By Wanda Wyporska and Koldo Casla
This letter was published in The Guardian
Theresa May has the perfect opportunity to “bequeath a society that truly works for the many and not the few” by bringing into force the socioeconomic duty (section 1 of the Equality Act). This essentially requires effective and transparent policies to tackle socioeconomic inequality. “When making decisions of a strategic nature about how to exercise [their] functions, [public authorities must] have due regard to the desirability of exercising them in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socioeconomic disadvantage.”
Had it been in force, the government would have had to consider the likely impact of tax, social security and public spending reforms before implementing them. It would have had to show that these measures were the best of all the possible alternatives, and that they were not going to result in discriminatory outcomes and increasing inequality.
Scotland will bring this duty to life in December and councils such as Newcastle, Leicester, Islington, Newham and Southwark are taking it into account in their plans to avoid tragedies such as the Grenfell Tower deaths.
A few days ago Harriet Harman tabled an early day motion calling on the government to bring the socioeconomic duty to life, and 39 MPs have already expressed their support.
If we want to tackle the UK’s extraordinarily high levels of inequality, then bringing the socioeconomic duty into force is vital.