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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet 14 March 2012

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Human Resources and Equalities

 

Strategic Equality Plan and Equality Objectives

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             The purpose of this report is to seek the approval of the Strategic Equality Plan (Appendix A) and equality objectives contained within it following a period of consultation. 

Recommendations

2.             That the Strategic Equality Plan and equality objectives are approved for publication by 2 April 2012. 

Reasons for the Recommendations

Background

3.             The Equality Act 2010 includes a new public sector equality duty ('the general duty') which came into force on 5 April.  The general duty requires the Council to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations.

In addition to this, the Council (as a listed body under the Act) must comply with the specific duties in Wales, designed to help performance of the general duty and to aid transparency.

The specific duties in Wales cover a range of requirements, including the requirement to draw up and publish a strategic equality plan by 2 April 2012 and include in it equality objectives (including pay objectives).

Relevant Issues and Options

4.             A Strategic Equality Plan is the device used to detail information that demonstrates that the Council is meeting the general duty.  It must include information on a number of prescribed issues, such as its arrangements to identify and collect relevant equality and employment information, arrangements for assessing the likely impact on protected groups of any polices and practices, and how the authority will promote knowledge and understanding of the general and specific duties among employees.

5.             A key element of the Strategic Equality Plan is the equality objectives.  The Council is required to publish objectives for each of the protected characteristics or to publish reasons why not.  It must also set out the steps it intends to take to meet each objective and how is intends to monitor progress.  The Strategic Equality Plan comments on this.  At meetings with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Welsh Local Government Association, the advice has been to have a smaller number of equality objectives and achieve them, rather than one for every characteristic and not make any significant progress in achieving real improvements.

6.             There is also a requirement to publish an equality objective to address any gender pay gap identified or else publish reasons why it has not done so.  It must have due regard to the need to have objectives to address the causes of any pay differences that seem reasonably likely to be related to any of the protected characteristics.

7.             Cabinet approved a draft version of the Strategic Equality Plan and equality objectives for consultation at the beginning of January.  Feedback has been used to strengthen information in the plan (such as why we have chosen a particular objective and to which protected characteristics it applies); to amend wording for clarification; and to revise target dates to make them more realistic.  There have been no fundamental changes to the objectives or other information within the Plan.

8.             Once approved, there can be no significant changes to the equality objectives without further engagement with representative groups and approval of those changes. 

9.             The Strategic Equality Plan is a live document and is the vehicle for containing all the information about equality work that we do and will be updated on a regular basis.  As new or updated information becomes available, such as equality and employment information, either the Plan itself will be updated or links created within it to allow people to access the information elsewhere. 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

10.        As with any area of work, human resources are required to implement the Strategic Equality Plan and equality objectives.  This includes collecting and analysing information, engaging with the public and providing equality training. 

11.        The work will be undertaken within existing financial resources.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

12.        The Equality Act 2010 created a new public sector duty, replacing the race, disability and gender equality duties. The duty came into force in April 2011. The duty covers age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation. Under the general duty, public sector organisations must have due regard to the need to:

·               eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation;

·               advance equality of opportunity between different groups;

·               foster good relations between different groups.

13.        The duty to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination also covers marriage and civil partnership.

14.        The Equality Act gives Welsh Ministers the power to impose specific duties through regulations. The specific duties are legal requirements designed to help public bodies meet the general duty. These were published in April 2011. 

15.        The Equality and Human Rights Commission published guidance on the public sector equality duty for Wales on 8 June 2011.  It will perform its regulatory role in ensuring that listed bodies comply with the duty.  In particular, the Commission will be reviewing the websites of all local authorities to check that Strategic Equality Plans and equality objectives are published by 2 April as required.

16.        If the Equality and Human Rights Commission thinks that the Council has not complied with a public sector duty, it has the power to serve a compliance notice.  The notice may require compliance with the duty or provide an opportunity for a written proposal to show the steps which will be taken to ensure compliance. Failure to comply can result in the Commission applying to the relevant court for an order requiring compliance with all the resulting adverse publicity and monitoring of performance that this would bring.  Failure to comply with the court order would be a criminal offence.

Crime and Disorder Implications

17.        The Strategic Equality Plan will assist in promoting community cohesion by meeting the diverse needs of local people and creating equal opportunity.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

18.        The Strategic Equality Plan sets out how the Council is working to meet the general duty and public sector equality duty for Wales.  The equality objectives detail the work that the Council is prioritising to address the concerns raised during the engagement process and the national equality agenda.

Corporate/Service Objectives

19.        It is a corporate priority to work with partners to promote good governance and ensure a coordinated approach to delivering the shared vision for the future of the Vale.  This plan and its objectives support each of the three associated improvement objectives:

·               to tackle those issues that matter most to local people, with customer focus at the heart of the Council’s service delivery;

·               to provide leadership in representing and promoting the interests of the local community and engage effectively with citizens and stakeholders;

·               to promote through partnership working greater cooperation with other organisations that deliver services in the Vale, thereby improving the quality of life of its citizens.

20.        It is also a corporate priority to manage the Council’s workforce, money, information and assets efficiently, effectively and securely.  This proposal supports each of the associated improvement objectives:

·               to provide effective Corporate Management and to improve the use of resources in meeting our strategic objectives;

·               to manage, support and develop our employees to enable them to deliver and maintain the Council’s services to the highest possible standard;

·               to make best use of our assets and to procure good, sustainable services and facilities.

Policy Framework and Budget

21.        This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

22.        The public sector equality duty for Wales requires that the Council involves people representative of protected groups to set its equality objectives, prepare and review a Strategic Equality Plan.

23.        To achieve this, the Council invited 67 voluntary groups and our Local Service Board partners to participate in the engagement process.  The Council's Consultation Officer organised 8 sessions with support groups operating in the Vale of Glamorgan (reaching over 100 residents with protected characteristics) and 16 organisations were represented in two engagement events that took place in mid November.  Feedback from these meetings has very much informed and shaped the equality objectives being presented.

24.        Feedback from the Corporate Equality Working Group endorsed the equality objectives that have been prioritised.   

25.        The Draft Strategic Equality Plan and equality objectives were presented to, discussed with and endorsed by the Equalities Consultative Forum.

26.        There has been a period of consultation on the Draft Strategic Equality Plan and equality objectives, internally and externally, to generate more feedback and allow the Plan and equality objectives to be developed further as necessary.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

27.        Corporate Resources.

Background Papers

Appendix A Strategic Equality Plan

 

Contact Officer

Nicola Hinton, Corporate Equalities Officer

 

Officers Consulted

Bev Noon, Operational Manager - Corporate Policy and Communications

Huw Isaac, Head of Performance and Development

Reuben Bergman, Head of Human Resources

Corporate Management Team

 

Responsible Officer:

Nicola Hinton, Corporate Equalities Officer

 

 

 

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