Letter from Equalities Minister, on Public Spending Cuts
The Guardian recently reported that public sector spending cuts could be breaking equality laws, illustrates the bigger picture of spending cuts. A leaked letter from the Equalities Minister, Teresa May (transcribed here in full, to ensure accessibility), states:
9 June 2010
Building on the annoucement of our plans to save £6 billion this year, and ahead of the budget on the 22nd June and subsequent spending round, I am writing to remind colleagues of the importance of considering the impact of reductions in public expenditure on different groups when identifying how Departmental savings can be achieved. We have already discussed the importance of ensuring that regions within the UK are not disproportionately affected. This letter is to remind colleagues of the legal requirements to additionally consider how women, disabled people and ethnic minorities are affected.
I fully share the objective of spending cuts. Equally it is important that fairness is at the heart of those decisions so that all those most in need are protected. In this connection there are real risks that women, ethnic minorities, disabled people and older people will be disproportionately affected. Women, for instance, make up a higher number of public workers, and all four groups use public services more. The majority of those in receipt of tax credits and welfare payments are also from these groups. It is therefore important that Departments individually consider the potential impact of savings on different equality groups before taking decisions. I also think we need to take a collective view on the cumulative impact of cuts, and whether any action should be taken to spread the impact more equitably, to avoid widening inequality.
Ministers may be aware that it is legally required under the existing race, disability and gender equality duties to consider this when forming policy. Moreover it is recommended that Departments do the same in relation to older people, LGB and T people, and people of different religions, as the new Public Sector Equality Duty in the Equality Act 2010 will extend this requirement to all groups, when it comes in to force in April 2011.
If there are no processes in place to show that equality issues have been taken into account to particular decisions, there is a real risk of successful lagal challenge by for instance recipients of public services, Trade Unions or other groups affected by these decisions. The Equality and Human Rights Commission also has the power to bring judicial review proceedings or issue compliance notices if they think that a public body has not complied with an equality duty.
This does not stop us taking the tough decisions necessary but we will need to show that we have considered the equality impacts. In order to help this process, I have asked the Government Equalities Office to develop a package of help for Departmental Equality teams to assist them in understanding the legal obligations, and what good practice looks like. For further information, I encourage your officials to contact Alison.email@example.com
Fairness is a key principle of our programme for Government, and it is important that we use this budge, and the forthcoming spending review to demonstrate our commitment to reducing the Government deficit fairly.
I am copying this letter to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Cabinet Secretary and members of the Economic Affairs and Social Justice Committees. I am seperately taking forward the issue of GEO representation on cabinet committees but going forward, I would be grateful if letters to the Economic Affairs Committee could be routinely copied to the GEO, so that we have the opportunity to identify at an early stage how changes to economic policy will impact on equality.
Rt. Hon Theresa May MP
One of the key points from the above letter, “I also think we need to take a collective view on the cumulative impact of cuts, and whether any action should be taken to spread the impact more equitably, to avoid widening inequality.”
The University of Bristol, are you actually taking note? This isn’t a box ticking exercise. 75% cuts, few/no alternatives nationally, no consultation with the wider Deaf community; looks like widening inequality to me.