For many years, the Labour Party has been working hard to ensure our elected representatives reflect the diversity of the communities we represent. Recent initiatives have focused on increasing the number of Labour MPs and Councillors that are female, BAME, LGBT, disabled and/or from working-class backgrounds.
A recent 2017 report by the Fawcett Society and the Local Government Information Unit looked at a number of issues facing women in local government. Following on from this work, a cross-party group from local and national government is considering the changes that could be made to improve diversity and encourage more people from traditionally under-represented groups to stand to be councillors.
The Labour Party’s asks to government include:
- Introduce maternity, paternity and carers’ leave for all councillors.
- Restore councillors’ access to pensions and consider a fair system for allowances so people from all backgrounds can afford to stand to be councillors.
- Remove councillors’ home addresses from ballot papers, replacing them with “address in xx ward”.
- Increase resources and funding for security at councillors’ surgeries. No one should be threatened or attacked while carrying out their duties.
- Tough action to tackle online abuse, which puts off many people from getting involved in politics or public life. This includes making social media companies take responsibility for some of the appalling abuse that takes place on their sites.
- Amend the all-women shortlist legislation to allow for AWS selections for directly elected mayoral posts. Labour is also considering whether it should also amend this legislation to allow for all-BAME shortlists.
- Increase awareness of the role of a councillor, the positive difference councillors make to our communities, how you can successfully balance it with other commitments and how to get involved and stand.
Within the Labour Party, we also want to foster a welcoming, positive, inclusive atmosphere in local parties where people feel supported and encouraged to get involved. This includes considering how meetings are run and chaired, the role of women’s forums and how application and selection processes can be improved.
Initiatives such as the Jo Cox Women in Leadership Programme and the LGA’s Next Generation Programme have equipped many talented men and women to take on leadership positions in local and national government. There are plans to introduce a new BAME leadership programme and to hold more events to encourage trade union members, LGBT members and disabled members to stand to be councillors.
I recently attended a really inspiring event with GMB shop stewards in Liverpool. It is important that similar events are held across the country at every stage of the electoral cycle.
If you have ideas and suggestions about how Labour could do more to encourage people from all backgrounds to stand to be councillors, please get in touch. You can contact me via my blog at aliceperry.wordpress.com or via Twitter @aliceperryuk.