By politics.co.uk staff
Theresa May warned George Osborne before the emergency Budget of the "real risk" that spending cuts could break equality laws.
A letter published online by the Guardian newspaper from the home secretary, who is also equalities minister, revealed her concerns two weeks before the chancellor unveiled massive reductions in public expenditure.
"If there are no processes in place to show that equality issues have been taken into account in relation to particular decisions, there is a real risk of successful legal challenge by for instance recipients of public services, trade unions or other groups affected by these decisions," Ms May wrote.
The letter showed she had asked the Equalities Office to develop a "package of help" for departmental equality teams to help them understand "what good practice looks like".
"I fully share the objective of spending cuts," she added. "Equally it is important that fairness is at the heart of those decisions so that all those most in need are protected."
The letter, circulated to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and other senior Cabinet members, did not prove sufficient to prevent legal action already being triggered.
The Fawcett Society has already filed papers with the high court seeking a judicial review of the emergency Budget, claiming the Treasury had not provided evidence that assessments had taken place.
It claims 72% of cuts will be met from women's income, as opposed to 28% from men's, because benefits changes will hit women while tax shifts help many more men than women.
"It's ironic that a budget that in many other ways was the most transparent for decades seems to have failed to consider and publish its impact on half the population," chief executive Ceri Goddard said.
"We are sure that many MPs would think twice about these measures had they realised the basic questions hadn't been looked at."