'Black and white council staff won't be able to work together' says Rainham councillor as Havering and Newham councils to merge services
PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 November 2013 | UPDATED: 10:31 22 November 2013
White council officers will find it "awkward and uncomfortable" to work with black colleagues if a back-office merger with Newham goes ahead, a Rainham councillor has alleged.
His comments have been branded “dangerous” and “extraordinarily offensive” by a London Assembly member.
Cllr Jeffrey Tucker, who leads the Independent Residents’ Group (IRG) that contains Havering’s only black councillor, said combining the boroughs’ back office services would be like putting “an African team and an English team” together.
He added he was losing sleep over the issue.
“I think it’s a terrible idea,” he said. “I can’t see the two councils being able to work together.
“We’ve got 95 per cent white English workers in Havering Council and Newham Council is 95pc not white English.
“It would be like putting two football teams together – an African team and an English team – and saying: ‘Get on and work together’.”
He said working with Newham Council officers would be like being “pushed in at the deep end” for Havering’s workforce.
Andrew Boff, the London Assembly’s Conservative group leader, said he was “dumbstruck” by the remarks.
“There’s an inference that people of African origin can’t get on with people who are ethnically white,” said Mr Boff. “That’s deeply offensive.
“I can’t understand why in 2013 this councillor seems to think that an attitude that separates people because of race is OK.
“Havering is getting more diverse, and he needs to buck up his ideas. His comments must be terribly offensive to people in his ward with African heritage.”
Cllr Tucker has represented Rainham and Wennington since 2002, and in 2010 won his seat by the biggest majority in the borough.
The ward’s population is 16pc non-white, according to the 2011 census, making it one of the most diverse in Havering.
Mr Boff called for Havering Council to step in and offer Cllr Tucker some diversity awareness training.