and defended by the leader of the council, Coun Kay Cutts to become chairman of the health and wellbeing board – a role that comes with a £23,000 pay rise.

After significant protests from opposition councillors – and the promise of a boycott from some district councils – the committee cancelled a meeting due to be held last week.

It would have been the first time the health committee met since March, despite the Covid-19 situation.

Yesterday, almost a month after his promotion, he resigned.

Today, the county council approved a new support scheme for BME employees, in the wake of what it calls the “tragic events in the United States around the the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent global protests”.

A council report said: “The council, as a large employer and community leader, will continue to challenge racism and discrimination in our council and communities and support black colleagues in our many service areas and their daily lives where they face discrimination and prejudice.

“Whilst we have had long standing policies and procedures to address racism and other forms of discrimination, the current situation has provided an opportunity to review our position and work with staff support networks and trades union colleagues to identify additional actions to promote discussion, raise awareness and identify how we can further improve.”

Coun Henry, who represents Carlton West, said: “The Black Lives Matter movement has brought to the fore a number of issues of concern.

“These issues have been emerging for some time, and I believe it is now a watershed moment for the authority to examine whether its policies in this area are having the intended impact.

“What has emerged quite clearly is that the policies that have been in place to tackle inequality in the workplace have not been working for black people.

“Can you tell me what work has been done looking back to examine individual policies, to evaluate what has had an impact and what has been simply words on a page?”

Coun Neil Clarke is the chairman of the committee that approved the action plan today, and represents Bingham West for the Conservatives.

He said: “All people are equal and we will not tolerate racism.

“There are many actions that have been and are intended to be taken in order to ensure that awareness is increased and it’s ongoing process, we can never complete it, but I think the report shows the commitment is there, and that there are actions listed in order to back up that commitment.”

Coun Helen-Ann Smith, who represents Sutton North for the Ashfield Independents, said: “I would like to welcome the resignation of Coun Steve Vickers yesterday.

“But the fact is, we should never have got into that position in the first place, he should never have gotten to the position where he needed to resign.

“The Vickers affair is over, I wish he would apologise formally, we haven’t had that.

“I really hope that the things that have happened in the last weeks and months (with the promotion of Coun Vickers) start to calm down and we start to get some faith back.”