By Claire West

People will be able to see exactly what public sector organisations are doing to tackle inequality under new plans to put taxpayers in control of holding public bodies to account, announced by Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone.

Launching a consultation on the new public sector Equality Duty, the Minister promised to make efforts to reduce inequality more transparent by increasing the amount of information public sector organisations must publish. This will mean they can be held accountable not by civil servants in Whitehall but by the people who actually fund and use their services.

The new approach marks an end to top down targets and box ticking bureaucracy.

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said:

“Equality is central to delivering the fair and more efficient public services that support a fairer society. However, in the past equality has too often become a byword for box-ticking and bureaucracy, with public bodies focussing on red tape rather than results.

“The new Equality Duty will change this — instead of the Government imposing top-down targets and bureaucratic processes on organisations, we will require them to publish data on their equality results in their services and their workforce, empowering the public by giving them the information they need to hold organisations to account.

“Citizens will be able to see for themselves how a public body is performing on equality, because what really matters is delivering improved, more equal services, not following complicated and expensive procedures.

“To really make this work we need to know what you think, so please visit the Government Equalities Office website and have your say on the proposals.”

The public sector Equality Duty will replace three separate duties that require government departments, local authorities and other public bodies to take into account gender, race and disability equality both as employers and when making policy decisions and delivering services. The duty simplifies this requirement and also extends it to fully cover age, religion and belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

The consultation is the latest stage in the Government’s equalities programme, which so far has included enacting new rules to help tackle the gender pay gap and provide greater protection for the rights of disabled people, as well as work to improve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.