I was incredibly proud when I learned that Stonewall had named Newcastle City Council its number one employer in the Top 100 Workplace Equality Index. Remarkably, this is the first time any local authority has received this fantastic accolade.
The award is testament to years of dedicated work, integrating our council values – proud, fair and ambitious – into every part of our organisational culture. As civic leaders in Newcastle, it doesn’t stop with us; we are pleased to say that our values are embedding into every community in our great city.
On a practical level, we have worked closely with our LGBT Staff Network to look at our policies, workplace environment and how we engage with the residents of Newcastle, to ensure we are welcoming and inclusive. The work of the LGBT Staff Network has led to positive improvements in our recruitment process and changes to our internal communications.
The positive impact of this group has been felt by all 5,000 of our staff and the wider community. It has delivered an informative reverse-mentoring scheme to senior leaders, which has helped them increase their understanding of staff, and continues to provide important feedback to the council on issues of inclusion. Their independent, confidential support to LGBT staff has been beneficial for the health and wellbeing of colleagues, and helped them feel welcomed and accepted in our workplace. It is my passionate belief that each and every Newcastle City Council employee should feel this way. A person is able to be at their best when they can truly be themselves.
“A person is able to be at their best when they can truly be themselves”
We continue to lead the way for support for trans staff, service users and our communities, and have worked closely with local trans organisations to raise awareness of experiences in Newcastle. Building on our strong history of partnership work, we joined the NHS and other regional bodies to host a ground-breaking conference in November 2019, the focus of which was to develop an improved understanding of the needs of trans people and local communities.
The LGBT staff and council continue to grow a strong network of allies across the city, which has led to a wide range of community engagement and activities. This included a ‘7 Days of Pride’ campaign in the run-up to Newcastle Pride, and highlighting events such as Bi Visibility Day, the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, and Trans Day of Remembrance.
One of the greatest strengths of the council’s LGBT Staff Network is its ability to transcend LGBT communities in the city and bring together LGBT people of faith, members of the BME community and LGBT people with disabilities. The input, individual lived experiences and support from each group is essential in building the city-wide profile of the community.
This year, I am thrilled that Newcastle will host UK Pride, the perfect celebration to mark this outstanding achievement. Every year, we welcome Pride with open arms, its vibrant, rainbow colours bathe the city and the festival is a true celebration of the safe, welcoming place I am proud to call home.
The recognition from Stonewall is a quality mark of how our values – proud, fair and ambitious – have shaped the culture of not only our organisation, but the whole of Newcastle.