West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has welcomed a letter from young leaders urging it to continue to fight racism.
Members of the Young Combined Authority (YCA) wrote to the WMCA’s chief executive calling on the authority to keep structural racism and disadvantage high on the region’s agenda.
They were invited to read the letter to WMCA Board at its meeting on 24 July 2020, bringing their challenge directly to the leading officers and political leaders in the West Midlands.
Olivia Agbe YCA member who spoke at WMCA Board meeting
Formed in 2019, the YCA is a diverse board of young people from across the region. It plays an important role representing the voice of 16 to 25-year-olds in the region, which has one of the youngest populations in the country.
The letter follows on from the YCA’s commitment in June to promote Black Lives Matter and asks the Combined Authority to work with other decision makers to tackle racism and inequality.
Cllr Brigid Jones, deputy leader of Birmingham City Council and WMCA portfolio holder for inclusive communities, who introduced the YCA members at the Board meeting, said: “We continue to welcome the challenge provided by the Young Combined Authority. It is the duty of any public or private body who does not represent this makeup of this area to ask why, to ask what we can do to address that, and to ask what we can do to hear the voices that are not around this table to inform what we do.”
In the open letter the YCA calls on positive action to be used so local leaders represent the region’s diversity. They also want local leaders to learn more about the causes of, and effects of, structural racism on people. The YCA use their letter to call for inequalities in health and education to be addressed, especially following the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on black and other minority ethnic communities.
WMCA chief executive Deborah Cadman said: “I would like to thank the Young Combined Authority for writing such a powerful and thoughtful letter and presenting it to WMCA Board today, it was important for us to hear.
“The YCA have highlighted the need to take action, and the WMCA looks forward to working with our young leaders to make this happen. We are prepared to be bold, prepared to feel uncomfortable and prepared to be held to account.”
The letter was read to the WMCA Board by Young Combined Authority members Eman Mowatt and Olivia Agbe. Eman Mowatt said: “We are pleased we had the opportunity to put forward our views to the WMCA board and reiterate our views on standing in solidarity against racism and inequality. It is something that needs to be addressed now and for the future of the West Midlands. When you say you stand in solidarity, you actually need to do something about it.”
The creation of the Young Combined Authority was a key recommendation within the West Midlands Leadership Commission’s 2018 report, ‘Leaders Like You.’ The Commission is refreshing its activity to reflect recent events and context, and the Combined Authority is developing measures to improve diversity, equality and inclusion outcomes across the organisation and its work.