Report of Town Clerk and Chief Executive

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					Report of Town Clerk and Chief Executive
To Monthly Policy and Resources Committee
- Thursday, 11th February, 2010.
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Matters For Decision.

1.          Corporate Pricing Policy.

            As part of Derry City Council’s duty under s75 of the Northern Ireland Act
            1998 the Council’s current pricing policy had been subjected to the screening
            process and was ‘screened in’ for equality impact assessment (EQIA). It
            should be noted that this is an unwritten informal policy with different
            approaches being taken for different facilities/services.

            This policy was put out for consultation in 17th September 2009 with the
            closing date for this consultation process being 20th November 2009.

            There were no responses to the formal consultation process, however,
            Council consulted widely when reviewing the Council’s current approach to
            pricing. Information was also obtained from the Tour Operator and
            Education Sectors, Cultural and Heritage facilities in Northern Ireland, and
            the leisure departments within the Northern Ireland Councils.

            Derry City Council also held an Equality Consultative Forum meeting
            dedicated to the subject of developing a corporate pricing policy. Primary
            research was also carried out on service users in two of the main leisure
            centres.

            As part of the EQIA process the following issues were considered in
            developing the Corporate Pricing Strategy so as to better promote equality of
            opportunity and improve resultant policy outcomes.

            1. Council examined the variation in pricing schedules for choice based
               activities and services depending on the Council facility selected. Based
               on information received from officers working at the Council facilities in
               question it would appear that the price differential is not attributable to a
               geographical, or perceived profile of an area but rather on the
               specification of resources, space and standard of equipment available in
               each of the respective centres.

            2. Council provides services to a population base with some of the highest
               levels of deprivation across Northern Ireland and therefore the pricing
               policy should reflect this characteristic in its pricing decisions.

            3. The question was raised concerning the legality of having age-related
               concessionary rates in light of the Age Discrimination legislation. Advice
               was sought from the Equality Commission in terms of the Age
               Discrimination legislation and its impact on the provision of age-related
               concessionary rates. There is no legislation in place yet which covers
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   age discrimination in the provision of goods and services, however,
   Council was directed to a recent consultation document issued by the
   Government Equalities Office which relates to upcoming legislative
   changes in this area. This document states the second draft legislation
   was being prepared to make provision for certain exclusions including the
   following;

   We will enable any service provider in the public or private
   sector to use age as a criterion to determine the eligibility
   for concessions or benefits, where the purpose of the
   concession is to benefit the age group to which it applies.

4. The ‘means-tested benefit’ system of deciding on who could avail of
   concessions, a system used by Belfast City Council, was not deemed to
   be a fair and equal measurement. At the Equality Forum Meeting, one
   group representing people with a learning disability highlighted that
   approximately 90% of their members from low-income families and they
   certainly would welcome concessionary rates. However another group
   representing older people pointed out that this method was unfair to older
   people who have perhaps worked all their lives and have saved some
   money towards their old age and funeral expenses for themselves/partner
   – the means tested benefit system would probably rule these people out.
   The group also stated people in benefit system for a long time have no
   difficulty in applying for concessions but pride is an issue for older people
   when it comes to applying for discounted rates. Some older people view
   it as degrading, the fact that they are unable to pay their way.

   The Protestant community were also cited as one group who would be
   most likely to suffer an adverse impact through this system given that
   statistically the Catholic/Nationalist community experience more
   unemployment and claim more benefits and would thus be more able to
   avail of concessions.

   On seeking advice from the Equality Commission on this matter it was
   suggested that using the means-tested benefit system was acceptable.
   The justification for this is similar to that concerning the age-related
   concessionary rates. As Council are seeking to improve social
   integration and participation for those who are less able to avail of
   facilities and services and aim to target areas of social need, the
   concessionary rates based on the means-tested benefit method is
   deemed to be a reasonable measure.

5. The Council have been asked to give consideration to the extension of
   concessionary rates to those who are significant carers whose presence
   as a carer is essential to the attendance of the person with a disability.

In taking these points on board the following recommendations are now
presented for consideration:
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               Derry City Council should develop a formal written Corporate
                Pricing Policy, which ensures an equitable and consistent
                approach in terms of charges and concessionary rates across all
                facilities.
               Derry City Council should take a consistent approach regarding
                admission, membership and allocation of concessionary rates in
                the Council’s leisure centres, out-door leisure facilities and other
                ‘choice’ services. Furthermore the Council should ensure that
                similar rates of concession would apply to council-owned facilities
                governed by management agreements.
               Where there is a proposal to have a differential pricing structure
                within a facility or service based on quality of services, location
                etc., a robust argument must be presented to Council for approval
                before the new pricing arrangements are implemented.
               The Council should publicise the availability of concessionary rates
                in all its facilities and in appropriate formats to ensure wider
                uptake. The Council should also make direct contact with groups
                representing relevant equality dimensions.
               All relevant staff should be trained in the Council’s policy in relation
                to the granting of concessionary rates in order to ensure sensitivity
                and consistency of approach.
               The Council should review its complaints procedure to ensure that
                a mechanism is introduced whereby complaints associated with
                pricing can be registered and monitored centrally.

