R4U Gives Uttlesford District Council Administration 5/10 on Progressing the Equality Agenda

Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) has announced that it is disappointed over the council’s lack of appetite to adopt progressive policies after the council rejected a dedicated Equalities Committee, but it is encouraged that some positive steps on equality and diversity have been taken.

To mark the centenary of women’s suffrage, Residents for Uttlesford introduced a vote at last week’s meeting of the full Uttlesford District Council to establish a new dedicated Equalities Committee that would take positive steps towards achieving greater equality and inclusivity. The proposal to establish the new committee was discussed at the end of an evening meeting that had earlier seen many public speakers talk about the need for greater equality in our society.

Barbara Light (R4U) Barbara Light (R4U)

R4U’s Cllr Barbara Light, who formally proposed the new Equalities Committee, said “Whilst the UDC administration believes it already complies with equality legislation, the problem is that law always requires the bare minimum and trails what society actually wants to see happen.  Given the recent local furore about women’s place in society, it is clear that the council should be adopting more progressive policies, rather than just completing tick-box exercises. R4U is a progressive party. That’s why we proposed the motion to positively drive equality through the formation of a dedicated committee.

During the debate there was strong cross-party discussion. Cllr Martin Foley (Lib Dem) said that a new committee would “give a stronger commitment” to equalities, and that in light of the evening’s earlier public speakers the “council was duty bound to be firmer” on equality.

However the proposal was rejected by both UDC’s current Cabinet Member for Equalities and Council Leader, but an amended motion was approved. This instructed the Cabinet Member for Equalities to report to the full council by the end of the year with recommend changes to council policies and procedures, following on from an audit of equality and diversity.

Cllr Derek Jones (Cons), the new chair of the UDC Standards Committee, asked that an external body undertake the audit so that it would give “greater confidence” that “standards expected in the outside world were being met” by the council.

Summing up after the vote, R4U’s Cllr Light said “This was a non-political motion to create a new Equalities Committee, so I’m appalled that the actual UDC Cabinet Member for Equality led her party to vote against it and the positive steps it would take to toward driving equality. However whilst UDC hasn’t adopted a dedicated equalities committee yet, the council has responded to public concerns and agreed to a number of changes, and we will hold them to their word. Residents expect the audit to be independent of the council, as requested by the chair of the Standards Committee, and its recommendations to be fully implemented. We will continue to hold the UDC administration to account and always push for more progressive policies. I’d give the UDC administration 5/10 on this issue so far – there is more to be done.”

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