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Cath Everett

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Council tender advert ‘disturbing’, says rights and equality commission

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A council may have opened itself up to costly legal action after issuing a tender for a ‘female, white and non-Muslim’ taxi driver as part of a wider contract.


 

According to the Northampton Chronicle & Echo, Northamptonshire County Council has been forced to issue an unreserved apology following the incident. One of the elements of the deal involved transporting a vulnerable child to and from school and the advert stated: “The contractor must provide the escort. Please note that the escort must be female, white and non-Muslim.”
 
But under anti-discrimination laws, it is illegal for employers to demand that candidates be of a specific gender or race unless it is a prerequisite for them to be able to do the job.
 
The newspaper was alerted to the situation by a male Muslim taxi driver who asked to remain anonymous. He said: “To say it is offensive would be very strong because I don’t know the reasons behind it, but the council should not be issuing tenders like this, full stop. I was in total disbelief that it would make such a stipulation.”
 
Anjona Roy, chief executive of Northamptonshire Rights and Equalities Commission, agreed that the language used in the request for proposals was disturbing.
 
“This tender would have to pass the council’s legal department so it’s alarming that potential discrimination could have been missed. This is not just a concern for Muslim people in Northamptonshire. It is a concern for the entire non-white population and any minority group that their council is issuing tenders in this way,” she said.
 
The authority could also have left itself open to expensive legal action under anti-discrimination legislation, she added.
 
A spokewoman for the council said that a “full-scale review” of the situation had been launched, adding: “We apologise unreservedly for this error of judgement, which resulted from trying to address the specific needs of an individual child.”
 
Although the authority was “confident” on the basis of its initial investigations that there was no “malicious or discriminatory intent”, it took equalities rights “very seriously” and would not tolerate discriminatory practices within the organisation.

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