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Centre for Women & Democracy
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Women make small advance in local elections

28 May, 2012

35% of councillors elected on 3 May 2012 were women, an increase of 4% on 2011 and 2008, when these seats were last contested.

The increase was caused by two main factors; Labour's use of positive action measures in candidate selection over a period of 8 years, combined with a reversal of Labour's local electoral fortunes since 2008. As a result, many women in marginal seats won where in previous years they would not have done.

40% of councillors elected for Labour were women, 34% of Liberal Democrats and 27% of Conservative.

However, the net impact of these results on the percentage of women councillors overall is less than the percentage elected; it is unlikely that, once the membership of all councils has been analysed, the net level will rise much above 32% (it currently stands at 31%).

CFWD's Director, Nan Sloane, said: "These improvements, though small, are very welcome, and suggest that the level of women's represntation in local government may finally be moving after a decade of stagnation. However, that improvement is heavily reliant on the ability of political parties to field women candidates in seats they have a good prospect of winning, as well as on the parties which do that doing well on polling day. We would like to see women's advance being put onto a more secure footing, with all parties taking real steps to ensure that the diversity of local councils continues to improve, and that the rate at which it does so speeds up."

The report published today is the initial report of a series of three; the second, in June, will deal with the results in more detail, but with particular reference to retention issues, whilst the third, to be published later in 2012, will examine the  recruitment, retirement and retention of women in local government in depth.

The report can be downloaded here: Representing Change: Women in the 2012 Local Elections