by James Roberts, political director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance
In March Rishi Sunak, committed to crackdown on wasteful spending across Whitehall by cutting £5.5 billion worth of waste. Billions were wasted during the pandemic and there are billions more to be found, so this is a welcome initiative for taxpayers.
One place the chancellor could start is the vast number of diversity and inclusion managers.
In recent years these social justice positions have become prolific, packed into every crevice of the public sector. In the last few weeks alone there have been numerous reports about HMRC and Homes England publishing job listings for such roles, with salaries between £43,523 and £72,202. At a time when there’s a 70 year high tax burden and a housing crisis, these organisations need to get their priorities straight.
The same applies across the wider public sector. We’ve seen diversity manager jobs in the NHS paying over £60,000 and Network Rail’s director of diversity and inclusion being the highest paid diversity officer in the public sector, raking in between £160,000 and £164,999.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance recently discovered advertising by Surrey county council for three equality, diversity and inclusion posts at a total cost to the taxpayer of around £170,000. Meanwhile, the council decided to put up council tax by five per cent in the middle of a cost of living crisis. When we spoke to local residents they were understandably angry. At a time when households are struggling to make their budgets stack up, they expect to see central and local government use their money to deliver frontline services - not waste it on diversity demagogues.
The travesty for taxpayers is that these roles are not even legally required.
The Equality Act 2010 stipulates the rules employers legally have to comply with when it comes to equality and diversity. These are:
- Ensuring they comply with equal pay legislation, such as paying men and women the same for doing the same, or equivalent, jobs;
- Not discriminating against job applicants or staff when it comes to benefits, promotion and other workplace matters; and
- Doing all they reasonably can to prevent discrimination and harassment of staff in the workplace by others.
Public sector employers have further duties when they are exercising their public functions, which include:
- Eliminating discrimination, harassment and victimisation under the Equality Act 2010;
- Advance equality of opportunity; and
- Fostering good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.
Crucially, there is no legal requirement or penalty for employers for not having a dedicated diversity, equality and inclusion officer, let alone large teams of free-wheeling diversity and inclusion staff bagging large salaries from the taxpayer. The legal responsibilities currently in place should be integrated into human resources teams, without any need for new legislation, cutting public sector costs in the process.
Repealing the Equality Act and all the onerous bureaucracy that comes with it would undoubtedly save taxpayers money, but the fact is that the requirements have already been overinterpreted by civil service bosses. Legions of equality crusaders are not required under the Act, and taxpayers should not be expected to pay for them.
Taxpayers are struggling to get by and are sick of having to pay for diversity non-jobs. Rishi should require government bodies to think again, scrap these unnecessary positions and begin to tackle the post-pandemic pile of wasteful spending.