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LISTEN - North Yorkshire Council leader tells of the prejudice he experienced

LISTEN - North Yorkshire Council leader tells of the prejudice he experienced

Published by Local Democracy Reporter Stuart Minting at 4:14pm 9th June 2020.

A council leader has revealed how he and his family have been victims of bigots and bullies and pledged to root out “discrimination, prejudice hate in any form”.

  • North Yorkshire Council leader Carl Les has promised to root out discrimination and prejudice. 
  • Carl Les is the son of a refugee who was bullied at school because his name did not sound British.
  • Cllr Les says he wants ethnic minorities to know the council cares about them.

Councillor Carl Les, who has led North Yorkshire County Council since 2015, said he understood the consequences of prejudice having grown up as the son of a refugee who completed an epic cross-Europe escape after being captured by German forces in Poland in 1939.

Cllr Les said while his family had been welcomed to Leeming village, near Bedale, after his father’s cafe was successful they had been targeted and he had also suffered mental abuse and violence at school as his name did not sound British.

He said:

“We were always different. It started more at school.

Children can be the cruellest of individuals and it was a surname that was easy to take the mickey out of.”

 

LISTEN to Carl Les talking to David Dunning on our sister station Minster FM:

 

While the local authority serves one of the country’s highest proportions of white British residents, Cllr Les said he wanted ethnic minorities to know the council cared about them.

Census data shows North Yorkshire’s population is 93.4 per cent White British, compared to 80 per cent nationally.

However, some communities have high proportions of people of other ethnicities, such as 21.8 per cent of Richmondshire residents identifying as ‘other Asian’ mainly due to the Ghurkha population at Catterick Garrison.

Richmondshire also has the highest ‘other Black’ population after Harrogate at 24 per cent, and Selby and Hambleton have 18.4 per cent and 15 per cent of White Gypsies, and 36 per cent of Craven residents are Pakistani.

Speaking at a meeting of the authority’s executive, Cllr Les said he wanted the council’s voice to join global expressions of outrage after Mr Floyd’s death.

He said:

“There is no place in our society, in our county in our council for discrimination, prejudice hate in any form.

"I think it is right to say North Yorkshire has prided itself on being a multi-cultural and an understanding and welcoming place for all.

"We all take our responsibilities to take a stand against any form of discrimination very seriously as members and as a council.

"We will continue to ensure our services are respectful to all members of our diverse communities. Black lives matter, but actually all lives matter in North Yorkshire.”

After the meeting, Cllr Les said he would be extremely surprised if any school had a zero record of bullying.