Whitehall departments face legal action after it was revealed they severely lag behind councils when it comes to meeting race equality legislation.
The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) praised councils for having made the most progress of all public bodies in the past three years in its monitoring and enforcement plan out this week. Government departments improved least.
The CRE will take legal action against 15 departments and agencies - including the Department for Communities & Local Government, which still does not know the ethnicity of 58% of its staff. Others criticised include the Home Office and the Foreign Office.
The report says: "Analysis of the overall findings shows that we have small local authorities (with their relatively limited budgets) meeting their legal responsibilities in respect of the duty, whilst at the same time, some of the biggest spending Whitehall departments are failing to achieve even basic compliance."
The CRE's work will be taken over by the new Commission for Equality & Human Rights in the coming weeks.