Soho’s council reaches out to gay community

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The City of Westminster council has announced new measures to ensure members of the LGBT community in the London borough are properly catered for.

The council will undertake a period of consultation over the remainder of the summer, before producing a new engagement strategy in December 2007.

This will include priorities for action, identified by the communities themselves.

As part of this initiative, the council has also joined the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme which is designed to focus employers’ attention on the recruitment and retention of gay and lesbian staff.

It allows employers to promote diversity in the work place for gay and lesbians who face discrimination and for those who are unable to disclose their sexual orientation due to negativity and harassment.

As part of Wesminster’s new diversity strategy, the council is also commissioning a needs assessment for Muslim community organisations and will be working to deliver targeted training to local groups.

The aim is to strengthen relationships by supporting local leaders so they can work with the council to tackle a range of issues.

The Leader of the Council, Sir Simon Milton, told

“We promised to reach out more to our communities and this is what we are doing.

“This is One City in action, building strong communities that we support by delivering excellent council services.

“We will enhance community relations, encourage active citizens, unite neighbourhoods and understand diverse needs whilst promoting common aspirations.”

For the Muslim and Black Christian communities in Westminster, the council will not only try and engage with those groups that are already known to it, but will also seek out new and “hidden” groups.

As part of an increased awareness of Westminster’s LGBT community, the Council formally adopted the Soho Action Plan in June this year.

The Plan aims to re-vamp London’s Soho district, in particular by supporting the 10% of the district’s residents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

The council budgeted £17, 500 to investigate LGBT community facilities as a focus for community action, health and social care, social enterprise, exhibition space and research and to look into providing a London-wide LGBT centre in Soho.

It will work with LGBT community organisations to improve the reporting and case management of LGBT hate crimes and to support and assist initiatives to address homophobia (including aggressive behaviour, mocking and harassment) and eliminate the targeting of Soho for such activity.

It also intends to investigate the provision of a licensed LGBT friendly cab service and work with gay businesses to address their needs and issues, and encourage a greater range of gay economic and community activities.

The Council is committed to achieving Level 4 of the Equality Standard for Local Government by October 2008.

The Equality Standard is a framework or tool, which enables local authorities to mainstream equality into service delivery and employment.

Level 4 is concerned with the implementation of Information systems and monitoring against targets.