Commission to explore barriers to council diversity

The government is to explore why so many councillors are middle aged white men, with a new investigation exploring the barriers which prevent people from standing.

The Councillors Commission wants to understand why more women, young people and people from ethnic minorities do not stand as candidates and is inviting people to submit their own experiences.

It is asking present and former councillors what motivated them to stand and the support needed to carry out the role, in the hope this will help explain why some groups are underrepresented. It will also explore what could be done to attract more of these groups to stand.

Commission chair Dame Jane Roberts said: “Councillors shape our daily lives which is why the commission’s work to examine ways of encouraging a wider range of people to be able to be elected as councillors, increasing representation in local government and increasing engagement and satisfaction with it is so important.”

The former leader of Camden Council continued: “We are not saying that current councillors aren’t doing a good job. The 20,000 councillors in England play a valuable role, dedicating their evenings and weekends to council business, addressing constituents’ concerns, and finding solutions to improve front line services.

“Our work will crucially look at the barriers that prevent every day people becoming councillors as well as the incentives and support they receive to see how we can get even more people involved.”

Presently, the average age of a councillor is 58, with more than half over 60 and just 0.3 per cent under 25. Similarly, fewer than three in ten local representatives are women and just four per cent come from an ethnic minority.

Reforms designed to lower the average age of councillors come into effect at next month’s local elections. This year’s council elections, alongside the Welsh assembly election, marks the first time 18-year-olds have been allowed to stand as a candidate.