Most councillors are white men selected from shortlist of one

Women, ethnic minorities and young people are being deterred from standing as councillors in local elections, research has found.

A survey of the 1,255 candidates, commissioned by the Improvement and Development Agency for local government from the most recent local council elections, concluded that more work needed to be done to promote local government as a career option.

Two-thirds of candidates were men, 58% were aged 55 and over, and 98% were white. There is often little competition for candidates – and 80% are selected from a shortlist of one.

Candidates said they were in favour of increasing diversity – an overwhelming majority supported increasing the numbers of under-represented groups in the council chamber. However, respondents ruled out quotas and positive discrimination as a way of doing so.

Judi Billing, head of the national leadership programme at the Improvement and Development Agency, said: “The research shows that, rather than not being elected, women, younger people, and ethnic groups are not putting themselves forward for election.

“This has serious implications for the work that local and national government must do to promote the work of local councils, and inform people about the important role that councillors play.”

Billing added that the agency would work with political parties and the Local Government Association to look at ways of attracting more candidates from these groups.

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