The Coalition's assault on access to justice continues with a massive cut to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Guardian :
"Equality and Human Rights Commission has workforce halved
Government also removes equality watchdog's obligation to consider policy impact on poor and downgrades role of chair
Randeep Ramesh, social affairs editor guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 15 May 2012 16.58 BST Comments (176) Trevor Phillips's post as chair of the EHRC is being cut to two days a week, with a reduced salary of £56,000.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has been stripped of its duty to promote a society with equal opportunity for all and had its budget and workforce halved, the government has announced.
The move comes days after the watchdog chided ministers for failing to consider how crucial policies would affect women, disabled people and ethnic minorities.
The EHRC has long been a bugbear for the Tory right who see it as a relic of the past. It has also been criticised by MPs for financial mismanagement after the National Audit Office (NAO) refused to sign off the commission's accounts for three years in a row.
In a widely anticipated shakeup, equality minister Lynne Featherstone said the commission would seek a new chair to replace Trevor Phillips, the former television executive and presenter, and conduct a review of the commission's budget.
Last year, the NAO found that commission staff were "paid too much" and said the quango spent £1.6m "without authority".
The EHRC will have its budget halved to £26m by 2015 and staff numbers will drop to 180 – down from 455 in 2010. The new chair will be paid £56,000 a year for two days a week compared with the £112,000 Phillips earned for a three-and-a-half day week.
Ministers have brought forward a key review to next year and warn that if progress is not made the EHRC risks being broken up.
"We will seek to implement more substantial reform to ensure that the EHRC's core functions are discharged effectively and efficiently in the future. This could mean more fundamental, structural changes to the EHRC's remit including some functions being done elsewhere, or splitting its responsibilities across new or existing bodies".
In part the changes aim to dismantle a legacy left by the previous government. Featherstone said the government would repeal the obligation to assess whether policies affect the poor, which when introduced by Labour was characterised as "socialism in one clause". The minister said instead the "socio-economic duty" would be repealed.
Unions also said the responses to the government's earlier consultation "clearly show overwhelming opposition" to the repeal of specific sections of the Equality Act 2006. However, ministers have "decided to scrap vague, unnecessary and obsolete provisions" so the EHRC could focus "on its core functions".
In a package of measures, £10m of grants would be cut from the EHRC budget, reducing funding for many local equality groups. Also axed is the helpline run for disabled air passengers to handle complaints about poor service............"