A local authority has refused to explain why it will not release an assessment of how its savage spending cuts will affect disabled people and other minority groups.
Members of Lambeth council pushed through a package of spending cuts last month, including a decision not to renew annual contracts worth £118,000 with People First Lambeth (PFL).
Without the funding, PFL – one of the country’s leading self-advocacy organisations – said it would be forced to close.
But the council has refused to provide Disability News Service with a copy of the equality impact assessment (EIA) it claims it carried out on its proposed cuts to adult social care services – including PFL’s funding – which were agreed by the council on 23 February.
A Lambeth council spokesman said: “We are satisfied that we have fulfilled our EIA requirements. An EIA was carried out as part of the overall savings proposals for Adults and Community Services.”
He said the assessment – a legal requirement which obliges public bodies such as councils to assess the impact of policies on disabled people and other groups – was “in the process of undergoing some reviews but it will be available for public inspection very shortly”.
But one leading lawyer said the council’s failure to provide the EIA could open it up to a judicial review.
Louise Whitfield, a judicial review expert with solicitors Pierce Glynn, who specialises in public sector equality duties, said: “If the final decision has been taken, the EIA that was considered when that decision was taken should have been complete so it could inform that decision properly, and it also should be in the public domain.”
She added: “It seems very odd to me to suggest that they should not publish any of it or they are finishing it off. How can they finish something that should have been in front of decision-makers?”
Whitfield, who represented the charity that last month succeeded in a judicial review of London Councils’ decision to slash spending on its grants programme, said she believed Lambeth council’s apparent failure to complete and publish an EIA could provide grounds for a judicial review.
Anne Kane, policy manager for Inclusion London, added: “We have concerns about the devastating impact on equality that public sector cuts are going to have, including those local government cuts that are passing on the impact of central government cuts.
“We would want to be sure that all public authorities were properly assessing the impact on equality of any cuts… and being transparent in how they are doing that.”
16 March 2011