Lambeth Council managers and staff will undergo diversity awareness and unconscious bias training – but the council has denied claims of institutional racism. 

An anonymous letter was sent to all councillors in August from a group which called itself the Black Workers group.

The letter, published in full on blog News From Crystal Palace, described a “rising tide of hatred in numerous ways and at every level of the council” toward black staff members.

The letter, which has also been reported in The Guardian, describes differential treatment for white and black staff, with a shortage of black managers at the council.

“Segregation, racist comments and slurs, inequality of access to jobs, inequality of access to flexible working, unequal pay, misuse of policies to target us are commonplace in our working lives,” the letter alleges.

But a Lambeth Council spokesperson said the council takes any allegations of racism extremely seriously.

They said deputy leaders of the council Cllr Jenny Braithwaite and Cllr Jack Hopkins responded to the allegations and urged staff to use the formal channels for complaint.

“Since then, Cllr Brathwaite and Cllr Sonia Winifred, cabinet member for culture and equalities, have met with a member of staff from Unison [the worker’s union] about the claims, and have agreed to meet with the Black Workers group to listen to their concerns.

“It is disappointing to see these claims aired in the media when they have yet to be formally raised with the council,” the spokesperson said.

The council employs higher levels of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff compared to its residents profile, they said, although there was “much more to do to improve the diversity of our workplace, particularly at senior levels.”

 “To address this, the council is taking a series of measures to improve development and progression for BAME staff and starting diversity awareness and unconscious bias training for managers and staff.”

The council had also established a leadership programme for BAME staff, and diversity forums for staff to share equality and inclusion issues.

 “While there is still much more to do, we are confident that the processes are in place to ensure that we have a diverse workforce that represents our diverse borough and one in which all members of staff feel equally valued and able to take advantage of the opportunities that the council has to offer,” they said.