EHRC Hit With £200,000 Penalty For Week’s Delay

The Government Equalities office (GEO) has deducted £200,000 from the Equality Human Rights Commission’s budget (EHRC) for missing a “critical milestone”. The EHRC was tasked with creating a 250 page guideline document for the Single Equality Act. Writing to the Equalities watchdog, Theresa May, Equalities Minister, criticized the Quango for allegedly forcing her department into creating their own guidance document.

The penalty will be a blow for the EHRC, who had received only a 12% deduction to their budget, instead of the rumoured 15%, in the recently announced government austerity programme. Speaking to the Independent, Neil Kingham, director general of the Equality and Human Rights Commission stressed the document would be ready for July 12th 2010, just one week after the GEO’s original deadline. He explained:
"The Equality Act is one of the most wide-ranging pieces of legislation of the last few years and it's essential that the guidance which accompanies it is comprehensive and accurate. We have carried out a vital consultation process with a large number of stakeholders in order to produce guidance on the entire Act to suit individuals and organisations."
With the government unable to confirm when the Equality Act will be implemented and recent changes to how the different provisions of the Act will be commenced, it could easily be argued that the EHRC’s delay was justified.  DiversityLink contacted the EHRC to confirm if the facts surrounding the penalty were accurate, since the GEO’s action appeared to be disproportionately severe.
The Penalty had indeed been applied. We asked how it would be possible for the GEO to create a superior document in less than a week without prior knowledge that they would need to do so. A spokesman at the EHRC explained that the GEO were creating a “simplified” version of the Guidance and it would not be the same as their “in depth” version.   A huge penalty for one weeks delay and the GEO creating a completely different document in place of one they desperately needed? There is certainly more below the surface here. Reading between the lines it would seem the relationship between the EHRC and its paymaster must be somewhat strained.  


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