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Wednesday, July 28, 1999 Published at 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK

UK Politics

Ethnic targets for public services

Just 0.8% of firefighters come from ethnic minorities

Home Secretary Jack Straw has set new targets for the recruitment of ethnic minority staff across among organisations controlled by his department.

Geeta Guru-Murthy reports: "Promotion on merit remains essential"
Mr Straw said he expected 7% of all staff overall to be drawn from the ethnic minorities within 10 years.

But local services should reflect the make-up of the area they cover.

The new targets will mean the fire service will have to recruit more than 3,000 firefighters from ethnic minorities.

[ image:  ]
The prison, probation and immigration services will also have to take steps to ensure the number of black and Asian staff reflect the ethnic make-up of the general population in England and Wales.

The number of ethnic minority prison service staff will have to more than double from the current 3.2%.

Around 7% of immigration staff and nearly 9% of probation staff are already drawn from ethnic minorities.

The targets also cover senior Home Office civil service staff where ethnic minority representation is to rise from 1.6% to 3.2% by 2004.

The home secretary has insisted the figures are targets not quotas.

[ image: Jack Straw:
Jack Straw: "Targets give managers a goal to aim at "
He said: "I believe targets give managers a goal to aim at and something the organisation can measure its progress against.

"Targets help focus the mind and ensure strategies are developed within which milestones can be set and progress monitored.

"Only by clearly demonstrating that the civil service is modernising and that the public sector is getting its own house in order, can we convince people that we mean what we say."

Guidelines covering the retention and promotion of ethnic minority staff, to ensure that organisations address potential discrimination throughout their selection procedures, will also be introduced.

'Atrocious stories'

Jeff Ord, of the Chief Fire Officers' Association, said: "I would have to be naive to say there isn't a degree of institutionalised racism in the fire service."

He said there were "some atrocious stories" about the treatment of ethnic minority staff, adding: "I do hope they are diminishing, but I would be foolish to say it doesn't exist."

Police forces have already been ordered to bring the number of black and Asian officers into line with the make-up of the general population, around 7% of whom come from ethnic minorities.

And the Metropolitan Police, which covers an area where 20% of people are from ethnic minorities, has been ordered to ensure that the racial mix of its officers reflects that.

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