The change that must happen


At a packed hall at Goldsmith’s college, Lewisham’s first directly elected Mayor Sir Steve Bullock (pictured above) told the audience that the business case for a scheme that nurtures BME civic talent is overwhelming.

He was speaking at the launch of the borough's collaboration with Operation Black Vote that seeks to ensure that local civic bodies are inclusive and representative. ‘In a multicultural borough such as ours, when I walk into the chamber and see so few BME faces I know that it isn’t right. This scheme will help address that deficit’. He also highlighted the fact that the borough has 94 schools in the area, which need much more BME governance.

OBV’s Simon Woolley stated "When we ran this project last year a deluge of talent, hitherto unseen, came forward. Graduates from that programme are now playing their role on education boards, police panels, and in the voluntary sector. Local people have made this a blue print for success".

Local MPs Heidi Alexander and Joan Ruddock were also supporting the initiative. Both spoke about the need to  break through the glass ceiling and also to put ourselves forward rather than wait to be asked. Two former participants, Jenni Steele and Mike Lewis, both spoke about what they had gained from being on the scheme and how it equipped them with the skills and knowledge to make sure that they are playing an active role in Lewisham’s civic society. They also encouraged anyone who was thinking about getting involved to do so.

The aim of the scheme is to nurture Lewisham’s future leaders and ensure that the BME voice is heard within the borough. If you want to make a difference in your borough, then this scheme is for you. We’re looking for 40 enthusiastic BME individuals, aged 18 and above to gain an insight into up to five areas of public life covering Education, Health, Politics, the Criminal Justice System and the Voluntary and Community sector.

To find out more or to request an application pack please contact or 0208 983 5426. Alternatively you can download the application form and programme outline.

Deadline for completed application is Monday 28th February 2011 at 5pm.

Archived Comments

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Lack of BME represent

The words of both the Mayor and MP's of Lewisham in their capacity as politicians are just a waste of space on this website. How can black people break the glass ceiling when those in power are white and constantly support their own ?

During the last election why was the majority of Labour candidates white middle class ?

Why was an excellent black candidate pushed aside for Heidi Alexander ?

Why is it that black managers are losing their jobs at Lewisham Council to be replaced by white managers ?

Recently Joan Ruddock MP said at the site of the New Cross fire. Back in 1981 - those were racist times. Yes they were under a Labour run administration.

What has changed ?

Fed up of hearing speeches, been hearing this talk for 20 years. Show me some action.

The change that must happen


"Why is it that black managers are losing their jobs at Lewisham Council to be replaced by white managers ?"

Very interesting question. I remember something similar happening at Lambeth too in the 1990s. After the race riots in the 1980s, a lot of small black businesses were set up. The Brixton Enterprise Centre opposite Brixton Post Office was a noteable one.

Out of the blue from no where, these businesses began to fold up one after the other when - if my memory serves me right - their rent was put up, and most of the businesses folded. To crown it all, the building - which I believe was government owned - was sold to a private company. That was the nail in the coffin for almost what was left of these new business enterprises.

Within the management section of the Lambeth Council itself, the complexion of the management team began to change from non-whites to whites amidst sackings and redundancies.

"What has changed ?"

Nothing. With the last very racist New Labour government, racism was re-introduced into society again in its full valour. New Labour - the condencending and disrespectful government - was one of the worse things to ever happen to race relations in this country.

" Fed up of hearing speeches, been hearing this talk for 20 years. Show me some action."

I second that. Sadly, I have been hearing these condencending speeches for a bit longer than 20 years; still no change.


I would like to just say, that it is not what or who you know, it is what you have done and are still doing that counts. I have witnessed and supported Jenni Steele build on community cohesion and inspire many over the last two years. Anyone who is considering who to vote for in the bi-election in bellingham SE6, must look at the tract record of community work done by each candidate on a local grassroots level. You will find that Jenni has delivered and developed empowerment across genders, cultures, ages and abilities. She has worked to build a stronger safety neighbourhood team in Bellingham and has linked many women young people and families with services the support positive growth. Imagine what she will do politically!!! Change is here, right now! Just be true and support it by letting everyone know that it is time. Well done Jenni Steele and thank you!!

Civic Leadership Programme

Will this be run for 2013?

Reply to Efua from OBV

Dear Efua,

Thank you very much for your comments. We will be running the programme in the West Midlands in 2013. Details of the application will be on the website from next week.

Kind regards,

Francine Fernandes
Assistant Director, OBV