By Koldo Casla and Lucy Shaddock
Despite it now grabbing all the headlines, we mustn’t forget that the snap General Election on 8 June will not be the only chance for many of us to cast our votes this year.
Citizens living in Wales, Scotland and 35 councils, six combined authorities and two districts in England will go the polls on 4 May to elect their local representatives, whose power is felt most closely by most of us.
Mayors and councillors have the ability to make a real difference by addressing inequality and improving the general enjoyment of economic and social rights in society.
Authorities at all levels should be transparent and work out the allocation of their resources and the design of their policies in light of actual evidence, but in our unequal society it’s vital that tackling socio-economic inequalities is at the heart of these decisions.
To take one good example, for a number of years Newcastle City Council has conducted integrated impact assessments of the potential effects of their annual Budgets on individuals and groups affected by socio-economic disadvantage in relation to health, general welfare, community cohesion, safety and natural environment. We believe this is a good practice that could and should be replicated elsewhere.
That’s why Just Fair and The Equality Trust have contacted all Mayoral candidates with a simple question: If elected Mayor, do you pledge to assess the impact of your decisions on reducing inequalities of outcome that result from socio-economic disadvantage?
In other words, we are urging them to act in the spirit of Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010. Despite being adopted seven years ago, this government and the previous one have refused to commence Section 1, which means that it is not technically in force yet. However, the case of Newcastle and others show that councils (and mayors) can effectively implement Section 1 within their powers.
Though we are encouraging local representatives to voluntarily do so, addressing socio-economic inequalities should not depend on the will of councillors and mayors. As a believer in a shared society, Theresa May should have matched her words with deeds and brought Section 1 to life in this Parliament. So now, in light of the announced snap elections, we call on all parties to take social rights and inequalities seriously and to prioritise Section 1 in their manifestoes.
The devolved administrations must take responsibility as well. The Scottish Government announced last year that it will enforce the socio-economic equality duty, and we expect this to happen soon. Likewise, the recently adopted Wales Act 2017 confers this power on the Welsh Government, and we urge it to follow suit.
The General Election may be stealing the limelight, but in just a fortnight, council leaders, councillors and mayoral candidates have the opportunity to show they are truly committed to a more equal society that advances the protection of human rights for all.
Dear candidate, are you #1forEquality?