Equality South West has accused the government of ‘stitching up a consultation into legislation that makes the region a fairer place to work.
The charity says the Home Office has given up pretending it wants to keep laws requiring public bodies to consider all individuals when carrying out their day-to-day work or using their facilities.
Equality South West chief executive Katie Pratt said: “This legislation was introduced by the previous government, with all party support but it’s quite clear the present government want to get rid of it as soon as they can – a decision that will have a huge impact on vulnerable people in society.”
The Equality Act 2010 became law on April 5 last year, and a review into its future was launched two days later. The result of the review has not been made public, but on the back of it the government has now launched a further review of a key part of the Act ‘the Public Sector Equality Duty’.
Katie said: “By setting the terms of both reviews, the government has effectively stitched up the whole process.
“How anyone is supposed to accurately report back so soon on how new legislation is working – especially after deliberately creating confusion by issuing contradictory guidelines on how it should be implemented – is beyond me.
“The government is asking people to say why they should get rid of it, even as they’re getting rid of it. I can’t imagine any other piece of legislation that hasn’t been given a chance to bed in before it’s dismantled.”
The duty means public bodies such as local councils, emergency services and schools have to consider and then publish information about how equality issues impact on the way they run their daily business, forcing them to scrutinise who was using their services and who was working for them.
“Only by looking at the data can public bodies make informed decisions about equality issues such as pay and discrimination,” said Katie. “By getting rid of the requirement to collect the data, the government is showing the red light to transparency and setting back the equality clock several decades.”
The news comes less than a month after it was announced the Equality and Human Rights Commission suffered budget cuts of 62% and staff cuts of 72% in the last two years – a decision that has seen the closure of the regional office covering the South West.
“I think these two decisions make it crystal clear where the government sits on equalities – it doesn’t believe in them,” said Katie.
(from a press release)