Equality Budget Advisory Group minutes: October 2021
- Part of
- Economy, Equality and rights
Minutes of the Equality Budget Advisory Group (EBAG) meeting held on 26 October 2021.
Attendees and apologies
- Angela O'Hagan (Chair)
- Ali Hosie, Scottish Human Rights Commission
- Chris Birt, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
- Dougie McLaren, Deputy Director for Budget, SG
- Emma Congreve, Fraser of Allander Institute
- Gillian Achurch, Research Officer Equality and Social Justice Analysis, SG
- Joanna Anderson, Policy Manager, COSLA
- Joe Chalmers, Mainstreaming Administration and Learning Coordinator, SG (Secretariat, minutes)
- Jude Telford, Mainstreaming Organisational Capability Manager, SG (Secretariat)
- Kenny Stewart, EHRC
- Liz Hawkins, Equality & Social Justice Analysis, SG
- Rob Priestley, Mainstreaming Strategic Development and Organisational Capability Lead, SG (Secretariat)
- Sara Cowan, SWBG
- Simon Wakefield, SPICe
- Tim Ellis, Deputy Director for Performance & Outcomes, SG
- Tom Lamplugh, Office of the Chief Social Policy Adviser, SG
- Trevor Owen, Mainstreaming and Strategy Unit Head, SG
- Fiona Page, Scottish Budget Unit, SG
- Lisa McDonald, Economic Public Policy and Capability, SG
- Mirren Kelly, Local Government Finance, COSLA
- Simon Steele, Scottish Budget Unit, SG
Items and actions
Welcome and update from the chair
Minutes from the meeting held on Thursday 26 August 2021 were disseminated in advance of this meeting. There were no changes or corrections.
Angela went on to note that the Secretariat Role for EBAG will now be undertaken by Rob Priestley’s team within the Mainstreaming Strategy Unit. This consists of Rob Priestley, Jude Telford and Joe Chalmers. Thanks were given to Gillian Achurch for the significant work she has done in the past as the previous Secretariat.
It was also noted that Trevor Owen, Unit Head for the Mainstreaming Strategy Unit, will attend these meetings instead of Sean Stronach who has moved to a new role.
Scottish Government update on draft budget and this year’s Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement (EFSBS)
Update on the UK and Scottish Government budget timelines
Dougie provided the group with a financial update informing the group that: the UK Budget and Spending Review for capital and resource will take place on the 27 October. This will include a review of Business Rates and Scotland will get an updated Block Grant Settlement and Adjustments, based on the OBR forecast which is published on the 27 also.
The Spending Review may include information about pay, more specifically in relation to the pay freeze that applies to all public sectors, not including the NHS. This ties in with the The Bank of England projection of Consumer Price Inflation at 4% in the coming months.
Dougie went on to provide an update to the group about preparatory work that took place over the summer regarding the Resource Spending Review. The Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) will be published on 9 December followed by one in its normal May slot in 2022, also along with the Multiyear Resource Plans published in spring.
Dougie informed the group about the Subject Committees’ forthcoming pre-Budget letters to Cabinet-Secretaries which will be taken on board in the budget process.
Dougie informed the group that financial information on the National Care Service plans will become clearer in the New Year in the context of the related Bill and reflected in multiyear spending plans.
In relation to how COVID-19 spending will be factored into the budget process, Dougie explained that COVID-19 funding might be announced on the 27 but it could be a “partial picture” which could be updated in spring 2022. With regard to which policies the Scottish Fiscal Commission (SFC) has been asked to forecast, and will the multiyear budgets go down to Level four, Dougie updated that policies are developed iteratively through the autumn in line with the SFC process and timetable. He welcomed feedback on whether details of level four spend are useful for stakeholders.
Update on the Equality and Fairer Scotland Budget Statement (EFSBS)
Liz Hawkins provided an update on the agreed structure of the EFSBS and welcomed increased Ministerial engagement in the discussions. Ministers have elected to proceed with a portfolio-by-portfolio equality and fairer budget analysis. This approach may be beneficial in that it builds on the approach from previous years. Portfolio level returns for the EFSBS have been commissioned.
Scottish Women’s Budget Group’s (SWBG) project on gender budgeting
Sara Cowan from the Scottish Women’s Budget Group (SWBG) provided an overview of a three year project, led by the SWBG and funded by the Scottish Government, to increase and improve gender budgeting in Scotland. The project had three key work streams:
- supporting councils to increase gender budgeting, the SWBG will support five councils (one council in the first year and two in each of the subsequent years of the project) to increase and improve their gender budgeting through mentoring, training, support and advice
- working with Civil Society groups to increase engagement and advocacy, the SWBG will work with women and local campaigning and advocacy groups to increase their engagement and influence on local budget processes
- create a toolkit for councils on gender budgeting, building on the work with councils and civil society organisations the SWBG will develop a toolkit for local councils to enable the wider application of gender budgeting
This project was widely welcomed by EBAG members.
The National Advisory Council on Women and Girls’ (NACWG) recommendations on intersectional gender analysis of the budget
Trevor Owen provided an overview of the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG) and their recommendations to the Scottish Government through their annual reports. The third report from the NACWG, published in January 2021, included the following recommendations:
“We call on the Scottish Government to integrate intersectional gender budget analysis into the Scottish Budget process, and to give this a statutory footing.”
