Local Government Commission

This year we will be assessing whether local government is working for women, and with the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) we have launched a year-long Commission, jointly chaired by Labour’s Dame Margaret Hodge MP and Conservative councillor Cllr Gillian Keegan, Director of Women2Win. Funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, the Commission will adopt a strategic approach and focus on the newly created structures at local level and how they are including or excluding women.

Evidence gathering on:

  • women’s representation at a local level, and in particular focus on women in positions of power and leadership and where women make a positive difference
  • the barriers to women’s participation and representation and the practical solutions which would enable more women to participate
  • the diversity of women’s representation including BAME women, disabled women, those with caring responsibilities and different age groups

The Commission will be gathering evidence throughout the year, hold meetings around the country and produce a final report with recommendations to ensure women are better represented at every level of local government and the opportunities for greater gender equality presented by devolution are not missed.

Women are under-represented in leadership roles in Northern Powerhouse

Research fromthe Fawcett Society reveals that while the Government’s plans for a Northern Powerhouse to boost economic growth in the North of England surge ahead, gender equality continues to lag behind.

Despite 40% of councillors in the Northern Powerhouse region being women, the most senior roles in the new tier of government are dominated by men. Women make up just 28% of those in leadership roles in the combined authorities which are set to deliver George Osborne’s vision for a reinvigorated local democracy.  These figures come as the Fawcett Society embarks on a year-long study to tackle gender bias in local government, launched in May 2016.

Key findings:

  • Women make up just 21% of council leaders and directly elected mayors in the Northern Powerhouse region
  • Only 1 of the 7 chairs of the established and proposed combined authorities in the northern powerhouse region are women
  • Of 134 senior leadership roles in the Northern Powerhouse, 96 (or 72%) of these are occupied by men
  • The City deals underpinning devolution come with a commitment to regional directly elected mayors – but so far only 4 of the 16 existing directly elected mayors in England and Wales are women

The report also finds cause for some optimism. For instance, Manchester City Council has achieved equal representation of women and men and a number of others such as North Tyneside, Leeds City Council and Hull City Council have achieved near 50:50 representation. But these pockets of progress do not always translate into more women at the most senior levels. Overall men still heavily dominate in senior positions of power.

An increasing amount of power and decision making is concentrated in the hands of combined authorities and directly elected mayors, without concerted action devolution and the Northern Powerhouse could risk shutting women out of key decisions about regional development. We are urging national and local government and the political parties to ensure that the devolution agenda has gender equality and diversity at its heart.

You can read the full report ‘The Northern Powerhouse: an analysis of women’s representation’ here.

For the purposes of this analysis northern powerhouse regions are identified as Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, North East Combined Authority, Tees Valley Combined Authority and the boroughs that form the Humber Local Enterprise Partnerships.

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