Opinion Former Article

PCS: Union responds to Audit Office report into equality watchdog

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) expressed concern over the use of consultants following today's National Audit Office (NAO) report into the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

The publication of the report which highlighted the use of consultants at a cost of £323,708 comes at the same time as the commission is reorganising its helplines, resulting in the loss of 50 posts and the closure of the Manchester based helpline.

Last year the Manchester helpline handled over 50,000 enquiries from members of the public facing discrimination and its closure this autumn will see the loss of valuable skills and expertise. The closure will also lead to the restructuring of the other helplines based in Cardiff, Birmingham and Glasgow where staff will be put under even more pressure with additional call volumes.

The union echoed many of the concerns in the report, including job matching and the delay to the pay remit last year and went on to call on the government and the EHRC to learn the lessons of the past to ensure a positive future for the commission.

Commenting, Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: "The use of consultants who were costing up to £1,000 a day is of grave concern and raises questions of value for money. Staff are working hard to ensure the commission succeeds, but spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on consultants, problems with matching people to roles, as well as cutting the Manchester helpline has done nothing for their morale.

"This report underlines that the use of consultants in the EHRC and across the whole of the government lacks transparency. Too often consultants are used to plug gaps created by job cuts and poor planning. The government and the EHRC need to learn the lessons and act on the NAO's findings to ensure transparency not just in the commission but across government."

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For further information, interviews and comment please contact Alex Flynn PCS national press officer on 020 7801 2820 or 07833 978216.

PCS, the Public and Commercial Services Union is the union representing civil and public servants in central government. It has more than 300,000 members in over 200 departments and agencies. It also represents workers in parts of government transferred to the private sector. PCS is the UK's sixth largest union and is affiliated to the TUC. The general secretary is Mark Serwotka and the president is Janice Godrich.

PCS represents 350 staff working for the EHRC.

The EHRC Helpline contact details are:
0845 604 6610 - England main number
0845 604 8810 - Wales main number
0845 604 5510 - Scotland Main number

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