While the UK government has not commenced Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010 (the ‘socio-economic’ duty) across England, in 2012 Newcastle City Council led the way in implementing this section of the Equality Act at the local level. On 26 January 2012 the Council’s Cabinet voted to approve the following decision:
“(i) Endorse the principle of routinely including a socio-economic impact assessment duty in its strategic decision making;
(ii) Consider the progress that has been made so far to ensure that impacts on the poorest people are at the heart of key decisions;
(iii) Request that further detailed work be undertaken to consider how this approach might be given practical effect within the decision making processes of the Cabinet.”
This move by the Council requires them to consider the ways in which their decisions increase or decrease inequalities that result from socio-economic disadvantage. It also means that the impact of a particular decision on those worst off is at the very heart of decision making.
The impact of this decision can be seen across the subsequent work of Newcastle City Council, including in their Equality and Diversity policy, which states,
“Our approach to tackling inequality goes beyond our statutory duty. In addition to assessing the impact of any proposals or policies on groups with protected characteristics, our planning process also assesses impact on community cohesion and on those experiencing, or at risk of socio-economic disadvantage.”
Putting socio-economic disadvantage at the heart of decision making is an important step in building a fairer and more equal society. On 3 April 2019, 7 years after they had implemented it themselves, Newcastle City Council joined the call for the UK government to commence the socio-economic duty under the Equality Act 2010.