Women’s representation in local government is ‘at a standstill’ according to the Fawcett Society.
The charity has revealed new data collected following this year’s local elections showing women account for just 34% of councillors across England – a single percentage point move toward gender equality.
The data, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, found women remain outnumbered three-to-one on 14% of councils and 96% of councils remain male-dominated.
Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, said: 'Women’s representation in local government is at a standstill at just 34%. This is fundamentally unacceptable and all parties must take action to change it.
‘Local government has a disproportionate impact on women’s lives so it particularly needs to have women’s voice heard.
‘It is shocking that in 2019 just twenty councils reported having maternity policies in place for councillors. There is no excuse for inaction.
‘The Local Government Association has introduced a toolkit for councils which includes the guidance and policies they need to make the change necessary. It is time for them to use it.’
Of the councils seats that came up for election this year women took 35%, up from 32% when most of them were last contested in 2015.
Thirty per cent of the seats won by the Conservative went to women, compared with 34% for the Liberal Democrats and 45% for Labour. Just 29% of victorious independent councillors were women.
As well as calling on the Government to require political parties to collect comprehensive diversity data, the Fawcett Society is demanding councils provide comprehensive support for childcare and adult care costs, use technology for councillors to attend meetings remotely and commit to ‘gender balanced leadership in their cabinet and committee chair posts’.
The ten worst councils for women’s representation, according to the Fawcett Society, were Redditch DC, Craven DC, West Berkshire Council, Swale BC, East Sussex CC, Huntingdonshire DC, Isle of Wight Council, Hambleton DC, Gloucestershire CC and Castle Point BC. In these councils the charity said less than one in five councillors was a woman.
The charity’s data also showed that thirty five councils were at, or very close to, equality with over 45% women. Nottingham City Council had the highest at 55%.
Two of the councils with the biggest increase in women’s representation were Horsham DC (35%) and Rutland CC (37%). Each was in the bottom 10 last year.