Criticism after proposal for new equality committee is voted down

PUBLISHED: 08:16 02 March 2018 | UPDATED: 08:16 02 March 2018

Uttlesford District Council has apologied for cancelling refuse collections

Uttlesford District Council has apologied for cancelling refuse collections

Archant

A council group has criticised Uttlesford District Council’s “lack of appetite” for adopting “progressive policies” after deciding against forming an equality committee at a full council meeting on February 22.

Barbara LightBarbara Light

Residents for Uttlesford (R4U), which proposed the motion for a dedicated committee, said it was disappointed but “encouraged that some positive steps on equality had been taken”.

An amended motion was approved, however, which instructed the cabinet member for equalities to report to the full council by the end of year with recommended changes to policies, following an equality audit.

Councillor Barbara Light, of R4U, who formally proposed the original motion for a committee, said: “Whilst the district council administration believes it already complies with equality legislation, the problem is that law always requires the bare minimum and trails what society actually wants to see happen.

“Given the recent local furore about women’s place in society, it is clear that the council should be adopting more progressive policies, rather than just completing tick-box exercises.”

Summing up after the vote, Cllr Light, added: “This motion was non-political, so I’m appalled that the actual UDC cabinet member for equality led her party to vote against it. The council has responded to public concerns and agreed to a number of changes, and we will hold them to their word. I’d give the UDC administration 5/10 on this issue so far.”

Cllr Susan Barker, cabinet member for equalities, who proposed the amended motion responded, saying: “The motion was very heavily biased towards the gender equality matter and I feel that a review should be wider and look at the whole of the equality agenda.

“I have not ruled out having a committee, or a forum, but wish to wait until the outcome of UDC’s planned audit this year and then perhaps follow the idea of Councillor Derek Jones and have an external audit or a peer review.”

Council leader, Councillor Howard Rolfe said at the meeting: “We do not need another committee. It may well be there is a role for scrutiny in this matter. I prefer for the cabinet member of equality to bring forward a report. Let’s do something but let’s not jump in and create a bit of bureaucracy.”

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