WOMEN from across the political spectrum in Worcester have come together to call for life at the Guildhall to better represent the city’s diverse population.
In an open letter released ahead of Thursday’s (May 5) city council elections, the cross-party plea from nine current female councillors – including a former Mayor of Worcester – has called for ‘fairness and inclusion’ in Worcester’s politics amid a backdrop of sleaze allegations at Westminster.
Conservative MP Neil Parish resigned on Saturday (April 30) over allegations from two female Tory MPs he was caught watching pornography in the House of Commons while Labour’s Liam Byrne faces a two-day suspension after being found guilty of bullying a member of staff.
Labour’s Coun Robyn Norfolk and Coun Jenny Barnes have joined the city’s former parliamentary candidate Coun Lynn Denham and former first citizen Coun Jo Hodges in signing the letter.
Green councillors Karen Lewing and Majory Bisset added their voice to calls alongside Liberal Democrats Coun Mel Allcott and Karen Lawrance and Conservative Coun Louise Griffiths.
Earlier this year, Coun Bisset argued ‘many women feel intimidated when speaking in the council chambers, because the city council is dominated by men’ while in her valedictory speech in March, Coun Griffiths said she had ‘watched people across the chamber – usually women – being bullied for their views’.
Despite making up 50 per cent of the city’s population, only 34 per cent of councillors are women and of the four directors, only one is a woman.
“There is evidence to suggest the electorate regard institutions like the city council as fairer and more democratic when there is gender equality,” the letter states.
“Worcester deserves a council which represents and celebrates the diversity of the city’s population, ensuring everyone is included in the services we deliver.
“Women from across the political divide have a role in delivering fairness and inclusion and men must work with us.
“Reasonable adjustments still need to be made to ensure equal representation at the top table, our committee chairs reflect our diversity, disabled councillors are supported, and our code of conduct addresses sexism and discrimination.”
In addition to calling for equality, the councillors also highlighted achievements from current members including the approval of a menopause policy in December and the appointment of the city’s first Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion champion in March.
“The UN has found better decisions are made when women are involved, citing childcare and drinking water projects in Norway and India as prime examples,” the letter added.
“Of course, women have a better understanding of women’s priorities, including VAWG, women’s health, and the impact of issues relating to women’s work, finances and equality.”