Female North Yorkshire councillors call for better representation of women

Female councillors have called for action to improve the representation of women in local government as it emerged less than 27 per cent of those elected to represent North Yorkshire’s communities are women.

By Stuart Minting, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Friday, 13th May 2022, 12:08 pm

Just 24 out of the 90 councillors elected on May 6 to serve on North Yorkshire County Council for a year and four years on its unitary council successor are women.

The proportion roughly reflects the 26 per cent of female councillors previously elected to North Yorkshire County Council and the 29 per cent of female candidates standing in the election.

All the main political parties fielded significantly fewer women candidates than men, a situation which was also replicated by the Independent candidates as a group.

Sign up to our daily The Scarborough News Today newsletter

Janet Jefferson: "I would like to know the reason why we get more predominance of men than women".

Ahead of the polls, equality campaigners said the imbalance would make it “nigh-on impossible” for those elected to reflect the population they serve unlike neighbouring local authorities such as Leeds, Durham and East Riding, where respectively more than 50 per cent, 38 per cent and 36 per cent of councillors are women.

However, other largely rural county councils such as Devon, Norfolk and Cumbria all have fewer than 30 per cent female councillors.

When asked why the proportion of women elected in North Yorkshire last week was low, numerous female councillors said they were at a loss to explain it and would welcome a council scrutiny committee investigation into the reasons.

Responding to the election results, Scarborough councillor Liz Colling, a Labour member, said: “I always think action should be taken to encourage women to speak up to feel empowered to act as voices for their community.”

Cllr Janet Sanderson, who was the sole woman serving on the council’s ten-member decision-making executive before the election, said it was important to select candidates on merit rather than gender.

The Thornton Dale Conservative member said to encourage more women to put themselves forward in future it was crucial get the conditions right for women to serve as she had faced aggression from people making complaints.

Cllr Sanderson said: “As a woman I would feel terribly aggrieved if I thought I had been put on a shortlist because I was a woman.

“The whole environment needs to change.

"It’s a very male-dominated arena and a lot of women would need a lot of confidence before they put themselves up for that, which is a great shame.”

Scarborough Independent councillor Janet Jefferson, who was handed a leading committee role by the last administration, said she had never encountered any gender bias at County Hall.

She added: “I would welcome an inquiry as I would like to know the reason why we get more predominance of men than women because I would have thought it was an even playing field.”