Watchdog lays out strategy, despite cost-cutting fears


The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has pledged to increase public awareness of its work and the number of businesses seeking its advice, despite facing possible cost-cutting measures.
The watchdog, which launched in 2007, also promised three major national awareness-raising campaigns, including a “high-impact” drive to “make prejudice history” in 2011/12.
The pledges came in the commission’s three-year strategic plan, which will take it up to March 2012.
But there were also suggestions that costs could have to be cut, alongside the announcement of a slimmed-down board of commissioners.
The government equalities office (GEO) said the number of commissioners would be cut from 15 to a maximum of 10, with “up to eight” new posts due to be advertised from 26 July.
This will “reflect a more streamlined and cost-effective board focused on delivering the equality bill”. The bill is currently being considered by parliament and will streamline existing equality laws.
The new commissioners will join the chair, Trevor Phillips, and the deputy chair Baroness Prosser – both appointed for another three years.
The GEO said the smaller board would “reflect the new structure of the organisation”.
An EHRC spokesman said that “like other bodies we are looking at how we can best deliver our objectives, including value for money” and that it would “review and refine” its “operating model”.
He could not comment on where costs might be cut, but said the commission’s disability committee would not be scrapped, and would have two extra members “to strengthen its work”.
In the plan, the commission promises to continue work on promoting the safety of disabled people, following a series of high-profile disablist hate crimes.
The plan says the EHRC will be “closely monitoring” the impact of the recession on equality, human rights and community relations.
And it promises to improve the performance and awareness of its own website and helpline, both of which have been criticised.
The plan lays out five “strategic” priorities:
• Securing the right equality and human rights laws
• Creating a fairer Britain
• Fighting prejudice and promoting a culture of equality and human rights
• Promoting awareness of rights and duties
• Ensuring its own operation is “authoritative and responsive”.
The plan also pledges to improve equality in areas such as the criminal justice system, education and local government.
And it targets a five per cent increase in public awareness of its work; and a 50 per cent increase in small and medium-sized businesses that ask it for information and advice.
17 July 2009