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Equality Bill threat to rural services

[Monday 8 Febuary 2010]

The controversial Equality Bill being pushed through Parliament by Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman represents a serious threat to the funding of local services in rural areas, one of Britain’s leading academics claimed yesterday.

The bill, which Harman wants to become law before the looming general election, is already subject to fierce criticism and was attacked last week by none other than the Pope, who says it would damage peoples’ rights to hold their religious beliefs.

Speaking to the Sunday Times yesterday, Professor Tony Travers, a government expert at the London School of Economics, said the bill would divert even more national resources – already “skewed” towards inner cities – away from better-off areas.

“Rural and suburban councils are likely to be particularly hard hit,” he said. “Resources and services would, by law, have to be tilted towards poorer neighbourhoods.”

Areas like the Yorkshire Dales have seen their income from central government decline steadily for the past ten years, with services like schools and highway maintenance hit particularly hard. Craven District Council, which covers the western area of the Dales, is already struggling to meet a £2 million deficit.

Ms Harman, a militant feminist who is known as Harriet Harperson in the House of Commons, set out in her Bill to close the pay gap between male and female workers but its has been extended to cover a huge range of “equality” issues from the rights of homosexual couples to adopt children to banning golf clubs imposing different playing times on women members.

The Sunday Times estimates that imposing these new laws would cost £225m at a time of deep recession, costs borne mainly by business and local councils. Dubbing the Bill “Harriet’s crazy crusade,” the paper claims she is pushing it through Parliament in a way that it would make it difficult to the Tories to repeal even if they win the next election.

Feedback received on this subject:

  • I hadn't realized this bill would have implications like this on rural areas, and I think this an issue of concern to be sure. But calling Harriet Harmon names, and a 'militant' feminist doesn't help anyone and it doesn't qualify as real journalism either.

    Militant feminism? Did I miss her wearing a uniform and shoving the Bill through Parliament at gunpoint?

  • Jennifer Goldstein

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