McAleer welcomes Brown Principles in Rural Needs Act
Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has welcomed the inclusion of the Brown principles in revised guidance on the Rural Needs Act 2016.
Introduced by the then Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O'Neill, the Act requires public authorities to have "due regard to the social and economic needs of people living in rural areas" in all aspects of public policy and service.
Sinn Fein has lobbied the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to apply the Brown principles which set out how the obligation to have ‘due regard’ has been met, to the duty to have 'due regard' to rural needs.
Declan McAleer said: "I have received written confirmation from the Department that the Brown principles will be included in revised guidance on the Rural Needs Act.
"The Brown principles make it clear that rural impact assessments cannot be a ‘ticking box’. There must be an evidence based approach with stakeholders at the centre of decision making.
"The inclusion of the Brown principles is an important development that should enhance rural proofing and promote equality for rural people.
"Robust rural proofing within government is particularly needed at this time given the threat posed by budget cuts and Brexit to rural communities".
The six Brown principles are:
Knowledge – decision makers should be aware of the implications of the duty when making decisions about their policies and practices.
Timeliness - due regard must be paid before and at the time that a particular decision is being considered, not later.
Analysis must be rigorous - the duty must be exercised with rigor and with an open mind – it is not a question of just ticking boxes. There must be substantial sifting of relevant facts and research, and fair attention to conflicting views. There must be meaningful consultation and engagement with interested parties.
Non-delegable The duty to have due regard cannot be delegated. The duty rests with the public authority even if they have delegated any functions to another organisation.
Continuing duty – the duty cannot be exercised once and for all, but must continually be revisited and borne in mind
Record keeping - the law requires transparency about how decisions are reached. This involves recording the evidence used and publishing records of equality considerations with the relevant policy / proposal.