Newham Council apologises after consultation branded racist

East Ham Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears

East Ham Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Newham Council has apologised after parts of a consultation exploring ways to tackle air pollution were branded “racist” by campaigners.

Its local implementation plan (LIP) included paragraphs about reducing car use and singled out minority communities.

The draft document stated that the borough faced "some cultural issues about status, betterment and the car being seen as a universal symbol of success amongst some minority communities".

It added that the council would work with TfL and target places of worship to "systematically unpick this perceived relationship between car ownership and it being a symbol of success".

In a statement, Newham Labour African Caribbean Network said: "To target, demonise and label unspecified ethnic groups is disgusting. If there is found to be a disproportionate use of cars by any particular group then the reasons for this should be thoroughly explored and considered rather than publishing insulting, negative comments portraying the diverse communities of Newham as uneducated, unaware, superficial, ignorant and uncaring."

Air pollution is linked to seven in every 100 deaths of people aged 30 and over in the borough — one of the highest rates in the country, according to Public Health England.

The consultation closed on April 10 but the document remained on the council website.

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It was taken down this week following complaints and the references to minority communities removed from the final document, the council said.

A spokesman added: "It is clear that we face challenges in delivering changes to our transport behaviour across all of our communities in Newham - and the council acknowledges that it was wrong to imply that any single part of the community presents a particular challenge. We would like to apologise unreservedly for any offence caused and look forward to working with all our residents to achieve our shared objectives for improving the borough, and in particular our air quality and the health of our residents.

"The mayor has asked the chief executive to look into why this happened, why the wording was used, why the document was left on the website for such a lengthy period after the consultation had expired and to ensure this does not happen again."