UPDATE: It should be noted that today Theresa May scrapped powers to ban violent partners from their victim’s home, citing the need to save money. Hopefully we will have more on this later.
Home Secretary and Equalities Minister Theresa May wrote to Chancellor George Osborne warning that Budget cuts could widen inequality and the failure to carry out audits on the impact on women, ethnic minorities and disabled people risks legal action.
As mentioned in Lynne’s round-up, the Fawcett Society is seeking a judicial review of the Budget, on the grounds that the Treasury apparently did not carried out the required gender equality audit. The Guardian reports a coalition of ethnic minority groups is also initiating legal action (the 1990 Trust is the only group named).
May’s letter, which the Guardian has posted in full, acknowledges the risk of such action, noting it is a legal requirement under the gender, race and disability duties:
If there are no processes in place to show that equality issues have been taken into account in relation to particular decisions, there is a real risk of successful legal challenge by, for instance, recipients of public services, trades unions or other groups affected by these decisions.
May notes that from April 11 this duty will extend to LGBT people and people of different religions.
A gender audit by the House of Commons library last month found women are set to bear the brunt of three quarters of the cuts.
Fawcett’s solicitor, Samantha Mangwana, of Russell Jones & Walker solicitors, said:
“Although public authorities have been subject to the gender equality duty for several years now, there is widespread ignorance not only about how strong these laws actually are, but also what specific steps are required to be undertaken. However, the case law is crystal clear in spelling this out. Firstly, an equality impact assessment must be conducted before policy decisions are taken.
“Secondly, where an assessment reveals a risk of discrimination, urgent action must be taken to address those risks. Clearly, if the equality impact is not even assessed as a starting point, a public authority cannot start to consider what steps to take to mitigate any inequality.”