Tuesday, 10 August 2010

challenge to budget

Fawcett launches legal challenge to government budget
The Fawcett Society has filed papers with the High Court seeking a Judicial Review of the government's recent emergency budget. (1)

Under equality laws, we believe the government should have assessed whether its budget proposals would increase or reduce inequality between women and men. Despite repeated requests, the Treasury have not provided any evidence that any such an assessment took place. (2)

Even a top line assessment of the budget measures show 72 per cent of cuts will be met from women's income as opposed to 28 per cent from men's. This is because many of the cuts are to the benefits that more women than men rely on, and the changes to the the tax system will benefit far more men than women.

Ceri Goddard, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, said:

"Successive governments have failed to give enough consideration to how their policies will impact on equality between men and women, but this budget shows a whole new level of disregard for the importance of equality law and everyday women's lives.

"The blatant unfairness and the sheer scale of the impact this budget could have on women have left us little choice but to resort to the courts for action.

"In times of economic crisis it becomes more not less important to consider women's basic rights, and observe the laws put there to safeguard them. We know action is needed to cut the deficit but such critical decisions - especially such eye-watering cuts to public spending - should not have been made without considering the impact on women.

"It's ironic that a budget that in many other ways was the most transparent for decades seems to have failed to consider and publish its impact on half the population. We are sure that many MPs would think twice about these measures had they realised the basic questions hadn't been looked at.

"Women already earn less, own less, and have less control over their finances than men. Yet some £5.8 billion of the £8 billion of cuts contained in the budget will be taken from women, who will also be worst affected by the coming cuts to public services - 65 per cent of public sector workers are women.

"We are calling on the government to look again at the budget, and to ensure that all government departments undertake a robust and transparent gender equality impact assessment of proposals being discussed in the current spending review before final decisions are made.

"If they believe women should bear a greater burden of cutting the deficit they should come out and say so."

The Fawcett Society's solicitor, Samantha Mangwana, of Russell Jones & Walker solicitors, said:

"Although public authorities have been subject to the gender equality duty for several years now, there is widespread ignorance not only about how strong these laws actually are, but also what specific steps are required to be undertaken. However, the case law is crystal clear in spelling this out. Firstly, an equality impact assessment must be conducted before policy decisions are taken.

"Secondly, where an assessment reveals a risk of discrimination, urgent action must be taken to address those risks. Clearly, if the equality impact is not even assessed as a starting point, a public authority cannot start to consider what steps to take to mitigate any inequality."

(1) A permission hearing will be held to determine whether the judicial review is granted. No date has yet been set.

(2) In not assessing the way in which the budget will impact differently on women and men, we believe the Treasury has not met the requirements of the Gender Equality Duty, under sections 76A and 76B of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.

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