Monday, 12 January 2009

Councillors’ Census shows diversity is still lacking

Sadly, it's not a surprising headline, but the 2008 National Census of Local Authority Councillors is just out: it shows that councillors in England are still predominantly white and male. There’s a bulge around retirement age. (I’m talking statistics here, not middle-age spread!)
Some of the main findings are summarised below:
• Most councillors (68.4%) were male, 30.8% were female (0.8% did not respond).

• The proportion of female councillors has increased from 27.8% in 1997.

• The average age of councillors has increased from 55.4 years in 1997 to 58.8 years in 2008.

• 96.6% of councillors were white and 3.4% came from an ethnic minority background.

• 56.4% of councillors held a position of leading responsibility within the council and 53.2% of all councillors received a special responsibility allowance in addition to their basic allowance.

• 88.0% considered themselves to be effective or very effective in their role as councillors which was a slightly smaller proportion than was the case in 2006 when 92.1% considered that they
were effective.

• 88.4% of councillors cited a desire to serve the community as their reason for wanting to become a councillor.

• Councillors spent, on average, 22 hours per week on council/political business.

• Most councillors (62.5%) indicated that they thought it was very important that there was a greater role for councils in the accountability of key local services like health and police. 40.4%
felt that it was very important that councils had a devolved, discretionary budget for individual councillors to spend on local amenities or initiatives.

• 54.5% of councillors intend to stand for re-election at the end of their term in office and 81.8% would recommend taking on the role to others.

You can read the Final Report here and the Preliminary report (October 2008) on councillors' gender and ethnicity here.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

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