THE needs of neighbourhoods with high proportions of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) residents must be central to the Government’s levelling-up agenda.

That's the message from the leaders of Manningham Housing Association, which manages more than 1,400 homes – for over 6,000 residents – in Keighley and Bradford.

Chair Barrington Billings and chief executive Lee Bloomfield say the pandemic has highlighted inequalities that BAME communities have endured for decades.

In a joint statement, they reflect that the past year has been another "desperately difficult" one for everyone – but particularly for those who have least.

"If Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are serious in their quest to level-up society then they should look no further than the most deprived neighbourhoods across the country which often have large numbers of BAME people living there," they said.

"We are enormously proud of the work we do in these communities in Keighley and Bradford but, whilst we have high aspirations, our resources are limited.

"After several delays, the Government’s levelling-up White Paper is finally due to be published next month. Rather than reheated rhetoric, it is our earnest hope that the needs of BAME communities will be at the heart of this document, which will become a roadmap for improving the lives of those who require most help."

They added that specialist BAME housing providers, such as Manningham Housing Association, were more than just landlords.

"The untrained eye might think that many of the more overt forms of racism that characterised the second part of the 20th century have disappeared today – but events of the last few years have shown clearly how important it still is to have a strong BAME housing sector," they said.

"We go beyond the delivery of good-quality, affordable housing. We are advocates for our communities, delivering culturally sensitive services and giving individuals and families from BAME backgrounds real opportunities to improve their lives."

Despite the many challenges, the association bosses are optimistic about the coming year.

They said: "We are incredibly proud of our staff, all of whom have worked so hard to support each other and the communities we serve during such unprecedented times. They have risen to the challenge and will continue to do so.

"But we now need the Government to step up and deliver on its promise to truly level-up our country, with the needs of BAME people high on that agenda."