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More transparency needed from HM Treasury on equality analysis

18 November 2016

The Government must do more to demonstrate that it has fulfilled its obligations to assess the equalities impacts of future Spending Reviews, Budgets and Autumn Statements, says the report by the Women and Equalities Committee.

2015 spending review and autumn statement

The Committee recommends that the Treasury's compliance with this duty for the 2015 spending review and autumn statement should be independently evaluated.

The Equality Impact Analysis (PDF 272KB) published alongside the 2015 Spending Review and Autumn Statement set out to examine:

"the high level impacts of the government's [spending] decisions […] on people who share one or more of those protected characteristics most likely to be disproportionately affected by the decisions taken: gender, age, race and disability."

Insubstantial and lacking in detail

It listed policies expected to have a direct benefit for people with protected characteristics (for example, apprenticeships are cited in the 'age' section as predominantly benefitting young people) as well as policies which should be expected to have a direct benefit (for example, protecting the NHS budget which will "benefit those with disabilities, who make above average use of health services."

However, no analysis was given of how spending decisions or policies might negatively affect protected groups, and the statement has been criticised as being insubstantial and lacking in detail.

Action taken by the Committee

The Committee decided to examine how effectively potential equalities impacts were being considered during the 2015 Spending Review, and has concluded that the Treasury’s response was disappointing.
 
The Chancellor declined to send a Minister to answer questions on the grounds that individual departments are responsible for the equalities impacts of their own policies, then declined to share the submissions provided by those departments. The Treasury’s response to the Committee's written questions did not fully answer those questions.

Promotion of transparency

Committee Chair Maria Miller said:

"This Government understands the importance of Equalities Impact analysis and was the first ever to publish such an analysis for its 2010 Spending Review. The new Equalities Select Committee has a mandate from Parliament to scrutinise Government's effectiveness in its Equalities Policies and this includes it effectiveness in using equalities analysis to evaluate policy changes. This report calls for more transparency in the process so that our Select Committee can look at how departments ensure the impact of policy change on equalities is understood. Without the information we have asked for or ministerial evidence it’s not been possible to form a view of the Government's work under the public sector equality duty.

Promotion of transparency is a central aim of the Public Sector Equality Duty requirements. The Government's current position means the evidence on compliance is incomplete."

Recommendations

The Committee recommended that to maintain public confidence that the Public Sector Equality Duty is being fulfilled:

  • The Treasury should be independently evaluated on how robustly it has complied with that duty in the 2015 Spending Review process, and how it can improve its equalities analysis
  • This evaluation should be carried out by an organisation with the requisite level of expertise
  • Similar evaluations should be commissioned for the equality analyses accompanying all future spending rounds and fiscal events.

Background

In 2014 the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) completed an assessment of the extent to which HM Treasury complied with the requirements of the Public Sector Equality Duty when undertaking the 2010 Spending Review. It found that the Treasury was fully in accordance with the requirements of the public sector equality duty for six of the nine measures it examined.

For three measures it was unable to establish whether or not the decisions were in full accordance with the requirements of the duty.

The EHRC concluded that: "future compliance and good practice in cross-government Spending Reviews could be better assured by greater transparency; […] common rules to allow easier sharing of equality data within government; […] authoritative sources of advice and support for government departments on equality impact analysis; […] and the development of a common model of analysis to predict the likely equality effects of policy."

Further information

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