We cannot respond comprehensively as the EIA lacks sufficient detail to enable us to do so. The EIA is largely devoid of meaningful narrative. Emphasis is placed on undefined strategy and back-reference to previous EIAs. Reference to the proposed content of yet to be produced individual EIAs allows addressing critical issues in a timely fashion to be avoided.
Equality Duty as stated in the Equality & Human Rights Commission Guidance (The Essential Guide to the Public Sector Equality Duty p5 of the document reviewed 07/2014) has been stated in the EIA (EIA section 4 – Diversity Groups), however the second aim of the Equality Act detailing actions that need to be followed in order to ensure this duty is enacted/applied have not been included. This aim is as follows:
“The Equality Act explains that the second aim (advancing equality of opportunity) involves, in particular, having due regard to the need to:
Remove or minimise disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics.
Take steps to meet the needs of people with certain protected characteristics where these are different from the needs of other people.
Encourage people with certain protected characteristics to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.”
The EIA generally acknowledges that the authority must have due regard to various needs. It fails, however to propose methodology to ensure those needs are met. It further dismisses the requirement for compliance with the Equality Act by suggesting the council merely needs to “consider” the impact of its proposals. This falls short of its obligation.
Working with what we had, however, we find the following:
Analysis of available data from the council’s workforce profiling does not appear to have been considered, resulting in missed opportunity to mitigate impact on the following:
Salary scale relevance in the employment areas targeted for staff reduction.
Paragraph “Diversity Groups” in the EIA provides an opportunity to directly address protected characteristics. There is no evidence that mitigation with regard to protected characteristics has been considered.
Historic data held by the council on employee’s primary and secondary carer duties has been omitted from the EIA. Relevant influencing factors therefore have not been considered in proposed mitigation.
There is undue reliance on future individual assessments to validate the various unsubstantiated assurances in this EIA.
Future-proof this EIA by addressing relevant and time-critical issues in advance of future related documents.
Expand existing workforce profiling to produce robust indicators of protected characteristics and other specific circumstances impacting on employees to which the council should give due regard.
Demonstrate how mitigation will be implemented generally and more specifically with regard to protected characteristic categories.
Sections 3 and 4 give the council the opportunity to discuss the individual protected characteristic and detail the impact on them. They are simply listed and little detail given as to the impact.
Section 5 of the EIA, in particular the assertion “Continue despite having identified potential for adverse impact/missed opportunities for promoting equality – this requires a strong justification.” We cannot see anywhere in this EIA any strong justification and therefore cannot agree with this perverse intention nor be persuaded that future individual EIAs would positively impact on outcomes guided by its application.
We would remind the authority that complying with the specific duties of the Equality Act does not necessarily ensure that it is having due regard to the aims of the general equality duty across all of its functions.
The summary statement in section 5, states that the EIA has identified potential for adverse impact/missed opportunities for promoting equality, however we feel that the document doesn’t go far enough to state the adverse impact or missed opportunities and in therefore in itself a missed opportunity. This statement effectively ignores the second aim of the Equality Act.
We believe that protected characteristics can be discussed especially in terms of the workforce. The council collected these basic figures in order to compile a Workforce Profile. Unfortunately it does not cross-reference these figures so it is difficult to determine the collective impact for those with several protected characteristics or vulnerabilities (i.e. National figures would suggest that the majority of carers, those looking after children and elderly or infirm relatives are low paid, part-time workers). The council’s responsibility is to both its residents AND its workers. We are disappointed that this information hasn’t been included and we would expect far more detail regarding the effects on the workforce in individual EIA for each review.
We believe that the Equality impact assessment is not extensive enough therefore falls short in informing a true assessment which could be measured against Bolton councils anti-poverty strategy.
Cuts to children’s services have implications for reducing child poverty. For the first time in 17 years, child poverty in the United Kingdom increased in absolute terms in 2012 (1) Therefore it is unclear when further cuts are proposed to children’s services why this is not factored into an EIA.
With a toxic combination of cuts to services just as levels of need rise as a result of welfare cuts, hardship and mounting social problems this places further pressures on families requiring services. An issue not addressed in the EIA.
(Unison Equalities Committee) The Council has provided within the strategic EIA all the detail that is currently available and relevant at this stage to the budget strategy. By law, our assessments of impact on equality must:
Contain enough information to enable a public authority to demonstrate it has had ‘due regard’ to the aims of the equality duty in its decision-making
Consider ways of mitigating or avoiding any adverse impacts.
Our Strategic Budget EIA process meets these requirements.
The strategic analysis of the potential impact of each option on groups with protected characteristics is in line with the requirements above and will be further expanded when more information is available:
Individual EIAs on each individual budget option will be produced, including the analysis of impact on citizens and staff by protected characteristic, as part of the approval of individual options over the next two years
Information to show how the council is complying with the general equality duty, in relation to its workforce and its services is also published in January of each year in line with our specific public sector equality duties. This includes detailed analysis of the workforce.
The Council is aware that it also has a duty to have regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation, to advance equality of opportunity, and to foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. The Council has responded to this duty by identifying the strategic priorities that will be maintained despite diminishing resources and by reaffirming the strategic commitment to the key aims of the Bolton Community Strategy, which are: