OXFORDSHIRE should become a truly anti-racist county: that is the pledge made by local politicians.

The county's councillors pledged to make Oxfordshire anti-racist as they met on Tuesday (September 8).

The pledge, brought to the council for debate by Labour's Deborah McIlveen, also stated the council would work with and 'listen to people experiencing racism'; develop 'an anti-racist strategy for employment, service delivery and participation'; and 'work with local authorities, public bodies, employers, trade unions and community groups and any other stakeholders to achieve this'.

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No councillors voted against the motion, though 10 abstained, meaning that the pledge was passed by a majority of 51.

Context given for bringing the motion includes the Black Lives Matter protests held over the summer, and the disproportionate affect that Covid 19 has had on BAME communities.

There was a long and varied debate ahead of the vote, which began with the council's Conservative deputy leader Judith Heathcoat.

She outlined some of the work which Oxfordshire County Council had already done to prevent racism, including a series of equalities action plans over the last 20 years, and council wide policies to improve equality, the newest of which began in 2018.

Ms Heathcoat added: "We take very seriously our obligations to equality, diversity and inclusion."

Speaking in support of the motion, Lib Dem councillor Richard Webber said: "Although Councillor Heathcoat has underlined what the council is already doing, I think it is fair to say you can never do enough."

Independent cabinet member Mark Gray said the council could use its 'leadership role' to promote an anti-racist stance in the county.

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Labour's Emma Turnbull said: "This sends a powerful message that Black Lives Matter... and we are committed to diversifying our organisation."

However, a small minority of councillors were unhappy with the motion.

Independent councillor Pete Handley said he was offended by the wording of the pledge as he felt it did not take into account work the council had already done, and added: "Racism is not a problem in the Oxfordshire I know."

Meanwhile, Conservative councillor Nick Carter said the motion was a 'classic example of woke virtue signalling' and that the 'law of the land' already ensured Oxfordshire was anti-racist.