“We call on the Scottish Government as part of the current review of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) regulations in Scotland to place additional specific duties on listed Public Bodies to… Integrate intersectional gender budget analysis into their budget setting procedures.”
Trevor set out some initial considerations including the importance of intersectionality to the recommendation, potential options for further consideration around putting intersectional gendered analysis on a statutory footing and the importance of applying intersectional budget analysis throughout the policy and budget process rather than retrofitting analysis to decisions that have already been made. Trevor then invited views from EBAG on the recommendation.
Angela raised that it may be helpful to further define what the NACWG means by ‘intersectional’ in the context of budget analysis, in particular, when addressing structural and individual needs. Kenny Stewart shared advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) which may provide further clarity. Kenny also highlighted that intersectional equality budget analysis should already be taking place in public sector organisations in order to meet the requirements of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), although he noted that the PSED only addresses protected characteristics and does not include socioeconomic equality.
Angela expressed her view that intersectional gender budgeting should form part of intersectional equality budgeting covering all protected characteristics and this was echoed by other EBAG members. Angela recognised that this may have been the intention of the NACWG, who have a clear focus on gender equality but noted that, for the purposes of EBAG it may be preferable to use consistent, clear language that is as accessible as possible. Members agreed and noted that intersectional gender budgeting is part of equality budgeting and called for bolder action from the Scottish Government to improve equality budgeting.
Members discussed the view that while putting intersectional gender budgeting on a statutory footing may have benefits, it will be more important to provide support and tools organisations need to effectively apply intersectional gender budgeting. There were mixed views on whether it would be beneficial to put equality budgeting on a statutory footing with the majority of EBAG members emphasising that culture and behavioural changes may be more effective than legislative approaches. As well as the PSED, the Scottish Human Rights Bill could be a potential vehicle to emphasise equality budgeting but noted that it would only be effective as part of wider work on data collection and analysis as well as behaviour change.
Liz Hawkins raised the work of the Equality Data Improvement Programme (EDIP) to improve intersectional data, including sectoral data audits, data improvement action plans and improved data linkage. Liz spoke to the need for policy and budget decisions to be informed by equality evidence and data rather than analysis of budgetary decisions after they have been made. Emma Congreve discussed some of the work from Data and Intelligence Network and Research Data Scotland to improve data linkage that could improve policy and budget decision making. Members also raised the need to better link budgetary decisions to equality evidence and intended outcomes, with officials acknowledging this but also reflecting on the balance of analysis between the budget process and wider policy processes.
Angela summarised by noting that the NACWG recommendation stemmed from the need to do more in this area and welcomed their ambitious approach. EBAG ultimately want the budget to be informed by equality data and evidence, and, to take an intersectional equality approach. This aligns with the recommendation from the NACWG, however, intersectional gender budgeting should be part of wider equality and human rights budgeting. In addition Angela reflected on earlier discussion regarding putting intersectional equality analysis on a statutory footing noting that legislation may be another vehicle to emphasise equality budgeting but that it is not sufficient on its own to deliver the intended outcomes and that the Scottish Government should take bold action to increase equality budgeting.
Trevor welcomed the discussion and the many useful perspectives and advised that we will consider how best to reflect a summary of these views in the Scottish Government response to the recommendations.
Future EBAG work plan
Angela invited the group to discuss the actions in the workplan, including the new addition on the Internal Market Act 2020.
Members welcomed the work plan and the opportunity to discuss the links between budgetary decisions, targets and outcomes as they relate to the selected topics. EBAG are looking for a clearer articulation of how budgetary decisions will deliver on stated Scottish Government targets and making stronger links between investment and outcomes. Angela hoped that by aligning the work plan with the development of spending plans in spring 2022, EBAG would be able to support equality budgeting.
Trevor suggested that given the Scottish Government has committed to responding to the EBAG recommendations in spring 2022 it may be beneficial for EBAG to meet prior to this to discuss the developing response. Angela agreed and added that further meetings to discuss future iterations of EBAG will also be important prior to August 2022 when the current EBAG term is due to end.
- secretariat to pick up with EBAG for appropriate opportunity to discuss the developing response to EBAG recommendations
Developing equality and human rights budgeting knowledge in Scottish Parliament and the role of EBAG
Simon Wakefield from SPICe is working with the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee to look at what good practice in Equality and Human Rights Budgeting is and develop practical ways to scrutinise the Scottish Budget process from an equality and human rights perspective. There is a fellowship being advertised for a researcher to join SPICe on a part time basis to provide case studies and recommendations to the committee.
This work was welcomed by EBAG and in particular the ambition to scrutinise the budget year-round. Angela was keen that EBAG members, particularly external members, should consider how they can support this work including through sharing resources already available to support equality and human rights budgeting.
Alison highlighted that defining what constitutes good practice in equality and human rights budgeting in Scotland should be developed through a longer piece of work that takes a participative approach.
Any other business
Angela, Alison, and Emma will attend a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government on Tuesday 2 Nov. Trevor and Dougie will be supporting the Cabinet Secretary The agenda will include the EBAG work plan. EBAG members who wish to suggest further topics for discussion are invited to contact Angela directly.
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