Headlines: January 8th, 2004

A guide has been produced to give local councils advice on how to engage with lesbian, gay and bisexual people. It is designed to help authorities fulfil their responsibilities as employers as well as service providers.’Sexuality – the New Agenda’, has been developed by the Local Government Association and the Employers’ Organisation in partnership with the lobbying group Stonewall, UNISON and the Association of London Government. It follows the introduction of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, which came into effect at the beginning of December. These place a legal requirement on councils and other employers to recognise lesbian, gay and bisexual people as equal citizens.

The guide details some of the challenges faced by lesbian, gay and bisexual communities and provides a checklist of actions that councils should follow. It also includes examples of work already being done by councils around the country.

The LGA says the new guide will also assist councils to fulfil their obligations in relation to community cohesion, social inclusion, best value and community participation in local governance. The Association is continuing to lobby central government for a single equalities act that would treat all equality issues in the same way and allocate the resources to tackle issues locally. It fears that the current legislation – and limited resources – have forced many local authorities to concentrate on certain aspects of equality to meet centrally imposed targets.

Councillor Laura Willoughby, who chairs the LGA’s Equalities Executive, said sexual orientation had been treated as the poor relation to other equality issues such as race and gender, and with the patchwork of equalities legislation and the legacy of the repeal of Section 28, local authorities had been unclear about how to address discrimination based on sexuality. She said councillors and staff at all levels needed to be aware of the sensitive issues surrounding sexual orientation, and had to be committed to wiping out discrimination.

The guide, priced 20 pounds, is available from Colin Divens at the Employers Organisation on 020 7296 6872, or by email at colin.divens@lg-employers.gov.uk