The chair of Wokingham Borough’s BME Forum has sadly resigned due to various personal reasons, in particular the time commitment and other responsibilities.
Ramnik Saund has chaired the forum for the past year, during which time it has supported the borough’s response to Covid-19 and stepped into the digital age with its first virtual meeting.
The forum became a key partner for the council once it became known that there was a national prevalence of Covid-19 cases in the BAME community.
Mr Saund said: “Having been an active member of the Wokingham BME Forum for many years, it was a privilege to be elected to the position of Chairman of the BME Forum in September 2019. As chair, it was my ambition to help guide the BME Forum in continuing to evolve so that it could be a voice to all residents in the borough with a black and minority ethnic heritage and provide positive challenge to the activities of Wokingham Borough Council. I am pleased that the BME Forum recently held its first virtual meeting which has enabled more people to attend and I hope that this type of innovation can continue to increase the number of residents who actively participate in the activities of the BME Forum in the future.
“In the past months I have come to realise that this important role requires much more time than I had anticipated which I find myself unable to provide without compromising my current commitments to my other roles and responsibilities. Under these circumstances I have made the decision to resign as the chair of the BME Forum forthwith. I am very grateful to the members of the Forum and offer them my sincere thanks for their forbearance and support during my time as Chair. I do wish the BME Forum every success for the future.”
It had been planned to hold an extraordinary meeting of the forum this month and a regular meeting next month. However, with a new chair needed, and to allow time for the community to reflect on its direction, these sessions will be postponed.
But October is Black History Month and the borough has a proud history of celebrating this annual event that it will continue this year. Plans have been scaled back due to Covid-19 but the month will be marked with a virtual gallery showcasing the borough’s celebrations in recent years along with a promotion of black authors by our library service. The annual Taster & Performance Evening which traditionally closes the borough’s Black History Month celebrations will be held once Covid restrictions are lifted.
Vice-chair of the forum, Cllr Parry Batth, said: “I would like to thank Ramnik for all his hard work as chair and for his long service to the community that I know will continue.
“As acting chair, I feel this is a good time for the forum to take stock and reflect on its direction: we have faced undeniably challenging times with Covid-19 and the global Black Lives Matter movement and these and other issues demand careful consideration.
“For that reason, I am asking the borough council to find and fund an independent facilitator to lead some broad community dialogue that can bring people together and help guide the forum’s future.
“I don’t want the council to lead this – it must be independent – but I think it should support the process by feeding in the findings of its Tackling Racism Matters survey and helping to identify an expert community facilitator to lead the process.”