End ‘intrusive’ equality surveys, says Govt minster

People using public services should not have to answer “intrusive” equality questionnaires on subjects like sexual orientation, a government minister has said.

Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has issued statutory guidance to councils which clarifies that there is no requirement for them to carry out “lifestyle or diversity questionnaires”.

The move follows revelations that Islington Council asks people wanting to a join a library if they are transgender.

Unnecessary

And it comes after a grandmother was asked about her sexual orientation after she complained about her council’s bin collection service.

Mr Pickles commented that curbing the surveys will save taxpayers’ money and protect privacy.

He said: “At a time when taxpayers are watching their pennies, the last thing councils should be doing is sending out unnecessary and intrusive questionnaires.”

Personal

Mr Pickles continued: “Local residents shouldn’t be asked to reveal detailed personal information just because they’ve enquired about getting their bins emptied or how to join their local library.

“Clamping down on such town hall activity will save taxpayers’ money and protect the privacy of residents of all backgrounds.”

Last month a national newspaper learned that councils, including Islington and Haringey in North London, were asking people about their sexual orientation, any ‘hidden impairments’ and whether they are transgender.

Scrap

In July grandmother Richenda Legge spoke of her irritation of being sent an equality survey after she complained about her bins not being emptied.

Mrs Legge commented: “I thought the survey was going to be about the bin service and might even explain why my rubbish was not collected when it should have been.

“Instead it asked me things like my employment status, disability and religious belief. But I really saw red when I read the question about my sexual orientation.”

North Norfolk District Council vowed to scrap the “intrusive” form.

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