WHARFEDALE church leaders have signed a Leeds-wide pledge to combat racism ‘in all its forms’.

More than 80 civic leaders from the worlds of education, health, business, sport, the third sector, faith and the arts have put their names to the joint statement which vows to work together to ensure ‘racism has no place in Leeds’.

The faith leaders who have signed include the Vicar of Otley Parish Church, Reverend Graham Buttanshaw; Assistant Curate at St Margaret’s Church, Horsforth, Rachel Ford; and Reverend Tom Lusty, the Vicar of St Giles Church, Bramhope.

Big names from the world of sport are also among the signatories - including double Olympic medal winning boxing champion Nicola Adams OBE, Leeds United FC captain Liam Cooper and Leeds Rhinos captain Luke Gale.

The move has been led by Leeds City Council whose Leader, Councillor Judith Blake, said: “It’s fantastic to see so many local leaders, including some famous faces, getting behind our call for an end to racism and discrimination.

“Racism will not be tolerated in Leeds and this statement serves as a strong reminder of the need to continue to work together to create a fairer and more equal city for everybody.

Chief Executive Tom Riordan added: “We all have a role to play in challenging racism and I would encourage organisations across Leeds to think about positive action they can take in their own organisations and communities, and to publicise their next steps.

“As the local authority we are committed to taking the lead on this to ensure that the current global attention on racial inequality results in positive change for the people of Leeds.”

The statement reads: “As leaders in Leeds we are horrified at the killing of George Floyd by police officers in the United States. We feel the pain, and hear the outrage, of all those facing injustice. We stand against racism and discrimination in all its forms.

“Leeds is a richly diverse and multicultural city, something that we consider to be one of our key strengths. We are proud to work with fantastic individuals, communities and organisations that work tirelessly to create a fairer city for everybody.

“As civic leaders we are committed to building a city in which everyone feels safe, valued and that they belong. While we are proud that Leeds is overwhelmingly a welcoming city, we recognise that unfortunately racism and discrimination still exists. Everybody in Leeds has a part to play to challenge racism and prejudice wherever we find it.”

It concludes: “Eradicating racism and discrimination is everybody’s business. We stand with all those in Leeds who are working peacefully to support our communities, challenge injustices and create a fairer society.”