Data released by leading gender equality campaigning charity, the Fawcett Society, shows that just 34% of the 4,980 councillors elected in May were women. This means that, at this rate of change, there won’t be gender parity in local councils until 2077 – over 50 years away. Across England women make up just 35% of the total number of councillors – less than a 1% increase since the 2019 elections.
Whilst progress in improving women’s representation in local government is glacial, there has been an increase in the number of councils that have maternity or paternity policies in place, which Fawcett has been campaigning for. However, it is shocking that data obtained by Fawcett through Freedom of Information requests shows that around three quarters of local councils still don’t have maternity or paternity policies in place for their councillors.
- Only 24% of councils have a maternity or paternity policy in place for their ‘ordinary’ councillors. In 2019 just 7% had these policies in place.
- Only 25% of councils have a maternity or paternity policy in place for their senior cabinet-level councillors. In 2019 just 8% had these policies in place.
Local government has a powerful impact on our lives and it is essential that it works for women as well as men. Having women involved in policy conversations, and in decision-making positions, makes a difference to whether issues which have a disproportionate impact on women are discussed. Councils spend £106bn of taxpayers’ money each year; they employ over 1.3 million people, 75% of whom are women. The services they provide determine the support we receive from our first years to our dying days; and women are more dependent on those services. In addition, research has shown that where local Police and Crime Commissioners are women, violence against women and girls is 1.7 times more likely to be identified as a policy priority.
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