Headlines: November 4th, 2008

New research shows there are fewer black, Asian and minority ethnic women councillors than there were in 2006. The Minister for Women and Equalities, Harriett Harman has reminded local authorities they need more women from minority backgrounds and that their numbers need to be increased almost ten fold.

The new figures show that this year only about 150 of the more than 19,500 councillors in England are women from ethnic minorities. That means they represent less than one per cent of councillors and that their numbers have dropped from 164 in 2006. Ms Harman said that to fully reflect society the number of female minority ethnic councillors would have to rise nearer to 1000. Wales and Scotland have no female black or Asian councillors at all.

By contrast, the number of white women councillors in England has risen by 283 in the last two years to reach 5,606. Although they now make up almost a third of all councillors they are still under-represented because they are 45 per cent of England’s population. In addition to the figures on elected members researchers from Plymouth University were commissioned by the Government Equalities Office to survey local election candidates. Their findings show a majority of women from minority groups believe more representation would encourage higher voter turnout at elections. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women candidates are more likely to be younger, work full time and have a career in one of the professions than those from other groups. The research also shows the importance of positive encouragement with only one in five of women reporting that the decision to stand was entirely their own compared to a third of men.

Harriet Harman said, “For local government to make the right decisions it must be representative of, and rooted in, its local communities. Black and Asian women are the missing voice in our local democracy.”