Commission publishes formal assessment of government’s 2010 spending review

14 May 2012

The Commission today publishes its equality assessment of the government’s 2010 Spending Review.

The Commission's report considers the extent to which the decision-making by ministers and Treasury officials met legal obligations to consider the impact on equality when completing the Review. It is the first time an assessment of this kind and scale has been undertaken.

The Commission’s analysis covers the detailed decision making process from start to finish in the Spending Review. It has been informed by unprecedented access to confidential documents from HM Treasury and other government departments and oral evidence sessions with ministers, including the chief secretary to the Treasury, and senior civil servants from the Treasury, Department of Work and Pensions, and Ministry of Justice.

Public bodies, such as HM Treasury, were legally obliged at the time of the Spending Review to demonstrate that they had fully considered the potential effects of their decisions on women, ethnic minorities and disabled people, and that any decisions with an effect on these groups could be justified.

Findings

The report commends Ministers and officials for "serious" efforts to meet the requirements of their obligations. It finds that in six cases the Treasury acted in accordance with the requirements under the equality duties:

  • Removing Child Benefit from households with a higher rate taxpayer
  • Reform of Legal Aid
  • A £2.5 billion pupil premium for disadvantaged children
  • Removal of mobility component of Disability Living Allowance from claimants in residential care homes
  • 10 per cent reduction in Council Tax Benefit expenditure, and localisation
  • Time-limiting the contributory Employment and Support Allowance to one year for those in the Work Related Activity Group

However, in three cases, the Commission says that it was unable to establish whether or not the decisions were in full accord with the requirements of the duty because of a lack of clarity as to a) where the true site of the decisions lay and b) whether or not some decisions were the responsibility of other government departments or the government as a whole.

These cases are:

  • Introduction of a household benefits cap. There was no evidence of any gender analysis or equality screening of the measure provided to HM Treasury ministers prior to the announcement of the measure.
  • Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG). The potential impact on people with disabilities was not included in the advice provided to HM Treasury ministers.
  • Replacing Education Maintenance Allowance with local discretionary funds. There was no reference to ethnicity, disability or gender in information provided to HM Treasury ministers.

The Commission believes that it would be disproportionate to take further formal action in these three specific decisions. The government has, however undertaken to work with the Commission and its officials to address the issues raised by the report.

The Commission's report calls for:

  • Greater transparency in future reviews
  • The development of a common model of analysis to predict the likely equality effects of policy
  • Earlier use of the equality duties to ensure better targeting of funds and greater value for money

Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:

"This has been an unprecedented exercise by the Commission. We were helped immensely by the openness of Ministers in particular the Chief Secretary, who gave evidence, and the Chancellor. We believe that our recommendations will go a long way to making sure that all parts of government are better able to meet their legal obligations, and more importantly to make decisions which are fairer, and seen to be fairer.

The key point for the Commission's work is not to judge the past, but to transform the future. I am particularly pleased that the government has indicated that it will work with us over the next few years to make sure that the equality impact of policy is fully understood and taken into account before decisions are made. That we think will lead to more targeted spending, more effective use of public money, and above all greater fairness all round."

Download the report

Ends

For more press information, contact the Commission’s media office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 07767 272 818. For general enquiries please contact the Commission’s national helpline: England 0845 604 6610, Scotland 0845 604 5510 or Wales 0845 604 8810.

Notes to editors

The Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006. It took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.