The WBG organised three workshops in three large English cities to build capacity for feminist analysis of local economic issues. The first workshop was held in Bristol in 2016 (see Case study 10: Working with other Civil Society Groups).
The second workshop was held in Manchester in 2016 and it focused on the devolution of more responsibilities from national government to the Greater Manchester council and the promise of more funding for investment in physical infrastructure, such as railways, to improve the local economy. The workshop facilitated discussion with local women’s organisations about how they could engage with local economic policy issues; and with local organisations focusing on development of local economic alternatives about how they could incorporate gender equality issues in their activities.
The third workshop was held in London in 2017 to discuss women and the housing crisis, and consider whether the Mayor’s housing strategy could deliver for women. The participants included several members of the Housing Committee of the Greater London Housing Assembly, as well as speakers from organisations campaigning on women’s housing needs. Discussions in break out groups came up with recommendations for improving the Mayor’s housing strategy.
We found that local governments in the UK have very little room of manoeuvre, since they have extremely limited revenue-raising powers and have received a rapidly dwindling funds from central government but are obliged to provide a range of statutory services. Even the most progressive councils have had to cut services that are important for gender equality and women’s well-being. In these circumstances, it is important to focus on central government too.
The Public Sector Equality Duty has the potential to have a significant impact but in practice can be interpreted in a very superficial way. Public bodies are obliged to have due regard to equality but not to take action to mitigate an adverse impact. Moreover, although all council websites have a lot of information, it can be very difficult to obtain the specific financial and other information needed to judge the gender impact.