A Diversity in Democracy programme has been agreed by the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) to ensure that council chambers in Wales are more representative of their communities following local elections in May 2022.
WLGA’s Council endorsed a series of significant recommendations from a cross-party working group, which included the use of voluntary quotas, local targets and council declarations to become ‘Diverse Councils’.
They agreed to:
- Encourage all political parties, through the WLGA Political Groups, to commit to proactive and coordinated activities to improve diversity in local government democracy.
- A formal position calling for the introduction of resettlement grants for all councillors and senior salary holders.
- Encourage all councillors to claim any necessary allowances or expenses.
- Encourage a declaration by July 2021 from councils in Wales on becoming ‘Diverse Councils’ to:
- Provide a clear, public commitment to improving diversity.
- Demonstrate an open and welcoming culture to all.
- Consider staggering council meeting times and agreeing recess periods to support councillors with other commitments.
- Set out an action plan of activity ahead of the 2022 local elections.
- Ensure councils should set targets to be representative of the communities they serve at the next elections.
- Support the use of voluntary quotas for Welsh local elections.
- Review the impact of voluntary quotas following the next local elections.
Commenting, WLGA Presiding Officer and Leader of Bridgend Council, Councillor Huw David said: “The WLGA Council’s commitments around diversity in democracy go to the heart of the core values of the WLGA.
“Our council chambers and the WLGA’s own council is not as diverse or as representative of our communities as they could or should be.
“We still have a long way to go, but the commitments we have made and actions we are asking councils, parties and partners to undertake should help ensure our councils are more diverse in 2022.”
Joint WLGA Spokesperson for Equalities, Welfare Reform and Anti-Poverty and Chair of Swansea Council’s Poverty Reduction Policy Development Committee, Councillor Mary Sherwood said: “I am proud of the working group’s report and the WLGA Council’s clear commitment to make a real change at the next elections.
“There has been action to attract a different range of candidates and more women in the past, but progress has been slow and council chambers remain largely white, male and middle-aged.
“This is not just about our council chambers looking more like and being more like the people they represent. All the research tells us that outcomes will be better if decisions are taken by people with a range of lived experiences. We all agree we need to do much more and go further if we want to see real change.”
The WLGA is already working with the Welsh Government and partners on promoting and supporting greater diversity, including the Be a Councillor website, mentoring programmes, a commitment to the Civility in Public Life campaign and a wide package of training, development and support for councillors when elected.
The Welsh Government has also recently launched the Access to Elected Office fund to support disabled people in standing for elected office.