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Calls for more women in local politics

Just ten of the 52 councillors for West Berkshire are female

Dan Cooper

Reporter:

Dan Cooper

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01635 886632

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MORE should be done to encourage women to enter local politics with females making up just 19 per cent of the elected posts on West Berkshire Council.

The call comes following a national report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), which has highlighted the lack of women across local government.

The IPPR found that across the country just 33 per cent of councillors were female, finding that women face a number of barriers in entering local government and progression into leadership roles.

Of the 52 councillors on West Berkshire Council just 10 are female.

And with more than 80 per cent of the district council members being male, chair of campaign co-ordination group for Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats, Sarah Lowes, has said more encouragement should be given to women to get them to stand in local elections.

“The most important thing is the council and councillors reflect and represent the people they are representing,” shesaid.

“It’s certainly very male-dominated and I don’t see a male-dominated society when I walk down Newbury or Thatcham high street.”

The IPPR report, Power to the People, found that, since 2007, the percentage of female candidates selected by political parties to stand in council ward elections has flatlined at around a third.

The report also said that to achieve equal numbers of male and female councillors, 3,028 more women will need to be elected nationally – an increase of more than 50 per cent.

Clare McNeil, IPPR associate director, said political institutions and parties must introduce more ambitious quotas to improve representation in the short-term, while calling on local government to do more to encourage women to stand and support them once they have been selected.

“Without these measures representation will continue to be deeply unequal,” she said.

Deputy leader of West Berkshire Council Hilary Cole said, while women should be encouraged to enter the local political arena, “the will and commitment to serve and represent communities” was paramount.

The Conservative councillor added: “From a woman’s perspective, I think we have come a long way, but still have far to go. 

“I would like to see more women in senior roles in business, as well as more women politicians. But I think that women , have to strive harder to achieve their goals

“Women are far more open to comment and criticism on their appearance than men for example; there are never major discussions on a male PM’s shoes, as there are if the PM is a woman, which may put some women off taking part in public life. 

“Having said that, history is peppered with women, who have achieved great things, and I am sure this will be the case in the future too.”

Leader of the Conservative-led council Graham Jones also said he would like to see more females, as well as younger members and more ethnic minorities on the council.

“This is an issue of political culture,” he said.

“At the last election it was probably the case for all political parties that more men came forward to stand than women.  

“West Berkshire is a progressive council and we need to maintain an environment where the role is as equally attractive to men and women.”

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