Councillors in the South West are being warned their authority might end up in court if they fail to adequately address equality issues when setting next year’s budget.
Equality South West is writing to all councils in the region to remind them of their requirements to assess the impact their financial decisions will have on local people.
ESW chief executive Katie Pratt told the PRSD: “We know councils are facing difficult financial decisions but it’s important they reach these decisions in a fair and transparent way. They have a duty to eliminate discrimination and promote equality for all members of the community they serve, and we are happy to work with them to ensure they meet their legal obligations.”
If authorities fail to prove their decisions have been taken in compliance with the public sector equality duty, they can be challenged and taken to a judicial review.
Katie Pratt said: “Defending yourself through the courts can be time-consuming and expensive in itself, so it’s much better for councils to reach the correct decision the first time.”
While some cases – such as funding cuts to minority groups – might appear clear-cut, other situations such as, for example, removing funding for child care facilities or night buses can be seen as having an unequal impact on particular sections of society (in these cases single parents and women, who would be more vulnerable to making their own way home in the dark).
Katie said: “This a positive opportunity for local authorities to show they are looking at evidence before making decisions, and are making better use of shrinking budgets as a result.”
ESW will also be writing to other public bodies in the region, such as health and well-being boards, local and economic partnerships (LEPS) and police and crime commissioners.