Establishing an Equality Commission Team
To fund the Equality Team to support the Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion agenda.
169/21 Establishing an Equality Commission Team
Approval was sought to fund the Equality Team from Council Reserves for the current financial year 2021/2022 and a budget allocated to meet the costs of the Team for subsequent financial years. To support the Equalities Diversity and Inclusion Agenda, it was imperative a dedicated core team was established which supported the delivery of the Council’s ambitious equalities, diversity and inclusion agendas.
In response to questions raised by the Chair of the Children and Education Scrutiny Board in relation to the timing of the establishment of the Equalities Commission Team, with the Equalities Act being passed in 2010 and the mixed response from other local authorities in the comparisons provided in the report and about the action plan of the Equality Commissions Team and whether the Council would be updated on its progress, the Cabinet Member for Communities and Neighbourhoods confirmed that:-
· the Council had met the requirement of the 2010 Act, however, it involved staff members from different departments of the Council to address equality needs and now it was felt that there was a need to have a dedicated team as it allowed a greater focus on diversity and delivering the equalities agenda;
· upon the approval and establishment of the Equalities Commission Team, several project teams would be set up to focus on different areas with the Council being updated regularly on its progress. The current arrangement utilised existing council resources, however, it was recognised that a dedicated resource was required in order to drive the equalities agenda.
Reasons for Decision
Emergency Committee approved the establishment of the Sandwell Equalities Commission as a catalyst to drive forward the Council’s equalities agenda. To achieve this, it aimed to break down barriers prohibiting an inclusive society, tackle unfairness caused by inequality and encourage community cohesion through increased understanding and awareness. For this reason, the scope of this project was extensive and far reaching.
Initially the resources for the Commission were met from internal staff. However, additional resources were required to deliver the Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion Agenda.
It was therefore proposed that a new team to support the Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion Agenda be established. There was no specific allocated/approved budget for the cost of this addition, however sufficient budget had been identified in reserves to meet the cost of this team during 2021/22 with further funding to be secured for subsequent years as part of the forthcoming budget setting process.
Alternative Options Considered
An alternative option considered was for the Council to continue with the existing arrangements, which consisted of support being provided by various departments to help deliver the Equalities Agenda. This did not provide the level of capacity, skills, expertise needed to drive this agenda with the level of pace and vigour required. Alternatively, the Council could second 2 or 3 employees to support and lead on the work of the Commission. While this option would result in some benefits, it would not be sufficient to achieve the ambitions and outcomes sought by the council.
Agreed that approval be given to fund the Equality Team from Council Reserves for the current financial year 2021/2022 and a budget allocated to meet the costs of the Team for subsequent financial years.