To consider adopting the Equality Plan as recommended by the Executive.
RECOMMENDATION: That Council approves the Equality Plan (2021-2025) and associated Action Plan (2021-2022).
The Council considered the Equality Plan, set out at Agenda pages 57 to 90.
It was proposed by John Halsall and seconded by Laura Blumenthal that the recommendation, as set out in the report, be agreed.
John Halsall stated that diversity, equality, anti-racism and addressing need must be at the heart of everything that the Council did. The Equality Policy was a first step in a continuous journey. The Plan had been developed in line with the Council’s vision and Corporate Delivery Plan and outlined the Council’s ambition to tackle inequality. He indicated that an online survey had been held and a number of engagement sessions with community groups, staff and Members. The qualitative feedback had provided insight that more could be done within the internal workings of the Council as well as what could be done to deliver more inclusive services for residents. John Halsall went on to outline the Plan’s priorities.
Laura Blumenthal commented that equality was an important issue. The Plan had the right balance of targets and timelines and the flexibility such a complex issue required. Using the Local Government Association Framework ensured a nationally recognised measure and would help benchmark performance against other councils, helping residents and the scrutiny committees know the direction of travel being taken. The Plan itself was a living document and would be reviewed annually. Laura Blumenthal emphasised that the views of over two hundred community organisations, community groups and service providers, had already been sought. She thanked the Officers and the Cross Party Working Group involved in the development of the Plan, for their work.
Shirley Boyt stated that she had asked for the Plan to be written in plain English but felt that was not reflected in the final version and that this could be discriminatory to some. She felt that the Plan was a work in progress and needed further work. Shirley Boyt thanked the Members and Officers involved for their work.
Richard Dolinski thanked Officers and Members for their hard work within a tight timescale. He too felt that the Plan was unfinished but that the Action Plan went some way to address this.
Andy Croy was of the view that the Plan had been rushed and initiated in response to mitigate reputational damage.
John Kaiser stated that it was a work in progress, but that every journey started with one first step.
Imogen Shepherd-DuBey felt that the purpose of the Plan was to fulfil the Council’s legal obligation in publishing a plan every four years on how it met the Public Sector Equality Duty. She commented that whilst the Plan involved a lot of good work in a short period of time, it had been rushed and did not go far enough. Imogen Shepherd-DuBey stated that there needed to be regular meetings about progress, a proper complaints process for tackling public inequality issues and internal escalation points, and for ongoing plans from each directorate on how they would improve their areas with regards to equality.
That Council be recommended to approve the Equality Plan (2021-2025) and associated Action Plan (2021-2022).
The Executive considered a report relating to a proposed Equality Plan covering 2021-2025 and an associated action plan covering 2021-2022 which were being recommended to Council for approval.
The Leader of Council highlighted the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act and advised that the Equality Plan had been developed in line with the Council’s vision and Corporate Delivery Plan. The Equality Plan sets out how the Council intends to enrich the lives of all residents in safe and strong communities and outlines the ambition to tackle inequality.
Councillor Halsall outlined the consultation that had been carried out on the Equality Plan, which included an online survey and a number of focus sessions with community groups, staff and Members. The qualitative feedback received from the consultation had provided a valuable insight into understanding what the Council could do better as well as what it could do to ensure that it delivered more inclusive services that would lead to improved outcomes for communities.
It was noted that the priorities proposed for the coming four years were:
The action plan, which sets out how the Council would seek to ensure that there was progress against each of the priorities through the first year of the plan period for highlighted. It was noted that the Local Government Association Equality Framework had been adopted. This was an established, credible and objective performance framework which would be used to measure the Council’s performance and results. Progress and delivery would be monitored to ensure that the Council progress to the highest levels possible for each element of the Framework. Councillor Halsall advised that at a future point, the Council would be able to invite peer challenge and support to ensure that its assessments of its performance and progress were credible and robust.
RECOMMENDATION: That Council be recommended to approve the Equality Plan (2021-2025) and associated Action Plan (2021-2022).