Can we still afford Equal Opportunities?

The Government doesn’t think so. They certainly think we can’t afford the Equality and Human Rights Commission in its present shape and size. The new chair Baroness O’Neil is getting rid of some old trouble makers Simon Woolley, the only black commissioner and Lady Meral Hussein-Ece vice chair of the parliamentary all party group on race and community and the only Muslim commissioner. Both have already expressed concerns about the impact on the commission’s work of proposed budget cuts and a greatly reduced workforce.

You would have thought with the current focus on sexual harassment in the work place that the commission would be strengthened not weakened.  But then again if you were a government minister would you want a strong, influential, high profile EHRC commenting on the disproportional impact your policies were having on women, people with a disability and minority ethnic groups? 

What message does this send to the public sector and to local government in particular? The easiest way to deal with wage inequality is to outsource or privatise services. The priority is to keep public expenditure to a minim not address historic disadvantages.

Have you noticed that recruitment and service take up targets for minority ethnic groups have slipped down the agenda? Are members and senior managers’ still talking about the need to win the confidence of the whole community or have they accepted that is unrealistic in a climate of service cuts, closures and funding reductions? Is there a notion of fair cuts or deliverable cuts?

But if local government isn’t about ensuring we handle difference fairly. If local government isn’t about being a model employer, a community leader, a force for making our towns and cites safer and better places to live for all what is it for?

Blair McPherson  



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