     A copy of the EQIA report in respect of the informal policy is attached at
     Appendix A for Members consideration.

     I await your comment and recommendations.

2.   Disability in Local Councils Initiative.

     Almost one in five persons of working-age are disabled in Northern Ireland,
     however, in many areas of public, political and civic life, disabled people are
     underrepresented. For example, in 2006 only 3% of public appointments
     were people with disabilities.

     The Disability in Local Councils Initiative, which has been established in
     partnership with a number of organisations including the Equality
     Commission for NI, Employers for Disability NI, SOLACE, Disability Action
     and NIPSA, was launched on Tuesday 8 September 2009.

     The initiative aims to encourage people with disabilities to participate in
     public life through employment and to encourage a greater number of
     disabled people to stand for election and contribute as elected members to
     local government.

     The initiative aims to promote greater disability equality in local government
     and to create a network of disability champions throughout the local council
     sector. These champions will have the role of actively promoting the agenda
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of equality for people with disabilities, both in employment and in access to
services.

It is anticipated that there will be two Disability Champions, one elected
member and one officer. Disability Champions will work closely with other
colleagues within the organization and in the community and responsibilities
will include:

1.    To champion disability across the organization and in the Council
      area.
2.    To display real interest and a desire to be kept appraised of
      developments.
3.    Attend and speak at key events in the organization and in the Council
      area.
4.    Challenge other senior staff and elected members to promote the
      values of the Disability in Local Councils initiative.
5.    Act as a focus in the Council for:
       Engagement with disabled staff and members of the community
       Sharing best practice on reasonable adjustments
       Driving positive actions
       Developing networks
6.    Promote the Council’s Disability Action Plan.
7     Attend development events organised for Disability Champions to
      become further familiarised with the role of the Disability Champion.
8.    Regular meetings with the other Disability Champions to:
       Help mentor new Champions
       Share good practice
       Contribute to a steering group implementing the Disability Action
         Plan.
       Develop case studies of good practice as appropriate
9.    Understand and effectively represent priorities for the local
      government sector in terms of disability equality.
10.   Record and report back on issues and concerns to the Champions’
      Network to help inform future progress and development.
11.   Acting as the first point of contact for enquiries and providing advice,
      guidance and support within the Council area.
12.   Ensure articles are placed in newsletters/briefings.

Half-day training seminars have been arranged to provide information and
support for the Disability Champions, details are as follows;

 Seminar                 Date                     Location
 Effective               18th February 2010       Conference Room,
 Consultation with                                Derry City Council
 people with a                                    offices
 disability
 Training on the role    31st March 2010          Disability Action Office
 of a Disability                                  58 Strand Road, Derry
 Champion
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            The partnership organisations of the Disability in Local Councils Initiative
            have requested that each Council put forward a nomination of an elected
            member and an officer to represent their Council as a Disability Champions.

            As the Equality Officer currently has responsibility for Council’s Disability
            Action Plan, it is suggested that the Equality Officer should be nominated to
            represent the Council in the role of Officer Disability Champion.

            The nomination of an elected member to represent their Council as a
            Disability Champion is now sought.

            I await your comments and recommendations.

Matters For Information.

3.          Performance of Invest NI.

            The City Secretary and Solicitor has reported to me as follows:

            ‘ I refer to the Notice of Motion passed by Council at its meeting held on 27 th
            October 2009 (Ref. C390/09).

            As directed, I wrote to the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment
            calling upon her to ensure that any future spending by invest NI was
            distributed in an equitable and transparent manner, noting the criticism of
            Invest NI reported in the Independent Review of Economic Policy.

            I attach at Appendix B a copy of the Minister’s reply dated 27th December
            2009, received on 6th January 2010.’

4.          Consultation Documents.

            I am in receipt of consultation papers on various subjects which are not
            within the direct remit of Council. Details including the final date for
            responses are set out in Appendix C.

5.          Resolution from Ballymena Borough Council.

            I have received resolution from Ballymena Borough Council which is
            attached at Appendix D which, in accordance with Council policy, will be
            treated as a matter for information to be noted and only discussed if the
            majority of Members agree to such discussion.