Council meeting engulfed by racism row after shock allegation by Batley man

The leader of Kirklees Council has been urged to tackle institutional racism within the authority, which has been described as “rife”.

Friday, 19th November 2021, 12:30 pm
Azeem Rafiq exposed racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club. Photo: Getty Images

The shock allegation came from Batley man Hasan Badat, who said the authority had not acted on concerns that he raised in 2018.

And in a direct reference to cricketer Azeem Rafiq, who exposed racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Mr Badat said: “What’s happening in Kirklees Council is ten times worse than what’s happening in Yorkshire County Cricket Club.”

That accusation was rejected by the council leader, Shabir Pandor.

The meeting had to be paused following a separate deputation by Aziz Daji, who, in a passionate address, accused senior councillors of a lack of action over the poor state of roads in Batley Carr.

The community leader accused Coun Pandor and cabinet member Naheed Mather of making excuses and that their responses lacked accountability.

Speaking to a packed meeting of full council at Huddersfield Town Hall earlier this week, Mr Badat said: “The impact is [that] it can cause people to think about taking their lives.

“It can cause suicide. Please, for goodness sake, start listening.”

Mr Badat was returning to council almost three years after he presented a deputation in regards to the council’s inclusion and diversity strategy.

He said he had asked for training for officers and elected members “to find out exactly what [institutional racism] means”.

He added: “I’m convinced most of the people don’t. I said that loudly at the last meeting. In terms of evidence I have observed in my time I still don’t think that’s happened.

“I asked for lots of things to happen and I didn’t really have any comeback

“What I have witnessed and observed markedly is a continuation of institutional racism. It’s been rife.

“It should be ringing absolute alarm bells with Kirklees Council because what’s happening in Kirklees Council is ten times worse than what’s happening in Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

“What are you doing about it? I can evidence this.

"To me, there seems to be nothing happening. And the community, especially the minority communities, are suffering.”

Mr Badat said there were emails indicating “suicidal thoughts” from people being handled by the council and that urgent action was needed.

He said Coun Pandor was aware of the emails.

In response Coun Pandor said the council had done a lot of work around inclusion and diversity in recent years, and particularly since the international impact caused by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020,

He revealed that work – including building BAME networks and creating an inclusion commission – had been recognised with awards and that the authority’s report on inclusion and diversity would be unveiled in the new year.

He suggested Mr Badat was being “unreasonable” in focusing on one aspect of a broader issue.

Coun Pandor said: “We have to take responsbility as a council and as community representatives because there is a spiral of hatred that is developing not just here but nationally and internationally.

“We in Kirklees Council are hitting the issues head-on. We will not hide and we will not pass our responsibilities on to anybody else.

“But we have to temper what we say, not just as councillors but both as community representatives.

“We have moved a long way. There’s a long way to go but I think you’re being unreasonable in just talking about one particular issue. It’s a broad issue.”

The meeting of full council was paused by the Mayor, Coun Nigel Patrick, following a bad-tempered exchange with Mr Daji in which passions ran high.

Coun Pandor rejected accusations of a lack of accountability and said he was disappointed that Mr Daji had sought to “pick on” Asian female councillors.

Mr Daji described that as “emotional blackmail”.

At that point the meeting was suspended.

Speaking after the meeting Coun Pandor said: “We are under no illusions about the challenges of racism and inequality in our society. That’s why our programme for the borough is built around inclusion.

“We want to make sure that we deliver a recovery that leaves no one behind and that everyone can benefit from the borough’s success.

"We want our services to be accessible and effective for everyone and we want Kirklees Council to be an exemplary employer that reflects our diversity.

“We need to continue to work hard on all those issues and will take seriously any instances where we fall short of our high ambitions.

“I look forward to bringing the council’s inclusion and diversity strategy and annual report to the January’s council meeting where we can debate the issues and take another step towards making Kirklees a more inclusive place.”