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Boris: ‘I want to change attitudes towards black businesses'

PROMISES: Boris Johnson

MAYOR BORIS Johnson gave a candid speech to members of the black community at a recent conference held by The Voice Newspaper and National Black Women’s Network.

The London Mayor, who provided a passionate speech ahead of the elections tomorrow (May 3), said he was committed to making improvements that would benefit Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Londoners.

His promises to create more jobs and opportunities for black-led businesses were received well by Business owners including Tony O’Flaherty, director of care home, Home Instead and Rodger Lynch, founder of Ruskin Private Hire Group, who expressed their concerns about the lack of support available to black businesses.

During the hour-long round table, Johnson was asked how he would tackle the issue of banks who seldom lend to black-led businesses.

In response, Johnson proposed to hold a conference with banks and black business owners on how to “change the culture, [and] change the attitude”.

He added that not only did black entrepreneurs suffer, but that banks also felt the effects of such discrimination.

“There is a missed opportunity for them. They could be making money. They are missing out on a financial opportunity.”

Guest panellists at the gathering, which took place in Old Park Lane in London’s Mayfair, included CEO of Circle Sports, Turly Humphreys and entrepreneurs Delores Airey and Maulvine Vernon - who is also a local authority worker.

Ray Lewis, CEO of East London Young Boys Academy and one of the mayor’s advisers was also in attendance as was strategy consultant Dr Adrian Ashe, who were both on hand to discuss Johnson’s mayoral commitments.

Moderators on the day were The Voice Newspaper’s editor and managing director, George Ruddock and Sonia Brown, Founder and Chair of National Black Women’s Network.

Johnson also faced tough questioning from one of the panel’s key figures in the black community, head of Operation Black Vote, Simon Woolley.

Woolley, who is championing the cause to get people from the community to vote challenged the current mayor by asking "the difficult questions black Londoners want to know".

He said that job creation and procurement for BAMEs was “not fulfilled”

"I think what the community need to hear is honesty. Our community have been sold short," he told Johnson.

The Mayor accepted that he hadn’t quite met all their targets he had aimed for when he took office, but hoped his team could redeem themselves in the future if re-elected,

"It’s something we should have done more on. As I said in my opening remarks, London as a generator of jobs, did not prove successful in gifting those jobs perhaps to people who needed them the most and that was a failure.

He added: "There are still thousands of small contracts going. I will return to this fray with renewed vigour.”

Woolley warned that this needs to be done in a more assertive manner.

“You know as well as I do you’ve got to have a foot on someone’s jugular and say I’m not asking I am demanding that you deliver. You never had your foot on the jugular and they never delivered. I think it’s incumbent on any mayor that comes into power that has these aspiration that we all want,” he said.

Johnson also told the panel that he was committed to funding Black History Month and creating more opportunities in the Met for BAME at senior levels.

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