An ambitious Diversity in Democracy programme has been agreed by WLGA to ensure council chambers are more representative of their communities following local elections in May 2022.
On Friday, on the eve of International Women’s Day, WLGA Council endorsed a series of significant recommendations from a cross-party working group, which included the use of voluntary quotas, local targets, and council declarations to become ‘Diverse Councils’.
Cllr Mary Sherwood (Swansea), Co-Chair of the Working Group and Joint WLGA Spokesperson for Equalities, Welfare Reform and Anti-Poverty said:
“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. 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.”
Cllr Susan Elsmore (Cardiff), Co-Chair of the Working Group and Joint WLGA Spokesperson for Equalities, Welfare Reform and Anti-Poverty said:
“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 (Bridgend), WLGA Presiding Officer said:
“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.”
At Friday’s meeting (5th March) 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;
- a formal position calling for the introduction of resettlement grants for all councillors and senior salary holders;
- to encourage all councillors to claim any necessary allowances or expenses;
- to encourage a declaration by July 2021 from councils in Wales, on becoming ‘Diverse Councils’; to:
- Provide a clear, public commitment to improving diversity;
- Demonstrate an open and welcoming culture to all;
- Consider staggering council meeting times and agreeing recess periods to support councillors with other commitments; and
- Set out an action plan of activity ahead of the 2022 local elections.
- that councils should set targets to be representative of the communities they serve at the next elections;
- to support the use of voluntary quotas for Welsh local elections; and
- the WLGA reviews the impact of voluntary quotas following the next local elections.
The WLGA is already working with the Welsh Government and partners on promoting and supporting greater diversity, including a Be a Councillor website, mentoring programmes, a commitment to the Civility in Public Life campaign and a wide package of training, development and support for councillors when elected. The Welsh Government has also recently launched the Access to Elected Office Fund to support disabled people to stand for elected office.
The WLGA Council’s report on Diversity in Local Democracy is available here.