Wishful thinking on my part OR is there scope for new EQUALITY initiatives here?

There have been many informed debates in this group about the Coalition Government’s relentless nibbling away at the Equality Act and some very sound crystal balls put on the table about what they’ll do next. Standing back for a moment, I wonder if the following statutes and forthcoming government initiatives on the economic linked to local demographics might actually be Trojan Horses. Blessings in disguise because they potentially open the door for new equality/diversity and related socio economic initiatives? Or are these blessings still disguised very well indeed?

1. Consider firstly the Commissioning and the Social Value Act.  The Social Value Act came into force this year.  Admittedly, there is currently not much clarity about what this entails and how the implementation of the Act will pan out. But having looked at the Cabinet Office implementation guidance especially around the procurement and local partnership framework, there does seem to be the hope and perhaps the prospect of some open equality doors.

2. You will secondly have noticed in the Budget that the Chancellor was at pains to say how many (most of them) of Lord Heseltine’s recommendations (Rise of Local Economic Partnerships LEPs) the government had accepted. When these recommendations with their huge regional focus are juxtaposed against point 1 above and 3 below AND the expected guidance on the Public Procurement clauses in the Equality Act is there not the potential for the economic arguments around equality and diversity linked to demographics to come centre stage?

3. A big test this year for the government will be around Community Rights. Or the localism agenda and how Ministers say it should empower local communities. This will include Rights to Bid, to Build, to Challenge and Neighbourhood Planning.  Local public sector Asset Transfer will be a critical part of this agenda and everyone seems to be saying it will be important that this work is done with a full understanding of what’s truly sustainable and that supports what’s needed in local areas.

The words being used reflect our own vocabulary. Consider the ministerial statement in the 2013 Public Spending Review about a growth related single funding pot and also “City Deals”

“On the back of austerity measures, the drive to find new local solutions to economic and public service delivery challenges is forging new negotiated local arrangements.  This may be through City Deals or through Whole-Place Community Budgets.  Each one is different. Each City deal is bespoke and reflects the different needs of individual places but every deal aims to: give cities the powers and tools they need to drive local economic growth; unlock projects or initiatives that will boost their economies; and deliver a step change in the governance arrangements”

So could this triple focus with its statutory, economic and local demographic factors provide the potential for mitigating some of the worst excesses of this government in chopping away at the Equality Act? A Trojan Horse awaits?

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