South Gloucestershire Council’s first black cabinet member has been appointed with a pledge to encourage and celebrate diversity, supporting equality for all to have a “healthy happy life”.

Councillor Franklin Owusu-Antwi, who was first elected to South Gloucestershire Council in 2019 to represent the Bradley Stoke North ward, was appointed to the Cabinet during the Full Council meeting on Wednesday, October 14, taking on the newly created Public Health and Equality of Opportunity portfolio.

Prior to this, Councillor Owusu-Antwi has served as the Cabinet Assistant for Community Safety.

The creation of the role follows the approval of the new Council Plan at the same meeting, with amendments to the executive portfolios reflecting the Council’s refreshed focuses and priorities.

The portfolio also sees the councillor work closely with the voluntary community sector and take responsibility for the Council’s Armed Forces Covenant.

As a former soldier in the British Army, serving in Afghanistan before being redeployed to the MOD in Abbey Wood, Councillor Owusu-Antwi has worked as a logistics consultant since returning to civilian life, advising the likes of Ministry of Defence, NATO and the United Nations on a range of international projects in aid of developing and newly independent nations.

Outside of this, he also founded the charity Assistplus, which supports veterans in the community, and has worked hard to support BAME communities across South Gloucestershire and Bristol through a range of outreach initiatives.

Welcoming the announcement, Cllr Franklin Owusu-Antwi, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Equality of Opportunity, said: “Being given the chance to serve on this Administration is nothing short of a privilege and I am delighted to begin work on this portfolio.

"Since the outbreak of Covid-19, South Gloucestershire Council has had to adapt with pace to ensure we are best placed to protect our residents, our communities and our local way of life, and I am pleased that the emphasised role of Public Health is enshrined within the new cabinet position.

“Locally, we have been affected to a lesser extent by Covid-19 than some other parts of the country, but there is no room for complacency as every infection poses a risk and every death is a tragedy.

"It impacts both physical and mental health, personal relationships, jobs and our environment and, nationally, has had a disproportionate effect on people from the BAME community and has the potential to widen the existing gap of inequalities.

"Something that needs to be addressed with a focused yet holistic approach.

“As a Conservative, I am proud to be part of the most diverse group in the council’s history and as its first black cabinet member, I am keen to further that work to support, encourage and celebrate diversity across South Gloucestershire.

"This applies not just to race, but to gender, sexuality and every other feature that makes each of us unique. I also want to ensure we promote diversity of thought, and the sentiment that everyone doesn’t have to think the same for us to be a welcoming and respectful society.

"Together we should have the same equality of opportunity, both in terms of a healthy happy life and every opportunity that comes with it.”

Councillor Toby Savage, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, added: “I am pleased to welcome Franklin to the Cabinet, he has been a pleasure to work with since his election last year and will be an asset within the Cabinet and a benefit to the people of South Gloucestershire.

"I know that with his wealth of experience and positive attitude, this new role will give the Administration a fantastic opportunity to tackle some of the biggest and most delicate challenges we face in our communities.”