UK scraps contract equality proposals

18 November 2010

18 November 2010 | Paul Snell

The UK government is to scrap the proposed requirement for public sector buyers to consider equality implications when awarding contracts.

Theresa May, home secretary and minister for women, announced yesterday that the Equality Duty would be removed. The duty, which formed part of the Equality Act and was due to be introduced in April 2011, was a general requirement for the public sector to consider the needs of diverse groups when designing and delivering public services.

This could have affected contract awards for goods and services. Recommended actions to meet the requirement included the use of equality-related terms and conditions, terms of contract, evaluation and award criteria, where they were relevant.

“It was meant to force public authorities to take into account inequality of outcome when making decisions about their policies,” said May.

“In reality, it would have been just another bureaucratic box to be ticked. It would have meant more time filling in forms and less time focusing on policies that will make a real difference to people’s life chances.

“But at its worst, it could have meant council services such as bin collections and bus routes designed not on the basis of practical need but on this one politically motivated target.”

Last month, the government revealed its intention to remove the specific requirement on buyers to consider equality in tenders, also contained in the act.

“We do not believe it is necessary to add burdensome additional processes on public bodies telling them how to conduct their procurement activity: they will be judged on the outcomes they deliver,” it said in a consultation on the Equalities Act earlier this year.

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