In a statement, BCC said it has a legal obligation 'not to discriminate' under equality legislation incorporated into the Equality Act 2010 which becomes law on October 1.
It said: “Training courses such as this one will help our employees understand individuals needs, so that they may design and deliver excellent services to our residents.
“The course, which includes a film, has been praised as 'best practice' by the lobbying group Stonewall and it will be available on its website in November.
“The course also includes questions to provoke attenders' thought processes and to enable the them to put themselves in someone else's shoes.
“Questions are not used in quiz format directed to individuals but as a learning tool during the course.”
Now the Equality Act 2010 is a pretty dreadful bit of legislation with lots of pretty vague stuff. There is the burdensome adding of social class to the Equality Impact Assessments – intended, for instance, to punish good state schools with too many middle class parents. The whole thing is Harriet Harman's legacy that opportunity can be promoted by regulation – inspectorates, the National Equality Panel.
It certainly also demands that "service providers" should not discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation. Of course they shouldn't – nor should they on the basis of people with red hair but we don't have a special clause for that. What I can't see is anything in the Act to justify the claim by BCC that they are legally obliged to order their staff to stop work and attend a training course to be asked: "Is it possible your heterosexuality stems from a neurotic fear of others from the same sex?" Which clause are BCC thinking of? Do they believe other councils are breaking the law by not doing the same?
I will email the (generally very good) Council leader Cllr David Shakespeare to ask him what he makes of it.