Lewisham Council has been accused by the campaign group Operation Black Vote (OBV) of having a black and minority ethnic representation gap.

Their research has found 21 per cent of councillors are black and minority ethnic (BAME), despite comprising 42 per cent of Lewisham’s population.

OBV director, Simon Woolley, warned this can lead to “breakdown and discord” and made calls for leaders to encourage black and minority ethnic people to get involved in local and national politics.

His comments come as parties prepare for May’s local elections.

Lewisham Labour councillors welcomed the calls, with a spokesman explaining the borough is in the top 40 local authorities for BAME representation.

The spokesman said there were a number of BAME councillors in leadership positions, including on the safer stronger communities and housing select committees, and in the cabinet.

Lewisham’s 54 councillors are all from the Labour party.

“We stood on a local manifesto that pledges to promote and support the election of a truly proportionate number of councillors from BAME communities,” the spokesman said.

“We welcome Operation Black Vote’s report. We have ensured that Lewisham Council has supported Operation Black Vote’s excellent work, including several voter registration campaigns and working jointly on two programmes that encouraged Lewisham BAME residents to stand for the council.

“We are delighted that former Lewisham Labour Cllr and Deputy Mayor Janet Daby is now the MP for Lewisham East, one of the few female BAME voices in parliament. And we are proud to welcome Barbara Gray as the new mayoress of Lewisham.

“In addition, we have been working closely with Lewisham’s BAME Labour Forum on a training plan to ensure that we recruit even more BAME Labour candidates for future elections.”

OBV has recommended all parties make a BAME recruitment and drive at local and national level.