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22.05.14

Women face sexism in local politics – Fawcett Society

Women often face "sexist, offensive and derogatory remarks" putting them off entering local politics, a new report from theFawcett Society has revealed.

Ahead of today’s European and Local Elections, the report – Sexism and Local Government – highlighted that women make up only 32% of local councillors in England and 24% in Northern Ireland.

In addition, only 12.3% of local authority leaders in England are women, compared to 16.6% in 2004. In light of the research, the Fawcett Society is calling on all political parties to urgently tackle sexism and ensure a ‘robust and independent’ complaints board is in place.

Before being closed in 2012 by the coalition government, the Standards Board was an independent body able to investigate claims of misconduct in councils. Though it was ‘allegedly’ wracked with problems, it was at a means of redress outside of party politics. Since its abolition there are now few routes of redress for councillors who experience sex discrimination.

Daisy Sands, head of policy and campaigns at the Fawcett Society, said:“This research makes clear that far from being restricted to the national stage, sexism is a problem across all levels of political life.

“We have found numerous examples, across the country and from a range of parties, of male councillors making sexist, offensive and derogatory remarks about both women generally and their female colleagues.

“Parties would do well to remember also that local government also remains one of the key routes into Westminster. Failing to tackle problems at this level will undermine efforts to increase women’s representation on the national stage.”

However, minister for women Nicky Morgan said: “Our public institutions represent society best when they bring together a diverse mix of people with different backgrounds and experiences.

“We want to have more women involved not only in political life but as leaders in all areas, instigating real change in public life.”

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