This strategy reinforces the Council’s commitment to embracing diversity, attracting, and retaining the best staff and providing the best and most accessible services to our residents. It includes an Equality Action Plan which is the foundation on an inclusive Council will be built.
This report provided details of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, which would be positioned above the existing Fair Access and Inclusion policy. The Strategy would reinforce the Council’s commitment to embracing diversity, attracting, and retaining the best staff and providing the best and most accessible services to residents. It also included an Equality Action Plan which would be the foundation on which an inclusive Council would be built.
Members then raised a number of questions and comments, some of which referred to matters discussed at the Joint Consultative Committee held immediately before this meeting, which included:
Positive discrimination – in response to a question as to whether there could be a risk of positive discrimination against the Council as a result of approval of the Strategy, the Chief Organisational Culture Officer advised that there were no structured programmes in the Strategy regarding recruitment, and that the Strategy would look at applying best practice in the Council’s decision making, for example, removing unconscious bias from the recruitment process by ensuring there was a gender and ethnicity mix for interviews.
Introduction of the Strategy – in response to a question as to why the Council did not previously have an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, the Corporate Performance Management Lead advised the Committee that a Fair Access and Inclusion Policy had been in place for a number of years, however, it was recognised that it was now necessary to introduce and develop this Strategy.
Benchmarking and Best practice – in response to a question, the Corporate Performance Management Lead advised the Committee that research was undertaken to inform this Strategy to ensure best practice was followed.
Resourcing – in response to a question on whether there was adequate resourcing in place (to support the Strategy), the Corporate Performance Management Lead advised the Committee that resourcing was difficult, for example, there were officers who worked on data analysis, but their time was limited. This was reflected in the timelines set out in the Action Plan.
Strategy title – following on from discussion at the Joint Consultative Committee, it was commented that the title could be amended to include “equity”. It was also commented that the Strategy could be read as relating to recruitment only and it was necessary for this to be embedded more within the organisation.
Staff networks – in response to a question, the Corporate Performance Management Lead advised the Committee that staff networks and forums were integral and important to the Council and support was available but not always taken up. Reference was made to the important role that trade unions could play on boards and networks. It was also commented that any informal, disempowering, networks needed to be dismantled as part of the delivery of the Strategy.
Flexible working – references to flexible working in the Action Plan should refer to all staff, not just service managers and above.
Modern Slavery – it was commented that the Strategy should be improved in terms of its existing references to modern slavery, and more thought given to a human rights framework.
Delivery of the Strategy and Action Plan – Committee members discussed the Strategy with particular reference to how regularly update reports should be submitted to the Committee, how ambitious the action plan was and the resources available to deliver it, whether HR work needed to be reprioritised in favour of the delivery of the Action Plan, and as such whether the Strategy should be approved at this stage as a draft, pending further discussions with HR.
The Committee agreed the new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy as set out at Appendix A to the report, as a draft strategy at this stage, and that it be referred back to the next meeting of this Committee, to facilitate:
(i) An informal meeting to which Committee members will be invited to, prior to the next Committee meeting, to discuss the prioritisation of resources to deliver the action plan at a faster pace against other priorities.
(ii) A briefing note to be sent to Committee members prior to the next Committee meeting, setting out the priorities across HR and the current Workforce Strategy against available resources.