We are seeing already an increase in legal challenges to spending decisions by public authorities and we expect to see more in the coming months. For the lawyers there is a long line of cases giving (not always clear) guidance on when and how to allocate limited funds in, for example, the fields of social care, health services and housing. What the courts also now have to grapple with are questions about whether funding decisions comply properly with equalities (and other human rights) duties. The Fawcett Society’s attempt to judicially review the coalition’s emergency budget – on the grounds that the Government hadn’t properly assessed whether the budget would have a disproportionate impact on women – may be the shape of things to come. How, then, can policy makers assess whether their proposals will meet human rights and equalities standards? Not an easy task but some help may be at hand from Queen’s University in Belfast who have produced a series of papers – including case studies – on how to budget within a ‘human rights framework’. I won’t pretend to have absorbed all of the material which Queen’s has produced – and some of it is highly detailed, academic work – but the project has already been referred to in the Northern Ireland Assembly where one Committee was looking at spending plans for NI. I’d be interested in knowing of any other similar projects or practical guidance on how to make sure spending decisions are made lawfully and with an eye to equalities and human rights duties.
On October 26, 2010