A former mayor of Swindon told of the discrimination he has faced as councillors spoke in support of a bill against racism.

At the start of their meeting on Thursday councillors were silent for a minute and some knelt on one knee to remember all those who have died through racism and discrimination.

Labour councillor Junab Ali, who was mayor in 2018-19, described his personal experience as colleagues debated a motion against prejudice presented by two Conservatives, Bazil Solomon and Robert Jandy.

“I came to Swindon as a child from Bangladesh. I didn’t know the language. I faced racism and prejudice every day, but it made me stronger in my determination to fight for equality and fairness and justice," he said.

A Muslim, Coun Ali said it took him two years to get the council to set aside an area he could use for prayer, with a mat and a copy of the Koran, while in the building: “I had to fight for two years for that, in my council, and every step of the way there were barriers.”

Noting the motion welcomed specifically peaceful protest, Coun Ali added: “Black Lives Matter doesn’t come from a vacuum – it comes from the racism and prejudice people face.”

Coun Solomon, who introduced the motion, said: “I am proud of my joint British and Indian heritage, I grew up and went to school in South Africa and have spent most of my adult life in Swindon. I am proud of the beautiful diversity of our town.”

Coun Jandy added that the motion was not simply addressing ethnic inclusion and equality but that of nine other characteristics. “It’s about the talent of the individual: it doesn’t matter where someone is from, who they love or what they believe, it’s about their own talent.”

While the motion was supported unanimously, many members thought it ought to have been harder-hitting.

Emma Bushell, one of the councillors who took a knee at the start of the meeting said: “The motion doesn’t mention the words black lives matter. It is self-evident and shouldn’t need saying in 2020, but I want to take the opportunity to say black lives matter.”

Criticising the motion for being “complacent and self-congratulatory”, she said the council should be examining itself and its practices to see where it could improve: “We know Covid-19 has a disproportionate effect on the BAME community

“This council could report on this and look to see how it can support the BAME community more in this crisis.”

The motion was passed unanimously