Public rally planned in row over council's split with anti-racism charity

The row over Northumberland County Council’s decision to end its relationship with an anti-racism charity is rumbling on.

By Ben O'Connell
Wednesday, 24 April, 2019, 10:05
County Hall in Morpeth, where a rally is planned next week. Picture by Jane Coltman

As previously reported, the local authority opted to end its contract – which was worth £16,800 in 2018-19 – with Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC), a North East-based charity which provides workshops in schools.

A petition (https://tinyurl.com/yxvzdtnv) has now attracted more than 3,800 signatures and there has been plenty of activity on social media pushing for the council to reverse the decision, including from the likes of Chris Kamara, the former professional footballer and a patron for the charity.

Now, a public rally, calling for the council to reinstate funding for SRtRC and supported by unions Unison and Unite, is set to take place outside County Hall in Morpeth, between 2pm and 3pm next Wednesday (May 1), ahead of the full council meeting.

At a committee meeting earlier this month, councillors and officers were frustrated and angry about what was described as ‘sensationalised, politically motivated and misleading’ coverage, with deputy leader Coun Wayne Daley ‘really, really upset’ about ‘the inference that this authority is racist’. SRtRC refuted any implication of racism or that it was politically motivated.

But this week Northumberland County Council has re-emphasised that it is ‘appalled by the campaign that has been mounted against the council’s completely legitimate decision’.

This comes ahead of the issue being discussed by the authority’s cabinet at its meeting on Monday (April 29), where the leadership are being asked to ‘note the decision to not renew the service level agreement with Show Racism the Red Card’.

This decision was made by officers, not politicians, while the cabinet members are also recommended to ‘support the alternative ways in which the funding will be used to help schools to tackle all forms of prejudice and discrimination’.

A Northumberland County Council spokeswoman said: “We are appalled by the campaign that has been mounted against the council’s completely legitimate decision on this; a decision which is in the interests of all schools and students across Northumberland.

“We are clear that any form of prejudice or discrimination is unacceptable and we want to use our resources to ensure a broad range of support is available equally to all 165 of our schools – and not just the relatively small number reached previously by this work.

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“Northumberland has been ranked as one of the top five councils in the country for tackling anti-LGBT bullying and celebrating difference, and it is widely recognised that a great deal of work takes place within our schools to address discrimination in all of its forms.

“Our schools also have to meet a number of new requirements, including the Ofsted framework due this September, which places a high importance on challenging all forms of discrimination.

“The council does not fund any other specific type of anti-discriminatory work in schools – rather a wide range of issues are being tackled by teachers and voluntary organisations.

“We work with Northumbria Police and other partners to ensure robust messages about the impact of involvement in any form of hate crime are available free of charge to any school.

“A large number of our schools already access training from a number of high-quality providers, and those who value Show Racism the Red Card work will still be able to book them directly.

“Our decision is in line with that of a number of other councils in the region and this attack on Northumberland by those representing the charity is completely inappropriate and disproportionate.

“We are extremely disappointed that having met and spoken to representatives of Show Racism the Red Card on a number of occasions and explained the reasons behind the decision, this campaign continues.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service