Understanding and improving Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion in the local government workforce across the UK, 2023: A spotlight on data collection and good practice

This research helped to address the importance of equality, diversity, and inclusion in local government. This was a follow up to the 2022 report which looked at the 152 upper tier authorities in England. The 2023 report widened the scope to include the district councils of England, as well as looking at the Scottish and Welsh unitary authorities, analysing a total of 371 councils.

Workforce diversity is crucial in an organisation that is fair and that provides services catering to the population’s needs. Actively mitigating unconscious bias in recruitment promotes equal opportunities and widens talent pools. A diverse workforce brings varied ideas, skills, and perspectives, and enhances decision-making, productivity, understanding of community needs, and creativity. Ensuring diversity at all levels improves retention and boosts morale and engagement.

The Equality Act 2010, which covers all four nations of the United Kingdom, mandates councils to prevent discrimination and harassment and consider individuals’ protected characteristics. In England, Scotland, and Wales, the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) requires public authorities to eliminate discrimination, advance equality, and foster good relations. It also focuses on reducing disadvantages, addressing unique needs, and increasing participation. The PSED requires all councils to disclose information about their employees and individuals affected by their policies and practices – as of yet, Northern Ireland does not have a duty to do this.

This research was commissioned by Solace and funded by Solace in Business and expanded on the 2022 report. The analysis consisted of a comprehensive exploration into the extent to which workforce ethnicity data and pay data is being published by councils of the UK, and whether councils’ workforce compositions are reflective of their local demographics. Furthermore, the research included an insightful series of five case studies, delving into Cheshire West and Chester Council, Leeds City Council, Sutton Council, Bristol City Council, and one on Northern Ireland. The purpose of the case studies was to highlight positive examples of where they have made progress on their EDI journey.

This research yielded several key findings. Since the 2022 report, 65% (100 councils) of upper tier councils in England made significant strides in publishing new workforce data since the last report. Underscoring their commitment to transparency and statutory obligations. Additionally, compared to last year, data completeness among upper tier councils improved, with a 3% increase to 59% (90 councils). It is noteworthy that the analysis found that upper tier councils publish more complete data compared to district councils, with 37% of districts publishing complete data. Regional disparities were also found with London presenting the most comprehensive workforce ethnicity data and the South West publishing the least complete data. Scotland and Wales stood out for their high rates of data publication, with 100% of councils in both regions publishing either complete or partial workforce ethnicity data, demonstrating the highest rates of workforce ethnicity data publication.

A key part of the research was the analysis of the representation of local government workforces. This analysis aimed to estimate the overall ethnic minority representation percentage within the local government workforce based on regions. As census data for Scotland was not available at the time of the analysis, the analysis focused on the 251 councils in England and Wales that had workforce ethnicity data available. The average ethnic minority percentage was worked out by creating a weighting that was applied to each of the councils to then calculate the average percentage for ethnic minority representation in local government by region. The analysis made it evident that ethnic minorities are consistently underrepresented in the workforces across all of the regions of England and Wales.

Regarding ethnicity pay data, this is not a statutory requirement, therefore, councils provide this data voluntarily. 39% (144 councils) of all councils reported some ethnicity pay information, with 72% (23 councils) of Scottish councils, 36% (116 councils) of English councils, and 23% (5 councils) of Welsh councils reporting it. Notably 34% of upper tier councils introduced new ethnicity pay information in the last year. When analysing ethnic minority representation in leadership roles, it became evident that due to the absence of a standardised reporting process and the voluntary nature of such reporting, this activity remains challenging. Despite this, existing literature suggests that underrepresentation of ethnic minorities in leadership positions in local government is prevalent, highlighting that it is a pervasive issue.

This research underscores that while instances of best practice exist, there is substantial room for improvement among many councils in the United Kingdom. Publishing data regarding ethnicity workforce and pay, and being representational of local demographics is a fundamental step in promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion in local government. This serves to cultivate a public sector that is not only more just, but also more representative of the broader population it serves.

Our report can be found on the Solace website, if you wish to learn more about this research or explore ways in which we can assist in advancing your organisations journey pertaining to EDI, lisa.mccance@sharedintelligence.net would love to hear from you.

Couldn't connect with Twitter

Subscribe to our mailing list

    Follow us

    Follow us