Council defends gay rights record after criticism

A reveller at the Wigan Pride festival

A reveller at the Wigan Pride festival

Researchers have criticised town hall chiefs for failing to comply with the Equality Act and working to improve the lives of LGBTQ people.

A team from the University of Brighton found the town hall’s performance on equalities had got worse since 2014 while compiling its ambitious research project Liveable Lives.

The researchers graded every local authority in the country for how well they were complying with the duties the Act gives to town halls.

They downgraded Wigan Council from a rating of three, indicating weak compliance, in 2014 to four, meaning the authority was failing to meet one or more of the key equalities criteria.

The academics found Wigan is by no means the only authority struggling to comply as the number of town halls managing to follow the Act’s requirements has declined, with half of those in the research failing to demonstrate observance and only 10 per cent improving since 2014.

The academics expressed concern at the findings but Wigan Council said it was extremely surprised due to its work helping to organise the borough’s first Pride event this year and running high-profile campaigns aimed at tackling discrimination.

Professor Kath Browne, principal investigator for the University of Brighton research project, said: “It is clear that there are issues with local authorities’ compliance with the Equality Act 2010 and it is a cause for concern that compliance with this legislation appears to have declined.”

Council chiefs, however, have hit back, insisting they take their obligations seriously.

Kathryn Rees, Wigan Council’s assistant director for transformation and resources, said: “We are committed to the Equalities Act and to ensuring that all people have access to opportunities no matter what their background.

“In every formal decision we take we are required to check whether there are any implications for the equality and diversity of people in the borough.

“If there are then we carry out an equality impact assessment that we take into account when taking the decision.

“Our commitment to the LGBTQ community was demonstrated in our full support of the first ever Wigan Pride event this summer which was a huge success and was an important in raising awareness and tolerance throughout the borough.

“We take seriously our duty in publishing of information regarding equality and where required we will make improvements in this area.”

n Comment - page eight