To consider a report from the Assistant Chief Executive.
1. That Cabinet:
a) Note the progress made over the past 12 months towards the equalities agenda.
b) Note the next steps outlined within the Equalities Annual Report and action plan for 2023/24.
The Chair invited the Head of Policy, Performance, and Intelligence and Assistant Director of Human Resources to introduce the report. It was noted that the Cabinet Member for Corporate Services, Community Safety and Finance had submitted his apologies.
It was outlined that publication of the Annual Report was part of the Council’s Public Sector Equality Duty. The purpose of the report was to highlight the progress made over the previous year towards the equalities, diversity and inclusion agendas and outlining next steps.
The Annual Report was aligned to the following themes outlined in the Equalities Framework for Local Government. It was noted that there was a target that the Council would achieve ‘excellent’ status under this framework by 2025.
An overview of activity was given against each theme:
· Theme 1: Understanding, listening to, and working with Rotherham’s Communities. Examples were given equalities data was collected and analysed to inform understanding of the breadth of communities in the borough.
· Theme 2: Providing Leadership and Organisational Commitment to Actively Promote Equalities.This theme demonstrated how the Council’s leadership is positively promoting equality, diversity and inclusion across the borough.
· Theme 3: Delivering Accessible and Responsive Services that Meet Diverse Needs. This theme showed how effective planning and service delivery across the Council ensures services were accessible to all customers.
· Theme 4: Ensuring a diverse and engaged workforce.The Council continued to improve workplace equality and diversity through the delivery of the Workforce Plan 2022-2025.
Equalities action plan 2023/24
Alongside the report, the Equality Action plan identified workstreams from the Council Plan’s Year Ahead Delivery Plan 2023/23.
Major areas of work for the forthcoming year included:
· Refreshing ward profiles to update and improve the data available at the local level.
· An action plan for digital inclusion.
· Work with partners to deliver the Council Plan commitments to tackle inequality and disadvantage.
· Improve workplace equality and diversity through the delivery of the Workforce Plan 2022-2025.
The Chair invited questions from the Board and a discussion of the following issues ensued:
· Clarification was sought on staff representation networks and if consideration had been given to forming a men’s network, citing the success of ‘Andy’s Man Club’. It was outlined that networks were employee-led, and those referenced were based on employees with protected characteristics. Should there be a request to set up additional networks, support could be provided to facilitate their running.
· It was noted that there was a commitment to achieve ‘excellent’ status under the LGA Equalities Framework by 2025. Further details were sought on how equalities were prioritised within the authority, whether achieving ‘excellent’ was achievable and what improvements had been made since the authority was awarded ‘development’ status in 2017 and if progress had stalled. It was outlined that the Council had embedded equalities, diversity and inclusion in each of its plans. It was also outlined that the framework had changed, which had meant that Council’s were required additional criteria to evidence outcomes under the standards. It was noted that other local authorities had revised deadlines to achieve ‘excellent’ status under the new framework. The Strategic Director of Regeneration and Environment gave examples of how equalities were prioritised within Culture, Sport and Tourism, demonstrating how progress was being made.
· Further details were sought on how services adapted how they communicated with groups such as learning-disabled people. The Interim Assistant Director for Strategic Commissioning outlined that Rotherham had a strong advocacy service and drew upon the lived experience of individuals and their families and carers to feed into service development and improvement. The Chair noted that the Board has agreed to undertake a review of consultation and engagement which would be scheduled later in the year.
· Details were sought on whether the Council had diversity targets in recruitment processes. It was outlined that the Workforce Strategy had targets in relation to representation of certain groups such as young workers and disabled employees. Examples were given of how the Council was working with partners to widen recruitment and engagement. It was outlined that the targets were based on benchmarking with other local authorities and data based on local working population. It was noted that Black, Asian and minority ethnic workers were under-represented at 4% of the workplace. It was outlined that in respect of employment targets, there was not a requirement on employees to declare if they had protected characteristics, therefore, the actual numbers may be higher. Assurance was given that processes to recruit under-represented groups would not discriminate against other applicants and that recruitment was fair and transparent.
· It was noted that the case studies referencing women’s sport illustrated the equalities agenda positively. Further details were sought to establish how receiving the ‘Most Improved Council’ award had contributed specifically to the equality and diversity agenda as the case study had not referenced any groups or communities with protected characteristics. It was felt that future case studies in future annual reports should explicitly reference the contribution they had made to the equality’s agenda.
1) That Cabinet be advised that the following recommendations be supported.
a. Note the progress made over the past 12 months towards the equalities agenda.
b. Note the next steps outlined within the Equalities Annual Report and action plan for 2023/24.
2) That case studies in future annual reports should reference explicitly how they contribute to the equality, diversity and inclusion agendas.