Headlines: July 26th, 2005

A new guide has been produced as part of the campaign to achieve a more effective representative democracy by attracting greater diversity among the people who become local councillors. The guide has been produced by the Local Government Information Unit as MPs from all parties are being encouraged to support a Commons Early Day Motion supporting the Unit’s “Valuing Public Service” campaign.”Promoting councillor diversity – A guide to achieving representative democracy” has been produced to give local authorities information on current good practice and to challenge them to ensure that elected representatives reflect their communities. The guide also seeks to promote real examples that can be replicated by other authorities and uses case studies to highlight what some councils are doing to attract a more representative range of potential members.

The most recent statistics show that local councillors have an average age of almost 58. More than 96 per cent of them are white and just over 70 per cent are men.

Tracy Gardiner, the LGIU Policy Officer who has written the guide, said every local councillor should represent all of their constituents to the best of their ability, irrespective of their own age, gender, class, colour or creed but the perceived democratic legitimacy of local government was damaged when councils were not seen to represent the full range of people in their area, or when something appeared to be stopping talented people coming forward from some sections of the local community.

She said the new publication aimed to demonstrate what a major role councils and political parties could play in changing this.

The Early Day Motion is a recognition, the LGIU says, that central government can also help to revive local people’s engagement and local democracy. Giving more power to local government, it says, and particularly to ward councillors, would encourage people from all walks of life to get involved in local public services. It was also vital that action was taken to remove the more specific barriers to attracting and retaining more people to be councillors, school governors and magistrates.