Agenda item

Equality Impact Assessments


A report by the Director of Law, HR and Asset Management was presented at the request of Members, at the last Scrutiny Programme Board meeting held on 4 January 2012.  The report summarised the Centre for Public Scrutiny’s Policy Briefing ‘Equality Impact Assessments’.


The Director’s report informed that as part of the Equality Duty 2010 and further The Public Sector Equality Duty which came into full force in April 2011, the Council had a legal requirement to give due regard to the impact of its policies and decisions on people who shared protected characteristics (race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion/belief, gender re-assignment, marriage/civil partnership, pregnancy/maternity).


As part of the Independent Corporate Governance Review report, Anna Klonowski had highlighted ‘shortfalls in the way the Council evaluated the impact of its policies both prior to execution and in response to evidence about the impact’.  Subsequently the report had identified ‘Equalities’ as an area for improvement.


Appendix 1 to the Director’s report informed that The Equalities Act 2010 (“The Act”) has two main purposes:


  • to harmonise discrimination law, and
  • to strengthen the law to support progress on equality.


The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) (section 149 of The Act) came into force on 5 April 2011 and applied to public bodies and others carrying out public functions.  It supported good decision-making by ensuring public bodies considered how different people would be affected by their activities, helping them to deliver policies and services which were efficient and effective; accessible to all and which met different people's needs.


The PSED was supported by specific duties, as set out in the Statutory Code of Practice, which came into force on 10 September 2011.  Members were informed that the specific duties required public bodies:


  • to publish relevant, proportionate information demonstrating their compliance with the PSED; and
  • to set themselves specific and measurable equality objectives.


Section 31 and 32 of the Equality Act gave the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) the power to issue “a compliance notice” if these duties were not being carried out.  Individuals disadvantaged by public sector decisions could still bring an action under the Human Rights Act 1998.


The Board noted that all Council officers, from recycling officers to transport planners to social workers to librarians, had a duty to consider access to the services they provided and the implications of the policies they developed for all groups in the local community:  It was not only the responsibility of the equalities officer or diversity champion.  Likewise, consideration of equalities issues was important to scrutiny committees, whether they were carrying out a review of the council's recycling policy, monitoring children's social services or challenging the development of the library plan.


It was noted that a robust methodology in the completion of EIAs would allow the Council to affirm that it had made a policy decision in a logical way, and that no assumptions had been made about the impact of a certain section of the community.


As it was important to consider the broad policy impacts of decisions, the effective production of EIAs relied on the principles of equality being “mainstreamed” within the wider decision making process.  It was difficult to think of any policy change that the Council could implement that would have no impact whatsoever on local people.




(1)  the contents of the report be noted; and


(2)  the report be referred to all five Overview and Scrutiny Committees for their consideration.

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