Agenda item

Equality Policy

To consider the attached draft Equality Policy.


Larraine Miles the Policy and Strategy Analyst introduced the report on the updated Equality Policy. She noted that the Equality Act 2010 and Public Sector Equality Duty 2011 required public authorities to set and publish at least one Equality Objective every four years to demonstrate how they would eliminate discrimination and advance equality. They also required public authorities to publish information to show their compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty at least annually. Typically, this takes the form of an annual Equality Report or Statement. In addition to the Equality Act, the Council has a statutory duty to reduce health inequalities many of which were associated with protected characteristics under the Equality Act.


Our new Equality Objectives built on our previous objectives. They focused on what we would do to advance equality and how we would do it. The following Equality Objectives (2021-2025) were recommended to and agreed by Cabinet.


·         Equality Objective 1: To develop, and deliver in partnership, a District-level approach to growth and recovery that builds, and can demonstrate, an Epping Forest that works for all.

·         Equality Objective 2: To drive improvement in service delivery through the use of equality data and data on socio-economic deprivation.

·         Equality Objective 3: To develop a research and consultation strategy to understand the needs and experiences of our communities with a clear pathway or process to embed their knowledge and experience into service design, development and delivery.

·         Equality Objective 4: To understand, and evidence, the impact of our workforce initiatives on improving equality.


Proportionality was key in setting our objectives. We only had to publish one objective, but we have set four in order to be able to show progress made.


Councillor Janet Whitehouse commented that this was an interesting report.  She noted it mentioned that the Equality Impact Assessment was to be reviewed; she thought it was too long with too many pages that not everyone read. She hoped the Equality Impact Assessment would be produced in a different way in the future. However, she did not ask for an explanation as the officer was not there in person but on Zoom. Mr Small noted that bringing in an officer was not necessarily the most efficient way to deliver items. We had the ability to have hybrid meetings and this cuts out a lot of travel time. And, we were also looking to improve the sound quality in the Chamber. On the equality impact assessment, we may need to change the way we do this, and officers shall consider how it can be streamlined.


Councillor Lion noted it was an interesting and detailed report. How was this report going to be turned into an action plan and how would it be monitored? There was also a reference to a digital strategy; how would this be implemented and what actions were associated with equality? Ms Miles noted that in this digital age it was about digital inclusion and she wanted to bring that out in the report. It was about how we mainstreamed digital inclusion into our digital strategy, and it was embedded into other strategies and plans. Mr Small added that we would also engage with our Community Team to see how we could translate this into a separate piece of action. The Chairman asked if this would entail liaising with the ward councillors. Ms Miles agreed that this was point one of the action plan. Councillor Lion asked if there was something that would come back to this committee to be monitored. He was told that officers already had a duty to monitor performance against the delivery of their policy and could bring back a report when they had a more detailed plan.


Councillor H Kane noted that we did not have the original policy and so could not compare any changes. She was told that the last one was produced in 2016/17 and was referenced in the paper. This was also essentially a brand new policy. It was refreshed every four years and did not really build on the previous policy. It was not an update but a brand new set of objectives for the Council to deliver over the next four years.


The Portfolio Holder responsible, Councillor Sunger, noted that we were expected to do this as a matter of course. Also, officers could now work from home and have that choice; if you have any questions you could always email the officer concerned in advance of the meeting.


Councillor Murray commented that he thought for effective scrutiny, being face to face with an officer was much better. Going forward members may want to decide on which items they would like the officers present or not. This report did highlight certain areas of deprivation in Loughton. As this was a high level strategic report rather than service delivery on the ground, it was pointing to where we should be focusing on work and service delivery. Perhaps this should be monitored by the Stronger Communities Select Committee. Mr Small replied that the objectives of the report were to identify and understand what was required. Once identified we could focus on what to do about it.





1)    That the Select Committee reviewed and commented on the Equality & Inclusion Policy and the Equality Objectives it contained; and


2)    That the Select Committee agreed that a public consultation on the Equality Objectives be undertaken.




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