Ruth Kelly announces drive for “representative democracy”

Ruth Kelly has a launched a new commission to encourage more people from a wider range of backgrounds to become Councillors. This is amid concerns that the current crop are unrepresentative of wider society

An IDeA survey reveals 96 per cent of councillors are white, compared to 2.7 per cent Asian and 0.5 per cent black. The average age of a councillor is 58 with more than 50 per cent over 60 compared with just 0.3 per cent under 25 and under 8 per cent under 40; and today, 100 years since women won the right to stand for town hall elections, fewer than 3 in 10 councillors are women.

Over a nine-month period, the new Councillors Commission lead by Dame Jane Roberts, a prominent local government figure, will look at what barriers are preventing every day people from becoming councillors and what steps can be taken to get more people involved. The Commission will report by November 2007.

Just some of the issues and ideas the Commission may look at are:-

  • Working with local business to promote more part-time and flexible working and encouraging employers to value people serving as councillors by providing time off for their duties and recognising their experience;
  • Reviewing the time commitments needed to be a councillor and timetables of local meetings;
  • Encouraging councils to look at better childcare support;
  • Providing better information on how to become a councillor and what the job entails such as work shadowing schemes, information and awareness campaigns in BME communities; and
  • More support for councillors to develop the necessary skills for the role and ensure they are retained.

Ruth Kelly said:

 “There are some 20,000 councillors in the UK, who dedicate their evenings and weekends to council business, listening to constituents, and taking practical action to resolve their issues. They are a vital part of our grassroots democracy but clearly this democracy will benefit if they are more representative of the communities they serve..”

Posted by, Asif Yusuf



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