Your Roles in the Council
Taking Decisions for Future Generations
Every public body in Wales has an individual and a collective duty to tackle the challenges that face Wales now and in the future, such as climate change, poverty, health inequalities and jobs and growth. To address these challenges, we need to work collaboratively to take decisions for the benefit of people now and in the future. The duties of councils in this area are set out in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. The Act defines seven well-being goals which show the kind of Wales public bodies collectively want to see. Public bodies in Wales must work towards these goals. The Act also puts in place a sustainable development principle which tells organisations how to go about meeting their duties under the Act. There are `five ways of working’ which public bodies need to think about to show that they have applied this sustainable development principle. The five ways of working are a common-sense approach to effective decision making and good governance.
It is important that councillors consider these requirements when they take decisions. Scrutiny members have an important role in making sure that decisions have been made according to the sustainable development principle.
Taking decisions based on the principles of equality and diversity
The councillors’ Code of Conduct outlines expectations around councillors’ behaviour and commitment to equalities and respect. Councils, as public service providers and as major employers, have a range of statutory duties and responsibilities around equalities.
The General Equality Duty
The Equality Act 2010 outlines a “general equality duty” which councils must pay due regard to when exercising their functions. This general equality duty is as follows:
- Remove or minimise disadvantages experienced by people due to their protected characteristics.
- Take steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people.
- Encourage people with protected characteristics to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.
The Equality Act 2010 also sets out a series of ‘protected characteristics’ to which the general equality duty applies.
The protected characteristics are:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity (which includes breastfeeding)
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
Equality Impact Assessments
Councils have legal duties around eliminating unlawful discrimination, advancing equality of opportunity and fostering good relations on the basis of protected characteristics such as gender, race, disability or age. These duties do not prevent you from reducing a service where necessary, but do require you to consider the needs of members of your communities.
Further guidance on Equality Impact Assessments can be found on the EHRC’s website.
The Socio-Economic Duty 3>
In addition to the general equality duty, the socio-economic duty (SED) asks councils, when making strategic decisions, to give additional consideration to socio-economic disadvantage and the inequalities of outcome it can produce.
The Socio-economic Duty requires those taking strategic decisions to:
- Take account of evidence and potential impact
- Consult and engagement with relevant individuals and groups
- Understand the views and needs of those impacted by the decision, particularly those who suffer socio-economic disadvantage
- Welcome challenge and scrutiny
- Drive a change in the way that decisions are made and the way that decision makers operate
Councillors should note that due regard to the SED only needs to be given when making ‘strategic decisions’. Further explanatory guidance on the SED is available on the Welsh Government’s website.