Equality and Human Rights Commission: Cuts
When EHRC was formed in 2007 its budget was £70 million. This was later reduced to £60 million, then £53 million by the new government last year. The government now wants to cut funding down to £22.5 million by 2015.
EHRC is proposing to more than halve the number of staff from 460 to 200 within 12 months, with many of those remaining being consultants or on short term contracts after being subjected to budget cuts of 68%.
The government has already announced it is withdrawing funding for the EHRC’s helpline and grants programme and the EHRC has also decided to close its regional offices. These decisions will take effect by March 2012.
Cuts on this scale would mean employers and public authorities would no longer be held to account if they carried out discriminatory policies, and would also effectively end the EHRC’s legal work – a recent example of which ensured six million carers in Britain are protected against discrimination in employment.
The government is currently consulting over the EHRC’s future and is proposing to amend the Equality Act 2006 to strip the EHRC of many of its key powers and duties.
Further evidence of the government’s lack of commitment to equality came on Friday 8 April 2011 with the Cabinet Office posing the question: ‘should the Equality Act 2010 be scrapped?’ as part of its ‘red tape challenge’ consultation.
The Public and Commercial Service Union is calling on EHRC chair Trevor Phillips to reveal his plans for the future of the organisation, challenging him to define the ‘core functions’ which he claims will be protected.
Equality and Human Rights Commission staff could strike later in April over plans which would effectively close the EHRC ending most of its advice services to the public and communities.
Public and Commercial Service Union General Secretary, Mark Serwotka said: "Our members are experts in their fields and this strike vote shows they are prepared to fight to maintain a proper national equality and human rights body at a time when government cuts are making it more likely people will face discrimination and disadvantage.”
"We do not accept the need for these cuts and the EHRC should talk to us urgently about the alternatives which would end the need for a strike and protect the vital services our members provide.”
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