Race Equality Matters is pleased to announce that Northumberland County Council have been awarded Bronze Trailblazer status!

Northumberland County Council has been recognised and celebrated as an organisation that is committed to achieving racial equality in the workplace. 100% of judges stated that the council had demonstrated an inclusive and positive work culture and had taken positive actions to tackle racial inequality. The judges noted in particular the wide range of actions taken by the council, much of which were driven by its strong staff network, to improve policies, behaviours and activities of the organisation. They also welcomed the clear and detailed pathway the council had developed to build on their current successes. Consequently, 100% of judges considered Northumberland County Council the type of organisation they would like to work for.

Their clear determination, sustained action, impact and commitment makes them a trailblazer for change.


Actions and Initiatives

Race Equality Network

Northumberland County Council have taken considerable steps towards optimising the inclusivity of their staff diversity network. The network name was changed from BAME to Race Equality Network (REN) with Allies in 2021 to optimise inclusion, while two executive directors were appointed as sponsors of the network to help drive decisions and objectives. Allyship has been a key part of the network reorganisation, as a signal that effective race equality action needs everyone to work together to solve the challenges racial inequality presents. 

They hold regular REN and Allies meetings to discuss issues impacting ethnically diverse staff and hold monthly REN ‘cuppa catch-ups’ as an informal setting for open and inclusive conversation. Moreover, the REN collaborates with other staff networks on a range of initiatives, while intersectionality of Chairs is enacted. To ensure effectiveness of the REN, the network has started to develop an internal REN strategy, with mission statement, values, vision and objectives to align with the policies and values of the whole organisation. The network also works closely with EDI stakeholders and policy makers to ensure REN concerns feed directly into policy and review processes in the organisation. 

Data Driven Action

Northumberland County Council use data to drive their action in the organisation and ensure effective practices in support of colleagues who are more vulnerable because of their ethnicity. For instance, ethnically diverse staff were prioritised for Covid-19 vaccinations, as they were identified as a higher risk group. They are also using data to support initiatives such as ethnicity pay gap reporting, by ensuring better quality data on ethnicity and pay is recorded and reviewed. More intuitive dashboards for data and feedback have also been established, so that data collected can be better utilised in tackling issues such as the ethnic pay gap in a similar way to initiatives such as gender pay gap reporting. 

Safe Spaces

Northumberland County Council have created a Safe Space for ethnically diverse staff to discuss the organisation’s inclusive agenda and to capture varied perspectives from those colleagues and allies. Anonymous feedback forms are provided from every meeting to gauge staff responses and identify areas of improvement. The organisation offers specific support for those to reach out to the Co-Chairs together or separately to ensure staff are able to raise any concerns they felt needed to be disclosed and to ensure the Co-Chairs are approachable to those in need. This has been successful: the co-chairs have been approached by members of the network and wider staff to discuss topical news stories and incidents, such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Black Lives Matter. The information in these feedback forms are collated and used to inform the organisation’s data driven approach.


Impact and Ethnically-diverse Staff Endorsement 

  • REN membership and attendance at REN meetings has grown significantly and REN is now included in all policy changes/amendments and new policies. 
  • Feedback has shown a significant increase in understanding from non-ethnically diverse staff, while all employees have indicated that they feel there are multiple ways for them to voice their opinions and also concerns/experiences. This has resulted in greater confidence to talk about diversity.
  • Staff and Comms are hugely more inclusive and relate to support inclusivity in diversity and events (I.e. awareness of religious events, cultural events, and general cultural differences and perspectives).
  • Recruitment processes have become more diversity friendly and greater value has been placed on diversity in the organisation.
  • Signatures are changing on emails across the organisation making a great difference. This includes various presentation standards which include #MyNameIs on introduction slides.
  • Ethnicity Pay Gap reporting has improved, allowing for greater action and accountability to be taken to tackle the issue, as data is being better recorded.


Feedback from an Ethnically Diverse Panel

Northumberland County Council’s Trailblazer application was considered by judges to be comprehensive, covering multiple aspects of activity, and importantly, the impact of that activity. The application evidenced the motivation and determination of the organisation to take matters of racial equality seriously and showcased a good range of activities to tackle racial inequality. 


One judge commented that the organisation was ‘covering a wide area to ensure that race equality was embedded within the organisation’ utilising innovative approaches that have been clearly impactful and highly endorsed by ethnically diverse employees. Moreover, engaged senior leadership was also seen as a particular strength of the application.


Next steps…

Moving forward, Northumberland County Council seeks to (among other actions):

  • Apply for Silver Trailblazer Status
  • Secure more diversity in their processes, events and courses.
  • Continue with efforts towards ethnicity pay gap reporting.
  • Make it easier to disclose negative experiences while employed and in exit interviews.
  • Continue to grow the Race Equality Network.
  • Use more intuitive dashboards to improve data capture and analysis.
  • Find new ways to spread awareness, specifically in relation to uncomfortable topics and conversations. 
  • Introduce businesses to their meetings to spread awareness of the importance of their Race Equality Network, their organisation and why racial equality is important to for other organisations. 


Follow Northumberland County Council’s Lead: Become a Trailblazer


If your organisation is driving change for race equality and you can demonstrate impact, endorsement from ethnically diverse employees and share future plans; register your interest for the next round of trailblazers. 

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