To receive the Minutes from the meeting of the Overview Select Committee held on 23 March 2021, which are attached.
There is a recommendation for the Committee to consider at Minute 448 [Equalities and Diversity] – to view the Officers report – please click this link - Report
The Chair introduced this item explaining that at Minute 509 [Equality and Diversity] there were three recommendations for this Committee to consider. The Group Head of Policy explained that the Overview Select Committee had requested a review to be undertaken of equality and diversity across the Council. That Committee had received a detailed report outlining what the Council had in place to create and sustain equality and diversity.
Having had her report fully debated by the Overview Select Committee it had agreed three recommendations which were:
(1) that a consultant is appointed carry out an in-depth Equality and Diversity Survey and advise on a best practice action plan for the Council;
(2) that the Group Head of Policy be given delegated powers to appoint this resource within the available budget; and
(3) that the Council takes full account of Equalities and Diversity in the development of the new Corporate Plan 2022- 2027.
These three recommendations had been due to be reported to Cabinet on 17 May 2021 for consideration. As this meeting had been cancelled, under the new Committee structure, it was this Committee that was now responsible for this area of work. It was explained that the Council did not have an Officer that held this level of expertise to compile and conduct such an in-depth quality audit. A budget was in place to undertake this work, subject to this Committee approving delegated powers to the Group Head of Policy to appoint this resource.
In discussing the recommendations, concern was expressed over the potential cost for this work. The report had confirmed that a budget of £10,000 was available for this purpose. The Committee felt that £10k was excessive for such a project and that it should be reduced to £5k. If this then proved to be an impossible figure to work with, a further report could be brought back to the Committee and the budget revisited. This amendment was then formally proposed by Councillor Clayden and seconded by Councillor Madeley.
The Chief Executive provided reassurance in that the £10k budget in place for this project did not mean that the full budget would need to be spent. The matter had already been fully debated by the Overview Select Committee with that Committee agreeing to the three recommendations outlined. To reduce the budget to £5k could potentially cause a serous delay in procuring a consultant to move this important work forward, if this could not be achieved within a £5k budget, with the matter then having to be resubmitted to the Committee for further debate.
Questions were asked over the timing in place to conduct this review. As the Council was still recovering from the pandemic, was it the right time for it to take place now, or should the Council wait until it knew more about the shape of its workforce first.
Other Councillors expressed concern at the amendment put forward. This was because the need to produce a best practice action plan addressing equality and diversity was a matter of great importance and had been a project identified to progress for a long time. A budget of £10k had been approved, this did not mean that £10k had to be spent. There were concerns that Councillors were wanting to micro-manage the issues of the Council instead of allowing its professional Officers to proceed with important projects.
The Group Head of Policy responded to the points raised confirming that the £10k budget was to also cover any remedial action such as training for staff and Councillors that the survey might indentify as an action for the Council to undertake.
The Committee Manager was asked to confirm the full wording of
amendment. This was to change the
wording in recommendation (1) – additions have been shown in
bold and deletions shown using
That a consultant is appointed to carry out an
in-depth Equality and Diversity Survey, at a cost of no more
than £5k, and advise on a best practice action plan for
the Council and if the results of that work cost more than
£5k then this matter be brought back to the Committee for
Councillors Clayden and Madeley confirmed their agreement to this wording.
Having undertaken a named vote on the amendment the result was split (4) voting for and (4) voting against. The Chairman then used his casting vote and the amendment was declared CARRIED.
The Chairman then returned to the substantive recommendations, as amended, and the Committee
RESOLVED - That
(1) a consultant is appointed to carry out an in-depth Equality and Diversity Survey, at a cost of no more than £5k, and advise on a best practice action plan for the Council and if the results of that work cost more than £5k then this matter be brought back to the Committee for further consideration;
(2) the Group Head of Policy be given delegated powers to appoint this resource within the available budget; and
(3) the Council takes full account of Equalities and Diversity in the development of the new Corporate Plan 2022- 2027.