Improving diversity at the Town Hall

When just one in three councillors, and 17% of council leaders, are women, the Fawcett Society and the LGiU have spent the last year asking: does local government work for women? You can download a copy of the report here.

The report makes recommendations to councils, central government, parties, and the LGA that would change how local government works and get more women involved.

Last week there was an excellent roundtable in Parliament hosted by Jo Swinson MP and the Lib Dem Group on the LGA.  We discussed the report in detail and shared some of our own experiences on the Council as well as thinking about how we can take the report forward.

We really need, as a party,  to improve both our paper and target candidates’ diversity.

For some people standing as a paper candidate is the first step to standing as a target candidate and therefore just as we need to act on target candidate diversity the same needs to be true for all candidates standing as Liberal Democrats. Teams carry out an assessment of their current cohort of candidates and councillors and look for opportunities of who w are missing.

Teams should carry out an assessment of their current cohort of candidates and councillors and look for opportunities of who we are missing – how many people of working age, are people parents as well as minority groups.

1)     Does you pool of candidates reflect your local community, and

2)     To select a more diverse team of candidates you need to positively recruit people not wait for them to appear. You need to ask as many people don’t think they could stand when in fact they are just right.

We should be looking outside the party for the right type of people. You do need to check if they are liberal and in tune with our values but many of the best people to ask are not yet part members.

Template Motion

Recognition of The Fawcett Society report ‘Does Local Government work for women?’

This Council recognises the important work undertaken by The Fawcett Society in preparing the report ‘Does Local Government work for women?’ as part of the Women in Local Government Commission, and acknowledges its findings over the barriers still faced by women in Local Government- leading to the current situation where:

  • just one in three Local Councillors are women;
  • the pace of change is slow, going up by just 5% points since 1997, national trends SMBC representation has failed to match, with 18 female representatives in 1997 and rising just 20 today (29 percent rising to 31 percent respectively);
  • nationally women are outnumbered six-to-one in finance or economic development roles;
  • only 17 percent of council leaders are women – a figure that has hardly shifted for 10 years, reflected in the fact just 12 percent of the Combined Authority leads are Female and the current leadership of the GMCA;
  • little progress has been made since the last Local Elections; and on current progress it will take County Councils until 2065 to reach equal representation.

This Council further acknowledges that:

  • research from across the private sector routinely demonstrates that more diverse teams, including teams with a more even share of women perform more effectively than teams which are homogenous; and
  • more inclusive Councils containing a more representative set of voices are better equipped to represent the population as a whole.


This Council is therefore supportive of the report’s recommendations that Local Authorities should seek to:

  • support parent and carer in Councils by introducing a formal maternity, paternity and adoption policy for Councillors, and ensuring care costs are covered;
  • tackle sexism by setting out acceptable behaviour standards for Councillors and driving cultural change;
  • make our council more diverse by breaking down barriers faced by disabled Councillors and BAME women;
  • support women’s progression within the Council by proactively seeking out women councillors for leadership roles.

This Council therefore resolves to

  • Ask the COMMITTEE to prepare a report upon the adequacy of support available to Members when affected by barriers outlined in the Fawcett Society report.
  • Ask the Standards Committee to review the current code of conduct to ensure incidences of harassment and discrimination are dealt with, with appropriate force;
  • Request that the Democratic Services Manager to draft a formal maternity, paternity and adoption policy and a disability policy for Councillors for consideration by this Council Meeting;

Could you be a mentor?

The Be A Councillor programme is therefore currently looking for female Councillors to join the Women’s Mentoring Network and inspire others to think about becoming councillors.

What would be needed from you

You would be the informal/first point of call contact as one of the initial steps for potential candidates.
You would also be invited to a mentoring training session.

What we can offer

We can arrange through the Lib Dem Group Office and LGA peer mentoring
You would also be invited to a mentoring training session.

If you are interested in volunteering, you must be able to demonstrate a clear commitment to your own and others’ development.  Please email

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