Publication - Minutes

Equality Budget Advisory Group minutes: March 2019

Published: 11 Jul 2019
Date of meeting: 22 Mar 2019

Minutes of the Equality Budget Advisory Group (EBAG) meeting held on 22 March 2019.

Published:
11 Jul 2019
Equality Budget Advisory Group minutes: March 2019

Attendees and apologies

Attendees

  • Angela O’Hagan, WiSE, Glasgow Caledonian University (Chair)
  • Nastassja Beaton, Public Spending
  • Tim Ellis, Performance and Outcomes
  • Mhoraig Green, COSLA
  • Liz Hawkins, Communities Analysis
  • Alison Hosie, Scottish Human Rights Commission
  • Mirren Kelly, COSLA
  • Uzma Khan, Office of the Chief Economic Advisor
  • Jim McCormick, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
  • Anne Meikle, Scottish Women’s Budget Group
  • Richard Robinson, Audit Scotland
  • Sarah Watters, COSLA
  • John Wilkes, Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Gillian Achurch, Communities Analysis (Secretariat)

For deep dive seminar (Item 1)

  • Alan Bermingham, Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy
  • Eileen Flanagan, Equality
  • Aidan Grisewood, Tax
  • Tom Lamplugh, Office of the Chief Social Policy Advisor
  • Joanne Walker, Low Incomes Tax Reform Group
  • Andrew Waugh, Statistician, Strategic Insights, Performance & Outcomes

Apologies

  • James Fowlie, COSLA
  • Chris Oswald, Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Fiona Page, Public Spending 
  • Sean Stronach, Equality

Items and actions

1. Seminar on revenue 

Aidan gave a presentation outlining Scotland’s tax powers, the Scottish Government’s approach to tax, and how Scotland’s powers and the budget process work in practice. He welcomed EBAG’s engagement in this area of work.

Aidan noted that there are limits to tax data. Income tax data can be analysed by gender and age, and the Family Resources Survey (FRS) boost allows for disability analysis. Andrew stated that household level data is problematic in this area, as there is a mismatch between who in the household is paying tax, and who has any given protected characteristics. Tom suggested that qualitative research should also be used, for example to explore how different protected characteristics impact on attitudes, decision making, or what people think about tax changes. Aidan noted that there are microstudies on behavioural effects to understand how people react to tax changes. 

Angela suggested that it is important to ensure that the analytical work demonstrating that Scotland is mitigating some negative effects of UK tax on certain groups of people is promoted and accessible. Aidan noted that his team is looking at how to make this work easier to find on the website, and that hits on income tax pages on the website shows there is huge public interest.  

Aidan highlighted work that his team have been doing to engage wider stakeholder groups on tax, including their approach to income tax. They will be pursuing more systematic stakeholder engagement and consultation going forwards, as well as tax education and promoting financial inclusion.

Andrew noted that much work on distributional effects of tax, benefit and tax credit changes, such as that undertaken by Landman Economics, still has to rely partly on assumptions. Aidan noted that the SFC are working on putting more analysis into the public domain. Angela suggested that it will be important to explore these equalities dimensions in the Medium Term Financial Strategy. 

Angela thanked Aidan for facilitating this open conversation. She noted the following as key points to consider going forwards: data gaps, new analysis and potential sample boosts, difficulties in data availability, maximisation of available resources to be compliant with Human Rights, and policy linkages. The Medium Term Financial Strategy should consider these issues. It was suggested that EBAG consider inviting Aidan or colleagues back in 9-12 months’ time.

Actions:

  • Gillian to circulate a link to the Audit Scotland e-hub on devolution of fiscal powers
  • Aidan to look at whether infographics could be used to make equality information on the website more accessible, as well as making sure that equality materials overall are as accessible as possible 

General meeting

2. Continuation of revenue discussion 

Liz noted, following on from the above discussion, that the possibility of boosting the FRS sample for Scotland is being considered, but noted that even if it is doubled it would not increase accuracy – but could potentially allow more breakdowns. Uzma added that the Office of the Chief Economic Advisor are doing a lot of work on data linkages including administrative data, which Liz confirmed would be helpful in reducing the reliance on combine many years of data to get some breakdowns.  

