Telegraph (London), November 22, 2013
A councillor has caused a race row after saying that two councils set to merge together will not work because one is staffed by black workers and the other white workers.
Cllr Jeffrey Tucker, the leader of the Independent Resident’s Group on Havering Council in east London, said the proposed merger between back office staff from Havering and neighbouring Newham Council was a bad idea.
Cllr Tucker said 95 per cent of workers at Havering Council were white, while 95 per cent of workers at Newham Council were “not white English”.
He said workers at his council would find it “awkward and uncomfortable” to work with black colleagues if the merger goes ahead as part of a cost-saving plan to combine payroll, HR and recruitment offices.
Cllr Tucker said it would be like putting “An African team and an English team together”–saying it was such a bad idea that he was “losing sleep over it”.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting of Havering Council, Cllr Tucker said: “I think it’s a terrible idea–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 95 per cent 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 added: “The ethnic change will be too quick for us to absorb and get used to. We need a bit more time.
“It’s going to make it very difficult, awkward and uncomfortable for both sides and I think it’s too soon.”
He said Havering Council workers would feel like they were “being pushed in at the deep end” at being forced to work with Newham Council staff, the Romford Recorder reported.
Andrew Boff, the London Assembly’s Conservative group leader, said he was “dumbstruck” by the remarks and said Cllr Tucker should be given some diversity training immediately.
He said: “There’s an inference that people of African origin can’t get on with people who are ethnically white
“That’s deeply offensive (and) 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 also said Newham was full of ‘filthy streets’ and ‘unwashed windows’.
He said: “You walk round the streets of Havering and we have clean streets, good shops, good housing stock and a well-run council.
“But Newham’s streets aren’t clean like our streets. Their shops are open all hours with no control.
“Our residents understand we have to take our curtains down and wash our windows, but go around Newham and look at some of their curtains and they’re stuck to the windows.
“You look at the streets and they are filthy. You look at the shops and they aren’t clean like our shops.
“We are putting our well-run council at risk.”
Roger Reid, 43, of Newham, said the councillor should be sacked immediately.
He said: “How can someone who is meant to be in a position of responsibility have such outdated views?
“This man needs more than diversity training, he needs to start looking at how the world has progressed over the past 100 years.
“We are not living in the 19th century, which is where this man belongs.”
Leader of Havering Council Cllr Michael White said he was “absolutely horrified” by Cllr Tucker’s remarks and has reported him to the Standards Board.
He said in a statement: “I can’t believe that a councillor in Havering could make such offensive and wrong-headed statements.
“Havering is home to people of all backgrounds and the staff at the Council reflect the community they serve.
“There will be a great many angry and offended people across Havering today–including the overwhelming majority of white residents who don’t share Councillor Tucker’s disturbing viewpoint.
“I have referred Councillor Tucker to the Standards Board, as I believe his statements bring this council into disrepute.
“I will also be speaking to the Mayor of Newham, to assure him that Councillor Tucker’s views are in no way representative of the staff or elected Members of Havering Council.”
Cllr Tucker, however, said he comments weren’t really offensive, adding: “This isn’t about race at all–I just think Havering isn’t ready for the level of diversity already present in Newham–that’s all.
“Havering has a mass white English staff and residents, this is not the case in Newham Borough and of course it’s going to cause problems.
“I’m not a racist, I have good friends that are black and anyone that knows me knows I’m not like that.
“We have the only black Havering councillor and I represent one of the most racially diverse wards in the Borough.
“As a councillor I try to do my best at all times to represent the views of my residents, and they feel things are being allowed to change too quickly, you have to give people time to get used to different cultures.”
According to 2011 census data, Havering’s population is 83 per cent white British and Newham’s is 17 per cent white British.