Local authority leaders in Wales have agreed to ensure council chambers are more representative of their communities following the upcoming local elections.
The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) has endorsed a series of recommendations from a cross-party working group, which included the use of voluntary quotas, local targets, and council declarations to become ‘Diverse Councils’.
‘I am proud of the working group’s report and the WLGA Council’s clear commitment to make a real change at the next elections,’ said Cllr Mary Sherwood, co-chair of the working group and joint WLGA spokesperson for Equalities, Welfare Reform and Anti-Poverty.
‘There has been action to attract a different range of candidates, and more women, in the past but progress has been slow and council chambers remain largely white, male and middle-aged.
‘This is not just about our council chambers looking more like and being more like the people they represent; all the research tells us that outcomes will be better if decisions are taken by people with a range of lived experiences. We all agree we need to do much more and go further if we want to see real change.’
The WLGA council agreed to encourage all political parties, through the WLGA Political Groups, to commit to proactive and coordinated activities to improve diversity in local government democracy.
They also agreed a formal position calling for the introduction of resettlement grants for all councillors and senior salary holders and to encourage all councillors to claim any necessary allowances or expenses.
The council also agreed to encourage a declaration by July 2021 on becoming ‘Diverse Councils’ from local authorities across Wales. This would include a public commitment to improving diversity and consideration given to staggering council meeting times to support councillors with other commitments.
Cllr Susan Elsmore, co-chair of the working group and joint WLGA spokesperson for Equalities, Welfare Reform and Anti-Poverty, commented: ‘Whilst attention is on the Senedd elections in two months’ time, we are looking ahead to the local elections in 2022 and what we need to do to change.
‘We have much to do in these 14 months and will be working with national and local partners to engage and encourage people from under-represented groups to stand for election.
‘We also need to support candidates through what can often be a complex and daunting process. We are therefore calling on all political parties to do more to make their selection processes as flexible as possible.’
Cllr Huw David, WLGA Presiding Officer, added: ‘The WLGA council’s commitments around diversity in democracy go to the heart of the core values of the WLGA.
‘Our council chambers and the WLGA’s own council is not as diverse or as representative of our communities as they could or should be. We still have a long way to go, but the commitments we have made and actions we are asking councils, parties and partners to undertake should help ensure our councils are more diverse in 2022.’