Call to improve number of women on Hartlepool council

Hartlepool Civic Centre
Hartlepool Civic Centre

Hartlepool council bosses have vowed to work to make the authority more representative of its community.

The pledge comes as a new report turns the spotlight on the disparity between the numbers of men and women serving on Britain’s local authorities.

It is vitally important that our Elected Members are representative of the diverse community of people they serve.

Thinktank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says more than 3,000 female councillors are needed nationwide if the country is to achieve a 50-50 balance.

Just a third of councillors across the UK are women and fewer than one in five council leaders is female, the IPPR analysis showed.

On combined authority boards set up in regions governed by newly-created elected metropolitan mayors, such as Tees Valley, just 4% of constituent members are women and all six are led by men.

Women hold just eight of Hartlepool council’s 33 seats and four wards have no female councillors at all.

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said: “It is vitally important that our Elected Members are representative of the diverse community of people they serve.

“The electorate ultimately decide who their councillor will be, but as an organisation, we strive to encourage individuals from all backgrounds to stand as potential representatives, giving the public a pool of strong and diverse candidates to choose from.”

IPPR associate director Clare McNeil said: “It cannot be right that there are barely any women represented in the leadership of our newest democratic institutions, the combined authorities.

“Radical change is needed if devolution is to be about bringing power to the people, rather than consolidating it among white middle-aged men.

“Political institutions and parties must introduce more ambitious quotas to improve representation in the short term. And local government should do more to encourage women to stand and support them effectively once they have been selected.

“Without these measures representation will continue to be deeply unequal.

“Leaders of political parties should back our call to recruit the 12,000 women needed to stand for election to achieve a better gender balance in local government by 2025.”

Marianne Overton, vice chairman of the Local Government Association, said the organisation’s Be A Councillor campaign has a “large focus” on encouraging engagement from women and under-represented groups: “This report rightly highlights that progress in achieving gender balance in local government should be made at a faster pace,” she said.

“However, as the report also highlights, change will only come about through a mix of support programmes and direct action.”