Proposals in the new Localism Bill to convert council leaders in 12 cities into shadow 'elected' mayors will put women at the helm of just one of the authorities involved.
Existing council leaders in Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield will become ‘elected’ mayors in the summer of 2011, with referendums being held in those authorities in May 2012, and elections, if the referendums produce a ‘yes’ vote, in May 2013.
Of the leaders currently in post in these authorities only one (in Bristol) is female. If the proposals go ahead she would join the two existing women mayors (in Watford and North Tyneside) to make a total of three women out of 25 elected mayors. This percentage (12%) is even lower than that for council leaders (14%). Elected mayors may well be the way forwards – many senior members of all parties believe that they are – but to date no account has been taken by any of them of the difficulties of ensuring that there is some diversity.
CFWD will be looking at various aspects of proposed legislation over the next few months, but we are concerned generally at the lack of any realisation that fair and equal representation does not happen by chance, but needs to be worked at.