A councillor spoke movingly about the “scars” left by racism as he called for more focus on tackling inequality.

Cllr Arjun Mittra urged the council to make Black Lives Matter and the impact of Covid-19 on BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities a central part of Barnet’s recovery from the pandemic.

The death of George Floyd in the US has sparked worldwide demonstrations against racial injustice, with many people rallying in support of Black Lives Matter – a movement that campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards black people.

A recent report by Public Health England showing Covid-19 has had a disproportionate impact on BAME communities has led to further calls to tackle racial inequality.

At a meeting of the policy and resources committee on Wednesday (June 17), Cllr Mittra (Labour, East Finchley) called on Barnet Council to respond to these issues.

Cllr Mittra said: “I really remember a lot of the racist abuse I have taken over my life. I think I remember the first time I was called the P word. It’s painful, it really is painful.

“Every time it happens it’s a scar and really leaves a mark.

“I’m quite honoured to table this member’s item, because it’s something I feel very passionately about, and I’ve always tried to speak out on the issue of racism wherever it’s been and wherever I’ve found it.

“I hope members of this committee and the whole council will think the motion I have tabled is inclusive and designed to promote unity and is one that can be supported cross party.”

Cllr Mittra called for the council to seek the views of Barnet’s BAME communities on the issues arising from the Black Lives Matter protests and the Public Health England report.

He also requested that the council’s recovery plan include dealing with structural inequality arising from the report and the pandemic.

Any racism or inequality found by the review of the report or the consultation with BAME communities should be addressed in the council’s equalities policy and action plan, he added.

In response, council leader Cllr Dan Thomas (Conservative, Finchley Church End) suggested using the network of organisations the council already works with to seek the views of those in BAME communities.

He said the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities should be given a separate workstream in the borough’s plan to recover from the pandemic.

And he agreed for Cllr Mittra’s further point – to consider how to support BAME staff already at work and those returning to work – to be discussed at a future meeting of the committee following virtual meetings with employees.

Cllr Mittra said he was happy with the council leader’s response.

A separate briefing by the council issued in response to the Public Health England report outlined the work it has already been doing to tackle health inequalities.

This includes working to combat conditions such as diabetes, which affect the BAME community disproportionately and could increase the risk of death from Covid-19.