Thursday, 28 October 2010

Equality Impact Assessments and CEHRNN

There was another interesting little snippet in the progress report on RUC recommendations that I discussed in my previous post. It concerned the use of Equality Impact Assessments and said -

"The corporate report writing guidance has also been amended to be clear that EIAs are needed for reports relating to new or changing policies, services or functions..."

In other words, if you a considering a change in policy, operations or whatever, as EIA is carried out to assess the potential impact on equalities issues and maybe make changes as a result.

NCC's EIA guidance says that priority services will also be subjected to an EIA according to a yearly timetable, more of an equalities review from what I can see. As a former manager who used to be involved in such things I'd question that. Services never stand still and will be subjected to a general review from time to time (and NCC certainly loves its reviews) and it seems somewhat fragmentary to have a separate EIA process happening at different times, better to carry out an EIA of your service review I'd have thought. Best practice is to have EIAs integrated into policy making and service development. But I digress.

Which brings me back to NCC's treatment of the Council for Equalities and Human Rights Nottm and Notts whose funding was removed by Cllrs Ahmed and Chapman ostensibly following an EIA which found the group wanting.

Let's have a look at the background here.

Firstly, Notts Racial Equality Council (CEHRNN's former handle) were awarded grant aid of £122k pa for three years at the Executive Board Meeting on 16 December 2008, the funding due to start in April 2009. The EIA looking at CEHRNN was started in November 2009 which means someone decided to do so some time before, when isn't known. The EIA document itself also confirms that it wasn't on the list of routine 'review' style assessments.

So why carry out an EIA on a funded external organisation only a few months after you've handed them £122k for 3 years? Why wasn't an EIA carried out as part of the decision to fund them i.e. before any money was handed over, if at all? What does it say about NCC's grant application procedures when so much money is handed to an organisation when, only months later, problems are found which are supposed to be so serious that they warranted an instant decision to withdraw that funding, a course of action which is pretty much unprecedented in the history of NCC's relationship with the voluntary sector? And why has that decision never been made public?

I've said before that an EIA is an inappropriate tool to use to review an organisation's overall effectiveness and this adds another element of inappropriateness to such action.

The EIA report notes that the initial decision to move from a purely race based organisation to one covering all equalities strands in 2007 and that the process was completed in Summer 2009. And yet one of the concerns highlighted in the EIA was that they had taken too long to widen their remit. Why wasn't this picked up in their funding bid if it was such a concern?

What's more we know that NCC had fabricated a complaint from the police about CEHRNN's involvement in protests against the EDL and were forced to withdraw it from the report. You have to wonder why they did that. And even if such a complaint had been made a) that's no proof that it was justified and b) CEHRNN is an independent organisation who can campaign on any issues it chooses, the only relevance to the grant aid would be whether it breaches the service level agreement between them and NCC.

And there's the rub. There was a contract. As far as I know there has been no explicit claim that CEHRNN was in breach of that contract by missing targets or failing to produce agreed outcomes. Do you think that's why they had to find another reason to remove the funding instead?

The multiple ironies are that NCC carries out an EIA which alleges that CEHRNN hasn't been carrying out its remit adequately so the funding was withdrawn in its entirity and the work is now not being done at all. Where's the Equalities Impact Assessment of that decision? And, despite the complaints that CEHRNN was only concentrating on race and not its wider remit, NCC/One Nottingham has since funded a new organisation, Nottingham Equal, which has no track record and only deals with erm, race issues. It does however, include Cllr Hassan Ahmed among its founding directors who only resigned when the Post busted him for not declaring the fact on his register of interests.

And so the ingredients which point to this being a stitch up are -

  • Lack of concerns at the time of the funding decision
  • Inappropriate use of EIA
  • Cllr Ahmed's non disclosed involvement with a potential competitor organisation
  • ...and involvement in the decision to withdraw funding
  • That decision being withheld from the public, what have they got to hide?
  • The competitor organisation later being awarded significant funding
Well, I'm afraid I'm convinced. I believe that the decision by Ahmed and Chapman to end CEHRNN's funding should be made public without delay so that as much light can be shed on this sorry matter as possible. I'm working on it.


Anonymous said...

It's no surprise I suppose that I'm with you on this one.

Over and above this insidious episode, the truth about NCC is that certain councillors wield far too much power and seem to be able to operate outside of any kind of accountability that you, I or the average man or woman in the street, would consider to be necessary in a democratic institution.

This needs to be stopped.

Andy said...

One of the problems with NCC, and I say this as a former manager there and at other local authorities, is that their management policies are so badly written that nobody really understands them and they are ripe for abusing.

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