3. EBAG work to support budget analysis 

Angela proposed three stages of change to support changes to equalities and Human Rights analysis of the budget. The three stages would be:

  1. Scoping: where are we now? Where does analysis happen, and what tools and processes are in use? To be done in the coming months.
  2. Actions: having identified gaps, what actions are needed to improve practice in analysis, reporting, budget and policy formation? To take place over the next year.
  3. Improve evaluation and outcomes analysis: respond to increased demands for more effective accountability and scrutiny. Long-term. 

Angela proposed that she draft a short brief in the next few weeks, to share with EBAG for comments. It would be sent to the Minister for sign-off by the end of April, when Angela is looking to meet with her. It would be 3-4 pages setting out questions to think about, and building on knowledge of the clunkiness and variability of EQIAs. 

Uzma cautioned that Brexit is currently causing high workloads, and that OCEA (and some other teams) will soon be moving to shift patterns. The proposed timing would therefore be difficult in terms of capacity within Scottish Government. 

Angela noted the commitment to producing a summer equality product to support the budget scrutiny process. Tim highlighted the baseline outcomes report being produced for the end of May, and asked whether this summer equality product could be done off the back of that. He confirmed that the report will not focus on one particular area, but tell a fuller story and engage people in conversations about outcomes for Scotland. Liz asked whether the product will be about process, and where and how equality analysis could be done in budget process. Angela suggested it be sent out as guidance. Liz suggested it could be a discussion paper.

Uzma noted that, on reconsideration, this could be ideal timing in terms of producing something to support thinking about budgets. 

Angela proposed that the product should set out how equality budgeting is done in Scotland. There’s a need to know what the most appropriate devices are for SG. She highlighted that a potential issue with discussion documents is that there is no requirement to engage with them.  

Jim suggested that some light touch mapping might be useful, and noted that there are some pilots in the pipeline, for example for Fairer Scotland. Liz proposed that the product could focus on areas that are less inundated with Brexit work, again such as Fairer Scotland. Tim highlighted the importance of synergy and providing examples that show that the focus is on bringing things together for proper policy analysis, rather than asking for additional outputs on equalities, human rights, Fairer Scotland etc. Angela proposed that the immediate product could be guidance to help SG meet commitments to engage, which could be followed later in the year when there is less pressure on resources by questions around what different teams have done, and offer suggestions for what they could be doing. Sarah noted that this is a critical year for local government in terms of moving into multi-year budgeting, and that this product would usefully feed into this this year. 

Action:

  • Angela to draft a guidance document to serve as the agreed summer equality budgeting product, and circulate to EBAG members by mid-April 

4. Future EBAG meetings  

Angela noted that the May EBAG meeting will continue these conversations about building robust processes. It could include an update from Tim on the baseline outcomes report, and a presentation from Alison on human rights budgeting. 30 minutes will be set aside for a discussion on the Housing Beyond 2021 project and what EBAG might be able to contribute to this, which will be picked back up in the autumn. 

The September meeting will focus on local government, including the local taxes that Aidan mentioned. Sarah noted that her team will be leading on this work at COSLA, and will confirm whether September or October will suit their timescales better.

Jim asked whether discussions on housing would focus on topics such as homelessness, or more on affordable housing. Liz suggested that the May discussion will be an opportunity to hear about the work being done, and flag issues early if there are things that EBAG members are concerned about. 

Actions: 

  • Mhoraig to invite housing colleague in May
  • Mhoraig/ Sarah to confirm whether September or October will suit their timescales better for a deep dive on local government
  • Gillian will circulate the agenda for the April tripartite meeting with the Equality and Human Rights Committee and the Scottish Human Rights Commission
  • Angela to be in touch with Tim separately on outcomes report