The WLGA has welcomed the publication of an ‘expert group’ report outlining the actions required to increase the diversity of local councillors in Wales.
Set up by Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Local Government and Government Business in May 2013, the expert group was tasked with analysing a survey of local councillors in Wales and setting out a clear plan of action for encouraging a greater diversity of candidates to stand for local office in 2017.
The report makes a number of recommendations for the Welsh Government, the WLGA, local authorities and political parties to broaden the diversity of people coming forward to stand ahead of the next local elections.
Responding to the report, Councillor Bob Wellington (Torfaen), Leader of the WLGA said:
“Ensuring that politicians and civic leaders are representative of Wales’ increasingly diverse communities is crucial to local democracy. Enabling all voices to be heard is now an imperative of local government in Wales, as the legitimacy and effectiveness of every local council will be improved when the council chamber echoes with as wide a range of voices and opinions as possible.
“The first Survey of Candidates and Councillors conducted by the Welsh Government provides a useful snapshot of who stood during the last local elections, but unfortunately, when placed alongside the WLGA’s previous analysis of candidates, it does show that we still have much work to do to encourage a greater diversity of people to put themselves forward to serve their local communities as councillors.
“We look forward to working with the Welsh Government and all political parties in Wales to address these challenges, not only in the run up to the next local government elections in 2017, but as part of a long-term system of monitoring and improvement that will help to ensure traditionally under represented groups are encouraged and empowered to take a full and active part in civic life and office.”
Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn (Ceredigion), WLGA spokesperson for Equalities stated:
“Much is already being done to offer under-represented groups with a supportive environment to learn more about democracy and politics in Wales. Ahead of the 2012 elections, the WLGA produced a ‘Be a Councillor’ guide that was distributed to people considering standing as candidates in the election. Councils also undertook a range of promotional and awareness raising activity locally and are increasingly exploring how technology and new working practices can help overcome some of the traditional barriers that have previously limited people’s ability to fulfil these demanding public roles.
“While more candidates stood during the last local government elections than ever before, this report outlines how traditional imbalances around gender and ethnicity still exist within our council chambers. The WLGA looks forward to working with the Welsh Government and all political parties to address this, whilst also acknowledging the commitment and contribution of those people who have already taken civic office and continue to represent their local communities to the best of their abilities.”