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Council sets out priorities for tackling discrimination alongside amended equalities and diversity policy

News release from 24/09/2018

CAMBRIDGE City Council has set out its objectives over the next three years to promote equality and tackle discrimination. It is also making wording changes to its equalities policy to ensure full compliance.

A report going to Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee on 4 October includes the council’s latest Single Equality Scheme strategy, which sets out how it proposes to challenge discrimination and promote equal access to services and public activities and spaces.

Some projects over the next three years include tackling loneliness experienced by older people, signing up to the STOP Suicide Pledge to best support people with mental health crises, and working with partner organisations to help Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities access public services.

The strategy proposes to expand on the council’s work to tackle domestic abuse by developing its policy that addresses housing issues related to domestic abuse.

The council also plans to sign up to the live Safer Spaces campaign. Safer Spaces is a project being run by the Encompass Network aimed at ensuing services and businesses are as accessible and welcoming to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning people as possible. 

The report also sets out wording changes to the council’s Comprehensive Equalities and Diversity Policy, which re-emphasises its commitment to promoting equality and diversity as an employer and provider of public services, and ensures full compliance with the Equality Act 2010.

The council was recently made aware of the need to ensure the wording matches that used in the Equality Act 2010. The council sought independent legal advice on proposed wording changes, due to the complexity of the law in this area. These changes do not alter the levels or type of services offered for transsexual people, but instead seek to ensure legal compliance.

Cllr Anna Smith, Executive Councillor for Communities, said: “Cambridge City Council is fully committed to equality. The update to the Single Equalities Scheme lists the many brilliant projects we are working on across the council to ensure equality and access for all those experiencing discrimination.

“When it was pointed out that the wording of our Comprehensive Equalities and Diversity Policy was not entirely consistent with the Equality Act, we immediately sought legal advice and have, as a result, made amendments to the policy.  These amendments reflect specialist legal advice to ensure that the wording of the policy is consistent with the 2010 Equality Act.

“The council is committed to ensuring Cambridge continues to be a safe and welcoming place for all members of our community, and ensuring everyone has equal access to council services.”

Details of the amendments to the Equalities Policy are as follows:

  • The council’s current policy uses the term ‘gender’. It also contains two provisions that give ‘transgender people’ access to single sex jobs, services and facilities.

  • Proposed amendments include replacing references to ‘gender’ with ‘sex’ and replacing references to ‘transgender’ with ‘gender reassignment’ or ‘transsexual people’, so that the policy is consistent with the law.

  • Amendments to the policy also make explicit that the council has discretion to apply the “single sex exemption” in the Equality Act 2010 in very exceptional circumstances.

  • This exemption enables public bodies to exclude transsexual people from single sex spaces, facilities and jobs where this is a “proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim” and where there is clear evidence that this is necessary.

  • As set out in law, the council will treat a transsexual person according to their acquired gender, and unless the conditions above are met for the exemption, the council will continue to provide access to single sex jobs and single sex spaces such as public toilets, changing rooms or single sex health and fitness sessions.

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